Tucked away at the intersection of Ionic and Bonsall streets sits Balance Studios, a martial arts center specializing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, mixed martial arts and yoga.
While numerous studios in Philadelphia teach the aforementioned arts, it’s Balance’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu program that makes the facility truly world class.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu (also known as Gracie jiu-jitsu after its founder Helio Gracie) emphasizes timing and leverage over strength, making it possible for anyone to win a fight regardless of gender, age, height or weight.
Balance owners Phil and Ricardo Migliarese each have more than 20 years of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training behind them. A great deal of that training came from Helio Gracie and his family.
“This is one of the few studios that comes directly from the source,” said Balance Studios program director Drew Vogel. “Rick and Phil came up under the Gracie system—first at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, Calif. and then in Hawaii under [Helio’s son] Relson Gracie.Very few schools have such a direct connection to the original family that created the art.”
After training with Helio’s sons Relson and Rorion, the Migliarese brothers opened up Balance Studios in Center City in 2002 to teach students what the Gracie family taught them.
According to the studio’s official website, more than 300 students are a part of the Balance team in Philadelphia.
Balance locations can be found worldwide—from San Diego, Calif. to Dublin, Ireland. More than 5,000 carefully chosen students study the art of Gracie jiu-jitsu at these locations.
“We have schools all over the world,” Ricardo Migliarese said. “I’d say 95 percent of those people don’t come in to be a professional fighter.”
For Balance instructors, the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a practical skill for anyone to have.
“A lot of the time, you’re put in an uncomfortable position and you have to fight the urge to explode, use strength and panic,” Vogel said. “You have to be very calm and think of a good solution to the problem. I think Gracie jiu-jitsu helps students to avoid the impulses of panicking.”
Having a strong mental awareness is critical to the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu because the goal is not to harm an opponent, but to get that person on the ground without anyone becoming seriously injured.
Using the skills they learned from the Gracie family, the Migliarese brothers and staff at Balance Studios are proving to everyone why the oldest Gracie jiu-jitsu affiliation in North America is still at the top.
– Text and images by Ashley Dougherty.