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Meet Our Coaches


Coach Nikki Wheaton

Coach Nikki started training at Gracie Barra Tacoma in 2019.  Her three boys were already training and Professor Tunz would ask daily if she was going to get on the mats.  She was intrigued, so one day she attended the women's class and, from that day forward, she knew jiu-jitsu was going to be a part of her life.

Coach Nikki has been training under the leadership of Professor Josh Calvo for four years.

She earned her purple belt a year ago and actively competes to test her knowledge.  She attributes all of her achievements to her outstanding training partners. 

Coach Nikki assists in coaching tiny champs, little champs, juniors and teens, and competition classes.  She sees coaching as a huge honor and does it because of her love of jiu-jitsu and the love she has for her jiu-jitsu family.

The best advice she can give to anyone just starting to train is to come often, ask questions, be patient, stay humble, watch, learn, and tap.

Coach Matt Hemming

Coach Matt started at Gracie Barra Tacoma after driving past the school almost every day for nearly two years. Curiosity finally got the better of him and he decided to come in and try a class. Coach Matt has been training for 3 years this October.


He is a purple belt earned under Josh Calvo. He competed and won one tournament while he was a blue belt. He also got his wife to agree to marry him when she received one of her stripes.


Coach Matt teaches the Monday and Wednesday morning 6:30 am classes. He began coaching because he loves the sport and recognized that many students could only attend in the morning. He began to coach the morning classes to give those teammates more opportunities to train.


The best advice Coach Matt can give is, “It's a journey that only you can worry about. Set your own specific, realistic, and measurable goals. You are filling a bucket with knowledge and skill but remember it's one drop at a time.”


Professor Abel Correa

Professor Abel began his Brazilian JJiu-Jitsu(BJJ) journey in 2010 in Tacoma, Washington. After a few years of training, he joined Gracie Barra in 2013, where he continued to hone his skills in this martial art. Over the years he’s competed all over the PNW at all belt levels and gained valuable experience as a referee in numerous tournaments in the Pacific Northwest.


His hard work and dedication paid off when he was promoted to black belt by Professor Josh Calvo in 2019, becoming his very first black belt awarded, marking a significant milestone in his BJJ career. Since being promoted to purple belt, he’s been teaching BJJ regularly and helping others learn and grow in this challenging sport.


His jiu-jitsu journey has not been without its challenges, but he has preserved through these setbacks and continued to progress in his training. His passion for BJJ, coupled with his skills and experience, has made him a respected member of the BJJ community in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Coach Jesse “Sus” San Agustin

Coach Jesse S. started training at Gracie Barra Federal Way to support his daughter with her training in jiu-jitsu. He wanted to learn what it was, what to do, and how to do the techniques to help his daughter learn. He has been training for 8 years now and has been promoted to Brown Belt in that time.

Coach Jesse feels his accomplishments are learning how to be disciplined and pushing himself to become a better person.

He loves to share his knowledge and coaches at all age levels.


Coach Mike Higa

1. Why and where did you start training?

At the age of 14 (2004), Coach Mike started watching the UFC. Specifically, Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz is what brought his attention to martial arts. At the time, jiu-jitsu was still in its infancy, and finding a gym was hard on the island of Oahu, but luckily enough, there was a gym about 20 minutes from where he lived. Learning from a black belt around his size, in a welcoming, humble, and positive environment, was the best thing that could have happened to him. That was the start of his jiu-jitsu endeavor and he hasn’t looked back. 


Coach Mike has been training from 2004-2023 for a total of 19 years. In that time, he has earned his Brown belt and has competed in multiple events.


3rd place- purple belt- Revolution, WA,2021

1st place- blue belt- NAGA, HI, 2013

2nd place- White belt- NAGA, HI, 2012

3rd place- White belt-NAGA, HI 2011


Coach Mike primarily coaches the little champs between 5-8 years old but also assists with Juniors and Teens 9-15 years old, and with the adult class as well. He enjoys sharing his take on jiu-jitsu. 


Coach Mike’s best advice is, “Jiu-jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint, so enjoy the journey. 

Be confident and stay humble.”

Professor Sean Flaherty

Professor Sean is also a Doctor of Chiropractic and a former rugby national champion.  He took his first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class in 1995 and has trained on and off through school and other commitments ever since.  At 52 years young he finally joined the ranks of black belt.   He loves the history of Jiu-Jitsu and has a deep respect for those that have made, and continue to make, what it is today.  When teaching, he particularly likes to highlight the self-defense aspect of the art and how it can be applicable to everyone.


Professor Josh Calvo

2nd degree black belt under Prof Rodrigo Lopes. He is also a professional mixed martial artist having fought abroad against both local and international competition and holds wins over UFC veterans. Active Jiu Jitsu competitor always looking to elevate his skills and competing at a high level. Prof Josh is one of the top talents in the region and looks forward to leading and building the team at GB Tacoma. * Professional MMA Record: 10-4 * Pacific Xtreme Combat title contender * Portland Open Super Fight Champion * Chael Sonnen’s Submission Underground Champion * Multiple time Fight 2 Win veteran * 2016 CBJJF Vancouver Open black belt gold medalist * 2x IBJJF Seattle Open black belt bronze medalist * Seattle’s Revolution multiple time black belt gold medalist * IBJJF Portland Open black belt silver medalist.

With an impressive tenure as the head Black Belt since our doors opened in 2017, Professor Josh's commitment to excellence is unmatched. His journey embodies the essence of dedication and resilience.

During the challenges of the pandemic, Professor Josh, alongside Professor Tunz, demonstrated exceptional leadership by pioneering our online training initiatives. Their guidance ensured that our community stayed connected and thriving, even in uncertain times.

Coach Jesse Brodt

Coach Jesse started training to learn self-defense and found training Jiu-Jitsu to be a much more purposeful exercise than working out. He’s found the journey to be spiritually, mentally, and physically challenging.

He’s been training for 4 years, has a few competitions, 1 silver medal, and has his blue belt.
He coaches mostly tiny champs and juniors. He started coaching just trying to help out the other coaches and has found it so rewarding seeing the kids grow up and get better in their Jiu-Jitsu practice.

Coach Jesse’s best advice for someone just starting out would be to embrace discomfort and stay humble, you really don’t know what someone is capable of until pressure is applied.


Coach Julie Ramirez

Coach Julie started training in Jiu-Jitsu to encourage her daughter to continue with the practice 3 years ago. She found the sport to be so rewarding mentally and physically that she decided to stick with it. She is now a blue belt promoted under Professor Josh Calvo.


Her greatest accomplishment is starting jiu-jitsu and continuing to show up. Not many try jiu-jitsu and fewer keep going.

Coach Julie was asked by Professor Tunz to start coaching kids’ classes to help with the female students since there aren’t many female coaches. She was reluctant to dedicate that much time at first but has found that it is a very rewarding experience. Watching the kids grow in their practice and confidence has been completely worth her time. She also learns as much, if not more, from the kids as they do from her.

Coach Julie’s advice is to never quit. You won’t always be the best, you will win and lose, and you’ll feel discouraged at times but just keep showing up. It’s all a part of the spiritual and mental growth in your jiu-jitsu journey.

Professor Waldron “Tunz” Ngotel

Professor Tunz was inspired by Enson Inoue, Tetsuji Kato, Cuki Alvarez and the whole purebred trench tech lifestyle. He started his journey on the island of Saipan, the northern Mariana Islands). He has been training for 18 years now and was promoted to black belt this year.

Professor was appointed head instructor for Tiny Champs and Little Champs since the beginning of Gracie Barra Tacoma. He teaches because he wants our future generations to be better than who we are now. He teaches them to learn to respect and be confident with what they learn and apply it in life.

“Remember it’s not a race, it’s a journey. It’s best to know jiujitsu and not use it rather than use it and not know it.”-Professor Tunz

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