Jim Thrift (3rd Degree Black Belt Professor)
Professor Jim Thrift (3rd Degree Black Belt) is the founder and owner of Calvert MMA Academy in Sunderland Maryland (Calvert County) and Lineage BJJ in California Maryland (St. Mary’s County).
A favorite among students of all ages and levels, Professor Jim blends a deep respect for self-defense and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with approachable humor. He holds both his schools to the highest standards of cleanliness, instruction and healthy culture. He teaches at both the Calvert and St. Mary’s locations.
Professor Jim’s passion for the martial arts dates back to the early 80’s when he started training in Moo Duk Kwan , Tang Soo Do, Hapkido, and Tae Kwon Do, under the lineage/coaching of Ki Wang Kim, Mike Warren, and Amos Johnson. After earning his black belt, Jim Thrift began training in Philippine Arnis (also known as Kali or Eskrima/Escrima), Japanese Kempo, Judo, and Aikido to expand his martial arts skills. From 1984 – 1998, Jim often competed in local, state, and national fighting competitions to include point fighting tournaments, full contact kick boxing, USTU, AAU, and Judo tournaments. In the mid 90’s at the recommendation of one of his co-workers at the United States Secret Service, Jim took his first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu class and he completely fell in love with the martial art. Jim Thrift is a graduate of the Gracie Academy’s G.R.A.P.L.E.® course, now referred to as “Gracie Survival Tactics (GST)”® for Law Enforcement, by Gracie University in Torrance, California. Jim Thrift is also certified by the Maryland Police Training Commission (MPTC) as a law enforcement Defensive Tactics Instructor. Jim Thrift has trained directly under the lineage and guidance of the Gracie Family for over 25 years.
Jim Thrift retired (March 31, 2018) from a career in law enforcement that spanned over 25 years with the U.S. Secret Service (Physical Security Specialist and the agency’s 1st Technical Security Investigator*). On June 06, 2018, the Director of the U.S. Secret Service presented Jim Thrift with the first set of credentials for Technical Security Investigator, making him the agency’s first (Honorary) Technical Law Enforcement Officer.
During his time with the U.S. Secret Service, Jim Thrift was a member of 0ver 250 protective advance teams around the world. While traveling as a member of these protective advance teams, Jim was able to train with some of the best martial artist in the world, to include Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Aikido, Judo, and Taekwondo practitioners. Jim Thrift is also an honorable veteran of the U.S. Navy and a graduate of the University of Maryland.
Quote from Jim: ““I’ve dedicated the last 15 years to creating a learning environment and culture that is fun for adults, kids, and families. At Lineage BJJ and Calvert MMA, our desire is to find students who seek self-improvement and self-defense as long-term goals. We help our students make a home with us by focusing on everyone equally, rather than only supporting the most athletic students or “tough guys”. This is what makes us different from other martial arts schools.”
Paul Wickes (2nd Degree Black Belt Professor)
Professor Paul Wickes, joined Lineage BJJ when his family relocated to St. Mary’s County from Philadelphia in 2021.
Paul’s Jiu-Jitsu journey started in 2005. After years of enjoying many fighting varieties as a spectator, Paul saw the potential of BJJ and selected (https://www.balancestudios.net/#) as his BJJ home.
As Paul grew his expertise in BJJ, he found opportunities to blend it with another passion; teaching. Shortly after starting Jujitsu, Paul discovered a passion for volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He went on to pursue his Master’s Degree in Education and taught in the School District of Philadelphia.
Bringing his teaching experience to the mat creates opportunities for his students, young and old, new and experienced, to add to their game. Paul greatly enjoys watching his students grow over time and seeing lives change through the practice of BJJ, just as he did. He encourages his new students to rely on patience and humility to get them through the beginning of their training.
Students new to Paul’s class should know he greatly respects BJJ’s use in self-defense situations and enjoys equipping his students to handle themselves in a variety of situations.
Paul is a regular instructor of adult evening classes, evening competition classes, and also of our Little Sharks Class, which his son attends. He brings a wealth of knowledge to all his classes, and is a valuable resource to all our teammates, from beginners to those who wish to move into regular competition.
Quote from Paul:
“When you first come in, you’re going to learn a lot about physics and physiology; the way that every single one of us humans operate. Ultimately, the end goal for me with my students is to equip them to make jujitsu their own and allow it to become part of who they are.”
Mike Tran (2nd Degree Black Belt Professor)
Professor Mike Tran began pursuing BJJ in California in 1995 and has attended a wide variety of schools and teaching over 25 years. Before becoming a student at Calvert MMA and earning his Black belt, Professor Tran began training at Three Rivers Martial Arts in Kentucky, then continued BJJ and Judo throughout graduate school and while working in Tennessee, Canada, and Colorado.
Mike was inspired to learn BJJ as a teenager in California while searching for a sport that was well-suited for his body type. In Jiu-Jitsu, he found discipline and inspiration in witnessing the Gracies’ successes in the sport. He also found an opportunity to blend a physical and mental game in a way other athletics couldn’t offer.
He enjoys teaching conceptually, encouraging questions, and giving his students the best tools to best utilize that concept for their body and abilities, through an “equation and formula” method. He likes to gamify his kids’ classes and incorporate techniques, encouraging them to learn through fun and practice, then slowly introduce more structure as they get older.
Mike enjoys teaching at Calvert MMA and Lineage because it has a supportive culture, family atmosphere, genuine comradery, and a strong focus on self-defense.
While Mike competed in the past, he is currently focusing on his continued growth as a professor and encouraging his students to pursue a lifelong journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Quote from Mike:
“My focus has changed over the years; when I first started, it was all about bettering myself and now I am trying to better my partner and my students. I like to approach a class by asking, ‘how do I implement what I’ve learned through my experiences to help my students?’ That’s what I look forward to the most.”
Chris Earle (Black Belt Professor)
Professor Chris Earle became interested in Jiu-Jitsu education out of a desire for the best education he could find in self-defense.
He began training in Hawaii and was inspired by the people, discipline, and the fun he found in training. He continued and intensified his training under Mitch Coats at The Base Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Boise Idaho, with a heavy focus on competition.
After receiving his brown belt and competing heavily with The Base team for several years, he relocated to Maryland and began training with Calvert MMA and Lineage.
Professor Chris teaches adult classes and Lineage’s Competition classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. His favorite part of teaching is really getting to know his students and then helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses. He also enjoys focusing on his students’ mental conditioning; building their confidence, and then pushing them hard to prepare for competition.
Professor Chris says Lineage is special because of its close-knit community and ‘instant family,’ it provides.
Quote from Chris:
“You can’t instantly learn jujitsu. Most people can’t learn these concepts once and then execute them perfectly every time, so I’m trying to encourage people to just keep trying and stay consistent. I truly believe anyone can get good at this; you can exceed your expectations.”
Shawn Maines (Black Belt Professor)
Professor Shawn Maines started training Jiu-Jitsu in 2007 under Jay Jay (Amal Easton black belt) at Academy MMA in Portland, Maine.
Shawn was originally drawn to BJJ after extensive training in Judo throughout his childhood. His Judo journey started in 1979 at Uhju Kwan Judo club in Westerly, RI.
Shawn was very active in BJJ competition from white belt through purple belt and enjoyed the opportunity to train and travel throughout the country. When he reached his brown belt, he took a temporary step back from competition to address injuries.
Shawn is a valuable resource to students who are looking to make BJJ their own, and work with their bodies’ individual needs, strengths and limitations. With his promotion to black belt in 2021, he looks forward to pursuing more competitions in the future.
Shawn has a long history of professional instruction in Aviation from his time in the U.S. Army and his professional life. A favorite of Lineage students for his ability to break down complex knowledge into digestible guidance, Shawn is a popular teacher for all levels of adult classes.
Shawn relocated to Fredericksburg, VA, in 2021 but will continue to advance as a black belt under Professor Jim Thrift and he has done many guest appearances at Lineage BJJ since moving . In the near future, Shawn will be opening his own BJJ school in down town Fredericksburg called “Watershed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu” and represent Lineage BJJ and Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Virginia, where he will carry on Lineage’s culture of positivity and growth-oriented instruction for students of all levels. Shawn has a deep passion for sharing Jiu-Jitsu and values instruction as an opportunity to give back to his community.
Quote from Shawn:
“BJJ appeals to me on a cognitive level. It’s a brain teaser. A chess game. What I love about teaching is watching students surprise themselves and surpass their own expectations. I love seeing personal growth.”
Larry Foster (Brown Belt)
Larry Foster brings 13 years of Jiu-Jitsu experience to his daytime Lineage BJJ and Junior Competition classes at Calvert MMA.
He started training BJJ with Tony Passos (https://teampassos.com/) in Sterling, VA seeking an alternative form of exercise and was immediately hooked by Jiu-Jitsu’s mental game, the culture of continuous learning, and comradery.
He brings enthusiasm, good humor, and willingness to work with others to his classes, and takes great satisfaction from watching his students grow, prepare for competition and gain confidence. He enjoys helping people develop BJJ that works for their unique body type and finding their inherent strengths to build a better game.
Quote from Larry:
“There is great culture here compared to other schools I’ve visited. I also take pride in knowing my students are growing in their self-defense; I have a daughter and I’m so happy she can grow up with these skills and the self-confidence that comes with it.”
Gary Whitten (Purple Belt)
Gary Whitten serves Lineage as a frequent instructor of our Jr. Grapplers and Little Sharks classes as well as intermittent adult instruction.
Gary discovered Jiu-Jitsu while serving in Afghanistan in 2008 when his Platoon Sergeant introduced it as a combined form of exercise and extra self-defense training.
After returning to the United States, he began training in Virginia and continued at Calvert MMA. In BJJ, Gary discovered brotherhood reminiscent of that found in the military, and Calvert MMA offered a welcoming atmosphere to grow in his training.
Gary is a founding coach at the Lineage Location, and well known for his good humor, patient instruction and as a favorite among the Little Sharks and Junior Grapplers classes. He enjoys bringing joy and humor to his instruction and encouraging learning through fun.
Gary enjoys competing as a Purple Belt, as well as coaching from the sidelines at competition for his teammates and students at all levels.
Quote from Gary:
“My favorite part of teaching is seeing the kids progress and come out of their shells. They come in doubting themselves and lacking self-confidence, and then once they start having fun and learning, they grow quickly.”
Aaron Van Buren (Purple Belt)
Coach Aaron has been practicing BJJ intermittently since 2002.
After many years of wrestling, he was inspired by the practice of BJJ and the opportunity to adapt his unique athletic strengths to his practice. While he began his training unofficially, as he could find training partners, he started training with Calvert MMA and now teaches the Jr. Grapplers classes at Lineage BJJ, where he also coaches his own children. Additionally, he also helps mentor beginner adult students and adults preparing for testing.
Aaron enjoys thinking about BJJ conceptually and then breaking down training to help his students improve as a whole. He particularly enjoys training at Lineage for its welcoming community, its leadership, attention to detail, and cleanliness.
Quote from Aaron:
“I like it when the shy kids get a move, and briefly, they aren’t shy; they’re little monsters ready to whoop the world.”
Hillary Grimm (Blue Belt)
Coach Hillary Grimm began learning BJJ with Calvert MMA in 2017. She joined with her husband, Keelen, out of a desire to learn self-defense, a new form of exercise, and get out of her mental and physical comfort zone.
After many years as an endurance athlete, Hillary also brings her unique expertise gained from multiple competitive sports including completing three Ironman triathlons, many marathons, half marathons, 50ks, and is currently training for ultra-marathons.
At Lineage, Hillary teaches Little Sharks and Junior Grapplers classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She’s a well-known and friendly face at the front desk, helps new members get their bearings and enjoys helping people find the confidence to try BJJ.
Hillary said the desire to understand and continue her BJJ education comes from a love of practical self-defense knowledge as well as the intense physical and mental learning process BJJ inspires.
Hillary enjoys building bonds with her students and seeing the kids begin to truly understand technique and use it. She also enjoys the community at Calvert MMA and Lineage BJJ
Quote from Hillary:
“I love how much I have changed as a person for the better since beginning Jiu-Jitsu. I am much more confident and internally motivated. I cannot wait to see where this will take me.”
Keelen Grimm (Blue Belt)
Coach Keelen started Jiu-Jitsu in 2017 with his wife, Hillary. Before learning BJJ, Keelen practiced Aikido for two years and while he enjoyed his education, he wanted to find a martial art that better translated to real-world self-defense applications.
Keelen brings years of experience as a competitive endurance athlete to his coaching and enjoys pushing his body and mind. He found the BJJ was a perfect outlet to push both his body and mind and complement his other training.
Aside from the physical and mental challenge, Coach Keelen also found a community with Calvert MMA and Lineage that is unlike any other.
Keelen calls his instructors and students,” the most down-to-earth, kind-hearted and friendly people you will ever meet,” and says the shared bond between people learning together on the mats cannot be found in many other places.
Keelen teaches the Little Sharks and Jr. Grapplers classes and finds it immensely rewarding to witness students finally grasp a concept and build their perseverance.
Quote from Keelen:
” It is immensely rewarding to help teach the kids a technique and be able to witness the moment when they finally grasp a move. Their realizations, understanding, and retention of the techniques are all little light-bulbs that get turned on during their BJJ journey. It’s great to watch them light up over the hours and days that they spend training. ”
Note: We have additional coaches not listed and many high level guest instructors who visit the academy regularly such as 9th degree Grandmaster Relson Gracie, 6th degree black belt Robin Gieseler, 5th degree black belt Mike Casey, and 5th degree black belt Jean Vandersteen. Professor Seth Caron (1st Degree black Belt) who anchors our Calvert school also teaches regularly at our St. Mary’s location. You will not find a martial arts academy in St. Mary’s county with the level of experience we offer.