At Gracie San Marcos, our highly trained and skilled professionals are ready to get you started on your Martial Arts journey! We are all passionate about what we do and would love to help you reach your goals. Whether you’re looking to get into the best shape of your life, learn how to protect yourself or train for competition, we have what it takes to get you there!  

Professor Nick Stefan

An Early Start

Nick’s first experience with martial arts was at the age of 10, when he started taking Tae Kwon Do. Nick then started training in Muay Thai and Kempo Karate at the age of 15. While studying boxing at El Camino College, Nick was introduced to Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Shortly after falling in love with the Art, Nick signed up at Rickson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in West Los Angeles. At Rickson’s academy, Nick used to watch Royler Gracie get ready for his Pride FC fights.

Deeper Into the Art

Nick found the Machado brothers Jiu Jitsu academy in Redondo Beach, and after a few years decided to join and learn under the Machado brothers, who at the time had the number one competition team in the USA. The Machado brothers studied under the Gracies and came to the US with them.

In 2006 Nick was presented his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Rigan Machado in the presence of John, Roger, Jean Jaques, and Carlos Machado. 

Finding a New Family

Nick later re-met Master Royler Gracie and decided to compete and train directly under him and the Gracie Humaita Flag. Royler promoted Nick to his 4th Degree Black Belt. Nick takes pride in representing the Gracie Humaita family and strives to be the best instructor to every student who comes into the academy.

Professor Charles Gardner

Professor Charlie Gardner started his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training in Colorado under Amal Easton. In 2009, Charlie moved to Carlsbad, CA and started training under Nick Stefan at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Carlsbad as a blue belt. He started working teaching classes, and then eventually working his way up to manager at the Gracie Carlsbad location. 

Charlie, now a black belt and Gracie Jiu Jitsu Instructor, has fought MMA and Muay Thai bouts, and in Jiu Jitsu tournaments with great success.

Charlie teaches Jiu Jitsu classes and Muay Thai classes at our Gracie Jiu Jitsu gyms in San Marcos and Carlsbad.


Professor Dave Ruiz

Dave Ruiz holds the rank of 4th degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Rigan Machado. However Dave started his training at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, Ca under Royce Gracie. Dave trained with the source of Grand Master Helio Gracie. Helio visited and taught at the Academy most often as Dave got to benefit from his legendary teachings. Not just in the way jiu jitsu is applied but how its lived, breathed, and thought about on a daily basis. Dave and Nick met as they crossed the same path with the Machado Brother jiu Jitsu RCJ Machado. Dave competed through all the ranks doing very well in competition and most importantly Dave can teach the self defense the way Grand Master Helio passed down to his sons and Grandsons. Come take one of Dave’s classes and learn jiu jitsu the way it was supposed to be taught!

Steven “Thunderbeast” Kozola

While Steve was young he earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do. This sparked his life long interest in becoming a martial artist. He started with amateur mixed martial arts fighting while attending Northern Illinois University and studying Kinesiology. Upon graduation Steve moved from Illinois to Southern California in pursuit of his dream of going pro in MMA. He now has over 10 professional mma fights and is a Bellator veteran. His enthusiasm and hard work has made him one of the best instructors in the business.


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