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Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Instructors in our Columbia, MD and Finksburg, MD Locations

Meet our Martial Arts instructors

Mike Stewart

Mike Stewart

After achieving black belts in other martial arts, Mike earned his black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu in 2019, believing it to be the most effective and practical martial art in the world. He has been training in Brazilian jiu jitsu for the past decade. As a lifelong martial artist, he has been involved in some form of martial art or combat sport since he was seven years old. Mike, along with his brother Jordan, decided to focus entirely on teaching Gracie jiu jitsu and in 2010 started Rising Tide Academy. They are the owners of the academy.

Although he has often competed in the past, Mike’s primary focus is on leading Rising Tide Academy. He encourages students to consider competing in tournaments to sharpen their skills and identify their strengths and weaknesses in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Mike teaches adult classes in Finksburg and Columbia, but also gets involved in all aspects of the academy including teaching kids’ and women’s classes and participating in Muay Thai classes.

As an experienced martial arts instructor, Mike has taught well over 1,000 students over the years. His teaching style is known for paying close attention to the details and nuances of jiu jitsu. He also emphasizes the self-defense strategies so critical in Relson Gracie’s style of jiu jitsu. Mike believes the best ways to improve your jiu jitsu is to develop a strong, disciplined work ethic; to constantly practice humility; and to develop a positive community of motivated teammates.  

When Mike isn’t teaching, he enjoys fishing, playing guitar with his bandmates, and spending time with his family.

Jordan Stewart

Jordan Stewart

Jordan owns and manages Rising Tide Academy with his brother, Mike. He started training in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Relson Gracie in 2010 and earned his black belt in 2020. He has also trained in several other martial arts.

Jordan is considered by many to be an exemplary leader and instructor due to his work ethic, professionalism, courteous nature, and commitment to managing a quality martial arts school. He is also known for his outstanding technique and accessibility to students and parents. He has taught Brazilian jiu jitsu for 10 years and teaches noon and evening adult fundamentals and advanced classes and runs the kids’ competition team in Finksburg. He also likes to emphasize self-defense techniques in his classes.

Jordan says, “I enjoy bringing out the best in our students, not only on the mats but in life in general. Seeing the kids and adults become successful on the mats and extend that confidence to school, their jobs, their family life is awesome. I try to help them develop a strong work ethic and overcome and deal positively with any challenges in life or school. Nothing beats seeing changes in our students, including weight loss, better nutrition and health, and improved outlooks and attitudes on their health and life.”

Off the mats, Jordan enjoys fishing, hunting, and woodworking along with spending time with his wife and children.
 

Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson

A black belt under Professor Pedro Sauer, Mike has been training in the art of jiu jitsu for over 20 years. Mike teaches adult jiu jitsu classes in Finksburg on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings in Columbia. A lifelong martial artist and 25-year police veteran, Mike holds numerous defensive tactics instructor certifications. He brings real-world experience and over 20 years of teaching experience to Rising Tide Academy.
 

Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller

A black belt under Relson Gracie, Stephen has been training in jiu jitsu since 2010. He is the lead instructor and manager of Rising Tide's Columbia location. Known for his excellent and detailed teaching skills, Stephen often holds seminars for students and has competed several times in his past.
 

Naqi Sayed

Naqi Sayed

Naqi is a Relson Gracie black belt who has been training in Brazilian jiu jitsu for the past decade. He teaches kids and adults classes in Columbia.

Naqi believes the best ways to improve in Brazilian jiu jitsu are to show up and train consistently; identify an accountability partner to establish a strong training rhythm; have fun; take advantage of private lessons, clinics, and seminars to obtain specialized knowledge; and to compete to learn and improve upon your strengths and weaknesses. He also emphasizes eating well, stretching, improving your cardio, and lifting weights to “cover your body in muscle and armor”.  Naqi says, “From being a better parent to a better communicator, BJJ has positively impacted my life in almost every way.” 

When he’s not training, Naqi works as a cybersecurity analyst and enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, and motorcycling.

Kyle Spendiff

Kyle Spendiff

A black belt under Relson Gracie, Kyle has been training in the art of jiu jitsu for over two decades. He is the head instructor of our beginner adult jiu jitsu programs in Finksburg. Kyle is known for his attention to detail and his dedication to helping students grow. Kyle will often stay after class to answer questions and help students solve problems, going above and beyond the expectations of an average instructor. Kyle also has extensive background in judo as well. When he is not training, he works as a fisheries biologist.

John Gilbert

John Gilbert

John earned his black belt under Relson Gracie in 2018 and has been training in the art of jiu jitsu for over 10 years. He teaches adult gi classes in Finksburg and Columbia locations and the Friday night fight simulation class in Columbia.

Toney Waldecker

Toney Waldecker

Toney is a sixth-degree black belt, making him the highest ranked Relson Gracie student in the region. A veteran of Brazilian jiu jitsu, Sambo, Muay Thai, and MMA competitions, Toney has coached numerous professional fighters in the UFC and Bellator. He has more than 30 years of experience teaching martial arts.

He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and is a certified Level 2 Army combatives instructor. He is an expert at teaching specialized Gracie jiu jitsu self-defense techniques and conducts Wednesday might adult advanced jiu jitsu classes in Finksburg.

Anton Garcia

Anton Garcia

A brown belt under Relson Gracie, Anton Garcia has been training jiu jitsu for over 8 years. Having grown up taking more traditional martial arts like karate, he was instantly impressed and drawn in by the effectiveness of jiu jitsu. In 2016, he started teaching kids classes and became one of the head instructors for the Women’s Jiu Jitsu program. He received his brown belt in January 2022 and currently teaches fundamental and advanced adult classes. Anton is passionate about teaching jiu jitsu to kids and adults.

He is an advocate for the art’s ability to facilitate change in a practitioner's life for the better through mental, physical, and emotional growth. He loves developing new students, especially smaller and less athletic ones, into fundamentally sound practitioners that are capable of protecting themselves in self-defense situations. He believes that jiu jitsu helps both kids and adults become more self-aware, compassionate, and confident human beings.