Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Checkmat BJJ was Founded in 2008 by 5th-degree black belt Master Leo Vieira and is an international academy and team of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. Costa Mesa’s Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is part of their vast affiliate academies stretching 34 American cities and 16 countries worldwide.
As part of the Checkmat Team, Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu embraces the philosophies that have defined Checkmat for over a decade. Before opening Praia in 2019, Professor Thiago Pierre served as an instructor at Checkmat HQ in Signal Hill-Long Beach, California. With nearly 20 years of BJJ training and a black belt to his name, Thiago is proud of his lineage and the welcoming training environment he has built at Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Here Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, our staff is the secret to our student success. Each instructor has a rich background in martial arts and is eager to train the next generation of martial artists. Meet the team below!
BLACK BELT UNDER LEO VIEIRA
Professor Thiago Pierre
“My students are my family… Jiu-Jitsu is my lifestyle.”
— Thiago Pierre
When he was 14 years old, his first contact with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) was when his brother’s friends took him to a Blue Belt teaching BJJ classes. Thiago was there to learn self-defense, but from his first experience, he knew BJJ was more than a class; it was his calling.
Thiago trained, competed, and excelled in BJJ over the years. He also successfully earned a degree in Technology and worked as a Telecommunications Analyst in Brazil. But ultimately, Thiago was inspired by his friends who were still competing: Tarcisio Jardim (who later went on to become a coach) and Antonio Carlos (a former UFC fighter). Thiago knew that he wanted to get back on the mats. He started training again and he has not stopped fighting since.
To follow his dreams, Thiago moved to San Francisco, CA. After working as a coach, he decided that he wanted to dedicate his life to educating others about BJJ. In 2017, Thiago moved to Long Beach, CA. He began training and coaching under Leo Vieira who promoted him to Black Belt at Checkmat Headquarters.
Today, Thiago enjoys teaching children and adults the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He believes if a person learns the basics first, he or she will be a stronger competitor. Thiago also stresses the importance of strategy and patience. When training others, he ensures his students get the individual attention they need. Thiago’s students are his family… Jiu-Jitsu is his lifestyle.
Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Rolls Gracie > Romero Cavalcanti > Leonardo Vieira > Thiago Pierre<
Education and Certification:
- Telecommunications Systems Technology – IFPB – Brazil
- Certified Athletic Coach – Long Beach City College
- Certified Personal Trainer – National Academy of Sports Medicine
- Fitness Nutrition Specialist – American Council on Exercise
- Certified CPR/AED – Long Beach City College
- Specialist in Strength and Conditioning – ISSA
- American Nationals – NoGi Champion
- Nogi Worlds – 3 place
- UAEJJ LA Grand Slam – 2 place
- IBJJF Open – Multiple times medalist. Gi and Nogi
- All Stars/ BJJ Tour – Gi Champion
- JJWL Oakland Super Championship – Champion
- Gracie Regionals – Champion
CHECKMAT BROWN BELT
Coach Junior Fernandes
Junior, born and raised in the United Kingdom, started his martial arts journey at the age of 7 with Muay Thai through his father who’s a former world champion. Under his coach & fathers tutelage training Thai boxing in London for 7 years fighting domestically in the UK gained experience & knowledge for the sport.
Soon in 2013 his father changed gyms to become a head Muay Thai instructor at Fightzone London held in the heart of East London, where Junior met his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu professor to be, Marco Canha, who managed to persuade a young Jr at the time to try out a BJJ session. Marco, a 4th degree BJJ black belt awarded all of Jr’s belts from kids belts to his adult brown belt.
At 13, he found a new passion & challenge that BJJ brought as he instantly became hooked onto, traveling around the world teaching and competing throughout his early teens to fighting at the biggest tournaments as an adult such as IBJJF World Championships (winning 3 times) all of this being done through his educational years too!
In order to progress further in his career & follow his dreams he moved to Long Beach California from London England to train and compete for amongst great athletes and Leo Vieira at Checkmat HQ.
Today, with his: charisma, good energy & passion for the sport gives back his knowledge coaching at Praia Brazilian Jiu Jitsu creating a safe, fun & family-friendly environment community welcoming everyone. As well as coaching he looks to keep building his name in the martial arts world that he set out to do so in the States.
- 2X IBJJF World Champion
- 1X IBJJF NoGi World Champion
- 1X IBJJF Pan American Champion
- IBJJF European Medalist
- 3X UAEJJF Grand Slam Champion
- F2W Winner
CHECKMAT PURPLE BELT
Coach Malena Sessa
Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Praia Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was founded by Thiago Pierre in 2019 to introduce an authentic BJJ lifestyle to the Costa Mesa Community.
Praia means beach in Portuguese. Our name captures the essence of our beautiful Orange County, CA location.
Praia BJJ’s mission is to provide a fun, welcoming, beach-style location while ensuring that students understand and practice the main principles of Jiu-Jitsu:
Promoted by the legend himself, Leo Vieira, Thiago is a proud Checkmat Black Belt.
As a Checkmat BJJ affiliate, Praia students can be confident they will get the best instruction from a world-renowned academy.
Both of our boys, ages 5 and 7, love coming to Jiu Jitsu at Praia. My oldest said he would come everyday all day if they let him. Coach Thiago and Coach Riley are exceptionally good in teaching discipline, respect, and awareness and they practice patience with the kids while providing professional training.
It is a privilege to train at such an excellent facility. I know because some of my fellow students travel a great distance to train with Thiago. He always takes the time to thoroughly explain each technique and how it is a part of the larger whole. The gym is well-maintained and there is a welcoming atmosphere. I am always excited for class. If you are considering training in Jiu Jitsu, I recommend Praia!
Training at Praia BJJ is an honor. Coach Thiago Pierre is so kind and patient. He has a wealth of knowledge and really takes the time to teach his students the right way. Coming into a Jiu Jitsu academy knowing nothing, he really helped me feel comfortable and safe. I learned the basics and was already feeling more confident after my first class. I have also watched him with Kids, and he is phenomenal. The new gym is BEAUTIFUL and offers everything I need. I would definitely recommend training at Praia BJJ to anyone in the area!
I can't say enough great things about Praia, Thiago, and literally everyone that trains here. Always great freakin’ vibes. So glad to be a part of the Praia family. I fell off for a while due to moving to a new area and Thiago welcomed me with open arms. I feel like he is my brother and I just met the guy not too long ago. If you've been thinking about joining, come try out a class. Trust me, you'll love it!
I am so blessed to now call Praia Jiu Jitsu/Checkmat Costa Mesa my new home. Thiago is such a top notch instructor. What I love about the way he coaches is that he is always there to answer questions no matter what they are. He breaks down every technique and really makes sure you understand it rather than just having you figuring it out on your own. Another thing that is awesome about this place is the cleanliness. Everything is brand new and they keep the mats very clean. Class sizes are super small and everyone that comes here whether it’s a class or an open mat, they are all super friendly. Lastly, knowing that you will be learning Jiu Jitsu that is linked to Checkmat can ensure you that you will be gaining top quality knowledge. If you are looking for a school to train at no matter if you want to learn for fitness, self defense, or compete, Praia Jiu Jitsu/Checkmat Costa Mesa is the place to be.
Thiago is the classiest guy you’ll ever meet as well as a seasoned competitor and great jiu jitsu instructor. Highly recommend checking this place out!!
At Praia, We Believe...
· Treat everyone with respect, and the same will be done to you
· Please arrive 10 minutes before class FULLY DRESSED and ready to train
· Be on time to class. If you happen to arrive late, wait at the entrance to the mat till the instructor says it’s okay for you to join
· Only black or white Gi’s are permitted in Praia (please no other colors) (Patches available for purchase at Praia). For Belt promotions and seminars, only white Gi are allowed.
· Training Jiu-Jitsu involves close personal contact: Please be sure your GI, Shorts, Rash Guard, & Training Gear are clean, free of foul odors, & in good condition for every class
· Students must wear a black rash guard under your Gi. Training without a rash guard is not permissible
· Students must wash their Gi and rash guard after every training session
· Be aware of your personal hygiene: Make sure that you are clean and showered, your fingernails & toenails are properly trimmed, and your hair (if long) is pulled back & secured
· Remove any watches, rings, earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry before training
· Please do not walk barefoot around the gym. Bring sandals to walk in when not on the mat
· Make sure you take your shoes off and leave them in the back fitness area before entering the mat
· Everyone here is family, be careful and use control with your training partner; don’t break your friends 😉
· If you (the student) or your child is sick, please stay home and rest. Training can wait until you’re healthy
· No coaching from the sidelines/waiting area
· No cell phones on the mat during class
· No food or gum on the mat
· Have Fun!