Getting laid off can make you want to choke somebody.
At Gracie Barra Clearwater, that's okay.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy recently began what it calls the Tough Times Training Program. Anyone who's been laid off in the past six months is eligible for free classes three times a week. Just provide proof that you're out of work — a bank statement or letter from your boss — and you'll get free training for up to six months or until you find a new job, whichever comes first.
Owner and instructor Eduardo de Lima said he's always given a break to students who couldn't pay. The Tough Times program just formalizes the offer.
"I always said to my students, 'If you lose your job, just come in anyway.' It's more important for them to work out, because it releases the stress of life," said De Lima, 40, who's been teaching jiu-jitsu for 16 years. "When (people) get stressed from money problems, they do dumb things," he said, citing the Los Angeles man who recently shot his family and then himself after losing his job.
De Lima normally charges $110 a month for unlimited classes. Students in the Tough Times program can participate in Gracie Barra's Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday classes, taught by De Lima and Matt Kirtley.
Chris Hartwig is one of the few to take up De Lima on his offer. Hartwig worked in the mortgage lending industry for more than three years and had been training with De Lima for almost two years. When he got laid off two months ago, Hartwig was prepared to quit martial arts, but De Lima told him not to worry about paying until he's back on his feet.
"It was the only hobby that I had, and I was able to keep it, fortunately," said Hartwig, 27, of Tampa, who no longer eats out and has cancelled a few vacations he'd planned. Jiu-jitsu brings stress relief and friendships that have been therapeutic during the job search process, Hartwig said. "You don't have to go to a shrink when you have a bunch of guys in there that understand your situation."