INSTRUCTORS

DAVID HERRERA

BJJ BLACK BELT

David Herrera Jr. “Skinny” is a black belt under Leandro “Tatu” Escobar. Skinny was first introduced to martial arts in high school where he began training judo at a local YMCA with Hall of Famer Sensei Mehdi Mohammadian in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Skinny began training Jiu-Jitsu when he was 20 after moving back to Chicago. Enamored by Jiu-Jitsu, Skinny moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he spent the first year living and training with Black Belt Gabriel Wilcox.

During a training session at De la Riva’s Jiu Jitsu Academy in Copacabana, Skinny met Leandro “Tatu” Escobar. Leandro quickly became a mentor to Skinny. Skinny ended up training at Leandro’s school, Tatu Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Tijuca, Rio De Janeiro for 5 years.

While living in Brazil, Skinny earned many titles, placing and winning at the IBJJF Sul Americano, Europeans,
Pans, Belo Horizonte, Rio, and Sao Paulo Championships.

RAFAEL RODRIGUES

BJJ BLACK BELT

Rafael Rodrigues was born in Rio de Janeiro, he has been a black belt for 7 years. Having received his black belt from Master Leonardo Vieira (Checkmat),

Rafael started Jiu-Jitsu training at the age of 17, accumulating 24 years of dedication to the sport since his white belt.

A lover of the sport, determined, and very focused on always learning new techniques Rafael began his legacy as a jiujitsu instructor while only a blue belt replacing the frontline teacher in his absence.

In September 2016 he inaugurated his own training center where he trained several students who ended up becoming South American, Brazilian, and World champions.

This Training Center extended until the beginning of 2018 when he decided to move with his family to the United States.

Since then, he has been participating in competitions and adding several titles, and doing what he likes most is sharing his knowledge by teaching classes at Vuk BJJ.

JESSI SWANSON

BJJ BLACK BELT

Jessica Swanson began training Jiu Jitsu when she was 9 years old. At age 13, she began competing in the adult division under Professor Rafael Formiga Barbosa, Soul Fighters BJJ. Growing up, Jessi frequently earned double gold at IBJJF events on the East Coast.

Jessi was a first generation college student and graduated summa cum laude at the University of Bridgeport. She earned her BA in International Political Economy & Diplomacy with a concentration in East Asian studies and a minor in Languages. During college, Jessi earned an academic scholarship to study abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While training at Tatu Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Tijuca, Jessi met her future Husband Skinny Herrera.

At the age of 21, Jessi won the IBJJF World Championships at Brown Belt and was awarded her Black Belt on the podium by her Professor Rafael Formiga Barbosa.

Jessi currently works full time at a nonprofit in Chicago teaching ESL classes to adults and seniors. Jessi loves having the opportunity to share her expierence and knowledge of Jiu Jitsu with the next generation by teaching our kids classes!

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