When I first came to SBG the first coach I met was John Mertlich, who was then a blue belt. Since then I have seen him and his family at the gym regularly. His wife Viva is very supportive and they both work together to work through hectic schedules at home and at the gym. John takes class, coaches, and his 2 children take classes as well.
John first started training in jiu jitsu in 2007 when the gym was located on Martin Luther King Dr. in NE Portland. He was referred to it by a military friend of his. John trains in the Ultimate Athlete program at SBG which is a program built for only the most dedicated students. These students have a decent base set of skills and want to work with the head coach of the entire organization. John is currently a purple belt through SBG. John says that he joined to help with his own physical fitness and being able to “win fights without hurting people.”
John and his wife Viva have 2 of their 3 children taking jiu jitsu for the past 2 years. John has his children involved in jiu jitsu to model discipline, focus, and commitment. Viva says her “goal for the kids is fitness as well as confidence and independence. I think jiu jitsu at SBG is great for their mental, emotional, and physical development.”
John said he and the kids go to class and 4-5 days a week and John is also a coach at SBG for the Foundations classes. As you can imagine a family with three kids has some logistical challenges and the Mertlichs manage them with aplomb. “We fit it in our schedule by making sure to support the other parent. John works the full time, day job. We just have classes in our schedule like every other commitment. John utilizes more night time slots during the week because of that, kids go after school.” says Viva. Viva said that she has taken yoga at SBG and has also done some weekend camps/workshops. She’s been connected to SBG through John and the kids.
What has stood out to me about the Mertlichs in the time I have been at SBG is summed up in what I experienced witnessing one of my first SBG Ironman’s when John was awarded his purple belt. His whole family came out to watch: wife and 3 kids. What was striking was that the first roll of that long evening was with his 9 year old daughter who didn’t just want to watch but wanted to participate in the Ironman with her father. I could tell that it was special for the family and could see John was beaming with pride that his daughter participated in the rite of passage that is the SBG Ironman.
One Tribe, One Vibe…that’s SBG.