According to the Department of Juvenile Justice, more than 600 Central Florida juveniles were sent to the adult court system last year – a disturbingly large increase from the 296 recorded from July 2004 to June 2005. The sad truth for many of these young adults is that with some positive reinforcement and an avenue for them to channel their energy, many of these crimes may never have happened.

Unfortunately, for families who struggle to pay their bills or place their next meal on the table, luxuries like a gym membership or karate/BJJ lesson are often virtually unobtainable due to cost. These are things that many of us take for granted.

Owner of Mount Dora BJJ Academy, Master David Iturrino, recognized a need in his community and decided to take action. With a 5th degree black belt in Goju Karate, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Iturrino had the strength and willpower to achieve his dream of making BJJ obtainable for everyone!

Late last year when David’s wife, Annie, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer–the life David and his family once knew was shaken to the core. Treatment that was supposed to be fairly routine ended up keeping Annie out of work for 12 weeks.

“The families of our Academy and surrounding Academies stepped up and helped us make it through during that time,” stated David.

Immediately after his wife’s recovery, he decided to start “Grappling 4 Life,” a non-profit charity that provides youth with skills to help them build self-confidence and discipline through martial arts.

With so many families affected by cancer and other struggles this was our chance to take one less stress off that parent, and give a child some kind of outlet and hope.”

Raised in New York along with 15 siblings, David’s tough upbringing of bouncing from home to home began to take a toll.

“I was a troubled kid that liked to fight. I was an all around athlete but still just wanted to fight. I was all over the place, that’s when my brother got me into karate and BJJ. I enjoyed it, and that’s when I started to get my life on track. I had a lot of pain inside that I didn’t know how to take out, and I didn’t want to take it out on others, so I found Jiu-Jitsu. Ever since than its been a love story”

With over 50 students enrolled to date, David and the Iturrino family’s primary focus is getting into the community to get more students and corporations involved with GFL.

“During the next five years we are hoping to have at least five corporations/local business owners signed up with a yearly commitment to support 100 students monthly.”

I’d like thank David Iturrino and his family for taking time out of their day for this interview, and also for all the hard work and time they have dedicated to bettering the Central Florida community.

To learn more about David and his charity “Grappling for Life” visit