Through tragedy comes opportunity
Open Guard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu opens downtown

By Eric Oliver - Freeman Staff

Nov. 19, 2015

Co-owners Matt Christiansen, left, and Dan LaPaz grapple on the mats at their new business, Open Guard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in Oconomowoc.   
Eric Oliver/Freeman Staff

OCONOMOWOC - Walk into the brightly lit studio in the upper level of 24 S. Main St. and there will be people grappling on the floor.

Welcome to Open Guard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

The jointly owned martial arts studio opened recently. Co-owners Dan LaPaz and Matt Christiansen offer a variety of classes for adults and children ranging from Brazilian jiujitsu to kickboxing to cardio conditioning and more. The pair also offer a women’s-only jiujitsu class taught by a female instructor. It  coincides with the children’s class.

How the pair got to Oconomowoc is a different story, one that a photo memorial in their studio tells. LaPaz and Christiansen trained at Waukesha Mixed Martial Arts for nine years. One day, the studio owner, Reese Shaner, died in a motorcycle crash.

LaPaz and Christiansen united and wanted to keep things going in his memory.

The new studio has 21,000 square feet of mat space, changing rooms and a shower. Anyone interested in jiujitsu can try a week for free, but Christiansen warned that a week may not be enough. Jiujitsu is addicting, he said.

Open Guard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has 21,000 square feet of mat space.    
Eric Oliver/Freeman Staff

The important thing the pair feels about their studio is that families are welcome.

“We want that family feel and we want people to feel welcome when they come,” LaPaz said. “It’s not just an academy but a developmental center.”

It’s a sentiment Christiansen’s wife, Samantha, echoed.

“I’m a mother of three children and I really wanted to make sure that if I wanted to try something my kids could do it with me,” Christiansen said. “I think if parents are getting involved and if kids are getting involved you’re more engaged as a family.”

The martial art, Samantha Christiansen said, is incredibly applicable today. With a reliance on leverage over pure strength, anyone can compete and succeed.

“It’s so applicable not only for the health reasons but for the security reasons,” she said. “You want your whole family to feel safe.”

Open Guard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is located at 24 S. Main St. in Oconomowoc.   
Eric Oliver/Freeman Staff

The studio offers two open mat times on Friday and Saturday where the mats are open for any member to grapple on.

Matt Christiansen said jiujitsu is rare because of its all-encompassing nature.

“For the most part your smaller people can be just as good as the bigger people and nobody gets hurt,” Christiansen said. “You don’t have to punch someone, which is always good.”

Christiansen got his start in martial arts practicing tae kwon do. He moved into jiujitsu after some friends tried it and he became addicted.

“It becomes your favorite thing to do,” Christiansen said.

The studio has developed a steady set of regulars who welcome any newcomers with open arms (just try not to get stuck in a grapple).

“A lot of these guys spend multiple days training here,” Samantha Christiansen said. “One of the families who trains here, the dad and son started training together. The dad is 60 and they’ll come together and train as a family.”

Samantha Christiansen said her family has enjoyed spending time together at the studio - which she eagerly encourages.

“We want our family to be together,” Christiansen said.

More information about the gym, the class schedule or the instructors can be found at