Meet our instructors.

Sam Joseph, head instructor.

Email Sam at

Sam is a 2nd degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the Yamasaki Academy. He was awarded his black belt in 2007 and has vast experience as a teacher, BJJ competitor and MMA fighter. Sam's travels have seen him train with some of the world's best including Fernando and Mario Yamasaki, Francisco Neto, Dave Jacobs, Murilo Santana, Pablo Popovitch, Paul Creighton and Shawn Williams. He brings those experiences and his love for teaching to the academy. Sam also graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science degree in English and is a certified personal trainer.

Here's a snapshot of Sam's accomplishments in competition:

World Championships Masters and Seniors

  • 2012 Bronze Medal (black belt)

4 Time Pan American BJJ Medalist

  • 2007 Gold Medal (brown belt)
  • 2002 Gold Medal (purple belt)
  • 2001 Bronze Medal (purple belt)
  • 2000 Bronze Medal (blue belt)

2 Time US Nationals BJJ Medalist

  • 2011 Silver Medal (black belt)
  • 2007 Bronze Medal (black belt)

New York Summer Open

  • 2013 Gold Medal (black belt)

Dallas Open

  • 2013 Gold Medal (black belt)

Atlanta Open

  • 2013 Gold Medal (black belt)

Sam also regularly writes for the Jiu-Jitsu Style magazine, one of the world's premier Jiu-jitsu publications. Here are a few of his best hits:

Tim Isles, assistant instructor.

Tim was awarded his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in April of 2012 and received his first degree in April of 2015. Tim started training in 2003 under Renzo Gracie black belt, Joe D'arce. He has taught Jiu-Jitsu since 2008 and loves to expand his students' knowledge of the art and sport of BJJ. Tim has also studied many other forms of martial arts and holds a black belt in Judo. Tim also has a Master's degree in education and multiple years of coaching experience at the collegiate level. He brings his experience, love of the art, and passion for teaching to every class.

Derek Kaivani, assistant instructor.

Derek was awarded his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2013 under Jacare Cavalcanti & Lucas Lepri. He and Sam began jiu jitsu together in 1998, but in 2000, Derek suffered a heart condition that took him out of the sport for 7 years. Sam earning his black belt inspired Derek to return to the sport in 2007. After returning, Derek trained under 8-time World Champion, and Hall of Famer, Rubens "Cobrinha" Maciel and 6-time World Champion, Lucas Lepri. Derek is an internationally decorated athlete with extensive teaching/coaching experience.

Derek has also worked on the business side of the sport as a representative to athletes, an academy owner, and speaker/facilitator/instructor for self-defense and bully prevention workshops. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Here are Derek's highlights as a competitor:

Pan Championship

  • 2008 Gold Medal (purple belt)
  • 2009 Gold Medal (purple belt)
  • 2010 Gold Medal (brown belt)
  • 2013 Gold Medal (brown belt)

Brazilian Nationals

  • 2010 Gold Medal (brown belt)
  • 2010 Bronze Medal (brown belt, Absolute)

Atlanta Open

  • 2013 Bronze Medal (black belt)

Shawn Bunting, assistant instructor.

Shawn started training in 2007 and earned his brown belt in 2015 under Paul Creighton (Renzo Gracie black belt) and Sam Joseph. Shawn met Sam Joseph while Sam was teaching at Paul Creighton's academy (CMMA in Suwanee, Ga) and, with Paul's blessing, Shawn has continued that training relationship while still being under Paul/CMMA- spending time at both academies. Shawn is very technical and passionate about both teaching and developing his own bjj game (gi and no-gi).

Shawn has also seen success in competition:

  • 2010 Gold medal at Blue belt No-gi Gladiator Challenge
  • 2010 Silver Medal at Blue belt gi Gladiator Challenge
  • 2009 Bronze Medal at Blue belt NAGA