Cross Collar Academy celebrates six years of jiu jitsu

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Justin Dumontier (white) and Gabe Moxness demonstrate the Brazilian jiu jitsu cross-collar choke, the namesake for Cross Collar Academy in St. Ignatius. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

Some of the nicest, most humble people you’ll ever meet are found quietly training, night after night in St. Ignatius, to choke each other.

Fortunately, everyone respects “the tap.”

Justin Dumontier teaches Brazilian jiu jitsu at Cross Collar Academy four nights a week. He and his students celebrated the six-year anniversary of Cross Collar Academy Jan. 27.

The training is physically tough, practicing over and over the art of controlling one’s opponent, much like a human boa constrictor.

The students take it seriously, engaging mightily in the methods of taking each other down, and using subtle leverage techniques to bring their opponent to the edge of breaking, whether it’s with an arm bar, a choke, or some other body part. But the instant their opponent taps them or the floor to signal, “Enough!” they stop. And then they go at it again.

Dumontier started teaching the martial art in the back of the Tribal Fitness Center in 2014. A year later, he leased a building next to City Hall, and created his own gym. Even in the small town of St. Ignatius, he has had a steady flow of eager students through his door.

Dumontier has been training 11 years. Before the fitness center, there was about a year and half of what he called “garage days” training with friends. He would bring mats, they would roll in someone’s garage or yard or anywhere.

Cross Collar Academy works with students from the very beginner level white belt. A new person might go months before they find that first grip that successfully controls or takes down an opponent. But when they do, the feeling of personal accomplishment is well-earned. There is no losing in jiu jitsu, the saying goes. You either win or you learn. And there’s a lot of learning.

“The hardest part is coming through that front door. Every time. It’s a mental thing,” Dumontier said.

He understands, because he used to come up with excuses about other things he needed to do.

“In the beginning, maybe people love it. But then they realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Dumontier said.

He quotes famous coach Chris Hauter: “It’s not who’s good. It’s who’s left.”

About 15 percent of students stick with it long enough to make the second belt level, blue, and perhaps 1 percent make it to black belt, Dumontier said. But many say the strength and skills they learn even as beginners is a real accomplishment.

Dumontier himself is 42, a brown belt working toward a black belt. He explains that advancement of his students isn’t about only acquiring a list of skills, but with experience, they become more competent learners, able to apply and pass on skills.

But it’s not only the physical development they gain.

“The social aspect of it is huge,” Dumontier said.

“You see each other under different stresses, when you or they are vulnerable. You learn to trust someone who is basically a stranger. It fills the void of physical interaction that perhaps we miss in this time of social media. One on one, gaining or absorbing energy from the other person, and bouncing it back.”

His respect for his students and others in the art is palpable.

Dumontier is finishing a Bachelor’s in Business Administration at Salish Kootenai College, which he said helps him with both Cross Collar Academy and The Kapi Shop, a popular St. Ignatius espresso stand.

For more information, visit or email Justin at

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