Schedule and Info

TNBJJ is closing on December 18, 2019. No more classes after this date.


Why Train Here?

  • Highly credentialed and decorated instructor
    • Dr. Rick Sparks:
      • Multiple black belts including BJJ and Judo
      • International champion and many time medallist in BJJ Masters Division
      • State and National medallist in Judo Masters Division
      • PhD Scientist and Veterinary Doctor with 6 college degrees who understands proper systemization of curriculum and instructional methodologies
  • Best Mats in Knoxville and Maryville Area
    • Judo Tatamis on a gymnastic foamboard floor, which gives but does not spring back
  • Lowest Rates in Knoxville and Maryville Area and NO CONTRACTS:
    • Since this program is not the instructor's livelihood, and the overhead is relatively low, we can offer an outstanding program for a minimum cost.
  • Only BJJ Program in the Area With a Strong Judo Standup Component
  • Comprehensive on-line resources for students including over 150 instructional videos, flow charts, and many other resources.
  • Safety and Learning Emphasis in our Training System maximizes your learning speed and minimizes injuries.
  • Purposefully designed curriculum which works for gi, no-gi, and self defense
  • Friendly environment, all are welcome, we have male and female students ranging in age from 15 to 60. We have not only recreational hobbyists, but also strong sport competitors.
  • Excellent program for physical fitness, weight loss, and mental well-being.


General Info:

This is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) with secondary standup Judo training. Instructor Rick Sparks, is a BJJ and Judo black belt, and a 2 time champion and many time medallist in international masters BJJ competition, and a state and national masters silver medallist in Judo. The primary focus will be on BJJ matwork, but standup grappling (Judo and/or Wrestling) will be trained to a lesser extent in every class.

This is an inexpensive class with no contracts. It is great way to try out or get started in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Everyone is welcome. We have female students, and male students ranging in age from 18 to 60. We have both recreational hobbyists, and strong sport competitors. It is also a great way for Judoka or other martial artists to add BJJ and/or Judo to their overall game. Since the instructor is also a Judo black belt, and holds black belts in various other martial art styles, he is very familiar with how to integrate BJJ into the Judo rule set (and vice-versa), and its application for self-defense in conjunction with other martial arts styles.

The instruction is based on game plan theory. Instead of teaching you individual techniques, and letting you figure out over time how to put them together into an integrated whole, we teach an integrated game plan. This allows you after very limited training to know exactly how to proceed while sparring. Comprehensive resources are made available to our students, including on-line game plan flowcharts for all white belt stripe levels, and all 82 white to blue belt techniques are in video form on-line.

If you are interested in joining, please read the enrolment information, and download the enrollment documents below


Our Style/Philosophy:

APPLICABILITY: Our style is based on fundamental BJJ, Judo and Wrestling skills that have a wide range of applicability in sport and self defense (and by extension for mma). Our focus of training and our technique base is carefully chosen to work as much as possible in all of these areas, and with or without the gi. So you can expect that the vast majority of what you learn in our class, will work in most or all of these areas, and in gi and no-gi.

LEARNING: Simplicity and overlap are used as much as possible in the white to blue belt curriculum, to facilitate fast and easy learning and progression. The curriculum is highly structured using game plan organization to advance your jiu-jitsu game as quickly as possible at the white belt level, but also allows for a large amount of individual variation at the higher belt levels. The overwhelming majority of our technique base can be (and is) trained live in sparring, as this is where true skill development occurs.

SAFETY: Safety is of primary concern at our club. We have strict sparring rules and blood policy, to minimize injuries and illness. We cultivate a learning/team attitude and environment, where the emphasis is improving your jiu-jitsu and helping your teammates. We value strongly the tenets of Judo, mutual benefit and welfare, and maximum efficiency (in technique and learning). We train and spar hard, but always with a mindfulness about the safety of our training partners. We stress cultivation of mental calmness, which will speed your learning, keep the training safe, and will be an asset to you in every aspect of your life. The club is for learning, not to prove yourself. You can prove yourself in competition, which we very strongly recommend for all of our students.

STANDUP: We have a very strong grounding in standup Judo and Wrestling, and not only drill standup throws and takedowns in every class, but also do live standup sparring in every class. We have many judo blackbelts, and experienced wrestlers who regularly train in our club to keep this training safe, and at a high level.

GI AND NO-GI: Although we train primarily in the gi, our technique base is designed to transfer seamlessly to no-gi, and we do at least a round or two of no-gi sparring in every class. Our students have performed very well in no-gi competition, which strongly supports this methodology.

TECHNIQUE BASE: Our technique base strives to be well rounded and balanced between standup, top game, guard passing, attacks from guard, and inferior position escapes. Techniques are chosen based on proven success in high level competition (bjj, judo, wrestling, and mma). The white belt to blue belt curriculum has a slightly stronger emphasis on guard passing, dominant position, and closed guard. Once blue belt is reached, more sophisticated open guard strategies are introduced and practiced. We try to limit the use of techniques that are applicable to a single arena (such as spider guard, which is really only good for sport gi bjj competition). We do cover these sorts of areas, but only to the extent necessary to be successful in competition, with the focus on how to defeat these sorts of positions when used by your opponent. Strictly sport specific attack systems will be studied in detail by higher belts however, if they are interested in the pursuit of these strategies.

COMPETITION: We recommend competition for our students. It is not required. Competition increases your confidence in your jiu-jitsu and judo skills, and will help you learn to deal with anxiety and stressful situations. If you cannot deal with the stress of competing, how will you be able to cope with a self defense situation? Competition is a main driver in the evolution of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, and our participation in competition keeps our club strong and our technique base current and effective.

MMA: The intent and purpose of our club is NOT to train mma fighters (although we do have a few students who occasionally fight mma, and our technique base will work for this purpose). Further, we do not train striking, which is essential for mma. Thus, if your main goal is to fight in the cage, there are several other schools in the area that focus on this, and would be a much better choice for your training.



Classes will be taught by BJJ and Judo Black Belt Rick Sparks (For more info on Rick, Click Here).

Safety Policies:

  • You MUST agree with the safety policies (by signing the safety policy document), and sign a liability waiver prior to training
  • You must agree to be considerate of the safety of your training partners and yourself at all times.
  • Allowed Submission holds:
    • Everyone: All Arm Locks, All Chokes, Wrist Locks
    • Blue and Above: Add Straight ankle locks, knee bars, bicep slicers, knee slicers, and toe hold
  • No explosive submissions, you must give your opponent reasonable time to submit.
  • No neck cranks
  • No heel hooks or any twisting leg locks for anyone.
  • No on the head stacking, your opponent's shoulder blades must remain on the ground
  • No slamming from any position
  • No throws or takedowns done in a manner that would cause your opponent to land on his head or shoulder.
  • Cuts or open abrasions must be fully taped, any blood on gi must be treated with alcohol or other antiseptic.
  • Please do not train if you have staph or ringworm.
  • Standard grappling rules apply, that is, no striking, no small joint submissions (fingers), no fingers in any orifice, no hair pulling, etc. See the competition rules in the resources tab for more information. Please note that tournament rules regarding allowable submissions are somewhat different than the club training rules.

Other Policies:

  • Monthly members are strongly encouraged to have current USJA memberships ($50 per year), for insurance purposes. This includes an excess medical insurance policy for you, and provides liability insurance for your instructors.
  • Anyone wishing to be considered for promotion must be a monthly member.
  • We greatly respect everyone's achievements in all martial arts, but since the main emphasis is on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, please wear your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu rank in this class.
  • Dues are due on the first class of each month


Documents you need to sign and bring with you (click to download):

Gear you need:

  • Gi (BJJ or Judo Gi, required)
    • The difference between a judo gi and a BJJ gi is the cut. Judo gis have wider sleeves and pant legs, and a longer skirt. A judo gi is fine for training, but if you plan to compete, you should purchase a BJJ gi. A karate gi simply will not stand up to the demands of jiu-jitsu training.
    • Please see me at your first class if you need a gi.
  • Mouthpiece and Cup (Optional, but STRONGLY recommended) It is inevitable that you will occasionally take an elbow or knee to the face. If you chip a tooth, it is chipped forever.



The building is old, but the mat area is the best in the knoxville area. Large mat area covered with Modern Judo tatamis, some from the 1996 olympics. These tatamis are on a gymnastic foamboard floor, which gives like a springboard floor, but does not bounce back. It is really an awesome mat. There is a changing room, water fountain, bathrooms, heat and air conditioning.


1376 N Wright Road
Alcoa, TN 37701

From Downtown Knoxville Area:

Go south on Alcoa Hwy. (129) toward Mcghee Tyson Airport. After about 10 miles you will see Green Acres Flea Market on the left. After about 3 more miles you will enter the "airport motor mile" area (lots of car dealerships). Turn left, just after the Shoneys, on Wright Road. Go down Wright road about two miles and you will see Appalachian Martial Arts (building with gray/brown front with Appalachian Martial Arts sign on front) on the left just before you get to the convenience store.

From West Knoxville Area:

Go south on Pellisippi Parkway toward Mcghee Tyson Airport. After about 12 miles Pellisippi Parkway intersects with Alcoa Hwy. Go south(right) on Alcoa Hwy about 1 mile. Turn left, just after the Shoneys, on Wright Road. Go down Wright road about two miles and you will see Appalachian Martial Arts (building with gray/brown front with Appalachian Martial Arts sign on front) on the left just before you get to the convenience store.



More Info

In the class portion, white belts will primarily work on the Tennessee BJJ Blue Belt curriculum and Judo throws. Blue belts and above will work primarily on Judo throws, the Tennessee BJJ Purple Belt curriculum, or topics of interest for that week.

The TNBJJ curriculum is geared toward both gi and no-gi. The large majority of the curriculum can be applied in no-gi sparring with only small modification. However, white belts need to work gi because:

  • It slows down the game, promoting safety for inexperienced grapplers.
  • Because of the grips, the gi develops a mind set of technical problem solving, as opposed to using athleticism to explode out of pins and submissions. There is a definite place for explosiveness and athleticism, but it should be used at the appropriate times in conjunction with excellent technique. The gi promotes this.
  • The somewhat slower pace of the gi allows for the development of feel and skill for many positions and techniques that are extremely difficult to get started with during the fast pace of no-gi sparring. However, after developing these skills in the gi game, they can be easily transferred to the no-gi game.
  • Therefore, the majority of the class will be gi. During the final portion of the sparring, no-gi work will be permitted for everyone.


The class portion will typically proceed as follows:

  • Warm Up and Core Conditioning (10 mins):
    • Running, normal, sideways, high heels, high knees, both directions. (This warms up the legs and the cardiovascular system)
    • Crunches and other ab exercises (Warms up the core, and covers basic core conditioning)
    • Back extensions (Warms up the core, and covers basic core conditioning)
    • Hips down pushups (Warms up the front shoulders, pecs, and stretches the back)
    • Roll back knee pulls (Warms up the rear shoulders, and stretches the back)
    • Hamstring Stretch
    • Hip Stretch
    • Groin Stretch
    • Back Roll and Tornado Rolls
    • Breakfall Drills
  • Throwing Uchikomis (fit-ins), Throw/Takedown instruction
  • Stand up (Throw/Takedown) Sparring (1 and 1/2 minute rounds)
  • Water Break
  • Ground Techniques Instruction and Drilling (~ 20 minutes)
  • Positional Ground Sparring (Related to that day's techniques)
  • Ground Sparring (20-30 minutes) Final Round or so will be no-gi