Along with New Breed Kauai, Kauai Technical Institute (frequently referred to as KTI) also holds a strong presence at Ainofea’s cage events. One would wonder how another small jiu jitsu academy can produce well rounded MMA fighters without having the technical support in the other areas that make up mixed martial arts. Not counting numerous jiu jitsu victories, KTI Jiu-Jitsu is now 20-3 in MMA and 3-0 in kickboxing, proving that natural talent and great coaching does produce results.
Nick and Pono Pananganan founded KTI in 2005 with just a handful of students. Now, KTI has grown to a family of over 100 members. KTI Jiu-Jitsu has been on a roll in jiu jitsu and grappling tournaments from the start, competing in local tournaments on Kauai and in Hawaii, and more recently, mainland events such as Grapplers Quest and IBJJF’s World Championship of Jiu Jitsu.
Derek Kawakami, Hawaii State House of Representatives member and KTI blue belt, tells us about KTI, how jiu jitsu changed his life, and what training at KTI means to him:
I have been training at KTI for the past couple of years but I have been with KTI since it’s inception. You see we are products of dissension. There were a group of us that moved from one house and created another. This was very hard for me and others because we had ties to both houses both with the personal friendships that we have made and the knowledge that we have gained. I ultimately went with KTI because of my personal friendship and loyalty to Pono. You know, jiu-jitsu started out as a hobby for me and the more involved I became in politics the more I needed it to provide a counterbalance and a way to release pressure and stress that comes with politics. Jiu jitsu provides me with tools that I rely on in everyday life. Now, jiu jitsu is just jiu jitsu but what makes it special for people and makes them want to come back for more is the house that they train under. Kauai is very fortunate to have so many different houses that provide great quality and a great atmosphere for learning the gentle art. KTI holds a special place in my heart because it is a safe zone for me. It’s a place where nobody judges me. We take off our slippers, we take off our job titles, we take off any burdens that are upon our shoulders and we focus on training. We focus on becoming better not only in jiu-jitsu, but in life. Pono is always talking to us about being good representatives of the sport, the way of life, and most importantly how we treat other people. He always emphasizes that no one is above the family. And he practices what he preaches. KTI maintains a high standard in our personal code of conduct of what is acceptable behavior once we leave the dojo. Individuals that cannot uphold these standards are asked to leave. We not only represent ourselves, but we represent our school, we represent Relson Gracie, we represent every Relson Gracie Affiliation, and we represent our community. Pono is always encouraging us to participate in community events. Walk-a-thons, fundraising, giving back to the community. It doesn’t take much for one bad apple to give our sport a black eye and so we take personal conduct and behavior very seriously. Like I said before, I owe a lot to my family at KTI, Pono, and the way of life that Jiu jitsu has brought to me and my family. Because of it I am healthier physically and spiritually. I use the techniques I have learned in many aspects of my life. One of the most important lesson that jiu-jitsu teaches you is to always look for opportunity. Even in the most adverse conditions opportunity exists. You may be down on points with time running out but there is always opportunity to submit your opponent. Just like in life, you may have everything going wrong but there is always a silver lining. As I said at the beginning, KTI is a product of dissension. For many this may have a negative connotation. But think of it in a positive way, the biggest benefactors when one school splits and goes in a different direction are the students. It allows our sport to grow. When I first started there were only three schools. Now we have KTI, Longman, Gracie Barra, New Breed, Kamole, Pure, and a host of other sects that are putting out great players. Now when we have tournaments we have more competition and that allows us to grow as players. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the original guys who brought the sport to Kauai — Relson Gracie, Kendall Goo, Bruno Ewald, Kai Garcia, Carl Ragasa. Without these trailblazers, who knows how strong our sport would be. Every school can trace their roots back to one of these guys and because of this we owe them gratitude. We have great rivalries amongst the schools but we are all in the end…Kauai jiu-jitsu. God Bless Jiu-jitsu.
KTI has set the bar high. Without a black belt in-house, KTI is proving their success despite that with dedicated members and their numerous wins in jiu jitsu, MMA, and kickboxing. KTI’s humble presence is being felt on Kauai, throughout Hawaii, and on the mainland. Look out for them at this year’s Mundials in June!