Steamboat’s Shaw, Marrs earn black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu | SteamboatToday.com
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Steamboat’s Shaw, Marrs earn black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

From left, Dave Marrs and Brett Shaw spar at Steamboat Springs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a club which they co-own with Nate Daughenbaugh. The pair will be promoted to black belt after 11 years of training Saturday. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is widely considered the most difficult martial art to master, requiring 10 years or more of training to earn a black belt. A jiu jitsu black belt means a little more than other black belts, since it takes so long to earn.

Saturday, Dave Marrs and Brett Shaw will be promoted to black belt after about 11 years of training four days per week at Steamboat Springs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

“The first thought is I’m not worthy of this,” Marrs said. “This is too big of a deal. You’re constantly self-doubting, then you start to realize it’s not about being the best on the mat; it’s really I just never gave up on it. … It’s hard not to think you’re not worthy of this because you really held it to such a high standard.”



The black belt isn’t technically the last belt someone can earn, but it still signifies a mastery at an expert level — a figurative and literal tying together.

“It feels like my goal is coming to fruition, and at the same time, it feels like the beginning of an ongoing journey,” Shaw said. “It’s definitely a milestone. It’s not like you get the black belt and (stop). You continue to progress and continue to grow.”

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Shaw wants to grow personally by getting back into competing but also wants to see the program and club grow as more people discover jiu jitsu.

A jiu jitsu promotion isn’t based on any set scale, number of skills or hours put in. It’s simply an evaluation, and timing varies depending on the student and teacher.

Marrs heard about Nate Daughenbaugh 11 years ago. Daughenbaugh learned some jiu jitsu overseas while in the military. Marrs, who previously trained a bit in boxing and krav maga, met Daughenbaugh and asked if he could teach him jiu jitsu.

Around the same time, Shaw, owner of Timberline Contracting, did a job for Daughenbaugh and learned about the jiu jitsu club he ran in town.

“I thought this was a good avenue to be competitive and stay in shape and be able to learn self-defense,” Shaw said.

From left, Dave Marrs and Brett Shaw will be promoted to black belt Saturday. They have been training in the martial art of Brazilian jiu jitsu for about 11 years at Steamboat Springs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which they co-own with Nate Daughenbaugh. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

For more than a decade, the pair have trained alongside each other, progressing and improving at a similar pace.

“It’s kind of like iron sharpening iron,” Shaw said. “We continue to push each other. As you progress, you may get better at one thing, and then the other person kind of figures out what you’re doing, and they get better and you keep hopscotching. It’s been tremendously helpful to have someone with me there from the beginning.”

They started as sparring partners, but that soon grew into a friendship and later a business partnership, as Shaw and Marrs became part owners of the club. Marrs has helped grow the youth jiu jitsu programs, which are opening up to practices, again.

While others go for a run to clear their head and de-stress, they find solace on the mat.

In 2018, Shaw’s wife, Sancy, was killed in a car crash Christmas Eve, and his daughter, Charlee, was seriously injured. On top of a supportive community, jiu jitsu helped him through the mourning process.

“When you train, you’re training with men and women that are putting themselves out there on a daily basis. You form a camaraderie with them because it’s not something that is normal. It’s not something the general public does all the time,” Shaw said. “You feel this connection with people because you’ve been through the crucible together. That connection helped me specifically being able to disconnect a bit and get out of my own head and be able to process. They were there for me. … They were experiencing it with me.”

“To see how strong he was, just in both heart and mind — he was an inspiration for sure,” Marrs said.


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