Our Team

Our world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors intuitively cater to your individual learning styles. At Ascension Academy we provide you with a comfortable learning atmosphere as well as a safe environment for training. We Have the Perfect Instructors for both Adult and Kids Jiu-Jitsu Classes

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructors

Ascension Jiu-Jitsu Martial arts instructors and students

James Ralph

HEAD Jiu-Jitsu INSTRUCTOR

James Raph started training Martial arts and Jiu-Jitsu in 2008 and got his blackbelt in 2018. Professor James loves berimbolos (BJJ), Dragons, and Hobbits.

He is a NoGi  Pan Ams medalist and prefers not to boast about accolades. He loves Jiu-jitsu more than anything else and is a master of the martial art. 

Danilo Silva

Instructor,  Jiu-Jitsu 

In the transformative May of 2003, I embarked on my martial arts journey at 20 years old, delving into the intricate world of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu near my home in Brazil. My path was defined by a blend of tradition and uniqueness, incorporating ground strikes, takedowns, kicks, and punches. Juggling work and studies, I committed to training 2-3 times weekly, navigating not only time constraints but also financial limitations.

The pursuit of my first belt encountered a hurdle – a financial one. Yet, undeterred, I stood at the doorstep of the graduation event, unable to partake due to the cost. During that initial year, my resources were scarce, even lacking a personal kimono. Graced by the generosity of friends who lent me their attire, I persisted in my passion.

Fate intervened when a Sunday invitation led me to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy under the guidance of Professor Cícero Costha. Welcomed warmly, I discovered a supportive environment that transcended monetary constraints, as the academy operated as a social project, fostering the pursuit of martial arts among the youth.

From that pivotal moment, my journey unfolded seamlessly. Within six months, I attained my blue belt, followed by a year to reach the purple belt stage, where a seven-year tenure ensued. Despite the academic demands of studying environmental engineering, I held steadfast, training diligently during holidays.

The brown belt marked a new chapter, requiring an additional two years before achieving the pinnacle – the coveted black belt in December 2015. Over the years, I immersed myself in both internal and external championships, contributing to the community by teaching classes in gyms and a Christian social project focused on youth.

In December 2016, I embarked on a new chapter in the USA, immersing myself in judo under Master Dan Brown in Utica, NY, and exploring various Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academies. A two-year stint in Lake Katrina, NY, under Professor Nolan’s guidance, preceded a year at the Black Hole BJJ academy in New Paltz, NY, under Professor Aaron.

For the past two years, my journey has found a home in Kingston, NY, where I am an Brazilian jiu-Jitsu instructor and integral part of the Community BJJ project led by teachers James Ralph, Pedro Marques, and others at Ascension BJJ.

Today, I proudly bear the legacy of Professor Cícero Costha, holding two dans. His influence extends far beyond my journey, having shaped the paths of renowned figures in BJJ, including Leandro Lo, Miyao Brothers, Manuel Ribamar, Francisco Lo, Lucas Pinheiro, and several other distinguished athletes.

Sandy Jose Nunez

Instructor,  Jiu-Jitsu 

Sandy moved from Astoria, Queens to Prattsville, NY after the Global Pandemic. This shift made him reevaluate his hospitality career, leading back to his roots. For over ten years, Sandy has taught in a variety of capacities. Sandy trained from White Belt to Black Belt with Josh Griffiths at Clockwork Jiu Jitsu. Before moving, Sandy operated the BJJ program at Physical Culture Collective. Now, it’s time to embrace this path.

Sandy’s classes approach Jiu Jitsu through organized movement and adapting to variability. He focuses on precision in technique to let students express themselves.

Sandy has medal placements and super fight wins throughout the North East. Besides these, he’s most proud of the results his students have when they choose to compete. He structures class in a way that experts enjoy and beginners can feel welcome in. With a safe and fun class environment, Sandy seeks to aid others on their journeys through Jiu Jitsu. Hopefully they’ll learn something while they’re at it! 

Peter Orr

Instructor, Kids & teens Jiu-Jitsu 

A lifelong martial artist, Coach Peter began his journey in Shorinji Ryu karate at age 8, attaining his black belt at 17.  After a Division 1 athletics career (high jump) he decided to round out his martial arts background with grappling – he practiced aikido then judo, and finally settled on Kosen (combat) jiu jitsu, a Japanese style with an emphasis on ne waza, or ground technique.  

After moving to NYC in 1994 he became one of Renzo Gracie’s first students in the United States.  Coach Peter received his blue belt from Professor Renzo in 1996 and he routinely enjoyed private lessons from then purple belt, John Danaher. Coach Peter then moved to Chicago in 1998 for graduate school where he trained under the legendary Carlson Gracie Sr and Jr, from whom he received his purple belt.  At the age of 32 Coach Peter won Gold at the 2001 Midwest Jiu Jitsu Championship.  

Now settled in the Hudson Valley, Coach Peter practices and spreads his love for jiu jitsu with his 3 daughters, all of whom train at Ascension.  

Christopher Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor

Christopher Ramos

Instructor, Kids & teens Jiu-Jitsu 

Christopher has been a movement artist since 2009 ,first developing a passion for Hip Hop/b-boying within the dance community of New York City. Years later he would relocate to the Hudson Valley to attend college, studying exercise science while still continuing his practice of competitive dancing, teaching for local dance studios and non for profit organizations.In 2018 Chris would be introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and instantly fall in love with this incredible martial art. With 6 years of competitive insight, 3 years of instructional knowledge and exposure to Brazilian culture, Chris harnesses all these factors into his style of teaching and leads with a blend of compassion and discipline when it comes to the betterment of his students as he becomes a great Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor.

James Petroski 

Instructor, Kids & teens Jiu-Jitsu 

James has been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since January of 2018 under several martial arts instructors in the Hudson Valley. He landed in Ascension as a founding member in March of 2023, and began teaching the kids classes shortly after. He’s passionate about learning as much and training as often as he can, and loves to share that passion in the form of teaching the next generation. 

Off the mats, James likes to play video games, cook for himself and his wife, and run his weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions with his friends. 

Pedro "Panda" Marques

Owner   |   Assistant Jiu-Jitsu instructor 

Pedro moved from Brazil to the US in 2000. His initial life path was towards the financial sector but he found himself in the construction industry where he has remained since. Pedro holds an MBA from SUNY New Paltz and runs a successful construction business. His Jiu-Jitsu experience began shortly after some life-altering health issues which put him on the path of discipline and dedication.

Pedro has studied the gentle martial art of Jiu-Jitsu for the past 6 years, traveling the world seeking the best instructors and training facilities, experiencing the many approaches to teaching as well as practicing the magnificent sport. His many passions also include meditation, yoga, mobility science, snowboarding, surfing, and all things related to maximizing the human potential. Pedro has found a way to merge Yoga and Jiu-Jitsu to complement each other To help maximize potential! 

“My goal with the creation of Ascension Academy of Jiu-jitsu & Yoga is to create an inclusive environment which focuses on the human potential and on maintaining an environment of discipline and respect while fostering personal growth.”

Leo de Sousa

Instructor,  Jiu-Jitsu 

I have trained the martial art of jiu jitsu for 10+years, and never thought this could got me this far. I had quit som many things in life, however, jiu jitsu was never the case. During this 10+years journey, I changed JJ schools, done competitions across U.S., met so many great people, witness awesome places and events, and now I’m feeling ready to share with my teammates; that’s is why I decided to be a instructor. 

We from Ascension are thrilled to share a collaboration with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Professor Leo, as he opens a school on the other side of the river. He remains an instructor at Ascension.  If you are close to Poughkeepsie, stay tuned for the soft opening coming this January.

Jiu-Jitsu Adults class Photo, Guard pass
Ascension Bjj Panda
We've been busy getting the school up and running and promise new photos to come.

Juliana Machado

Owner   |   Head Instructor, Yoga

Yoga is my first language. Through its teachings I have learned to dive within and create a kind relationship with my own being.

At Ascension, we are creating a yoga program where one can connect to the light within and allow the intelligence that is already there to lead the way.

My son, Pedro, and I bring to our space the power of a dream coming through as we join ventures. We are sharing practices that keep supporting our wellbeing and growth in all levels.

The foundation of our school is: respect, discipline, alignment and the invite to “ascend”.

For more about my experience as a yoga teacher, please click here.

Ascension Bjj Panda
We've been busy getting the school up and running and promise new photos to come.

Juliana Machado

Owner   |   Head Instructor, Yoga

Yoga is my first language. Through its teachings I have learned to dive within and create a kind relationship with my own being.

At Ascension, we are creating a yoga program where one can connect to the light within and allow the intelligence that is already there to lead the way.

My son, Pedro, and I bring to our space the power of a dream coming through as we join ventures. We are sharing practices that keep supporting our wellbeing and growth in all levels.

The foundation of our school is: respect, discipline, alignment and the invite to “ascend”.

For more about my experience as a yoga teacher, please click here.

Behind the scenes

Melanie Gonzalez

Creative Team Member

Melanie Gonzalez is an integral part of our creative team. She is an artist/photographer that works with nature in unique ways. It is her art that inspires Ascension’s Rash Guards and Spats.

Melanie also brings an enthusiastic energy to her Jiu-Jitsu practice. She began training two years ago and is an inspiration to us all.

Ascension Bjj Panda
We've been busy getting the school up and running and promise new photos to come.

Dorothy Hamburg, MS

Exercise Physiologist   |   Creative Director

Having begun practicing Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 55, Dorothy brings a unique approach to teaching and learning the art of Jiu-Jitsu. She holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiologist with an emphasis in Sports Medicine and Biomechanics. She is the owner of a private gym in Uptown Kingston and has over 24 years of experience working with individuals of all ages, and sizes as well as a multitude of musculoskeletal, orthopedic and neurological issues.

Dorothy is the driving force behind Ascension’s Masters Athlete Program. Having practiced Jiu-Jitsu intensely for the past five years, she understands that Jiu-Jitsu can be more of a challenge for the Masters Athlete when it comes to learning, retaining information and using that knowledge when practicing.

Ascension Bjj Panda
We've been busy getting the school up and running and promise new photos to come.