Roma Jiu Jitsu Academy
Roma Jiu Jitsu Academy is a family oriented Jiu Jitsu facility based in Hilo, Hawai'i. Founded in 2016 by Kawika and Jamie Yoneda, Roma JJA is a proud affiliate of the ATOS Association. The Roma 'Ohana practices modern, detailed and innovative techniques, with an emphasis on relationship building, goal setting and health. Professor Kawika is a black belt under the Mendes Bros.
Kawika Yoneda | Owner / Professor
Jamie Yoneda | Owner
Kawika has been involved in sports and martial arts since the age of six. He started with Karate and Tae Kwon Do, then spent many years training Muay Thai, Boxing and Kickboxing. When his gym started adding Jiu Jitsu to their training, Kawika was not very excited about the change. He didn't see why anyone would take a fight to the ground if you could stay standing! He found himself skipping Jiu Jitsu class, and eventually ended up taking a break from martial arts for almost two years. This all changed in 2010 when a friend somehow convinced him to try out a Jiu Jitsu class again. Little did he know that the very reason he stopped training martial arts would soon become one of his greatest passions.
Weighing in at 240 pounds at the time, Kawika went to his first Jiu Jitsu class thinking he would be able to use his strength and size to his advantage, but he was in for a surprise. Not only did the instructor beat him, he did it with his eyes closed! By the time he left class that night Kawika had made up his mind that he was going to learn Jiu Jitsu.
Shortly after receiving his blue belt, Kawika started teaching some adult classes. Wanting to do a great job, but not having much experience in teaching or a broad knowledge of the art, he began spending a lot of time researching techniques online. That's when he came across the Mendes Brothers and Andre Galvao. Their style was intriguing and something he had never seen before. Kawika spent a great deal of time studying their matches and watching their techniques. A pivotal moment came after competing in the 2012 Pan American Championships in Irvine, California as a blue belt. Being surrounded by world class athletes , watching them live, and competing in such a big arena for the first time sparked something in him. He walked off the mats and knew this is what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. After a lot of prayer and consulting with his girlfriend, Jamie, they made the decision to follow this dream and started saving and planning their move to California for Kawika to train Jiu Jitsu full time.
Kawika and Jamie were married in November of 2013, then in January 2014, they packed everything they could fit into 4 suitcases and boarded a plane to California. This was a big leap of faith to leave everything that was familiar and the life they had in Hawai'i for a great unknown, and a place they had never been.
Kawika chose to train at the Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy (ATOS Costa Mesa) under Guilherme and Rafael Mendes. He chose the Mendes Bros not just because they are among the best in the world but because of their faith in God and Jesus Christ. Over the next 2 years, Kawika had the opportunity to learn, train, compete and grow as an athlete. Even before moving to the mainland, Kawika knew that California would not be a permanent thing for them, because part of his dream was to come back home to Hilo and bring what he had learned with him. He wanted to build a strong team from Hawai'i and to bring opportunity to those in his hometown with similar goals.
These dreams are becoming a reality through opening Roma JJA as the first ATOS affiliate in the State of Hawai'i. This has been a very humbling experience and also a huge honor. Kawika has a great respect for the ATOS Association and looks up to Andre Galvao and the Mendes Bros not only for what they have built, but the example that they are through their Jiu Jitsu and also the strong foundation they have in their faith. Kawika received his black belt from the Mendes Bros in July of 2017.
"I want to extend my deep love and appreciation to everyone who has helped me along this journey; to my beautiful wife, my family and friends for their never ending love and support, and above all else to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As long as we put God first, there is nothing we can't do."
- Kawika Yoneda
Mitsuyo Maeda>Carlos Gracie>Carlson Gracie>Andre Pederneiras> Ramon Lemos>Guilhereme and Rafael Mendes>Kawika Yoneda
Coach Todd was introduced to Jiu Jitsu in 2009 after wrestling in high school. He started out with No-Gi Jiu Jitsu, which helped him to stay in a competitive mind set. After graduating from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo with a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology, the study of human movement, he began training gi under the instruction of Coach Kawika. Todd is an avid competitor and a dedicated coach who enjoys learning along side his students and watching them excel.
“I love jiu jitsu because of the diversity brings. From young to old, and people from all backgrounds, you never know who you’ll meet on the mat.”
- Coach Todd
Fun fact: Todd enjoys body boarding, so when he’s not on the mat, you can catch him dropping knee down at Honoli‘i.
Coach Cami is an elementary school counselor, currently working on her Masters degree at Chaminade University of Honolulu. She started Jiu Jitsu in 2015 and quickly fell in love with the sport. In addition to coaching and training, Cami is also a competitor. The constant mental and physical challenge is just one reason why she loves Jiu Jitsu.
“I hope to inspire other women and little girls to become involved with the art that has so positively impacted my life.”
Fun fact: Cami LOVES dinosaurs and all things pink and glittery.