Through the open door of Springfield’s Virtue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu come the sounds of little bare feet rapidly thumping on gym mats. Inside, Kym Sturdivant’s watchful gaze over the tiny fighters is sober. Arms raised, the grade-school grapplers circle each other, analyzing their opponents. The first to spot a weakens strikes. As the students spar, the seriousness they try to emulate from their sensei melts away. Laughter is punctuated by the hard thud of backs slamming against blue mats.

— Peter Vancini,