Our instructors

Our instructors are the heart of Freedom Jiu-Jitsu. They're not just experts in jiu jitsu; they're passionate about teaching and creating a welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere that allows everyone to learn and grow. Each one brings their own style and experience to help students of all ages and levels advance in both skill and confidence. In our gym, community and personal growth are as important as physical training. Our team is dedicated to making every class a positive, empowering experience, where everyone feels part of our jiu jitsu family.

staci stefan

Owner & Black Belt Instructor

Staci started her martial arts journey as an amateur boxer over 20 years ago and gives all credit to martial arts for saving her life. It wasn’t until a few years after the opening of Gracie Carlsbad in 2009 did she fall in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She immediately started competing and had great success and victories in tournaments, medaling in IBJJF, JJWL, NAGA and more… until injury, surgeries, and two more babies delayed further competition. After taking an 8-year competition layoff, Staci recently started competing again and is enjoying the thrill and challenge that competition brings. For the last 14+ years, she co-owned and operated Gracie Humaita Carlsbad and helped to create the supportive, thriving community that is now Freedom Jiu Jitsu. 

Training Gracie Jiu Jitsu for 11 years, she earned her black belt under the guidance of Master Royler Gracie, and is now under Professor Dave Ruiz. Staci loves to give back to the sport that has given her so much by focusing on teaching others the wonderful art. Her passion is empowering women and children through self defense and jiu jitsu, and her unique homeschool program which empowers parents to choose alternative education for their children. She teaches kids’ and women’s classes and is available for private lessons and self-defense seminars/private groups.

Above all, Staci is a devoted and loving mother first to her four children, ages 4-15 years old. 

dave ruiz

Head Black Belt Instructor

Professor Dave Ruiz holds the rank of 5th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Rigan Machado. However, Dave started his training at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA under Royce Gracie. Dave trained with the source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Grand Master Helio Gracie. Helio visited and taught at the Academy often and Dave got to benefit from his legendary teachings. Not just in the ways jiu jitsu is applied but how it is lived, breathed, and thought about daily.

Dave competed through all the ranks doing very well in competition, and most importantly Dave can teach Gracie Self Defense the way Grand Master Helio passed it down to his sons and grandsons. Come take one of Dave’s classes and learn jiu jitsu the way it was meant to be taught! He teaches kids’ and adults’ classes and is available for private lessons.

Dave has a 4 year old daughter who you will often see joining him on the mat!

travis sevilla

Black Belt Instructor

Professor Travis is a lifelong martial artist with a passion for teaching. He earned his black belt in Shotokan Karate as a young man and later expanded his skills to kickboxing and muay thai. After moving to San Diego 14 years ago, he discovered jiu jitsu, which captured his heart with its self defense applications and intricate technical aspects. Travis earned his black belt as a proud member of the Gracie Humaita team, and is now under Professor Dave Ruiz. 

Beyond martial arts, Professor Travis is also an accomplished artist, dedicated husband and father, and committed educator. His teaching approach focuses on the fundamental details of jiu jitsu, which he believes are essential for mastering the art. Currently, he coaches teenagers and adults, offering group classes as well as private coaching sessions upon request. Professor Travis is known for his friendly demeanor and his ability to connect with students of all ages, making him a valued instructor in the Freedom Jiu-Jitsu community.

Edson Perez

Muay Thai Instructor

Coach Edson’s Muay Thai journey began in 2015, prompted by health issues that compelled him to seek a more active and fulfilling lifestyle. At that time, he weighed 280 pounds, but his passion for Muay Thai ignited a fire within him to make a remarkable change. Through relentless dedication and hard work, Coach Edson not only shed the excess weight but also embraced the challenges of the sport, ultimately fighting in the 175 lb weight class for WCK.

The impact of Muay Thai on Coach Edson’s life goes beyond physical transformation. It has been a catalyst for profound improvements in his overall health and mental well-being. The discipline, focus, and resilience cultivated through Muay Thai have become integral aspects of his daily life. He applies the lessons learned to enhance efficiency, discipline, and dedication in all aspects of his personal and professional endeavors.

Coach Edson’s experience extends beyond casual training, as he has participated in various competitions, including point-based fights and events organized by WCK. These experiences have not only honed his skills but also deepened his appreciation for the sport’s rich tradition and culture.

What sets Coach Edson apart is his genuine passion for inspiring others to make positive changes in their lives through Muay Thai training. Whether through coaching, sharing his personal journey, or simply leading by example, Coach Edson is committed to helping individuals harness the transformative power of Muay Thai to become better versions of themselves.

additional black belt instructors

Steven Loree

John Turbeville

Robert Faithful

Benjamin Chen

Tim Mallon

Chang Hwang

Join the Movement:

Freedom Jiu Jitsu is not just a gym; it’s a community where people of all ages, sizes and backgrounds find strength through adversity and build resilience through perseverance. Your journey begins with a free trial – an opportunity to experience firsthand the transformative power of Jiu Jitsu at Freedom Carlsbad. Embrace empowerment, embrace strength, embrace Freedom.