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February 6, 2024

Easton Lowry’s Daniel Groom: Creating Opportunities and Thriving Under Fire

Tatyana Grechina

Easton Lowry’s Daniel Groom: Creating Opportunities and Thriving Under Fire

In a kitchen, you don’t always have the time to communicate with someone to make sure something gets done correctly. You have to be able to jump in and fill the gaps whenever – and wherever – need be. 

If you had told the 19-year old who worked in a kitchen by day and cleaning the mats at Easton Centennial at nights that one day he’d be the General Manager of Easton’s ninth academy, he would have probably laughed.

Daniel Groom had just gotten out of high school and spent most days working in the kitchen of Romano’s, the Italian restaurant he’d worked at since he was 16. He loved food and cooking, but to sustain the demanding kitchen life, he needed something else to keep him sane. Between a video of a friend hitting a triangle on someone in a competition and photos he’d seen from the academy, where people looked totally exhausted but sporting huge grins, he decided to try out Jiu Jitsu at Easton Centennial. 

For Daniel, finding Easton also meant the first time he really found a community to be a part of.  Even though he lifted weights in high school, his talents mostly went to longboarding with his friends and causing ruckus around the neighborhood. His community outside of school and the restaurant he worked at consisted largely of the friends he played video games with. Ironically, he actually took a couple of wrestling classes in high school but he found he was too claustrophobic to enjoy it – he got destroyed each time. 

Daniel Groom

Today, Daniel approaches nine years with Easton. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, though. When he first started Jiu Jitsu, he’d often panic and react impulsively from every position.

Eventually, he’d begin to look around the room and notice that nobody wanted to train with him.  This made him realize the importance of being a good partner and having good technique. What helped him combat the fight or flight response his claustrophobia would trigger in Jiu Jitsu eventually came down to trust – in the environment around him, and in the safety of his friends and the community around him. 

“As cliche as it sounds,” says Daniel, “I feel like it saved my life a bit. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I was looking for an outlet and a community. Before then, I felt like I hadn’t found a good place where I fit, other than playing video games with my friends. I was blown away by the team feeling. It was something I never really knew I needed.”

He loved how involved the community was, and how immediately they accepted him. When he began coaching kids and then adults, Daniel knew he didn’t want to do anything else.

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Pour into others cups, and it eventually comes back

Like many who start martial arts for the workout or self-defense and stay for the community, being a part of something greater and helping others grow became a driving force for Daniel.

He first noticed it when the focus of his Jiu Jitsu switched from a “me” focused perspective to helping other people get better. He found the best feeling in helping someone new, watching them smile and then keep coming back. In many ways, gaining a community also gave him a bigger sense of purpose. 

“That’s one of my favorite things about coaching the Kids class,” says Daniel, “being able to help mold young individuals into confident young adults. To help them be able to handle any situation that comes their way and to make people feel how I felt when I came to Easton.”

Since becoming a GM, his own martial arts training has had to take a bit more of a backseat, but this doesn’t bother Daniel because he knows that eventually, the scales will shift back. He knows that if he focuses now on being as selfless as possible while he builds a strong culture and solid operating system, eventually he’ll have the training too.

While many things fall onto a GM of an academy, Daniel sees each piece as an opportunity to serve a greater purpose. From managing teams of staff and making sure the bills get paid to getting the order done and making sure everyone has what they need to do their job, GMs have about 10 balls in the air at once. The trick is that everything should work in service of the bigger picture – the community and culture we can build together. 

Luckily, for a new GM, one of the challenges that Daniel didn’t have to face included that of struggling for a membership base. People had waited for so long for an Easton in that location (even before Covid) that by the time its doors opened on October 1st, Easton Lowry had close to 75 members. The school’s Grand Opening randori had nearly 100 people on the mats, including Amal Easton, and 25 students showed up to BJJ Fundamentals on the first night.

“The community outreach since we opened has been mind-boggling,” says Daniel. “Junior is a huge influence, both in coaching style and personality. A lot of the Denver community comes over to support him.” With Professor Junior teaching many of the classes, the response has been exceptional. 

Clarity, candor and floating

Daniel learned early on from managing a restaurant kitchen that keeping a ship on course requires the ability to zoom out and see the big picture even under pressure.

When you’re working in something, you can jump in, hone and improve a particular aspect of it, but if that doesn’t serve the bigger goal, then the effort was misdirected. This is why maintaining a wide scope is so important for working cohesively, especially under a lot of pressure and stress. (link working in vs working on)

Knowing how and when to float, moving seamlessly back and forth between a high-level perspective and the nitty gritty aspects, means you’re never too far from one or the other. 

“It’s a machine at the end of the day,” says Daniel of running the academy, “just like a kitchen. If one part starts failing, you can go in and diagnose it. If you zoom out too much, you can’t see.”

When you build bonds with your team, you can see more clearly what they need and how you can optimize potential and set them up for success.

Working cohesively also means honesty and directness in communication. Daniel doesn’t like people beating around the bush, and he tries not to sugar coat anything either. Setting a precedent of clarity in communication helps when the pressure hits and it’s showtime. Similar to time management – communication must be exact, making sure everyone’s on the same page, setting expectations, and holding folks accountable.

Along with direct candor, the qualities Daniel admires most in other leaders include approachability and empathy. When leaders see their team as people with dreams, goals and personal problems, and not just cogs in a machine, they deal with situations on a human level. 

Incorporating a blend of qualities from both servant and transformational leadership, Daniel prioritizes developing bonds with his team, creating good energy and instilling passion in them. A huge part of how Daniel approaches leadership involves highlighting their passions and helping them achieve what they want in life, in or outside of the BJJ community.

“I want to get the right people in the right places,” says Daniel, “and help support them as best as possible to do their job to the best of their capabilities. It’s about getting to provide potential opportunities for those in the community who want it to be a big part of their life.

At the end of the day, this changed my life. Someone who saw me doing a good job cleaning mats, got me assistant coaching and all of a sudden I’m the GM of a new Easton location. It’s crazy how what you give comes back.”

Taking care of yourself

Coming full circle, cooking has also once again become a favorite form of self care for Daniel. Tapping back into his first passion gives him both a grounding sense of balance and a fun, creative outlet. 

Now that it doesn’t consume his soul, he loves getting creative in the kitchen, making dinner and even sweets and treats a few days a week. It gives him a space to reconnect with himself outside the academy and nourish his well-being.

When your role includes something as all-consuming as the heart of a martial arts academy, maintaining a separation between home and the workplace becomes crucial. 

An introvert by nature, Daniel recharges by completely disconnecting, playing video games with his friends or spending time doing absolutely nothing but watching a movie with his girlfriend.

One book that inspired Daniel along the way and helped him conceptualize what life could look like, is “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. Rather than seeing wealth through a solely monetary lens,  it explores various perspectives of what a “rich” life looks like – including simply the ability to get to do something you want three to four times a week. 

“Maybe one day I can be a millionaire if I want to,” says Daniel, “but at the end of the day, I get to do something I love and watch other people grow and that makes me feel fulfilled. I feel rich with my life, my team, my community and Easton.”


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