Bay Area native Alan “Gumby” Marques opened Heroes Martial Arts with his partner David McCleod in 2009 and has since built a nationally recognized team of instructors that provide a complete curriculum of grappling martial arts. A first-degree black belt and head instructor at Heroes, Marques offers instruction in Brazilian jiu jitsu, judo and wrestling.

Heroes not only serves as a place for seasoned martial arts athletes to improve upon their skills, but also a place where people can find a different way to work out. Ditching the increasingly common tough-guy branding many martial arts studios have taken on, Heroes defines itself as a positive and uplifting family-friendly space.

After graduating from Santa Clara University with an English degree, Marques became more deeply committed to Brazilian jiu jitsu. Marques is also well-known in the martial arts world as a co-founder of, one of the most popular martial arts sites on the Web that has been involved with almost every major martial arts event, including UFC, EliteXC and Strikeforce. Marques has since become known as “the spokesman of jiu jitsu” by many of his peers. 

Name: Alan “Gumby” Marques
Age: 38
Occupation: Owner and Instructor at Heroes Marital Arts

How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I’ve been a Bay Area native all my life, but I settled in South Bay in ‘91 for school and just never left.

What do you like most about San Jose?
I’ve been all over the country and I just like it here. I think it’s the merge of new technology versus the diverse mix of people that you meet here.

How did you get the nickname Gumby?
Because I’m flexible, which is a pretty good trait to have when you’re doing jiu jitsu. I had the name on and off throughout school, but when I started doing Brazilian ju jitsu it really stuck. I think even now my mom introduces herself as “Gumby’s mother.”

How old were you when you started learning martial arts?
I did a few years of judo as a child, but I really picked up Brazilian jiu jitsu fresh out of college at age 22.

Have you ever had to use your self-defense skills?
Yes, I’ve done security work in the past when I was younger. One time I was helping my friend run a club in LA and he was attacked by two people. Unfortunately for them we were both trained in Ju Jitsu, so we were both able to put them in choke holds and get them out of there. Where we were there were a bunch of celebrities watching the whole thing, and one of them was Oscar De La Hoya. He started asking us about ju jitsu and the whole thing.

Who were some of your martial arts heroes when you were a kid?
I guess I would have to say Bruce Lee. I grew up watching Kung Fu Theatre on Channel 26 and Tat-Mau Wong. And then the UFC came on, and I became enamored of the Gracie family.

Do you have a favorite martial arts movie?
I guess Fists of Fury, Legends of Fong Sai Yuk, Project A. I loved Bloodsport as a kid.

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not at the studio?
Honestly, I like to be home asleep. I’m pretty much here all the time.

Where are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
I like the SoFa area right here—the art galleries and stuff like that. I walk around and check out the art on First Fridays. And I like getting pearl tea at Hydration over on Third. And I’m at Iguana’s about once a week. I like the arena for all the events that come through there. Seems like I’ve discovered a lot of little hangouts around here. I’m friends with the manager at Agenda, so sometimes I hang out there.

If you could change one thing about San Jose, what would it be?
The budget issues in the city tend to get some people down. I’ve been in this area a while, and I think even 10 years ago this neighborhood might have seemed a little rougher, and I’m happy to see the progress. I would just like to continue to see that kind of progress to make for a safer and more friendly downtown San Jose, and I think it’s moving in that direction.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?
To me as a martial artist, maybe Yosh Uchida. He has a hall named after him in San Jose State. He was the originator of judo in this country and a figure in the U.S. for that. I met him quite a few years ago. I’ve known folks on the San Jose State team, but from a historical perspective I have to say he’s one of the more interesting guys that I’ve met.