Professor Thomas Pless is a true martial arts veteran. He has amassed a total of 33+ years of training experience. With 24 years of teaching experience and 14 years as a martial arts business owner. Professor Thomas is a 4th Degree IBJJF Black Belt. He has developed students as young as 3 years of age all the way to serious practitioners that competed on some of the UFC’s biggest fight cards. Over the last 8 years Professor Thomas’s students have won close to 25 IBJJF World and Masters World Titles.
Professor Thomas started his martial arts journey at the age of 15. Starting with Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido at the Tae Kwon Do Institute located in Santa Fe, NM. Eventually he then added Tang Soo Do to his studies which he trained at the local Boys Club. After 2 years of exposure to traditional martial arts Professor Thomas settled in at Warrior Priest Arts also in Santa Fe where he began his training in Muay Thai and Philipine Martial Arts. Being at the right place at the right time he was fortunate enough to be introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the early 90’s.
“Being that all of my martial arts training had been striking based up until that moment I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but then the first UFC aired on pay per view and I was like oh ok I get it now.”
Shortly after witnessing the first UFC a young Professor Thomas enlisted in the United States Navy to serve his country, where he served for 4 years. After the conclusion of his time in the military, Professor Pless was ready to dive into martial arts full time. He started teaching in his hometown of Santa Fe where he instructed the Cardio Kickboxing Classes, and the Muay Thai technique classes for both children as well as adults. After a few years Professor Thomas moved to Bangkok, Thailand in order to specialize and refine his knowledge of Muay Thai. After close to a year of living abroad Professor Thomas then moved back to the US and continued teaching Muay Thai.
A year after returning from Thailand Professor Thomas then decided to return to the art he originally started with and finish what he started. It was during this time that he earned the rank of Black Belt in both Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido. Professor Thomas became a black belt instructor at the Tae Kwon Do Institute.
During his time teaching at the Tae Kwon Do Institute a Jiu Jitsu school opened up in town. The Santa Fe Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy under Professor Alberto Crane was one of the first established schools in the southwestern United States. Professor Thomas immediately enrolled. With a firm understanding of Jiu Jitsu basics Professor Thomas was given the opportunity to work at the Jiu Jitsu Academy. The lessons learned at this academy were invaluable and created a great deal of personal growth. After earning his Blue Belt Professor Thomas then turned his sights to MMA competition. Having an eclectic background in the martial arts gave him an absolute advantage over his peers at the time.
“MMA was still in it’s infancy at that time and the majority of competitors were only experts in one particular discipline.”
Professor Thomas went undefeated and secured 4 straight wins. All of which ended in the first round. Professor Thomas then turned his focus back to Sport Jiu Jitsu and won his first major title. The IBJJF Pans – without giving up a single point that day.
It was at this point that Professor Thomas decided to focus entirely on coaching. In 2007 Professor Thomas earned the rank of Black Belt and took over as Head Instructor of the Santa Fe Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy. Professor Alberto was the first american to earn a black belt from Gracie Barra(the world’s largest Jiu Jitsu team) and Professor Thomas was his first Black Belt.
Professor Thomas continued his coaching not just in Brazilian Jiu JItsu but in MMA as well, developing one of the most prolific teams in the Southwest. His team accomplished a long list of prestigious accolades. Three of his students captured the King of the Cage World Title and even went on to star in the MTV reality show Bully Beatdown. Eventually, some of the MMA team received multi-fight contracts with the UFC, StrikeForce and Bellator. The last 8 years has been focused on coaching students for Sport Jiu Jitsu. Professor Thomas’s students have won close to 25 IBJJF World and Masters World Titles.
Looking to the next phase of his career as a Coach, Professor Thomas decided to pass on his Santa Fe school to one of his most loyal students and has set a goal to bring his brand of intricate and experienced instruction and mastery of coaching kids and adults to a new project here in Richmond, TX. That new Project is AON Jiu Jitsu.