Fighter Series: Carlos Raba – Sanabul Skip to content
Fighter Series: Carlos Raba

Fighter Series: Carlos Raba

Carlos Raba is a family man, chef, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. He is the founder of Guardian Gym Baltimore, located next to his award winning restaurant, Clavel.

Combining the love for his Mexican heritage, his love for family, his passion for food, and emotions when gathering with his loved ones, the chef and co-owner of Clavel decided that a restaurant could help bring out these same feelings for other people. Carlos worked hard to accumulate his cooking knowledge and skills, so he decided to share the results of these experiences through his restaurant!

The successful chef and grappler has had his share of difficulties he has had to overcome, to get to where he is today. A Baltimore Magazine article (linked at the end) details Carlos’s childhood. “Raba, who was raised in Sinaloa, Mexico, before coming to the U.S. at the age of 16, grew up with his own share of struggles. His mother, an accomplished journalist, fled Mexico with the help of Amnesty International in 2000 after Raba’s father was murdered during a home invasion. Raba and his older brother were offered political asylum, too, although life in America, where they soon found themselves in a Detroit shelter and, later, homeless in Washington, D.C., wasn’t exactly easy either. Thanks to a chance meeting, they were taken in by a young lawyer who worked at an immigration law center in Georgetown, and they stayed with her for several years.” 

After he graduated high school, Carlos’s brother suggested that he try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Being a former wrestler and football player, Carlos decided to give Jiu Jitsu a shot. In the first class he attended, Carlos saw “a 170lb black belt smash a 200+lb adult.” After seeing this, Carlos’s interest had been sparked and a desire to learn the art was born.

More than 15 years later, Carlos is now a black belt and still enjoys training! He enjoys the intensity that each Jiu Jitsu session brings. He says, “There is a sense of peace and comfort that I feel after giving my all in a good roll that is hard to compare to anything else. It humbles me, the good days and bad days on the mat, that’s what makes me come back… And after all that hard training for years learning this craft, lots of things seems much easier to fight for in my life.” 

Jiu Jitsu has had a profound impact on Carlos. His experiences during training have helped him manage uncomfortable situations and difficult emotions that everyday life throws at him. In addition, it also “has provided the friendship[s], the lessons that shaped me to be who I am… that is the reason why it’s in my routine and one that I want to mentor and share… I believe if everyone was exposed to a good roll, the world [would] be more humble and patient.”

Jiu Jitsu has had a similar effect on many people. The training that Jiu Jitsu offers builds both mental and physical resilience for practitioners, which allows them to stay composed and act rationally under both types of stress. 

The influence that Jiu Jitsu can have is truly incredible. One of the most notable examples of this can be seen through the work that the Guardian Project (also known as Guardian Gym) does. This non-profit organization supports worldwide youth with training and required gear at zero cost as a gateway to mentorship, fitness, community, and a better life path. Their values, which can also be found on their website (linked below), are as follows: 

“1. We provide youth the opportunity to train regardless of their families financial standing.

  1. We provide mentors and a year round safe haven to spend time outside of school.
  2. We provide an inclusive environment to youth regardless of their physical capabilities and where they are accepted for who they are.
  3. Guardian operates without any bjj or political affiliation. Our focus is helping young people train jiu jitsu.”

As the founder of the Guardian location in Baltimore, Maryland, Carlos Raba aims to help as many children as he can with BJJ. “The way that we as adults were impacted by Bjj and witnessing the potential that it can do for kids, I felt like after watching the program grow in Oakland, Baltimore would be a great place to start the next one.” After meeting with Ben Kovacs, founder of the Guardian Project, Carlos and the Guardian team built Guardian Baltimore from the ground up - walking distance from his taqueria Clavel. To encourage children to adopt a healthier lifestyle and give them incentive to consistently show up to train Jiu Jitsu, Carlos has created a meal plan for his students, so they have access to quality nutrition and tasty food to fuel their hard work.

Guardian Gym Baltimore has certainly had a positive impact on their youth students, their families, and the overall community. New relationships and friendships are formed regularly. The families of students quickly become friends with one another and all help the gym out in any way they can, because they see exactly how the martial arts discipline of Jiu Jitsu has helped their child - mentally AND physically!

We can learn a lot from the Guardian Gym organization, instructors/mentors, and students. From Carlos’s experience in his Guardian Baltimore location, one concept that is constantly reinforced is the idea that we should all get to know one another better because “the world thrives on community and heart.”

We can also learn a lot from Carlos Raba and his experiences. From overcoming obstacles as a  child to becoming a successful chef and Jiu Jitsu black belt, Carlos is constantly striving to be better. “Life should not be easy, we are meant to be here in this life to be challenged, to grow. Embrace it and learn how to deal with your feelings and traumas, we all have them and how you deal with them is what shapes us, shapes you. Don’t let the negativity shape you…Care, teach, mentor and love! We only live once and the only thing we live behind is our legacy in the hearts of others.”

Although Carlos has a lot on his plate everyday, he makes time to show gratitude and appreciation for his support system of his wife, family, and friends. Currently, Carlos continues to cook at his restaurant Clavel, train Jiu Jitsu, do yoga, help out youth students at Guardian Baltimore, and give back to his community where he can! He has also just opened a new restaurant, Nana, which honors the women who have positively impacted Carlos’s life! 

Baltimore Magazine - Carlos Raba

Guardian Gym

Guardian Gym Baltimore (location built by Carlos)



Carlos Raba's Passion to bring Guardian Baltimore to his city (youtube)

Carlos Raba Guardian Gym (instagram)


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