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Our Instructors

Sam Joseph,

Head Instructor

Sam is an internationally decorated athlete who has trained, competed, and taught Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for nearly 20 years.  He earned his black belt from the esteemed Yamasaki Academy in 2007.  He was inducted into the NFC BJJ Hall of Fame on 1/18/2020.


He has trained with some of the world's best including UFC referees, Fernando and Mario Yamasaki, Francisco Neto, Dave "The Rock" Jacobs, Murilo Santana, Pablo Popovitch, Paul Creighton, and Shawn Williams.

Sam is a graduate of the University of Georgia and a Certified Personal Trainer.

Competitive Highlights

  • Masters World Championship: 2021 Bronze (black belt) & 2012 Bronze (black belt)

  • Pan American Championships: 2000 Bronze (blue belt), 2002 Gold (purple belt), 2007 Gold (brown belt)

  • US Nationals: 2011 Silver (black belt)

  • New York Open: 2013 Gold (black belt)

  • Dallas Open: 2013 Gold (black belt)

  • Atlanta Open: 2018 Gold (black belt) & 2013 Gold (black belt)

  • Austin Open: 2022 Gold (black belt) & 2021 Gold (black belt)

Competition footage on YouTube

Derek Kaivani,

Asst Instructor

Derek earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2013 from Jacare Cavalcanti and 7-time World Champion, Lucas Lepri.  Derek has also trained under 10-time World Champion and Hall of Famer, Rubens "Cobrinha" Maciel.

Derek helped create our Kids Program and remains involved as an assistant.


Derek has also worked on the business side of the sport as an athlete manager, academy owner, marketing advisor, and facilitator for self-defense/bully prevention workshops.

Derek has an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Competitive Highlights

  • Pan American Championships: 2008 Gold (purple belt), 2009 Gold (purple belt), 2010 Gold (brown belt), 2013 Gold (brown belt)

  • Brazilian Nationals: 2010 Gold (brown belt), 2010 Bronze (brown belt, Absolute)

  • Atlanta Open: 2013 Bronze (black belt)

Competition footage on YouTube


Daren Roberts,

Assistant Instructor

Daren earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2018 from Sam Joseph.  He has also trained under 10-time World Champion and Hall of Famer, Rubens "Cobrinha" Maciel, and 2-time brown belt world champion and ADCC veteran, Chris Moriarty. 


He has been competing and teaching BJJ for over a decade.

He is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, and when Coach Daren isn't at Buckhead Jiu Jitsu, he works at 360i Marketing and loves spending time with his wife Nichole, son Luca, and their dog London.

Competitive Highlights

  • Pan American Championships: 2007 Bronze (purple belt), 2009 Bronze (brown belt), 2011 Bronze (brown belt)

  • New York Open: 2009 Bronze (brown belt)

  • No-gi World Championships: 2007 Bronze (purple belt)

  • No-gi Pan Championships: 2008 Bronze (purple belt)

  • MMA: 1-0 in Georgia

  • Lutador Pro-division: 2010 Silver

Competition footage on YouTube


Kenneth Yeung,

Assistant Instructor

Kenneth earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2018 from Sam Joseph.  He started his Mixed Martiall Arts (MMA) training in South Africa in 2001 where he first fell in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and where he earned his brown belt before moving to the U.S. in 2012.

Kenneth is passionate about winning in everyday life, through play and self-discovery on the mat.  He is a software architect and loves anything tech related.

Competitive Highlights

  • Atlanta Open: 2016 Bronze (brown belt)


Whit Lanier
Assistant Instructor

Whit started his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey in 1998 and has trained with Jacare Cavalcanti, Fabio Clemente, and Jake Shields.  He joined Buckhead Jiu Jitsu in 2015 and earned his black belt from Sam Joseph in January 2023. 

A longtime regular of Buckhead Jiu Jitsu’s 6 AM classes, Whit knows the importance of finding ways to make BJJ a part of life (and not vice versa). After stopping and starting his own BJJ training several times, he now enjoys providing support and encouragement to others when they feel stalled in their BJJ growth.

Off the mat, Whit works in marketing technology, plays bass guitar in the band Penny Western and dotes on his wife, three daughters and dog.  

Competitive Highlights

  • Pan American Championships: 2021 Bronze (brown belt)

  • Atlanta Open: 2019 Bronze (brown belt), 2020 Bronze (brown belt)

  • Newbreed Championship: 2017 Gold (purple belt) & Gold (no gi advanced division)

  • Casca Grossa Elite Grappling Championship: 2008 Bronze (no gi advanced division) & Bronze (masters no gi advanced division)

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Kennith Jackson (KJ)
Assistant Instructor

Kennith (KJ) earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Sam Joseph in 2023.  He started his martial arts journey in the early ‘90s training Muay Thai under renowned martial artist Sifu Francis Fong for several years.  He continued his journey in Muay Thai from 2007-2015 at various schools in Chicago before moving to Atlanta and transitioning to focus on Jiu Jitsu in 2015 at Buckhead Jiu Jitsu. 

He has a combined 16 years of martial arts experience and has been competing in Jiu Jitsu since 2015.  He also has two kids who have been actively participating in the Kids program for over five years.


When not on the mat, works as a technology executive for a large tech company, and enjoys spending time with his family on and off the mat.

Competitive Highlights

  • International Masters North America: 2023 Gold (brown belt)

  • American Nationals: 2023 Silver (brown belt)

  • Masters World Championship: 2018 Bronze (blue belt)

  • Pan American Championship: 2021 Bronze (brown belt)

  • Atlanta Open: 2022 Gold (brown belt)

  • Atlanta Open: 2020 Gold (purple belt)

  • Atlanta Open: 2018 Gold (blue belt)


Stuart Freeman
Assistant Instructor

Stuart took his first BJJ class at Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu in 2014 and earned his black belt from Sam Joseph in 2023. He develops software for Georgia Tech where he was a founding member of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club. When he's not training, Stuart enjoys traveling and likes to relax by watching movies with his wife and cats.

Competitive Highlights

  • Atlanta Open: 2019 Gold (purple belt)

  • Atlanta Open: 2015 Bronze (white belt)

Getting Started at Buckhead Jiu Jitsu: Easy as 1-2-3


Check out the sport and us -- for FREE.  Take a free intro class at no cost with no obligation.  We'll provide everything you need - except you.  It's that easy.


If you decide to continue, select one of our membership options to become part of our jiu jitsu family.


Become a fitter, healthier, stronger, safer, more confident, and better person.  

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