• The future of The War Room is to expand to Rio Rancho



In 2021, owners Jose Garcia and Jason Howells opened The War Room School of Jiu Jitsu in Westside Albuquerque.

Jose Garcia and Jason Howells work on installing mats. (Photo courtesy of Jose Garcia.)

“We’re just over a year now, and we couldn’t have scripted this any better,” said first degree black belt and Rio Rancho resident Jason Howells.

What most people do not know is that The War Room started in a living room.

According to Jose Garcia, also a first-degree black belt, The War Room was born during the lockdown. All jiu jitsu places began closing, and Garcia wanted to do anything he could to continue training.

“I went through a bad divorce after 22 years of marriage,” Garcia said. “I don’t know if you remember that scaffolding accident at Rust Medical Center, but I lost an 18-year-old apprentice, and I had to dig up four of my other guys who almost died.”

In 2015, a scaffolding collapsed at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center in Rio Rancho. One construction worker died, and several others were injured.

Before The War Room, Garcia worked in construction for 25 years and was there the day of the collapse.

After the tragedy and divorce, Garcia suffered PTSD and depression, and jiu jitsu became his therapy.

“Jiu jitsu was always there,” said Garcia. “My medicine was jiu jitsu.”

Garcia started training in his living room.

“I gave away a $6,500 dining room set to free up room,” he said. “At first, it was just my buddy Michael and I, and we would train five days a week.”

As time progressed, more people began showing up.

“We had four guys total. Then we had eight guys total, and then we were training six days a week,” Garcia said.

Garcia credits his student Jonathan Rodriguez with being the first to refer to his house as ‘‘The War Room.’

“We were at the house, and he had taken some pictures and put them on his Instagram, and he wrote in the comments ‘another great session at The War Room’ and it just stuck,” Garcia said.

Garcia then ran into Howells at Lowes, and the two began to talk about jiu jitsu for several months. According to Howells, his professor, Juan Pablo Garcia, had been encouraging him to start his own school, so eventually Garcia and Howells became partners.

“I was trying to recruit him, and then he ended up recruiting me,” Howells said.

According to Garcia, The War Room is an affiliate under EDJ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Association, but they are New Mexico born and reared.

“A lot of these schools might bring a black belt from out of town, and pay them to be here,” said Howells. “But we are connected to the community, you know. This is our home.”

Garcia and Howells want their students to support each other on the mats and in every aspect of life.

“Fight your mental battles on the mat, this is the room where you come and just get it all out, leave it here, and go about your day” Howells said.

In The War Room’s most recent tournament, the school took gold in the adult division and gold for the kid’s division.

“If you put the right school out there, the right students will come out to it,” Howells said. “We teach our styles, then go outside our styles because we realize that jiu jitsu is evolving.”

The War Room wants to house world champions, and continue to break into the MMA scene. Professional MMA fighter Diego Sanchez has trained at The War Room along with MMA pros Frank Lester and Kevin Crane.

The future of The War Room is to expand to Rio Rancho, but they are in no rush to make the move. When that time comes, Garcia will run the Albuquerque location, and Howells will run the Rio Rancho location.