BJJ Legends got the opportunity to speak with Chris Ulbricht about his experiences and strategies in facing the opponent known as INJURED.
Delay, physical strain, and anxiety; injuries are an athlete's biggest fear come to life. Injuries are hard to avoid, they are a constant demon us due to the activities we do. For Brazilian Jiu-jitsu athletes the risk is higher. We risk breaking limbs and constantly push beyond our limitations to achieving our goals. Injuries can certainly be a burden, but they can also be tamed while on the road to recovery.
Garden State Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Head Instructor, BJJ black belt, Chris Ulbricht, 27, has dealt with his share of injuries in his 10 year BJJ career. His recent full recovery from a seven-month injury has opened him to many lessons in patience, modification, and perseverance.
Suffering an injury can be a burden for any dedicated Martial Arts practitioner. When you think of the mere thought of having an injury, what comes to mind? Chris Ulbricht: Injuries are definitely something that's unavoidable to a certain extent if you’re a full-time athlete. If you train long enough, you're going to get injured. Like anything in life and especially anything in Jiu-Jitsu, an injury can be something that makes you worse or something that makes you better depending on how you respond to it.
You have suffered a series of injuries in your career. Instruction may be limited, training is put on hold, and competing is out of the question. How do you deal with those experiences mentally? Chris Ulbricht: My last injury affected my ability to teach because I wasn’t able to even demonstrate any techniques for my students for about five months. However, I soon discovered that I was able to teach just as well, if not better, by having two of my students demonstrate the technique while I commentated. This is still a teaching method that I use from time to time even though I am now 150% better. Also, I typically roll in almost every class I teach, so the time that I was out allowed me to observe my students much more during their sparring. This, in turn, helped me discover patterns that enabled me to design extremely relevant lesson plans to work on issues I saw during their rounds.
The recovery process is a long road to becoming well. Do you mind sharing with us your road to recovery experience? Chris Ulbricht: I got injured in May 2017, and after seeing five doctors, it was determined that I would need to have a surgery to ever be 100% again and it was performed July 5th. This was a projected 6-7 month recovery, and I was able to return early to modified rolling during the last week of December. I returned to full unrestricted training during the last week of January.
Are there any methods you use to speed up the recovery process? Chris Ulbricht: Yes! I’d say the most important thing is to always do the best you can with what you are able to do at any given time. I started watching technique videos and match footage right away. When I got cleared to ride a stationary bike, I rode the bike. When I got cleared to drill, I drilled. In my experience, people often wait until they are “100%” to start training again which I believe is very detrimental. You also need to have good communication between your doctors, physical therapists, and strength coaches to have an efficient recovery plan.
We all at times during the recovery process have a sense of eagerness to get back to training. Has there ever been a time where you have gone through the process of training with an injury and if so what procedures do you use? Chris Ulbricht: Whenever training with some type of physical ailment it’s important to determine whether you are hurt or seriously injured. If you have an injury that is NOT going to heal on its own, it’s time to see a doctor and come up with a plan before you attempt to train around the injury. If it’s something less serious that will heal on its own, it comes down to proper sports medicine (tape, athletic braces, REST) to manage the injury, communicating with training partners during live rolling, and/or modifying your training to allow the injury to heal. If you’re not sure how serious your injury is, I recommend seeing a doctor so you can make informed decisions about your training.
Coming back from the injury do you have any "mat rust" getting back into tournament shape, while also maintaining your role as the head instructor of Garden State Brazilian Jiu-jitsu? Chris Ulbricht: I definitely did have a little bit of mat rust in terms of my timing, strength, and cardio but I feel that while I was out, I made tremendous strides in my progress as an instructor, as well as with my understanding of Jiu-Jitsu. Also once I got back to training, I was able to regain my timing and increase my cardio and strength, so those temporary losses don’t matter anymore.
I have a lot of really tough training partners at Garden State Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy who thankfully give me great rounds in every class. I’m also working with two excellent strength coaches- John Stoble, out of Crossfit Five Points in Atlantic Highlands and Matt Szep out of Core Fitness in Middletown NJ. I have added yoga to my weekly routine to allow myself to recover better and improve my flexibility (we have an awesome Yoga teacher named Shawna Rodgers at Garden State BJJ). At this point, all the rust is off and it's just working to sharpen the sword every day.
What are you looking forward to, any upcoming events you have your sights set on? Chris Ulbricht: I have two big things coming up this summer. I’m going to be teaching at the BJJ Globetrotters Camp in Belgium (also taking a solo trip to Iceland) and then when I get back I’ll be competing at Fight To Win in Asbury Park on August 3rd and in the Show The Art Finishers 6 155lb Pro Division on August 12th. [Follow up: F2W was canceled and at Show the Art Chris won his first match and lost the second.]
Finally wrapping up this interview, what is the biggest advice you can give to readers going through an injury? Chris Ulbricht: DON’T STOP TRAINING EVER. Once you can do some physical activity, any good instructor can come up with some modification to the technique to work around your injury or give you something else to do. If you can’t do anything, you can always come to just watch classes and spend time with your teammates. Rolling is the most fun part of Jiu-Jitsu, but it’s far from the only way to get better. If you do the best you can and scale up from there, you’ll have a faster, safer, and more complete recovery.
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu continually serves as a unique outlet in transforming lives. The BJJ Effect is exhibited through many compelling stories ranging from an individual reaching their athletic goals to one’s aim of conquering the battle against themselves. In 2018 at the IBJJF Dallas Spring Open, 44-year-old, blue belt Dustin Shelhamer captured double gold – with a torn bicep. The audaciousness of facing insuperable challenges is nothing new to Shelhamer. In fact, it has been an ongoing occurrence, as Shelhamer has had to overcome many battles to experience the life-altering benefits BJJ has to offer.
Before Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Dustin Shelhamer was a full-time firefighter paramedic, police officer, and Federal disaster team member. 25 years in the practice field, Shelhamer was one of the onsite responders to some of the horrific events in U.S history. His philanthropy work for his community grievously came with a price. The experience of these events triggered Shelhamer in developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The disorder became a deleterious plague in the serviceman’s life.
“I spent 25 years in public service as a Fire Fighter paramedic, Police officer, as well a member of the Federal Disaster Team, “Shelhamer said. “I have traveled the world and seen horrific things. I was at Oklahoma City Bombing, World Trade Center, and other horrific events. Those experiences are where I developed PTSD and even didn’t realize it. I destroyed my marriage and was pissing my life away.”
The downward spiral wouldn’t last forever, as a saving grace would bring positive reinforcement in uplifting Shelhamer. Founded by Chad Robichaux, The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program is an organization that assists individuals that struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress, as the focus centers on rebuilding the broken lives of its participants. Like many Mighty Oaks alumnus, Shelhamer involvement allowed him to reap the program’s benefits, growing mentally and spiritually. Shelhamer’s time at Might Oaks is also where he was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Shelhamer instantly fell in love with the grappling Martial Art practice.
“A good friend reached out to Chad Robichaux, and he got me into the Might Oaks Warriors program. I was hesitant to go at first because the program was originally designed for military personnel, and I had never served. However, Chad convinced me to go, and I was the first civilian to go through the program. They taught me two important lessons that changed my life; be the man God created me to be and to find a healthy outlet.”
God and Jiu-jitsu are the two of the greatest gifts that have given the retired servicemen a new life to live for. Inspired to continue his studies of the grappling arts, after Mighty Oaks Shelhamer's journey would take him to Midland BJJ in Midland Texas, where he has been training and mentored under the leadership of BJJ World Champion, Bruno Bastos. The 2.5 years at Midland BJJ finds the enthusiast training four to eight times a week, engulfed in the BJJ lifestyle. Shelhamer is grateful for his professor and teammates aiding him in his BJJ journey.
“I love this sport and the friendships it brings. My Professor is a great motivator although he is considerably younger than me he has my greatest respect,” Shelhamer told BJJ Legends. “He is still a very active competitor and leads from the front. We also have some great black belts in our gym that drive us and lift us up. Brad Barnes is my solid when I’m trying to figure it all out! He’s no BS and tells it straight. Joe Castillo “Joe-Jitsu” might be the most respected man in our gym. 60 years old multiple belt level world champion and genuine gentleman. Gabe Hernandez everyone’s friend and savage, and Matt “little one” McCormick is a monster and smiles while he crushes you.”
All of Shelhamer’s training would eventually prompt a desire to test his skills in a tournament setting. The desire of challenging himself drives Shelhamer's motivation to compete. No injury, opponent, or mental demon has yet to break the Midland BJJ representative thus far, as he has accomplished much success as a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu competitor. Dustin Shelhamer’s competitor aspirations are to win the Master Worlds and become a positive role model for his teammates.
“My biggest competition is me. I can’t quit, no easy way out. I’m fortunate in my walk with PTSD that I have never considered suicide. But I did give up on life. So now that I’m walking a different path, I made a promise to never quit to myself, to God and my corner man. Even in a loss, I succeeded in beating myself when giving up was easier.”
What would life be without BJJ for Dustin Shelhamer? There would be no healing, no fulfillment, no blessings, and no rehabilitation. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has given Shelhamer all of these rewards, as life couldn't be any more gratifying on and off the mat.
“Chronically Positive” is a collection of essays for dealing with everyday issues. Whether those issues are as big as chronic kidney disease or as minuscule as a nagging honey do list. Marlon Ransom and his son Tyler take turns in a tete-a-tete discussion of different strategies for managing the challenges life can throw at you.
Marlon is a single father of two living in Los Angeles California. Tyler, his son, is a high school student who is dealing with chronic illness: kidney disease. The two document their struggles, their successes and their strategies. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu plays a large part in both their lives. Tyler has been training eleven years and is a blue belt. His dad is a purple belt. Over the eleven year period Tyler has trained at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, with Eddie Bravo downtown LA and Henry Akins in West LA. Both train under Cobrinha at his Wilshire Boulevard location.
The book is short with 75 pages, eight chapters and 29 pictures. Sprinkled throughout are pictures documenting their years training Jiu-Jitsu. It includes some simple tools like being your own medical advocate and more difficult ones like setting a deadline on nagging projects. Both authors use language that's light and easy to understand making the book a fast read.
Marlon and son Tyler come across to the reader as warm, honest and forthright. They don't squirm from the ugly parts and they don't embellish on the happier successes. The reader receives the benefit of two points of view, 25 years apart in age and experience.
This book is more about using a solid set of tools to deal with life than it is about kidney disease. I would recommend this book for young and old; sick and healthy. Who can’t use a few more tools to deal with life?
Professional grappling shows have taken the sport of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Submission Grappling to a new plateau, opening profitable doors to its athletes and aspiring event promoters. The grappling fight series trend has seemingly made its way to Kansas City, Missouri with the inauguration of the city's first professional grappling event "Ultimate Absolute 2018."
The Ultimate Absolute is a grappling fighting series created by the brilliant minds of Blue Corner Production and UNGD.tv. Ultimate Absolute 2018 program consisted of a three-part event featuring round-robin kids and adult tournament, and an action-packed pro show of eighteen super fights, with the winner receiving a cash prize.
The event's buzz-worthy promotion drew massive numbers; competitors from 35 grappling teams from 11 states took part in the event. From start to finish the “2018 Ultimate Absolute” was a star-studded compilation featuring some of the best grappling talents from across the country.
The show kicked off with two spectacular teen matches that featured Billie Merreighn of Bloomington JJ battling NLD's Paulie Hernandez, and Brazil Academy's Trevor Cameron going against Frankie Hoggard of Easton Castle Rock JJ. The skill, hunger, and drive to emerge victorious was put on display by each young athlete, as the platform may have revealed some future stars in our sport.
Another highlight of the night was a purple belt no-gi match between Jordan Peitzman and Justin Fabric, whose back-and-forth leg lock battle had spectators on the edge of their seats wondering who would come out on top. In addition to the many grappling talents gracing the stage, the event also caught the attention of famous faces in the MMA world looking to put their grappling skills to the test. In what many are calling the controversial contest of the night saw a barnburner match between UFC veteran Josh Neer taking on grappling ace Devin Chasten. Josh Neer doesn’t back down, neither does his opponent Devin Chasten. The match fell quickly into a stalemate, with Neer inside Chasten's guard unable to generate any pass attempts and Chasten unable to create any real offense or sweeps. Words started to get exchanged between both men, as all can see it heating up. As the match progresses, Chasten seemed to have had enough, as he unlocks his guard and stands to his feet, which was followed by Neer running him clean off the mat hard into the crowd. The place went nuts with boos, and it becomes very hostile. This happened with only 3 seconds left in the match. They started the clock; the 3 seconds ran out as Chasten motions to the crowd with his arms. The center referee brings them to the middle of the stage, awaiting the decision of the three mat side judges. They all 3 raise the hand in favor of Neer, and once again both combatants have an exchange of words. Unhappy with the decision, Chasten pulls away and goes nuts with the verdict.
Even with the contended battle between Neer and Chasten leaving everyone depleted, The Ultimate Absolute was far from over. The attention now shifted to the co-main event pitting Easton Castle Rock's Alex Huddleston against Axios JJ's John Hansen. A highly contested match both fighters left everything on the mat, as Hasen and Huddleston proved to be equally matched challengers. However, when the smoke cleared it would be Huddleston that would walk away with a split decision victory over the gamed John Hansen.
The night of action then went into the grand finale main event featuring Renato Tavares vs. Luis Flipo Ninja Pinto. The match would start off at a slow pace with each competitor being very cautious waiting for the other to make a mistake. However, as the fight progressed Tavares' half guard and bulldog top pressure proved to be the deciding factor in scoring a unanimous decision victory over the Brazil Academy instructor.
Surprising upsets, thrilling submission finishes and hyped controversy, The 2018 Ultimate Absolute was a major success drafting more than 500 in-door spectators and 78 online streaming viewers, as it was dubbed by many as "The Best Pro Grappling Show They Ever Seen." Show's fans already want more! Event promoters are currently making plans to push the "Ultimate Absolute" brand, as it aims to offer competitors and fans the unique and fun experience.
"This event was a HUGE success in terms of competitors and fans," said event Promoter Travis Conley. "'When is the next one?' That’s all I heard after the event. I want the Ultimate Absolute to continue to be something special and elite, an annual event you train and prepare for on the calendar. We want to improve it and make it better, of course. We want to increase the business and participation of local tournaments in KC so we'll be offering spots in the Ultimate Absolute to winners of those local tournaments throughout 2018. This will give competitors the incentive to compete locally, gain your position in the Ultimate Absolute 2019."
Back in 2012, I wrote a story for BJJ Legends magazine about promoting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Moldova. (Brazilian Jiu-Jitus in Burlacu Moldova) At the time I was trying to drum up support both in and outside of the country: creating awareness among foreigners that the country even existed, while trying to convince Moldovans that training and teaching BJJ could potentially help to open an innumerable amount of doors for them. By now, I have completely worked myself out of a job… and I couldn’t be happier!
You see, the whole idea of non-profit work is to eventually work yourself out of a job. Think about it; if you run a non-profit aiming to defeat poverty, and poverty is defeated, why go to the office anymore? Even if you run a non-profit that is a labor union or something, you would hypothetically not need to be employed anymore if everyone was getting their fair share at their jobs. Of course, we can all think of exceptions to this idea, but it is otherwise a good rule of thumb when seeking to work with or donate to non-profit organizations.
A lot has happened since 2012. In addition to no longer having much work in regards to “the Moldova Project”, my wife and I have also moved back to the US, bought some property and opened a new gym with a new goal in mind. More on that later, but first let me tell you how BJJ has evolved over the years in Moldova into what it has become today.
In 2011 we were blessed to have received some international attention to our program via Christian Graugart, the original BJJ Globetrotter, and his around-the-world BJJ adventure. Shortly after his visit, some traditional martial artists decided to open their own BJJ gym in the capital of Chisinau. This was a very important step in the process as time itself stops and starts in Chisinau for most Moldovans. I knew that once this happened, the spread of Jiu-Jitsu throughout the country would be inevitable.
Around the same time, a team from a mid-sized town in the south of Moldova decided to take up the Brazilian variety of Jiu-Jitsu in addition to their own version of martial arts. Led by the charismatic former member of Soviet special forces, Sergiu Dobrea, team Se-An-Do continues to have one of the largest youth programs in the country. They’re a considerable force to be reckoned with in a myriad of fighting sports in Moldova.
So now, with these three core teams in place, one of my former students and I decided to host a tournament. We decided to try a new tournament format loosely based on a classic collegiate-style wrestling competition: the dual. Basically, there are around 10 weight classes, and each team chooses their best fighter for each weight class. With three existing teams in Moldova now, the “Burlacu Tri-Duals” was born.
I had some really high hopes for this new idea of mine. Unfortunately, the annual tournament was plagued from the beginning. The first year the Chisinau team bailed at the last minute, so we just had 2 teams competing against each other. The second-year Se-An-Do wasn’t able to participate but luckily a newly-formed team also from the southern region was able to take their place. The third year the format was scrapped and a more traditional (and from my point of view, boring) format was adopted. Thus, the “Burlacu Tri-Duals” became the “Burlacu Open” tournament. By this time, I was just a supporting figure; my former student, Alexandru Birlea, took over the reins almost completely, and I’m happy to say that he did a really great job!
Over time, other teams threw their hats into the promotional ring and a whole slew of other BJJ competitions were held in the south of the country as well as the capital. There was the Moldova Cup, the Moldovan BJJ Championships as well as ADCC Moldova, just to name a few. By the time I left the area in 2014, there were no less than eight teams training Jiu-Jitsu across the country. I have no idea how many are training now, but Jiu-Jitsu is thankfully becoming more common in Moldova, and more importantly, it is completely sustainable! Moldovans are running their own gyms, their own tournaments and are buying and selling their own equipment. I’ll occasionally get a box or two of used gis together for kids who otherwise can’t afford a new one, but this has proven to be more of a hassle than what it’s worth for both parties involved. So, really, this is a great thing!
From 2006 when I started the first BJJ program in the country, to 2014 when I left Eastern Europe, presumably for good, I definitely missed out on a good deal of training opportunities, tournaments, promotions and all the other cool stuff you get along with taking the more traditional route of training with one team. On the other hand, I’m proud to say that one of my first students, Alexandru Birlea, is ranked higher than me in BJJ, he can beat my ass, and he’s also the head BJJ coach for a UFC fighter. Not bad for a poor kid from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in a country that nobody has heard of! I’m obviously super proud of him, his accomplishments as well as the accomplishments of so many others like him. But, of course, I’ve checked my ego at the beginning of this article, so enough bragging from me for now ;).
The Open Source Project
As we gradually became more and more hands-off with the Moldova program, my wife and I had been looking for the next step in our lives. When we moved back from Eastern Europe in 2014, our goal was to learn a bit of the hospitality business and then eventually go into business for ourselves. Over the years we really had a lot of fun both hosting guests at our little apartment in Bucharest, as well as being hosted by a multitude of people, mostly in Moldova and Romania. If there’s one thing that Romanians and Moldovans typically do very well, it’s hospitality, so we took our ideas with us and moved to Texas.
We lived in Pharr, Texas for about a year and a half, and while we were there, we worked at an RV resort in part to get back into the swing of things in the US as well as test the waters to see if we really wanted to go into hospitality. The job paid horribly, but luckily I was able to teach fundamental BJJ at Carlos Diego Ferreira’s gym in Pharr, in exchange for training time with the team. I credit Team Ferreira with helping me to love training Jiu-Jitsu again and to finally make the transition from just being a wrestler who happened to do Jiu-Jitsu, to a full-fledged BJJ fighter.
Our next move was to Gunnison, Colorado. We worked at a motel cleaning rooms part-time during the day, and I would train and/or teach at Gunnison BJJ in the evenings. Cleaning rooms and doing yard work at the motel was surprisingly a very positive experience; I was finally able to work with my hands, which I found to be very personally fulfilling, and then I would train BJJ on my off time. There wasn’t a lot of consistent structure at the gym, so I was able to teach myself most of the new-school moves and concepts that I had missed out on while I was out in the middle of nowhere. While I’ll probably never berimbolo anybody, I have grown to have an affinity for the leg lasso and I’m even able to invert when appropriate.
Unfortunately, I have a bad hip and had to undergo hip surgery in November of 2016. I was on crutches for a good 3 months, which gave my other joints, ribs and back a good amount of time to heal as well. My wife and I spent 2 of these months traveling east from Gunnison, and all the way down the coast to Key West. Our new mission was to find an affordable piece of property with which to start our business. The business would include both Jiu-Jitsu and hospitality, all wrapped up in one somehow.
On our way out to the coast we decided to stop through Asheville, NC just to see what was there. We found the perfect property for sale that was in our price range, and after wandering the coast for a couple months, not really finding anything that compared to this property in Asheville, we returned to Appalachia and put a bid on the property. The bid was eventually accepted and now we have a gym as well as over two acres of future campground!
Now, here’s how I came up with the concept of Open Source Jiu-Jitsu. During my time away from BJJ and from work, I decided to formalize the fundamental Jiu-Jitsu that I had been teaching all of these years by writing a curriculum. The curriculum is 10-weeks long and is designed to continuously rotate through every 10 weeks. This way, if you show up and start training in the middle of the curriculum, you will see the same technique again in ten weeks. Furthermore, as most of us know, drilling and tightening up our fundamentals is never a bad idea, so we encourage our students to go through the curriculum more than once.
All of our fundamentals classes, which utilize the curriculum, are “pay-what-you-want”. This way, even the poorest of BJJ students can train Jiu-Jitsu and save their dignity. It’s just one more heavily-utilized excuse not to train Jiu-Jitsu, that has been taken off the table completely. I’ve never even made $30,000 in a year in my whole entire life, and the last time I even came close was 2009. I’ve frequently been in the position where I had to ask an instructor if I could clean mats or teach in exchange for training time, and that can really wear on your morale over time.
We have a contributions box in our gym where our students are welcome to give a suggested donation of between $10 and $20 per lesson… or not! The box is usually behind me while I’m teaching and interacting with students, so I have no idea who’s paying and who isn’t. This way it prevents me from holding grudges against non-payers or favoring paying students.
Another component of “the Open Source model”, is that I am not the only one giving instruction all the time. If I happen to be the best-qualified teacher on a given subject, then I’ll do the teaching in this circumstance. However, if we happen to have a high-level wrestler in the room, for example, it makes more sense to have that person teaching takedowns, assuming that they are good at communicating their knowledge to others.
Sustainability and the Future of Open Source Jiu-Jitsu
While Open Source Jiu-Jitsu is, in fact, a for-profit LLC, our goals haven’t changed much since the Moldova Project. We want people to feel empowered, and to improve their lives as well as the lives of others through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We want to produce high-quality teachers, athletes and overall high-quality people at our gym, and we don’t want money or a lack thereof to be an issue that gets in the way of training Jiu-Jitsu.
Furthermore, we aim to have the above-mentioned teachers and otherwise good people run the program in the future. As long as we are paying the bills and continue to maintain high-quality BJJ and other programs, we want others to be able to thrive in this environment and basically run the gym with minimal oversight in order to reach their goals.
We’re also hoping that this idea spreads and that other gyms see the value of adding a similar program to their existing structure. We’re convinced that after seeing how successful the program is here at Open Source Jiu-Jitsu, that other gyms will see that you are in fact able to run a profitable business and offer “pay-what-you-want” classes, or something similar, at the same time.
We also want to invite established, high-level grapplers to come not only to see Asheville but to be a part of what we have going on here. The campground and the gym being in the same location is like a match made in heaven. While we regularly take in wandering grapplers into our home, we’re only going to be adding more options around the property where folks can chill out, see the sights and get some rolls in. Our vision is that some folks will be able to stay a couple weeks or even months, turning this into a true open source project.
Special thanks to my wife and business partner, Amanda McMasters, and to the countless others who have helped me so far along the way during this epic jiu-jitsu journey of mine.
Until then, thank you, dear reader, for having read all of this. If you ever happen to be in Asheville and would like to see what we have going on here… perhaps even guest teach a class, please feel free to contact us at bobby at opensourcebjj.net. Hope to see you on the mats!
In 2014 Shama Ko was diagnosed with bilateral polymicrogyria which is usually a mentally, physically debilitating and fatal birth defect of the brain that is predominantly found in children. Only 3% of adults are diagnosed with it and is an extremely uncommon condition that usually has no symptoms in adults. Doctors discovered her condition after she had a seizure during the beginning of class at Gracie Humaita.
Shama was off the mats for a year and slowly worked to control the seizures and regain her confidence a a Jiu-Jitsu brown belt.
This weekend Shama took 2nd at the Masters World Championships.
Shama on her journey to the podium,
"All I can say is that it was a pivotal point in my life and I am so dang happy to be back in be mix. Having gone through all the crap I have in the past few years I never thought I'd train again. Competing seemed impossible. But anything is possible. Never give up.
"It was my first time at the Master Worlds and it was emotional for me. I was incredibly proud watching all the matches this weekend. 14 years ago when I started things were very different. In many ways women competitors were less respected than kids. We were grouped into one division regardless of belt, weight or age. It was the women's division. Look at us now. We've come a long way. It may not be perfect and I'm sure in areas where BJJ is growing this is still going on. But to think that there is an outlet like the Master Worlds where women can compete together with other women the same belt, skill level and age is phenomenal. We've just got to keep competing. Once promoters, media and companies see #'s the see $s. That's what it boiled down. So instead of being discouraged we need to be encouraging, supportive and keep moving forward. Change is happening. There is hope."
I want to give a shout to my teammate Erica Ebanks she has been on the podium before on the world level and came away with third in her division. She is a great teammate and a real example at our academy. Her partner Salsa John Ebanks and my instructor Fabio Novaes Brazilian Jiu-jitsu are also pictured.
Australia, one of the smallest entry numbers for country represented, came away with 7 female World Championship titles. The ladies from down under are killing it!
What helps us stay inspired is people like Sophia McDermott winning masters titles a few years back and us having access to that story (though we heard about it via her news feed). Now we continue to grow through organizations such as Australian Girls in Gis and our world titles are piling up in Masters and Adults.
The Australian scene is booming for women and this Masters Worlds showcased that yet again.
Elite Sports is rather new in the market and are looking to make a splash with their first entry, a lightweight gi advertised with pre-shrunk fabric and an anti-microbial treatment. They were kind enough to ask BJJ Legends Magazine to review one of their gis, and I chose the one in blue. I’ve been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for just over 6 years and have about a dozen gis already in rotation, but was happy to try a new product -- especially at the nominal price point of only $69.99.
All of my reviews center around 4 key attributes, followed by an overall impression of the product at the end. The attributes include:
Look: What kind of audience does this product target within the Jiu-Jitsu community and what’s unique about it? How does it look out of the box? Emotional impressions?
Craftsmanship: How well was it built? Are there any loose threads? Compare fresh out of the box and after a few washes. Does it stain easily; is it soft; durable; etc.?
Feel and Fit: How does it feel when worn and how does it fit in relation to other products, both walking around and while sparring? Is it too heavy, too light, etc.? Does shrink play a factor?
Care: How can you get the most out of your purchase and is it worth it?
Today, I’m reviewing the Elite Sports Ultra-Light BJJ Jiu Jitsu Gi with Pre-Shrunk Fabric - Blue. Coming in an IBJJF-legal royal blue with an orange and white color way, this kimono makes a great first impression to the eye and is incredibly inexpensive at only $69.99. Because of the entry level price point and relative newness in the market, I didn’t have high expectations for the gi. After putting it through its paces, washing over 15 times and rolling in it exclusively for almost a month, I was able to come to a rather unexpected conclusion.
Before we get into the review, here’s how the company describes the gi: • Made from a light-weight 400gsm Pearl Weave preshrunk fabric. We still recommend that you wash the gi in cold water and hang dry it. • Lightweight pants are made from 400 gsm ripstop fabric and have a rope drawstring for tightening. • Contrasting and reinforced stitching in seams and other key areas for durability and added strength. • Fabric has anti-odor and antimicrobial treatment so that you don't have to worry about bacterial buildup or fungal infections; no one else is doing that at this price. • Comes with a free white belt.
When I unboxed the gi, I found a no nonsense approach to packaging. Opening the cardboard box, the gi sat nicely therein, within its clear bag. And while it didn’t come with a gi bag, a new white belt was included and, combined with the price point, is a nice touch for new practitioners.
The pants are a lightweight ripstop, as advertised. I appreciate a thick rope drawstring and this is no exception. While the branding is minimal on the gi overall, the Elite logo is visible on either side of the pants, stitched in nicely. With two drawstring loops on either side, I was happy with the way they were designed. Too often, I’ve found that companies either go overboard with belt loops, or make them too narrow to fit the rope comfortably. None of these issues were present on the Elite gi. As with most ripstop pants, the knees and mid-thigh are reinforced with additional quilted stitching, using an orange contrast thread. All areas that are supposed to be triple stitched – interior seams and the gusset, were done so with care. It’s also important to note that the bottom cuff is quadruple stitched for additional strength! Well done!
The jacket is simple, coming in at 400 gsm. I was surprised when taking it out of the packaging just how light it was. The orange contrasts are really helpful to give an entry level gi some needed pop. This is seen on the inside of the cuffs as well as in all contrast stitching, and at the splits in the skirt. At the top of the jacket, inside the back panel, Elite has added an orange logo section for an additional bit of flare. Their logo is seemingly everywhere on the jacket, however – three times on the front, stitched in with patches or embroidered along the lapel, then again on the back between the shoulder blades, embroidered in white thread. Inside, along the bottom seam of the jacket, their twin logos (with and without the phoenix design) revolves. In the way of branding, it’s a tiny bit overdone, but also confusing. Both logos are used interchangeably here but as a consumer, is there a primary logo or are both equally important? Further, on the back panel, the jacket notes that it was ‘Designed in California,’ but the front of the jacket, at the bottom of the lapel, states ‘Brazilian Design.’ Overall though, I was happy at the look of the jacket – there are no giant design flourishes and it’s simple in presentation. Tied together, the pants and jacket make a nice, clean match.
For $69.99, I was expecting many loose threads and poor craftsmanship from Elite right out of the box. I’m happy to report that I was sorely mistaken. I couldn’t find a single loose stitch within the bunch, and the material was light, strong, and well-tailored to my needs. There is a small tag within the jacket that denotes that it was made in Pakistan – as many other gi companies are producing their products there, I was pleasantly surprised at the durability of the gi. As I stated above, I’ve worn it exclusively during my testing period and it had no issues. On the pants, I liked the extra cuff stitching and the pearl weave jacket is just as strong as the $200 gis I have hanging in my closet – and at a lower weight per gsm to boot.
Feel and Fit:
I’m 5’7”, 155 lbs without the gi and asked for an A1. Elite is using a tailored fit that hugged the inside of my underarms a bit at first, but was overall very slimming and easy to move in. The pants fit comfortably, just as any other pair of ripstop pants, and were the appropriate length. Overall, I was very impressed with the gi at unboxing and through the first large set of test cases. While it isn’t the softest gi on the market, that isn’t the demographic Elite is tailoring to. Mind you, it’s soft enough that you don’t need a rashguard underneath, especially in the summer, but after hanging the pearl weave can be a little strong until it’s broken in. If you have any questions on fit or feel, you can always call or email them from the site and ask whatever questions you might have. I also found the gi nice and durable as I’ve used it twice or three times a week since I got it and have had no issues. Additionally, the lightweight 400 gsm jacket is great for the hot, summer weather and breathes well.
It’s important to note in this section that the company specifically notes that the gi has been hit with an antimicrobial treatment so that you don’t have to worry about fungal infections or bacterial buildup. This translates, at least to me, as whether or not the gi will smell badly after a hard session and then sitting in my car during a hot afternoon (smell = bacteria). After such an event, the gi did smell like it was used, but not nearly as badly as some of my kimonos. As I shower immediately after class, I had no chance to test the antimicrobial function outside of that. For the price point though, the added peace of mind is worth it.
As with any gi, I soaked it in vinegar and water when I first received it, washed it, then hung dry it without any shrinkage whatsoever. After 10 normal washes, I decided to dry it with a machine dryer. While it is recommended on the site that you should hang dry your gi, I opted to give it the hang dry test since it’s advertised as pre-shrunk and the dryer logo is within the care instruction panel on the jacket itself.
During this wash is when I noticed fading begin to take root – nothing major, but the pop and crispness of the colors began to deteriorate. On top of that, the jacket sleeves shrunk by about half an inch. Bear in mind that I dried the gi on high heat and didn’t bother to use Permanent Press or some other low setting. I don’t believe the average consumer would need to worry about shrinkage based on normal gi care, but be prepared to see differences in fitment and color when throwing it in the dryer for an emergency wash before your next roll.
I was pleasantly surprised by this gi, its fit and craftsmanship, and the overall durability. At such a low price point, I would definitely recommend it to new practitioners, or anyone in the market for something affordable that will hold up relatively well, so long as you don’t put too much stock in the pre-shrunk messaging. For more information on Elite Sports and their offerings, please see their web site: http://www.elitesports.com. To get directly to their gis, go to https://www.elitesports.com/brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu-bjj-gis
Imagine for a second checking your bracket at some local tournament, Pans or Worlds and you see your pastor’s name. Awkward would be an understatement, a rare occurrence would be a truly accurate assessment. A select few churchgoers have the opportunity to get their guards passed and their souls nourished by the man in the pulpit, those attending Recreation Church are the lucky ones. The pastor, Vincent Dehm, does not shy away from his love for the mat, in fact his intention is to spread the lessons learned from BJJ to the kids in the community.
Have you ever been challenged to roll by a fellow pastor or church member? Pastor Dehm: Surprisingly not, but I do joke around with members of the church and tell them, “Don’t make me put the mats down!”
How did you discover BJJ and where do you train? Pastor Dehm: I have to lay some foundation here, first off, I am not unfamiliar with the mat, my background is wrestling. I wrestled all four years of high school and two years of college. I ended up catching a knee to the temple and I sustained a brain injury that resulted in a swift end to not only wrestling, but my doctor at the time ordered a halt to all combat sports. Now fast forward 22 years later and I’m getting a check-up and the doctor asked me when I had had a heart attack and I said, “What?” I was 226lbs at the time and that was the wake-up call I needed. I went on a diet and decided to get into BJJ, I went to Crazy 88 in Elk Ridge, Md. and did a few trail classes. It has remained my grappling home ever sense, that was November, 2011.
What do you say to those who may wonder, or even ask you if it’s appropriate for a pastor to do BJJ? Pastor Dehm: That is a question I have no problem discussing. To any who say that, I simply say there is wrestling, grappling and fighting throughout the bible.
How long have you been a pastor and what led you into the ministry? Pastor Dehm: I have been a pastor since 1999. What led me into the ministry? Well, I wasn’t necessarily led, I was ‘called’ by the audible voice of God when I was 12 years old and I ran as fast and far away from that ‘calling’ as possible. Years later I chose to stop running and embrace it with an open heart and clear vision.
Where is your church located? Pastor Dehm: Recreation Church is located in Park Heights, which is approximately 6 miles northwest of downtown Baltimore.
What is the community like? Pastor Dehm: I could easily provide some attention-grabbing crime stats, or disproportionate and negative school drop-out rates, but that does not tell the entire story of any community. I will say that as a church body, along with family and friends we do our best to provide programs that result in positive empowerment and a call to action.
What exactly is the BJJ program at your church and how did you come up with it? Pastor Dehm: Honestly, I cannot take full credit, I watched an episode of ‘Rolled Up’ on Budovideos, which highlighted Fernando "Tererê" Augusto. One of the topics was his social project for kids, which without question inspired the formation of our program. We offer a 1 ½ hour class on Wednesday during the school year and then in the summer we do Mondays and Wednesdays, and it is 100% free, with snacks and meals included. I’m also proud to say the Gi’s are provided by my friend Geoffrey of Deus Fight Company, who I reached out to after I saw his merchandise/sponsorship on that episode of ‘Rolled Up.’
How many kids are involved, what is the curriculum, and who are the instructors? Pastor Dehm: To date we have 65 kids enrolled ranging from 5yrs old to 14yrs old and the curriculum is a combination of anti-bullying, self-defence and sport BJJ. Our instructors, besides myself, we have my daughter, Kayla, who is an avid competitor and a blue belt, John Johnson a purple belt from Crazy 88 and Dustin Herfurth a blue belt from Ground Control in Columbia, Md.
Have the church administrators been supportive and are there any people who take issue with the program? Pastor Dehm: Absolutely! They see the results and the enthusiasm of these kids, which is infectious. As far as haters go, there has been at least one colleague of mine who has been critical of the program, but besides him everyone is on board with what we are doing, they see the vision.
What have been some challenges you have faced? Pastor Dehm: Well, as much as I love puzzle mats, it is a lot of work and it is highly time intensive to put them together, clean them and subsequently take them apart and restore them. Staying on the subject of time, it can be difficult to coordinate the instructor’s schedules, more so during competition season, as many of us compete and we need at least two people at each class due to the amount of kids. So those are ongoing challenges, but it’s all good, we make it work.
Can you share a testimony about one of the kids in the program? Pastor Dehm: Now this could be an article all to itself, I can think of so many worth sharing. One that stands out is a 13yrs old who has Asperger’s Syndrome, his mother enrolled him with the hope that it would help with his social interactions and he has shown noticeable and progressive improvement.
What are your personal goals with BJJ? Pastor Dehm: I want to be able to keep up with my daughter, Kayla, and ultimately see us become black belts together. I also want to share the journey with our team mates and the kids in our program who would otherwise not be in a financial position to do this great sport.
What are your long terms goals with the program? Pastor Dehm: We want to open a Recreation Center and have a full schedule of classes and activities from BJJ, Muay Thai, fitness instruction and more that will be 100% free to the Park Heights community.
Check out Pastor Dehm and make sure to pick up a copy of his latest book at www.vincentdehm.com.