BJJ is the one sport one regularly sees people of vast age ranges on the mats actively engaged with one another. Many other competitive sports have an unwritten rule around age; when it's best to start the sport and when it's best for someone to walk away. In BJJ the rules are not so definite.
All photos courtesy of Skylar Ransom
Case in point: If one attends the Monday/Wednesday 8 pm advanced class at Cobrinha BJJ and Fitness, one will witness the unlikely pairing of a 14 year old and a 62 year old. The two BJJ players mentioned are Tyler Ransom (14) and Levon Alexanian (62). They have been training partners going on two years.
The lessons they have learned despite the age difference, or probably as a result of, have opened a pathway to a deeper understanding and value for what they individually bring to the table.
What were your thoughts when you found out one another's age?
Tyler: I was use to seeing a lot younger people on the mats, so it took me by surprise. He is very open and friendly with everyone, and he acts like he’s much younger, not sure if that makes sense.
Levon: He looks so tall I actually thought he was like 16 or older. When I found out I thought it was cool that someone so young could be training with adults.
What did you think when it was time to drill?
Tyler: The first thing I thought was I’m gonna have to go slow, because I figured he would not have good cardio. I also thought I would have to be careful, because I did not want to injure him.
Levon: My main focus was to not discourage him, or intimidate him. I wanted to let him get good positions, encourage him, give him praise and make him excited to train.
After your first time sparring what did you think of the other’s skills?
Tyler: It was live positional training, we were doing the spider guard and I started on the bottom. Right away I noticed how strong his grips were on my gi pants, then he threw my legs to the side and moved to knee on belly in one motion before I had time to react. It was at that point I realized he was fast, strong, and he was technical.
Levon: I have to admit he caught me with a sweep that was unexpected, that being said he had good technique and he understands the game of BJJ very well. What he lacks is physical maturity, which will come when he gets older and then he will be able to combine strength with his technique.
What are some positive things you gain from being partners?
Tyler: When we are doing drills he is really nit picky, he pays attention to every detail. If I miss any step he points it out and has me start over. He also gives me like a backstory on each move. He’ll tell me how someone used it on him, or he tried the move and someone was able to get out, and how you have to be aware of the steps, so he is like a teacher and a partner.
Levon: There are a lot of benefits to being partners with Tyler. One thing is I am able to try different things with him, I discover ways to refine my moves, make them more efficient. He is tall, but he is thin, with long limbs, so I have to alter my moves and positions, which is good.
What have you learned about age differences?
Tyler: That many times, age may not really matter. I don’t view Levon as an older person, I have serious nervous energy every time before sparing, because I know how good he is.
Levon: Well you have to understand that I feel like I am 25 years old when I get on the mat, so I never really take any age differences into consideration. That said, of course there are differences, but I don’t really think it has to do with age, it has to do with the amount of experience.
Do you two have anything in common in addition to BJJ?
Tyler: Yes, we both love jazz, and we both play instruments, he plays the alto saxophone and I play the alto, tenor and baritone saxophone along with the guitar. We spend time talking about old school jazz musicians and music in general a lot of the time.
Levon: What we have in common was a shock to me I mean how many kids his age like jazz? We both enjoy, no, I’d say love jazz, and the fact that he plays all the different saxophones is very impressive. I know you said in addition to BJJ, but it is very important that people know we share the BJJ lifestyle, which means we use the principles we learn on the mat in life to improve our health, gain patience and be humble.
What would you say to those who question whether to train with someone older or younger?
Tyler: Well to me older means wiser, so I see it as an opportunity to gain even more knowledge and get twice as good. I also have to say that I felt bad about how I judged him at first, because I have been judged for many years when people see me, a kid in the adult class or when they find out about my kidney illness. I’m just glad that I got over the judgment after that initial class and realized that he has more to offer than a lot of the others on the mat.
Levon: it doesn’t matter age wise or size wise, its like a dancer who has different dance partners, so he has to adapt to that person’s strengths and weaknesses. I benefits from training with Tyler, because I learn when I am showing him moves. It also helps me to get his perspective on moves and techniques, a fresh pair of eyes.
Side bar: Levon: My goal is to get my black belt by the time I am 75, this BJJ is age proof, I am extending my life and I’m maintaining the full capacity of being a man.
Levon Combat Sports Bio: Boxed for a 8 years, Taekwondo 2 years, at 45 started grappling mixed with combat sambo for 14 years, started with a gi at Cobrinha’s when it opened to present day.
Tyler: I have been doing BJJ for a little over 8 years, and whenever I have stress from my illness, school or anything, I use what I’ve learned on the mats. I cannot imagine not having it as a part of my life. Please go and check out my site www.healingtyler.com thanks.
Tyler’s Combat Sports Bio: Karate for 3 years, Muay Thai for 1 year, BJJ for 8 years to present day.
Deneatra's BJJ journey started with a therapist mandate that she take BJJ for one year or face even harsher reality of being locked up.
Time’s up, my BJJ punishment: Sentence or Salvation
PTSD, my life long affliction. A never ending cycle of failed counseling. Days that can’t be accounted for and nights where going to sleep was the dream. Open heart surgery at 27, more surgeries followed. Eventually I just checked out for lunch with no designated time for return. I was not well. I can say, my recovery has been very slow. I was able to work for a small time until one day I was told I couldn’t. Then, out of the blue I fell back into old habits (not eating, not clean, not functional). I was close to reposting my out to lunch sign before one of my therapists' wanted to try something drastic. He found a way for me to cope, some unorthodox exposure therapy utilizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was livid and was given no alternative. I was told to complete a minimum of one year doing this martial art. At that moment I truly thought death would have been better. I was hoping a car would hit me on the way to my car.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s phrase rang through my head loud and clear the day my sentence was handed down. “Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Over a year ago I began a complicated journey. Instead of saying it was a road I was excited to travel down, it was more like a cliff I was thrown off of unwillingly. Whatever my reasons were for starting BJJ (kicking and screaming) it has been one of those experiences we ALL need. It has been my ULTIMATE wake-up call. I had no plans when I began other than "ok Dee let's get this crap over with". It’s hard to believe how quickly a year passes.
At this point I’ve reached goals I never set. I am emotionally invested (which I don't do) and never saw that coming. The beginning was awful. I had to face my worst fears. I did not enjoy strangers rolling all over me. Let’s face it, some of the positions were flat out offensive to my delicate nature. In time the movements and transitions were something I could compare to an intricate lyrical jazz combo. I was able to cope by looking at each drill as a two count, or a four count instead of oh wow, junk and trunk and all sorts of uh huh in my face do I scream… is this part of the technique… I’m not so sure about what is going on here. Now, I’ve learned to laugh or at least focus on my count.
Like in a dance routine, all I had to do was smooth out my edges. The next obstacle I had to deal with was pressure…the overwhelming amount of pressure. I could drill the steps but the pressure that a person could inflict upon me was a horse of a different color. It took me to a place that is dark and unforgettable. That could get ugly for me or my drilling partner. I will always struggle with that. It is a trigger that is both a blessing and a curse. Thus far it is clearly recognizable and I have faced it head on. Honestly, I doubt anyone likes to feel as if they are being smothered. It is also a tad bit embarrassing when the person doing it weighs like 100lbs. That just means she has wicked game.
The obstacle that my therapists are still trying to get me to confront head-on is my ability to decipher a real threat from a perceived one. My inability to judge this puts me and those involved in a difficult position and in this instance I will flee. The alternative is still a blur to me but from what I'm told Hulk is not the only one that can SMASH. I look at this as 2 out of 3 isn’t bad but my therapists look at it as the third issue is the worst one of all. I looked at the bigger picture and thought don’t push this. I now weigh 115 lbs vs 90. Death is no longer hovering over me. Let’s just take what we can get and keep it moving. I can step on the mat with a clear mind. I can withstand the pressure and dish out some of my own. The right professor (which I have), the right training partners (which I have), can help you learn to cope with the worst of the worst. The training gets intense but the right synergy produces amazing results. My year in BJJ produced some beautiful moments.
I received my Blue Belt, I write about a great sport, I became the WBJJF Regional Champion, I went to my first worlds, I attended my first women’s camps, I have had the honor of meeting and conversing with seven female black belt champions face to face. I mean I don’t know about anyone else but hey for a person whose plan was to just get this crap over with, I think things have definitely worked out in my favor. The year has brought all that I never wanted or asked for but everything that was necessary for me to understand why my therapist made the very unique choice that he made for me. At the time he made the decision I thought, I probably shouldn’t have insulted him for the last three months, but now I have to say the man is awesome at his job. Speaking so fondly of my highs related to my sentence would lead one to believe there were no lows, that is not so.
My lows were in some ways private, personal, and at times interrupted my training. When a trigger surfaces, I have become so accustomed to holding it in that it takes its toll on my health. I have had migraines that came on only moments before a class when I knew I was o.k. seconds earlier. I have laid down just to relax before a session and meditate and the next thing I know, the session is in progress and I’m being awakened and completely disillusioned. I have gone to the restroom repeatedly to blow chunks because I felt so absolutely disgusted in a training session. Then were the times my blood pressure started being heart attack high and the blackouts followed. Once those issues surface, I must completely cut ties with training. There is no question. If I do know what the trigger is or if I don’t, until things normalize, it is an unsafe risk to continue to ignore the signs.
My final session to discuss all that has happened, good and bad left my therapist with one question, "Now that it is all over, do you understand why YOU needed this?" Big picture, my entire experience wasn’t just about BJJ. My entire year has been beyond stressful and honestly had I not been training, I do not think I would have been remotely as prepared as I was to cope. However, my sentence brought a very unreal amount of crazy to my door as well. I didn't plan on being pulled aboard a merry-go-round of mayhem. What I learned from all of this is I was a shut-in because the outside freaked me out. It always will, whether I’m locked up in my house, or sitting in a restaurant, or training. My level of trust and confidence in people is never going to be what it once was. I just hope that if I keep heading in this direction the overwhelming feeling of suffocating will not be as crippling for me. The Big Bad Wolf is real to me. This experience was less about me seeing that my fears are irrational. It was more about understanding that in life, no matter how good we are, how much we prepare, or what road we take, sometimes BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I am happy to say, my sentence is complete. I'm nothing but loyal to my Professor 3rd Degree Black Belt Bruno Alves Pinnacle MMA/GFT, no matter where I go from here, I will follow Professor Alves. Thinking back on this experience in its entirety finally puts everything into perspective. The sentence is over but my salvation awaits.
“What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation.” Don DeLillo
My introduction to Marcos Torregrosa was early this year at the IBJJF Chicago Open. As I was watching random matches one of his matches caught my eye. Thankfully, it was pretty early in the match because for that tournament he absolutely tore thru the other lightweights in route to a gold before collecting a silver in the Absolute. Marcos ended the year as the top-ranked Masters black belt at both lightweight and absolute. This review is going to cover his BJJ Escapes App, available for $9.99 from iTunes. The app consists of 20 chapters covering the following positions: mount, side mount, back control, 50/50 and the following submission defenses: triangle, armbar and ankle lock. Don't forget to download the PDF of the map at the bottom of the article for your reference.
Founded in 2011, Cardiff-based Strike Fightwear are part of the UK wave of Brazilian jiu-jitsu gear companies. Strike’s kimonos, shorts, and rashguards all feature high-quality construction and their designs register around the Emerica mark on the BJJ industry scale of Jigoro Kano to NASCAR. This is a review of their recently released GRPPLR gi, size A2.
In the words of Strike Fightwear: “This gi has been in development for over a year and features a new cut & fit as well as high-quality embroidery and styling.”
“We designed this gi to be perfect for both everyday training and competitions. It seems foolhardy to train in a certain gi leading up to a competition, only to wear a different, lighter gi on the day. The GRPPLR is both lightweight and durable, ensuring you can wear it every day without it hindering your Jiu Jitsu.”
The sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a tricky beast to tame. For an art form that has been around for decades, it never seems to stay in the same place for too long. Every year there is always a new technique, a new training method, a new grappler, etc. coming onto the scene, causing the BJJ world to take notice.
A progressive sport, it’s hard to truly stay on top of your Jiu Jitsu game on a monthly basis unless you are totaling some serious mat time throughout your week. Missing even just one night at the gym can cause you to take a step back, while your teammates take a large bounding leap forward.
The importance of mat time can never be understated. It’s where you sharpen your craft, and become better no matter how you look at it. As a coach myself, I urge all of my students to make it to the gym every night they are scheduled too. While it doesn’t happen with everyone, we do have a solid core group of guys that will make it to the gym no matter what.
Granted, by no means am I throwing dirt on those who can’t make it; things happen, and take you away from the mat, it’s understandable. But for those nights—and we all have them—where making it to the gym isn’t practical, there is always a solution; solo drilling.
As we get older, the term “life happens” becomes a part of our day-to-day activities. The sport we once loved so much, or the show we pined to watch at night slowly become nothing more than a time-filler as we proceed with our jobs, families, kids, etc.
However, there are some out there that choose to keep playing their desired sport as they grow older. Basketball and baseball are two notorious sports for having “old men” leagues, where the participants seem to do just fine when balancing their time.
Some of you may be familiar with Flow Kimonos from my previous review of their hemp gi earlier this year. Flow also has an ultra-light competition gi. The Pro Series 2.0 is made in China, available in black ($144.99) & white ($134.99), has long AND husky sizing and weighs just a little more than 2 iPads. Seriously, this thing weighs nothing. Before this gi my Manto X Pro was the lightest gi I’ve ever had at just under 4.5 pounds. The Pro Series 2.0 is a pound less and for anyone that cuts weight you know just how nice that can be.
Intro: I train and compete in the Midwest, specifically in St Louis. I’ve been fortunate enough to compete fairly frequently and it was at one of these competitions, the IBJJF Chicago International Open, that I saw my first Quantum Kimono. I saw about half a dozen that day, many of them with Comprido/BRASA patches. The gis fit the athletes very well, especially the long and lanky ones. I’d never head of this brand before and was curious what they were about. A friend of mine is a brown belt under Comprido so with the help of a little Facebook stalking and I was able to track them down and beg them for their Comp gi to review.
"We started our gi company because it was so hard and expensive to the get the kimonos that we wanted. We decided to make our well-built gi at a reasonable price.” Quantum Kimonos
I would like to start this by telling you this is my first gi review. I'm really happy to have been provided the chance to review this gi, it is an awesome choice in training and for tournament competition. There are three prime characteristics I want in my gi. I want a durable gi with a close fit that meets all standards for competition in the federations I compete. I want the gi to be light weight and easy to clean. It also wouldn't hurt my feelings to find a gi which looks good.
As I judge the Estilo Premier 4.0 by that criteria I find it quickly became my absolute favorite gi. The combination of prime functional improvements and simple aestetics has made it my #1 choice for tournament or training day.
Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the area of Back Takes and Back Mount in BJJ. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more - and his FREE Berimbolo Back Takes DVD can be found online at: www.MicroBJJ.com/Berimbolo
In the wild world of sports that so many of us enjoy, there is never a dull moment. We love our traditional games and athletes, however, there are some times when the specific sport you enjoy needs a little shot in the arm to help bring it along with the time.
A perfect example of this would be the super-slick back take, the berimbolo. Utilized in order to obtain back mount, this transition is a tricky one and should be drilled over-and-over if you want to really get the move down pat.
One Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player that has this transition down pat is Rafael Mendes. If you’ve followed my work, you know I’m a big supporter of both Mendes brothers. Rafael is notorious for using the berimbolo to help advance his position and gain the upper hand on his opponents.