Beginners in all training ventures of life often believe they can achieve greatness in just a few lessons. The bitter truth is that it takes heart and commitment in order to learn anything worthy to be learned. If that applies to most journeys towards knowledge, it applies even more to grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not your regular martial art. Usually, there are four different types of students who join a BJJ school:
1. MMA or martial arts fans who want to give BJJ a try without even knowing that BJJ is a sport with no strikes and a sport often trained with no real relevance to MMA or self-defense.
2. Individuals with friends who train Jiu-Jitsu and are influenced or convinced by those friends to give it a try.
3. Athletes of other grappling arts like wrestling or judo, whose aim is to take their grappling one step further.
4. People who have experimented in different types of sports in order to get fit and decide to give BJJ a try.
TRAINING FOR SELF-DEFENSE
This article focuses more on the BJJ beginner who trains in order to compete in our great sport. However, self-defense is a big part of BJJ and I feel I have to address a couple of issues.
If self-defense is your goal for learning BJJ you must note this to your instructor. Some instructors focus only in sport BJJ, so you must clarify this before you join a school and get disappointed with the spider guards and the guard pulling.
BJJ versions for no-gi or MMA or self-defense generally employ curriculums that are significantly smaller than sport BJJ. Berimbolos, inverted guard attacks, etc. are not very functional when you get punched in the face and no-gi BJJ does not even use berimbolos, worm guard or spider guard techniques. My advice is not to limit yourself and work in all aspects of our great art. Even if you want to train BJJ for self-defense only, sport BJJ will make you sharp and there are schools that provide all kinds of training. BJJ is like a multifunctional tool that can be used in many ways.
Even if you are only interested in sport BJJ, if your instructor offers complimentary self-defense training do not neglect to train in these techniques as they are as important, if not even more important, than sport BJJ. Rolling with MMA rules that allow light strikes from time to time will keep your training honest and can also enhance your ability to apply your BJJ in self-defense.
THE MODERN BJJ CURRICULUM: ARIADNE'S THREAD
According to Wikipedia, Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze or a logic puzzle, - through an exhaustive application of logic to all available routes. A particular method must be used to completely follow through and trace the steps or take a point by point series of found truths in a contingent, ordered search that reaches an end position. It is the process itself that assumes the name.
What does Ariadne's thread have to do with BJJ? BJJ nowadays is so complex one can get lost or discouraged and quit without a roadmap, an Ariadne's thread that will lead him out of the maze.
Modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires more than 10 years training in order for someone to achieve black belt status and that happens for a reason. A modern BJJ curriculum has to utilize 200-350 techniques depending on the main objective for training in this art. Whether it is training for self-defense, sports competition, gi, no-gi or MMA or for all the above, the number of techniques you have to learn is frustrating.
If that was not enough, it seems that every couple of years somebody invents a new guard or submission adding more techniques to be learned, more counters and more options to explore. The 50-50 guard and the worm guard are now common terms in the BJJ vocabulary. Let us not forget that deep half guard and x-guard did not even exist 10-15 years ago.
I feel that it is tough for “old school” instructors to keep up with the plethora of new techniques that are being taught by younger instructors who are in their athletic prime. These are new techniques that require the athlete to be of lighter weight and flexible and are hard for a 50-year-old to practice and learn.
If you attend seminars by old school instructors you will notice that they hate it when their techniques are not appreciated and the only thing the participants want to see is worm guard or berimbolo variations. Sometimes instructors notice this in the school, when they teach beginners an escape from side control and when they turn their back the students try all these fancy moves without taking the technique being taught seriously.
And you even can see nowadays white belts competing and dropping directly to inverted guard or going for berimbolos. How can an instructor avoid teaching these techniques if his/her students will have to encounter them in competition? And probably lose as these techniques are hard to deal with. Unfortunately, the answer to that is that a lot of instructors are forced to add these techniques to their white to blue belt curriculum along with the side control escapes and the scissor sweeps from the closed guard.
Unless they are professional athletes who can train 2 times a day for 3 hours each time, 5-6 days a week, there is only so much students can learn if they train 3 times a week for a couple of hours each day.
This makes BJJ more difficult to teach. As a student, the temptation is always there to try new fancy techniques. And it is not wrong to try different things from time to time. However, do not neglect the basic techniques. The basics are being taught to beginners for a reason. Basics make the difference in winning against the elite in the long run.
TRAINING IN THE BASICS: TWO MAIN CATEGORIES
Old school instructors always stress the importance of "training in the basics." However, the so-called “basics” can be divided into the following categories:
1. Basic techniques (armbars from the closed guard, guillotines, rear naked chokes, etc.)
2. Training in basic sport specific fitness skills and attributes. These are mostly enhanced by drills and exercises which in coordination with the basic techniques are designed to prepare your body for the advanced techniques which require a higher level of athleticism and a close attention to details.
In the past BJJ training was 90% technique training. However, as we now have more and more competitors who combine athleticism with great technique, this has started to change.
Break Apparel is a life style brand out of The United Kingdom. Mike Summers is the brands founder and avid BJJ enthusiast. Interview Luke Docherty talks with Mike and finds out more about the brand and how the brand came to be.
(Photo credited to Hannah McCourt)
Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to speak to me today. Can you start by telling the readers a little about yourself? Where do you train, what rank, how long have you been training?
Hey, thanks for having me on. I train under Graham Keys, a Braulio Estima black belt, at Gracie Barra Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am a blue belt and training just over 4 years.
Excellent. What made you get into BJJ?
A combination of an unhealthy lifestyle and an unhealthy obsession with a job I didn't enjoy. I wanted a life and to feel a part of something. I had played Soccer on and off for years as well other sports but nothing gave me what I wanted. As part of a new year’s resolution to take up a Martial Art, I started with Kung Fu local to where I lived. After 3 months it dawned on me that it may not be the most realistic of disciplines. This came from me casually following the UFC and not seeing any Kung Fu styles. It was wrestlers, grapplers and combat tested striking arts. This made me question what I was learning and the methods in which we were practicing. I remember a class on using swords and as good fun as it was, it wasn't for me. I quickly googled MMA clubs in my area which was Hereford,UK. Then I found a club which was predominantly a BJJ club The Combat Academy, Hereford. My first instructor was Dave Coles, also a Braulio Estima black belt.
Tell us about training at Gracie Barra Belfast and the wider Irish BJJ Scene?
The scene here in Northern Ireland and The Republic is exploding. No question that Dublin has the bigger scene with a great choice of clubs such as SBG where Conor McGregor trains under John Kavanagh, Chris Bowe at Gracie Barra Dublin, Darragh O'Connaill at East Coast as well as many others. Liam Beechinor and Barry Oglesby organise the Irish Open each year and last month saw the biggest amount of competitors yet, I think over 500. I was at the event with a stand and it was a great to be a part of it. Training at GB Belfast is a true honour and I feel like I'm at one of the best kept secrets in UK/Irish Jiu Jitsu. Graham Keys originally started training under Mauricio Gomes many years ago when he first starting teaching here. He also learnt a lot from Roger too. The way BJJ developed in the UK meant Braulio became the head instructor but the Mauricio/Roger lineage can still be seen in the techniques we get taught and the style at the club. The club has two black belts, three brown belts and an army of purples and blues. As I originally started my training in England, I still have a lot of close friends in that scene and catch up at competitions when possible. Over the next two years I plan to attend as many competitions as I can to help grow Break, unfortunately this will probably reduce how many times I actually compete.
A lot of BJJ Practitioners talk about becoming instantly hooked on the art, would you say that you fit into that category?
Without question, my second class clashed with a planned night where I was to meet mates to see The Hangover 2, I was late... I knew immediately it would be for me. I walked out covered in mat burns and ripped old clothing but knew I had found something I would stick at.
(Photo credited to Mota Marcelo)
So late last year you gave up the daily grind and put all of your attention into your new project tell us about this project?
Break is a lifestyle and active brand within the BJJ/Surf niche.
The plans for Break started in December 2013. I was extremely miserable in a job that did not interest me in the slightest. I started doing designs in my lunch hour and talking to my girlfriend about launching a brand. As always she gave me a huge amount of support and over the next few months I made further inquiries in the process. Then in March last year I became unemployed. Seeing it as an opportunity to standby what my brand would preach, I embarked on making it happen. Only there was more pressure to do so then ever!!
How did the name and the design come about?
I'm glad you asked, the Shaka (Hang loose) as we all know is used the world over in surfing. Even non-surfers recognise the symbol. Not as widely known, the Jiu Jitsu community adopted it and again used around the world in all academies. Having a keen interest in both sports I wanted to start a brand that encapsulated this lifestyle and the Shaka seemed a perfect piece of imagery. The name came to me one day when sat at my desk bored stupid and probably thinking about a sweep I wasn't finishing at that time. Our dictionary definition sums it up perfectly...
Tell us about your vision for the brand? Where can you see Break in 5 years’ time?
Within 5 years, I want Break to have a strong presence in the US, Europe, Australia and Brazil. Have a strong team of sponsored athletes and continue to build on the relationships we have made.
What is your mindset while building the brand? Do you have a mentor (person or brand)? What type of Athletes do you look at as a suitable fit for your brand?
Much like starting out in Jiu Jitsu... Survival. I don't want to be a statistic on a list of failed businesses. Business is hard and ruthless but with an investment in quality and working well with others, life is a lot easier. We took months to get off the ground because I wanted to keep the standards of our clothing as high as possible. Our rash guard was a year in development but it was more than worth it. Choosing athletes can be tricky. Daily, guys reach out to us looking for sponsorship which is great and without them brands wouldn't get anywhere. Unfortunately we live in a world where people are extremely happy to be given free gear or support for events but not necessarily put the time in or a small amount of money to support the brands. I posted up recently that brands need customers more than athletes need sponsorship. I do not have a set personality or a criteria that you must meet to join our team but I usually like to have a chat with the individual, listen to what they have planned in terms of competitions and any other projects they may have in the works.
You started the Brand with a line of Tees and Shorts then got the Rash Guard out. Can you give us an indication of what’s next in line for Break?
I don't want to speak too soon but we have plans more to be added to the lifestyle range and in time to release our competition range ready for next year.
What advice would you have for any young budding entrepreneurs contemplating that first step into the unknown?
Take it.... providing you have considered and absorbed the following - are you 100% sure you believe in your idea, have seeked the advice of people with experience in business, prepared to experience every emotion possible to see yourself through it all and accept that it will challenge you in areas you wouldn't expect such as relationships with family and friends. If you can work with all of that and still feel motivated to go with it, then do it!
Do you have any other ventures/collaborations in the future?
In October of this year we are collaborating with BJJ24.7 to run the Belfast International Open, Belfast has a growing Jiu Jitsu scene but still behind the UK and Dublin for competitions. It is a 2 hour drive for the nearest professionally ran event. The Jiu Jitsu community in Belfast has waited long enough and traveled far enough. We have guys coming from the mainland UK and from the Republic of Ireland to compete as well as others from further a field. Lawrence and Reuben of BJJ 24.7 have done a great job in building a trust worthy competition provider and I believe they have created something special.
For anyone reading today how can they find your gear? And if any interested wholesalers want to get in touch with you to stock Breaks line what is the best method?
Thanks very much for your time Mike I look forward to hearing more about Break in the future, is there anything else you would like to add?
Just to say a huge thanks to everyone who has helped me get this far, my amazing girlfriend and soon to be wife Lindsay, my parents for continued support, a great team of friends within the BJJ community and most importantly, unbelievable customers! Without them Break wouldn't still be going. Oh... and BJJ legends for having me!!
In a wheel chair and paralyzed from the last rib down Max is going to compete in the 2015 IBJJF World Championships. A little background on a great warrior. Photos courtesy of Paulo Bihis and Bathala Apparel.
Maximiliano Ulloa is a purple belt under Leticia Ribeiro who trains at Gracie Humaitá South Bay. He’s 37 years old and will be fighting as a light weight (157) for the first time in his life.
Max became a paraplegic in 2012 after a fall from a second story balcony pinched spinal cord at level T7. With a T7 injury he has lost the use of his abs as well as his legs and lower back.
Before his injury Max was a 1 strip blue belt.
Max spent 2 months in hospital and 2 weeks in outpatient rehab when insurance only provisioned for 1 PT visit per week. He was home alone for 2 months then his brother moved to California to help. Six months after his accident resumed training because of his failing insurance need for rehab. He trains 8-10 hours a week.
Max took several months to travel across the US alone. He visited family and academies along the way. While he was visiting Miami for two months trained at the Rilion Gracie Academy. With Leticia’s blessing Max was awarded his purple belt from Rilion 2014.
Motivated to inspire other spinal cord injury people Max started the non-profit RollingtheWalk.com. He is supported by the great people at Jiu-Jitsu Changed My Life.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Athlete, Pena, Accepts Sanction for Rule Violation
Colorado Springs, Colo. (May 26, 2015) – USADA announced today that Felipe Pena, of Vila Castela, Nova Lima – MG, Brazil, an athlete in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has tested positive for a prohibited substance and accepted a one-year sanction for his doping offense.
Pena, 23, tested positive for testosterone, which was confirmed by CIR (GC/C/IRMS) analysis, as a result of an in-competition urine sample he provided on June 1, 2014, at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation ("IBJJF") World Jiu-Jitsu Championships held in Long Beach, Calif. Although the IBJJF is not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code (the “Code”), USADA was contracted by IBJJF to conduct testing for the event and collected Pena’s sample in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency International Standard for Testing. Anabolic Agents are prohibited under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, which has adopted the Code and the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List. IBJJF has agreed to impose the sanction.
After a thorough review of the case, USADA accepted Pena’s explanation that his positive test was caused by his use of a testosterone cream provided to him by a healthcare provider. Pena also provided substantial assistance as outlined in the Code. For providing substantial assistance to USADA, Pena was eligible for a reduction of the otherwise applicable two-year sanction under the Code.
After considering all the relevant circumstances, including Pena’s substantial assistance, USADA determined that a one-year period of ineligibility was the appropriate outcome in this case. Pena’s sanction began on June 1, 2014, the day the sample was collected. In addition, Pena has been disqualified from all competitive results achieved in competitions sanctioned by the IBJJF or any Code signatory on and subsequent to May 31, 2014, the date of his first match at the 2014 IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships, including forfeiture of any medals, points, and prizes.
In an effort to aid athletes, as well as all support team members such as parents and coaches, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on its website on the testing process and prohibited substances, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs. In addition, the agency manages a drug reference hotline, Drug Reference Online (www.GlobalDRO.com), conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and proactively distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as the Prohibited List, easy-reference wallet cards, periodic newsletters, and protocol and policy reference documentation.
USADA is responsible for the testing and results management process for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement, and is equally dedicated to preserving the integrity of sport through research initiatives and educational programs.
Senior Communications Manager
Phone: (719) 785-2046
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu keeps it real. It’s hard physically and mentally. Now imagine if you didn’t get support from your family, friends or even teammates. To continue takes a different kind of strength. This is a repost of Ishtar Al-azawi’s Facebook post. (reprinted with permission)
I am not one to rant normally, but there has been a subject the has been bugging me for a while now; Being an Arab Muslim girl that trains and competes in BJJ I get a lot of criticism "its a mans sport" or "why cant you do something more feminine" "this sport isn't for women" "are you a lesbian" "your an Arab women not Western" the best one so far is "no man will accept to marry a girl that fights"
I wasn't really going to speak out about this matter but if I don't, if we don't who will ? why should Arab women be made to feel bad about training Jiujitsu ?
The crazy thing is if was to go out every night and smoke shisha or to a bar I don't think i would be given as much grief as I do now, the call me "westernized" regardless of where I grew up I am Arab and a proud Muslim, I participate in a sport that has given me confidence, drive, happiness and I feel that I can protect myself in most situations now.
The amount of women that have been exposed to rape, abuse, muggings and mental or physical abuse not only in the Middle East but the whole world is worrying, I personally believe that every women needs to learn how to defend herself, and not only that but gain self confidence to steer away bullies.
Stop this judging taboo and start supporting us! we are the pride of the Middle East we are proudly carrying our homeland flags, we work 9-5 jobs and we manage to look after our homes and train and compete.. we deserve more than you nasty remarks and criticism!
I am also so saddened to see that some women have been given ultimatums to stop BJJ if they get married, or even refused marriage because their partners do not accept for and Arab woman to participate in such a sport, we should be encouraging more women to participate so we can create strong ladies teams!
And to all our male sparring partners if you can't leave ur egos at the door then don't step on the mats BJJ isn't just a physical discipline it's a mental one too, and on the mats we work just as hard as you do! We all are very familiar with that one guy that will either smash to prove no girl can beat him or treat u like your a China vase that will break... Or u get the guys that will completely ignore ur existence because they see u as a waste of Mat space ! This is unacceptable and this is definitely not a jujitsu mind set !
An example of great Arab men that support us is SHIEKH MOHAMMED BIN ZAYED AND HIS BROTHER SHIEKH TAHNOON.. i think a lot of men should ask themselves if BJJ isn't for women then why would our leaders implement it into every school, and create a national team for girls to compete here and internationally!
Our leaders are great examples of how you should be!
So next time you have something negative to throw at us, our response to you is ; WE ARE MOTHERS,SISTERS, WIVES, AND DAUGHTERS, WE ARE WARRIORS, WE ARE FIGHTERS, WE ARE GENTLE YET WE ARE STRONG AND WE HAVE ENDURED ENOUGH !!STAND WITH US AND NOT AGAINST US ! Please share to show some support for WOMEN IN BJJ ! Osssss!
Brown belt Jess Fraser is the founder and driving force behind Australian Girls in Gi. She is fiercely proud to be the leader and organizer of this groundbreaking group ~ which is currently (& forever will be) club and affiliate neutral.
Hi Jess, Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us!!!
Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been doing BJJ, and why did you start? My name is Jess Fraser, I’m a Melbourne based brown belt training out of Dominance Mixed Martial Arts (come visit!). I have been training BJJ since 2010. I started BJJ because I wanted to be a badass. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I might be still working on all of that but I am absolutely loving the journey.
Who would be your biggest influences both locally and internationally throughout your time in the BJJ Community? My biggest influences have been my coaches and team mates. They are essentially the sculptors of the artwork that is my game. Everyone is involved but most prominently my coach, David Hart, is the guy. He gave me my guard. Its pretty easy to spot that when you see me roll. Martin Gonzalez, my partner of 5 years is also a huge influence on my game. It is predominately his direction for my top game. Dave influences technical knowledge and is more open to my development & experimentation generally, Martin is competition prep, very strict, very serious, very uncompromising. Its an awesome combo, the best of both worlds. Both support me unwaveringly.
Internationally, black belt and World Champion Sophia McDermott-Drysdale. She’s the inspiration and the trail blazer. She made me believe that Aussie girls can do just as well as the overseas girls. At competition and at quality of technique generally. She is super well rounded, smart, a mother, a business owner and ass kicker. Very influential on my goals. You head up the AustralianGirlsInGi organization, tell us more about AGIG and how it came to be what it is today? Australian Girls in Gi is the largest female only grappling community of its kind in the world. We are a community group that aims to boost the retention of females within our sport. The group has a public Facebook page and website but the most important work of the group happens in a closed doors, female only, online group on Facebook. We use it as a forum. It is safe, moderated and welcoming. Here the 900+ Australian female members support each other, organize training, ask questions, become leaders, educate each other and share in their passion for the sport. Its an amazing thing to be a part of, let alone lead. To explain how we got here and to the incredible place we are today would take me hours. TL:DR version..first there was only a few. If you build it, they will come. haha. Our most recent event (Camp #5) hosted 120 women for 3 days. It was mind blowing and record breaking.
You have a round robin format competition coming up this weekend in Perth, how many competitions do you run annually and what is the average age of the ladies competing? I run many competitions for a few different organizations each year but only one annual female only AGIG Comp. Each year up until now it has been hosted in Melbourne. I am extremely excited about bringing the event to Perth as the ladies scene in Perth is exploding. There are such strong numbers due to the tireless work of the ladies at Legion 13, also the AMMA Angels as well as our sister group, Babes N Belts. I wanted to give the women of WA the event that they deserve, totally dedicated to them, to show Australia that we see what they are doing and we want to reward it. Each of the AGIG events has girls from as young as 4 all the way through to women in their 50s. Its pretty special.
What piece of advice would you give a lady thinking of giving Jiu-Jitsu a go for the first time? Grab a friend and phone a club. Almost every gym will have a free drop in to trial the class. Ask lots of questions over the phone before you come in. And don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know whats going on - if you’re having fun on that first night, you’re doing it right. Also, don’t be disheartened if you see no other women on the mats on your first day. The guys are awesome, wait n see, they’re honestly the coolest pack of big/little brothers ever and they’re soon to be your family. All they want to do is help you. The giving nature of this community is something that will blow your mind. Trust me. Just jump in. You wont regret it. Its the best thing I was ever bonkers enough to try. What are the future plans for AGIG? We’re headed to the Gold Coast for a huge open mat two weeks after Perth (first weekend in June). Then we’re headed to the AIS for Wrestling Camp that next weekend. We’re also headed to Bali in July as a group. Rolling, surfing, eating, sleeping. Check Facebook for details. All welcome, men as well!
Every month there is always an event and in a different State. We’re waiting on a venue to be finalized before we announce a crazy huge event coming in Sydney but its going to be amazing. Stay tuned and follow our page for more. Currently all the profits from Australia wide events are being pooled by myself and Hope Douglas (purple belt, myBJJ Sydney). Our goal is to afford to fly in a top Brazilian black belt female from the States with the money so that we can run a series of seminars Australia wide for our group members. Its going to be epic.
For anyone reading today who may be interested how can they get in touch with AGIG or if they are international do you know of any similar organizations? Definitely head to AustralianGirlsInGi.com there are 'get involved' sections for both Australia and International that can link you to everything we’ve found over the past 5 years - including how to find the members group on Facebook.
Thanks very much for your time Jess look forward to hearing more about AGIG in the future, is there anything else you would like to add? Make sure to get your entries in for the Round Robin tournament this weekend. You CANT register at the gate so jump in now!
I’m happy to say that I’m 4 weeks out and hip pain free.
As a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I’ve lived the adages, "No Pain No Gain", "Work Through the Pain" and "Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body." Over my 18 years in the sport I can count the mornings I didn’t have pain easier than the mornings I did.
At 46 I need a knee replacement. I take Celebrex until I can work up the courage for the major surgery. And yes, I still train albeit limited and only with selective partners. Doctors all scratch their heads why I still do it. It’s high time I hang up my spurs, they say. Most doctors don’t know what BJJ is.
For the past 4 months I’ve had pain on the side of my hip, right where the drawstring on my gi pants ride. My doctor said it was soft tissue then shrugged and told me I should stop training. Said it was time. Said I wasn't 20 anymore.
That’s where Michael Ko, Physical Therapist comes in. He trains and we met on the mat. He offered to help. I shrugged and said arthritis, what can you do? He asked me to let him try. With nothing to lose and everything to gain I popped in for a visit. After asking me to walk and stand and lift he determined that my limited mobility in my knee was causing my hip to compensate, in effect I was dragging my leg behind me. We did stretching but mostly he educated me on how my knee injury, my hip pain and my gait were all related. My pain didn’t go away right away. It took about two weeks and some more stretching. Mostly I pay very close attention to when I’m tired and start dragging my leg.
Regardless if you are a world champion or weekend warrior you owe it to your body to stop ignoring the pain and get it fixed. And if you can find a heath care provider who does Jiu-Jitsu it makes it so much easier.
Michael Ko, PT, DPT
Movement IQ Physical Therapy 614 S Brea Blvd Brea, CA 92821 714-853-9252
Great Looking Didn’t Shrink Durable Color didn’t Fade
Since my 8 yr old son trains at Tinguinha Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy, my teammate/training partner, Kris Shaw, the owner of BJJ Legends Magazine asked me to review the new ‘Sprout’ kids gi from Submission FC. This is the same company that got some bad publicity in the past for their adult line of ‘Hemp’ gi not being made out of hemp (it was actually a cotton/polyester blend like this kids gi). I have owned one of those ‘Hemp’ gi for 2 years and even though it’s not made out of hemp as advertised, it’s one of my favorite gi in my collection. The reason why I mention this is since both gis are made from similar material, I will know how it will hold up over time. At least this time, they didn’t claim to have been made out of ‘sprouts’.
Manufacturer’s Specs: - 350 GSM Single Weave Gi Top- Light 10oz twill pants- Cotton / Polyester blend - Pre-Shrunk- Embroidered designs- Heavily Reinforced Stress Points- Awesome Fit- IBJJF Approved - Free Gi Bag Included
First Impression: When I took the gi out of the bag, both the gi jacket and the pant felt really soft. It didn’t feel super light but it wasn’t a heavy gi either (the weight of the gi compared to my son’s other gis which are Tatami Estillo and Vulkan Pro Kids). The gi pant seemed baggier than the other gis he owns. The black gi color my boy chose had green/yellow embroidery throughout the gi. On the gi jacket, the name of the company, Submission, was embroidered on both shoulders, name of the gi ‘Sprout’ was embroidered on the left front bottom and back bottom of the gi jacket. There was also couple small embroidery that resembled a bean sprout near the gi jacket vent openings. The gi pant had similar theme. Sprout embroidery near the knees, along with Sprout embroidery and cotton patch near the waist. All the stitching/draw string were done in green material which made for a sharp looking gi (even though my boy and I are Lakers fans, he didn’t mind wearing the Celtics colors).
Measurements (all measurements in inches):
Before washing: A 49 1/8 B 21 ¾ C 22 D 23 E 18 3/8 F 5 5/8 G 19 H 28 1/8 I 8 ¼
After 5 washes: A 47 1/8 B 20 ¾ C 21 D 22 ¼ E 17 3/8 F 5 3/8 G 18 ¼ H 27 3/8 I 8 1/8
After 20 washes: A 47 1/8 B 20 ¾ C 21 D 22 ¼ E 17 3/8 F 5 3/8 G 18 ¼ H 27 3/8 I 8 1/8
As you can see, there is minimal shrinkage with the gi. I think this is due to the material being cotton/polyester blend. The gi was always washed in warm water and put in dryer at medium heat setting. Once you find the right size, you can wash/dry without fear of shrinking too much.
Review: My boy trained in this gi over 20 times in span of 3 months. He liked how soft it felt and how comfortable it was during training. He also liked how the gi looked. First thing out of his mouth when he saw the gi was “cool”. There were only couple things he wished different about the gi. He wished the gi pant were little slimmer fitting. He is a tall/skinny 8 yr old and pant looked baggy on him. Also, he wished the pant had elastic waist band like his Tatami Gi, instead of the draw string. As for the wear of the gi, after 20 washes, there was minimum fading on the black gi. I was told by a friend to soak the black gi in vinegar/water combo to reduce the fading but I got lazy and did not do it, however, as you can see in the picture, there is minimum fading of the gi. I also mentioned earlier that I have owned the Submission ‘Hemp’ gi for two years which is made of similar material. I know from experience that this material will last a long time and get even more comfortable as time passes.
Conclusion: If you are looking for a durable, great looking gi for your little one, I highly recommend this gi. You can wash/dry without fear of shrinking. Able to use the dryer without fear of shrinking is great since if you hang dry the gi, your little one will end up wearing a stiff gi, which isn’t too comfortable. Also, this gi will last a long time without showing much wear and tear.
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.
Team Alliance North Richland Hills Texas: The Noteworthy Success of Samuel Snow as he builds Snow MMA
"Alliance was founded in 1993 by Romero "Jacare" Cavalcanti, Fabio Gurgel, Alexandre Paiva and Fernando Gurgel. Alliance is recognized as one of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Schools in the world; known not only for their technicality and quality, but also for their professionalism. Alliance has made hundreds of World Champions, over 25 of them at the black belt level." www.allianceofficial.com
Samuel Snow began his BJJ Journey in 2006 not sure of what to expect and like so many…he was about ready to throw in the towel shortly after he began due to frustrations in training. Then, three months in…he found his groove and never looked back. BJJ was definitely not the conventional sport of choice for Snow and even his family was skeptical that he would stick with it.Fast forward to December 2014, all of Snow’s dedication and hard work paid off.He joined an elite group at Team Alliance.He was awarded his black belt by non-other than one the founding members of Alliance, Maestre Romero Jacare Cavalcanti 7th Degree Red and Black Belt.
BJJL: Why BJJ? What does your family think?
Samuel Snow: So many reasons… When I started, my parents didn't really have a clue. Then, I kept doing it and I think it surprised them. Growing up, I had never really stuck to anything for very long… at least not more than a few years. Now, they love it because they see the value I bring to others lives- even my nephew just started training with me and he is 3 and ½ yrs old.
BJJL: Talk to me about your BJJ lineage?
Snow: I began BJJ in 2006 with Jose Reyes, when he was just a purple belt. My little brother and I began our journey together and I owe much of my motivation, commitment, and dedication to the art to him. After a couple of years at Reyes, we had Will Campuzano come to teach Muay Thai and MMA, along with some high school wrestlers come to train at Reyes. Even a Greco-Roman national champion from Peru came to train with us, Joe Morante. After that, I began training more no-gi, wrestling, and competing in MMA with Campuzano and Reyes for the first few years at purple belt. I won all of my first three amateur fights before taking a break due to a knee injury. After that, I moved to Ecuador to teach English and do some traveling, and began training under Fernando Soluco, an Alliance black belt under Fabio Gurgel, and Pioneer of BJJ in Latin America. I was in Ecuador back and forth for a couple of years, the whole time I had a friend teaching in my place back in Texas (in a small sub-leased space in a gymnastics facility). Soluco introduced me to the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle as I understand it and practice it today. He showed me how to lead, to teach, and how to coach athletes as well as administrate at a gym. With him, I traveled all over Ecuador and was able to establish my roots with the Alliance team. Alliance has since become my family, and I have trained under each of the three main founders at their respective Headquarters in Brazil and Atlanta (Fabio, Gurgel, Alexandre Paiva, and Romero Jacare Cavalcanti). Soluco awarded me my black belt in Dec of 2014 by the hands of master Jacare while I was attending the kids instructor certification course at the headquarters in Atlanta.
BJJL: To you, what equals a well-rounded fighter? How does one train to become the equivalent of a Keenan Cornelius?
Snow: A well-rounded fighter is one who has an open mind, and is determined to train his weaknesses. To me, Jiu-Jitsu equals open-mindedness.
BJJL: Is there anything you would like to tell a person that is starting out in MMA/BJJ/Boxing…etc? Some pearls of wisdom you wish you had known that would have prevented injury, aggravation, etc?
Snow: The best wisdom I can give is to ask those at your gym, be receptive- listen, and try to learn from their experiences before having to learn the lessons on your own- the hard way.
BJJL: The right gym, the right black belt, what advice do you have for people searching for the right environment to train in?
Snow: For me, the best environment to train in is one that is extremely positive, open-minded, and peaceful. There cannot exist a lot of insecurity, egos, or attitudes.
BJJL: If there is one thing (across the board) that you would like to be standardized when it comes to BJJ rules, what would it be?
Snow: As far as BJJ rules, I would like all submission holds to be legal at black belt. I don’t think it works in the favor of the art and its evolution to make certain holds illegal. For instance, I believe a fighter would be less relaxed and less apt to stall in the 50/50 if heel hooks were legal.
BJJL: There are so many BJJ competitions out there, a person could compete on weekly basis, how does one distinguish a good tournament from a bad one?
Snow: A good tournament is one that fits your budget, is recommended by your professor/coach, and has an event that does not conflict with your calendar.
BJJL: Do you have any women only classes?
Snow: We currently do not have women only classes, but have been planning to open up one in the near future.
BJJL: Do you have any thoughts about women only classes?
Snow: I think women only classes are great for a gym if the demand for them is there at that academy.
BJJL: Your Team or rather Team Alliance in TX as a whole finished strong in 2014 (you rcvd your blackbelt) Raul Jimenez won Master’s World’s for his division. Now you have started 2015 with a bang (won the Atlanta Open), and Jimenez won PANs for his division what do you attribute your success thus far to?
Snow: I think my success is greatly due to the amazing people that I have been blessed with- from the world-class instructors and teammates (Soluco, Fabio Gurgel, Lucas Lepri, Jon Thomas, Jacare, Gigi, Iturralde bros, etc) to my hard-working and loyal student base, to my immediate family who has done nothing but support my dreams and aid me in building the gym business.
BJJL: Do you have any regrets thus far? Training miss steps/setbacks, not following advice, etc.
Snow: I don’t have any regrets in life. Everything happens in a unique manner and everyone’s journey is different for a reason. That is what makes life beautiful.
BJJL: What has been your proudest moment since you began the practice of BJJ?
Snow: My proudest moment for sure was promotion to black belt.
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you still have left?
Snow: My immediate goal is to expand our student base, especially our white belt group. The goals I have for this year is to compete in the no-gi pans and worlds, if finances permit. My long-term goals are mainly for my students… I would like to have several athletes win some major IBJJF titles and to have some very solid black belt instructors teaching and competing for our team. Beyond competition, I hope our gym will be a very positive and influential business and hub within our community.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
Snow: I would like to thank my parents, for supporting my dreams. They have always been there for me and I am so grateful to them for all the years of sacrifice and for also teaching me the value of hard work. They put me to work at 14 and employed me for many years at all three of their businesses and I learned so much and gained so much experience and skill that I rely upon to this day.
BJJL: If you could go back and change anything about your journey, would you?
Snow: If I could start over, I think I might want to have lost my ego and pride a lot sooner so that I could have built a strong foundation earlier on.
On the 27th of April 2015 the Western Australian BJJ Community came together to take part in an event that hadn't been done before in Perth. It was an Open Mat hosted at the pristine location of Rockingham Foreshore. The idea was thought of after reading the BJJ Globetrotter by Christian Graugart. The man behind the event, Luke Docherty decided to arrange a free event to not only bring the community together as one in a friendly non-competitive, non-affiliated environment, to meet new people within the community and to promote the art to the general public. Being rather new to the BJJ scene there was obvious trepidation about inter-school rivalries and the like, however the day went off without a hitch. With many comments coming back in about how good the vibe was on the day.
The event began at 10:00 and was started off with 2 pairs on the Mat, A self-proclaimed Mat Rat and blue belt, a 6 year old white belt Elise and Josephine Masiello (Black Belt, IBJJF Masters World Champion 2014). The quietness on the mats didn't last long as everyone started to get into the spirit of the day and started rolling. The highlight of the day for me personally was seeing a young girl 12 years old Yellow Belt (Lexi) approach a Purple belt Johan Schoonbee for a roll neither of the two had met before but the Johan accepted and had a fun roll with Lexi and showed her a few tricks that she later put to good use on this particular white belt. There was a wide variety of people attending with about 8 different gyms from across Perth having a presence. Every belt was well represented with a great amount of knowledge and technical skills on display. With the more technical guys not afraid to show the not so technical guys and girls a few new tricks of the trade.
Not only were the mats full from 10 till 2:30pm but the overall awareness was raised with general public walking by stopping with a coffee for a look, the odd person also asked plenty of questions about what was going on. Over the period of the day it is estimated that upwards of 50 people of all ages took to the mats to roll and enjoy themselves. A professional film crew filming the documentary “Tap Early Tap Often” were on location. The documentary takes a look at a local guy Anthoney Pietroboni a White belt who has been training BJJ after a Spinal Fusion and his journey into BJJ. Plenty of footage was taken and interviews were done with the majority of rollers happy to appear on camera.
Over all the event was a success and Free Rollers Perth will be hosting more events in the near future. If you are traveling to Perth, Western Australia and maybe interested in taking part, head over to our Facebook page for a look at the group and what is happening with our next events. We are hoping to hold these events at least every two months at outdoor locations around Perth.
The event would have been a lot harder to arrange if it was not for the help of several people including Helen Sarcich, Kingi Turnbull, Anthoney Pietroboni, Aaron Cadd for the use of their mats to help accommodate the numbers on the day, Nicole Docherty and Jac Qui Photography for capturing the day on film. Josephine Masiello for supporting me in hosting the event when I started to doubt the idea and spreading the word to her extensive network within the BJJ community.
They teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the public high schools in Abu Dhabi. For boys its mandatory but for girls its an optional elective. BJJ Legends sits down with Priscilla Prandini one of the supervisors of the program to bring BJJ to UAE and Michelle Nicholini, 8 time world champion and Prandini's coach.
BJJL: I am here with Priscilla Prandini and Michelle Nicolini and we are going to talk about Jiu-Jitsu in Abu Dhabi for women. And my number one question is, isn't there a lot of machismo in the United Arab Emirates?
Priscilla: Its like different culture there. They have different roles in the society and in the family one is not stronger than the other it's just a matter of different roles. We can see many girls practicing sports and working outside. The idea of "machismo" is misunderstood."
BJJL: In the UAE are woman allowed to walk around outside? Allowed to drive a car? Allowed to ride a bicycle?
Priscilla: Yes, sure. There are somethings common in a country with Slavic foundation such as clothing etc but its not that bad, its just different from Western culture but you can adapt somethings like long sleeves. Its not allowed to go to the malls with some t-shirts that can appear your shoulders. But you can do everything here.
BJJL: Do you have to wear a headscarf?
Priscilla: No, never.
BJJL: And is there a curfew?
BJJL: Are there bars?
Priscilla: There are, but the most inside the hotels only for non Muslims.
BJJL: What do you do in Abu Dhabi?
Priscilla: Now am a supervisor. I arrived there as a coach. I stayed a coach two years and now I am supervisor responsible for 19 schools. Eight for girls and eleven for boys. I place the Jiu-Jitsu instructors in schools. I need to check everything, about paperwork that we have a lot, about classes. Each school has two coaches working there. So I need to check everything.
BJJL: Are these coaches Brazilians? Americans?
Priscilla: Yes, we have Americans, but most are Brazilian.
BJJL: Europeans? Are there anybody from United Arab Emirates that teaches Jiu Jitsu?
BJJL: Because the program is too new?
Priscilla: Besides His Highness Sheikh Tahnoon, we have only one local black belt.
BJJL: Female or male?
Priscilla: Male. Female, the high belt that we have is purple belt.
BJJL: Why do they teach Jiu Jitsu in the schools?
Michelle: For self defense, the idea in the beginning was for self-defense, no?
Priscilla: Members of the Royal Family started training Jiu-Jitsu and they saw the changes in the body and behaviour especially among the younsters so His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed's own words "If its good for my son, its good for my country."
BJJL: Jiu Jitsu changed my life. It changed the his son's life and now its changing Abu Dhabi. You're in 19 schools teaching Jiu Jitsu, and is it modified or is it Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Michelle: She only supervises 19 schools but there is much more.
Priscilla: No not modified. Its Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Each tournament we bring around 900, 1000 children, kids to compete. We have almost one tournament a month. The acceptance of the program is great either for male and female schools. We are present in the entire Emirate of Abu Dhabi and growing every day.
BJJL: The people that you are bringing to teach the classes inside the schools, what's your requirements? How do you pick them?
Priscilla: First, you need...
BJJL: Speak in English.
Priscilla: ...but not so much.
BJJL: I don't even know the language in Abu Dhabi. What's the language in Abu Dhabi?
Priscilla: Its Arabic. Its great if the coach can speak English to communicate no just with students but also with school staff and the country generally. We exchange culture and knowledge learning some Arabic words too but we (Jiu-Jitus coaches) mostly spak English.
BJJL: You personally, have you seen Jiu Jitsu change your students?Can you think of a story?
Priscilla: Yes, everyon that gets involved in Jiu-Jitsu has their life changed somehow. There are so many schools so many stories but generally a change in behavior and the awareness of a healthy lifestyle are the highlights.
BJJL: Like here.
BJJL: That's what I was going to ask. The culture, are they competitive? Are they aggressive? Are they...
Priscilla: They are very Competitive and they are getting tougher everyday. They train a lot and their technique level is increasing as they train. They love Jiu-Jitsu. We are lucky. You have never been there?
BJJL: I've never been.
Priscilla: All the buildings are so rich, from outside, from inside. If you look you are like, "Oh my goodness."
BJJL: I need to go. I almost went a few years ago...
Michelle: Yes, come. You are welcome.
Priscilla: Can I add one more thing? I'd like to say thanks for my company PalmsSports for the support and my sponsor Koral.
The one thing that prevents individuals from achieving goals is their limitations and the unwillingness to break through them. Fear, doubt, physical deficiencies are amongst the mental vices that causes us to give up. While some have thrown in the towel there are others whom stay determined to overcome anything life throws at them. Furthermore with this positive attitude overcoming adversity is a simple task as the only thing that awaits is happiness, capturing the goal, and unlocking that full potential they never knew existed.
Whether its battles on or off the mat Sityodtong Los Angeles/Team Wander Braga BJJ Purple Belt Max Blum constantly continues to break barriers. To thinking being a one legged amputee grappler he could come up with any excuses of what he can't do. However he is doing the opposite pushing beyond his set limits to becoming a true champion in life which has also served as an inspiration to anyone that has had the pleasure of training and interacting with him.
What makes him so driven and positive you ask? We here at BJJ Legends got the opportunity to talk to Max Blum as we get an in-depth look at this ambitious grappler.
What is you physical condition and how did you end up with it? Max Blum: The condition I have is Streeter Syndrome. It is a condition where Amniotic bands get attached to the Fetus and Utero which cuts off the muscle and bone from growing into what a full body human being with two arms and two legs look like.
Before getting involved in BJJ how would you describe your life? Max Blum: Growing up at an early age knowing that you are different, I would always have some insecurities about my appearance in wanting to be whole and normal like everyone else. Coming from a family of successful athletes it was always encouraged to take part in sports which motivated me to compete. The reason for me wanting to compete was because I was given limits by doctors, social workers, and others individuals of what I can't do. This made me want to prove these doubters wrong. Unfortunately with all my focus on the physical realm, work, and traveling my academics took a backseat which resulted in me not finishing school thus lacking the confidence to be successful in that area.
How did you get involved in BJJ? Max Blum: In 2006 I had some life altering events that happened to me. I had a childhood friend that passed away from a drunk driving accident and my favorite cousin due to an automobile accident traveling in bad weather. I had already lost a lot of focus in my life. I was traveling, not involved in sports, and was out of shape. All of this made me very depressed.
The turning point was when I discovered a couple of friends were into grappling. I didn't know anything about it at the time but it seemed to be doing them a world of good. I imminently became interested and started training BJJ in 2009 under Team Wander Braga at Fight Forum in Montrose, California.
Now when you started training did you initially start training with or without the false leg? Max Blum: I started training with the False Leg.
Why was that? Max Blum: I was so use to not doing anything without it. Looking back I believe it was also part insecurity and feeling scared I would hurt myself.
What was the turning point where you decided to train without it? Max Blum: My first instructor started noticing I would get stuck in certain positions especially the half guard so he recommended I train without it. It is when I started training without the false leg that my grappling game started to get better everything from my top to bottom game especially the guard which is very offensive.
As you progressed through your BJJ journey when did you started to notice a change within yourself not only as a grappler but also on a personal level? Max Blum: BJJ has helped take the fear of failure away from me. It has given me a lot of confidence that I have used to stay positive in my life with my current situation being an amputee. I went back school and finished it being on the dean's list every semester at CSU Northridge. Overall just being successful at anything I put my mind.
Who would you say has been your biggest influence in your BJJ Journey? Max Blum: I have had a lot of influences in BJJ but one major influence has to be my instructor Antonio Fernando Castillo. He would always give me a lot of encouraging, advice, and help me develop my game.
Looking toward the future do you have any goals for yourself as a grappler or even in general that you would like to accomplish? Max Blum: As I get older I would like to transition into a career that I find successful. I would also like to give back to others just as my BJJ coaches have given back to me.
Finally for anyone reading your story how would you like to be remembered in hopes of inspiring others to overcome the challenges life puts in front of them? Max Blum: I would like to be remembered as someone who loved the sport and tried to incorporate it into their way of life which made it into a life style. I would like to also be remembered as someone who was a good skillful practitioner who had respect for his training partners, past opponents, and future opponents.
For anyone reading this I would just like to say don't let anything hold you back in life. It all about taking the lessons you learn in all walks of life and applying them to the big picture. Anything is possible all you have to do is remain positive, be dedicated, set goals, and challenge yourself to become better.
Is there anyone you would like to thank before we close this interview? Max Blum: There are so many people I would like to thank. But first and foremost, I need to thank my coach and close friend, Fernando Castillo; words cannot express how valuable all the lessons he has taught me on and off the mat and I am forever grateful for all he has done for me. I also need to thank Master Wander Braga, Kru Walter Michalowiski, Jeff Obar, Ido Pariente, Orlando Sanchez, Pete Han, all of my Braga and SYT teammates, and every single individual I’ve ever had the opportunity to train with. In addition I want to thank my family, especially my brother, Sam Blum, who is a blue belt at Alliance NY. And last but not least my girlfriend, Tania Verafield; who loves and supports my addiction to Jiu Jitsu.
If you are a female BJJ practitioner looking for a camp in which you will receive some excellent training from the top not black belts you need look no further than the Grapplin’ Gals camps Sonia Sillan and her Partner Jamel (Jei) Kennedy put together. Champions such as Mackenzie Dern & Hannette Staack can teach are just a few you to name that teach ladies who really want to get their roll on the most unintimidating environment. Sillan personally believes that “although women can get fantastic training from rolling with guys, it's a completely different experience to be able to roll at the same intensity as other females. As a new jiu-jitsu player, instead of spending an eternity focusing on survival, you can actually play and evolve your game; you can really figure out what works and you have a technique down when you are matched equally with an opponent of your size and build.”
Sonia and Jei
Sonia Sillan started training BJJ in June of 2009 one year after having reconstructive hip surgery. She was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia (shallow hip sockets) at 20 but continues in her BJJ pursuits and on a very definite path. When Sillan started BJJ, she was hooked, but her body did not move the way she needed it to. She was one of two girls that trained consistently at her gym. Drilling caused no discomfort, the sparring did. She was constantly smashed or because people were aware of the surgery they didn’t give her a real challenge on the mats. Eventually Sillan entered her first official tournament, as a blue belt, with only an in-house tournament under her belt in 2011. She experienced what most girls experienced their first time competing, she lost. Sillan’s loss came at the hands of her now teammate Amanda Loewen, and one of Oregon's first female black belts. The loss brought the realization to Sillan that women don't get enough realistic training experiences and thus the concept for the first Grapplin' Gals Open Mat was born.
The first GGs happened in 2012 when Sillan and partner Jamel (Jei) Kennedy were starting their own gym Straight Blast Gym of Seattle. They brought GGs along in order to mold it into exactly what they envisioned it to be. GGs moved from small open mats to full blown training camps. The goal has always been the same. On the website the following statement still holds true http://ggbjj.com/: "Our focus is on increasing the standard of jiu-jitsu techniques for women training in the Pacific Northwest. Although BJJ isn't as popular here in the PNW [it's definitely growing], it is still home to some of the toughest and most hardworking women in the sport. We aim to support the growth and progress in women's BJJ locally and nationally." After experiencing difficulties in training, and in competition, Sillan wanted to provide an environment for women to be able to come together and just train – learn, roll, laugh, have fun, figure out how to keep hair in line.
The candidness of Sillan endears one to the struggles of the BJJ woman seeking to create her ideal training environment. “To be completely honest, running our gym has put some road blocks in GGs because I haven't been able to put as much time and effort into it as I would like to, but the camps make everything work. It's amazing seeing all these ladies come together to train, to build connections, to see incredible camaraderie. Being an unaffiliated organization has been absolutely incredible as well; although the camps are being held at SBG Seattle, I feel like the BJJ community has grown.” The 2012 opening of SBG Seattle came with a surprising lack of support for Sillan and Kennedy. Initially they had some hiccups, because departing from their previous gym to start anew involved a great deal of turmoil and underlying politics. Some colleagues have remained since the change and some have not however, just like anything in life everything has a reason and a season. Now that people are recognizing SBG Seattle as a legitimate venture with knowledgeable owners/coaches instead of medal chasers or scam artists things have gotten easier. Sillan’s current successes have not come without some MAJOR sacrifices, “we were almost one Safeway stop away from the baby aisle, stocking up on baby wipes and doing our field baths the way the military does. It’s been an interesting ordeal, but as we grow as a gym, Grapplin’ Gals grows.”