Because we practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu does not mean we are immune to the ugliness, underbelly or subversiveness of human culture. We are a tight knit group. We bond fast and tight. Yet there are some who will take advantage of this and use it to exploit their own goals. Here are some stories sent in to BJJ Legends anonymously and paraphrased.
“Always be careful of where you run to. When the going gets tough, take it easy and slow down, else you venture into the den of lions.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson
Has this ever happened to you on your BJJ Journey:
You are training at a gym and realize your new addiction is putting a dent in your budget. A fellow student is going to open a new place (same affiliation) with much better pricing options. He talks to you and you jump at the opportunity to save some cash while receiving optimal training. You feel blessed and can't believe that after so many setbacks you have finally caught a break (financially) in your journey. You leave a place you do love but can't afford. You even become best friends with the wife of the gym owner. You are so overwhelmed by how things are coming together but you are somehow waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then, the owner offers you incentives on and off the mat to offset training costs. The proposition was met with disgust and utter disbelief. The professor's gym never garnered a following and the place had to close. The student returned to training in a much happier and productive environment and is even more selective now when it comes to training opportunities that sound to good to be true.
Has this ever happened to you on your BJJ Journey:
You are a new BJJ practitioner, a white belt without a clue. You are a former athlete, even still there is a major intimidation factor when a asking stranger for assistance. All you want to do is improve. You're preparing for IBJJF Worlds 2014, clueless of the interim professor's plans. There were inappropriate text messages and FULL-Monty photographs. But you ignored the advances. You are focused on one thing, the Worlds. Once he figured out nothing was going to happen, he did the worst thing a professor could do. The professor refused to provide training at all. It is difficult enough to come forward when you have been sexually harassed but it is worse when you have to bow to your harasser or shake their hand as a sign of respect.
Has this ever happened to you on your BJJ journey?
You attend an academy for a while but then over time it no longer suits your needs so you move on. Then some time later you bump into an old teammate. Your teammate asks you some very strange and particular questions. Apparently you only left your own gym because you are gay and your homosexual advances towards the gym owner and head coach led to you being asked to leave. You find the entire story laughable but also insulting. You're not gay but so what if you were? You had no idea that the act of moving would incite such a frenzy and bring people to slander.
“Its too hard to make a Lion Angry... He really doesn't care what others do around him... but if you do hurt His PRIDE... He wont let you live another Day” ― Indrani Biswas
Controversy in BJJ can mean the death of a career but in the case of Brandon Quick (BQuick BJJ/American Grappling Federation) he has shaken off the rumors and stifled the naysayers. Quick has faced a multitude of scrutiny over the one thing in BJJ that in the upper echelons of society is the equivalent to Obama's record of birth. It is his certain (yet uncertain) lineage. Once a question of lineage occurs, it appears that the whispers never quite go away. Quick seems to have dropped into the MMA world out of no where and then built an Empire (BQBJJ Sweden, Belgium, Italy, Trinidad, & Tobago).
You were an active duty member of the military (Army). Tell me about the time you served and how much influence that service had on your decision to make your life about MMA?
I joined in 99 and was in Basic by 2000. I am an OEF/OIF 1 veteran, 2003-2004. The military was a huge learning experience in my life. It taught me about different cultures, what they think is right, what we think is right, discipline, being forced to do things you don’t want to do. It also teaches courage, camaraderie, team work and survival. I fully support our troops and vets. I just don’t support the decisions our leaders make on things sometimes. I started martial arts before the military so the Army did not spark an interest but it has always made me think of training as a death game. At its core, martial arts training is about surviving a fight.
You have a family, a support system, talk about this and how it has helped you all these years as you achieved your goals.
Fortunately, my father helped me get on my feet in Studio City and Hollywood when I moved back to California and has always been an influential figure in my life. I later moved with my wife Veronika to Texas in 2007. Since then we have had 2 kids, Valentina (6 and already competing regularly) and Gavin who is 3. My family is why I hustle so hard. I have always been a go getter and hard worker but once my kids were born, I hit turbo! I also have a daughter Jordan who lives primarily with her mom in Montana.
Here is the million dollar question (lineage), tell me about your lineage. There is so much drama over your lineage. I find hypocrisy in the fact that many question your lineage yet attend/participate in your tournaments. Does that bother you?
I got my rank from Professor Jamie Walsh, a Jean Jacques Machado black belt. No it doesn’t bother me. People talk about haters but I don’t hear nothing from anyone to be honest. My split from Eddie Bravo (3rd Degree Black Belt) was 6 years ago, I did not have a bad split with Bruno, he moved to Midland (6 hours away) after he came back from Brazil. I am better off doing what I am doing. I travel the world teaching Jiu Jitsu at many different MMA and BJJ schools thru the BQuick Jiu-Jitsu Network. I go to Belgium on the 8th and Germany on the 12th of April. AGF has me in different cities within the states a couple times per month. The new friends I have acquired thru AGF is amazing! Plus I now train in practically every city I go to. It has actually grown my affiliate base. There are now affiliates in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. Talk is one thing but the results I have don’t show much hate.
IBJJF & AGF are vastly different what made you decide to partner with Chris Carlino/start your own organization?
Chris is a purple belt of mine so we know each other thru that avenue but we have done a few ventures together before AGF. Killer Apps was an Itunes/Google Play app company he built for online training and websites. We have done a lot together. We are two different personalities but it works and I appreciate him, his wife (Sherrie) and efforts by his family behind the scenes too. AGF is more than Chris and I on so many levels. IBJJF restricts a lot of techniques and is another for Profit Company. It’s America! I opened my own company too. Americans favor Nogi and being allowed to do submissions. I do like their organization but not their model. AGF wants to provide a cheaper, well run tournament that mom and pops can have their kid do Gi and Nogi, a place where competitors don’t pay $125 for 1 division, 1 match and you’re out.
Talk about the first AGF Tournament and the growing pains that have come with having your own organization? How many states? How many full time/part time employees at any given tournament (not to mention participants)?
Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri & Kansas this year. Looking at London 2016 too. I wouldn’t say part time or full time. We have teams in different regions but we have a core group. 25-30 workers per tournament. Inking the first deal of its kind, AGF will be hosting a tournament in Disney World this year and will have ESPN coverage for a portion of the tournament.
What positive/negative feedback have you received from long-time AGF supporters?
Our biggest strength is we listen to our clientele. We keep growing so we have pains like, new mats, new banners, more advertising, more medals, more workers, bigger facilities etc. We are grass roots and wise about expansion so it’s going great for us! Sometimes we run into a facility that’s a squeezed space or maybe hot but we couldn’t foresee it.
BQuick BJJ, you travel all over to represent your school, are you traveling for MMA as a whole to do seminars or strictly to teach BJJ?
I have trained Muay Thai, MMA and BJJ and teach all those but primarily I travel for BJJ. In Italy for example I may teach 2 hours of Muay Thai or MMA. I coach guys in the UFC, Bellator, Legacy and ammies so BJJ schools that I travel to may use me for some MMA or striking if they have it.
Do you have specific training programs for up and coming fighters (MMA/BJJ) those that want to fight in the UFC/ those that are training for IBJJF competitions?
I have a handful of people that travel to the IBJJF. It is not the focus of my teachings. I do teach specifically for a tournament or MMA opponent in the classes. For example, if one of my fighters is in camp, we will be aware of the opponents’ strengths and if the school as a whole is attacking a certain tournament, we will play those rules. In general my guys understand points and are well rounded grapplers who can score, sub, leg lock, wrestle and berimbolo too. We embrace all parts of Jiu Jitsu and grappling arts.
Do you have any women only classes? Do you have any thoughts about women only classes? Any thoughts on, “The Blue Belt Curse” in relation to women that train?
I train a group of 6-10 ladies every morning at 930am in Dallas. 2x Muay Thai, 3x BJJ. I think it’s great! They are all friends now, aren’t getting wrecked by giant dudes, enjoying it and yes, there is a different mat culture when it’s all ladies. I push my ladies to go to Girls in Gis and train with other women. It’s special for them. Us guys are used to it. No such thing as a Blue Belt curse. Only not having the right instructor is a curse
Being a combat vet you would be better equipped to handle students (male or female) that have suffered from trauma, what advice do you have for gym owners and instructors when dealing with these students?
Yes, I dealt with all walks of life in the Army but as a city kid in SoCal too. Be fully aware but also realize you aren’t a doc. There are true cases but there is also chumps parents. It’s part of the business to coach all walks of like. On the mat tho were are all the same. Safety 1st tho! Don’t let bad apples or people that will hurt your school in to train.
What are your plans for the next year in relation to BQuick and AGF?
The progress with AGF is going great! We added a Qualifier Series where people can win a sub only tournament or earn 2nd and will be invited to the Invitational in Dallas. Winners earn $1000 for their efforts and we will be moving into live stream ventures as well! As for BQJJ, I just keep networking and teaching but most importantly training myself. I believe that staying current to modern BJJ and MMA is the key to not only survival but success. I have a new trip in July. I will train Academia Sniper in Lima, Peru for a week! I just go where the positivity is.
There are sub only divisions at the AGF tournaments, would you like to see ALL BJJ tournaments go to sub only altogether?
We have a Sub Only series but it is not conducive to an organized start time, well organized tournament. It is better for entertainment. People like both parts of the competition game so we offer it. If this Qualifier Series and Invitational does well then we will continue with a Nogi series in September.
What is a solid piece of advice you think all competitors would benefit from when picking a tournament to compete in? Know the rules!!
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?
Awarding submission attacks more.
Is there anything you would like to tell a person that is starting out in MMA/BJJ/Boxing…etc?
Be humble, be open with your coach as to what your goals are and then be quiet and listen.
Any pearls of wisdom you wish you had known that would have prevented injury, aggravation, etc?
Train to have a strong neck.
The right gym, the right black belt, what advice do you have for people searching for the right place to be?
Try out a few in your area, see what fits you. Martial Arts can be a whole lot about the relationship between you and your instructor. If you don’t vibe, go to a place where you do. In the end everyone is happier and we all want to be happy.
Now, will people stop riding Quick’s jock over his lineage after this interview, I highly doubt it, with success comes those that will always question how you got to where you are. That just comes with the territory. Before building his own empire, Quick spent multiple tours in the Middle East dismantling one. With tours in places like Fallujah he was already accustomed to extremely intense and high pressure situations. Leaving the United States Army for the competitive world of MMA must have seemed like a vacation. Naysayers can say what they like but Quick has been bred to handle the gravity of the situations put at his feet and as they say nay just watch him say oh yay.
Join Quick & AGF Next Month at the NO Gi Submission Only Super Fights in Atlanta GA
Today, I’m reviewing the Submission FC Ranked rash guard; on their site, they note it’s made from “Recycled Polyester / Spandex blend” and is priced at $64.99.
Look: Upon opening the package and examining the rashie, I was immediately drawn to the design. The logo is featured prominently across the chest and again, much larger, down the center of the back. On top of that, the logo is also found throughout the product in a much smaller, nearly invisible font. Overall, it’s clean and understated. If you’re into large type-face and a clean design, you might like this.
From the site, Submission FC notes a “tear-away tag” – I noticed the tag to be overly large and made from what I can assume is some sort of recycled wood-pulp material. It was extra thin and looks very unique to this product. It lay well against the skin while I was wearing it and found no need to tear it away.
Craftsmanship: Out of the bag, I noticed some seams that weren’t lined up as well as some blue spotting along a couple of seam lines. I believe the latter may be a result of the sublimation process and found it to only affect aesthetics. However, one white thread actually came off at examination and, after only one roll – not one night of rolling, but the first roll of the evening – a long thread came loose from the seam and hung from the end of the sleeve. After one wash, it didn’t get any worse; I was able to cut the blown seam from the rash guard and continue unimpeded. That said, I was very disappointed with the overall craftsmanship of this product and hoped it would have been produced to higher standards.
Feel: I’m 5’7”, 170 lbs without the gi and asked for a medium. Pulling it over my head, I found it to be of a comfortable cut and provided the range of motion needed for training. Compared to some of my other rash guards, Submission FC’s felt thinner and breathed better while providing a similar level of comfort. Overall, I try to avoid long-sleeve rashies because I don’t like the lack of breathability that comes with them, but this was actually a pleasure to wear. As advertised, the product is extra-long and I had no issues with ride up during training.
Care: I tossed this rash guard in with the rest of my usual Jiu-Jitsu laundry and it was none the worse for wear. It suffered little to no shrink and, because the logos are sublimated, there was no design flake to speak of. However, the next time I wore the product, I noted a bit of scratch around the neck and wonder if this could be a sign of things to come based on the craftsmanship issues mentioned earlier.
Overall: If it weren’t for the poor craftsmanship of this rash guard, I would have no issue with it. It wears comfortably, is cut well and doesn’t shrink in the wash; the extra-long length doesn’t ride up after intense drilling and it is of a neat and clean design.
That said, craftsmanship is one of the most important aspects of purchasing any product and I wouldn’t recommend putting 65 hard-earned dollars down just to have seam issues the first time you wear your new rash guard. If Submission FC can get past these issues, fix their seams and ensure each product shipped is of the highest caliber, I can see this becoming a regular rash guard in my rotation.
Everyone's journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is designed with a purpose. Grappling in search for an answer the pursuit is one of deep personal meaning. It absorbs us, free us, inspire us, and challenge us as there is truly a sense of joy and reason in our cause. Down the long road hard times are a dead given as the setbacks make our plans fall out of place. Luckily with faith and perseverance there is always a way of getting back on course. Hard times haven't broken Checkmat Brown Belt Johnny Morgan as those memories have become a reflection of a man built for a destined path as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Hitting a stumbling block in his early 20's life seemed to have an unclear motive for Morgan. This uncertainly wouldn't last long as a developing passion for MMA and BJJ found its way into his life. Morgan instantly became immersed in the sport.
“I used to watch MMA all the time,” he said. “Naturally, my favorite fighters were always wrestlers and ground guys. When the opportunity arose to train at a gym, I took it. The second I stepped onto those mats I knew I found my place.”Now a full fledge fight practitioner Morgan's new found work illustrated a profound impact living through Martial Arts. With dedication success follows something Morgan became accustomed to showcased with an undefeated 3-0 MMA record and an unblemished winning streak in every grappling tournament he ever entered. There was no dream to big that he could achieve and challenge to great to overcome as the rising star began to make big moves in his career leading to a big break unto the UFC staple show The Ultimate Fighter. This blossoming career would later put an abrupt standstill as a sad tragedy would befall upon Morgan's life with the untimely death of his mother from cancer.
“While I was living in the fight house my mom called to tell me she was terminally ill from cancer and she didn’t have much time left to live. During that time my mom went from being unsupportive of my fighting, to becoming my biggest fan.”
“Eventually she slipped into a coma. I remember telling my mom I would be okay and that I was going to be successful and become a champion. She knew she didn’t have to worry about me anymore. 10 minutes after I talked to her, she passed away. I was only 24 years old at the time, and this was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. It was very overwhelming, and I lacked support and guidance having grown up with no father. I lost all sense of direction when I lost her.”
Pain in life hurts beyond measures. However like any bad situation we encounter, the best way out of a problem is to go through it. Many events would unfold which would not only reignite Morgan's passion for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu but also a new found life off the mat. “I finally started to get my life pieced-back together. I got a dog that showed me I had to live for something else. I also met my now fiancé, Maja, who is very hard working, and she motivated me to do more with my life. About a year into our relationship I looked at myself one day, being out of shape, and unfulfilled I knew I had to go back to doing what I loved.”
Finding stability in his personal life it was now time for Morgan to rededicate himself to his BJJ goals. Evolving as a person this disciplined athlete refused to waste any more time as he sought to make the best out of his life. Since his return in 2013 under Team CheckMat, Johnny Morgan has recaptured success competing and placing high level local and international tournaments while also gaining valuable lessons in his evolution as a fighter.
“All this comes with a lot of pain and suffering. I don’t make excuses, I work through injuries, I try to diet healthier, and most importantly I refuse to waste any more time than I already have, “ Morgan proclaimed. “Through the highs and lows I have medaled at Pan-Ams, lost at Dream, won at Grapplers Quest, won at NAGA, lost at EBI, become a No-Gi World Champion, and even proposed to my fiancé on the podium at American Nationals.”
Passionate and Skilled with a wealth of knowledge why not share it with other curious minds. Teaching classes at American Boxing Gym the Checkmate representative works endlessly fully dedicating himself to helping the students. Enlisted with this great responsibility you will find Morgan not only teaching world class grappling techniques but also aiding student to become better in life off the mat. Just as his focus as a competitor his endeavors as an instructor is no different as he is focused on becoming a great coach to anyone that trains under his wing.
“From personal experience, I have learned how much a coach can build you up, and I also know how badly a coach can break you down. I have realized through coaching that you’re not just teaching Jiu- Jitsu. Sometimes you are a therapist, a friend, a nutritionist, a father, or a mother. You take on many roles as a coach, so I approach this responsibility with a lot of love, humor, compassion and discipline.”
What good is a journey without something to challenge you? Bending but never breaking it was never an easy road for Johnny Morgan. His will to bulldoze through tough trials showcases the results of what happens when one believes in themselves and never give up. With all of the upcoming tournaments, MMA fights and people that need him he still has a lot to offer to the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To no surprise this is one obligation Morgan will stay committed to because time can’t be wasted in this one life time for achieving greatness.
Johnny Morgan Special Thanks:Special thanks to my students who have always supported me and believed in me. I want to thank my CheckMat team and my Coach Robynho. Thanks to my sponsor, Conca Fight Gear. Big thanks to Jose De Jesus Gutierrez .Thanks also goes out to Scott Brengal, Brian Hood, Michael Harms and the Milosevic Family. I want to thank my fiancé for being my rock. I want to thank my mom Judy Geraci and grandfather Joe Geraci who were always there for me.
Jennifer Perez returned home last week after a year traveling the world and training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She visited 10 countries and 45 academies. Fresh off her travels Kostas Fantaousakis asks her about her year abroad.
Kostas: Jenifer, how long have you been training in BJJ.
Jennifer: I have been training since February 2012. I started Training BJJ as a way to rebuild my self-esteem and strength that had been drained from a bad relationship of 9 years.
Kostas: What is your belt rank and who is your instructor(s) in BJJ? Do you train in other sports too or just BJJ?
Jennifer: I was promoted to blue belt in June of 2013 under Amal Easton. I trained kickboxing and Muay Thai 2 years prior to starting BJJ. I had a 1 year break between the time I stopped MT and started BJJ
Kostas: How did you get this idea to travel around the world and visit so many academies?
Jennifer: Japan was always a place I wanted to visit so after my breakup I took some savings and booked my trip to Japan. Fast-forward, on my flight back I couldn’t help but be sad knowing that the high from my trip would soon subside. There was a Fidelity commercial that came on and at the end of it it said "Save Today to Live Tomorrow"...that was the moment I realized I had to quit what was making me unhappy and dedicate at least one year to myself. To try and discover my intended purpose. I read BJJ globetrotter by Christian Graugart and immediately knew I had to do that.
Kostas: Can you name some of the countries you visited? How long did it take to visit 45 academies?
Jennifer: I’ve visited about 50 academies in total this year and visited some amazing places like South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, Portugal, Singapore, Panamá, Puerto Rico and a few more. I started Jan 15th of 2014 & in Jan 2015 I visited my 50th academy AlleyCat Fitness Foundation in Casco Viejo Panama.
Kostas: Did you travel all by yourself or did you have other athletes with you?
Jennifer: For the most part I was alone but our Jiu-Jitsu community is so amazing that once I connected with at least one person from the academy I was treated like family instantly!
I met up with many friends along the way that stayed and globetrotted with me for weeks at a time. Like Vivian Velez from Puerto Rico and Talita Alencar from Rio. It was great to have full time partners who also enjoyed visiting other academies as much as I did.
Kostas: How do you decide which school to visit? Do you use the internet to get information first and then contact the school or do you ask friends and fellow athletes where to go?
Jennifer: I primarily relied on referrals from my professor teammates and other members of the globetrotting community that made suggestions on where to train. I did google a few places out on a remote island in Lombok but that’s because I was itching to train & no one there seemed to know what Jiu-Jitsu was.
Kostas: There seems to be a recent trend in BJJ to combine traveling and training. After visiting so many countries could you give travelers a few tips on what to look for and what to avoid when visiting schools abroad?
Jennifer: I can’t say I've had a bad experience because I truly haven’t. Everyone was always so welcoming. What I do recommend is if you are traveling on a budget make sure to call ahead and confirm the cost of the drop in fee. Also, as a female I was nervous at first meeting so many new people and telling people my story and the fact that I was traveling alone, it was scary but the complete opposite happened. It’s like I had big brothers in every country I visited!
Tip: Train with respect and you will always be welcomed back! It’s that simple. Our community may seem big but it’s quite small and if you are a good person with good intention the door to any academy will always be open but being disrespectful and rude will spread like wild fire and soon the doors will start to shut on you. Stay positive and happy always.
Also, I always had gear from my sponsor Newaza Apparel or from Easton BJJ and I gave them out to the professors as thank you gifts for allowing me to train there. Nice gestures are always appreciated.
Kostas: Every BJJ school is different. Some focus more on self-defense, others in MMA and others on sport Jiu-Jitsu. Did you notice any other differences? How do schools vary from one country to the other?
Jennifer: Yes there were many different styles of BJJ. I remember showing up to No-gi class with Prof. Nico Han at Synergy MMA there were about 10 guys on the mat and I was one of 3 women. I was excited to train, except for the fact that I was getting punched in the ribs when I locked down the guard and in transition to a triangle I was getting tapped in the head by punches from by partner. It was very annoying and I kept losing focus but I believe that was the point and lesson of Prof. Nico -- self-defense first.
Some schools that I enjoyed very much this year were Atos BJJ in San Diego & Mendes Bros in Costa Mesa. Both were very competitive academies with amazing training and tough competitors. Alvarez BJJ in Dallas TX has incorporated wrestling into their training and after being there for a week. I can definitely say there is no question why they have such high level performing athletes. I trained with Lucas Leite and Pati Fontes at Checkmat La Habra and their machine drills are amazing. I still use a lot of them today. I also spent two weeks training Ft. Lee Combatives with Prof Matt Smith, whoa, what a monster of an instructor. Trained with military men every morning at 5:30 am, def no berimbolos were being used here! Prof. Edison Takohara at OverLimit teaches Judo every night as a part of the BJJ curriculum, it was very fun and I learned some pretty cool throws. Every academy was different. I started at Easton BJJ where we had a curriculum and learned step by step, move by move, fundamental, intermediate and advanced. Some academies didn’t offer this. There is one class and that is it, sink or swim. You have to pay attention and learn quickly.
BJJ is a very artistic martial art and each country is painting with the same colors except every painting in the end looks very different from the other.
Kostas: Did you meet any famous instructors/athletes during your travels?
Jennifer: Yes, many amazing talented athletes. From Fernando Terere in Lisboa, to Prof. Rickson Gracie in Torrence, Lucas Leite in la Habra, Miyao Bros In Japan, Mendes Bros in Costa, Nico Han in Bali, Master Cyborg in Miami, Michelle Nicolini, MacKenzie Dern and the list goes on and on... Truly a blessed year.
Kostas: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that was given to you during so many training sessions around the world?
Jennifer: I was in Miami prepping for the worlds and Master Cyborg was running a class and after 3 hours of intense training he said, "I don't care if you win, there will always be more opportunities. The only thing I care about is that you never quit."
Another great moment was in Lisboa, after training, Prof. Terere overhears me talk about my roll with my partner and says to me the best way to win is to believe you've already won!!
Ian Lieberman of Easton BJJ said to me after a really tough roll, Jen you are 5'ft 127 lbs. blue belt he's 6'4 200lb black belt. You did great! Hahaha, I know BJJ isn’t about the size of the person, it is about the size of patience you have with yourself.
Kostas: Did anything surprise you when visiting other countries?
Jennifer: Yes, I was surprised and impressed with the determination of my Brazilian brothers and sisters in Japan that worked 12 sometimes 14 hour shifts. Afterwards go straight to the academy to train at 9:30pm train until midnight, go home only to sleep 4 hours max and be up and doing it again the next day. Now any excuse I hear people make to not train seems petty and inconsiderate!
Kostas: To finish this interview would you say that the BJJ lifestyle is unique in bringing people of different ethnicity and backgrounds together?
Jennifer: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu isn’t just a martial art or a sport it is much more special than that. It unites and brings people from all walks of life to one center point. The mat is full of not just one type but many and that is why it is so beautiful. There is no discrimination, no racism, no politics, no religion... It’s all about the flow of the roll! That's why I love this so much.
Returning to BJJ gave Arnold the skills to overcome debilitating fear. She came back to her roots, her second family, BJJ.
Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Domestic Violence
Psalms 18:48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
In March 2013 Shary Arnold took her first step in her BJJ journey at Global MMA Academy under 2nd Degree Black Belt Beto Nunes. Unfortunately, Arnold’s steps (like so many) were previously impeded. She wasn’t able to resume her training until 10 years after her initial taste. Work, kids, and life in general become a priority that takes precedence over all things. Arnold’s derailment was much darker. In 2004, her spouse returned home from a one year deployment in Iraq. Arnold had knee surgery immediately after his return. Instead of going home to recover she was brutally sexually assaulted upon her arrival. That day marked the beginning of a six year nightmare.
BJJ Legends: Tell me about yourself, where you are from, if you have siblings. Tell me about your parents, elementary, middle, and high school.
Shary Arnold: My name is Shary and I was born in San Jose, California, grew up in Port Orchard, Washington until I joined the Army after high school. My mom, step dad and twin sister live in Washington and my real dad and his side of the family mostly live near San Jose, California. My mom and step dad moved us to WA when I was 7. I went to Burley Glenwood Elementary, Cedar Heights Junior High and graduated from South Kitsap High School. I played sports starting young. Began with soccer and then started playing basketball in 3rd grade until 11th. I was in a serious car accident when I was 16. My twin sister suffered the brunt of the injuries physically, but the accident left me with lingering hip damage as well as suffering from PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks.
BJJL: Tell me about life post-secondary.
Shary: I joined the army when I was 18 and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. Got pregnant and then married shortly after I turned 19. Followed a marriage from Washington to North Carolina to Alaska and eventually to Florida. More than 6 years of our 8 year marriage was severe physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse. I spent most of my 20s living a double life, away from family and friends who didn’t really know what was going on.
BJJL: How did you meet your husband?
Shary: I met my (now ex) husband at Fort Lewis, Washington while we were both stationed there in the Army. A mutual friend introduced us to each other.
BJJL: When was the first time you saw his temper? Did it involve violence?
Shary: I remember the first time I saw his temper was soon after we started dating. He had locked his keys (and mine) in his car. He was yelling and irate and went to find a rock to bust out the windows. I had to calm him down and tell him we should just call the locksmith. There were several fights (without physical abuse) before he deployed to Iraq in 2003. I was pregnant with our oldest, my daughter Kaitlyn. He was aggressive and very verbal at that point and also showed signs of suicidal tendencies. He had told me about the abuse he was raised seeing, with his dad severely abusing his mom over many years. He also had been sent to an anger management treatment facility in his teenage years.
BJJL: Do you recall the worst incident related to the abuse?
Shary: There were so many incidents that i can recall. I can't narrow one down to say it’s the worst. He raped me and beat me, many times in front of my children. There was one time, it was morning and I was getting ready for work. We got into a fight and he started choking me. He shoved my face against the ground. I couldn’t breathe and I was about to pass out. The fight eventually ended but not without leaving my eye filled with blood. The pressure of choking me caused my blood vessels to pop inside my eye. I had to go to work like that and remember making up yet another excuse as to why I had bruises and now a blood filled eye.
There were so many injuries but thankfully never any broken bones. He ruptured my ear drum one time, many black eyes, bruised limbs, cuts. He hit me with a dinner plate that broke and the glass cut into my stomach.
BJJL: How did your friends and family react to how you were treated?
Shary: For many years, I didn't let anyone know. We had moved to Alaska in 2004 and I got pregnant with my son, Jakob. After the birth, my sister flew up to help babysit so that I could go back to work. We had been fighting and I was in the basement when he beat me. My sister came down the stairs and saw me on the floor. But like I had done so many times before, I defended him when she was telling me I needed to leave. My sister ended up leaving the house and wouldn’t talk to me. It wasn't until around July 2007 that his abuse led him to be arrested. It was a span over a couple of days, and a lot of it is a blur to me. But what I remember being in a lot of pain, he had choked me, beat me and I remember my muscles being so sore it felt like I was in a bad car accident. I think it was on a Saturday that I had enough and I swallowed some pills, not in an attempt to kill myself, but to stop the pain. He grabbed the bottle and held me down forcing me to swallow the rest. I remember at that point i had my cell phone under a pillow and I dialed one of my friends. She could hear the yelling and she called police. My mom flew to Alaska and helped watch the kids while I was taken to the hospital and given time to heal. She eventually took them with her to Washington for 3 months.
Currently however, I do not have a relationship with my mom, twin sister or step dad. They, for unknown reasons to me, have maintained a relationship with my ex-husband, even after he fully admitted to everything he has done. They had no regard for my safety and feelings in the situation, so I made the choice to take them out of my life.
Anyone who did not support me or provide safety and positivity, has been removed from my life.
BJJL: At what point did you start feeling it was time to walk away?
Shary: In September 2010, we had been in a fight in the kitchen. He tried to stab me but missed. He ended up grabbing my hair and dragging me to the bedroom in front of the kids. I was yelling for my daughter to find my phone and call 911. When he realized I had taught her how to call for help he started yelling at her and calling her names. He trapped me in the bedroom until he yelled at her enough and scared her into a ball on the couch. He then beat and raped me to the point I couldn’t move. After he was done all I could hear was yelling. She told me that he grabbed her by the arms and put her on the kitchen counter. I could hear him calling her a traitor and telling her if he goes to jail it’s her and my fault. It was at that point I knew I needed to get out. October 10, 2010, I told him I wanted a divorce. He wouldn’t let me out of the bedroom and finally when he did he loaded the shotgun and put it in his mount, in front of me and the kids. The police came and escorted him out.
Up until that time, when we lived in Alaska and he had mentioned possibly moving to Florida, I immediately started thinking about ways to leave. Living in Alaska made it hard to get away. Financially I would have never been able to make it. I had no support or a means to get away. But the possibility of living in Florida and the research I had started doing about the laws for divorce and I knew I could do it. So the move to Florida was a huge role in my game plan to leave.
BJJL: Were children involved in any of the abuse?
Shary: They mostly witnessed much of the abuse but there were many times his violence endangered them as well. There was one time we were at the mall and he said he wanted to get fast food. I said we should just go home, save the money and I would make lunch. He threw a fit. As soon as we got into the car he was punching the dash board. He punched the gear shifter and broke it off. Then as we were driving, he kicked the gas pedal and broke it off too. He ran two red lights and was driving erratically. I was terrified. And the kids were screaming. He was very verbally and I’d say emotionally abusive to them as well. He would yell and call them names when they wouldn’t do something right and I remember spending a lot of time after I left him, helping my daughter try to get past the complex he gave her. She lacked a lot of confidence because of how he treated her.
BJJL: What gave you the courage to not look back?
Shary: I finally hit a point where I didn't care where the kids and I were going to live, whether it was a car or cardboard box. I had been starting to train for a triathlon, mostly because if I wasn’t home, I wasn’t getting hurt. I think the time I spent swimming, biking and running gave me time to think and process things. I leaned on a few close friends who I told everything that was going on. I even wrote a letter to one of them before the day I left. (I will share it with you, because it has a lot of the whole story) All those years, he would tell me I would never make it without him. But I got to the point that once he went after my daughter the way he did, I knew I had to get us out of there and I would find a way. The day after he was escorted by police, and the weeks that followed, I started to feel life in my soul. The support I had from my work and close friends was unbelievable. And it gave me the strength to keep pushing forward. I’ve spent a long time reflecting and reading self-improvement books. I also was in counseling for many years during the marriage and after.
BJJL: When did you start BJJ? Who do you train w/both school and Professor?
Shary: I started training BJJ in March 2013 at Global Mixed Martial Arts Academy under Professor Beto Nunes. And starting September 2014 I transferred to Samsara Martial Arts under Rinaldo Santos (Under Carlson Gracie). Dylan Moquin and Jon Gold have become our academy’s main instructors on the days that Professor Rinaldo is at his home academy in Orlando, FL.
BJJL: How long have you trained there? What belt level are you?
Shary: Samsara Martial Arts Academy is recently new, opening up officially in August of this year. So I have been with them full time since their doors opened. I just got 2 stripes a week ago, so now I am a 4 stripe white belt. My progression has been up and down because of injuries. I have dealt with joint issues and hyper lax (super stretchy) ligaments that make it easy for my joints to dislocate, keeping me off the mats way more than I would like.
BJJL: Do you compete, if so, please tell me about it
Shary: My first tournament was in December 2013. I remember the anxiety I had going in there. Wanting to prove something. I had won gi and no gi in my division. But the weight class above mine only had one lady and she needed someone to fight so I said of course I'll do it. She had almost 50 lbs. on me at the time. She won by points in no gi. But when we got to the gi match, I was winning by points. I remember her getting to side control and smashing her weight on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I caught a glimpse of the clock and saw there was a minute and 20 seconds left. Not being able to breathe is a trigger for me. All of the times my ex-husband would choke me I panicked. Every time. But at this moment in the match, I felt that panic and shut it down. I relaxed. I held on and when I heard the buzzer go off and I had won, I was overcome with so many emotions. No one around me had any idea why I was crying, and I don’t even know if they noticed. But for me, it was huge. I overcame that fear at that moment and that match will always be in my heart.
BJJL: Fondest memory so far since you started BJJ.
Shary: There are so many memories from BJJ that are fond to me. I have traveled all over Florida to train at any school I can. The friends that I have met are more than my friends, they are the family I never had. Having a place that I belong means the world to me. Overall, when I think back and reflect on Jiu-Jitsu, the opportunities that have opened up, and just the way my life has been affected by it, I get really emotional. It means a lot to me and I can see the progress that I’ve made mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Having the outlet has helped me with stress more than any medication the doctor has tried to prescribe to me. On top of working full time and raising 2 kids on my own, I also take 10 credit hours at the local community college. School is a major struggle in my life. But the mental aspect of Jiu-Jitsu has helped me push through the hard times that I feel during school and I know taking an hour or 2 to train will help clear my mind and I can attack anything else I set my mind to.
BJJL: With your past being so traumatic, how has BJJ helped you cope?
Shary: BJJ has helped me cope in so many ways. The triggers of being choked, not being able to breathe, feeling all that weight on your body and not able to move, I have been able to shut that fear down. It doesn’t control me or cause me to lose focus in my grappling. If anything, it feeds my fire.
BJJL: Are there times that BJJ triggers anything related to your past trauma?
Shary: All the time. My ex-husband was a big guy. 350 lbs. at 6'3''. That weight on top of my body was paralyzing. I would fight back for hours but eventually had no energy to fight against him. In BJJ, we grapple all different sizes and weights. It’s tough sometimes. The choking and panic feeling when you can’t breathe is something most people have to get used to when they start BJJ. But for me, it’s not a new feeling. But I've learned how to react to it. In BJJ, it’s also different because you can TAP and be released. Dealing with triggers is all about how you react and think about what feelings its causing. I have spent years processing my feelings and triggers are inevitable. I never know when something is going to trigger bad memories or feelings. Having a good mindset to begin with has helped me heal. Talking about it and getting the feelings off my chest have helped a lot too.
BJJL: When was the first time you knew everything was not only going to be ok for you but better than ok?
Shary: I don’t remember the exact moment that it all came clear to me, but I remember that first week after I left, I had never felt more alive. It’s been 4 years and every day gets better and better. I am an emotional person, so I cry a lot when I have that sense of gratitude and appreciation for my life. Everything smells good, the air feels good to breathe in. Having freedom and having my kids who are happier and healthier now is the best feeling in the world.
BJJL: Tell me how you feel today?
Shary: Today, I feel an amazingly overwhelming appreciation for life. I have recently had some incredible people enter my life because of Jiu-Jitsu and because of the contest held by Girls in Gis. I feel strong and determined to succeed. I have so many plans for my life and my future only seems to get bigger, brighter and happier.
BJJL: How has BJJ changed your life for the better?
Shary: I can't see my life without BJJ. BJJ has taught me how to push through mental barriers. It’s taught me how to make mistakes and then learn from them. The friends I've made have been the best part of my Jiu-Jitsu journey so far. Training gives me a purpose and a challenge. I remember my first day in class, I was so nervous. I didn't want to suck! But I knew I would because I was new, shy and clueless. But I was a parent first, I had my kids training in BJJ for a few months, so I already had some friends that trained too. That helped a lot with my first day jitters. After that first day, the fire in my soul was lit. When I am injured and unable to train, it’s hard emotionally for me. I want to be on those mats. I want to be around the people that push me and also make me laugh. Its home to me.
BJJL: If you could go back and changed things, would you?
Shary: There are so many times I wish I could go back and change it. I think more so because of my kids. What I went through was terrible, but it’s made me who I am today. Strong. Driven. And I now have appreciation for life that I wish other people could feel. It’s amazing to wake up in the morning and have another day to work towards my dreams.
“Use the darkness of your past to propel you to a brighter future.” -Donata Joseph
Anthem Athletics rashguard is a great light weight rash guard -- if your a man. Our female review found it was still light weight, dried quickly and long enough to cover the belly in most all positions but too big in the shoulders. Melissa Davis is a purple belt under Giva Santana at Lotus Club in Irvine.
My boyfriend (Brazilian black belt and Lotus Club member Fernando Travessoni) reports that the men’s version of this rash guard fits great, is light weight and is very comfortable.
In keeping with the reputation of my gender (or perhaps with the increased difficulty in fitting women’s bodies with tight, thin fabric), I have a bit more to say.
Super light-weight, breathing fabric adds very little to your weight and does not maintain much moisture on your body as some thicker rashies can do
Long torso keeps the tummy under wrap when you are in the most flattering of inverted belly fold making poses
Suffers from the common women’s rash guard syndrome – it has that extra shoulder fabric and lack of curve hugging that tends to occur when the women’s rash guard is just a smaller version of the men’s pattern. Not nearly as bad as others I have experienced, but still not a totally flattering fit.
-[EDITORS NOTE: This is the mens small rash guard. Anthem Athletics has informed BJJ Legends that they are is working on a women's rash guard. We look forward to comparing and reviewing the new women's rashie when it comes out.]-
This is a great basic rash guard with nice fabric and a good long torso for coverage. If you are a dude it has no real downside. Its light weight and fits great and is comfortable. If you are a woman, it is still light weight and comfortable, but not completely fitted for your feminine bits or lack of masculine bits. For girls I would go a size smaller to minimize the extra shoulder and waist fabric and it should be about 90% of the way to a well fitted rashguard. Since the torso is long you won’t lose tummy coverage with a smaller size. (I am 5'6" and about 135 lbs with a very long torso and slightly larger than average shoulder width, ~34C chest. I am usually a size small in rash guards, and am wearing a size small Anthem Athletics rash guard in the photos).
Today I did my first DDP Yoga class with 20 other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students at the Cobrinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy. All belt levels were in attendance including Cobrinha and fellow black belts Fabbio Passos and Bruno Marchi.
DDP Yoga is designed by Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) a three-time professional wrestling heavyweight champion, who entered the ring at 35, an age when most pro athletes are forced into retirement. He traveled the world and wrestled up to 270 days a year suffering major injuries to his neck, back, shoulders and knees, injuries that could easily derail a career and affect his quality of life. The most serious being to his L4 and L5, which could have resulted in paralysis. He was determined to comeback stronger than ever, his answer was DDP Yoga, a system that allows you to work at your own ability and with consistency reap benefits that will help hold back the hands of time.
DDP Yoga’s main benefits are body fat loss, lean muscle growth, elevated cardio levels, core strength and flexibility. The most important aspect is there is no impact, so no undue stress is placed on the joints.
Former disabled veteran Arthur Boorman’s video (YouTube 11 Million views) tells his personal success story praticing DDP. He loses 160 pounds and gains the ability to run after many years on crutches when doctors had told him he was going to be disabled for the rest of his life.
DDP Yoga is not traditional yoga, it is a hybrid workout that incorporates some traditional yoga movements and adds dynamic resistance, active breathing techniques and power movements to make for a more challenging and results oriented workout. You are encouraged to “engage” core muscle groups while moving from and in poses. Poses change quickly and cardio is incorporated too.
It started off easy enough. I learned the Diamond Cutter, despite growing up in Texas in the 1980’s I did not watch Pro Wrestling and so the Diamond Cutter was new for me. Then we did some standing stretching. My shoulder has a catch in it, old BJJ injury.
Next we went to the lunges. I modified all the lunges. This was the most cardio intense part. Lunges, squats, knee lifts. My heart rate was up. At one point we hold a plank for a 40 count. I’m seriously concentrating when Dallas pops up into a headstand. Cobrinha pops up next. I laughed out loud. Really?
After all the squatting, planking and lunging we did some nice modified crunches followed by some more stretching on the ground. My hip flexibility isn’t where it used to be. How have I not noticed this?
Diamond Dallas has plenty enthusiasm to pull everyone in the class through. I will definitely go again and if Diamond Dallas Page comes to your town you should give it a whorl. It’s fun, challenging and the benefits seem to be geared for those of us who roll.
Sidebar: It is currently used by professional athletes, professional as well as amateur wrestlers, MMA fighters, BJJ players and regular everyday people who want to perform at optimum levels and who want to place themselves in the best position to see career and life changing results and improve their quality of life. Looking to get sponsored: http://www.ddpyogaworkshops.com/get-sponsored/
Thank you viewers, fans and long time supporters of BJJ Legends. Thank you to Mafu Kobus and Shannon Edmonds. Thank you to the many the writers, editors, content providers and companies that make BJJ Legends happen. Most of all thank you to JJGF, Tony Pacenski and Professor Rickson Gracie.
BJJ Legends: Well, essential to our culture is loyalty. My instructor Wander Braga and his instructor, Jorge Pereira always say, every time I see them, "It's always important that family and loyalty is the most important thing."
Rickson Gracie: Yes. They are dear brothers for mine.
BJJ Legends: Thank you. In Jiu-Jitsu and in life... My first instructor was Jason Krikorian. He always used to say the same thing. Always very important that loyalty was ever-present in the Jiu-Jitsu player because who knows what's going to happen in life, but it's very important to be able to rely on those around you. So I'd like to say to you thank you for your loyalty to the art...
Rickson Gracie: My pleasure.
BJJ Legends:... and to the Jiu-Jitsu community...
Rickson Gracie: My pleasure.
BJJ Legends:... for circling back around here and educating us and helping to guide us back towards some of the more traditional ways of dealing with this art, so that we can all benefit from it.
Rickson Gracie: Thank you, my friend.
BJJ Legends: Thank you very much.
Rickson Gracie: Jiu-Jitsu for life.
BJJ Legends: Jiu-Jitsu for life. Thank you for sitting with BJJ Legends.
Today in the Rickson Interview: Rickson talks about how he intends to use the JJGF to change the future world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJ Legends: The second newsletter I wanted to talk about was "The Smart Way to Practice," was the title of that newsletter. That was also from 1999, 2000, in which you articulate the importance of, as I believe you put it, putting on the shelf your natural attributes.
Taking out your natural attributes of speed, strength, agility, whatever they may be, and instead relying on the technique, the principles of leverage, timing, these sorts of things to accomplish your objective.
Along the way, since that time, many times we've also heard you talk about how important in particular, I believe, that the goal here with the JJGF is to create an opportunity and a way, a means, for people to make Jiu-Jitsu matter in their personal lives.
How do you intend on using what you've learned in life and the principles that you've attained to use a JJGF to communicate to the world and to get those who have been in a different mindset about how Jiu-Jitsu should be to change their thinking?
Rickson Gracie: I think all those topics are very interesting, and all those are relevant for the community, for the instructor, for the fighter. I think just the education, just to banging in a more complex way, the beauty of doing business in 2014 is today, we can click a button here and can be here and listen by the whole entire world.
So through this platform, I think the reach is much bigger. The results can be much more positive. So it's the same ideas of how this can fulfill people's needs, but in a more established different structure to be able to express this in the four corners of the Earth.
So I think that's pretty much it. Just keep banging and keep talking. Make people... Because my intention is not to feed and educate people who already have bad things in their heads and this. So no, I don't want to affiliate. No, this is end. No, this is not true Jiu-Jitsu. The guys who already have their opinions, those are maybe hard to convince. I don't care.
What I'm really into is to try to give a good reference for at least 85% of the Jiu-Jitsu competitive community today, who's the white belts and blue belts. Those guys may misled to a different direction, to being very effective and making [inaudible:00:30:49] and losing effectiveness in life.
So the efficiency has to be replaced by effectiveness. In that way, I feel like in any process, educational process, I cannot expect everybody to jump in my boat today or this year. But based on the information, based on the questions, those curious students who make for their own teachers, based on their evaluation, based on observing this kind of set of rules and this kind of set of rules, I want to be a champion here or here.
So this will progressively bring in the truth to our tradition, to our Jiu-Jitsu. That truth, once in view... People are going to start to say, "Okay. I want to be a full instructor. I don't want to just be an instructor who teaches berimbolo 50/50. I want to be capable to have many."
So as this becomes more on the table in a kind of daily basis, conversations and arguments, about rules, about effectiveness, about this and that, this will bring a revolution in terms of how people want to direct themselves and their kids. What's the kind of program you want to give your kid to learn in school, I mean the Jiu-Jitsu academy?
These who have a solid program... Eventually the parents are going to say, "Okay. I want to go in Jiu-Jitsu school, but let's look for a certified one," because I make sure the programs are there. The kid will learn everything from respect, discipline, techniques. So I want to make my kid go.
So eventually we try to stamp as a quality product. We don't want to create new academies. I want to use your academy, his academy, in order to promote our culture. So by validating those elements, we're creating a new culture, or not new, but we're bringing back to restore our essential culture.
Today in the Rickson Interview: We talk to Rickson about how his thinking has evolved over the past two decades.
BJJ Legends: I want to move this conversation a little bit, directed towards something a little bit from the past, but it speaks to where we are now, where you are now specifically, and where the Jiu-Jitsu Global Federation is.
Back in 1999, the Hicks and Gracie International Jiu-Jitsu Association, in the late '90s, you had some newsletters roughly every quarter or every half. There were two that were particularly interesting to me. One was entitled "The Two Common Paths of Jiu-Jitsu." Do you remember this at all? It was a long time.
Rickson Gracie: Not exactly.
BJJ Legends: Trust me. It's still the same things you're talking about today, which is encouraging. There's consistency there. The other one was "The Smart Way to Practice." I want to draw our attention to "The Two Common Paths of Jiu-Jitsu." The two common paths, fundamentally, were competition and non-competition.
You encouraged the community, at that time, to be mindful that there were elements of our community that had preferred to compete and elements that weren't there to compete at all, but were interested in some of the things we talked to today.
I understand that you don't recall writing down or talking about that at the time. But how much has your thinking evolved from just that time? Let's call it 1999, 2000. How much has your thinking evolved about this subject, the two ways to practice? I'm sorry, the smart way to practice and the two common paths of Jiu-Jitsu. Let's start with the two common paths of Jiu-Jitsu.
Rickson Gracie: The ideas are the same. The concepts are exactly the same, but the evolutionary process made me feel like instead be in my own association with my own representatives, which was very good for a while, but then becomes somehow a little weakening a little bit. Then I decided to stop.
From that concept, I kind of see the whole problem in a much global spectrum. So now, I try to do almost the same thing, but trying to cover not only the guys who are directly connected to me as representatives, my own students, people who I kind of know, but trying to spread that voice around the globe because so many passionate about Jiu-Jitsu who deserve that kind of support, who deserve that kind of guidance.
They're not directly connected to me for any reason. So the Federation will be able to access them without having my flag, my name or my brand or my flag to represent. So they're not commit to represent Hicks and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. They commit to represent whatever the brand are, plus with the knowledge, with the backbone of our culture.
Tomorrow: Rickson describes how they will use the JJGF platform to change the world.
The organizers at Tap Cancer Out are holding their first West Coast fundraising tournament on Jan 17. We got a chance to ask them the important questions.
Who should go? Cancer doesn't discriminate, so why should we? In all seriousness, our tournaments are great for everyone. It's a low-pressure and well organized environment, perfect for someone testing the waters of their first tournament. We allow the higher belts to go first, since I think they've earned it. Plus, black and brown belts compete for FREE. We offer a masters division for white and blue belts, and we have a dedicated ring for all women's divisions. The morning features Gi and the afternoon is No-Gi. It really is designed to give a high quality tournament experience no matter where you are in your BJJ journey. We're a community and we welcome all. Plus, it's very affordable—$50 for one division and $70 for two and free for competitors that fundraise over $250—so it's a low risk, high reward proposition. We unfortunately don't have children's divisions yet but are looking to change that this spring.
What is Tap Cancer Out? Tap Cancer Out is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for cancer-fighting organizations. We do this mostly through our innovative fundraising tournaments, like our upcoming Winter BJJ Open in San Diego, where competitors can fundraise to compete for free as well as earn great prizes. Since 2012 we've raised nearly $200,000 for various beneficiary organizations, including donating $100,000 to the St. Baldrick's Foundation in 2014. They'll again be our beneficiary organization in 2015.
We hosted our first tournament in 2012, not knowing what charity tournament would look like or how it would go over. But it was a huge success and people loved the opportunity to fight for more than just themselves. Our tournaments gave them the opportunity to share their stories and fight for those who are in the fight of their lives. We've hosted five tournaments in all (which is a big undertaking for a small nonprofit) and hope to host four more in 2015. We're located in the northeast, so all our tournaments have been in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but on January 17th we'll have the opportunity to bring our cause to San Diego and we couldn't be more excited. We've already exceeded $10,000 raised and will most likely raise $5,000 - $10,000 more in our final few weeks of fundraising, helping us reach our goal of $20,000!
When is the Winter Open? Our Winter BJJ Open takes place on Saturday, January 17th at the University of San Diego Recreational Sports Center. Doors and weigh-ins open at 8am and we'll start the GI divisions at 10am, the No-Gi divisions at approximately 1:30pm, and will wrap the day up around 5pm. We've finished every single one of our tournaments on time and this one will be no different. We pride ourselves in how efficiently our tournaments are run.
Where is the venue? The event specifically takes place at the University of San Diego Sports Center 102 at 5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110. There is free parking nearby. http://www.sandiego.edu/maps/#42
Why? Why have you made Tap Cancer Out? Why have tournaments? Why come to the west coast? It was back in 2010 that I came up with the idea for Tap Cancer Out. I had been training BJJ for two years at that time and realized that while the sport and community was filled with great people and growing every day, there wasn't a philanthropic presence. I also noticed that I personally wasn't doing anything to make the world a better place. I didn't really know what Tap Cancer Out would be, but I knew I wanted to start it and just figured I'd learn along the way. We met some obstacles and had some false starts, but ultimately we realized that fundraising tournaments was a way to empower the BJJ community to create change. It was the perfect way to marry their hatred for cancer with their love for BJJ, and also a way to show the world what BJJ was truly about, since it's such a misunderstood sport.
We don't have a single full-time employee at Tap Cancer Out. We have a very small team and we all have full-time jobs that pay the bills, working on TCO in our spare time. That means it's difficult for us as an organization to expand. We have 2,400 square feet of beautiful Dollamur tournament mats, but we can only conceivably use them with a 3-5 hour driving radius. We certainly don't have a team of people that could drive our mats and other equipment around the country. So we've been working diligently to find partners who could help us bring a tournament to the West Coast, where we had so many fans that were eager to take part. Luckily we hooked up with GrapplingX who are supplying the mats and found a venue at the University of San Diego. It's honestly been a dream of mine to bring a Tap Cancer Out tournament to the west coast and I can't believe it's finally going to happen. I can't wait, and I hope to see the entire west coast BJJ community there.
“Just seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark for all the right reasons.” Chrissie Wellington
Picture it, Copacabana, Rio DeJaneiro. In 1992 an up and coming 16 yr old handball star had to suddenly give up on her dreams of being part of the National team due to a partial tear in her ACL and relocation issues. Did any of this stop her from pursuing a new dream, ABSOLUTELY NOT. 3X BJJ World Champion, 4th Degree Black Belt, Professor Alessandra “Leka” Vieira has encountered multiple setbacks throughout her 22 year career, but she never stopped. Her drive to compete sent her looking for another sport that would always be challenging, enter BJJ.
One day out of the blue, Professor Vieira entered what could be described as “Thunderdome” at her own risk thus beginning her BJJ journey. A predominantly male-oriented sport, she was fighting an uphill battle in extremely hostile environment. Professor Vieira is a well known pioneer for BJJ and that was never her intention. Every training session Professor Vieira attended she had to prove that she was just as serious, if not more so, than her male counterparts. It took some time, but her relentless drive began to yield the results she had been working so hard for. Professor Vieira’s road was rocky, but that never stopped her. The diligent student earned her blue belt in six months (an unprecedented amount of time for a female) from another pioneer Master Aloisio Silva (first BJJ professor to make a female BJJ black belt world champion).
After a year of training, she entered her first competition. Just like many competitors starting out she did not come out victorious in her first competition but she definitely won. The 3X PANAMS Champion never repeated the same mistakes after her first loss. In 1998, she reaped the ultimate reward for all she had worked for and received her black belt. In 1999 she became the first female black belt world champion. Professor Vieira was crushing goal after goal all because she never stopped. When she made her way to America, with 200 dollars in her pocket and a dream, even she didn’t realize at the time what lay ahead for her.
In 2004 Professor Vieira opened her own school Leka Vieira BJJ out of Torrence, California with classes for women focusing on BJJ and self-defense. Things got off to a slow start. BJJ still wasn’t main stream (especially for women) and the classes were not meeting her expectations. Notably, Professor Vieira extended an invite to a female student from another school to attend her class and the response she received was unusual. I believe the individual compared Professor Vieira’s classes to tea party. Professor Vieira responded by attending the student’s school, staying for a class, and blowing through male and female attendees like a Category 6 hurricane. This had nothing to do with egos, this was like 1992 again and this pioneer was proving that women are just as good as the men. If the women were not backing women then clearly there was a bigger problem facing females in the sport. Years later, under Professor Vieira this same student received her black belt. Professor Vieira is absolutely genuine and her mentorship is something up and comers would benefit from.
Knowing the art of BJJ is not enough, especially for women. It is imperative that women (whether you compete or not) become immersed in the background of the higher ranking female black belts. It is only a matter of time before a Professor Duarte- Magalhaes or Professor Vieira becomes the first female Grand Master. This may bring about a change for women in BJJ that will ensure the playing field is permanently leveled. Perhaps part of the promotion process should be about knowing more than passing the guard, sweeps, etc. BJJ is not Professor Vieira’s only passion. Her family is her foundation. Her mom, husband, and two children are the center of her universe. She found the perfect balance between her two true loves and couldn’t wish for anything more. You can’t ask for better out of life.
Professor Vieira’s injuries early on continue to plague her and have kept her from competing as consistently as she once did. That still hasn’t stopped her from pursuing goals. Leka Vieira BJJ may have had a slow start but that is no longer the case. Her all women’s classes at Gracie JJ Valencia (located out of Valencia, California) are doing very well. Professor Vieira provides an environment that promotes safety and empowerment. The culture these women are in thrives because her primary focus is ensuring techniques are being executed properly. It is not about speed. It is about ensuring nobody gets hurt and that proper BJJ and self-defense is being taught. Building the self-esteem of these women helps each one achieve the ideal comfort level. They are not timid and when it is go time, these ladies are like panthers in the Serengeti. They go hard and when time is up….on to the next.
Professor Vieira has created an environment where the synergy keeps women coming back. The fun starts the minute she sets foot on the mat. The women push each other in order to progress. Once again Professor Vieira is a 1st, she is the first female black belt to start an all women’s class and 10 years later it is still going strong. Her contribution to the BJJ community goes above and beyond anything a 16 year old handball player could have ever imagined. Her path changed and because she never stopped, she has brought about significant historical changes to BJJ.
Her tenacity will always be at the forefront and that is a great thing for the female BJJ community. We all start from the bottom and having the opportunity to receive mentorship on any level from Professor Vieira would be a blessing. She is always open to provide guidance to women at any stage on the gentle art of BJJ through seminars or camps. Her advice for white belts starting out is to do your research before joining a school, ensure the school is legit, the teacher is a black belt with a lineage that can be authenticated (otherwise there will be safety issues) and never lose faith. You must stick with it. It takes time but eventually you will be the one smashing instead of being smashed.
Her thoughts on the blue belt curse are simple. Women reach the next level and are plagued by injuries. There are not enough female counterparts to train with and their male counterparts show no mercy. The other issue with some students can be lack of instruction. If the student is struggling and they are not provided much needed guidance eventually the already isolated student unfortunately walks away from training. Lack of support is probably the main reason students leave a school and female blue belts appear to have that problem more than any other belt level.
As far as BJJ has come since Professor Vieira began 22 years ago, she still believes it has a long way to go for women. Her advice across the board is to focus on having a complete game. If you are weak on top, you need to work on the bottom. There is no way around it. If you are asked what is you weak side, your answer should be I have no weak side. If your game is not complete, then your game is lacking. One would think between her family and BJJ, Professor Vieira couldn’t possibly have time for anything else, then came the 25th hour in her day.
Professor Vieira is not only an advocate for women defending themselves,’ she is also an ardent advocate for children. Her love for them led her to begin donating to a children’s food bank: http://www.helpthechildren.org/hunger-in-our-world/child-hunger/how-often-do-you-think-about-child-hunger. Professor Vieira is the type of wife a husband is always proud of, the type of mother a child looks up to, the type of teacher one wants to emulate, and the type of woman one aspires to be. 2015 is already bright for those of us that have followed the professor’s career as she has decided that she will return to competition this year. In all this time and with all the setbacks, Professor Vieira never stopped. If she couldn’t train, she was conditioning herself and watching and learning. She never strayed from the path. Winston Churchill sums up Professor Vieira’s whole attitude “If you are going through hell, keep going” she has done it more than once and she won't stop.
Today in the Rickson Interview: We talk to Rickson about Ronda Rousey's comment that she thinks she could beat any BJJ woman under any set of rules. Rickson - "So I hope she has a great, brilliant future."
On the GreatMMADebate June 23 2014 Ronda Rousey stated:
"One thing I couldn’t stand when I was only watching MMA coming from Judo, is all these people saying that that all of these Jiu-Jitsu people would beat any judo fighter on the ground. It was such a stereotype. I still think that I can beat any BJJ girl in the world, any weight division, gi or no gi, black belt all the way, in any rule set that they want.
To be able to pull off being someone in Judo that can submit on the ground, it takes so much more skill because we have so little time to do it. Like Flavio Canto, Olympic bronze medalist from Brazil, who was known to have one of the best ground fighters in Judo... He could definitely win a world championship in Jiu-Jitsu. I really feel that the Judoka who excel with their ground work, have never really gotten enough respect.
This fight against Alexis, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, the kind of person that should be the type to tap me on the ground with no problems, it would be nice to prove a point."
BJJ Legends: Recently Ronda Rousey was noted for saying that she could beat anybody, any female Jiu-Jitsu athlete in a Jiu-Jitsu competition. I have two questions. One is: What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it's true of not?
Rickson Gracie: In Jiu-Jitsu competition?
BJJ Legends: Yeah. And two, either way, whether you think it's true or not, do you think it says something about what the perception is of Jiu-Jitsu, outside of our community?
Rickson Gracie: No. First, she's saying something based on her momentum. She may talking... Because she never competed in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament. If she competes in one and win easily, I will maybe respect what she's saying, believing what she's saying, but she never proved.
She's been demonstrating a lot of good positive elements on the cage. I don't know if those opponents are weaker. I don't know if she's really super.
BJJ Legends: Well, she has that medal in the Olympics as well.
Rickson Gracie: Yeah.
BJJ Legends: Do you feel that plays a role at all?
BJJ Legends: So as in judo... Judo is a very tough sport. In order for you to become an Olympian, you have to really commit and be exceptional. In order for any Jiu-Jitsu competitor to be facing, it has to be a world champion. It has to be somebody in that level.
Even though I cannot confirm if she can really win or lose, I think she should be more focused on what she's doing right now, which is a great job in the MMA, and leave Jiu-Jitsu aside. I know she's been training some Jiu-Jitsu with my cousins and stuff. So I hope she has a great, brilliant future.
For fans of the Magazine we did a quick YouTube search and found these two old videos of Ronda competing in what looks like a BJJ no-gi tournament. In one she indeed kills it and the second she has to work a little harder. Neither opponents appear to be black belts or world champions.