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.
If we're only living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle during the time we are on the mat, then that might amount to about 10% of our weekly routine, but if we take the lessons from that 10% and apply it towards the other 90% of our life… WOW! Now we've found a way to embrace that Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. -- Eliot Kelly
Community Service is a powerful tool used to improve the quality of living in society. No matter how big or small the service it’s contributable efforts play a major role in raising awareness for taking a selfless action in making the world a better place to live and play. The principles emphasized in martial arts are one in the same as the endless passing of knowledge from one’s experience supplies the recipient a positive outlet to enhancing their lives. BJJ black belt Eliot Kelly success as a competitor and personal growth showcases the results that Martial arts produce. Giving back Kelly has taken part in various community service outreaches with a fusion of martial arts doing his part in uncovering a solution to a problem.
BJJ Legends got the opportunity to speak with Kelly has he touches on the influence community service has played in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu community.
When you think of community service & Martial Arts what comes to mind?
Kelly: In my opinion, most martial arts have an element of community service built into their practice. The core of martial arts is about development and growth. Conceptually, martial art is about facing the challenges we have to better ourselves and the people around us in the dojo,and applying the lessons from those challenges into our daily life off the mat. I feel the spirit of martial arts is about leading the person in front of you to a better, stronger place, and as a result of that you become better and stronger. I see community service as just that. Facing a challenge to better the people around you andhelp them grow. The result is in a better community for everyone!
How is the focus on community service used in the BJJ community?
Kelly: I think Jiu-Jitsu has an excellent reputation for including community service in their practices, and I don't think this is a coincidence. The act of training makes us humble, helps us express humility and gratitude for where we are in life. As a result the Jiu-Jitsu community gravitates towards finding ways to better the people around them through service. When people talk about living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle, I think community service is a key component.My Professor, Marcos Torregrosa, for example goes all over to teach seminars, but he will also teach a community service like seminar to raise money for a good cause and bring awareness towards certain topics. I recently attended a roll-a-thon even in Rocklin at Professor Gustavo’s Infinite Jiu Jitsu Academy where they raised awareness and funds for Autism. Professor Claudio Franca hosts a food drive seminar every year in the fall to help feed the hungry and the price for the seminar is "food." All these Jiu-Jitsu related community service events are great examples of the BJJ community getting together to collaborate, contribute, and enrich those around them.
Being a very active competitor alongside your duties as an Instructor, what inspired you to take that role of becoming a charitable contributor to society off the mat?
Kelly: I'm still just striving to become a successful competitor and instructor... But through that process I've come to realize that the general public doesn't really understand Jiu-Jitsu and the unassuming power of Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is not just a sport, it's not just a martial art, and many people refer to Jiu-Jitsu as being a lifestyle. My inspiration began with the desire to better understand and better communicate to the general public, and those involved in Jiu-Jitsu, about the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle we talk about but don't necessarily define. After lots of blogging, thinking, and talking, I feel the lifestyle we refer to isn't just about the training, but applying our training into other areas off the mat. Sam Calavitta, Gary Merlo, Tom Callos, Chad Robichaux, Marcos Torregrosa, and Adisa Banjoku are people that have helped me better understand this idea in application.The Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle begins with stepping on the mat and challenging yourself and the people around you to become better. When we take those lessons from challenging ourselves on the mat and apply them into other areas of our life off the mat, then we begin to live the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle.
If we're only living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle during the time we are on the mat, then that might amount to about 10% of our weekly routine, but if we take the lessons from that 10% and apply it towards the other 90% of our life… WOW! Now we've found a way to embrace that Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. Many of those lessons are basic things Jiu-Jitsu people might take for granted, patience, tranquility, humility, gratitude, communication, strategy, creativity… I could keep going! ;)
What are some community service projects you've participated in ?
Kelly: We try to host a community service related event atour school in El Dorado Hills, California every month, a self-defense workshop, anti-bullying workshop, law enforcement workshop for people to get on the mat to better understand the potential of Jiu-Jitsu. Every year I go to the local high school in El Dorado Hills to help the P.E. teachers teach their combative lesson to their freshmen class. These are events that help bring people off the mat on the mat.
Professor Chad Robichaux of Gracie Barra formed the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, a program to help combat veterans adjust back to life stateside.Through his own experiences in marital arts, Chad and his wife Cathy have structured an incredible program to serve veterans with PTSD and Physical Trauma.
Last year students in El Dorado Hills hosted a 24 hour roll-a-thon event to contribute funding and awareness towards prostate cancer and the Might Oaks Warrior Program. This was a huge project for them to schedule, organize, network, and implement. A great example of taking the lessons and challenges from training and applying to other areas off the mat.I've been really lucky to have partnered with a few very dedicated members of the community that have helped set up scholarship opportunities at our school. In designing our scholarship program we’ve included a section on community service. Students on scholarship create their own project, on their own hours, and make it happen! In the future, I would like to be involved in creating a non-profit organization that incorporates the power of Jiu-Jitsu and community service in educating our community.
Can you talk a little more about this?
Kelly: I'm thinking a 501c3 would be needed to get things going, but the idea is to create a community outreach program for people who are already involved in Jiu-Jitsu to educate others on the idea of self-defense and get others involved in Jiu-Jitsu. I might be getting repetitive, but I think getting people to live and understand the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle is important. From the challenges on the mat, we are better able to challenge and contribute off the mat. We've thought of a few names and ideas to get things moving, but I don't want to share too much just yet. Maybe another interview in the future ;)
In your experience what have you gotten out Of your charitable deeds?
Kelly: A couple sandwiches.... LOL! Just kidding... I feel my experiences have helped me better understand the arts. Definitely the art of teaching and Jiu-Jitsu, but also the art of communication and the art of organizing events. Every time these things take place, I’m humbled by the power of people wanting to help. All these experiences help me have an attitude of gratitude.
Finally any advice for people looking does start up their own community service outreach through Martial Arts?
Kelly: Yes! Seek out Tom Callos and his organization called, The 100. The 100 is a gathering ground for those dedicated to developing the community through martial arts, and a catalyst to promote many types of community service based events. Tom was the catalyst for the Penn Foundation in Hilo, Hawaii, an outreach program for the youth in the area. Another example is the "Alabama Buildvention." Where martial artists gather from all over the world to fully fund and build a home for the less fortunate. We've only done some fundraising for this community service project, but I would like to attend one of thesedays... Another great person to seek advice from is Adisa Banjoku of the Hip-hop Chess Federation. I had the opportunity to participate in a collaborative event with the HHCF and the KO Finisher down in Anaheim earlier this year, and can't say enough great things about their organization and integration, application, and communication of the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle with hip hop and chess. Most importantly, get moving! Just like Jiu-Jitsu, the best way to get started with jiu-jitsu is to get moving. We might fail at first, and many times after that, but keep moving, listen to your coach, and surround yourself with like-minded people that will embrace that Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle.
Any final thoughts before we wrap up this interview?
Submission Fight Co has had its share of ups and downs in the industry. Early this year they went under fire for the distribution of non-hemp kimonos which was later revealed was the result of a misleading distributor from Pakistan supplying them false merchandise without their knowing.
But like any ambitious company you learn from your shortcomings as there is always a solution to solving a problem. The recent release of the Submission FC BJJ Hemp T-Shirts paved the way for a fresh new start for the company which was received with a great response from the BJJ community. In their sole efforts in giving back Submission FC recently took part in a charity function known as Grapplethon: Team Liam's Fight .With over six Submission FC raffles prizes given away to some lucky winners the donated efforts also introduced its audience to the Submission FC Kimonos which included the Aura BJJ Gi Pants (Sold Separately).
The Aura BJJ Gi Pants are the newest addition to the Submission FC BJJ gear line. Available in black and white unlike it failed hemp predecessor model, these gi pants are made of polyester cotton blend and contain heavily reinforced stress points making these pants the perfect item for competition and everyday training.
When it comes to inquires about washing the BJJ Aura pants there is a simple procedure to follow. Be sure to wash the BJJ Pants in cold water with no excess in bleach. After taking them out the washer hang dry them in a cool shaded area especially if you plan on purchasing the black color model to keep its physical appearance without major fading afterwards.
With over three hours of training in the Aura BJJ Gi Pants at Liam's Grapplethon I can testify that these are the most comfortable and reinforced gi pants I have ever worn. From the tight draw string to the overall design layout of the pants it certainly won't disappoint the user. It felt great to not only have a great training session conformably but also not have to worry about the pants untangling off your butt every twenty seconds due to the lack of construction I have experienced in the past with other company kimono pants .
Rebounding off it past scrutiny Submission FC has made its return in grand fashion with the release of BJJ Aura Gi pants. Comfortable, Stylish, and Durable what more can a grappler ask for to get the best out of his training on the mat. Step by Step Submission FC is not missing a beat in re-establishing itself as a top contributor to the grappling community which product release thus far does just that.
All we can do at this point is sit and ponder as to what Submission Fight Co has in store for us next.
Well renowned and a bit controversial early this year Submission Fight Co was under fire for the distribution of selling non hemp kimonos to their customers. It was later revealed in a recent statement on their blog site that they were victim to a misleading distributor overseas in Pakistan that supplied them with the false merchandise without their knowing. Looking to rebound off its past scrutiny Submission FC is determined to make right of it wrongs to the BJJ community with future participation in charity events such as the upcoming “Grapplethon: Team Liam's Fight” and the release of its new BJJ Hemp T-Shirt collection which hopes to take the brand in a more positive direction and innovative in clothing fashion off the mat.
Their first batch of Hemp Shirts sets the tone in motion which I can concur combines all around comfort with stylish appeal in representing the BJJ lifestyle where ever you go. Top testing facility SGS Lab conducted a test on these new Hemp shirts. The results show that these shirts are made of 55 % Hemp and 45 % Organic Cotton. Now you may be asking yourself how this differs from other fabric material. For those that are not familiar, Hemp material carries a stronger, lighter, and is more resistant for retaining bacteria thus making it an all-natural shirt.
The shirts are Pre-Shrunk so the buyer won’t have to worry about the shirt shrinking after it comes out of the washer. Speaking of washing details from performing the procedure myself it is recommended to wash the shirt in cold water and hang dry it to prevent damage of the product thus retaining its appearance.
The physical features of the shirt are a standout quality that can attract any buyer. The artwork is what caught my attention which surprisingly carries a hidden message behind the design.
Probably inspired by the recent Sharknado craze Submission FC's Ocean Blue “The Ground is My Ocean" Shirt features a Shark springing out the water to attack his foe. The name behind the shirt is a famous quot by Carlos Machado* used many years ago clarifying his superb skills on the ground which adds deep value when you wear it something I’m sure every grappling practitioner carries with them especially when facing an opponent in competition.
The second model Submission FC's Natural White "If Size Mattered the Elephant Would Be the King of The Jungle" Shirt features a Roaring image of The King of the Jungle himself a Lion. Once again carrying a powerful meaning in its product, the message is a quote from another BJJ Legend Rickson Gracie which every person can identify with growing mentality, physically, and technically to become better as a BJJ fighter.
Comfortable, Stylish, All Natural, and Making a Strong Statement Submission Fight Co Hemp BJJ Shirts is everything a grappling practitioner could ask for. Without question their Gi's have made an impression on us all which looks to continue with the first batch release of these great Hemp shirts.
Looking forward to see what Submission FC has in store for us in the future.
Military Veteran Overcoming PTSD Through Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Training
Death, Assaults, and War are amongst the abnormal experiences that causes damage to an individual physically and emotionally. The aftermath triggers a high level anxiety effect known as Post-traumatic Stress. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition developed after a person has experienced a terrifying event which physical harm occurred or was threatened. Its strangling power sneaks into every facet of your life which symptoms include disturbing flashbacks, depression, mood changes, and negative thinking.
Luckily there is a way to combat this problem. Martial Arts have served as an outlet to coping with this mental illness which has not only proved therapeutic but also a vehicle to positively rebuilding a participant's life. Robert Consulmagno has experienced more than one can ever imagine. Undergoing a series of traumatic events he is a living testament of strength, courage, and discipline as his participation in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has helped him to harness his PTSD and achieve great feats as an athlete.
Post Traumatic originates from many stressors. For Consulmango the source arose from his childhood in witnessing unspeakable acts of violence within his family altering his life forever.
“I lost my biological father to suicide, seen my mother brutally beaten, held a gun in my hand at ten years old which my step father used to shoot my second step-father and then take his own life, and thrown down a flight of stairs by the same horrible step father causing me to be placed in a full body cast. I will never forget my mom waking me and my siblings to sneak into the back of a van to hide out because my step father was in his car with a gun ready to come into the apartment to hurt us.”
Looking to be part of something and escape the horrors of family life Consulmango joined the U.S Marines. Serving his country from 1991 to 1996 he was part of Operation Desert Storm stationed in Okinawa Japan and the United States. Sadly in the military his PTSD condition worsened as a result of numerous problems which was a replica of the life he left back home.
“While I was in the Marine Corps I was hazed a lot and everyday was a battle, “he recalled. Little did they know they made me worse.”
Those ordeals in fact made Consulmagno worse as PTSD placed his entire life in a stranglehold. Constantly living in paranoia, distrust with people, and having a negative outlook there had to be something that could introduce him to the positive features life had to offer. Previously competing in boxing like his great grandfather Mickey Taylor Consulmagno’s entry into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Introduced to this grappling style of fighting he instantly became attached as his engagement was a mirror reflection of his tough past life only this time with different effect. The similarities were identical which covered the challenges life throws at its recipient. In that moment he knew he had uncovered something special that could help him.
“My first impression was wow; Jiu Jitsu is tuff as nails!” I knew from taking my first class that my striking skills were out the window and now I was a fish surrounded by sharks, but in a good way! I knew this would help me with my PTSD! “Jiu-Jitsu teaches you how to get out of bad situations. It mimics my life”.
Three years deep that curiosity of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu couldn't have been a better decision to pursue for the now 41 year old BJJ Purple belt. Living, breathing, and training on the mats has offered Consulmagno some peace from his inner turmoil. His skills as an athlete can't be ignored either as his dominance in BJJ competitions has racked him multiple local, national, and international titles making him amongst the top ranked competitors in the country. Robert's competing initiative has also gained personal fulfillment by going through that indescribable feeling doing something that is making him better.
“Honestly I really crave the rush from the fights!! Competing makes me feel alive again. I feel so free win or lose.”
There comes a low period in every person's life where some self-evaluation has to be made. You have be honest with yourself as to why you feel a certain way, what is holding you back, and most importantly what are you willing to do to make yourself better to restore peace in your heart ? Many people are bound by the constraining chains of failure, worry, and past experiences which create Fear. Yes it is an oppressive controller but it is more than anything an illusionist because once the problem is recognized it can easily be eliminated.
Even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has its weakness which has been exposed by Robert Consulmango. To think there was no hope for him but the life he is living today says otherwise through training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Now at a peaceful place Consulmango is far from complete as he has new goals not only for himself but also the care of others.
“My goals are to attain my Black Belt, The Worlds, and someday teach people from all walks of life, “Consulmango revealed. I will continue to push the bar and inspire everyone!
Consulmango's story serves as a reminder who struggle with issues in their life of what happens when one attacks their fears and dare to believe they deserve better thus conquering the battle against themselves.
Robert Consulmagno BJJ Achievements
IBJJF Pan Ams No Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
4x time IBJJF New York Open Gi- Gold Medalist 2013-2014
IBJJF Boston Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
IBJJF Miami Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2011
Florida State Federation -Gold Medalist 2011
2x NAGA- Gold Medalist Gi
Philadelphia Good Fight- Gi Gold Medalist
Gracie Barra -Gold Medalist Adult Division
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Gold Medalist
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Silver Medalist Adult division
US Grappling Submission Only GI -Silver Medalist Absolute division
NAGA- Silver Medalist No Gi
Long Island Pride -Silver Gi Medalist Adult Division
How does one make an Impact? What makes a goal meaningful? What is one willing to do to achieve it thus turning dreams into reality? Many athletes’ especially BJJ fighters embody this concept in their sole commitment to making things happen. After all it’s what makes the person who they are from the many challenges they must overcome to obtain that desired goal. However don't mistake them for being self-centered and solely out for themselves because they have a way of applying what they learned in the dojo and competition arena to making a positive contribution to the world aiding their fellow man.
Take Tinguinhna BJJ Brown Belt Bret Russell for instance. Eight years participation in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has taught him countless life lessons. Through competing at the world class grappling level, grueling training sessions, and rising in the belt ranks you would think he has experienced it all which has made him into the man he is today. However little did he know his journey would take him into another direction after an eye-opening trip to Costa Rica meeting the kids of the Pura Vida Foundation.
Find out the impact one is striving to make in this little community in Jaco, Costa Rica as Bret Russell reveals to us here at BJJ Legends.
Every individual that participates in Martial Arts has their own set of experiences. Taking your journey into a traveler’s direction with your visit to Costa Rica, what was the purpose of your visit?
Bret Russell: The purpose of the visit was to take my girlfriend on a surprise vacation to Costa Rica for her birthday. Obviously, with the trip it presented a new environment to train Jiu-Jitsu. On our zip-lining excursion I was informed about Leo Ruaro who was a local that trained Jiu-Jitsu. That night we met up to train for the first time in a small shack with tons of little kids. It was that night that I learned about the amazing program Leo has running in Jaco, Costa Rica. Leo not only provides Jiu-Jitsu lessons for these kids, he provides them with school supplies, transportation to and from Jiu-Jitsu, and offers these kids a chance to steer clear from the rough path of street life and drugs.
Paint a picture for us about the living conditions and what life is like for a typical individual growing up there?
Bret Russell: Costa Rica is a beautiful country and a tropical paradise. It’s a combination of a Caribbean and jungle-like environment. The food is incredible and the land is inviting to many different types of species of wildlife. The living conditions, like any place, are very poor in some areas and wealthier in others. There was poverty in the area of the country we were staying. A typical living condition would include a small home, modern facilities, low cost of living, and readily accessible medical/pharmacy clinics. For the general population, Costa Rica has a high standard of living. A typical individual growing up in Costa Rica would involve being exposed to all the land has to offer: the beaches, the national park, surfing, Jiu-Jitsu, fishing, and a very close-knit community.
Can you share with us some information about the Pura Vida Non-Profit Organization?
Bret Russell: Pura Vida Non-profit organization is more than just an organization. Pura Vida is translated as pure life and is the saying to which most individuals in Costa Rica live their life by. This organization goes above and beyond for every child that is involved in the program. The organization encompasses Pura Vida through every child. The organization makes sure they have what they need as a child such as school supplies, transportation, taking the children for dental check-ups and medical care, clothing, and most importantly providing each and every one of these children with a positive environment. Most of these children come from broken homes and this organization creates hope, stability, and consistency for many of these young children. After interacting and getting to know these kids my plan is to contribute to this wonderful organization as much as I can.
Tell us about your experience working with the group?
Bret Russell: My experience with this organization and the kids has changed a part of me forever. These kids are the most appreciative, willing to learn, and most TOUGH group of kids I have ever come across. They have since changed locations but the location I was brought to was literally a shack in the middle of the jungle and the vibe was amazing. The place has "soul" and that comes from the man who made this all possible. There is a hand full of rules that you would expect from any Jiu-Jitsu academy but the rule that stuck out most was the rule that you must bring two friends to class as time goes on. Keep in mind Leo does this out of the kindness of his heart and does not charge the kids. Everything they have is from donations and hand made from the Jiu-Jitsu family that Leo has created. Leo allowed me to teach a couple classes while I was in Jaco and to this day it was the most life changing teaching experience I have ever had.
Can you share with us a particular child that made an impression on you?
Bret Russell: There was a particular child who particularly captured our hearts. He has a rough home life with a mother and father not always around. This Jiu-Jitsu program has given him the chance to interact with positive role models that will guide him down a more promising path. This child is full of life and loves being active. He also had a passion for playing iphone games and knowing more about your phone than you do. You cannot help but smile and laugh when you’re around him.
How has it all affected you?
Bret Russell: When it came to our last days in Costa Rica you couldn’t help but feel like you needed to contribute to this amazing contribution. Leo is running not only a Jiu-Jitsu class but has offered himself to be all of these children’s life coach. Leo works very hard to maintain this program for the kids and make sure each and every one is taken care of on multiple levels. Leo also does not accept money, instead he will ask you to use that money and purchase something they need such as Gi’s, mats, etc. I immediately started thinking of ways of how I could help this program out. There was no way I could leave all the kids and everyone involved without being touched. These kids will always be dear to my heart and anything I can do to help I will do without hesitation.
Aspiring to make a difference how do you look to contribute?
Bret Russell: I will be host a Charity Grapplethon event.I have done the basic ground work as far as receiving the “ok” for this event at a few locations... I have an open door policy with countless jiu jitsu academy's. My preferred location would be somewhere in San Diego County.
When will the Grapplethon take place?
Bret Russell: I don’t have a set date just yet but be on the lookout for more information!
Until that time is there any way people can contribute?
Brett Russell: People can contribute anything from used gi’s, new gi’s, no-gi gear, clothing, school supplies, and money. Anything will help these kids!
Any final thoughts before we close this interview?
Bret Russell: I can’t wait to put on this event for such a wonderful organization that has really touched me and countless others!
Dream Champion Series Competitor -Travis Conley- The Hunger For Success
Life always seems to be the most challenging when an individual wants something. For many athletes in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu challenges aren't hard to find as it definitely has its share of highs and lows one must encounter in hopes of achieving their goals. Nevertheless the risk is worth the reward because it makes one's purpose that more meaningful when that mission is accomplished.
Renato Tavares Brown Belt, Travis Conley, is one competitor instilled with a burning desire for success. Opportunities have become fully available for this grappling practitioner from Kansas City, Missouri as he has uncovered remarkable talents within himself and achieve great feats in his nine year stint in the sport.
Conley's next challenge will find him as a participant in the submission only Dream Jiu-jitsu Brown Belt Championship Series as he will be going head to head against some of the world's top competitors with a $ 1000 cash prize on the line. But the threat of 31 tough opponents doesn't seem to faze Conley has he looks to put on a Slobberknocker performance showcasing his standing as the Best Brown Belt in the world.
Why So Determined? What Make His Purpose So Significant? Why Even Fear Flees In his Presence?
Conley wasn't hesitant to tell us why here at BJJ Legends as we get an in-depth look at what makes this competitor bound for success.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in BJJ? Travis Conley: My start in BJJ came when I was rehabbing a very severed shoulder reconstruction surgery I suffered from years of professional wrestling. It took me almost a year, all of 2005, working to get back in the ring but one of my college buddies Mike Beyer (I was a junior at CMSU at the time) said, "Hey come roll with us and do some submissions" and I did, never looked back. During high school wrestling I was always getting unnecessary roughness and illegal hold calls and penalty points, so BJJ was a perfect fit haha. I only trained 1-3x a week and didn't train in the gi for probably the first 3yrs, being a wrestler it took me a long while to grasp the concept and adhere to the jiu-jitsu lifestyle.
Reflecting on your journey thus far what do you feel has got you to where you are today? Travis Conley: I think many factors play into what has taken me to this point so far. First, my coaches and teammates, KCBJJ. I have the best any human being could possibly want or ask for. Jason Bircher and Ethan Day were brown belts at the time I started, I train with Jason every day and Ethan has become one of my best friends and motivators. I can't say enough about Renato Tavares, who is completely unselfish and giving, a beacon of a wholesome jiu-jitsu life.
Second and most prominent has to be tenacity. It's hard for me to explain fully, but I know in my heart I've been blessed with something special, something different. We all have gifts and talents, and this is mine. My entire life I've always had this drive, a desire to be World Champion, to be different and not to be mediocre and that fire remains strong, grows stronger each day. I stay hungry, invite and seek new challenges and goals each and every year. I am always the underdog, as long as I can remember, but that role I don't ever see changing and it's who I am. In every situation or obstacle, against odds and opinions I find a way, never give up, never give in...It's this in short that has taken me all over the world, training, competing, meeting all kinds of good people, and to where I am today.
You have made quite a name for yourself as a competitor in the Midwest and even the international circuit. How would you define yourself as a competitor? Travis Conley: I am a fearless competitor. I want the biggest, baddest, best opponents on the planet. The bigger the name or challenge, the more it fires me up, charges me, makes me feel alive. I live for that feeling, the anticipation, the rush, build-up and moments right before a match...nothing else in the world compares. Historically there hasn't been high-level BJJ in Kansas City or the Midwest, but definitely over past couple years it has emerged. People always say, "You can't win a World Title living and training in the Midwest". I don't believe that, and I feel as a trailblazer of sorts for Kansas City. I've realized a lot of the things I've accomplished and I'm doing no one else has, there is no blueprint for me or anyone, and to me that's exciting.
What has competing done for you? Travis Conley: Competing keeps me going. I am a very goal oriented person, that's never the problem but over the past couple years what I've realized above all is the inspiration and motivation what YOU do gives to others. I'm always taken back, in awe when people make comments to me, tell me they saw me at this tournament, or remember that fight, or follow me on social media and that what I'm doing motivates them. It truly is the most rewarding feeling, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility and duty that further motivates me! Competing is the ultimate test, physically, mentally; spiritually...you find out about yourself things you never would have. Step outside of your comfort zone. It's one of the most important things we can do in life to help us to grow and learn.
Speaking of competition your next major battle finds you in the Dream Jiu-jitsu Brown Belt Championship Series tournament. How does it feel to be a part of this prestigious event with some of the best brown belts in the world? Travis Conley: I feel fantastic. It's an honor to be invited and to be among 31 other killers and to have your hard work and dedication recognized. Thank-you to Dan for reaching out to me, and to Raf for going above and beyond, sponsoring and making the trip possible. It's amazing to be able to continue to represent Kansas City and KCBJJ. I feel every single time the whole city is with me, and that just empowers me beyond measure.
What do you feel separates you from the rest on the brown belt competitors? Travis Conley: I pour my heart out every single time I step on the mat, and people recognize that. You can't fake it. I can't speak for the other competitors. Will this be your first time in a no time limit Submission only event? Travis Conley: This will be. I love it, I've always wanted to test myself with one and feel my style fits the rules and format. I've wrestled for hours before, and done crazy matches in professional wrestling, my conditioning is never an issue so I feel great, just excited.
How has the training been going for you preparing for this event? Travis Conley: Training is always good. KCBJJ is building more and more monsters every month, it's insane. I'm there every day, sometimes twice a day. I train clients full-time at my place, Underground Gym as well as run the company and work with online clients. I make time to hit my strength and conditioning workouts, sprints, drills, and yoga. I was in Florida training with Renato last week. Ethan comes to town often, or I make trips to Denver. I'm always getting good training, expanding, reaching out and learning from all my connections, bad asses from all over that I've met over the years.
Hoping to come out on top what would winning this tournament mean to you? Travis Conley: MONEY IN THE BANK and another title to my name!
Finally as you journey continues what do see for yourself in the future? Travis Conley: "The future is not set, there is no fate but that which we make" - Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I plan on continuing to carve a great future for myself and others en route to a World Championship. This year specifically I have goals on qualifying for ADCC and entering into a big IJF tournament as well. I see myself as being a feared opponent, putting people on notice!
Is there anyone you would like to thank before we close this interview? Travis Conley: I have to thank my friends and family, brothers, my roots in Kansas. I love my city. My team KCBJJ and the RTBJJA. My sponsors Ground Control Fight Gear, iFlow, Elite Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, Defense Soap, Zen Zone Yoga, Underground Gym. I would honestly be nowhere without any of them, they back me and believe in me, they make these dreams I'm chasing possible. Last but certainly not least, I have to thank my beautiful girlfriend Laura who strengthens, inspires, and makes me a better version of myself every day!
When it comes to an individual's Jiu-Jitsu game, everyone looks to become the best. Mastic Fight Wear does just that in their contribution to the grappling community.
Mastic Fight wear Kimonos are available in Pearl Weave and Crystal Weave.
Both options are made of 100 % cotton. The difference between the fabrics is that the Crystal is much softer than the Pearl. However, don't let that sway your decision because each kimono carries the durability of a double weave with the weight of a single. It a suitable choice for competition and is IBJJF approved. The color choices are White/Grey Stitching, Blue/ Grey Stitching, and Black/ Orange Stitching.
Being an owner of many gi brands I got the opportunity to try out this much talked about gi and after careful analysis this is what I discovered:
Jacket: The jacket portion of the kimono is a classic construction model any grappler would admire. Made out of 100 % cotton the jacket is composed of a thick but light strong weave fabric material, which makes it easy to move around in during class instruction providing absolute comfort while training and competing.
The patchwork designs of the jacket are standard with the Mastic Fight Wear logos located of both sides of the shoulders. This layout gives me plenty space to represent with my academy or sponsor patches.
Pants: The Mastic gi pants are made out of ripstop material. From experience, I know these trousers are capable of withstanding the toughest matches from competitors in your division to challenges of in the absolute division. They also are a great fit and are comfortable.
Shrinkage: Mastic Fight Wear kimonos are labelled as Pre-Shrunk. After testing there is no evidence shown for the customer to be concerned about it shrinking after it comes out of the washer. If this is still a concern, a secondary option would be to wash the kimono in cold water by itself and hang try it.
Conclusion: There nothing quite fitting than having a great product in your hands. Comfortable, Competition Ready, and an everlasting usage the Mastic Fight Wear kimono certainly delivers in all areas. This gi is one of the top kimonos I have purchased in a long time. The price blows all other competition out of the water which means you will save a lot of money. There gis are a hot sellers so don't wait make your purchase before they are all sold out.
Fight Log Media is a performance based company that's specializes in providing the best training journals to combat sport athletes.
A full fledge participant in various fighting sport sectors, through his own experience owner of the Fight Log company Jerome Gage has first-hand knowledge of the daily grind to becoming a better athlete.
Reflective on his journey into the creation of these helpful training logs, Gage sits down with us at US Combat Sports as he gives us an in-depth look at how Fight Log Journals can help you reach your goals.
Combat sports activities in general are an enriching yet rigorous process to excel at. With so much knowledge to absorb why is this an ongoing hurdle for athletes? Jerome Gage: There is a lot to learn in any martial art or combat sport. In fact, I don't think we ever stop learning. As athletes, I think one aspect we often lack is structure and the proper framework for learning. We often train one day at a time. More simply, what I mean by this is we can be short-sighted and have a short memory.
There are many learning models out there but one of the models that work for me is the Self-Regulated Learning model. There are three phases of a learning cycle: the Forethought Phase, the Performance Phase, and the Self-Reflection Phase. Most of us athletes spend all our time in the Performance Phase, meaning we have our tasks for the day; we go over some techniques, drill, and spar and call it good. However, by including the other two phases such as the Forethought Phase (Goal Setting) and the Self-reflective Phase (Periodic Reviews), we can learn faster and retain more.
Being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner yourself discuss with us your experience that inspired you to create Fight logs? Jerome Gage: I am mainly a Jiu-Jitsu guy now, even though I still enjoy boxing from time to time. I have always kept notes from seminars and private lessons I had taken. However, strangely enough, the catalyst that spurred me to start Fight Log Media came from helping my friend George Roop get ready for his Hioki fight in UFC 137. When we were preparing for that fight we had a specific goal for every training session. Based off film study of Hioki, we focused on escaping side control, escaping mount, and more importantly doing both of these while defending the triangle from these positions (If you have not seen Hioki's fights you should. This man can hit a triangle from anywhere.). Every practice we had very specific goals on training these positions. We used deliberate practice, meaning we talked about what we would do, we trained it, and then we would self-reflect on what was working for him and what was not. We continued this for a few weeks prior to the fight. During the fight it worked out well. George found himself in these positions and defended very well.
From that point, I began thinking of ideas on how I could put together a format that all fighters could self-guide their training and take advantage of this learning method. Four months after that, we launched www.fightlogs.com.
Now various sports programs such as Cross Fit, Football, and even Ballet require training logs. How does your log manual represent for our fight community? Jerome Gage: Funny you should mention football. Prior to getting into martial arts, I had a brief stint in college football. Although I didn't realize it at the time, that is where I learned about the Self-Regulated Learning model. We were always making goals for a practice, videotaping the practices, and then watching the practice film to make adaptations to our coverage techniques or footwork. We had a constant cycle of learning from the Forethought Phase to the Performance Phase to the Self-Reflection Phase. I learned and improved more in one year of college football than I did the prior eight years.
Our training logs can do the same thing. If used correctly and consistently there is no doubt that athletes will make drastic improvements in their games. Each of our logs is specifically designed for each sport so no matter what your focus is we can help you make and achieve your goals.
For those that are not familiar with what the Fight Log is, can you tell us a little about it and how it works? Jerome Gage: Sure! We offer four different types of training logs, all specifically designed for their particular sport. We carry The Jiu-Jitsu Log, The Mixed Martial Arts Log, The Boxing Log, and The Wrestling Log. All of these logs were designed with the help of black belts, professional fighters, former Division I wrestlers, wrestling coaches, boxing coaches, and everyday practitioners.
Our training logs are broken into what we call periods. Each period consist of either 10 or 18 training pages. Each of these pages is to be filled out each day you practice or train. These daily training pages can help track techniques, time trained, weight, training partners, meals, or more; as I mentioned earlier, each log is a little different and uniquely formatted to each sport.
Prior to each period there is a goal sheet. On this page you are prompted to create very specific goals for the upcoming period of time. These goals can range from area of focus to hours trained in a specific area. Following the period of training sessions you are prompted to review your training over the period and review your goals that you made in the goal-setting page. Using our review page you can give yourself and your training an accurate critique and monitor your progress. You can use your self-evaluations to make the adaptations to your goals for the next period goal setting page.
So you can see the Forethought Phase followed by the Performance Phase, which is followed by the Self-Reflection Phase and back through again.
Each training log also has some unique sections. The Jiu-Jitsu Log has additional pages for Private Lessons, Seminars, and Tournaments. The Mixed Martial Arts Log has Scouting Report forms, Game Plan Pages, and Fight Pages to record your victories. The Boxing Log has Game Plan Pages and Fight Pages. The Wrestling Log has enough Tournament Pages to record every match you would have all season long.
Various aspects are essential when it comes to an athlete's enhancement in their practiced field. How does Fight Log assist with such mechanisms like mental training, time management, goal setting, and other important components centering on a fighter's improvement? Jerome Gage: All athletes should keep a training journal of some sort. Many studies have shown time and time again that writing down goals, experiences, and feelings about their training will improve an athlete's performance.
I think many athletes underestimate the benefits of using a training journal. If you were to ask a fighter, in this case we will use MMA, is your sport more physical or mental? More often than not he would say MMA is more mental than physical. Then ask, are you taking supplements? He often answers with protein, amino acids, and some sort of recovery drink. Well what about his mental supplementation? If his sport is more mental than physical, he should be supplementing the mental aspect of his training just as much as the physical.
What has the overall feedback been from your clients that have used your products? Jerome Gage: We absolutely love hearing from our customers. We try very hard to have an active conversation with our customers and have received some fantastic feedback from them. Even some of our most loyal customers have inspired changes in our products. It's because of them that we are putting out the best products on the market.
We have received some praise by some very influential athletes and coaches across the country such as the Mendes brothers, Robert Drysdale, Jens Pulver, the best youth wrestling coach in the nation Mike Krause, and many more. You can check out our non-paid endorsers on our website. http://www.fightlogs.com/Testimonials.html we have a great support group. We are thankful for every one of them.
Aside from these helping learning materials does fight logs specialize in any other areas? Jerome Gage: We are focused solely on training logs. Last year we briefly put out some t-shirts, but at our core we are a performance company. We only want to put out products that can improve the performance and focus of our customers. We want to stay focused on our goal and that is to produce the best training journals in the world.
Any finals thoughts before we close this interview? Jerome Gage: My only advice to athletes out there is after every training session answer two questions on paper: 1.) What is one thing I did well today? 2.) What is one thing I could have done better today? Doing these two easy things on a daily basis you can speed up your learning process and increase your self-awareness.
Special thanks/shout out? Jerome Gage: I'd just like to thank everyone that has supported us since we started this journey two years ago. Among those I'd like to name Kevin Jones my BJJ instructor good friend, George Roop, and Paul Moran and the guys from Open Mat Radio. Most of all I would like to thank my girlfriend Bernice, who is a huge part of Fightlogs.com.
BJJ Legends got the opportunity to talk with Ruiz as he touches on his early beginnings and his long journey back to the competition scene.
Competition it certainly has a way of bringing out the best in everyone. For some this activity takes them to the greatest highest of world class grappling status. On the other hand for some individuals the motivation for participating in this pastime decreases only to one day return to what they once adored in challenging themselves in combat on the mat.
A grappling veteran for over ten years Dean Lister Black belt Chris Ruiz is no stranger to laying it all on the line showing what he is made of in competition. The experience has given him a driving purpose leading him to becoming one of the most respected grapplers in the So Cal area. However somewhere along the trail life priorities took over putting his grappling aspirations to a halt. Now back after a 5 year layoff Ruiz is back to his old habits blazing through the competition stronger than ever before.
Care to share with us a little bit about yourself and your BJJ background? Chris Ruiz: I'm originally from Houston, TX and ended up in San Diego in 2002 by way of the Navy. I started training 10 years ago (in 2004) under Dean Lister and Brandon Vera at City Boxing in downtown San Diego. I also trained under Tyrone Glover at City Boxing Pacific Beach for a couple of years. I've followed Dean around since.
I was naturally drawn to Jiu-Jitsu because the only sport I had ever competed in was wrestling, which I didn't' even start till half way thru high school. I also did judo for a few months after I joined the navy. I started with no gi training, which was all that was offered at the time. Since I wrestled, I was more interested in no gi anyway, and it's still what I prefer.
One of my motivations in Jiu-Jitsu (and life) has been my very fortunate situation - both of my parents have polio and can't walk, so I'm grateful to have this opportunity to be a good athlete. Had they been lucky like me, I know my parents would have been great athletes. I have to give them some credit for the nickname "Soapfish," because I'm slippery. I got that name from Morango (Fabricio Camoes) when he was teaching at Victory.
What are your thoughts about the overall purpose of competition and what it has done for you over the years? Chris Ruiz: To win, of course. Just kidding, but that's the icing on the cake. Competition is the most rewarding part of Jiu-Jitsu. It's the ultimate motivator and learning experience. Some of the best learning is during competition because you get to see how your style works against guys from other gyms, where you need to improve, and what the other schools are doing. It is a very effective mechanism for rapid improvement.
What's the point of training without competing? Even rolling in the gym is in a sense competing, except you become "the best you" for competition.
I also really enjoy the networking that I get to do at tournaments and meeting other competitors. The Jiu-Jitsu community is so great and it's awesome to meet new people who I can train with later at their academies.
Why did you start competing and also share with us your early beginning coming up on the competition scene? Chris Ruiz: My first tournament was two weeks after I started training, at an in house tournament. I started at intermediate level since I previously wrestled, plus I liked the added challenge. I knew I'd learn more against tougher opponents, even if I was a little out-matched. I think that tournament and Grapplers Quest just after are what lit my fire initially.
The highs I've experienced were the first few years when Jiu-Jitsu was so new to me and I was getting my ass kicked every day in practice. I had a lot of tough guys to look up to and learn from. Another big high of mine was 2013, when Dean awarded me my black belt. Last summer won Grapplers Quest absolute where I had Dean and Jeff (Glover) coaching me – it doesn't get much better than that for any competitor.
Looking back my lows point would have to be the five or so years before 2013 when I rarely competed and my priority wasn't Jiu-Jitsu. I continued to train consistently but I wasn't focused on competition. For a few years I was concentrating on school or my full time job and put competitions on the back burner.
However, the greatest highs of all are the relationships I've made over the years with the most diverse people I would have never met outside of this sport. Where else would I be training the same discipline with people such as lawyers and doctors to bouncers, Navy SEALs, bartenders, psychiatrists, engineers, etc.? The Jiu-Jitsu community is the best part of the life-style (of the sport).
What made you stop competing? Chris Ruiz: After the first few years of training hard and competing, I sort of just fell into a slump where I would train consistently but I didn't compete. I was going to school for my bachelor's and working at a bar at the same time. Once I finished school and got my full time professional job, I just wanted to chill out a little more and lost the drive to compete.
What made you come back? Chris Ruiz: That's actually kind of funny. I got really busy in 2013 going to grad school in the evenings while still working full time (ouch!). Once I got that busy and could not train as much, I realized how much I really need Jiu-Jitsu and wanted to train more. I realized how much I should have been competing when I wasn't as busy. It's sort of like the saying, "you don't know what you have until it's gone." But instead of being gone, I just didn't have as much time to train. Plus, I developed my own style that I was very confident in and I wanted to see how effective I could be after such a long lapse in competition.
I also got a lot better from training with Akbarh Arreola, who has some serious world class leg locks and an overall tough, impressive style. He brought the best out in me and forced me to step up my game. Look him up if you don't know who he is.
Discuss with us some of your highlights you made since your return to competition Chris Ruiz: One would have to be becoming the Grapplers Quest Vegas (UFC Fan Expo) Absolute Champ. I hadn't competed in over 4 years, so I was just happy to be there. The actual highlight for me though was being the unknown guy working my way up the absolute bracket. It was sort of a sneak attack because no one knew who the hell I was and probably didn't expect me to get to the finals. The other competitors must have been scratching their heads, like "WTF?" For the absolute and my weight bracket I got seven heel hooks for the day.
Another great moment would have to be participating in the Dream no time limit, submission only tournament. There I got to compete with world-class competitors such as Sean Roberts and Garry Tonon. That tournament was totally my style – pretty much anything goes and no politics. Some of the traditional BJJ rules are absurd, so it was nice for Dream to do allow nearly any submission. I got three heel hooks that day.
Are there any nerves or doubt returning back to a new playing field of great competitors to fight against? Chris Ruiz: Definitely nerves, but no doubts. I knew that competing again would be the key to getting my motivation back. My teammates are so supportive that I was confident in my return.
How does it feel overall to be back? Chris Ruiz: It feels great, especially when I know that my Jiu-Jitsu style that I've developed works really well against other top competitors. That's a testament to the quality of my teammates and coaches at Victory.
What do you feel the future holds in competition for Chris Ruiz? Chris Ruiz: My plan is to focus on gi this year and also do whichever competitions I can fit in around my school and work schedule. Competitions will be sporadic over the next year and a half while I finish school, but that's no worry to me because I'll be able to focus much more on Jiu-Jitsu at that time. It's a little painful to have this kind of momentum now and not be able to completely capitalize on it. I don't want to be doing too many things at once, each ineffectively. In the big picture, focusing on school is paramount while I'm there so I can seriously compete afterward and you'll see my best Jiu-Jitsu.