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.
Holding nothing back Dana Moore opens about his story in this exclusive interview with us at BJJ Legends as it looks showcase the true meaning of overcoming adversity.
Everyone has a story assembled from their past, present, and hopeful future experiences. Being in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu community one will come across various individuals from all walks of life each with their own fabled tale marked with joyous accolades as well as unfavorable trials and tribulations.
24 year old Dana Moore has recently encountered his share of misfortune that has altered his life. A BJJ blue belt under Grant Collins it seemed like yesterday where this ambitious grappling practitioner was living life happily on and off the mat. With life going so smoothly one would figure what bad could go wrong, until a catastrophic construction accident change everything leaving Moore paralyzed and wheel chair bound. Nevertheless with this dire struggle has risen an ambition for progress which Moore looks to accomplish through hard work and perseverance.
Share with the readers a little about yourself and your BJJ background? Dana Moore: My story starts a long time ago actually when I was a kid and my cousin and I rented UFC 1 and watched it for the first time and thought it was the best thing ever. We were both hooked from there on it and my interest for bjj and MMA started. It took me awhile to actually begin a traditional BJJ path. I always wanted to start BJJ but in high school and college I was a full time athlete pretty much and couldn't commit to it. So, after college I wanted to begin my BJJ journey now that I had no commitments and could put everything I had into training and competing. I found Optimus through my friend Brett Weekely's recommendation. Since he knew much more than I did about gyms in the area, he told me to go to Optimus and train under Professor Grant Collins because he's the best and comes from the best Mauricio "Tinguinha" Mariano dos Santos. I remember the first day I went in there, I had just went surfing at salt creek and figured I would stop by Optimus just to check it out. I stopped in and signed up for my first intro lesson to get things going. Once I took that first lesson I was hooked. I would go to every class offered that I could attend for the beginners. Whether it be everyday to twice a day I was there training and just soaking it all in. And when I wasn't there, I was Watching YouTube videos all day at home. So, this went on for about 3 months of nonstop training and learning I the martial art. Then Professor Grant approached me and asked me if I wanted to help out and teach classes and I obviously felt so honored and had to say yes. I never knew how rewarding teaching BJJ could be. It was amazing to see the little kid's progress and when they finally get the moves down. I couldn't help being proud of the little guys and I would get so fired up like they were one of my own. I remember one kid in particular who would try to do a gravity sweep over and over and just couldn't get the hang of until. I swear it took him over a month to get it. Then boom, one day he hits it right and his game went to a whole new level because he was hitting the whole class with that thing and you just can't help but be proud of the hard work and determination he put in to achieve something that might seem minor to other people, but to us BJJ practitioners, it's a big deal.
What would you say has been the biggest benefit you've received from being a participant in BJJ? Dana Moore: The biggest benefit from BJJ I received is all the great people I've met and become friends with. And meeting Professor Grant and all the things that he's done for me and taught me, I can't thank him enough. I've made so many great friends and gone through so many struggles with fellow teammates, you can't help but to become almost brothers when you train with and push yourself to the limit with the same people every day. We are all pushing each other to get better, and whether you have a great day on the mat or terrible day, you still learn something and appreciate having someone to train with and battle it out with.
Martial Art endeavors certainly have a way of imitating the joys and struggles we go through off the mat. Not too long ago a tragedy made its way into your life. Can you talk to us about the incident which led to your current condition? Dana Moore: it was Thursday November 21, 2013. It was a cold rainy day and I didn't know if we were going to drill that day because of the whether and when I got word that we were, I didn't mind it at all because I liked working and I got to work with my cousin, who is like a brother to me, so I never had a problem with work. It was a usual day of drilling, and I went to load the next drill pipe from a truck bed to the loader and in order to get the 300-400 pound pipe from being horizontal truck bed to vertical in the loader, which is on a different truck right next to the other one, you have to use hydraulic lifts. So I put the clamps on and it's starting to go up, in looking back and forth at both ends when all of the sudden everything goes blank for 2 seconds, the pipe falls on me. Next thing I know I'm holding myself up in between the two trucks and I see my cousin running over with a look on his face that I have never seen before, he later on told me that when he saw me there holding myself up that he literally thought I was dying right there in front of him, which would explain the look on his face. I'm sitting there holding myself up and he asks me if I'm ok and I said no I can't feel my legs and tell him to call 911 and turn everything off. I didn't know what was wrong with me but I knew it wasn't good. After he does everything he comes back over and helps lay down and props me up to where he's supporting me neck and keeping me straight. Ambulance comes I go to the hospital do all the tests, MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and I broke my thoracic 6-7 vertebrae and suffered spinal cord damaged leaving me paralyzed for the chest down. I had surgery then transfer to their rehabilitation clinic after a few days and begin that process. People are usually in rehab for 2 months with my injury, and I was out in a month. And began my new journey outside of the hospital and outpatient rehab.
Looking back at your life before this trial and where you are now how has life changed? Dana Moore: Life has changed in many ways. I have to do many things different now. Yes, something's are significantly more challenging and can be very frustrating at times but when I look back at everything I'm happy to be alive and lucky my injury wasn't much worse. The obvious biggest physical change is that I'm unable to walk. So, getting adapted to the wheelchair and maneuvering it around is different. Mostly it's just the little things that are more apparent now, like getting dressed or being able to fit through doorways. Mentally it's hard to say where I'm at because I don't know what my life will be like in a year. I could get better or I could stay the same as now, but either way I'm going to live life to the fullest and not regret a single thing that's happened. It was a freak accident and you just have to play the hand your dealt. I can't control it so just have to move on. I know God has a plan for me, so I'm trusting in him to show me the way. But, I'm staying positive and couldn't ask for more support from my family, girlfriend, friends, and everyone else out there that I've met or know.
How are you keeping yourself motivated during this tough time? Dana Moore: I'm not going to say it's easy to stay positive, but as of right now I'm so motivated and I'm slowly getting better it's hard not to be. I'm doing intensive physical therapy at VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center in San Diego 5 days a week and couldn't be happier. They have the most state of the art equipment and such a knowledgeable staff. I am recovering and my body is getting some feeling and movement back. It's still early on in the process so it's hard not to stay positive and hopeful I can make a full recovery. I'm not guaranteed that I will make any recovery even past this point but all I can do is keep working hard and praying. Other things thy help me keep positive are the people around me. My mom and girlfriend have been here for me every day and help me out as much as they can. My mom brought me lunch and dinner every day so I didn't have to eat hospital food just to name one thing she's done. She should be the one with an article on her for how much she has done for me. She's the real hero here. My girlfriend stayed with me in the hospital every single night I was there. It's easy to work hard knowing you've got someone like that in your corner. They are always keeping me positive and help keep me up when I do have some harder days. I also just have to trust in God that he has a plan for me and I will recover as much as I'm supposed to. Just have to keep fighting and praying.
Knowing in your heart things are going to get better what are you looking forward to when you recover? Dana Moore: I look forward to each day as I recover and I'm not putting life on Hold while I go through this. I'm living each day to the fullest and still enjoying things. I think once I'm through this process the thing I would look forward to the most is living a purposeful life to the fullest and helping out others going through my situation as much as possible. I know it's not an easy road and if I can make one step in that process any easier I would want to do so. It's difficult to say when my recovery ends as well. Some people are 10 years out of injury and still getting better so recovery with spinal cord injuries is ever changing.
Finally when people look at your story, what do you want them to learn from it and also the man Dana Moore? Dana Moore: I would just want people to know that I am the same person before this injury. And no matter what comes at you in life, you just have to keep fighting. Never give up hope and faith and that nothing is impossible.
Any final thoughts or anyone you would like to thank before we wrap up this interview? Dana Moore: I would just like to thank my entire family, girlfriend, friends, my BJJ family, the countless amounts of people that have helped me along this process, and most importantly God, without him none of this would be possible. Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens."
Getting to the root of the problem seems to be the headline crusade which touches on the year in review for our martial arts community in 2013. Negativity has without question surfaced rapidly in the BJJ and MMA community and has brought everyone to a standstill, pondering the burning question “Where Did We Go Wrong?”
Promoting its campaign against the ongoing corruption “Mixed Martial World" demonstrates the marksmanship in raising awareness of the many moral values that the core of martial arts stem from.
In this exclusive interview BJJ Legends sits down with co-founders Bret Perchaluk and Jessica Leigh as they share with us their mission with the organization in Bringing Mixed Martial Arts back to its roots.
First off, let's start with how you both got into Jiu-Jitsu and your training backgrounds?
Bret: I got into BJJ when I was wrestling in HS. I found a gym near my house and I went to check it out thinking they were teaching wrestling, but in reality they were grappling and I fell in love with it and haven’t stopped training. Since then I have trained with, trained, and competed against some of the best fighters in the world. I’ve done tons of other martial arts as well; I’m a Judo Black Belt, Japanese Ju Jitsu Black Belt and a Brown Belt in BJJ under Master Roberto Traven, I’ve studied JKD, Krav Maga, and did Kung Fu when I was a kid. I also boxed and Wrestled through College where I was on the Rider University Division I nationally ranked wrestling team. I am also a Senior Defensive Tactics Instructor for the government and work with and teach special operations personnel.
Jessica: First I will start by saying I’ve been in love with martial arts for a long time. I started out working as a ring girl at local promotions in the NJ/NYC/PA area and fell in love with the art that I was watching. The truth is, I was always fascinated when fights went to the ground and couldn't understand why people would boo. All I saw was the beautifully executed techniques in the art of BJJ. I got more involved in the sport by working for top MMA apparel companies, helping handle some of their marketing and learning more of the sport from that angle, but I still didn't have the guts to actually try it for myself. That all changed when I met Bret. I would go to all of Bret's competitions and practices and just watch in awe. Bret saw my love for martial arts, as well as the reality that this isn't a safe world anymore and the need to know self-defense is extremely important and so he encouraged me to start training. I love practicing BJJ and getting to try and surprise Bret with sweeps around the house.
Known as The People's Champion in his grappling residence of Northern California Manny Diaz has been living out a lifelong dream that this ever growing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practice has given him. Currently training under BJJ World Champion Caio Terra his new venture as a brown belt has presented a new set of challenges that came with his newly acquired rank. Nevertheless with challenges also presents opportunity which has allowed Diaz to keep moving with each BEAT to smashing all obstacles that stand in the way of reaching his ultimate goal. Manny Diaz recently spoke with us at BJJ Legends as he opens about his training philosophy, current brown belt venture, and his future goals in giving back to the community that has given so much to him.
What does becoming a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu signifying for Manny Diaz? Manny Diaz: At my age I’ve been living a dream. I never thought that I would be competing at such a high level. Brown to me is just as important as black, It’s the stage of refinement before the highest level. Can’t cut any corners, you have to put in the time and work hard if you truly want to be at the top.
How do you currently feel at this belt level? Manny Diaz: At first I was scared but I really feel my game changing at brown. It has all to do with the possibilities of submissions with leg locks and the other things it opens up because of it. I’m eager to learn and even more eager to compete.
What are some of the new challenges and goals you have set out for yourself as a brown belt? Manny Diaz: Ultimately being the brown belt world champion, there are many tournaments that are great and I would love to win but none to me are greater than the world championships. I don’t think I can set a higher goal other than winning the open class title along with it. I’m not greedy and would gladly take the win at weight, besides I need to let the other guys have a chance to win too right… LOL
Since its inception in 2005, the North American Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Federation has laid down a staple of premiere grappling tournaments in Southern California. SJJIF offers the best competition experience for all its participants. Its successful run over the years has spawned the creation of a fleet of NABJJF events beyond the California’s border to Arizona and Texas. This popularity has many grapplers wanting to get a clinching grip on the tournament action.
Continuing its partnership with the SJJIF, NABJJ brings to you its own version of elite tournament experience to gather the best grappling talents from around the world to compete on one stage.
The Sports Jiu-Jitsu International Federation in conjunction with the NABJJF proudly presents The SJJIF Worlds tournament on December 14 & 15 at the Walter Pyramid at CSU Long Beach in Long Beach, California. They are inviting competitors of all ages to participate in both Gi and/or No-Gi divisions. Their website contains information on hotel accommodations for out-of-town competitors. The event is an opportunity for all grapplers to get the best experience at an affordable price.
In addition, as an added bonus, all black belts compete for FREE when they register for their free SJJIF membership. (Register must be made by November 12 for this offer)
For More information on how to register and take your step at being a part of greatness visit
Becoming a model of excellence in one’s line of work is an aspiring goal for any evolving Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner. Since its launch in 1998 Paragon Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has exhibited this concept with the production of many grappling talents such as Jeff Glover and Bill Cooper. Expanding its club’s movement to the southern region of the United States, Paragon Austin continues this endless trail in becoming one of the best BJJ schools in the Lone Star State.
Starting in 2011 by Robert Dembeck and Darrin Lillian these two founders quickly organized a plan to mold itself into its own brand of excellence. With its later assemblage of elite black belt instructors to assist with the enchantment of the program top quality training and instruction was not hard to come by for any student training at Paragon Austin.
The dedication each instructor puts into their work is above and beyond the standards of your typical BJJ instructor which creates a unique diversity of knowledge gained from the participant walking out of each class.
Starting his instructor position early this year David Ginsberg black belt Mike Harmon brings over a decade of experience that any students will benefit from. Not only has his assistance proven to be a great aid for the students at Paragon Austin but also for himself which has allowed Harmon to achieve major success as a competitor which includes becoming a brown belt no-gi world champion in late 2012 .
The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu community has had its share of exciting moments, striking possibilities, and trends that have revolutionized the sport into what we see it as today. Continuing with the ever growing cycle, over a month ago tournament creator and BJJ Black Belt Michael Proctor issued an open invite calling out all finishers to compete in the Pacific Northwest's first Premiere Submission Only tournament known as the "Chess on the mat Championship".
Bring a new flare to the grappling scene in Washington the tournament's unique submission only rule system along with its prestigious prizes for the winners set up the platform for an experience all participants will remember and benefit from.
The buzz of Proctor's submission games extended throughout the region which got the attention of grappling competitors in Oregon, Idaho, California, and even across the border lines inside Canada all eager in putting their skills to the test on the competition mat.
An event shaping itself into another monumental moment for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, the overwhelming response of over 500 foreseen competitors could not be firmly contained at a High School venue on October 5th. Due to this minor dilemma the "Chess on the Mat Championships" has been rescheduled to January 18th in 2014 at the famous Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington.
In an exclusive Press Release Statement Michael Proctor issued this announcement to all competitors, teams and coaches involved in the tournament.
Grapplethon 2: SoCal Jiu-Jitsu Community Unite in Support for Frank Edge
Giving and receiving are frequent sensations a practitioner will experience being involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Employing the technique of giving August 24th marked a monumental day for the Jiu-Jitsu community in Southern California. Unifying together for a charitable rally Grapplethon 2 unveiled the true power of the strong support system that exists in our community through the event’s efforts in aiding cancer battling contender Frank Edge.
Hosted at Dan Lukehart’s Brea Jiu-Jitsu academy the event brought together over 67 grapplers from various schools such as Atos JJ, Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie Barra, amongst other we'll established Jiu-Jitsu teams.
With gathered proceeds aimed toward assisting Edge Grapplethon 2 featured a three hour fun-filled extravaganza which included nonstop training, raffle prizes, an insane 180 minute charity challenge, and most importantly exposing the unique camaraderie that exist in the Southern California BJJ community.
“It was truly a pleasure to host Grapplethon 2.” said event host Dan Lukehart. “The Grapplethon concept fits well with our gym’s philosophy and we want to support any attempt to bring the Jiu-Jitsu community together - particularly for such a great cause. Seeing so many people rally for somebody, most had never met, really shows how tightly knit our community is.”