Rolling with the Machados – Pt 2 of 2
A Mid-Western Man’s Road to a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt
BJJ Legends: What was it like training with the Machados back then?
Ryan: Humbling! I had John Machado come out to my school to teach a 2 day seminar and at the end seminar he rolled with all of the students. He had just given me 3 stripes on my blue belt. He told me “Ryan, you have a minute.” He let me attack him and he just defended from the turtle bottom position. Then he said “Ten seconds!” and he started counting down 10. When he hit zero I was tapping!
Later, me and a few other students drove almost 10 hours to Ottawa for a Rigan seminar. Ricco Rodriguez was there with him and was then a purple belt. Rigan rolled with all 38 people in the seminar non stop for over an hour. People were calling out techniques for him to do and he would do them on the guy he was rolling with. One guy said that he missed one of the techniques that he wanted to take a picture of, so Rigan did it again on the resisting student!
I remember Rigan doing a handstand on one student as he was passing the students guard, and he decided to stop with his legs in mid air for people to take pictures. He was kicking his legs like a synchronized swimmer.
When he rolled with me I was a little freaked out because I could swear he was reading my mind! Each time I started to think of a move, he would counter it. This happened four or five times and finally though “Whats the point?! Its like rolling with Yoda and having jedi mind tricks played on me.” So I raised my arm up so he could just finish me.
One time I was in Rigan’s class and out of nowhere he walked up to me and said “I’m going to get cross side position and not use my hands. Do whatever you want to escape.” I figured that I had to be able to get out if I could do whatever I wanted, and he couldn’t even his hands. I struggled and tried everything I knew and nothing worked. He just twisted and shifted and when I got tired he stood up and said “That’s the kind of control I want you to develop.” He didn’t tell me how, but he planted a seed in me that I wanted to be even a fraction as good as him.
I have had the impression many times that I am training with martial arts masters when I train with the Machados. I had been reading stories about legendary asian masters for years, and you don’t think that those kinds of stories happen today. But they do, if you train with the right people. And as my friend and Kung Fu instructor Sifu Rob Brown says, “We are the future modern masters.” That’s a sobering thought.
For those of you who haven’t rolled with the Machados, each brother is different. Rigan will squash the life out of you with so much pressure and control. Roger Machado is like water. He is poetry in motion. He gives you the illusion that you are doing something good, and then quickly puts you away. One time I was rolling with Roger when I was a brown belt and he had me in an armbar where his leg was on my shoulder, not over my face. The control on that armbar isn’t as good as the regular armbar, so it’s a little easier to counter. I tried the two counter that I knew, and they didn’t work, so I thought, “I am going to use strength. I am probably stronger than Roger, and I know that I have trained myself to use technique, but this one time I am going to try to power out and see what happens.” Nothing happened! I gave it everything I had and it was like I had run into a brick wall! I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t move even a half inch.
BJJ Legends: What advice do you have for people starting or even evolving their Jiu-Jitsu practice today?
Ryan: One of the best things is to not care about winning and losing. Focus on learning from each match you have, whether you win or lose. Don’t give in to the ego and be so proud of yourself when you beat someone, and get upset when you lose. It’s all an illusion anyway. If I roll with any of the Machados, I will tap. It doesn’t mean I’m bad. If I roll with my students, they will tap. That doesn’t mean I’m great. Just focus on what the Japanese call kaizen: constant improvement. It’s like putting money in an investment account. Every week you put more in the account, and you are earning compound interest, and over time you are shocked how much money is in the account. If you keep consistently training and getting better, after a while you will have a lot to show for it. Then you can do whatever you want with your jiu-jitsu- earn a living, compete, stay in shape, or just continue to enjoy to enjoy training and grow as a person.