Tuesday, 29 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 7 (Braulio's Grading)

(This is part 7 of this series. If you haven't seen part 6 it can be found here.)
It's time to start over...
As I mentioned previously, the BJJ ranking system for kids changed in autumn 2007, and we were required to be graded again. This meant taking a trip to Gracie Barra Birmingham, and be graded by both Braulio and Victor Estima.
Some of you probably never got the chance to go to Braulio's old gym, but personally I had the opportunity to go there a few times. I've been there for a grading, seminar, and a competition, but funnily enough never a class.
Obviously, we wouldn't be the only team at the grading. Pretty much, every kid’s team under Braulio would be there to be graded. The matted area in that particular gym was pretty small, so were given times slots as there were numerous teams to get through. I can't remember the exact time since it was over six years ago, but I think off the top of my head it was about 10 o'clock.
This would be the first time I had ever been to Gracie Barra Birmingham which was in Acocks Green, Birmingham. Naturally, all of the team met at one location. This time it was Stadium garage in Skewen, and from there we would follow Chris to the club itself.
One thing I remember in particular about this trip was how long it took to get there. I mean hours. We hit some traffic about half way through, and it literally seemed to go on forever. One thing that sticks out in my mind is needing to go to toilet really bad, and my dad refusing to stop as "we'll lose Chris".
So, we finally arrive, and late in typical fashion. The place is absolutely rammed with kids, and there was pretty much no place to get changed, except for on the stairs. The building itself consisted of two floors. On the ground floor you had Gracie Barra Birmingham, and on the top floor you had a gym which was called 'Stevie B's'.
So there me and my brother are getting changed on the stairs like a couple of melons with all these roid heads coming up the stairs, which was a little awkward. If you didn't know, me and my brother get changed really slowly, so it was especially awkward.
Now we finally make it onto the mats. Basically, the grading consisted of them showing a few techniques and us demonstrating them. To my amazement, we didn't actually do any sparring, which personally I thought they would. They had a lot to get through that day, so maybe they just didn't have any time.
The highest rank to be given out that day was a yellow belt, which both me and my brother both achieved. For some reason, I remember being really disappointed with 'only' receiving a yellow belt, which seems a bit daft to say now, but that's how my 12 year old self felt at the time. However, seeing that the kids BJJ system is really yellow, orange, and green, it was actually pretty good.
Actually, the day itself was pretty good. I got to travel to a different club and get graded by a world champion, which is pretty cool.
A few months later, I would return to Gracie Barra Birmingham, this time to compete. This was actually my first competition under IBJJF rules, and with submissions, so that was an eventful day to say the least. And I shall get onto that story next time.
I hope you guys enjoyed.
Catch you later,
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Saturday, 26 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 6 (I Don't Like It Anymore...)

(This is part 6 of this series. If you haven't seen part 5 it can be found here.)

So, everybody left...

In my last post, I mentioned that we moved to a new gym, and all of my training partners pretty much left. So now it was pretty much me and my brother, and if I'm honest that's the way it stayed up until April 2009 when I moved into the adult class.

So, we are now in this new gym. We didn't even stay there for that long, less than a year I think, I'm sure we moved again sometime in mid-2007 to Fforestfach. Anyway, not a lot actually happened during my time at the gym in Cwmbrwla, I'm not sure if I even competed during my time at that gym. But one things for sure, I didn't like that gym, and I was glad that we moved.

Now we are somewhere in the middle of 2007, and we move to Fforestfach, Swansea. Not where we currently are now, but around the corner in one of the middle units of the Celtic Trade Park. Again, we were not there for very long either, probably about 4-5 months, maybe even less. But it was around this time where I started not to like Jiu-Jitsu anymore. I mean I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it like I used to.

Probably, the reason for that was all of training partners has pretty much stopped training, and it was just me and my brother, and there was no sense of real competition. I mean there were lots of kids training, but they were all much younger and smaller than me and my brother. So you couldn't really test yourself against anyone, and there's only so long you can roll with your brother for.

I mean it’s hard to explain but I didn't want to stop doing Jiu-Jitsu, but I didn't really enjoy it all that much either. In a sense, it was part of my routine. So I just carried on doing it hoping I would enjoy it more, and this was just a phase. And to be honest I did start to enjoy it more, but nothing like I used to. It just kind of felt like I was going nowhere, I wasn't improving and in a sense I would never be 'good' at it like I wanted to be.

And really all it boiled down to is, I had no real sparring partners but my brother, and it really showed in competition. I mean when I competed in 2007 I just got wrecked! I mean I just got totally dominated in all of my fights. It almost felt like I had never done Jiu-Jitsu before in my life.

At this point, I just wanted to give up, and do something else with my life. Although in a sense Jiu-Jitsu was just a part of my life I couldn't live without. I kind of knew if I stopped doing Jiu-Jitsu after a while I would just go back to it anyway. So I just carried on going, even though by this point I really didn't want to.

Only a few months later we moved again! This time we moved to the same block as we are in today. But not where our gym is now, but the middle block, where the Fit for Life gym is today. It was about that time where the grading system for kids changed, and would have to be graded again. This meant we had to travel to Gracie Barra Birmingham and go through a grading by Braulio and Victor Estima.

The one thing Chris said was the regulations had changed, and if you made it to green belt before you turned 16, it meant you could automatically be promoted to blue belt when you turn 16. To be honest, I guess that kind of reignited a spark in me to keep on training and get to green belt. That would mean I would eventually be a blue belt, which to me at the time was a really big deal, as back in those days there were not that many blue belts, I would say less than ten. So the thought of someday potentially being a blue belt really motivated me to keep training, and do the best I possibly could.

But before all that, we first needed to take a trip to Acocks Green, Birmingham.

I hope you guys enjoyed!

Catch you later,

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 5 (We Moved Gym)

(This is part 5 of this series. If you haven't seen part 4 it can be found here.)

Woop woop! I won something!

So, as I explained last time, I won my first medal in competition. And that feeling of victory in competition is amazing! It's something like no other. In my experience, once I have won my first match in competition, pretty much all my nerves melt away and you feel way more comfortable out on the mats. Obviously, they don't completely go away, especially in a final. Although, sometimes I think it is good to have some nerves, it just makes you feel more alert of everything that is happening.

That competition was in November, and Christmas was coming up in a few weeks, so naturally my dad thought to buy me and my brother some BJJ related gifts. Now, our team is Gracie Barra, but not according to my dad. To him anything with the word 'Gracie' in the title is obviously related to our team. So he gets me and my brother a Gracie Academy gi each, and a book called "Gracie Jiu-Jitsu".

If I'm honest the book was okay, but it featured lots of 'street' Jiu-Jitsu stuff like how to block punches from the guard, how to close the distance in a fight etc. Which to be honest is useful, but is not relevant to what I do. The book also featured lots of weapon defences, which I would say are particularly questionable, as most of them are not from real situations.

Now, to be honest my dad got those shipped over from California, so that couldn't have been cheap.  

He also got some patches for my new gi; they were a Carlson Gracie patch, a Brazilian Top Team (BTT) patch, and two Brazilian flags made by Vitamins & Minerals. So here I was fighting for Gracie Barra but with a Gracie Academy gi on, and with Carlson Gracie and BTT patches on. So my gi had three different teams on it, and none of them were my team. As a kid I didn't really understand, but if I'm honest I must have looked like a total tw*t!

So in the years 2005 and 2006 not a lot really happened. I entered a few more competitions, and I won a few more medals, a couple of bronzes and silvers, but I could never win gold! It wasn't until 2010 until I won my first gold. Every time I would make it to the final I would always lose, and it was extremely frustrating. My technique got better as a result of training, and I thought at the time I was making decent progress, and doing well against everybody in the kid’s class.

But in October 2006, our club moved to a new gym in Cwmbwrla, Swansea, which we used to share with my old kickboxing gym. I thought I saw the end of my days at that kickboxing gym, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be there again doing something completely different. Actually, we weren't at that gym for very long. I'm pretty certain it was less than a year. To be honest, I absolutely hated that gym! It was quite narrow but really long, with lots of mirrors on one side. For you guys, who didn't have the pleasure of experiencing it, watch the two videos below from a Braulio seminar in 2006:

Did you spot anyone? Most of the people in these videos do not train anymore, or have move moved elsewhere.

Once we moved to the new club, I did an Eddie Bravo and ditched the gi. For some reason I only wanted to train nogi, probably because I watched too much UFC. Actually, I didn't go back training in the gi full time until early 2008.

But then I hit a bump in the road. All of our good training partners stopped coming, and really the only decent training partner I had was my brother, and maybe one or two others, and from there on in lots of things were about to change.

I hope you guys enjoyed!

The next part will be uploaded soon.

Catch you later,

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Update (23/04/14) - 10 Years of BJJ, WPJJC 2014, Budo Jake, and Road to 100K!

A lot has happened in the last week...
Since my last update post I have uploaded one interview and three parts to my series '10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey'. And I can thankfully say that everything has been a tremendous success! So, I know I always say how thankful I am to you guys, but I really am! Everybody who views my content, leaves comments on it, shares it on social media etc, really does help motivate me to carry on creating content for you guys.
Well, so far this week I have managed to upload three times in a row (including this one), and hopefully I can upload every single day this week. Now, I know I always say things and then never really follow them up, most probably due to other commitments, and articles sometimes take a long time to write. But writing for my series '10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey', it is very easy to produce content for that very quickly when compared to an article, as I'm basically writing about my past, and that's really easy, as I have experienced it. The whole of the series can be found here.
However, I will look to write at least one article this week, and not just write for my series. I have a few ideas for some articles at the moment, but none I want to really discuss at this stage, as some of them I might discard. But, one I can definitely confirm is my review of the 2014 WPJJC, which happened last week in Abu Dhabi. Overall, I thought the event was spectacular! They made BJJ feel truly special, like it was up there with all other major sports. I think the UAEJJ are doing a tremendous job with their events, and hopefully in the future they will put on more events, not just an annual competition.
One major thing that happened last week was the publishing of my interview with the CEO of BudoVideos, Budo Jake. It was a great honour to interview Jake, as I have been a big fan of his work for a while now, and I had the opportunity to ask him a lot of questions which I really wanted to know the answers too. I can say the interview was a GREAT success; I have actually never seen traffic like it. The interview received over 1000 views in less than 24 hours, and that is a lot! As always, I would like to say thank you to everybody who viewed the interview, and a BIG thank you to Jake for giving me the opportunity to interview him.
Recently, my blog has been getting a lot more traffic than previously. These days I have been getting a minimum of 400 views a day which is quite overwhelming actually. I still remember in the early days where some days I wouldn't get any views, and thought it was a tremendous achievement if I had 50 views in a day. However, now on really big posts like interviews, I am getting at least 800 views a day! That is crazy to think. Last Thursday, I hit 15,000 views, fast-forward 6 days and I have just slightly over 17,500 views, and most likely going to hit 18,000 by the end of tomorrow.
Now, if I keep on averaging 3,000 views a week, by the time New Year comes around I would have accumulated 108,000 views. I always said when I started that I would like by the end of year one to achieve 100,000, and that at the start seemed nearly impossible. However, the support I have received whilst doing this blog as of late has been great, and I think I can at least achieve 100,000 views by the end of this year.
Hopefully, that will become a reality!
I hope you all stick with me on this journey.
Catch you all later,
Read More »

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 4 (I Finally Won Something!)

(This is part 4 of this series. If you haven't seen part 3 it can be found here.)

I guess you live and learn...
So, I got whooped in my first ever competition, which I'm sure many of you have experienced. But, I never quit training, I just carried on.
When I was in the kid's class, there were many kids of similar age and size to me, and even a few older kids, who were obviously much bigger and stronger than me. So when I trained, I always pretty much had good training partners and good rolls.
Now when I look back on it, none of those people are training today. Actually, most of them stop training after only a couple of years, some even less. I guess as a kid you want to try everything, or do the same things as your friends are doing. Every time I tell somebody I do Jiu-Jitsu, the usual response I get is "I used to do karate when I was a kid", or some other martial art. Not a lot of kids actually stick with any sport, not just martial arts. Most of my friends as a kid tried lots of different sports, and guess what? None of them are doing any sort of sport today. So the fact that I have stuck with this sport for a decade of my life is actually pretty impressive.
When I was a kid, I pretty much had no real 'game'. I just tried to get top and use my size to force my way to a dominant position where I could try and make good use of my weight. Obviously, as I got older, I realised that this strategy doesn't work all that well. Actually, it sucks!
So, as I said previously, I got smashed I my first competition. But, there was another competition coming up on November 14th, which was a day after my tenth birthday. And it was in the same place, and run by the same organization, so I thought I would give it another shot. Actually, after my last experience, I was a bit hesitant to say yes, but my dad did eventually encourage me to say yes.
The night before I went out for my birthday, and woke up early the next morning to drive to Worcester, my new favourite place! (jokes). Actually, I used to really hate those drives to Worcester. It used to take over three hours to get there, and I always used to get travel sick, so it wasn't exactly a pleasurable experience before I got to the competition.  
So, we finally get to venue. The good old Perdiswell leisure centre! That name will forever be tattooed on my brain. And it's pretty much the same procedure as last time, get there with my heart almost beating out of chest, wait in a massive queue to weigh in, and spend hours waiting to be called to fight. So, as you can tell morale was at an all-time high.
After hours of waiting around, I finally get called to fight. As always at these competitions the categories were pretty big. Surprisingly enough, I actually wasn't as nervous as before, probably because I knew what to expect, but of course I was still nervous. But this time I felt different, I really wanted to win! And I felt pretty pumped up, and pretty sure that I was going to at least make it to the final today, even if it kills me. And guess what, I actually did make it to the final! I won three matches straight to make it to the final, and lost by two points to take silver. I'm not certain what the score was, but I definitely know I lost by a two point margin.
After I lost in the final, I was pretty gutted to say the least. I mean I made it all the way to the final, and to lose at the last hurdle was so disappointing. But a silver medal wasn't bad for my second competition, and it was a pretty nice birthday present!
Last time I got completely smashed, and this time I did pretty well. I can't really remember all that much about the matches themselves, as it was nine and a half years ago, but I do remember lots of failed double leg attempts, which were pretty embarrassing! But I actually managed to hit a few. To be honest I absolutely suck at takedowns! Still to this day I can't do them to save my life. Hence why I resorted to becoming a guard player.

But, I finally won something!

I hope you guys enjoyed.

Catch you later,

Read More »

Monday, 21 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 3 (My First Competition)

(This is part 3 of this series. If you haven't seen part 2 it can be found here.)

So I competed for the first time...
My first ever competition was on Sunday, October 10th 2004. The competition itself wasn't even a BJJ competition, but a traditional Ju-Jitsu competition run by the NJJC (National Ju-Jitsu Council). Back in 2004, I don't think there were any BJJ competitions run in the UK, or very few. I think the only BJJ competition to run at that time would have been the Gracie Invitational, which runs at the SENI show in London. My first time ever competing under total IBJJF rules and with submissions was at a competition Braulio put on himself at his club back in February 2008, but that is a story for another time.
The competition itself was held at the Perdiswell Leisure Centre, Worcester, which is about a three hour drive from my house. Actually, the night before was my friend’s birthday party, and after it finished we got in the car and drove straight to the hotel in Worchester, which was around a five minute drive from the venue.
They always say the first time is always the worst, well that cannot be truer in this case, as I pretty much had no sleep that night, as I was just so nervous.
When I woke up in the morning, I was very nervous about what was about to happen, as I had never competed before, and didn't know what really to expect. So, when we finally get to the venue, the place is packed, and I mean packed! Hundreds and hundreds of kids were there to compete, and at this point my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest.
The hall at the leisure centre was actually pretty big, and I think there must have been at least eight mats running, maybe more.
Now, in BJJ your category is based on your rank, age, and weight. However, in this competition it was only based on weight, and each weight division went up in fives e.g. -35kg, -40kg, -45kg etc. So, if you were pretty big for your age, you would be stuck in the people who are way older, stronger, and more experienced than yourself. Which in theory sounds okay, but if you were big for your age, as I was, it didn't seem really all that fair.
Another thing I can always remember was the massive waiting time, I mean literally hours. All the categories were pretty big as well; I remember categories with 40+ people in them. So, when your category was called you would pretty much all sit around mat and wait to be called, which sometimes could take a while.
As this wasn't a BJJ tournament, kids weren't allowed to do submissions, so you could only win by points. There might have been a rule that if you accumulate ten points then you automatically win, but I'm not really all that sure.
So after hours of waiting around twiddling my thumbs, I was finally called to fight. I remember it pretty clearly, I was in the -45kg division as a nine year old (yes, I was pretty fat as a kid) and the guy I was against must have been at least thirteen, maybe fourteen. This moment was probably the most nervous/scared I have ever been; I don't think anything else has probably come close. It sounds a little bit stupid saying that now, but I was actually terrified.
The fight itself was complete domination; the other guy just totally wrecked me. In the first ten seconds the guy gave me a hip throw, and the side of my face smacked the mat giving me a nose bleed. After that, the guy landed straight into side control. When the referee saw I had a nose bleed he stops the match, and calls the medics over to clean up my nose, and we restart in side control. Basically, back then I couldn't escape side control even if my life depended on it. Back in those days I didn't even know what a shrimp was. Shortly after the guy transitions to mount, and stays there until the fight was over.
If I'm honest I was just glad the fight was over, and I could go home. That feeling of adrenaline was nothing like I had experienced before or since. But on the plus side I've never been that nervous in competition again.
In reality I wasn't that disheartened, I still carried on training and competing, and I got better as time went on.
I'll stop there for now, and I'll pick up the story next time.
I hope you guys enjoyed!
Catch you later,
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Friday, 18 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 2 (The Early Days)

(This is part 2 of this series. If you haven't seen part 1 it can be found here.)
So, I was about to have my first ever BJJ lesson. Obviously, since I had never trained any 'traditional' martial arts before I didn't have a gi. So, I wore basically the same thing that I wore to kickboxing, which were Thai shorts and a vest.

If I'm honest, I can't really remember much about my first lesson of BJJ. The only thing I can remember is Chris coming out and introducing himself as the head instructor. To be honest, all along I thought Mike was the head instructor, so I was a little shocked when this young guy came out.  
At this time Chris was wearing a black belt, as this was his rank in Japanese Ju-Jitsu, and then some months later he started to wear a purple belt, as this was his rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The reason for this was because at this time our club became an official Gracie Barra club, and then we changed to the BJJ ranking system.
At this point, there were pretty much no coloured belts. Actually, I think the only coloured belts were Chris, who was a purple belt, and Mike, who at the time was a blue belt. There might have been one or two more blue belts, but none I can say for definite.
When I started in the kid’s class, there were quite a few of us; I would say at least 20 in an average class. Back in those days there were only three days which classes run on. They were Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. There would be classes for kids and adults on a Tuesday and Thursday, and an adult only class on a Sunday.
After a few months of training, me and my brother were invited to come train for an hour every Sunday in the adult class. Obviously, since we were nine years old we didn't train with the adults, but Chris would come and teach us a few techniques, we would drill them, roll a bit, and then we would leave. Now and again Chris would come over and roll with us, but for the most part it was just me and my brother.
When I started BJJ, I didn't really get it. If I'm honest I couldn't really see how it could be used in a real fight. The only time I really saw its effectiveness was when my dad bought the Gracie's in Action series on eBay. Obviously, they were not originals, just a few copies some guy had made to make some quick cash. But none the less, I was still pretty impressed.
On the subject of my dad, it was around this time when he pretty much bought everything he could for me to get better at BJJ. I remember he bought me and my brother a DVD series by Wallid Ismail, which was okay, but most of the moves if I can remember were very basic, and some were just very low percentage moves. Something else that he got us was a three volume series by Rorian Gracie, but most of that was really BJJ for self defence rather than for sport Jiu-Jitsu. But some of the moves I had success with, but most of them not, and if I'm honest I use none of them today. He did buy us lots more stuff to improve our knowledge, but I'll get to that at a later date.
In the first few months of Jiu-Jitsu, we didn't do any submissions, rather just basic sweeps, transitions, and escapes. At that time, I trained on a Thursday and Sunday when I was in school, and then on a Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday when I was on school holidays. And that training schedule I still follow to this day. Now and again I might train in a different class, but for 99% of the time this is the schedule I go by.
It didn't take me that long to get my yellow belt, and back then the kid’s belt system was nothing like it is today, it was pretty much only yellow, orange and green. These days you have way more belts, in fact there are a total of 12 belts, not including white.
After a while, everybody started talking about the idea of competing, so I did. My first competition was on Sunday 10th October 2004. And I shall tell you all about that next time.
I hope you enjoyed!
Catch you later,

Read More »

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

An Interview with Budo Jake

Today, I bring you an interview with Jake McKee who is commonly known is the BJJ community as "Budo Jake". Jake is the founder of BudoVideos.com which provide live streams of every major IBJJF event, and many different grappling tournaments from around the world. In addition to this he also hosts the popular Jiu-Jitsu based web shows "Rolled Up" and "This Week in BJJ". I hope you guys enjoy the interview.

So Jake, for some people who may not be totally familiar with yourself, could you please introduce yourself.

I'm just a guy who got addicted to martial arts at a young age and my life now is pretty much intertwined with BJJ. I run the company Budovideos (along with Budo Dave) where we produce some of the best BJJ instructional video content, do live event broadcasts, produce a couple shows (Rolled Up & This Week in BJJ). I also teach BJJ at Budo HQ.

Could you tell us a little bit about how you got introduced to Jiu-Jitsu?

Well, my first introduction was watching Royce Gracie at UFC 1. I watched it live on PPV and the martial arts world was forever changed that night. Even though I was amazed at the effectiveness of it, at that time I was more interested in the spiritual aspects of martial arts. I was very involved with Aikido and it wasn't until years later that the stars aligned and I started BJJ. Marcio Feitosa & Carlos Gracie Jr were my first teachers and I've been training regularly ever since.

You’re probably best known for being the head of BudoVideos, but where did the idea come from to start the company?

The idea came from me spending all my money at so many different stores & websites trying to find what I wanted. There was no central place to find quality training gear and media back then. Isn't that how all business are started? You become frustrated with something and decide to create a solution. That's why we've gone in so many different directions. We saw so many great matches going on at the Worlds and thought, "We need to bring this to people live" - and now we do a few live events every year.

Could you tell us a little bit about the company? I.e. how many people currently work there? Etc

We have 15 employees spread across various departments: Video editing, customer service, warehouse, art, IT, etc. About half of them train and one of the perks is that employees can train for free at the office. It's a nice way to end the day. We just walk over to the mats and choke each other out. Well they try to choke me out, lol.

What’s an average day like at the office for you?

I'm behind a desk much more than I like, but that's just how most work is done now. In an average day I might talk to a a couple vendors, make a deal with a talent on a new instructional series, & discuss future projects with co-owner Budo Dave.

One of the biggest things BudoVideos is probably best known for is the streaming of live Jiu-Jitsu events, most notably the major IBJJF tournaments. How did this partnership with the IBJJF come about?

It's funny, my grandfather played golf almost every day. He would take me out and I hated it. I know it takes an immense amount of skill, but I just didn't like anything about it. At university though, I was told that "Golf courses are where the real business deals take place." I was so worried that someday I'd have to play golf. Thankfully that wasn't true! For me, many deals were made on the mats. Rolling with someone really shows you their personality. Maybe they're always aggressive; maybe they're calm but explode when they need to. Either way, it's a nice experience to be able to roll with someone and do business together as well. That's what I found with the IBJJF guys. We still roll to this day. I admire their dedication to the art. They have brought BJJ a LONG way and their tournaments are the gold standard in our industry.

One thing I must ask you about is the ADCC in China. There were a lot of complaints about the quality of the live stream, and many people felt that BudoVideos should have done it. China is notorious for doing “their own thing”, but were you ever approached to do the live stream for the event?

I'm a huge fan of ADCC. We did the last couple of live broadcasts and I was excited about the possibility of doing the 2013 event in China. We did have extensive talks with them but unfortunately they didn't pan out. I don't think anyone was happy with the quality of the 2013 stream which was very unfortunate to the athletes, the sponsors, and ADCC also. The good news is that we are currently working on the DVD set for the 2013 event. So very soon, at least you will be able to watch the DVDs - which will be of much higher quality that the stream was.

You also present the web show ‘This Week in BJJ’, and have had a variety of guests on the show, but to date who has been your favourite?

We've done more than 50 episodes of TWIBJJ already and it's really hard to say who was my favorite. The thing that I was thinking about this week was how you never know who will show you a crucial detail that fits in your game. The thing is, you probably know quite a few things that I don't know and vice versa. If you showed me something you learned recently that helped you a lot, I might say "You didn't know that? I learned that my first month of BJJ!" I've trained with tons of guys, many world champs, and surprises me that some of the best details come from guys that don't have really big names. That is not to say that the world champs are holding back, not at all, this is just to say that you should try to learn from everyone. A couple episodes with, shall we say "smaller" names are Jack Taufer & Terrinha. Both of these guys showed INCREDIBLE techniques with several KEY details that I use regularly. Check out those episodes and watch their techniques closely!

Who is one guest you would like to have on who hasn’t appeared yet?

I'd like to talk and learn from Roleta. He was doing very creative techniques a decade ago that is now considered "modern" jiujitsu.

One of my favourite series from BudoVideos is Rolled Up. To date 40 episodes have been released. How long is the process from starting filming to uploading the video?

Well, it takes 2-4 weeks to edit but sometimes we would film a bunch back to back and space them out rather than release them all at once. Some people were asking why I just did an episode wearing my brown belt when I had already been promoted to black, lol. Yeah, the show's not live dude. haha

Out of all the episodes, which one did you have the best learning experience from?

The thing about the show is, it's not scripted so it's all done in pretty much one take. It's hard to learn something just by doing it a couple times. But I can say, of all the guests that we've had on Rolled Up, there have been a few that I've spent more time with (off camera) and learned a lot from. Those fantastic instructors include Shawn Williams, Gokor, and Nino Schembri.

Naturally, you get to roll with featured stars on each of the episodes, but which athlete gave you the hardest roll?

Many of them were hard rolls, as I'm sure they viewer can see, lol. Rolled Up is a nice advertisement for these instructors and many of them made sure to look as good as possible. I'm not saying this to make any excuses, but just to explain that many of these were not just friendly gym rolls. That's fine though, my goal in the show was always to showcase the talent's skills. Getting beat up (hence the name 'Rolled Up') was always just part of the show.

Michael Langhi demonstrates a technique on Jake in an episode of Rolled Up
From your travels are there any funny moments of bloopers you would like to share with us?

Here's a story that I've never told anyone. I went up to train with Denny Prokopos once. The next day we had planned to train with Caio Terra. I felt fine during Denny's class, but later that night I got hit HARD with what I now know was the swine flu. I've never felt so sick in my life. I puked all night and could barely walk. So we drove up to Caio's place but I waited in the car while my buddys went in to train. After class Caio came out and chatted with me for a minute. A couple weeks later Caio was barely able to compete at the Pan because he came down with a bad flu. So there ya have it, I unintentionally gave Caio the swine flu. Sorry buddy!

Could you give us a bit of a background on your competition history?

I really didn't start competing much until black belt. Weird, I know. My foremost interest was learning, not competing. Looking back on it, I wish I had competed more at the lower belts. It's true that you learn a lot by competing, and by preparing for competition. I've had a lot of fun matches over the past year including getting gold at the American Nationals last year. Currently I'm ranked #9 (Masters 2, feather weight) and I look forward to competing for many more years to come.

Personally, do you like competition? And do you believe it makes your overall Jiu-Jitsu better?

I hate the weight cutting, which is why I now maintain a "competition ready" weight. Other than that, yes, I really do enjoy it. I especially like competing at black belt because I can face guys that I've known, or even interviewed before. I think everyone should try it. Yes, the nerves suck and there's always a possibility of getting embarrassed in front of your friends but for me the bottom line is this: If you truly want to improve yourself and your jiujitsu, you should compete. You will learn a lot, not only about what techniques work and what doesn't, but you'll also learn about yourself - if you observe carefully.

Jake takes gold at the 2013 American Nationals
Source: GrappleTV
Do you get very nervous when you compete? If so, what do you try and do to help with your nerves?

Yes, I think everyone does. Even multiple time world champs do. There are two things that help me. 1) Remembering that I'm doing this because I enjoy it. That helps me keep a healthy attitude about it. I just go out and try to do the best I can and that's it. 2) Zazen. Meditation is a great way to calm the mind.

Personally, how do you feel Gracie Barra stacks up against other major teams?

I think GB is still doing great, with guys like Braulio & Victor Estima, Otavio Sousa, Romulo Barral, Rafael Freitas, there's a long list of tough guys that are consistently on the podium. That being said, Atos and Alliance are providing great environments for young athletes to really devote their lives to training. For guys that want to train 3 times a day in a competition minded environment, well that's not really what most GB schools are providing at this time.

Will you be looking to compete this year?

Yes, for sure. I'm looking forward to Nogi Worlds, Masters Worlds, and whatever IBJJF opens I can make it to.

Could you give us an insight into what your game is like?

I'm told that it's pretty eclectic. I just do whatever anyone else does, which is to work on the techniques that come naturally for me. My main technical influences have been Marcio Feitosa, Kayron Gracie, and Otavio Sousa but I've been exposed to so many other guys (through my shows) that have influenced my game. I like gi and nogi equally and I like the guard but I'm always trying to improve my weak points, and continue the learning.

In June of last year you were finally promoted to black belt along with your good friend AJ Agazarm. How did it feel to finally get promoted to black belt?
It felt surreal. The belt has never been a goal of mine. My focus was always on learning, the belt was just a side effect. In fact I had just started to compete at the end of my brown belt. When I was told I'd be promoted in June I even contemplated going on an extended vacation so I could keep my brown belt! That being said, after a while it sunk in, and now I have to say that it's pretty nice being a black belt. It reminds me to be a good role model, to train more seriously, and to focus more on teaching.

AJ Agazarm and Budo Jake are promoted to black belt
Now that you are a black belt has anything changed?

Yes, I started teaching, which has been a lot of fun. Also I just made my first instructional: Going Upside Down: A Beginner's Guide to Inverting for BJJ. I think it's common for black belts to start teaching more. I guess the different thing about me is that I also started competing more too. I find that most athletes compete less when they get their black belt. I guess that might be because they are busy with teaching duties, and in some cases they don't want to risk losing in front of their students. After all, a black belt is supposed to be invincible, right? :)

Outside of Jiu-Jitsu, what other interests do you have?

I like traveling (usually to Asia), eating healthy, hiking, and retro gaming.

I know that you love Japan, but what is it about Japan and Japanese culture that you love so much?

That's a deep question and I can't pinpoint when the interest started, but it was when I was a young child. I was always fascinated with the culture and the arts. I did a homestay in Japan in 1993 and later moved there for a few years. It's hard to say exactly what my fascination is but to put it simply I would say that I like the (traditional) Japanese approach to self-development. The internal focus, the refinement of one's craft.

If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?

I often wish I would have started BJJ at a younger age, but on the other hand, I might have burned myself out. By starting at a later age I think I was able to approach the art from a more mature point of view. But still, it would have been nice to start earlier. :)

Recently, your Professor Otavio Sousa was fired from his position at Gracie Barra Irvine. How did you feel about the situation itself? And the reason why he was fired?

That came as a big shock to all of the students. I don't know all of the details, but here's what I can tell you: The decision to fire Otavio was made by the school owners - who were 2 fellow black belts. It was not a top down decision. Even though the school was commonly called "GB HQ", it ceased being HQ a few months prior. Otavio is a fantastic instructor and world champion competitor. I have nothing bad to say about him. If I were to guess, I would say the decision to fire him was purely a financial one.

Otavio Sousa and Budo Jake

What is the situation like at the academy like now?

I don't know because I haven't been back since Otavio was fired. All of the upper belts and the entire teaching staff left that day as well. Just about all of the students have relocated to other GB schools. We all have to drive a little farther for our training now but I think Otavio will open his own school soon and I'm sure most of the students will go wherever he opens up.

Okay, time for the quick fire questions, they are:

1. Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh? Never played either!
2. Rickson Gracie or Sakuraba?
I'm big fans of both, but I have to go with Sakuraba. Who knew that Pro-wrestlers could actually fight! People that weren't around during Saku's prime just don't understand how amazing it was to see a guy do so well against so many Gracies. That was the golden age of MMA IMO.
3. Kevin Nash or Scott Hall?
Never was into Pro-wrestling.
4. Soda or Juice?
Juice, gotta stay healthy.
5. Sun or Snow?
Sun, and some warm water.
6. Pizza or Spaghetti?
Pizza, with mushrooms please.
7. DVD or VHS?
What kinda question is this? If it was MP3 or vinyl we could have a discussion about the nostalgia factor but no one is nostalgic for VHS. :)
8. E-Mail or Letter? Email
. After using a computer for most of my life I don't think you could read my hand writing if I tried.
9. Rafael or Guilherme Mendes? Gui. Rafa gets more credit because he competes more, so I gotta give Gui some love. I also admire the fact that Gui proves that light featherweights can pass guard. He's the best pressure passer in his weight class.

10. Beach or Pool? Beach, as long as the water is warm. None of that cold Cali water for me.
11. Dr. Pepper or Coke?
Dr. Pepper.
12. Tan or Pale?
I don't tan, I burn, so I'll go with pale.
13. Sega Mega Drive or SNES?
SNES all the way.
14. Scorpion or Sub-Zero?
Scorpion had the better voice - Get over here!
15. Whole Wheat or White?
16. Think before you talk or talk before you think?
If you often say stupid things, you better think before you talk. If you've got a clear mind, than thinking is no longer necessary.
17. Asking questions or answering questions?
I'm naturally an inquisitive person so I'll go with asking questions but a good conversation should have a balance of both.
18. Deep Half or Spider? Used to do a lot of deep half, now I'm doing more spider. It's important to work on our weak areas.

19. Roger Gracie or Rodolfo Viera? Roger in BJJ, not Roger in MMA.
20. Nuts or Raisins?
Nuts, preferably coated in wasabi.

Thank you very much Jake for the interview, it has been a privilege. Before we end the interview is there anybody who you would like to thank?

Thank you for the well-thought out questions Giordano! It's a pleasure to answer fun questions like these. I want to thank all the Budo customers worldwide, all the TWIBJJ & Rolled Up viewers, and everyone who picked up my instructional "Going Upside Down"!
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Monday, 14 April 2014

Update (14/04/14)

This is probably going to be the quickest update post I've ever done. The reason for that is there isn't really that much to say, but I do have a few things.
Firstly, I started a new series which I called "10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey", which as the title suggests is about my Jiu-Jitsu story. The reason I started this is because I have been training BJJ now for a decade, which is a very long time in my book! And I thought I would share my story with you as hopefully some of you may find it interesting. Personally, I think this series will appeal more to the people who know me, but hopefully lots of people who don't know me will also enjoy it. Part 1 of the series can be found here. The second part will be released tomorrow if I receive no interviews my tomorrow.
On the subject of interviews, I have a new one! My next interview will be with BudoVideos own Budo Jake. I think this will be an exciting interview for you guys as this will be different to the traditional competitor interviews I carry out. Hopefully, the interview will be up sometime in the next few days. I am still waiting on replies from Gianni Grippo and Kit Dale.
That's all for this week!
Catch you later,
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Friday, 11 April 2014

10 Years of BJJ - My Jiu-Jitsu Journey - Part 1 (The Beginning)

So I have being doing BJJ for 10 years! I don't know the exact date when I started, but I know it was in April 2004, and I was 9 years old. Actually, except for three other people, me and my brother are actually the longest running students at our academy (Chris Rees Academy/Gracie Barra Swansea), which is quite weird when I come to the think about it! There were loads of people training before me, but for whatever reason they just stopped and I carried on.
So I thought some of you might be interested in how I got started in Jiu-Jitsu, so I thought I would share my journey with you.
So before I started BJJ, I did kickboxing for around a year, and started when I was 8 years old. If I'm honest I didn't really like kickboxing that much and I only really did it since my best friend at the time was doing it, and it was chance for us to hang out after school. Anyway, the club was at a small gym in Skewen, which is a small village in South Wales, where I live and eventually moved to Cwmbwrla, Swansea. After that my friend stopped going, I did a few more sessions but ultimately stopped as I really didn't like it.
Well anyway, a few months later (April 2004), my Dad said someone had told him that the gym in Skewen had been taken over, and was now doing Jiu-Jitsu. So I was pretty intrigued by the thought of it, and to be perfectly honest I had no idea what Jiu-Jitsu was or what is consisted of, but since the gym is about a 2 minute drive from my house, we went down to have a look. For whatever reason my brother didn't come with us, I don't know if he was sick or just couldn't be bothered, but anyway he wasn't there.
I remember the drive to gym, and just wondering what I was about to witness, a montage of every Karate Kid movie I had ever seen, and every Mortal Kombat game I had ever played was running through my mind at this point, so I was pretty damn excited!
So we arrive at the gym, and made my way upstairs to where the mats were, and the first person I met was a women called Tracey, who is my head instructors sister, and basically told be what Jiu-Jitsu was and what I would expect on my first lesson. So then Tracey instructed two guys at the front of the mats, who were Mike (Tracey's husband) and Chris, who is my head instructor, and was a purple belt at the time. So they did a few techniques, and to be perfectly honest I didn't really know what I was seeing, just two guys rolling about on the floor, but it was enough to convince me to give this Jiu-Jitsu stuff a try.
When I got home I told my brother about what I saw, and to be honest I think I basically described it as a more technical WWE, as that was the best thing my 9 year old brain could come up with. Actually, I thought Mike was the head instructor, and not Chris, simply for the fact that he was older. At this point I'm pretty sure our academy wasn't under Gracie Barra either, I think that happened some time later in the year. 
So that was my first introduction to Jiu-Jitsu! And 10 years later I'm still doing it!
Part 2 will follow shortly.
Catch you later,
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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Will BJJ Make It To The Olympics?

I'm pretty sure everybody will have an opinion on this particular subject. I'm sure all sports would like to see their sport make it into the Olympic Games, and BJJ is no different. It would pretty much be a dream come true to see BJJ be a part of the 2016 summer Olympics which are being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the home of BJJ. The fact of the matter is BJJ is a LONG way from being considered to be an Olympic sport. I'm not saying in the future it might not, but the way it is currently, there is no real chance.  

Pretty much BJJ will be compared to Judo, and in all of these points for BJJ not being in the Olympics, the same cannot be said for Judo.
Now, there are lots of factors which result in BJJ not being an Olympic sport, but probably the main ones which stick out to me are:
·      There are not enough black belts internationally, and it is not popular enough worldwide - If you think about it, BJJ is probably one of the youngest sports in the world today. People only really started to get into Jiu-Jitsu after UFC 1 which was in 1993. But even after that it took a considerable while for it so become popular.
Realistically, the only countries at the moment which could even potentially create a high level Olympic team are Brazil, United States, and maybe Japan. At the moment, not a lot of countries produce enough black belts. If you go to the majority of countries in the world, there will be most probably be tons of Judo black belts, but how many of those countries have BJJ black belts? Quite a lot of countries don't have any black belts what so ever.
At many major BJJ competitions, the competitors are mainly from Brazil and the U.S.A. The Olympic Games are meant to showcase the very best athletes from around the world in their given sport, but you can't really do that with realistically only three countries. Most probably Brazil will win every single division available, but that might be slightly different in terms of the women's division.
I mean how many non-Brazilian black belt world champions has there been? Well so far only two, those being BJ Penn (2000) and Rafael Lovato Jr (2007). Obviously, as time progresses, the standards on non-Brazilian fighters will get better. If you look at the black belt division today you have very good non-Brazilian grapplers such as Keenan Cornelius, Gary Tonon, AJ Agazarm, DJ Jackson, Ryan Hall, James Puopolo etc.   
·       No single governing body - There are many different governing bodies across the world, but as of today the leading organization is obviously the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation). Some other organizations include the UAEJJ, CBJJE, and the CBJJO.
Like I said previously, in the majority of circumstances, BJJ will mostly be compared to Judo, and Judo has the IJF (International Judo Federation) as their main governing body. At the moment, Judo is an Olympic sport, so I suppose it’s only kind of natural to look at them as an example. The IJF was actually founded in 1951, and as of today has produced over 200 separate federations all over the world. This is something that no BJJ organization can do at the moment as not enough countries worldwide practice BJJ.
·       No main set of rules - There are no set in stone complete set of rules for BJJ, they alter depending upon on the organization which is running the competitions. Although it must be said that the majority of BJJ tournaments are run under IBJJF rules, there are numerous different organizations which create their own unique set of scoring systems. 
I would probably say those are the main three factors for BJJ not becoming an Olympic sport, but some other factors include:
·       Not a spectator sport - Now obviously I'm not talking about BJJ practitioners, we will always find it interesting, but to non-BJJ practitioners might find it boring to watch. This is probably because they don't understand what's happening in the match, and to be honest the current situation of the double guard pull doesn't really help this. 
·        Lack of female competitors - Again, the women's division is forever growing, but compared to the male division it is very small. It's only recently that they put women brown and black belts in separate divisions.
·        Limited media coverage - The significant majority of BJJ events are only broadcast over the internet. However, some BJJ events can be seen on TV channels in Brazil, and the WPJJC can also be viewed on TV in Abu Dhabi.
·       It's too similar to Judo and Wrestling - Actually I was quite surprised to hear that wresting struggles to keep both of its variants (Greco-Roman and Freestyle) in the Olympics, so what are the chances of introducing another grappling based art. I think as well the general public would see it as too close to Judo.  
·      The judging and refereeing standard is not consistent - It seems like in BJJ there is always some problem with decisions, bad calls etc. Even at the highest level of competition the refereeing standards are mixed and are not always at a high standard. At this point the match between Roger Gracie and Jacare sticks out in my mind, as this is probably one of the most controversial matches ever. Obviously, things have come a long way since then, and the IBJJF are always trying to improve the issue of 'dodgy' referring.
Those are the things that stick out in my mind as being factors for BJJ not making it to the Olympics, well at least for now anyway. I'm pretty sure there are other things you could say which could contribute to it not being in the Olympics also, but to me those are the things that mostly stick out. I guess the main thing that can solve all of these things is simply time. Our sport is fairly new compared to all the other martial arts out there, so naturally it’s going to take time for it to significantly develop in all fields.
I'm pretty sure everybody will have some sort of opinion on this subject, and this is simply just my opinion, so don't take it too seriously!
I would be interested in hearing some of your guy’s opinions on the subject, so feel free to comment.
I hope you guys enjoyed this article!
Catch you later,
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