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 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"!


  1. Great interview! Never knew Jake was a retro gamer :)

    1. Thanks man! It's greatly appreciated!

      Haha! Me neither! :)

  2. Congratulations for the interview!!! Knew your blog today and already became an reader!!