Women are different than men. Women appreciate a different learning environment from men. When we look for a Jiu-Jitsu gym we're looking for something more. We seek a nurturing place to grow. We seek a welcoming environment. We seek a place that helps foster a sense of security. We seek a second home. Ezra Taft Benson said, "The fellowship of true friends who can hear you out, share your joys, help carry your burdens, and correctly counsel you is priceless." When we walk into an MMA academy, the intimidation factor can be overwhelming. Trying something new is frightening enough and seeing a wall lined with silent students doesn’t make a woman want to return.
Look no further, said environment is provided by, Brown Belt Lana Hunter, Sundays (noon) at Pinnacle MMA/GFT San Antonio TX. Blue Belt Terry Cutler (El Paso Jiu Jitsu Team Alliance) speaks on her first encounter with the then purple belt. “I love Lana! She was the first female I met that practiced BJJ at a GIGs [Girls In Gis] event 2 years ago. I had no experience, she was super nice. We became friends and she invited me to her event”
The stress free environment Hunter’s class fosters sets each attendee at ease. There is no pressure. One could have the technique of an octopus but you feel like a Prima Ballerina. The clumsiness one may be prone to in co-ed situations seems insignificant. One feels accepted be she a newbie with only days of training under her belt or a seasoned fighter with national/world titles. Fellow brown belt Katharine Harrison (Cooper MMA, Austin TX) has known Hunter since the beginning of her BJJ journey and is an ardent supporter noting, “Lana is awesome and anyone is lucky to be able to attend her class.” Hunter’s class teaches you not only about a sense of self-awareness during a technique but a sense of those around you and how it all connects in BJJ. Each and every session you attend builds upon the last and slowly but surely, your confidence level begins to grow. The co-ed environment starts to become less intimidating to you. Eventually, you are eager to try out your skill set in any setting with much more confidence.
Hunter is providing women the golden opportunity to train BJJ with partners their size, various skill levels and from multiple affiliations. Just 5 years ago, no classes like this existed. Girls in Gis paved the way. Still, it begs the question, what made Hunter want to do this? She answered with, “I volunteered to teach a women’s class at my academy to give women in the community an opportunity to train with each other and to provide a women's-only environment to encourage new women to try BJJ. BJJ has brought so much good to my life. I wanted to give back to it and what better way than to share my passion with others and specifically, women.” The feedback Hunter has encountered thus far for her efforts has been nothing but positive. She makes mention of remarks students make after a session, “I know the classes have been a success because the ladies are asking me when the next class will be held. They also start recommending the class to their friends and encouraging them to come join the fun!
Hunter is well known in BJJ circles having competed since 2008 Gi and No-Go at Mundials and Nationals and consistently placing in the top 3 in her divisions. When encountering Hunter, you will know immediately, her goal in BJJ is not only to better herself but to help other women reach the level that she has in the sport that she loves deeply. Watching her seamless transitions with each technique from start to finish gives one the impression that she was born doing this. That is simply not the case. She also started from square one (losing two matches the same day in her first competition) before she could become the Head Hunter in Charge and lead her own group of Lethal Ladies.
Jess Zamora (Pinnacle MMA/GFT) is clear about what impact Hunter’s class has had on her, “I found out about Lana's class from a family friend who attends Lana's gym. I was motivated to go and learn ways to defend myself. That developed into a deep rooted interest and love for BJJ. I’m proud to say I'm affiliated with Lana's gym Pinnacle. Lana is one of the main reasons I chose to stay and attend as a full time BJJ practitioner.” Like Zamora, Hunter’s initial goals were not exactly what they are now. She started out passionate about becoming an MMA fighter. Lucky for the women of San Antonio (I guess not her BJJ opponents) she was destined for something else. A knee injury took away her stand up game and from there her ground game was born. Hunter’s passion for this sport is clear by the way she instructs each student. No one in the class gets left out for any reason.
Hunter trains under 3rd Degree Black Belt Bruno Alves and it shows in her thoughtful teaching style. Her class continues to grow and she reflects upon this, "One of my most favorite and rewarding parts of teaching is hearing how much students enjoyed the class! Being able to lead a class that has been a positive and enjoyable experience for the student is definitely a huge reward. If I had to pick a 2nd favorite aspect of teaching, it's seeing students able to execute the techniques that I've taught! The classes have achieved my goals of providing an environment for women to train with each other! Seeing the benefits of the class I do hope to make the class more frequent one day (see Facebook page below for exact class dates and times). This can provide more continuity from one technique to the next.
One might think, any women’s only class should be successful. Just put a female BJJ instructor in a room with other females ranging from all ages, sizes, and skill levels and the class will be a success. I’ll let those who may have their own up and coming women’s class be the judge of that. What I can say is that Hunter’s class is such a success because of her. She takes the time to get to know each and every one of her attendees. There is a genuine love that she displays with each technique. It makes you want to perfect those movements just for her. Hunter’s level of commitment and devotion is absolutely authentic. The environment is indeed amazing, but the HHIC is what keeps the mats packed. As a women looking for a place to train now or in the future where ever the road leads remember this, “The hardest choices in life aren't between what's right and what's wrong but between what's right and what's best.” Jamie Ford
Follow Professor Alves, Hunter, and Pinnacle MMA/GFT at:
Military Veteran Overcoming PTSD Through Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Training
Death, Assaults, and War are amongst the abnormal experiences that causes damage to an individual physically and emotionally. The aftermath triggers a high level anxiety effect known as Post-traumatic Stress. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition developed after a person has experienced a terrifying event which physical harm occurred or was threatened. Its strangling power sneaks into every facet of your life which symptoms include disturbing flashbacks, depression, mood changes, and negative thinking.
Luckily there is a way to combat this problem. Martial Arts have served as an outlet to coping with this mental illness which has not only proved therapeutic but also a vehicle to positively rebuilding a participant's life. Robert Consulmagno has experienced more than one can ever imagine. Undergoing a series of traumatic events he is a living testament of strength, courage, and discipline as his participation in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has helped him to harness his PTSD and achieve great feats as an athlete.
Post Traumatic originates from many stressors. For Consulmango the source arose from his childhood in witnessing unspeakable acts of violence within his family altering his life forever.
“I lost my biological father to suicide, seen my mother brutally beaten, held a gun in my hand at ten years old which my step father used to shoot my second step-father and then take his own life, and thrown down a flight of stairs by the same horrible step father causing me to be placed in a full body cast. I will never forget my mom waking me and my siblings to sneak into the back of a van to hide out because my step father was in his car with a gun ready to come into the apartment to hurt us.”
Looking to be part of something and escape the horrors of family life Consulmango joined the U.S Marines. Serving his country from 1991 to 1996 he was part of Operation Desert Storm stationed in Okinawa Japan and the United States. Sadly in the military his PTSD condition worsened as a result of numerous problems which was a replica of the life he left back home.
“While I was in the Marine Corps I was hazed a lot and everyday was a battle, “he recalled. Little did they know they made me worse.”
Those ordeals in fact made Consulmagno worse as PTSD placed his entire life in a stranglehold. Constantly living in paranoia, distrust with people, and having a negative outlook there had to be something that could introduce him to the positive features life had to offer. Previously competing in boxing like his great grandfather Mickey Taylor Consulmagno’s entry into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Introduced to this grappling style of fighting he instantly became attached as his engagement was a mirror reflection of his tough past life only this time with different effect. The similarities were identical which covered the challenges life throws at its recipient. In that moment he knew he had uncovered something special that could help him.
“My first impression was wow; Jiu Jitsu is tuff as nails!” I knew from taking my first class that my striking skills were out the window and now I was a fish surrounded by sharks, but in a good way! I knew this would help me with my PTSD! “Jiu-Jitsu teaches you how to get out of bad situations. It mimics my life”.
Three years deep that curiosity of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu couldn't have been a better decision to pursue for the now 41 year old BJJ Purple belt. Living, breathing, and training on the mats has offered Consulmagno some peace from his inner turmoil. His skills as an athlete can't be ignored either as his dominance in BJJ competitions has racked him multiple local, national, and international titles making him amongst the top ranked competitors in the country. Robert's competing initiative has also gained personal fulfillment by going through that indescribable feeling doing something that is making him better.
“Honestly I really crave the rush from the fights!! Competing makes me feel alive again. I feel so free win or lose.”
There comes a low period in every person's life where some self-evaluation has to be made. You have be honest with yourself as to why you feel a certain way, what is holding you back, and most importantly what are you willing to do to make yourself better to restore peace in your heart ? Many people are bound by the constraining chains of failure, worry, and past experiences which create Fear. Yes it is an oppressive controller but it is more than anything an illusionist because once the problem is recognized it can easily be eliminated.
Even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has its weakness which has been exposed by Robert Consulmango. To think there was no hope for him but the life he is living today says otherwise through training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Now at a peaceful place Consulmango is far from complete as he has new goals not only for himself but also the care of others.
“My goals are to attain my Black Belt, The Worlds, and someday teach people from all walks of life, “Consulmango revealed. I will continue to push the bar and inspire everyone!
Consulmango's story serves as a reminder who struggle with issues in their life of what happens when one attacks their fears and dare to believe they deserve better thus conquering the battle against themselves.
Robert Consulmagno BJJ Achievements
IBJJF Pan Ams No Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
4x time IBJJF New York Open Gi- Gold Medalist 2013-2014
IBJJF Boston Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
IBJJF Miami Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2011
Florida State Federation -Gold Medalist 2011
2x NAGA- Gold Medalist Gi
Philadelphia Good Fight- Gi Gold Medalist
Gracie Barra -Gold Medalist Adult Division
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Gold Medalist
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Silver Medalist Adult division
US Grappling Submission Only GI -Silver Medalist Absolute division
NAGA- Silver Medalist No Gi
Long Island Pride -Silver Gi Medalist Adult Division
Snappy interview with Patches O’Toole owner Aengus Ryan, we have a chat about the brand, what the thinking was behind it and what are the plans for the future.
Those of you with an ear to the ground for the latest BJJ gear offerings may have heard of a new name popping up lately, that of Patches O’Toole. Patches O’Toole dropped onto the BJJ gear scene at the start of 2014 with a range of gi patches, quite unlike anything on the market. Some were reminiscent of old style tattoos, some focused on hand drawn lettering, whatever the style, they were pretty awesome.
Other than the cool designs, the one thing that stands out with these patches is the quality. All of the patches are embroidered, to the highest standard. The great thing about this is that they will last for years. Many of the printed patches I’ve had during my time doing Jiu-Jitsu have worn with the constant friction from the mats. This should not be a factor with these one’s as there is no print to rub off. Patches O’Toole are so confident with the quality that they have a 3 year warranty on all of their patches, which is saying something. The shipping is also free on all patches which is cool, as no one enjoys getting hit with shipping costs as they reach checkout.
Hey Aengus, so can you tell us a bit about where Patches O’Toole came from and what’s with the weird name?
Lol, sure. I’ve been playing BJJ for a good few years now and like most of your readers, would consider it my passion. I’ve always wanted to help to promote the sport somehow but was never quite sure how I could contribute. I’m a graphic designer by trade, so one day I thought of the notion of combining the two things I spend most of my time doing. It was a kind of marriage made in heaven type affair, getting to produce things that people enjoy while doing what I love, so I’m pretty pleased with how things are going.
The name is an odd one, I agree. Bit of a mixed story as to where it came from. Myself and my wife used to have a goldfish called Patches O’Toole that had a few white patches on him. Why we added the O’Toole bit – who knows, I think it was just to add an Irish twist to it. Some people think it’s from the dodgeball character, but that dude was Patches O'Houlihan, lol.
In terms of BJJ players out there, who would be some of your favorites?
I’m not really a fan of a lot of the more recent BJJ styles, the 50/50 or the sitting on your butt double guard pulling shenanigans. It’s not exciting and while it’s clearly very technical, it’s boring to watch. Guys like Galvao and Braulio Estima are cool, really exciting Jiu-Jitsu, which is great from a spectator point of view. I used to love Roger Gracie’s total top domination and how Jacare would incorporate Judo. An epic throw is infinitely more exciting to watch than two dudes scissor banging each other.
Would you like to end up sponsoring any of those guys?
For sure, that would be awesome. We only got going in January so I think that’s a way off, but certainly something to work towards. I’m a big believer in building from grass roots, so looking after local tournaments is something I will be looking to in the future, build things up slowly and help contribute to the local scene. We can’t all go all in straight to the top, there are valuable lessons to be learned by building a business up one step at a time.
So have you found the BJJ community responsive to the Patches O’Toole designs?
Yes indeed, those who like what we do have been great and I’m extremely grateful to them. Ours is a very niche sport in the grand scheme of things and the BJJ community is always great at getting behind our own and helping out. Of course the designs aren’t to everyone’s liking, but hey, they are artistic and styles of art please one person more than the other, it’s would be boring if everyone liked just one brand or listened to one type of music. Our personal tastes and individuality are great.
So what can we look forward to from you guys in the future?
I have a few ideas for some patches I would like to bring out, along with one for kids which quite a few people have been requesting. Some stuff for the ladies only would be good and I have also started kicking around some ideas for a rash guard. The rashie would need to be pretty epic, so that’s something I want to sit on for a while to make sure it’s just right before I release it.
Is there anyone in particular you would love to train with?
I’ve always wanted to go train with Saulo Ribeiro, I think his Jiu-Jitsu is so solid and his teaching style so easy to learn that I couldn’t help but pick up lots. Fabio Gurgel and Caio Terra are others that stand out too. Any of Caio’s instructionals I’ve watched have been very easy to learn from and I’ve always thought being excellent at conveying how to do things displays a deep understanding of the art.
Thanks for the chat Aengus & we’re looking forward to seeing what’s next from Patches O’Toole.
How does one make an Impact? What makes a goal meaningful? What is one willing to do to achieve it thus turning dreams into reality? Many athletes’ especially BJJ fighters embody this concept in their sole commitment to making things happen. After all it’s what makes the person who they are from the many challenges they must overcome to obtain that desired goal. However don't mistake them for being self-centered and solely out for themselves because they have a way of applying what they learned in the dojo and competition arena to making a positive contribution to the world aiding their fellow man.
Take Tinguinhna BJJ Brown Belt Bret Russell for instance. Eight years participation in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has taught him countless life lessons. Through competing at the world class grappling level, grueling training sessions, and rising in the belt ranks you would think he has experienced it all which has made him into the man he is today. However little did he know his journey would take him into another direction after an eye-opening trip to Costa Rica meeting the kids of the Pura Vida Foundation.
Find out the impact one is striving to make in this little community in Jaco, Costa Rica as Bret Russell reveals to us here at BJJ Legends.
Every individual that participates in Martial Arts has their own set of experiences. Taking your journey into a traveler’s direction with your visit to Costa Rica, what was the purpose of your visit?
Bret Russell: The purpose of the visit was to take my girlfriend on a surprise vacation to Costa Rica for her birthday. Obviously, with the trip it presented a new environment to train Jiu-Jitsu. On our zip-lining excursion I was informed about Leo Ruaro who was a local that trained Jiu-Jitsu. That night we met up to train for the first time in a small shack with tons of little kids. It was that night that I learned about the amazing program Leo has running in Jaco, Costa Rica. Leo not only provides Jiu-Jitsu lessons for these kids, he provides them with school supplies, transportation to and from Jiu-Jitsu, and offers these kids a chance to steer clear from the rough path of street life and drugs.
Paint a picture for us about the living conditions and what life is like for a typical individual growing up there?
Bret Russell: Costa Rica is a beautiful country and a tropical paradise. It’s a combination of a Caribbean and jungle-like environment. The food is incredible and the land is inviting to many different types of species of wildlife. The living conditions, like any place, are very poor in some areas and wealthier in others. There was poverty in the area of the country we were staying. A typical living condition would include a small home, modern facilities, low cost of living, and readily accessible medical/pharmacy clinics. For the general population, Costa Rica has a high standard of living. A typical individual growing up in Costa Rica would involve being exposed to all the land has to offer: the beaches, the national park, surfing, Jiu-Jitsu, fishing, and a very close-knit community.
Can you share with us some information about the Pura Vida Non-Profit Organization?
Bret Russell: Pura Vida Non-profit organization is more than just an organization. Pura Vida is translated as pure life and is the saying to which most individuals in Costa Rica live their life by. This organization goes above and beyond for every child that is involved in the program. The organization encompasses Pura Vida through every child. The organization makes sure they have what they need as a child such as school supplies, transportation, taking the children for dental check-ups and medical care, clothing, and most importantly providing each and every one of these children with a positive environment. Most of these children come from broken homes and this organization creates hope, stability, and consistency for many of these young children. After interacting and getting to know these kids my plan is to contribute to this wonderful organization as much as I can.
Tell us about your experience working with the group?
Bret Russell: My experience with this organization and the kids has changed a part of me forever. These kids are the most appreciative, willing to learn, and most TOUGH group of kids I have ever come across. They have since changed locations but the location I was brought to was literally a shack in the middle of the jungle and the vibe was amazing. The place has "soul" and that comes from the man who made this all possible. There is a hand full of rules that you would expect from any Jiu-Jitsu academy but the rule that stuck out most was the rule that you must bring two friends to class as time goes on. Keep in mind Leo does this out of the kindness of his heart and does not charge the kids. Everything they have is from donations and hand made from the Jiu-Jitsu family that Leo has created. Leo allowed me to teach a couple classes while I was in Jaco and to this day it was the most life changing teaching experience I have ever had.
Can you share with us a particular child that made an impression on you?
Bret Russell: There was a particular child who particularly captured our hearts. He has a rough home life with a mother and father not always around. This Jiu-Jitsu program has given him the chance to interact with positive role models that will guide him down a more promising path. This child is full of life and loves being active. He also had a passion for playing iphone games and knowing more about your phone than you do. You cannot help but smile and laugh when you’re around him.
How has it all affected you?
Bret Russell: When it came to our last days in Costa Rica you couldn’t help but feel like you needed to contribute to this amazing contribution. Leo is running not only a Jiu-Jitsu class but has offered himself to be all of these children’s life coach. Leo works very hard to maintain this program for the kids and make sure each and every one is taken care of on multiple levels. Leo also does not accept money, instead he will ask you to use that money and purchase something they need such as Gi’s, mats, etc. I immediately started thinking of ways of how I could help this program out. There was no way I could leave all the kids and everyone involved without being touched. These kids will always be dear to my heart and anything I can do to help I will do without hesitation.
Aspiring to make a difference how do you look to contribute?
Bret Russell: I will be host a Charity Grapplethon event.I have done the basic ground work as far as receiving the “ok” for this event at a few locations... I have an open door policy with countless jiu jitsu academy's. My preferred location would be somewhere in San Diego County.
When will the Grapplethon take place?
Bret Russell: I don’t have a set date just yet but be on the lookout for more information!
Until that time is there any way people can contribute?
Brett Russell: People can contribute anything from used gi’s, new gi’s, no-gi gear, clothing, school supplies, and money. Anything will help these kids!
Any final thoughts before we close this interview?
Bret Russell: I can’t wait to put on this event for such a wonderful organization that has really touched me and countless others!
Matheus Magalhaes, Brazilian, 20, and IBJJF 2014 Adult Male Blue Belt Champion (Rooster Division).
If home is where the heart is, this young man was clearly made for the mat. Matheus Magalhães began his humble ascent to IBJJF World Champion back in 2009. One chance meeting with Master Julio Cesar Pereira helped to mold a very gifted athlete. Once Magalhães moved to Rio de Janeiro to train under Master Pereira his life would never be the same. He began training with GFT an elite squad of competitors and one could say the rest is history. So many competitors look for the opportunity afforded to Magalhães and as he said “I did not imagine fighting in America this year; I was surprised, blessed by God.” 2014s IBJJF World Championship marked the first time Magalhães would be competing on such a grand stage. He had the full support of his mentors Professor Alberto Guedes and Master Pereira.
In order to become a champion, it takes more than desire and hope; you must work diligently towards your goal. Magalhães had to break away from all he knew to achieve a status that some will work their entire lives for and never obtain. He left his family and hometown of Canindé, Ceara, Brazil. He trained day in and day out for the last five years. He was almost there; all he had to do was get to America and compete. He received even more assistance from Master Pereira and another GFT alumnus Professor Bruno Alves. Pinnacle MMA/GFT owners Daniel and Rebekah Duron helped facilitate Magalhães coming to the United States and getting even closer to his lifelong dream. Once May 30th arrived it was time to reflect upon five long years of preparation, anticipation, and do exactly what he came to do…WIN!
This 20 year old began his BJJ career in 2009 and everything he worked for came down to his skill and determination vs. that of four other blue belts. One match after the other Magalhães picked his competitors off like a sniper. The last fight was his most challenging by far but his years of sacrifice were not in vain. Magalhães emerged victorious and became the IBJJF 2014 Adult Male Blue Belt Champion (Rooster Division). What an accomplishment. What a competitor. He calls it “arguably” his best moment to date and has every intention of returning in 2015 to dominate at Worlds and Pans as a recently promoted Purple Belt.
Looking back on what Magalhães has done to get here, if anyone takes anything away from this Champions ascent, don’t only take away the fact that he is THE CHAMPION. Stop for just a moment and respect the climb. It was arduous, yet he endured, he accepted the challenge and stayed the daunting course. Five years ago this was a 14 year old that made some very tough choices in order to achieve what he has today. That is truly what his journey is all about, THE CLIMB.
Patrick Lencioni notes, “great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.” I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Danny Alvarez and his daughter Danielle of Alvarez BJJ. Their team epitomizes the type of synergy Lencioni references above. You could be a newcomer to BJJ in Texas and you would find out soon enough about the dynamic duo and the rest of the Team Alvarez Superfriends.
A unique combination of humbleness and tenacity is what makes Professor Alvarez’s transcendent style of leadership so effective. A team’s cohesiveness depends on the attitude and guidance of its leader. This 15 year BJJ veteran has wrestled and done Judo but this sport is his calling. “No other sport or martial art has given me the fulfillment that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has. It has really taught me about respect and giving back to others. Its all about how you treat and help others grow as you do.” A sentiment I personally share with Professor Alvarez.
Team Alvarez is driven by an unyielding force at the helm. After 11 years at General Motors, Professor Alvarez decided his heart and soul belonged to BJJ. He left behind the security and stability of a well paying job to prove he was ready to push his team to new heights and that in itself is an admirable trait in a leader. He recognizes what an asset he is to his team as their guide and wanted to give them his undivided attention. Under his expert tutelage some have already surpassed him as competitors at their belt levels.
Up to this point Professor Alvarez has no regrets. A large part of his success is his ability to consistently impose his game upon his opponents. Win or lose according to the Professor “making mistakes is how we improve and get better.” The moment he is the proudest of to date is his triumph to become the IBJJF Masters Worlds 2012 Champion. He defeated World Champions Rodrigo Pagani (Saulo Riberio JJ) and Bernardo Pitel (Nova Uniao). In just six years Team Alvarez has become a force in Texas and the BJJ world and they are hungry for more. Professor Alvarez was sure the moment he started BJJ that it was his destiny, Danielle’s journey to The Promised Land was a bit rockier.
Her first brush with BJJ was around 7 or 8 years old and she rebuffed the sport. She went on to take up other athletics. At 14 she was reintroduced as a method of self defense and again she was not thrilled. Each time there was a practice to be had; Danielle was in attendance full on pout. Once her skill set grew and some confidence along with it, a slight transformation came about. She began to like BJJ a little more and she began to attend more classes sans the pout. At her first competition, NAGA May 2009, Danielle took silver in NOGI and gold in GI. One would think this was the turning point for her and she finally found her way in the BJJ world. I have news for you, after that competition in Dallas; she vowed never to compete again. It took another year before Danielle set foot back on the mat competitively and she has been a hurricane in the BJJ world ever since.
When she sets foot on the mat her level of composure is uncanny. “Whether Danielle is in a good position or a bad one, I never stop talking to her. It’s like playing a video game, she listens so well. I have the controller and Danielle is the character on the screen doing what I am asking her to do,” states Professor Alvarez. I don’t know if it was luck or what but I can say I was fortunate enough to be a part of Danielle’s greatest moment to date at the 2014 Women’s Regional Championship in Denton, Texas. She fought her way through some tough competition to end up in the Super Fight Finals with the Premiere Black Belt in Texas, Professor Fabiana Borges of Gracie Barra BJJ. To this day it is the best match I have seen. Clearly Danielle was the underdog as the Purple Belt going against a Third Degree Black Belt. Both competitors were matched sweep for sweep during this 10 minute match. The auditorium was full of thunderous screams, stomps, and applause the entire time. The match ended in an 8-8 tie. Danielle won by advantages. The look on her face as well as Professor Alvarez’s face was absolutely priceless.
Alvarez BJJ is a powerhouse in Texas. It is undeniable that the success of this team is due to the leadership provided by 2nd Degree Black Belt Professor Danny Alvarez. He has a clear vision for his team and in its six short years of existence this team is hitting its marks. He has a goal to be the best competitor in his division, with the level of unwavering commitment he displays, not a problem. Danielle may have had reservations initially but she has resolved all those issues and her path is clear and her future is bright. She currently represents Texas very well and at the rate she is going her goal to be the best female competitor is not too far off. Alvarez BJJ has raised the bar for us all and Professor Alvarez has no intention on stopping until his team is the best not just in Texas but one of the best in America. This may seem like an overwhelming task but when you are hungry like a wolf, you will make the earth around you quake while in relentless pursuit of your dreams and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Active duty Army, father and huband David juggles multiple moves and family obligations and wins at Masters Pans.
Sidney Howard said, “One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.” To be the best at what you do takes an overwhelming amount of sacrifice. In the case of the 2014 IBJJF Blue Belt Masters 1 Middle Weight Pans Champion David Johnson, he has done his fair share of sacrifice and this year’s Pans win solidified how much hard work does pay off. You know you are in the presence of an indomitable spirit when asking what feeling did he have going into Pans and his response is, “Pans was my toughest and largest competition to date, with that being said, I knew I was going to win. I worked really hard and I went in with the mindset that no one is going to beat me, I want this too bad and someone is going to have to kill me to take it away from me.” These words made me smile.
David Johnson is no Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prototype; this 14 year active duty army member is so much more. His win at Pans came as no surprise to those who train with him on a regular basis. Training full time in order to compete is unrealistic for majority of the BJJ competitors. Only a select few reach that top tier and they typically do not get there without putting in work. The average BJJ competitor has a family, a job (not always 9 to 5), and a list of responsibilities that barely allows them to make it in to train 2 to 3 times a week. Johnson, a provider, a husband and a father is proving that it is not an impossible task. BJJ is for all ages, all stages, and for those who want to feel that amazing transformation that ultimately happens as long as you stay the course.
Juggling his military obligations, family life, and his passion can be tricky. Having a support system that pushes and anchors you is a must. Johnson said, “I'm very fortunate that my wife supports me. After Pans I think my wife understood the amount of training it takes to compete and win against the best in the world.” Preparation for a tournament has to be done with absolute precision. Moving from place to place comes with the territory of military members therefore choosing the right place to train is as essential as consistently passing any guard. Johnson currently trains under 3rd Degree Black Belt Bruno Alves at Pinnacle/GFT in San Antonio, Texas. “I firmly believe if you want to be the best you need to train with the best.” states Johnson.
David Johnson has become a part of an elite squad of champions, he did not walk the exact same path yet he has achieved on the same level. What more can a competitor ask for? The life he leads is not for the undisciplined. This new breed of competitor must possess the same tenacity and desire to achieve at the top tier and heaven help the man that gets in his way. I had many questions for David about his training and his Pans win. I finally asked what we can look forward to from him in the future and I already knew the answer…PLENTY.
“Not a Phase, Being Tapped is Part of the Game:” An Interview with 2013 & 2014 IBJJF World Champion Gezary Matuda
Gezary Matuda is the reigning (back-to-back) light-featherweight IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Champion. At the finals, Gezary (“Ge”) beat Ariadne de Oliveira from team Maestre Wilson in a bracket that consisted of the all-time great Leticia Ribeiro, as well as the talented Nyjah Easton. Ge fights for American Top Team out of Coconut Creek, Florida, having received her black belt in 2012 from Ricardo Liborio. Her first instructor was Alexandre “Penão” Conceição, a 6th degree Carlson Gracie black belt who is one of the most regarded but underpublicized jiu-jitsu instructors in the world. (Penao was Anderson Silva’s BJJ coach and Stephan Kesting raved about him in one of his blog entries after attending a seminar.) Born in Curitiba, Paraná, in 1984, Ge and her husband, Katel Kubis, the ATT pro-team Muay Thai coach, moved to the United States in 2009. They live in Deerfield Beach.
Ge’s demeanor is always bright and friendly. She’s one of those positive, forward-looking people whose expansive personality makes them seem much larger than they physically are. Fighting at 118 lbs., she overwhelms with her brightness. The undershirt she wore at the Worlds was a white tank top by Slept Fightware with a large red-lipstick kiss imprint on the front and the words “Don’t let the looks fool you!” on the back. Ge and Katel are very good-looking. They seem like they were paired on purpose for style magazines. As if life wasn’t unfair enough for the rest of us, they can both destroy another human being in about five seconds: Katel has a knockout highlight reel, and Ge has an arm-bar one floating on the web.
Perhaps because of the striking influence (not just from Katel, Ge was originally a Muay Thai fighter), her game is an intense assault on your senses, as if possessed by the demon of speed. Standing, she goes for takedowns, preferring to shoot in. Even when she pulls guard, she goes for an immediate tripod sweep, not letting her opponents rest mentally at any point. She has talons for grips and is relentlessly throwing submission attacks and wave after wave of sweeps. Her motor revs at the redline the whole match. She forces you to reach her intensity, both physically and mentally. After my encounters with her, I have always left with the clear thought: this is what a world champion looks like, acts, and feels like. Her warm up drills turns legs to jelly.
Aside from her wins, Ge is most proud of and happy whenever she sees a flourishing women’s jiu-jitsu program. She is a strong advocate for women in the martial art. I had the chance to interview Gezary Matuda last week. I was extremely impressed with her positivity that’s measured by her understanding of the difficulty of the sport. Below, she gives one of the best answers to overcoming the “tapping out phase” all Jiu-Jiterios encounter when they first begin.
1) Gezary, congratulations on your amazing win. I’d like to start by simply asking how does it FEEL to be the champion? What sacrifices did you make and how did your family, teammates, and sponsors help?
It's magical to see your dream come true! I was beside people that were with me all the time from the beginning of camp, and then we got to celebrate together at the end, it's priceless!
This is the result of a lot of effort, dedication, and hard work with my team. This couldn't be possible done alone. I feel blessed for having with me my coaches, teammates; all of them helped me by not making my training easy. It didn’t matter if I cried, they made me go beyond my limit.
Also my sponsors Shoyoroll and Slept Fightware that believed in me, I am glad to have them support me.
2) When you were a white belt, did you envision becoming a multiple time world champion across all your ranks? (Gezary is a 5-time champion: 2 at black, 1 at brown, 1 at purple, and 1 at blue.) Who identified your talent early on and how did that person motivate you to work hard for the next ten years to reach where you are today?
When I was a white belt, I used to watch the girls that today I have the honor to fight at black belt. I always wanted to fight and my dream was be a Black Belt World Champion! And now I am, twice! My first teacher was Alexandre Penão (black belt from Carlson Gracie). I am so thankful for everything he taught me. He always supported me and put me to fight. At that time there wasn't a lot of girls fighting in Curitiba and I usually have to fight with heavier girls than me. And he always said, “you can do that, believe!” And here I am 10 years later. I kept his words in my mind: believe you can do that!
3) How would you describe your game? During the Worlds, how do you maintain focus when someone else tries to impose their game?
My game is the game plan that my coaches set for me at my camp. I never change what I was trained to do. If I can't do it the first time, I keep going and adapting until I can put everything in practice. I don't give up when my opponent imposes their game. I keep my game plan until the last second of the fight!
4) Can you give your thoughts on the two major rule changes this year? (The 20 second double-guard pull and the knee reap rules.)
I agree with the new rule of double pull. The fights got more dynamic and the advantage point encouraged the fighters to rise. I think these changes are important to Jiu-Jitsu's evolution for competition.
5) When you teach, what is your advice to white belts to get them through that phase where they are being “tapped” by everyone?
I believe that's not a phase. Being tapped is part of the game. It's a sign that you're learning! Look at the bright side. This happens at sports and at life, too. Jiu-Jitsu is selective, the most dedicated are the ones that keep going. I identify with Rocky's phrase: "It's not about how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
6) Finally, what advice do you give to women Jiu-Jiteiras, especially beginners, to keep them in Jiu-Jitsu?
I would love to see even more Jiu-Jiteiras on the mat! Girls have a lot of fun. Keep on training and don't give up the first time it becomes difficult! Talk to your teacher, and make your goals clear. If you're thinking about competing, don't think it will be easy! You'll never see how far you can go if you give up!
Thank you, Aiseop and BJJ Legends, for the opportunity. I am very happy to have done this interview.
Gezary Matuda is available for workshops, seminars, or camps. She is a highly regarded teacher.
Dream Champion Series Competitor -Travis Conley- The Hunger For Success
Life always seems to be the most challenging when an individual wants something. For many athletes in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu challenges aren't hard to find as it definitely has its share of highs and lows one must encounter in hopes of achieving their goals. Nevertheless the risk is worth the reward because it makes one's purpose that more meaningful when that mission is accomplished.
Renato Tavares Brown Belt, Travis Conley, is one competitor instilled with a burning desire for success. Opportunities have become fully available for this grappling practitioner from Kansas City, Missouri as he has uncovered remarkable talents within himself and achieve great feats in his nine year stint in the sport.
Conley's next challenge will find him as a participant in the submission only Dream Jiu-jitsu Brown Belt Championship Series as he will be going head to head against some of the world's top competitors with a $ 1000 cash prize on the line. But the threat of 31 tough opponents doesn't seem to faze Conley has he looks to put on a Slobberknocker performance showcasing his standing as the Best Brown Belt in the world.
Why So Determined? What Make His Purpose So Significant? Why Even Fear Flees In his Presence?
Conley wasn't hesitant to tell us why here at BJJ Legends as we get an in-depth look at what makes this competitor bound for success.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in BJJ? Travis Conley: My start in BJJ came when I was rehabbing a very severed shoulder reconstruction surgery I suffered from years of professional wrestling. It took me almost a year, all of 2005, working to get back in the ring but one of my college buddies Mike Beyer (I was a junior at CMSU at the time) said, "Hey come roll with us and do some submissions" and I did, never looked back. During high school wrestling I was always getting unnecessary roughness and illegal hold calls and penalty points, so BJJ was a perfect fit haha. I only trained 1-3x a week and didn't train in the gi for probably the first 3yrs, being a wrestler it took me a long while to grasp the concept and adhere to the jiu-jitsu lifestyle.
Reflecting on your journey thus far what do you feel has got you to where you are today? Travis Conley: I think many factors play into what has taken me to this point so far. First, my coaches and teammates, KCBJJ. I have the best any human being could possibly want or ask for. Jason Bircher and Ethan Day were brown belts at the time I started, I train with Jason every day and Ethan has become one of my best friends and motivators. I can't say enough about Renato Tavares, who is completely unselfish and giving, a beacon of a wholesome jiu-jitsu life.
Second and most prominent has to be tenacity. It's hard for me to explain fully, but I know in my heart I've been blessed with something special, something different. We all have gifts and talents, and this is mine. My entire life I've always had this drive, a desire to be World Champion, to be different and not to be mediocre and that fire remains strong, grows stronger each day. I stay hungry, invite and seek new challenges and goals each and every year. I am always the underdog, as long as I can remember, but that role I don't ever see changing and it's who I am. In every situation or obstacle, against odds and opinions I find a way, never give up, never give in...It's this in short that has taken me all over the world, training, competing, meeting all kinds of good people, and to where I am today.
You have made quite a name for yourself as a competitor in the Midwest and even the international circuit. How would you define yourself as a competitor? Travis Conley: I am a fearless competitor. I want the biggest, baddest, best opponents on the planet. The bigger the name or challenge, the more it fires me up, charges me, makes me feel alive. I live for that feeling, the anticipation, the rush, build-up and moments right before a match...nothing else in the world compares. Historically there hasn't been high-level BJJ in Kansas City or the Midwest, but definitely over past couple years it has emerged. People always say, "You can't win a World Title living and training in the Midwest". I don't believe that, and I feel as a trailblazer of sorts for Kansas City. I've realized a lot of the things I've accomplished and I'm doing no one else has, there is no blueprint for me or anyone, and to me that's exciting.
What has competing done for you? Travis Conley: Competing keeps me going. I am a very goal oriented person, that's never the problem but over the past couple years what I've realized above all is the inspiration and motivation what YOU do gives to others. I'm always taken back, in awe when people make comments to me, tell me they saw me at this tournament, or remember that fight, or follow me on social media and that what I'm doing motivates them. It truly is the most rewarding feeling, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility and duty that further motivates me! Competing is the ultimate test, physically, mentally; spiritually...you find out about yourself things you never would have. Step outside of your comfort zone. It's one of the most important things we can do in life to help us to grow and learn.
Speaking of competition your next major battle finds you in the Dream Jiu-jitsu Brown Belt Championship Series tournament. How does it feel to be a part of this prestigious event with some of the best brown belts in the world? Travis Conley: I feel fantastic. It's an honor to be invited and to be among 31 other killers and to have your hard work and dedication recognized. Thank-you to Dan for reaching out to me, and to Raf for going above and beyond, sponsoring and making the trip possible. It's amazing to be able to continue to represent Kansas City and KCBJJ. I feel every single time the whole city is with me, and that just empowers me beyond measure.
What do you feel separates you from the rest on the brown belt competitors? Travis Conley: I pour my heart out every single time I step on the mat, and people recognize that. You can't fake it. I can't speak for the other competitors. Will this be your first time in a no time limit Submission only event? Travis Conley: This will be. I love it, I've always wanted to test myself with one and feel my style fits the rules and format. I've wrestled for hours before, and done crazy matches in professional wrestling, my conditioning is never an issue so I feel great, just excited.
How has the training been going for you preparing for this event? Travis Conley: Training is always good. KCBJJ is building more and more monsters every month, it's insane. I'm there every day, sometimes twice a day. I train clients full-time at my place, Underground Gym as well as run the company and work with online clients. I make time to hit my strength and conditioning workouts, sprints, drills, and yoga. I was in Florida training with Renato last week. Ethan comes to town often, or I make trips to Denver. I'm always getting good training, expanding, reaching out and learning from all my connections, bad asses from all over that I've met over the years.
Hoping to come out on top what would winning this tournament mean to you? Travis Conley: MONEY IN THE BANK and another title to my name!
Finally as you journey continues what do see for yourself in the future? Travis Conley: "The future is not set, there is no fate but that which we make" - Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I plan on continuing to carve a great future for myself and others en route to a World Championship. This year specifically I have goals on qualifying for ADCC and entering into a big IJF tournament as well. I see myself as being a feared opponent, putting people on notice!
Is there anyone you would like to thank before we close this interview? Travis Conley: I have to thank my friends and family, brothers, my roots in Kansas. I love my city. My team KCBJJ and the RTBJJA. My sponsors Ground Control Fight Gear, iFlow, Elite Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, Defense Soap, Zen Zone Yoga, Underground Gym. I would honestly be nowhere without any of them, they back me and believe in me, they make these dreams I'm chasing possible. Last but certainly not least, I have to thank my beautiful girlfriend Laura who strengthens, inspires, and makes me a better version of myself every day!
Leo D’avila is an Atos team member, competitor, coach and IBJJF referee.
Leonardo Henrique D’avila Correa, known only as Leo D’avila. is 5’ 8” and 195 pounds. In the last two years he’s has medaled 27 times in IBJJF sanctioned tournaments in weight classes ranging from Medium Heavy, to Heavy to Super Heavy to Ultra Heavy. He in an elite group of competitors who regularly get on the podium, gi and no gi.
He was born in 1985 in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro. Leo just turned 29 today. (Happy Birthday!) He graduated from university with degrees in Physical Education and Sports Science. Leo received the black belt when he was only 20. While living in Brazil he competed and won many competitions like the State Rio de Janeiro Championship (seven times) and the Brazilian National Championship (two times.)
He is now training in San Diego at the home of Atos headquarters and Andre Galvao.
As an Atos black belt, he has taught 30 seminars in 13 different countries (Europe, Americas, Asia and Africa) including a seminar for the US Navy at Naval Base San Diego. He has traveled to Sweden many times to teach a seminars and twice the UFC fighters Gustafson Alexander and Nicholas Musoke attended.
In 2013, he was Cris Cyborg’s Jiu-Jitsu coach for her title fight at Invicta FC 6 against Marloes Coenen. Cyborg won. He also cornered Andre Galvao in the 2012 IBJJF Pro League and at the first two Metamoris (vs Ryron Gracie and Rafael Lovato.) At Metamoris 3 he cornered the athletes from Atos; Keenan Cornelius and the Mendes Brothers.
But you probably recognize him as a referee at IBJJF events. He’s at a lot of them.
As for the rest of 2014 Leo plans to keep competing and getting better until he can say he's ranked number one in the world. Then in the a few years maybe try his hand at MMA, at least once.
Keelan Berg recently had a stellar performance at the Baddest Blue tournament which found Berg showcasing his great talents against some of the top blue belts in Southern California. He is a blue belt under D.Davis and trains out of Primal Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego. To Keep his competitive spirit going he trains a lot, teaches the kids class and competes every chance he gets.
Care to share with readers about yourself and your BJJ background? Keelan Berg: I started wrestling in high school because I was tired of getting beaten up by my two brothers. My younger brother is a big guy so I needed a head start. At the same time, my older brother started BJJ and he soon was able to take us both. I found D. Davis at Primal Jiu Jitsu and my skills developed quick, at least between my family rivals. I’m not the kind of student that wants to jump around to a bunch of different schools and I have never trained anywhere but Primal. BJJ has developed into a lifestyle for me and I have learned much more about myself.
How has being a participant in BJJ impacted your life? Keelan Berg: It really revs up your mind and imagination. Like the other day I was standing in line for lunch and realized I could choke and armbar everyone in the line if I wanted to. But on the serious side, it really has made me focus more at school- my grades have gone up and I am way more confident taking on the challenges of starting a life for myself. I also have learned to not sweat the small stuff and as long as I work hard and make decisions based on my heart that everything will eventually fall into its proper place. The greatest thing I’ve learned is that it takes time to become an expert at something. So many people today think that everything should come them quick, but BJJ has taught me to slow down and enjoy the experience of learning step-by-step.
Being a participant everyone wants to make the best of their experience. Making the step to competing what were your reasons for wanting to become a competitor? Keelan Berg: I kind of treat every roll like a competition, so I feel it was a natural progression for me. I constantly want to test my skills and always enjoy a tough match. There’s only so much you can learn in the classroom bubble, and I feel it’s important to put your heart on the line. The only downfall of competing is if you have regret that you didn’t put enough on the line, and if you do that, then there really is nothing to lose.
How would you define yourself as a competitor? Keelan Berg: I definitely try to be aggressive and continuously search for an armbar. I don’t like to defend a submission until the very last minute. I like to use offense and constant movement as my defense. I don’t know if it’s the best strategy, but I just love the feeling of getting a submission.
What are some of the benefits you gained through competing? Keelan Berg: Girls, money, and fame. Yeah right, at least not yet. Primarily, I think it’s the best tool to see if my game is progressing or regressing. If I’m not seeing progressively better results in competition then I have to go back through my basics and see where I can improve. One of the most beneficial aspects has been the mental toughness that is gained through competition. It really is scary stepping out there to fight someone I don’t know, but when it’s over I realize that it’s not that big of a deal. I’m starting to learn that this mental toughness can be used in all aspects of my life, not just on the mats.
Now just recently you competed in a grueling tough tournament known as the Dream Jiujitu's Baddest Blue tournament. How the overall experience was and how does a competitor such as yourself deal with the shortcoming of a lost? Keelan Berg: The 40-minute semi-final match showed me that I can overcome adversity one minute at a time, and it was the toughest match I’ve had. I think the emotion of that match really took it out of me, and next time I’ll need to be prepared for the mental stress that a long match can put on you. As for the loss, I am focusing and preparing on arm barring the Baddest Blue winner at a future tournament. It’s tough because I had beaten him a few months ago in a point tournament, but I’m sure we will be seeing each other for many years to come.
Looking onward what do you see for yourself in future in this sport? Keelan Berg: I’m a fairly new blue belt, so right now I’m focusing on winning the major IBJFF tournaments at blue. Also, I teach the kids class and hope that my knowledge gained through competing can be passed on to the little guys and girls. I try not to focus on things too far in the future because it is a little daunting. I just want to make a solid foundation for myself so I don’t develop any bad habits that will hamper me at the higher levels.
Any closing remarks before we close this interview? Keelan Berg: Thank you Monta Wiley and bjjlegends.com for the chance to tell others about Primal Jiu Jitsu and myself. We are a fairly new school and it’s always great to see how BJJ is expanding.
Special thanks: To Professor D. Davis, Coach Craig, and my teammates for all the motivation, instruction and friendship. Also, to my two brothers for constantly trying to prove that they were tougher than me.
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.