I met Joey, that is what I called him, when he started training at the Pedro Carvalho Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Rancho Cucamonga in 1996. I had already been training there a little over a year. He was very excited about learning Jiu-Jitsu. He was very dedicated and trained as often as he could. He would even have his girlfriend record him so he could play it back see his mistakes and then try and correct them during class. Back then and for many years, Pedro was the only BJJ Black Belt in the Inland Empire. If you lived in the IE and wanted to train BJJ, you trained with Pedro.
I was a purple belt teaching the Friday evening No-Gi class. This is where my bond with Joey started to really build. Because of his interest to do MMA, he would come to the Friday classes religiously. This was an old school BJJ gym so No-Gi classes regularly consisted of punch and kick defense to take downs and ground control with striking to set up the submission etc. It was a basic training ground for early MMA style fights. Joey loved it. There was nothing I could throw at him that he would ever complain about. No task was too difficult. He loved sparring guys bigger and better than him even if he would get smashed. It was just a challenge that he was determined to overcome.
One of those Friday night classes we had a visitor from Europe wanting to try BJJ. This guy was already an experienced kickboxer. We were practicing timing the kick to step in get the clinch and take your opponent down. This guy did not like the technique. He proceeded to tell me that if he was truly trying to kick, the power of his kick would prevent him from being taken down. I realized at that point that he was not there to learn BJJ but to test himself. So technique time was over now time to drill full speed. The drill consisted of one person acting as the kick boxer and the other the grappler. The kickboxer would try to kick his opponent while the grappler could only take the kickboxer down without using any strikes to set it up. So I put the visitor in the kickboxer role first and Joey as the grappler against him. I told the kickboxer to not hold back. Joey was preparing for MMA and he welcomed his attempts to kick him as hard as he could. By the way, this was without Joey's pre-approval. I told Joey what I instructed the kickboxer to do and he didn't bat an eye. They proceeded with the drill and needless to say, the kickboxer didn't get one kick off on Joey while Joey punished him with repeated takedowns. I was so proud watching Joey just turn it up and represent Jiu-Jitsu right at the spur of the moment with no hesitation. The kickboxer didn’t return.
Known as The People's Champion in his grappling residence of Northern California Manny Diaz has been living out a lifelong dream that this ever growing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practice has given him. Currently training under BJJ World Champion Caio Terra his new venture as a brown belt has presented a new set of challenges that came with his newly acquired rank. Nevertheless with challenges also presents opportunity which has allowed Diaz to keep moving with each BEAT to smashing all obstacles that stand in the way of reaching his ultimate goal. Manny Diaz recently spoke with us at BJJ Legends as he opens about his training philosophy, current brown belt venture, and his future goals in giving back to the community that has given so much to him.
What does becoming a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu signifying for Manny Diaz? Manny Diaz: At my age I’ve been living a dream. I never thought that I would be competing at such a high level. Brown to me is just as important as black, It’s the stage of refinement before the highest level. Can’t cut any corners, you have to put in the time and work hard if you truly want to be at the top.
How do you currently feel at this belt level? Manny Diaz: At first I was scared but I really feel my game changing at brown. It has all to do with the possibilities of submissions with leg locks and the other things it opens up because of it. I’m eager to learn and even more eager to compete.
What are some of the new challenges and goals you have set out for yourself as a brown belt? Manny Diaz: Ultimately being the brown belt world champion, there are many tournaments that are great and I would love to win but none to me are greater than the world championships. I don’t think I can set a higher goal other than winning the open class title along with it. I’m not greedy and would gladly take the win at weight, besides I need to let the other guys have a chance to win too right… LOL
From the inauguration stage to their present status, everyone has their own tale on the effect Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has made on their lives. The rewards one acquires are quite beneficial which can carry ones march atop of the medal podium to positive modifications in their personal development.
Grateful for his current state life wasn’t always this accommodating for 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu blue belt Kevin Reed. The rocky journey he endured is a prime illustration of the impact Jiu-Jitsu can bestow upon an individual.
Down in the dumps everyday was a constant battle for Reed. The frequent bullying Reed suffered throughout high school would be the trigger to years of low self-esteem haunting his life. These past events continued to follow Reed after graduation. Over-weight, financially unstable, and mentally broken became the daily norm, as there seemed to be no solution for solving his problems.
“I got bullied a lot in high school. From grades 7-10 people would throw stuff at me on the bus, push me in school, and spit on me. It was terrible. It all ended eventually after high school but I was still super low. I hated life.”
Although stuck in a horrible predicament life always has a way of taking its course and fortunately, for the troubled Reed, help was just around the corner. A longtime fan of Mixed Martial Arts submission sector of fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was one pastime Reed was always intrigued by. Eagar to learn from his self-teaching strategies with his brother to his fundamental beginnings at Zealous Nation MMA these small elements would set in motion a new path toward a more positive outlook for the New Jersey native.
“I had been a common fan of MMA for at least eight years. It started in middle school in 2004 with guys like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, and Tito Ortiz that soon turned into a serious part of my life around 2007. Finally my love for the sport just naturally progressed from watching it to actually doing it.”
In essence Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial arts system that contains a vast supply of knowledge for a practitioner to learn from. Its influence is unparalleled as the lessons acquired during one's time on the mat are directly transferable to life outside the dojo and competition arena.
Correlating two very diverse professions Ryan Beauregard’s personas as a BJJ martial artist and EMT has created a unique transferable lifestyle that's provided major assistance in both career sectors.
Like so many individuals have testified without question, “Jiu-jitsu Changes Lives” and Beauregard's involvement in it is no exception. Starting his training in 2005, Ryan Beauregard was just another figure making his rise through the competition scene while also using BJJ as a vehicle in his personal growth. The journey to betterment would reach a major pinnacle in 2008 as Beauregard’s years of dedication would allow him to reach a feat unheard of for an American jiu-jitsu practitioner during that time period by winning the BJJ World Championship as a brown belt.
Beauregard would continue to flourish, obtaining his black belt in 2010 from long time instructor Demetrius Ramos going on later to build his own legion of grapplers with the running of his own academy Team Beauregard Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. To say the least Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has made a profound impact on Ryan's life.
Bret Perchaluk was born in 1984, He stands 5'7 and fights at 165lbs. He started his path in martial arts when he was 6 years old. His mom enrolled him in Kung Fu classes 3 times a week. From there he wrestled in high school and went on to wrestle Division 1 varsity at Rider University in New Jersey. He received his Judo black belt January 2012 from Rodrigo Artilheiro, who is a coach on TUF Brazil, and Judo/MMA coach at Xtreme Cotoure out in Las Vegas. He got his belt issued by USA Judo thanks to Olympic Legend and Coach of the 2012 Olympic Team, Jimmy Pedro. In 2012, he placed 3rd at the IBJJF NoGi Pans. He also has MMA experience.
He still remembers when he saw the first UFC with Royce Gracie in 1993. He thought that learning Jiu-Jitsu would be good for self-defense and a fun new sport to compete in. In 2001, he enrolled at the progressive fighting systems academy. Currently, he's back at a Traven gym, Combat Sports Center, training under David Oliviera. Bret received his brown belt June 9th 2012 after competed at the Mundials in California as a purple belt. “David and Traven gave me my Brown belt, and it was a huge honor and something I had worked hard towards.”
Bret can’t really say what he does for the government, just that he’s done it for a while now. He teaches and works in the field. Says Bret, “I have been all over the world for work and not to anywhere nice yet. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them to send me to Brazil.”
Every fighter that has ever graced the mat carries with them a primary philosophy that guides them along their endless journey. With only two years of participation in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Clark Gracie Blue belt Harryson Franz has already developed a set of principles which has benefited not only his athletic pursuits but also his life outside the gym.
With eight years of prior Kickboxing experience to his cred Franz’s transition to the art of grappling offered the young prospect a new exploration of growth in his quest to becoming a better fighter.
“After 7-8 years of training I became increasingly interested in competing in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts," Harryson told BJJ Legends. “My coaches at the time, while fully supportive and confident in me if the fight stayed standing, knew that I'd need to have some kind of ground game to be truly ready to compete. So I left kick-boxing when I was 19 to focus specifically on Jiu-Jitsu and ended up falling in love with the sport.”
It wouldn’t be long before this passion for his new found hobby would supply Franz with the essential components necessary for improving many areas of his life. Through the various scenarios he has come across each event has given Harryson a clearer perception of what this sport’s original intention was for its participants.
“You have to understand that Jiu-Jitsu is more than just a sport or a self-defense system. There's a lot more to it than just learning different techniques on the mat and winning medals in competition. What Jiu-Jitsu really is at the end of the day, is a vehicle to better your life in every single aspect.”
When it comes to analyzing the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu it all comes down to expansion. Without it there would never be growth in making the sport better. Fortunately for us there is a massive wave of talented grappling practitioners brining their own flavor to the melting pot which not only helps with the evolution of jiu-jitsu but also instills a positive influence in other grappling hopeful's progression.
Entering into the mind of Rodrigo Pagani one will embark on an exploration filled with a vast wealth of knowledge from one of the best around. As a part of the first league of Ribeiro black belts, Pagani's victories at high prestigious tournaments like Worlds and Brazilian nationals is a testament to his talent and devotion to his craft which explains his progressive rise from his humble days as a white belt to the elite black belt level.
Hailing from Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Pagani began his journey at the age of 16 in 1992. Originally geared towards fitness and the self-defense aspects his participation introduced him to a new sector of education of this mythical art form. Competing under the Gracie Humita banner Pagani's confidence began to skyrocket in his mission of becoming one of the best martial artists around.
I first started in jiu-jitsu back in September of 1992, when I was 16 years old and I’ve never stopped training. I was very skinny by that time so I thought it would be a nice way to exercise my body and learn some self-defense to become a little more confident.
Always staying hungry his dedication and passion is unparalleled. In an effort to further his progression Rodrigo would soon leave his home country which travels would take him to the United States to train with the Legendary Rickson Gracie where he would get first hand tutelage of the true essence of BJJ.
The No-Gi Worlds is just around the corner and looks to be shaping to be a great event filled with many talented competitors. Apart of this fray looking to come out on top that day is two tough competitors who need some assistance with the funding of their trip.
Fight team representatives of BJJ Black Belt Jarrod Clontz Matt Larsen's Combat Fitness/ American Fight Company Eddie Wittern and Dennis Radonvich are amongst the many dedicated athletes making the trip out here to California to accomplish their dreams of being a world Champion. Aside from them being very successful competitors in the Texas grappling circuit they are also members of the United State Army.
SPC Eddie Wittern and LT Dennis Radonvich are both Iraq and Afghanistan combat vets, and are a part of the Wounded Warrior Program here at Ft Hood. They are also my Jiu-jitsu students. They have used Combatives and Jiu-jitsu to improve their selves. Both BJJ blue belts, Eddie is also a 4 degree black belt in Judo, and Dennis Wrestled at OSU. These guys fought for our country and deserve some type of gratitude for their services.
Pablo Popovitch entered the 2012 NoGi Pan Ams as a favorite to win not only his weight class but also the open weight division. On Pablo's side of the bracket were Abmar Barbosa and first time Pan Ams competitor, Ezra Lenon. Pablo had a 1st round bye and popular opinion was that his first match would be against Abmar and then after the inevitable win Pablo would continue on to win the gold. In what was the biggest upset of the tournament Ezra Lenon defeated Popovitch 2 - 0 after beating Barbosa 10 minutes earlier.
BJJ Legends: Tell me a little about yourself and your training history:
Ezra Lenon: Started training in 2006 with Zack (Ezra’s older brother). He was a blue belt at time and taught me a lot of my fundamentals. After that I moved to Columbia, MO because American Top Team had the only black belts in the area. I trained under Kiko France and stayed there until they closed and I moved to St Louis a little over 2 years ago to teach at Finney’s MMA. In February of 2011 Zack and I both got our black belts from Kiko. At Finney’s I’m teaching classes 5 days a week to kids and adults. I’ve got 70 or so students between all the classes. My older brothers both train BJJ, Zack’s a black belt under Kiko and Levi is a purple belt under Scott Huston.
BJJ: How’d you manage to get your black belt so fast?
Ezra: I pretty much lived at Top Team. I was completely obsessed with training; I’d be there twice a day, six or seven days a week. I still train that much with conditioning a couple times a week, drilling two or three times a week and rolling daily with my students.
BJJ: When you saw the brackets and realized that you had two of the top guys in the world your bracket what were you thinking?
Ezra: Very excited. I couldn’t wait to test myself against this level of competition. I’m always looking to test myself and I’ve been following Pablo pretty much since I began training and knew that no matter what happened it’d be a good match up for me and would be a good match to watch. Also really excited about the absolute division but that didn’t work out because of my knee.
Read about my friend Jocelyn Chang and her black belt super fight with breast cancer.
What would you do if at the age of 39 you were diagnosed with cancer? Would you fall into a depression and let the sickness win or would you fight back with determination? For anyone in this situation it becomes a defining moment in their life and for some the trial becomes a turning point to do even greater things than they had before they were sick. Most of us will never have to face such a challenge but even still we can learn from and be inspired by those that have.
Jocelyn Chang is one of those people and a true inspiration. A Jiu-Jitsu black belt who trained under Leka Vieira, she has always been the coolest of cucumbers. And when she discovered she had breast cancer, that didn’t change.
You can’t tell by looking at her that she has ever been sick. She still stands tall at 4’9” and 95 pounds, has a full head of hair again, stands strong, and trains regularly at her studio Let’s Roll Jiu Jitsu.
After being diagnosed with cancer, she underwent a double mastectomy, 18 weeks of chemo, and, 33 days of radiation. In spite of feeling sick and down, and at times being unable to get out of bed, she managed to keep her spirits up. Her radiation treatments ended on March 30, 2010 and 2 weeks later, she was back on the mat. Talk about fierce.
Opportunities always have a way of creating an open avenue in acquiring personal attainments geared toward an individual's growth. Traveling down his own path of fulfillment Mitchell Bruner’s involvement in grappling and the military has presented him with his own share of countless blessings and adventure throughout his career journey.
A Texas-bred from Ft. Worth Bruner’s love for sports would originate from his takeoff as a High School wrestler. Wrestling the entire four year term Mitchell’s competitive drive flourished greatly as he would snatch his own share of awards and accolades grinding it out on the mats. This drive evidently would later prove to be a great asset in Bruner’s next life chapter heading into adulthood.
Upon graduation steered on a new course Mitchell was in hunt for sustaining a bright future for himself. Later obtaining his wishes with his ultimate pledge in joining the U.S Army the move further solidified the Texas Native’s seriousness for reaching his goals.
The sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has comes a long way since its introduction in the U.S nearly two decades ago. Still evolving the BJJ world is now populated with many grapplers aspiring to cement their legacy as the next generation of trendsetters of this great sport.
Apart of this epidemic is Triangle Club BJJ blue belt Daniel Sawmiller. A seventeen year old prospect hailing from Lima, Ohio his Witt, consistency, and hardcore devotion to his craft have been the key components that have contributed to his progression and triumphant victories throughout the Midwest grappling scene which sparks as the true mark of a potential future star in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Introduced to the art nearly 2.5 years ago after watching countless hours of the UFC it wouldn’t be until an intriguing interaction with a friend that would further promote his enthusiasm for participating in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu field. Accepting the offer by the friend to try out a class from his first viewing of the practice at Jeremy Harris’s Triangle Club it was in that moment in time where Sawmiiler found his true calling in life.
The history of Brazilian jiu-jitsu has shown indefinite growth since its rising popularity in 1994. Since its emergence many figures have greatly aided and influenced the community that has helped elevated the sport to what it is today. OCBJJ brown belt Kyle Cranmer is practitioner that fully understands this logic. Although a very successful competitor this individual's aspirations go beyond the medal chasing philosophy as he strives to make a positive difference in the grappling community.
Coming from a long bloodline of wrestling athletes it only seemed fitting for Kyle to carry on the family tradition. With his father coaching him through the process Cranmer would be instilled with strong and helpful tips that guided him to a successful wrestling career in high school to his unfortunate end in college courtesy of a severe knee injury.
“Growing up on the mats gave me a mental toughness that has carried me through a lot of tough spots in both athletics and in life. I was also very lucky to come from a supportive family that pushed me and taught me that keys to success were perseverance, working harder than everyone else, and being the first one to arrive and the last to leave.
Congratulations Callum Bisping, son of the UFC fighter Michael Bisping, after his win at the Tinguinha In House Tournament in Anaheim Hill CA. Callum won gold with two fights one ending in an RNC and the other decision. Callum has been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for about six months.
Michael Bisping was on hand to cheer and coach. Michael is a veteran of the UFC and coach on TUF. He one TUF season three.