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.