Come, read about Tanner Rice of Rice Brothers BJJ the youngest American to acheive his blackbelt from Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles at 19.
Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next. - Ben Carson
At 15 years old Tanner Rice had a huge responsibility. He was running the kids program at is family’s gym. Shakespeare recaptured the words of Henry the IV with the quote, “Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!/Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Some are born to be great and others have it thrust upon them. At the age of 19 Tanner Rice became the youngest and first American born black belt promoted by Charles “Cobrinha” Maciel (Alliance). At such a young age, when things are thrust upon him, Rice seems to handle them with aplomb. BJJ Legends talks to Professor Tanner Rice about some of his greatest matchups, the effectiveness of performance enhancement testing, and his thoughts on well-rounded practitioners.
BJJL: You are very young, have accomplished a great deal, and have a prestigious lineage. From the day you started training at 6 until now, what led you down this path?
TR: At a younger age my father (Rod Rice) started training me and my brothers, it was hard to begin with because it wasn't like it is now where we had a lot of training partners. All I had was my older brothers and my dad at the time and having older brothers to train with there is never any mercy when it comes to rolling so I got smashed on a lot. Getting smashed also became discouraging and I didn’t believe that Jiu-Jitsu was for me, but my dad kept telling me to proceed and push through the hard times so I owe it to him for who I am today.
BJJL: Tanquinho Mendes and Megaton Dias, two monumental wins for you at 19. Both seasoned, highly regarded, what were your thoughts pre and post match-ups?
TR: I had just got my black belt when I was about to fight Augusto Mendes and I had just watched him fight 2 months prior at the U.S Open and he won his division and open weight and before that I was always fond of his amazing base on top so when I found out I was fighting Tanquinho Mendes I'm not going to lie, I was freaking out! He had just beaten my past professor Cobrinha and at the time Cobrinha was still murdering me in training, so that added to the nerves a little bit but once I got out there and started fighting the nerves went away and I fought pretty well. Afterwards I was in disbelief that I did as well as I did.
BJJL: Because of your father (Rod Rice) is BJJ the family business?
TR: When I turned 15 my father opened a gym and I began teaching kids and he taught the adults.
BJJL: You spent 1yr in Brazil when you were 16, what was that experience like?
TR: I went to Brazil with a friend Carlos Diego Ferreira and stayed at his house and began training at the school he trained at his whole life Club Pina, the experience was amazing. I had to grow up quickly! I had never been away from my dad more then a week so it was hard but I enjoyed the hard training and the culture.
BJJL: What do you think constitutes a well-rounded practitioner to be and do you exhibit those characteristics?
TR: I envy Leandro Lo’s game the most out of everyone, but I think Rodolfo Vieira and Lucas Lepri have the all around best Jiu-Jitsu in the world. I think to be great in Jiu-jitsu you have to be able to understand the game and make your own game whether it be on top or bottom. I think I have a lot to learn and figure out still and always will.
BJJL: What rank was the most challenging for you?
TR: Black Belt will always be the most challenging rank for anyone that has reached the black belt level and competed.
BJJL: Would you like BJJ to go back to it’s origins no time limit, submission only?
TR: I like both styles of competition submission only and points/submission.
BJJL: How does all the traveling impact you mentally/physically? How do you stay focused when you can’t be with your family during those important life events and vice versa? They can’t follow you around the world?
TR: Traveling to compete takes its toll if you aren't used to it but the more you do it the more you create a sleep/eating regimen for yourself that doesn't make it as bad. I actually like competing on my own without my team or family around I feel like I stay more focused and more relaxed. Sometimes having my team/family around gives me anxiety it's gotten better over the years but sometimes I feel like it still alters my performance.
BJJL: Steroids/performance enhancement abuse and the repercussions are discussed more in traditional sports to include wrestling. What are your thoughts on how it is handled in the BJJ realm or the IBJJF’s policies and procedures on the subject matter?
TR: I think IBJJF testing for steroids is great but I think they should test the athletes at more events instead of just worlds. There are too many ways to cycle on and off without getting caught. Year round testing would be great for the athletes and for Jiu-Jitsu itself to grow as more of a known sport around the world.
BJJL: What’s your training regimen like? How does it differ day to day from when you’re getting ready for a tournament?
TR: I train/ workout for 3 hours in the morning and 2 hours at night. When a competition is coming up I just bring up the intensity of my training and try to push harder then the day before no matter what.
BJJL: Would you and your brothers consider starting a career in MMA fighter?
TR: MMA has never been my thing nor my brothers so you'll see us on the BJJ scene for years to come.
BJJL: What has been your proudest moment since you started BJJ?
TR: My proudest thing I've taken from Jiu-Jitsu is our kids program. We have a lot of great kids that work their butts off everyday and they win a lot of competitions. You will soon see them start to shake up the juvenile divisions very soon.
BJJL: Any BJJ match you would like that hasn’t happened and why?
TR: I think either Leandro Lo vs Rafael Mendes or Rafael Mendes vs Lucas Lepri would be amazing to watch because of the clash of styles.
BJJL: Any rematches you would like and why?
TR: Anyone I've lost to has been the most challenging fight. I would love a rematch with anyone I've lost to.
BJJL: Kid’s Pans is less than a month away, does your gym have any contenders?
TR: I have 10 kids competing at Pans.
BJJL: What are your plans/goals for 2016 (camps…super fights…seminars)?
TR: My plan for this year is to win as much as I can. I'm really focused on training and competing right now. I'm always down for seminars but I need to focus on my goals mainly.
Professor Tanner Rice made history as an American practitioner at the tender age of 19. A chain of events began many years ago that set him on his current path. Rice still has plenty left to show us but one can’t help but wonder after all that Rice has done (and he hasn’t even reached his prime), who will Rice Brothers BJJ unleash on the scene next?
Your friends will believe in your potential, your enemies will make you live up to it.-Tim Fargo
Read more about the old Gracie Barra term "Faixa Azul-Preta" used to describe blue belts who are invited to train up. Blue belts who are invited to train with the black belts.
Every mid to large size Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym has at least one of these martial art outliers. He or she is typically a young blue belt who has virtually made your academy mats living space. No matter which gray morning or rainy night session takes place, this individual holds ubiquitous presence. Every training session, this young jiu-jitsutero is equally feared by all belt ranks as he dominates the mat with cardiovascular supremacy. As older hobbyists pack their bags and return home to be scolded by wives and girlfriends, the blossoming phenom continues to drill with an unearthly amount of stamina. You have stumbled upon the “blue-black.”
What is a “blue-black” anyway? Isn’t the term just synonymous with ‘mat rat?’ Not exactly. “Blue-black,” or “azul-preta,” is a term that originates from the Gracie Barra competition community. According to Orlando Sanchez black belt Ben Zhuang, the term started getting coined in a Gracie Barra Worlds tournament training camp.
“The term I first heard from Gracie Barra black belts at the Worlds camp. They usually only allow black belts in their comp training afternoon sessions, but they wanted the blue belts at my school to join because of their level. Hence they were called blue-blacks,” claims Ben.
In a nutshell, blue-backs are young grapplers who may lack the technical refinement crafted through many years of mat time but compensate in their immediate mat prowess through a combination of volume training, natural talent, and athletic ability to the extent they can competitively spar with elite BJJ practitioners.
“At my school, they were basically blue belts that trained twice a day as much as 5-6 times a week. They all had natural talent or a special trait that made them untouchable to basically any non-black belts or other non-competitors. It all comes down to mat time and drilling,” Ben tells me.
As Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pays little, how can blue-blacks afford such an intensive training schedule?
An answer to the the recent rise in number of dangerous blue belts may lie in the polarization of Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a tournament sport. This allows a great number of young athletes to develop a type of skater and surfer approach to the art, in which they are encouraged to pursue jiu-jitsu holistically at all times of the day on a daily basis. Ben explains that blue blacks at his gym would compete as “much as 2-3 times a month” and because they were all young, did not not have “many responsibilities other than training.”
To offer a more accurate idea of mat ability amongst blue-blacks, Ben estimates a “ blue belt that can get onto the podium at the worlds at the adult level probably rolls evenly with most hobbyist black belts and even taps them. A blue belt world champion certainly can tap casual black belts.”
So if these blue-blacks can spar with and tap black belts, why aren’t they immediately promoted to purple or brown belt level? Unlike upper level belts, these practitioners may not have intricate, strategic jiu jitsu that can be used to contend with great black belts. They often rely on sheer physicality which makes them dangerous offensively to everyone, but this quality also places large holes in their defensive games.
The term “blue-black,” of course applies to exceptional blue belts, but the overall concept extends to all elite intermediate level practitioners. Ben adds, “At purple, people on the podium likely dominate hobbyist black belts.”
Are you a young whippersnapper dominating the sparring as a lower belt at your academy? If so, you may be a blue-black yourself!
Come, read, first rate interview of Marcus "Buchecha" Almeida. Buchecha talks about growing up, moving to America, personal student pet peeves and the possibility of fighting MMA.
There are not many instances where bribery in any form denotes positivity. In the case of Marcus Almeida bribery is EXACTLY what led to his love of BJJ. Some say stay away from candy and chocolate cake (not good for training) but if it wasn't for those guilty pleasures the BJJ World may have never come to know who Bucheca was. 12 years in BJJ, is it time for a switch to MMA? BJJLegends talks with Marcus Almeida about where he has been and where he is going.
“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?” -Garth Nix
BJJL:Where did you grow up, any siblings?
MA: Santos, Brazil. I have one sister three years older than me. She got me and my dad into Jiu-Jitsu but doesn’t do it now. She started, then my father, then me.
BJJL: Did you have any other hobbies growing up?
MA: As every kid I tried to be a soccer player. But it didn’t work out really well for me, so then I tried to surf, but not so good as well. Then went into Jiu-Jitsu I end up doing better at that.
BJJL: Who inspired you while you were an up and coming practitioner, who was the biggest influence in helping you get to where you are?
MA: I wasn’t like this size when I started like back in 2003, 2004. So I grew up watching Marcelo Garcia, Hunter Reyes, Saulo Ribeiro, Jacare, Leo Vieira. So this was the guys that I always looked for, always liked to watch and learn from them back in the day, watching videos and stuff, you know.
BJJL: What was your first BJJ memory?
MA: I remember like when I was like twelve years old, my father always tried to push me to do it. But back in the day when I was a kid I wasn’t just like, I wasn’t quite enough and serious, and he always like walked me, he used to give me like buy me a chocolate cake and like coke just to go there to train, you know? Every time when I went to train I knew he would give me like chocolate cake, candy, and stuff. So that’s one of the reasons why I used to go. And it worked, you know? I can’t complain.
BJJL: Who or what is your support system here in the US?
MA: The first time I came to the U.S.A. was 2010. I remember the guy who gave my support was Rodrigo Cavaca. He gave me the opportunity to come to teach but the guy who taught me everything in the U.S., and the way of life here was Rafael Shad. The U.S. lifestyle is very different from Brazil.
BJJL: What is your biggest pet peeve as an instructor (students late for class, belt not tied properly….)?
MA: If a student hasn’t been respecting the class. I’m OK, but if the guys are not listening, I show them positions, I teach them one move, the guys’ doing another move. It kind of bothers me a little but not that bad.
BJJL: What do you consider a well-rounded practitioner to be?
MA: I think if you want to be good you have to know like a little bit of everything. Even if you know your best game, if you don’t like the other stuff, you still have to train everything. That’s how you learn, that’s how you grow up, and that’s how you do it. You develop more technique so you have to train a little bit of everything otherwise you never learn. I’m not saying you have to do it tournaments, but at least you will know how.
BJJL: When you see a student struggling, that is ready to quit, how do you help them adapt and overcome?
MA: If they have their reason, if the student just doesn’t like to train, that is part of the game. You have to train. I’m not going to force them to do stuff that they don’t want to do. It’s better you get lost in the gym than to get lost in the tournament. It’s better to work through your problems in a gym, in your gym with your friends, with the instructor, than to be stuck and not know why over and over against your opponent in a tournament.
BJJL: What rank was the most challenging for you?
MA: It was no doubt the blue. Because it was at the beginning when I started competing and that’s where I learned how to compete. It was the hardest I knew, not a lot of winning, mostly losing and learning all that came with the blue belt.
BJJL: Was there ever a time that you did not want to continue with your journey?
MA: Oh yeah. I remember too, one time in blue belt I lost like the first ten tournaments that I competed in. I lost the very first round, so I remember one time I tried to give up. I remember the instructor told me, it’s up to you, you can be the weak one and give up or you can show up in the gym tomorrow again to train. So I thought to myself, I don’t want to be the weak one. I came back, and my eleventh tournament I won, after that just winning, winning, winning. My first World’s I lost in the final. After that I got better but still lost a bunch of tournaments. It was not easy, I worked very hard and wanted to give up many times. I did not win World’s for the first time until 2012.
BJJL: Were you ever so upset over your loss that you threw your medal away after you placed 2nd or 3rd?
MA: No. I think that’s ridiculous, you know? I think that’s ridiculous, that’s the most ridiculous thing that I have ever seen, people throwing away medals. You know? I’m really proud to have all the medals, I won them. I have a bronze medal, I have a silver medal and I have like six gold world medals. So I’m really proud. I went there and I got first place, I got second place, I deserve it. The other guy was better than me, so no reason to be like keyed up and throw the medal away. I think that’s like stupid. That’s so ridiculous. I think if you don’t know how to lose you don’t deserve to win. I think people who do that they’re going to learn the hardest way. You know, you’re in the final, you did your best, you lose, alright. There’s no reason for you to be there complaining, crying, if someone is better. It’s part of the game. Show up the next tournament better. That’s how it works. You don’t need to be throwing medals away, show respect.
BJJL: How do you think BJJ has evolved since you received your black belt?
MA: I think I changed a lot, because you start getting mature and you start getting more experience. It changes a lot, not just your body but your mind, your vision. As BJJ evolves, so do you, you think differently, you tailor your training. I think I have improved a lot. I remember the first year as a black belt was really bad because I lost a lot. Then adjusted the way that I train. The following year, 2012, the guys I could not hang with in 2011, I could in 2012.
BJJL: You recently competed at Abu Dhabi and won, that is an experience of a life time, how do the rules at Abu Dhabi differ from IBJJF, CBJJE, or any of the other tournaments you have competed in?
MA: It is something unique. You’re fighting two in two years, you never know if you’re going to be invited or if you’re going to win a prize. That makes the tournament very different. There are people from different types of sports and styles of fighting. So it’s really something amazing, I fought just one time in 2013 and won. The rules were different. You’re always fighting a different location, somewhere that you’ve probably never been before and I love it.
BJJL: This year at World’s you gave it all you had against Keenan Cornelius, you could have conserved some of your energy but you went out there and put it all on the line, do you ever worry about running out of steam during your fights? Some like to play it safe and you did not do that at all.
MA: That probably is because I was in control the whole fight. I was up in the whole fight. In the end he was trying to hold one position and I was having a hard time getting behind him. That’s the thing about fighting. I couldn’t stay there and win by two points, I was ahead, so now I tried to improve the score and tried to like get the guard. So was like something of a fighter, you know? I remember I was told me it’s not what you win, people are going to remember how you fight. I don’t want to be the kind of guy that just wins. I want to go there and give my best, not win due to one advantage or one point, not go there and hold one position for ten minutes, that’s not me. I want to go there and give people Jiu-Jitsu to watch.
BJJL: What’s your training regimen like? How does it differ day to day from when you’re getting ready for a tournament?
MA: I always train twice a day. No matter what, if I’m training or not. In the morning I always train really hard with the pro training, all the black belts, and one day on and off I train Jiu-Jitsu twice and the other days are different just for conditioning. It’s Jiu-Jitsu, Jiu-Jitsu, and the other day, Jiu-Jitsu conditioning. I don’t train more than two, two sessions per day.
BJJL: Are there any female practitioners that you have enjoyed watching grow and evolve over the years?
MA: Oh yeah, there’s like a bunch of fighters I like to watch. Michelle Nicolini, McKenzie Dern. I used to watch Leticia Ribeiro a lot. I like Bia Mesquita. There are a lot of women I enjoy watching compete.
BJJL: If there is one thing (across the board) that you would like to be standardized when it comes to BJJ rules, what would it be?
MA: I think a lot of things. They stop the fights when you are right in the middle of fighting it breaks the momentum. They can change the rules in the middle of the fight. People just want to fight.
BJJL: You are in your prime, have you considered trying MMA and starting a career as an MMA fighter?
MA: Yeah, yeah. In one or two years I’m doing it.
BJJL: As a young practitioner were you always the biggest in the class?
MA: No. I was an average boy.
BJJL: Once you reached the heavy weight class did you have a sufficient amount of training partners your size?
MA: Yeah, I always had guys of my size.
BJJL: Who are some of your favorite ultra-heavyweight fighters to train with or fight?
MA: The guys I train with every day. They are my favorites. They are the ones that helped me to get where I am, you know. The guys from Check Mat California especially. They are my favorites.
BJJL: How do you handicap your game in training for smaller training partners?
MA: I use my technique and not my strength.
BJJL: Is there anything you would like to pass on to a person that is starting out in BJJ? Some sound advice you wish you had known that would have prevented injury, aggravation, etc?
MA: If you take the time, you learn how to stand, how to like use strength the right way, you will learn how to like play the game. It is the best way to stop getting hurt. Injuries happen in the beginning, it’s normal. Once you start learning how things work, it’s going to be more fun and you’re going to enjoy things more.
BJJL: What has been your proudest moment since you began the practice of BJJ?
MA: Oh, when I won my division, the open division of worlds and Abu Dhabi. All three titles. That was the proudest.
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you still have left?
MA: I just keep training hard and whatever happens, whatever comes my way I look forward to it. I don’t think too much about it.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
MA: I would like to thank ALL my sponsors. Also Mark and Muscle Pharm, Fighter’s Market, Hayabusa, Jiu Jitsu World League, of course my Team CheckMat and everybody who helped me a lot during my journey.
It's not always about when you start or how often you win in BJJ it seems to be ALL about the journey, each one unique, no two will ever be alike. Some say you get what you give but if that were true then practitioners like Buchacha would be the rule instead of the exception. Sometimes what you give won't be enough. Not everyone can be exceptional in spite of their efforts because the odds are against this however, the day that Marcus Almeida set out to be GREAT, EXCEPTIONAL, A REALITER MAGNUS PACISCOR (a really big deal) the odds were in his favor. Marcus Almeida was lured into a gym with the promise of some edible delicatables at the end of the session. The cake may have gotten him in the door but the Art of Jiu-Jitsu kept him there. 12 years later his journey has truly been a realiter magnus pacisor.
“It is not we who seek the Way, but the Way which seeks us. That is why you are faithful to it, even while you stand waiting, so long as you are prepared, and act the moment you are confronted by its demands.”-Dag Hammarksjold
Take a minute to read about one of the most controversial figures in BJJ, Caio Terra. Just like Frank Sinatra, he has carved an extraordinarily unique path by doing things his way.
Caio Terra's standing denotes him as one of the most prolific rooster weight grapplers in BJJ. Terra, (unlike many of his lightweight counterparts) competes in absolute divisions and has noteworthy victories against black belts twice his size in Gi and No Gi competitions. He is known for his sweeps and back takes (more than most lightweight grapplers) as well as, for his triangle, armbar, and omoplata attacks from the bottom. Terra is one of the best in the game today for a plethora of reasons and his half-guard game is undeniable and studied by the masses. BJJLegends sits with Terra to talk about his success and why being a professor has become the most important thing to him.
“The will to conquer is the first condition of victory”-Ferdinand Foch
As a kid growing up, Caio Terra was led to the sport of BJJ by his mother as a method of self defense that has led to a life long passion. In 2015 the Caio Terra Association had a very prominent year. 8 top male No Gi Grapplers competed for $17,500 in prize money at 5 Super League August 2, 2015. Yuri Simoes of Caio Terra Association was one of the competitors.
Kaniela Kahanui is the talented Cal State East Bay linebacker that also dominates in BJJ, he is one to continue to watch. Terra's gym has a growing list of talent to look for in the coming years in Paulo Gabriel, Ryan Walsh, Rudson Mateus, Benjamin Silva, etc. When it comes to grappling Gi or No Gi, it is a point of preference in and BJJ. “Grappling” describes techniques that use holds and leverage, such as clinches, escapes, pins controlling skills, sweeps, submission holds, reversals, takedowns, throws and turnovers. Terra has proven time and time again that skill not size is the most important thing when it comes to grappling and he is a consistent performer in open divisions in both Gi and No Gi competitions.
“Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate.”-William Arthur Ward. Over the last 5 years the evolution of Terra's game is part of a natural order. Terra believes the more you know about Jiu-Jitsu, the more ideas you will have to create with and the more you will continue to adapt. Training and attending classes is how you consistently improve according to Terra, competition helps you feel a different experience and deal with scenarios and emotions you won't get to experience in a gym setting. Technique is key, "without good technique you can only go so far, you will never reach your full potential, and that goes for everything you do in life. However, if you are happy with what you do, there is never a plateau."
Terra is well known for teaching and competing in the BJJ world. He also is also a philanthropist, the Godfather of a social project in Brazil, Leoes de Juda. Founded on April 24, 2009 by Thiago Dias (head of Caio Terra Association Brazil) and Fernando Halfeld, Leoes de Juda is located in Juiz de Fora. Through Jiu Jitsu it is their hope to instill discipline, ethics, respect and a love for their communities. Integrating sport with religion, it is their mission to help the youth deal with daily problems they face such as violence and drugs. To participate in the youth project, the students must be properly enrolled in school and make good grades. More important than how they behave on the mats is how they behave off. http://www.ctbjja.com/leoes-de-juda/
Injuries of any kind are a challenge for a consistent competitor. Delays in training and training setbacks detract from a routine, and when you are the Professor the pressure to be present for your students can be overwhelming. Terra suffers from chronic headaches/migraines, instructing under those circumstances would be impractical. "Training with a headache is never as fun, but my biggest problem is that when I do so I start having vertigo and it's impossible to train or do anything with vertigo. I started having them in the end of 2013 and nowadays I can control it better, unfortunately I have to stop training immediately so my symptoms don't get worse."
The issue of equal pay became a very hot topic in BJJ and more people seem to have an actual opinion on it. Well Terra thinks the issue is less about equal and about getting paid period. The thought that one can live off only training and tournment money in his opinion is not realistic and not a good retirment plan. So the question is now should people be talking about equal pay or a 401K? If you are training and traveling and you really think of how a 9 to 5 works Terra has a point, how much are you worth? You are doing what you love but people that do what they love still get reasonable benefits including healthcare and a retirement plan.
The Caio Terra Associationis successful and Terra has created a very close knit organization where he can remain connected to his people. "Jiu-jitsu was very hard for me, I was too small and things never went my way when I first started. There is nothing good about being a bad loser. So my greatest achievement is that I persisted through hard times and didn't quit BJJ. I want to create a really good gym, not just BJJ wise but with only good people in it, where everyday I'm happy to go to work."
As the new year begins many already have set goals in mind and it is easy to get tunnel vision. Hopefully, people are looking toward a bigger picture and no matter how things pan out in a season, the journey will get you to where you ultimately want to be. Caio Terra is making sure that his ultimate goal is realized, “going into 2015 No Gi Worlds from the outside everything looked the same but for me it was completely different. As we were training I looked at our team and saw in their eyes the same dreams I had when I was younger, to be a champion. 2015 was a defining year in my life, I realized that although I like to compete I like coaching more, because I love our team.”
“One can easily forget his destination when walking in a marvelous path towards his destination! The attraction of the path can be much stronger than the attraction of the target!” –Mehmet Murat Ildan
Read the review: Datsusara Hemp Combat comes with effective rough gi rash for your training partners but unfortunately this wears off after a handfull of washes. Its a specific gi for a specific grappler.
To leave the corporate workers life.
Whether in combat, on vacation, taking a hike or simply dealing with a daily commute, Datsusara has the gear to get you through. Datsusara gear is not for everyone – if “making do” is good enough for you, then we are not your brand. Our gear may not be essential, but you may discover it’s the gear that you’ve always wanted.
If living your life with purpose outside the cubicle is important, Datsusara is for you.
A snippet from the DSgear website.
DATSUSARA Is a Japanese phrase that expresses the desire “to leave the salaried/corporate worker's life".
Datsusara’s mission is the creation of extremely high quality, functional gear made with hemp textiles. Datsusara gear features hemp for a multitude of reasons. In short it is the most versatile and useful natural fiber on the planet. It is naturally anti-microbial, strong, breathable and very environmentally friendly.
Let’s get to the review.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
100% Hemp Combat Gi
I will be reviewing the A3 Natural White Gi
I am 92 kgs and 184cm tall, or 202llbs and 6’1
Made of durable 100% Hemp
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu style weave and cut
Jacket made of a 17oz (580gsm) long fibre weave
UVA Foam collar.
Reinforced stitching for strength and durability
Pants made of 11oz (376gsm) long fiber twill
Braided cord draw string, easy to get in and out of
Reinforced stitching for strength and durability
Machine washable: Due to the properties of the hemp blend the gi actually gets softer and more comfortable with each wash while retaining its strength, it wears in rather than wearing out
Machine wash cold
Do not iron or dry clean
Have the possibility to shrink a little depending on wash method.
FIRST LOOK IMPRESSIONS:
At first look I was a little turned off. The natural white colour of the Gi to me gave off an unwashed look. Upon feeling the material I found it to be quite rough and when I put the jacket on I noticed almost straight away that this material was the type that wasn’t going to be suitable for me unless I had a rash guard on under it. I then had a look through the care instructions and noticed a recommendation to wash the Gi twice before use. Off the laundry I went. After the first wash I pulled it out and had a feel before hanging it out to dry, and noticed a little softening had occurred. It didn’t take as long as I expected to dry and with one more wash with some added fabric softener it felt softer again. Once it dried I put the jacket on and instantly noticed the difference, although I still felt the need to put a rash guard on.
FIRST WORKOUT AND ROLL:
The fit of the Gi was nice although I did find it a little loose around my shoulders and noticed that the jacket slid of my shoulders quite a bit, this led me to develop a conscience about my broadness and led me to destroy my shoulders in the weights workouts that followed so thank you Datsusara for that. This was the first Hemp Gi I had seen and was very excited to roll in it. People within my club have started to notice that ever 4 or so weeks I have been bringing out a new gi and begun to ask questions. I let them all know that it was 100% hemp and as you could imagine the jokes began to come. I didn’t realise that not only do I train at an amazing club with some awesome people but we also have quite a lot of comedic talent with in the club. I think some of them may have missed there calling, well except for Zach who actually does quite a bit of stand up on the local scene. One recommendation was that we close all the doors to the gym and I do hip escapes up and down the mats for a while and see what happens. Back to the Gi. After a gruelling 2 hour session on the mats I had a new respect for Hemp material it was quite a warm night and with the rashie on I was surprised how cool I stayed and how soft the Gi got in just the one session. The Gi has a total combined weight of around the 2kg mark which I found quite nice.
Rolling in this Gi was a fun experience its sturdy design and ability to breathe was great, however the heat in the gym combined with the rash guard seen me sweating up a storm. After a few weeks of rolling in this Gi it began to really grow on me, however with the warmer weather I think it is definitely a cooler climate gi, for me anyway. The feedback from my training partners was also all positive however the one thing that came up early in the piece was the roughness of the Gi if it was on their face, these complaints started to disappear the more it was washed. The colour of the Gi was also noted with a 50/50 response, me personally it grew on me.
WASH AND FIT:
With the washing of the Gi the Datsusara website states that due to the properties of the hemp blend the Gi actually gets softer and more comfortable with each wash while retaining its strength, it wears in rather than out. I honestly thought this was a marketing phrase however I found this statement to be 100% true. Wash after wash the Gi got more comfortable over time. I wash all of my Gi according to the instructions on the tag and with this it states 30c wash.
1. Will not shrink on you.
2. Customer service you receive will be amazing. Chris literally shipped this Gi half way across the world and checked in to ensure I received it.
3. Gets softer and softer after each wash bring you to new levels of comfort each training session.
4. Hemp is environmentally friendly.
The colour seems to put a few people off.
The material can be found rather rough in the first few sessions.
You will notice all the comedians come out when you mention the 100% Hemp.
Over all this Gi is a high quality Gi. This one will be either one you like or you don’t. If you are not a natural white fan you also have the option to purchase the Black Combat Gi which looks quite nice. All in all this was a great Gi to train in however the Gi rash that came from it in the early phase before many washes may upset your more “sensitive” training partners. If you are in a cooler climate then this Gi would be perfect its medium weight and ability to breathe would make it a great training necessity on the chillier evenings. Overall I award the Combat Gi 3 Gis out of 5.
If you would like to take a look at the other gear Datsusara have to offer why not head over to www.dsgear.com to take a look at the combat Gi a whole lot more 100% hemp gear that they have to offer.
DeusFight Co is a Christian combat sports brand with service as its core value. Interview with company founder Geoffrey Van Haeren.
A very familiar scene at BJJ tournaments is a competitor on his or her knees, head bowed saying a silent prayer before they head out to shake the referees and their opponents hands. The aforementioned BJJ players faith is on full display, but when it comes to faith and business the potential for scrutiny is a sure bet. The faith referenced is Christianity and it is the foundation of a new BJJ merchandise and clothing company aptly titled DeuS Fight Company. The owner, Geoffrey Van Haerenis an unapologetic Christian who has his faith and his love for BJJ on full display. As he tells it, his mission is far bigger than himself and he is determined to thrive and spread the word of God both on and off the mat. Our mission is to find out just how he intends to engage the BJJ community, withstand the naysayers and build a business that is rooted in Christianity.
Is there a meaning behind the name of your company? GVH: Yes, thanks for starting with that question. DeuS means God in Portuguese, which correlates with our Christian foundation, not to mention our passion for BJJ. I’d also like to elaborate on the letter structure, we capitalize the D and S in DeuS to emphasize that God is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega.
What would you say are the main reasons your brand will have staying power and succeed? GVH: I feel like people are looking for something different, something deeper than just a great product. Don’t get me wrong, great products are essential, but I think consumers want to be a part of something meaningful, something that makes a difference with their direct involvement. I also believe the bible verse ‘Romans 8:31’ will play a major role, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Would it be fair to say that some people may take issue with the religious theme of your company? GVH: Yes, for sure, many may take issue, but I believe just as many if not more will embrace what we stand for. I kind of view it as a risk reward formula, and currently the reward is well worth any real or perceived risk. I have had dialogue with people via phone, email and in person and I don’t hesitate to share with them the physical, mental and spiritual fight we as Christians endure on a regular basis. It is all about relying on our faith and God and his word to empower us, and take us to levels we never dreamed possible. Truth is when people ask questions or engage in any way it helps tear down walls and at a minimum creates understanding and mutual respect even if there may end up being no common ground from a religious viewpoint.
Are Christians the target market and would issue be taken with non-Christians buying from DeuS? GVH: First off, I would encourage any potential customers who do not share our faith to do their research on what we stand for before making a purchase. That being said, yes, Christians are indeed our target market but we intend to grow that market not by exclusion, but by inclusion. We are confident that those who check out our site, believers or not will see that our products are top of the line and our actions through our social projects will move them to potentially getting involved.
What is your mission for DeuS? GVH: My aim is to offer cutting edge, well crafted and original merchandise that rivals or surpasses others in the marketplace. On a deeper level, my goal is to create a culture of social consciousness - a culture where helping those less fortunate is something everyone associated with DeuS does naturally, because it's the heart of who we are and what we do, not an effort that is out of the ordinary or newsworthy. Combining that spirit of helping in order to strengthen souls, hearts and bodies, on and off the mat, through the presence of Jesus Christ...now, that is the ultimate mission of DeuS.
Can you tell us about one of the social projects you are involved with? GVH: Gladly, the unrest and simmering turmoil in Baltimore is witnessed on news stations worldwide. What most failed to realize is that after the cameras leave the community still suffers, especially kids. With few positive outlets and an economically challenged area the need for our involvement was something we chose not to ignore. We partnered with Recreation Church headed by Pastor Vincent Dehm, with a goal to help the youth by introducing them to BJJ free of charge. It is called Recreation Jiu Jitsu and children in the Park Heights area can have their parents or guardians sign them up on the church site. DeuS was proud to fund their first set of mats and Gis for the kids. One thing that is always needed and welcomed is BJJ players who are interested in helping with instructing the kids, whether they live in Baltimore or if they’re traveling to the area and would like to be involved, feel free to contact me. Shameless plug, I know.
What is behind the drive you have to make this company a success? GVH: There is not short answer for this question, but I will give it a try. My kids have been involved in BJJ for years, not to mention my time on the mat, as a result my wife and I have a litany of friends from the BJJ community. The DeuS concept came from our discovery that many of them shared our faith and we began to brain storm how we could connect people on the mat to do things off the mat. What drives me is I want to be that person who leads by example and encourages like-minded people to combine forces, so we can strive to make significant positive change in our homes, communities and the world at large.
Has this venture changed you? GVH: In a word, YES! I had to evaluate myself I would say before I was kind of a stand on the side line type of Christian. I would do a few things, volunteer here and there, but not be fully committed. Now I think about things from a different perspective. I also have a clear realization how easy it is to compromise your integrity with the things going on in the world, so you have to be more aware of walking the walk and talking the talk. It has heightened my awareness of my Christian walk and I make it a point to instil those virtues into my kids.
What have been some challenges you have faced? GVH: I have had many challenges, those that were expected and those that I did not see coming…but, I am still here and my faith and passion has grown stronger as a result. That is pretty much all the voice I will give to negativity, I’d rather discuss how DeuS is moving forward, full steam ahead.
What sports are you focusing on and do you plan on expanding into other sports? GVH: The current focus is BJJ, MMA and Boxing, once we are firmly established in those sports we will potentially consider others.
Do you have a sponsorship program for athletes? GVH: Yes, I do and this is an entity that I am excited to grow. The GET SPONSORED link is on the website that has all the information: www.Deusfight.com
Would you mind sharing some of your testimony? GVH: I would love to and I am going to in conjunction with the release or our Testimony Gi series, which we plan on releasing in by the end of this year (2015). Those who are interested in investing in the special edition gi will be able to go to our site and submit their testimony in order to get one, as well as see my humble testimony.
Is there anything else you care to share that we may not have covered? GVH: I just want to thank my family, friends and all of those who currently support and who will potentially support what we are doing at DeuS Fight Company. We are just getting started!
Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the areaof leg locks. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more - find more of his leg lockarticles and resources at www.scienceofskill.com
When you have a strategy, for any sport, it’s vital to be smart in your approach and also utilize
your skills and tools. Watching clips of Rafael Lovato Jr, I see all of this in one person. The tall
black belt has earned his name by being a relentless guard passer who imposes himself upon
Watching his match from Grapplers Quest where he squared off with Braden Masters, Lovato
shows off how smart of a grappler he truly is, and makes sure to impress those of us watching
in the process of getting the win.
In The Heat of Battle
Watching Lovato Jr in this match is a thing of beauty. For a man that is so aggressive and
relentless, the fact he can stay so calm and collected is just as impressive as his guard passes
Early on in the match, Lovato found himself wearing Masters like a fanny pack around the mat!
Showing his strength and power, Lovato had Braden right where he wanted him. Not keen on
keeping the position, Masters dropped down for a leg…and this is when Lovato strikes!
The second his back hit the mat, Lovato began to pressure Masters. For a brief moment, Lovato
floated above Masters until he decided to pounce. In the blink of an eye, Lovato became very
top heavy and put Masters in an uncomfortable position.
Before you know it, Lovato worked his way right into side control. Braden began to work
frantically to try and get out of this position, but with Lovato’s bicep pressing right into his jaw
line, he had no chance.
Sensing his opponent was desperately looking to save himself, Rafael slipped right into full
mount. After a failed triangle attempt, Lovato was in s-guard for a millisecond, before Masters
able to escape.
This was to no avail, as Lovato was able to gain the upper hand and lock in a d’arce choke for
Using What You Got
When you have a tactical approach, it’s vital to know how to use the weapons that you have at
your disposal. In this match, Lovato was able to utilize his length and power to dominate
Masters for the entire match.
When Masters began to try and shrimp his way free, Lovato was able to kick his legs backwards
which did two things: 1) Prevented Braden from clearing the legs, and 2) Made his hips much
heavier, making it more difficult for Masters to move Rafael.
A smart grappler is a very dangerous grappler…and guess what, Rafael is a dangerous grappler.
When you have the skill set that Lovato has and you’re smart enough to utilize your body in a
strategic manner, it spells trouble for your opposition.
Always top heavy, Rafael makes sure his opponents are in a difficult spot from the second they
hit the mat. When he gets them there, he has no plans of letting them go free until his hand is
Ground Fighter specializes in unique, creative, and minimalist designs on products made with the highest quality materials. Our clothing is durable, comfortable, fashionable, and doesn’t cost a fortune. We know you have lots of choices when it comes to gear. Our hope is that you’re drawn to us because of the passion and creativity we put into our products and that you’ll stay with us because of our quality and customer service. This week`s review of Ground Fighters Inaugural Gi the much anticipated "Northern Lights".
A snippet from the GroundFighter.net website.
Ground Fighter Grappling Gear Ready Set Roll
Ground fighting is its own unique culture made up of passionate enthusiasts around the world who thrive for the battle on the mat. Ground Fighter is an athletic apparel brand founded on that same passion, created specifically for grapplers by grapplers. We’re lifelong ground fighting fanatics who in 2009 decided that we were tired of waiting around for a brand to produce quality clothing that matched our style, budget, and love for the sport.
Let’s get to the review.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
Ground Fighters “Northern Lights” Inaugural Gi Release I will be reviewing the A3 White Gi I am 92 kgs and 184cm tall, or 202llbs and 6’1
Jacket Details • 420 GM pearl weave top (single piece) • Sublimated, moisture-wicking shoulder/vent liners • EVA foam collar • Woven taping inside of jacket skirt • Reinforced stitching in high wear areas • Green contrast stitching
Pants Detail • 10 oz drill pants • Pearl weave gusset • Reinforced knee padding • Green rope drawstring with 6 belt loops FIRST LOOK IMPRESSIONS: When I opened the package from Ground Fighters I was pleasantly surprised to see a handwritten note from the Vice President of the brand wishing me the best with my new Northern Lights Gi along with a few stickers and a bar of handmade Soap. Instantly I took a liking to the brand as it is rare to find that level of customer service in the competitive market of fight gear. First look at the Gi with its bright white with green contrast stitching was definitely a very unique look but it was the bright colours of the Northern Lights in the top half of the jacket that really caught my eye. If you, like me also have children that train it would look equally as good on either a boy or girl and Ground Fighter have now released a child’s version of this Gi. When I felt the Gi for the first time I was supremely surprised to feel the softness of the collar the Jacket itself was a little stiff so I threw it in the wash before line drying it. No shrinkage occurred at all. Then it was time to put the Gi in its Northern Lights Gi bag and head of and train.
WORKOUT AND ROLLING PERFORMANCE: The fit of the Gi was quite comfortable, and after the wash the jacket was very soft. When I got this Gi it was coming to the end of winter here in Australia and my first night training in it was a touch colder than usual. On this night I decided I would put a rash guard under the Gi, which for me is a rare occurrence. I am not sure if it was because of this but I found that the Jacket was constantly sliding of my shoulders, which during rolls I found rather annoying.
During my second and further sessions in the Gi I have not worn a rash guard and the slipping off the shoulder has not occurred. The more I have trained in this Gi the more I have come to love it and out of all of the Gis I own this one has worked the way to my number one pick for training. Due to its lightweight design I packed this Gi into my bag when I went on a four week trip overseas just recently, the design of the Gi caught many eyes as I was asked about it time and time again and was happy to send them to Groundfighter.net for further info. Rolling in this Gi was a pleasurable experience its light weight and ability to breathe meant I didn’t find myself overheating or sweating as much as normal. The feedback from my training partners was also all positive with the softness of the collar being noted time and time again.
When I get my next competition Gi I will be definitely looking towards another Northern Lights based purely on the comfort of the Jacket and softness of the collar, combined with the light weight construction and the fact that is IBJJF approved I believe this Gi would rival any of the larger brands. Being the first Gi released by Ground Fighter Grappling Gear I for one am excited about what is on the horizon for this exciting brand out of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.
FIRST WASH AND FIT: With this Gi the website states clearly never to tumble dry, which suits me fine I still can’t bring myself to do it even though some brands say it is safe on low heat. The Northern Lights Gi is very light in weight and when hung out correctly I have found is dry almost 100% over night.
Even with the Gis that say wash in cold water there have been times when some of these Gis have shrunk and I am pleased to report that this Gi has not shrunk at all in the month and a bit I have been training in it. I aim to train in all of my review Gis at least 3 times a week where possible. The Northern Lights has been more then put through its paces and has handled itself very well. There have been many occasions over the past 5 weeks where blood has been spilt on it, both a combination of my own and my training partners (more often than not it is my own). When this has happened I have put in the wash straight away on COLD cycle and not one stain has locked itself into the Gi, it has managed to hold its pristine white colour really well.
As mentioned earlier the Gi has not shrunk at all since its first use/wash, and still fits nicely.
THE GOOD: 1. Will not shrink on you after a wash allegedly even if put in the dryer. 2. Eye Catching Northern Lights Design printed on the inside of the Jacket. 3. Light Weight Construction and IBJJF approved. 5. Remains white and doesn’t hold contaminations of you rigorous training sessions.
THE BAD: 1. Priced a little higher on the market (but the customer service you will receive makes it worthwhile). 2. Has potential to slip of shoulders during training (mine at least when worn over rash guard).
FINAL THOUGHTS: This is the second light weight Gi I have tested out and am extremely happy with its performance. The Northern Lights Gi has become my number one pick out of my collection so far. If I didn’t have a competition Gi patched up or I competed a little more, I would have a Northern Lights Gi patched up and ready to roll. I look forward to training more in this Gi as the weather starts to heat up down under. Its Lightweight construction makes it great for the travelling practitioner/competitor. If you would like to take a look at this Gi in a little more detail head over to www.groundfighter.net. While you’re there be sure to check out the rest of the range that this sensational brand has on offer.
A look behind the scenes with Chrissy Biehler VP of Ground Fighter Grappling Gear and how you can get yourself get yourself a Gi you can be proud of...
Hi Chrissy thanks for your time today, first things first, how and when did Ground Fighter get started?
We (Garrett and Chrissy Ford) founded Ground Fighter in 2009 in Dallas, TX. We’ve traveled all over the US growing this company and have lived in multiple states since we’ve started, but we’re now back in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We were tired of never having any grappling gear or apparel that matched our style and passion for the sport. That combined with a long conversation about how “if money was no object, what would you want to do” on a road trip from Texas to Oregon. From there ideas started rolling in, and we began making unique products that we loved. Thankfully lots of other people loved our style too. Generally Garrett is the creative one who has the product ideas and does most of the design work, whereas Chrissy handles the day-to-day business operations. We make a good team, and enjoy working our tails off to produce stellar grappling gear!
Tell us about Ground Fighter.
When we first started Ground Fighter, it seemed like everything had skulls and wings. So we wanted to offer people a completely different style. Even now with all the different brands out there, our style is still very unique. We love coming up with creative ideas, designing products with a minimalistic approach, and using bold colors to stand out. For example, take our “Kimura” or “Jiu Jitsu” shirt designs. They look clean and simple, but a lot of thought and creativity went into designing them. We usually include a blurb about the design process on each product page, like this: http://groundfighter.net/collections/shirts/products/ground-fighter-kimura-shirt-navy
We think that most people are drawn to Ground Fighter because of our name and style, but our customers keep coming back because of our high quality products and unbeatable customer service. Every product we release has been through intense testing to make sure it’s comfortable and durable. The very first pair of no gi shorts we released five years ago is still in the regular rotation of training gear in our house. And we hear a lot of people tell us that they bought one shirt and it quickly became their favorite tshirt in their closet, so they ended up buying several more.
We also feel that good customer service goes well beyond being personable, answering questions, and making sure our customers are generally happy with their products. We’re always trying to think up completely unexpected ways to thrill our followers. Everything from the buying experience with informative size charts, product info, and reviews, free shipping over $75, custom packaging, and extra goodies, on down to providing valuable BJJ content like training videos and nutrition tips and recipes via social media/newsletters. And we LOVE chatting with fellow BJJers--at gyms, tournaments, dive bars, or on social media. Connecting with our audience is our favorite part of running this company.
What obstacles did you come across when you first started out?
Finding manufacturers who could meet our high standards of quality wasn’t easy or cheap. Also finding the best way to reach our audience was tough. Back in 2009 the functions and features of social media wasn’t near the level it’s at now. We actually spent 3 years traveling around the country in a travel trailer going to gyms, tournaments, fights, etc. to grow the brand. It was definitely an adventure, and we got to meet a ton of awesome people.
What’s your most popular product?
Our “Shoot First” spats have been incredibly popular, as has our trademarked “Ready Set Roll” line of products. We are most proud of our new “Northern Lights” gi though. Word is spreading about the amazing design and quality, and we don’t doubt that it will be a key product for the Ground Fighter brand.
What items do you sell that people may not be aware of?
We just recently released our very first gi, so many people may not know us as a gi company yet. Also we carry kids gear. It’s hard to find good kids gear, so we think it’s important to provide high quality products for the future of the sport as well.
Do you have any exciting plans for new products coming up?
We’ve got lots of new designs and new products in the works--ranked rashguards, shorts, spats, hats, our second gi, etc. Sometimes we get so excited about a new product that we wish we could rush the release, but we know how important it is to make sure every little detail is perfect first.
Where do you get inspiration from in designing new products?
Inspirations come from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes ideas come when we’re completely surrounded by BJJ--like obsessing over a new move, or a phrase someone says when rolling. Other times it happens when we’re the furthest from BJJ--like the way colors come together in nature when backpacking through the mountains, which is where the idea for our “Northern Lights” gi came from. We get cool ideas a lot faster than we can get them on products and released. More than once we’ve had to scrap an idea because by the time we were able to complete it, someone else had done something with a similar theme.
Do you ship internationally?
Yes, we ship to just about anywhere in the world, and we’re always working to reduce shipping costs. With international shipping costs vary depending on location, but the more you order the more you save on shipping. We also offer multiple shipping options to meet your needs.
Why should people support Ground Fighter?
Ultimately our goal is to grow the sport of Jiu Jitsu as much as can and however we can. We see a lot of other sports televised on ESPN, and there’s no reason why BJJ shouldn’t be too. So everything we do is in support of the sport. Jiu Jitsu is expensive with gym fees, tournament costs, travel expenses, etc., and we try to keep the cost of gear down while still providing the best quality so it will last a long time. We also have sales and contest giveaways frequently, and you can get 10% off when signing up for our newsletter. We provide womens and kids gear, and are always working to expand those products. We help support tournaments big and small, seminars, and also sponsor a number of athletes from all over. And we’re always using our passion and creativity to inspire newcomers to join the BJJ community. Even when traveling or on vacation, we’ll get friends, family and locals together to train. There’s nothing like a flow roll at 15,000 ft overlooking a glistening lake as your first introduction to Jiu Jitsu.
How did you get into Jiu-Jitsu?
I actually never thought of myself as very athletic growing up and spent most of my youth studying drama, choir, and other arts. It was until my second year at Arizona St that I got into BJJ. I had dabbled some in martial arts growing up--Karate, Akido, Judo, Boxing, and Muay Thai, but I never took anything seriously until I found Jiu-Jitsu. A friend of mine took me to a class at Charles Gracie Academy, and after getting tied into a knot for a few hours I knew I had to learn more. I’m a pretty small guy and found that I loved BJJ because I could hold my own against bigger guys if my technique was on point. I trained at Megaton’s for over 2 years while I was in AZ. I remember Mackenzie Dern making me look like a fool when she was an orange belt. I’ve trained at a lot of different gyms since then, but now that I’m back in TX, I train at Next Gen in Frisco, TX under Chris Brennan.
What social media sites are you on, and what are those addresses?
After two over doses, the last one landing him in a coma Devin Chasten started BJJ in earnest. After a broken neck and spine surgery in 2011 Devin received his brown belt this October from Dustin “Clean” Dense. Read the rest of the interview.
Success through hard work is the merit that defines a champion both on and off the mat. Yet being a champion doesn’t come easy as it takes struggle and the will to work to reach one’s goals. October 1st 2015 marked a monumental day for grappling practitioner Devin “Pirata” Chasten of Kansas City, Mo with his promotion to BJJ brown belt under world renowned Dustin “Clean” Dense. This pivotal achievement wasn’t accomplished overnight as Chasten’s rollercoaster nine year journey showcases the results of never giving up and always striving to become better. Devin openly touches on in this exclusive interview with us at BJJ Legends.
Your instructor Dustin “Clean” Denes visited your gym Bodyfit KC to do a seminar on October 1st. In addition he surprised you with a well-deserved promotion to BJJ brown belt. Would you care to touch on your thoughts and feelings about getting promoted that night?
Devin Chasten: It was an incredible feeling with a lot of emotion behind it for sure. He gave a long speech before the promotion at the end of the seminar, touching on a lot of things about our relationship, the beginning of our training together, so on and so forth. It was an incredible speech that left me almost tearing up to hear how he felt about me and about this promotion, a moment I will never forget.
Achieving this feat was by no means an easy task. Reflecting on your journey when you think of the word “struggle” why is it a good thing?
DC: Struggle is a great thing in hindsight; it is an opportunity to grow. Without a struggle to overcome, you can’t get better. That’s how I looked at it, and believe me I had my fair share of struggles, just as many have. Some people could look at it as a road block and shy away, I tried to stay positive and take it head on. Without my struggles and adversities, I wouldn’t be who I am today or have the knowledge I have. It made me change the way I train, look at Jiu-Jitsu, and my approach to the way I do it. At the end of the day makes you so much better, because you have to try different things and you have to get out of your comfort zone, which is somewhat the essence of Jiu-Jitsu. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Talk to us about some of the hurdles that transformed you to the man you are today?
DC: I’ve had many, but a few really stand out, I started Jiu-Jitsu not because it looked fun to me, but I needed a way to channel my energy in a positive way. I started training seriously after my second overdose, one I barely survived. I was in a sort of a coma for about a week, when I finally came out and realized my situation and how bad I was getting, I called my friend at the time and told him I need to do this seriously, I need to have direction in my life because if I didn’t I knew I wouldn’t last long once I got out. So in a serious way, Jiu-Jitsu saved my life for real. Another serious hurdle was when I had broken my neck in January of 2009, without really knowing it. I trained that way for six months before I Finally went to the doctor’s office about it, after my right pec, triceps, and forearm had completely atrophied. I had nerve damage from my shoulder to my finger and couldn’t feel my right index finger. The whole time Clean made me push through, sometimes training 8 hour days for days straight pushing through the injury because we thought it was just my arm, not my neck. For the next 6 months after I did physical therapy, cortisone shots, everything we could fix it to no avail, leading to Surgery December 2009. All the while, I never stopped training. I took 3 months off after surgery, came back to train 3 months and competed in the IBJJF world championships my first tournament back. I’m now dealing with spine issues in my lower back, which at one point about a year ago I was having troubles walking or even getting out of bed, but with the knowledge from the years of dealing with these situations and with the help of a fantastic physical therapist I have managed to recover, train hard and work around it without it affecting me too much.
Everyone’s journey has reason it began leading to you experiencing your share of ups and downs. Tell us a little about how you got started in BJJ?
DC: I was living a very hostile life before I started Jiu-Jitsu, and I always watched the UFC and always thought I could do it. Growing up, if I wasn’t skipping school I was getting in fights to get kicked out, I had lot of anger so before I even put on a gi, I fought MMA on a few shows on a local circuit. I was 18, fresh out of high school and fresh out of the hospital. I got released out of the hospital in October 2006 and took my first fight a month later with only a month of \"MMA\" training and a few years of high school wrestling experience. I got the W by TKO in 1:33 of the first. I had two more fights, the latter one where I had a pretty serious eye injury to my good eye, I say good eye because I am actually blind in my right eye already and have been since I was a year old. I made a full recovery from the injury in that fight and realized MMA was not a smart choice, and that was right around when I met Clean and immerse myself full time Jiu-Jitsu with him. The rest is history.
Dustin Dense is known in the BJJ Community as a respected and intense individual. Tell us about of your experience training under him and most importantly what you learned from him that’s helped shape your life on and off the mat?
DC: Intensity was an understatement; it was downright insane training from the beginning. We met Clean when he lived in Missouri for a short period of time but when he moved back to Florida he would come back once sometimes twice a month and we would drill and train for 6-7 days straight, 8-10 hours a day. He would try to kill us. I remember guys getting vertigo from the sessions, most would come once and we would never see them again. At some points I would have to peel my gi off my skin, leaving what looked like bed sores from training so much without any breaks. The old Clean, he wanted us to be killing machines. My friend David Vava and I used to wake up at 4 am and drive 2 hours to a gym he would teach at when he lived here, to train for 2 hours then I would come back home and go to community college (which I eventually dropped out of so I could train with Clean more). Those two hours were nothing but us getting smashed as bad as we could by guys who Clean had waiting for us, it wouldn’t stop until Clean was satisfied. He was crazy, and we didn’t know anything different.
We were young, stubborn, and wanted his respect. I remember after of those sessions I went to shake Clean’s hand and he looked me dead in the eyes and said \"Your Jiu-Jitsu it shit. You are shit. Don’t come down here and train unless you’re going to bring something better\". He shrugged my handshake off and I left. He was hazing us, seeing if we were worthy of his time. We kept going back until we earned his trust, and we eventually did. After training for a few years I moved to South Florida for 3 months to live with him and train at his academy he opened, there I got my purple belt that was in 2011. As always, every day was war and you had to be the last man standing or suffer the consequences. I look back, after going through all of that I knew that nothing else in life could be that hard, which made me more successful in everything else I did. He showed me how to work hard, how to push past any point of wanting to quit, how there was a way through any situation no matter how intense. I owe almost everything in my life to that man, for all the hard times he was always there for me, always believed in me and never let me give up. I am forever grateful to Dustin Denes.
Are there any other individuals that have helped in your growth in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
DC: I also cross train at KCBJJ. Owner Jason Bircher, Travis Conley, Taylor Kettler and Carlos Dallis are my main training partners there. Although Clean is my master, Jason Bircher and Travis Conley have been mentors of mine as well. Travis is my go to guy, one of my best friends who keeps it real and says to me what I need to hear, and pushes me beyond my limits in the training sessions. We have a tight knit community here in KC; they all want the best for me as I do for them.
Switching positions in your current as an instructor at Bodyfit KC how do you use your experience to inspire and help your students?
DC: I feel like I’ve been down a special and unique path, whether it’s been what I’ve been through with Clean, what I’ve been through with injuries and life in general that I feel I can relate with just about anyone on some level which helps as an instructor. Due to severe injuries I’ve had to change my game so much that I’ve learned a diverse style, so it’s easy to show people something in all aspects of the game. I don’t think I’m great at any one thing, just a jack of all trades because I’ve had to learn and switch my style with each injury, which is a great thing because it made me open my mind to so much more and not be stubborn on something and closed minded to the rest, which translates so well to teaching. I love teaching and interacting, training with students. It makes you stay on top of your game and relevant, I’m always reviewing things I worked on for years, it’s awesome.
Finally with some much accomplished in your life what does the future hold for Devin Chasten?
DC: As long as I’m able to train, I know whatever is in store in the future will be great. Of course I want to go and win big championships, but the journey along the way is what I live for. Now as a new brown belt, I’m ready to come out of the gate strong, compete as much as possible but also learn and enjoy the road. With age, development and experience comes wisdom, and I’m ready for more and whatever the future holds!
Devin Chasten Shout Outs: David Vava at Bodyfit Kansas City, Jason Bircher and Travis Conley at KCBJJ, Anyone and everyone who has ever had a positive impact in my life in Jiu-Jitsu and off the mat, I owe it all to you. Finally Last and not least, Dustin \"Clean\" Denes. I owe him more than I can ever explain.
“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” -Stephen King
Professor Emily Kwok has a career in BJJ that is beyond enviable for multiple reasons. What sets her apart are the goals she set in the beginning because she didn't set any. She came to class simply to be better than she was the day before. So many want to be number one, so many expect to be nothing but the best, so many strive to always win nothing less than gold., And while Professor Kwok honed her technique, it is her attitude that garnered her win after win, gold medal after gold medal, title after title. This is why Professor Emily Kwok is a not just a hero but a legend. Heroes do get remembered but legends never die. BJJLegends talks with Professor Kwok about her very prestigious background, her take on proper technique, and maintaining a healthy balance in the BJJ world.
BJJL: Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like?
EK: I was born in Japan, but immigrated to Canada when I was a baby. I spent my formative years growing up in Vancouver, BC. I suppose I had a pretty pleasant and quiet childhood. My parents were immigrants so I was raised speaking Japanese, and had to learn English as I assimilated into Canadian culture. I made friends pretty easily, we moved around a lot but I learned how to adapt to my environment very quickly.
My teenage years were pretty wonderful and terrible at the same time. I had an idyllic high school experience, great friends, lots of sports, extracurricular activities, good grades etc. but a difficult time at home. My father and I butted heads a lot, I think, around my westernized sense of independence and his old school Asian ways.
BJJL: Why BJJ?
EK: Why not? Lol. Well, actually, it was supposed to be boxing but I sucked at it. Then it was sambo, but the instructor wasn’t into teaching chicks…so, BJJ was there for me.
BJJL: When you began, did you have any idea what impact you would have by becoming the First Female Black Belt in Canada?
EK: I had no idea what I was doing. Haha. Like, no expectations, no dreams, no visions, no nothing. It was after my first competition as a white belt (6 months in) that my best friend Roy Duquette (who introduced me to BJJ and helped coach me) told me, ‘You’re going to be a World Champion one day!’ and I think I told him something along the lines of ‘Yeah right, whatever.’
I honestly just always loved training, I loved the challenge and went along for the ride. Any medals or accomplishments were gravy.
BJJL: Pet peeve as an instructor?
EK: You mean something that bothers me when I instruct?
1. - Know-it-alls, arrogant beginner students who just think they know better because they have a blown up ego and don’t know how to humble themselves, or occasionally a douchebag male student that doesn’t respect what I’m saying because I’m a woman.
2. - I don’t enjoy watching or training with people who don’t want to tap when they should because they refuse to believe you caught them.
3. - Students who go really hard with you after they’ve just gone on for 5 min about this injury and that injury and wanting to roll light.
4. - Stinky students, students with bad hygiene. Wash your damn clothes! Cut your toe nails!!
BJJL: You are excellent at teaching proper technique. You emphasize the importance of skill over brute force. What event ultimately led you to fine tune your own skills against extremely large opponents?
EK: Getting my ass beat! Lol. Having access to great instructors! I didn’t train smart when I was coming up in BJJ. At the time I think it was also just a little more barbaric and people didn’t know how bad it was for your body to just let big people beat the crap out of you. The way I used to subject myself to horrible training conditions – I did it because if I didn’t I had no one to train with…you simply just didn’t have enough bodies in the room to train with people closer to your size. My training partners were all nice guys, but that’s just it, they were nice 185-250lb guys.
Since pulling back on the competition, I’ve been really feeling the abuse I put my body through all those years. I don’t want my students or future practitioners to feel the same way. Training BJJ your whole life is just not a possibility if we abuse our bodies senselessly – so I started thinking there has to be a better way.
BJJL: Smackgirl, how did you get involved with MMA and will you go back to it?
EK: I still giggle every time I hear SMACKGIRL! I always say I’ll try almost anything once. I was living for a year in Tokyo, and after winning a lot of BJJ competitions there, I was offered the opportunity to do an amateur women’s MMA fight. I was always curious to see what it would be like, so I did it. I won my first amateur fight, then they turned me pro and sent me to Korea for my first pro fight. It was an intense experience!
I don’t think I’d go back to MMA at this point. Actually I didn’t continue on with it because when I moved to the Northeast in 2006, I had started training MMA again to see if I could pick it up in the states. This was pre Gina Carano days and man, the ladies fighting out here were super tough!! I had been lined up a few times for fights, but a lot of the women who initially agreed to fight me were 1-2 years in training MMA, then they would find out I had been training BJJ 7 years and won the world championships, and back out. Even if our MMA records were similar, they didn’t want to take a fight against an experienced grappler. It was very difficult to find a fair fight. By the time they gave me an opponent that wouldn’t back out, it was Michele Tavares, who is a BJJ black belt champion in her own right with a 10-1 record at the time…so that wasn’t a good fight for me – hence – I said goodbye to MMA.
Now I’m about to turn 35 with a little one to look after and another on the way. I co-own a school, travel for seminars and camps, and work full time in consulting…I don’t have time to get punched in the face like that! Also, I have to give it to MMA fighters. MMA training sucks. It’s not fun. lol
BJJL: You are a BJJ Legend. A first. Sexual Harassment is something women have dealt with since the dawn of time and as a first you have fought on vastly different playing fields. Do you have any advice you can offer on dealing with such a sensitive issue in these not so sensitive sports?
EK: I’ve had some female students tell me that they want to learn BJJ as a form of self-defense because they’ve either been assaulted or want to know how to protect themselves against it. One thing that I impart to them is that a single session/a seminar/learning without really doing…isn’t going to save you from anything. Even if you train for a long time – really hard – you may still find yourself in a terrible position. But, I believe strongly in empowering women to assert themselves, to teach them to exude the type of confidence from within that wards off predators. I also warn them that you can’t learn to defend yourself from an attack if you aren’t willing to be attacked – in class…so though we may ease into the process of sparring/rolling, I try to make them understand that they have to be willing to confront and handle their fears of being attacked if you ever expect to be able to do something about it if it ever happens. I guess it’s really about teaching women/people to be comfortable with being uncomfortable…to reach the other side, where you may feel in control of a bad situation.
BJJL: You are a pioneer. You did MMA and BJJ when no one else was really giving women the credit they deserved for either sport. You truly have paved the way, what was going through your mind when you started each of your unique journeys?
EK: I was just a stubborn chick who loved to challenge myself in different ways. It was thrilling, alive, present. I never competed or did anything for recognition, and in many ways, had no idea that it was a big deal that not a lot of women were doing these sorts of sports. Maybe it was all for the best – there was no pressure, no precedent, no history for me to look up. I just did it. Those were some of the most liberating years of my life, formative too…in my early-mid-twenties. The scene is really different now!!
BJJL: The idiot sweep, I absolutely love it, where does it come from and that name, who coined it?
EK: Marcelo had taught it to me early on. I think one of the most brilliant things I’ve learned from him is simplicity and efficiency. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been taught or witness techniques where me and my peers would giggle and say, ‘what? That’s it? That’s actually a technique?’
One of the benefits of being able to have trained with him and just witness his movement is that he’s trimmed the fat off the game…he’s practiced and embodied effective movement that isn’t complicated or overly flowery…it just works. And at the end of the day that’s what we all want right? BJJ that works.
BJJL: You have made what appears to be a seamless transition from constant competitor to business owner, wife, mother, and mentor of up and coming talent. How do you maintain a healthy balance?
EK: I just do as I do. I don’t act based on what I think I should be doing or what people expect of me. This is pretty much how I’ve been since I was a teenager. I know life will hand you bumps from time to time, but those bumps and flaws are what makes life beautiful and worth living. So I don’t worry about how to handle any potential problems, and I just live through them. I try to be transparent and honest with myself. I’ve always tried my best to trust my gut, trust my life…and it’s never steered me wrong. Ugly or pretty as it may be, I just let it all hang. Lol. It’s the only way I know how to be, and to be frank, a lot of people around me don’t know how to handle my honesty. But I don’t want a brain or a life full of baggage and weird shit, so I roll with the punches every day, and hope that I come out the other side ok.
BJJL: Would you like to see BJJ return to submission only?
EK: I think I’d like to see BJJ be a sport where athletes fight to win, not fight to not lose…not sure what that entails for rules, but I think the best matches are the ones where the athletes leave all their hard work and artistry on the mat.
BJJL: If you could change anything the IBJJF mandates (including the fees) what would it be?
EK: I think there should be more cash prizes awarded to the competitors, and I’d like to see something like, black belt champions receiving free entry into competition and perhaps round trip airfare for the following year – to defend their title. They’ve given up their lives to showcase the sport, if they achieve a gold medal at the highest level, I believe they deserve to be recognized for that. How many professional sports exist where the best athletes have to pay to compete in?
BJJL: I’ve seen a few unofficial polls around asking if integrated (male/female) categories should be allowed in tournaments. I can’t think of a better individual to ask for thoughts on the subject.
EK: NO. Lol. Men and women are different species, size and strength do matter, and we are NOT physically equal. I’ve fought men in tournaments before, I know a few other women have, but I don’t think it’s progressive for the sport.
BJJL: Any Non-profits that you support?
EK: Not specifically in BJJ. I get asked to do benefit seminars etc. from time to time, or to donate something else to their cause, and I always try to help out – but nothing with a long standing relationship.
BJJL: Do you have any camps in 2016 we should be on the lookout for?
EK: We will undoubtedly have women’s only and co-ed GGC events in 2016, so stay tuned!!
BJJL: Women’s Equality Day was 26 August, what are your thoughts on the Equal Pay issue in BJJ?
EK: Needs to happen…like, yesterday! Women’s BJJ has grown a lot, and women’s competitive fights are as exciting and dynamic as they’ve ever been. These elite ladies deserve to earn as much as their male counterparts. They’ve put just as much work in, and defied the odds of surviving in a pretty hostile, male dominated sport.
BJJL: Proudest Moment?
EK: Each moment is pretty great. Some life highlights…Losing my first match at ADCC 2007 in overtime. I had not been able to train well for the event with a compound fracture on my middle finger, took the cast off 2 weeks before the tournament…over trained in my first week and gave myself a 102 degree fever for 3 days the week I was supposed to fight. I fought the 2005 runner up in my first round on sheer will and determination. I was incredibly proud of that fight even though I lost. I don’t know that I’ve ever believed in myself more than I had to in those 15 min.
Getting married and the birth of my daughter – signified a new chapter in my life. I always wanted a family and wanted to settle down but I always put myself first. I was very happy to settle down.
Opening Princeton BJJ and promoting our first black belts. We have a really wonderful culture in our school, I’m incredibly proud of our students and the community we’ve created.
BJJL: Long term goals?
EK: Stay healthy and continue to follow my heart. It’s never been wrong yet! I’d like to eventually get back to painting, I'm educated in the arts and originally came to the east coast to become an ‘artist’.
Travel the world, grow old with my husband, teach my children about the world and watch them grow and thrive. I’d love to see them follow their dreams and stay true to themselves – I think that’s incredibly hard to do these days.
BJJL: Any regrets?
EK: No. Every positive and negative experience has led me to where I am today and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you never had the opportunity to who helped you during your journey?
EK: My husband – Gerry Hurtado, My best friend – Roy Duquette, My business partners – Art Keintz, Val Worthington, Hannette Staack, My coaches/teachers – Marcelo Garcia, Tatiana Garcia, Josh Waitzkin, My students and fans!! – I would not have a career without their support.
She came, she saw, and she continues to do everything exactly on her own terms. Professor Emily Kwok began her BJJ journey never considering what impact she would have on the entire community. She came to class one day and hasn't looked back. She is a woman that is willing to put it all on the line for the sport she loves, it makes her so much more than a legend. She trained BJJ before it was mainstream for women and became the first female black belt in Canada. She was a success in MMA before it was mainstream for women and was a success internationally. Professor Kwok is a pioneer, a go-getter. What she has done since she began her journey has been PURELY for her love of BJJ. She put her heart and soul into what she loved and because of that she has been unstoppable.
"Just seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark for all the right reasons."-Chrissie Wellington