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.
For every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner there is a kimono. From blood and sweat absorbed after a training session to the patches we decorate that gives our fight wear a distinguishable appearance, each individual’s kimono tells a story which reveals their purpose in the art.
Equipped in his trusted kimono for two years, BJJ blue belt, Ren Costantini’s life changing journey carried with it many challenges centered on the love/hate relationship he has with his kimono. In this reflective narration Costantini uncovers the truth of what his kimono means to him in his thoughtful biography “Killer Kimono.”
Ren Costantini: Have you ever been told “keep your friends close and your enemies closer?" Seemingly most of us have heard the expression uttered at some point in time. Till recently, however, the expression did not fully resonate. Friends have always had their way of staying close due to the mutual affinity for one another in a mutually beneficial relationship - they are, after all, friends... but keep your enemies closer? This seemed oxymoronic. Why would I keep my enemies closer than my own friends? Then, one day after a grueling training session at Evolution Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I found myself exhausted. Slowly removing my Gi, and tossing it on the mat, I promptly fell next to it. It was here I had my revelation.
After every class I lie on the mat and try to the best of my ability to recollect what events transpired during the session. That evening I recall being particularly frustrated with my kimono. My opponent utilized grips that prevented me from a particular pass and, being the hard headed blue belt that I am, I continued to bang my head against the wall, expecting it to crumble. The wall did not crumble, and my pass ended in me being choked with my Gi.
Staring at my Kimono, I was astonished. My companion, my favorite clothing if you will, had turned against me - it had betrayed me. I felt a feeling of minor grief overcame me. Maybe… just maybe this friend was never really a friend. Absorbed in thought, time passed and the owner of the school began mopping the mats, and it was then that my thought process was paused.
At my next training session I found myself in New Hampshire at Port City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. College had begun and reluctantly, with severe remorse, I was faced with the unavoidable truth that Jiu-Jitsu cannot be my major. However, it was after another gruesome training session I stripped off my gi and threw it to the mat reluctantly, my limp body following in a less serene fashion. Here the initial process of contemplation was revisited. That night I executed a few techniques that required me to use my opponent's gi against him, and vice versa. Admiring my kimono, the same feeling of aforementioned grief reappeared. “How can you do this to me? I thought we were close!”
Then it hit me, almost as hard as the lack of oxygen due to a bow and arrow choke. My gi is my enemy's friend. At first I felt cheated. “How could you choose to help him/her over me? I wash you! I occasionally dry you! I put nice patches on you! What did I do wrong? Tell me - I can change! I’ll be better, I swear!” Needless to say there was no response or remorse. That night my gi chose to leave with me if it's any consolation.
While getting my gi to leave with me was a subtle victory I began to reminisce about all the good times before my recent epiphany. This article of clothing felt as if it were armor and provided me with a sense of protection. The Kimono represents a part of me. All the sweat, blood, and tears that have been shed in these wonderful pieces of armor make it impossible for me not to be attached. So much time spent together - we have a relationship. One built on mutual respect and an absurd amount of hard work. Looking across my rotation I chuckled. How funny. The gis we wear are our enemies.
What could be closer to our hearts than our gis? We spend enormous amounts of time with them, wash them, care for them, buy an obscene amount of them, and become rather intimate with them. Part of our being is quite literally being absorbed by these beautiful creations. While their aesthetics are usually the initial enticing factor, regardless of brand or look, they show no shame in their betrayal. This armor we dress ourselves in for battle is as great of an enemy as our adversary when rolling. Our Kimonos are undoubtedly classified as our enemies.
The main revelation was not simply that our kimonos are our enemies. No. It can never be that transparent and simple. The true pinnacle of this thought process is that I truly love my enemy. Maybe it's the way it challenges me, chokes me, and stops me. Could it be the times we have shared? The battles won and lost? It could have something to do with a large amount of blood and sweat now permanently ingrained in the fabric. Above all I realized my enemies have always been my greatest teachers. Wearing my gis I have experienced a world most will never experience. I have traveled through battlegrounds undiminished and emerged a new man. This particular enemy has inspired me to reach beyond disdain or even frustration to view the nature of the thing itself. An enemy is simply a form of adversity, and adversity is prosperity of the great. In order to become great my enemies remain close, in fact they're hanging right next to me.
Bio: Ren Costantini is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt Training out of: Evolution Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Port City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Nostos MMA. Jiu-Jitsu has had such a profound impact on his life. He couldn't even imagine not being a part of such a wonderful community that practices a beautiful art form.
Follow Ren Costantini on Instagram- @essencejiujitsu
BJJ Legends interview, we get an inside look at Lachlan Giles and his journey which has led him to the ADCC.
A tournament that comes around every two years, the ADCC Championship is considered the Olympics in submission grappling competition. Established in 1998 this event features a collection of elite grapplers from across the globe. Emitting live from Sao Paulo, Brazil the 2015 edition of ADCC will feature a diverse pool of seasoned veterans, rising stars, and unknown talents all competing to be recognized as the best. For some participants it’s just another day battling to claim a prize. Yet for some entrants being a part of this event has a deeper in fulfilling a lifelong dream just to compete.
Thirteen years of blood, sweat, and tears have finally culminated for Australia's own Lachlan Giles. Winner of ADCC's Asian Trials, this will be Giles ADCC debut as he looks to not only to fulfill his dream but also showcase the talent of the submission fighters from down under.
Talk to us a little bit about your journey and how you got started?
Lachlan Giles:I initially started martial arts when I was 14 years old; I watched a kung fu movie and thought it would be cool to learn kung fu. At some point my instructor showed me a VHS of UFC 1. I watched Royce Gracie dismantle everyone, including a kung fu expert, but I refused to believe BJJ was better.
After about 6 months of denying that BJJ was better than kung fu, I finally gave in and decided to try a class. I think I was almost 16 years old at that time, after that I was hooked!
I have had a large array of coaches and influences throughout my BJJ career. Until purple belt I was under Tyrone Crosse, he left the gym I was training at so I then had George Sotiropoulous as a coach for a brief period. George left to pursue his MMA career and John Simon came in to replace George. I received my black belt from John Simon/John Will in 2012. However John was unable to train due to injury since I received my brown belt, so I had a heap of help from some of the best grapplers in Melbourne (Dave Marinakis, Lee Ting, Cam Rowe, Dave Hart, Kit Dale, Michael Hourigan, Jamie Murray, Ninos). It was a great experience to receive my black belt in the presence of all these people who had a profound impact on my BJJ.
Becoming a black belt what are some of the challenges you face at this rank and most importantly what keeps you motivated?
Lachlan Giles:The most challenging aspect of being a black belt in Australia is the difficulty in competing at an international standard. We have a lot of talented grapplers in Australia but it is rare to see them all on the same mat. Therefore the environment is different to that you would see at the headquarters for some of the bigger teams in the world. That said we are developing a great competition team at Absolute South Yarra and there are a bunch of people training full time. Two of our female athletes took silver medals at the worlds this year (Livia Gluchowska-purple, and Nikki Lg- White). Keep an eye out for guys such as Ben Hodgkinson who are sure to make some waves in the next few years. These guys push me every day!
My main motivation for training is that I enjoy it. I think people get bored of BJJ when they stop trying to learn. There is always something new to work on, and that’s why I want to keep training until I am 70.
What does being a competitor mean to you?
Lachlan Giles:Competing is always a good reality check and it keeps me motivated. It is a way of testing myself to see how well I can implement my game. I think it’s easy to not compete, especially as a black belt and a coach where there is a fear of having my students see me fail. The funny thing is that it’s my failures that have given me the most of my success. I think as a blue, purple and brown belt I probably lost as many matches as I won. Even at black belt I wouldn't say I am too far off. However, every time I lose I am back at the gym the next day, my motivation skyrockets.
The reality is that your students/training partners don't actually care when you lose. Sometimes I think you can do much more as a role model for your students by losing and fixing your mistakes, than you can by winning a match.
You recently achieved a major accomplishment by winning the ADCC Trials. From the traveling to another country to compete, advancing in the rounds, and winning the event. Talk to us about that memorable day?
Lachlan Giles:Winning the ADCC trials was always a dream of mine. I had 3 goals in BJJ, receive my BJJ black belt, open up a gym, and compete in ADCC. The event itself was a bit of a surreal experience.
The tournament was held in a large hall. This was in the middle of the Korean winter, which was below freezing temperature. They turned the heater on after everyone arrived and it wasn't until about 12pm that the venue was warm. I competed around 10 am so I was warming up with all my clothes on! There was a large mix of people from different nationalities. The majority of competitors were from Korea, although there was a reasonably large Kazakhstani and Australian contingent.
I won my first 2 matches by submission, which advanced me to the semifinal. I was told by an Irish-man living in Korea that the guy I was fighting in the Semifinal was the favorite. I managed to get an early heel hook in that match, which advanced me to the final. In the final I was facing Benjamin Aldridge, from New Zealand (now lives in Australia). Ben's aim was to run down the clock and force overtime, where he would implement his wrestling more effectively. I had a few submission attempts from guard but none of them stuck. With about 10 seconds to go the score was even and I managed to lock up a triangle. I knew there was very little chance of finishing the choke in that time so I switched to an omoplata and sat up for the sweep. I came on top with about 2-3 seconds to go, and then the buzzer went.
There was a long pause as the judges were discussing, and then I was awarded the 2 points, and the victory! Australians won 3 out of the 5 divisions that day. We celebrated that night with some Korean BBQ and Soju.
Your division in ADCC features stacked pool of talent Kron Gracie, Garry Tonnon just to name a few. How do you feel going up against them and what do you feel your chances are coming out with the victory?
Lachlan Giles:There are definitely a lot of big names in the division, which is very exciting for me. I have trained with people the same caliber as the people in my division (and even some of the people) so I know what to expect. I am not going into the event as the favorite but I think it’s possible to beat anyone, particularly in no gi where the pace is very high and a single mistake can cost the match.
Throughout my BJJ career I have fought the likes of JT Torres, Murilo Santana and Roberto Satoshi so it won’t be a huge shock to go up against a big name. However I think the crowd in Brazil will bring the event to another level!
Talk to us about your training for this event?
Lachlan Giles:The majority of my training is done at my gym Absolute MMA. We have a great amount of high level guys. I am training a lot of wrestling as I think this is a very key aspect to ADCC that is often under looked by the competitors. We have some great wrestling coaches in Australia and I am trying to get as much out of them as I can!
Closer to the event I think we will be getting all the Australian ADCC competitors training together on the same mat, which is going to lift the level considerably. I am continuing to try to evolve my game at this point and I will start trying to do some really intense rounds as of about 4 weeks out from the competition.
Finally what would winning ADCC mean to you?
Lachlan Giles:I honestly think I train just as hard as everyone else in the division so it would be great to see that hard work pay off. I am trying to think of an example where a male Australian has beaten a really high level black belt and nothing comes to mind at this moment. To win the event would be incredible but you have to take it one match at a time. A victory against a big name would be a huge thing for BJJ in Australia.
Any finals thoughts or people you would like to thank thanks?
Lachlan Giles:Thanks to all my training partners from Absolute MMA who are helping me to prepare for this event, and the guys that are going out of their way from other clubs to help me out (David Marinakis, Lee Ting, Michael Hourigan). Special thanks to Livia Gluchowska, this wouldn’t be possible without your help and support
The one thing that prevents individuals from achieving goals is their limitations and the unwillingness to break through them. Fear, doubt, physical deficiencies are amongst the mental vices that causes us to give up. While some have thrown in the towel there are others whom stay determined to overcome anything life throws at them. Furthermore with this positive attitude overcoming adversity is a simple task as the only thing that awaits is happiness, capturing the goal, and unlocking that full potential they never knew existed.
Whether its battles on or off the mat Sityodtong Los Angeles/Team Wander Braga BJJ Purple Belt Max Blum constantly continues to break barriers. To thinking being a one legged amputee grappler he could come up with any excuses of what he can't do. However he is doing the opposite pushing beyond his set limits to becoming a true champion in life which has also served as an inspiration to anyone that has had the pleasure of training and interacting with him.
What makes him so driven and positive you ask? We here at BJJ Legends got the opportunity to talk to Max Blum as we get an in-depth look at this ambitious grappler.
What is you physical condition and how did you end up with it? Max Blum: The condition I have is Streeter Syndrome. It is a condition where Amniotic bands get attached to the Fetus and Utero which cuts off the muscle and bone from growing into what a full body human being with two arms and two legs look like.
Before getting involved in BJJ how would you describe your life? Max Blum: Growing up at an early age knowing that you are different, I would always have some insecurities about my appearance in wanting to be whole and normal like everyone else. Coming from a family of successful athletes it was always encouraged to take part in sports which motivated me to compete. The reason for me wanting to compete was because I was given limits by doctors, social workers, and others individuals of what I can't do. This made me want to prove these doubters wrong. Unfortunately with all my focus on the physical realm, work, and traveling my academics took a backseat which resulted in me not finishing school thus lacking the confidence to be successful in that area.
How did you get involved in BJJ? Max Blum: In 2006 I had some life altering events that happened to me. I had a childhood friend that passed away from a drunk driving accident and my favorite cousin due to an automobile accident traveling in bad weather. I had already lost a lot of focus in my life. I was traveling, not involved in sports, and was out of shape. All of this made me very depressed.
The turning point was when I discovered a couple of friends were into grappling. I didn't know anything about it at the time but it seemed to be doing them a world of good. I imminently became interested and started training BJJ in 2009 under Team Wander Braga at Fight Forum in Montrose, California.
Now when you started training did you initially start training with or without the false leg? Max Blum: I started training with the False Leg.
Why was that? Max Blum: I was so use to not doing anything without it. Looking back I believe it was also part insecurity and feeling scared I would hurt myself.
What was the turning point where you decided to train without it? Max Blum: My first instructor started noticing I would get stuck in certain positions especially the half guard so he recommended I train without it. It is when I started training without the false leg that my grappling game started to get better everything from my top to bottom game especially the guard which is very offensive.
As you progressed through your BJJ journey when did you started to notice a change within yourself not only as a grappler but also on a personal level? Max Blum: BJJ has helped take the fear of failure away from me. It has given me a lot of confidence that I have used to stay positive in my life with my current situation being an amputee. I went back school and finished it being on the dean's list every semester at CSU Northridge. Overall just being successful at anything I put my mind.
Who would you say has been your biggest influence in your BJJ Journey? Max Blum: I have had a lot of influences in BJJ but one major influence has to be my instructor Antonio Fernando Castillo. He would always give me a lot of encouraging, advice, and help me develop my game.
Looking toward the future do you have any goals for yourself as a grappler or even in general that you would like to accomplish? Max Blum: As I get older I would like to transition into a career that I find successful. I would also like to give back to others just as my BJJ coaches have given back to me.
Finally for anyone reading your story how would you like to be remembered in hopes of inspiring others to overcome the challenges life puts in front of them? Max Blum: I would like to be remembered as someone who loved the sport and tried to incorporate it into their way of life which made it into a life style. I would like to also be remembered as someone who was a good skillful practitioner who had respect for his training partners, past opponents, and future opponents.
For anyone reading this I would just like to say don't let anything hold you back in life. It all about taking the lessons you learn in all walks of life and applying them to the big picture. Anything is possible all you have to do is remain positive, be dedicated, set goals, and challenge yourself to become better.
Is there anyone you would like to thank before we close this interview? Max Blum: There are so many people I would like to thank. But first and foremost, I need to thank my coach and close friend, Fernando Castillo; words cannot express how valuable all the lessons he has taught me on and off the mat and I am forever grateful for all he has done for me. I also need to thank Master Wander Braga, Kru Walter Michalowiski, Jeff Obar, Ido Pariente, Orlando Sanchez, Pete Han, all of my Braga and SYT teammates, and every single individual I’ve ever had the opportunity to train with. In addition I want to thank my family, especially my brother, Sam Blum, who is a blue belt at Alliance NY. And last but not least my girlfriend, Tania Verafield; who loves and supports my addiction to Jiu Jitsu.
Everyone's journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is designed with a purpose. Grappling in search for an answer the pursuit is one of deep personal meaning. It absorbs us, free us, inspire us, and challenge us as there is truly a sense of joy and reason in our cause. Down the long road hard times are a dead given as the setbacks make our plans fall out of place. Luckily with faith and perseverance there is always a way of getting back on course. Hard times haven't broken Checkmat Brown Belt Johnny Morgan as those memories have become a reflection of a man built for a destined path as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Hitting a stumbling block in his early 20's life seemed to have an unclear motive for Morgan. This uncertainly wouldn't last long as a developing passion for MMA and BJJ found its way into his life. Morgan instantly became immersed in the sport.
“I used to watch MMA all the time,” he said. “Naturally, my favorite fighters were always wrestlers and ground guys. When the opportunity arose to train at a gym, I took it. The second I stepped onto those mats I knew I found my place.”Now a full fledge fight practitioner Morgan's new found work illustrated a profound impact living through Martial Arts. With dedication success follows something Morgan became accustomed to showcased with an undefeated 3-0 MMA record and an unblemished winning streak in every grappling tournament he ever entered. There was no dream to big that he could achieve and challenge to great to overcome as the rising star began to make big moves in his career leading to a big break unto the UFC staple show The Ultimate Fighter. This blossoming career would later put an abrupt standstill as a sad tragedy would befall upon Morgan's life with the untimely death of his mother from cancer.
“While I was living in the fight house my mom called to tell me she was terminally ill from cancer and she didn’t have much time left to live. During that time my mom went from being unsupportive of my fighting, to becoming my biggest fan.”
“Eventually she slipped into a coma. I remember telling my mom I would be okay and that I was going to be successful and become a champion. She knew she didn’t have to worry about me anymore. 10 minutes after I talked to her, she passed away. I was only 24 years old at the time, and this was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. It was very overwhelming, and I lacked support and guidance having grown up with no father. I lost all sense of direction when I lost her.”
Pain in life hurts beyond measures. However like any bad situation we encounter, the best way out of a problem is to go through it. Many events would unfold which would not only reignite Morgan's passion for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu but also a new found life off the mat. “I finally started to get my life pieced-back together. I got a dog that showed me I had to live for something else. I also met my now fiancé, Maja, who is very hard working, and she motivated me to do more with my life. About a year into our relationship I looked at myself one day, being out of shape, and unfulfilled I knew I had to go back to doing what I loved.”
Finding stability in his personal life it was now time for Morgan to rededicate himself to his BJJ goals. Evolving as a person this disciplined athlete refused to waste any more time as he sought to make the best out of his life. Since his return in 2013 under Team CheckMat, Johnny Morgan has recaptured success competing and placing high level local and international tournaments while also gaining valuable lessons in his evolution as a fighter.
“All this comes with a lot of pain and suffering. I don’t make excuses, I work through injuries, I try to diet healthier, and most importantly I refuse to waste any more time than I already have, “ Morgan proclaimed. “Through the highs and lows I have medaled at Pan-Ams, lost at Dream, won at Grapplers Quest, won at NAGA, lost at EBI, become a No-Gi World Champion, and even proposed to my fiancé on the podium at American Nationals.”
Passionate and Skilled with a wealth of knowledge why not share it with other curious minds. Teaching classes at American Boxing Gym the Checkmate representative works endlessly fully dedicating himself to helping the students. Enlisted with this great responsibility you will find Morgan not only teaching world class grappling techniques but also aiding student to become better in life off the mat. Just as his focus as a competitor his endeavors as an instructor is no different as he is focused on becoming a great coach to anyone that trains under his wing.
“From personal experience, I have learned how much a coach can build you up, and I also know how badly a coach can break you down. I have realized through coaching that you’re not just teaching Jiu- Jitsu. Sometimes you are a therapist, a friend, a nutritionist, a father, or a mother. You take on many roles as a coach, so I approach this responsibility with a lot of love, humor, compassion and discipline.”
What good is a journey without something to challenge you? Bending but never breaking it was never an easy road for Johnny Morgan. His will to bulldoze through tough trials showcases the results of what happens when one believes in themselves and never give up. With all of the upcoming tournaments, MMA fights and people that need him he still has a lot to offer to the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To no surprise this is one obligation Morgan will stay committed to because time can’t be wasted in this one life time for achieving greatness.
Johnny Morgan Special Thanks:Special thanks to my students who have always supported me and believed in me. I want to thank my CheckMat team and my Coach Robynho. Thanks to my sponsor, Conca Fight Gear. Big thanks to Jose De Jesus Gutierrez .Thanks also goes out to Scott Brengal, Brian Hood, Michael Harms and the Milosevic Family. I want to thank my fiancé for being my rock. I want to thank my mom Judy Geraci and grandfather Joe Geraci who were always there for me.
If we're only living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle during the time we are on the mat, then that might amount to about 10% of our weekly routine, but if we take the lessons from that 10% and apply it towards the other 90% of our life… WOW! Now we've found a way to embrace that Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. -- Eliot Kelly
Community Service is a powerful tool used to improve the quality of living in society. No matter how big or small the service it’s contributable efforts play a major role in raising awareness for taking a selfless action in making the world a better place to live and play. The principles emphasized in martial arts are one in the same as the endless passing of knowledge from one’s experience supplies the recipient a positive outlet to enhancing their lives. BJJ black belt Eliot Kelly success as a competitor and personal growth showcases the results that Martial arts produce. Giving back Kelly has taken part in various community service outreaches with a fusion of martial arts doing his part in uncovering a solution to a problem.
BJJ Legends got the opportunity to speak with Kelly has he touches on the influence community service has played in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu community.
When you think of community service & Martial Arts what comes to mind?
Kelly: In my opinion, most martial arts have an element of community service built into their practice. The core of martial arts is about development and growth. Conceptually, martial art is about facing the challenges we have to better ourselves and the people around us in the dojo,and applying the lessons from those challenges into our daily life off the mat. I feel the spirit of martial arts is about leading the person in front of you to a better, stronger place, and as a result of that you become better and stronger. I see community service as just that. Facing a challenge to better the people around you andhelp them grow. The result is in a better community for everyone!
How is the focus on community service used in the BJJ community?
Kelly: I think Jiu-Jitsu has an excellent reputation for including community service in their practices, and I don't think this is a coincidence. The act of training makes us humble, helps us express humility and gratitude for where we are in life. As a result the Jiu-Jitsu community gravitates towards finding ways to better the people around them through service. When people talk about living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle, I think community service is a key component.My Professor, Marcos Torregrosa, for example goes all over to teach seminars, but he will also teach a community service like seminar to raise money for a good cause and bring awareness towards certain topics. I recently attended a roll-a-thon even in Rocklin at Professor Gustavo’s Infinite Jiu Jitsu Academy where they raised awareness and funds for Autism. Professor Claudio Franca hosts a food drive seminar every year in the fall to help feed the hungry and the price for the seminar is "food." All these Jiu-Jitsu related community service events are great examples of the BJJ community getting together to collaborate, contribute, and enrich those around them.
Being a very active competitor alongside your duties as an Instructor, what inspired you to take that role of becoming a charitable contributor to society off the mat?
Kelly: I'm still just striving to become a successful competitor and instructor... But through that process I've come to realize that the general public doesn't really understand Jiu-Jitsu and the unassuming power of Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is not just a sport, it's not just a martial art, and many people refer to Jiu-Jitsu as being a lifestyle. My inspiration began with the desire to better understand and better communicate to the general public, and those involved in Jiu-Jitsu, about the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle we talk about but don't necessarily define. After lots of blogging, thinking, and talking, I feel the lifestyle we refer to isn't just about the training, but applying our training into other areas off the mat. Sam Calavitta, Gary Merlo, Tom Callos, Chad Robichaux, Marcos Torregrosa, and Adisa Banjoku are people that have helped me better understand this idea in application.The Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle begins with stepping on the mat and challenging yourself and the people around you to become better. When we take those lessons from challenging ourselves on the mat and apply them into other areas of our life off the mat, then we begin to live the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle.
If we're only living the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle during the time we are on the mat, then that might amount to about 10% of our weekly routine, but if we take the lessons from that 10% and apply it towards the other 90% of our life… WOW! Now we've found a way to embrace that Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. Many of those lessons are basic things Jiu-Jitsu people might take for granted, patience, tranquility, humility, gratitude, communication, strategy, creativity… I could keep going! ;)
What are some community service projects you've participated in ?
Kelly: We try to host a community service related event atour school in El Dorado Hills, California every month, a self-defense workshop, anti-bullying workshop, law enforcement workshop for people to get on the mat to better understand the potential of Jiu-Jitsu. Every year I go to the local high school in El Dorado Hills to help the P.E. teachers teach their combative lesson to their freshmen class. These are events that help bring people off the mat on the mat.
Professor Chad Robichaux of Gracie Barra formed the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, a program to help combat veterans adjust back to life stateside.Through his own experiences in marital arts, Chad and his wife Cathy have structured an incredible program to serve veterans with PTSD and Physical Trauma.
Last year students in El Dorado Hills hosted a 24 hour roll-a-thon event to contribute funding and awareness towards prostate cancer and the Might Oaks Warrior Program. This was a huge project for them to schedule, organize, network, and implement. A great example of taking the lessons and challenges from training and applying to other areas off the mat.I've been really lucky to have partnered with a few very dedicated members of the community that have helped set up scholarship opportunities at our school. In designing our scholarship program we’ve included a section on community service. Students on scholarship create their own project, on their own hours, and make it happen! In the future, I would like to be involved in creating a non-profit organization that incorporates the power of Jiu-Jitsu and community service in educating our community.
Can you talk a little more about this?
Kelly: I'm thinking a 501c3 would be needed to get things going, but the idea is to create a community outreach program for people who are already involved in Jiu-Jitsu to educate others on the idea of self-defense and get others involved in Jiu-Jitsu. I might be getting repetitive, but I think getting people to live and understand the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle is important. From the challenges on the mat, we are better able to challenge and contribute off the mat. We've thought of a few names and ideas to get things moving, but I don't want to share too much just yet. Maybe another interview in the future ;)
In your experience what have you gotten out Of your charitable deeds?
Kelly: A couple sandwiches.... LOL! Just kidding... I feel my experiences have helped me better understand the arts. Definitely the art of teaching and Jiu-Jitsu, but also the art of communication and the art of organizing events. Every time these things take place, I’m humbled by the power of people wanting to help. All these experiences help me have an attitude of gratitude.
Finally any advice for people looking does start up their own community service outreach through Martial Arts?
Kelly: Yes! Seek out Tom Callos and his organization called, The 100. The 100 is a gathering ground for those dedicated to developing the community through martial arts, and a catalyst to promote many types of community service based events. Tom was the catalyst for the Penn Foundation in Hilo, Hawaii, an outreach program for the youth in the area. Another example is the "Alabama Buildvention." Where martial artists gather from all over the world to fully fund and build a home for the less fortunate. We've only done some fundraising for this community service project, but I would like to attend one of thesedays... Another great person to seek advice from is Adisa Banjoku of the Hip-hop Chess Federation. I had the opportunity to participate in a collaborative event with the HHCF and the KO Finisher down in Anaheim earlier this year, and can't say enough great things about their organization and integration, application, and communication of the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle with hip hop and chess. Most importantly, get moving! Just like Jiu-Jitsu, the best way to get started with jiu-jitsu is to get moving. We might fail at first, and many times after that, but keep moving, listen to your coach, and surround yourself with like-minded people that will embrace that Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle.
Any final thoughts before we wrap up this interview?
Submission Fight Co has had its share of ups and downs in the industry. Early this year they went under fire for the distribution of non-hemp kimonos which was later revealed was the result of a misleading distributor from Pakistan supplying them false merchandise without their knowing.
But like any ambitious company you learn from your shortcomings as there is always a solution to solving a problem. The recent release of the Submission FC BJJ Hemp T-Shirts paved the way for a fresh new start for the company which was received with a great response from the BJJ community. In their sole efforts in giving back Submission FC recently took part in a charity function known as Grapplethon: Team Liam's Fight .With over six Submission FC raffles prizes given away to some lucky winners the donated efforts also introduced its audience to the Submission FC Kimonos which included the Aura BJJ Gi Pants (Sold Separately).
The Aura BJJ Gi Pants are the newest addition to the Submission FC BJJ gear line. Available in black and white unlike it failed hemp predecessor model, these gi pants are made of polyester cotton blend and contain heavily reinforced stress points making these pants the perfect item for competition and everyday training.
When it comes to inquires about washing the BJJ Aura pants there is a simple procedure to follow. Be sure to wash the BJJ Pants in cold water with no excess in bleach. After taking them out the washer hang dry them in a cool shaded area especially if you plan on purchasing the black color model to keep its physical appearance without major fading afterwards.
With over three hours of training in the Aura BJJ Gi Pants at Liam's Grapplethon I can testify that these are the most comfortable and reinforced gi pants I have ever worn. From the tight draw string to the overall design layout of the pants it certainly won't disappoint the user. It felt great to not only have a great training session conformably but also not have to worry about the pants untangling off your butt every twenty seconds due to the lack of construction I have experienced in the past with other company kimono pants .
Rebounding off it past scrutiny Submission FC has made its return in grand fashion with the release of BJJ Aura Gi pants. Comfortable, Stylish, and Durable what more can a grappler ask for to get the best out of his training on the mat. Step by Step Submission FC is not missing a beat in re-establishing itself as a top contributor to the grappling community which product release thus far does just that.
All we can do at this point is sit and ponder as to what Submission Fight Co has in store for us next.
Well renowned and a bit controversial early this year Submission Fight Co was under fire for the distribution of selling non hemp kimonos to their customers. It was later revealed in a recent statement on their blog site that they were victim to a misleading distributor overseas in Pakistan that supplied them with the false merchandise without their knowing. Looking to rebound off its past scrutiny Submission FC is determined to make right of it wrongs to the BJJ community with future participation in charity events such as the upcoming “Grapplethon: Team Liam's Fight” and the release of its new BJJ Hemp T-Shirt collection which hopes to take the brand in a more positive direction and innovative in clothing fashion off the mat.
Their first batch of Hemp Shirts sets the tone in motion which I can concur combines all around comfort with stylish appeal in representing the BJJ lifestyle where ever you go. Top testing facility SGS Lab conducted a test on these new Hemp shirts. The results show that these shirts are made of 55 % Hemp and 45 % Organic Cotton. Now you may be asking yourself how this differs from other fabric material. For those that are not familiar, Hemp material carries a stronger, lighter, and is more resistant for retaining bacteria thus making it an all-natural shirt.
The shirts are Pre-Shrunk so the buyer won’t have to worry about the shirt shrinking after it comes out of the washer. Speaking of washing details from performing the procedure myself it is recommended to wash the shirt in cold water and hang dry it to prevent damage of the product thus retaining its appearance.
The physical features of the shirt are a standout quality that can attract any buyer. The artwork is what caught my attention which surprisingly carries a hidden message behind the design.
Probably inspired by the recent Sharknado craze Submission FC's Ocean Blue “The Ground is My Ocean" Shirt features a Shark springing out the water to attack his foe. The name behind the shirt is a famous quot by Carlos Machado* used many years ago clarifying his superb skills on the ground which adds deep value when you wear it something I’m sure every grappling practitioner carries with them especially when facing an opponent in competition.
The second model Submission FC's Natural White "If Size Mattered the Elephant Would Be the King of The Jungle" Shirt features a Roaring image of The King of the Jungle himself a Lion. Once again carrying a powerful meaning in its product, the message is a quote from another BJJ Legend Rickson Gracie which every person can identify with growing mentality, physically, and technically to become better as a BJJ fighter.
Comfortable, Stylish, All Natural, and Making a Strong Statement Submission Fight Co Hemp BJJ Shirts is everything a grappling practitioner could ask for. Without question their Gi's have made an impression on us all which looks to continue with the first batch release of these great Hemp shirts.
Looking forward to see what Submission FC has in store for us in the future.
Military Veteran Overcoming PTSD Through Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Training
Death, Assaults, and War are amongst the abnormal experiences that causes damage to an individual physically and emotionally. The aftermath triggers a high level anxiety effect known as Post-traumatic Stress. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition developed after a person has experienced a terrifying event which physical harm occurred or was threatened. Its strangling power sneaks into every facet of your life which symptoms include disturbing flashbacks, depression, mood changes, and negative thinking.
Luckily there is a way to combat this problem. Martial Arts have served as an outlet to coping with this mental illness which has not only proved therapeutic but also a vehicle to positively rebuilding a participant's life. Robert Consulmagno has experienced more than one can ever imagine. Undergoing a series of traumatic events he is a living testament of strength, courage, and discipline as his participation in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has helped him to harness his PTSD and achieve great feats as an athlete.
Post Traumatic originates from many stressors. For Consulmango the source arose from his childhood in witnessing unspeakable acts of violence within his family altering his life forever.
“I lost my biological father to suicide, seen my mother brutally beaten, held a gun in my hand at ten years old which my step father used to shoot my second step-father and then take his own life, and thrown down a flight of stairs by the same horrible step father causing me to be placed in a full body cast. I will never forget my mom waking me and my siblings to sneak into the back of a van to hide out because my step father was in his car with a gun ready to come into the apartment to hurt us.”
Looking to be part of something and escape the horrors of family life Consulmango joined the U.S Marines. Serving his country from 1991 to 1996 he was part of Operation Desert Storm stationed in Okinawa Japan and the United States. Sadly in the military his PTSD condition worsened as a result of numerous problems which was a replica of the life he left back home.
“While I was in the Marine Corps I was hazed a lot and everyday was a battle, “he recalled. Little did they know they made me worse.”
Those ordeals in fact made Consulmagno worse as PTSD placed his entire life in a stranglehold. Constantly living in paranoia, distrust with people, and having a negative outlook there had to be something that could introduce him to the positive features life had to offer. Previously competing in boxing like his great grandfather Mickey Taylor Consulmagno’s entry into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Introduced to this grappling style of fighting he instantly became attached as his engagement was a mirror reflection of his tough past life only this time with different effect. The similarities were identical which covered the challenges life throws at its recipient. In that moment he knew he had uncovered something special that could help him.
“My first impression was wow; Jiu Jitsu is tuff as nails!” I knew from taking my first class that my striking skills were out the window and now I was a fish surrounded by sharks, but in a good way! I knew this would help me with my PTSD! “Jiu-Jitsu teaches you how to get out of bad situations. It mimics my life”.
Three years deep that curiosity of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu couldn't have been a better decision to pursue for the now 41 year old BJJ Purple belt. Living, breathing, and training on the mats has offered Consulmagno some peace from his inner turmoil. His skills as an athlete can't be ignored either as his dominance in BJJ competitions has racked him multiple local, national, and international titles making him amongst the top ranked competitors in the country. Robert's competing initiative has also gained personal fulfillment by going through that indescribable feeling doing something that is making him better.
“Honestly I really crave the rush from the fights!! Competing makes me feel alive again. I feel so free win or lose.”
There comes a low period in every person's life where some self-evaluation has to be made. You have be honest with yourself as to why you feel a certain way, what is holding you back, and most importantly what are you willing to do to make yourself better to restore peace in your heart ? Many people are bound by the constraining chains of failure, worry, and past experiences which create Fear. Yes it is an oppressive controller but it is more than anything an illusionist because once the problem is recognized it can easily be eliminated.
Even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has its weakness which has been exposed by Robert Consulmango. To think there was no hope for him but the life he is living today says otherwise through training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Now at a peaceful place Consulmango is far from complete as he has new goals not only for himself but also the care of others.
“My goals are to attain my Black Belt, The Worlds, and someday teach people from all walks of life, “Consulmango revealed. I will continue to push the bar and inspire everyone!
Consulmango's story serves as a reminder who struggle with issues in their life of what happens when one attacks their fears and dare to believe they deserve better thus conquering the battle against themselves.
Robert Consulmagno BJJ Achievements
IBJJF Pan Ams No Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
4x time IBJJF New York Open Gi- Gold Medalist 2013-2014
IBJJF Boston Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
IBJJF Miami Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2011
Florida State Federation -Gold Medalist 2011
2x NAGA- Gold Medalist Gi
Philadelphia Good Fight- Gi Gold Medalist
Gracie Barra -Gold Medalist Adult Division
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Gold Medalist
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Silver Medalist Adult division
US Grappling Submission Only GI -Silver Medalist Absolute division
NAGA- Silver Medalist No Gi
Long Island Pride -Silver Gi Medalist Adult Division
How does one make an Impact? What makes a goal meaningful? What is one willing to do to achieve it thus turning dreams into reality? Many athletes’ especially BJJ fighters embody this concept in their sole commitment to making things happen. After all it’s what makes the person who they are from the many challenges they must overcome to obtain that desired goal. However don't mistake them for being self-centered and solely out for themselves because they have a way of applying what they learned in the dojo and competition arena to making a positive contribution to the world aiding their fellow man.
Take Tinguinhna BJJ Brown Belt Bret Russell for instance. Eight years participation in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has taught him countless life lessons. Through competing at the world class grappling level, grueling training sessions, and rising in the belt ranks you would think he has experienced it all which has made him into the man he is today. However little did he know his journey would take him into another direction after an eye-opening trip to Costa Rica meeting the kids of the Pura Vida Foundation.
Find out the impact one is striving to make in this little community in Jaco, Costa Rica as Bret Russell reveals to us here at BJJ Legends.
Every individual that participates in Martial Arts has their own set of experiences. Taking your journey into a traveler’s direction with your visit to Costa Rica, what was the purpose of your visit?
Bret Russell: The purpose of the visit was to take my girlfriend on a surprise vacation to Costa Rica for her birthday. Obviously, with the trip it presented a new environment to train Jiu-Jitsu. On our zip-lining excursion I was informed about Leo Ruaro who was a local that trained Jiu-Jitsu. That night we met up to train for the first time in a small shack with tons of little kids. It was that night that I learned about the amazing program Leo has running in Jaco, Costa Rica. Leo not only provides Jiu-Jitsu lessons for these kids, he provides them with school supplies, transportation to and from Jiu-Jitsu, and offers these kids a chance to steer clear from the rough path of street life and drugs.
Paint a picture for us about the living conditions and what life is like for a typical individual growing up there?
Bret Russell: Costa Rica is a beautiful country and a tropical paradise. It’s a combination of a Caribbean and jungle-like environment. The food is incredible and the land is inviting to many different types of species of wildlife. The living conditions, like any place, are very poor in some areas and wealthier in others. There was poverty in the area of the country we were staying. A typical living condition would include a small home, modern facilities, low cost of living, and readily accessible medical/pharmacy clinics. For the general population, Costa Rica has a high standard of living. A typical individual growing up in Costa Rica would involve being exposed to all the land has to offer: the beaches, the national park, surfing, Jiu-Jitsu, fishing, and a very close-knit community.
Can you share with us some information about the Pura Vida Non-Profit Organization?
Bret Russell: Pura Vida Non-profit organization is more than just an organization. Pura Vida is translated as pure life and is the saying to which most individuals in Costa Rica live their life by. This organization goes above and beyond for every child that is involved in the program. The organization encompasses Pura Vida through every child. The organization makes sure they have what they need as a child such as school supplies, transportation, taking the children for dental check-ups and medical care, clothing, and most importantly providing each and every one of these children with a positive environment. Most of these children come from broken homes and this organization creates hope, stability, and consistency for many of these young children. After interacting and getting to know these kids my plan is to contribute to this wonderful organization as much as I can.
Tell us about your experience working with the group?
Bret Russell: My experience with this organization and the kids has changed a part of me forever. These kids are the most appreciative, willing to learn, and most TOUGH group of kids I have ever come across. They have since changed locations but the location I was brought to was literally a shack in the middle of the jungle and the vibe was amazing. The place has "soul" and that comes from the man who made this all possible. There is a hand full of rules that you would expect from any Jiu-Jitsu academy but the rule that stuck out most was the rule that you must bring two friends to class as time goes on. Keep in mind Leo does this out of the kindness of his heart and does not charge the kids. Everything they have is from donations and hand made from the Jiu-Jitsu family that Leo has created. Leo allowed me to teach a couple classes while I was in Jaco and to this day it was the most life changing teaching experience I have ever had.
Can you share with us a particular child that made an impression on you?
Bret Russell: There was a particular child who particularly captured our hearts. He has a rough home life with a mother and father not always around. This Jiu-Jitsu program has given him the chance to interact with positive role models that will guide him down a more promising path. This child is full of life and loves being active. He also had a passion for playing iphone games and knowing more about your phone than you do. You cannot help but smile and laugh when you’re around him.
How has it all affected you?
Bret Russell: When it came to our last days in Costa Rica you couldn’t help but feel like you needed to contribute to this amazing contribution. Leo is running not only a Jiu-Jitsu class but has offered himself to be all of these children’s life coach. Leo works very hard to maintain this program for the kids and make sure each and every one is taken care of on multiple levels. Leo also does not accept money, instead he will ask you to use that money and purchase something they need such as Gi’s, mats, etc. I immediately started thinking of ways of how I could help this program out. There was no way I could leave all the kids and everyone involved without being touched. These kids will always be dear to my heart and anything I can do to help I will do without hesitation.
Aspiring to make a difference how do you look to contribute?
Bret Russell: I will be host a Charity Grapplethon event.I have done the basic ground work as far as receiving the “ok” for this event at a few locations... I have an open door policy with countless jiu jitsu academy's. My preferred location would be somewhere in San Diego County.
When will the Grapplethon take place?
Bret Russell: I don’t have a set date just yet but be on the lookout for more information!
Until that time is there any way people can contribute?
Brett Russell: People can contribute anything from used gi’s, new gi’s, no-gi gear, clothing, school supplies, and money. Anything will help these kids!
Any final thoughts before we close this interview?
Bret Russell: I can’t wait to put on this event for such a wonderful organization that has really touched me and countless others!