Everyone has a calling they are destined to pursue in life. Far from an overnight completion, the process carries many lessons that keep us alive, adventurous, and unique in that quest of turning our dreams into a reality. Fabricio Machado is no stranger to this process. Since day one he has always dreamed BIG, always pushing to achieve his goals. These goals have taken him on a uphill journey to where he is today. Fabricio Machado has been an active Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner for over eleven years. Introduced to the grappling arts at the age of sixteen, it would only take one eye-opening introductory class to make BJJ a primary part of Machado's life.
"I knew since the first day that BJJ was making an impact on my life, "he said. "I started training BJJ when I was 16 years old. I used to train Muay Thai and Taekwondo and I had a friend who used to train Jiu-jitsu. At first I didn’t believe in grappling until I finally took a class and got tapped like 50 times. It made me feel uncomfortable and I knew then that I needed to learn more. I got addicted quickly and trained at least twice a day since the beginning."
Training, competing, and teaching living the BJJ Lifestyle was serving this enthusiastic practitioner quite well. However Machado desired more opportunities in evolving his Jiu-jitsu and creating a better life for himself outside of grappling. Following his heart's content Machado moved from his homeland of Pelotas, Brazil to the United States currently residing in Brea, California. Life in Southern California couldn't be more fitting for the Brazilian migrant as some features in this new land are reminiscent of life in Brazil.
[At the moment the economy in] "Brazil is really bad in comparison to the United States. Second, the Brazilian culture in California reminds me of back home and makes me feel comfortable. Economically, there are more opportunities for Jiu-jitsu in the United States so the move is what made the most sense for me since Jiu-jitsu is my life."
Machado’s migration to California also gave the Brazilian a new training home to continue his BJJ development. Now training out of Brea Jiu-jitsu under Dan Lukehart Machado has attained many personal and athletic benefits at his new training home. Fabricio couldn’t have asked for a better place to train.
"I met Dan Lukehart, owner of Brea Jiu-jitsu and quickly studied his analysis videos that are available on the internet. These videos intrigued me and I took an interest in the way he looks at Jiu-jitsu because he is very detailed and unique in the way he can breakdown a technique or sequence. I then visited the academy and asked Dan if I could stay here for a few weeks to which he said yes. I quickly made friends at the gym and fell in love with the environment both in the gym and the surroundingarea."
Growing in a positive training environment, surrounded by beautiful beaches, and meeting new friends it has been an amazing experience for Machado thus far living in the states. Yet the infatuation of his new found home hasn’t halted Machado in chasing his BJJ dreams. Making a strong presence on the competition circuit in the states Fabricio Machado has had great success thus far which accolades include becoming a NABJJF North American champion and IBJJF American National Champion at the brown belt level.
"I'm very happy of my achievements here in the U.S. I'm sure that I will achieve all my goals in America. I have the best support group- coach Dan Lukehart is an amazing mentor and friend, and all the guys at Brea BJJ have become my closest friends. I am fortunate to have made strong connections in the short time that I have lived here."
Dreaming big is all about having a purpose in life and becoming fulfilled in the process. The BJJ journey of Fabricio Machado showcases the possibilities of what happens when one follows their dreams. Far from his ultimate goal expect to see a lot more from this ambitious Brazilian prospect as he looks to continue to build for ultimate success on and off the mat.
“I hope to become one of the best in the world not just as a competitor but as a leader as well. I also wish to help Dan Lukehart and Brea Jiu-jitsu in any way possible. In the future I wish to open my own academy and help build world champions who are not only successful in competition but in life as well.”
Fabricio Machado Accomplishment
Brown Belt- 2016 NABJJ North American Champion
Brown Belt – 2016 NABJJ North American 2nd Place (Absolute)
Brown Belt - 2016 IBJJF 2016 American National Champion
Brown Belt – 2016 IBJJF American National 2nd Place (Absolute)
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu's obsessive appeal springs from the lessons and rewards given toward the goal of self-development. Life on and off the mat, work, and family, and BJJ are all a part of the game that life gives to us. It is an on-going challenge of prioritizing all of our duties to create a balance. Luckily some have found a way to handle the weight grappling with so many tasks. Father, husband, and head instructor of Elite Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Andrew Solheim has a creative solution in merging the joys and responsibilities of his multiple roles providing him with a well-balanced life both personally and professionally.
BJJ Legends got the opportunity to speak with Professor Solheim. He touches on his journey and the balance of family and life as a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu instructor.
You started BJJ over 15 years ago. What got you into BJJ? Solheim: My interest was at its peak when Royce Gracie fought in and won the very first UFC back in 93'. At the time my whole family was involved in Karate, I of course wanted to learn this new martial art however at the time there wasn't any academies in WA. With nowhere to turn for traditional instruction my father ordered the Gracie VHS tapes and the two of us started supplementing our Karate training with what we could learn from those tapes. We didn't have much to work with but I remember we would push the couch aside and grapple in our living room, we'd also try to find floor space after our karate class and train. As a teenager I took a break from training in the martial arts. Thankfully my father and mother continued to train because in the late 90's a blue belt named Mike Simpson started a BJJ class two nights a week at the dojo they trained at. My father told me about the class and that officially ended my break. In 2001 I started commuting an hour south to train under Gracie Barra Black Belt Marcio "Mamazinho" Laudier Vilamor. The rest as they say in history.
Seeing how the sport evolved, what was it like coming up to where you are now as an instructor? Solhiem: Jiu-Jitsu was in its infancy here in Washington when I started training. At the time Marcelo Alonzo and Mamazinho were the only Black Belts in the state. Tournaments usually took place out of academies and of course the field of competition was small. Today there are so many great academies in WA and the level of competition is higher than ever. A big contributor to this is the Revolution BJJ tournament. I believe they held their first event in 2006 and since then grown to be the biggest tournament in the NW.
You have been building a career in BJJ while also raising a family. How have you been able to stay the course juggling such great responsibilities? Solheim: Balance. My wife Amy and I were high school sweet hearts and we started our family early becoming teen parents to our son Riley at the ages of 16 and 17. My son was born right around the time I started training, I think Jiu-Jitsu provided the outlet and guidance I needed at the time. My wife and I married out of high school and now have three sons Riley (15), Owen (12) and Eli (6). Jiu-Jitsu has been a lifestyle for me ever since I started, it’s not something I do, it’s who I am. I want my children to follow their dreams; I want them to do what makes them happy. Actions speak louder than words so I'll follow my dreams in hopes that they'll learn to follow theirs.
Somewherealong the line your wife got a touch of the BJJ bug, after seeing you do it for so many years, what promote her to want to participate?
Solheim : Amy is a very shy person and was never into sports growing up so she was an unlikely candidate to all the sudden decide to start training, but that's pretty much what happened. One of my female students kept bugging her to try it out and one day she just decided to go for it. She was hooked and she started training regularly. Last May she competed in the world championships and did great winning her first two matches making it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated. I think it’s a testament to Jiu-Jitsu that a mother of three with no athletic experience can get on the mats and make the kind of transformation that she has.
Do any of your children participate in BJJ or other related sports? Solheim: Since I teach it was only natural to have them in my classes from an early age. All three of my boys have or actively train BJJ. Amy and I take a laid back approach to it though, although we require some form of physical activity we don't push real hard. We tell them to do their best and fight with heart because that's all they can control. If they give their heart in everything they do than I will be proud regardless of the outcome. In addition to BJJ, Riley and Owen also wrestle. Riley is just finishing up with his first season of high school wrestling and Owen is just getting started with his first middle school season.
As an instructor how do you separate being their instructor on the mat as you are the husband/father? Solheim: When we're on the mats I am the instructor and they are the students, it’s really not that hard, I treat them the same as any of the other students. The difficulty lies at the tournaments, as a coach you are always nervous for you students to compete; when that student is your child or wife this feeling is multiplied.
How has this pastime helped bring your family together? Solheim: Anytime you enjoy an activity or shared interest it helps build strength within the family unit. Jiu-Jitsu just happens to be one of the things that we enjoy together however we also enjoy other interests as well.
Looking back at your journey how has it overall helped you? Solheim: Jiu-Jitsu has been a passion of mine ever since I stepped foot on the mat. It’s important to have something that you find meaningful in life, something that occupies your mind and that you look forward to. The physical and mental benefits are obviously amazing as well, we are meant to move, to exercise and often times as we grow older we get away from that. I find Jiu-Jitsu to be a therapeutic and fun way to stay in shape both physically and mentally.
Any final thoughts before we wrap up time interview? Solheim: Jiu-Jitsu is different for everybody. Some guys are out to win world titles, some are looking for self-defense and others are just looking to live the lifestyle and gain the benefits that come from that. Whatever your reasons are focus on you and try your best not to measure yourself to others. Jiu-Jitsu can be full of frustration at times, understand that this is normal, part of the process, and required for growth. The hardest part of training is often times coming through the door; once you commit to that the rest is easy.
Andrew Solheim Special Thanks: I want to thank my training partners past and present who have bleed with me. I want to thank my instructors who helped me along the way; I hope I can honor you by passing your knowledge onto my students. Huge thanks to all my students for all their hard work, dedication, and tough rolls. Most importantly I want to thank my family for their love and support.
Leticia Ribeiro is one of the most revered female BJJ athletes of all time. Come read about this prolific athlete and how she continues to contribute to the art of Jiu-Jitsu.
Tactician (n):someone good at planning tactics: the specific means of accomplishing goals.When it comes to BJJ, Professor Ribeiro is like the keenest tactical general. She leads her garrison into battle with the most efficient and effective strategies in order to dominate their opponents on the mats. Her troops are prepared for what they will be facing and there is not one angle that anyone could approach from for which she is not ready with a counter. Although an adept tactician in her field of BJJ today, once upon a time even Professor Ribeiro was an eager apprentice. It’s time to take a look back and see how this sharp woman has become the heroin we have all come to admire.
BJJL: Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like?
LR: I grew up in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. My childhood was great! I still have a lot of great memories, back then we played a lot in the streets. It was safer more so then than it is today.
BJJL: What did your family think when you decided to start practicing BJJ?
LR: In the beginning it was hard, back then Jiu-Jitsu was a male sport. We had very few women training and competing. Soon as I started to train I fell in love with the sport and I knew that it was what I wanted for my life. After my mom really understood how I serious I was and what this meant to me, she gave me her full support.
BJJL: What was your first competition like?
LR: My first competition was the Copa Gracie. It was in 1995. I was a blue belt. I had three fights and three submissions by arm bar.
BJJL: Who or what motivates you and pushes you to achieve your goals?
LR: In 1996, that was the first time I knew I wanted to be a world Champion. I went to watch the first world championships ever. They didn’t have a women’s division but it was great to watch the black belts competing for the first time, especially Royler Gracie. I dreamed that one day I would be there and I worked for it.
BJJL: What has been your biggest challenge since you began BJJ?
LR: I think my biggest challenge and goal was to help develop women’s BJJ programs all over the world and to make the female divisions stronger. WE DID IT!!!
BJJL: What matchup would you like to have that has never happened?
LR: I have fought ALL tough fighters from my generation and after mine. I can SAY THAT I’m really happy, satisfied with my career. I have achieved a lot as an athlete and a teacher.
BJJL: What is your pet peeve as an instructor?
LR: I don’t have anything bad to say about teaching, my students, I love what I do so that makes my job REALLY easy.
BJJL: How does your tournament prep differ from your normal training?
LR: My routine changes, my day completely changes that’s why I decided not to compete so much lately. I’m focused on my gym and my students. If I decide to compete again, I will dedicate my whole day, my whole life, towards training.
BJJL: Any charities that you support?
LR: Right now, we are trying to support young talents from Brazil. We are helping them to have a better life living with the sport, just like us.
BJJL: What are your thoughts on the Equal Pay issue in BJJ?
LR: I think it is time for that. I talk about myself and many other fighters that I know. We train hard, we changed and dedicated our life for the sport. We do all that we can to see the sport grow and we ALL DESERVE better opportunities. I know how things once were and how they are, they are MUCH BETTER and getting better and better. I’m so happy with all the progress, even if it is slow but continuous.
BJJL: You truly fight for your students. You walked out onto the mat during World’s in 2014 (blue belt match). You wouldn’t let your student leave the mat (time had expired) until you had the ref correct his error. This led to your student winning when originally the ref had sided with her opponent. I’ve NEVER…seen anyone else do that. What prompted you to do it?
LR: Yes, I fight for them now. I know how hard they train and how much they want to be champion. I know being a referee is hard, they have to think fast and mistakes are going to happen. As instructors our jobs are to help referees also. Mistakes at worlds are sad for the sport and for athletes.
BJJL: How has BJJ for women changed in the last 5 years?
LR: I moved to the USA 8 years ago since worlds came back to the US. Things changed a lot for the better, the IBJJF is doing a great job. I can see the progress of the sport at each tournament and seminar that I teach and am so happy to be part of that.
BJJL: Would you like to see BJJ return to submission only?
LR: I would like to see more submission only tournaments, it’s fun.
BJJL: Are there any IBJJF rules you would like to see changed or completely removed?
LR: I think right now, the double pull. If they give two points for whoever gets on top, it will stop that a bit. It’s boring. They should do something to block it.
BJJL: So many are apt to return to the mat even though they are injured and they reinjure themselves (often worse). What advice can you give on injury prevention and proper recovery?
LR: I’ve had some injuries in my career but nothing serious thank God. I think the best way to prevent injuries is to workout in order to make your muscles stronger and keep your joints safe.
BJJL: As one of the female legends and pioneers for up and coming female BJJrs…what advice can you offer up?
LR: Believe in yourself, give 120% when training, keep going, dedicate yourself to what you want, DREAM…ACHIEVE.
BJJL: Proudest Moment?
LR: It was 3 years ago when I opened my first academy here in America and now I am opening my 2nd.
BJJL: Long term goals?
LR: I want to change people’s lives with Jiu-Jitsu and to be happy.
BJJL: Any regrets?
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?
LR: I’m thankful for many people in my life. First God, my family, my partner Morango, my friends, my students, and everyone that helped me to get to where I am today.
William Ward said, “the mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Professor Ribeiro started out on a journey 2 decades ago. Along with her peers she ushered in a brand new era for BJJ. She is a pioneer in the game, a brilliant professor, and a remarkable inspiration. Her contributions to BJJ will be felt for years to come. She has had a hand (be it directly or indirectly) in developing each generation and helping elevate the game and its competitors to ALL new heights.
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
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!
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?
“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
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
Indefinite hold; Shama Ko spent years working towards the culmination of one's journey in BJJ, receiving the black belt, only to have her dream deferred by grand mal seizures (unrelated to training). A proud Gracie Humaita brown belt, she has but one more rung on the ladder. She is oh so close, yet so far.
“The deeper the difficulty in fulfilling a dream, the brighter the outcome of its fulfillment and the sweeter the celebration thereof. Persist to the end; don't give up!”-Israelmore Ayivor
BJJL: Why BJJ....when did you start and how did you get hooked? Shama Ko: If you would've asked me 15 years ago I would have told you then I had no interest in martial arts. It took some convincing for me to change my mind. I had been exposed to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since 1996, but it took six years for me to try it out for myself.
Under the guidance of some good friends I tried my first martial art in order to learn how to defend myself, but mostly I was looking for an outlet to get in shape. I started training Muay Thai in 2000. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't enough for me. It wasn't until a friend started teaching a women's only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class that I was finally persuaded to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If not for her women's only class I'm not sure if I would have been comfortable enough to take that first step. And so my journey began in 2003 under the instruction of Phil Cardella at Relson Gracie Austin.
It wasn't until I went through a really hard break up from a long term relationship that I started to really get "hooked" on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was devastated and heartbroken after the break up. I felt worthless, depressed and my self-confidence was in the toilet; but through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I found myself, my strength and realized my value. My addiction was taken to a whole new level once I started competing. That's when I learned to really push my limits and realized what I am capable of. It was more than I ever imagined.
BJJL: What's your lineage? SK: I am on the Gracie Humaitá team under Paulo Brandao. Our lineage is: Helio Gracie-Royler Gracie-Paulo Brandao
BJJL: Who inspired you when you started and who still inspires you today? SK: When I first started training there was only a handful of female black belts to look up to. I remember watching a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu video with a friend of mine and Leticia Ribiero was one of the athletes featured on the video. I was glued to the t.v. She was the first female black belt I’d ever seen and she was tough as nails. Instantly she became my hero and she continues to be today. There are so many people that have inspired me along the way and touched my heart. I have been very lucky to have meet so many people that continue to inspire me and enrich my life. Most inspiring are the women of the Yvone Magalhaes Duarte, Leka Vieira, Hannette Staack and Leticia Ribeiro generation. They were pioneers and true warriors. They were bold and brave. They fought against the norm and dealt with the resistance of not taking on the traditional role of a “women” during that time in South America. They have paved the way for all of us. The struggles they endured in a lot of ways has made it easier for us. And most importantly they have given us strong role models to look up to. We would not be where we are today without them.
BJJL: What was your very first competition like? SK: My first competition was nothing like what you see today. I only had two girls in my division and none of us were the same weight or belt. This was a fairly common experience when competing back then. I was lucky to even get a female competitor to show up. I quickly learned that cutting weight for local tournaments was absolutely pointless. The only time I really had an opportunity to compete with someone my size and belt was at the first IBJJF World Championships in California. Back then the divisions we're not nearly as stacked as you see today. Purple, brown and black belts were still together in one division because there just wasn’t enough girls competing. Thankfully by the time I got my purple in 2007 the purple belts finally had their own divisions. I was among the first group of girls to fight in the purple belt division. It has truly been amazing to see the female divisions grow and the progress that women have made in the competition scene. 12 years ago nobody was even talking about equal pay for BJJ or supporting women’s BJJ. The times have certainly changed.
BJJL: You had to stop competing due to an injury a few years ago...what caused this?
SK: I was an avid competitor from 2004 until 2011 when I sustained a knee injury during competition. I should have stopped training but I thought it was just some minor injury that would heal on its own if I took a small break. I continued to train and re-injure it for close to a year. It turns out I had torn 90% of my meniscus and a separated ACL. If I had known this I would have stopped training sooner but how could I? I did not have insurance when it happened and was considered uninsurable due to it being a pre-existing condition (before Obamacare). That knee injury took me out of training for almost 3 years. I was devastated when I realized I had to stop training and competing. I felt like I lost a huge part of myself, my identity, my purpose and passion. I had worked so hard and was on my way up. I finally started to win big. My life and identity was being a competitor. My whole life revolved around training full time. I had big dreams for myself as a competitor. I realize now this was just a beginning of a new chapter in life. I was destined for something even bigger, something more valuable than any medals I ever earned or could have earned.
BJJL: Girls in Gis...you are the glue that holds the organization together...after almost 6 years how has the mission and vision evolved and where would you like to see the organization in the next 5 years?
SK: The concept of Girls in Gis was developed to unite and help grow the community of females in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We started with fifteen girls at our first event and now we have events in five states and average around 50-130 participants at each event. This is only the beginning. As we have grown our purpose has not changed, we have evolved while maintaining true to the cause. This is a movement that is only gaining more momentum.
We have come a long way, but there is always room to do more and impact more lives. We have seen a tremendous impact in our chapters and we will be rapidly expanding to open more chapters in the next year. We also have a lot of projects in the works right now that will deeply impact and serve the community on a whole new level. I am very excited to see what the next five years will bring. I have had so many ideas for years now that are finally starting to manifest. It is going to be amazing!
BJJL: You received your brown belt in 2014 and then your dreams were once again deferred. Tell me about your first seizure. SK: I spent 6 years as a purple belt. There were so many highs and lows and lessons learned in that time. During that time a lot happened. I changing teams and was out for almost three years with an injury. My years as a purple belt were some of the best years I ever had. I got to compete with legendary female black belts as a purple belt. I watched my generation move on into their brown and then black belts. I won't lie it was hard being left behind. The day I earned my brown belt was bitter sweet. I was so attached to my purple belt at that point I wasn't ready to let go. I was also very excited to start the new chapter and new phase of my journey. It was surreal to finally have that new belt wrapped around my waist after all those years of wondering when it would come.
I was really only brown belt for three months before I collapsed during jiu-jitsu and had my first grand mal seizure. You can only imagine the disappointment I had knowing that I would be out of jiu-jitsu for an undetermined period of time again.
I had never had seizures before. It was an ordinary jiu-jitsu class. It was right at the bringing of class and we had not even done a warm-up. All of a sudden my body started convulsing. I spun and dropped to the mat. I screamed out "Oh my God!!! Help!!!" Then it want black. I remember my last thought being at least I died doing what I love doing.
It could not have happened at a more perfect time and place. I was with my Gracie Humaita family and fell on the soft mats. My team responded promptly to making sure I was okay and safe. I woke up completely disoriented with the EMTs standing over me. I don't remember much, but my teammates told me that after I stop convulsing I opened my eyes and I smiled. Perhaps I was happy to know I was still alive.
BJJL: You had a seizure one day and they have not stopped. Explain how this has affected your day to day routine.
SK: My life has been turned upside down and inside out. I am not able to live the same life I was living before this all started last October. Maybe that is a good thing. Those that know me, know I was the type of person that could not sit still. I was constantly on the move.
Life slammed the breaks on me when I was running at full speed. I went from 100 MPH to zero. I could not function for months. I led an extremely active and busy lifestyle. I traveled non-stop on a weekly basis between running my photography biz and for Girls in Gis. I worked 10-12 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Now I am not even half the person I used to be. I am lucky to work a few hours a day, 2-3 days a week and it has taken me months to get here. I am suffering from a lot of other symptoms that make it difficult to live a functioning life.
BJJL: Has there been an explanation regarding the onset of your seizures?
SK: I have seen more specialist than I can count. I’ve gotten a handful of diagnoses. Texas doctors thought it was one thing, Hawaii doctors think it’s another. I’ve tried a few drugs. Some made it worse, some didn’t do anything. I am hoping we have the right cocktail going now. My fingers are crossed. The only thing they can confirm is that I do have two birth defects or malformations. One is called Polymicrogyria the other is Gray Matter Heterotopia. Both I have had all my life, but as to why I am having symptoms now in my mid-thirties is the mystery. Seizures are just one of the symptoms I have been experiencing so I know it has to be more than just epilepsy. I strongly believe that something else is going on. That is why I continue to explore all options in search of answers. I know I am getting closer. I don’t give up that easy. I will get to the bottom of this.
BJJL: Now, you got sick and the BJJ community rallied around you, how did that make you feel?
SK: I was overwhelmed by the love and support I received. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved before in my life. It was more than I could have ever imagined. Everyone was so willing to help me when I needed it most. Even people I had never meet before. It proved to me that we really are a strong, supportive, and loving family. I can't tell you how much it lifted my spirits and that is so important when life is dragging you down. I am so very blessed and grateful for everyone’s efforts. I don’t think I would be as strong as I am now if not for the support I was shown. Some days are harder than others, but I know I have a lot of people cheering me on every step of the way. I find strength in knowing I am not alone in all of this.
BJJL: Your overall prognosis, what does it mean in terms of you returning to the mats?
SK: In addition to the seizures among other symptoms, I have been having chronic fatigue. If you knew me before all of this started, you know I am huge ball of energy that can’t sit still. For the past eight months I have struggled to get through the day. I am not the same person. However, I have had a lot of time to get to know my body and listen to the warning signs. I have been doing less combative exercise like walks, yoga and I just started having the courage to ride a bike again (of course with a helmet). I know I will be able to return to the mats, but I am in no rush. Maybe in the next few months, but for now I need to keep it mellow and be gentle to my body. That is what it needs and I know the mats will be there for me when I am ready. Now is not the time to push myself as I have in the past.
BJJL: There are misconceptions that people have when it comes to seizures and training BJJ are there any you would like to dispel?
SK: As a competitor I was always pushing my limits and not allowing myself to quit. I pushed too hard at times which led to injuries. This mentality has made me tough, but I face a different struggle now. I must really listen to my body, respect my limitations, and learn to find a balance. Each day I am listening and learning more and more, but it is not an easy task to find balance.
So many people have reached out to me in the BJJ community that have epilepsy and they have been a huge source of support for me, reassuring me that I can and will be able to train again. Lots of people live normal lives with epilepsy and debilitating conditions.
We all have “handicaps”, some are just more apparent than others. Regardless of what ours is it doesn’t mean we can’t live the life we want to. I would rather live the life I want to than live a sedentary life always wondering what if. I think that we are capable of doing anything we set our minds on doing. Fear and doubt are our biggest obstacles, but no obstacle is too big to overcome.
Your journey in BJJ is what you make of it with the hand you are dealt. Each journey is unique and tailored to the individual. Some have all the time in the world to train, train, train, and advance very quickly through the ranks. While others have limited time, must relocate frequently, and are plagued by injuries and illness. Ko has not let any of her challenges deter her. She continues to make the best of the hand she has been dealt. Her health is the most important thing right now but the mats are not far from her mind. Ko is down but never count her out.
“seven times down eight times up like the Daruma doll” -Chris Bradford
Strength, Dignity, & Perseverance: Sophia McDermott Drysdale an Empowering Female Voice in the BJJ Community
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin
We grow and we change, and hopefully for the better. The game of BJJ is constantly evolving and the first female Austrailian Black Belt, Sophia McDermott Drysdale shares her thoughts on how she has grown and evolved. Multiple injuries plagued her throuhout her career however, it did not hinder her success. We hear her thoughts on everything from BJJ and the olympics, rule changes, branching out into fitness competitions, to her charity work. If you haven't had the opportunity to shadow Sophia's career, there is no time like the present, she has grown up in more ways than one in this game and her growth is evident when she she competes.
BJJL: Why BJJ?
SMD: I started my training as a gymnast. I trained with my identical twin sister for about 10 years in the elite squad at my gym. I was searching for something that was as mentally and physically challenging as gymnastics and with my very first BJJ training session, I knew that it is what I had been looking for.
BJJL: What were your hobbies growing up?
SMD: I was very artistic and musical. I originally studied fashion design at the Melbourne Institute of Fashion. I loved to draw and paint and sculpt and play the drums. I was in a band that focused on blues and jazz for about 10 years. I grew up doing all this in addition to gymnastics which I also practiced for about 10 years.
As time went on I specialized more and more in BJJ and building a career as a personal trainer focusing on functional strength training and nutrition. I qualified for my Cert 4 in personal training and nutrition back in 2002.
BJJL: Who were your influences as an up and coming practitioner?
SMD: I never really idolized anyone moving up the ranks during my journey. However, I remember watching Hannette Staack and Kyra Gracie during their black belt final match at the World Championships in Brazil while I was still a purple belt, which was very inspiring. That year unfortunately I took home a silver medal and not the gold. :(
BJJL: Why did you decide to leave Australia and settle in the U.S.?
SMD: I really wanted to pursue my dreams in BJJ. I was a big fish in a small pond back in Australia and the only real way to challenge myself was to compete overseas. I was traveling so much for competition and it was getting very expensive for me. By the time I had moved to the USA I had already won 3 Pan Am Championships and placed 2nd at the World Championships in Brazil.
BJJL: Are you linked to any charities?
SMD: My website (that I am rebuilding) is linked to FINCA (Fighting Poverty with Finacial Inclusion http://www.finca.org/) which is an organization that provides loans to help single mothers and widows with children etc in 3rd world countries to start their own businesses and become financially self-sufficient. This organization’s goal is to give back the pride and dignity of these hard working women and enable them to be able to pay for an education for their children.
BJJL: What is your biggest pet peeve as an instructor (students late for class, belt not tied properly….)?
SMD: My pet peeve are instructors who have a sense of entitlement. An instructor is a role model, someone that people look up to. It is essential that the instructor gives the students 100% of their time and energy. Instructors who don’t pay attention to the students or they spend time on their phone or chatting to friends don’t gel with me too well.
BJJL: What do you consider a well-rounded practitioner to be?
SMD: A well rounded practitioner is someone who has a good understanding of both the guard position and top/passing position. Also they have experience as a competitor and as a teacher. Competitors have a great game, focused minds, and knowledge about all the preparation for tournaments but those who teach have a better overall understanding of a lot of the positions in BJJ. I think both aspects are necessary.
BJJL: When you see a student struggling, that is ready to quit, how do you help them adapt and overcome?
SMD: If a student is struggling I find out why they want to quit and usually it is because they aren’t getting the results they want, i.e., they are getting beaten up all the time. For the more petite women especially who spend the most time on the bottom getting squashed, I encourage them to shift their perspective and look at all the other bonuses of training such as having a good work out, building strength and stamina, and making new friends etc. I also make sure that that these student have supportive training partners around them so that they are not paired up with the big dudes who make them feel like they aren't achieving anything.
BJJL: What rank was the most challenging for you?
SMD: Brown belt was my most challenging belt. I had a series of very severe injuries including, torn costal cartilage in my rib, a complete shoulder separation (competing with Hannette Staack at the semifinals of the World Championships, and herniated neck which paralyzed my left arm. All these injuries lead me to the hospital. It was a difficult and lonely time especially with my family over in Australia.
BJJL: How do you think BJJ has evolved since you received your black belt?
SMD: I received my black belt in 2010. Since then I think the sport has grown so much. Both the women and the men are earning their belts at a younger age and winning world Championship much earlier. The pace of learning just like any sport is becoming much faster. There is definitely many more women training and competing and I think this is due to all the women's groups and the leading ladies of the sport teaching seminars who help motivate, support and inspire other women to keep training and to achieve their own dreams.
BJJL: What goals were you working towards in 2014, and did you accomplish them?
SMD: My goals in 2014 were to put myself back on the BJJ map after taking time off to have 2 babies. I felt like I disappeared. I competed in all the major tournaments and took Gold at the Pan Ams, Bronze and the Worlds, Gold at the No Gi Worlds and Gold at the Masters World Championships. I also focused on teaching seminars and building up my women's class at Drysdale JJ where I train.
BJJL: What are your thoughts about BJJ being a part of the Olympics?
SMD: I would love for BJJ to be part of the Olympics!!!! But I do not believe it will be. The sport is not really a spectator sport. Even for those who practice it and love it, there is a lot that goes on that you can’t really see, unlike Judo for e.g. where the big throws are obvious wins and big crowd pleasers.
BJJL: As of now, each Federation or independently run BJJ organization has its own set of rules; would a more unified approach from all organizations help with the integrity of the sport?
SMD: Yes definitely. I think that by having the same rules across the board would make things more cohesive and easier for the judges and the competitors alike. Some of the rules need to be revised, however. There are too many positions that are open to the referee's interpretation.
BJJL: You have won multiple World Titles in BJJ, do you see yourself venturing into MMA?
SMD: No!!!!! I hate competing. If I had to deal with being punched in the face I would probably freeze like a deer in headlights!
BJJL: Gi or No Gi do you have a preference, if so why?
SMD: Gi definitely. It is more technical. But I do appreciate the athleticism of no gi. The ex-gymnast in me comes out when I train no gi.
BJJL: Over the last year you began body-building and competed in your first competition, what led you to that decision?
SMD: I started competing in Ms. Figure shows. I have always been curious and I always knew that one day I would get up on that stage. I was ready to try something different and challenging. This requires so much discipline. I am preparing right now for my second show. I want to make my mark on the stage to reach out to the general fitness industry to promote my new business dedicated towards training women who are pregnant or who have just had a baby.
BJJL: I see you as an empowering individual, what empowers you?
SMD: Over the years I have done a lot of soul searching and self-reflection. I have figured out who I am and what drives me and I try to remain as true to myself as possible. If I am in a situation that doesn't honor me I try to change it. You have to honor yourself first because if you don't honor yourself, then no one else will.
BJJL: Your gym has been consulted by some prestigious MMA fighters (Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey) what role do you play in facilitating their training?
SMD: I personally have not trained with either Ronda or Miesha although Miesha does come to the gym quite often. Our gym has a lot of MMA fighters both men and women. I think the role I play is getting women through the door and helping them stay. Even though I may not train with the MMA girls, the culture that I have built for the females who train is one that is supportive, open and uplifting.
BJJL:http://sophiadrysdale.com/ is an amazing website. There are tips on fitness, nutrition, even pregnancy information listing vitamins and workouts (and blogging about your own pregnancy). You are covering a variety of things that appeal to both women and men, what prompted you to develop the site this way?
SMD: For a long time I have wanted to do a full blown website dedicated to health and fitness and focusing on training during pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t think there is enough out there for women who want to train throughout their pregnancies. The culture is that women should stop what they are doing to have a baby and I strongly disagree with this. Having a baby is a part of being a women. It is not what defines a woman. I have not had the time to dedicate to the website however, I am currently in the process of building a new site that will be launched in a couple of months. I will be dedicating all of my time to this and to teaching BJJ.
BJJL: What are your gym’s policies on sexual harassment?
SMD: The ideals trickle from the top down. Basically if the head instructor allows or encourages this behavior in any way then others are going to do it. Robert Drysdale does not treat any one different on the mat and this is the culture that has been cultivated at our school. There is no difference between the black belt, the white belt, the kid, man or woman. There is no discrimination or different treatment. We are all here to train and to learn and to be a part of something.
BJJL: You hear horror stories here and there about blatant sexual abuse in gyms. Any thoughts on the way that the abuses have been addressed or haven’t been addressed in the BJJ realm?
SMD: I think in a lot of the cases the head instructor turns a blind eye to the situation. Although he may not agree with what has taken place, he is also not proactive about preventing it and changing the culture in the gym. As far as I am concerned turning away from the problem is just as bad.
BJJL: The Better Business Bureau holds businesses accountable for consumer complaints, do you think the same should be done in the BJJ world regarding sexual abuse?
SMD: I think all the pieces of the puzzle create the whole, so it is every academy's obligation to the art of BJJ to create a safe and accepting place for all who want to train.
BJJL: I can see you producing your own fitness videos in the future, would it be too presumptuous of me to say something like that?
SMD: I am in the process of filming these fitness videos as we speak. lol!
BJJL: You have 2 children are they leaning towards BJJ or your former sport of gymnastics?
SMD: Both children are more interested in being fairies and princesses. I do however think that the oldest daughter has all the athletic attributes to be the most outstanding athlete in whatever sports she chooses.
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you still have left?
SMD: My goals are to launch my new fitness website business and to continue to travel and teach seminars around the world. I hope to inspire and empower more women though BJJ and fitness. I do plan on competing in more Ms. Figure shows also. I am enjoying this new challenge and this new world.
BJJL: If you could go back and change any moment in your prestigious career, what would it be?
SMD: I have had a lot of bad luck competing actually. Everything from having my opponent's foot caught in my top and having my boobs hanging out and losing the fight because I was speaking to the referee to try to alert him, to completely separating my shoulder, to having the score board changed on me 20 minutes after winning the semifinals of the Pan Ams due to politics.... I would go back and change those very unfortunate moments that cost me additional titles.
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?
SMD: I would like to thank my Mum and my sister. They have always been there for me even though they may not have agreed with some of the decisions I have made. My sister is always on the next plane to the States (she lives in Australia) when I need her the most.
Sophia, the greek translation means wisdom. That wisdom over the years has helped mold her into who she has become today. One could say that from the moment she was born this Aussie had uncanny abilities, unrelenting determination and know-how. All of those qualites in turn she utilizes to empower those around her, to uplift those that seek her advice, and to push those she mentors to the next level. Her talents have served her well in her distinguished career. As McDermott-Drysdale branches out and does more we just hope she sets a pace the rest of us can keep up with.
“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” -C. JoyBell C
To be young and gifted can be a blessing and a curse BJJ Legends interview with 15 year ole Roberto Jimenez of Team Gacho.
Young & Gifted: Roberto Jimenez, Alliance Team Gacho
“As our parents often say, share your God-given gifts and talents to help others” ―Tiara Tanishq Abraham 7 year old college prodigies
To be young and gifted can often be a very lonely experience. To be young and gifted at BJJ can be even more isolating. It is not a universally known sport and when your peers are swinging bats and bouncing balls. While you are berimboloing and cross collar choking people it can be challenging to make the connections kids often make when discussing the things they have in common. Alliance Team Gacho (4711 Louetta Rd Suite 114, Spring, Texas) Green Belt Roberto Jimenez manages to make connections with ease. His humble demeanor, amazing attitude, and reverent spirit make him a joy to watch on the mats and easy to be around when he is off. Hard work has its own reward, Roberto has been working hard since he was 5 years old and he has reaped the benefits. At 15 he has a very impressive resume and he is only in the beginning of his career.
BJJL: When did you begin your BJJ journey?
RJ: My dad started jiu-jitsu before me and he decided to start making me train when I was 5 years old.
BJJL: What is the first BJJ memory you have?
RJ: I did not like jiu-jitsu. I would hide in the bathroom and the receptionists would call my dad and he would drive to the academy and I would get in trouble and he would make me go back onto the mat.
BJJL: How much time do you spend training, what’s your regimen like?
RJ: During school breaks I train 3 times a day and help my dad with the kid’s classes. During school, I do wrestling in the morning at school and train Jiu-Jitsu at night.
BJJL: Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
RJ: I really like cruising on my long boards and I am a big fan of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.
BJJL: Who are your role models in the BJJ World?
RJ: There are so many, but the ones that influence me most are my dad, Lucas Lepri, Marcelo Garcia, Bernando Faria, Cobrinha, Buchecha and Leandro Lo.
BJJL: What has been your biggest challenge since you began training?
RJ: Making friends, because at school most of the kids if not all don’t know about jiu-jitsu.
BJJL: What has been your favorite moment since you began training?
RJ: When I met Buchecha at Pan Ams last year. Also, moments that I have shared with Lucas Lepri and Cobrinha when they stayed at my house in Houston for seminars, it's a blessing to get to know these guys.
BJJL: You are a very humble competitor, your attitude is the epitome of NO EGO on the mats. Was that instilled in you from the moment you began your journey?
RJ: Yes, my dad has always told me if you act well to others only good things can happen and always be humble.
BJJL: Would you consider yourself a role model?
RJ: Most role models have lived through a lot and can pass on their wisdom to others. I am very young so it’s hard to consider myself a role model. However, I am the professor's son and a lot is expected of me, all the kids in our academy look up to me and at tournaments there are kids that come up to me so I try to always be respectful.
BJJL: You are a 15 year old Phenom, what do you deem your most noteworthy accomplishments thus far in BJJ?
RL: Winning kids Pans this year. I have been trying to go to the tournament for years but never had a lot of people in my division and this year being my last year competing as a kid in IBJJF I had the chance to go and accomplished my biggest goal as a kid.
BJJL: You come from a VERY distinguished BJJ background (Alliance Team Gacho Black Belt Raul Jimenez & Brown Belt Gabriela Muller), how have they shaped your perception of BJJ?
RL: They both kicked by butt when I was younger and my dad continues to push me to my limits with every roll we do.
BJJL: You were recently inducted into the BFA Hall of Fame that is an AMAZING achievement. What did the induction mean to you, to your family?
RL: We were all very happy and grateful but I like to not let titles and medals define who I am or get to my head. My dad has a saying, every tournament is a book, every time I win a tournament, just turn the page and move on to the next one.
BJJL: At 15 you have competed in countless tournaments and faced some stiff competition, to include black belts. Tell me what it feels like to already be facing adult male black belts at your age?
RL: I feel blessed that I can even compete with such high level adults. I like to push myself, win or lose. I try to look into the future and look not only in my divisions to push myself for my main goal.
BJJL: 2016 is right around the corner, what are your goals for the coming year?
RL: Hopefully being able to do the grand slam, but definitely have PanAms, Worlds and whichever IBJJF Opens I can do.
BJJL: What are your long term goals in BJJ?
RL: Winning ADCC weight and absolute, winning WPJJC weight and absolute and winning worlds and Pans at each belt.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that has helped you along the way?
RL: God, my parents and all the guys that I look up to osssssss
To be young and gifted can be a blessing and a curse. You sacrifice, you do not live the normal life of other kids. You push yourself to the limits because you are doing what you love. You have milestones to achieve and as you reach them, you push harder, then move on to the next. For Roberto Jimenez being young and gifted is an absolute blessing. He is driven, determined, and inspirational. His gift has been nurtured since he was a child and he is coming into his own. His future in BJJ is luminous.
“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”―Winston S. Churchill
Hannette Staack talks about sub-only, stalling, cash prizes, BJJ in the Olympics, women's Jiu-Jitsu and the prospect of building a family.
Words of Wisdom from BJJ Legend Hannette Staack
“I don’t go by the rule book. I lead from the heart, not the head.” -- Princess Diana, Princess of Wales
When you think of female BJJ Pioneers the names Magalhaes Duarte, Vieira, Ribeiro, Kwok, and Staack should roll off your tongue like honey. If you do not know who 3rd Degree Black Belt Hannette Staack is, and you are a woman that seriously trains in BJJ today, you are WRONG. Her 2007 flying armbar in the ADCC Championships is an unforgettable moment in BJJ history. When she hits the mat, she is a competitor that fights with all her heart and puts everything on the line. It makes her a DYNAMIC fighter. Eight years has passed since that match vs. Rosangela Conceião. BJJ Legends is sitting down with Professor Staack to see how she has progressed and what the future holds for such a charismatic individual that shows no signs of slowing down.
BJJL: Tell me about 2014, what opportunities did it bring to and your husband (4th Degree Black Belt Andre “Negão” Terencio)?
Staack: 2014 was a very good year. Lots of things going on in our business. New people coming to the association, expanding the Brazil-021 Family. It was busy for our association, in a good way, but in another hands I had to focus very much on the business and start leaving the competition scene. But I think this is the normal transition.
BJJL: What goals were you working towards in 2014, and did you accomplish them?
Staack: Getting all the schools on the same standards. No egos... Our mission for 2014 was United we stand divided we fall... We grew together as a family. I also competed at the Worlds 2014 and got second place, which of course was not the result I expect, but I lost on the final just by one advantage, which is not much at all. For a 36 years old, business woman like me, who has to take care of most of the things in the Brazil-021 association, I think it was a good tournament. We always want to win, but it was a close match, so, all worth it! It was also a great year for me as a coach, and so was 2013 as well. I am working on getting my students to the next level. In 2013 I had 2 of my girls competing and one of them Kristin Mikkelson got 1st place on the blue belt light weight division and 3rd place on the open class. My other student Kristen Martin got 2nd on the blue belt light feather. In 2014 Kristen Martin got 1st in her division Purple Belt light feather and Mikkelson, lost by decision on the quarter finals for the champion of her division. So it was a great year, for Brazil-021 in general.
BJJL: BJJ is not what it once was intended to be, would you like to see a return to submission only matches?
Staack: I definitely want to see that. I think now-a-days a lot of people “play by the rules” which is not wrong. I think you have to have a strategy, but the problem is when you have points, people will be afraid to open their games and that is when the stalling comes. If we had more of these tournaments, especially with cash prizes, we definitely would see way more interesting matches.
BJJL: What are your thoughts about BJJ being a part of the Olympics?
Staack: I think it will be a while to see our sport in the Olympics. I still think we have a long way to go, with rules, federations and organizations. But I would love to see the sport one day as a part of the Olympics. As long as we are still evolving. As of now, each Federation or independently run BJJ organization has its own set of rules; would a more unified approach from all organizations help with the integrity of the sport? Of course. I think what is happening but every organization wants to set their own rules. They want to be different from each other but the problem is, in the end, they are not helping the sport to evolve. If we had unified rules, we would have less misunderstandings and less people complaining when they are in an official IBJJF tournament. We also would have less injuries and better referees.
BJJL: How much do you think BJJ has changed in the last 5 years for women?
Staack: I think it has changed a lot. More and more women practicing and competing. Which is great... Now we have more respect, more sponsors and more attention. It’s great to look back when I first started and see women getting their space in the competitions, getting prizes, getting attention from the media. Before it was much harder for women to make a living only with BJJ, but now I can see other women like me, Jiu-Jitsu business women which is great! It is progress, still improving, but way better than before.
BJJL: What are your plans for 2015?
Staack: Become the BEST Hannette Staack I can be to my students. I have been dedicating my entire life to competitions to be the best in the sport and as much as the competitions are a big part of my life, I think it is time for me to focus on other things, to help my students to get their way in this sport. It’s been hard to let go, but I think it is time to build my legacy and to become now the best coach, the best mom (future plans ... Lol), the best business woman I can be to build the other side of my career. But who knows if I get a good proposal to compete, I might as well go... Haha... A Heart of a fighter will always be this way!
BJJL: What do you think the future holds for BJJ?
Staack: Improvement with the rules, a more professional BJJ scene like the World Pro, but with better referees. It will keep evolving, but the basics will be always there and it will always be effective. If you think about some of the positions we have today, like the 50/50 for example, they are not very good for your body in many ways, so I would say in the future, the rules will help to avoid those positions. And for the practitioners, they will be more aware of the damages that those techniques could cause to your body over time.
BJJL: As one of the PREMIERE role models and athletes for up and coming female BJJrs, what advice can you offer?
Staack: Many... 1. The way is always harder than for anyone else, but it is worth the try and the sacrifices. Don’t give up, believe in your dreams, work hard and even if takes longer than you thought, keep on going. 2. Always value the person who is helping you in your journey, your teacher, and your teammates. If they are helping you to get to your goals, that is what matters. Listen to your coach/professor. But remember, there is no such thing like Black belt in life, use common sense, if you feel something is wrong talk to other people, give your thoughts about what is happening and get help. There is always a lot of people willing to help, including me :-) 3. Stay humble; 4. Don’t let your EGO blind you; 5. Remember the purpose of why you joined a BJJ School, to learn Jiu-Jitsu, so, don’t let anything interfere in your goal. Stay FOCUSED. Jiu-Jitsu is your number one priority when you are on the mats. Keep rolling!
BJJL: Some of the ladies that have taken your seminar rave about a specific conditioning drill that you have…It takes 15 minutes and is multiple BJJ movements chained together. Can you talk to me about it?
Staack: It is a method that helped me a lot in my career, so I want to pass it on to other people. It is for me, the best way to create muscle memory. Then, when it is time to roll it is easier to remember and put in practice the technique. It is also a great way to get you tired... LOL and when it is time to train you have to use your technique more than your strength.
BJJL: Your “under stress approach” seminars are also a huge hit. Will you elaborate on your thought process behind that?
Staack: I don’t like to be in a class where everyone is just sitting or taking their time to do everything. I like to be doing something all the time. I think that is the reason why I always do the seminars this way. Nobody is resting... We are always doing something, practicing, drilling, rolling, etc. It is the best way to learn in my opinion.
BJJL: I know you are a fantastic humanitarian. Talk to me more about your non-profit organization Brazil-021 Project.
Staack: It was a way to give something back to the community. I think Jiu-Jitsu is a great tool to help people to get more self-control, self-confidence, discipline, while playing, while having fun. So they learn all this and still have fun doing it. When we decided to start this project, we didn’t know it would grow that much. We have more than 80 kids training in Brazil and the idea is to bring the same project to the North America, because we know that here we have kids with the same problems as the kids in Brazil. We want to provide good examples, the ones they don’t have in their own community. We have talked to the parents and we have great feedback from them about their kids.
BJJL: Was there any point where you hit a wall and wanted to give up BJJ and do something else? If so why?
Staack: Yes. My life in BJJ was mostly based on competitions, and this year 2015 right before the worlds I felt like I needed to compete again. I had to prove to myself that I could do it again. It was really hard to let it go. I had a serious conversation with my coach, who is also my husband and he convinced me to not compete. But I wasn’t completely convinced yet, so I kept training hard, like I was going to compete. I had a little hope that I could go there and participate. When it was getting closer to the event I finally realized that I was not going I got really depressed. I was having terrible nightmares and sometimes I thought about giving up everything. I didn’t want to go to the event, because I didn’t want to see the competition. Finally after talking to other people, that went through the same problems I realized it was best not to compete. Focus on my students, doing something bigger to the community, contributing in a different way to the BJJ World. After going to the Worlds and seeing so many people winning by one advantage, stalling, a lot of referees mistakes, I am glad I did not compete and I have now extra motivation to continue on this journey, contributing as a teacher and mentor to my students and to all the people who wishes to learn Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJL: Have you ever thought of yourself as a female hero to women in BJJ?
Staack: LOL... No never. But I know my responsibility in the Jiu-Jitsu community, so I try to set a good examples to my students, to the kids from the Project. I want to be the best I can be.
BJJL: Do you think that women are taken advantage of if they do not educate themselves about BJJ and what is and is not acceptable in their training environment?
Staack: I am sure. I always say that for women is always harder to be in this community. The first biggest barrier is finding a place that we can be treated as equal. We have to face this every day in our lives... In Jiu-Jitsu is not different, especially for a sport that is mostly male predominant. Some schools do not even have female changing rooms or bathrooms. We have different prizes, sometimes we don’t even have prizes. I had to face in the beginning of my career, situations that women would come to the school to find a date and once they were training or drilling with me they would get upset. It is hard! I found my way to the top because I always focused on my Jiu-Jitsu improvement more than everything else. I earned my respect, through my dedication. I think this is the key for the success and that is what I try to pass on to my students. I always ask them “what your goals are?” so focus on the result, the result you want for you. My school, because of me, is a very female oriented place. Our students are always respectful, and they feel comfortable in bringing their wives, moms, sisters, grandmas, girlfriends to train with us.
BJJL: What is your policy on sexual harassment towards men or women in your gym?
Staack: We have a set of rules, our DOJO ETIQUETTE, to make sure the schools and everyone is on the same page. It is unacceptable to have someone hitting or with a disrespectful posture in the school towards anyone, men or women. With our annual summits we always have a chance to talk to all our affiliates to be careful about who they pick to be their instructors. We know how big the influence of an instructor or Professor towards the students is and how many people and schools end up getting a bad reputation because of this. Also we always pay close attention in class on people’s behavior. This way we can sense people’s intentions and prevent or at least minimize the risk of having something like this happening.
BJJL: What do you hope the next generation of women will bring to the table competition wise?
Staack: I was a little disappointed after this IBJJF Worlds, I saw too many women playing to win... Don’t take me wrong when I say that, but I think sometimes people play only to win by an advantage. You don’t see many people going for submissions, playing with all their heart. I hope to see more women playing the real Jiu-Jitsu, trying to submit all the time, taking risks. Because BJJ is all about taking risks, it is all about submission. I know it is hard sometimes to win by a submission, but I also know by my own experience, that sometimes, people don’t want to move just because they are afraid of getting submitted. So I hope this generation brings back the real BJJ, bring their hearts to those mats and be fearless.
BJJL: Babies, when do you think babies will come into the picture?
Staack: Hahahahaha.... The best question! We are definitely planning... I would say, sooner than later. But for sure starting this year :-)
Hannette Staack has done some phenomenal things as a competitor. She started out in BJJ at the age of 18 and now with 18 years of experience she has built a legacy to be absolutely proud of. As she transitions, she can build upon that legacy as a mentor, a coach, and so much more.
“Life-fulfilling work is never about the money -- when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.” --Eileen Fisher
Interview with blue belt David Johnson of San Antonio TX about his path to the Master's worlds.
“You enter the forestat the darkest point,where there is no path.Where there is a way or path,it is someone else's path.You are not on your own path.If you follow someone else's way,you are not going to realizeyour potential.”―Joseph Campbell
Making His Marking: David Johnson One Year Later
David Johnson (a BJJr that trains diligently in San Antonio Texas at Pinnacle MMA) is one blue belt with all the potential in the world and then some. Last year he seemed to have dropped out of the sky, won his division at Pans and then you just knew if he would be competing in a tournament, he would dominate. Master’s Worlds is only a few months out and it’s time to check in with David Johnson to see how has progressed over the last year.
BJJL: How have you grown over the past year?
Johnson: I feel more confident with my technique. I feel like I’m able to play my game, and relax.
BJJL: You went back to Pans this time around and the results were not the same, what was different about your performance this year vs last year?
Johnson: Last year was my second IBJJF tournament and I was like I’m just going to go out there and do my thing. This year I honestly have no one to blame but myself. I went in with a game plan that I was going to play it safe and conserve energy. It was the worst mistake I’ve ever made in a tournament. I ended up losing my first match to someone I’ve beaten 3 times prior by penalties. I will not make the same mistake again.
BJJL: What is your training regimen like?
Johnson: I train 6-7 days a week. I spend a lot of time watching and analyzing matches and watching technique videos.
BJJL: You have a full time job (Active Duty Military, Dad,…Husband) and train just as much as time allows, do you feel you are as prepared as those that do nothing but train as their full time job with nothing but their training to worry about for competitions?
Johnson: I never feel like I train enough. I wish I could do this full time, but I have obligations. I have a family to take care of and spend time with. I can’t be selfish.
BJJL: You were not able to compete in Master’s Worlds last year… Are you ready with all that you put forth day-to-day?
Johnson: It was very unfortunate that I couldn’t compete last year at Master’s Worlds. I had military obligations that prevented me from doing so. This year’s tournament can’t come soon enough. It’s the culminating event for the year and the one that means the most to me. Winning gold in my division isn’t enough. I want double gold!
Fresh off of wins at American Nationals (Double Gold) and the Austin Open (Gold) I have no doubt that David Johnson will walk away with just that. The question any individual should ask themselves when setting goals is whether those goals are realistic? You can set a goal however, be realistic about the objectives you have in mind. David Johnson is one BJJ aficionado that goes out there and puts it all on the line. His fervor sets him a cut above the rest and makes what he is doing vastly different from those in his division and why he succeeds time after time. Michael Jordan is 1 in a million and as far as comparisons go, there are none. When making your own way in a sport, admiration for an athlete that accomplished amazing feats is common. The question for athletes that want to stand out is do you want to be compared to someone or do you want to be the comparison? If you are taking the time to attend BJJ classes 2 to 3 times a day and attend seminars, camps, or pay top dollar for privates from the best of the best your goal is clear. You don’t want to be the next anyone but the FIRST you. If you have the potential and are on your own path, make your imprint. David Johnson is CLEARLY making his.
“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” –Hugh Prather
A Very Special Thanks Goes out to Eleani Johnson for all the love and Support You Provide.
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