My BJJ Story
I have an issue with personal space. The idea of getting on the ground and ‘rolling’ around with someone had never appealed to me primarily for this reason. As I started to find truth in mantis boxing, and the UFC was growing more popular than ever, the reality of ground fighting began to seep into my periphery. ‘What would I do if someone took me to the ground in a fight?’ ‘Would any of my skills, after years of martial arts training, help me?’
After all, someone that is even just incrementally larger than us, has the automatic advantage due to gravity and the laws of physics. Add in someone with a season or two of wrestling in high school or college, or a football tackler, and we have serious deficiencies no matter how good our stand-up fighting is. Once we’re on the ground, which could be from a slip, trip, or fall of our own accord when involved in an altercation, the game is quickly over if they are on top of us.
I am not the largest guy on the planet, even when I was 70 lbs heavier than I am now. Having the knowledge and technical ability to deal with an opponent in a ground situation, was becoming more attractive to me for obvious reasons. BJJ, provides those answers and more. Using timing, technique, and those same previously pesky laws of physics mentioned above, we can overcome larger, stronger, and heavier opponents if we end up on the ground in a self-defense situation.
So, as we said in the Army - I ‘sucked it up and drove on’. Putting my ‘human contact’ issues aside, and undertook the search for a BJJ school to train in. My first experiences were not ringing endorsements of the art by a long shot. Already being a martial artist and running a school, when I contacted the first instructor a few towns away, we discussed my background and I made it clear I knew nothing about ground fighting. I was starting over. I would like to put on a white belt and be treated like any other white belt. Starting from the ground up (no pun intended).
The first class went relatively well. I had a few minor issues but nothing to stop me from going back. I was ready to do this. I returned two days later for my second class. I left with a ripped ear, tweaked elbow, broken toe, and my knee out of whack. I was thrown in for the 40 minute ‘rolling’ (sparring) session at the end of class, and the people there decided to try and wipe the floor with me. Finding it difficult to just give up, I fought back. It cost me, but ultimately it cost that instructor, as I never went back.
My second experience was born more by reference. I came across a coach teaching at a friends school that was recommended to me. I rolled with him for a couple hours and he shut down everything I had. He obviously knew his craft. He was also ex-military, so we understood one another on a training and practicality level.
At first it was a good fit, until his PTSD kicked in while we were rolling one day, and he tore my shoulder out. Not once. Not twice. Three times in one hour. With two extreme americana, and a kimura. Causing thousands of dollars in medical repairs/treatments, and hundreds of hours of physical therapy and recovery. I left him behind, and continued searching.
The Gracie family, considered founders of the art in it’s more modern form, had a school in Los Angeles and were running an instructor certification and training program. I began looking seriously at this program, but it was going to cost thousands of dollars, a great deal of travel. Additionally, thousands upon thousands of dollars more to get this program underway in my school due to affiliation fees, rules, and boring contractual agreements I will not bore you with here.
I pulled one of my instructors aside in the school (Holly) that was interested in learning this as well, and we started training the basics a few times per week. This continued moving the ball forward at least, but slowly. With all the challenges I faced with Chinese boxing, I was no stranger to having to teach myself. I was beginning to think this was once again going to be a reality I would have to accept. Then, my contacts across the country came through and hooked me up with someone who would not only become my instructor, but also a good friend.
Andre ‘Dedeco’ Almeida was located south of Boston in Rockland, Massachusetts. I was a bit more gun shy about diving into another bad experience, so I asked to meet him for coffee first so we could discuss training with him. We met at his favorite coffee shop, and broke the ice.
He was super nice, and seemed like an upstanding person. After listening to my experiences with BJJ thus far, he was appalled. This was not his view of the art he had been studying since he was a child in Brazil. What stuck with me in that first conversation was something he said - “Randy, I am not going to have you ‘roll’, until I teach you how to roll.” Well didn’t that make a boat load of sense!!! Where was this ‘master instructor’ prior to my brush with a shoulder replacement?
I started private training with Dedeco shortly thereafter (Aug 2011) and he introduced me to the amazing art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and all it has to offer. My plan, when I started, was to simply get to a Blue Belt level. This was, at the time, a significant bench mark for this martial art. Fighters would brazenly step into the cage in UFC fights donning a blue belt like a proud peacock. Unlike other styles of martial arts, that give out black belts like candy, the first belt you get in BJJ (a blue belt), is a monumental achievement in and of itself.
As I trained more and more with Dedeco, and began meeting his other students, and his friends who owned BJJ schools, and their students, I began to witness an amazing family of people that were pushing one another to get better and better, but without injuring one other all the time.
Instead of the stuffy, overly dogmatic experiences found in other styles of martial arts I had done, what I experienced instead, was a relaxed and friendly environment that fostered creativity, freedom of expression, and ingenuity. Embracing the personal expression of an individuals art that we devote years to.
I later met Dedeco’s teachers (Ricardo Liborio, and Ricardo De La Riva), and saw the sincerity and kindness in these men who were extremely accomplished fighters, and champions. No ego. Just humility, and genuine care for the growth of others.
This was so powerful it changed my entire school, and me. I adopted more of these training approaches to my mantis boxing program, and my school overall. It had a profound affect. Improving my own skills, and above all else, my abilities as a teacher to help others with their art.
These skills inside BJJ are some of the most powerful tools you can ever have in your arsenal. If you train the art with due diligence, it will reward in spades. After a while, if you ever end up on the ground in a bad situation…that attacker just stepped into the deep blue waters of the ocean, and you are the shark! That...is why this style is now part and parcel with my mantis boxing inside the walls of my school, and within my heart.
Join me, and get hooked!
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Embrace the power of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Use leverage, timing, and skill to turn a bad situation to good. Drill techniques to build a solid foundation in the art, as well as provide you an amazing workout.
Team classes are comprised of focused training drills on technique, theory, and principles. Each class begins with a dynamic warm-up, and incorporates application and flow drills to help you internalize the concepts you are learning. Cooperative positional sparring drills will ingrain the art into your mind and body. Study the art through cooperative partner work, drilling, and rolling, once ready.