Emotional BJJ Black Belt Promotion at Derby City MMA

Emotional BJJ Black Belt Promotion

The speech and BJJ Black Belt promotion starts at 3:20 . But feel free to watch it all the way through if you enjoying listening to me ramble.

This video came from our promotions last night and was by far one of the most powerful and meaningful moments I’ve ever had as a coach. Promoting not only a crop of tough people to Purple and Brown Belt. But also promoting my “little brother” Chad Hardy to Black Belt.

I’ve known Chad since he was 11 years old. I’ve had the pleasure of removing his original White Belt and have had the pleasure of tying on the belts he’s received after. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know him incredibly well over the last 10+ years. We even lived together for a while.

As a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu coach there is no more satisfying a feeling then to see the fruits of your labor realized in front of you. I’ve watched Chad grow as a person. From a young kid to a surprisingly mature young man.


What Makes The BJJ Black Belt Meaningful

The BJJ belt is, itself, just a piece of fabric that has been dyed a particular color. But the long arduous journey that had to have taken place is what makes the BJJ Black Belt so meaningful.

In Chad’s case. He’s battled and won more competition than I can count. As a competitor he’s always been amazing to watch and an inspiration to the people inside the gym.

And as an instructor and a fixture in our gym he’s turned into someone that is all about building up those around him. Something equally impressive and admirable.

This will certainly not be one of my more popular videos but it is a glimpse into our gym ( Derby City MMA ) and what we are all about.

We all love competition. But at the end of the day we are in this because we feel apart of a team and want to grow with each other.

And for those of you who follow me. I know I ramble on in my videos a lot. As I do in person. But you can at least be sure that anything I say in the videos is what I believe. Regardless if you disagree with my philosophy in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I assure you it’s 100% genuine.

– Chewy

Free Ebook: http://www.chewjitsu.net/focused-jiu-jitsu-13-page-ebook/

Check out more of my videos at https://www.youtube.com/chewjitsu




Getting Stuck In The Middle With BJJ

Getting Stuck In The Middle With BJJ

canstockphoto17053300I recently read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. One of the chapters he wrote immediately made me think of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. The idea he lays out is simple but powerful. See if you see the parallel to BJJ.



“The first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative, and you’re finally out in the water; the shore is pushing off behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The distant shore doesn’t seem so far, and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of your boat and walking the distant beach. You think the thing is going to happen fast, that you’ll paddle for a bit and arrive on the other side by lunch. But the truth is, it isn’t going to be over soon. The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

At some point the shore behind you stops getting smaller, and you paddle and wonder why the same strokes that used to move you now only rock the boat.”

“The shore you left is just as distant, and there is no going back; there is only the decision to paddle in place or stop, slide out of the hatch, and sink into the sea.”

“I think this is when most people give up on their stories… they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger.”

“they go looking for an easier story.”

“It’s like this with every crossing, and with nearly every story too. You paddle until you no longer believe you can go any farther. And then suddenly, well after you thought it would happen, the other shore starts to grow, and it grows fast. The trees get taller and you can make out the crags in the cliffs, and then the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boat onto the sand.”


Have you’ve ever experienced the “middle” with your BJJ training? The point where you are training hard but feel like you’re just not getting any better. If so, I imagine the chunks of the book I have quoted above probably speak to you.



Getting Out Of the Middle In BJJ

Unfortunately, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu doesn’t follow a linear progression, it’s not a video game where you rack up a reliable number of experience points and skill gain. So while I can’t offer a surefire way to escape the dreaded middle. I can offer some tips that have worked for me personally, for the students I’ve coached in BJJ, and may help you.



Mix Things Up

I think people hit plateaus most often because of complacency. They get stuck in the same patterns using the same moves with the same mindset over and over again. In order to spark new progress in your game and grow in new areas, sometimes you have to mix it up and get out of your comfort zone.


Change the way you roll –  I have personally experienced no better way to dig myself out of a rut than focusing on different areas of my game. Assess yourself, be honest, and think of areas you could work on improving. This often involves you getting out of your comfort zone. If you are a sweeper from the bottom, try being more submission oriented. If you are a wrestler with a great passing game, pull guard. Maybe you have a weak guillotine and you’d like to make it better, limit yourself to that one submission when you roll. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Experiment with different areas of your game that aren’t you’re bread and butter.


Go to a seminar and attempt to learn new techniques – I’m not always the biggest fan of BJJ seminars because I feel like I get mentally assaulted with so much information that I cannot retain anything. But I will say that I’ve also been to several seminars that have been game changers. Even if you’re only able to walk away from a seminar with just 1 BJJ technique that you can use well, its worth the money. To better retain the information. Right after the seminar, while the techniques are still fresh in your mind. Record yourself with a partner going over the techniques. This works way better than a note book!


BJJ Videos for motivation – One thing I’ve always done, and continue to do whenever I get stuck in a mental rut is to use videos for motivation. Highlight videos and documentary types are my favorites. I remember the first time I watched the Renzo Gracie documentary Legacy as a brown belt (if you haven’t watched it, it’s a must see). Immediately after it was over, I was so pumped up that I called up a few buddies and we had an impromptu training session.


Compete – Some people don’t like BJJ competitions, I get it. But as a coach I’ve seen so many people make giant leaps in their game either before or after a competition. This is one of the reasons wrestlers are such good grapplers. They’re forced into competition over and over again, there is no choice. The idea of competition looming over someone often leads them to train harder and after a tournament they typically have a better insight into their game with plenty of things to improve.


Drill – If you find yourself being unable to pull the trigger with your techniques or you’re just a second too slow. If you’re not already doing so, start drilling your techniques. I mean really drilling them. Knock out at least a few hundred reps every week. This will get rid of that hesitation. Drilling your techniques is sharpening your weapon before battle. The sharper the weapon, the smoother the cut.


Take time off from BJJ – If you’re starting to get frustrated on the mats. Try taking a week off from BJJ with the intention of coming back the next week. So rest, relax but make sure to keep your diet in check. I personally like hiking and camping when I take time off from Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Along with the time away from the mats, being in nature seems to have a restorative effect on me mentally and physically. Sometimes a small break from the mats has a way of renewing your appreciation for being in the gym and allows you to decompress and come back mentally fresh.


Last Piece Of  Advice For A Tough Problem

The last tip is simple and something that you’ve probably heard before.

Don’t stop. Even when you don’t feel like you’re making progress in your BJJ training, and a lot of times this will be the case. You are. If you’re stuck in the middle at a current point in your BJJ training. It’s ok, we all get there sometimes. Have the presence of mind to recognize this and, sticking with the snippet from the book, keep paddling. Because I promise sometimes right when you feel like you’re at your worst is when you have the next jump in your game.

Remember, it’s not a race to the finish. You don’t finish Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.


Have you ever experienced being in the middle with your training? If so, what was it like and how did you deal with it?


As always, thanks for reading.


Buchecha and Braulio Estima: Dealing With BJJ Tournament Anxiety

Do you have any jitters before a match? Do you get nervous or second guess yourself? Do you deal with BJJ tournament anxiety every time you compete?

You’re not alone.

Even the guys at the highest levels have jitters and negative thoughts before they compete. But one of the marks of a seasoned competitor is having the presence of mind to counter these negative feelings.

During the video Buchecha and Braulio touch on several important ideas of how to deal with BJJ tournament anxiety.

  • Thinking about all the work you’ve put in to be here.
  • Visualizing and thinking about what YOU are going to do rather than focusing on your opponent.
  • Going over the strategy you intend to use during the match.
  • Nervousness and the anxiety before a match is necessary and is simply your body preparing for the match.

Check out the video if nerves are something you deal with or if you would just like to hear the highest level of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu touch on pre tournament anxiety.


Why Do You Train Here?


So the other day I went around with the camera asking some of the people in the gym, “Why do you train here?”

They were not prepared and the reactions and replies were pretty funny.


How I got my nickname of Chewy

A really common question I get, probably the most common, is where I got my nickname. Most people who meet me ask if it was because I was really strong, or maybe I was exceptionally hairy or maybe it was some sort of Star Wars reference. To all these I have to say “No.”

Before there was this guy

 1st match


There was this guy

porker wrestling10

That’s right. I used to be a super chubby kid with a definite lacking in athletic ability. Then I started wrestling. I truly believe that wrestling was one of the things that changed my life for the better. Wrestling gave me the inner confidence to allow me to be, well, me. Wrestling also allowed me to see the consequences when hard work and gritty determination are used to achieve a goal. My wrestling coach used to say, “you’re the masters of your own destiny,” when talking about working hard and going after what you want. That motto from wrestling really stuck with me. I guess most impactful though, is that wrestling led me to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

The reason I bring up wrestling is because I had a great nickname from wrestling, which considering this blog is about my nickname, seemed like a fun thing to throw in to the mix. My wrestling nickname was, wait for it, Tugboat. Yeah, Tugboat. After my first wrestling match when I was still a hefty teenager I wheezed so badly that it made an almost horn like sound. My coach got a kick out of it and it stuck. Just like Chewy, Tugboat became my alternate name for that particular sport rather than just an occasional nickname. When they would call my name over the speaker system at tournaments it was always “Tugboat Albin.” I’m not sure what is wrong with my given name of Nicholas or even the shorter version of Nick.


On to Chewy

So, then there is this guy named Mike Colley

mikeme mikkeee

When I first started BJJ during my senior year of high school he was a green belt (a solid white belt). One day we were rolling and I did something. I can’t really remember what it was but it was something a spazzy white belt would do. Just to give you an idea of what I was like at that time. I would come into the gym hopped on pre workout like supplements and I would roll accordingly. Armed with a wrestling base, an overly competitive streak and too much caffeine, I was the textbook definition of a spazzy white belt. Right after I did whatever it was that I did. Mike said in a fit of justified irritation, something to the effect of “you big dumb wookie.” He would then periodically refer to me as Chewbacca which replaced “dumb ass.” But I feel like that’s how you know you’re IN with a group of close knit guys, when they start messing with you. At this time Mike was like the verbally abusive big brother I never needed. Eventually the nickname just sort of stuck and has since become my Jiu-jitsu namesake. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m not entirely sure many people in the gym and BJJ community would even know my real name.

So there you have it. That’s where I got the nickname, from being an ultra spaz on the mat. I’ve grown to love it, although it is a little weird that I’m a 29 year old man who is called Chewy instead of his real name of Nick about 90% of the day. The other 10% being divided up in no orderly fashion amongst Chew, Chewster, Chew Chew, Mr. Chewy, Chewbert, Big Chew and Nick. I like to think of it as kind of like a super hero. They have their regular name for the public and then once they’ve donned their costume they become Superman, Batman or whatever. Only mine is just sort of reverse. Oh and I don’t have super powers . . . stupid.

So, thanks Mike, without you I would just be a black belt with an ordinary name.


New episode of the Matwind Podcast



My podcast project is still going strong. I recently did an interview with Saulo Black belt Ben Eaton.

In this episode I talk with Saulo Ribeiro black belt, Ben Eaton, and get some of his insights and experiences in BJJ such as. . .

– Starting his training in the midwest without highly skilled instructors.

– Leaving his job as a full time police officer to pursue BJJ.

– Dealing with acl tear that put him on the shelf for nearly 7 months at a time when he felt like he was at the top of his game.

– Tips on how to deal with our egos and frustrations during training.

and a lot more.

Click here! to listen to the episode

Check out the podcast website at www.matwind.com

Also if you are interested in buying a Keiko gi, head over to www.KeikoUSA.com. Use the coupon code “MatWind” and save yourself %15 off your purchase.

I received a great response from the first episode of the podcast so I hope everyone enjoys this one!

As always, thanks for thanks for reading and thanks for listening!




Sorry for being slow with posts and check out my podcast

So I received a lot of positive feedback from the last few posts I’ve done with the 10 years in BJJ series. I apologize for not having the next part in the series posted. I’ll have the next post up later this week. I’ve just been super busy with a little side project I’ve been doing. The side project is a podcast and I’ve been interviewing tons of black belts from all over. The purpose of the podcast is to interview different high level BJJ practitioners and draw inspiration, motivation and advice from their own experiences. I just released the first episode today and I chose one of my interviews with a black belt from the midwest. I did this for a few reasons. Mainly because he is a highly skilled black belt and the fact that he has personally faced a fair amount of adversity and did not have the ideal starting conditions. Even with these sorts of obstacles he has still managed to become a skilled black belt and is able to do BJJ full time. I knew James previous to this interview but even with that I personally learned about him as a person and a BJJ player. The interview gave me some perspectives on things and when you listen to it I hope it does the same for you and that it gives you something you can use for your own BJJ journey.

Check out the interview here:  Interview with James Clingerman



Hope you enjoy listening to it and feel free to send feedback to Chewy@matwind.com

10 years in BJJ and 10 lessons I’ve learned (Part 3)


“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action.” – Vince Lombardi


“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.” – Napoleon Bonaparte” 

(I like to think to interpret this quote with “courage” replaced with “mental toughness.”)


“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Fun video of Cary Kolat sharing a story of mental toughenss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjzVVT8JTeM


10. Mental Toughness- I often talk to my students about the pesky voices that will present themselves when they find them in bad positions, when they become tired, or when they are nervous. Do you know what I am talking about? Have you ever been exhausted and stuck under someone’s crushingly heavy top pressure, having a conversation inside your head about whether or not to give up the fight? I have. The situation reminds me of the old cartoons where you would see a devil and angel sitting on top of the character’s shoulders. Except instead of urging me to do something nefarious or kind, part of me says “keep fighting” and the other side says “He’s so heavy. Just give up position, its ok”. If you’ve never experienced these sort of thoughts, then you are tougher than most. Over the years of training I’ve been able to minimize and for the most part extinguish that voice that tells me I should give up. Early on it was very tough for me and required a lot of mental focus not to succumb to those mental suggestions caused by frustration and fatigue.

One of my favorite aspects of competitions or extremely competitive rolls is that they can definitely help bring out the best in us. They can also bring the worst out. If I may, I’d like to share a story of a tournament match I had years ago.

One very insightful competition match that I experienced came from the days when I was a blue belt. I had finished finals for school and came down to a tournament in Tennessee. I did not cut weight nor did I pay much attention to my weight. I had been busy with school, barely trained for the tournament and just figured, “what the hell, I’ll just compete.” I ended up winning my division fairly easily, but the real fun came in the open division. As luck would have it, I fell right at the weight cut off. The weight divisions were 193.9lbs and under and 194lbs and over.  I weighed in at 194.5lbs. . . go figure.

My first match pitted me up against a bruiser wrestler. His name escapes me but I do remember that he weighed around 225lbs with a substantial amount of that being lean muscle. I also remember that he had wrestled in college for 4 years. I also recall being a bit intimidated by his much larger physique. Once our match began the first few minutes went very poorly for me. I was taken down several times and the point spread was up to 12-0 in his favor. Then he mounted me, and this is where things got interesting. See, this tournament had a skunk rule. Meaning if he was up 15 to my 0 then he would receive a technical win. The mount being a 4 point move, meant that he was 3 seconds away from securing the win and thus making me look like I didn’t belong on the mat with him.

This is a moment where I personally had this conversation with myself. I remember this moment vividly. I was so angry for letting him get so far ahead on points. He was strong and had used his wrestling to deny me my usual comfortable top game position. I was just frustrated. Somehow I dusted away the frustration and turned it into determination. I thought to myself “I can’t give up this easy! I need to at least make him work for his win.” Fun Fact, when I compete I am not always worried solely about winning. Yes, winning is high on the priority list, but win or lose I want it to be a good competitive match. Anyways, after having these thoughts rush through my head I manage to escape mount and rally back. Once I made it out of mount he never scored another takedown or a single point for that matter and I was able to rack up 10 points. With about a minute of the match left and the end closing, he shot in for the takedown, I sprawled and attempted a guillotine choke and pulled guard. The choke didn’t stick and my arm slipped off his sweaty neck.  Then I attempted a kimura sweep. He stuffed the sweep but I caught a snag on his arm, transitioning to the kimura, I desperately tried to crank the arm to finish. This moment in the match was kind of neat because it was only a few seconds but I remember noticing everyone in the crowd around us, minus his teammates of course, cheering for me. I was the smaller BJJ guy trying to topple the larger wrestler. I also remember looking of my shoulder as I held onto the kimura lock. I could see his face getting redder by the second as he flexed his arm, keeping it stiff and denying me the finish. Lastly I remember looking at my arms shaking as they were fully flex and fatigued from the long match and a voice in my head encouraging me, “Come on!”.

Sadly I was not able to finish the lock and the bruiser wrestler had his hand raised in victory. I suppose the silver lining was that I wore him out during our match. Because in his next match he was finished in 30 seconds via armbar by a guy we all called Brazilian Mike. Strangely enough Brazilian Mike wasn’t from Brazil or Brazilian. If I was able to wear him down that much, in my mind, meant that it was a good match. The best part about this particular match was that it gave me a clear example of how powerful the mental side of things can be. After reflecting on this match, I realized how valuable it is to have the ability to deal with frustration and uncomfortable feelings while being under heavy physical and mental pressure.

There is an interesting feeling that happens during a tournament match or competitive roll in the gym. That feeling is when you feel someone’s body relax and give up, even if it is just for a second. Think back to your own experiences. Have you ever had a good roll with someone and were trying to secure a pass, sweep or submission, and eventually after a struggle you felt their defensive hand positioning and body positioning give way to your attempts? You may even know this sensation from being the one who mentally broke and allowed the person to pass, sweep or submit. During this match I was almost the one that mentally broke. I was fortunate enough to have the resolve to wipe away the defeatist mindset and come back strong in the match. This was a result of hard training and preparation.

 The Take Away

After reading this I want you to think for a second. Have you ever let your own personal demon get the better of you during your training? Have you ever found yourself rolling in the gym or in a competition having a conversation inside your head contemplating giving up when things get a little tough? Have you ever been training and just got frustrated because you were in a tough spot and ended up making tons of mistakes as a result of your own frustration? Maybe you just find yourself not pushing through a little discomfort caused by fatigue and sitting out a round during training. If you do any of these things, like most of do, then I have a simple challenge for you. Push through it. Developing mental toughness is very much a personal thing. I can’t develop mental toughness for you and you can’t develop it for me. Your coaches and training partners can help assist, but ultimately, it is up to you to push yourself past your perceived limitations.


5 Tips

  • Simply be aware of your faults. Start by thinking about situations where you feel the most frustration of discomfort. After pinpointing them, prepare for it next time. Drill to correct mistakes and be ready to relax in those rough spots. It’s always easier to deal with something if you’re prepared.
  • Positional rolling. Let’s say that you have a horrible time escaping mount and it’s a position that causes you the most trouble. After you drill some escapes. Grab a partner with a good mount and perform escape or submit rounds from mount. Meaning, if you escape, restart in mount and if your partner submits you, restart in mount. This concentrated exposure will desensitize you to the position and allow you to become more calm and composed.
  • Learn to push yourself in training when you’re uncomfortable.  When you become tired or fatigued and feel like you’ve reached your limit. Keep going! Train yourself to push through the mentally accepted limitations and learn to function even when you’re uncomfortable or tired.
  • Hard rolling. Going hard in the gym will help you develop the kind of grit you need to be assertive on the mat. It will also help you develop the resolve to continue fighting even when your opponent is coming at you strong.
  • Being in good shape helps. If you are preparing for a tournament it really helps to be in good physical condition. From my experience many times people mentally break because they get tired and fatigued.

*Note that training hard and pushing yourself past your limits is not necessary day to day, all year round. However, if you are experiencing hangups anywhere or are preparing for competitions, its definitely worth doing.

As always, thanks for reading!

10 years in BJJ and 10 lessons I’ve learned (Part 2)


(me on the far left. 2007)

“A black belt is a white belt who never quit.” – Unknown


“A black belt only covers two inches of your ass. You have to cover the rest.” – Royce Gracie


I don’t chase belts, I chase techniques – Tony Spencer (when asked about when he would receive his black belt)


2. Don’t worry about belts or stripesSomething I’ve never understood is the obsession people have with their belt rank and stripes. I can honestly say I never cared about the speed at which I received my promotions. From the beginning I was just concerned with getting better. I enjoyed the training and loved being in the gym with my friends, and I figured the belt would come when it came. Although there was a time once, when my first instructor told me that I was getting close to purple belt. He did this to provide motivation so that I would push myself in training, and I did. This was a huge deal for me. You may not know this but I started my training under a purple belt, and in the beginning I felt like that would be a level of skill I would never reach. The thought of closing in on something that originally seemed unattainable was quite the mental boost. When he told me this I bought a purple sweatband and before class I would slip it on my ankle. Looking down at the purple band would help keep my mind focused during hard training sessions. But even with the sweatband and the thought of snagging the level of purple belt I did not once actually care about how soon I received the promotion. I was focused on my training and my progression, not the piece of dyed cotton that is supposed to represent my abilities. I was probably more nervous about being promoted than excited. I felt like I needed to really push myself in order to be worthy of wearing the belt. I would rather be a white belt with black belt ability, instead of a black belt with white belt skill.

I guess understanding my relationship with belts is maybe different than others so I will explain. First off, I didn’t receive a single stripe until I was a purple belt and had switched to a new gym. My first gym didn’t offer them. On a side note, I think that not having stripes for so long is one of the reasons I am so sporadic with striping my students.  If you’re one of my students reading this, I’m sorry.

My outlook on belts was also altered by the fact that I started under a purple belt. I mean I suppose becoming a black belt was one of the goals but try and put yourself into my shoes for a second. My teacher was a purple belt, which means I would have to ascend to a level of skill that wasn’t visible to me. Then, you hardly ever saw black belts at tournaments. If you went to a tournament, the coordinators might be lucky enough to scrape together a brown and a black belt for a super fight. Back then seeing a black belt, for me, was like looking at some super hero or mythical creature. NOW, almost every BJJ gym around has at least 1 black belt with many schools boasting numerous black belts. The new wave of students coming in can look at their instructors and know they have a guide to the top. I didn’t have a black belt to train under consistently until the later stages of my purple belt. I think that starting in these circumstances really affected my mindset on rank and made me care less about it. I didn’t believe that I would become a black belt, so I simply focused on training and improving myself

I did finally achieve the promotion to black belt on July 9th, 2011 from Master Renato Tavares under the approval of my coaches Kyle and Colin Cannon. Though, I didn’t actually feel like a black belt until October of that year when I went to the Miami Open. This was my first big tournament as a black belt and it was intense. I remember warming up in the bull pen staring at all of the other black belts around me. I would fixate on their belts and think “man. . . black belt. . . bad ass” and then I would stare at my own waist with the same color tied around it. I was a black belt but I didn’t really feel like one. In some ways I still felt like that white belt from 2003. Then I had my first match which I won by submission after playing a dominant game. That match made me feel like I was where I belonged and made me realize that I was in fact a quality black belt.


The Take Away

When you train do you care about the belts and stripes over your training? If you roll with a person who has more stripes than you do and you submit them, do you think you should be promoted to a higher level than them?

If you do, then you’re missing the whole point of the BJJ journey. First off, if you are training at a school that keeps with the tradition of BJJ, expect to put in no less than 7-12 years for a black belt with the average being closer to 10. Are you not up for 10 years to get a black belt? Well then you have two options.

  1. Change martial arts.
  2. Go to a website like www.keikosportsusa.com and buy yourself a black belt. The belt will run you about $20 dollars and will save you a lot of money in the long run with gym dues and what not. Yeah, you didn’t earn it . . . but then again, you weren’t in it for that in the first place.

Now assuming you’re up to the task of investing a nice chunk of your life into this art like so many of us, then let me give you a piece of advice. Don’t worry about the belts and ranks. I promise, if you focus on your training, build relationships, immerse yourself into the community and improve yourself on and off the mats. The belts will come and you will achieve mastery, and just as important, you will receive the countless benefits that BJJ offers. Remember BJJ is a martial art and like any martial art, it’s about improving ourselves and helping us become a better version of ourselves. As an instructor I’ve seen students become frustrated and upset over belts to the point that it negatively affects their training. By allowing yourself not to get so caught up on the belt, you allow your mind to concentrate its focus on yourself!

Thanks for reading!

10 years in BJJ and 10 lessons I’ve learned (Part 1)

I feel like it was yesterday that I took my first BJJ class. Sadly, that was over 10 years ago. That’s right; I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for over 10 years! Just being able to say this makes me feel proud and super old. In honor of my landmark I came up with 10 solid lessons and experiences I’ve personally learned and share them. Each lesson will have a personal story to accompany it and then I’ll give a take-away. I will share highs and lows as well as some embarrassing moments in my BJJ career. I hope that you get something out of the stories and the lessons that go with them.

“Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” – William Temple

“There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.” – John Madden

“Arrogance invites ruin; humility receives benefits.” – Chinese Proverb

1.Be a humble person to those around you  – When I started training BJJ I was 18 years old. After about 6 months of constant training and competing I received my blue belt. At the time of receiving the belt, there were not many high ranking belts in the area. Most of the “higher” belts were purple belts. My streak of tournament wins combined with how quickly I acquired my blue belt as well as my 19 year old immaturity made me feel like a total “bad ass”. In addition to this, my instructor at the time wasn’t the best for putting a lid on this disrespectful attitude, instead he encouraged it. When I competed, especially at local tournaments, I felt like I was some sort of fighting animal that he could brag about after a win. Sadly, I kind of enjoyed it when I was in my “bad ass” phase. I was still a nice person, but I definitely had an obnoxious streak especially when it came down to winning, losing and competing.

3 examples of my antics

1. After being submitted I would smack the mat and drop the F Bomb.

2. I would gloat about winning constantly.

3. I would talk down about others and their BJJ.

Fast forward to early 2007 I had a conversation with my friend who would eventually become one of my BJJ coaches. He and I met up for lunch and he informed me that I could no longer train at his gym because of the negative associations that came along with my current instructor. At this point I had trained with Colin here and there for a while and considered him a friend. I didn’t want to be unable to hang out and train with my buddy! That moment made me realize the path I was on, and if I continued my path I would end up being like my instructor. He was someone who was isolated in the local BJJ community because of their brashness and poor attitude towards others. I knew deep down that I was not that kind of person, so soon after I separated from my instructor and began the “humblization” process under my new coaches. I am a confident person but I’ve done my best to rid myself of that my previous cocky, egotistical edge. I don’t think I would be a successful instructor, competitor or even liked in the community if I hadn’t done that.  This was one of the best lessons I ever learned through BJJ and has definitely carried over into other aspects in my life.


The take away

No one wants to be around a cocky jerk that is full of him or herself. One of the best parts about this sport is the amazing communities, and you cannot be a part of these communities if you don’t lose your ego! If you do not lose these negative traits you will find yourself more and more isolated. People will shy away from training with you. You won’t fit in with your academy because you will be “that guy” everyone loves to tap because he has a big ego. If you somehow manage to retain this nasty quality into your higher ranks you will most certainly be shunned by many of your peers and will have a hard time finding people to cross train with and share knowledge. To top it off, it will severely hinder your ability to learn and grow in skill. Trust me, you don’t want this. Take it from someone who was once “that guy” in the gym.  Just be humble to the people around you.