JiuJitsu Journey: Michael Whalon

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Michael Whalon is a Blue Belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu under Eric Dino

Lineage (Mitsuyo Maeda -> Carlos Garcie -> Carlos Gracie Jr -> Ryan Gracie -> Mario Yokoyama -> Roberto Yokoyama -> Eric Dino -> Michael Whalon)

He is an active competitor and is also an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps.

Michael lives in his Academy; a testament to his dedication to JiuJitsu. While being relatively young in years, he is making the most of his time on the mats and overall philosophy when it comes to the grappling arts and how he deals with the challenges of every day life.

Michael shared his JiuJitsu Journey with us exclusively at WWW. HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.

Question 1. What is your Name, nickname, age, and weight?

Answer: My name is Michael Whalon. I don’t have a nickname (yet).  I am 21 years of age and compete at 155lbs.

Question 2. What is your favorite technique?

Answer: My favorite techniques are all variations of Heel Hooks. I’m also a big fan of the bicep slicer.

One set of submissions I’ve been using more and more often are “shinlocks”. Shinlocks are a fairly unique technique I use that I picked up in Japan. Try it out for yourself based on the video and you’ll fall in love with how well they work! Even if I don’t get the finish, they create tons of openings from the reaction.

Question 3. Where do you train?

Answer: I currently train out of Soul Fighters North Carolina.

Question 4. Why did you start training JiuJitsu?

Answer: I started training JiuJitsu while I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan in the Marines in April 2015. I had been a pretty average wrestler in high school despite how much I loved it, and I was really interested in Jiu Jitsu since the first MMA fight I ever saw, which was Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva I.

Question 5: Share with us your first ever class or experience with Jiu-Jitsu.

Answer: It was in the mat room on base, I had just talked to the coach and was rolling with one of their blue belts and he elbowed me in the eyebrow and left a big gash, unintentionally, of course. I still have the scar actually.  I was hooked!

Quetion 5. Are you an active competitor? If so, what is your last tournament and results?

Answer: I made it to the second round at ADCC Trials as one of the only, if not only, blue belts there. I went 1-1, I just attacked too aggressively in my second match and left my foot exposed. A few other tournaments include:

1st NAGA Charlotte Advanced 170, Blue 170
1st US Grappling Advanced 162.5
1st Newbreed Advanced 170,Blue 170
3rd Newbreed Advanced Absolute
*Submitted my first Black Belt at ADCC Trials November 2016

Question 6. How often do you train BJJ? Strength Train? Conditioning? Mobility or Flexibility? What does a typical week look like?

Answer: I live in my gym at Soul Fighters here in Havelock, with my best friend and coach Terin Swanson. In between being an Active Duty Marine, I train 3-5 times a day usually 5am, 11am, boxing at 5pm, Jiu Jitsu at 6, and foam rolling, stretching, and lifting (Wendler 5/3/1) whenever I can fit it in.

Open mat Saturdays at 10 and I teach a Leglock class on Sundays at 12:30.

Question 7. What BJJ Practitioners do you look up to the most and why?

Answer: Eddie Cummings, in terms of his raw ability to latch onto a leg entanglement and keep it incredibly controlled and patiently works for the finish.
Jeff Glover, because he keeps it playful and his level of creativity is insane.

Question 8. What are your strengths and weaknesses related to BJJ?

Answer: My wrestling, passing, footlocks, butterfly, knee on belly, collar and sleeve and guillotines are very strong. My Spider Guard, Mount, and side control are relative weaknesses.

Question 9. What do you like most about BJJ? What do you dislike about BJJ?

Answer: I love the creativity and personalization that’s required when hitting techniques or chains of techniques in live sparring. I love making it MY JiuJitsu.

I dislike politics between gyms, and when grapplers talk big without being able to back it up in competition.

CAPSTONE QUESTION 10. How has Jiu-Jitsu changed your life? What types of lessons have you learned on the mats that you have successfully brought into your personal life and the lives of others? Please elaborate.

Answer: JiuJitsu has made me understand that in order to be good at anything, it takes a long term commitment, rather than a sprint. You can’t burn yourself out by forcing yourself yourself to do too much that you don’t want to do, or by rolling to exhaustion every day. I’ve learned that it’s very hard to force anyone to do something they don’t want to do, and that it’s very easy to get pushed around if you don’t put in the effort to stop them.

Question 11. Name a setback you’ve experienced during your path of JiuJitsu and how you overcame it.

Answer: I sprained my Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) three weeks before ADCC Trials a few months ago. For a few days I couldn’t even walk without crutches, but the minute I was off them I was boxing and doing technique. I wouldn’t allow myself to get into the habit of being lazy, even for a few days.

Question 12. What are the ways you currently do or you plan to give back the lessons JiuJitsu has taught you? Are you involved in any JiuJitsu related projects (e.g., podcasts, community education and training, web-sites, etc.)?

Answer: I was recently featured on the “Should We Be Working?” Podcast, hosted by Jacob Shell, a friend and blue belt from Okinawa Japan.

My Instagram is growing, I like to keep the pictures and videos high quality, and I post nearly all of my competition submissions along with training pics, upcoming tournaments in the US Southeast, etc.


I plan to teach, eventually. I really enjoy helping people learn, and seeing someone pull off a technique I taught them always gives me a little rush.

Question 13. How can a general level BJJ practitioner get more out of their BJJ? In other words, how can they incorporate mat lessons into their everyday life and the lives of others?

Answer: Every time you roll, you should have a specific goal. Whether it’s a certain pass, submission, or escape, you should exit each roll knowing that you got something out of it and you’re now 10% better at something. You train to get better, you compete to win.

Question 14. What are your personal and professional goals with regard to BJJ?

Answer: I want to win ADCC and I want to transition to MMA and have a successful career in that.I want to teach and have my own winning team, and to travel the world and do seminars someday.

Question 15. What do you want your Jiu-Jitsu legacy to be?

Answer: I want to be remembered as someone who changed the game. Somebody that grapplers tried to prepare for but couldn’t figure out and couldn’t stop. I want to be remembered for submitting my opponents and never being happy with winning by points.

Question 16. Any parting words of inspiration or wisdom for BJJ enthusiasts?

Answer: Train smart. Learn leglocks, even just so that you can defend them. Be happy to go train JiuJitsu.

In Closing

We look forward to watching Michael’s JiuJitsu Journey evolve as he continues to compete and be active in the JiuJitsu community.

3 Takeaways from his journey:

Takeaway #1: Dedication to the art and self-improvement.  Not everybody would live in their academy.  You really have to love the atmosphere of the gym/academy to put your head down and sleep.  Or your dedication to the art will triumph everything.

Takeaway #2: Shortcuts won’t cut it. If you want to persevere in anything, you have to be in it for the long run. You have to go with the ups and the downs. It is not a straight line to success. Work hard and repeat.

Takeaway #3: Continue to learn. Michael is proficient at leglocks in competition. This is a trend we are seeing more and more. Everybody is becoming better and specialists, particularly, in the leg lock game. Why? They are brutally effective. Next to strangleholds, they are perhaps the most effective of all techniques in terms of having a finite outcome. Competitors and trainees would do well to take the approach of continuing to learn, evolve, and grow….every day.

What have you taken away from Michael’s story?  

Hopefully his story will inspire you to share your story with us!

Go to the JiuJitsu Journey page, fill out the questionnaire, and we will do the rest! You can be featured in a future article, just like this one!

Share your journey and help spread JiuJitsu worldwide!

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