JiuJitsu Journey: Michael Whalon

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!

5 “Simple” Steps towards Success

Keep It Simple

I am a simple man.

I love my family and my friends. I love my JiuJitsu. I love Strength Training. I love Protein & I love Coffee.

I could survive on these things alone. It’s all I need.

Let me break it down to my reality.

In “Why Do You JiuJitsu?” I talked about the 3 “ingredients” needed to steamroll towards success: 1) Being curious about Human Potential, 2) Developing the discipline to chase Self-Mastery and 3) Relentless drive towards the Pursuit of Excellence.

JiuJitsu and Strength Training provide me with these avenues to explore the Human potential.  I will never out-lift the weights, and there will always be someone or some techniques that provide me with a “one-of-a-kind” challenge that makes me scratch my head in wonderment.

(BTW, Protein and Coffee fuel these efforts…….undoubtedly).

These two paths provide me with all I need to chase the quest to be my best: Self-Mastery.  They are “anchors“.

An anchor, by definition, means to secure firmly in position, or to provide a firm basis or foundation.

It is fun to learn new techniques, systems, movements, exercises, etc.  But that is secondary to obtaining the real, life-hardening lessons that you can learn by using these avenues as Anchors.

Using an anchor to achieve success is something I encourage everyone to pursue.  For some people, it may not be JiuJitsu. It could be another sport, or art such as dancing. It doesn’t really matter. Most people who begin quests to achieve better health, often start out super-motivated, only to fall short after their initial blast of motivation runs out.

However, I’ve seen it again and again. Once these folks anchor their training to something meaningful, the “magic” happens.  The training moves past the limited resources of motivation and into a full-on discipline.  Those days that you don’t want to train, or get off the couch, or get out of bed become much easier when you think of the gains you are leaving on the table by not training to pursue your passion.

By repeatedly performing in a disciplines manner, you are now developing the habits you need become successful in your training and in life.

Success is Planned

Follow these 5 proven steps to get the most out of everything you do.

1. Set goals  – What do you want to achieve? Set short-term and long-term goals.
2. Make a roadmap – How will you achieve your goals? Take actionable steps with milestones to measure successful achievements.
3. Work Hard – The resource under your complete control which controls all of this.
4. Dig Deep – Those times you question your path, desire, motivation. Not giving up, not quitting is a mark of a true warrior. You CAN develop this skill.
5. Smash & hash – Smash your goals, review what worked, what did not work, and make adjustments.

This is as close to a magic formula as you’ll get.  Don’t look for shortcuts. Prepare for the long haul and make that your new normal; the new you.

Why Do You “JiuJitsu”?


3 Ingredients to Steamroll Towards Success

You hear the stories from people all the time if you are already involved with JiuJitsu.  It’s described as “life changing” by many.


If I could boil it all down, it’s about 3 primary things for me: 1) It’s about being curious about Human Potential, 2) the discipline to chase Self-Mastery and 3) the drive to quest towards the Pursuit of Excellence.  All of which JiuJitsu can provide.

It starts with being curious enough to wonder what limits there are….if any, on human potential.  I’ve been curious for years to find the top point to my strength levels, then to my anaerobic power output, mental endurance, capacity to learn, grip strength, eventually turning to other human qualities like empathy, happiness etc. You have to have an itch or desire to be curious enough to want to test these things.

After you start your journey, if you’ve gone “all in”, you have no choice but to develop the traits of success. If you adopt the time-tested process of setting and achieving goals, you’re well on your way. Executing the rigor of discipline and consistency to accomplish your goals is “the grind”. Doing things when you don’t want to, getting in that extra time on the mat or in the gym, often, fighting with yourself; this is the quest of Self-Mastery.

If you’ve noticed the days turning to months and eventually to years, you’ve been gaining momentum and you keep on going. You’ve made a commitment at this point, to make this your life or lifestyle, to never give up.  you’ve successfully developed the habits to strive towards excellence in your art, your “discipline”.  For most of us, it’s JiuJitsu.

JiuJitsu is the Anchor by which all of my life activities are hitched.  From my workouts, to what I eat, to the amount I sleep, to how I treat others, to how I deal with stress, etc.; they are all driven by the influence JiuJitsu has had on my life.

Striving each and every day to pursue being better takes discipline, and that discipline is something reinforced daily through JiuJitsu.

The simple technique of setting goals, monitoring them, adjusting your course of action, and setting new goals has become intrinsic to my life.

Therefore, the Pursuit of Excellence, the discipline to strive to be the absolute best version of what I can be every day, is what JiuJitsu has given me.

The Art of JiuJitsu

The video below by Stuart Cooper contains quotables from many noteworthy ambassadors of JiuJitsu.  It is worth the watch and read (quotes below).  It is not coincidental that all of these practitioners love JiuJitsu; it’s inevitable once you let the training and life lessons begin to absorb.

Jiu Jitsu changes lives. Jiu Jitsu isn’t just a sport. JiuJitsu is for anybody. No matter who you are, no matter how old you are…You make friends all over the world…Money isn’t everything.

Stuart Cooper


[JiuJitsu provides you with the ability to]…be happy, honest, be able to put your head on the pillow and close your eyes and know that you are truthful with people, you have good friends around you, and you are good with your family…

Roberto “Cyborg” Abreau


Martial arts can really bring everyone together, especially JiuJitsu. You see it all across the world.

Rafael Lovato Jr


JiuJItsu is for everybody.  It doesn’t matter how strong, how big you are, it’s for everybody.

– Robson Moura

World BJJ Expo 2014 | www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJ/WORLDJJEXPO2014

If somebody offered me a billion dollars to take away the JiuJitsu I know, I would turn it down without even thinking twice.  So, it didn’t change my life, it made my life. I don’t know what its like to not have JiuJitsu. It made me who I am. All my friends, the way I act, my confidence, on and off the mats.  Everything that I have is because of JiuJitsu. It puts me in touch with myself and gives me a real sense of what life is about.

Kron Gracie


As soon as they start to understand Brazilian JiuJitsu, the lifestyle, they change completely. When they step on the mat for the first time, thats when they completely change.

Romulo Barral


“It takes away the ego. The first time you experience JiuJitsu, you have people smaller and weaker dominating you. You have to let all that go when you first start doing JiuJitsu. You can’t be angry and upset. People with big egos don’t last in JiuJitsu. It will get beat up alot until you can develop it [in a healthy way].”

Henry Akins


“In terms of JiuJitsu, you learn how to potentialize yourself. Sometimes you have no endurance and you’re still able to fight JiuJitsu by defending yourself and surviving. Sometimes survival is the great victory you could expect if you’re dealing with a 250lb guy whose crazy to kill you and you survive for an hour before the police come; that’s great. So, victory is not the purpose of JiuJitsu. Undefeated, be invinceable is what JiuJitsu provides.”

Rickson Gracie


“The dream is possible.  Nothing in life comes easy. It didn’t come easy to me.  I was always challenged by people telling me I couldn’t do things. JiuJitsu showed me that it is all possible.”

Braulio Estima


It changes your life. They are kind of fat, lazy, and lame. They get in shape, they start to feel good, they look better, more confidence.

Kurt Osiander


JiuJitsu, at the end of the day is the art of expressing yourself honestly. Everytime you put on a Gi, you can’t lie.”

Saulo Ribeiro


“I wasn’t a good student, and even now I never say that I am better than anybody. But I know that I love JiuJitsu more than anybody. I love the energy and that it gets deeper the more you study.”

Marcelo Garcia


3 Tips to Sharpen Your Skills

Practice Makes Habits

Rolling is one of the most exciting forms learning in the academy. It accelerates your ability to learn.  How? All of the stimulus involved with the dynamics of JiuJitsu come to bear whether you train for Self-Defense, or for Sport.

One of the many vast benefits of JiuJitsu is the ability to develop problem-solving skills. You deal with very real problems (e.g., someone is trying to strangle you, submit you, or put you in a bad spot you need to defend). If you survive and even turn the tables, you will have exercised the willpower, patience, and determination to withstand or even turn the tables into your favor.

Those are tools for the real world that are pretty powerful. Sharpened and effective tools only get developed with practice so that the habits can be developed.

My instructor, Mike Moses of Evolve Academy, has trained martial arts for most of his life. (Note: He has an awesome story you can listen to here).

One of his former training instructors and mentors is Greg Nelson.  Greg Nelson is one of the most highly regarded coaches and trainers in MMA and JiuJitsu having trained former UFC Lightweight champion Sean Sherk as well as former UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

From my first class to now, the phrase “Practice Makes Habits” is used to describe the mindset needed to develop accurate and habitual traits on the mat.  Practice does NOT make perfect if you do not practice with accuracy and meaning. For example, if you practice shadow boxing with a loose punching style and little intent, you will be developing habits that may not be best suited for actual combat. Grapplers, when you drill your shrimping and bridging by yourself or when you coast through warm-ups, are you doing it half-assed, or with purpose? If you don’t drill with purpose, you’re losing out on hours of valuable and accurate skill development.

I highly recommend reading Greg Nelson’s post about the topic of Practice Making Habits. It puts this entire concept into focus, which is the foundation for this article.

 3 Ways to Develop Better Habits

There are hundreds of techniques in JiuJitsu.  Too many to develop complete mastery over, but we will always try to strive for more. It’s human nature.

It can be overwhelming to even know where to start when you are on the mat. I’ve covered 7 Highly Effective Habits for NEWB’s to review, but they span across all levels of practitioner. Sharpening a few, simple things first will give you a way to target each training session with short-term, and long-term goals.  Let’s get into it.

1.Develop Strategies & Systems.

The “strategy”, in the case of grappling competitions (also depending on the rules of such tournaments), is to take the match where you are most comfortable and have “game”.

Live grappling and training scenarios are your opportunity to test your strategy and push the activity into your “system”.

“Systems” refer to the position(s) with which you can execute your game plan over your opponent the best. Why? Because you have explored and refined the movements, movement responses, baits, feints, and techniques into a cohesive unit that moves your chances for victory closer to reality; in other words, from check to checkmate.

It can also be a Self-Defense scenario. Everything starts on the feet. If you want to get your opponent into your “System” and comfort zone in order to work your highest percentage techniques, how do you plan to do that? Here are some ideas.

 What are a few of the more well known systems?  Perhaps the Rubber Guard and the Danaher Death Squad Leg Lock System.  They don’t need to be as elaborate, but you get the idea. Chain your techniques into a system to move towards end-game.

  • Footwork – you need to be comfortable with any activity on the feet, but if you can get your footwork down to minimize your mistakes or maximize your opponents mistakes, you can steer the activity to your strongest footwork and gripping combination, do it.  With Self-Defense, having an aggressor close the distance to where you can manage the gap with activity to close and clinch is vital.
  • Grips – We hear the term a lot when we start. We think it means just grabbing and holding onto our opponent.  There is so much strategy in gripping worth its own article or video series.  Spend time watching high level judo players like Travis Stevens and Jimmy Pedro. This is a great video that explains beginning your strategy with your grips.  I highly recommend any video by these two gentlemen as they have refined the art of the takedown.

  • Body positioning and angles – Similar to footwork, you can often get your opponent to react to what you give them.  Like bait, if you position yourself to take away options for your opponent, they will typically go in the direction you want them to go (i.e., take the bait).  Once they bite, you pull them into your first system.
  • Give them nothing – Close your Gi. Tight. And get your sleeves under control.  If you don’t give anything to grab, or make them reach for it, you get first stab at initiating the action which gets into the next tip. The picture below shows it all.  By the time you reach for that collar or sleeve, you will likely be bundled up and getting submitted.travis_stevens_20120608043351_640_480

2. Don’t Hesitate.

One of the things that plagues the blue belt and sometimes the purple belts I train with, is that they hesitate when they have a favorable position. Here’s an example. A trainee obtains “chinstrap control” (which can lead to Guillotine choke attempts, passing the guard if stuck in butterfly or half guard, or taking the back), but they back off the position or even let go.

Often though, if the technique does not lead to anything. The reason it doesn’t lead to the next move is because the trainee has not developed the weapon to a degree of confidence with which to act upon and take advantage towards advancing the hold to a favorable, dominant position or a submission attempt. This is where we need to spend time developing “chains” of movements to form a “do-loop” that runs until we get the engagement into our “system”. Once we are in the system, “turn it on” until we get to game over.

So don’t be afraid to take chances and work towards refining your entry point moves to improve your chances. Worse case? You end up in a disadvantaged position and need to survive, defend, or escape.  Take your medicine, you’ll be glad you did. But you’ll also think twice about hesitating next time

3. Test Your Limits

If we practice with purpose to develop better training habits, we will perform better when it counts.  Sometimes,  that means taking your training to an uncomfortable level.  Uncomfortable is a relative term, as what is hard for some trainees may be a warm-up for others.  Watch this video from Marcelo Garcia as he demonstrates this concept very well.

There you have it. Three simple adjustments you can make to your training to get more out of it. When you train with purpose and focus, you will improve your Grappling Return On Investment (ROI).

JiuJitsu Journey: Artie Grubba

Artie Grubba has been training in the grappling arts for many years, across various disciplines.  He holds a Purple belt under Paul Sharp (Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie Sr. > Helio GracieCarlos Gracie Jr > Rigan Machado > Chris Haueter > Paul Sharp > Artie Grubba).

He is an active competitor in JiuJitsu, Judo, and Combat Sambo.

Artie’s philosophy is simple: train frequently and train hard.  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.

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

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

Answer: My name is Artie Grubba, I am 27 years old and weigh 255 lbs.

I am currently a Purple belt under Chris Haueter/Paul Sharp and a Brown belt in judo under Thomas O’Shaughnessy (8th dan).

Question 2. What is your favorite technique?

Answer: Favorite technique would probably be Cloverleaf.

Question 3. Where do you train?

Answer: I train primarily at South Elgin Budokan, but also at Old School Wrestling and Illinois Martial Arts Academy.

Question 4. Why did you start training Jiu-Jitsu?

Answer: I started wrestling in junior high, and competed all through high school and college. I also coached at the college level for 2 years and now coach at a nearby high school. I’ve been on the wrestling mat since 2000 and have been blessed to have the sport take me around the country as a competitor and coach.

I started NoGi grappling & Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in 2008 to stay in shape during the college wrestling off-season because there is no club team for college guys like there is high school. I initially trained with ADCC placer/UFC veteran Joe Gilbert, who was one of my club coaches in high school wrestling.

I started BJJ in 2011 after completing my college wrestling career and seeking a new challenge. I’ve trained with a few teams because I’ve moved quite a bit between a few cities in Illinois and Kentucky.

I started Judo in 2012 because honestly it was cheaper than BJJ and I was broke at the time. I really took a liking to it and given my wrestling background, found it more natural of a transition than BJJ.

Lastly, I just started Sambo this year, and my Sambo training has been limited to seminars and private lessons. My grappling style translates most naturally to Sambo though.

Question 5. Are you an active competitor? If so, what is your last tournament and results? Any sponsorships to mention?

Answer: I am an active competitor. I placed 3rd at the USA Sambo Nationals.

I have to thank my sponsors and companies that have been very helpful to me which include Hypnotik, GEI wrestling, and IM A BEAST apparel for the gear.

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

Answer: A typical week looks like this:

M: Judo
T: Boxing and Bjj
W: Judo and BJJ
Th: Boxing
F: Judo
S: Wrestling

I don’t typically Strength Train or do any additional conditioning.  Sometimes this changes. I also try to attend seminars as much as possible. I’ve gone to seminars of Eddie Cummings, James Clingerman, Shonie Carter, Josh Passini, Carlos Cummings, Travis Newaza, Carlson Gracie Jr, Miguel Torres, Ben Salas, Cleverson Silva, and Chris Haueter.

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

Answer: I have a few:

Eddie Bravo for his creativity.
Chris Haueter for his dedication and longevity.
‘Megaton’ Dias for still jumping in there with the young guys.
Rousimar Palhares for his brutal leglocks.

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

Answer: My strengths are my takedowns, my passing, and leglocks.  Of course, my weakness is being on the bottom, in any position.

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

Answer: I love grappling arts but i dislike the guard pulling strategy used by many and also dislike the rules against reaping and certain leglocks. I also dislike the “cult mentality” some people fall into get.

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: As far as lessons learned, definitely perseverance (from the training, the weight cutting, the tough matches, etc.).

Also resourcefulness. Especially when I started, i was not physically gifted the least bit. A lot of the more strength prerequisite holds didn’t work for me, and I had to rely on a lot of unorthodox moves and scrambles to get the wins.

I’ve also learned to keep calm under normally stressful circumstances. In a recent job i was working with youth that had behavior issues and got stabbed in the face with a pen. I actually ended up calming down my coworkers and the other kids (they were very distraught) even though i was the one bleeding!

When you train to be in violent or physical situations, although simulated, its easier to stay calm.

Question 11. What are your preferred methods of learning and/or teaching? Do you use any materials personally or with your students outside of the academy (e.g., Instructional books, videos, apps, etc.)?

Answer: I like to use books and videos to learn. I would eventually like to produce some videos.

Question 12. What are your thoughts on the Self-Defense and Sport JiuJitsu debate? That is, do you think training exclusively in Sports/competition-based JiuJitsu will carry over as much as a Self-Defense focused curriculum? Please elaborate.

Answer: Chris Haueter said it best – “Train sport, Think street, Practice the art.”

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: The more you put in, the more you get out. Give yourself to the art, and the art will give itself to you.

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

Answer: I would like to win more big tournaments, compete internationally, and earn my black belt and open my own gym some day.

Question 15. What do you want your JiuJitsu legacy to be?

Answer: I’m not sure at this point. I’m still young in it.

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

Answer: Reap the knee!

In Closing

We look forward to hearing about Artie’s journey competing. Here are some of the takeaways we’ve learned:

Takeaway #1: Evaluate your assets and develop your weaknesses. Artie is young in years but mature in the quality of his journey.  He is constantly evaluating what he is good at, and what he needs to work on in order to be a better competitor and martial artist.

Takeaway #2: Diversify your portfolio. Artie trains in multiple grappling-based arts.  When money was tight, he trained in Judo instead of JiuJitsu.  The point is, he never stopped the quest to learn and become his best. Training multiple disciplines is having an exponential affect on his grappling abilities as well.

Takeaway #3: Have goals but continue to stretch. Artie isn’t sure what his ultimate legacy will be, and frankly not many of us do. But he does know he wants to obtain his black belt and open a school some day in order to give back to JiuJitsu and share the art with others.  Knowing this gives him a greater sense of self and a path on which to continue making and achieving goals.

What have you taken away from Artie’s journey?  

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

Go to the Jiu-Jitsu 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 Jiu-Jitsu worldwide!

JiuJitsu Journey: Rob Austin

Rob Austin is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Purple Belt under Andre Quiles of Chekmat.

He also holds a 3rd degree Black Belt In Tae Kwon Do (TKD) under Mike Wegmann and Mark and Liz Beddow.  Rob is 32 and has been training BJJ for 8 years, is sponsored by Trap and Roll Soap Company.

He is an active competitor having won 1st place Master’s Blue Belt and Ultra Heavy No Gi at the Sport Jiu-Jitsu International Federation (SJJIF) Worlds in 2014.

He currently trains Chute Boxe Academy in Arizona, Vision Martial Arts in Cary, NC. Rob also teaches out of Wiesbaden, Germany ot the MWR U.S. Army base, and Shogun Gym in Kaiserslautern.(www.shogun-gym.de), spreading Jiu-Jitsu across the globe.

Rob also hosts the Big Jiujitsu Show, a podcast that focuses on the normal BJJ practitioner.

Rob has shared his Jiu-Jitsu journey with us here at HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.

Question 1. Please share your Name, lineage and rank, current weight, and any nicknames with our fans.

Answer: Hi, I’m Rob Austin.  Some people call me “Smiley” and also “Lord Humongous”.

I am a Purple Belt under Andre Quiles (Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos GracieHelio GracieRolls GracieRomero Cavalcanti >Leonardo Vieira > Leandro Vieira > Andre Quiles)

Question 2. What is your single-favorite technique?

Answer: The Inverted Armbar.

Question 3. Why did you start training Jiu-Jitsu?

Answer: I started training BJJ after watching way too many Pride FC matches, and seeing Sakuraba and the Gracie’s beat people with grappling on the ground.  I was training Taekwondo at the time, and Brian Mingia came in and taught us some stuff from the ground.  I was instantly hooked and have been a student ever since.

Question 4. Are you an active competitor? If so, what is your last tournament and results?

Answer: I am an active competitor, I think that competition regardless of the results is what separates our art from a lot of others.  Last tournament I didn’t place, but it did point out a lot of holes in my game.

Question 5. How often do you train?

Answer: I train at the very least five days a week, some days I can get in two training sessions.  It all depends on work and life.

Question 6. How does your training for competition differ from non-competition training? What is your overall training strategy?

Answer: Usually I will try to put myself in the worse positions possible a few weeks out of the competition and work on escaping from bad position.  Then the week of the tournament I’ll go light from standing to make sure my takedowns are meshing well with my game and we take it from there.  I usually will focus a lot on cardio since that is the killer for all Heavyweight divisions.

Question 7. What are your current training goals?

Answer: Currently my training goals are to win my upcoming Pro MMA debut on October 2nd.  As well as continue to provide great leadership and training for my amazing students in Germany.


Question 8. Do you include Strength Training or other specialized programs in your training? How do you include it into your standard week?

Answer: Mainly cardio or body strength training, I don’t normally pick up weights for training.  Usually I’ll do some body strength or cardio at the end of class.  I don’t want to sacrifice technique because I’m tired, so I’ll work on it at the end.

Question 9. What do you like most about BJJ?

Answer: I really like how it’s easy to get along with people when you learn they do BJJ.  It also has really helped me stay calm and focused when stress arises.

Question 10. What do you dislike the most about BJJ? If so, what would you change?

Answer: Even though BJJ is supposed to get rid of the ego, there are still quite a few people out there who have an elitist attitude.

Being approachable is what this sport should be about, and the sport is not about me, it’s about you.  At the end of the day, if you’re more focused on yourself instead of your students, you need to reevaluate what you’re doing.

CAPSTONE QUESTION 11. 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 life of others?

Answer: It has changed my life in a way that most things have not.  There is a certain portion of doing this sport that makes me get up every morning to train and make sure that I can go out and help my students.

It also has shown me that things that may seem terrible in life aren’t that bad.  When your hobbies include letting a person try to choke you unconscious, a lot of things don’t seem so tough anymore.

Question 12. What do you want your Jiu-Jitsu legacy to be?

Answer: I’d love to have my own academy one day, it’s in the plans and I would love it to be somewhere that has all the resources a student would need to be successful.  I want to be able to get out there and interview more people and have them share their life experiences on the mat.

Question 13. Where can people check out what you are doing?

Answer: I host the Big Jiujitsu Show, a podcast that focuses on the normal BJJ practitioner as well as a few different big names that come in to talk.  One of my favorite episodes was with the great Kurt Osiander. Listen to it here.

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Question 14. How can a general level Jiu-Jitsu practitioner get more out of their Journey?

Answer: The best thing to do is to just roll.  The best way to get better at BJJ is to do more BJJ.  Keep an open mind as well, if you think you can’t learn from anyone then you aren’t going to get very far.

Question 15.  Any parting words of inspiration for BJJ enthusiasts?

Answer: People you encounter in every day life have a story, and you can learn something from everyone.  You are a small part of this community, but what you do each day has a big impact.  Treat others the way they should be treated, don’t use the art in a malicious way, and try to show kindness at least once a day.

In Closing

We look forward to hearing about Rob’s future endeavors in competition and work to spread Jiu Jitsu worldwide!

Here are some of the takeaways we’ve learned:

Takeaway #1: JiuJitsu is a life style.  People want others to enjoy the tangible and intangible qualities of the art and will work hard to spread that good fortune to others.

Takeaway #2: JiuJitsu gives you real life skills. There is a real benefit from having to deal with difficult, in-your-face challenges in rapid fashion. As Rob said, once your hobby includes somebody trying to strangle you, life doesn’t seem so tough.

Takeaway #3: People across the world are practicing JiuJitsu! But there is more work to do to spread the art and the benefits it can have on the quality of life of those who begin.

What have you taken away from Rob’s story?  

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

Go to the Jiu-Jitsu 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 Jiu-Jitsu worldwide!

4 Overlooked Ways to Build a Strong Trunk

If you’ve followed my writing before, you are well aware that I am a fan of full-body workouts using compound, multi-joint lifts, to boost strength, and using drills for athletes, strongmen/women, and combat athletes to express that strength we are building and provide a sturdy platform to push onto your opponents in your grappling endeavors.

Training the muscles of the trunk and torso are treated no different.  These muscles are, arguably, the most important when it comes to athletic pursuits and channeling your energies throughout your limbs.

Instead of focusing on the “6-pack” muscles, think of the trunk as the collective unit, the system,  of the arms, shoulders, and deep stabilization muscles of the core and back.

Remember, when you have the option of training a “system” of musculature versus “isolation” movements, if your goal is strength building, pick the system.  There are deviations from this concept but I would argue its when you are training for specificity or targeting a particular weak area.

System training allows you to train the progressive overload principle in the form of more resistance or more repetitions (still within the strength training range) as well as


Million $ Question

One of the common questions I get is:

“What are your favorite exercises to target the core?”  

My response typically includes some variation of live Grappling & Deadlifts.

But that would be a quick story.

“Go roll, and go lift heavy things off the floor” is not thorough advice, although it works.

So I decided to share 4 things I like to do that might be uncommon but they are highly effective at engaging your entire trunk.

By the way, if your not engaging your trunk when you grapple, we need to talk. I can’t even imagine a scenario where you are not forced to use those functions to initiate offense, defend, escape from essentially every position.

“Unorthodox” Movements Can Lead to Strength Gains

You’ll quickly realize these aren’t your Mama’s 7 minute abs VHS tapes or the latest gadget on “As Seen on TV”.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Carry Something: As I discussed in Multi-Purpose Training, you should always seek out exercises that will work your desired targets of the trunk while simultaneously targeting the other grappling muscles like your grips, and anaerobic work capacity. That is a heck of a lot of bang for your buck for one exercise.

If you make one change today, add a heavy carry to your workouts and work it with the progressive overload principle.  Any variation will be useful.

My personal favorite is the Trap Bar Carry because it targets every muscle from head -to-toe and it will likely take me a lifetime to add weight out to the end of the bar and walk with it.

A close second is the bearhug carry if a sandbag. The only problem is that the bag is a fixed load. I can only walk with it for a longer period of time or get creative and do a cumulative fatigue-based workout (eg., ladder sets).

Carry Collage

2. Perform Movements from the Knees: The need to generate force to throw, punch, grapple, etc. while you are on your knees means the transfer of power that generally starts with your feet and legs is removed, thereby increasing the need for your trunk and torso to generate that force.

If you grapple, you can attest to the challenge of clinching in a “dogfight” position with somebody from the knees.  Often, the superior position is gained by the person who gets their feet up first to generate more force.

Spending time in this position working your trunk stability and anti-rotation will transfer well to the mat.
A few of my favorite exercises include

  • Anti-rotation with bands,
  • Band hyperextensions in a squat rack, and
  • Dynamic anti-rotation drill (eg., guard posture maintenance)

3. Use Your Legs as Primary Movers: Your legs are naturally a heavier part of your body.  When we limit ourselves to performing trunk movements where the upper body provides the resistance, we quickly adapt.

Think of the amount of time you have your legs elevated from your back to keep distance between you and your opponent. That movement and mobility are essential to keeping your guard from getting passed, or from getting punched in the kisser.

Adding a few movements to your arsenal will give you something fun to work with.  A few options are included in the video below.

4. Create In-Stability Challenge

When you make the surface you rely on to remain upright or in control a “move-able” one you increase your muscles need to fire, rapidly. Try putting your hands and feet on moderately unstable surfaces, like a physioball and two medicine balls or a PVC pipe. For a more rigorous challenge, put all four limbs on rebounding medicine balls.  I guarantee you it will be a challenge for every muscle between your head and feet.

Train your body as a system. Engage in as close to grappling-centric demands on your musculature as possible. Nothing beats actual grappling, but smart and system-based trunk training can give you an edge over your competition.

Want to see more drills like this? The new DRILLSKILL WORKOUT MANUAL for COMBAT ATHLETES is now available in the Store. It has over 120 exercises and 100 workouts for you to put into your program!

10 High-Percentage Self-Defense Techniques: Back to School edition

Evaluating the Confrontation

Dealing with confrontations is a highly debatable topic and a lengthy discussion because most confrontational scenarios are dynamic and can change rapidly.

To keep things simple I decided to evaluate a specific scenario:

What are common risks and challenges of kids going back to school or going away to school for the first time?

Much of the time, in grade school, kids deal with verbal confrontations more so than they do physical confrontations.  Teacher and grown-up involvement is more paramount during these stages of schooling.

In middle school and high school, verbal feuds are fueled by the flames of egos and insecurities. Social media posts and gossip can fan these flames.  They can turn from verbal to physical.  Parental involvement is not always possible, as kids go often go to and from school by themselves.

Once you go into a college atmosphere, you add in the complexity and risks associated with unsupervised party’s, alcohol, drugs, and new-found independence. (This can happen during high school as well….don’t fool yourself).  For college-aged students, many may be going away to college where they do not have family or know anyone.

This only complicates things further.

You may not even be aware of the problems that could arise or escalate, from out of nowhere, especially when controlled substances are introduced.

99% of the time, you may never ever have to deal with a confrontation or a need to use self-defense.

But for that 1% chance that something does occur, you want to be prepared.

 Where do we start?

3 Actions You Can Take

In it’s most simplistic form, in any confrontation, you have three (3) actions you can take.

You can:

  1. Prevent: Complete avoidance. This is your earliest possible action. Staying away from potentially unpredictable scenarios. Basically sitting home alone.
  2. Detect: Complete avoidance isn’t possible at this time. You detect a problem brewing. Further escalation can still be prevented.  An example – you are out and about (maybe a party) and someone escalates their behavior in a confrontational or unpredictable manner.
  3. Correct: Unfortunately, avoidance was not possible. “Out of nowhere” or “surprise attack” is a way to describe this. Your only option here is to defend yourself. Think road-rage, inebriated (fancy word for drunk) person, or belligerent person. Emotions run high, hard, and fast!

4 Skills You Can Sharpen Today

So what can you do to start being more situationally aware? You can start working on some skills right now.

The first four (4) tools I have anyone work on are skills you can sharpen outside of the Academy, on your own, at any time.

1. Develop your “gut-instinct”: Also known as “Spidey-Sense” for the kids. You should always be on the lookout for the risks and threats in your surroundings. This is crucial to being able to stay on the tail-end of “prevention” and being able detect trouble before it escalates into something.

Avoid trouble at all costs.  Some examples include:

  • Know where you are going, who you are going with, what the environment will be like at your target destination, and your immediate surroundings at all time.
  • What is your path to and from school? Is it well traveled? Is it lit well at night? Are you going with people you know?
  • When you’re out in public, use your senses (eyes and ears) to read situations and evaluate your options for fleeing or correcting potential problem scenarios.
  • Put down the smartphone. This robs you of your ability to read your surroundings effectively.

2. Let it go:  Don’t fall prey to insults, “one-ups”, Yo Mama jokes, people who get under your skin, and combative or belligerent people.  It’s all negative energy which has no place in anyone’s life.  If that stuff gets to you, it’s your ego that is in the way.  There is no room for ego when you need to be the better person.  If someone runs you off the road, let it go. You survived.  Somebody call you a name? Let it blow by like the wind.  Getting them back makes no sense, and you only risk escalating things and getting injured or worse.

In other words, take the high road and walk away.

For our younger kids, this is a critical skill to develop. It is also where most confrontations begin and end, although they can escalate further.

3. Develop your voice and vocabulary: Don’t seek to “have words” with someone. Use your words to diffuse, deescalate and set boundaries. Escalations usually occur when words run out. Having an extensive vocabulary and being able to remain calm, cool, collected, and composed speaks loudly about your confidence.

When you speak, use a strong, confident tone. Your words, body language, and tone will be weapons you can use to help mitigate things getting worse.  For younger kids, when your words don’t appear to be working, make sure you tell an adult. Adult intervention should be part of your kids toolkit. You’re teaching them to inform an adult before things escalate further and they need to use more of their tools.

For our older kids, once again, if you are verbally attacked and it bothers you, that’s your ego that is getting bruised.  If you want to avoid a physical altercation, use your words.

Another way to use your voice is to set physical boundaries. For example, if you are out on a walk and you see someone coming towards you, say something to them in a loud and confident tone like, “Hi, can I help you?” or “Are you looking for somebody?”  Their reaction may buy you time to have them rethink their plans since you won’t be an easy, quiet target, and also to react by moving onto the next step if needed.

4. Run:  If this option is still available, take it.  Physically remove yourself from any potential confrontational or escalating scenario.

Now, for the 1% or less of the time you need to use your physical tools to get out of a confrontation, these techniques allow you to:

  • Manage the distance of the aggressor which can minimize the damage they seek to inflict.
  • Establish control, primarily while you remain standing.
  • If needed, end the confrontation with a joint lock or strangle-hold.

Additionally, you don’t need to know how to strike and you don’t need to be big and strong.  All you need is your brain and the principles behind JiuJitsu which are leverage, physics, and anatomy.


Parents of middle-age and high-school aged children: your children should only practice these techniques with and under the supervision of a knowledgeable instructor(s).  Our primary goal with children is to provide them with the tools to establish control and negotiate at all staged of the confrontation life-cycle.  Submission holds should only be used to protect themselves from significant physical harm or abduction scenarios.

Students: Once you learn how to effectively apply these submission holds you need to use them to establish control and negotiate with the aggressor.  This is only something you learn while practicing with a knowledgeable instructor.  Do not attempt these holds on your little brother or sister without instructor oversight.  

10 Techniques You Need to Learn: Back To School Edition

1. Distance Management: From a standing position, always be at least 2 arms length away from a potential aggressor. This keeps them from being able to strike you, grab your hair or clothing, or wrap you up and tackle you. If you manage the distance, you can close the distance on your terms.

If you find yourself on the ground, you need to learn how to manage distance with your legs and minimally execute the “technical stand-up” which is the proper way to stand up when grounded to avoid further damage.


2. Clinching:  Most physical altercations have some form of clinching. It will be important for you to know how to establish the clinch and to defend from somebody clinching you.  Headlocks and wild punching often lead to an opportunity to establish clinching and gain control.  The person that gets control in the clinch can take the action to where it needs to be controlled which in most cases is the ground.


3. Kimura Control (Gyaku ude-garami)A powerful hold that can disable aggressive behavior. It’s also a common defense to being grabbed from behind in a bearhug. It can also be applied from several other positions which makes it a versatile weapon.


4. Choke Defense: Defending a persons choke if vital to survival. Whether its one arm or the two arm variety. Turning the tales into a clinch is a nice response to this hold. Even if you find yourself in a mounted or scenario from the Closed Guard, you need to know what to do.

5. Hair Grab Defense:  Once you know the anatomy of the elbow and shoulder joint, you will understand that people that grab your hair are giving you a gift to arm lock them (elbow joint) or shoulder lock them (shoulder joint). They will think twice before doing it again….ever.

6. Arm drag to Backpack (to Rear Naked Choke or Mata Leon): The arm drag is more of a fundamental wrestling move than it is a JiuJitsu move, but it’s effectiveness can not be denied.  The idea behind the arm drag is to move the aggressor’s arm past your center line so that you can quickly move to the clinch position or straight to their back which, in JiuJitsu, is arguably the most dominant position to obtain in a confrontation. Your opponent can’t hit you or control you, but you can strike them or choke them using the Rear Naked Choke or Mata Leon.

7. Mount Escapes: This is the first technique in this list that is on the floor. This is a worse-case scenario for you where the aggressor has pinned you on your back with their legs to you sides, mounted on top of you.  They can strike you but you can not strike back.  Escaping this position is much easier than you may think. In fact, this position is so important to learn in the Gracie Combatives program that it is the first move they teach you.

Bridge Escape off Collar Choke

8. Mount Control to Twisting Arm Control (also known as Gift Wrap Control): My personal favorite position. It’s called the gift wrap for a reason. When you establish it, it will feel like you’ve been given a gift.  In essence, the aggressor will lose the ability to use one limb while you control it, keeping their head exposed for strikes, even though you won’t need it.  To get here, you need to establish position first, usually from the mount.


9. Americana Arm lock (ude-garami): One of the go-to submission holds when you establish either the Mount or the Side Mount. It’s, essentially, the reverse of the Kimura shoulder lock, although it targets the shoulder joint similarly to the Kimura.


10. Guard Control: In a confrontation, you really do not want to end up on your back, on the street or anywhere else.  But in the unlucky event that you do, there are ways to perform every single one of these moves above from this position. While we would prefer being able to complete them in the stand up or the top control positions, it is comforting to understand the capabilities available to you from the Guard.


Why do I like these specific moves?

  • They are easy to learn.
  • They are versatile enough to establish control or correct the difficult situation (read execute a joint lock or stranglehold).
  • The majority of them are performed while still standing.
  • No striking is needed to control the aggressor.
  • All of these techniques rely on leverage much more than strength, which is the foundation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Nest Steps

Now that we’ve established a framework for you to follow, I highly recommend you do one, or all or the following:

  1. Do not practice these techniques on your own! Find a reputable JiuJitsu Academy near your school to begin training. Preferably one that has a robust Self-Defense curriculum that is rooted in Gracie or Brazilian JiuJitsu. If you need help finding a school let me know and I’ll be glad to help you. If you live in Montgomery County Maryland, check out Evolve Academy which is the only Gracie Certified Training Center in Gaithersburg, MD.
  2. Begin implementing the Tools You Can Sharpen Today……today.
  3. Contact me to learn these techniques (local inquiries only to Poolesville, MD).

JiuJitsu Journey: Kenneth Brown

Kenneth Brown is a Black Belt under Master Mike Moses of Evolve Academy.

(Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda -> Carlos Gracie Sr. -> Helio Gracie -> Rickson Gracie -> Pedro Sauer -> Mike Moses)

He started training just over 8 years ago and has made an amazing transformation in his life in more than one way

Not only is Kenneth a World Class competitor, having competed at the highest levels of the sport, he has lost over 100 lb after starting on his Jiu Jitsu Journey.

He is one of the most introspective and analytical Jiu Jitsu practitioners I’ve ever come across and have had the fortune to train with. The thought that comes to mind when working with Kenneth is that his depth of understanding of the art is on a whole different hemisphere, and you learn this quickly when you start talking to him.  What makes him special as an instructor is the uncanny ability break down his Jedi knowledge (and mind tricks) into digestible, meaningful bites for any level.

He is training and teaching full-time to spread his love of the art to as many people as possible. Most recently, he visited Senegal, Africa as part of the Lionheart Initiative which aims to establish permanent training centers/gyms in Africa to develop young adults into mixed martial artists and provide local children (specifically at-risk youth) a martial arts foundation.

Below, he shared his Jiu-Jitsu Journey with us and we are pleased to share it with you here at HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.



Question 1: Thank you for taking the time to interview with us and share highlights of your Jiu-Jitsu Journey.  Please share your Name any Nicknames, your current weight and favorite technique with our fans.

Answer: I’m Kenneth Brown.  I have a nickname that I plan to  overwrite it in the future. My current weight is 230 lb and my single favorite technique is the Ezekiel Choke.

Question 2: Why did you start training Jiu-Jitsu?

Answer: I actually started off training in Thai Boxing and it took a year before I finally gave Jiu-Jitsu a try. What finally pushed me over the edge and inspired my interest was a tournament. At the time, Evolve was organizing an event called Mission Submission and volunteers were requested. I spent the whole day running a table and watching matches. It was really great, and it inspired me like nothing else had. After that, I really wanted to learn the art.

Question 3: Are you an active competitor? If so, what is your last tournament and results?

Answer: Yeah, I love competing and I want to do it more often. My last tournament was the Atlanta Pro in 2016 and I earned a bronze medal but I wasn’t happy about it. One of my opponents was a no-show and I wanted that match.

Question 4: How often do you train ?

Answer: Every day in some way. I must always be moving forward and I take that commitment very seriously. Even when I can’t get into the gym, I do something.

Question 5: How does your training for competition differ from non-competition training? What is your overall training strategy?

Answer: The change is mostly on a psychological level. An upcoming competition means that there is a goal (to win) and a deadline. The conditions are set, and the preparation must be done. So every training session has more perceived value.

Question 6: What are your current training goals?

Answer: I’m all over the place. Two critical focuses, though, are wrestling and offensive sequences. Wrestling has been a weakness for a long time, and creating sequences just fascinates me. Sequences add another layer of science to the art, and the possibilities are limitless.

Question 7: Do you include Strength Training or other specialized programs in your training? How do you include it into your standard week?

Answer: Nowadays, my focus is on prehab. I want strength throughout full ranges of movement. And that’s been motivating me to add more strength training to my routine in addition to yoga.

I have a daily routine that must be done every day. Right now, it’s pretty light but I’m adding to it as I go. Almost everything is done in the morning as soon as I wake up, and then things that require more gym equipment are done later in any available window of time.

Question 8: What do you like most about BJJ?

Answer: It’s an ever-changing puzzle, filled with both simplicity and complexity. I love the fact that there will always be more problems to solve and ways to improve. Mastering the art will take a lifetime, and I’m up for the challenge.

Question 9: What do you dislike the most about BJJ? If so, what would you change?

There’s only one thing. It’s the debate about BJJ for self-defense vs. sport. I have no interest.

Question 10: Can you elaborate on your thoughts on the Self-Defense and Sport Jiu-Jitsu debate? That is, do you think training exclusively in Sports/competition-based Jiu-Jitsu will carry over as much as a Self-Defense focused curriculum? Please elaborate.

Answer: [Learning BJJ] depends on what your objective is.  For me, I’m not personally concerned enough about one person attacking me alone in the street. That’s not why I started Jiu Jitsu.  What inspired me was the sport. I love the challenge and how it pushes me to grow and improve myself; if you take it beyond the personal level though.

All gyms are different. They have different cultures, styles, environments, and I like that diversity. Self-defense, sport or whatever, all that matters is what happens when you put it to the test in the arena of your choosing (sport or street).

Question 11: 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 life of others?

Answer: First of all, almost everyone I spend significant amounts of time with, train. It has introduced me to a really incredible community of individuals. Every day I’m inspired to be better.

In addition to that, Jiu-jitsu has drastically changed my body composition. I look and feel different massively different than I did when I was over 300 pounds. Also it’s just incredible to have an art that allows me to express my mind and my body at the same time.

Question 12: What do you want your Jiu-Jitsu legacy to be?

Answer: Here’s a big one. I want to encourage more people to embrace the art because I know that they’ll benefit from it. In my lifetime, I want over a thousand people to be able to say that they wouldn’t have known what the art would give them if it hadn’t been for me.

Question 13: Where can people check out what you are doing? Are you involved in any special projects?

Answer: Of course. You can what I’m up to at KennethBrownBJJ. Right now, the focus is mainly on sequences. I’m slowly working on a putting as many offensive sequences as possible across the full spectrum of the art. I’m also the creator of BJJ Canvas.  I share my thoughts on techniques, nutrition, and competing there. Check it out!

Question 14: How can a general level Jiu-Jitsu practitioner get more out of their Journey? Any parting words of inspiration for BJJ enthusiasts?

Answer: Alright. Listen to this. There’s one thing that absolutely has to be done.

You have to take responsibility for your own growth.

Nothing matters more than what you do. And there’s a lot of little things that you can do like asking questions, keeping notes, and drilling more outside of class. That’s the tip of the iceberg.

Just focus on the small steps. Every little bit of progress matters.

In Closing

We look forward to hearing about Kenny’s future endeavors in competition and work to spread Jiu Jitsu worldwide!

Here are some of the takeaways we’ve learned:

Takeaway #1: Once again, JiuJitsu has amazing transformation affects on physical and mental health. This is more the rule than the exception!

Takeaway #2: Practicing JiuJitsu is challenging, complex, and rewarding. For those that keep showing up, the lessons you learn about yourself begin to happen on and off the mat in a productive, though-provoking, self-reflective way like nothing else.

Takeaway #3: People across the world are practicing JiuJitsu. Not just because it is the most comprehensive martial art, but it creates bonds, squashes egos, and challenges your physical, mental, and spiritual faculties.

What have you taken away from Kenneth’s story?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  

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

Go to the Jiu-Jitsu 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 Jiu-Jitsu worldwide!

Strength Training 201: 3 Tools to SMASH Through Strength Barriers

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)

  • With progressive overload, plateauing is inevitable. You can not continue to add weight to a bar, forever, to infinity.
  • Strength is a skill.  Your body can adapt and become more technically efficient at lifting and handling weights using proper mechanics.
  • Coaxing additional strength gains doesn’t happen as a result of hitting a plateau and your body magically adapts.  It happens by adding different tools and techniques to target positional, functional, or movement pattern deficiencies to shore up weaknesses and improve motor-unit recruitment.
  • These techniques tax your central nervous system (CNS). Rotate them into and out of your program to focus on weaknesses or breaking through strength plateaus.
  • If you are new to strength training, read this first.
  • Being strong is hard work. Don’t take any shortcuts with the tools you use or your mindset. “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man!”



3 Toolbox Additions

Let’s get right to it. The following tools can be used to get your strength to the next level.  As a byproduct, you will be making faster muscle contractions as well, so you will become more explosive as a result.

  1. Isometrics: Get up and go over to the nearest door jam, and try to push against it with all of your might for 5 seconds.  I’ll wait.  Pretty hard, right?  Now continue doing that experimenting with different positions, ranges in a range of motion, and you have a comprehensive workout tool.

An isometric muscle contraction is a static muscle contraction; the muscle contracts, but there is no movement at the joint. This generally occurs during one of two situations. The first situation is called, “overcoming” isometric contraction. This is when the muscle contracts against an immovable object; think pushing against a wall as hard as you can. The second situation is referred to as “yielding” isometric contraction. This is where something is held in place, even though it could be moved. In other words, you are applying the exact amount of force necessary to counteract the resistance. Think of wall sits or holding a crunch. There is comprehensive research available to review that majorally concludes that isometrics training has positive transfer to strength improvements, among other positive benefits such as fat loss and health improvements.

How to implement?

  • Identify areas you would like to improve, like the bottom position of the bench press, or the lockout of a Deadlift, Squat, Press, etc.
  • You can target specifically those ranges using isometrics in those positions using various methods. Having access to a squat rack with pins to press against is a valuable asset.  Set the pins to just at or below the location of your weakness. Starting with no more than the bars weight, begin hold forceful contractions of 3-5 seconds over multiple sets.
  • For strength gains, accumulate enough time to target the area completely; 30-60 seconds of 3-5 second contractions is enough to stimulate those pathways.
  • Target several areas of the body to complete a full body workout.

Grappling Application

There isn’t a position in Jiu-Jitsu that doesn’t challenge your isometric strength, offensively or defensively. While there will be carry over strength benefits from using a barbell and other isometric tool applications, here are a few quick tips for grapplers:

  1. Try performing isometric squeezes on a ball or your leg to improve your strangling strength.
  2. Squeeze the daylights out of a physioball to improve your bear-hug/takedown abilities.
  3. Use a thick resistance band to work isometric positions, such as your guard posture.
  4. Try clasping your hands together around a pinky ball to improve your isometric grip strength. Use a variety of grips to challenge your hands, wrists, and fingers.


2.Dead-Stop LiftsWant to make any lift instantly more challenging?  Try picking up or pressing your weight from a complete dead-stop, from the bottom position of the movement.  You eliminate the stretch-reflex that helps you rebound and use kinetic energy during the normal eccentric (lowering) and concentric (raising) muscular actions.

How to Implement?

  • Evaluate your program and target a few lifts that you can start with the concentric only portion.
  • While Olympic lifts could fall into this category, think compound movements.
  • If you can replace a few lifts with an Odd Object, I highly recommend it. Strongman-type movements like Stone lifts and Tire flips are good implements into your program to add a whole new challenge and implement the dead-stop.

These days, I rotate this application into my program quite frequently. Deadlifts, Zercher Squats, and one-arm dumbbell rows are both performed from dead-stop starting positions.  This requires me to generate force at an exceptional rate improving my ability to generate high velocities and move loads quickly from a dead-zero starting point.

Grappling Application

Jiu-Jitsu requires quick movements and adjustments to resistance on a dime, similar to dead-stop mechanics.

  1. Lifting a 200# sandbag off the ground and onto your shoulder is also a challenge you won’t soon forget.
  2. There is simply no way to generate any momentum or inertia. You must be brutally strong to get that weight up.
  3. Think of the bag as your opponent, or enemy, or friend you’re rescuing from a burning building…you get the drift.
  4. Get that bag up to your shoulder, or at least up to your chest level.
  5. Build your own sandbag.  It’s easy and cheap.
I’m waiting…

3.Dynamic Effort Method: This method is used to increase the rate of force development. However, it’s done by moving light to moderate loads as quickly as possible. Most workouts consist of 8-12 sets of 1-3 reps using a weight equal to 50-80 percent of your 1RM, with short rest periods (30-60 seconds).

Your sole focus should be on moving the weight as fast as possible. To be fast, you need to train fast. Try using a (3-0-x), (2-0-x), or (1-0-x) tempo, meaning you lower the weight anywhere from 1 to 3 seconds, no pause, and you move the weight up as quickly as possible. Experiment with these ranges and add what works for you.

How to Implement?

  • These work best with the compound, multi-joint movements. Traditionally, through the Westside Barbell method, you would train dynamic effort twice a week in a four workout per week program (alternating a maximal strength day with a dynamic strength day).  Focus on the Squat, Deadlift, and Press movements, and implement this technique. You can perform this with almost any compound exercise to train your ability to generate velocity and power.  The big 3 movements will allow you to first-hand see how effective the technique can be.  It’s not uncommon to boost your 1RM on these lifts substantially after implementing this technique.

Grappling Application

You’ll reap carry-over performance on the mat if you just use the big 3 lifts.  That should be your primary focus.  If you want to try to implement this technique in a grappling-based program, you can consider the following:

  1. Locate training partners that are heavier than you, lighter than you (that move quickly) and are your size.  Use the attributes of these training partners to work different aspects of this method.
  2. I prefer to roll and drill with the heaviest partners first, while fresh.  Practice your “A Game” sweeps, submissions, and escapes.  You will likely be facing the most resistance from this partner.  Make sure to also practice your top pressure in control positions with an opponent that is larger than you. That means full, side, and rear mount retention.
  3. Evaluate your ability to execute the technique under full resistance drilling or live-rolling, as time progresses.
  4. Perform these drills while you are fresh. That way you can more accurately gauge improvements in your speed.

If you don’t have the mental capacity to be obsessed with what you’re trying to get….then you’re never gonna get it. 

– CT Fletcher

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