Like a lot of people, the first time I saw Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was when Royce Gracie seemingly came out of nowhere breaking arms and choking people unconscious during the brutal beginnings of the UFC. No one knew what this guy was doing and he seemed to be finishing everyone, including much larger opponents, with ease.
In 2006, I was watching UFC 58. On that card was a welterweight fight between B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre. There was a moment in the fight where Penn was lying on his back with St. Pierre on top of him, then he takes his own leg, wraps it around St. Pierre’s back and puts his foot in front of his face. Joe Rogan was announcing and proceeded to lose his mind over how amazing this was. Meanwhile I’m sitting on my couch thinking “I can do that”.
Later that year I checked out the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan and signed right up. The Gracie name is what made Brazilian Jiu Jitsu popular, so I figured if I could learn from them, then that’s what I’d do.
The academy had a constant rotation of people of all levels visiting or training full time, and also a deep pool of talented people to train with. Every day there was a fighter you’ve seen on tv on the mats rolling around and I had the opportunities over the years to train with many top level BJJ guys and MMA fighters.
I mainly trained under John Danaher who for a long time was referred to as “the best kept secret in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”. Coincidentally he is also Georges St. Pierre’s grappling coach.
In 2012, I left Renzo’s and began my training under the legendary Marcelo Garcia. He is arguably one of, if not the greatest competitive grappler ever. I have since recieved my black belt from him and I continue to train at the Marcelo Garcia Academy regularly.
For me Jiu Jitsu isn’t just about doing moves and getting people to submit. It’s a game, a very complex system of movements and infinite possibilities. I only weigh 135 pounds at my max, and while doing BJJ almost all the people I’ve trained with have been, larger, stronger, in better shape, and in the beginning just better at the sport than me. So learning ways to manipulate people without using strength has been paramount. When you spend so much time on the mats you spend just as much time on theory, thinking about and discussing positions that pose a problem, and showing others mistakes and helping to correct them. I look forward to sharing everything I’ve learned and continuing to improve myself and everyone I train with.