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Dec 2, 2014

Interview With Submission Fight Co. II

It's been a while guys! I recently got in contact with Submission Fight Company again. They have just donated over 200 gis to TWO different organizations. Read all about it here. They also have some new products coming up that they talk about.

---Start of Interview---

Hey man thanks for taking the time to talk to me again! It's been a while! So since we've last talked there's been a lot that's happened in the Jiu Jitsu world. Good and bad. So let's focus on the good that have happened recently. 

You guys paired up with a couple amazing organizations that donate gis to people in need. Jammin' BJJ was able to put those gis to great use. The gi project has also been able to make great use of them. Can you tell me how that all came about? What was the process like?

SFC: As a Jiu Jitsu company that is involved with the BJJ community I believe it is very important for us to give back to the same community that has helped us stay in business for so many years. We just posted a question on our Facebook page asking for our customers suggestions of any Jiu Jitsu related charity they would recommend. A lot of good BJJ charities were suggested but what caught our attention the most was The Gi Project. It was started by an 8 year old girl named Valencia, as a home school project. The whole concept behind it was amazing. Her story even caught the attention of a couple New York news stations that followed her story as it progressed. After we donated 100 new Submission Gis to her charity organization the same New York news channel featured her story I believe a couple more times.
After the word got out that we just donated 100 brand new Submission Gis to this charity, we got a lot more requests and although we'd love to be able to donate BJJ gis to them all, this was not possible. I was talking to Kris Shaw, owner of BJJ Legends Magazine, and she had suggested to me to talk to Elena Stowell of Jammin BJJ. After talking to Elena about her charity organization I was intrigued and knew that I had to help out in some way. I ended up donating another 100 new Submission Gis to her cause as well.

Had you heard about Jammin' BJJ or The Gi Project before you donated?

SFC: I hadn't really heard of them before and that's probably because they are not getting all the publicity they deserve. I think it's a shame that a lot of us Jiu Jitsu guys end up throwing away our old gis when we have the opportunity to donate them to someone else out there who can still make good use of them. Charity organizations like Jammin BJJ, The Gi Project and others should be getting more publicity to get more BJJ practitioners in the habit of donating their BJJ gis instead of throwing them away.

Would you recommend them to other people to donate their old gis?

SFC: Yes, absolutely! I believe they are doing something great for our BJJ community and everyone should do their part by donating their BJJ gis that they are no longer using.

So with the old stock gone, what can you tell me about the new gi that you have coming out?

SFC: Our newest gi has actually been our best kept secret that we've had in stock at our warehouse here in Northridge, California for almost 1 year. This Gi is called, Bamboo Frenzy, and should be released to the public early December.

What makes it unique? How have the prototypes felt?

SFC: What makes the Bamboo Frenzy unique is that it is much softer and more comfortable than any other BJJ gi I have ever felt. Our Sensation Gi has always gotten praises about how soft it is but the Bamboo Frenzy blows the Sensation Gi out of the water when it comes to softness and comfort. The Bamboo Frenzy is just amazingly soft & comfortable. It’s my favorite Gi!

I know you guys had some trouble with the manufacturers, do you think submission will ever go with a hemp gi in the future?

SFC: Yes, I am so relieved to have cut off all ties with my old manufacturer. They were a nightmare to deal with and screwed us over in so many ways. They even tried infringing on our trademark/copyright by offering to sell Submission branded gis to the public without our consent. But I am happy to say I have locked in a great new manufacturer that has some new Submission Gis in production right now.
A hemp gi in the near future is not likely for Submission Fight Co. but could be a possibility in the more distant future.

I saw something about ranked rash guards coming out, any details on those?

SFC: What you saw was just a design concept we were working on. Our ranked rash guards are still in R&D stage, so nothing is set yet. We are looking to have these made in Recycled Polyester material to help it be more eco-friendly and better for the environment. These will be the first ranked rash guards made from recycled materials. We’ve talked to a couple factories in China and 1 here in California and so far it looks like chances are these will be made right here in the USA.

Do you guys have anything else hidden up your sleeves?

SFC: Yes! We will also be releasing a new kids BJJ gi, Sprout, very soon! It is very light and comfortable for the kids to wear and is quite possibly the softest kids BJJ gi ever made!
Thank you!!!!

---End Interview---

There we have it! New Bamboo gi, new kids gi, and now confirmed new ranked rashguards. Thank you to Shakib for taking the time to interview. Also a big shout out to them for donating those gis. Learn more about The Gi Project and Jammin' BJJ here. Also here is an interview with Elena Stowell of Jammin' BJJ I did last year.

Also if you're interested in the Bamboo gi, look for it at their website.

As stated above, please check them out if you need to donate, they help so many people. 

Nov 29, 2013

BJJ Spotlight November: Cindy Hales, Kris Shaw, and Michelle Wagner

This month spotlight is shared between three women that have been doing this sport for 10-15 years. They are all black belts and great people to sit down and talk with. I'm glad I got to work with them at a seminar that was put on, which you can read about here. They all have a different story and different experiences through Jiu Jitsu. They are some of the first American female black belts in the sport. Kris Shaw who train down in California, Michelle Wagner who trains with me in Seattle, and also Cindy Hales who train in Seattle as well. Thank you for checking this out and I hope you enjoy it! I hope you can see the differences between all three of them and their Jiu Jitsu journey!

Left to Right. Michelle Wagner, Cindy Hales, and Kris Shaw.

----Start Interview----

Thank you guys for taking the time to talk, I'm glad I got to spend sometime with you!

You guys just helped out with an awesome seminar for kids that supported the "Gift of a Gi" program. What was that like for you?

KS: It was awesome, very encouraging to see so many kids on the mat, so many technical kids on the mat. There were so many kids well behaved.

MW: It was great, it had such a good reception. All the kids were trying to soak up the knowledge and wanted more.

CH: I had a great time and it is cool to be a part of something that helps out kids on several different levels.   

From when you first started until now, what have been some of the major changes in the kid’s classes?

KS: The fact that there is kid’s classes is a huge change. Imagine giving a kid a stick with spikes in it, and then telling him he can go hit a kid, that was the perception of Jiu Jitsu.

MW: I’d have to agree with Kris on that. There was no kid’s classes.

CH: I feel like the BJJ community in the US has finally started putting a bigger emphasis on growing the sport with kids.  I think we are going to start seeing some amazing talent coming up in the next few years.

How did you get into Jiu Jitsu when it was rare for women to train?

KS: I’m a nerd, I’m a super nerd. I was working in a cubical in Texas when a co-worker came in and had a black eye. In 1997 nerds didn’t get black eyes, so we huddled around him and he told us about Reality Combat. They offered American Boxing, Knife Fighting, and Ground Fighting. I went there for a while until I had a contract that moved me to Houston, which is where I got my first taste of Jiu Jitsu. While in Houston I got a chance to work with Richard Bustillo, he invited me to his academy in California. I never thought I would end up there, but I had a contract that sent me over to So Cal. While I was there I really wanted to train Jiu Jitsu again, so I called up Rickson’s academy and his wife answered. When I told her I wanted to train she just said “No Women.” And hung up. I ended up doing knife fighting until one day a couple guys at the academy started doing Jiu Jitsu and I went to grab my gi to train with them. After training I found out it was John Machado, he told me he wanted me for the American Team he had.

MW: I was looking for something to keep me busy, and my friend Brian Ford told me to try Jiu Jitsu. I didn’t miss a class for three months.

CH: I got into training after seeing UFC and then running across Marcelo Alonso’s school near my house.  I was unhappy at my job and decided to try it as a distraction from work.  It led to me quitting my job and pursuing BJJ full time.

What was that first day like?

KS: I don’t have a real day because of the way I trained, I can’t pick a day or a certain time. It really is just all a blur now.

CH: My first day was pretty intimidating but Marcelo Alonso was very welcoming and made me feel comfortable.  I fell in love with BJJ instantly.

When was the first time you met a Brazilian?

KS: The first time was in Houston when I was training Ground Fighting and he came over and told us we were doing it all wrong.

MW: My first day of Jiu Jitsu I met Juliano Prado. He didn’t speak any English. After that Giva Santana came in, and his English wasn’t better. Luckily James Foster’s mom was a teacher and helped them learn English.

CH: Marcelo Alonso was my first instructor and the first Brazilian that I met.  He is awesome and really set a great foundation for my training.

How long have you been training in Jiu Jitsu now?

KS: I’ve been training since February of 1998, right after moving to Houston!

MW: I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu since April of 1998.

CH: I have been training BJJ since 2001.

Who were your influences as early belts?

MW: My instructor was my hero, he was a huge influence. Any person that knew more than me was an influence. Any blue belts, any purple, anyone who had something to teach me.

CH: My early influences were Marcelo Alonso, Rodrigo Lopes, Mamazinho, and Eric Dahlberg locally.  As for famous BJJ players, I really liked Terere, Rodrigo Medeiros, Sakuraba, Megumi Fujii, Tara LaRosa and Genki Sudo. 

How many schools were around to train at when you started?

KS: There was Rickson’s, the Gracie Academy in Torrance, and then the Machado’s academy. I still haven’t got a chance to train with Rickson, so he is still on my list of people to train with!

MW: There was Marcello Alonso’s and Juliano Prado that were the real prominent ones. There was some other small places to train, a lot of garage gyms.

CH: I think there were around 5 schools in the area when I started – Foster, Marcelo, Mamazinho, Ring Sports and some other schools.

What was training like back then? Was it different than today's classes?

KS/MW: Every day was the same. It was a complete ass kicking, but it was the same as today. 15 minutes of a warm up from hell. The breakdown of techniques is way better, the communication is also way better. The white belts and blue belts are so much better because there as so many more people to train with.

CH: I feel like training was a little rougher back in the day.  But for the most part it is pretty similar, there are just more people training.

What was the class size like for you on average?

KS: Our academy was standing room only, there wasn’t a night where we didn’t fog the windows in class.

MW: If we had 8-12 people it was a big class for us. Back then it was still new for us, at least in the Pacific Northwest.

CH: When I first started it classes at Marcelo’s were around 10-15 guys.  Sometimes bigger sometimes smaller. 

What was it like to get your black belt? Were you the first woman to get a black belt at your gym?

KS: It really didn’t sink in for a couple months. The weight really hit me a few months later. You don’t realize how much you actually have to lead until you’re a black belt. Yes I was the first woman to get a black belt at my academy.

MW: It was like, really? I’m there? It didn’t feeling like I was there. I mean even now I’m still learning. But yeah I was the first female at my gym to receive my black belt. It didn’t really sink in for me.

CH: I had a weird experience getting my black belt, I missed the first time I was supposed to be promoted because I went with a friend to train somewhere else.  So then I had to wait a little over a year to get my promotion.  I received my black belt in 2006. I was really nervous about getting my belt and still feel a little overwhelmed by it at times, but I think it is my proudest accomplishment. 

What're some of the most memorable moments for you through your Jiu Jitsu career?

KS: The women’s team, we had such a strong comradery in the group. We were able to complete so much so early. We had matching T-shirts, we rented a 15 person van, and were sponsored by Atama. That was back when women weren’t sponsored. RIP Eric.

MW: For me, there’s so many. I can’t really choose a single one. It’s hard to pick one because it’s all a collage of memories. I remember getting all my belts, my first tournament in Brazil, my first real day teaching. So many good memories. One moment that sticks out is when I was promoted, my instructor gave me his black belt.

CH: My biggest accomplishment in my career was my MMA fight with Megumi Fujii, mainly because it was a huge step for me to fight one of my heroes and also because it was a huge weight cut for me and really pushed the limits of what I ever thought I could do.  Even though I lost this is the most memorable fight of my career.  Aside from that fight, I think my proudest moments in BJJ come from teaching kids.

For your gym what was it like being the first women black belt?

KS/MW: It was great. My team was receptive, I had trained with a big chunk of that team since I had started. The new people were always the test.

CH: I feel like most people in my gym respected my belt and my position in the gym.  There will always a few people who don’t think that girls are as good as guys, but I think this is changing and really it doesn’t matter to me what those people think.

What do think has brought more women to this sport?

KS: Educating women that they can be physical. Even now when I teach self-defense seminars when I grab their wrist for a grip break, they just feel like veil. Kids now that are coming up, such as title nine, we have girls who aren’t afraid to get sweaty.

MW: We have better training now, we’re all a lot smarter about our training too. We’ve been educated on how to train.

CH: I think the growth of MMA and Ronda Rousey have brought a lot of girls to BJJ and the fight sports in general.  Also there are lots of women in BJJ and submission grappling, which have set the stage for younger girls to feel empowered to come try the sport.  I can see this at local tournaments.  The kids division is growing and there are lots of girls competing and winning.

What "issues" have you dealt with as a women in this sport over your journey?

KS: Besides having opportunities not be shared, I didn’t have too many ego problems at the gym. We had such a brotherhood. Besides that I had my computers to fall back on, I had the money, I had the time, so even if someone was being disrespectful I didn’t care.

MW: The male ego. Guys would always have to win. I had several hyper extended elbows and lots of other injuries. I was also too proud to tap, I wasn’t going to quit because of it, but I learned from it and now I know.

CH: There will always be people in BJJ, and in life, that don’t think women can’t do a good of a job as guys.  That’s not my problem, I just try to surround myself with quality people who respect me and everyone else.  I have a great team at Gracie Barra and am lucky for the people I have around me. 

What have you found is the best way to encourage other women to train and, more importantly compete?

KS/MW: Haha no. I believe if you can get the women to bond with each other it’ll make a stronger connection and encourage other women to join. Women suck to fight with though, they are mean! Haha Most women don’t have the opportunity to train in a competition setting with other women, so it makes it hard for them to decide if they want to compete or not.

CH: I just try to set a good example by working hard in the gym and trying to show new girls, or whoever, how much fun BJJ can be and make them have fun.  I think if people feel comfortable and have fun they will fall in love with BJJ just like I did. 

Do you think it's important for women to have open mats/women only seminars?

KS/MW: That’s one way women have lead the pack is by having all these open mats. They started having them way before men did. Men are always like “No we can’t have an open mat, the specialness of our Jiu Jitsu will be let out of the box.” Women need the open mats so we can bond, and that’s where the connection happens.

CH: I understand the need for women’s only classes and events, but I am really more a fan of training with everyone. I don’t like how sometimes women are marginalized to women’s classes.  I think this can backfire and limit what women think they can accomplish, that they need a special class.  I think they are a good way to get new women involved but I think incorporating women in the normal adult classes and have an overall culture of accepting women, and all people, is a better way to go about  having more women, and people in general, in your gym.   I think everyone wants a healthy, supportive environment to train in and that this is the real goal.  If we can have gyms where everyone is comfortable then we will attract all kinds of people. 

Have you been apart of any of those open mats? What makes them special?

KS/MW: It’s just like any other seminar, we do warm ups, we do techniques, and then we spar. We just break down any barriers and start having fun right away. It’s a normal Jiu Jitsu class, we just break it down like you know what, guys show it like this, but this is probably what’s going to happen so do this type of thing. There isn’t any time for BS.                                                

CH: I have attended and hosted women’s open mats over the years.  I think they are fine but I am really just a fan of training with everyone you can.

Is there any advice you can give us guys on rolling with women? What about women rolling with guys?

KS: Guys are always concerned about my hair. I’ve had my hair this length since before Jiu Jitsu, if you pull it I’m not going to notice. The only time I’ll say something is if you stand on it and stop me from going inverted. Don’t mind the hair. But be respectful.

MW: If you feel like you’re being disrespected or feel like you might get hurt, stop. You shouldn’t be rolling with them. There’s the different type of guys that’ll go light, or the guy who wants to show you how strong he is, and then there is the expert. All three types don’t help any ones Jiu Jitsu. Just roll, have fun.

CH: Treat them respectfully just like you would anyone else.  Don’t freak out if they get a good position on you or submit you.  This should make you want to learn BJJ more not be stressed out that a girl beat you up. I would just say train with people who help you get better and have fun, whether that is a girl or a guy. 

What has been your biggest struggle since getting your black belt?

KS: You have to check yourself, there aren’t a lot of role models, there aren’t a lot of directions, there’s no manual, and so you look around the room and I just tapped to a yellow belt, granted I was goofing off, should I have done that? Let me check the manual, maybe the manual says black belts never tap, EVER! You just don’t know what the rules are. So you have to make your own rules and be comfortable with those rules.

MW: Politics. I remember looking up to someone who had a black belt, idolizing that person. Now I think about the people that are just starting out might be idolizing us. We could be their role models. There’s some pressure there. Did I show them all the right steps, what if the move doesn’t work for them?

CH: My biggest struggle in BJJ before and after my black belt, has been dealing with injuries and trying to come to terms with getting older and figure out how I can adjust my game to keep me on the mats for a long time.

Did you have the opportunity to train with other women through your journey? Did you consider it a disadvantage that you didn't have other women to roll with if you didn’t?

KS: Yes. We showed up with our team of 12 girls and took home the trophy three years in a row at Pans. So yes it helped. Everyone knew everyone. We knew each other’s games, we knew the opponents, and we helped each other.

MW: No. And yes, I came back from my first competition as a blue belt and yelled at my team. A blue belt from Santa Cruz BJJ destroyed me. I yelled at them for going light on me and not going harder.

CH: I have had the opportunity to train with several women in my career.  There are definitely a few women that I would love to be able to train with. I think the bigger disadvantage is when you only have big people to train with.  My mine criteria for finding training partners is weight more than gender.

What was competing like back in the day for you?

KS: My first tournament in Houston I fought a guy. It was horrible, guys are strong. I hated admitting that, but they are. But after that going to the same tournaments every year you fought a lot of the same girls over again, so you got to know them and their game.

MW: There were two different experiences I had depending on if I went north or if I went south. It didn’t really matter up north, if we had enough girls sign up everyone fought everyone regardless of rank and weight. In the south though, as a higher belt there wasn’t a lot of girls so Purple, Brown, and Blacks were always put together to compete. Weight classes were often combined.

CH: I loved competing back in the day.  I am jealous how many tournaments there are now.  I am hoping to be able to get more competitions under my belt this coming year.

What do you have planned for the 2014 year?

MW: Well as far as my Jiu Jitsu goals, I’ll probably will get back into teaching again. I took this year off form tournaments. I am thinking about competing again since they just renamed it to Master IV. Makes it sound better than Senior IV haha.

CH: My main goals for 2014 are to grow the kid’s teams at GB Seattle and Kirkland.  After that I am hoping to get to at least one gi and no gi event in 2014. 

Thank you for taking your time! Anything else you'd like to add?!

KS/MW: Thank you for taking the time to do this and putting a spotlight on women’s Jiu Jitsu. Thank you for helping out with the seminar as well!

CH: No nothing else to add.  I just want to thank you for working on this and helping with the kid’s seminar.

----End Interview----

So there we have it, three awesome women who have shared a bit of the Jiu Jitsu journey they have been on. I want to thank each of them again for taking the time to do this. If you ever get a chance to train with any of them I highly encourage it, they each have something unique to add. Thanks again for taking the time to check this out. (: See you guys on the mats!

Nov 18, 2013

Seminar Review: Gift of a Gi - BJJ Seminar For Kids

It’s been a couple of crazy weeks for me and I’m finally able to sit down and talk about a seminar I was able to help out with. The “Give the Gift of a Gi – BJJ Seminars for Kids” kick-off seminar was a huge success. It was held on October 26th at Foster Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Kent, Washington. Quite a few Black Belts shared their expertise; Kris Shaw, Cindy Hales, Michelle Wagner, James Foster, and Jean Freitas. There were three different seminars for three different age groups. With this grouping model each seminar ended up being the perfect size. In total there were about 55-60 kids, which is a great turn out. Of those kids, I would guess about 10 had never tried Jiu-Jitsu including my two little nephews. The seminar they attended was their first day of Jiu-Jitsu. I credit the quality of the seminar with the fact that they both enrolled to train the next week. Yes, I’m a proud uncle.

Several aspects of the BJJ Seminars for Kids made it a special and important event to attend. The importance of this seminar is that all the proceeds went to Jammin’BJJ, a branch of the non-profit Carly Stowell Foundation that helps kids have access to sport and music education.  Jammin’BJJ is a great organization that helps kids down in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil participate in BJJ. In Rio it is not unusual for kids to be picked up by the drug trade or gangs. Jiu-Jitsu helps them stay off the street and gives them a healthy community to belong to.

Jammin’BJJ helps support kids a variety of ways. Through “Give the Gift of a Gi” many children received a gi to train in. Support also takes the form of paying for monthly dues, and paying for tournament registration. They have helped a ton of kids down in Brazil, and they just recently helped some kids here in the US. With the support of Jammin’BJJ, two children who otherwise would not have been able to, were able to compete in a local tournament; both kids medaled!  The success of the BJJ Seminars for Kids event helped to make this assistance possible to provide.  

Jammin’BJJ’s primary focus is to collect used kimonos and bring them down to Brazil. For most of us having more than one gi is common.  When I talked with Elena, she said that a lot of times children will need to share a gi. Some kids stop training when they get older because they are embarrassed to not have a gi. With the foundation’s help, a gi can be provided to the kids in need as well as the adults. Elena pointed out that many of the coaches in the favelas reach into their own shallow pockets to help the kids and wear gis that are very tattered and old. It’s awesome to see the work that they are doing and to hear how small gestures change lives of these kids. If there is any way you can help I urge you to do so. If you want more info the site is here!

Back to the review! So the series of seminars started early in the morning - well early for me. We started with the 17 of the smallest kids (ages 4-6). The kids had a blast. This group was led by Professors Cindy and Kris who did an amazing job.  Many of the games they played are the ones I know we use in our kids’ classes to help form the basis for Jiu-Jitsu. You would have never been able to tell, but Cindy and Kris had never worked together before. I was very impressed with way Cindy and Kris’ teaching styles blended and played off of one another.  I was able to help out a little in this class which was awesome for me because my nephews were in this class. This class was an hour long and the kids all paid attention and kept active. I loved that they were engaged the whole time. Professor Jean came in half way through the class with a Darth Vader mask on and joined in on the games. The kids loved that and it added a ton of fun for us as well as the kids.

The second class started right at 10am and went until noon. This one was for 7-11 year olds, and had 22 kids or so in it. This class was a blast because they did more drills - well okay, they were games, but game-like drills that focused on different types of control. This class was led by Cindy, Jean, Kris, and Michelle. Jean still had the Vader mask on for part of it while we “drilled” haha. After the drills the kids were shown different type of moves to practice. They all drilled those moves without complaint. I never once heard “I can’t do this, I’m tired, or this is too hard”. Honestly, I was surprised. Two hours of Jiu-Jitsu is taxing for most adults, but these kids loved it and wanted to keep going.

We had a good break in between classes for lunch and a recharge, thankfully. Working with the kids really took a ton of energy out of us! The last part of the seminar was for ages 12 and up. This was a 3 hour seminar! For as long as the day had been, we remained excited. This seminar was headed by Coach Foster, Jean, Kris, and Michelle. The group had more veteran Jiu-Jitsu kids, so the class felt more like an adult seminar. The kids learned quite a lot of Jiu-Jitsu. Each instructor showed a move or two that the kids would drill. Each instructor kept the kids engaged in their own way. It was invigorating to see the kids love every move and take everything in. The kids got to roll with the instructors as well as the other participants. By the end of the seminar all the adults were worn out, but luckily so were the kids. The kids were very thankful and happy to learn from such knowledgeable black belts.

Throughout the entire seminar the kids were provided snacks and juice which was a really nice touch. They only got them if they were good though! Which of course all the kids were.   During the ages 12 and up class, Coach Foster talked to the kids about why this seminar was put on and who they were helping out by being there. I think it is important for all kids to understand that most of us have it good and that they are helping out other kids and people in the world whose lives are far more difficult.

Overall, I couldn’t have imagined the seminar being better. The parents were happy, the kids were happy, and it was a day full of Jiu Jitsu. What more do you need? With the donations from the seminar Jammin’BJJ was able to raise $1100!!! I know Elena was blown away with the results, and I’m very happy that our Jiu-Jitsu community was able to come together and help out. I think Jammin’BJJ and Give the Gift of a Gi are brainstorming ways to put on these seminars in other gyms. I hope so. Contact Elena if you are a coach interested in hosting a seminar.  There are also some really cool shirts available supporting the BJJ Seminars for Kids – Meerkatsu did the artwork! Check them out and buy one on the Jammin’BJJ website. 

Nov 10, 2013

Finally Back On The Mats

Yesterday I stepped onto the mats for a competition, it was my first time doing so in over two and half years now. The last time I competed I mentally didn’t do well which lead to me not doing as well as I should have. It also made me physically sick, which isn’t any fun especially for this sport. Yesterday though I felt better, I was nervous as hell, but I had built up some more mental muscles that helped me not get into that rut. I had some good help from my team and coach as well, which I can’t thank them enough, just have to return the favor now. The outcome of the matches wasn’t what I wanted, but I was able to learn so much by stepping onto the mats. Winning would have been great, but man, the lessons I learned from competing and watching my film is invaluable on my journey.

Though I’m not an avid competitor myself, I think everyone should once in a while. It really is the best way to test yourself and your skills. My coach always says don’t compete if it isn’t fun for you, this sport should be fun not make you sick or make you stressed. It’s so true, I know I had put a lot of unneeded pressure upon myself before, and this time around, I did my best not to let myself get in my head. I still have a long way to go but I didn’t get sick and I didn’t beat myself up mentally over not winning.

One thing I love about going to tournaments is seeing everyone, it’s like a reunion at The Revolution. It’s the biggest and best tournament in the PNW and almost all the schools always have students competing in it. It’s great to see other peoples game get better and change because that means you need to step up your game as well. They get better, you get better, and iron sharpens iron. The atmosphere at this particular tournament is always positive, never any negative energy, everyone there is there to have a good time and hopefully win some medal. I’ve been to some tournaments that just don’t have a good atmosphere and it really does affect the competitors and crowd.

So why did I decide to compete after two years of not competing? It’s pretty simple, I wanted to test myself and improve. It was my first time as purple belt and it was also a new weight class for me. This was also the first time I have competed under Foster BJJ/Lotus Club. For part of me there was that unneeded pressure that I didn’t want to “fail” my coach and team, it took me a long while to admit and build up some mental muscle to get over it. My coach and team really supported me and helped me through training, I’m so glad to be a part of FBJJ.

What did I learn from getting back out there? I learned exactly what details I need to drill, what positions I need to work and what holes in my game need to be filled. I’m sure over time I would have filled them, but this allowed me to speed up the process by getting out there. I also learned that I’m much more mentally tough now, more confident, and more skilled than I previously thought. I’m far from where I want to be, but I’m happy with where I’m at. That is something new I’ve learned, being happy with what I have, while working for what I want. I heard it outside of Jiu Jitsu and have applied it to Jiu Jitsu because of the nature of the sport. It’s a slow progressing sport, you spend years at a belt, and you have to be happy with where you are while working towards that next goal. That’s my opinion anyways.

Will I be back out there? That is a yes for sure. Will it be soon? Who knows, maybe I’ll get an itch to step back out there. For now though, it was a great experience and I learned a lot about myself and my Jiu Jitsu. I couldn’t ask for more, well… I could, some medal would be nice, but I’ll earn that when the time comes. Anyways I just felt like doing an actual blog post since I haven’t in a while. Thanks for reading and hope to see some of you guys out there when I do decide to step back out! Again, thank you to everyone who supported me and helped me prepare, it means a ton. As a bonus here’s my second match of the day, after some of the mat rust had worn off. I had some pictures taken from KristensPhoto that I’ll share when I get them as well. 

Nov 1, 2013

Gi Review: CTRL Industries Desert Sun

The Desert Sun is one of CTRL Industries most recent releases. I did a quick preview a few weeks ago, and now that I have it in my hands, it's much better than I thought. You can check out the preview here. For those of you who don't feel like clicking the link I'll give you a quick rundown of the gi. (;

It's white with an orange contrast stitching. It does have some purple accents as well that really pop out. It's a tribute to the Navajo Indian Tribe. On the inside of the gi on the shoulders it has a Navajo mesh print. It's pretty awesome that Blayne was able to put his roots into a great looking gi. It's a simple gi that has a deep meaning. Check out each of the details below. (:

The Fit:
I got an A1 for my size as I do most of the time. As my previous kimonos the original fit was big off the bat. I of course shrank it to my fit, I've become kind of an expert at this thing. When I shrank it I did decide to soak it in vinegar just to keep the orange and purple vibrant. The pants again are my favorite part, they have a super long drawstring to keep the pants tied up! I've washed it quite a few times now so it fits just fine. I didn't shrink it as much as I shrunk my other ones as of late, just felt like having a "bigger" gi.

The Pants:
Let's talk about those pants. They are comfortable. Plain and simple. I've never talked to anyone who hasn't liked the fit. Like I stated earlier, it has really long draw strings which is nice. You can actually double tie it, at least on the A1 size. The knees are reinforced so you won’t see much wear on them. I haven't had a problem so far with any wear or any stitching coming undone. They are a rip stop material like a lot of the other kimonos they've put out. They also provide the canvas material draw string just in case you don't like the draw strings.

The Jacket:
There's a couple things I really like about the jacket. One thing that I've never seen in another gi, not saying it hasn't been done, but the cuffs of the sleeves are reinforced. I'll have a picture to show you soon (washing it currently). I'm not 100% if it’s IBJJF legal since they don't like "different" things like that. I train with an IBJJF ref so when I see him next and have the gi on me I'll be sure to ask for clarification. The other thing I really like is the mesh in the shoulders. It adds to the uniqueness of the gi. These simple additions really separate the gi from others they have done as well as others on the market. The material they used for the jacket is super lightweight. It's a 350gr Pearl weave, which means it super soft too. I really hope they use it again in a future gi release.

The Use:
I'm training for a tournament right now so I'm attending classes pretty regularly. I'm wearing the gi as much as I can and washing it after every use. For washing the gi I've been washing cold and using a low heat to dry. With winter coming up, hang drying sucks haha. I haven't had any issues with loose threads, bad stitching, or faded colors. I've been working a lot of throws and takedowns so this gi has been put through the ringer while I've had it. The gi hasn't got rough at all, which is nice. The 350gr material has become my new favorite.

My Recommendation:
I have no problem recommending this gi. It's solid all the way around, its soft, and it has unique improvements. CTRL has stepped up the game for sure with this gi. It's a beautiful yet simple gi. There's very few companies that could pull something like this off, and CTRL nailed it. This was a limited release, they still have some sizes available on the site (here) and also on Budovideos, be sure to check it out! I really like the Gi bag that came with it, it was white with one side showing off the Navajo print. It's nice that they are sending out gi bags with their releases since I haven't bought a real gym bag. (: Also be sure to check out the new Son Of El gi from them as well. That dropped today at 12pm, they still have some sizes available! Keep up with CTRL on Facebook or Instagram!!!

Oct 10, 2013

BJJ Spotlight October: Kristina Barlaan

This month I had the opportunity to interview Kristina Barlaan. This girl has a HUGE passion for Jiu Jitsu. You can see it when she competes and while putting events like Inspire together. She is a driven competitor that does extremely well, she is headed to ADCC next weekend, and I'm sure she will do great. She will now be heading the new Women's Program at Caio Terra's gym starting next month. For now though check out the interview! Thank you!

Quick Facts:
Name: Kristina Barlaan
Age: 27
Gym: Institue of Martial Arts
Affiliation: Caio Terra BJJ Association
Location: San Jose, CA
Rank: Brown Belt


You recently had a seminar for women only. What is the importance of events like that?
Female only events are incredibly important for the continued growth of the female Jiu-Jitsu community. It is difficult for a single person to grow on their own and it is easy to just dismiss our need for female training partners. I know I did not have any female, Jiu-Jitsu training partners when I first started, so I believed that I didn’t need them. That I could be tough and on my own. But as I started to advance, I realized that I had a desire to be around other women that shared my same passion. I wanted to be around other women who were like me. Who shared the same issues and concerns as I did as another female in the sport. That is where Inspire comes in. It is an open forum for women to come together and share their stories while sharing their love of the sport. Women who train just for fun can train with competitors and World champions. The Jiu-Jitsu mother of 2 can meet the Jiu-Jitsu mother of 3 and seek guidance. There is no competitiveness. No boundary created by the different teams, schools, and backgrounds. It is only when we come together and acknowledge our dreams, fears, goals, insecurities, hopes, and weaknesses that we see that we can overcome personal obstacles and seek to achieve greater things. I feel that these are all things that are only made possible in an environment like Inspire and other female only events like Girls in Gis and camps like those lead by Leticia Ribeiro and Hannette Staack.

What do you envision for your next seminar?
I am always looking to grow. Currently, Inspire is just a free, open mat, but eventually I would like to develop a seminar series and training camps. The more Inspire grows and the more the community grows, the more opportunities I can look to create.

What do you think is important for women who don't do Jiu Jitsu to understand about the art?
Jiu-Jitsu teaches a person how to take control when it seems that the odds are against them. Though I am small, I can still be strong and powerful.

What do you tell women who are hesitant to do BJJ?
As with anything in life, you will never know what you like until you try it. Jiu-Jitsu can look intimidating, especially to those who are not comfortable with having the amount of physical contact that Jiu-Jitsu requires, but the benefits are endless. You don’t have to train to become a competitor or a World Champion. Jiu-Jitsu is an opportunity to physically and mentally challenge yourself.

What do you think is important for men to understand about woman practitioners?
Everyone has different reasons for training. Not all men are training to compete and not all women are training for self-defense. Get to know your team mates. Don’t just assume that because your team mate is a woman that you have to “go easy” on her. Take care of your team mates. You can provide a challenging roll without out muscling your training partner. You don’t necessarily need to “cater” to your female team mates to encourage them to stay or continue training. You just need to respect them as someone who will contribute to the team.

What do you think is the best thing about Jiu Jitsu?
For me, the best thing about Jiu-Jitsu is that it feels like breathing. I love movement and have always been a very physical person. I thought I was a very odd child growing up because I had the tendency to always want to be climbing on people or wrestling with them. I love how Jiu-Jitsu makes me feel like I am being the absolute truest version of myself. I enjoy the amount of control I can have and how I have the ability to change a situation I am in. I don’t know any other sport or activity that allows me to feel that way.

How has Jiu Jitsu changed you as a person?
Jiu-Jitsu has allowed me to take claim of my confidence. I was a doormat before martial arts came into my life, but it wasn’t until Jiu-Jitsu that I realized that I can have more control over my life. I had always been afraid to step into leadership roles, despite having a strong will and drive to lead. Jiu-Jitsu helped me to find my backbone and voice. I am not perfect. I am flawed, made plenty of mistakes, and have also hurt people. I am human. I used to be crushed by the negative events of my past, but Jiu-Jitsu helped me to overcome these things. Even today I still struggle, but because Jiu-Jitsu has helped me to reveal who I know myself to be, every day I know I am getting closer and closer to be the kind of person I want to be.

What did your family think when you first started? What about now?
I think they found it amusing, but didn’t really think I would take it as seriously as I have. I know my Mom didn’t understand Jiu-Jitsu, but she knew I wasn’t getting punched or kicked so she was ok with me doing it. It was hard for them to accept that Jiu-Jitsu was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life in the beginning. It was very unconventional. They were always worried about my well-being. Now, they see that it is possible to succeed and make a living from Jiu-Jitsu. It is not easy, but it makes me incredibly happy and they see that. They see that Jiu-Jitsu is my calling. It’s more than just being talented and being a successful athlete. They see how it has changed me as a person and they see how it has given me direction. It still may be odd for them to explain to other people what I do for a living, but I know they are completely proud and supportive.

What do you think makes a good Jiu Jitsu player, good?
Perseverance. Natural talent and athleticism is great and having a mind attuned for technique and details is valuable, but they are nothing if not paired with good work ethic and deep, internal drive to succeed. All of today’s best athletes have that. Despite natural ability and attributes, they are always doing more. They study techniques. They condition their body. They train their mental game. When faced with adversity and challenges, they overcome.

How did you get into Jiu Jitsu?
I was first introduced to Jiu-Jitsu in 2006 through my Muay Thai instructor, Dan Black, but I actually didn’t start training until October 2007. When Dan first showed me Jiu-Jitsu, it was no-gi and he showed me how to do a triangle, armbar, and a kimura, but it didn’t really make sense to me. I thought that maybe Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t for me. A year later, my team mate at the time, VIrgil Ortigas, convinced me to try Jiu-Jitsu again, but with the gi. I fell in love instantly.

What was that first day like for you?
Amazing! I just remember being so excited to learn. Everything from front rolls and hip escapes to scissors sweeps and omo platas were so exhilarating. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Since I was already a familiar face at the gym because of me training Muay Thai, I felt like the guys weren’t so concerned about having to act or treat me differently because I was a girl. They knew I was an athlete with a competitor mindset, so I felt accepted right away. It was an incredible feeling.

Do you still do Muay Thai? Or is your time focused on Jiu Jitsu these days?All of my focus is on Jiu-Jitsu. Muay Thai will always have a place in my heart, but Jiu-Jitsu has really become the love of my life.

What kind of hardships have you had while training?
When I first started training, I was in school, had to work internships, and also had a job. Despite always being busy, I made time to train and compete. I have also always struggled with depression and anxiety and although Jiu-Jitsu has helped tremendously with these conditions, I still have times when it feels completely out of my control and it makes it hard for me to function “normally”. I have had plenty injuries as well. Ribs popping out, IT band syndrome, whiplash, pinched nerves, hyper-extended and dislocated joints, and plenty of sprains. Luckily, I haven’t had any serious injuries requiring surgery (knock on wood), but any time I have had to take weeks off training, have always been very difficult for me to handle. Jiu-Jitsu is my medication for many of life’s ailments, so time away from training is always more emotionally painful than it is physically painful.

What's an average week of training for you look like when you're about to compete? What about the "off" season?
When I am training for a competition, I am training 4-5 times a day, 5 days a week. This includes strength and conditioning and competition specific classes. I don’t really have an “off” season because there are always tournaments to compete in, but when things do slow down, I can go from 4-5 training sessions to 2-3 and the intensity will also go down.

When you train 4-5 times a day, is it all Jiu Jitsu or do you supplement it with other activities?I add in weightlifting to help add on the extra weight and have also added wrestling as well. I take my rest days seriously, but if I feel the itch to move around, which I always do, I like to go to the park and slackline or go for a short hike.

When you compete do you have to change your diet up, or do you keep a pretty steady and healthy diet all around?
I don’t change my diet too much when it comes to competition time. I already eat pretty healthy, but I do have the luxury to eat whatever I like. When it comes time to compete I usually just clean up what I eat. I’ll make smarter choices and give myself a day in the week where I can have a cheat meal if making weight is a concern. I have always competed at Feather (129 lbs) so I haven’t had to really worry about making weight, but next year I may go down to Light Feather (118 lbs) for certain tournaments and in that case, my diet will clean up a lot more.

When you compete what goes through your mind as you step on the mats?
The mat is my home. Being in the spotlight is where I feel the most comfortable. I am only in control of myself and I believe that I am capable of achieving anything. Will I win or lose? I don’t know, but I do know I am prepared to fight to the best of my ability.

What are some of your favorite memories competing?
I have had a few matches where I was able to pull off the win in the last seconds of the match. It’s not like I look to create a dramatic moment, but I just remember feeling so alive and invigorated during those matches. Being at the edge of a loss and turning it around for the win. I can’t really describe the feeling other than just having a huge burst of pride and personal validation.

What sponsors do you have?
My main sponsors are CTRL Industries and FighterTech Supplements.

How did you get sponsored by CTRL?
I was contacted by Blayne Barlow, owner of CTRL Industries, when I was a Purple belt in 2011. I had been producing great results in competition and since I was living in AZ at the time, seemed to be a good fit as a representative for the company. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity and support they have given me since then and I am proud to represent them.

What are your goals until the end of 2013? What about some early goals for 2014?
I want to finish 2013 strong, so that means competing at No-Gi Worlds. I also started refereeing for the IBJJF and I really want to become good at that as well, so I want to get in as much experience as I can by the end of the year and I want to continue to on next year as well. I'll also be heading the women's program at Caio Terra's academy, Institute of Martial Arts, starting in November, so I really look forward to growing the women's team and contributing to the academy. For 2014, I plan on going down to light feather for the first time at Pans and Worlds. Even though I've been getting good results at feather, I'd like to see what I can accomplish at a lighter weight. 

Is there anyone you want to send a shout out/thank you to?
I really would like to thank my sponsors Blayne and Laurinda Barlow of CTRL Industries and Ilan Heller and Leandro Massaro of FighterTech. They have been incredibly supportive on and off the mats and not only with my personal athletic career, but with my all female open mat project, Inspire. Of course, I'd like to thank my parents for all of their love and support. My dreams and goals are pretty unconventional for my family, but I am so thankful that they can see my vision and follow me through it. Special thanks to Bryant Pangelinan for the early morning training and strength and conditioning coaching, Dr. Casey Strand for the chiro and helping me keep my body in one piece for all the hard training, and Milton Bastos for helping me with my wrestling. Big thank you to Caio Terra for re-taking me under his wing, all his hospitality, and welcoming me into his team/family. Thank you to Samir Chantre, Osvaldo Quexinho, and Flavio Meier for the World class training and instruction. I am thankful for my new family at Institute of Martial Arts and for all my instructors, training partners, and team mates, old and new, for being such incredible forces in my life. The last thank you goes to all the people who have supported Inspire. As much as I love having my own personal goals and accomplishments as an athlete, Inspire is what I want to be my legacy and I am truly grateful for everyone who has seen my vision for women in Jiu-Jitsu and contributed their time and resources to make this vision a reality.

Thank you to Kristina for taking time to do this interview with me! I wish her the best of luck next weekend in her competition. I have no doubt she's going to continue doing some great things in this sport. If you eve get the chance to watch her compete, do so, she has some really good matches and is exciting to watch. She really does live a Jiu Jitsu lifestyle, I know I'm a tad jealous. (; Thank you for checking this out again, and be sure to check out next months Spotlight!

Oct 1, 2013

Seminar Review: Rener Gracie

Man, I'm just thankful I was able to make it to this seminar. I want to thank Craig Hanaumi for sending me an invite to this amazing event. It was a two day seminar with three focuses. The first day was about the triple threat guard, which I learned some awesome details. The second day part one was focused on arm locks from side control. And the last part was about leg locks. Which I got some really small and crucial details. I also stayed to help out with the kids "Bully Proof" seminar, which was really eye opening to see Rener have such a passion to teach. I can only hope one day I'll be half as good of a teacher as he is.

I was glad I was able to take notes each day because of the amount of knowledge this guy dropped. My mind was numb from trying to take in all the details. The really cool thing is that Rener offered to correct our notes if we emailed them to him. Which I thought was pretty legit. And no, you couldn't email him a blank piece of paper and ask him which details you missed. Haha

I really liked the way he taught. He was full of energy and passion the whole time. You could tell by the way he talked that he loves what he does. He could discuss how paint dries and he would find a way to make it interesting. He focused a lot on the small details that helped make each move successful. For the most part it was all pretty "basic" moves with a good explanation. A lot of the things he showed were off of Gracie University Blue Belt Stripe 1 & 2. Now let's get into the good stuff.

Day One:
This first part of the seminar was on a Friday night. I showed up early because I didn't want to deal with traffic and chance being late. A group of us helped set up the mats for everyone. We started a little after 7, and in total we had about 100 people there. It was awesome seeing so many people from all over the northwest. There was about 5 wrestling mats so we were able to spread out fairly easily. The focus was on the triple threat guard, which was more like the septuplet guard after he showed all the options for it. We started on how to break down your opponent in your guard various ways. He shared a concept of “Catch them while they are rebuilding the house.” So pretty much start attacking them while they try to posture back up. He then showed how to break some bicep control effectively. From there we learned the string of attacks and counters to the defenses.

1.      Breaking Posture (Multiple options)
2.      Breaking Bicep Control
3.      Whizzer to Cross Choke
4.      Counter to Cross Collar
5.      Cross Collar to Arm bar
6.      Arm bar Defense Counter
7.      Arm bar to Triangle
8.      Cross Collar Variation
9.      Whizzer to Omoplata
10.  Counter to Omoplata Defense

Sounds pretty basic right? Well if you can string all these together, it’s a wonderful combination. It would take a while to string them fluently but, with some good drilling it wouldn’t be too hard to add a couple of these attacks to the arsenal. The details Rener gave helped on my knowledge already. He quoted Ryron in saying “Every move works, and every move sucks.” What he meant by that was that no move is perfect. There will always be a counter or a defense to a move, so by learning them in combinations you’ll have better luck catching someone. After the seminar we took some pictures with him and talked among ourselves for a bit. I headed home because I had an early morning drive to get to day two of the seminar.

Day Two:
I don’t even get up for work as early as I did to make it on time to this seminar haha. I got there on time but had a huge fiasco with my belt and car, so I started about 10 minutes late. I hadn’t missed too much thankfully. My friend Chris was there to help fill me in on what I had missed. The first part of day two focused on arm locks, which I always enjoy, who doesn’t? There was a good 70-90 of us again drilling all the moves. A lot of the moves started from knee on belly and moving to side control. He called the control position the rat trap, which was the first I had heard of it.

1.      Knee on Belly to Side Control
2.      KOB to SC to  Rat Trap
3.      Rat Trap to Shoulder Drive to Americana
4.      Americana Tips
5.      Rat Trap to Pulling Opponent up and Spinning to Arm bar
6.      Rat Trap to Shin in Arm Control
7.      Shin Control Variation
8.      Shin Control to Kimura
9.      Kimura Defense Counter
10.  Kimura to Arm bar

All of the moves string together very smoothly just like the previous night. I do a lot of kimuras and the way he presented it will help me land even more. (: While he taught all of us he said some really cool things that stuck out to me. He was talking about the breaking a grip on this quote… “It’s not because I’m stronger, it’s just that you’re weaker that way.” It stuck out because as a smaller guy I don’t get to muscle a lot of people, so I have to rely on technique when breaking grips as most things. For me it makes me want to find weaknesses rather than trying to get stronger/muscle my way through things. He also said that if you were to roll with him and he were to catch you in one of these moves it’s because you hadn’t failed as many times as he has. I can’t even imagine how many times he’s drilled these positions. The next part of the seminar took place after about a 30 minute break.

This part of the seminar was focused towards leg locks. Beautiful. I love leg locks, I just wish I was better at them. Which after the stuff Rener showed it has. In the first class after the seminar I had landed a couple of the set ups, which made me happy. These moves were a little more technical than the earlier seminars. We started with a basic ankle lock, he gave some pretty unique details, and then we moved on to toe holds.

1.      Ankle Lock Details
2.      Basic Ankle Lock
3.      Ankle Lock to Belly Down
4.      Open Guard Top Ankle Lock Set Up
5.      Butterfly to Ankle Lock
6.      Butterfly to Toe Hold
7.      Top Guard Kneeling to Toe Hold
8.      Top Guard Standing to Toe Hold
9.      The Daddy Dragon Roll (Standing to Diving Toe Hold)
10.  Toe Hold Defenses

Now these didn’t all tie in as much as the others but they sure helped my game. They were pretty advanced, which I’m okay with. Even though Toe Holds are not legal for purple belts and under, my academy allows our purple and higher allowed to practice the moves. When showing some of ankle locks he did mention not to “reap the knee” cause if you’re doing sport Jiu Jitsu you’ll get DQ’d. Which with some of the moves there was a lot of rolling and twisting so it was easier to have it happen. After we were done with this part of the seminar there was about an hour and a half break before the Bully Proof seminar.

The kid’s seminar was amazing. Seeing the passion and the way he taught the kids was really something special. He was able to keep the kids happy and engaged the whole time, which isn’t an easy thing to do! The Bully Proof was for the ages of 6-12 before showing off anything he talked and asked questions about bullying to the kids. After that he then showed a ton of awesome and basic moves that the kids were able to pick up. After each technique he made the kids practice with the other kids while the adults helped out. He showed them:

1.      How to Talk to a Bully
2.      Dodge to Takedown to Mount
3.      Mount Control
4.      Side Mount Control
5.      Knee on Belly Control
6.      Guard Control/Defense
7.      How to Stop Bully From Hitting Another Kid

By the end the kids were able to perform the techniques really well and were engaged the whole time. At the end we all played Cops N’ Robbers, haha which was crazy amounts of running around. He made teaching the kids look like an easy thing to do. It was really something to see, talked with a few of the adults who stayed and agreed it was easily one of the best things over the weekend.

Overall, if you get a chance to learn from Rener Gracie, don’t miss out. You will gain so much knowledge and skill from it. He said spending two hours straight on one area will do wonders for your game. Two hours together compared to two hours separately makes a huge difference in your progression. I agree, I feel much more comfortable in all the positions we covered, especially the foot locks. If you do happen to go to a seminar, TAKE NOTES. They are invaluable when you cover so much. I know this was lengthy but, thank you for reading.

Also again thanks to Craig for throwing the event together and thank you to Rener for coming and sharing his knowledge.