#264 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the Information Security Community with Jeremiah Grossman & Chris Hoff; Sitting Down with Slideyfoot!

RSA Conference Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Jeremiah Grossman (top row, third from left) and Chris Hoff (top row, fifth from left) at their annual BJJ Smackdown, held at the RSA Conference. The one and only Kurt Osiander is found between the two.

Who doesn’t dream of a day when golf is replaced by Brazilian jiu-jitsu as the default way to hobnob with business associates? Two of our guests today have been working hard in that direction for years in the information security community. Chris Hoff and Jeremiah Grossman are leaders in their field and make a point of setting up open mat training sessions at the important infosec conferences they attend. We’ll hear how these two security practitioners think about jiu-jitsu as a form of self defense versus a sport, and also ponder if Brazilian jiu-jitsu can be considered the ultimate hacking of martial arts.

Our second conversation is with the one and only Slideyfoot! Slidey’s been one of the premier Brazilian jiu-jitsu bloggers from the United Kingdom for some time. When we heard he’d be in San Diego, we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to train together and talk jiu-jitsu. While his blog is popular perhaps his most enduring contribution is his work combining charity and – you guessed it – Brazilian jiu-jitsu. His efforts there can be found at grapplethon.org, and are highly recommended.

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#263 “The Gracies and the Birth of Vale Tudo” Movie

gracie jiu-jitsu
A photo of the Gracies circa 1962 from the family archive, donated by Angela Gracie to the film.

All of us in the jiu-jitsu community know bits and snippets of the story of the family who brought us jiu-jitsu. That knowledge is likely related to how close one’s instructor is to the Gracie family. Due to the Gracie clan’s large size and understandable biases of our sources, it’s unlikely any of us have a very comprehensive picture of the family history. Most of the answers to our questions about the very large and complicated Gracie family and jiu-jitsu’s history are unclear.

Whenever content appears that might resolve some of those questions, the BJJ family around the world gets very excited. The last time we spoke with Victor Cesar Bota was in 2009 and the New York City-based film-maker was preparing to debut a film called “The Gracies and the Birth of Vale Tudo” at a film festival in Rio.

Since then much time has passed. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu community has continued to hope that the film would one day become available. We recently learned that work is finally nearing completion on Bota’s film and brought him on today’s episode of the FightWorks Podcast to give an update on a project that will unquestionably make a big impression on jiu-jitsu lovers everywhere.

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#262 Metamoris Promoter Robert Zeps and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Promotion Research

Metamoris organizers Robert Zeps and Ralek Gracie
Roger Gracie (white gi) fends off his aggressor Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida in the October 14 debut of Metamoris. Image courtesy Metamoris.

On Sunday the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world experienced the first-ever Metamoris jiu-jitsu event. Judging by feedback on social media and in the blogosphere, the event was a success. The format of pitting specially-invited renowned BJJ athletes against each other in submission only matches consisting of one twenty minute round was proven to entertain and fans are wondering when the next event will be. As The FightWorks Podcast spoke with Metamoris organizer Ralek Gracie prior to the event, we felt it only fitting to invite the event’s other promoter Robert Zeps to join us and talk about their evaluation of the evening and learn what’s next.

Metamoris organizers Robert Zeps and Ralek Gracie
Metamoris organizers Robert Zeps (left) and Ralek Gracie. Image courtesy Metamoris.

Also in this episode we continue the FightWorks Podcast tradition of encouraging academic inquiry into Brazilian jiu-jitsu, our beloved addiction. We’ll round out the episode with a conversation with Chris Kavanagh, an Oxford University researcher and BJJ blue belt. Kavanagh needs our help, Mighty 600,000 in gathering data about BJJ belt ceremonies (also known as belt grading, also known as belt promotions, also known as graduação in Brazilian Portuguese). Please help further knowledge about BJJ by participating in his survey, which is found at BJJSurveys.com.

brazilian jiu-jitsu belt ceremony
Are there any rituals that take place at your BJJ school when new belts are awarded? Image courtesy scottonthenet.

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The FightWorks Podcast: Alright family, we are on the line with Robert Zeps, one of the promoters of Metamoris Pro which took place last Sunday. I don’t think too many people need an introduction to what Metamoris is but it was an invite only event with 12 competitors. There were six matches of submission only grappling – most of which were in the gi – and twenty minute time limits. I think most of us know that and have seen the results online. But suffice to say it was a big event in the jiu-jitsu community, and we’re very excited to speak with Robert about it. How are you Robert?

Robert Zeps: I’m very well Caleb, thank you for having me on.

The FightWorks Podcast: It’s out pleasure. I thought we have an obligation to introduce you a little bit more formally to the world out there of Brazilian jiu-jitsu because based on what we’ve seen so far you may have an impact on things and it’d be nice go get to know you a little bit. What I thought we would do is give you a chance to reintroduce yourself to our audience here so tell us about Robert Zeps.

Robert Zeps: Yeah no problem Caleb. Like I said at the press conference (I think it was placed online), I’m English and I came to America in 1995 and I started training jiu-jitsu just about 5 years ago. It was something that came to me later, and I wish it was something I’d started earlier like most people at my age. I started training with Nelson Monteiro in San Diego. As I was training with him I reached out to the Gracie Academy which is in Torrance, and not too far from my house, and I started meeting a lot of fun people and talking a lot about jiu-jitsu. And it became a real hobby of mine. It started taking up a lot of my time. And as I was doing that I started thinking about what [jiu-jitsu matches] I’d like to see. I managed to sit down with Ralek Gracie a few times and we discussed, “what is it that people really want to see in jiu-jitsu? Do we want to just go to high schools and watch some of the top professionals wander around looking for bottles of water, or do we want to do something that would treat these athletes like the stars that they are, and also treat the fans to something a little more exciting and interesting?” And with not a lot else more interesting on our plates to be honest with you Caleb I decided this could be a real fun event we could put together and if enough people got excited, we’d keep doing it. So that’s what happened.

The FightWorks Podcast: You mentioned that you’ve been a martial artist for a long time. What got you into martial arts way back in the day?

Robert Zeps: [laughs] It’s a funny story. I think I was about fifteen years old and the fourteen year old sister of a friend of mine at school wanted to go and start some full contact karate in the area, in England. She wouldn’t do it without somebody going with her. I was the guy who decided I’d be the good guy and go along with her. I kept on doing it, and she quit after about two weeks. I kept going and I think I got my first black belt in 1986, if that doesn’t age me too much! That was in full contact karate. It started out there. I met some other people training and I got involved in aikido, Japanese jiu-jitsu, some goju-ryu karate, and I was doing that in England. I continued to do [martial arts] when I came to America. I continued training aikido, goju-ryu karate. Of course like everybody else, I watched the UFC in 1993 and was blown away. It just took me far too long to get involved in jiu-jitsu. I was still teaching in the U.S. some aikido as well just for fun and training down there in San Diego with real top level guys. It was just a joy. But the jiu-jitsu really grabbed me. And it grabbed me for one reason and I’ll tell you while we’re talking about it briefly. What took me with jiu-jitsu was how cerebral the whole thing was. It wasn’t just about force. It wasn’t just about who is the toughest guy. It really was something you could think on, in tough, tough situations. I think most people, particularly guys like me over forty, know what that feels like. You know what it feels like to be in a fight and you can actually genuinely think through what you’re going to do and who’s next. That honestly doesn’t happen too often in a lot of the older Japanese-style martial arts.

The FightWorks Podcast: I think a lot of our audience would agree with you on that. There are a bunch of great reasons to be in jiu-jitsu but that is one of them. Some of us have this superiority complex about Brazilian jiu-jitsu sometimes, myself included. It’s not necessarily legitimate, but we have this, I have this conception that a lot of people who did other martial arts when they come to Brazilian jiu-jitsu they stop doing the others. Is that what happened with you? Talk about that.

Robert Zeps: Yes I think the funny part for me was there’s generally a misunderstanding about the traditional martial arts, particularly arts like aikido and judo even, and traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu. I think people understood the history and where these things came from. I’m not talking about Brazilian jiu-jitsu guys. I’m talking about guys who were actually studying Japanese martial arts. A lot of these arts were formed around training with weapons, training with armor, and I think a lot of that is lost on people training today. There are instructors like Kazuo Chiba in San Diego, who was my aikido instructor who taught a very realistic form of aikido that was taken directly from training under Jigoro Kano. These guys were animals in all sorts of Japanese martial arts. They weren’t practicing them for the self-defense in any way, shape, or form. They really were just moving meditation. And too many people training in it because it was physical that somehow they were doing something that was self-defense oriented. We all convinced ourselves up until UFC 1 that somehow these arts were actually legitimate. I think what happened in UFC 1 was that we demonstrated that frankly in a modern era a lot of the things that were practiced and done were simply not practical. I don’t know if it’s just a personal feeling of mine but I really do believe that Brazilian jiu-jitsu had to come from somewhere like Brazil, a place where there is significantly less attention paid to the respect that goes on between elders and juniors in the Japanese culture. And the idea that somebody walking on the beach and kicking sand in someone’s face in a speedo and ended up rolling around the beach is not something that happens, or could conceivable happen in a Japanese culture. I think it’s interesting to note that though the Japanese have clearly their training and continue to train, it really takes a cultural difference to modify martial arts sometimes and I think that’s what happened with Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The FightWorks Podcast: So you’re saying it’s an American phenomenon – not North American, but a “new world” phenomenon where some of those vestiges of the past were not present and allowed people to just make something new up along the way.

Robert Zeps: Absolutely, I think you evolve your martial arts to the context and the culture that you’re in. If you’re fighting and rolling around in speedos, that’s quite distinct from rolling around in full samurai garb. Clearly you can’t fight both ways the same. Equally you couldn’t do well in the dark ages using Brazilian jiu-jitsu against a guy on a horse with a mace. It simply wouldn’t have been practical. So it had to be modified, you have to evolve. I think Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a modern evolution of martial arts.

The FightWorks Podcast: Let’s come back to the present a little bit. Tell us a little bit more about yourself then I want to jump into Metamoris. You said you’ve been training with Nelson Monteiro and Ralek. Three rapid fire questions for you: what belt are you, what’s your favorite submission, and do you prefer gi or no-gi?

Robert Zeps: [laughs] This may get confusing. I have a purple belt with three stripes from Nelson. I have a blue belt with one stripe from the Gracie Academy. But I think that guys understand that they have a very different program up there right now where their stripes are now being tested on an entirely different curriculum. I think that’s something people should explore at the Gracie University if you have an interest. I actually enjoy gi and no-gi. I train a couple of times a week with a friend of mine Steve Gable. He’s a professional MMA fighter and a Gracie Barra black belt. We go through some basic no-gi training with punches just for fun and I enjoy it very much. But I can’t say I have a preference. I do enjoy them both. What was the third question?

The FightWorks Podcast: Which is your favorite submission?

Robert Zeps: [laughs] My favorite submission? You know I don’t know if I even have one right now. I think one of my favorite submission right now and only because it gets done to me: Nelson has this way of submitting me without choking me or arm-barring me where he just squeezes me tight from the top mount, and I tap.

The FightWorks Podcast: [laughs]

Robert Zeps: And I say it’s my favorite because it’s so unbelievably tight, and it’s not painful, it genuinely squeezes the life out of you and you want to give in. I find that very few people can do that, I’m sure. Nelson is amazing at that. I can’t do that to anybody. But I say it’s my favorite submission because when he does it to me I’m laughing aloud.

The FightWorks Podcast: While we’re on the topic of Nelson Monteiro, we’ve talked with him before on our show. He’s proven to be a character who appears once in a while in the big, big, big stage of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He had a relationship with Sheikh Tahnoon, who brought us the ADCCs, and now he’s connected with you, who are an integral part in bringing us Metamoris. What’s the likelihood of that happening twice? It’s pretty unlikely.

Robert Zeps: It is unlikely and Nelson’s told me the full story of Sheikh Tahnoon and that story is quite unbelievable, every step of it. It’s an amazing story. I don’t think people have respect for or understand where ADCC came from and some of the sacrifices that Nelson had to make to make that happen. You know, taking his wife and his daughter to Abu Dhabi without really understanding what on earth it was this guy wanted. So he really did build something quite amazing out of that. The chances of that happening twice? He is quite an individual. I think he’s one of the early architects of American jiu-jitsu. He’s one of the first people out here, way back, pre-Gracie Barra.

The FightWorks Podcast: Let’s talk about Metamoris. I know you’ve been very busy since the event on Sunday. What is the most common question you’ve been asked by the media since the event ended?

Robert Zeps: It has to be, “is there going to be another one?” And the answer is yes, there’s absolutely going to be another one. No question about it. We obviously want to do our homework and make sure we learn from everything on that last event and make sure that we can improve it in every way possible. We understood that some people had issues with the live stream. We’re trying to figure out whether that was [due to] local issues or something on our end. We had people in Afghanistan who were streaming it no problem, people in Australia with no problem, and people in London with no problem. And then again we had people in Southern California who had issues. I don’t know what technical issues they were having, We would love to make sure that those issues go away and never happen again. As for the event itself, I couldn’t have been happier. The fights went off every which way I wanted them to. I was absolutely ecstatic after every single fight. I enjoyed every single one. I didn’t see one that bothered me in any shape or form. It really couldn’t have gone better for me. I was over the moon with what happened that evening with regard to the fights. And indeed I thought the camera work was terrific. I thought Rener Gracie and Sean Peake were amazing on the commentary. I thought that really added to it. I went home that night Caleb and I watched the entire stream. I think I started at about 1 o’clock in the morning and I watched the whole thing. I was really pleased with what happened. So yes, I want to do another one.

The FightWorks Podcast: I do remember during the event after each match I would look over from the press gallery where we were and see your reaction and you had a very big smile on your face every time. I noticed you looking over at Ralek and you looked very pleased.

Robert Zeps: Very much so. My wife hasn’t seen me that happy in a long, long time. She really enjoyed watching how much fun I was getting out of it too. It was a real enjoyable night for me.

The FightWorks Podcast: What was your favorite match of the night? I know it’s hard to chose but I’m going to ask you to try.

Robert Zeps: [laughs] I have thought about that because somebody’s asked me that before. I really enjoyed what Caio [Terra] and Jeff [Glover] did. I thought what they put on was a display of jiu-jitsu. Not just technical jiu-jitsu but the playfulness they had. Showing people that you could get playful but at the same time when it got real, it was very real. I thought that match was absolutely beautiful to watch. It really was. I can’t say enough about Rafael Lovato [Jr.] too. I thought his submission was the purest, most absolutely beautiful jiu-jitsu I’ve ever seen. In an environment like this I thought that was incredible. Dean [Lister] and Xande [Ribeiro] had my heart pumping from the moment they walked on the stage. I did not know where that was going to go. To see Dean with his arm fully extended was out of control. And of course Roger [Gracie] versus Buchecha was amazing to me. I understand that a few weeks before the fight that Roger was suffering a bit. The week before he showed me he had a real bad infection and he really shouldn’t have probably taken the fight to be quite honest with you. But that’s the kind of guy that he is. He took it. And taking nothing away from Buchecha, he really put on the performance of the night. So if I had to say who I enjoyed the most, it was probably Buchecha because I really think he’s amazing. He really is. To come up and fight someone like Roger Gracie, who is your hero as a child, and do as well as he did, I was delighted to watch him.

The FightWorks Podcast: A lot of the attention after the event has been focused on the match between Ryron [Gracie] and Andre Galvao. Do you have any thoughts on that? It sounds like if there was controversy that night, it was in that match.

Robert Zeps: That’s a funny thing. I did read all the blogs about it, and obviously I was present during the comments both on the mat and at the press conference. I would definitely say that neither of them when they were speaking about what happened were particularly articulate about what their position really was. My opinion was, and I knew this going into the fight, and it was why we picked this fight, that we really wanted to take two very distinct styles of jiu-jitsu. Andre Galvao, everybody knows what he’s like. He’s aggressive, attack attack attack individual, and I knew going in that Ryron was very much the opposite style. And we discussed the idea of “let’s create a blank canvas for the fighters and let them express themselves however they want, and maybe one will come out on top and one won’t come out on top”. In many ways, it’s like comparing different types of art. You can try and compare cubism and impressionism and you can’t come up with a conclusion about which one is better. Nobody would ever suggest that one’s better than the other, and I think that night we demonstrated that Andre was very much on the attack, and Ryron was very much on the defensive but I think that was his choice. That was his style. I enjoyed every minute of it and actually Saulo [Ribeiro] came up to me after the fight and said that was his favorite fight of the night. I think people need to take a step back from the comments being made and say, “look, you watched some really good jiu-jitsu between both Ryron and Andre, who obviously we all have the utmost respect for. I thought it was a terrific fight and I thought we learned a lot from it. Obviously everybody would love to see a submission and we didn’t see a submission but you know what? Sometimes there are no submissions in jiu-jitsu. And that’s okay! I think people need to learn that that’s okay.

The FightWorks Podcast: Looking forward… I’m not sure Metamoris has a physical office anywhere, and not that it needs to, but let’s imagine that you guys were around the desk in the conference room Monday morning with some coffee and stuff, what conversation took place, if any after the dust had settled [from the event the day before]? What was that conversation like?

Robert Zeps: It’s funny because Ralek and I just met not three or four hours ago at the Gracie Academy on one of the mats in one of the private rooms. So we would roll for twenty minutes not full on, just on and off, practicing some things, we’d go after each other then we’d stop to chat about the event, then we’d fight again. So a little fun along the way. We talked about a lot of different things. We talked about all the different possibilities. Obviously we are still going to want to do a masters event. We need to get Nelson [Monteiro] and Jean Jacques [Machado] together. We were really disappointed that Nelson got injured but we’d love to see them get together and they want to. We’d love to see fights between two ladies too. I think everyone would like to see someone like a Rhonda Rousey come in and fight someone of her weight in the jiu-jitsu community, whether it’s Kyra Gracie or someone equally matched up with her. I think that could be a terrific fight. We talked about some of the other competitors that called and said they’d love to do the event. Obviously we have people like Marcelo Garcia, Rodolfo Vieira, Leo Nogueira. This list of top, top level jiu-jitsu is pretty good still. The question is “how do you put those guys together?” I think that for the fights we had in ours, the fights were well-matched and in the next event we’d like to get a lot of well-matched fights again that people would take an interest in and want to see, to step back and view them on the canvas to express their jiu-jitsu in an unconfined manner in the way that we saw it on Sunday. We sat and talked about those things and we’re going to go out tonight and we’re going to talk some more.

The FightWorks Podcast: There are a couple of things that I think would be good to express to the audience because not everybody was in the press conference or may have heard in the meantime but in terms of things you might do differently next time, I noticed in the press conference that you made an explicit point of saying “we did not intentionally schedule this event on the same day as the Abu Dhabi [submission grappling] qualifiers in San Diego”. I just wanted to make that explicit for you.

Robert Zeps: Yeah, and I think Caleb that that’s a problem we’re going to have no matter what. Whenever we try and put an event together I can almost guarantee there’s going to be another event on the same day or the same weekend. There’s so many jiu-jitsu events going on these days. When we originally picked the day, I think we originally had picked the week before that, and there was some scheduling issue that week so we moved it to the following Sunday and we weren’t even aware of the ADCC trials at that time. It’s not that we didn’t know they were happening, but we didn’t know they were on that date. Once [our] date was picked, once we’d signed with the university to get the San Diego State Arena it’s very difficult to start messing around with venues and production company availability. So we weren’t overjoyed about having it on the same day as ADCC but sometimes that’s just going to happen.

The FightWorks Podcast: I think there are those in the community who are guardedly ecstatic about Metamoris. I think there are folks who have been around a while and are familiar with things like Rickson Gracie’s Budo Challenge back in 2005, and the Professional Submission League put on an event or two in 2007 I believe. And they have a lot in common with Metamoris. The problem with those is that we don’t hear from them anymore. I think the concern is, “how excited should we get?” Are we going to be disappointed if in the end [Metamoris] was just a one or two time thing? I think people are concerned about sustainability. I guess that’s you guys’ challenge right, is to make sure that it works.

Robert Zeps: That’s absolutely right. We’re challenged to make sure there’s sponsors to support the event and to make sure that the fans support the event. They did a great job on the live stream. We had a lot of support there, which was terrific. Obviously I look to expand that. I think we’re in a slightly different time as well, Caleb. I really do believe that jiu-jitsu has evolved a fair amount and I think the world has evolved in terms of access to content. I think the availability to live stream is becoming easier, and simpler, and cheaper. I think that makes it more likely that people will put events on. I think that the television companies like the Fuels and MTV2s are looking for this kind of content too, which I don’t think they were five years ago. So I’m hoping that we can convert some of the excitement that we have in Metamors into legitimate commercial excitement as well and I actually do have some signals that that is indeed the case. It’s my job to make sure that I can manage that strategically and I will commit to the fans that that is what I will be doing in the next year and two years: making sure that we can really make this happen. I really want to see this happen. It’s not just about financials for me. This is something that I’m enjoying doing. It makes me feel really good to know that people are excited about it. I would implore the fans to look at the fights and say, “Enjoy it, educate yourselves on the fights, educate yourselves about jiu-jitsu”. The more education you have about jiu-jitsu the more you’re going to enjoy the fights, quite frankly. Move away from trying to look at the fights as trying to see a winner and a loser. At the end of the day for me it was all about, “can we see a beautiful exhibition of jiu-jitsu?”, and I think we did. I’m not too worried about who submitted who. I think we all enjoy that but that’s less of a consequence to me than making sure that we’re putting on a great show. As a promoter I want to make sure that people enjoy it. We want to expand the demographic to people who maybe don’t understand what’s going on in a jiu-jitsu match. [We’ll] hopefully educate them and expand this great, great sport in America.

The FightWorks Podcast: Any last words before we let you go?

Robert Zeps: No, but thank you Caleb for your support. It’s been terrific. I can honestly tell you, this is not all about money for me. This is about jiu-jitsu. I know people hear that from a lot of promoters, but I can promise you from the bath I took on the first event that this is about jiu-jitsu, not about money. So there will be a second one for sure.

#261: Ralek Gracie Introduces Metamoris Pro

Metamoris Pro BJJ event

Earlier this summer rumors began circulating in the community that an event was going to take place right here in San Diego and would include Roger Gracie against “Buchecha”! Could it be? The match is what jiu-jitsu enthusiasts have fantasized about since Buchecha appeared on the scene and dethroned other top challengers like Rodolfo Vieira! Other names like Galvao, Glover, Kron, Ryron, and more were whispered but not loudly as if even speaking them at normal volume might somehow magically jinx such a line up from coming to pass!

The rumors were true! In August we came to learn that an event called Metamoris will take place at San Diego State University on October 14th at 3pm. What’s more, it’s a submission only event with a 20 minute time limit! Currently the list of matches for the event is:

In today’s episode of The FightWorks Podcast we sit down with Rorion Gracie’s third son Ralek Gracie, who is one of the event organizers and an instructor at the Gracie Academy in Los Angeles. We also learn that the price for tickets at the event in San Diego ranges from $35 to more than $300. The event will be streamed live online. An official price for that is still forthcoming but Ralek promises it will be reasonable and in line with what the community is accustomed to paying for live jiu-jitsu online.

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#260 BJJ in the Olympics with GracieMag Editor-in-Chief Luca Atalla

Luca Atalla
Luca Atalla showing a jiu-jitsu move in 2008.

In the same way you cannot turn on the news right now without hearing about the 2012 Olympics, if you follow Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the internet you will find someone on Facebook or a jiu-jitsu forum who has created some sort of petition to get jiu-jitsu in the Olympics. Is this realistic?

In the past, 36% of you have said “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (perhaps named without the word ‘Brazilian’) will someday be its own Olympic sport”, and 67% of you said that it would be a good thing if BJJ were an Olympic sport. People get even more excited when they recall that in 2016, the Olympics will be in the birthplace of jiu-jitsu, Rio de Janeiro.

Over the years, several observers have commented at greater length on whether BJJ could or should be an Olympic sport:

These commenters unanimously agree that jiu-jitsu will not be in the Olympics anytime soon, if ever.

We decided it might be interesting to get the perspective of someone who is a long-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert in all senses of the word, and invited the editor in chief of GracieMag, Luca Atalla. In this week’s show we bring you the conversation we had when we visited the Gracie Barra black belt’s Southern California home. His opinion may not be what you expected!

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#259 Tap Cancer Out; BudoVideos’ This Week in BJJ

Tap Cancer Out BJJ Tournament
Image courtesy Tap Cancer Out.

Like many of us, Jon Thomas has been hooked on Brazilian jiu-jitsu since stepping foot on the mats the first time. Also like many of us, people he cares about have suffered greatly from cancer. What’s unique about Jon is that he has decided to do combine his passion for jiu-jitsu with his desire to end cancer by creating a non-profit BJJ organization to raise funds to fight the disease.

jiu jitsu brown belt
Radhames Familia Jr. wins his brown belt match at the inaugural Tap Cancer Out tournament in April 2012.

Today on our show we hear the story of Tap Cancer Out from Jon, a purple belt in BJJ. The organization recently held its very first tournament in April and was able to raise more than $22,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Even if this 501(c)(3) stopped tomorrow its contribution would be impressive, but according to Jon, Tap Cancer Out is just getting started!

We also hear this week from Budo Jake, CEO of Budo Videos. Budo Videos has recently begun producing a weekly jiu-jitsu video show called This Week in BJJ. The first-of-its-kind offering is recorded at their Los Angeles headquarters and features BJJ stars like Romulo Barral, the Mendes brothers (Gui & Rafael), and Bill “The Grill” Cooper. Like the FightWorks Podcast, you can download the show in iTunes. But what’s even cooler is that you can watch it filmed live on Fridays and interact with the hosts and guests via online chat! What a great time to be a BJJ fan! Jake shares all the details about the show in our conversation this week.

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This week in BJJ

#258: Jacare Cavalcanti Talks Alliance Gold at the 2012 Worlds, Rorion Gracie on the Gracie Diet, and Jiu-Jitsu in Russia

Romero Jacare Cavalanti Fabio Gurgel Alliance
“Jacare” Cavalcanti & Fabio Gurgel with the 1rst place team trophy at the 2008 BJJ Mundials.

The 2012 International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation held its annual World Championship last weekend and the results are no surprise: Alliance Jiu-Jitsu won the team gold medal! Alliance has worked hard to earn and maintain first place every year since 2007! We begin our show this week with a conversation with Alliance leader Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti, reviewing the specifics of their performance at the Mundials. Jacare acknowledges that they will someday lose the team trophy but that he and his other Alliance leaders like Fabio Gurgel and Alexandre Paiva are working hard to postpone that outcome as long as possible.

Gracie jiu jitsu
Rorion Gracie in the new Gracie Academy’s Beverly Hills location.

Our next conversation is with Helio Gracie‘s eldest son, Rorion. Many of us have heard of the Gracie Diet, but did you know that Rorion considers the diet even more important than jiu-jitsu? That’s right. According to Rorion:

If I had to choose between the jiu-jitsu that I know and my diet I would choose the diet over the jiu-jitsu. I don’t need to be the toughest guy in the world, and be able to choke everybody else, and then have a heart attack at 50. Who needs it, you know what I mean? Your health is absolutely the most important thing you have going for yourself.

Those are strong words indeed coming from the man who created the UFC!

This time of year there are still many in Southern California from countries across the globe who have come for last weekend’s IBJJF World Championships. Our final conversation is with a character encountered at open mat on Monday night, Daud Adaev, who hails from Moscow. We do not often hear about jiu-jitsu in Russia and Daud, the only brown belt in all of the country, was kind enough to tell us about the growth of jiu-jitsu in his country. As masters of chess and renowned grapplers, Russia is fertile territory for jiu-jitsu and we can expect some elite practitioners to grow there soon.

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Gracie jiu jitsu in Russia
The Russian doll and the red star in the background of this jiu-jitsu gi patch from Russia!


The FightWorks Podcast: Family, we are on the line now with a familiar voice to our audience on The FightWorks Podcast. We are talking with ” Jacare” Cavalcanti of Alliance. Jacare, how are you?

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Oh, very well man, very happy because we just achieved another world championship, so I am very, very happy.

The FightWorks Podcast: I knew the answer to the question already (laughs). Jacare the last time Alliance did not win the Mundial was in 2007. Am I correct?

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Yes, yes, yes. We won for the last five editions.

The FightWorks Podcast: You guys must be very proud.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Oh yes, we work very hard. We have high expectations when we go to the Mundials because that’s our main focus. Of course, we focus on the other tournaments but the Mundial is the jewel of the crown, and it’s when everybody prepares very well. We try to have our best guys ready to compete and thank God, we did it again. We won with a good margin of points from the second place.

The FightWorks Podcast: I think you guys had 97 points and the second place was Gracie Barra with 66 points.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Yes, well it was a little closer this year. Of course Gracie Barra came with their main guys. They are doing a very good job and I know Carlos is not happy to be in second place. They won the European this year. They have been really, really trying to get back on top.

The FightWorks Podcast: I think the last time you guys lost was in 2007 to Gracie Barra, as you said. Last year Gracie Barra didn’t even get a trophy in the team standings so for them to be second place this year is a big improvement.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Yeah, it’s a big improvement. I know they have all the main instructors in California, and they did a camp over there just like we do all over. I think they did a good job. I’m always happy to see other teams like Nova Uniao back on their roots again. They won the Brazilian Championship this year and they have a lot of people competing at the Mundials. Also, the other young teams: CheckMat did a pretty good job. You know, Buchecha and all those guys did very well. Atos did a pretty good job for a small team. These teams I think are improving. It’s one more reason for us to work even harder to maintain our position as number one.

The FightWorks Podcast: There are many special athletes and teams out there right now and I do want to talk a little bit more about them in a moment. From Alliance this year, you guys have so many big names and stars. Is there anybody in particular, anybody’s performance that especially impressed you this year?

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Well I think all the guys competed really, really well. In the black belt, the division that everybody pays most attention, I think Malfacine fought brilliantly. He had a wonderful tournament and won for the fifth time. I think Cobrinha fought brilliantly too. I think last year he lost to Rafa Mendes and he lost bad because he got submitted. But he was able to reinvent himself, train hard, to study Rafa Mendes a little bit more. Of course he fought a very tactical match and if it was not for the warning he had in the beginning for pulling guard without touching the gi, he would have won. It proves that he belongs there. It’s not like there are monsters: Rafa is a brilliant competitor but I think Cobrinha’s on the same level. There is no doubt. Lucas Lepri fought very well. He lost by one advantage to Leandro Lo, who obviously is a very, very good competitor. Also Bernardo [Faria] fought a very good tournament. Leo Nogueira fought exceptionally well, and [in] losing to Buchecha in the last fifteen seconds he made a little mistake because we told him to just be very careful with the takedowns. It was the only way Buchecha could have won. But Buchecha was shining, and he really deserved to win. Nothing wrong about that. But I think Leonardo fought brilliantly. He fought very well. I think in general our guys fought very well. All the divisions they fought well. In general I am very, very happy with the performance of all our guys.

The FightWorks Podcast: You mentioned some competitors from other teams. From the outside, as a spectator, people have been commenting that one of the themes of this year was new faces. It feels like there’s a lot more tougher people who we don’t know much about.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Yes absolutely. Jiu-jitsu is always renovating. I think we had very good competitors in different belts and I think more and more every year we are going to have surprises. Of course, the veterans fought very well. I was very impressed with Xande Ribeiro’s performance. He fought brilliantly. Pe de Pano was phenomenal. His match against Buchecha was like one of the best matches I ever saw. Not to mention other performances from the ladies, all the performances from lower belts like brown belts, and purple belts. Even in blue belts I saw some good matches. I think it was a very good tournament. I just think that the novice divisions shouldn’t be in the same tournament of the World Championship. I think they should have that on a different day because it makes the tournament just too long. I think they could maybe cut the white belts from competing at the same tournament, and just have the blue belts and up competing at the Mundial. All in all I was very happy with the IBJJF improving the tournament. The podium now that they have in front of everybody was an improvement. The decoration of the tournament was an improvement. The refs dressing up on Sunday was an improvement and I think little by little we’re going to get our sport on top of the world.

The FightWorks Podcast: As we mentioned, it’s been a very long time since Alliance was really threatened from winning the first place. 2007 was the last time you did not win. Do you guys ever worry that you’re going to lose any time soon? Because at some point that’s the question: “Who can beat Alliance?”, and for the last several years [the answer] is nobody.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Well that’s a good question. And that’s a good challenge. It’s good to have that type of pressure on top of us. And you could see across the whole tournament me, Fabio [Gurgel] and Alexandre [Paiva] working diligently to have our guys competing and trying to give them support. Whether they win or lose we are always there for them giving the support, and instructions. We work very hard. We work every day. We have instructors courses going on. We go all over the world teaching seminars. We are trying to organize. Now we have the Alliance Instructionals together with Marcelo Garcia as a tool for our guys and we have these open to everybody to learn because I think one day we’re going to lose. But of course this sport, it changes all the time. But we always try to do our best to maintain the hegemony to stay on top. Regardless of what is going to happen in the future, we’re always going to be a team that has very, very strong competitors, very well organized. At all of our schools we teach very well with a lot of passion and love. That’s what it is.

The FightWorks Podcast: It would seem like the team to win the gold medal for the adult division is not necessarily a group of tough guys because there is a lot of teams with tough guys and girls. But it’s an indicator of an organization.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Yes, absolutely, it’s an indicator of organization, it’s an indicator of hard work. We work all year. As soon as the tournament was over I was already on the mats the next day teaching my guys and analyzing some of the guys’ performance, encouraging the guys that didn’t do so well to train harder. And I don’t only pay attention to the competitors. I pay attention to all the other guys that train at the school. We try to help the kids, I’m teaching the small kids there three times a week now. I am teaching the fundamentals program when I have a chance to get with the other instructors. It’s a lot of love, man, it’s a lot of work, and I think me, Fabio Gurgel, and Alexandre share the same passion for the sport since we started to build the Jacare school in Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro.

The FightWorks Podcast: Excellent. I don’t think there’s too much more to say, Jacare. It’s probable that this time next year we’re going to have a similar conversation.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Oh yes, I hope so. And I hope you’re going to ask me what the secret to winning again was! That’s what I’m going to be praying for. I’ll be working hard all year in 2012 and 2013 in order to go back to California and step on top of the podium again.

The FightWorks Podcast: Well win or lose we look forward to seeing all your guys and girls on the mats again. It’s always a great time for everybody involved, so thank you, Jacare.

Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti: Thank you very much again for the opportunity, for the wonderful work that you guys do helping the sport, and helping all the jiu-jitsu competitors in general. It’s a pleasure always to talk with you Caleb.

#257 Red Belt BJJ Documentary from Rio and the Top Five Most Underappreciated Legends

BJJ movie red belt

Know the name Hywel Teague? If you don’t, you should. Hywel (pronounced “how-ell”) records some of the most popular Brazilian jiu-jitsu videos out there for BJJ Hacks. This British journalist and wizard of BJJ media lives in Rio de Janeiro and is now taking on the biggest project of his life: a full length documentary about the rarest breed of jiu-jitsu practitioners, red belts. His effort, called Redbelts: Grandmasters of BJJ is underway right now.

Pound for pound, there’s probably no higher concentration of jiu-jitsu knowledge than in a single one of these men, so a movie featuring lots of them is really something to be excited about. A small donation to the project would go a long way in helping to bring this movie to our community.

Our second featured content this week comes to us courtesy of the great guys at DstryrSG.com. These gents have been putting out some of the BJJ blogosphere’s most popular work for several years now, and they’ve come on our humble BJJ radio show to help spread the word about five (okay five-ish!) individuals whose contributions they consider underrated in jiu-jitsu. A worthy topic and the first of more conversations with these chaps, I am sure.

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destroyer bjj site

#256 Keenan Cornelius, Michael Liera, and Brian Morizi

BJJ athlete Keenan Cornelius
Keenan Cornelius (blue gi) of Team Lloyd Irvin

It is probably true that the majority of purple and brown belt athletes out there have priorities in life that come before their Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Woe to those poor recreational, non-black belt jiu-jitsu competitors who happen upon one of our interviewees in today’s show.

Today we begin our featured interviews with Keenan Cornelius (Team Lloyd Irvin), followed by a conversation with Michael Liera Jr. and Brian Morizi who both compete under the Atos Jiu-Jitsu flag. Keenan and Michael are purple belts and Brian was promoted to brown belt last week (congrats!).

Over the course of the past 12 months each name has carved a path through their divisions in industrial-strength jiu-jitsu competitions like the Europeans, the Pans, and World Pro Jiu-Jitsu. Double golds are not uncommon.

Points to ponder after listening to this show:

  • Are you excited to train harder for competition or do you now want to throw in the towel?
  • What in the world is going to happen when these guys reach black belt?!?

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BJJ athletes Michael Liera and Brian Morizi
Atos Jiu-Jitsu’s Michael Liera and Brian Morizi

#255 Ryan Hall Uses Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a Restaurant Against Drunk Aggressor

This week a video appeared on Youtube depicting an encounter between Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Ryan Hall and a larger, aggressive, possibly drunk man at a restaurant in New Jersey after a Grappler’s Quest BJJ tournament in December. The video has been viewed over 165,000 times in the few days it’s been online and depicts the use of BJJ as a tool to protect oneself with the least amount of force necessary.

In episode 255 of our humble BJJ internet radio show, we speak with Ryan Hall and discuss the step-by-step thought process that went through his head as he chose to use BJJ to defend himself and others around him in the restaurant. During the brief moments of action that occurred, Hall took the belligerent man down with a double leg take down and mounted him until the man was momentarily pacified. Later, when the man returned to instigate more against Hall and his friends, Hall ended up safely putting the man to sleep to prevent him from doing harm to himself or others in the restaurant. At that point the police arrived and took control of the situation.

Hall also discusses the notion that training BJJ for competition affects one’s ability to use jiu-jitsu in a self defense situation, which is a common discussion topic on BJJ forums across the web.

…I absolutely wasn’t compelled to throw an omoplata on the guy… take Rafael Mendes and you put him in that same situation. He’s not going to berimbolo the guy! He doesn’t need to berimbolo the guy.

Many thanks to Kenny Savercool for allowing us to borrow some audio from the video and embed it in today’s show!

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Ryan Hall Tanquinho
Ryan Hall (white gi) against Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes at the 2011 BJJ World Championship.