My path to BJJ Black Belt

Posted: March 26, 2014 in Training

Growing up, I was a chunky, non-athletic bookworm that got bullied daily about the size of my ears to the shape of my head. I spent many times on the losing end of numerous childhood scraps. My mom never really liked combat arts but yielded when the bullying started to go from bad to worse. I was enrolled into a local Taekwondo school where I proceeded to train everyday; at one point, playing High School basketball, training, and collapsing day in and day out. Eventually, I made the decision to opt for Basketball because my goal was to play in college some day.

Fast forward to 1993. Out of High School and entering college, my first exposure to BJJ was watching Royce Gracie and the first UFCs. A far cry from what it is today, that UFC imprinted a simple question on me…what would happen if a TKD fighter were attacked by a guy like this. The other Karate Kids in the room and I discussed it all; always ending up that a powerful punch would negate any form of attack (just like we were taught in training). We postulated that since we could break boards, we could shatter ribs. Therefore, our style was better (traditional martial arts thinking)

Fast forward to 1999…I get my first degree TKD black belt and start teaching soon after. BJJ was not even a thought. Afterall, I was a TKD Black Belt. In comes 2002…I get a second degree TKD black belt. Still no thought as to if any grappler caught my leg what would happen.

Then it changes, just like that. As I’m teaching TKD and half way through my 2nd degree black belt, I was also being used as a training dummy for my buddy and student that started BJJ. Getting dominated by his rudimentary skills at the time, and feeling the power of a choke, and the pain of the arm bar lead my down this road. TKD was not going to survive against a ground attack. So I did what any other cash strapped instructor does (at least I think), I train with my friend wherever I can (at times in just a carpeted room). I buy more books than I can ever read. I buy a judo gi and start trying to figure this out. I did what I thought was right, even when now I know it was dead wrong. I wanted to train…although I didn’t have the disposable income nor the time away from teaching TKD to do so.

Eventually I checked out a few schools. None called to me until I made a call to Mrkulic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I called the instructor sir and everything. Told him I wanted to train. Wanted to respectfully meet him and see his school. So I go to Bloomfield and I see this long space with just mats and some other stuff. I meet this really unassuming guy who was really chill…not knowing who this guy, Mike, really was. I talk to him, say I’m coming back, and come for my first intro class……..where…….

I get smashed harder than I EVER have been smashed by everyone, including a WORLD CLASS GRAPPLER AND INSTRUCTOR named Mike Mrkulic.

After class, he asks how I liked it and I told him I did. He proceeds to explain how (in his words) “he is lazy..and how he wants the maximum result with the least amount of effort.” Perplexed I still sign up. Coming from a strict TKD background, this concept was nuts. And, I came back. Day after Day, Class after Class, Choke and Lock after Choke and Lock, I realized that BJJ was calling me back. The mats at Mrkulic BJJ were calling me everyday. It crossed over into my TKD training (so much so that my instructor belittled me for learning something so violent). There came a time when I had to choose. In late 2008-early 2009, I left TKD…I didn’t leave BJJ. As a matter of fact, I had been increasing my BJJ training time, competed on a small-scale (I wasnt great but who cared)…I started helping out at the academy and eventually was teaching a couple of classes. I told Mike that I would want to teach BJJ one day…he took me under his wing and mentored me to do so.

Years later, I see what a positive effect Mike Mrkulic and MBJJ has had on me. Having taken that first step and countless more, I always just wanted to make my academy proud. I have flown the flag of MBJJ any chance I got. Anyone that knows me would think I have no other clothes than something the Mrkulic logo somewhere on it. I now own my own academy and I still teach the way I was taught. I still teach the kids at MBJJ, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. When you own your own place, time away from your home academy is inevitable…I did not want that for myself.

Now I look back and see what Mike Mrkulic has done for me..he has supported, mentored, and pushed me. He inspired me to get better everyday. He called it how it was, never bullshitted me for a second. He taught me a lifestyle that calls to me everyday. He coached me and trusted me. He became the big brother I needed to get to the next level of my life.

Then I look back at my MBJJ family…to many to list here…and they welcomed me. They trained with me. They helped me develop. They trusted me as I trusted them. I went there when all was sour, saw my MBJJ family, got smashed or did the smashing, and felt better when I left. I have been arm locked, choked to sleep, heel hooked, triangled, by them all. And, because of them, I have learned to be tougher than I ever thought possible. The students at MBJJ gave me what any person wants…a place to belong.

I thank God, that I was able to make the choice to learn from Mike Mrkulic and MBJJ. Without that choice, I don’t know where I’d be. I know that I wouldn’t be here writing this. I can never thank them enough for the positive changes in my life that have come from knowing them and training with them. I want to make them proud of me. And, I want my academy to do for people what Mike and MBJJ has done for me.

And, all I set out to do was to learn takedown and ground-and-pound defense in case a bigger stronger person got me on the floor…go figure how that turned out!

People will pay for…..

Posted: October 2, 2013 in Training

It was said to me years ago that people will pay for what they want. In business, whether service-based or product-based, people will pay for what they want. The question that we the small businesses, large companies, and mega-corps will ALL have to ask is what do these people (AKA the customer) want. Each industry has an overlap between service and product. Diesel Training Grounds is a service based company. Our product is expertise in Martial Arts, Athletic Development, and General Fitness; we GET PEOPLE IN SHAPE. We are service-based since we are relationship based. The student, athlete, client, customer, member is a person; that person deserves a good relationship with us as well.

Without going into specifics, one fitness equipment manufacturer turned us off to them because of their poor customer service. It’s a shame really since ALL the equipment here is from that manufacturer. I had an issue with some dumbbells and the  service agent on the other side was condescending, rude, and downright UNPROFESSIONAL. She forgot or doesn’t know that product and service overlap…I feel bad for here clients; she also said she was a personal trainer. EVEN if she could not help…she should have realized that it’s not necessarily what is said, it’s how.

The 2nd company is a delivery service. While customer service was better, delivery was not. It’s a shame since we have been using this company almost a year. There had been several missed deliveries. I could deal with that; reschedule them. The issue here is that when I had asked for delivery, a time was not set, and….AND…they delivery person left the product on the sidewalk, blocking my door. Hmm, martial arts school at street level, no other entrances, no foyers, nothing to prevent the theft or tampering of the product I provide during class. Again, service and product overlap disregarded.

Both companies have lost my business. Too bad, I am a creature of habit and will opt for the familiar until pushed otherwise. In business for almost 4 years; I have learned that people just want a professional (whatever is customary in said industry), relationship driven, and valuable service and/or product. Those 3 components surely will guarantee repeat business, referrals, and fiscal success in the long run.

Why?

Posted: August 14, 2013 in Training

Good Afternoon Everyone,

This morning, I had the pleasure of spending some extra time with my wife and son. Those times are few and far between; which makes them the most enjoyable times when I get them. During that time, admittedly, I picked up my phone and thumbed through the usual….Emails, Texts, Facebook, etc…and came across an awesome post on titled “Why I train BJJ” authored by Inner BJJ. Now I normally take everything I read with a grain of salt…years of the fitness industry can do that to a person (that’s another post though). However, this post explained the inexplicable. This post said all the things that I could never quite verbalize. This post said it all.

I took up BJJ as a Tae Kwon Do supplement. I saw the glaring holes in a “striking only” background. MMA didn’t inspire me; self-defense did. BJJ was to be the perfect complement to my self-defense arsenal; since, we all now know that TKD now is not the TKD of old. Regardless, I chose to open my mind and body to a completely different training protocol and culture. Efficiency over strength, smartness over speed, and calmness over an irritating ki-hop (also know as a spirit yell). No need to be subservient to a higher rank; rather, be a person learning the intricacies from the more experienced. What a relief…

I, however, could never truly state what was in my heart. So I tell my wife today about this and she proceeds to tell me that I am still cranky. I can still be short. I can still be argumentative…even though I train BJJ. I told her “Well, if I didn’t, I’d probably be worse”. She said whatever. I say I’m human…and that is where the conversation ended; well, kind of…my son ended up side mounting me and did his best bongo playing rendition ever by an almost 1-year-old.

Regardless, I now know why I train…without BJJ, I would never be able to admit my character flaws because I would be too busy trying to cover them up. Now, I can at least admit to my flaws and try to work on them, because like in BJJ, you can’t BS your training and hide flaws.

You’ll only stop learning and growing when you stop going……That sounds like death to me!

Why do you train??

Calorie vs. Calorie

Posted: August 8, 2013 in Training

What weighs more? A ton of feathers or a ton of bricks? I’m certain you have heard this before. Most people know that they are both equal. When it comes to food though, that concept goes out the window. The fitness and nutrition industry go hand in hand. 80-90% is nutrition and 10-20% is exercise. I use these extreme numbers because no amount of exercise can EVER undo bad eating. So how do we fix this? How do we determine what calories are the best for us and our goals? What macros do we use? What’s the daily nutrient balance so that we don’t starve and die in dehydrated state of weakness?

Step 1: Relax

Step 2: Know this…

  • calories determine weight loss or gain
  • macros (protein, fats, & carbs) determine performance, body composition

Step 3: Read & Re-read Step 2; then read Step 4

Step 4: This is how it works.

No matter if you have the perfect macro-nutrient profile, if you still take in more that what you need, body will grow or store excess calories as fat…period. No matter if you have the worst macro-nutrient profile, if you meet your base energy needs (aka BMR) but are still less that your required intake for Daily Caloric Expense (aka DCE), you will lose weight….period. One will be better for overall health and performance, the other just for weight loss (READ: THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE ONLY)

Having a balanced macro profile is better in the long run because the nutrient balance is better for health and performance. Typically, our diets are unbalanced; too much of some things and not enough of others. By balancing the macro nutrient profile, you can essentially balance your energy for the day; which, in turn affects daily performance. This can be termed performance or balanced eating.

If you could care less about performance and health, you can still lose the weight according to the scale by eating less. This is portion control. Hell, you can even lose weight without exercise; just realize that the gap between BMR and DCE is rather small. This is why you can eat more when you exercise; you burn more calories and NEED the added dose of calories. Be aware that this gap is also relative to frequency and intensity of exercise. Just because you ZUMBA 7 days-a-week doesn’t mean you can take in an extra 1000 calories in a protein based smoothie with peanut butter per day.

Here is the simple formula (assuming intake is enough to cover base metabolic rate):

If calories > daily caloric expense = weight gain

If calories < daily caloric expense = weight loss

If calories = daily caloric expense = no change

That is simplicity at its best!! Feel Free to post any questions or comments.

Confused…

Posted: August 7, 2013 in Training
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Hi All,

I have a confession; I haven’t been inspired to write in quite a while. Until now, my main focus has been the daily operations of Diesel Training Grounds, our students, competition, training, etc… This blog was sort of a place where I could place my thoughts about the industry, what we do differently at Diesel Training Grounds, and perhaps offer a word of advice to any of the readers.

I have also taken the time to study more about this industry, the workings of it, the pitfalls, the successes. This is where I got motivated to write again. You see, above all else, we need to see the purpose of what we as trainers, coaches, or instructors do for our clients, athletes, or students. Our job is to clarify confusion with expertise. Our job is to provide the game-plan and foundation to success for those that we are charged with. The client, athlete, or student IS a direct reflection of the trainer’s, coach’s, or instructor’s work.

Over the past year or so, I have become concerned with how this takes place in this industry. I have had people bring me videos of training sessions taken in other gyms, spoken to people about trainer’s behaviors, and the like. I have seen via these clips how juvenile this industry could be. And, that does not bode well for the profession.

There are several great trainers and studios in this field; some that I even subscribe to their methods as well. There are great newsletters and websites that further supports our endeavors in fitness. We as professionals should be creating an air of expertise whether we’re in a globo-gym, mom & pop, or studio. We as professionals cannot allow the fad-ish and inept training that goes on to damage our solid professional reputations that we have built with education, experience, and hard work.

As business owners, we cannot and should not tolerate inadequate training or behavior. As owners, quality control should precede the $ since they’re both related. Better quality = Better $. It’s truly a simple formula. You need to stay on top of how your training (if your flying solo) or your team performs. There can be no room for texting on the training floor, no room for lack of accountability, no room for all the things that make this industry…juvenile. And, if that is what you see in your staff? Let them go and find a new job.

We need to ensure this industry continues to grow; Our livelihood depends on it.

Why we don’t train fighters…

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Training

Seems that with the boom of Mixed Martial Arts that every martial arts school, gym, studio, etc. has become some form of MMA. That’s cool by me; we all need to evolve and train differently to maintain our edge in business or personal life. This thought actually came to me while discussing our programs with a potential student. The conversation geared towards his experience in the cage, where he boxed, what his grappling experience was, and so on. This is where he said that he wants to train to be a fighter. Great! I say, though we don’t train fighters here; we train athletes that fight. And so he gives me the ever common, perplexed, “WTF?!?” look….and I tell him, we don’t train fighters, we train athletes who fight. Below is an over-simplified description of what I feel a fighter is:

A fighter:

  • is a generic term for combat athletes
  • does what he/she needs to do to survive
  • is driven by sheer determination and will
  • is willing to suffer if he/she must 
  • is willing to die if he/she has to
  • most importantly, it’s a mindset.

This is something I cannot teach another human being. As a coach, I can ONLY equip my student with the necessary weapons to compete. Being a fighter has a certain set of intangibles that the student must develop through their own inspiration. I am not saying that combat sports athletes are not fighters; quite the contrary. To perform at such a high level, a combat sports athlete needs to have this mentality. Whether the most or least successful competitor, preparing for the fight and actually showing up ready to face another skilled opponent demonstrates the “fighter” mentality that one needs to participate in combat. Point blank…I respect all combat athletes regardless of wins or losses.

What I am saying, is that entrusting someone else to teach you what you need to find within yourself is a recipe for disaster. That leads to inflated promises from the coach (it is a business you know) and diminishes the most important component of the fighter’s mindset…internal drive. No one can teach you what needs to be inside. The most successful competitors endure that which the others don’t. The most successful competitors make great personal sacrifice in their quest for what drives them. The most successful competitors reach deep within the recesses of their own psyche to find the will to continue.

Anyone can come to Diesel Training Grounds and learn how to strike, grapple, and compete. Anyone can come in and train to improve performance. Anyone can break through personal or preconceived restrictions here. What I never say is that I train fighters;  I train athletes who fight.

Any thoughts would be welcome….

 

Since When???

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Training
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Anyone that knows Diesel Training Grounds knows one thing; we ARE dedicated to making our members fitter, stronger, more functional, leaner, or whatever our members have come to us for. That being said, all of us who step into a gym, strength & conditioning facility, speed and agility classes, etc. all have a single common thread.

WE ARE ALL BODYBUILDING

That’s right, we are all bodybuilding. Every time we step into the gym, we are bodybuilding. Bodybuilding in its purest sense is NOT the competitive bodybuilding we see. That is only a part of it. As bodybuilders, we strive to make ourselves stronger, fitter, healthier, or more functional than the day before. As bodybuilders, we seek to enhance what we were genetically, physiologically, and psychologically given.

WE ARE ALL BODYBUILDERS

This brings me to my point. I have enjoyed the parody commercials laid out by Planet Fitness. I find them to be humorous at best. Watching more of them though has led me to ask…since when has being fit, athletic, aesthetically pleasing, well conditioned, or good-looking wrong. By their standards, anybody that is a “bodybuilder” is a lunk.

AND, that means you…..

  • the person that works out 5-7x per week to keep losing the weight
  • the athlete that needs to find their performance edge
  • the 50+ year olds that can squat, deadlift, and bench their own weight on a bar
  • the “hard gainer” that wants to muscle up because they will feel better about themselves
  • the person that is post-surgery trying to regain their quality of life

Yes, Planet Fitness is targeting you and labeling you a lunk.

Yes, Planet Fitness IS passing judgement on you (I thought they were judgement free)

This all comes from a company full of :

  • cardio equipment (hamsters on a wheel??)
  • purposefully choosing how much you SHOULD lift (anyone see anything above 60lb dumbbells there)
  • having free pizza whatever-day and free bagel whatever-night

Really?!? Since when has it been wrong to be fit and strong. Since when has it been wrong to have a muscular body? Since when is it wrong to eat right and train hard? Since when is it wrong to be able to meet or exceed what nature has given you?

I, for one, would be 170lbs at lightest or 300lbs at heaviest if I did not work out. I would be unable to move things by myself if I did not work out. I could NEVER train BJJ, MMA, or striking if I did not work out. I would not run my own strength & conditioning, speed & agility, BJJ & MMA business if I did not train. I’d never be able to coach high school and collegiate athletes from a position of authority if I did not train (the last 2 also means I would not be able to support my family…just sayin’)…

That is what a “bodybuilder” or “lunkhead” or whatever else Planet Fitness decides to label us can accomplish……a better quality of life and much success through hard work and discipline.

Stay Diesel my friends!