So I’m probably a little late on this one….but here it goes.

High Level, competitive black belts both have an opinion on what is the best way to get great in BJJ. Kit Dale championed the “No Drilling” concept; whereas Andre Galvao has a book titled “Drill to Win”. Both are accomplished Black Belt competitors; but which one works better?

Coming from a TMA (traditional martial arts) background, the answer was always do it 10,000 times. Having been a BJJ student for almost 9 years, the answer was always mat time (which always frustrated the living hell out of me). As time has gone on in my own training, I have found the answer that works for me.

  1. When learning a technique, I will drill the movement and concept repetitively. This includes mechanical drilling, visualization, research and review, etc.
  2. When looking to apply the technique or test its efficacy, I will generally test it against my training partners from lowest rank to highest. Generally, I will get a good idea when it works at a higher or lower percentage.
  3. When it works consistently and seamlessly, I incorporate into my rolling style. If it fails at any point, I reassess and return to repetitions until I can increase the success rate. If it fails miserably, I get rid of it.

So the formula is practically the same, I drill and I roll. Presumably, I the answer is both; though it’s not that simple.

When I roll, I pre-plan what I want to do. To test the efficacy, I up the level of intensity. I go after the position, submission, or sequence with reckless abandon and full commitment. If I lose the “battle”, I will defend as much to get me back to the a position where I can resume at full intensity. When I want to explore the concept behind it, I will lower the intensity some while hoping my partner is trying to kill me.

Essentially, I use all my rolling as a live drilling situation; when you break down a roll at the gym, it’s a live and open drill where anything can happen. The difference is the intensity at which one pursues the concept or movement.

This what has been working for me as of late. Who knows, it may change or remain the same. Either way, it all works!

Ask anyone that knows me about weight cutting and they will automatically tell you that I am NOT a fan. I am not talking about the last 5-10 pounds to make a certain division; I mean the extreme 15-20 pound cut. It is prevalent in most combat sports and there have been numerous articles regarding the problems of extreme weight cutting, science behind it, IVs, etc…

This post is just to describe what I did to make weight for the most recent competition which I had entered (unfortunately, I had no one in my division but that happens). I chose to compete after a 3 year or so layoff just because I wanted to. The last time I competed I weighed 220. I was heavy for my natural size but decided to forgo cutting to a more natural 200 or so. When I had competed in the past, I chose to enter closest to my natural weights at the time. I did not like how I felt at 220 so I vowed to not compete that heavy again.

After cutting back to a consistent 210 or so, I decided to register. I registered into the 195-207 division (rounding these due to the gi) and went to work. I trained as I usually do and watched my diet. I did nothing major really; I was able to eat normally through the last week of the tournament, a full meal the night before, AND breakfast, water, and snacks right before weigh ins.

The formula was simple:

  1. I drank a minimum of 3 liters of water per day; based on ratio of bodyweight to ounces per day
  2. I ate nutritionally dense foods that were lower in volume; I stayed full and energized
  3. I controlled portion size
  4. I trained

That was it. A week before my tournament I weighed in at 210…Labor Day. The Thursday prior I weighed 197 without the gi. The day of, I weighed 205 wearing my gi.

The most important part…I challenged myself to improve my performance and physical condition and succeeded. There was no need for any crazy pre-workouts, supplements, restrictions, or behaviors. Just good ole’ discipline and hard work.

What is the actual goal of a sparring session? This is what any martial arts practitioner or athlete should ask themselves during the training process. In most if not all martial arts, the higher ranking belts are not supposed to be “tapped” or gotten the better of in a training session. The lower belts are supposed to show deference and deal with being on the lower part of the totem pole. Unfortunately, this breeds an artificial perception of skills or lack thereof.

Lately, I have been training in such a manner that I will sharpen my “A” games with my training partners. Once I feel my “A” game is sufficiently sharpened on both the offensive and defensive areas, I will switch to my “B” game. My “B” game is positions I use infrequently or situational. Some days I choose my “C” game….dealing with all the crappy situations without getting submitted. And finally, my “D” game…or “Defcon” training. This is when I am in utter danger of being submitted from a multitude of angles and positions and I have to scratch and claw myself back into a safe position. Sometimes I escape and sometimes I tap.

This is I find to be the most successful formula regardless of rank. When you train from the worst of positions, they cease to be that scary position to be avoided; rather they become just another part of the puzzle to be figured out. As an instructor, it allows me to see the positions where others are constantly struggling and try to figure it out with the help of my training partners. As a student, I learn to defend and escape a situation that could present itself in training or competition. As a teammate, I try to bring my experiences to the rest of the team so I can enhance their skills as well. It’s a win-win for us all.

During today’s MMA class, we were drilling attacks and counters from the clinch. One of our teammates, Rick, was working with one of our newer teammates. In passing, I heard Rick say something about the “3 C’s”.

Cohesion- the learning of the movement or series. Better known as drilling.

Competition- the execution of techniques against resistance. Better known as live drilling, technical sparring, etc..

Combat- full execution against an opponent. Most commonly found in competitions or fighting.

Each has their place in the learning spectrum. All practitioners should spend most of their time in the cohesive stage in the beginning or while learning new skills. The other portion should be spent in the competition stage; sharpening techniques that have been learned in a cohesive manner.

Most, not all, will enter the combat stage. A practitioner should try to enter this stage at least once in their martial career. This is the crucible in which the reality of what we do manifests itself to us. As a combatant, you will learn more about yourself from the moment your decide, during your preparation, and on the date of an event.

When martial arts training is simplified with these in mind, it will become far easier to simplify the goal setting and learning processes and make the martial journey far more productive and enjoyable.

3 days ago marked the first year of me teaching and training as BJJ Black Belt. Through this year, I have come to see some familiar situations and some totally new. I can truly say that after my first year; I know less than I thought I did. Here are some of my experiences/opinions:

  1. There is no way to be good at it all. Some techniques are used frequently and some are situational. So even a black belt can forget a sweep or not account for newer defenses to old techniques. We are experienced not immune.
  2. While we train and compete; the trained response is what we face most. We should ALWAYS be looking for the solution to the untrained and unpredictable reactions.
  3. It is all Jiu Jitsu. “Keeping it Playful”, “Flow Rolling”, gi, no-gi….whatever and however you train, they are training modalities; not absolutes. You can vary your training to fit your needs and challenges so long as you train with a purpose.
  4. There is a difference between street and sport (this includes MMA as well). The advantages of training self-defense or sport Jiu Jitsu is the ability to practice against actual resistance. In street or sport, no one would just flop there anyway.
  5. Maintain integrity at all times. Jiu Jitsu instruction is a business; as such remember that the product is the improvement of your student/training partners. Belts, medals, pomp and circumstance need not apply.
  6. Your students (if you are the school owner, head coach, etc…) are your BEST daily training partners. They keep your game sharp because you are teaching them what works for you. As such you are opening yourself to them learning how to challenge your strategies and execution. There can be no better feeling when your student can defend your general strategy; it’ll force you to improve and create better ones…it’s called evolution and growth.
  7. Your Instructor, Professor, etc…are still EXTREMELY valuable resources. Confer with them frequently and at least try to work with them in private, classes, or seminars. At this level, a technical exchange occurs rather than an instructional one.
  8. Study on your own. Look at what others are doing. Just because you don’t play the Inverted Worm De La Riva Galaxy Iron Fist guard with the lapel doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be exposed to it nor explore the position.
  9. In contrast to playing the Inverted Worm De La Riva Galaxy Iron Fist guard with the lapel, remember that the simplicity of Jiu Jitsu is what makes it amazing. From the bottom…sweep, submit, or stand. From the top…attack and maintain control. Doesn’t matter what you strategy you use…those concepts will ring true either way.
  10. The day that learning and applying Jiu Jitsu is no longer important to you is the day a little part of your soul dies. Jiu Jitsu life is not something you do. It’s something that you are. Schools come and go. Training partners come and go. The lessons on and off the mats are the reason we train, sweat, compete, and bleed. Jiu Jitsu is a microcosm of how the daily grind is.

Sport vs Street

Posted: January 14, 2015 in Training

Lately, I have been reading articles on the efficacy of Sport BJJ and Street BJJ. Honestly, it’s a bit disheartening to see this rift. You see, I LOVE BJJ in its entirety. I love the innovative competitive techniques. I love the straight forward street lethal concepts. I love the friendships I have forged with fellow practitioners. I love the lifestyle that has been afforded to me and my family. Being said, I feel I should weigh in on the matter.


In sport, there is an established rule set that allows for fair and mutual combat. The great part of sport is that innovations are at the forefront of our beloved art. Where some may attempt to discredit techniques such as Berimbolos, Worm Guards, and Flying Walrus chokes…the truth is that they are the coolest aspects of the art. These competitive movements allow for the expansion and expression of our art. Yes…BJJ is as much of an art as it is a combat system.

In street however, the rule set is obvious…….NONE! Herein lies the techniques that allow you to survive a violent encounter. Herein is where the throw is a purposeful spike on an assailant’s noggin. Herein lies unadulterated aggression and attacks that would be considered “dirty” or “fouls” in competition. Herein lies the “either you or me…and today’s not your day mentality”. Yes…BJJ is much as a combat system as it is an art.

Therein lies the question…..what style do I want to take? Professor A says one thing and Professor Z says the opposite. Here’s the simplified answer….

  1. If you require self-defense? Go to a BJJ school that focuses more on self-defense and less on competition.
  2. If you require competition? Go to a BJJ school that focuses on competition.
  3. If you want both? Check out the local schools or clubs and see what suits your style, needs, and goals.

And my personal philosophy as an instructor and coach? I don’t teach what I don’t know. I will learn what I haven’t learned. I will steer the prospective student to where he or she will learn best. I will always be up-front about how and what I teach. For me, my reputation in this field is more important that padding my enrolments.

About Me: I’ve trained in the Martial Arts for 30 years. Have a 3rd Degree Black in TKD, been a BJJ Black Belt for almost 1 year (to date). I have a world-class instructor and have learned from and trained with some of the best in the world. I haven’t fought in a cage; though, I have worked and trained with pro and amateur fighters. Wasn’t the most accomplished competitor, though I look forward to going back in. I’ve probably won as many street fights as I’ve lost and at no time do I claim to be the be all/end all in the martial arts. Rather, I’m just a guy that teaches, train, and lives the lifestyle and has an appreciation for all aspects of BJJ.

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!