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!

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.


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.


Posted: August 7, 2013 in Training

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.