Why I Do Jiu-Jitsu

Joe Thomas

Everyone goes through periods of time in their jiu jitsu journey when they wonder “why am I even doing this?” It costs you $1,200 – $1,500 a year (or more) for gym fees and gear, you’re always sore, you don’t have a lot of time for other hobbies, etc. etc. It can leave you wondering if it’s worth all the effort and sacrifice. It doesn’t really matter what you’re pursuing, if it’s a difficult and long journey, and you can’t answer the question “why am I doing this?” you probably won’t see it through to the end.  I personally found myself at this crossroad two years ago when I was 48, and I didn’t immediately have an answer.

For many practitioners success on the competition stage is an answer to this question. I thought about that, (I have competed and find some satisfaction in it) but having the * “senior division” next to my results makes it somehow less satisfying to me. I considered that perhaps one day I could own and run my own school, but it seemed unlikely that getting my black belt in my mid 50’s and starting a school would be the best recipe for success. For some guys just being the toughest guy at their rank in their own school is reason enough to stick with it, and it might be for me too, but heading into my 50’s I don’t see that as likely to happen either.

I spent many months thinking about this question and my future on the mats. I started approaching the question from different angles and reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the times when I felt like the journey was worthwhile and I was “succeeding”. It occurred to me that I got as much satisfaction from the success of and progress of my teammates as my own. In fact, I one time spent an entire year purposefully giving up position and letting my training partners dictate the direction of our rolls, so that they could choose what they wanted to work on.  If I could see they were working to set up spider guard, I’d let them get grips and their feet in place before I started trying to pass – If they were top side control and I could see they were looking for mount, I’d make them work for it, but not fight to deny them the position at all costs – etc. The year I spent focusing on my training partners development wasn’t completely sacrificial – I did it in part so I would have a higher level of training partners to work with, but it helped me answer the question “why”.

I love to watch people grow as martial artists and as individuals and know that I played a part. My “why” is to be a mentor. That’s not the same as coaching and it’s certainly not instructing. Those might be good reasons for other people, but for me, contributing to the growth of my teammates in a more general way is what makes the journey worthwhile.

Do you want to see this journey through to the end? Do you want to get through the tough times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile? Find your “why”. I would speculate that the less your “why” is about specific results and the more it is about big picture personal growth type things the more effective it will be. If your answer to this question is “I want to win worlds at every belt” then a few losses and tough tournaments might just be enough to convince you to call it quits.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Visiting another school…. Getting the most out of a drop in

Anyone who has trained jiu jitsu for any length of time has probably had the itch to drop in at another school for a visit. Maybe you just want to meet new people, maybe you want to be exposed to a different training environment, or maybe you are just going to be out of town for an extended period of time and visiting another school will be your only opportunity to train. Whatever the reason, visiting another school can be a great experience. It can also be a little intimidating or overwhelming for some people. Whether you are excited about the opportunity or are a little nervous about it – here are a few tips that may help you get the most out of it.
1. Identify as many schools in the area that may be worth visiting. This will give you the best odds of finding one that will be a good fit for you. It sometimes takes multiple web searches to find all the schools in a given area. Sometimes, some schools will show on a search for “BJJ near…” and other schools in the same area will show for “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu near….”. It is also worth just asking around. If you know other people that do jiu jitsu and live in the area you are looking to visit shoot them a text and ask. Jiu Jitsu forums and message boards can also be helpful.
2. Do some research. You can find out a lot about a school by visiting their website, social media sites, checking reviews, and just asking around. You can get a pretty good idea about a school’s jiu jitsu style and the training environment by checking their website and social media and by asking a few questions on the phone or via email/messaging. This will help you find a school to visit that’s right for you.
3. Call ahead. Some information I try to get on a phone call: A) Is the class I’m interested in appropriate for my skill level and open to drop ins? B) What’s the drop-in fee? C) Are there any uniform requirements? Some gyms prefer white gis. D) Make sure I have the correct address and directions.
4. Go with an open mind. No matter how much research you do and how many questions you ask sometimes you show up at a school and find the class is nothing like what you were expecting. You can still have a positive experience and get a lot out of the class…. but this is unlikely to happen if you are not open to trying something new and doing things a different way.
5. Be humble. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone and most people don’t like a visitor coming in and trying to be king of the mat. Start off slow and loose during sparring. With each round as you get to know the group and they get to know you, you can ratchet it up a notch. I’d rather leave the class feeling like I didn’t do my best jiu jitsu than leave the class feeling like I wouldn’t be welcomed back.
6. Make some connections. Jiu Jitsu is largely about the journey and the friends you make. At a minimum, make a social media connection so you can follow them and keep in touch. If things went well and you felt like things really clicked, exchange contact information. You never know when you’ll be back in the area or when someone from that school might be in your area and you can get together again for some training.
7. Leave the school a good review online. It’s not easy building a team and running a business. Good reviews help. If they treated you well and you were able to get some quality training in, the least you can do is take five minutes to leave them a good review.
One final thought: The visit will be what you make. Some things are out of your control—the size of the school, how accomplished the instructor is, the skill level of the other students on the mat, etc. However, you do have control over your attitude, your effort level, your preparation before the visit, etc. Put as much effort into finding the right school and properly preparing for the class as you do once you get there and you will have an awesome visit.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Epi 164 A Study of 4 White Belt World Champions 2016

This week we interview four people who won IBJJF worlds as a white belt in 2016. The interviews are comprised of the same four questions that we hope give you some insite into why they are winning. This is a great way to find out how some people are finding competition success early on in their BJJ career.


Janine Mutton (20m 40s)- Middle From Action & Reaction Mixed Martial Arts Toronto. Janine started BJJ with no background in martial arts. She quickly found a passion for being on the mat and training hard.


Janine Mutton

Janine talks about:

  • Starting BJJ
  • Setting the goal of winning worlds
  • Competitions before the worlds
  • Making an eight week plan
  • Training 3 or 4 times a week to avoid over training
  • Positive self talk
  • Pressure passing with her body type
  • The take down game
  • Her favorite submissions
  • Her training schedule
  • Her background in body building and soccer
  • Doing squats and deadlifts
  • Advice for white belts

Maui Lacaze (39m 56s)- Light Feather From GF Team. You will find Maui training at MilleniumMaui was able to submit all his opponents at worlds.

Maui Lacaze

Maui Lacaze

Maui talks about:

  • Winning every match at worlds by submission
  • What BJJ is like in French Polynesia
  • Starting BJJ with his cousin
  • His game plan
  • His training schedule
  • Surfing
  • His plans for competing in the future
  • Getting his blue belt


Gabriela Lembcke (45m 40s)- Rooster From Alliance. You can find Gaby training at Snow MMA. She credits some of her early success to wrestling and having a great BJJ team. You can watch a video of Gaby’s match in the finals here.

Gabriela Lembcke

Gabriela Lembcke

  • What got her started in BJJ
  • Training at Snow MMA with Samuel Snow
  • Having confidence in her BJJ
  • Her favorite submissions
  • Her off the mat training
  • Her diet and having a nutritionist
  • Her background in wrestling in highschool
  • Advice for white belts that want to compete


George Mandujano (57m 15s)- Ultra Heavy From Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu. George trains at Ralph’s House Fight Gym


George Mandujano

  • What got him started in BJJ
  • Staying calm
  • Not working too hard for a submission
  • How he starts his matches
  • Playing a top game
  • His wrestling background
  • How playing football helped make him tough
  • His strategy while on the mat
  • His plans for the future
  • A recent match that resulted in a knee injury
  • His training schedule
  • Training with other gyms
  • Training with smaller teammates
  • Not being affraid to ask questions


Quote of the week: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. This will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” -Ernest Hemingway

Article of the week: Why Everyone Should Lift Heavy


If you are interested in supporting The BjjBrick Podcast find out how here (Now with a $.50 option) 

The BjjBrick Wall of Support is being constructed and you can help

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Mat Tales 11 “Not a Hero”

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Epi 159 Shades of Grey in BJJ

This week we are breaking down the topic of, when is something wrong to do? When is it okay? When is it in a grey area?


We talk about:

  • We break down the grey areas based on who you are and who you are training with
  • We set some Goals about safety, learning BJJ, and enjoyment
  • The rear naked tooth smash or cross face
  • Knee on belly
  • Twisting or grabbing fingers
  • Smashing someone with pressure
  • Cross face
  • Using your head to push on someone
  • Twisting someones head
  • Smothering someone with a hand over the mouth and nose, or other torso
  • Pulling on forehead or nose to get a choke from the back
  • Talking your way out of a submission
  • The too tired tap or quitting in a bad spot
  • The not clean grappler
  • Rolling with ringworm
  • Rolling with the flu
  • When to let go of the submission
  • Getting mad when you get tapped
  • Talking while rolling


Quote of the week: “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe” Marilyn vos Savant

Article of the week: 9 Things I Learned in my First Year of Jiu Jitsu

Mat Tales 7 The Triple Lindy


If you are interested in supporting The BjjBrick Podcast find out how here (Now with a $.50 option) 

The BjjBrick Wall of Support is being constructed and you can help

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Our APP That Will Help You Get Better At BJJ

BJJ APPSo you want to get better at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? We have an APP for that! Well, not really an APP for your phone or tablet. APP stands for Attitude, Plan, Practice- three of the biggest factors that will effect the quality of your Jiu-Jitsu development.

Attitude– Your attitude is a huge factor in your success. A positive attitude will help you get past the many hurdles you will have in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  A positive attitude will help you get back on the mat after a tough day of training.  Your teammates are more likely to help and coach you if you have a great attitude.  A humble attitude will keep you focused and motivated even after an accomplishment or milestone.

I recommend that you smile more, enjoy the training and make friends with your teammates.

Plan– Invest the time and energy to make a plan. Organized training is more effective than training moves and techniques randomly. Determine what areas of your game need to be worked on, and what areas of your game are already good but could be even better. Are the techniques you are good at complimentary of each other? Take time off of the mat to study the techniques you have selected in your plan. Your best techniques should work together, that way you can funnel your opponent to an area that you are very strong.

I recommend you get even better at your best technique, and it never hurts to add a few more ways to get to that technique.

Practice– Having a great attitude and a well thought out plan are excellent, but they will not get you very far if you don’t practice. Time on the mat cannot be substituted. If you are able to drill the techniques that you have in your plan you should do this. During the rolling phase of class it’s important to work your plan and not just go through random techniques on your training partner.

Make the most out of each time you step on the mat. Time with quality training partners on the mat is valuable.


Epi 100 How Has BJJ Benefited You?

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Episode 100We wanted to make episode 100 of The BjjBrick Podcast a special episode that included both listeners and past guests.  This episode is full of people sharing the ways that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has benefited their lives. You will hear stories about weight loss, friendships, healthy lifestyles, drug addiction, confidence, intellectual stimulation, stress relief, and more.

The goals we had in mind with this episode.

  • If you are already training, you keep training for the long run. Hopefully you can relate to some of the off the mat benefits that BJJ is giving you and stay motivated.
  • If you do not train BJJ we want you to recognize some of the many benefits of doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  After recognizing these benefits you do what is often one of the hardest things in BJJ, you start BJJ.

Budo Jake (7min)- Our interview with Jake is here.  Keep up with Jake on Facebook.

Stephen Whittier (13min)- Our interview with Stephen is here. Grapplers over 40 should check Stephen’s website.

Mike Bowser (17min)- Shares his story of incredible life saving weight loss.  You can find Mike training at Pacific Top Team of Corona.

Brian Marvin (21min)- Our interview with Brian is here. Train with Brian in Sugar Land, Tx.

Roli Delgado (22min)- Our interview with Roli is here. Train with Roli in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Blake (27min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast.

PJ Waicus (28min)- Our interview with PJ is here. Train with PJ at South Jersey Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy.

Samir Chantre (33min)- Our interview with Samir is here. Learn more about Samir on his website.

Mike (39min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast.

Matt Thornton (41min)- Our interview with Matt is here. Train with Matt at SBG.

Dewaine (43 min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast. He trains at Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy San Francisco.

Andrew Nerlich (51 min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast. He trains at Langes MMA in Sydney, Australia.

Jim (56 min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast.

Tim Sledd (58 min)- Our interview with Tim is here. Train with Tim at Small Ax BJJ.

Jason Goldstein (1h 6min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast. He is from Charleston South Carolina.

Brian Freeman (1h 11min)- Our interview with Brian is here.  Connect with Brian on his Facebook page.

John Connors (1h 13min)- Our interview with John is here. Connect with John on his Facebook page.

Nick Albin (1h 17min)- Our interview with Nick is here.Train with Nick at Derby City MMA.

Eli (1h 22min)- Listener and friend of The BjjBrick Podcast.

Byron Jabara (1h 24min)- Your friend from The BjjBrick Podcast.

Gary Hull (1h 28min)- Your friend from The BjjBrick Podcast.

Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

Your First Year Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Audio Book

Your First Year Of BJJ artwork


Welcome to the amazing experience that is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Byron helps to get you through your first and often most difficult year of training. His goal is to help you simplify and find joy in BJJ. Many people start BJJ only to quit after their first few months. This book will help you start off right and avoid common mistakes, reducing the odds of quitting and help you adapt quickly to this new lifestyle. Download it here Price $11.99

The Shrimp Crawl

It was not designed to be a odd way to quickly scoot across the mat during Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class.  It was designed to help you move your hips.  Keep shrimping my friends, it is not a race.

The Shrimp Crawl

The Shrimp Crawl

Many BJJ students race across the mat at full speed.  Focus on curling your body and getting a lot of hip movement.  “There are many different kinds of shrimp” Bubba from Forrest Gump once said. Try these different shrimps: using one leg, both legs and shrimping with the opposite leg.  Feel the difference from shrimping with a flat foot and shrimping with your toes.  Try moving your feet close to your butt and then try shrimping with your feet at a distance.  All of these shrimps will produce a different result.  From white belt to black belt, everyone uses the shrimp to escape side control and mount.

Episodes 31-40 of The BjjBrick Podcast

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Join Gary and Byron on the BjjBrick Podcast

Join Gary and Byron on the BjjBrick Podcast










Epi 31 Developing Talent with Daniel Coyle –Daniel Coyle is a New York Times bestselling author ofThe Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent.  He is one of the leading authorities on developing talent.  He may not be a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but his ideas about how to practice can help you understand how you learn.  The methods he has found could help catapult your game to the next level and beyond. 

Epi 32 Alliance Black Belt Jonathan “Macarrao” -Thomas This week we are joined by Jonathan Thomas.  Jonathan was recently awarded his black belt from Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti. You will find Jonathan training, teaching, and positional sparring at The Alliance headquarters in Atlanta.

Epi 33 Breaking things down with Ostap ManastyrskiOstap Manastryski is a brown belt under Elliott Bayev, he trains and teaches at OpenMat Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Toronto Canada.  Ostap breaks down BJJ videos on his YouTube channel, this is a great resource for anyone wanting to better understand BJJ.

Epi 34 Making changes to your BJJ gameThis week we take a break from having a guest on the show and Gary and Byron talk about making changes to your BJJ game.
Epi 35- Listener Stories, Injuries Part 1 of 2 -This week we have stories from our listeners. These are stories about getting injured and overcoming the injury. This episode is packed full of great advice for anyone who has been injured, or if you have a teammate that has been injured. It is important to know what to expect and the advice will help get you back on the mat my friends.
Epi 36- Listener Stories, Injuries Part 2 of 2 -More amazing injury and recovery stories from the listeners.
Epi 37 Great Advice from Carlos Machado -Carlos Machado is a Red Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  He has been teaching BJJ in the United States for over 20 years.  He moved to Texas in 1995, and he is now running 6 BJJ schools. He is the oldest of the five legendary Machado brothers.
Epi 38 Nick Albin- He May Not Be A Jedi, But He Is Chewy -This week we talk to Nick Albin otherwise known as “Chewy”. He teaches and trains BJJ full time and is the head instructor at Derby City Mixed Martial Arts in Louisville, KY. Chewy is a Black Belt under Renato Tavares. He also has a website with lots of great information about BJJ here http://chewjitsu.net/
Epi 39 The 3 Steps to Making Changes to Your BJJ -This week we talk about making changes to your BJJ and developing a game plan.  We break it down into 3 main steps: 1) Define the objectives 2) Get help 3) Do the work.  You are the only person how is ultimately in charge of your BJJ development take responsibility and make it happen.  To help you obtain your goal we strongly recommend that your write it down.
Epi 40 Interview With BJJ Black Belt Wil Horneff -This week we talk to Wil Horneff. This interview is packed full of great training advice and you can tell Wil has a passion for training and helping his students. Wil is a Black belt under Ralph Gracie, he owns a school in Westwood NJ called Training Grounds Jiu-Jitsu & MMA. At Training Grounds they teach BJJ, MMA, kickboxing, and also teach Kids Martial Arts in Bergen County, NJ.