Interview with Gary King

Gary King has been a presenter/instructor for many years, in corporate as well as martial arts environments. He is a qualified Mixed Martial Arts judge and referee, and has worked as a commentator for a Mixed Martial Arts event. His career as a martial arts & self defense instructor began in the 1990’s when he first started teaching in the UK.

Recently Gary was awarded his black belt by Rio Grappling club head, Roberto Atalla. We sat down with Gary and chatted about his jiu jitsu story.

Hi Gary, thank you for taking some time off to talk to us.

Pleasure.

For our readers who don’t know you, tell us about yourself and how you got involved in BJJ.

I guess I’d always been into one sport or another. There was judo when I was a youngster, then in my teens it was weight training,  roller-hockey and slalom canoeing (which is why my front tooth is mostly false). I was rubbish at football, but enjoyed a bit of rugby.

I had been training Japanese Ju Jutsu with James and his wife Karen for a few years in the 90’s when we entered a local tournament. It was with utter dismay that I realised that this skinny guy with a white belt and four stripes took me to pieces. So I asked him what martial art he does, and it was BJJ. From that point I was hooked.

We did our research into the Gracie family and first went out to LA in 2000 to train at the Gracie Academy. It was back in the days when Rorion and even Helio would be in and out. We asked Rorion if we could come into the academy before class and drill – one day we were working a guard reposition drill and didn’t see Helio quietly come in and stand in the corner watching us drill. I still wonder what was going through his mind at that point. I know what was going through mine… ‘Holy crap, where should I put my left foot again?’.

Before coming to Cape Town, you had the opportunity to train with various BJJ teams (Gracie Academy, Gracie Barra etc). What was your favourite and why?

They all have their merits. The Gracie Academy has great structure, and attention to detail. I lived in Barra, Rio for 6 months and there they had a more sportive mindset. The competition standard of the guys was amazing – you could sometimes count 3 or 4 world champs on the mat. But their ‘pyramid’ of belts is upside down, so there’d be 2 whites, 3 blues, 6 purples, 8 browns and 12 black belts. The black belts would line up at point at you to roll. It was a different type of learning – less technical, more about trial & error, and more rolling to win.
Roylers was somewhere between the two. He’s a nice guy, but was keen to demonstrate the standard of his black belts. I was asked to roll with one guy before the class and was put to sleep a couple of times. Point made, he was as nice as pie!

I did a couple of sessions at Ralph Gracies place in San Fransisco and, as you’d expect, his guys were just plain tough. Flat noses, big cauliflowers. Tough guys. With my UK instructor, Carlos Lemos I was lucky enough to go to Italy and help him with some seminars. There was one place in Rome – Tribe Jiu Jitsu that had this sweatbox of a gym rammed full with guys. The blackbelt who ran it (Federico Tisi) had a shaven head and tattoos on his neck, but then took me on a very cultural tour of Rome and eloquently explained its history. Never judge a book etc…

I guess the bottom line is they’re all different but it’s all good in their own way. The best gym is one that’s open minded to all of the influences in the art and that nurtures talent.

You and James Smart opened the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school directly affiliated to the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. What was it like moving to a new country and opening the school.

It was really exciting – we’d prepared ourselves extensively for it and it was a huge life changing event. Unfortunately I had been having back pain on & off for a few years since I was slammed on my back and during building the academy it became permanent. It turned out to be spinal micro fractures and osteoarthritis. The doctor told me to give up BJJ. There was no way I was going to do that, but I had to stop rolling competitively from that point on. It wasn’t a good time. But that first academy was a special place, it had an intimate, friendly vibe and introduced a lot of guys to the art. I still live in the same house now and do privates on the mat.

For the past few years you have been focused on coaching MMA fighters. How does BJJ in MMA compare/differ to BJJ for self defense?

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to teach at Panther for the last 6 years or so –Anthony and the crew are a great bunch. It’s a bit of a mindset change, especially coming from the Helio Gracie ‘relax/let him gas/wait for a mistake’ side of the family. In grappling for MMA you have to force your will, otherwise the decision will go against you. I’ve always broken BJJ into 3 categories:

  1. BJJ for self defense – assumes an unskilled opponent, considers striking
  2. BJJ for competition jiu jitsu – no striking, start rolling earlier, more open guard & gi
  3. BJJ for MMA – considers striking, but with a skilled opponent.

Obviously grappling for MMA makes you painfully aware of the striking distance, but it also changes the significance of the guard position. Don’t pull guard in MMA unless you have to, or you have a world class guard, as the strikes can wear you down, but the judges will often deem you to be losing simply because you’re on your back.

You are currently affiliated to Roberto Atalla and Rio Grappling Club. As one of the few people I know to have trained with the main Gracie family teams (Gracie Academy and Gracie Barra), what is the difference in the training/teaching at a Rio Grappling Club affiliate.

It’s an openness to different ideas. Roberto Atalla has been world champ and has trained with many legends, like Rickson, Renzo, JJ Machado etc. That brings a mixture of influences and recognition that there are things to be learnt from other arts such as judo and wrestling as well as the different styles of BJJ.

You received your black belt recently from Roberto Atalla. Do you feel any different?

I’m proud. It’s been a 15 year journey so far, but I think practitioners actually get less worried about the belts as they get more experienced as the art makes you more humble and gives you a more holistic viewpoint. I don’t feel any different though.

What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout your BJJ journey?

A perspective on what constitutes success. It’s not about what car you drive, or what grade you are at work, but jiu jitsu has helped me to understand people and gauge my personal success on the legacy I pass on to students. Of course I’m proud of the guys who have given everything to fight on mat or in cage, but there’s a letter from a 9 year old student on my kitchen wall that’s worth more to me than any trophy. That is my definition of success and it was jiu jitsu that gave me that opportunity.

During a televised interview (the last time Rener was in SA) you were quoted as saying that SA is still catching up to the rest of the world in terms of MMA. With guys like Garreth McLellan now fighting in the UFC, do you think the level of MMA in SA has reached the point where it is comparable in international levels?

Not yet, but the gap’s closing. I don’t know whether we’ll ever get to quite the same level though, as the US has many more guys to choose from, they do wrestling at school, they have a business-like mindset to the sport, and invest a heap of cash into it. Just look at some of the gyms in the US – they’re massive! We simply haven’t got the critical mass of students, or the financial backing to compete on that level. But there’s always going to be the odd guy who has a natural talent, and is with a strong team that may be able to compete at a UFC level.

You competed quite a bit while you were still in the UK, which tournament do you remember with the fondest memories and why?

It was the Europeans one year. It was held in Birmingham – both James & I competed, and we both won our first two fights in under 2 minutes. I carried that confidence into the following year but ended meeting Roger Gracie’s cousin in the first round and… Well… that was that!

What is your opinion on the possible inclusion of BJJ into the Olympic Games?

Please no! When Judo became an Olympic sport the rules changed extensively to try and make it exciting for the spectator who doesn’t understand the ground work. The nett result was that Judo became very focused on throws and the history of great ground fighters coming out of Judo almost dried up. The IBJJF ruleset is already becoming more complicated every year without having oversight that’s only interested in stuff that ‘looks good’. I know Olympic recognition would bring more funds to the sport, but it could be at the cost of the sport itself.

What do you like the most about BJJ?

It’s fun, and there’s always something more to learn. It breaks down barriers and a rolling partner is an instant friend (apart from the smelly ones).

If you had to convince someone as to why they should train BJJ, what argument would you use?

It’s practical – what you learn really works.
You won’t get bored – there’s always something more to learn.
You don’t get your face broken.

What is your favourite BJJ technique?

I love the rotational stuff (particularly to setup kneebars etc), but there’s a turtle attack that I really like, it’s a combination of armtraps, one-handed chokes and a crucifix. Loads of fun. Thanks to the Mendes brothers, the Berimbolo has gained a lot of popularity – that’s an area I’m keen to explore more.

Finally, do you have any last words for our readers?

Keep rolling, and enjoy the journey – it’ll change your life!

Thank you

 

Gary will be holding a seminar at Infinitus Jiu Jitsu on Saturday 6 February at 11am. Don’t miss out.

Interview with James Smart

James Smart is the owner and head instructor of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Cape Town, the only certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school in South Africa, as well as the owner of STREETSMART, a provider of real world self protection /combative training to Civilians, Law Enforcement, Military and Security. James has been my Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructor for 8 years and his experience and opinions on self defense and self protection are always insightful and thought provoking. I recently chatted to James about the realities of self defense training.

Hi James, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

My pleasure, always great to talk to you, you always throw some really good questions out there.

Thank you, I guess its because I had a good instructor who taught me the value of questioning what works and what doesn’t 😉

First off, for those who’ve never met you, could you give us the short history of your Gracie Jiu-Jitsu journey?

Well, its hard to give a short history of a very long journey, and as you well know, I’m not that good at keeping things short, I tend to get carried away. But here goes, I started Japanese Ju Jutsu way back, when Gary (my training partner) heard of these Gracie guys from Brazil, in particular Rickson. So we went on holiday to LA to train with them and see what it was all about. We got to the Gracie Academy and met Rorion, Ryron and Rener there. It blew us away not only how great they were at fighting but how cool and chilled they were as people. Coming from a TMA (traditional martial arts) background it was quite a shock to not have to bow. We traveled back and forth to LA for a few years then in 2000 I decided to leave my job with Philips Electronics and travel to LA and train full time. After LA I went to Brazil, in total training full time for 1 year. Actually, you could say I have been training / teaching full time ever since. I am now a Black belt under Ryron and Rener Gracie and still learning as much, if not more, today as I did as a blue belt.

There has been a lot of debate about the ‘street vs sport’ schools of jiu jitsu. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Cape Town is probably more of a ‘street’ jiu jitsu school. What in your opinion are the advantages of training at a ‘street’ school vs training at a ‘sport’ school?

I’m not really sure there are any advantages, unless of course you count not getting beaten up as an advantage 😉 What do I mean, well I think BJJ (lets use BJJ to define the sport and GJJ to define the street) is a great sport, it has now evolved so far down that road and the guys and girls that are top of their game are no doubt athletes. Can they defend themselves in the street? Yes, more than likely. Is it possible because of the way they practise the sport that they’ll get punched out? Yes, it is. We have seen many times how BJJ guys have had to significantly change their game just to get into MMA, it’s all about punch protection. In GJJ we learn punch protection and dealing with the psychology punches being thrown at you first and then worry about the sport later. Does that handicap us when it comes to sport? Yes, I think it does in the short term but I believe it all evens out in the long run. If you’re a great grappler, you’re a great grappler! I guess my philosophy as an instructor and GJJ students is – why did I and most people walk in my door? To learn to defend themselves. If I teach them BJJ am I fulfilling that in the shortest time possible? No. If I teach them GJJ and get them into the fight sim class, am I fulfilling that? Yes, 100%.

Gracie Academy (and specifically Rener) have taken some heat recently in regard to Gracie Academy Blue Belt instructors misrepresenting their rank. As a certified Gracie Academy black belt and owner of a CTC how do you feel about what’s been going on?

First off, I think it was one instructor, I stand to be corrected though. With regards to Rener taking flack, I 100% support Rener and Ryron and what they do. The Gracie University is simply the best on-line learning available for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I know some don’t like on-line learning and I get that, clearly its not preferable to learn a martial art or any fighting style for that matter on-line. And yet, there are 100,000’s of BJJ DVD’s out there. DVD’s that don’t give feedback, don’t cover all the angles, don’t even have instructors that can speak English and yet they don’t get slated. I can tell you right now, there is something in the pipeline with the Gracie Uni that will change most if not all of the complainers.

Now regarding the whole belt thing, I have to tell you I’m well and truly over it. There are people in all martial arts that have fake belts. We have seen many, many videos recently of people who have claimed to be BJJ black belts and been shown not to be. If something is worth having people will try and find a way to get it and not always honestly. There are instructors out there who give belts out like they are going out of fashion, in my opinion buying loyalty. I know why belts are there and I fully get the value of them, but getting my black belt didn’t change anything, I’m still learning, I’m still training. The day I got my black belt  I didn’t all of a sudden become better. Much more important is, who have I learned from? How long have I been training? What different experience do I have (BJJ tournament, Street, MMA) to offer to students? Come to a class and let me teach you, roll with me, then judge me. But even then always feel free to question me. Don’t listen to someone who has conviction and just believe them. As people we tend to be very very easily fooled by someone who “sounds” like they know what they are talking about.

I think I might have got off of subject a bit, sorry!

Not a problem at all.

You’re one of the few people I know who has actually worked the doors at bars/nightclubs in the UK. How did your martial arts experience help/hinder your ability to deal with the types of fights that go on in the nightclub scene?

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was the single best thing i did for being able to work on the doors, actually that and conflict management. That said, I really didn’t need to know all of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, just the Rear Naked Choke. Interestingly I lost my faith in some of the other martial arts around then when I realised pain compliance (wrist locks) don’t work on guys that have been taking acid all night. I restrained someone once using a wrist lock, he stood up into it, felt no pain and shattered his wrist. I let go and put him to sleep. I realised then that mechanical compliance or choked unconscious was the way forwards.

A few years ago, you also started a company called STREETSMART. Tell us how that came about?

Having been involved in martial arts for nearly 30 years I am always evaluating different fighting styles. About 7 years ago I met a guy who is highly trained in Combatives, not Gracie Combatives but what’s known as Combatives/CQB/CQC etc. Anyway, we started training together and I started learning all about the world of solving problems quickly and based on concepts. As time progressed I was fortunate to train with some of the world’s legends like SouthNarc and Lee Morrison. I realised there was a place, in fact a very significant place, in my self protection universe that all of the martial arts I had done, including Gracie Jiu Jitsu, was not able to look after and Combatives could. Everything kind of grew organically from there, my knowledge and experience growing and demand for people to learn growing if not faster. In STREETSMART we now have a team of instructors who teach everyone from Armed Reaction Officers through to Anti-poaching units. We teach ALL new ADT recruits throughout South Africa, with our program only last week being described as “the most valuable part of the Reaction Officers training”. Our team is made up of me (obviously) doing all of the unarmed and extreme close quarter fighting, an Ex UK and SA special Op’s members and a highly trained medic and a risk assessment specialist. We have lots of big plans on the horizon.

What would you say is the core difference between what you teach as a Gracie Jiu Jitsu instructor vs a StreetSmart one?

Gracie Jiu Jitsu is for solving social fights or what I would call ego driven fights. One guy cuts another off on the road. The one who got cut off gets annoyed and the two guys start to fight. It’s ego driven, these fights normally operate on a subconscious moral code of, “I won’t kill you, I just want to show you who is the man”. STREETSMART Street Survival (our civilian course) is for criminal interactions, the situation where there is desperation or a lack of moral compass rules and you stand a risk of dying. Another way of saying it is, imagine your fighting abilities are like a dimmer switch. You can’t go 100% all out every time, you’ll end up in jail. You want to be able to deal with a fight with necessary and reasonable force. A combination of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and STREETSMART give you this.

In your opinion, from a self defense perspective, what is the benefit for a regular individual in taking up Gracie Jiu Jitsu instead of other martial arts styles.

Gracie Jiu Jitsu will work, other martial arts might work if you train long enough. I guess that’s a bold statement but it’s been proven way too many times before to say anything different. I guess to clarify it I could say, with Gracie Jiu Jitsu, you have a plan of what to do when the fight starts (close the distance safely), you have an objective (get the fight to the ground), you have a goal (control and submit your opponent). All of this is done with relatively simple, easy to remember, forgiving if you don’t get it 100% correct, techniques. In most other martial arts, you wait and see how the fight is going to start and then react, there is no objective and no plan. And its usually with either hard to learn, requiring great body mechanics and conditioning strikes or hard to remember, complex and un-forgiving techniques.

I’m glad you said “in your opinion” in the question. I’d hate to be taken that I’m stating fact! 😉

20 plus years ago Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was heralded as the most effective form of self defense. Do you think this is still true today?

To go back to my previous answer, it’s the most effective form of self defence in a street, ego driven, one on one fight. Is it the most effective in a criminal attack? It’s sure better than nothing and a million times better than a lot of stuff that is taught. But, if there are multiple attackers or weapons involved, you must stay on your feet, do enough to create space and get out. And no, that is not Gracie Jiu Jitsu, that’s STREETSMART Combatives.

A topic that often comes up in self defense circles is the one of weapon defences and how they are taught across various styles of self defense. You’ve had some extensive training in this area, give us your thoughts on weapon defences.

Don’t unless you really, really have too. When do you really really have too, when you or someone else will lose their life if you don’t. I have to be honest here, I am not going to go into the how to of weapon defense. It’s just too big a topic and open to too much misunderstanding. What I will say though is, if you learn a weapon defence and for one second think “hmmmmmm this is super cool”, stop learning it and find one that isn’t super cool. The super cool ones are far to complex and far too likely to either not work, require far too much training or you just won’t remember it when someone is stabbing you or has a gun in your face. What ever you learn MUST be blindingly simple and uncool.

Finally, do you have any last words on self defence you would like to leave with our readers

Yes, I’d like to re iterate a post that I put on Facebook the other day –

Ask yourself – how many people do I know who have been involved with / victim of a criminal interaction?

Then ask yourself – how many people do I know who have been in a building fire.

I’m guessing the answer is far more in question one to question two.

My questions to you are –

Doesn’t it seem odd that we are most prepared for the least likely event and least prepared for the most likely event?

My next question is – do we learn simple, effective easy to remember, proven skills to deal with and escape fire?

If so why do we “try” to learn complicated, hard to remember, unrealistic, ineffective, stay there until it’s finished techniques to defend ourselves?

Thank you for your time James, it’s always interesting talking to you.

Good Hope FM Bullyproof demonstration.

Recently I was contacted to discuss the Gracie Bullyproof programme on the Good Hope FM Breakfast Show.

The interview itself had one or two hiccups, mainly because I woke up half an hour late and didn’t make it to the station by 7:30am.

Afterwards however, I was able to demonstrate some Bullyproof techniques as well as the mindset we teach the kids.

Watch the video below.

Infinitus Jiu Jitsu Instructor Programme

One of the biggest factors in the success of a jiu jitsu school/club lies heavily on the quality of its instructors. The availablity of classes is directly related to the availability of the instructor and if the instructor (like me) also has a family and work life that availability is limited.

The only real way to combat this is to have assistant instructors who can run the classes when I am not available.

I am therefore please to announce that I am in the process of putting a small group of dedicated individuals through the training process of becoming Infinitus Jiu Jitsu instructors.

Over the next few months they will be learning all the key aspects of teaching group classes as well as private classes. If they complete the course successfully and pass their final evalutation they will take their place as assistant instructors at Infinitus Jiu Jitsu.

I wish them all of the best and I cannot wait to see them become a greater part of the Infinitus Jiu Jitsu team.

Pictured above are trainee instructors Kean Johannes, Buks Saayman and Ryan Baatjes.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition.

One of the biggest debates of the last year in jiu jitsu circles has been the street vs sport debate.

I am not going to go into it in too much detail. Basically it boils down to the ‘old guard’ of jiu jitsu practitioners bemoaning the sportification of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the ‘new school’ defending their belief that competition jiu jitsu is just as effective in a self defence scenario. There are strong arguments for both sides and this platform is not really the place to discuss either.

At Infinitus Jiu Jitsu we train for both self defence and competitions. There are various grappling events happening this year and as I haven’t really written anything about the topic of competition and I thought now might be a good idea to do so.

Whether or not you train purely for self defence, competition jiu jitsu has a lot of benefits for the average student.

It gets you fit.

A lot of people who train jiu jitsu do it for two main reasons. One is for self defence but the other is to get fit(ter). Now, even though jiu jitsu should not require you to be fit to train in the first place, the mere fact that you are doing something physical for an hour will increase your fitness levels over time.

However, if you want to really see boosts in your fitness levels and weight loss, train for sport jiu jitsu matches. Sport jiu jitsu requires you to push yourself to your limits for all 6 minutes of your match. Try pushing yourself to your limit during a few 6 minute rolling sessions and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Learn to trust your techniques.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my first competitions was to trust the techniques I knew. I remember one fight where I did not trust my triangle finish. My setup was good, but I hesitated in completing the choke. My opponent used my hesitation to bust out and pass my guard, leading to my loss. I learned that day that if I have a good triangle setup and simply trusted the rest of the technique, I would finish with a triangle every time.

Testing your jiu jitsu against a strange opponent

One of the downsides of only training at your club/gym/academy is that at some point you will get used to how your fellow students train. For some this takes longer than others, but each of us has a ‘game’ and unless we are actively pushing that ‘game’ to test it’s limits it becomes predictable. By competitng you get to experience other jiu jitsu practitioners ‘games’ and learn how they apply their jiu jitsu.

After the last Mother City Open Ryan came to me and said the following ‘I was not prepared for the aggresion that I faced’. This is so true, unless you compete you may never experience that level of aggression because you are not fighting someone else who is bent on defeating you.

 

In closing, while I will never force a student to train with a competition mind set or compete in any competition, if approached the right way competition can have valuable advantages to the self defence student.

Interview with Nicolas Gregoriades

Nicolas Gregoriades is a South African grappler who was the first jiu jitsu practitioner to have received a black belt from the renowned Roger Gracie. Nicolas is also an accomplished competitor and one of the founders of the “Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood”, a BJJ community with affiliates all over the world. We got hold of Nic to discuss his jiu jitsu history and all the amazing projects he is involved in.

Hi Nic, thank you for taking some time off to talk to us.

My great pleasure.

For those who may have been living under a rock, tell us about yourself and how you got involved in jiu jitsu.

I was born in Cape Town in 1979 and grew up in Pinelands. I started doing judo in grade 2 (or ‘sub b’ as it was known back then) and did that on and off for a few years. When I was 19 my brother found out about a grappling class which went under the name ‘Kyokan’ and was run by Ludwig Strydom. He wanted to check it out so we both went down to one of the classes and really enjoyed it.

You are also one of the few people to receive a BJJ black belt who also trained with Ludwig Strydom. What was grappling/jiu jitsu like in Cape Town in those early days?

Even though the technical level was what you would consider low, Ludwig was light years ahead of his time on a conceptual level, and so it made up for that a lot.
The scene was pretty small though…hardly anyone even knew what grappling and jiu jitsu were and there were not many sparring partners. My main memory is that there was a core group of tough, athletic guys doing a very raw, scramble-focused style of grappling.

As far as we know you are the first Capetonian to receive your BJJ black belt and the first Roger Gracie black belt. How did you come to train with Roger?

When I left Cape Town and moved to London a friend of mine (who had been a student of Ludwig’s) was already in the UK. I contacted him and asked him where he was training. He said he was going to the Roger Gracie Academy so I headed down there and signed up.

Some time ago you were listed as in instructor at his academy, do you still teach/train at there?

I only spend a couple of months in London each year now, but whenever I’m back I make it a point to get down to Roger’s academy and check in with all the old faces. Besides Cape Town, Roger’s Academy is like my home.

You have travelled back to South Africa on a few occasions to teach seminars at the various schools. How has jiu jitsu changed in Cape Town since you left?

Before I left Cape Town, a visiting purple belt was a big deal. Now we have black belts, several academies, visits from high-level guys and a thriving competition circuit. I think it’s safe to say that jiu jitsu has finally become established in South Africa.

Jiu Jtisu is hugely popular in Europe. How does the jiu jitsu scene in South Africa compare to Europe?

Europe has a much bigger population, better infrastructure and much older wrestling and judo traditions, so the talent pool is much deeper. Also, South Africa is very isolated because of location, so it’s always going to lag behind Europe and the USA. But having said that, we are doing really well given our small population and limited resources.

You have an amazing competition record, which tournament do you remember with the fondest memories and why?

I remember fighting in Brazil in Rio when the World Championships was still held there – I think it was 2004 or 2005. I won a couple of fights and then lost in the third round. If I’m not mistaken I was the first South African ever to win a match at the world championships so I was really happy about that.

What is your opinion on the possible inclusion of jiu jitsu into the Olympic Games?

I would love to see it happen but I to me it’s wishful thinking. Jiu Jitsu is not an aesthetically pleasing sport to anyone but those who train, and even then it isn’t always visually appealing. So it’s a very tough sell for the olympic committee. Also, the judo governing body is very entrenched in the olympics and they will do all they can to keep jiu jitsu out.

You are known worldwide for the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood. I’m sure many people are interested to know how and why that came about.

It’s a long story that involves a pretty intense time in my life, but the short version is that I saw the immense power of jiu jitsu to connect people and wanted to be a part of that and help foster it.

You are also a published jiu-jitsu author, having recently published the “Black Belt Blueprint”. What made you decide to try your hand at writing?

I decided that putting all my thoughts and experiences regarding jiu jitsu into writing would be a a good way consolidate all my knowledge and reflect on everything that I had learned during my journey up until that point.

What do you like the most about BJJ?

I would say it’s the friendships that are made and the cool people I’ve been able to meet. I also love the physicality of it – there’s no other workout that comes close!

If you had to convince someone as to why they should train BJJ, what argument would you use?

I think jiu jitsu is just a very powerful learning tool. It can help you understand your body, your mind and your spirit. It’s for people who want to grow and evolve.

What is your favourite BJJ technique?

I have many and they change all the time!

Finally, do you have any last words for our readers?

I just want to wish all the guys training in SA the very best. I know it’s hard sometimes to be so isolated but you guys have such a strong spirit and I’m proud of all of you for what you have achieved. A big shout out to my brother Jason Gregoriades, Chris Bright, Ludwig Strydom, Nathan Raaths, Hisham Allie, Khalil Akleker and all the other grappling pioneers at the tip of Africa!

Thank you

You can read more about Nic’s journey on his Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood website.

Get the most out of an open mat

In a few weeks we will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary with an open mat sparring session. If all goes well we will have all available students (and some visitors) sharing the mat and testing their jiu jitsu against each other.

However, if you have never sparred before (or a little) or you only do jiu jitsu for self defence but you don’t want to miss out on a training session, the idea of an open mat can be a daunting one.

Here are some tips to get the best out of an open mat session.

1) You do jiu jitsu for self defence and you only have a few classes under your belt.

Great, go an find other students like yourself (you know who they are) and spend as much time as you want reviewing your techniques. This is a great opportunity to drill the techniques you already know or ask someone about a new technique they have previously learned.  Think about the reflex drills we often do at the end of a class, string some techniques together and practice the drills. Pair up with a more experienced student or your instructor and see if you can learn some new details that increase your proficiency in your already learned techniques.

This is also great advice for women who want to drill their self defence techniques.

2) You only have a few sparring classes experience

Take it easy. An open mat can be tiring if you spend all your energy in your first roll. Work on conservation of energy. Remember that it’s OK to tap, especially against experienced opponents. Use the time to see how to defend against common attacks and where the openings are. Ask questions. If someone does something cool let them show you how they did it and then ask them if you can try it on them. Seasoned jiu jitsu practitioners love sharing their cool tricks.

3) You are have been rolling for years.

Your job is very important. Besides having a huge amount of time to roll and (hopefully) new partners to roll with at some point you may partner up with someone mentioned above. Take this time to share your knowledge with others, or help them drill techniques, even if they may seem ‘boring’ to you. Remember that the foundation of a good practitioner is mastery of the basics, so reviewing the beginner techniques will only improve your game. Feel free to show off a cool new technique or two you have learned. People love to learn new, cool stuff!

If everyone respects the various levels of experience they may come across on the night and acts accordingly, not only does an open mat become a place to have run and roll but also a place where lessons can still be learned and your jiu jitsu can grow.

See you on the mat.

Interview with Moshe Kaitz

Moishe Kaitz is a Royler Gracie Black Belt who runs Gracie Humaita Israel. He was recently featured in two articles on the BBJ Eastern Europe website, showcasing his self defence based jiu jitsu. He graciously gave us the opportunity to chat to him about his jiu jitsu story.

Hi Moshe, thank you for taking some time to talk to us

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Moshe Kaitz, I am 37 years old and I live in Israel.

I teach Gracie Jiu Jitsu under the original Gracie Academy from Rio de Janeiro, Gracie Humaita.

I am a black belt under Royler Gracie and David Adiv.

I also have a professional MMA record of 6-2 with my last win over UFC title contender (and WEC world champion), Hermes Franca.

How and why did you get involved with Grace Jiu Jitsu?

As a kid I used to train Karate and even got a black belt.

I never felt good and confidence with Karate, in terms of self defence. I never felt that I could really handle against a bigger and stronger attacker.

One day I was watching TV and came across a show called UFC. it was UFC number 4. I saw Royce Gracie defeat Dan Severn and I was hooked!!

Actually I opened the TV when this fight, which was the final fight, was starting, at that time I didn’t even see the entire event.

I started training and soon realized that it would be the best to go to Brasil.
Went there, met Royler Gracie and since then I have been traveling every year to Brasil and USA, to train with Royler and David and all my friends from Gracie Humaita.

What do you like the most about Gracie Jiu Jitsu?

I do believe that Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the best martial art and it can really gives a chance to a smaller guy or girl against an attacker.

You have been promoted to Black Belt, perhaps you could share that story with us?

Over the years I was trying to stay as close as I can to my teachers,
take as much private classes with them, join them to as much seminars I can and of course, train in the academy with everybody, from white belts to the champions
It was a great honor to get the black belt from the legendary Royler Gracie.

You were recently featured in a few articles on the BJJEE website, specifically related to the self defence aspect of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. How did this come about and what has the reaction been like?

I believe in the old way. the real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the Gracie way.
Those who follow Helio Gracie methods are doing the real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The aspect of self defence is the real essence of this art and should be the essence of every martial art.

Sport jiu jitsu at the end of the day is a game with rules.
Of course the top competitors are tough and strong enough to handle themselves on the street even without knowing self defence, but these are a very small percentage of the general public.

The majority needs to learn the proper techniques in order to survive street aggression.
You could combine sports. It’s fun and actually can help you sharpen your fighting instincts, but you should try to use positions which make sense in a real fight.
The berimbolo, 50/50 worm guard and other “sportive” positions, will only get you in trouble.

In South Africa, the Israeli art of Krav Maga is gaining popularity as a self defence art. You are from Israel, but you chose GJJ. Why is that?

Krav Maga is nice and has its advantages & disadvantages, like everything else.
Personally, I don’t like it too much.

Does your school take part in competitions?

Of course, if someone likes to compete, we always support. Some of my students are doing very well in competitions.

What is your favourite Gracie Jiu Jitsu technique.

My favorite move is Mata Leao

Finally, do you have any last words for our readers?

Keep training, have fun and don’t forget the roots of this amazing art.
None of us started training to learn how to score points!

Thank you

The business of importing gi’s

An open letter to anyone who has ordered/wants to order a Gameness gi from Infinitus

As you know, Infinitus Jiu Jitsu is currently running on offer on Gameness gi’s from our website.

When I was contacted by Gameness, with the massive trade discount they offered, I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to get some great branded gi’s at a really good price. Who wouldn’t want to take up this offer?

My goal was to be able to pass the saving onto anyone who ordered a gi. All I wanted to do was cover international shipping costs. So I calculated what I expected this to cost, based on a cursory investigation and posted the prices online.

Then I got a call from James (Smart, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town), someone who has already had experience in importing goods for his school. He pointed out to me that I had possibly not taken into account the 40% import duty I would be charged, as well as the 14% VAT (over and above the already 12% Sales Tax from the UK) I would be charged on the gi’s. A second round of research and more calculations and I posted an update to the offer and a new range of prices.

At this stage the prices displayed only take into account the following:

  1. Cost price to me for the gi’s in Rands (calculated at the exchange rate at the time)
  2. 12% Sales Tax on the cost price (UK Tax)
  3. 40% import duty on the cost price
  4. 14% VAT (SA) on the cost price

This price excludes any international shipping/handling/customs charge that may or may not still be added during the process.

Because this is the first time I have tried this I really have no way of telling 100% what the final price will be. I am hoping it will only be a small additional amount on top of the prices on the posted prices. There are online calculators and tools that I can use to do this. However, because I want to make sure that anyone who orders is charged only what it actually costs to import the gi, it’s difficult to calculate a final price. If I was adding say a 50% profit mark up I could use that mark up to cover any additional charges. The problem is, at this stage I don’t know entirely what these charges will be.

So in line with this I would like to make the following promises.

  1. Once I have all the pre orders, I will do my best to make sure that before you confirm and pay for your order I have taken into account all factors and can give you the closest accurate price possible. Having said that, once the gi’s actually arrive, there may be a small additional charge on the gi that you may be required to pay. I will do my best to ensure this is a minor amount.
  2. I will ensure that the total cost to you is only what it is costing to get the gi to SA and that I am making no profit on this order, nor do I want to.
  3. Once I calculate an estimated final price and you are not in a position to pay/not prepared to pay that amount, I will not hold you to your order. No money will be required by you until you confirm you are happy with the price.
  4. I will keep you up to date, via email, of every step of the process.

Once I have completed the first order, I will have a much better idea of the costs involved and hopefully the second option to order will be much smoother. (That or I’ll give up trying all together.)

If anyone has any questions about this, or wishes to change or edit their order, please do so via the order form on the original offer.

Thanks
Jonathan
Infinitus Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu, the antidote to bullying.

If you have met me or heard my story, you will know that it started way back in primary school, where I was a victim of school yard bullying.

Mine was not the atypical, Hollywood style ‘give me your lunch money or I’ll beat you up’ bullying. I don’t actually recall the full reasons, but to me it seemed that my circumstances were the cause of the taunts, name calling, pranks and beat downs. Based on who and what I was and probably various other factors I wasn’t even aware of, I was picked on and often beaten up by fellow class mates. Maybe I wasn’t ‘cool’ enough. Maybe I was a nerd. Maybe my sense of humour wasn’t understood or appreciated. Honestly, I can’t remember.

What I do remember was how if affected me as a person, both my confidence and my desire to fit in. It also lead me (eventually) to Jiu Jitsu. It is one of the main reasons I become an instructor, to be in a position to reach children who are experiencing the same things I did.

As an adult, I can look back at the (some vague, but still there) memories of bullying attacks and each time I can see how knowing Jiu Jitsu as a boy would have helped me in these situations.

  1. Jiu Jitsu techniques (especially the Bully Proof programme) are taught in a fun, safe, playful environment, so that as a child you not only learn how to defend yourself, but get some good healthy exercise at the same time.
  2. Jiu Jitsu teaches you how to control and subdue an attacker without inflicting any injury on them while doing so.
  3. Once you know how you can deal with a bully, physically if you need to, you now have the confidence to stand up to them.
  4. This confidence leads to the ability to shrug off any taunts that are directed at you in the first place, never having to place yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself anyway.

If I had one wish, it would be to have enough time and resources to teach every single child in the country the art of Jiu Jitsu.

For now, I’ll happily settle on reaching every child in my community.