Interview with Jason Gregoriades

 

Jason Gregoriades is currently one of the finest no-gi grapplers in Cape Town (if not South Africa). After taken some time off from jiu jitsu, he blasted onto the no-gi competition scene in recent years, winning both the Alpha and Unanimous tournaments against some tough competitors. In preparation for his no-gi seminar at Infinitus Jiu Jitsu on the 25th of June, I caught up with Jason to share his journey.

Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

For those who don’t know you or your jiu jitsu story, how did you get involved in jiu jitsu?

I initially started training at a submission-grappling/pankration style club with my older brother Nicholas. He used to work with a guy who did MMA (at least some form thereof) who told him about this grappling club and so my brother decided to check it out. I was the younger brother who simply got invited along when he went to go watch the first class.

9 years ago, when I started looking into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there was only one school in Cape Town under the  Gracie-Barra South Africa name, at the time run by a certain Jason Gregoriades. Tell us what it was like being the only BJJ school back then?

I’m not sure if I can take credit for being the very first BJJ club back then. There may have been a number of smaller groups or clubs operating of which I wasn’t aware. The BJJ /grappling scene was quite different then to what it is now. There’s a far greater natural following of the sport at this time.

You now run the Maximillian Grappling Academy in Claremont. How is what you are training/teaching now different from your GB days?

Well firstly, as I’m sure most people are aware, I only train no-gi now. The club is also much smaller at the moment given that it is relatively new, but this means that the group of guys have managed to develop a very tight-knit camaraderie. Further, a large degree of my focus is spent on training the students and less on training for myself.

There seems to be a gap between you closing down GB and opening Maximillian, where you don’t appear to have belonged to any jiu jitsu or grappling club. If you don’t mind me asking, were you still training jiu jitsu during this time, or had you decided to take a break?

For the first couple of years I did practically zero training. After that I would do some sporadic training just meeting with a couple of friends or dropping into a particular academy, but it was very irregular.

2015 was an amazing year for you, competition wise. You pretty much reaffirmed your position as one of the best no-gi grapplers in Cape Town, by winning both the Unanimous and Alpha grappling events. Tell us about your decision to enter these events and your experiences in both.

Thanks. Admittedly I was quite nervous stepping back into the competitive scene, it had been so long since I’d competed. Another major element was that I felt really under prepared to compete, given my full-time job, focus on the students and having to grow the academy. I know this might sound cliche, but it was only by God’s grace that I can say I managed to win those two competitions.

Having watched a few of the videos from Unanimous and Alpha, if you don’t mind me saying so, you have what some might call a very ‘classic’ game. One could even say ‘basic’, in that you don’t employ any of the so called modern jiu jitsu moves like berimbolos etc. You are very much like Roger Gracie, employing the simplest of moves in such perfect execution that they are successful. It’s very gratifying to watch. Tell us about your ‘style’ and why you think it is so effective.

Thanks! Yes, I think one could classify my preferred style as straight-forward, and quite basic. I’ve always found the simple, non-flashy techniques and concepts to be the most successful and powerful. I also found that when chasing after ‘techniques of the month’, it could often result in the developing of bad habits and missing the far more important overall concepts.

Maximillian Academy is primarily a grappling (or no-gi) academy. However I also know that you have a black belt in BJJ. Would you call yourself a grappler or a jiu jitsu practioner, and why?

I’d definitely call myself a grappler. I far, far prefer submission-grappling to BJJ . I find it to be more natural and I prefer the fast scrambles which are common. I would get frustrated with the innumerable and (in my opinion) unrealistic uses of the lapels. It’s far more enjoyable for me to focus merely on the mechanics of the body and not worry about the additional dynamic of the gi.

As a top level competitor, who also has a day job and a life outside of grappling, what is your training routine like?

At the moment my training routine is focused primarily around the students. Meaning that I’ll partake in the sparring (and often conditioning) aspects of our group classes which we do three times a week. Occasionally I might manage an extra session where it’s just me rolling with someone.

In your opinion, what is the one key factor (if there is such a thing) to success in competition?

A massive factor in competition (perhaps the biggest I’d say) is heart. You can have a guy who’s far more technical, but heart goes a long, long way. The simple grit and ‘inner-disposition’ of a grappler (or any competitor) is vital to competition.

What is your opinion on the ‘street’ vs ‘sport’ debate that often comes up in jiu jitsu circles?

I think the answer to the question is, ‘Why do you train?’ If it’s for competition, then great, focus on the sport side. If it’s for self-defense purposes then go after that.

What do you like the most about BJJ/grappling?

I particularly enjoy the scramble. I love the accelerated pace of the scramble, which I find also becomes a technical, emotional and physical battle as both guys are vying to the best of their abilities for the ultimate position whilst rolling, turning and moving at a fast pace. I love the fact that it’s also a bit more dynamic than the classic positions which makes it fun and exciting.

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

After you get through the initial rough patch of learning the basics, it’s really fun.

What is your favourite technique and why?

Probably a straight armbar from mount. When it’s applied tightly, there is so much power available to the submission. It’s just so satisfying.

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

Yeah, we train in Claremont on Mondays and Wednesdays (19:30 to 21:00) and Saturdays (12:00 to 14:00), come on down! 😉

Thanks Jason, we’ll definitely take you up on that offer sometime.

Jason will be presenting a no-gi seminar at Infinitus Jiu Jitsu on Saturday the 25th of June. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the best. The cost is R200 per person and spots are limited, so book now.

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.

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.

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