Monday, May 11, 2015

Get to Know: Rikki Rockett (Famous Rock Star & BJJ Black Belt)

As a child of the 80's I grew up listening to bands like Poison and am a HUGE fan of that genre of music.   If I had any idea when I was 13 years old that I would have something in common with my rock star idols, or that we would speak to each other on the same level about it, my mind would have been COMPLETELY blown.  I am beyond stoked that Poison drummer Rikki Rockett took the time to contribute some of his life, history and how he became a student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

I believe many people (myself at least) dream about living the life of someone famous. Having opportunities to experience things that the average person may never get to do.  I know that as  kid in my early teens, the idea of being a rock star was incredibly appealing and sounded very exciting.  If you don't know Rikki Rockett because you didn't grow up in the 80's like I did, I think that you can easily imagine this being any other music super star that fits your generation. To date, this has been the most exciting Q&A opportunity I have had. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Q: What are you up to these days?  Are you still playing and involved with music?

A: Very much so. I can’t talk a lot about the changes with Poison right now due some legal stuff, but suffice to say that we are pretty busy right now! We played a show with a different lead singer, Brandon Gibbs, who is in my other band, The Devil City Angels. I started the Devil City Angels with Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns fame (Guns ’N’ Roses), Eric Brittingham from Cinderella and Brandon. I found Brandon in Burlington, Iowa 11 years ago at 17 years old playing with his brother. We have stayed tight ever since and now he is a bona fide rock star in my opinion!

I build custom drums and most important, raise my 5 year old boy Jude and my 2 year old Lucy.

Q: When did you start training?  What drew you to the sport as you got a much earlier start than most people that will be reading this interview?

A: I started over 17 years ago. I was training JKD, Kali and Silat. I was drawn to Silat because of the Sumatran version that was pretty much a ground game. I met John and JJ Machado at a vegetarian rally and told them how I admired Royce Gracie and I wrestled in High School and loved Silat. They invited me to the school. Once I was there I was greated by Renato Magno, (my long time and still my coach) and Eddie Bravo who also trained JKD. I got tapped out 12 times that evening and my life has never been the same! Can I tell you what an experience it is to tapped out by JJ Machado!

Q: When did you receive your Black Belt and from whom?  How old were you?

A: I was 48 years old. Renato Magno (Street Sports BJJ, Santa Monica, CA). Renato moved here with the Machado Bros. from Brazil to help start their school. I got my second degree two years ago. I am eligible for three stripes, but I don’t deserve it! I haven’t been as consistent this year because of all of my musical projects. Four training days a week is great, but this past year has been about two or three. I like to walk around at competition weight and feeling like I could compete at any time, but that’s just a wish most of the time! 

Note: I got my purple belt under Renato and JJ Machado at the Machado Bros. school. I remained a purple belt for 7 years!

Rikki & Renato Magno

Rikki & Jean Jacques Machado
Q: I think most people find it fascinating to learn about famous people that also train Jiu-Jitsu.  Name some of the competitors that you either trained with or against comping up in the ranks.  Any other well-known training partners currently or in the past?  

A: Mac Danzig (UFC), Danny Inosanto, Gabriel Vella de Freitas, All of the Machado Bros., Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Eddie Bravo, Ed O’Niel, Rico “The Baltimore Butcher” Chipparelli & playwright / film director David Mamet come to mind.

Q: Any interesting stories to share about training over the years? 

A: I swear, everyday is an adventure.  And thank God for that!!!

Q: What do you feel a new student should focus on?

A: I can answer both this and the second at the same time. Keep a log of your training. I wish, wish I would have done this! We all tend to remember our rolls more than our drills and so it’s important. When your coach sez, “I wanna see 15 chokes from the mount!” and you are going in your head, “Hmmmmm, I only use 3 most of time, what were they now?” It’s important to review. Even if you prefer certain techniques over others. I am not a gifted grappler. I have had to scrimp and scrape for everything I have acquired. It just doesn’t come naturally most of the time for me. Even for our gifted brothers, keep a log. You are probably going to teach too.

Q: What would you change about how you approached training Jiu-Jitsu if you had to go back and start all over again?

A: See last answer!

Q: In my experience, famous and well known people that train BJJ don't compete very often.  I personally saw you compete at IBJJF Pan 2010 via the Budovideos stream.  That is how I became aware that you were a Black Belt.  How important is it to compete and its usefulness for development?

A: I think competition is a big part of our art. It pushes the envelope. Sure, the system of competing has it’s limits, but it drives a certain aspect of BJJ that is important. Some people never compete. Ceasar Gracie for example, but he is a bad ass and a great coach. So, it’s personal. However, it does build camaraderie and that is essential. BJJ peeps are, for the most part, a big family. We are like the Marine Corps of martial arts and we respect each other because of that. (I mean that with respect to the Marines, BTW. My Dad and cousins were in the corp.)

Q: What are your thoughts on rolling versus drilling?

A: If you don't drill, you will always defend more than you initiate when you roll because you won't have the mobility or the familiarity of the technique.  Both are critical.

Q: Do you use supplements?  How do you stay healthy?

A: I do supplement, but not overly. Multis, Vega powder after training and I toy with a few other things. Juice from time to time. I have been vegetarian for 22 years and I think it’s the best option for me. Mac Danzig, Jake Shields and others are vegetarian or vegan and do well in MMA. It is a viable option. I’d love to go Raw Vegan!

Q: What do you recommend for training preparation?

A: Sleep!!! What you ate the day before matters. I think too many guys try and eat like bodybuilders and that doesn’t seem to be the trick. Carbs are not the enemy in BJJ. That is a myth. If you are trying to rip for a photo session, sure, protein and low carbs. Doesn’t work with BJJ in my experience. To each his own, I guess, though.

Q: How active are you these days in BJJ?  What is a typical week for you training or simply a day in the life of Rikki Rockett?  Who do you currently train under?

A: Very active. However, my perfect week would be: Mon., Wed. & Fri. Jits. Tues. & Thur. TRX and Yoga. Weekends: Chasing my kids!!! I train under Professor Renato Magno, Street Sports BJJ, Santa Monica, CA. Sometimes I train with Dave Dunne (3rd degree B Belt under JJ Machado) at Fight Academy in Santa Clarita, CA. We have been buds for years. I fill in and teach once in a while for Mr. Dunne. He is a great coach and an amazing person.

Professor Magno has been an inspiration to me over the years on many levels. He is a friend, a great family man, great coach and a positive force in BJJ culture.

Q: Do you continue to study new (modern) Jiu-Jitsu and how do you go about that?  Do you train with other Black Belts in other gyms, affiliations, etc?

Rikki & Professor Dave Dunne
A: I do. We have guys in our school who travel all over and come back with some unexpected moves. We have guys train before tournaments from Brazil who are affiliates of Professor Magno who have a whole new twist on things sometimes. I have the pleasure of traveling and interacting with lots of Jits guys. Southern California is such a melting pot and hot bed for BJJ. It’s a blessed thing to be here and soak it up. I still suck, though! LOL!

Q: What is the worst injury you have experienced while training?

A: A meniscus tear from a leg lock and a compound fracture of my left big toe. Big toe breaks are like breaking your whole foot. The balance from your big toe is what separates us from the great apes… oh and Rigan Machado! LOL!!! (He’s gonna kick my ass for that one!)

Q: Any big goals for 2015?  Jiu-Jitsu, music, projects, etc?

A: Well, it’s about keeping up the momentum with my musical projects first and foremost. I have a family, so I gotta stay working for awhile. Maybe semi retire in about 5 years and teach Jiu-Jitsu. “Rockett’s Snakepit BJJ”. I would like to compete again. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t win. But, I didn’t get tapped or owned, so it was a positive experience for me.

Q: Do you keep up with current events in the sport?  i.e. Watching events like IBJJF, Metamoris, Polaris, etc?  Might you peruse BJJ forums online under some secret persona?

A: I do, indeed. I love Metamoris and Rigan’s new endeavor The World Jiu-Jitsu Federation. I love the UFC too. Any forum I have ever gone on I was very transparent. Too many ball busters on some of them. Because I am the drummer for Poison, some haters wanna judge me on what I looked like on the cover of a record in 1986! It becomes a little not worth the hassle. However, I thought about fighting a no-gi tournament and wearing bright colored spats, tease my hair and wear guy liner. But, if I lost I’d look like an ass! It would be funny, though!

Q: Name the accomplishment you are most proud of be it BJJ or something personal.

A: My first gold record. I bought my parents a Cadillac with that money like Elvis did! (Except I’m still in the building)

Q: Is there anything interesting you would like to say about yourself or any opinions you  have about the current state of BJJ?

A: I think it’s a good thing to occasionally roll with the ballistic white belt who will challenge your current knowledge. The young, over the top Blue Belt hell bent on your destruction! yes, it will keep your instincts fresh. Oh, yeah, do it when you are tired. And… the light girl who trains all the time. Make sure you use no muscle-ing at all. These are things many of us avoid when we roll. Try asking your Police training partners what they run into every day and how you might handle it. This is real life and sometimes we can get bogged down of the sports end of BJJ. Like Bruce Lee always warned about never losing your natural instinct from learning too much technique.

Q: Anything else you would  like to add people might find interesting about yourself?

A: I was an EMT back in Harrisburg, PA.  How's that one?  I was a hairdresser, a dishwasher and a lifeguard before seeking fame and fortune out west.

Q: Any sponsors you would like to thank, products, or services you would to promote?  BJJ, music, etc?

BJJ: Shoyoroll
Scramble Brand
Ludwig Clothing

Music: Devil City Angles

Clothing: Cult of Individuality Denim
New Balance Sneakers:

Drums: Sabian Cymbals
Drum Workshop Hardware & Pedals
Drum Tacs
Aquarian Drum Heads
Los Cabos DrumSticks
Rockett Drum Works Custom Drums

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