Saturday, June 11, 2016

One Door Closes and Another Opens...New Academy to Call Home

"Amor Fati - "Love your Fate", which is in fact your life."
-Friedrich Nietzsche 

Where it Began

My beginnings in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu started in February 2008 with North Dallas BJJ (NDBJJ).  I remember the day I committed to this sport and fell in love with it very early on.  Within a couple months of training I remember standing in the gym making small talk with my Professor, Joseph D. Shelley and day I want to be a part of this gym.  I want to be an upper belt, someone who has an impact here in some way.  I kept these kinds of thoughts to myself for the most part outside of my girlfriend at the time (now wife).

About the time I received my blue belt in the summer of 2009 I had the opportunity to begin teaching as an assistant in the kids classes.  As time progressed I was helping assist in adult beginners classes and eventually advanced classes around purple belt.  I just kept grinding away as a student and instructor, constantly trying to learn and evolve.  I found a lot of value in teaching because it kept me honest.  You can't teach with any reasonable level of confidence if you don't have a good grasp of what you are doing.  I was by no means a world champion competitor (although fairly active) but I dedicated myself to growing both as a student and instructor.  I feel now that my commitment to be the best instructor I could be aided in my growth as a student of Jiu-Jitsu in all areas.


As time passed I became more involved with the gym.  I was teaching private lessons on a consistent basis and becoming more involved with the operation of the gym.  It was important to me to be an asset to our academy and aid in the growth of it.  I enjoyed feeling appreciated and someone that could be depended on.  There were times where I sacrificed my own training for that level of commitment but I felt it was worth it in the long run.  I eventually took over the kids program at brown belt and began developing the curriculum and running the gi program.  This is about the time I could finally look around and say..."Well, I finally got here.  Where are all those upper belts and students when I started?  I outlasted the majority of them.  Not because I was better but because I wanted it more and was fortunate enough to stick with my coach from the beginning."  Loyalty and commitment have always been important to me.

My coach, JD Shelley coaching me at purple belt (AGF 2012)
That "Last" Promotion

Fast forward to June 2015 and I received my Black Belt under my first coach (NDBJJ) JD Shelley. That was obviously the highlight of my pursuit in Jiu-Jitsu thus far.  I wrote a blog entry dedicated to this moment almost a year to the day describing how it felt to reach Black Belt. (Link below to this article)

We continued on the same path at our gym for a while despite times getting tough.  I worked hard to try and do my part to grow the academy but unfortunately that all came to an end when we had to close our doors in April 2016. It was definitely a tough time and hard to let go of some of the relationships that were built. In hindsight that "last" promotion was pretty cool.  Myself along with three other teammates were promoted to black belt that day.  There was a core group of us "old guys/girls" that stuck it out to the very end.

New Chapter

Despite all the bad things that happened, losing my original home academy, along with the ability to train with my old coaches, teammates, and students a silver lining was found.   I was able to find a new gym, very close to my own home in Tier 1 Training Facility in McKinney, TX.  Professor Alan Shebaro was incredibly welcoming to me and nothing short of a great guy.  He has given me the opportunity to come on board and assist with his kids Jiu-Jitsu program; a place for me to train; a new place to call home.  The gym is filled with some great students of various levels not to mention a lot of familiar faces.  Some of them are friends I've made along the way and even some old teammates that changed gyms over the years.  Everyone has made me feel like I've been there forever and in light of the sadness of one door closing a new door has opened.

Just a little bit of about Alan Shebaro, he is retired special forces (Army) and had deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He received his Black Belt from Carlos Machado in 2004 (before Jiu-Jitsu was cool).  His Jiu-Jitsu is very technical; a great instructor and still a student of the game pursuing new knowledge.  He is a Shoyoroll sponsored athlete and competes regularly in IBJJF events as well as Pro Jiu-Jitsu events (Respect & FTW Pro).  Last but not least he is very active giving back to the community and helping veterans.  He's probably the busiest guy I know while maintaining a ferocious commitment on the mat as an instructor and mentor.

My new coach, Professor Alan Shebaro
Many of my teammates also came over to Tier 1 to train which has been really nice while making this transition.  It's very weird to train in one place for nearly eight years and suddenly begin training in a foreign place.  Especially when you've only been at one gym your entire time.  Fortunately for me it hasn't had that feel and more like a home I didn't realize I had waiting all this time.

Not a bad group for my first class at Tier 1

Please Visit:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mission22 Super Seminar

I had the pleasure of attending my first Mission22 seminar.  This was a massive effort that was hosted by new home, Tier 1 Training Facility under Professor Alan Shebaro.  The guest instructors were as follows: Octavio Couto, Chris Haueter, Sina Hadad, Melissa Bentley, Guy Mezger, Gina Franssen, Kurt Osiander, & Renato Tavares.  All of these instructors didn't come to this event for a paycheck.  It was clear after each had their moment to present content they were 100% in support of the cause. There were so many well known and respected black belts in attendance I can't even begin to name all of them.

So what's the point of Mission22 and this seminar exactly?  Yes, Jiu-Jitsu but more importantly bringing awareness about the struggles our active and discharged veterans encounter.  PTSD is something everyone by now is aware of but few have experienced it yourself, a husband, wife, child, friend, etc.  As much as I felt I was aware and understood this issue I developed a much more meaningful perspective over the weekend.  There was a very large number of attendees (over 200) and a large percentage have served our country.  One of the most amazing things about the seminar was seeing so many practitioners traveling from all of our country to attend despite affiliation.  Maybe you're asking why Jiu-Jitsu for our veterans?  The camaraderie veterans develop in the field is very difficult to replace/replicate once they integrate back into civilian life.  Anyone that has trained Jiu-Jitsu for a while is aware of the camaraderie that is developed among teammates on the mats.  It works well for many veterans and I know because I've seen it myself.  

Each instructor spent some time talking about why they were there; why they support this cause and share their perspectives on why they feel it is important to be a part of this mission. Both days ran about eight hours in length.  The atmosphere was nothing short of amazing.  I had my reservations about holding up over two straight days for eight hours but was pleasantly surprised. Everyone was there to learn but there was a very relaxed feel to the event, the instruction, and the time provided to train.  I felt like everyone there was interested in the cause first, then the training, and time to interact with instructors were additional benefits.  

I'm not here to write a dissertation about PTSD.  I am however dedicating this non-Jiu Jitsu entry to the importance of being a good human being.  The reality is PTSD can be caused by many things.  It affects people in so many different ways it's more than I can imagine trying to understand.  We need to realize that the problems our veterans go through after coming back from their time serving our country and the problems they experience trying to re-assume civilian life.  It's important to consider the far reaching effects that one person has on all of the people they touch.  Think about how easily an entire family can be destroyed by the loss of a father, mother, or child.  How are their lives changed by the loss of a loved one?  

Just imagine this scenario.  A father comes back from active combat and is struggling from the guilt, loss of friends, and stressful events they have endured.  How does that effect his family?  He may struggle for a period of time and the family suffers with him.  One day he takes his own life.  How does that affect his wife, children, parents, and friends?  Suicide has such far reaching tentacles that we really don't consider.  Losing one person damages so many people that are connected to them.  

How can we help support our veterans?  Of course we can donate money, purchase and attend events that benefit veterans.  We can donate our time in many ways to participate in causes to support our veterans.  The list is really long on what we can do to help.  However, I feel like one of the easiest ways to help is the most often ignored method.  Simply taking a moment to be selfless.  I feel very strongly we are at a time in society where most people are so self-absorbed in their own lives through social media, personal goals...just fill in the blank.  I don't need to convince anyone that this is where we are at right now.  I'm a father and have that perspective seeing my own kids who are by nature selfish at their age but also filled with a million distractions.  I am guilty of this more times than I'm proud to admit.

How many times in the last year alone have we watched the news to hear about someone that killed others only to take their own life?  I ask myself "didn't anyone notice something was wrong with this person?"  I have to believe that anytime someone does something like that or simply takes their own life SOMEBODY had to be aware there was a problem before such an incident transpires.  There are usually clues by simply observing someones behavior.  The problem is all too often people just choose to ignore it for various reasons.  Maybe because they don't want to be involved?  Maybe they are afraid of the stigma they might endure for "interfering" with someone's life?  Who knows what the motivation or lack thereof to say something or talk to someone about it when there is clearly something wrong.  

So back to my suggestion of "what's the easiest and most often overlooked way to help our veterans?" Try to take a moment here and there and observe your friends, family, teammates, co-workers, classmates, etc. and ask them "Hey are you okay?  You look like you're having a tough day.  Do you want or need someone to talk to?"  It's really that easy to be a friend and aware that they have may be struggling with something. That could make a huge difference in someone's day or more importantly their life if they are in a dark place.  It doesn't cost money or much time at all to just take a break and notice these things. I've felt this way for quite some time about the horrible events we hear about on the news and it definitely applies here to our veterans, friends, and family.

In closing, I feel mental illness is still a taboo topic in our society. I feel like we have moved past the "dark ages" of mental health...identifying it, treating it, etc.  However, I feel we have a long way to go to develop compassion and basic understanding for those that suffer from mental illness.  If you haven't experienced it yourself or maybe someone close to you that has experienced these kinds of struggles I'm not convinced most people have the ability to be compassionate and care as much as they should.

22 veterans dying everyday is just a number.  Whether that number is higher or lower is irrelevant. Think about the exponential number of lives that are impacted by the loss of whatever number you feel comfortable with.  Think about how you are going to make your mark.  

Please visit the following pages:


We Defy Foundation

Tier 1 Facebook page (TONS of pics from the Mission22 seminar)

Tier 1 Training Facility (Where I train & teach)

Pitbulls for 22

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dokebi Combat Outfitters Jungle Rash Guard Review

Dokebi Combat Outfitters is a relatively newer gear company that provides kimonos, rash guards, grappling tights/spats, shorts, and apparel.  If you aren't familiar with the brand it may be partially due to the fact that not only are they newer in the market but they are based in Vienna, Austria of all places.  I had seen some of their gear through social media channels before getting my hands on some of their gear for my own review.

Construction & Quality

Overall I feel this is a very well made rash guard.  I have had my fair share of rash guards over the years good, bad, and everything in between.  The Dokebi is made of 85% polyester & 15% spandex. These days I think most manufacturers of sport specific rash guards (Jiu-Jitsu of course) are using a blend rather than 100% polyester.  Something worth nothing when doing a little research of my own current rash guards I realized that "Lycra" is a DuPont brand of elastane or spandex.  So if you think there is a difference there is probably very little if the label reads spandex versus lycra.

I can really appreciate the use of sublimated graphics throughout the construction of this rash guard. When I first started Jiu-Jitsu most companies were using heat transfer type graphics and some still regrettably do.  There is no worry about cracking and peeling of the graphics here with the sublimation.  In other's worth the money to pay a little extra for that feature.

Fit & Performance

I received a size small to test and review.  I'm 5'7" & 145lbs.  A small is where I land on their sizing chart and I felt the fit was very snug and a slim cut.  Don't get me wrong it fits very well but I may have been able to go up to a medium size.  I would say that these run a bit on the small end so if you prefer a bit of a looser fit rash guard consider going up to the next size if possible.

The fit throughout is very consistent.  I don't find the sleeves to be excessively roomy as they extend towards the hands.  Some rash guards fail in this area and tend to not be snug enough and that is one of my pet peeves while training.

One of the things I really like about this rash guard is the mesh side vents that run from the bottom to just below the armpit.  This is a nice bonus to help the top breathe during training sessions and particularly if you like to wear a rash guard under your gi.  My biggest complaint wearing rash guards under a gi is the feeling of trapping all the heat generated while training and cooking inside my gi top.  This is a much more pleasant rash guard in that respect.

The rash guard itself is very soft and lightweight.  It features flat locked stitching throughout to ensure it stays together well.  After many hard training sessions both nogi and under my gi I haven't experienced any fraying of the seams at all.

Additional Observations:

Anyone that wears their rash guards under their gi's during training have likely experienced "pilling" in the fabric.  I did experience some while training in the Dokebi rash guard.  This doesn't count as a negative but while researching I did find some companies that claim their products don't experience this due to the blend of fabrics.  I have yet to experience a rash guard that doesn't exhibit "pilling" regardless of fabric blend.  I think this is just something to expect during normal training.

As a Tip:  Wash your rash guards inside out to help prevent "pilling" while running through the washer and/or dryer (especially if you wash with your gi!)

Overall Impressions

Being based in Europe the company's website has their products listed in Euro currency.  The price point on this rash guard is around $55 making it comparable to other popular brands.  I hope to see more of their products offered on more established vendor sites in the near future.

  • sublimated graphics
  • side vents
  • consistent fit throughout entire rash guard
  • runs a bit small on the sizing
  • availability in the United States through vendors???

I like what Dokebi has done with this rash guard.  It is a very well made product that didn't skimp on design nor take short cuts on construction/quality.  Let's face it.  Most Jiu-Jitsu gear is not cheap and most of us want to feel like we are getting good to great value for our money.  If you are looking for those qualities and some gear designs that your training partners don't already have then Dokebi Combat Outfitters is definitely worth looking into for your next gear purchases.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Longing for the Days as a White Belt

What it felt like as a BJJ white belt?

Sometimes I feel myself longing for that exciting feeling I had back when I first started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  The newness of learning something I had never known was impossible to compare to much of anything I had ever experienced when I first started training.  I never trained Martial Arts as a kid so when I began training Jiu-Jitsu I finally "got it."  My discovery of Jiu-Jitsu came at a time when I most needed it; something to give me focus and direction.  I totally immersed myself into training as much as I reasonably could and the learning that came with it.

I jumped at almost every opportunity I could to train with high level guys that would come through town for seminars and workshops. I competed as often as I could because I felt that it was an important aspect in developing into a better grappler.  Even as a full-time, "career guy" and single parent at 30, I would sneak into the gym for a training session anytime I could find a plausible opportunity.

How it evolved and changed?

As time passed and I started gaining some rank in Jiu-Jitsu I still longed for learning and developing my grappling.  I began teaching kids once I reached blue belt and eventually adults as time passed. As an instructor it was vital for me to be a student of the sport.

At times I became overly focused on reaching certain goals and ranks and that honestly took some of the fun out of it for me at times.  Anyone reading this can relate on some level regardless of your time in the sport of Jiu-Jitsu.  If you stay long enough you will see trends and changes within the competition environment and I tried my best to stay in tune with that despite what we were training in our classes.  I found as time, purple, then brown I longed for that feeling I had as a new white belt that was completely devoid of goals, self-imposed pressure, etc. This was a pitfall for me and I imagine I'm not alone feeling that way.

What I missed the most?

One thing I missed probably more than anything is that feeling of almost no expectation.  When I was a white belt I didn't know much of anything.  I had some natural ability and basic understanding of wrestling but outside of that I was like a clean pallet.  The amount of knowledge I felt I could obtain seemed limitless as a white belt.  The amount of time I invested in addition to normal training sessions was borderline obsessive compulsive but it was a lot of fun.  It gave me something to channel my free time off the mats until I could get back in for another training session.  That time studying online and chatting with teammates gave me some focus so that I would have a plan when I got back in the gym to train.

So I got my Black Belt

Yes, you too can get a Black Belt if you are committed and keep going long enough.  I managed to stick with my original instructor which was very important to me.  I'm not saying that is the way for everyone but I wanted to have that squeaky clean lineage.  Loyalty is a big thing to me and I was lucky enough to develop a relationship with my coach and see it through for my last, big promotion. I can honestly say as I approached my Black Belt I really focused on basics for the last year or so leading up to that point.  Maybe that took some of the fun out of it for me?  Taking the most basic route of fundamentals rather than learning something completely new just wasn't for me?  That being said I don't regret it and feel some of the most basic fundamentals are lost on the average grappler that reaches blue belt.  I don't mean to paint every blue belt with that brush but if you are reading this you are in tune with social media.  You see how many people become overly focused on things and specialize in certain areas rather than developing themselves to be well rounded grapplers.  You don't even have to leave your gym in many cases to see that.

I will say though that the last six months or so leading up to Black Belt I did become much more focused on leg locks and nogi grappling.  I knew as an upper belt having a well rounded game and understanding of leg locks was very important.

I have been 75% gi focused since day one.  It's not that I don't enjoy nogi but my training & teaching schedule simply works out that I am mostly training in the gi.  Couple that with a limited amount of time to train and that's just where my focus was & competing in the gi.  I started to feel that excitement all over again as I started to transition into a leg lock focused nogi game; throw in some stand-up as well thanks to working with Reilly Bodycomb every opportunity I get.

Joseph D. Shelly & Me at my Black Belt promotion

Something new...Judo!

Fast forward just a bit from my most recent promotion and I would be lucky enough to find a new training partner and teammate in a 3rd Dan Judo Black Belt.  This guy not only has been training Judo for 30 years but has a moustache that rivals both Don Frye and Magnum PI.  Turns out he's my age and the real deal.  He's a lot like me and we both have very similar goals.  We love training, learning new concepts along with the application, and teaching others what we love most.  He sold me on Judo and I'll be honest it wasn't easy at first.  The stand-up aspect of grappling has always been my weak point (always defaulting as the guard guy) and it's not often you have the chance to work with really talented wrestlers or Judokas outside of your own academy.

In just six months of working Judo with him 1-2 times per week I've been able to elevate my confidence in standing with anyone at my own gym at a level I had not experienced before.  The best part of this new discovery is simply's new.  It has given me that white belt feeling all over again that I experienced when I first found Jiu-Jitsu.  It is making me a more well-rounded grappler and keeping me very hungry to continue learning.  Moving forward I hope to compete in at least one Judo tournament this year and maybe even some Sambo!

Akin Kurtulan (my Judo coach and teammate)
Moral of the story?

I think it's fairly simple.  We all hit the proverbial rut in training.  We feel like we've hit a wall or simply losing interest for various reasons.  My suggestion is to make a list of the things that you loved most when you first started training.  Identify those things that made you most excited about training.  Once you figure that out ask yourself, "what can I do to bring back those really good feelings again?"  Don't stray from what brings you the most enjoyment.  Don't set artificial goals that take the fun out the aspects you love most.

For me I firmly believe it is to never stop evolving.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fenom Hemp Belt Review

I know what you're saying, why is a guy reviewing Fenom Kimono products?  I am lucky enough to know the owner and she offered me one of her hemp belts to try out.

A little background on the owner of Fenom.  I met her back in 2009 when I was just a baby blue belt and I believe she was a high ranked blue at the time.  She helped organize and run a local women's tournament that was a lot of fun.  My fiancee at the time (now wife) competed in the event and we had a great time.  Not long after my fiancee, myself, and a group of girls including the owner of Fenom took a road trip down to Austin, TX for the 2nd annual Girls in Gi's event which was a blast.  Since that time I've been a big supporter of women's involvement in the sport and supporting the Fenom brand has always been a no-brainer.  Fenom offers high quality products designed by women, for women, at a very reasonable cost.  Simply compare the price points of Fenom kimonos to any big brand and it's an incredible value.  Fenom is also one of the first brands to allow mix & match between jacket and pants that some other big brands have copied.

This is the same belt that Fenom offers with the familiar logo tag but mine simply had the tag removed so yes these belts are for guys too!

I have owned my fair share of belts since I started training in 2008:  Gameness, Atama, Shoyoroll, Inverted Panda, and now Fenom.  My preference in a belt is generally one that isn't overly thick.  I find the thicker belts can be difficult to keep tied and I also prefer a belt that is about 110" in length (I have a 30" waist).  This is primarily due to the manner that I tie my belt and usually find that anything shorter than 110" simply isn't long enough.  

First impressions out of the bag is the belt is not overly thick but very firm.  I immediately gave it a trip through the washer and let it hang dry to allow it to break in a bit.  Brand new belts can be very rigid and need a little work to get them more pliable.  After talking to the owner she did confirm the belt is manufactured in China so no fake hemp fiasco here.  

Comparison among other brands
The belt itself is simple by design and has the typical worn look after only a few washes and training sessions.  I love the look of a worn belt and it doesn't take long to achieve that look with a hemp belt. The belt looks great and the length is perfect, and stays tied very well.  The Fenom hemp belt has become my favorite belt for every day training and teaching.  If you are in the market for a new belt or back up belt I would give these a good look.  The price point is in line with any other major brand and is definitely of high quality.