ChurchBoyz Sharpen Iron

I've recently added training sessions with the  ChurchBoyz Pro sessions...and let me tell you from a grappler's perspective, it's amazing!  First, the ChurchBoyz have a storied tradition, winning numerous high school state wrestling team and individual titles, as well as creating some of the most dominating wrestlers in the country.  It began with Olympian and Hall of Fame coach John Azevedo, and Harmon took the torch and continued the tradition of excellence.

Second, many of the top Brazilians Jits and MMA fighters have found their home with the ChurchBoyz.  This includes ADDC champions and placers, former UFC champions and title contenders, and a slew of hungry future champions.  All come to do work.

Third and paramount, Harmon has created a unique environment that is the perfect blend of the grace and beauty of the Brazilian fighting arts with the hard-nosed grit of traditional wrestling.  Practices are designed to be physically and mentally challenging and will leave one with a clear understanding that they have pushed themselves.  The true beauty is the sharing of knowledge across martial styles.  The subtle nuances of optimal positions to hit and finish a take down, the weight distribution of being "heavy, and the mentality of 100% wrestling bursts are taught and practiced.  Season jits black belts openly share leverage points, positions, and finishes. 

Then what simple as it goes and conditioning!  

Nothing sharpens iron like IRON.

Wrestling and the UFC

It was very cool seeing #USAWrestling featured in the last week's #UFC 172.  Commentator Joe Rogan often states that wrestling is unquestionably  the strongest base of mixed martial arts.  Why?  Personally, I don't believe that it is specific to any technique or skill, but rather a mentality and methodology in training.

Today, I was down training grappling and wrestling techniques with some of the world's top MMA fighters and Jits legends.  The practice was run as a high level intense wrestling practice.  20 minutes of light rolling to warm up the body, stretching, technique, live situations, and then conditioning. 

In the conditioning portion of the practice, Coach suggested that we would only do 10 more.  Ropes, throwing dummies, box jumps, bands, chains, bulgarian bags, etc.    Before we started he said...each of these circuits is a chance to break yourself....DO IT!

After we completed the circuits and were walking the mat he called us over and asked one of the MMA legends, "how many rounds in the fight"  He replied 3, and coached asked if there was any more, he said no.  Coach then stated that it's paramount that we leave it all out there on the mat or in the cage....we empty the tank.  Then he gave us the opportunity to do 5 more circuits to truly empty the tank. 

The mental toughness and courage to believe in oneself is built in these moments.  It is a warrior spirit and frequently what is the intangible that separates the good from the great.  This is commonly found in wrestling practice...from little kids to the Olympic Training Center.  It's also found in many many jits schools, but it's unquestionable that it sharpens all combat athletes.

When watching the next MMA event look into the eyes of the competitors and you will know if he or she has challenged themselves with these types of practices.  Train hard and strive for greatness.

Mat Time Builds Character...

 Coach Mark Black with 2014 Girls National Champ

Coach Mark Black with 2014 Girls National Champ

On March 4th, Santa Monica High School wrestling coach Mark Black drew national attention for subduing and restraining a high school student in his classroom.  The student was arrested for possession of drugs on a school campus, possession of a weapon, and battery; while an additional student was also arrested for battery.  Much of the incident was caught on cellphone video, went viral, and soon made it's way to local and national television.  The video clearly showed Coach Black  grabbing a single leg, changing to a double, and holding one boy down while waiting for security.  Coach Black was struck several times with fist and a sharp pencil.  Coach Black was put on suspension pending an investigation.  From the information that is currently out there, Coach Black told the student that he cannot sell drugs on campus and to knock it off, when he took action to stop it he was struck, and when he restrained the student from hurting him or other students he was suspended.  

From the public support that Coach Black has received so far, it would seem that he will be cleared of any wrong doing.  Hopefully he will be publicly acknowledged for doing what he knew was the right thing.

This incident really got me thinking about what it takes to do what you know is the right thing, even when it is difficult.  It takes courage.  There are few places on the planet that develop that type of courage and we are extremely fortunate to be part of a community where that is fostered.  Courage is found daily on the MAT!  While wrestling at the University of Oklahoma we were running 8 miles a day as part of our two a day practice.  Hall of Fame coach Stan Abel professed to us that beyond the conditioning benefits we would find courage during those runs.  The courage to finish the takedown or go beyond our physical and mental limits, because of the work that we had already done.  We earned the courage to do the difficult. 

One more shinning life example of how mat time, teammates, and coaches are so much more than just a sport.  My hat is off to Coach Mark Black for his 30 years of high school and club team coaching, Veteran's National Championship title, and the courage he displayed to do what he knew to be right.  Thanks Mark for your contribution to the wrestling community.

If you haven't already please join the more than 17,000 people that have "liked" We Support Coach Black of Samohi facebook page.



Metamoris 3...A Grappling Highlight!

Man, what a great afternoon of jits fights at the Peterson.  Combining my limited study of the art of Brazilian Jiujitsu with my extensive wrestling knowledge I was able to comprehend and truly appreciate the intricacies of positions and exchanges between most of the competitors.   What was undoubtedly clear was the highest level of competitors on the mat.  The deep knowledge, endurance, and will flowed right off the mat and permeated the entire venue.  The thought of going against the best in the world for 20 minutes exhausting.  No rounds, time outs, or breaks, simply submit or be submitted.  The thought of doing 20 minutes of wrestling non stop makes me cringe...that's the type of stuff that happens at Iowa and Minnesota...that's designed to break one's will.


The attacks and counters were impressive, but what really got me going was observing Rickson Gracie watching the fights.  As he sat in his chair (next to a smoking hot woman) he involuntarily  twitched and ducked as if he was on the mat.  It was exactly the same as a wrestling coach in the corner wrestling the match while yelling instruction.  Once you lived that mat experience it never leaves you.  Pretty awesome.


For those of you who don't know Rickson...he is quite possibly the greatest fighter that has ever lived and was considered the undisputed best of all of the Gracies.  All MMA and combat sports fan should give themselves 90 minutes to enjoy the documentary "Choke".  Sling it up to the TV or watch it on the tablet, but enjoy this little slice of our history. 

Iranian Fans...

A couple of weeks ago we were involved with producing the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at the LA Forum. It was very cool producing an event that would be broadcast live in Iran and tape delayed here in the states. As I watched some of the best wrestlers in the world compete I couldn't stop thinking about how grapplers are part of a special group of people. With the international tension aboard, it was awesome watching Russia, the Ukraine, and Georgia compete. Undoubtedly, no one could compete with the Iranian fans that day...they are awesome.

Check it out here:

Stephen Abas: What the grappling community can learn from the mindset of an Olympic Wrestler By: Nathan Carter

On October 20th, Paragon Jiu Jitsu in Santa Barbara had the honor of hosting a seminar by Stephen Abas. Abas, an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the Athens games and three-time NCAA champion, taught great wrestling fundamentals as well as the awesome “funk” techniques that he made famous. The “funk” style of wrestling is very unique in that it plays off of your opponents offensive attacks to set up counter-attacks of your own, rather than sprawling and defending like in the traditional style of wrestling. Abas’ teaching style was great, very clear and easy to follow; by the end of the seminar, even our white belts’ wrestling was looking much better. We also had the opportunity to pick Abas’ brain on some of the mental aspects of grappling.


Abas’ philosophy on wrestling was always to have a “counter-offense” as opposed to a defense, to always look for an opportunity to score from any position. He was never content to just win, he wanted to score as many points as possible and dominate his opponent so, at the end of the match, there was no question who was the better wrestler. The result of this mind set was a very exciting style that was awesome to watch.

The grappling world could learn a lot from Abas’ competitive mindset. Too often in tournaments do you see people content to win by the least amount possible and who stall even when up by an advantage (a half point awarded for almost doing something good). Playing the points game in this fashion makes for horribly boring matches that no one wants to watch. This problem has led to a divide among the competitive Jiu Jitsu community between timed matches with points, and no time limit submission-only matches. While these submission-only matches can be very exciting, at the higher levels of competition the likelihood of submission dramatically decreases. Matches can run on for twenty minutes or more with both competitors nearly passing out from exhaustion; not many people want to watch that either. While certain rule changes, such as more aggressive stalling calls like in wrestling and judo, could make grappling and Jiu Jitsu more exciting, the competitors need to do their part as well. Submission should always be the goal, but their needs to be a point system and a time limit because there will not always be a submission. But, the competitors need to go for the kill and not play for the win by the smallest margin. You see this style in competitors like Rodolfo Vieira, Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, and Kron Gracie who prove that the sport can be exciting with the current rule set, however, they are unfortunately in the minority. If grappling hopes to ever gain popularity as a spectator sport, and its competitors hope to ever make any sort of real money, they need to take it upon themselves to make it exciting.

If you would like to see the techniques Stephen Abas taught as well as some fascinating interviews with the Olympic silver medalist, they can be found in HD video on