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