1. How did I get started in BJJ?
This is actually a two part story. I started BJJ in 1996, but I got started in the Martial Arts even before then. I grew up in upstate New York and since as far back as I can remember I wanted to train in the martial arts. When I was a young kid I would sign out martial arts books from the library and take them home and practice martial arts in my bedroom! As a kid I always dreamt of being a martial artist. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford lessons. When I was around 13 years old a neighbor gave me $100 to mow her lawn while she was on vacation. I took my new, crisp $100 and rode my bike to a local martial arts school and signed myself up for classes. The $100 didn’t get me too far but I was able to trade off part of my tuition in exchange for cleaning the school. This was the beginning of a lifetime of martial arts training. Eventually I would earn black belts in both Kenpo Karate and Tae Kwon Do. Fast forward to 1996. I was teaching martial arts part time in a health club in Delaware. At this point I was really teaching a mix of everything but no real grappling per se. I was very interested in BJJ at this point but had no where to train. It was the 1990’s and BJJ was incredibly rare! My friend and fellow Martial Artist Ken Kronenberg told me about these full contact “NHB” fights that were taking place in Virginia (not far from Delaware). He saw an ad in a magazine and had contacted the promotor about us competing in it! (I know it sounds like a bad 80’s movie) So we decided to enter this pre-curser mid 90’s “MMA event”. The event was called the “Fearless Fighting Challenge”. Both of us lost our fights. Ken lost to Dan Bobish (who would go on to become a decent UFC fighter). I fought some kid from Canada and lost a decision. (Also on the card were – Carlos Newton UFC Champion 2001, Joel Gerson Fought in Shooto submitted Rumina Sato and BJJ Black Belt Leo Dalla) The next day all the competitors were invited to Mario Yamasaki’s school to train. We went down and were immediately bit by the BJJ bug! Ken and I would eventually go onto get our Black Belts under Team Balance. Ken was promoted in 2006 by Phil Migliarese (team Balance / Relson Gracie) I was promoted on January 18th, 2014 by my longtime friend Ken Kronenberg.
2. What is your current rank and who gave it to you?
I am a black belt under Ken Kronenberg (Team Tai-Kai / Balance)
Here’s my black belt story:
3. What is your favorite quote?
What you seek is seeking you. -Rumi
4. If you could be any fictional character for 24 hours who would it be and why?
Spider-man! Since I was a young kid I’ve been a huge spider-man fan. I was bullied a lot as a kid so I always liked the idea that here’s Peter Parker this skinny, nerdy dude (like me) who can do these amazing things! I would love to see how spider-man would fight if he knew BJJ like me? That would be sick!
5. Do you compete in BJJ?
I started competing again two years ago with my daughter Valencia. I had made a promise to her that when she wanted to compete for the first time that I would do it with her. So two years ago I lost almost 50 pounds and started competing alongside my daughter. (This was my first tournament since 2001) We are both on a two year streak of not losing a single match. I like to compete because it gives me something to train hard for and keep reaching for… I think everyone should experience competing in BJJ at least once.
6. What do you do for a living?
I teach martial arts by day and by night I don my spider-man mask and rid the city of vermin!
7. Who would you want to have lunch with from Jiu-Jitsu that you’ve never met?
That’ a tough question since there are so many amazing people in the BJJ community. But I would have to say Roger Gracie. Why because he’s done things that are unprecedented. He’s a 14 time world BJJ champion – 12 as a black belt! I have questions.
8. How has Jiu-Jitsu changed your life?
BJJ hasn’t changed my life…It truly has saved my life! Two years ago I was in terrible health. I let myself slip into terrible eating patterns, depression and a host of health issues. I wasn’t training regularly and was in terrible physical and mental shape. When I decided to get serious again about BJJ and competing etc.., I took the lessons that I had learned in the past from BJJ and applied them to my life. I lost 47 pounds in four months and got my physical and mental health back on track. I have kept the weight off for over two years now and my life has changed in a million and one ways!
9. If you won the lottery what would you do first?
I would take my daughter to Brazil so she could hand deliver gi’s to kids in need!
10. Can you tell me what you do outside of BJJ?
For me and my family there is no “outside” f BJJ. My wife is a purple belt, both my five year old son is a grey belt and my 8-year old daughter is a yellow belt and founder of The Gi project. Our life is BJJ. But what are my hobbies? I like to read comics…listen to cool music and watch cool movies!
Jiu-Jitsu is in the air I breathe