You win or you learn, My Pet Peeve…

You win or you learn.  I know it’s been said by many top renowned black belts; however, the more I think about it; the more it bothers me that we tell ourselves or our students that. Yes, its feels awesome when you won and are one getting you’re hand raised and I’m sure it feels great in that moment if I’ m the other guy and that I learned something. Wait. What? No, you lost and it sucks and there is a bit of disappointment (especially with single elimination tournaments).  There is nothing wrong that you lost that match, that’s the point you need to compete against others to try and make your hard work pay off.  Learning comes from hindsight.

Losing is part of the sport; it is not a bad word that needs glossed over or like Voldemort that you can’t say the word out loud. Embrace it, you will have your good days and bad but you do not need a crutch to call it something other than it is. Maybe it reminds me of “everybody gets a trophy” approach, but I as a coach I like to speak directly with my students, it saves time and gets to the point. If I lose (and I’ve lost matches), I don’t think that I did a great job learning today, I’ll go back for more, Woot, Yeah!!  No, it eats my lunch a little bit and then later one to wonder what I did wrong or what could I have done differently. You win, you go out and celebrate and talk about the cool parts of the match with your team. You lose, well, you still go out, but then when you get back to the gym and sit down with your coach and do a video review of the match, what can be improved, what did you do well and not so well. What happened that you LOST the match?

This saying has to apply to tournaments and not in the gym; is that when training, you are expected to try new things, put yourself in bad positions and take risks and you will be submitted and lose in training. The Point of competing is to go out and test yourself against unknown opponent to assert your will, your game plan to win a match. You roll to finish and fight to win; however, there can’t be two winners, or even a winner and a learner, there has to be a loser.

The art and sport that I love is one of constant improvement and refinement; full of frustrations that you have to overcome, challenging yourself along the way and is not kind to those with fragile egos. Dealing with the ups and downs for many it does help their confidence grow past their ego. There is a constant learning process, of trial and many, many errors. Or even when you have done everything that you were supposed to do only to be countered and the opponent escapes because they did what they were supposed to do better than you. So much hard work for those moments of successes makes me so much more appreciative once achieved and so disheartening when you fail but, the art that I know helps grow strong minds as well as bodies; able to accept the challenges put before them, the successes and the failures.

You will learn regardless

The simple beauty of this art is that you don’t need to add feel good glitter to it; you will have fun, train, fight, win and yes, sometimes you will lose. Embrace all of it; the highs and lows, it’s one of the things that makes Jiu-Jitsu Great.

See you on the mats.


Blue Belt promotions

My First Blue Belts!

Blue Belt promotions
Hard Earned Blue Belts

I’m proud to say that I promoted my first belts.; Jackie and Gabi (Brawly) on April 20th.

When I rebooted the women’s BJJ program 2 years ago; Jackie was the only student and basically had a lot of private lessons as a result. On the one hand; she received a lot of instruction, on the other, the when you out are considerably bigger you have to get creative (185>110).

Don’t misunderstand, it does not mean that training gets easier for them, but when someone new is learning and there is a large weight and size difference you have to adjust so that they learn correct positions, movement and progressively build up to  to dealing with with larger opponent.

We had few ladies come try the class. Some stayed longer than others and then Brawly (well earned nickname for her assertive style) showed up one day.

Being honest; at the time, when a new student started in the women’s class I’m always happy (since I truly believe that all women should do Jiu-Jitsu); however, I am always expecting them not to show up for the next class as the program has been difficult to get started.

Brawly not only kept coming, she joined Jackie and I prior to class for extra time as well as staying for the all levels class after. Having another student and closer in size was helpful. After months of being consistent and seeing their progress I thought it would be fun to set a personal goal of trying to get them to a solid Blue Belt level in a years time (I did not tell them about it though). However; as they improved and I gave them fair warning of when the intensity level would go up as they got better.

I made whatever time possible available to them; before classes and Saturday mornings, any seminars I taught or field trips to other gyms. Sometimes for my Saturday morning 7 am training session and the cool part is they would show up ready to go!

BJJ is an art that tests you in ways you don’t expect; both physical and mental.  First Jackie broke her foot and was unable to train, so she came to watch so as to stay engaged and not miss out. As soon as she had a boot on and crutches; we worked around them and using them, when the crutches were gone and boot was left her training was adjusted to keep her working and drilling what she could. By the time she tested boot had been off for a while but it turns out it never fully healed and she had been training with a broken foot.

Gabi had been on a roll; lots of training and mat time. We had our first affiliation get together and when rolling with a purple belt from another gym, she had her hand jammed and severely sprained her fingers. So much so that had to work through physical therapy to get them going again and then months of rehab, tape and ibuprofen. All the while, she kept training. She adjusted what she could do and watched out for her hand ( and no Spider Guard).

Being able to stay involved when injured takes serious discipline and mental fortitude as it’s much easier to stay home and watch tv than to sit on the sidelines and watch class.

While I was on the training for my black belt and being on the injury list; everyone helped out, time drilling, rolling and being available on off times as well. It’s always great to see how an academy pulls together to help each other improve. we also had female BJJ guests come in to help train with that were closer in size to get a good feel for students closer to their weight.

Come test day, they were there about an hour and a half early; nervously drilling the techniques (it probably didn’t help that they didn’t know the format and I’d been purposely evasive on questions regarding the test.)  As class started all the white belts were on lined up on one side of the mats and the colored belts on the other and they were center stage. As this was my first promotion for belt ranking I thought I’d try a different approach than static demonstrations and to chain techniques together that would involve bother partners, like guard passing to establish positions and submissions, then working the escapes or recovery of various positions. This not only help to show their technical skills, but that they could transition between them, knowing where to go and what options to use that worked best for them. That was the first part.

The second part of the test was live rolling; and it was a little more gauntlet style, and though I’m not a fan of big beat downs, I am a huge fan of hard work and determination. The live roll portion consisted of 10 3 minute rounds with only 30 seconds rest in between, just enough time for their sparring partners to leave and the fresh one to come in. The could only roll with blue belts and above and I brought in special blue belt BJJ girls from X2 Fitness and Next Level Combat. And they worked, hard. they were pushed, but were able to show how much they’ve learned and grown and that they deserved to step up to the next level in their Jiu-Jitsu Journey.

Proud Coach 🙂

Group photo
Blue Belt Test

I received my black belt!!!!….

On March 5th I received my black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under my friend and mentor Chris McCune of McCune’s Martial arts.

I’ve just been taking the time to absorb this in for a bit; it still feels like someone is going to come up and say, “sorry , that was meant for the other bald guy, we are taking it back.” I admit it, there would be great sadness and crying would occur; however, as it happens, Chris has not changed his mind and I’m grateful.

Being my own worst critic at times made me second guess my performance and question my abilities. While normally never satisfied, or entirely happy with my technique, at least I felt like I was progressing.  Then I received the test date, March 5th at a Rigan Machado seminar. I started to prepare, not just for myself, for my goal of obtaining the Black Belt. But also for those who have supported and believed in me over the years. Chris, my friends, my BJJ family and most importantly my very, very patient wife.

March 5th finally came. The test date. I’ll admit it, I was a little nervous; I took 4 ibuprofen got on the mat and did the best I could. There were other students testing , blue, purple, brown belts as well as my friend and training partner Roland Larson , going for his black belt. It was an hour and a half of demonstrating techniques, teaching and of course live rolls with multiple partners. I had 7 rounds in all, some were my students as well as students and coaches from other academies. Everyone pushing me, making me work for every inch; by the end I was a big puddle of tired and luckily I made it through without anything going too bad . I could definitely feel my knee complaining and the tendons and muscles shaking but i was nothing to the satisfaction of being done with the test.

When we started the test; Chris was the only one in front of us, watching intently, making sure that we were on point. However; when we lined up at the end of the test waiting to receive the belts, there were 9 other black belts opposite of us lined up behind Chris in a room with well over a hundred people watching. A little awe inspiring for me. When my turn came and I heard my name called out I walked up to Chris and I was darn near teary. I admit it. I was about to say something and knew I would probably lose it and decided that for once, I’d shut up a little.  It was unexpectedly more emotional than I was prepared for.

When the belt was tied around my waist and the final  knot pulled tight, it was one of the best moments of my life. After spending over 25 years on BJJ. After persisting through times of not having instructors, through injuries, setbacks and all the little things that make one question “why am I doing this” or “wouldn’t it be easier to just stop?”.

To finally make it to this point, to reach this achievement and be recognized and welcomed by my peers is something that I still have a hard time expressing into words; I think grateful is a good start. I feel gratitude for all everyone in the BBJ family that have shared mat time with me. Gratitude for coaches that shared their game with me and even for mistakes that I’ve made and learned from.

Thank you to  my BJJ family that has put up with years of horrible jokes while I taught and learned but still kept coming back. Most importantly,  a heartfelt thank you to my wife;  that has put up with so many years of gym stuff, stinky gi’s and injuries.

I am grateful and so thankful to all of them.

My friends at that came to support at the Rigan Machado seminar
My friends at that came to support at the Rigan Machado seminar


The saying ” a black belt is a white belt that never gave up” has a whole new appreciation for me.  Don’t stop chasing what you want.


First BJJ Camp for the Affiliated Schools

Yes, this is a really late post from January 9th, 2016.

I am a big believer in knowing who you choose to associate with; this is something I hope to get across to my students. I am lucky enough to choose an awesome group of friends and mentors for my Jiu-Jitsu family.Professor Chris McCune, a second degree Rigan Machado Black Belt of McCune’s Martial Arts.  Professor Micheal Ellefson and Tim Maheady of Midwest Center for Movement (MCFM) in Hudson Wisconsin, Black Belt Gina Franssen fo X2 Fitness in Minneapolis.

As such, students place a whole lot of trust in their instructors,  and it’s one thing to say you are part of something, it’s another thing to see it for yourself.  So for a couple months I was pestering everyone from the schools to come and get together, and I have to say for folks to leave their warm homes when it’s minus 9 degrees out to train is pretty great.  We had 5 schools represented, McCunes, MCFM, X2, Minnesota Kali Group and my own froup Cryptid Jiu-Jitsu. over 45 people attended, they got to meet other students and roll with students from other gyms, some had different games, and experiences to share.  Everyone helped the newer people, to show them what to do, how to do and give information openly. The rolling sessions were broken up about every 40 minutes to teach some new techniques and drill and then back into rolling. This was a 4 hour camp and it was a blast!

12/17 Women’s Self Defense (escaping mount with arms pinned)

Akagi1188-1I love it when I get asked a question that is outside the normal BJJ sport frame of mind; at the end of class one of my female students that is new to BJJ said that one of her biggest fears is someone sitting on her chest in a very high mount and their shins/knees over their biceps trapping their arms. My first thought; I would never hold mount like that (automatic BJJ sport response, Duh), it took me a moment to catch up and get out of the sport BJJ world, she wasn’t saying what is a mount escape, she was saying “This terrifies me, what can I do?”.

Well After I work out what i thought was a viable concept of an established mount escape, and testing it out with her, she asked if it would work on someone bigger than me.  I said I don’t know, lets find out. I called for my assistant coach Joe to come over, I weigh 180ish he’s about 235. I asked him to get into the position in question and his reply; ” I wouldn’t hold mount like that”  ( so it’s not just me).  We tried a couple other variations for that situation but it seemed to work. Before writing this I wanted to test the concept one more time with Coach Tom, he’s about 265 , it took a little more effort a but worked as well and decided to put it out there and put it down on video.

Keep in mind; I’m addressing this as a “concept”, this in one instance in what could be an assault or rape situation. This is not meant as a end all solution but only to show that you have options and hopefully that it sparks an interest in learning some options for escaping from the ground. If it starts you on a Jiu-Jitsu Journey all the more awesome, but find a good gym with a good coach that will answer your questions.

Akagi Jiu-Jitsu’s first Official BJJ Affiliate School!

Brickhouse Mixed Martial Arts 

first Official BJJ Affiliate School!
Barbell MMA

I can say that I am honored to be the official provider of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Brickhouse Mixed Martial arts in Waseca Minnesota. Jason Lynch is the owner of the this club; being in a small town he is proactive about bringing in and exposing various martial arts for his community in addition to the established Aikido and Karate that is already offered.

I’ve been coming down from Minneapolis once a month a core group has developed to where they can come in to train and drill the material I provide in between sessions. They are a great group of people and are hungry for information and seem to enjoy my informal (and I  think fun) approach to teaching.

As my affiliate group, I will do my best to provide them with the best content I can provide, a curriculum to help provide structure, how to train smart without getting hurt with a focus on drilling. Live rolling will be with either myself or my students from the Minnesota Kali Group to ensure that they learn how to wrestle without getting hurt.

The Brickhouse crew be increasing the amount of times we get together and Jason will be starting to offer classes soon. While we get the program up and running, you can also take part other classes offered with Aikido and Karate.

If you are interested you can call 507-521-2327

or stop by

115 4th st sw

Waseca MN. 56093



Some advanced training at Midwest Center For Movement

         Had a Great training session out at Midwest Center For Movement; no instruction, just take the time to roll with high level players; three black belts, Mike Ellefson, Tim Mahedy and Gina Franssen (X2 Fitness), two brown belts Roland Larson from McCune’s Martial arts and myself and three high level purple belts, Evan Carothers (MCFM) Joe Swore and Topher Braddock (Minnesota Kali Group/ Akagi).

Got to play a lot of different games as far as who we rolled with at the time, from fun flow throw caution to the wind rolls with Tim, Roland and Evan, to a more tactical plan when rolling with bigger guys like Mike Ellefson who will be competing at worlds in Las Vegas in September. Also got to Drill Leg Locks with the ever scrappy Gina, share things that have been working for both or new technology.

Seeing my guys getting pushed, bringing their game up made me proud. They’ve been working hard for several years and are that much closer to getting their brown belts!Midwest Center For Movement Weekend

Waseca seminar 8/15/15 was a blast!

Waseca seminar 8/15/15 was a blast!

Had a great time going back down to teach at Barbell MMA and a group of hungry students!

Jason Lynch started Barbell so that he could bring something new to his community in Waseca, Minnesota. Its exciting to see something start completely new. With limited experience in martial arts and a want to learn; taking the chance on trying is inspiring.

I’ve been found down there about once a month and looks like things are starting to pick up as word gets out and more people come to the classes each time.

This time we worked some basic Muay Thai working a progression from kicking range to boxing rage to knees and a takedown then did a conditioning drill before moving into the ground.

We finished by working some old school knee on belly drills and spinning armbar from knee on belly.

Looking forward to going back, We’ll be working survival positions and escapes and sweeps from the guard positions.



July 27th and 28th: Tough Training

I recently had the opportunity to train with Black Belt Nick Robinson and it was an absolute pleasure. After a warm up roll, just did some good focused rolling. It was tough, good pressure and assertive game. That being said, because it was a tough couple days, it was more of pushing than proving; meaning, that shared it was about getting better, not beating the other guy. Shared freely some great tips, advice and what works well for him or that what he though might help us.

Train smart, train, hard, have fun!

Tough Training, Nick Robinson