#05 James “JT Tenacity” Tomlinson – The Unknown Strength Podcast

Macgregor McNair Podcast 0 Comments

Mac: Alright, thank you very much for joining us on episode five of the Unknown Strength podcast. I’m your host, MacGregor McNair. With me as always is Brenton McKiterick. Unfortunately Steve Phillips couldn’t join us tonight but he’ll be back with us next episode. On this episode we have a super special guest, Mr. J.T. Tenacity. James Tomlinson, who is a strength and conditioning coach for some of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters in Australia. He’s also a personal trainer, a competitive BJJ brown belt himself and an all-round legend who I’ve known for a few years now. So have you, right Brenton?
Brenton: That’s right. Probably met James about seven or eight years ago I Reckon. Probably when we were back in blue belt, through the Jiu Jitsu scene.
James: Yep.
Brenton: Had the experience seeing you on the mat, cornering you and being cornered by you and pretty much the full experience.
James: Yeah, definitely, definitely. It was like back down in Balaclava right?
Brenton: Yeah, that’s it. Kaizen fitness William street.
James: Yeah, that was cool. That was a bit of a throwback. So yeah, it was an awesome time.
Mac: Awesome. And so JT before we get into the thick of it today, I just wanted to touch on something that not a lot of our listeners might be aware of. But you were actually a personal trainer for Fitline a few years ago and that’s how we first met.
James: Yes.
Mac: And I remember you being at the top of the pile of Fitline trainers and that was when I just come in as a fresh faced manager up here at Fitline Meyers Place.
James: Yes. Slightly less beardy and possibly not as muscular or strong. At that time I do remember- I do remember first meeting you at that time, Mac. Yeah, Fitline was very good to me, coming to Melbourne and think I would have to be a personal trainer in the Rialto and I think, you know, at it’s Zenith was awesome. It was probably the best PT studio in Melbourne at that time so it was such a good place to be then, and be amongst such good trainers and a good vibe and, you know good community. So yeah it’s cool that we got to meet like that and here we are now.
Mac: mhm, here we are.
James: And yeah, it’s kind of bit different; I’m coming in as the guest, on the soon to be very well known Strength podcast. [laughter] Mac: Thank you very much.
Brenton: With your help.
James: My pleasure.
Mac: yeah. So why don’t we just get straight into the good stuff and why don’t you tell us about your background as an athlete in the martial arts. I understand you started with taekwondo at a young age and then you moved onto BJJ, and recently you’ve started your amateur career in MMA, is it right?
James: Yeah, well actually funnily enough, pro career. But not to worry, it’s one of those things that once you get a certain level in martial arts it’s difficult to get amateur fights and so I - probably just a little bit impatient with the process. I was like’ “okay, I’ll take a pro fight.” Which was probably not the best idea, but that’s alright. Like, from a learning experience it was good and yeah, I think the challenges now, because MMA is so popular, a lot of people are getting into it probably too quick because I really want to fight. I think it’s something that everybody wants to do. If you love martial arts, you want to know if your skills stand up. So yeah I think it doesn’t matter who you are or whether you’re ten years experienced or one year experienced, you want to know if you can hang and you want to know what that feels like. And definitely I think we all need to be patient, not jump in too quickly.
Mac: Absolutely.
Brenton: So on that, obviously being a brown belt, does that offer some kind of barrier in entering into the amateur market MMA, given that, you know, if you’ve been a brown belt generally you’d expect anywhere up with the six - seven plus years’ worth of Jitsu training. So finding an opponent, I understand is quite difficult.
James: yeah, definitely, definitely. That was like the biggest issue. I definitely would have loved to have had an amateur fight, and yeah I should have waited but I didn’t, and yeah it’s funny people- I think when you get into a certain level people assume certain things about you but if you already have a black belt in martial arts and a brown belt in it, that was just like a bit of a, I don’t know, deterent or something. But yeah it’s just one of those things that I think, because MMA is such a demanding thing, I think people don’t appreciate that. You gotta be good everywhere and one brown belt in one martial arts doesn’t mean anything.
Brenton: Absolutely.
Mac: yeah, well you know, when a brown belt gets punched in the face you know they’re a purple belt...
James: Yeah, well I don’t think it’s entirely true. I think a brown belt can get punched in the face is still a brown belt, there’re just annoyed they got punched in the face. So you know you are still going to get arm barred by it real hard but you know you can just see off the recent fight Robert Whittaker and Jacare Souza. And Jacare is honestly you know he’s a greatest of all time. But take a shin kick to the face it doesn’t matter of who you are. If you’re not conscious even if you’re still standing up, you’re done.
Brenton: Yeah, you’re right. And in my humble opinion Jacare should have been the champion three- four years ago-
Mac: Totally yeah.
Brenton: yeah arguably yeah at least in my opinion the best middle weight at the moment, was the best middle weight now it's all up in contention, so a huge win for Whittaker.
Mac: Yeah massive for sure. Yeah that was incredible. So why don’t you rewind, go back to the start and tell us how you got started with taekwondo and martial arts.
James: Alright, well, because- that’s the thing, I feel like I’ve told the story a couple of times but anyway we’re here now so- I was actually a pretty chubby kid and I wasn’t good at sport and as a result I got bullied at school. So yeah hit a critical point where I just said to my mom, “I want to learn self-defense cuz I was getting beat up all the time,” it was a super regular thing and was killing my self-esteem so my mom took me along, the local school hall had taekwondo there and I went there. And anyway it was like the second day of class they taught us self-defense. It was a very traditional school and it was like a foot trip with a bit of a chest shove and it was like- it was meant to be that initial confrontation when people are shoving in the chest.
Brenton: When you say foot trip you mean kicking at their feet to trip them or are we talking about grapple?
James: I mean you kind of catch- or like a foot tweep and you push them at the same time that trips them over.
Brenton: Right okay.
James: And that gives you opportunity to escape. Run away. And my teacher at that time, Andrew Johnson, he had studied Wing Chun as well as taekwondo and this is a bit of a Wing Chun move he combined with some taekwondo. Anyway it’s funny cuz we just practiced it over and over and over for like half an hour and he’s like, “you know, you got to stop the confrontation before it starts to punching” and so funny, two days after we’d done this, classic bully scenario, Kiko Chris Wilson, school captain, house captain,
Brenton: the jock.
James: the jock. Really good at sport, really good runner and I sucked at sport right? So he hated me, cuz we were in the same house, we were in Lawson house. So I was always bringing the team score down cuz I couldn’t-
Brenton: What color was Lawson house?
James: Yellow.
Brenton: Yellow.
James: So I couldn’t run, I couldn’t do anything you know, so he hated me for how nerdy and chubby I was. But anyway, so he came up and he- it was pretty terrible because it’s almost like a harry potter scenario; he always had like two guys with him, he always had hand arounders you know. And they came up and he’s like, “you got something for me Tomlinson?” and I was like, “no man”. We were pretty prolix like, I had like a tuna and a celery sandwich. Like no one wanted to trade sandwiches with me, it was always healthy, healthy grind, no one wanted it. Anyway they came up and he shoved me in the chest, and I was like, “oh I’m going to get beat down again” but then I was like, “ohh” light bulb moment and he shoved me in the chest again, I was like, “oh snap” and I was like, “okay”, I just had this little moment I was like, “I do nothing and get beat down or I try this thing, doesn’t work, I still get beat down but I got to try this thing.” So he shoved me in the chest and it was just like timing, like I just did the move, I just shoved his hands out of the way, caught his heel and pushed him and it was like nailed it. You know that moment in the film Snatch, where Brad Pitt gets KO. and he just gets horizontal, and he lands and just hits it and he goes into the water? Like I just absolutely leveled this guy out. He hit the ground, fell on his back and he was winded he was like, “uuggh” and I was like, “oh damn” and I just leveled up. I just turned into that fat child hulk. This got massively solved and “this kid know karate” and the other two had to pick him up cuz he was like winded and I was like- it changed my life. It was like knowledge applied. I wasn’t physically stronger, I didn’t get fit in two days, I just knew something and I applied it and it stopped me from catching a beating.
Brenton: You executed a technique; you got the perfect timing and right opportunity.
James: it was a fluke an absolute fluke but because I did it, it saved me and I became obsessed. I started training like six days a week.
Brenton: So how old were you at this point?
James: I was ten and an half.
Brenton: Ten and a half. So you were in grade five towards the end of primary school?
James: Yeah, it was actually into grade four coming into grade five but man and that just got me into martial arts. And then doing sit-ups and running and all that like the laded sit-ups, pushups all the classic martial arts stuff. It was amazing you know. That really started the change in my- the trajectory of, you know, my life.
Mac: Absolutely. That’s awesome. And so I imagine once you hit teens or even beyond the teens I presume, jiu-jitsu was getting more popular.
James: well I think honestly it didn’t really come onto my- okay it did come onto my radar briefly, but I forgot about it, but when I was doing taekwondo, when I was about thirteen- fourteen, I got my black belt at that time, I had grown dramatically. I was about as big as I am now but maybe about fourteen kilos lighter but I was pretty much fully grown and my mates put on a VHS tape with, you know, the early UFCs, “oh look at this, you should do this, this is so cool” and I was like- I was bit of a hot headed at that time, like I didn’t mind getting in fights or confrontations in high school just being insecure but yeah it seemed quite crazy stuff. But it didn’t kind of- I saw it and then it went away and it wasn’t really in my mind for the next couple of years. It was only much later. Like more of twelve thirteen years later that I actually came across Brazilian jiu-jitsu and it registered.
Brenton: How did that exposure resurface for you in your life when it came to jiu-jitsu?
James: well I’d had a long time in taekwondo and I had kind of been deep in it and I had a short break and I came back to it and I’d been fully immersed in it. And I’d moved to Melbourne when I was twenty one. And I trained almost fulltime for about four years for taekwondo, trying to compete at an international level. Like national level and then international level. And then yeah, my goal was to try and make an Olympics but that didn’t happen. And in all, you know, truth and perspective, I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t on that level, I didn’t have, probably, the technical level even though I’d worked really hard at it. I was trying to do sport which- decided an advantage is having long legs. I got really short stubby legs.
Brenton: Yeah you’re a stocky dude.
James: So that wasn’t the best, that wasn’t-
Brenton: Like a kettlebell.
James: Yeah similar very similar, probably its shorter legs than a kettlebell. Yeah so then I just stopped coz I didn’t achieve what I wanted and I’d broken up with my girlfriend and I kind of stopped my job. I actually- so I’d stopped working at Fitline at this point in time and it was not long after that I started doing kettlebell training, and then yeah I started doing some work for the Australian kettlebell company. But it was a strange thing, I was living in St. Kilda, I moved to St. Kilda and I was walking around St. Kilda.
Brenton: With kettlebells?
James: Well, it was all those things-
Brenton: It’s not a no.
James: well man it’s funny, I saw lots of people carrying all these different colored Gis wrapped up in the bow. I was like, “dang what is that?” coz we just have white, like, the white kind of taekwondo-
Brenton: In taekwondo?
James: In taekwondo. So people wearing black gear- they had black and some of them has purple, and I was like, “oh my god, what is this?”. And I went up to Wolfe, he’s a guy from Peter DeBeen St. Kilda, and I said to him, “man, what did you do?” and he said, “Oh I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu” and I was like, “what is that?” like what is that even as an amalgamation of words Brazilian jiu-jitsu didn’t seem to make sense. And he pointed me towards DeBeen St. Kilda and I just went up the stairs and there was big Mike Wilson. Just Gi off, ripped, muscular as hell, like steaming, like just finished a roll, steaming massive hero muscles and just eating a massive thing of broccoli chicken and capsicum just like smashing it. I walked in and I was like, “oh my god, is this Brazilian jiu-jitsu? What is this? Is this what it does to you?” and so I was like, “hello” he goes, “hello”.
Brenton: It’s a stark contrast to the butt-scooters you see in some competitions.
James: And man, I was like- I was really fascinated coz everyone was just rolling and Peter DeBeen was there and I was just like, you know, “what is this? What are you guys doing?” and he says, “Oh this is Brazilian jiu-jitsu.” And I was like, “Yeah but what is that?” “Yah go and have a roll, go and get on the mat” I was like, “but yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing.” “You can’t punch and you can’t kick, if you get in trouble you get hurt just tap on the ground or just say stop or no, you’d be fine. Go and get out there” and I was like, “okay”. I was just- I had no gear, I had just shorts and a shirt and I was like, “whatever, I’m game.”
Brenton: This was all in the first time you walked up the stairs?
James: This was the first time I ever came in right? But I was like- that’s me; I was like whatever let’s have a go. I got on the line, I just got submitted like sixty plus times in- it was just like jail rape like I was just getting beaten down by some of the grizzliest dudes I’ve ever seen. They didn’t care. There's no beginner lesson, it was just like, “ah, ugh snap, snap, snap” and it was the most frustrating experience in my entire life. It shattered me. Because I thought I’m fit, I’m strong, I can- I’ve dealt with situations-
Brenton: You’ve been physically building yourself for years.
James: Yeah, yeah, just working away you know. And I just got killed. And afterwards I was just so mad and he’s like, “did you love it? Did you love it?” I was like, “no I didn’t love it”
Brenton: Crying on the inside.
James: I was just like, “you didn’t teach me anything” like, “ugh” and also, “are you going to teach me something?” and he’s like, “yeah, yeah come back we’ll teach you something yeah” and I was like- I was so mad man. It hurt me, it hurt my heart, hurt my man pride, like I just couldn’t handle it. I was stomping around for two weeks, I couldn’t go back. I was like, “man I hate jiu-jitsu and what did you do?” and then after a while I just had to accept it and I just went in there and I was brought a gear and then it was on and it just didn’t stop.
Brenton: It was a very, very humbly experience.
James: Full-on man, brutal but awesome. So it changed- definitely, that experience changed my life.
Mac: That’s fantastic. Tell us more about your time at DeBeen’s.
James: Oh man look, you know Pete’s awesome you know if it wasn’t for Peter Debeen and John Will there just wouldn’t be jiu-jitsu in this country.
Mac: That’s right.
James: It’s amazing that those two guys, both from Victoria, made the journey and I’ve kind of done my historical study in terms of talking to different people, having met John, trained with John, understanding him. You know, spend a fair bit of time with Pete, doing privates with him. I think that at that time Peter Debeen jiu-jitsu was like the strongest academy just because of- there were just so many people training there, there wasn’t many other options. And yeah it was great, I mean it was brutal. I got to say I didn’t learn a lot of jiu-jitsu, I just learned survival.
Brenton: Mentality.
James: Yeah it was just like I was getting beat down so much and I only really started to learn technique- I only really learned one sweep, like flower sweep, like arm across flower sweep, arm bar from mount, like all arm bar from close guard. That was the only thing I knew for like a year. My whole white belt I learnt one technique and the rest of it was just not get destroyed or just tap a lot. So yeah it was toughness, you were just getting beat down by the higher belts and look I did privates with Pete, but I think what he showed me or what he taught me was kind of a bit beyond my comprehension. So I think that was the hard thing. But no, I mean it was awesome, I think at that time there were so many good people there. Coz at that time Ninos, he was a brown belt there and he was talking-
Brenton: He was a coach of Australian Elite Team, the west.
James: yeah coach of- head of Australian Elite Team, which is like one of the-
Brenton: A massive team-
James: -biggest and best teams in Australia. I mean Dan Cherubin was still under Pete at that time so you had like Ninos, big Mike, Dan Cherubin; you had a lot of awesome jiu-jitsu going on in the one space.
Brenton: And all heavy weights.
James: Yeah, huge guys. Big guys man. Big units and even all the other guys like Paul Lahey and then just- there are so many good guys out at Debeens who are black belts now. I mean Chris Doerkson is one of the toughest humans on the planet and he was a light weight and he was holding it down with all those guys. There were so many guys there it was so interesting. Angus friend taught me a lot; he’s actually one of the guys who taught me the most. Mike Dough, he’s a really nice guy, he’s a pharmacist he had- he played inverted guard, no one played that. So it was really cool you know and what was cool is it taught me about jiu-jitsu lineage and Gracie Barra and Carlos Gracie and the Gracie’s, but then ultimately, when I left Debeens I learnt more about the other side of jiu-jitsu and other lineage and other peoples training. But that was a great place to start.
Mac: Fantastic
Brenton: So jiu-jitsu has actually taken you all the way back to the mother land of jiu-jitsu; Brazil.
James: Yeah.
Brenton: You spend a bit of time there training, and tell us a little bit about- you did jiu-jitsu over there, I understand you were training some pretty high-level athletes over at Alliance.
James: Yeah, I think- I mean the first trip I went was almost in 2009. And I was just training in Rio. And I was training at Gordo jiu-jitsu and then also I went and did a couple of sessions as Gracie Barra in Barra.
Brenton: So anyone who’s familiar with half guard- correct me if I’m wrong- Gordo is one of the fanning fathers of the half guard.
James: yeah and that was circumvent of an injury. He had an injured leg and so he was playing half guard. And he really pushed that and really what was awesome about Gordo was that he was also the MMA coach. So he- man he was a tough guy and he had a lot of tough guys to deal with, and at that time Gracie Barra was the hub. Like everybody was training there, so to be one of the top guy there, it’s phenomenal and that was the team of that time. But now I think over the time what I learnt was there’s a whole other part to Brazilian jiu-jitsu which is Sao Paulo and I mean there’s obviously other states, you know. And many, many other cities. But I guess the capital city is just like Sydney and Melbourne they have Rio and Sao Paulo. And the climates are not too dissimilar. So it was like overtime I started to see these guys compete who were pretty amazing, who were guys from Alliance team. And I started to hear more about them and observed just how successful they are and then I was like, “wow, I want to go to Sao Paulo” some of them said, “yeah you should go to Sao Paulo” and then it occurred to me that I- it’s actually the thing that changed my mind- I think it moved me to do that was training with Cobrinha. So I had to stop over, it’s like my third time to Brazil, two thousand and-
Brenton: so Cobrinha is pretty much a record holder in the light weight division I believe. He’s approaching forty and not slowing down whatsoever and won championship after championship.
James: Yeah, no, he’s nonstop. He’s definitely up there with greatest of all time. You know four time ADCC champion, four time world gi champion, like the guy is pretty, pretty insane and also you know a Capoeira black belt and just an amazing athlete and-
Brenton: Amazing chef too apparently.
James: oh yeah man he started as a pastry chef so whenever he gets the opportunity you can see sometimes on his Instagram if he goes to Abu Dhabi then he’ll be in the kitchen and man the guy can- he can whip up a mean cake. Yeah he can man so he told me- when he first opened his academy in LA I just had a stopover and I was like, “damn I’m in LA for two days, I’ll go train with Cobrinha” when I was there he was like, “why are you training in Brazil?” “Oh I’m going to Rio.” He said, “Man you have to go to Sao Paulo and train with Alliance train with Fabio” like you can’t-
Brenton: so Fabio was like the head coach of Alliance which is probably one of the most successful jiu-jitsu team if not Gracie Barra or the biggest most powerful.
James: Yeah I think they are the most- I guess it’s like they’ve won the most world titles like team trophies, so-
Brenton: and the most dominant at the moment.
James: yeah, yeah so they’ve- I mean look, they’ve been- it’s been pretty close to them the last couple of years coz team Atos is such a strong team even though they are small so many great athletes and competitors out of that team. Yeah Fabio Gurgel has just been yeah just an amazing coach and leader and so yeah I had to go visit and it changed my life. It was just next level to go to this city where people are so focused on their jiu-jitsu so yeah. Being introduced to the Alliance team changed my mind about jiu-jitsu it changed my mind about pressure, changed my mind about wrist locks and foot locks and everything else and pressure passing and so yeah that started a relationship that’s been ongoing for last couple of years. Whenever go to Brazil I would always go to Sao Paulo and train with the guys there. So yeah I’ve been really fortunate that at different times when I first went there, everyone was there. So Bruno Malfacine was still there, Lucas Lepri was there, Bernardo Faria was there-
Brenton: weight champion- middle weight champion. You said Bernardo Faria?
James: Yeah and-
Brenton: heavy weight champion?
James: and Leonardo Nigera, who was world absolute champion at that time. He actually beat Buchecha that year.
Brenton: I know, I huge guy.
James: yeah he’s a massive unit and then you know Gabi, Luanna. Everybody was pretty much Tarsus everyone was there so when you stood on the line and he lined up all the black belts in the middle. Everybody is a world champion and he’s like, “alright guys”
Brenton: not just about a champion, a current world champion at the moment in time.
James: yeah that is so frightening just being like a purple belt and they’re like “right, go take them down” like what? One of my best friends Fabio Colloi- Fabinio Colloi, who is a top feather weight out of the Alliance team. The first time I met him he was purple belt. And mind you he was purple belt for about six years but anyway he- I watched Gabby Garcia mount him and drop a down elbow. Full face palm down elbow, because it was like a mount escape drill and she’s a tough one, a very tough woman. And Fabinio just put her back in half guard really quick like put a foot back in half guard he was like, “the drills over” and he was like “no its not” and I was next on the line to go in and she just was like battling and Fabinio was like- I don’t know he can be a bit annoying, he was like, “no drill over you’re done” and she just pushed on his face just bam dropped the elbow and split his nose.
Mac: what the hell man?
James: I was like “oh, ooo” and then Fabinos like- he didn’t even blink he just got up and he’s just like, “don’t worry about it, I’ll just come off” he was streaming blood out of his face.
Brenton: So Fabinio was mate from Australia or is he Brazilian?
James: yeah he’s a Brazilian guy and he’s yeah. Fabinos one of the top guys there and I- after I went up to him I thought, “man, what happened?” and he was like, “oh it’s just Gabi, she’s just like that” and I was like, “what?” like that’s normal you know, that’s fine. And then I said, “Aw man, your English is really good.” And he’s like, “yeah I lived in Australia for a period of time, studied English” he was like, “man if you want to come and hang on in Brazil you should come and live with my family” so I formed the relationship there and so he really?
Brenton: And really hospitable.
James: yeah man he hooked me up and looked after me for the subsequent times that I’ve been to Brazil and also looked after Lachie too. So if it wasn’t for Fabinio-
Brenton: Lachlan Giles
James: Lachy Giles went and got hooked up even so I said to him, “when you go to brazil man make sure you see my friend Fabinio” and for the record I didn’t like- at that time I never got to go to there, awesome pimping holiday house. It was amazing like exclusive beach, family resort house. Kind of like 20 peoples I’ve never been there I’ve only heard about it. And then when I wasn’t there it was Christmas time right and I saw these photos of Lachy and Livia at this crazy beach house at the Colloi beach house I was like, “damn man” “where’s my invite?” he like friend jacked me- he stole my best brazilian friend and I was like, “damn he’s getting all the benefits”, but then I went back there in 2014 and then we all stayed at the beach house. When Liv and Lachy were there too, and then we went to a tournament after that in Santos. That was cool.
Mac: Very nice.
Brenton: Amazing too. What are some of the, I’d say principle differences you’ve noticed between the training the lifestyle of jiu-jitsu over in Brazil versus Australia. You know some of the things like intensity; I guess the volume of training, frequency really how to go bad at recovery and all of that.
James: Yeah look I think it’s like a- it’s funny, I guess it’s like what you- what you don’t know won’t hurt you in the short term. So these guys really don’t have any concept about scientific training. What you’ll notice is most Brazilians will do a lot better once they get to America.
Brenton: yup.
James: because they’re getting access to physios who are really good, they are getting access to proper strength conditioning coaches and they are also in environments that foster recovery. I think the nature of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Brazil is similar to taekwondo in Korea. The way they would do it is set the most demanding hard training ever and whoever didn’t break or whoever broke the least kind of rose to the top. I know right you are the toughest you’ll be champ.
Brenton: just weeding out the weak really, but it’s looking to develop to most resilient not necessarily-
James: well yeah so no it’s not the best.
Brenton: exactly.
James: like it’s just you’re the toughest. And on value of toughness, you’re the best. And that’s why there are always guys in Brazil who are amazing who you never heard about. Well they couldn’t come to Brazil for visa reasons so they couldn’t come to America from Brazil because of visa reasons, or they had a criminal record or whatever the story. They’re still there churning away super hard with all of them, all of the champions, making the champions, champions. But you never hear about them. So I think the intensity is much higher, because they roll to the death absolutely. I thought it was like actually like- I thought they were picking on me. It’s like, man these guys just beat me down. That’s a gringo thing, why they bash me. But actually when I got to sit back and look, when I rolled each other, even the guy who are very close friends, they’re so brutal, so brutal. If you got your wrist taped, they’ll wrist lock your taped wrist, you know if you got your foot taped, like tape both feet so they don’t know which one is bad. Like, guys will try to come at you hundred percent. So you got to be prepared for that level of intensity, also they’re training two or three times a day. Now, I think once people set a championship to a certain level, once they’ve banked ten thousand, twenty thousand hours, they definitely tape it back from a skill point of view, but the intensity is always super high. And that’s like saying that they don’t know about recovery. So they are like “I’ll have some Acai”, that’s awesome. I hear that’s good for cutting weight. 90%-
Brenton: Delicious high volumes of sugar.
James: 90% Sugar. [laughter] So, Sobet as a recovery food is questionable. [laughter] I think ultimately having been there and seen it , you do get used to it, and I think if you get used to it at a younger age, that’s cool, but I think the misconception is that these guys, who are really good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu, are like favela kids, they’ve got nothing to do, they’re just doing jiu-jitsu. That is 5% of anyone you’ll ever see. The guys you see are elite. They’re families are either very wealthy or the club has sponsored them. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an expensive sport, essentially I guess a guy-
Brenton: Particularly when the competitors have to pay their own way, and there is a very high barrier eventually to start making money.
James: The guys you are fighting are thorough breads; they are chosen to do this as opposed to their economics degree. They’re doing this coz their parents can pay three and a half grand a year for their fees.
Brenton: They’ve got that safety net.
James: Yeah. Judo’s sponsored by the government, so that’s an Olympic sport right? But jiu-jitsu is not. You need to have a lot of money to train jiu-jitsu. You are either like absolutely the best and your sponsored or what’s awesome or the exception, for like Miao’s and Leandro is the “project Social” where they can train for free and they’ve been able to elevate themselves, but honestly the guys you are fighting they’ve got the best supplements, they’ve got maids who make their food and all they do is train and that’s what they live for. I think that’s the difference. In Australia we have awesome lives and we have a lot options. So we lose a tournament we go like “Awww, better go have a smoothie”, “Better go have a really nice dinner with all my team.”
Brenton: “Got to have that chicken parmigiana all myself in two weeks”.
James: Yeah, you know what I mean. [laughter] It’s not so do or die and I think what’s really interesting is going to Brazil and seeing all that. You’re seeing super, super tough poor people, fighting to death and then you’re seeing the super-rich, super elite like “I would conquer the world because I am better than all of you”, that’s a different mentality you know.
Brenton: So just honing in on that training intensity that you’ve touched on, it almost sounds like you’ve got a significant portion of competitors and athletes who are being filtered out because of the arduous training, it’s that intense that the risk of injury, the likelihood of injury drastically increased such that a significant amount of high level competitors that eventually, their careers end early.
James: Yeah. No that’s entirely true. That’s entirely true and a lot of people-
Brenton: like people would have never would have heard of.
James: Yeah definitely and I think it’s even a fluke that we’ve heard of some of the competitors we’ve heard of like Sergio Moraes, like you never would have heard of him, part of the reason why he wasn’t out in competitions earlier was just he did- alliance team sponsored him to come up. He was doing so well in Brazil but he just never ever had that money. And there are so many people like that but the injury thing is phenomenal but that’s the thing, these guys, it’s like if it’s injured tape it. You just train, there’s no excuse. Whereas what we are taught- and it makes sense right, like you don’t wanna have permanent ligament damage or, you don’t want to have long term arthritis in your joints. But like Cobrinha does not have any ACL’s, like probably the reason what and Michael Langhi and I are close, he tore, well Tarsus tore his , peace out Tarsus, I love you Tarsus, don’t take this as a diss, you are an animal. I love you. [laughter] But Tarsus knee barred Michael really hard and tore his ACL, so
Brenton: Cobrinha or Langhi’s?
James: Langhi’s ACL, So the advice for Langhi, eight weeks out from worlds 2014; “Don’t fight world’s”, take the surgery, do whatever. And he was like shattered, like he was lining up to be champ that year, it was going to be a big year for him and he said to me “What would you do?”, and I said “Man, how does your knee feel?” and he said “My knee feels okay.” And I’m like “Well we can strap your knee hard out and you can probably do this.” Like the guy has got massive quads, like he’s got the musculature to hold the knee together.
Brenton: So just to make this sense and I guess successful carry on, by having- how bad was his ACL injured? And what is that-
James: He completely torn his ACL.
Brenton: how has it affected him as a competitor in actually performing in a jiu-jitsu sense.
James: Knee stability is severely compromised. So essentially turning, internal external rotation under load it’s going to be really difficult. It’s just going to be really hard, and what that means is he’s just at that much greater risk of tearing the ligaments in his knee. It could be a complete knee reconstruction as opposed to “I am having ACL surgery”.
Brenton: He still has some degree of mobility he can still-
James: Yeah, yeah, no. I mean in the initial there’s a bit of inflammation, but I mean, once that is settled down, this is where Mac might be able to come through and provide a bit more insight. But in terms of what I understand of that, like ACL injuries, the knee cap was intact, medial collateral ligaments are intact, PCL’s are intact, he had control over the knee joint, but under like a lot of force or extreme torque ,which happens all the time in jiu-jitsu, -
Brenton: That’s what jiu-jitsu is all about.
James: Yeah. [laughter] Especially if you’re playing spider guard and people are just throwing your legs around. The chance you’re hurting your knees is really high. So, this is what Fabio Gurgel said to Michael; “Oh, Michael, Cobrinha doesn’t have ACL’s, he’s four times champion. You can win the championship”. And he’s like “Man” Cobrinha is his master , like Cobrinha gave him his black belt right, so he had all this guilt and weight on him, he still came through and won bronze that year. You know, he taped his –I taped his knee every day. We did his rehab, he did crazy training to get his knee up to a position where he felt confident to do it. He still got out there and he lost very contentiously against JT Torres on a decision and then Lucas Lepri bashed JT Torres in the final. I mean that’s the thing. He was his team mate. It was also considered to be one of Alliance’s best, you know light weight. Great, we have one of the best all times so it’ just really interesting to see that over there it’s like you’ve got no ACL, tape your knee and fight anyway. This is the mentality and I guess if you’ve got a club full of champions, you can just throw people hard at it. I think the difficulty for us here in Australia is, we have a limit.
Brenton: We have the luxury.
James: We have the luxury to choose. But we also have a limit on how many brown belts we’ve got on going into the worlds. We’ve got a limit on how many black belts are going in at the worlds. We don’t want to sacrifice anybody. Do you know what I mean? I am not saying that Michael’s being compromised, end of the day his choice as an athlete, he made that choice, he competed well, and after his knee surgery he was fine. He didn’t incur any further injury but what I am saying is, because we have choice, and being the first world educated people of the Earth-
Brenton: like a plethora of options when it comes to our lifestyle, where we go with it.
James: We just say “Nah, I am not going to risk it, sorry.”
Mac: Yeah, that’s a huge difference in mentality between the cultures definitely. So what else stands out to you about the difference , culturally and otherwise between jiu-jitsu there and here?
James: Look I think S & C in Australia is awesome. I think our level of understanding of anatomy, physiology, advanced training methodologies and I mean even yourself Mac, and you know you’ve put so much time and energy into your education, the last eight years, ten years you know. We have access to it, and it’s expected, this is the standard now. You know, whereas there people still don’t cross fit and that’s no slight on cross fit what I’m saying is if you want to be good at jiu-jitsu, you don’t train cross fit. Cross fit’s its own sport, it’s like triathlon. Like you don’t go-
Brenton: Exercise champions
James: Yeah. I want to get really good at running, Imma up my cross fit. Well look it’s a very specific thing. If you’re trying to do cross fit as a sport and you want to get good at that frame work then that’s what you need to do. You want to take up swimming to get good of cross fit vice versa you don’t take cross fit to get good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the guys were doing kipping chins and their wrecking their hands, you know getting real crazy palm tears.
Mac: oh man that’s disgusting.
James: And then they couldn’t grip. Like you know, no grip no fight right?
Brenton: Absolutely.
Mac: Yeah.
James: Also bacteria, right, you don’t want to get-
Brenton: Open wounds.
James: Open winds and the mat, like you don’t get skin infections. When I was there I was seeing these guys doing cross fit, coz like cross fit’s hard, “that must be good, coz hard is good.” And I was like “No, no, no, no, actually we need to not do this.” So that’s what I think the difference is culturally in Brazil, their still on the body builder, still on the aerobicise fitness. Like I actually got banned from deadlifting in a gym. Like “Oh man this is terrible” right? Is in the B-fit academy right , “Man forget those guys”, they even had a video-
Brenton: Did you drop the weights?
James: No, no, man, never. Probably coz I wasn’t wearing like a lycra onesie and had a mad booty. My booty is not bad, but it wasn’t Brazil level [laughter] coz there were lot of women doing sumos, you know, because that’s getting the glutes on right , and plenty of women doing a lot of like leg kick backs and kick back emphasis or whatever, no hip thrust by the way, no barbell hip thrusts. Clearly not on that Brett Contreas life. But anyway, it was funny coz I had a video playing, right? Coz the trainers weren’t really training people, it’s just like- it’s like a 24/7- it wasn’t a 24/7 gym but it had videos on how to train. And they were doing deadlifts on the video, I’m doing deadlifts, I just happen to be using all the weight. And they were like, “no you can’t do that over here, it’s not safe.” I was like, “she’s doing it, just looks better than me and its lifting less, that’s not fair.” But that’s what I’m saying, it’s a culture thing. It’s like there’s so much about aesthetics and that is very, very popular for both men and women. So functional strength training, powerlifting, Olympic lifting- it’s not in the culture.
Mac: It’s not on the menu?
James: Nope. Not at all. So when you come in and you say to people you have a shoulder injury you shouldn’t do shoulder press, that’s like an alien concept. But shoulder press makes shoulders strong, no, stop. So that was a big cultural fight for me to try and get the guys to even talk about recovery. And that’s where we’re leaps and bounds ahead.
Mac: You’re talking the dark ages to the information age really.
James: Yeah pretty much, yeah. And the funny thing about it is they’re still producing amazing athletes.
Mac: Yeah.
James: And it’s just based off sheer will-
Brenton: Just grit.
James: -and volume of training.
Mac: Yeah.
James: And ‘I just want it more than you and I’ll kill you for it.’ I mean that’s a great quality, but they’re definitely about intensity, they’re not about longevity. And it makes you wonder where some of those athletes would be now if they had more of that.
Mac: Yeah, it’s almost like they’re saying all the success in the sport in spite of the methods they've been using.
James: Yeah 100%. And that’s also because they’ve got nearly two hundred and sixty million people and people are very passionate you know. Whether they’re doing capoeira, whether they’re doing football they’re doing jiu-jitsu, they’re doing boxing, Brazilians are passionate people and they live it 100%. And I think that it made me more passionate too. I’m a passionate guy. but when you see those guys, when you see the nine year old kids just beating their chest and flying arm bar and tearing the gi off and you’re like, “okay, I understand how when you’re eighteen years old you’re tearing shreds off everybody”.
Mac: Kind of all comes into perspective when you see shit like that right?
James: When you see the young kids man, and you think- and also they often times when it’s in a basketball stadium they have it caged off, so you can’t get in. only athletes can get in. they got this kind of fat, not very mobile security, everyone plays in. but it’s to stop people jumping out on the mat like its- people would- they’re so passionate you know and they’re not afraid to punch on either. I think if there’s anything I really took away from Brazil is like the love of the art, the pure dedication of just no excuses always train and community. Like, when you don’t train, you still go to the gym to hang with everybody. I mean I know we do it out here but everyone eats together, lives together. You’re always socialized with the club because “communidade” that’s like the strong thing and that’s why the team ethic is so strong in brazil and that definitely comes from the nature of the society.
Brenton: So was the strength conditioning coach with your experience to strengthen these very elite competitors, were talking in world champions. How do you approach their training- so you look at what they are doing- what they are currently doing with their training, you analyze those opportunities. How do you actually approach the training as a coach?
James: I think first of all, having looked at the guys because they’ve already got such a high skill level, a lot of what you’ve got to do is contrast training. A lot what you’re doing is correcting the evils that are done on the mat. I would say rule number one for any competitor from amature through to pro- the goal number one is no injuries. Injury prevention is key. The overuse is crazy.
Mac: It’s like the “Hippocratic oath” really. “First do no harm”.
James: 100% I’m with you. And then you’re going right well you already spent six hours a day gripping, to improve your grip Do we need to do any grip training? Probably not. In all truth you probably need a good forearm treatment. So in truth you need to go, “right, how can I teach you to be- teach you some self-maintenance and also how can I get you stronger where you are weak right now or how can we just keep you from making things worse. Coz guys will always train, it’s just the mentality, broken rib, train, broken wrist train. So you have to content like- you’re the jiu-jitsu guy right Brenton? You don’t- how many time have you gone, “oh, I’ll just drill” you know like you still get there right? Coz its-
Brenton: I’ll lightly roll and you’ll start beating me and i'll increase intensity.
James: so I think you’ve sustained your own level of injuries almost to the point of no return.
Brenton: absolutely a few times.
James: yeah and that’s frightening especially when you kind of take-
Brenton: especially when it comes to a pillar of your life, when it becomes like the epicenter to everything you do everything you’re about is stripped away. It’s a terrifying thought.
James: Yeah. And but these guys, that’s a thing for them, the guys who are the best at jiu-jitsu don’t have anything else they are fully dedicated to that and that’s pretty much- that’s all they do. And I think the thing I was looking at with these guys was trying to get them to do things that they weren’t accustomed to. So getting on a foam roller. Oh my god, revolution people. And then just using- just doing basic mobility work because I mean people are- like yoga’s very popular people are pretty okay with doing some static stretching. But no real PNF work no kind of bend resisted, bend assisted work. And I think-
Brenton: what are the benefits of bands in general, knowledge piece to take away?
James: Well I think, look, dynamic tension when used for strengthening is beneficial. Different people have different standpoints on that, I know. I’ve done my own research into it- not-but my own study into it in terms of looking at what the best people in strength conditioning are doing, having a look at- I guess, I guess the studies are limited and a lot of people have their anecdotal work. It’s hard to get peer reviewed stuff because even though people might be sports scientists they’re too busy running their S&C facility to be in the lab. But you know, whether it is someone like Charles Poliquin or Louis Simmons. Even though there might be contentions about certain techniques, during a dynamic day, will that be related to bar speed of dynamic tension like chains or bands or deload bars, it’s been showing that this can improve recruitment. And depending on whom you talk to and what they say the improving of rate of recruitment long-term will get you better strength or greater strength gains in a shorter period of time. Now how that plays out long-term. I’m not sure. But if you give somebody a band resisted chin and they’ve never done that before and you factor that into something that’s properly periodized and that’s not some- that periodization is not-that’s only- the only people that get access to that kind of training are top level footballers in Brazil. There no such thing as periodization. There’s always a jiu-jitsu comp. So it’s like train and there’s a comp on sunday
Brenton: Trying to clear on their way.
James: so we just train no gi on Friday. And if we’re training for worlds, let’s just train really hard three weeks before worlds and have a day off. Yeah that’s jiu-jitsu-
Brenton: Imma call that a training camp.
James: yeah that’s jiu-jitsu periodization.
Mac: Peaking right?
James: Yeah, yeah. So it’s crazy to me because I’ve seen that first hand and its brutality because the guys are going so hard before com, because also its this environment of like, “who’s got it this year?” and you’re fighting on your own team. And you could hurt your own team. I’ve seen people like five days out from comp, Bruno Malfacine almost tears you know LCL. On a takedown drill. Like what is going on? That blows my mind to see that because that’s just what they’ve learn and that’s what guys are working with. I mean don’t get me wrong, I think in the last even in just done jiu-jitsu it’s changed. Guys are getting a lot better, there’s a lot more outside input and there’s a lot more Brazilians living in America, training with better people doing that thing. But I think what I was able to show some of the guys was some very basic mobility and recovery stuff which we just take as normal we do that every day but you’re weekend warrior is doing here.
Mac: Every cert three and four fitness course.
James: Yeah and we just take it for granted but it doesn’t exist there so when you introduce it to people they’re like, “damn you are good, so smart” I’m like, “no I’m not but I’m glad it helps”. So I think that’s where I was able to help and also spending some time with the guys going, “just rest today.” They’re like, “oh, well…oh I feel better” the next day they’re like, “oh I feel better, yeah”
Brenton: You have rested; this is what rested feels like.
James: And that’s a crazy thing, we don’t fully get that. We don’t push as hard as that necessarily within jiu-jitsu. I shouldn’t generalize but yeah.
Mac: Yeah, there’s different pressures. Obviously it’s a lot of pressure over there; it’s the way it is. Their culture there’s so much pressure to work hard so they take a day off is crazy. Why would you do that?
James: yeah well I think- I think that’s the thing, I can’t remember who said it to me, but they said, “what if I told you” it’s like a meme, it’s like multiple images. “What if I told you: by having a rest that you would get stronger?” oh my god, mind blown.
Mac: yeah, so back to something you started off with- you were talking about contrast training. Could you just shed a bit of light on that for everyone?
James: Definitely, well I think if you have a look at any- if you’re looking at any athlete, any sport, if they are habitually doing an activity, the chances of them- especially if they’re professional level, they are likely to have overuse issues. Because it is pushing. They are pushing to the very limit of what they can do. What is probably not addressed is the kind of weak point training or strengthening those muscles that they- and I think it was-
Mac: stabilizing muscles, accessory movements.
James: yeah definitely. When you’ve got people who have very forward posture they are almost kyphotic, hip flexors are super jacked, they have made-
Brenton: sums up every jiu-jitsu guy.
James: yeah and because it’s the nature it doesn’t matter what you do. I mean I think, to be honest, even looking at a corporate athlete, having spent so much time in the rialto and seeing these guys-
Mac: Fitline represent.
James: you know, spend seven years in that environment, they were getting overuse injuries from not doing things. So they are sitting at a desk, their hips are super jacked. Their flexes are so tight their gluts are not active and their postures so forward but it took them ten years to get like that. Whereas jiu-jitsu person, they’ve got it from use, overuse, overuse and maybe they got like that in three or four years. But the funny thing is: similar problems present. The different is, the office warrior, the corporate athlete is going to go, “yay social game of footy and oh I tore my hamstring” versus a jiu-jitsu persons going to be like, “tournament, tournament, tournament, tore my hamstring, keep going, tournament, tournament, tournament” and that’s the thing, the more jiu-jitsu people I encounter from the amateur level through to the pro level, people are not getting the proper help. I think that’s where someone like yourself, Mac, and even working with Teresa Marcello at optimum muscular health.
Mac: shameless plug!
James: honestly you are working with some of the top people in jiu-jitsu that’s where you guys are probably affecting the different- like the amount of times I went to Teresa Marcello “oh I think I’ve torn this ligament, that ligament, I got this problem, that problem” having all these weird injuries that occur through jiu-jitsu coz you just don’t get them doing other sport. You teach people how to look after themselves. Whereas obviously if all you’ve done in your life is jiu-jitsu and you have no idea about anatomy and physiology and your student comes and goes, “oh I’ve got a sore shoulder” you have no means to try and help them. So it’s kind of- they’ve got the hardened up mentality because that information is not apparent. But what’s great about what the change now is that jiu-jitsu athletes are being treated that way, people are getting more help, getting more information, getting more knowledge and they’re looking after their bodies. What I try and do is go, “guys, I know you thought you are going to come in here and maybe rip massive deadlifts but actually, touch your toes”.
Brenton: I’m sure that has a lot to do with jiu-jitsu invariably being a sport that’s very new and immerging and so a lot of health professionals can’t relate or jiu-jitsu doesn’t resonate with them as clearly as, say football for example, where its very well understood, the mechanics of say soccer or football, running kind of movement and jumping, all different actions and movements are involved. But when you talk about jiu-jitsu you have to sit down at the doctor to explain, “okay so let me try and explain to you that he grabbed my head and he sat on me and squeezed it really hard, I tapped…” and they look at you like, “and you chose to do this?” that’s a lot of fun but you really have to break down these movements and explain to them how you arrived at this point of pain so they can at least understand mechanically what went wrong or how you possibly hurt yourself.
James: Yeah definitely and look, Andrew Lock, great physio, great power lifter, great guy. Doctor Lock, look, he said to me, “look, if someone has bent your arm the wrong way, in that moment if they are stronger than you and your arms isolated, your arms going to bend the wrong way, but obviously if the muscles and tendons and ligaments are strong, they are less likely to break less likely to snap.”
Mac: or less damage.
James: less damage. Yeah, so that’s- so the joint has more support but he’s like, “oh” but if someone twisting you off the wrong way, it can happen. That’s what you’re doing.
Mac: you tap.
James: that’s your sport right?
Brenton: so just on that, it’s mentioned both yourself, Mac and JT, you’ve mentioned that one of the benefits the weight lifting confers to jiu-jitsu for example is injury prevention. So you talk about injury prevention and lifting to prevent injuries. So how does that operate? How does that work?
James: Well like I was saying, for about- say contrast training- if you’ve got guys who have insanely tight hip flexes and they’re getting impingement at the hip or they’re getting referral or any of these things like or they’re getting a lot of trouble in the lower back, spending a fair bit of time trying to just to get the hip more balanced. I am not saying we’ve got to tighten the glutes up like they have the biggest strongest gluts, but you want to spend some time opening those hips up and getting the glutes engaged just for the sake of stabilizing the pelvis. Just doing that and that doesn’t sound that strange if you’re S&C but jiu-jitsu person goes, “what do I need strong glutes for? Like I just need to be able to put my foot behind my head, right? coz I just want to just be a Miyao”
Brenton: I want to triangle upside down...
James: Yeah I want to be able to triangle myself. Yeah I mean sure that’s okay, but like, I think that is definitely the, the big difference is that people look at strength training almost like it’s a luxury. Like, “oh, I don’t need to do that.” but if I said to you-
Mac: What if I told you?
James: We could reduce your injuries down to like a third. Because it’s – how frustrating is it? Getting injured you can’t be on the mat. So when you love a thing and you can’t do it and it’s not even the –it’s like mentally you can’t work it out, you know what is wrong. And you know what you need to do but you just want to do that thing. And that is the most frustrating experience especially if the injury doesn’t even feel that significant, but doing more of it is going to make it worse.
Brenton: Yeah.
James: So it’s that delay to, it’s such a frustrating thing, the delayed satisfaction. And I think injury time, like time off the mat is what holds back, so many into jiu-jitsu people across the world. So-
Brenton: When you say time off the mat, I mean obviously when you are injured you are taken away from the sport and you are limited your mat time, you can train that’s going to hurt you, you referring to knowing when to take some time off? You know what is to rehabilitate and recover?
James: Well I think you don’t have choice , I think if you are on the mat and you’re injured then, you’re living in fantasy land.
Brenton: Yeah.
James: Yeah, because ultimately you want to do the thing you love as much as you can for as long as you can. You know a really good analogy I heard about –it’s not different it actually comes from a artist. Said “We are all in this race, and you just want to be at the front for as long as you can”, and then when you can’t run the race anymore the race will continue without you, but you just want to say when you are in it, you just gave it everything and hopefully you are up near the front.” Right?
Brenton: Yeah.
James: There’s nothing worse than having to sit on the sideline and watch the race.
Brenton: Be a mere spectator.
James: Yeah. You want to be in it and amongst it, in whatever capacity you choose to participate in it. And that’s true in jiu-jitsu, it doesn’t matter if you want to be a world champion or not, it doesn’t matter if you just want to get in there
Brenton: Being in the mix?
James: Yeah, being in the mix and just having fun in expressing your body. If you are injured, how much fun are you having? Pain isn’t just a neural inhibitor, it’s a life inhibitor.
Mac: Yeah right. [laughter] Brenton: I hope this isn’t a segway but, Marcela Garcia, funny enough, another Alliance guy, another guy from Brazil said something amazing about , when he talked about coming through the ranks of jiu-jitsu in competing that why he didn’t get nervous for competitions as much, was he used to be excited about competing coz it was just a mere opportunity to show everybody what he can do. It’s just a funny way of looking at it, just- I just want to show them what I can do in terms of my skill. While it’s not necessarily my jiu-jitsu being a representation of my character or my integrity or anything like that, so it’s very interesting.
James: Yeah, and I think look, not so as a guy who has never promoted strength conditioning training right, a lot of people go “Oh, Marcela is the goat , he doesn’t promote strength conditioning.“ All right, if people say I know a lot of Marcela’s team mates and I know how many people he beat up and I know all the guys he beat down when they were blue belts and he was brown belt and they were all copping beatings from him. That would tell you his intensity is insane, that guy has been doing, 1RM guillotine lifts for years. The muscular tension, the nervous tension in that guy is insane. When he does an arm drag it’s a hundred percent. When he goes for the choke it’s a hundred percent squeeze. Like just because he’s –
Brenton: Such a soft sweet face yet there’s so much tenacity that implies.
James: Ah, it’s all lies, all lies. [laughter] All intensity man, and people always talk about Marcela’s focus and that’s the thing, when Marcela rolls, he rolls one hundred percent, now he may not be like that now, coz he’s more on that retirement tip but when you look at those matches and he’s gone for those submissions, his face is mean and he’s going a hundred percent. So I would actually say Marcela has been doing very concentrated, specific strength training his whole career. He just didn’t know that.
Brenton: Very interesting weight resistant human.
Mac: Indeed, indeed, so unless you’ve got any more about that line of questioning, I would like to change direction, something I do very well.
Brenton: Okay let’s do that.
Mac: What about your own competitive career for want of better word, where are you at with competition these days, you’ve got anything on the horizon?
James: Oh look mate I think I competed a lot up until I got my brown belt, I haven’t competed that much in the last two years but I will compete every now and again. I think the focus for me has shifted from jiu-jitsu to MMA so spending a lot more time boxing and wrestling and look I think ultimately when I look at the landscape of what martial arts is, I love boxing coz it’s own arts and that’s another fifteen years’ worth of work , trying to get any good at that. The difficulty is I am required to use my brain more and more all the time now. And I am not good at boxing and the bad thing about boxing is when you are not so good at boxing, you don’t get smarter. [laughter] so that’s the challenge and I’m really fortunate to have Pradeep Sihag at absolute MMA as my boxing coach and unfortunately with the man of his experienced I can see the disappointment in his face when I do not learn what he is teaching me so quickly, you know, I don’t adapt it so quickly. But I think I feel honestly, the challenge in me is I always wanted to be the best at something since I was a little kid. MMA is a massive monster. The need in me or the want in me to want to fight with somebody in a cage, look, I don’t think that will ever go away. I don’t know if its coz there’s too much testosterone or I’m just addicted to adrenaline or you know. Getting in the cage and fighting is like the ultimate, ultimate rush. But just because the rush is in you shouldn’t do it. I mean don’t get me wrong, Donald Cerrone might argue against that.
Brenton: Hunter S. Thompson might argue against it.
James: Yeah but I mean that guy nearly killed himself that many times. And credit to him. He is a tough ballsy human. But I think what I realize more and more recently, as much as it’s hard to swallow, there is- the limitations I have as an athlete are not the limitations I have as a person so even though I can push my body to absolute breaking because of my will, what is my will going to do when my body’s broken? What can I do of myself when I can’t function? What good might I do to anyone else when I can’t walk, etc.? So I think a big realization for me in the last year has been contribution. So I think what has made me happy recently is I’ve been training less but when I’ve been coming into training I’ve been a bit more playful, and I’ve still been hanging, I’ve still been doing well against the best guys in Australia who are training twice a day every day. And I’m putting it on. And why is that? I’m fitter and stronger. I’m not training jiu-jitsu and actually I’m caring less, which is crazy. It used to be all I used to think about. because I’m coming in caring a bit less, I’m getting tapped plenty but I’m going for things more- I don’t care about the outcome, I’m just going balls out and that’s actually getting me better results.
Mac: Care less, enjoy more.
James: yeah, but the problem with that is it makes, “dang, I can still hang.”
Brenton: what if I have this intensity- if you maintain this…
James: yeah and if I just, you know, like-
Brenton: It’s hard to rein yourself in.
James: Man it is. And I think I used to really care about being a black belt before, and that’s not to say that being a black belt is a lifetime achievement, but caring about it doesn’t make it happen quicker. Just like, the person who cares the most doesn’t necessarily win the championship. For example, my man Ben Hodgkinson a longtime opponent of mine-
Brenton: the greatest guy that’s never won a world championship.
James: [laughter] he’s up there. I mean, he cares about the outcome but he also doesn’t give a stuff in general. Do you know what I mean? I’ve seen that guy almost not trying and it kind of hurts me, coz I can’t say much. I’m like, “dude, how come you don’t care?” like in between matches he’s on Tinder. I’m like, “dude, you’re at a championship, what are you doing?” but it doesn’t matter. Being passionate isn’t- it can win medals if you can channel it and you can use it the right way but-
Brenton: It's a lot of emotional energy there as well.
James: yeah, for sure. And I think the efficiency is clear success. And I’ve been very inefficient in my life. And just being the caffeinated, all out person I am, that hasn’t always helped me and I think what I’m doing now is when I’m looking at the people around me and seeing what they’re doing. When we talk about delayed satisfaction, I’ve always wanted to win championships but now when I look at championships I think about- the last championship I didn’t go to, I helped six people that day to get a little bit better. And am I being a more effective human being in the sphere of the world by helping more people? Yeah. That’s right. As opposed to spending all day in a netball stadium or a basketball stadium, hanging out with the same people, trying to be king of the hill today, because we all know each other. It’s one of those things; we all know each other. We all trained together, we’re all friends or frenemies. However you do it? Smile at each other’s faces and then slag that guy out behind his back! no I’m not like that. I generally dislike people out to their face. But the deal in this is that in all truth I have an overwhelming sense of my own mortality. So if I’m not here in three years- play the podcast in my funeral- no that’d be terrible. [laughter] Don’t play this podcast at my funeral. But if there’s any like Bruce Lee died when he was 32. And his ultimate aim, ultimately was to give the world a Chinese superhero. He did that. He really changed perception of culture-
Brenton: And he used the face of martial arts
James: he bridged that gap yeah? And he was only- he only made seven movies, eight movies? Not including his childhood movies. And yeah he did that, in that short time he was alive. I’m not trying to put myself in that conversation, what I’m saying is that if there’s anything I can do in the next three years, its: share what I’ve learn from what I’m doing. And that’s try to help other people get better at what they are doing. Guys like Lachie Giles, Craig Jones, these guys, they are competing flat out and that’s all they do and that’s awesome and man I’m so in awe by how hard they work, but I still put a beating on them. They beat me up, I beat them up. Who’s fresh on the day? Do you know what I mean? It doesn’t mean that I’m winning the championship. They’re out there putting it on the line and winning the championship.
Man: Yeah they’re making the sacrifices; they’re doing everything to lead up to it.
James: To make that happen. But also honestly in all truth if I can help build champions, that will make me just as happy then if I would have been champion.
Mac: Yeah I think the keyword you pointed out earlier was contribution. I think that’s really noble man. A lot of respect for that.
James: Yeah I think it’s just honesty. I’m just- life’s short, so if I’m sure selfish on it, could I maybe try and get up in some championships? Yeah. But honestly that’s not going to move the culture forward, that’s not going to move everyone forward. Everyone’s not going to get stronger. I got a really good quote from a book called Legacy, which is the fifteen lessons we can take from the All Blacks. And when they went from being in the mid-nineties choke- they were considered to be the chokers, on losing in the final to be-
Mac: to being the greatest.
James: to being the greatest team of all time. Basically the standard for championship. And one of their axons or one of their norms right at the end of the book is: are you being a good ancestor? In thirty years, when someone looks at what you did, would that want you to inspire to be like you? Are you doing- are you being a world champion S&C? Are you being a world champion community leader? Are you being a world champion person? Did you put your interest before others? Or- you know what I mean? How many gold medals you get put on your grave? This isn’t a legacy thing; this is a contribution thing because it is greater than all of us. And it’s like, “am I being a good ancestor?” would people go, “that person did a good thing at that time” I definitely would ascribe to many stoic philosophy, I consider myself being modern day stoic. And I read so much philosophy and stoicism at it’s heart is all about how to be a good person, like what would a good person do. And that doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone, it doesn’t mean you have to be popular, none of that. It’s like how do I move towards being the better person. And in truth the better person in me is not winning four gold medals. That’s honestly what it is. And as much as there’s some vain egotism in- the ego in me compels me to want to compete all the time, compete all the time. I got to create something, I got to leave something and that’s not a championship gold medal. So you’ll see me at comps, you’ll see me getting into it just for the fun of it but that would be- it’s a very different- it means something very different to me now.
Mac: Absolutely.
Brenton: So what’s- I mean it sounds like you read as you sort of expressed you’ve been getting into the philosophical mindsets, picking up on the stoicism, and different ways of looking and embracing the lessons we can learn from life. So just out of curiosity, is there anything- is there a concept or philosophy or idea that you’ve once firmly held but have since superseded or moved on from or even just discarded something you just held onto, a really strong belief and at some point in life you’ve had to really- have a- in a dialog, in a conversation, you’re in a monologue and really let go of something to grow and move forward.
James: I think there’s a lot of things I let go. And I think a lot of it has to do with- I think it’s probably more just being individualistic. Like, ‘I’m an individual therefore that counts me as separate’. No. yeah, everybody’s unique, everybody is different but we are all within our context and we are all human being. So I feel that I am different to everybody but I’m still human being. Still tore a ligament in my knee, I still fear rejection, I’m still scared of death, still everything else. Doesn’t matter how much energy I have or how much will I have at the end of the day, those rules apply. A hundred years, who knows, what’s it matter? Like Marcus Aurelius said- jokes on him by the way coz we’re still talking about him- but three and a half thousand years ago he’s like, “oh this won’t matter coz no one will ever read it, blah, blah, blah”. I was like, “oh no dude, actually it’s a penguin classic so…” [laughter] “Marcus Aurelius you were wrong.” But no look- a tattoo in one of my best friends has- she’s Brazilian- is the line from Gladiator what is like, ‘what we do now, echoes for eternity’ but it’s real. But it is what you do now that echoes in eternity. And this is perpetuated throughout culture in a lot of ways, in cliché Hollywood ways and all kinds of stuff. But the truth is when someone just asks you like, “what could you do without?” and I used to say I would never give-up anything for jiu-jitsu but I mean if there’s one thing I’ve done well in my life is help other people through being a personal trainer. And it’s not till you hear back from your clients what you do- what that means to them, yeah well it actually means a lot. Even though it sounds superficial and there’s always stereotypes about the industry and everything like that from at least my own perspective being able to help a lot of people, which has been awesome. But I would like to go bigger and broader than that and I feel- the thing that hurts me is looking at people who are very successful in a monetary way or the way they are put up in the media, like Floyd Mayweather or Conor McGregor, these guys have nothing to say. What are they teaching you about life? Are they saying, “live life to excess, you should get it made back otherwise you’re a loser”. These guys are like bad gangster rappers but they can’t rap. Like playing to a cliché. yeah, yeah, it’s awesome. How many clichés do we see in life? It just hurts your mind coz it shows you how weak humans are coz they don't want to form their own mold, they just play to another. And that’s why I just can’t stand that and that’s part of the reason why I got- as much as I was so excited by MMA, I was also just looking at it like, “ah this is so played out”
Mac: yeah there’s a grubby side to it too.
James: you know what I mean? And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against people making the best of what they have to make money and have success in life. But if you have the microphone and you’re talking to the world- and I’m talking to the world right now- surely overcome your lesser characteristics to be the better person to have a decent effect on the world.
Brenton: And offer for some value beyond your own…ego, really.
James: Yeah, yeah other than ‘who’s the king of the jerks’.
Brenton: yeah
James: like, ‘I got a bigger jerk belt than you’ okay that’s fine. So that’s why I feel like that’s a bit change in me that- like I don’t care about championships anymore. The people who inspire me are the people who went outside themselves and they weren’t just trying to sit inside a competition, it’s not about competition. To me that’s the paradigm shift that’s occurred.
Brenton: beautiful.
Mac: that is fantastic, I love it. I love it. We got a couple more questions for you. We need to be a little time conscious. But you’ve been involved in a bunch of other stuff as well which we haven’t really touched on. You are- did a stint in NICA the circus arts institute.
James: I didn’t- oh I can’t say I did a stint- man I’m- no that’s not entirely true. I first learned about NICA a couple of years ago coz I went to their end of year performance. And that was really impressive and inspiring. And then- I guess I’ve always been interested in trying to push body to different levels and I found out that they had some- I accidentally walked in on the competitive men's gymnastics team training and I was like, “ohh, is this where people do gymnastics?” and they were like, “get out” like don’t even walk in here. And I was like, “oh sorry, my bad”. But I’ve been along to a few of the open training sessions and not consistently but definitely having met people there, cuz I was always just into hip-hop culture and b boy-ing and I always kind of wanted to break dance. So I was always mucking around with that kind of stuff. For me it’s more like a body control- physical control. I think gymnastics is really popular right now, it’s very trendy right now so I don’t really- that’s not my biggest interest. I think hand standing is not going to teach you to fight, as trendy as it is I’d rather spend my time learning a skill to move my body as opposed to not moving my body. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really hard. My man Dave Davey king of hand stands- shout out davedavey@davedavey the hand stand king, he is an amazing athlete. That guy has won the best vertical jumps I have ever seen. He’s incredibly explosive and the guy can balance on one hand for days at a time. but I don’t think it’s that helpful. If you are living in North Fitzroy and you have a handle bar mustache and possibly some wood grain sunglasses [laughter] and your own French Bulldog possibly it’s very practical to life. But if you need to punch someone in the fucking face, you need to stand on your two feet and get real strong and powerful at that. [laughter] Like
Brenton: truth,
James: what am I gonna tell you?
Mac: I couldn’t agree more.
James: So anyway, don’t get me wrong, the guys at NICA are amazing. I went there it was super impressive, I think we can learn so much from the gymnastics community, coach Christopher Summer’s stuff is amazing. I mean look Ido Portal’s stuff’s amazing but does that mean he’s a great person to hang out with? Not necessarily. This is my only thing with S&C community, is that a lot of people get to a certain level and then they just go full jerk mode. And look I’ve tried many things, I’ve done Olympic lifting and I’ve done a lot of stuff, and I think what I’ve learned more and more is you’re trying to get better at a sport, focus on your sport and then make sure what you are doing outside of your sport, enables you to do it better.
Mac: Enhances.
James: Enhances. That’s it. You shouldn’t be learning a whole lot of the sport to enhance your sport. This is a common mistake, and there’s probably not a lot of people out there saying “Yeah, probably don’t do that.”
Mac: I mean it’s a common thing to see Olympic lifts, fighters starting to learn Olympic lifts from scratch. Leading out to some really important event, that is such a resource heavy undertaking, it’s so much time, so much repetition-
Brenton: It’s so skill specific.
Mac: Yeah, so much fine motor skill. I mean I couldn’t agree more. Less of that stuffs more of the stuff that’s going to make you actually better at your sport, which leads me onto my next question. I want to go back to exactly, what elements, from the circus arts and from the gymnastics and the movement culture, exactly what from those fields did you find translated or funneled best into strength conditioning for fight athletes.
James: Well, I’ve been fortunate enough coz I did taekwondo for lot of years, I had a lot of flexibility coming in. I had a lot of good base leg strength and agility coz that’s mainly what we did.
Mac: Winning.
James: Yeah. [laughter] I was obsessed with just core training, Everything to do with the core, lateral, transverse, rotational, you name it , I wanted to get a strong core coz I was a little fat kid with no abs. So I probably spent most of my teen years doing a billion sit-ups, until I learnt that you don’t need to do a billion sit-ups, to have a strong midsection. And then when I started to look at advanced training through gymnastics and like front levers and leg raises and like planching, I was like “Right, I’ll get into that”. I think the thing that gave me the biggest impact was when I first started doing kettlebell training, so I started doing kettlebell training at, my goodness it’s like ten years ago, 2007 and I started training with Ephim Kurbasky, who was a physical trainer in the Russian military back in the cold war era. fighting the americans. [laughter] And he also played ice hockey, he’s Belarusian, he’s from Belarus. He played ice hockey to a very high level and man the guy is in his fifty’s, he’s in immaculate condition. Even though he has had a lot of injuries, and he was exposed to the Russian periodization and they did a lot of hard core crazy shit to the soldiers. I think that’s where they really got a lot of base, so like “Okay, we’re going to push to the absolute limit, Oh we killed him.” Okay. We’ll dial it back ten percent and then give it to the athletes. Not many countries had that liberty, and you know I learned so much from him. He is mentor of mine, I’ve just recently started back training with him, working on just getting stronger in approaching things differently, and look the Kettlebell has just boomed my mind, in terms of grip, core, loaded conditioning, complexes, like I mean the depths of which I learnt that was more broader understanding of training not just Kettlebells. I think for a time, I was obsessed and then I learned , it’s a tool just like any tool, it’s only as good as you know how to use it and finding the right tool for the right job, the barbell , that has its place in a certain way, dumbbell has its place, kettlebell has its place. Now, obviously different S&C’s have their opinions and their own takes on it, but I think for me, whenever I’m looking at jiu-jitsu athlete, the two things I try, if I want to get them better and faster for winning in 8 weeks, grip and core. If I am going to improve those things, things are going to get dramatically better.
Mac: Coz there’s a lot of ground.
James: And I think you can say that about any athlete because that’s going to dictate a lot more about shoulder, that’s going to dictate a lot more about pelvis stability. The whole deal. So I think looking at some of those top jiu-jitsu guys, lot of people don’t know they’re black belts in judo. They’re also fifteen years in capoeira, so they are basically gymnasts anyway. You’re like “Wow, how does he have so much balance? How do you just do a head spring?” “Yeah, he’s a ninja”
James: “He is a capoeira shaolin monk!” you didn’t know, okay. Well that’s your problem. So that’s the thing, I think gymnastic elements are very helpful but I think also because you are working with an opponent, you need to be able to exact force or exert force against an external element. Just controlling your body is not enough. Yes it’s great, yes you can get so strong doing it, but until you’ve had someone who is like forty kilos heavier than you, breaking your posture down, if you don’t know what that’s like
Brenton: Just name of the game jiu-jitsu
James: Yeah, you’ve got to be so strong in your posterior chain, and just doing jiu-jitsu isn’t going to teach you that.
Mac: But surely if you’re doing the gymnastic, concurrently with your regular jiu-jitsu training or whatever, the static positions controlling your body weight is going to translate into, your strength and your controlling an opponent on the mat right?
James: Ah, No. I don’t agree with that. Yes, I think you need a degree of isometric strength, I think you need to be able to control certain positions but you don’t see guys in ju-jitsu planching you see them sprawling. You know what I mean. If I had a choice- if I was going to say to a grappler, “You want to get better, you got two choices, and you train gymnastics or wrestling.” Go train wrestling. Like duh, you can learn a hold still real good, or you can learn to attack relentlessly, fill your muscles full of lactate and be explosive as fuck. “Oh my goodness there you go, boom!” That’s what you need. Honestly, holding still is only good for photos. [laughter] Mac: You are saying that theirs is absolutely no transfer-
James: No I am not saying that. But I am saying just coz someone’s great gymnast doesn’t mean they’re going to be good at jiu-jitsu.
Brenton: Yeah, we’re saying the same thing. You can derive better value from a more efficient optimal means elsewhere.
James: Look how much time you got all?
Brenton: Exactly.
James: I mean you tell me okay, I am an opinionated bastard; I am going to say all kinds of things. You are much nicer as human individual Brenton.
Brenton: Thank you. Maybe not but…
James: Definitely the lighter side of the yin and the yang. And that’s not just not because of your fine lighter complexion. [laughter] Mac: this is awesome, I love it.
James: Look this is just human, don’t you worry about me. Coz I am talking about, I’ll ask you a question, and I am going to support it with something.
Brenton: Little reversal here.
James: If I was going to say to you, look, “you can only train ju-jitsu three times a week and you have three other sessions that you can play within the week and you have obviously limited time, you work, you do everything and you need to improve your comp game. Not just improve your jiu-jitsu. Ju-jitsu lifestyle. And your options are cross fit, gymnastics or wrestling?
Brenton: Easy choice, wrestling, the skills and the technique and I guess the mechanical movements of wrestling is so fundamental jiu-jitsu already that you are already going to get that cross over and that transferrable benefit.
James: Yeah. For sure. And I think if we look at possibly the first, I don’t know, poor, I probably did this wrong. But just blew my mind. When team Lloyd Irvin, I can’t remember if they won, or if they got second, in the team trophy for the world nogi championships, this is when JT Torres and Keenan and all the guys were competing there. And even himself, Lloyd Ervin won the heavyweight masters, I can remember what it was, right. First American team to do ever do it, I think second in team trophy, That’s crazy.
Mac: That’s insane.
James: They did that in the shortest amount of time. You know where they got that from, wrestling and judo. They didn’t get it from jiu-jitsu, yeah they have great jiu-jitsu, but it’s that attacking decisiveness. Ju-jitsu is a marathon, judo is the hundred meter sprint. And that’s where really Lloyd came from, and that’s also his team, if you look at the way they have trained. They have quite good S&C, they have brutal, brutal conditioning and they go super hard and it’s all about that explosiveness and that toughness. And I observed that in Ervin, you got to pay attention to that. If these guys are beating the Brazilians, how are they doing it? And they weren’t doing it by just focusing on ju-jitsu, and they were definitely not doing planches or hand stands.
Mac: Try and argue with that Brenton.
Brenton: [Laughter] I am on board, I completely agree. [laughter] Mac: So that’s fantastic.
Brenton: I am a fan of JT.
James: Anyways , What I was going to say is this; in a fight –we just look at the , when they have the disciplines in cage fighting, and in the MMA they go this guy is a NC double A champion wrestler. This guy is an Olympic gymnast. No. Where are you Olympic gymnast? Where are you, you are nowhere. You are too busy at NICA, no I am kidding. I love you. You’re much respect it’s a miserable life and then you get no love and then you burn out and then you get fat.
Brenton: So I guess it’s just the stuff to close this podcast out, one of the final questions I’ll ask is, can you name for us an inspiring figure, who, why and how did you arrive at this choice and what did you learn from him or her that’s made such a difference in your life and perhaps give us an example of a lesson that has actually improved your life. You’ve touched on Mark Seraglios, so you’ve gone in that exorcism path and then, meditations and
James: I had a lot of really good teachers, so to narrow down one person is really tough because i had so many good role models around me. I learned so much from everybody. Is this like, just ask from the question, is it like within jiu-jitsu or within strength conditioning or like both or what’s the
Brenton: Let’s go down the path of-
Mac: Categorize it if you like.
Brenton: Okay, so name for me one person in terms of philosophy, one person philosophy, one person strength conditioning and ju-jitsu.
James: I think one of the biggest influences on me is, we need to do another podcast for me to be able to put everyone else out there, I think philosophically one of the people who helped change my mind about Brazilian jiu-jitsu is Fabio Gurgel. Now the reason for me to say Fabio right now is because he is the most successful coach of all time, in terms of having produced the most champions, but also he’s been quite resilient. Coz you got to think he gave birth to all the major players, of all the major teams from the ninety’s. When Alliance split, then he had to recoup and rebuilt a new stable of champions, like from the 2000’s. When GB was dominating, and then he did. And he produced Cobrinha and he produced Marcelo and he produced all these other guys’ right. It’s crazy. But I was really fortunate-I got to sit down with him before he was getting ready for his fights with Mario Sperry. And I got to do-
Brenton: ADCC’s super fight?
James: ADCC’s super fight yeah. And it was really fortunate for me because I got to actually sit on the mat and just chat with him. But also at that time I got to do a couple of private lessons with him, when he used to do that. He doesn’t really do any private lessons anymore. So that’s really fortunate, and when you talk to a guy like that , who has been there for the whole , from kind of conception-like very early on through to now and he’s still in it. He just said some really interesting things to me, and what he said echoed the words of other really influential smart people outside of ju-jitsu and he said, “techniques are many, principles are few”, he said a lot of people coming out with a hot technique saying this is cool and that is cool, but they don’t know why they are doing it. Where does that fit into the broader understanding of why are you doing what the hell you are doing? And he was saying , even the structure of competition jiu-jitsu was not right. Coz he said that’s not ju-jitsu. That’s BJJ, that’s IBJJf, like IFBJJ, he was saying the heart of ju-jitsu is no comp, there’s no time limit, submission only. And he was saying this before the recent submission only started
Brenton: Yeah resurgence of, that timely matches and all that
James: He was saying this six years ago, so I think he has always said this, and they do that occasionally as a team. I mean it’s , I am not saying it’s because I am biased because there’s a plenty of people out there who don’t love Fabio, but he is a really tough man. But I am very fortunate , I’ve got to just sit down and , I just hit him there “ What makes a great academy?” and he said “It shouldn’t be a gym, it should be a school” , it’s about learning and it’s about the team. And he explained why they do closeouts, because they use to really piss me off. I was like “Man, how good would it be to see Lucas Lepri fight Michael Lengi, that would be sick! That would be the best” and he said “You know what, I don’t care about the world, I don’t care what the world wants to see, I care about my team.” These guys have to trust each other a hundred percent. This is why they’re never going to fight in competition, coz in that way they don’t hold anything back in training. They don’t keep a technique up their sleeve like “Imma use that on the guy in the comp”, because they’ll never fight. And that’s a massive thing that you are so close to that guy, he’s your brother, you can’t fight him, it’s against the code of the team. And I was like “Wow, that’s crazy, and he’s like “It actually cultivates better learning” coz everyone trust each other, everyone shares, everyone gets that much better. And all I care about is my team and it’s not everybody else. Look , you can say that that’s wrong or that’s right, but that was like family talk, real talk and that was really interesting to me. Just being able to sit with a guy like that who has lived the history of ju-jitsu talking about training with Rickson, knowing Helio. It’s crazy because that guy is still current.
Mac: Where did Fabio get his black belt from?
James: So, Jacare the original-
Mac: Not Sousa.
James: No, no, no, no, no. Romero Cavalcante
Brenton: Cavalcante
James: Yeah, he’s the head of the Alliance team. Yeah, he gave him his black belt, and so under all the lineages, he’s like second generation. So first generation, second generation kind of Gracie lineage. But yeah, it’s like the thing, he stayed current. He’s kept producing champions up to this point in time, and he’s really lucky , he’s got the biggest team going around. So they kind of take care of themselves. But yea, I think it’s one of those things that he really cares about the art of jiu-jitsu and he really cares about the heart of learning what it means to be a part of something bigger. I took that away and it blew my mind coz I didn’t expect that. And he was so generous with this information. Yeah, that was just awesome and it influenced me to understand this thing, even though it seem so esoteric and weird-like many things in life-is really powerful, bringing people together and here we are now. Many years later hanging out and chatting in this way.
Brenton: Philosophy?
James: Aw man, look I think philosophically, person that had a massive influence on me is – I think Bruce Lee is probably my biggest influence in life, because he was really good at taking something that was kind of bit to the side and making it very real in life. So he translated a lot of eastern philosophy and brought it to life. And you know he- I am sure plenty of people know that he said “all knowledge ultimately means self-knowledge”, so when you learn something or when you do something, you’ve learned something about yourself. Every time you do something, you learn something about yourself, every time you do something, you learn something about yourself even though you may not see it in that way, and he said his ultimate goal in his life, he didn’t say in his interview , he said it in his book, was to know himself. And he hoped at the end of his life he would come to know who he was. And really I try to apply that myself, and I feel like I’ve probably already got it, not like I am not changing or developing, I’ve already kind of figured out what I feel I want to be and how I am working towards it pretty early on. Coz I was pretty fortunate to be exposed to that knowledge early on, whereas lot of people just got exposed to humming away early on. They were deep in martial philosophy from a young age, and I’ve not been in martial arts since I was ten and a half years old. So just looking up to that, reading all his books, listening to all his interviews and just constantly trying to expand my understanding like that’s really helped me cultivate a philosophy.
Mac: Amazing.
Brenton: Amazing , thanks for coming on JT. Appreciate it.
James: Thank you very much gentlemen I appreciate you having me here. I wish I could have shared more ridiculous anecdotal stories as I have lots of them, maybe at a later time.
Mac: Save up those stories coz we’ll have a part two to this for sure.
James: Oh that’ll be cool. All right thank you for having me.
Brenton: Been a pleasure having you on brother.
James: I appreciate it.
Brenton: Awesome as always, thank you JT.
James: All right guys take care.

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