White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions #5: James Puopolo


James Puopolo


James Puopolo has the honor of being the second person promoted to black belt by Rafael Lovato Jr. He is one of the Northwest’s most prolific competitors with dozens of Pan American and World Championship medals, including a gold in 2009 and a NO GI Championship in 2013.

Sit back and enjoy our latest “Private Session”, with James Puopolo.



(Photo courtesy of James Puopolo)


WBBJJ: What brought you to BJJ?

James: I always played sports growing up and was very competitive. I always wanted to play college football, but realized after high school, that I really didn’t love the sport. For a while I tried a lot of different sports and eventually I found BJJ in college.


WBBJJ: What should White Belts do more of? Less of?

James: When I see lower belts train I always advise more drilling and position sparring, and less full rounds. I think it depends on your goals though. If you just love to roll and have fun, then do that.


WBBJJ: If you could go back in time and give White Belt James guidance, what advice would you give?

James: Be more focused on escapes and survival positions. I also would have told myself to start training takedowns a lot sooner. A little focused energy on takedowns can go a long way.



(Photo used with permission of Kenny Jewel of GrappleTv)


WBBJJ: For you, what’s been the hardest part of the journey?

James: The transition from brown belt to black belt. I had a lot of success and the lower belts, but black belt is a whole different animal. The guidance of Rafael, Saulo, and Xande helped tremendously. I owe them a lot.


WBBJJ: In tough times what has helped you get through and allowed you to persevere?

James: For me, I think quitting was never an option, because of my love of Jiu-Jitsu. It always came down to the two options; keep going or quit. Really those are the only two things you can do when you are having difficulties in life. Sometimes changing course is the right thing to do. It’s really important to focus on small victories as well. Everyday focus on things you did better. I think a lot of frustration in BJJ is from expectations, not reality.


WBBJJ: If you weren’t doing this what would you do?

James: I’d be teaching middle school math. I just recently transitioned into BJJ full-time 6 months ago, before that I was teaching math the previous four years. Teaching is a very difficult, but rewarding job for sure. In the end, I knew that I only had a small window to pursue World titles.


WBBJJ: What do you tell someone who says they want to do BJJ and then gives the standard excuses, time, money, etc?

James: I run into this all of the time. We live in America and things are good, so sacrifice isn’t always on the top of the list. BJJ is a sacrifice, but of course the benefits outweigh the cost exponentially. In the end, we have to take responsibility for our own lives. I don’t think I’ve ever run into someone who has started BJJ that wished they hadn’t. Think about if there is anything on Earth you could say that about.


WBBJJ: Favorite activity besides BJJ?

James: Hanging out with my wife, family and friends. There isn’t a whole lot going on out here in Salem, which is good, because all I want to do is train and hang out with the people I love. Training Judo is another passion for sure. I also nerd out a lot on documentaries, podcasts and audiobooks.


WBBJJ: What’s on your IPOD?

James: I can listen to any kind of music really. My favorites are Lupe Fiasco, Jack Johnson, Incubus, The Doors and Jay-Z. The tournament mix is all Lupe Fiasco.


WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?

James: I watched a documentary last night called “Food Matters” on Netflix. Super interesting stuff about nutrition and the medical industry. I love documentaries.


WBBJJ: If you could train with someone living or dead who would that be?

James: I would train BJJ with Helio and then finish up with some Judo with Kimura.



(Photo used with permission of BJJpix.com)


WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?

James: Thanks for having me on WBBJJ. Shout out to my wife and family. Shout out to my coaches Rafael Lovato, Xande, Saulo, and Ben Baxter. Shout out to my sponsors Origin (best gis on the market) and Q5 (best supplements on the market). Check out my fan page and look for me on a mat near you real soon!


James Puopolo’s Athlete Page on Facebook



 Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ


(Advice) “Awkward” by Lauren LaCourse



by Lauren LaCourse (Blogger, WBBJJ.com)




I had an interesting conversation with one of my girlfriends last night. Boys, beware. It may be extremely uncomfortable for you, because I’m about to let out some of my “lady brains”. You are probably going to hear a bit more about the thought processes of the girl you roll with, than perhaps you wanted to know.

But let’s be real, you’ve always been curious…

I have a girlfriend from the gym that I train with, and hang out with, on a regular basis. Her name is Caitlin. Having her in the Combat Program of my academy is literally a breath of fresh air. Why? To put it bluntly, girl sweat is much more tolerable than “eau de garcon”. I love you boys, but it’s just nature.

Caitlin and I have been hanging out frequently, and since we share similar interests (MMA and Jiu Jitsu), we talk about the gym and training a lot. The discussion is usually about what we suck at, how we’re going to get better, and stupid mistakes that we’ve recently made. We also compare our various bumps, bruises and injuries (which we love to flaunt, agreeing, that they make us pretty badass).

Finally someone who understands me!

So the other night we decided, after a tough week of training, to go out for dinner. We met up with a couple of Caitlin’s friends, and began our usual chit chat. Naturally it did not take long before conversation about the gym started up (because when you practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the gym takes over your life!!) and the discussion progressed. Caitlin’s friends were curious as to what it’s like to “roll” with guys, so the conversation migrated to the opposite sex.

Prior to this conversation, I’ve only had to answer these types of questions from my female family members. The amount of information I disclose about the opposite sex with my family, is pale in comparison to the amount I discuss with other girls my age.

Last night was no different. We went deep, and we went dark.



 Caitlin and Lauren


I’m not ashamed to admit that rolling with males can sometimes be “interesting”, to say the least. It can sometimes be a tad bit awkward as well. Sometimes you may find yourself in “intimate” positions. There’s sweat, there’s heavy breathing, and there’s something extremely addictive about being able to let the most grisly parts of your nature come loose (and I mean the most grisly).

You would think that wrestling against someone attempting to hurt you, would be anything other than intoxicating. What is surprising however, is the ease at which our bodies are able to translate heightened adrenaline, into heightened curiosity (for lack of a better term).

I remember my first experience with this “curiosity”.

One evening, I was rolling with one of my teammates. I was struggling to better my position while he had been running the match. I managed to find an opportunity to escape from his side control and transition into bottom half guard. He pressed his weight on top of me, and moved his head to the side. I rolled, and he placed his head on the mat to base against my momentum. Now here we were, him on top of me, attempting to control my upper body by pinning my wrists; and the next thing I know, I’m turning my head to expose my neck.

My immediate thought was, “Why are you doing this?!” Then I realized it was a reaction that I’d had before, in a much, MUCH differently intimate situation…uggh. The very next moment my head was turned back, and I bridged to sweep into a different position, all the while cursing myself for having such an unprofessional moment.

But here is the deal guys, it happens. I know it happens for you boys too. Trust me, after my conversation last night, I’m not the only one who’s felt it (pun intended).

Typically I overlook things like this, and keep rolling like nothing had ever happened. After talking with Caitlin and her friends, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced this situation (in terms of the “animalistic” aspect of our sport). After chatting about it, I had found it riotously entertaining (and comforting) knowing that I was not the only one who had experienced such “momentary lapses of reasoning” which seemingly deviate from the professional path.

I’m normal! You are normal! We’re all normal! Yay!

Like I said it’s bound to happen, and through my rolling I’ve discovered a few things.

1) Yes, it’s normal to have these thoughts.
2) Yes, it’s possible to have them about those you are not attracted to (although it can be unsettling).
3) No, it doesn’t happen every time (it’s more rare than frequent).
4) But yes, when it does it’s one hundred percent OK.

As long as you follow a few rules…

A) It’s brief, and you make sure to maintain your professionalism.
B) You do not AT ANY TIME act on these thoughts.
C) You NEVER mention these urges to the person (although you boys unfortunately sometimes can’t hide it; try your best).
D) You ladies understand that sometimes, by the nature of the situation, that certain things can’t be hidden (believe me, the poor guy is already embarrassed as it is).

If you follow these rules, situations like these will easily pass into the realm of “things you can laugh about with your cohorts over a good meal”, and maybe even a few drinks.

Good luck! And keep on rollin’.


This blog post was written by Lauren LaCourse

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: Lauren’s Facebook


“First Day of BJJ” From The Japanese Jiu Jitsu Perspective


First Day of BJJ (from the Japanese Jiu Jitsu Perspective)

by Bill Jones (BJJ Black Belt under Pedro Sauer)




I will never forget my first day of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. It truly changed my life, and the direction my martial arts training would head forever. Before I get to that point, let me give you a little background on me.


In 1985, I started training Tae Kwon Do after seeing the movie, The Karate Kid. The years eventually led me to training Kung Fu as well. In 1993, Royce Gracie rocked the martial arts world when he participated in the first UFC and decimated the competition with little effort. Like many “traditional martial artists” of the day, I dismissed this as some sort of fluke. In my mind, there was no way he could ever do that to me, or anyone that I knew. So I continued on, and even wrote a 10 page essay on why I believed BJJ was an ineffective martial art. Then, in the early 2000’s, I began training traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu. I really enjoyed the grappling aspect, and assumed (as many do) that it was as good, or better, than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Shortly after earning a black belt in the art (in 2002. That’s right, it took me only 2 years to earn), I was deployed to Iraq. While I was away, the owner of the school where I taught, hired a BJJ instructor named Tony Rinaldi to teach classes (I was promised that I could continue teaching when I returned). It was then, that I experienced the most major turning point of my life.


An ancient adage states, “When the student is ready, the master will appear.” For me, this was the day I met Tony Rinaldi. Anyone who has met Tony will chuckle at the idea of me calling him a “master”. He is a fiery, redheaded Italian who walks about the mat with chew in his lip, and a spit cup never out of reach. He yells a lot, and tells crass jokes, often picking on his students and creating an undeniable “locker room” feel. However, his grasp on Jiu Jitsu (and the combat arts in general) is virtually unparalleled. He is able to see, and apply Jiu Jitsu to his entire life, and always strives to do so. It is a rare thing for him to seem unsettled by anything. His martial arts skills are only superseded by his compassion for others. He is a fierce friend; and anyone who has seen him work with children, or the developmentally disabled, always stand in awe of him.


I entered back into my home dojo for the first time in over a year, and a man greeted me as a “long lost friend”. I had never laid eyes on him, and I had never met him, but he immediately accepted me as an equal (he did not treat me as a subordinate or as someone that was in his way). As was customary for me, I wore my traditional Jiu Jitsu black belt in class. He did not so much as bat an eye. He simply said, “Do you want to teach? or do you want me to?” I responded that I had heard that he was good, and that I wanted to take a class with him , “if that was okay”. However, in the back of my mind, my ego was screaming frantically. I honestly thought that I would not learn anything of value. I could not have been more wrong! That day we learned how to pass the half guard and to attack the Americana from side control. For the first time in a long time, I realized what it meant to be, to be a white belt again.


I remember looking at him and saying, “There are so many steps. How can people remember this?” He simply responded, “It takes more steps to walk from your car into the building. You seem to do that just fine. It just takes a little practice.”


Despite being shocked at the good nature of the people in the class, and the intricacies of what we were learning, my ego would not give up quite yet. As we approached the open rolling section of class, I figured I would destroy everyone. After all, I was a black belt in Jiu Jitsu already. Tony had me roll with him first. I took him down, passed his guard and submitted him with the Americana we learned. I told myself that I did that because, “I was better”. But I would soon learn differently.


Next, a smaller guy named John Fleet rolled with me. In what seemed like a blink of an eye he had passed my guard, mounted me, and armbarred me. When I asked him if he could beat Tony, he quickly responded, “Not even close man. That guy destroys me.”


I continued to roll with a few more people with a similar result.


I left shortly thereafter, and fought with my ego the entire night. It boggled my mind that the instructor would just let me win. He allowed me to learn by losing. I was a person with 20 years of martial arts experience. I had 3 black belts, and a ton of specialized training; and I stood no chance against guys that had only been training for a few months. That is when it dawned on me. I experienced a stark epiphany. An epiphany that is very difficult for many to believe, or to accept. I was a white belt. When I got home that evening, I went into my closet and found a brand new white belt, that had came as an accessory to one of my gis (kimonos). I put away my “Jiu Jitsu black belt”, and vowed never again to wear it, until I had earned it in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


When I showed up the next day, Tony took a look at my white belt and said, “You don’t have to do that.” I responded with the only thing that I could think to say, “Yes I do.”


For many reasons I am glad that I made that decision. It was the first real defeat of my ego.  Despite having black belts for multiple years; in my mind, I realized that I should always keep the mentality of a white belt.


Today, I make it a habit of seeing how many times I can get submitted in class. I put myself in the worst positions I can think of, and try to work my way out; rinse and repeat. I am constantly trying new moves, or playing in new situations, with different movements.


Master Pedro Sauer says, “Train with a white belt mentality. Learn from every person you meet, no matter what rank. If a student goes to a seminar; see what they have learned, and add it to your Jiu Jitsu.”


To my brothers, sisters and friends who are training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; I echo his sentiments. Never stop being a white beltI know I that won’t!


Bill Jones Teaching Guard Sweeps


This blog post was penned by Bill Jones, a Pedro Sauer Black Belt.


White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions #4: Zach and Nathan Adamson


Zach and Nathan Adamson


Zach and his brother Nathan own and operate Seaside Jiu Jitsu in Seaside, Oregon. They are Rafael Lovato Jr.’s 5th and 6th black belts and are both avid competitors.  Both are prolific BJJ fighters in the Northwest. It brings us great pleasure to have them as WBBJJ Private Session’s fourth installment. So without further ado, we present to you, Zach and Nathan Adamson.




WBBJJ:  What brought you to BJJ?

Nathan: I was simply looking for an activity to get active again after high school. I started when I was nineteen and needed something to refocus my energy in a positive way. I instantly became addicted!

Zach: My brother dove in first and I followed him shortly after. The first night I learn a couple chokes from the back and was hooked instantly.


WBBJJ: What should White Belts do more of? Less of?

Nathan: Worry about only what you can control. Don’t worry about being a black belt in 4 years or less, or winning ever y tournament from white to black, or comparing yourself to others. You will find it difficult to enjoy Jiu Jitsu your entire life, if you are always concerned about the things you cannot control. The passion and desire to succeed, and to continue to get better should always be there, but it is our triumphs and failures that make us true champions in life. Drill and study as much as you can, then apply and implement.

Zach: Drill and Positional train more. Cross-train or do your homework to make sure your instructor is the right person to take you to black belt. Essentially you should respect this person enough to make them a lifelong friend, choose wisely!


WBBJJ: If you could go back in time and give White Belt Zach guidance, what advice would you give?

Nathan: Be better to your body! Eating, hydrating, sleeping, stretching and the right amount of training is all very important to the longevity of our movement as humans. Jiu Jitsu requires movement haha. Always continue to research ways to be more on point.

Zach: I answered that one in #2 as well. Make sure you find the right mentor and training partners. These people should motivate and inspire you.




WBBJJ: For you, what’s been the hardest part of the journey?

Nathan: The hardest point in my Jiu Jitsu career, so far, was when I completely blew my right knee out in 2008. It was right after my brother and I had opened the doors to our academy and Pan Ams were right around the corner at the time. I didn’t want to believe it was truly injured, so I didn’t get it worked on until 6 months later. Big mistake and learning experience for me.

Zach: Injuries have been hard to cope with but have been a blessing in disguise. I was forced to switch the direction I pass to after a serious knee injury in early 2012, this forced me to drill and train using my less dominate side. Fast forward to today and I know have the ability to pass to both sides with equal skill and timing.


WBBJJ: In tough times what has helped you get through and allowed you to persevere?

Nathan: When times are tough I read and listen to as much motivational and positive information as possible. I have always been fortunate to have a family that is supportive and loves me, so that helps a lot. I put myself in the position of being an academy owner and Professor so that I am in a position of needing to constantly better myself, so I can be more valuable to others in life.

Zach: Setting goals and surrounding myself with winners. As soon as I kicked the losers out of my life I was free of all negativity and allowed me to be the best I can be.


WBBJJ: If you weren’t doing this what would you do?

Nathan: If I weren’t doing Jiu Jitsu I would be a race car driver, or skydiver, or something cool like that. Adrenaline junkie right here.

Zach: Ha, I love to surf and travel so probably something in one of those area/industries.


WBBJJ: What do you tell someone who says they want to do BJJ and then gives the standard excuses, time, money, etc?

Nathan: I would tell them to keep doing what they really want with their money, time, excuses, etc… Everyone does what they feel is most important to them in life. We all have choices to make and I can’t control others emotions or actions so I leave it to the individual to decide if they really want the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle, or if they have more important things to do.

Zach: A good coach knows that the key to building a strong team is developing a culture of success. The environment can become so positive it will do all the student retention work for us. If I can get them in the door and around the good energy in the academy we usually keep them for life.




WBBJJ: Favorite activity besides BJJ?

Nathan: Being outdoors (hiking, biking, swimming, beach, river, desert, mountains)

Zach: Travel to experience new cultures.


WBBJJ: What’s on your IPOD?

Nathan: I listen to pretty much everything (except country). Kendrick Lamar, Sublime, Naked and Famous, Damien Marley, Ub40, Bonobo, The Click, Basement Jaxx, Trance, Dance and Dubstep… Love it all.

Zach: Juicy J.


WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?

Nathan: Drinking Buddies. It was pretty funny.

Zach: Out of the Furnace. Woody (Harrelson) is the man.


WBBJJ: If you could train with someone living or dead who would that be?

Nathan: If I only had one chance it would be Helio Gracie. I would really like to train Robson Moura or Leandro Lo because of their incredibly dynamic game!

Zach: Rickson Gracie


WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?

Nathan: I honestly believe that their is no better lifestyle than Jiu Jitsu. It has the ability to do amazing things to help people change and accomplish their deepest desires. It is the antidote to surviving our youth and giving them a direction for success with ambitions to do incredible things with themselves and for their communities. If you are interested in following us and the exciting projects we have on the horizon, join us at www.TheAdamsonBros.com. Train hard, train smart, never quit, live hard!

Zach: Once you achieve a high level in Jiu Jitsu you realize the fun isn’t in chasing the belt, but the desire to become our best. Never stop improving yourself and helping others. This are two of the most rewarding experiences in life.


Zach Adamson Highlight Video


Leg drag pass with Zach Adamson


To learn more about Nathan and Zach Adamson, check out their information below.


On the web:

On Facebook:



 Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ