White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions #7: Nathan Mendelsohn



Nathan Mendelsohn


Our guest for the seventh installment of White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions is one of the top American competitors competing at black belt today.  His name is Nathan Mendelsohn and he is based in Santa Cruz California. He is a black belt under Claudio Franca.

We are grateful that he took the time to sit down with us, so without any further to do, we now bring you Nathan Mendelsohn.


WBBJJ:  What brought you to BJJ?

Nathan: I started in Martial Arts when I was four years old in Karate then moved to Ho Kuk Mu Sol when I was six and got all the way to the black belt by the time I was ten. My father knew Master Claudio Franca because he served him regularly at the restaurant where he works and when Master Franca moved his academy to the shopping center next to my house my father asked if I wanted to try it out. This is around the same time I had gotten my black belt in Ho Kuk Mu Sol. I fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu right away. Soon after starting to train Jiu-Jitsu my dad rented the first UFC from the video store and after seeing Royce Gracie use Jiu-Jitsu so effectively against so many other styles I fell even more in love and the rest is history.

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

Nathan: More training, less resting. I see a lot of lower belts come to class and sit out half of the sparring rounds. In my classes we do between five and eight rounds of sparring each class and I understand that it can be hard to make it through all of them but sitting on the wall doesn’t make your jiu-jitsu any better. The majority of time people sit on the wall it isn’t because they aren’t physically capable of going another round. It’s usually because they are either being lazy or are truly tired and afraid of not performing to their full potential. People are afraid of getting their guard passed by someone who usually can’t pass their guard or even worse, being submitted by someone they usually beat. But surviving these experiences make you better. People are also afraid of pushing their gas because it sucks, it’s painful and it can be tough. But getting exhausted isn’t going to kill you. It’s actually going to make you stronger. You only get so much time to train jiu-jitsu each week and you should try to utilize every second that you’re on the mat to make your jiu-jitsu better, and that means not sitting out during class. If you’re so exhausted you can’t spar hard, then do repetitions or practice the move your instructor showed you that day but don’t sit on the wall wasting your mat time.

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

Nathan: I hardly remember being a white belt because I was so young but I would probably tell myself to make sure to compete every chance I got. I’ve always competed in tournaments ever since I was a kid but I really think competing is the best way to improve and I could always have competed more, especially when I was younger.




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

Nathan: For me I think the hardest thing has been dieting. That’s probably the part that I like the least about competing but I also believe in being as lean as possible on fight day and so I lose about 25 pounds from my walking-around-weight to fight the pan and world’s and though it’s tough it’s definitely worth it.

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

Nathan: During the times that I was suffering the most through tough training and strict diet etc.it was always my desire to perform well and the fact that I love nothing more than the feeling of being in shape and performing well on tournament day that kept me motivated and pushing through.

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

Nathan: If I wasn’t doing BJJ for a living I would probably have stuck with Water Polo through college. I started Water Polo around the same time as Jiu-Jitsu and I used to really enjoy that as well. I played well into high school and was on my way to play in college until I started getting really serious about jiu-jitsu  and when I was around 17 everything else kind of fell away.

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

Nathan: I tell them that if they actually want to train then they will do it. There’s always someone sacrificing as much as you have to in order to train and you’ll find that out really quickly if you ask around the mat at any given class. I have guys who help me teach the kids’ classes because they can’t afford memberships. We have police officers who literally work all night long and then come to train straight from work before going home to sleep. So if you’re not training jiu-jitsu it’s because you’re not truly motivated to, and excuses are always easy to find if you’re looking for them. Whatever is going on in your life, you always have time for BJJ.

WBBJJ:  Favorite activity besides BJJ?

Nathan: I have lots of favorite activities besides BJJ. I just recently rekindled my love for surfing which Is something I used to do a lot when I was younger but had stopped doing for a long time. I also love reading comic books, playing video games, writing raps and producing music and writing stories. In other words I’m a total nerd.

WBBJJ:  What’s on your IPOD?

Nathan: Lots of Hip-Hop, Dubstep and some Soul and Funk music as well.

WBBJJ:  What was the last movie you watched?

Nathan: I’m obsessed with zombie movies so the last one I watched was (Rec) 2, the sequel to the Spanish movie that inspired the US remake entitled Quarantine.

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

Nathan: Helio Gracie. I will forever regret that I lived and practiced Jiu-Jitsu in the time while he was still alive and never got the chance to train with him.

WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?

Nathan: Hope you enjoyed the interview and were able to take something away from it! Jiu-jitsu for Life! Ossssss





 Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ


(Advice) “BJJ and Your Skin” by Lauren LaCourse


“BJJ and Your Skin”

by Lauren LaCourse (Blogger, WBBJJ.com)




**DISCLAIMER** This article might gross you out, but I feel like it is important to share my latest BJJ mishap with you.


As white belts, some of us are starting our Jiu Jitsu journey with no prior experience in grappling.  Because of that, many of us are unaware of the more obscure hazards that can accompany our new found art. Playing the game of Jiu Jitsu entails that we spar, rolling around on mats, in close proximity to other human beings. I was one of the people who were unaware of some of the more obscure hazards of rolling Jiu Jitsu.


It started a few days ago.  I noticed a small cluster of two or three bumps on the underside of my chin.  As the day progressed they became itchy.  I had become used to breakouts after a hard week of training, so I didn’t think much of it.  BUT, the next day a crusty, yellowish scab had formed where the cluster had been.



(My infection)


I had heard that skin diseases like ringworm could be contracted with frequent time spent on the mats. Concerned, I mentioned my recent discovery to one of my fellow coaches.  As a high school wrestler, he was aware of the different types of skin diseases that could be spread through grappling, and had a look.  After confirming it was not ringworm, he advised me to take some time off and have a doctor look at it; since there are many other types of bacteria and viruses that could be causing the scab.


I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the next day.  Naturally, being the curious hypochondriac that I am, I decided to Google the types of skin diseases that commonly affect grapplers.  I came across an article that explains the most common wrestling skin diseases.  According to the article the biggest offenders were ringworm, herpes simplex, impetigo, and staph/MRSA.


You can probably imagine my horror reading that diseases like herpes can be spread through the close contact required of BJJ and other grappling arts.  Herpes?!  REALLY?! That entire night was spent without rest, and I tossed and turned over my impending appointment (which felt like it was going to be a death sentence).


The next morning I saw my doctor, explained my extracurricular activities, and showed her my symptoms.  She looked over the scab, shrugged her shoulders, and stated that I had contracted “impetigo”.  My heart started to race. I felt myself falling into a panic attack. She then lightheartedly explained that impetigo is common (especially when wrestling season begins) and can be easily cured with an antibiotic.


As relief washed over me, I suddenly realized that I could have possibly spread this contagious bacteria to my fellow teammates! Thankfully I had only rolled with my training partner Caitlin that week, so I called and notified her of my recent diagnosis.  I also notified my coaches to warn others at the gym that precautions should be taken.




If you are like me, at this point you are probably wondering, “What are some precautions I can take, and what can I do, to avoid contracting a skin disease from grappling?”


First, and foremost: Practice good hygiene.  This includes showering before as well as after training.  We all carry diseases on our skin.  It is important to wash regularly with soap and water, to minimize the amount of bacteria residing there.  Showering before training will assist this. It is also a good idea to not trust another person’s hygiene. Showering after practice will help keep you protected from any bacteria transferred to you, from those you train with.


Second: Be vigilant.  Research the common skin diseases associated with the grappling arts, and regularly check your body for any abnormalities.  If you do see anything amiss, take a break from training until you have had a doctor’s examination. Most importantly, follow your doctor’s orders until the issue is resolved.  Being responsible in this way, will help keep you and others from suffering any further complications.


If after reading this, you have become totally grossed out, like I admittedly was. I have some really great news.  Almost all of the skin diseases that can be contracted through grappling can be cured with a simple prescription.  They are not always as scary as they look.  They are not always as gross as you might think (for example; ringworm, isn’t worms).  You are not abnormal if you do happen to get one.


The thought of contracting skin diseases should not keep you from practicing BJJ (or other grappling arts). The thought of contracting skin diseases should serve to encourage you to be mindful of your health, and to have body awareness.


Good luck! And keep on rollin’.


This blog post was written by Lauren LaCourse of WBBJJ.com

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: Lauren’s Facebook


White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions #6: Ken Primola



Ken Primola


Our guest for the sixth installment of White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions is the most dominant BJJ internet presence that I can think of, Ken Primola! Ken is the man that operates all of our favorite blogs; I Love BJJNo Gi Grappling and BJJimmersion.com.

Ken Primola, a Gracie Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, has been grappling for over 20 years. Primola started wrestling when he was 12, finishing his academic sports career earning a Division I varsity letter at East Stroudsburg University. After college, Primola concentrated his athlete activity on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, earning his Black Belt in 2009. The list of whom he has studied under reads like a Who’s Who of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling.




Needless to say, it gives us tremendous pleasure to bring you, Ken Primola.


WBBJJ: What brought you to BJJ?

Ken: I would say it was a guy who kept asking me to train in the late 90s. But in all reality, when I look back, it was my state of mind that made me finally agree. I was in a transitional phase of life from college to law school and I really needed it. It was therapeutic and the man I learned it from was a patient teacher who taught me “the way”, very smooth, cerebral, and technical.


WBBJJ: In your experience what should lower belts do more of/less of?

Ken: I think they should enjoy it more and don’t compare yourself with anyone. I wouldn’t get too frustrated. And how do you not get frustrated, you fix your problems as they occur or directly thereafter. The only problem with that is the more you know the more you don’t know. So, I guess it’s being comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s called living. And being a white belt is an amazing time in one’s life. I often miss those days, where I was being tapped at will. Now I have to search for difficulties. I still love it though because I love learning. That’s the loyalty part right there, loyalty to learning is key.


WBBJJ: If you could go back in time and give “white belt” Ken Primola guidance, what advice would you give the “white belt you”?

Ken: I wouldn’t focus so much on winning. I was bred from a competitive sport, wrestling, and the only thing that mattered was competition. I would focus more on being a martial artist and trying to not only explore the physical, but the mental and emotional. Understand why you thought what you thought at that moment of stress, not just technically but psychologically. Once you learn one thing well, you can learn anything, it’s the process that you need to focus on. That applies to everything in life you desire.


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

Ken: I think the hardest part is to really let go of anyone else’s desires for you and notions of you but your own. Sometimes we get caught up with everyone else or what’s the latest and greatest shiny new move and we lose our own personal way of Jiu Jitsu. Or I thought what I am supposed to be in relation to everyone else at this or that belt level. Finding your true self in regard to connecting the physical and emotional is difficult, but being like everyone else is easy.


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

Ken: My love of learning and I have no quit inside of me once I go after something. I realize it’s not easy and not always fun. That’s just a part of the game. You gotta have self-respect. There were days I didn’t want to be there, man, so many days, so many hard personal times. But I love people, helping, and learning. I needed it. You can either use Jiu Jitsu as therapy or for empowerment, I have used it for both.



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

Ken: I’d probably still be a lawyer, with a wife and kids, lol.


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

Ken: Honestly, I tell them nothing. I understand you can baby people or try and convince them. I just find when I do that it handicaps the relationship from the get go. I’m probably the wrong person to ask, lol.


WBBJJ: Favorite activity besides BJJ?

Ken: Spending family time and travelling.


WBBJJ: What’s on your iPod?

Ken: I have some techno, some Jay Z, some Eminem, The Cure, lol.


WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?

Ken: Man of Steel, with my father. Was awesome because I was with him.


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

Ken: The first person who taught me. He was a blue belt 15 years ago, probably a brown belt now, so good of a teacher.


WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?

Ken: Have fun and give it love. It will come back to you.




I hope you all enjoyed the interview!

meTony Peranio WBBJJ

(Advice) “We tap for many reasons” by Tony Peranio


“We tap for many reasons”

by Tony Peranio of WBBJJ.com


When you train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every week, you will eventually encounter issues that will affect your performance on the mat.


Life is a winding road that is constantly hurling obstacles our way, and is constantly forcing us to overcome challenges. Sometimes, you will experience “bad days” in the gym because of this. (Note: This article only pertains to people who train regularly. It does not pertain to grapplers who only train on occasion. Grapplers who train train only occasionally will simply take time off during times of adversity. For those of us addicted to BJJ, the thought of time off is quite simply, an impossibility.)


This is not meant to be a blog about excuses. My father always says, “The only good excuse, is no excuse”. Instead this blog is intended to remind all interested parties, that all of us are individuals, with diverse (and oft times complicated) lives.


There are many elements that factor in to each and every one of our submissions, and each and every one of our daily performances. Listed below are a few things that can affect your performance, and cause you to tap; that have nothing to do with the technique being inflicted upon you, and your ability to escape.




You have a demanding job, or school workload, but you still force yourself to make it to BJJ class. Your coach and your teammates have no idea what your day consisted of before you put on your Gi and stepped onto the mats. You might work in a factory moving heavy objects. Perhaps you were up all night long studying for a difficult test for school. Maybe you just worked back-to-back double shifts trying to make rent. You aren’t going to come into the academy wearing these facts upon your sleeve. You are going to put on your best game face and get at it the best way that you know how. Sometimes however, our hearts and our minds are susceptible to the realities of material existence. I say, kudos to you for making it to class, even though you were already exhausted. At least you showed up.


You have a nagging injury but do not want to be told to “sit out”. If you practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or any martial art, you are bound to encounter bumps and bruises on occasion. The BJJ addict comes to class neck sore, fingers sore, shoulders sore, knee popped, hamstring pulled, ankle blown and turf toe’d. We hope that no one notices. We hope hat we aren’t told to sit out, on the godforsaken sidelines. However, we may tap abnormally fast in certain situations, just so we can continue to play the game.


There are tons of problems that you could be having domestically. I have yet to meet the person who was living a perfect life. People have rough marriages, relationships and sometimes family issues. These bad feeling situations exist to help us to grow and to build character; however they may cause us to have the occasional bad day on the mat.


Sometimes I want to give my gym buddy a chance to land a submission. Sometimes, it is as simple as that. It could be a bright, sunny day. The stars could all be aligned in my favor. I could have just gotten a raise at my job, won the lottery, and found the girl of my dreams. That all being said, I try to offer a give-and-take relationship when rolling with my teammates. If I am double the size of my teammate or massively stronger, I will give them a chance. However, you have to be careful not to give too much of a chance, as to offend your teammate.


Sleep. I think for every ten people that I know, ten of them at some point, have had an issue with sleep. Some are insomniacs. Some work two jobs. Some are taking 15 credits per semester in college. Some live in apartments with noisy neighbors. Most of our healing and recuperation is accomplished while we sleep. Our coaches and teammates have no idea how many hours we slept last night. Instead of resting on our laurels, we get up, and come to BJJ class. Granted we may put up a lackluster performance, but at least we showed up to perform. To look at things positively, on days that we do not offer up our best performances, we gave our teammates that much more of a chance at improving their abilities!


Patience. This is not karate. It takes years, not months, to advance your belt color. So basically, what is the rush? Sometimes I just feel like having a good time. Sometimes I like putting myself in crazy positions and “bad” positions just to see what will happen. I will be dead to the world from rolling for an hour, and faced with the option to roll with a bigger advanced belt, or a smaller white belt. I will pick the bigger, advanced guy every time. He will probably smash and beat me, but again, “Who cares?” If you decide to take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you had better be in it for the long haul! So be patient and have fun!




Keep in mind, I am just a simple white belt. These philosophies only seem right to me now, as one who is staring up at the summit of a mighty mountain, and does not wish to get burned out. I will show up regularly to BJJ class. I will show up no matter how great or how lousy I feel. If my performance is not guns blazing, kill ’em all, take no prisoners and let God sort ’em out; just understand that there are many issues, that make up the totality of each and every tap that is forced upon me (and other BJJ addicts like me).


I hope you all enjoyed the read!


meTony Peranio WBBJJ

(Advice) “Improving Your Jiu Jitsu” by Bill Jones


“Improving Your Jiu Jitsu”

by Bill Jones (BJJ Black Belt under Pedro Sauer)


One of the most common questions that new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students ask me is, “What can I do to improve, and continue improving?”


At some point we have all asked ourselves these questions. The answers are always the same, “time on the mats.”


What does this actually mean? I have seen people show up 5 days per week, and demonstrate only a small amount of improvement; while others train only 2 days per week, and show markedly greater improvement. It is not so much about how much time you spend on the mat, but rather what you do with your time on the mat.



Rorion Gracie and Bill Jones


At my academy we have two primary BJJ classes; fundamentals and positional mastery. The fundamentals classes teach the curriculum from white, to blue belt. In these classes you will learn all of the basic submissions, positions, and transitions required to gain skill in the art. This is all set up on a rotating curriculum of 25 classes. The material repeats for 25 classes so that each student is sure to have a solid foundation in utilizing the month’s techniques.


To some advanced white belts (and blue belts), attending these classes can seem a bit redundant. I often watch students come into class and simply pass the time, waiting for it to become time to roll. This is probably the biggest mistake those students could possibly make! That drilling time is critical! That drilling time is where you can hone every small detail of your technique!




On countless occasions blue belts have attempted to submit me, and I escape. This is not because my black belt gives me mystical powers. It is because they are not executing the techniques as they should be done. When they ask me how it was that I escaped, I always explain to them the most basic version of the technique. If they can not understand the slow and basic version, they cannot possibly expect to properly execute the move while rolling full speed. So I shore up their missing details (and there are always some details that could be better) and tell them to work on it.


Many times students will watch the instructor demonstrate a technique in class, and then practice it for a few repetitions. After that, they go back to rolling and never train it again! (Facepalm!)




Stop doing that! When someone shows you something to fix what you are doing wrong, train the heck out of it! While you roll for the rest of the night try focusing on just that move. Do your best to get it right. Learn to do it perfectly every time (because most of us only have limited time to train).


These are a couple of reasons why your buddy, that only trains 2 days per week, is kicking your butt!!! They value their limited training time so it becomes easier to focus on a specific goal. They do not aimlessly wander through training like a sailor lost at sea! They are focused.




Here you come, training many days per week, and you waste most of it because you do not come to class with a game plan.


Here are my two solutions for flaws that I see in many of your games. (1) You need to come to the fundamentals classes even though the techniques may seem repetitious for you, and (2) when you are taught a technique (or shown where you can personally improve) you should immediately try to utilize it while sparring live.


Time on the mat, with a purpose!


Have a game plan 100% of the time, even if your game plan is to take it easy that day!

Now go train! See you on the mats!


This blog post was penned by Bill Jones, a Pedro Sauer Black Belt and friend of Todd Shaffer (WBBJJ.com).


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