WBBJJ.com interviews Strength and Conditioning Coach, Luke Tirey


Luke Tirey is the Strength and Conditioning coach for Team Rafael Lovato Jr. His job is to make sure that world champions like Rafael Lovato Jr., Justin Rader and James Puopolo are kinesthetically able to operate at peak levels during world championship level BJJ competition.



Luke Tirey and Team Lovato Jr.


WBBJJ: Tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get here?

Luke Tirey: I’m 29 years old and really have had no huge formal background in sports until around 11 years ago when I decided to start lifting weights. From that moment on I have been in a constant experiment exploring the world of strength training. I’ve had periods of bodybuilding, marathon running (Chicago 07 at 155lbs), crossfit, powerlifting, kettlebells, strongman, gymnastics, etc.. Each mini journey became not only a change in training, but also living, breathing, eating, and philosophical views.


WBBJJ: Tell us a bit about your work with Team Lovato. Personally, I’d like to know what it’s like working with some of the most accomplished athletes in terms of their motivation to push hard all the time. What separates them from the average person? Does anything really separate them? Do they have down days/lazy days. What do you do to keep them fired up?

Luke Tirey: Working with Team Lovato is a great experience. Most of what I can do is offer advice and try to keep it simple for them. We could talk this all day but what you really want to hear is what it’s like training Rafael Lovato Jr. and Justin Rader. Well it’s simple, over the years I have changed my views from letting human ego and aggressive thought create training psychology, towards a more holistic – primal – strength approach. I believe they have adapted and been 100% on board which shows in their respective performances, but most importantly, in their health and longevity. So in a way it’s not their workout intensity that separates them from other martial artists, it’s their mindsets. Unique minds that only the elite have. The ability to visualize the goals at hand and taste every moment of the process, that’s what these guys do. I have gotten so basic with their training, and asked them to start listening, feeling, seeing, and perfecting the things they do. I want them to treat their bodies as the magnificent paintbrushes they are, using the minds to create their masterpiece. Rafael and Justin are simply more determined to excel than others and I think their bio’s show it.


Green Strength was founded by Lucius C. Tirey IV in 2013. After years and years of experimenting fitness and health trends, Lucius began to dwindle out the non efficient things that have plagued trainees all over the world from reaching their true, full potential. Supplements, splits, programs, diets, and exercise progression are all overly concerned about and have begun to destroy the art of achieving TRUE HEALTH.


WBBJJ: What would be your ideal basic starter program for a White belt who’s taking BJJ classes 2-4 times a week and is looking to add strength and conditioning to their weekly workouts. What would you have them do?

Luke Tirey: Everyone starting an exercise program is considered a white belt in my mind. You should spend your time reverse engineering what the strong do, as Pavel would say. In my opinion, this is not up for discussion: -You must learn to breathe properly -Then you must learn proper rolling patterns -Then maybe crawl -Walk -Run -Etc.. The mistakes we make are thinking we are above the basics or already athletically fit so we don’t need to practice fundamental movement, let’s just start the advanced stuff. The most important thing for you to do in the gym is learn to move your body in the most efficient ways possible, and then this is applied in bodyweight, barbell, kettlebells etc. Bruce Lee was a huge fan of the basics as he regularly did isometrics, tension and relaxation drills, as well as breathing exercises. Why not reverse-engineer the greatest approach? P.S. Don’t negate strength! There are many forms of strength and destroying a strong foundation with “excessive cardio” can destroy any belt.




WBBJJ: How do you tailor your programs to people’s experience/competition level? What’s different about say Justin Rader’s program versus “Avg Joe”?

Luke Tirey: I tailor programs and exercises based on the trainee’s ability to move. We all bridge, hinge, squat, press from multiple angles, carry, jump, land etc. These are natural movements we do no mater what. So why create gimmicks? We just perfect movement. As your level advances we can start adding different forms of resistance and physiological challenges. In theory the movement never really changes from Justin Rader to Avg. Joe, however the progression/regression, load, height, rest, and many other variables come into play.


WBBJJ: Thoughts on nutrition?

Luke Tirey: Nutrition is a world of mess. Take economics out of this thought for a second. Now there really is no diet, no debate, just personal accountability for what you eat. That being said it seems there is only one way to eat. Eat real food (organic if you can), and fuel your body. If you stay active in any capacity and eat as REAL and COLORFUL as possible, you’re going be okay. I am a stickler on vitamins and minerals, we need to be taking our D3, Zinc, Magnesium, EPA, and all the goodies. Slouch on water? I think most under-drink and are chronically dehydrated training day in and out. Big mistake!




WBBJJ: What if someone wants to gain weight? Lose weight? How does your prescription/workout change?

Luke Tirey: If someone is looking to gain weight or lose weight it’s simple. Change what you put in your mouth on a daily basis consistently. Considering they are eating REAL FOODS, the real advice is either up the calories or downsize the portions. Don’t beat yourself up training in order to accomplish one or the other…if you’re not going to nutritionally support yourself and be accountable to how much and how often you eat, you won’t see the compositional changes you want.


WBBJJ: Where can our readers learn more about you?

Luke Tirey: You can follow me at www.greenstrength.wordpress.com, be sure to like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter. I am in the process of putting programs and tons of helpful information on my site specifically for combat athletes, so stay tuned! I am also available for private online coaching; if anyone is interested please give me a shout.


WBBJJ: Any further thoughts?

Luke Tirey: I’m going to leave you with my most valuable three pieces of information: Eat real food, train with passion and spirit, and do what’s worked for decades and years. Nothing new is magic.





 Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ.com


(Interview) WBBJJ.com exclusive interview with the founders of the IBJJWF!


If you follow Brazilian Jiu Jitsu news, you have probably recently heard about the formation of an all female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu league. They go by the name, the “IBJJWF“, or the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Women’s Federation. We are lucky enough to conduct one of the earliest interviews with the founders! These ladies are filled with ambition, fervor, zeal and skill. We are proud to support them and wish them the best in their endeavors!




WBBJJ: Who are the ladies behind the IBJJWF? This question has been asked in prior interviews but for the sake of this interview, we need to know. Sorry for the redundancy.

Luciana Bassoli and Holli Noel.


WBBJJ: How did you meet each other?

Holli Noel: Luciana and I met through a mutual friend and BJJ professor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


WBBJJ: Tell us a bit about yourselves. What belt rank are you ladies? Whom do you train under, and where?

Holli Noel: I am a 1st degree Blue Belt in BJJ under Professor Paulo Ribeiro, Gracie Barra, Naples, Florida.

Brazilian-born, Luciana, is a 4th degree Black Belt in BJJ under Master Joe Moreira, Los Angeles, California and 2nd degree Black Belt in Judo. Luciana’s 1st BJJ instructor was the late Carlson Gracie.



Luciana Bassoli


WBBJJ: It is said that you have offices in California, Florida and Brazil. Please explain the mechanics of this triangle.

Holli Noel: We first wanted to establish our offices where we reside and train, California & Florida, which are both major hubs for BJJ in the United States.  We have people in place in Rio de Janeiro, for obvious reasons, to help organize the federation there. The President there is black belt, Luciana Neder, one of the pioneers of women’s BJJ.  Eventually we plan to have satellite offices in additional cities in the U.S., and well as chapters of the federation in various countries.


What are some factors, rules and/or situations that currently exist in the IBJJF; that caused you to form a woman specific BJJ league?

Holli Noel: We are delighted with 2 major recent changes that the IBJJF has made regarding female athletes.  First the lift of the ban of the Hijab head dress for our Arab sisters to compete in IBJJF tournaments.  Second, the addition of weight classes at both the top and bottom.  These were two top-line items on our list, which now have been resolved.  Maybe they felt a little pressure with the creation of the IBJJWF?

Luciana Bassoli: In addition, we would like to see more age divisions for women in Masters, for men there are up to 5 masters divisions but no masters at all for women for the worlds. It takes the chance away for a women 30+ to be a world champ.

What happened to those world champs from ‘98, ‘99…? You could count on your fingers who was training and competing bjj back them. I know all these girls and the only ones who are still involved with BJJ is Leticia and Rosangela (Abu Dhabi). In the other hand Saulo, Murilo, Marcio Feitosa, most of those champions have successfully transitioned to professors. There’s definitely a huge glass sealing there for women.



  “The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Women’s Federation is a collaborative organization created to promote, help develop and structure the female side of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The IBJJWF goals are to assist fighters and professors by creating equal opportunity for women in tournaments and to assist in spreading the gentle art through the eyes of female athletes throughout the world.” – IBJJWF Facebook Page



WBBJJ: Do you have any events planned for the future? If not, what do you envision as the perfect IBJJWF event?

Holli Noel: We are planning a Training Camp in Los Angeles to be held this summer.  In addition we are planning tournaments for 2014, which will eventually lead up to the “perfect” event, which will be the IBJJWF World Championship, which is planned for 2015.


WBBJJ: What are some of the obstacles that you (as an organization and as a female BJJ practitioner) have faced so far? What are some of the obstacles that you foresee arising in the future of your endeavor, with IBJJWF?

Holli Noel: At this point, our obstacles have been few.  We have been overwhelmed and delighted with the feedback, response and support we have received from both female and male athletes regarding the creation of the IBJJWF.  We are moving forward without fear of obstacles, but in anticipation of huge opportunities!

Luciana Bassoli: The biggest obstacle are BJJ organizations and schools, who like the IBJJF, are doing the minimum to provide incentive for women’s BJJ, followed by tournaments like Metamoris and Copa Podium not bothering to understand there are women out there that can put on a beautiful show and also need money prizes to pay their bills. It’s nice to get a medal and be a world champ but at the end you can’t buy your groceries and training supplements with a medal. Kudos to money prizes for women at Abu Dhabi. The disparity of the payout amount between men and women is still very relevant.

Another obstacle are schools with no women’s only classes. Not everyone likes to be crushed by a 200 lb. man. I understand that there’s not as much money in an all women’s class as a men’s class but it has to be done for the sake of BJJ. They talk about BJJ being in the Olympics, but with the number of women participating it it is almost a joke to me. Training with women is not a burden, it is a privilege, not only it will complement your BJJ but it will help your flow and the use of less strength. I have friends who are big advocates for women’s BJJ, and their academies are so successful. I also have friends who don’t care about helping women develop their BJJ, and they don’t understand why their businesses are failing. A-holes attract A-holes, good professors attract good people. Women need to be able to feel the energy and avoid red flag schools like that.



Holli Noel


WBBJJ: Are you attempting to lure women away from the IBJJF, or are you trying to further the cause of women in BJJ, by creating additional opportunities for female BJJ athletes? Please elaborate.

Holli Noel: It should be very clear that we are in no way attempting to lure women away from the IBJJF, or any other federation, for that matter.  Our goal is to support women by encouraging them to compete in as many events as possible.

Luciana Bassoli: I just want to make it clear that what we intend to accomplish in helping women to thrive goes beyond helping them to win a medal. We understand that not everyone wants to compete, women come to my classes for many different reasons and we need to accommodate and cater to all. That being said IBJJF is just a small part of our goals. I’ve been a professor for over 15 years and If you just focus on the technique you have failed. A professor in Martial Arts has the responsibility to train you for life in all its aspects. The dojo is the microcosm of your life. Safety comes 1st. Makes me sad what happened to that student who got raped by her instructor and colleague. IBJJF did nothing about it.

Another day a girl came from San Diego to train at the academy all full of injuries. She’s very petite, and told me that there’s not other girls or small guys in her school. That’s a red flag for me. Her rib got broken when a 215lbs guy passed her guard and dropped his weight on her. I was like “who’s your professor that allows that?”, “why did’nt you leave after all those injuries?” She’s a brown belt, so can you imagine how many years of brain washing?  Women are very loyal students and very easy targets for those money machine BJJ schools. 


WBBJJ: When we talked about doing this interview you mentioned that you would like to help/sponsor female BJJ athletes. Tell us more about that.

Holli Noel: We know that, as with men, many female BJJ athletes juggle many roles in their daily lives, including jobs, families, school, etc.  We realize that these responsibilities, coupled with finances and possibly living in a remote area are factors that may prevent them from competing.  We believe there is a lot of untapped talent out there, that may never be showcased, if these women are not able to compete.  After we are established with sponsors, we will be selecting women from time to time, based upon their personal situation and real need, to help further their careers.

Luciana Bassoli: With the help of sponsors and donations we want to provide all our services for very low rates or free. That’s the ideal. Women make 30% less of the dollar than men, in addition we have extra expenses because of our biological differences… so why are we paying the same fees?


WBBJJ: A genie in a bottle grants you three wishes for the future of IBJJWWF. What are your three wishes?

Holli Noel: 1) Big international sponsors (both within and outside of the traditional BJJ circuit of sponsors), so that we may help as many women as possible. 2) To play a major roll in growing the sport for women, filling all divisions at competitions, and filling academies across the globe, and to inspire all women, both inside and outside of BJJ. 3) That we are recognized not only as a federation holding tournaments, seminars, camps, etc., but also as an organization that is generous and caring by having the ability to lead and support many charitable initiatives.

Luciana Bassoli: Holli you read my mind!


WBBJJ.com is about having fun. So, we have some fun questions to ask!


WBBJJ: What’s on your iPod right now?

Holli Noel:  Everything from Jimi Hendrix to Pitbull…  Janis Joplin to Pink.

Luciana Bassoli: My Pandora radios I listen the most these days…Animals, Rio Baile Funk and Dire Straits.


WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?

Holli Noel: Wolf of Wall Street

Luciana Bassoli: Me too!


WBBJJ: If you could pick someone to roll with, who would it be?

Holli Noel: When I first started BJJ, Hillary Williams was still heavy in the competition network, before taking time off to complete her medical degree.  She was one of my first inspirations, and remains until this day.

Luciana Bassoli: Jigoro Kano, Carlos and Helio 😉 Im fascinated with Kit Dale style I would love check it out to see if works. The current world champs Gabi and Luanna.




It is free for any female to register with the IBJJWF! To do so, click here.

Check them out on Facebook. Their website will be up soon. For now, Facebook is the best place to keep informed about the latest IBJJWF news.


I hope you all enjoyed the interview!

meTony Peranio WBBJJ

White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions #9: Justin Rader



Justin Rader


Our guest for the ninth installment of White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions is none other than world champion American BJJ competitor: Justin RaderJustin is a Professional MMA fighter, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Competitor and 2X No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Featherweight World Champion (2010, 2013). He is a black belt under Rafael Lovato Jr.

It brings us great pleasure to sit down with him and we hope you enjoy his story!


WBBJJ: What brought you to BJJ?

Justin Rader: My father, David Rader, is the person who got me started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu here in Oklahoma City, OK at Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA about 15 years ago. He got me involved in martial arts at a very young age, as he sought out the most qualified and accomplished coaches in both wrestling and tae kwon do. I began in those arts between the ages of 4-5 years old. One of the fathers of one of my teammates on my wrestling team happened to drive by Lovato’s Academy one day and saw they offered Jiu-Jitsu, and he happened to mention it to my father because he knew I was really involved in martial arts and wrestling. He thought we might like to check it out. We did and really enjoyed it, and the rest is history.

It’s been an incredible journey, and it’s not over yet!


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

Justin Rader: Looking back on my own journey thus far, and especially from the perspective of being an instructor and coach now, I think about this often to provide the best instruction and direction to everybody I teach. Especially when starting out, I think people should strive to focus more on technique and drilling rather than sparring. I know that often times drilling can seem boring, especially if you only have a few techniques to drill, but it’s so important. It’s also sometimes hard to find a good drilling partner who doesn’t get bored with it after 5 minutes. It’s a great way to refine technique, teach control and fluid movement, stay moving, and is definitely something I wished I focused more on when I first started. Making sparring the main focus too early can lead to bad technique and habits, and even worse the chances for injury are much higher because beginners’ movement is not as fluid or refined and is usually strength-based and spastic. Take things slow, it will pay off in the long run. And trust your instructor!



Justin and Rafael Lovato Jr.


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

Justin Rader: Enjoy the journey! Don’t try to rush through any one belt, or think you need to earn your black belt in 4 years. Also, do your research, and find a credible instructor who has created a positive, healthy atmosphere and environment in his/her academy that makes you feel comfortable. Somebody you feel you can trust to look out for your best interest and personal goals and will invest in your Jiu-Jitsu journey. Luckily, I found all that right off the bat!!


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

Justin Rader: Having started training in this art around the age of 12 years old, and having been involved in martial arts and wrestling since about the age of 4 years old and doing both pretty much my entire life, I would say the hardest part of the journey for me was understanding why I was doing it and trying to find what I wanted to get out of it, and placing far too much emphasis and pressure on competition.

My father got me started in martial arts and wrestling for a couple of different reasons. He wanted to place me in an environment that taught me work ethic and principles like honor, integrity, discipline, perseverance, as well as provide healthy lifestyle habits and help my confidence and self-esteem. I am not by nature a confrontational or aggressive person, especially when I was a kid, and my father wanted me to have the confidence to stand up for myself, my beliefs, stand up to bullies, and to defend myself and my family if that situation should ever arise. It took me many years before I finally realized this, and I thought he wanted me involved in martial arts and wrestling to be a competitor, and I always thought I had to win to make my father proud. That winning was everything. I put so much pressure on myself. I do believe that everyone should challenge themselves with competitions, but don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself, especially as a kid. Treat them for what they are, learning experiences to further your own development, both technically and personally. Once I finally understood this, I was able to take this pressure off of myself, and I started to see success.



Justin bringing up the next generation of BJJ artists


Also beginning in this art at such a young age, I had a distorted view of competition and what it should mean. When I was much younger, I thought that how I did in competition would determine when I would receive my next belt. I had the immature thinking that competition was the main determining factor in being promoted. I look back now, and realize that this is a martial art, and competition is not the be-all, end-all factor of when a person is ready to be promoted. It is a factor yes, but not the only one that should be taken into consideration. I think it’s also important for an instructor to look at a person’s growth in knowledge of techniques and the ability to teach them, growth in character, if they are a person who upholds all the virtues and values of being a martial artist and lead by example in that way, and someone they trust to represent them especially when promoting to black belt. As I began to understand these lessons, I was able to hold competition in its proper place, and that is when I started having much more success, and it made me not just a better competitor, but a better instructor, and I started having more fun. These lessons were probably the hardest throughout my journey.


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

Justin Rader: I have the best support from my few close friends and family. Their belief in me never waivers, and in my toughest times, I remember they will always be there, that I represent them, and it pushes me to always get back up and keep going.


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

Justin Rader: I have always enjoyed strength and conditioning and sport dietetics, so I would very likely be training people and athletes as a strength and conditioning coach. I actually went to college and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Exercise Science and a Masters degree  in Dietetics.


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

Justin Rader: Honestly, I do not push my lifestyle or choices on anybody, especially if they’re not ready. And when I hear excuses, it means that said person is not quite ready change.




WBBJJ: Favorite activity besides BJJ?

Justin Rader: Hanging out with my friends and family and having a good time. I also enjoy strength and conditioning and reading.


WBBJJ: What’s on your iPod?

Justin Rader: Epica, Evanescence, Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, Blackmore’s Night, Halestorm, Flyleaf, Amaranthe, and Disturbed.


WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?

Justin Rader: Lone Survivor


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

Justin Rader: In BJJ I have 2 right now; Leandro “Lo” and Keenan Cornelius. In MMA, Jose Aldo.


WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?

Justin Rader: I’d like to thank my parents, David and Mary Jane Rader, my family, Professor Rafael and Tina Lovato, my wrestling coach Andy Howington, Professors Saulo and Xande Ribeiro and Chris Savarese, my muay thai coach Mark Beecher, my strength and conditioning coach Luke Tirey, and my close friends for all their support, influence, guidance, training, and constant belief in me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. You guys are the best!



You can follow Justin Rader on: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Check out Justin’s recently released DVD, “Hybrid Success Formula” here. The DVD shows how Justin utilized his wrestling skills to maximize his BJJ abilities!

If you’re ever interested in seminars please feel free to message him via Facebook.



 Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ.com


Jim Barrett’s Inspirational IBJJF Pans Story



Jim Barrett


The 2011 Pan Ams was my first big jiu jitsu tournament and it was one of the best days of my life. To make the experience more authentic my friends and I showed up to the event on Brazilian time, or late. Being a lightweight I was the first of our group to compete and when we got there the feather weights were already underway. The arena was filled with twelve rings of mats all filled with competitors. People shouting, celebrations, crying, the whole world of jiu jitsu was gathered at this spot today. As a blue belt, I had a division with over 120 competitors, meaning it was seven rounds to the finals. It was a huge challenge; this was the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan Am.


As soon I had hurriedly put on my gi the announcer was calling my bracket to the warm up area. Inside this fenced off pen gathered all of the guys in my division; mean mugging each other, aggressively doing burpies, and singing along to gangster rap as it blared from head phones. We were all here to send each other home but were first forced into a tiny area with almost no room to do our intended warm ups. After a rush of claustrophobia I sat on the floor, closed my eyes, and meditated on my affirmations. ‘Everyone else here thinks they’re the good guy, so I’ll be the bad guy. I’m like Darth Vader so I wear my black gi. I’m here to ruin someone’s day. I am the bad draw they didn’t want’. I waited so long I began considering that they must have forgotten to call me when I finally heard my name.


jim barrett


As I weighed in and got my gi checked, I realized that my opponent had a strange ID card from another country. He said a few words of his native tongue to his coach and I knew that ‘lispy, whinny Spanish’ meant I drew a Brazilian in the first round. He wouldn’t be here unless he was good. My heart started pumping. I was across the country in this huge tournament, I didn’t know where my friends were and my coach Comprido was away at the UFC in Las Vegas.


Standing there in the weight ins, I started to run through my mind all the excuses I could use after I lose this match, when in the corner of my eye I saw Andre Galvao, one of my biggest heroes. “Andre” I yelled, “I’m a big fan” he turned around, looked back at and grabbed me by the shoulder. “Yes” was all he said then walked away but it completely hit a reset button on my train of thought. I’m not here to lose this match, I’m here because I love jiu jitsu. They called us to the mat.


In every first match of every tournament I’ve ever done I get hit by what’s called the adrenaline dump. You lose sense of time, your IQ plummets, you have amnesia for much of the experience. All your training at the gym cannot prepare you for when your brain goes out the window and you rely on instinct. About half way through the match I got my bearings together and was no longer so vulnerable. ‘Slow down’ I told myself, ‘breathe, relax your grips’. Once I swept my opponent and got on top I felt him start to panic. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him, but then again he pulled the bad guy in the first round. I used a lot of energy holding him down as he kicked like a wild deer but I eventually passed his guard, winning the match on points. With the first one behind me I returned to the still crowded warm up area with a new comfort and focus. Now it was time to get in the zone.


Right away when the next match started I could feel my opponent nervously shaking. He probably got a buy and this was his first match of the day. As the bad guy, I had to use his jitters to my advantage. I kept my cool but pushed the paced on him, quickly sweeping to the top and passing straight in to an armbar, forcing him to tap.


jim b


During the third fight I lost points when I got swept and had to use my reserve flexibility to get out of more trouble. I realized that my opponent was one tough guy. While I hung in there, getting smashed on the bottom, I thought about how I tried hard and I won two fights. I could go home and Comprido wouldn’t be that disappointed, this being my first big tournament. Everyone would realize that guy was just better than me. I thought that till out of nowhere, I heard my friend Bruce from the stands ‘One minute left’. That made me move.


If only it had been two minutes I would have thought it was too long and quit, but I could push in this last minute and make something happen. The next time he tried to step around my legs, I followed him and rolled upside down. My legs landed right how they needed to be to step up triangle choke but it seemed like he didn’t realized or know the danger. I took a deep breath and unwound, cinching a deep triangle choke. Grabbing my ankle, I squeezed and got the submission from the trick move, narrowly avoiding defeat.


In the warm up pen my friends were waiting. They were all excited for how I was doing while I kept it inside. If I won one more match I would be farther in at a big tournament than any of the Americans on our team had gone. ‘One match at a time’ I told them, trying hard to stay cool. While I waited at the mat for my next fight, I saw my next opponent practice wrestling shots, so I started pretending to practice judo throws were he could see. As soon as the match started I showed my bluff and immediately pulled him into a deep half guard, a place a wrestler type like him would feel confused. After a sweep, I snuck to his back and cranked a bow and arrow choke. My friends cheered from their distant seats in the stands. I was now deep in the no-man’s land of the late tournament that was unknown to everyone I knew; that is everyone except for Comprido.


After about an hour break I fought this kid in the quarter finals that had a really similar game to mine. The entire match I felt like I had no control but it was still somehow close. I swept him, he swept me back, he nearly got a couple of submissions on me. My teammates were far from me in stands so there was no one to tell me the score but I knew time was running out. He rolled away as I went passed his guard but I jumped on his back right as the buzzer rang. As the ref lifted my hand I honestly had no idea what the score was. For the first time all day I was tired but there was no time for that as the semi final, and hence the meddling round, was next.


I focused on my affirmations. ‘You are meant to be here. You trained hard for this. You were already one of the best in the room before the day began. And you still are.’ I was already in third place no matter what, but no, I could do this.


The next guy came out strong, stacking me up on my head after I pulled guard. He had a scary look; a white dude with cornrows just seemed intimidating. He pushed me around on the mat for a bit as I scurried upside down in a ball looking for something with no success. As he tried to stack me up again I got the chance to grab his belt. Using my grip on his belt I closed a triangle around his neck without either of his own arms. He tried hard to posture up for a second but quickly tapped. Afterwards, my opponent asked me what that submission was and I told him I honestly did not know, I had never done it before. I had never done any of this before but I had faked my way this far. But I had to focus; I had a chance to take this whole thing. Luckily the submission was quick and I still had a lot of gas left.




In the other semi final that would decide my opponent, there was a Brazilian and a young American. After a little back and forth the American got a nasty armbar, the Brazilian flopped around but would not tap and his arm got bent back. I think I may have even yelled for him to tap before the ref stepped in and saved him from further damage. After the match the American’s coach cheered, it was none other the Saulo Ribiero, the former Michael Jordan of Jiu Jitsu. I had studied Saulo’s book on the plane out to California. So great, he has a hall of famer for a coach. But I knew I was always dangerous. Back to my affirmations before the finals ‘Everyone else here looks like a fool. They wear their gi like it’s a Halloween costume and pajamas. I was reborn on a beach in Brazil in this gi. My gi is still covered in blood, sweat, and amniotic fluid. I was born to wear this gi’. They called us to the mat.


It was one of the quicker fights of my career. Within ten seconds I was flipped in the air onto my back. Twenty seconds later he picked me up, rolled me, and jumped on my back. After staving off a lapel choke, mounted triangle, and an armbar for several breaths I had to tap to a combination of the above. The kid simply out classed me. If I would have faced him in the first round he would have beat me then too. When I realized he still had braces on his teeth, I asked him how old he was, 17. This was his day, and it turns out it was the first of many others for him. This second place was the best I ever got. I shook his hand and slunk off the mat.


I was sitting there on the ground in a daze when Saulo walked up to me. He told me that I fought well and that I had a lot of talent. He knew my name and gave me a lot of respect. He was so humble to even talk to me and I was honored to meet him.


Standing on the second step of the podium, one gets the distinct sense that you are almost literally a stepping stone to the champion. There were 120 people at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day there are 119 losers. They cannot all be stepping stones. They all needed to be here for the sake of the art. If no one but two people came to the World championship there would be a champion decided, but that would be a dull champion. We make sure that Jiu Jitsu stays sharp and that if anyone wants that title, I will make damn sure that they are sharper than me. I may not win every tournament I enter, I may never win a match again but I will keep going out there because I’m no stepping stone, I’m a whet stone.


– Jim Barrett



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White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions #8: Rafael Lovato Jr.



Rafael Lovato Jr. and Rafael Sr.


Our guest for the eighth installment of White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions is none other than the most decorated American BJJ competitor today: Rafael Lovato Jr


“Rafael was born in June of 1983 and following the influence of his father, began studying martial arts when he first started walking. At the early of age of thirteen, Rafael found his passion when his father introduced him to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In August of 2004, shortly after turning 21, Rafael became the youngest American to receive a black belt in BJJ at that time.


Rafael has continued to make history in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, becoming the most decorated American BJJ competitor today. Rafael became the first person ever to win the European Open Championships, Pan-American Championships, Brazilian National Championships (Brasileiro), and World Championships (Mundials) at the Black Belt level and earned the prestigious BJJ competitor of the year award. He is also part of an elite group to ever win Black Belt World Championships with and without the gi. Rafael, as an instructor, also became the first American to produce a Black Belt No-Gi World Champion.


Now, Rafael is the full time owner, operator, and head instructor of Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts which is one of the top schools in the country, producing BJJ World Champion medalists and UFC fighters. He praises his excellent coach, the legendary Saulo Ribeiro and his incredible training partner, Saulo’s brother, Xande Ribeiro. Rafael is still an active competitor, but now some of his greatest joys come from the success of his students.” – lovatojr.com


Rafael is competing this weekend at the 2014 Pans in Irvine, California. We are grateful that he took the time to sit down with us, in the middle of his training for this important competition.

We now bring you Rafael Lovato Jr!


WBBJJ: What brought you to BJJ?

Rafael Lovato Jr: My father is a lifetime martial artist who was influenced by Bruce Lee. As soon as I could walk he was teaching me martial arts and taking me with him to go train. My journey started with Jeet Kune Do concepts including a lot of Muay Thai and Boxing. My father was always searching for the best and most effective martial arts and he found out about BJJ at a JKD instructor’s conference. He then dedicated himself to learning BJJ any way possible, traveling all the way to California or bringing Black Belts to OKC to teach seminars. As he learned, he taught me and I loved it right away. As I got older, it became easier for him to send me to learn and train since he was busy running the academy. I started competing a lot when I was around 15 years old and I did my first trip to Brazil to compete at the Worlds when I was 16 years old in 1999. The rest is history…


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: I believe they should do more note taking and asking of questions. I think you should keep a BJJ journal where you document your journey. The notebook can be used for much more then just note taking of techniques, you should also analyze what is happening during your training and take note of what positions you feel weak in and what techniques people are able to do to you successfully. I don’t think there should be a day of training that goes by that doesn’t make you come up with a question in your head. Documenting everything that happens on the mat will help you figure out what questions you need to be asking. The notebook is also a great place to put your short term and long term goals, motivational quotes, and weekly/monthly plans of what area of your game you will be focused on during training.

I think lower belts should do less of trying to learn advanced techniques too soon. Don’t overlook the basics and try to rush into learning the advanced techniques that people are using in sport competition. This applies especially to the guard. Many people jump right into learning advanced open guard and half guard games before they ever really worked on their closed guard, cross chokes, arm bars, triangles, and side control/mount escapes. Being fundamentally sound is so important and will help you have the foundation necessary to create any sort of advanced game you want without any holes. Also, you can’t forget that BJJ is a self defense based martial art and the basics is what will save you in the street.


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: Well, that is really hard to say. I went through a lot of tough times with my game technically, jumping around a lot without any real guidance or mentorship from an instructor on a daily basis. My father and I were always on our own without a Black Belt instructor in our state, so we would have to take everything we learned on a trip somewhere back home and work on it. Hopefully, we were drilling it correctly, but if we weren’t or if we had any questions that came up, we couldn’t get them answered until the next time we traveled somewhere where there was a higher ranking person we could ask. As difficult as that was, I really appreciate that now, because it gave me a deep understanding of Jiu-Jitsu and it helped me understand how to get better and it made me a great instructor. So I think the advice I would give myself wouldn’t be about anything technically, but more mentally. I think I would just give myself a talk about competition and how to perform at your best. This was something I didn’t learn until I became a Black Belt. I don’t think I ever competed to the level of my capabilities until I became a Black Belt and had the mentorship of Saulo Ribeiro. There is a lot that would go into that conversation, but if I was to say just one thing, I would tell myself to read “Think & Grow Rich” immediately.



Rafael and his Strength and Conditioning Coach, Luke Tirey


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: Well, like I said in the last question, my father and I were always on our own, so the whole journey was very tough! Besides not having access to a Black Belt instructor, there was no internet or huge library of instructional tapes for us to learn from. When we were able to get the Renzo Gracie/Craig Kukuk tapes or the Mario Sperry tapes we were blown away! This gave us a deep appreciation for any technique that we learned and we always had a list of questions ready to ask a Black Belt as soon as we had the opportunity. Once again, as hard as all that was, I am happy I went through that. I think the hardest part of my journey was making the jump from competing as a brown belt to competing at the Black Belt level. Not having that consistent access to World class level Black Belts or even getting to watch them in competition, besides the times I was in Brazil, made me build them up the whole time I was coming up as like Jiu-Jitsu gods that I looked up to. So whenever I became a Black Belt it was hard for me to believe in myself enough to be able to beat the best Black Belts out there, because those were the same guys I had been looking up to. I was happy just to be fighting them and if I was able to just give them a good match I was happy. This is where the mental training became the thing I needed to make it to the next level.


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: Well, the only real failure is the one that makes you quit, so I just tried to use any of the tough times as something to learn from and make me stronger. I fully believed that I was doing what I was meant to do in life and there was nothing that was going to stop me from giving it my all. Also, there are great people in my life who have always been there to help me. I am very fortunate to have great parents who supported my dream. In the beginning of 2004 I was still going to college and it came to the point where I knew I needed to dedicate my life fully to Jiu-Jitsu if I was going to accomplish my dreams. They understood and supported me when I quit school. Also, my wife has always been there by my side to support me and give me strength whenever I needed it. Lastly, the Ribeiro brothers are the ones who really changed my life in Jiu-Jitsu. I am so grateful that Sensei Saulo saw something in me and he took me under his wing. His mentorship and the training I received with them is what took me to the World class level.


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: Before Jiu-Jitsu, I was very focused on boxing. From around 9-12 years I was boxing everyday and fighting in golden gloves. I wanted to reach the Olympics and then turn pro. If I didn’t do anything martial arts related, then I would have probably tried basketball or something music related.


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: I would try to explain to them how life changing the BJJ lifestyle is and that what you learn about yourself through Jiu-Jitsu is priceless. It makes you a better person in life. There are 168 hours in the week and you owe it to yourself to give yourself the gift of Jiu-Jitsu at least 2-4 hours a week.




WBBJJ: Favorite activity besides BJJ?

Rafael Lovato Jr: I really enjoy working out! I have a fantastic strength and conditioning coach and he made me fall in love with being in the gym. Even when I don’t have a tournament coming up, I am still in the gym working on making my body healthier, stronger, and more mobile. Look up my coach, Luke Tirey, on Facebook and like his page, he posts a lot of great stuff. I also like to play basketball, but it has been a while. I just tried surfing for the first time at my BJJ camp in Costa Rica earlier this year and I thought it was really cool. I definitely see how that could become your passion.


WBBJJ: What’s on your iPod?

Rafael Lovato Jr: Well, I am heavily into hip hop. I download all the latest mixtapes and stay up to date on new songs and artists. I pretty much have every significant hip hop album since 1996 on my iPod, but as far as right now I am listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar. I think he is my favorite new guy out right now. I am also listening to a lot of Meek Mill, Pusha T, Yo Gotti, Rick Ross, & Drake and Jay-Z is always in rotation, he is my all time favorite. Also, I like to listen to my best friend’s DJ mixes. He is in Atlanta coming up and you can hear his stuff at his sound cloud – www.soundcloud.com/irathe4th


WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?

Rafael Lovato Jr: I watched Rush recently and thought it was very good.


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

Rafael Lovato Jr: There is so many! I love to train and think about training with different people all of the time. I would like to train with a lot of the guys I looked up to back in the day like Rickson, Renzo, Roleta, Fabio Gurgel, Leo Vieira, BJ Penn, & Nino. Other people I would love to train with are Jacare, Terere, & Buchecha. Even guys I have competed against before I would like to train with like Cyborg, Galvao, Romulo, & Rodolfo. I have trained with Braulio, Roger, Clark, & Lo before and would love to do that again too. I just love to train!


WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?

Rafael Lovato Jr: I would like to thank all of my fans out there for their support! The fan love means so much to me and I am so thankful to be in a position where I can inspire others to go after their dreams. I want to thank my sponsors Lucky Gi, www.OnTheMat.com, PR2 Systems, Mike Calimbas Photography, and Five Grappling for their support as well..

I want to let everyone know about my new blog www.lovatobjjvideos.com. There is already some great articles on there from Henry Akins and Nicolas Gregoriades with more on the way. Also, you can sign up there to receive free videos and content from me. Make sure to follow me at my fan page – www.lovatojrfans.com and on twitter & instagram @lovatojrbjj as well!





 Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ


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