Our guest for the ninth installment of White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions is none other than world champion American BJJ competitor: Justin Rader! Justin 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!
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