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 BJJ, No 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!
– Tony Peranio WBBJJ