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