"Is Your Instuctor a Black Belt?"

Wow, tough question huh?

How do you really answer this if the answer is “no”?

My first BJJ instructor was not a black belt, in fact, I think that when I started with him, he was a purple belt. He got his brown shortly before I left the school (for reasons that none of you should give a f*** about). And has since gotten his black belt.

Correct me if I am wrong (as I usually am), but I want to say that there are only something like 8 BJJ Blackbelts in Minnesota and about the same number in Wisconsin (another shout out to Mike Ellefson for his promotion to black belt. How’s that target feel on your back?).

That’s not too many. And I want to say that there are two schools that take up 4 of those black belts in Minnesota alone.

Is that to say that there are only 5 schools in the entire state that teach BJJ?

Of course not.

Then, is that to say that any school that does not have a black belt head instructor (or at least a brown with stripes) are worthless pieces of s*** that you shouldn’t spend money on?

Let me get back to that one in the hopes of infuriating a few people along the way.

The main problem that I can see with not having a high ranking head instructor is best expressed in an analogy:

Growing up, many young boys look to their father as the penultimate example of all that is man. He is the best at everything and could beat up anyone (whether that is the truth or not). When he wants, he can school you at any sport or any race. He is next to God in your book. 

Then one day, when he is really trying, you beat him. Maybe your beat him at 1-on-1. Maybe it was a foot race. Maybe you tapped him with a flying omoplata. Whatever it was, instead of feeling excited, your heart sank. The day you always wanted to come was finally there, but instead of being happy, you were sad. You had just beat God.

He was never quite the same person to you after that. Eventually, you were winning more and more. He could still get you once in a while, but things had changed. And you would never get them back.

And now, since this got more serious than I generally like, an intermission:

I love that clips. Someday the IBJJF will take my advice and allow nunchucks.

Where the F*** was I?

Oh yeah, God is dead.

Well, that’s is a scenario that I have seen and heard far too many time in terms of BJJ schools. Most come from a white belt that got disenchated after his blue belt instructor got pissed because he was winning.

One horror story involved a small place with a blue belt instructor (don’t ask about it, it isn’t there anymore). One of his students was rolling with him and got him in an arm bar. He got pissed and said the student couldn’t leave the mat. They rolled again and he got stuck in another arm bar. The yelling was soon to follow and he lost no less than one student.

What’s the old say, “I got my blue belt, it was either quit or open a school?”

Is that to say that people can’t learn from a blue belt? Or course not. The foundation is the there. The problem is that when you are a head instructor at a school, you are putting yourself at the top of the mountain. You are “the best”.

And the worst part is, you aren’t getting your butt kicked anymore, so you get stale. You don’t have the mat time or experience to make up for how rapidly this new generation of BJJ enthusiasts has become. Youtube has got people trying things that we didn’t even know existed.

Does that mean you shouldn’t got to a school that has a blue belt as a head instructor?

…crap, I don’t know. What do you want to learn? What do you expect to get from it all? Are you just looking to get into the art and progress at a steady pace or are you looking to take your game to the next level?

Remember, there are enough schools around that someone who already has a blue or purple or brown belt won’t be interested in going to a place that has a head instructor that is their same rank (or lower).

To remedy this, the majority of head instructors that I know, who don’t have their BJJ black belts, have a black belt in something else (judo, kung fu, whatever) or have a background in wrestling. That way they can incorporate other facets into the school so that the aren’t held to the same standard.

Also, keep in mind that there is a lot of politics involved in BJJ. People leave schools all the time. They don’t have their associations or the people that can give out rank, so you see guys that might have five, seven or ten years in, but either have no rank or just a blue belt. It doesn’t mean they can’t beat the tar out of you, they just don’t have the belt to prove it.

Not to mention people like that guy from the Submission 101 videos that used to wear a black belt even though he was only a blue or purple. Douche.

So, is your instructor a black belt?

You know what, that question isn’t nearly as important as this one:

Are you getting what you want out of your school/instructor? Because if you aren’t, rank might not have anything to do with it. There are enough options out there that you can find a place that will test you and take you to the next level.

As a t-shirt once said, “The belt only covers two inches of your butt, you have to take care of the rest”

This random tirade brought to you by Mountain Crest beer. Think you can’t get a good six-pack for $3.70 (after tax)? You’re right. You can’t.

Greatest Armbar Defense Ever!!!

Now why didn’t I think of that?

It’s so simple, it was there the entire time!

Please take notice of two things:

1. He never tapped.

2. Sean Patrick Flannery (of Boondock Saints and Suicide Kings fame) taking his more modest role of assistant (he is really a black belt under Shawn Williams). Perhaps his best acting to date. Either because he barely speaks or our eyes aren’t drawn to what appears to now be a heavily botoxed face.

I absolutely love these guys, we need more of this kind of thing on the web. And a little bit less of white belts posing as black belts posing as someone who knows what the f*** they are talking about.

Minnesota/Wisconsin’s Newest BJJ Black Belt!!!

From left to right:

Rigan Machado 1st Degree Black Belt Chris McCune (McCune’s Martial Arts), Rigan Machado himself and the newest black belt to the family, Mike Ellefson (Midwest Center for Movement).

Mike was presented his black belt by Chris McCune, under the supervision of Rigan Machado, at a Rigan Machado seminar that took place at McCune’s Martial Arts in Brooklyn Park, Mn, on 04/23/11.

So I don’t screw it up and do Mike any injustice, here it is, straight from his website:

Mike Ellefson is the Chief Instructor of the Midwest Center for Movement and Aikido Bukou Dojos.
In 1998, Mike began studying Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Rickson Gracie’s organization.
Mike is a 4th degree black belt in Aikido, a 2nd degree black belt in Ryukyu Kempo, Blue Belt (right before black in that system) Assistant Instructorship in MMA under Rickson Gracie Blackbelt, Dave Arnebeck, and holds rank in Judo, and Shotokan Karate.  
In addition, Mike has trained with some of the most reknowned and decorated grapplers in BJJ history including Rigan Machado, Rickson Gracie, Xande Ribiero, Comprido Medeiros, Luiz Claudio and Luiz Palhares.
Mike is a dedicated student, teacher and friend. The BJJ world has just gotten a little stronger today.

Congrats again, Mike!

2011 Spring Grappling Games Official Results

Just in case you you didn’t provide an email address at the comp or haven’t checked out the Midwest Center for Movement‘s homepage here are the event results for the 2011 Spring Grappling Games.

Special Congratulations to team winner:
1) Midwest Center for Movement
2) Warrior’s Cove
3) Petushin’s Martial Arts

And Adult Men’s Absolute Winners:

1) Ben Neumann (Warrior’s Cove)
2) Ryan Pottebaum (Cellar)
3) Melvin Cruz (Minnesota Martial Arts Academy)

Click LINK for the rest

What The Hell Do You Think You’re Wearing?

Recently I have been asked, “What is BJJ Life and the BJJ Legion?”

I give the simple answers of a company that is there for the grapplers, not the fighters and a way for the every day BJJ practitioner to actually get an endorsement.

However, that isn’t the complete answer. The complete answer lies within the enemy. Well, the two enemies.

Affliction and TapOut


Affliction? The only thing that you shiny shirt wearing douches are “afflicted” with are poor decision making skills. ($50 for a t-shirt? Seriously?)

Well, poor decision making skills AND crabs.

Are you people really proud to look like rejects from the last Jersery Shore casting season? Overly-tanned, juice heads that can’t walk down the street without puffing out your chests. Pretending like you could throw a punch, let alone sink a decent guillotine choke.

You suck.

And what does that say about you if an ass-head like “The Situation” can get on TV while you are stuck standing in the corner of a bar, acting like chicks are into you.

You think that wearing an Affliction shirt is any better than Ed Hardy? You should wear a helmet in public just in case you fall down.

And for those of you that own the shiny ones, you are even worse. You wish you owned the non-shiny-hence-$20-more-expensive rags. In your desperate need for something that says Affliction you bought the discount stuff.


Why don’t you go and try and convince someone that you “train UFC”?


I feel conflicted about TapOut. There was a time when I supported their mission. Even though I haven’t thrown a punch since my back hit the mat via guard instead of concussion, I appreciate the goal and drive that the founders had.

The late Charles “Mask” Lewis in particular had a drive and vision for the company. He had faith in people and stood by his fighters through it all.

He and his partner Something “Punkass” Something had their roots in BJJ. Hence the TapOut name.

They scrapped and clawed their ways to being millionaires.

Then Mask died.

And TapOut SoldOut.

I suppose it is okay as long as you look at the entire history of the company. It is like Metallica. Sure, they suck now, but before the totally sold out they were the s***!

Now a part of a larger executive company, TapOut gear can be found in chain stores. Even the TapOut MPS brand can be found in JCPennys.

Seriously Arrogant?

Try Seriously Pathetic.

This brand name of the UFC has less than ever to do with BJJ and submission skills. Fear of getting cut has led to lay and pray. Now you can see the TapOut logo behind someone that is just pinning their opponent to the fence for five minutes.


And let’s not even mention the huge swing from BJJ to wrestling in recent times. Submission skills have dropped off big time.

Yeah, I get it. You’re getting hit in the face. This is your job! Learn how to do a f***ing triangle choke!

I mean, really, what percentage of guys that wear TapOut can or have ever actually tapped someone out?

And that creepy thing that high school kids do that involves choking each other unconscious doesn’t count.

In my day our games involved a cracker and we were damn proud of it!

Sorry SellOut, you’re just as weak as Ass-fliction, you just don’t cost as much.

Admittedly, I am not innocent. I do have a couple of TapOut articles of clothing. They were gifts from well-meaning relatives that figured the name TapOut meant BJJ.

And yes, I do wear the stuff in the privacy of my own home and will continue to do so until BJJ Life starts making sweatpants.

Deep down inside I am an overweight, acne-ridden, virgin and I needs me my sweats.


So, what is BJJ Life and the BJJ Legion? It is everything that SellOut and Ass-fliction isn’t. 

We are here for the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

We are across the nation and across the world. That’s right, even the Bulgarian’s are rockin’ BJJ Life. Now, I don’t any idea where Bulgaria is (public school) but I know you have to be pretty kick ass to give out statues for your BJJ trophies.

We have a sense of humor.

If you haven’t taken a minute to check out BJJ Life, take it. Check into the BJJ Legion. Who knows, you might find some new clothes.

Who knows, you might find yourself sponsored.

Comp Review: Grappling Games in Hudson, WI

Where the f*** did all these people come from?

When asked by the head instructor at the Midwest Center for Movement, Rigan Machado Brown Belt Mike Ellefson, to come in and ref for his bi-annual Grappling Games in Hudson, WI, I was looking forward to a good, kind of short, day of competition.

Traditionally, the Grappling Games has always brought out the competition regulars from gyms like MWCW, McCune’s Martial Arts, Minnesota Top Team and other metro Minnesota schools. The pre-registration numbers were only 25, so I wasn’t expected too long of a day.

Even with double elimination I thought I would be done pretty quickly.

Then I got there.

At 8:15am, the line for registration was out the door. Nearly 100 competitors had shown up to roll.

It would seem that word has spread that the Grappling Games may be one of the best smaller competitions around.

Though, I don’t know how much longer it could be considered “small”.

Also present and reffing was guest referee, World Champion Rigan Machado Black Belt Chris McCune.

I was in good company.

Using a combination of NAGA and IBBJF rules, the competition was double elimination, Gi-trumps.

Meaning, that if only one of the competitors wants to wear a gi, both have to. This is Mike’s way to stay traditional, but still be a little flexible just in case people want to do no gi.

Also, you are guaranteed at least two matches. Never a bad thing. Especially for only $25 (pre-reg was $20 with a free t-shirt).

On top of that, kids, teens and adults all had the option of rolling in an Absolute bracket for trophy prizes and more mat time.

The teen absolute featured one of my favorite fights in which a 205 pound 14 year old had dominated everyone he went against, finishing all of them and not losing a point. In the finals he faced the smallest competitor, less than half his size. And he got his back taken. And he couldn’t finish him.

The true heart of BJJ. Size really doesn’t matter.

No matter what my wife says.

I was also amazed by how many schools were represented at the competition. MWCM, McCune’s Martial Arts, Spartan (about to be opened under Pedro Sauer black belt Tom Schmitz), Minnesota Top Team, Paul Pethushin Martial Arts, Doc’s Gym, the normally competition-reclusive Warrior’s Cove, Minnesota Martial Arts Academy and a few others that I regret forgetting about at this time.

By 2:30pm (after starting at around 9:30am) we were still finishing up the adult brackets, having three mats constantly in use.

And despite this, spirits were high. Competitors were friends off the mat and aggressive on the mat. The only injury sustained was a fluke occurrence of a back going out due to an awkward position.

All-in-all one of the safest competitions around. Especially that the adults were allowed all submissions short of neck cranks, spinal attacks and twisting leg locks.

The level of competition has increased each level as well. No moment was this clearer than in the adults Absolute division.

12 competitors from white to purple signed up for single elimination competition.

The winners?

Ben, Ryan and Melvin (in order from first to third) all white belts. Melvin having no wrestling background and only 4 months experience shown as the most promising young talent at a competition filled with excellent competition.

The next time you see the Grappling Games posted on the site, please, give it notice. For price and level of competition, it may be the best event you will ever go to.

BJJ Could Learn Some Things…

I know, I know, it isn’t BJJ. And I appreciate your watching the entire video (assuming you made it to the end), I just really wanted to share this one as, should the day come when I earn my black belt, I want it to be under the final conditions:

1- I want my instructor to wear a Calvary hat.

2- I want my instructor to place some kind of a demand on the belt. Perhaps that the belt never leave the floor to honor my constant and nauseating tendency to pull guard.

3- I want to wear a Camo-Gi.

4- I want some rando to punch me in the stomach.

5- I want a blackbelt from some other random martial art to strike me, ever so gently.

6- I want my instructor to hit me in the chest, but I want it to be the 5-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

7- I want to put it all on youtube for the world to see and admire.

Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Illinois BJJ Events

Here is a list of the upcoming grappling events in Minnesota and Wisconsin (links provided where available):

04/09/11: Spring 2011 St. Croix Valley Grappling Games in Hudson Wisconsin. This is a “Gi Trumps” event, meaning that if one of the two competitors wants to wear a gi, both have to wear a gi. To avoid disappointment, DO NOT COME WITHOUT A GI. Click HERE for registration packet and more info.

For those of you that attend the Sub Hunt as your largest competition of the year, this is an excellent prep tournament. Good attitude, great skills, same point system and cheap! $25 before 3/21, $30 after.

04/16/11: Combat Corner Grappling Championships Vol. 7
Featuring two $400 cash prize  Absolute divisions for 170 lbs. and under and 171 lbs. and up.        
At only $45 (pre-register) for both GI and NOGI divisions it remains one of the cheapest best run tournaments in the country.  All 1-3 places in all divisions will receive custom Die Cast medals, the division winner will get an additional prize from our sponsors.

Friday Night weigh-Ins  @ 5:00-7:00 PM Combat Corner Fight Shop.
Saturday Weigh-Ins  9:00-10:30 AM @Pius High School.
Rules Meeting @ 10:30AM
Grappling Starts @ 11:00AM

Follow LINK for more information

04/23/11: Midwest Grappling Challenge, all the way up in North Dakota. Bring a magazine.

The Midwest Grappling Challenge will be held at the Dakota Magic Casino on April 23rd, 2011. Doors open at 8am and the event starts at 9:30am.

This event is being held at the Dakota Magic Casino and Hotel. You will be able to get a hotel room and walk to the event! Also we will be there early the day before for weigh-ins.

Registration is $50.00 for unlimited divisions. This is a great chance to try your ability in another division. Feel free to register for divisions of higher weight or experience.

04/30-05/01/11: NAGA Chicago (not Minnesota or Wisconsin, but close enough). Pre-registration is open. Click HERE for details.

05/21/11: Submission Hunt (Back at Champlin Park High School… Thank God!) Click HERE for website and details.

Pre Registration Fee:
One Division = $50- (Kids & Teens may compete in both divisions for the price of one)
Both Divisions=$70
Late Registration Fee:
One Division = $60- (Kids & Teens may compete in both divisions for the price of one)
Both Divisions=$80


07/09/11: 2011 GrapplersQuest West Coast Championships, Las Vegas, NV

I know, a bit out of town, but this one is just for me since I can’t make it to Sub Hunt this year.

08/xx/11: Chicago Summer International Open IBJJF Championship.

Sorry, no date of info yet. More to come later.

08/27/11-08/28/11: NAGA Midwest, Chicago, Il (not Minnesota or Wisconsin, but close enough). Details to come.

11/12/11-11/13/11: NAGA Illinois, Chicago, Il (not Minnesota or Wisconsin, but close enough). Details to come.