Choke Holds and Trust

Post Written by Jeff Moore, ‘The Ginja Ninja’

The sensation I experience right before blacking out to a choke hold is hard to describe to somebody that hasn’t been there. It’s a curious mix between rushed panic and detached serenity. I like to imagine my body’s survival instinct is dumping its last vestiges of adrenaline to keeping me conscious while simultaneously releasing a merciful cocktail of endorphins to calm me in my final moments of impending doom.

Having consciousness, life, stripped from me at the hands of another person isn’t desirable! I try to avoid it at all costs. My survival instinct tells me to do exactly that, as the consequences of being choked unconscious can be dire. Yet, I willingly subject myself to exactly that several times per week while training jiujitsu.

I willingly risk life and limb every time I step on the mat. To me, however, there’s really no risk. I trust my training partners. I have to! From day one, in jiujitsu, I had to find a way to be okay with the idea that the guy I’m competing against could easily cause catastrophic joint damage, choke me unconscious, or even potentially kill me. But, I know the guys I train with aren’t going to do this. In fact, this wasn’t really even that much of a hurdle to get over from day one. By and large, the culture of jiujitsu is a kind, easy going, open, friendly one. That culture attracts kind, easy going, open, friendly people. People that are easy to trust.

Jiujitsu builds strong friendships through accelerated trust. It’s the jiujitsu habitus.

Move When They Move – Lessons from Neslon Monteiro


Several years ago, I was at a seminar taught by Nelson Monteiro of Gracie Barra, Encinitis, CA.  While as usual, I learned a lot, one of the things he said stuck, and is always at the forefront of my mind. When in a bad position, regardless of how well you are being controlled, Nelson said, “To finish, your opponent has to move. That is your chance to escape.”

Regardless of the position you are in, regardless of how bad it is, there is always that split second where your opponent must move to finish the submission. That is your final shot. If your timing is perfect, and you know what to do, this movement can open up just enough space and can unbalance your opponent just long enough, for you to escape. I have applied this knowledge to my game and grown greatly because of it. Do I still get submitted? Of course! Frequently. Have I escaped at times when I may have otherwise given up hope? Absolutely! Many, many times. Thank you Nelson Monteiro!

Ninja Sweeps by Sophia Drysdale

Want to learn how to seamlessly transition from X-Guard sweep to Ankle Lock? Let Gi World Champion, 4x Pan Am Champion and 2x No Gi World Champion, Sophia Drysdale, show you how!!

Interested in more great techniques from Sophia? We will be adding 4 more of her techniques to our Ninja Secrets Vault this week!

The Hardest Thing I’ve Never Done

Happy Veteran’s Day to all of you who have served. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for all of you. I’m reposting an article I wrote 2 years ago that I hope conveys how much you mean to me. Thank you!


Post written by Arlo Gagestein

     A couple years ago I took up obstacle racing. Typical races are 8-13 miles long with 15-25 military style obstacles. It always intrigues me after every race to hear people talk about how it was the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Sure they are difficult, but I wouldn’t consider them the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This always gets me thinking, what is the hardest thing I’ve ever done? Truth is I don’t know. I always come up blank. But I’m certain these races are not it. Comparing my life to others always makes me feel like I haven’t done anything in my life that I can honestly call difficult without hiding my face a little.

     Some of my greatest friends are veterans. I have also been fortunate to know and work with a lot of other veterans. My father too was a veteran and fought in the Vietnam War. Beyond an occasional funny story (like when they had a pet python on a leash – how awesome is that?!), he wouldn’t even talk about what he went through. I know he spent a good portion of his time wading through rice paddies. I know he ate so much rice that he refused to eat it once he was back in the United States. He also once ate fresh pineapple until he was sick. I know that he cut his leg badly with a machete while clearing a path through the jungle. I know that he didn’t care much for fireworks and would nearly hit the deck anytime a loud noise startled him. I know the cancer that eventually took his life was likely a result of Agent Orange, an herbicide used extensively in Vietnam to clear forested areas, thus robbing the enemy of their cover. I can’t begin to imagine what dad experienced over there.

     I also have a very good friend who wears a bracelet with the names of probably 15 friends who died while he was in Afghanistan with the US. Army. He tells of being ambushed multiple times and having to routinely carry 100+ lbs of gear up huge mountains, at crazy elevation, in the dark, night after night. He still can’t hear out of one ear due to gunfire right next to his head during one ambush. I know others who have been shot at, blown up, and worked 13+ hour days without rest 7 days a week.  I know veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had a friend who eventually took his own life because of it. Veterans leave their friends and family for at least a year, travel to a places well outside their comfort zone, and endure hardships I can’t imagine. What have I ever done that compares to what our soldiers have done, and are doing still for this great country? Nothing.

      I was lucky to grow up in a family that deeply admired and respected our soldiers. My grandfather was in the Dutch Underground, together with my grandmother hiding Jews and delivering ammunition in my uncle’s baby carriage. My father was in Vietnam, my brother in the Marines, my sister in the Navy, my brother-in-laws served in the Coast Guard and Air Force. I was in fact the first child in our family NOT to join the military! I can’t thank my family and my friends enough for what they have done for the United States and for me. Freedom is something so many people around the world DO NOT have. We are blessed beyond measure. But know that that blessing doesn’t come without a price. Men and women have fought, bled and died since the beginning for the freedom our country enjoys and we often take it for granted.

     To all veterans reading this, please accept my sincerest “Thank You”. We owe you everything.


Starting Today

Post written by Arlo Gagestein

*I originally wrote this post on May 6, 2015. I wanted to repost because this past weekend, Richard Call, competed in the No Gi Worlds and came home with the bronze medal! Congrats Richard, I’m proud of you. There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll be a world champion!


I was hit today with an aha moment. Why it took so long, I do not know. I routinely share quotes such as:

Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” -Earl Nightingale


The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” – Chinese Proverb

So, with even with this “Go For It” attitude, I for some reason intentionally hold myself back from becoming the person that I could be. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t let myself go by any means. I am still on track this year to accomplish the goals I set for myself back in January. They are legitimate, lofty goals and I’m proud of my progress, but I know deep down that I can do more. As a perk of my profession, I stay in reasonably decent shape. I am strong, have good endurance, and am leaner than the vast majority of Americans. I also feel confident that I have a good enough conditioning base that given a dedicated month, I can prepare for just about anything. A big beach volleyball tournament? I can be ready. A big grappling tournament? Just tell me when it is and I’ll get to work. A marathon? Barring injury, I’m confident I can do most anything with a month’s preparation.

I was training a 27 year-old jiu-jitsu athlete this morning whose #1 goal right now is to become a world champion by the time he turns 30. Richard has a goal and he is going for it. He also knows what he needs to do to reach his goal. He has lined up a team of people he believes can get him there. He has top level training partners, an amazing jiu-jitsu instructor, a fantastic professional strength and conditioning coach (like that shameless plug?), and such targeted focus and dedication to his goal that I have no doubt he will eventually reach it (like in the next 3 years).


Pushing him through the workout today, I started to think about competition. I have competed A LOT, in a number of different sports. I love competition. Whether volleyball, jiu-jitsu, obstacle racing, or our own private, invitation only combination strongman/grappling tournaments, I love the atmosphere, I love the challenge, and I love putting myself against like-minded individuals. The thing is, I eagerly jump in regardless of my preparation. I’m fit enough that I usually do decent just going into competitions “off-the-couch”. Watching Richard train this morning, it dawned on me, “With the work he’s putting in, in very little time, I’m not going to stand a chance against this guy on the mat.” He has only been doing jiu-jitsu a couple of years. I have been training for seven. He is a lower belt than me, but challenges me every time we spar. I’ve been in a rut, deceiving myself to believe I can compete with anyone in my division with a month or so of dedicated work. But it is nonsense. My friends and my competitors alike are going to leave me in the dust because THEY are willing to put in the work NOW. Richard already beats me frequently, and before long it won’t even be close.

Watching him push himself in the gym today i realized I need to up my game. Sure I can be ready physically for a competition in a month, but how far ahead of me will everyone be who have already started and didn’t wait for a deadline. Chances are they will destroy me. I am a huge believer in ALWAYS being ready for competition. I hold myself to a relatively high level of fitness so that I CAN jump into competitions “off-the-couch”. But I am cheating myself. I know I can perform at a higher level. Not just good, but great. I know I my fitness can be better, but I have been avoiding what it takes because it is hard. I have opportunities to push myself daily, but frequently let these opportunities pass by, making excuses that I have business stuff to tend to at the gym, justifying my good, but sub-optimal fitness by consistently doing only the workouts that are getting me closer to my 2015 goals.

After watching Richard work through his first circuit (I was busy doing other “important” things of course), I jumped in for the second circuit. I went through one round and it was hard. The second round was harder. I considered bailing out, shamelessly because I had other stuff to do. In the end, I stuck with it all four rounds, embracing the suck because that is what everything but my body screams at me to do. Everyone I’ve trained with knows I love a challenge, that I do things the hard way, that I thrive on being uncomfortable doing things that suck. Trouble is, even when I put on that facade and suffer alongside my friends and clients, I’m holding myself back. I’m not giving 100%. ICAN give more and I WILL give more. I will no longer put off optimal fitness. I am starting my pre-competition month NOW, without a competition on the horizon. I will no longer avoid the work because it sucks. I’m fit, but I want to be at the highest level I know I can be.

Richard – I’m coming for you! Jeff, Lucus, Tiny – you too.

Jake – it pisses my off that you are so much better than everyone, but have no doubts, my conditioning will be better than yours.  😉

Don’t Get Taken Down – Lessons Learned from Brandon Ruiz

Post written by Arlo Gagestein

Almost 6 years ago, the second time I ever competed in BJJ, grappling superstar Brandon Ruiz gave a pre-tournament seminar at the weigh-ins. If you aren’t familiar with Brandon, he is a 5-time member of the USA Grappling Team, winning team titles in 2008, 2009, and 2014, as well winning seven individual world championships and 15 world level medals through FILA/UWW, IBJJF, SJJIF, NAGA, Grapplers Quest, and Pancrase. Any heavyweight 2nd degree Machado Jiu-Jitsu black belt is intimidating. Throw in the fact that he is also a world-class wrestler with such an impressive resume and and Brandon is downright scary! Needless to say, while attending his seminar, I paid attention!


While this seminar was years ago, there are several things he taught that I still use today. One thing he covered really stood out to me. Brandon said studies had shown that in wrestling, 70% of the time, the person who gets the takedown wins the match. Now I’m not a mathematician, but those sounded like pretty good odds. I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to let anyone take me down the next day. No matter what else happened, I was going to get the takedown or stubbornly resist until my opponent pulled guard.

I knew next to nothing about takedowns. I had been attending BJJ classes inconsistently for about a year and a half, and prided myself from fighting on bottom. I headed back to the hotel with 3 friends I had convinced to compete with me, and we spent the next couple hours flipping through a Dave Camarillo book looking for easy-to-learn takedowns. I picked two I thought I could pull off and we practiced throwing each other on the beds for 15-20 minutes before turning on Jet Li’s movie Fearless and drifting off to sleep.

At the tournament the next day, I arrived to find a long road to medal contention. As a 195 lb. white belt there were 12 competitors in my gi bracket and 11 competitors in my no gi bracket. I had my two newly learned moves and I had set my mind to avoid being taken down at all costs. I knew nothing about takedown defense, but was confident enough in my strength, athleticism, balance, and determination that I felt I could avoid being taken down by any white belt at the tournament. Even if I had to just stay standing until my opponent gave up and pulled guard I was okay with that.

Amazingly, my game plan worked. Opponent after opponent eventually went to the ground out of frustration and I quickly submitted them. I even hit one of my new takedown techniques a couple of times! As I was awarded my gold medal in the gi, I began strategizing my no gi competition. Brandon Ruiz’s takedown tip had been a goldmine! My game plan was the same. Everything went fine until the semifinal.

I was up against a stocky wrestler who despite me efforts quickly took me down. I was successfully able to keep him in my guard, but because of the takedown I was down on points. Then, he stood up! I knew I was in trouble. He was up on points and avoiding me on the ground. I stood back up, and he immediately took me down again. After a brief scuffle on the ground, my opponent stood up for a third time. The person who gets the takedown usually wins. He was using my own strategy against me. I knew that the next time he took me down I had to submit him, and quick. As he took me down, I threw on a desperate triangle and tapped him out as the time expired. I was lucky enough to be part of the 30%! I won again in the final, walking away with two gold medals in the white belt division.

Arlo (the tall one) and Justin with the first grappling medals of their career.

Arlo (the tall one) and Justin in 2010 with the first medals of their grappling careers.

Winning my weight class qualified me to compete in the absolute competition against the winners of the other weight classes. Amusingly, the gi and no gi absolute tournaments ran simultaneously and I was supposed to fight in both at the same time. Flustered I ran back and forth explaining the situation and opting for my no gi match first. Once again I faced a stocky wrestler who easily took me down and choked me out in about 30 seconds. The 70% wins again. This time not in my favor.

In the absolute final for gi, I faced an experienced judo player. Assuming he would eventually throw me, I immediately tried one of my new Camarillo judo throws. I was instantly heels-over-head and slammed to the mat. Lesson learned. Never try to throw a judoka with a move you learned out of a book the night before. Once on the ground, my opponent controlled me very well, never overly threatening, but staying ahead on points and preventing me from any offensive efforts. Once I scrambled to my feet and was quickly thrown again. Time ran out and once again the 70% won. I lost on points largely because I allowed my opponent to take me down.

In all, I faced 10 opponents at the tournament, and in 9 out of 10 matches, the person who scored the first takedown won the match. Brandon Ruiz’s advice was spot on. It has remained in the forefront of my mind with every competition since. I’m still not great at takedowns. Sometimes I get the takedown; sometimes I get tossed or double-legged. Frequently when I do get taken down, I lose. Usually when I start on top I win. It was an important lesson, and one I will always remember. Thank you Brandon Ruiz.

Our Ninjas Featured in Jiu-Jitsu Magazine!

It was an honor to have a handful of our ninjas appear in the October 2015 issue of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine!

Now yesterday their adventures were also featured on Jiu-Jitsu Magazine’s website! This article is a fantastic example of our mission at Jiu-Jitsu Advantage to blend strength and conditioning with jiu-jitsu! Check it out here:


3 Ways to Progress Quickly in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Post written by Richard Call

I got into a discussion with someone the other day about the best way to progress in a martial arts quickly. My first response was a weak one; the usual “It depends on the person” classic non-answer answer. So I spent some time thinking about it later and I now have a real answer. There are 3 things to do so you can progress in your art as well as life.

1) Stay healthy.  

#1 is obvious in a big way, you get hurt you can’t train. You don’t train you don’t progress. But let’s take it a bit further. What kind of people do you hang out with? Are they pushing you to be better physically and mentally? What kind of environment do you spend your time in? What foods do you eat? What amount of time do you spend on taking care of yourself? How much effort do you put into keeping a positive attitude throughout your day? Negativity is a poison that we consume all too often. Staying healthy isn’t just about not getting injured, although that’s a huge part. It’s also taking care of your life and your spirit and your environment. Spend time in healthy positive environments with training partners you can share with and inspire each other.

2) Stay hungry.

I feel that staying hungry is the best way to sum up your thirst for knowledge, your desire for a challenge, your quest for glory and your dedication to your goals. I think a lot of people forget the hunger they felt when they started, that mad desperation to not get submitted by this guy or that girl. They forget the drive to be better, they start just going to class rather than getting excited about it. Every class has at least one detail that will improve your game if you look for it. I find myself doing the drills we’re assigned and while trying to commit the mechanics of it to my memory I try and find that one detail that Ive been missing that could change my game. Last night it was a trick to finishing an arm bar that was such a little change I couldn’t understand how I hadn’t noticed it before. The point I’m getting at is that we forget our desire for progression and growth and challenges. We fall into a routine and don’t seek out challenges to break the cycle. Stay hungry by setting goals, by searching for challenges, by hunting for the devil in the details. Stay hungry by wanting to get better. Now I’m not saying that you won’t get better by going to class and learning, I am saying that along with that you have to consciously decide to be better, don’t just show up! Show up and make the decision in your mind I am going to be better than I was yesterday! I am going to focus more than I did yesterday, I am going to last longer than I did, push harder, try more, learn more and do everything I can do to be better than I was. When you make a decision it changes the way you move the way you act and the way you feel. Stay hungry for growth!

Jiu-jitsu = life

3) Stay happy.

This one is important to the journey we go through in jiu-jitsu. The love hate relationship with training and injuries and competition victories and defeats, advances and set backs, pride and humility. For me jiu-jitsu is something I know I will be doing for the rest of my life, so when I fail at something or I don’t accomplish something, I keep in mind this is part of my journey and not my destination. It immediately puts everything into perspective. I will never be as good today as I will be tomorrow. That’s nothing to be upset about it’s something to be excited about! The problem is when we let those set backs or failures break our spirit. It’s easy for everyone to be happy when they are winning and having fun and getting the results they want and progressing fast, but it’s hard when you feel like you’re not achieving whatever it is you set out to. So I feel the best thing to do is take a deep breath and a step back, remember why you started, look at what you’ve already accomplished, look at the friends you’ve made, the lives you’ve influenced and the experiences you’ve had. Happiness in jiu-jitsu can’t be about one day or another, it has to be about the journey. If it was about one day, every time we got our asses kicked, we’d quit. But subconsciously, you know something that you don’t always know consciously; that the one day does not matter in the greater journey, it is only one day. Another problem we have is comparing ourselves to others. It’s hard in this art not to because each sparing session is a very literal comparison between you and someone else. The key is to make the journey your own! We are not all on the same jiu-jitsu path, but our destination is all the same – mastery over ourselves and personal progression. Everything else should be second to that. Your journey is unique to you. If you look to other people, don’t look to them for comparisons, look to them for examples and inspiration. Take the good and leave the bad. Sometimes all we need is a break and some rest; sometimes we just need to train harder; but what we always need is support. If you’re having hard time and not feeling happy, find the person you know who is capable of helping you recover your passion and let them relight your fire. If all else fails take a deep breath, slap, bump, and roll. Don’t think, just roll and the world will take care of itself.

Thank you all for being in my life and sharing your jiu-jitsu with me!