Summit and Submit II – The Events


Summit and Submit II is rapidly approaching. In addition to grappling, there will also be other events that will count for points toward becoming tournament champion. Most events will be scored 3 points for 1st place, 2 points for 2nd place, and 1 point for 3rd place. At the end of the weekend, the person with the most points wins! Here are the events:

Mat Carry – Most carries over 10 miles scores 3 points, second scores 2, 3rd scores 1 point.

*Barbell Carry – Most carries scores 6 points, 2nd scores 4, and 3rd scores 2 points.

*Jiu-Jitsu Tournament – 1st place scores 6 points, 2nd scores 4, and 3rd scores 2 points.

Spinning 65 lb. Barbell Throw – Furthest scores 3 points, 2nd scores 2, 3rd scores 1 point.

Freestyle 45 lb. Barbell Throw – Furthest scores 3 points, 2nd scores 2, 3rd scores 1 point.

Barbell Man Crank – Fastest time for 1 round (24 squat, 24 lunges, 24 split squat jumps, 24 squat jumps) scores 3 points, 2nd scores 2, 3rd scores 1 point.

Backpack Push-up – Most reps scores 3 points, 2nd scores 2,  and 3rd scores 1 point

*These two events will be the hardest of the weekend, so are worth double points.

Bonus Points – 10 pound weight plate carry (the entire distance) scores 2 bonus points, heaviest backpack at truck scores 2 bonus points. In both instances, if someone has to carry some of your load on the way back, you lose the bonus points.

There you have it! Remember to let me know ASAP if you are planning to come so that we can be planning!

Ninja KB Swing – Version 2

So, at Ninja Headquarters, we really enjoy having a good time. Sometimes we have ideas that don’t turn out like we anticipated, and sometimes things actually work out every bit as well as we had hoped! With that, here is the follow-up to our first Ninja Kettlebell Swing post (See Version 1 Here!):

Today was our first attempt, so we started light. You can expect heavier ninja swings in the near future!

Resolving to be More Functionally Unfunctional

by Arlo Gagestein

With the coming of the new year, many lives are filled with often fitness related resolutions. I too have some gym goals for the year (see, even fitness professionals do it!). Like most resolutions, time quickly erases them from our memories, and next year we find ourselves re-evaluating and either recommitting, or deciding the goal wasn’t worth the effort and we should pursue something new.

Last year I hit some goals and missed some goals. I did finally run a trail marathon in September, so check that one off the list. However, running is on my New Year’s list again this year. Everyone who knows how much I despise running will be very proud to know I have thus far stuck with my goal with unwavering resolve this year. On January 1st I ran 40 seconds on the treadmill, and yesterday I hit 45 seconds.

The only thing more shocking than running on my list is my second and infinitely more important goal for 2016. I am going to do more biceps curls. Depending how well you know me, this may or may not seem like a big deal. Let me put it in perspective by disclosing that in the 11 years I have owned my own gym, I have done bicep curls less than a dozen times. Part of it stems from my belief that doing exercises for aesthetic reasons only is silly. I have always been a firm believer that if I train for performance, my sex appeal should remain sufficient without adding “curls for the girls” (besides, I’m happily married already). Also, until now, I have believed that biceps curls were far from functional. Complex, multi-joint movements are more similar to actions our body does in real life and will do much more to improve athletic performance. If I’m doing chin-ups, pull-ups, and rows, my biceps shouldn’t need extra attention. Even some complex movements such as the bench press, the supposed “king of upper body exercises”  haven’t seemed particularly functional. When in sports will a person lay on their back and push something off of themselves?

Over the past couple years, everything I though I knew about sports performance has been destroyed. My world has been shattered. I have been both enlightened and confused to the point of tears that my sport of choice, and in my opinion the MOST FUNCTIONAL martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is from a training standpoint, largely UN-FUNCTIONAL! It all started with the bench press. When would I ever lay on my back and push something off of me? Oh wait…that’s Jiu-Jitsu. The stupid leg curl machine (FYI, hip extension is a much more important function of the hamstring than knee flexion)…? Hmm, resisting kneebars, finishing triangles and armbars, keeping a closed guard…yeah, again, Jiu-Jitsu. Bicep curls, the most un-functional single joint exercise known to man? Resisting armbars and finishing chokes. Yep, Jiu-Jitsu. Joint by joint, exercise by exercise, a fellow Meathead Jiu-Jitsu (if you haven’t heard of that style you will) practitioner and I went through the functional uses of non-functional exercises. I buried the knowledge deep within, content to fake ignorance and continue on in my functional training ways.

Then, I made two startling discoveries that will change the direction of my life forever.

1.  While doing chin-ups recently, I realized my biceps fatigued much faster than my back and were actually substantially limiting the number of chin-ups I could do. While this should give me plenty of reason to work biceps, it alone might not have been enough. Reason #2 however, made me realize what a desperate situation I’m in!

2.  In October, my physical therapist pointed out that I have horrible elbow range of motion. Unfortunately it is a bony restriction rather than tight muscles (or restricted fascia for those in the know), so it’s not going to be an easy fix.  For 6 years now I have been struggling to finish guillotine chokes and suddenly it all made sense. I knew I didn’t have the mobility to front squat worth beans, but didn’t make the connection to my Jiu-Jitsu game. Compare these pictures, the traditional selfie pose (1st photo) and me trying as hard as I can to bend my elbow (2nd photo):


My traditional selfie pose.

Straining for all I'm worth to bend my elbow.

I know, it’s the same, right. Now it’s about to get crazy. Check out these pictures of the guy who routinely catches me in a North South Choke:

The selfie pose.


Now, several things should be blatantly obvious. 1) He has much bigger biceps than I do. 2) My wrist is daintier though. 3) If my neck is wedged between his biceps and his forearm, I will go to sleep much faster than he will if his neck is loosely fitted between my biceps and forearm.

Now, not only is it a tighter fit, while caught in a particular choke last week  I thought I was okay until the above pictured arm flexed and I immediately had to tap. It was uncanny how much tighter the choke got when the muscle contracted. So, back to my resolution. Putting two and two together I immediately knew what has to happen. I need bigger biceps. Without full range of motion at the elbow joint, I need a giant mass of muscle to close the gap to effectively choke people out.

So, there it is. My main motivation for my most important New Year’s resolution to choke people. Is that wrong? Who cares, I’m gonna go work the GUNZ!!


Stability Ball Wrestling

This is one of our favorite strength and conditioning drills for grapplers. It literally works EVERYTHING! With a training partner (preferably one of similar size/strength), grab a stability ball from opposite sides and simply try to take it away from each other. It is good to set some basic rules before you begin (no shin kicks, groin shots, etc.), but basically anything goes. Also, make sure you have plenty of room to move around. Obviously this is exhausting from a strength standpoint, but it will also put your heart rate through the roof! Enjoy.

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.  😉

Boldly Going Where No Mat Has Gone Before

Post written by Arlo Gagestein

What kind of fools would haul jiu-jitsu mats 10 miles to have a tournament at 11,000+ ft.?

What kind of fools would haul jiu-jitsu mats 10 miles through the wilderness to have a tournament at 11,500 ft.? You’re looking at them.

The weekend of August 14-15th this year was one of the greatest of my life. It was brutal yet majestic, intense yet calming, painful yet invigorating. My friends and I are frequently guilty of doing questionable things. We are all uber-competitive, extremely physical, slightly masochistic, and potentially short whatever wrinkle of the brain it is that tells people they probably shouldn’t do something. The weekend marked the realization of a dream that has been several years in the making; a high altitude jiu-jitsu and fitness tournament that we christened Summit and Submit. In a nutshellthis was our weekend:

  • Hike 10 miles into the High Uintas with fully loaded packs while carrying jiu-jitsu mats
  • Compete in a round robin, submission only jiu-jitsu tournament at 11,500 feet
  • Compete in a weight throwing contest (Where did the weights come from? Fabulous question.)
  • Build a corn chip fire to cook dinner, eat, hike for water, go to bed
  • Wait out morning thunder storms, then jump out of tents at the sound of a huge rockslide
  • Hike King’s Peak (highest peak in Utah at 13,528 feet)
  • Pack up camp and haul mats back out 10 miles
  • Eat 24 soft tacos on the drive home

The idea for Summit and Submit first entered our minds a few years ago when I was visiting my wife’s grandparents on a ranch in California for Thanksgiving. We were sitting around one evening and a show came on about a prestigious cooking competition where people received a random invitation to an event the next evening. Upon receiving the invitation they busted their tails to prepare what they hoped would be the competition winning recipe.

Because my friends and I love competition, I immediately contacted my partner in suffering, the Ginja Ninja, and we began strategizing how we could pull something similar off with a fitness and jiu-jitsu competition. The goal was to have various competitions each with a different twist to make the tournament more challenging. Our first was the Cold Combat Challenge, to be held December 30th in a garage in Utah. Next was the Crippled Combat Challenge, where each competitors had an arm tied down so they couldn’t use it. Other tournaments included blindfolded jiu-jitsu while not knowing who you were fighting, and swinging on a cargo net throwing knives at pumpkins. Each tournament included strongman style physical challenges and submission only jiu-jitsu matches without different divisions for weight or experience levels. My philosophy has always been that in a self defense or combat situation, you must be prepared for whatever opponent you come against, and the possibility that both his weight and skill level will match yours is slim. Summit and Submit, a tournament at high elevation was one of these initial ideas. Later after another competitive buddy, Jake, hiked King’s Peak, it was decided that should be the tournament destination.

Fast forward several years, and my outdoor-loving brother-in-law, Adam, is here in Utah for the summer. When he let me know one thing he wanted to do before he headed back home is to hike King’s Peak, I knew the time for Summit and Submit had arrived! With 2 weeks notice (we’ve found if we invite competitors the night before, the tournament is VERY small), we begin to make our plans. The usual competitors (physical freaks and men I know will likely beat me on the mat) were invited and a general callout was given for anyone who thought carrying mats 10 miles to beat each other up sounded like fun.

On game day, we set out, Jeff Moore representing Westside BJJ (Pedro Sauer), Jake South representing Unified BJJ (Pedro Sauer), Richard Call and I representing Mori Academy (Drysdale/Zenith), and my awesome brother-in-law, Adam Tobey who had never done jiu-jitsu before. After a several hour drive to the Henry’s Fork Trailhead in the High Uinta Mountain Range, we pulled our packs out of the truck and got ready to go.


Enter challenge #1. We brought along 8 lb. and 15 lb. weight plates. Under no obligation, competitors were given the option to carry extra weight for bonus points. A 8 lb. plate was worth 1 bonus point and a 15 lb. plate was worth 2 points. Competitors were encouraged to be discrete in loading plates into their bag so nobody knew what the others were carrying, thus adding a strategic dilemma to the competition.

Challenge #2 also began immediately. Between the 5 competitors, we had 2 sections of mat that needed to travel with us for the next 10 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We had a notebook to keep track of number of 15-minute-minimum carries per competitor. A solo carry was worth 2 hash marks and a team carry worth 1 hash mark per person. At the end of the hike, the person with the most hash marks would receive 10 points, 2nd place got 8 points, 3rd got 6, etc.

The hike in was fun, but challenging as we struggled to find the best way to carry mats as well as our heavily loaded packs through forests, meadows and thunderstorms. It turns out jiu-jitsu mats are wonderful conversation starters. Nearly everyone we passed stopped and asked what we were up to, then shook their heads in disbelief and admiration at our lofty goal. After about 8 miles of hiking, we finally figured out a decent way to carry the mats in front of us by clipping the straps to our pack with climbing quick draws.


We bumped into several rangers along the way who confirmed what we already assumed, that we were indeed the only people to ever haul mats into the High Uintas to have a Jiu-Jitsu tournament. They recommended a spot for us to camp and slowly shook their smiling faces as we ventured on our way. The last couple miles, Adam led the charge, getting so far ahead of the rest of us WHILE carrying a mat that we lost sight of him. The rest of us located what we determined was a perfect place to camp and fight, then sent Jeff off to find our enthusiastic companion. We gave Adam two extra points for showing us up, and Jeff an extra point for going to find him and bring him back to our home for the night.

When packs were unloaded and weights counted, Jeff had 3 bonus points, Adam and I each had 2 bonus points, and Jake and Richard had wisely chosen not to carry extra weight. A hashmark tally put me in the lead for mat carries with Richard and Adam nipping at my heels.

We then unrolled the mats, put on our gis, and got psyched for Challenge #3, the most beautiful jiu-jitsu tournament the world has never seen. We were awestruck by our surroundings, and stepping on the mat in the midst of such beauty was both spiritual and surreal. Jiu-jitsu at elevation is definitely as difficult as it sounds. It is incredible how quickly into a roll you are gasping for air. For those familiar with jiu-jitsu, you should know that knee on belly at 11,500 feet is horrid. As expected, Jake, a phenomenal brown belt, dominated the grappling portion of our competition (though Richard gave him an incredible match!). He beat everyone to take 10 points. Jeff took 2nd for 8, Richard 3rd, and I settled for 4 points, losing to everyone but Adam (who still pushed me despite 8 less years of experience). Jeff gave Adam a spontaneous jiu-jitsu lesson and we were quick to point out most gyms were far less spectacular, and certainly smelled worse than our current classroom. If his first lesson is any indication of his coming career, his jiu-jistu experience will be beyond epic! Post grappling, we lay on the mats, amazed and inspired by the unusual blending of our love of jiu-jistu, and the majesty of God’s creation.

Next up was setting up camp and building a fire for dinner. Naturally, being the creative adventurists we are, we had to build a corn chip fire ( Once camp was set and the fire was going, we begin challenge #4, the weight toss for distance. We took the four weight plates that had been carried up the mountain and competitor by competitor, threw each weight for cumulative distance. Furthest distance was worth 5 points, next furthest 4 points, etc. I threw second and was doing great, easily maintaining the lead until Jake went. Having won the jiu-jitsu challenge, he got to go last on the weight throw. Ever the strategist, he watched and learned from all of us, then figured out a way to beat us, securing 5 points.

After the sun had set and everyone had cooked their dinner and eaten their fill, we strapped on our head lamps and ventured to a small spring to fill our water bottles for the night. After returning to camp, we briefly watched meteors dart across the starlit sky and turned in for the night, anticipating an early morning summit of King’s Peak. Lying in my tent I marveled at the glory of the sky away from city lights, trying to stay awake, but quickly fading into exhausted dreams. Sometime during the night, I awoke to put the rain fly on my tent, blocking the view of the heavens, but providing that extra little bit of warmth. Luckily too, as we soon awoke in the midst of a violent thunderstorm. We waited it out, listening to the deafening crash of lightning much too close. Gradually it passed and we jumped quickly to attention as the rumble of a large rockslide filled the valley. I quickly unzipped  the tent to make sure we were out of harms way, then proceeded to crawl out of my sleeping bag in preparation for the next portion of our adventure.

Once we were all moving and had eaten breakfast, we begin the trek skirting the mountains to the chute we were to ascend en route to King’s Peak. The chute was a brutal monster, steep and covered with moving rocks. The climb seemed to last forever, with the top of each hill exposing yet another steep climb above. Finally we all topped out on the saddle, relief and accomplishment coursing through our souls.


Looking around at the various enormous peaks, we wandered in uncertainty briefly, trying to decide which was our goal, the jagged summit of King’s Peak at 13,528 feet. Finally we asked some passing trekkers to be sure of which giant peak to climb. Once King’s Peak was identified by map and gps (neither of which we had), we began another painful scramble through a boulder field to the top. At the top, you can see for days in all directions, lakes, trees, and meadows far below.


Once everyone arrived at the summit, we quickly took the obligatory photos in our gis to verify our trip to the top. Our rest was short, as further thunderstorms threatened to overtake us. We donned our rain gear and began our slow, cautious descent. If the climb down King’s was unnerving, the return down the chute was even worse. Multiple times on the way down, our view of the rockfall we were descending would drop off to the meadow a thousand feet below. We ended up essentially skiing down the middle of the chute, following whatever path promised the smallest rocks. By this time, everyone’s knees were sore from the pounding of the downhill and instability of rocks that moved from under our feet.

Finally reaching the bottom, we again traversed the base of the mountain back toward camp. A herd of sheep had moved in, and we joked about them likely being back at camp eating our tents. Upon arrival, our camp was indeed surrounded, but our belongings unscathed. The competitors intermittently crashed at camp, exhausted from a long day of insanely steep travel. We struggled to pack our gear while laying on the ground, attempting to rest in anticipation of a draining hike back to the car carrying full packs and mats.

By 4pm, we were ready to hit the trail. Richard grabbed one of the mats, intent on carrying it the entire way back to the truck. He is a stud. We tied the other mat to a pack to make it easier to carry and decided just to switch the entire pack back and forth between other carriers. Despite the fact that we were already wiped out, the thought of getting home spurred us on and we headed down the trail at a pretty good clip. We stopped once to refill water bottles at a stream, then carried quickly on. We fully anticipated being back to to truck by 7:30-8pm.

The hike back was going well, but 15 miles into the 10 mile return trip, we were beginning to get concerned. For 2 hours we had been saying, “It has got to be just around the next bend.” “We are almost there.” “It’s right at the bottom of this hill.”  Jake and Adam had run ahead (largely, I believe, because I had taken Jake’s old pack so he could carry the pack with the mat, and he didn’t want his pack back!), and Richard and I  were hiking together as it started to get dark. Confident that we were nearly there, Richard proposed we make one more hard push without stopping until we got to the truck. He  picked up the mat and sprinted ahead as I steadily continued into the night. After 15-20 minutes of not arriving at our destination and not seeing Richard, I was beginning to become convinced I must have somehow gotten off the right trail and was now on another trail headed into the wilderness. I was relieved to finally hear Richard and Jeff calling into the dark for me. I  sped around the corner, expecting to see them waiting in the parking lot for me, but instead found them sitting in the middle of the trail, parking lot nowhere to be seen. They too were both worried we had missed something, and were contemplating our next step. Deciding it was highly unlikely all three of us had gotten off on a wrong trail, we pressed on, vowing to stay together. Finally, we saw headlights slowly moving back and forth and were elated to know we at least had found a road. As we had hoped, Adam and Jake were in the truck driving back and forth looking for us and we had finally made it back! They had arrived 20 minutes earlier after also becoming convinced they might be lost.

Relieved and ragged, we tossed our packs in the bed of the truck and collapsed into the cab. Remembering a Taco Bell at the gas station 30 minutes away, we again desperately raced against the clock while trying to find phone service to call our families. They had all been expecting us out that afternoon and we’d had no way to get ahold of them. We arrived at the gas station to see the Taco Bell chairs flipped up on the tables and the doors locked. Not to be deterred, Jake immediately put in a call to a Taco Bell in Evanston, ordering 24 soft tacos, 2 bean burritos, and 38 packets of fire sauce. By this time, everything was funny and we couldn’t help cracking up as he placed the order. Pretty sure they hung up on him and he called right back assuring them that we weren’t high or prank calling (which naturally again caused us to break out in laughter). Crazy how even now as adults, when you are tired enough, everything seems ridiculously funny. We literally could not stop laughing.

Thinking back to what we had just done, and how destroyed we were, it was impossible not to smile. Once someone chuckled, everyone chuckled. The chuckle quickly turned into an all out roar, and we were rolling again. I’m still smiling when I ask myself, “What kind of fools hike with jiu-jitsu mats 10 miles into the wilderness to have a tournament? Why would anyone climb directly up an insanely steep and long rock fall, cheered on by a multitude of sheep, then later ski back down the same rocks fall to save a few miles of travel en route to King’s Peak? What kind of fools would do any of the things we did this past weekend?” Our kind of fools. And we can’t wait to do it again!

Jiu-Jitsu at 11,500 feet.

Jiu-Jitsu at 11,500 feet.