Monday, October 5, 2009

In Jiu Jitsu, We Are Our Coaches Children

This past weekend I refereed my teammate, Chris Lisciandro's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Club* bi-monthly tournament. It's a smaller, local friendly tournament for white and blue belts that Chris puts on in his own academy. I've reffed it many times, since he started over a year ago. Well run and great for squeezing in competition in-between bigger events and/or for those starting out in competition. Definitely something to look in to if this type of competition suits your level, location , etc.
The tournament ended with a final match between to very good blue belts in the open class division. I refereed this match, and made a very interesting (to me, at least) observation:

Grapplers are Born Out of their Coaches School of Thought

I think we actually forget how influential our coaches are on our jiu jitz game and overall approach to the sport. It became crystal clear to me when saw this match-up.

Street Sports BJJ has given birth to three great academies.

Both finalists can trace their lineage back to my school, Street Sports in Santa Monica, CA. One came from Bond Squad in Camarillo, CA. His coach, my teammate and also Street Sports black belt and 3-time Grapplers Quest champ, Timmy Bond, is a wrestler by training who has adapted his own brand of BJJ combined with collegiate wrestling. His style is heavily focused on takedowns, control and position, with less emphasis on submission.

The other came from Z-Force Jiu Jistu in Woodland Hills, CA. His coach, Alan Zborovsky (also my teammate for many years and one of the first Street Sports black belts), is basically a sophisticated submission specialist - well rounded, but focused on attacking and submissions.

Remarkably, each fighter resembled their coach to a tee. The Z-Force competitor was a tenacious submission machine - just like his coach! The Bond Squad competitor was a 130 lb high school national champ in wrestling. I had just reffed his last match, in which he beat a 200+ pound monster of a man with a single takedown (the only scoring in the 5-minute match).

The match played out just like I expected. The wrestler did everything he could to keep the match standing and to stay out trouble on the ground. The submission stylist was relentless in trying to make the match a jiu jitsu fight. In the end the wrestler narrowly edged out an overtime victory by scoring a single takedown.

What it Taught Me

Coaching is everything. Without realizing it, we become our coaches jiu jitsu offspring, inheriting family characteristics from our coaching heritage. Although we aren't clones and can adapt our own styles, we really do get much of our game (style, approach, process, etc.) from our coaches. It's like the old joke that people resemble their dogs (and/or vice versa)!

I love my coach. I aspire to have his skills, his composure, his effortless power, his movement. And, I hope you love your coach the same. It's essential . Besides, you fight just like him (only probably not as well).

* Chris is one of Street Sports best. He's a Pan American champion and very celebrated competitor with dozens of victories under his belt. He was the first to branch off with his own academy nearly 6 years ago!


  1. And, YOU FRANCISCO are a great coach. This is a good post. Its too easy to forget who we are born from.

  2. Out of interest, do you think the natural tendency for students to emulate their instructor's style can ever be a bad thing? E.g., if a huge guy persistently tries to roll like their small, fast instructor?

    Though of course a good teacher will be able to tailor their instruction for various body types.

  3. That's a great question and something I thought about as I drafted this post. In the post, I'm presuming that we, as athletes, seek coaches that can bring out the best in us.

    And, if a grappler doesn't feel he/she is getting that from his/her coach, then a change is necessary.

    I really do believe you HAVE to love (and completely trust) your coach.

    Grapple on.

  4. And, slideyfoot - thanks for reading the blog!

  5. hey ya'all dig this...( tripping on the myth of Protean...and how it applies 2 jiu jitsu...being a maliable (spelling?) shape still digesting.....but wanted 2 share...see ya on the mat:

  6. Awesome observation, Mr. Rickel. I see many applications of this story to BJJ.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. I watched my coach, Renato, roll for the first time in a while yesterday. I never realized how much the most basic "bread and butter" of my game (particulary guard passing and half guard) resemble his. I never really set out to do that. In fact, he always tells me to play a game very different than his--closed guard and spider guard.

    I guess its kind of a like a dad telling his kid, "son, don't grow up to be like me". But its impossible.

  8. If my game ends up remotely resembling that of any of my coaches at Street Sports, I'll be very pleased. I am in awe of all of you guys.

    my .02