Totowa MMA: A look inside NJ United Mixed Martial Arts Academy

The Difference (Or Lack of Difference) Between Tournament and Academy Jiu-Jitsu – A Breakdown of Two NJU Competitors During Last Saturday’s NAGA Tournament

The 16th century Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi was the Dan Gable of his day. I’d wager that he was history’s best sports psychologist as well. He relentlessly studied the parallels and symbiotic relationship between martial arts, politics, the arts, and day-to-day life. He’s also the originator of the often-reiterated “Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.” For some people, that “tomorrow” is a literal tomorrow; for more stubborn people, it may be years later. But for my teammates Pauline Nassimos and Kat Silverstein at the NAGA North American Championships last Saturday, “tomorrow” was the matches immediately following their first matches.

Both of these ladies are experienced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu white belts, but Pauline competed for the first time last Saturday. Her first gi match was against a very talented white belt who pulled guard on her quickly. From here, Pauline made a minor mistake in letting her opponent isolate her arm from open guard and lock in an armbar. After speaking with her coach and teammates, she went into her consolation match and immediately adapted to her new, more aggressive opponent. She pulled open guard, transitioned to half guard, won the underhook-battle, and swept her to get on top. From here, Pauline slowed down the pace of the match. She transitioned smoothly to mount and blocked all of her opponent’s escapes while gradually improving her positioning. After three minutes, she was up 13-0 on points and won via arm-triangle.

Kat’s actions told a similar story in her best-out-of-three no-gi matches against a competitor with stronger takedowns and throws. Of course, her opponent’s talents didn’t exactly create the best circumstances for an introduction to competition jiu-jitsu. During her first match, Kat was hesitant to engage and got hip-tossed to eventually lose on points, looking very tired during the match. But like Pauline, she later made the right technical and mental adjustments with her coach and teammates. Instead of being drawn into a downward spiral of defeatism, Kat faced the same opponent again, but won on points by shooting for takedowns, pulling halfguard after failed takedowns, winning the underhook-battle, and continually improving her position after sweeping to get on top. From here, she took mount and maintained the initiative by always hunting for chokes and isolating her opponent’s arms.

In Kat’s final match, her opponent also made good adjustments, resulting in a technical, heart-attack-inducing back-and-forth battle that was amazing to watch. During the match’s closing seconds, Kat’s patience and good timing allowed her to move from side-control to mount, granting her the win by a margin of one point. Through adaptability and consistency, she took home the gold in her division.

Some people say that tournament fighting is worlds apart from the fighting that you do in your academy. I believe that this difference CAN exist, but only if you let it. Initially, Pauline and Kat let that difference become an actuality that worked against them. Afterward, however, they had the guts and the control to get right back on the mat and manifest the full extent of their abilities.

JJ Mike


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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 101, 9/6/15

Today, we had a solid turnout of 20 students on the mat! We continued our theme-of-the-week (guillotine escape to Von Flue choke, and headlock-escapes from standing), but we also mixed things up a bit. It’s wise to keep your self-defense basics sharp, so we did a few drills in which our training partners were at liberty to surprise us with any hold that we’ve escaped from during previous weeks. After all, you can’t always predict how an attacker is going to attack, so your training should be practical in the sense that it keeps you ready for anything. Great job and good open-mat training, everyone!


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 101, 9/3/15

Tonight, we had a great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 101 class in which we drilled some self-defense headlock escapes based on your opponent’s positioning. Remember that it’s essential to have backup escapes; after all, there’s no one escape that’ll enable you to escape everything! Always obey the philosophy of “Right time, right technique, right opponent.”

We also drilled the Von Flue choke – a counter to the guillotine choke. You can see this sneaky move in action for yourself here:

Remember to keep your basics sharp, and try to stay a while after class for open-mat drilling and sparring. See you next time!


Rousimar Palhares: A Troublesome Cautionary Tale

Fighters and politicians are so different that I probably use different brain cells just to think about either of them. However, their one commonality is that they’re both often masterful excuse-makers. Sure, plenty of them aren’t (Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, etc.). However, plenty of them are, and I’ll admit that if I sacrificed all of my life, youth, and energy for fifteen minutes inside a cage, I’d probably fabricate some excuses of my own. Hell, I already do that with my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu career. I once skipped an important jiu-jitsu seminar because a Spongebob Squarepants marathon was on, but I said that it was because I was injured, and I WAS injured, so I thought that I wasn’t technically lying. In any case, that’s an utterly horrendous excuse. I’m just getting that out of the way so that I don’t come off as some moral superhuman.

So yeah, I’m capable of making bad excuses, but I’m also capable of calling myself on my own crap. But there’s one fighter out there who can’t perform that self-analysis to save his life (or rather, his career). His excuses for his dangerous behavior actually go beyond the absurdity of Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” and the fallout of Bush’s “Read my lips.” His name is Rousimar Palhares, and he’s basically the Richard Nixon of MMA – a Nixon who claws at the eyes of his opponents, holds onto submissions long after his opponents have tapped,  and with a straight face denies any wrongdoing. Several pro fighters want him banned from MMA. I want him suspended from MMA until he gets help, and here’s why.

Palhares has incredible martial talent that was forged in circumstances of incredible poverty. I’d call him the Oliver Twist of MMA, but I don’t recall any character of Charles Dickens using scotch tape in lieu of stitches to heal a farming-related injury, and eating pig-slop as a child to survive. And after watching his brief bio here:, you’ll have a better understanding of why he developed a “Hulk smash!” approach to life. The problem is that this approach is, whether he’s aware of it or not, poisoning his remarkably technical jiu-jitsu.

UFC fighter Joe Lauzon has done a very illuminating analysis of Palhares’s tendencies here: His number-crunch is interesting in terms of how cranking a leglock for 1.4 seconds is “an eternity.” However, I don’t even believe that his comparisons are necessary here. You don’t need to be a fighter or an analyst to see that when a fighter is caught in a submission hold, and when he’s “screaming in agony,” and when he’s tap-slapping Palhares repeatedly, and when the ref is physically joining in the fight to stop the submission, AND when Palhares still isn’t letting go, then it should go without saying that something is very, very messed up here. In any case, it’s the polar opposite approach to that of Demian Maia, who explains his use of “The Gentle Art” in the octagon thusly: “Jiu-jitsu gives people an option to tap or submit. The intention is not to hurt or punish the opponent. They are given a choice to stop that. That’s what I try and do in my fights. I try and represent jiu-jitsu to the best of my ability and to show the philosophy of the art. I don’t like to hurt people.”

Palhares’s issue is not a new one. It has caused him to be banned from the UFC, stripped of his WSOF title, and suspended indefinitely from that organization. Back when he trained at Brazilian Top Team, Palhares had the tendency to hurt his training partners, goading his former coach Murilo Bustamante to hire him a psychologist for him. Nothing came of that, and Palhares continually denies using dirty tactics. The argument has been made that other fighters have used dirty tactics and have not been faulted as badly as Palhares has. However, the reason for this is that they have not repeated and intensified their rule-breaking.

Many people aren’t quite sure what to make of Palhares in this respect. Some have speculated that he’s endangering other fighters as part of a masterful, cross-promotion scare tactic. Others have argued something to the effect that he’s just a careless dirtbag. I don’t believe either is true. I believe that Palhares genuinely doesn’t feel that he has a problem. I can’t explain exactly how this is so, but if you ask an addict or someone with a personality disorder to explain their addiction or disorder, you’ll usually hear denials similar to the ones you’d give if someone sporadically accused YOU of having such problems.

In short, Palhares doesn’t see the dire problem that he has. The hows and whys of this are anyone’s guess. Perhaps he hasn’t developed the eyes to see his problem, and this is an especially troubling issue that all the talent and training camps in the world can’t fix. There’s more to fighting than being good at fighting. Whether Palhares likes it or not, there’s an art (and it’s not complicated) to knowing when to quit and when to use self-control in problematic situations. Watching Palhares claw at Jake Shields’s eyes and take an eternity to release a kimura should speak for itself here:

A man is more than a bad habit, or the worst thing he’s done in his life. Palhares is capable of recognizing and fixing his problem, and I have enough respect for his skill to admit that I would like to see him do so. He seems to have enough honesty and humility to at least start doing this. But until he does, he’s an incredible danger to the health and longevity of any fighter he faces, and he should be suspended from MMA.


How to Counter-Troll Internet MMA Trolls with Superior Trolljitsu

There’s no shortage of internet videos detailing the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There’s also no shortage of internet trolls (i.e. pranksters and agitators) who make excuses for punks who get choked out and twisted into pretzel-shapes. Sometimes these trolls are simply in it for the lulz (for their own amusement), but many others actually believe their own excuses and claims to greatness. This shouldn’t be surprising, since most of them “watch UFC” but don’t actually train in anything. A recent popular youtube video entitled “Girl destroys boys with Jiu Jitsu in the park” has (aside from demonstrating exactly what its title states), drawn plenty of trolls and nay-sayers out of the e-woodwork. Their gripe against young, strong boys getting decimated by sixteen year-old Riley Breedlove is understandable, especially since most of them are probably young, strong boys who would get decimated by her.

The internet is a vast jungle of nerdcore stupidity. It speaks its own language, it has its own code of tropes and memes, and it will not tap out to common sense. If you frequently interact with martial arts culture on the internet, then you’ve probably seen people dismiss videos like Riley’s as BJJ-propaganda or worse. The following are some of the most common objections to BJJ-related videos of this nature, and I’ve followed them up with solid counterarguments. Feel free to use them, internet traveler, whenever appropriate. Arguing over the internet may be monotonous, but so are warm-up drills. Anyway, before you read any further, why not go ahead and watch Riley in action here? à

Troll: “This isn’t really impressive. She’s trained a lot, and she’s beating people who don’t train.”

Answer: “That itself sounds like perfect motivation for these young guys to train. In any case, it’s always impressive when someone can use skill to completely reverse the odds in terms of age, sex, or strength.”

Troll: “You haven’t seen me in beast-mode. I’d get out of those holds.”

Answer: “You’re confusing ‘beast-mode’ with Dragon Ball Z logic.”

Troll: “Why is her jiu-jitsu important anyway? What if one of these guys bit her or clawed her eyes?”

Answer: “Go ahead and count the number of dominant positions that Riley gets on these guys. You can’t, because there are too many of them. Anyway, take the mounted triangle at 2:53, for example. What would happen if Riley herself were to use bite-and-claw logic here?”

Troll: “Yeah, well go to 0:45. What if this guy fighting her rained down hammerfists or whatever?”

Answer: “Hammerfists from a side-control with no lockdown? Hammerfists with enough space between him and her to drive a truck through? Hammerfists against someone not dazed at all, and fully capable of shrimping and using Brazilian-legs almost anywhere? Do you even understand the terminology I’m using?”

Troll: “What does terminology matter when ur getting hammerfisted lol???”

Answer: “Why do brackets matter in basic HTML coding lol???”

Troll: “I see what you did there. U mad? I bet if those guys knew jiu-jitsu, they would have beaten her.”

Answer: “And I bet that if the situation was totally not what it actually was, then the result may have been different. -.- There’s a reason why martial artists are divided into male and female weight classes.”

Troll: “So then why isn’t she rolling with people on her level?”

Answer: “Of course she does this, and she does it with more frequency than her rolls in parks. Check it. à

Troll: “Woah, how did you manage to speak-out that web address perfectly in conversation?”

Answer: “Because like you, I have a black belt in Internet. But unlike you, I have a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well, and although that doesn’t make me invincible, I kinda’ know what I’m talking about when it comes to vids like this. I’ve seen grown men with high BJJ rankings get decimated by teenage black-belt women on the mat, all due to raw skill and discipline evening the odds. If you plan on stepping up to skill like that, then you’d better be equally well-trained, and if you plan on eye-gouging or hammerfisting against skill like that, then you’d better be ready to die . . . or at least ready to stomach youtube videos of yourself getting rekt and pwn3d by a teenage girl.”



Self-Defense Technique | NJ United MMA

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is much more than the fancy Berimbolos and De la Riva guard sweeps that you see in the competition scene (although I love competition). It’s more than the slick guard passing and submissions that you see in the UFC and in other Mixed Martial Arts settings.

In order to earn a Black Belt in BJJ you have to have a solid understanding of the Self-Defense aspect of the art. At the end of the day if you don’t know self-defense, you don’t really know BJJ. Check out this video of our students practicing their headlock escapes during Sunday’s BJJ 101 class.

The Good Fight Results

Congratulations to Chas, Lloyd, and Kris on their performances today at “The Good Fight.” Kris won 2 GOLDS, Lloyd 2 Silvers, and Chas won a Silver medal. I’m glad to hear that the guys were hitting the “Jacare” choke that we had just recently covered in class last week! Great job!

Congrats guys!

Gatti vs. Ward

One of the greatest boxing matches of all time! So much heart shown by both guys!

It’s All About Perspective