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Thursday, August 14, 2014


On June 1st, 2012 I walked into Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh PA for the first time. I went in with the intention of learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and having some fun while training with a friend; but had no idea just how much Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was going to take over my life. Earlier that week, I had spoken on the phone with the gym's owner and head instructor, Sensei Sonny Achille. I had the standard questions (gym fees, gis, etc.) and he had the warmest and most welcoming personality to accompany an answer to every one of my questions that I felt that if this new 'Jiu Jitsu thing' didn't work, then it would be on me and not the instruction.

June 1st was a Friday that year. I arrived at the gym shortly after my work day, along with my aforementioned friend, in time to see the last hour of an open mat session. I signed the waiver papers and committed to a year-long agreement--without even taking a class--put on my borrowed gi, and dove in head-first.

I trained with my friend for that first class, and I can only imagine his level of patience. My friend, Luca, was a blue belt at the time and real student of the sport, so I have to assume that his night wasn't nearly as fun as mine. That is, until the last fifteen minutes of class arrived and I got to roll for the first time. And if you're reading this, it's safe to assume you too remember your first roll--specifically how bad you were dominated, how fast you were winded, and how you had absolutely no idea just how helpless you REALLY were. I didn't forget that either, and that's the purpose of this blog--to address issues that commonly (and maybe uncommonly) plague white belts in the journey to blue.

On July 26th, 2014 I received my blue belt from Sensei Achille (you can see us there, pictured above). Now you may be asking yourself something like 'Why is this blue belt giving advice?' Fair question. The/My answer is: Those white belt struggles are still fresh in my mind. Instead of writing this advice later on down the road (as whatever rank), trying to recall issues and specific examples, I thought now is the best time. You wouldn't want to get driving directions from someone who was there ten years ago would you? Most likely not. And much like street signs, traffic patterns, construction sites, and landmarks, Jiu Jitsu also changes. You're best to get the directions from someone who was just there.

Now, that's not to say I'm going to be making blog post after blog post as some Jiu Jitsu guru vowing to lead you to the black belt Promised Land if you just follow my directions, no, that's not my role. Follow your instructor/Professor/Sensei for that. What I propose is to provide guidance on the issues you're too afraid, embarrassed,  or just too dumb to ask (but only "dumb" because you don't know any better). I may occasionally post a technique or suggest something that, I feel, is beneficial for a white belt, but let's keep it real: I'm just a blue belt trying to help a brother out and pass on what I picked up over these two years of getting brutalized and finally starting to dish it back out.

I decided to start this blog based on the strength of the blog post I had written for my school's website. You can read that here. I got a lot of great feedback from my training partners and instructors on the post; and that felt good. I wrote it hoping that it would help some people--plain and simple, I wanted to help. But the response was so positive (almost everyone I train with said something genuine about it) that I felt like I should keep it up. So here we are, and why. I can't forecast how often I'll update this, but I will promise at least one a month; but I will try to add more than that, as often as possible, when something comes up.

In the meantime, if you have any questions for me, suggestions for content, or want to pass on some advice, please feel free to reach out to me at Jesse at

Thanks for checking in, and please tell a friend and stop back soon.


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