Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 FILA Grappling World Championships - Brandon's Journal

September 26, 2011
I don’t know what it is about flying to Europe and crappy in flight movies. Right now I’m being tortured by Kate Hudson and some stupid movie about her sister or friend or whatever cheating with her fiancĂ©. Crap, crap, crap.

At least its dinner time and here comes food! A transatlantic flight is nowhere to be for a heavyweight who forgot to bring his snacks. The smell of dinner drives me wild. I finally get mine. Pasta. Some kind of cheese filled one, pretty good too, but it’s down in about 5 bites and I’m still hungry. Should ‘a packed some snacks.

I ask the stewardess for another round and she says “Sure!” Ask and you shall receive!

Now that I’ve finally got some food in me I can almost endure the awful movies. It’s just as well though. I’ve been ornery most of the flight and could use some sleep. Somehow I seem to remember the planes being bigger and the movies being better.

I’m a simple man though. What do I know? I get more pleasure out of lifting heavy rocks and strangling people than I do watching any slew of movies on this plane. I’ve been a little lighter and it’s made me more edgy lately. I changed up a few things since trials and I think I’ll have more gas in the tank.

It’s Dad’s birthday today too. I love my dad. He’s such a great dad. It made me happy that he came with me to World Team Trials. We got to talk a lot. Funny how we don’t say a whole lot most of the time but on that trip we got to talk a lot. I will always look back at that trip as one of my best and favorite trips with my dad.

September 27, 2011

After cramps and cricks all night I’m awake again (not like I was ever really asleep). I put in my eyeballs and drain a 1.5 liter water bottle back in the galley. Breakfast is making its way around. The in flight programming still sucks and now instead of sucky movies it’s sucky TV shows.

Why are we so easily distracted and afraid of quiet thought? The TV has been on all night. It is a boring flight but at the same time a person could really work through some stuff with all this time. I work through some of my pre-competition worksheet and game plan. It’s something I’ve been using to help me win since 2005 when I met and worked with Joey Johnson. It helped me win at the 2011 Grappling World Team Trials. I’ve learned a lot since working with Joey in his Worthy to Win program. I’ve been reading his book, Worthy to Win, since I won WTT. Funny but I thought winning WTT would have been a relief but really it was the beginning.

As soon as I got back home Worlds was all I could think about. I adjusted my training for more conditioning. At work I would bring workout gear and go condition for an hour a couple times a week. I ran parking lot stairs, ran sprints, went to the downtown city park and watched pimps, ho’s, and drug dealers and addicts hanging around while I did pull-ups and calisthenics at the playground. In between sets I make sure to keep track of where everyone is. I don’t need to get stabbed or mistaken for an undercover cop.

Reading Joey’s book, Worthy to Win, helped me a lot. It helped me keep perspective. There is a lot to deal with leading up to a world championship. Training is the easy part. It’s like hitting a button and it just goes. It’s all the details that get sticky. Like the fact that this year it’s a self funded trip to Serbia. I looked for sponsorship from some companies I thought would help but nothing happened.

I can’t tell you how hellishly frustrating it is to win a WTT, look for sponsors and get nothing. On top of it all people who find out you are paying your own way say things like; “You should look for some sponsors.” Or, “Hey why don’t you get sponsored?” Really? No crap…I just thought I would run up my credit card, drain my savings and pay for the whole thing myself. What the heck ya know? I love getting to choose between a house down payment or a trip to Serbia. Yeah…freaking awesome.

If you want to be an athlete and a shot at being the best get ready for some sacrifices. If you’re married you better make dang sure your wife is on board or you won’t be married for long.

I’ve been sponsored before but it took so much work to get it to happen I figured it was easier to work full time. If I were a fighter and had some cash coming at the end I might have done it different.

In the end my family (Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma) pitched in and helped lessen the load. My instructor Jeff Kunze also pledged some cash.

It’s funny how everyone thinks there is all this money in MMA and Grappling. In reality there is a lot less than people think. Especially in grappling. People ask “So if you win worlds what happens next?” I become a world champion! What else do you think is supposed to happen? This is it. This is the top. There isn’t anything else after this. Unless you count all the other tournaments that will happen after this one…which of course I will want to compete in too.

One time I was in Las Vegas competing and I saw one of those “How to tell if you’re addicted to gambling” pamphlets. Surprisingly enough as I answered the questions from an athlete’s perspective I concluded that I have an addiction to competition. Whether it is ‘healthy’ or not wasn’t something I wanted to think about at the time because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like the answer.

Almost time to land in Paris and then on to Belgrade, Serbia.

BTW if anyone wants to get some advertising from my YouTube channel or websites I am currently available for sponsorship opportunities. 

October 1, 2011

Things I learned in Serbia at FILA Grappling World Championships

• Referees make calls. You must compete.
• Your opponent has studied and scouted and planned for opponents and situations. Use your Strategy and never show all your cards.
• There is always a BIGGER FISH
• Enjoy it! Appreciate it! – Jeff Funicello “See more than just the venue”.
• Mike Kelly – Gave a second chance. Won 3rd place in Absolute. An amazing person.
• Competition = True Worlds = As competitive as FS/GR. Former Nat’l team members in Judo and Wrestling. Former Olympian(s?) competed. Sambo champions competed. ADCC, Grapplers Quest and NAGA competitors competed.
• No points allowed on me!
• Mat B – “B” is for Brandon!
• France refereed my finals match.
• Appreciate it! – I shook hands with every single referee (all that I could find) and told them “Thank you for the work you do for us”. Give thanks to those who put time in to support events and allow us to compete…even if you may disagree with some of their decisions.
• Responsibility – Ultimate responsibility for scoring and performing is on the athlete. When we win we say “I did it!” When we lose do we say “It was ref/coach’s fault that I lost”? This mentality does not help. It is trying to find a way out of dealing with the realities and pressures of performance. You can’t blame refs/coaches for you not scoring or winning. You have to make the adjustments during the match. The constant is change, or rather, making the current situation align with your game plan and vice versa. Your game plan should include adverse condition scenarios and your pre-determined response. Adaptability is easier to accomplish if it is acknowledged and planned for before the actual situation arises. Few understand this. Once you accept this you can follow your plan and the adaptations/adjustments to it during your match are not as threatening (usually) and also become less complicated. It is better to create a good plan and strategy that can be adjusted and tweaked in small ways than to have little to no game plan that has big sways and shifts in the heat of battle. This is why the best athletes are more consistent.

October 2, 2011

I’m on the last leg of my flight home and I’m savoring my experience. I’m coming home as a FILA Grappling World Champion! Thursday was a great day for me! I was so excited and happy after I won. Besides getting married and the birth of my children it was probably one of my best days ever. Definitely my finest moment (so far) as an athlete. After I won I laughed, I cried, I did cart wheels. It was just awesome! It had been the culmination of years of effort and trying for this title. In 2008 & 2009 I won silver at the worlds (no small feat) and in 2010 didn’t have the opportunity. But this year was my time. I appreciate this win more because of losing before. I’ve always been pleased with my overall past performances and grateful for those experiences, but never satisfied.

I think too many athletes forget to savor the experiences and opportunities of world competition because they are so wrapped up in winning. The matches and results are such a small piece of the experience. Your attitude of how it all fits into your life and how you’ll look back on it make all the difference. I’ve seen so many athletes disregard their world team experience or their world/Olympic medal because it was the wrong color. I understand wanting to win. But I disagree with thinking so little of ‘once in a life time’ opportunities.

It was great having Jeff Funicello as one of the coaches. His experience gives him such a great insight. We were team members on the 2004 Pan Am Championships Greco Roman Wrestling Team and we’ve been friends since then. We took a nice site seeing venture Wednesday before weigh ins. We saw the Belgrade Fortress and Military Museum and a prince’s palace. It was great. Jeff talked a lot about enjoying the journey and the moment. “Some guys never see anything but the venue. You’ve got to enjoy the experience.” I couldn’t have agreed more. Although I was pretty focused and was there with one purpose in mind I trusted myself as an athlete and trusted my game plan enough that I wasn’t worried about being distracted.

Learning to trust oneself as an athlete is exceedingly difficult. The sooner you master it the sooner you will have success. You need to do things that will help you be balanced as an athlete and that will help give you a sense of appreciation to your experience whatever it may be for you. Some guys like staying loose. Some guys like to stay edgy. You have to develop your plan for you.

Back to Thursday…As I was receiving my medal on the podium I thought about how much it meant to me and how much my wife and family had sacrificed right along with me. When they played the national anthem the guys who raised the flags apparently thought they were done and didn’t raise them for my weight class. It didn’t bother me too much because I found the U.S. flag hanging on the wall between all the others and tried to keep my tear filled eyes on it as much as I could. I sang along to the music but kept getting choked up by my tears and blood that still was in my nose and throat. I couldn’t have been happier.

I had been imagining that moment for years. Every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner I have put my hand on my heart and closed my eyes imagining being at the world championships and being the champion. I felt the emotion (as much as I could project anyway…the real thing is better). I imagined the feel of the gold medal and its ribbon under my hand and wrist. I imagined being up on the podium. At 2009 FILA worlds when I lost to U.S. team mate Kelly Anundson I closed my eyes and projected myself into the future as the champion. At every ball game, every church service, every public event where the national anthem was played I imagined my time on the podium. I didn’t know when or how. I just imagined it. On Thursday September 29, 2011 at about 10:30 pm Serbian time I finally stood on the podium with my eyes wide open.

The next day of competition (Friday) I had been scheduled to compete in the Absolute (open weight) division. After I won the gold I felt so drained emotionally and physically that I decided to withdraw and give the opportunity to my team mate and roommate for the trip, Mike Kelly. Mike had been on every grappling world team since 2007. I felt mixed emotions later as I realized that I had foregone another opportunity at a world medal and maybe even championship. But as the day went on I was extremely glad that I had given Mike a second chance. He had competed well but lost in the 90 kg division. Getting another shot for him was like a breath of fresh air.

Physically I was ready for the end, emotionally and mentally even more so and Mike deserved another shot. He made me proud with his effort and his outcome. Mike went on to win tough matches on his way to the bronze medal. I was so happy for him because I knew he truly appreciated that opportunity. Had it not been for that second chance he would’ve missed out on that medal.

Later that night as I learned more about Mike and all that he does for others in his community the happier I was that I had passed along my spot in the Absolute. Mike and his wife do so much for children in their area that I found myself wishing I could do better at giving back to others. It makes me feel good that we will always have that connection because of the decision I made to share.

Those are the kinds of moments and memories that last. As I watched the rest of the Friday events unfold I couldn’t help but realize that this was it. I was leaving tomorrow and I would soon be on my way back to ‘normalcy’ and the same old routine.

I realized that once I stepped out of that venue I would never see it again. The tournament set up would all get put away along with all the flags, mats and podium. All the athletes would be gone and friends that I had made from around the world might not be seen again in this lifetime.

As awards were being presented I made my way down to Mat B where I had fought all of my matches. I took pictures. I sat down. I tried to absorb and internalize everything I could for one last time. Waves of emotion; satisfaction, joy, sorrow, longing, thankfulness, all washed over me as I sat there curled up in the center of the mat.

Before I left I made sure to thank those who make it possible. I tried to find every referee that I could and shake their hand and say thank you for their efforts. It is a hard and thankless job and they do it because they love it and without them we couldn’t do what we do as athletes. I genuinely appreciate those people willing to do that work on our behalf. I also found the FILA tournament director and shook her hand. Without all of her work the tournament wouldn’t have been possible either.

It truly is amazing the power that sport has. Nelson Mandela once said; “Sport has the power to change the world.” I truly believe that. To me athletes are better representatives of their respective countries than any politician. Most athletes come from the working class. Most understand the meaning of sacrifice, hard work, fair play and sportsmanship.

What makes a group of guys and girls from all over the world decide they should all get together under one roof and one set of rules and allow each other the opportunity to manipulate and twist each other without any major incident? We all trusted each other with our lives and our physical well being. I may not know them well, I may not speak their language but I have a brother in Canada, in Russia, in Brazil and in Sweden who all trusted me enough to let me test myself against them. They trusted that I would obey the rules and that I would respect them as people and as athletes.

In sport we do this every day. In politics show me when this happens? Show me the brave politician who would volunteer to go to war for his “just cause” rather than send another in his place to be put in harm’s way? And what for in the end? Failed policy?!? No. Sport is a much more powerful medium for peace than politics will ever be.

Sharing this opportunity with other athletes is so much of what makes international events special. I love seeing all the flags lined next to each other and seeing all the athletes present to compete.

I think about grappling and its recent surge to prominence over the past 20 years. I think about Helio Gracie and his contribution to the world because of how he played a game, because of how he fought. Even though FILA is not connected to the IBJJF or the Gracie’s it is without a doubt that we would not be here grappling without the influence of this man in the world.

I never met him, but I certainly hope to be on the mats until the day I die like he was. Besides my family, wrestling (grappling or BJJ, I call it all wrestling) is the one thing I hope exists in heaven. It has been a journey since the day I stepped into the Taylorsville high school wrestling room 20 years ago.

I have had so many great coaches over the years but there are two who have stood out the most for me. The first is Sheldon Marr of Grappler’s Edge (now Edge MMA & Fitness) in Denver Colorado. Sheldon has been a great coach and friend since 2004. Under Sheldon I was able to make my biggest improvements and achievements in grappling. He always tried to get me to the best competitions an always looked out for me like one of his star athletes. That always meant a lot to me. I never would have competed in grappling if he hadn’t called me up in 2004 to compete as his heavyweight at the Pancrase Submission Wrestling National Championships. Sheldon has stood by me through highs and lows and I am truly grateful for his mentorship.

Next is Joey Johnson who has been a huge influence and other than God and my wife one of the most important keys to my success. After going through Joey’s Worthy to Win program and continuing to use it I have literally become one of the best in the world.

I have also been extremely fortunate to have a great student and training partner in Koffi Adzitso. He is young, hungry and willing to do whatever is asked of him. I have been blessed to have him and to be able to be a part of his molding and success as well.

Ultimately my family are the ones who help me the most and without the support of my wife and kids none of this would mean anything. Without the love, support and belief that my wife had in me I sincerely doubt I would have made the journey to Serbia. It is with great love and respect that I thank her for all she does for me every day. My parents, grandparents and brothers have also given a lot of financial and moral support over the years and I thank them as well.

This truly is fulfilling one of my dreams. I am so happy I had the experience of the journey and the chance to reach the top of the mountain.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

6th Annual UVU Hall of Fame Golf Tournament

Its that time of year again. Utah Valley University is having its annual Hall of Fame Golf Tournament. Several of Utah's finest wrestlers and coaches will be teeing up at the Fox Hollow Golf Course. The tournament is a great way to meet with other wrestlers and donate to the UVU Wrestling team.

UVU Hall of Fame Golf tournament starts at 9:00 AM Tuesday September 13th at Fox Hollow Golf Course at 1400 North 200 East, American Fork Utah.

The tournament is open to anyone and you can get more information by clicking HERE.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I recently qualified for the 2011 FILA Grappling World Championships in Serbia by winning the US World Team Trials! To get to the World Championships I need to raise money for flight, hotel, food, and competition costs. I hope to raise the money I need to continue on my quest for World Championship Gold!

Help send me to the 2011 Worlds by using the Chip In widget below! Click on the Widget and it will take you to a PayPal page where you can donate any amount that you would like. Login as a PayPal User or as PayPal Guest.

Please tell your friends and fellow Grappling fans about my campaign! Thanks for donating!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Training with Gabriel ‘Napao’ Gonzaga

About a year ago Gabriel Gonzaga came to town for a few days of training before one of his fights. It was a great opportunity to get to work out with him while he was here. Gabriel is good friends with Eddie Mori. Eddie lives in Utah and runs Mori Academy, a successful BJJ and MMA Academy in Roy, Utah. Eddie invited me and my team, Kacey Jackson, Koffi Adzitso and Noah Jenkins (of Fusion Academy) to come up and train with Gabriel, specifically for his wrestling and grappling.

Roy is about an hour or so away from where the rest of us live so it was a bit of a drive to get there. When we got there we found out that Gabriel was about 30-45 minutes out from getting to the gym so we kind of just milled around a while till he got there.

Once he arrived we started drilling takedowns and some pummeling. Gabriel was strong and moved pretty well. He was quick and had good grip. He didn’t look as big as he does on the UFC screen though…I guess what they say is true about how TV really does make you look bigger.

We drilled for a while and then we did some live takedowns. That was pretty fun. It was nice to see how my guys and I faired against a BJJ World Champion and professional MMA fighter. I got the better of him on the takedowns and he got the better of my guys. Something that helped me see where we needed improvement at the time.

Gabriel and I had a few good scraps and it would have been fun to get more time training with him. It was great to have one of the top UFC fighters come through town.

Training with Gonzaga helped drive home why so many wrestlers are dominating in MMA right now. They work hard; have good balance and strong takedowns and defense. Even a lot of the better ‘strikers’ like Chuck Liddell and Quinton Rampage Jackson had pretty solid wrestling abilities before their striking really became what it is today.

Things I took away from this training session were:

  1. You are probably a lot closer to the ‘higher level’ guys than you might think. This goes for all of us. Training is not necessarily an indicator of a competitor’s gameness but judging from this workout I feel that I would have faired very well in an actual grappling match. We often don’t give ourselves a fair chance because we may not have an accurate gauge of our skills. You must consistently train/compete with other athletes of roughly your ability to get an accurate gauge of your current skills and abilities
  2. Conditioning is ALWAYS going to be a factor. I felt good but Kacey had problems maintaining the pace. It affected his otherwise good technique. If you are going to compete you must have the stamina necessary to attack and defend over the course of your bout.
  3. Looks can be deceiving and people move differently from each other. Gonzaga was harder to move and knock off balance than I expected. His movements were smooth and then choppy at the same time so it threw me off a little. Once I got the rhythm down I was just fine. Train with more partners so that your reactions can become consistent against more body types and movement styles. This can take some time to develop so get started sooner rather than later. In some cases you may be limited in the number of workout partners available but try to expand out as much as possible. Go with little guys, big guys and everyone in between.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Day I almost Snubbed Jeff Monson

It was a busy Saturday. I had went to promote AdvoCare supplements at a local 5k race, then on to teach my wrestling class at the Herriman Rec Center. I had already missed the opportunity to train with Jeff the night before because I wasn’t able to get my schedule rearranged in time and I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity again!

Jeff was teaching a seminar at the UCTC gym at the VF Factory Outlet Mall in Draper, Utah and I figured if I could get the appointment with my strength coach pushed back a little I just might make it. All I can say is that I’m glad I was able to get things more squared away on Saturday! Whew!
Jeff taught some things for passing the guard that were great! They definitely sharpened up where I should be making some pressure adjustments and other nuance type movements. Then he showed us his underhook series from the bottom and that was also very enlightening. It added a few pieces to the puzzle for me.

After the seminar we were able to get some live grappling training in together and I enjoyed every minute of it! It really helped me see where I am at in comparison to the rest of the world and to one of the living legends of the sport of grappling. Jeff as you may or may not know has won the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships twice (he was a finalist 4 times) and also won FILA Grappling World Championships 2 times.

The first time I was able to train with Jeff was when we were team mates on the 2008 USA World Championship team at the FILA Grappling World Championships. Back then I really just wanted the opportunity to see where I stood against the best. I had a great time training the day before the tournament and felt if and when we met up against each other at the tournament that it would be a great match and one that I could possibly win. We did indeed meet up in the finals match for 1st and 2nd and Jeff won a hard fought decision against me.

I controlled very well against him on the feet and even was on top on his back (no hooks) at one point and made a small mistake that cost me a lot of points. In the last 30 seconds I was able to get a throw on him and landed in a position where I was able to threaten a submission but nothing more. At the time I was grateful to have competed at my best against the best in the world.

Getting another chance to compare myself to greatness was really exciting and I knew I couldn’t miss Saturday’s seminar and training. It was a great time and I was able to see where I need more work and also to see what was working for me. I was a bit surprised at some of the positions that I was able to reach and felt that I have come a long way since my previous encounter.

I was able to do a quick interview with Jeff about his training and how he has been able to keep so consistent at such a high level over such a long time. A lot of the things he talked about were philosophies that I had been practicing over the past few years and it was nice to feel like I am on the right track in that regard. One of the things that I think is most impressive about Jeff Monson is his consistency and his longevity. He burst onto the grappling scene at the 1999 ADCC World Championships and then has continued to make waves ever since. That’s 12 years of being at the top of the food chain!

For many who never get to the top even one time would be amazing but to be where Jeff has been over such a length of time is truly amazing. Check out his video interview here and find out what he has to say!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Salt City Grapplers Jeramy Hunt-Loveless

Interview with Salt City Grapplers instructor Jeramy Hunt Loveless. Jeramy has had great success with student Roy Nash who won the Utah Freestyle Wrestling State Championships and also placed 4th at the FILA Cadet Nationals/World Team Trials! Check out Salt City Grapplers on Facebook!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ben Kjar UVU First Ever All American Wrestler!

Killer Cards

Killer Cards

Here is a killer workout that you can do with or without weights. Be warned it is not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to go through the pain and fatigue barrier to do this type of workout. Here is how it works:

1. Get a standard deck of playing cards and shuffle it up really good.
2. Designate one exercise per suit.
Eg. Hearts = Situps, Diamonds = Pushups, Spades = Squats, Clubs = Pullups. Jokers = 40 Squats non-negotiable.
3. Lay out all the cards.
4. Begin completing repetitions of each exercise according to the value set by the card. Eg. Ace = 11, Royalty = 10 etc. Complete one card and then immediately do the exercise and reps as indicated by the next card.
Note: This is a VOLUME workout...if you want to go heavy and use weights I would recommend a weight range range that you can regularly handle for 10 reps. You can try for more as you get more accustomed to the workout.

I did this today with Hearts = Situps, Diamonds = Dumbbell Bench, Spades = Bodyweight Squats, Clubs = Deadlifts Here is what the actual rep count was:
Situps = 95
DB Bench = 95 @ 90 lbs
Squats = 175 (95 + 80 from the 2 Jokers)
Deadlift = 63 @ 315 lbs (I cut the Face card number in half on Deadlifts)

All total that was 428 repetitions! In the DB Bench I moved 8,550 lbs and 19,845 lbs in the Deadlift. Not bad for a workout that takes less than 30 minutes to complete and leaves you gasping and exhausted on the floor!

With our without weight the Killer Cards is a great workout and its made a huge difference in my overall conditioning and my body composition.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Office Workout Blues

If you're like me and work in an office you might get a little tired and sluggish...especially with long days and late nights. I had a great little break and blew off some steam with this workout. It only took a few minutes, woke me back up and kept me moving during the day.

2 Sets 50 Push Ups
100 Squats
3 Sets 10-15 Dips
Lunges 30 yards down and back

Let me know if you have anything that you do that helps with your office workout!

Arm Chokes-Darce & Anaconda

I've been working specifically on arm chokes for about a year now. Here are two that cover more or less the same principle but to opposite sides. Here is a quick version of how to do them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Front Headlock Turns for Greco Roman and Freestyle Wrestling

The Front Headlock is one of my all-time favorite turns for Greco Roman and Freestyle Wrestling. Here I show you how to use it for both styles.