How To Be Garry Tonon
Catchy title right?
As little kids, we all have our dreams of being the next (insert hero's name) and be famous. As jiu jitsu practitioners, similarly it's easy to find ourselves watching the matches or careers of the sports luminaries and wanting to strive for that as well. While it's crucial to have dreams and set goals, it's important to also do your homework and truly understand the commitment that these high level athletes have made to get where they are.
Garry Tonon has recently shifted his focus to his current path in Mixed Martial Arts fighting for the One Fighting Championship promotion and is off to a stellar start. If his MMA career follows the same course as his grappling career, it won't be long until we see him at the top of the MMA rankings. Before he made the shift to MMA, Garry was one of the top submission grapplers in the world. As Tom DeBlass' first black belt, Garry Tonon had already scored world titles in IBJJF events. Under the leadership of both Tom DeBlass and John Danaher at the NYC Renzo Gracie Academy, Garry became a founding member of the infamous "Danaher Death Squad" led by himself, Eddie Cummings, Gordon Ryan and Nicky Ryan and many others.
Focused purely on submission grappling, Garry Tonon has himself won four Eddie Bravo Invitational belts at 3 different weight classes. He has had iconic matches at events like Metamoris and Polaris, against the likes of Ralek Gracie and Rousimar Palhares. He brings a creative and deadly style that is as much designed to entire the viewers as it is to dominate his opponents.
BJJ Fanatics had an opportunity to catch up with Garry Tonon recently and we discussed the Malcolm Gladwell notion of it taking 10,000 hours to achieve high level mastery of any skill. We wanted to know, just how much training did Garry do during his formative belt years and during the period when he was focused solely on submission grappling. How many hours did and does Garry commit to his training to get to the highest levels of competitive grappling. Armed with this knowledge, even for the briefest moment, who knows maybe you could be the next Garry Tonon...lol. Here's what we learned.
White to Purple
During his formative years (years 1-3 range), Garry said he probably trained between 22-30 hours per week. He started at Ocean County BJJ led by Tom DeBlass as a teenager, so these would have been his high school years. From an early age, Garry was already training far more than the average practitioner. At this pace, he would have reached about 6000 hours of training, well on his way to Gladwell's 10,000.
Brown to Black
After year 3 Garry said that his training load increased to about 40-45 hours a week and he was able to maintain this level through his college career at Rutgers University. By the time he reached his black belt he had probably amassed another 6-7000 hours easily.
Black and Beyond
After college, when he was focused purely on his submission grappling career, Garry said he was training upwards of 50 hours each week. This number alone is astonishing, but when you factor in the fact that during this time, he is also running Brunswick BJJ and growing his own student base. In addition, the volume of travel in order to make this schedule possible would break most average people. Getting up before dawn each day, traveling 2-3 hours into New York City to train multiple times with John Danaher and the team, then heading back to New Jersey to teach at his own academy, finishing up each evening with more training sessions before heading home to sleep and repeat the process again nearly every day.
Though Garry (and his teammates) have blown the 10,000 rule of Malcolm Gladwell out of the water, it is still a good, general guideline to what a beginning, average-Joe practitioner can expect to invest in their quest for the black belt. An average practitioner, if they're training 3-4 times a week, probably gets 20 hours of class in per month. At that rate, they are achieving around 1000 hours a year. This means that it would take them 10 years at this rate to achieve their 10,000. You may not be world class at this point, but there is no doubt if you've trained hard and learned as much as you can, you will be very, very good at jiu jitsu.
It is easy to look at public figures like athletes and musicians and see them as "lucky" or say to yourself, if I could train BJJ full-time, I'd be good too--but when push comes to shove, the top 1% have put in countless hours that most of us would be not only unable but more importantly unwilling to commit. The next time you think about making a silly comment on a BJJ athlete's social media page, stop, step back from the keyboard, stay in your lane, and enjoy the show.
Unless you've lived under a rock for the last 5 years, you know the explosive interest of leg locks has changed the entire BJJ landscape and this growth has been do in part to one of Garry Tonon's mentors and instructors, John Danaher at the NYC Academy. Danaher has become one of the most sought after experts in the leg submission game. His newly remastered "Leglocks: Enter the System" is finally available and can be secured in easy to access On Demand or DVD formats. You may not be able to train BJJ for 50 hours a week, but you can very easily get a good portion of the knowledge that Danaher has shared only with the Deathsquad up till now. You are literally moments away from accessing the information that has helped Garry Tonon and others get to the top of the grappling scene!