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Introduced to BJJ at the Age of Six, the Universe Had My Back...
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Introduced to BJJ at the Age of Six, the Universe Had My Back...

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Where is the Universe Leading You?  

Recently, I traveled to Herndon, Virginia to do a BJJ seminar with my coach, friend, and mentor, Pedro Sauer (8th Degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Coral Belt under legendary Grand Master Helio Gracie and Master Rickson Gracie).  I believe we all have a purpose for being here on earth. Have you pondered what your purpose is and what you are doing to achieve it?  If we all have a purpose, then it stands to reason that the universe is constantly guiding us as to what path to take. That happened for me at age six.

As a small child, I watched my dad practicing Kenpo Karate in the driveway night after night. We saw all the martial art movies together:  Chuck Morris, Steven Seagal, Karate Kid, Surf Ninjas (LOL, anyone remember the line: Money can’t buy knives?), and of course, the great Bruce Lee.  Dad was passionate for martial arts. However, this was 1992, pre-UFC, during the No Holds Barred (NHB) time period, before people in the United States knew what BJJ was.  I was 6 years old attending Montessori Learning Academy, a small private school. One day, at the end of class, our teacher announced that a martial artist, named Pedro Sauer, was going to be available to demonstrate Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for any kids who might be interested.  He had opened a new gym and was teaching youth classes in Lindon, Utah, not far from where I lived.  


Somehow, he talked our school principal into letting him come and do a little seminar for any child who was interested.  Because Pedro Sauer spoke Portuguese as his first language and was still learning English, he must have had his wife do the talking; however, he brought his two daughters, who spoke fluent English to help with translation and show us how to fight using BJJ.  My older brother and I were excited to watch martial arts out on the grass for an hour with this mysterious Brazilian, who was trained by Helio Gracie (whoever that was) in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (whatever that was). Sitting Indian style, less than ten of us met on the playground, just a random impromptu event with no release forms signed by our parents. 


Pedro spoke in broken English pointing at me, “You look tough.  You tough kid?”

“I am a tough kid,” I said.

“You good fight?” he asked.

“Oh yeah, I’m really good at fighting,” I replied.  

I was into Ninja Turtles.  My older brother, who was nine, was into Power Rangers.  We loved kicking, punching, watching martial arts movies, wrestling and fighting with each other.

“If you good at fighting, you fight, Taissa. Do like this,” he said with his fists up showing us how to knock out Taissa.

Taissa looked like she was younger than me, maybe five.  Wearing a crisp white Gi with a yellow belt, looking strong, confident and pretty.  Yeah, she looked really tough for a girl, but I knew I could beat her in a fight. Always trying to be like the Ninja Turtle, Raphael, who was the first into battle formation, I jumped up to fight throwing punches as hard as I could.  I wasn’t going to lose a fight in front of my friends. My street fight started off well. I was holding my own. I didn’t want to knock her out too soon. Suddenly, she throws me on the grass, climbing on top of me. I distinctly remember thinking…  I’m going to turn over, get up, then punch her in the face. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Just as I turned over, she wraps her arms around my neck choking me with what I later learned was a Rear Naked Choke. Darkness was closing in on me when I heard Pedro saying, “Do like this,” hitting his hand against his leg.  “Tap. Tap.”  

Rather than pass out in front of my friends, I tapped.  

Humiliated, as soon as I got my breath back, I said, “I want to fight again.”   

“To fight Taissa, you come gym,” he said.

He handed out flyers for BJJ classes and left.  Hold on! I had to know more. When my dad picked me up from school in our old red Toyota truck, talking nonstop, the words tumbling out of my mouth, I insisted that he drive us directly to the gym. 

“Dad, a girl with a ponytail choked me out…something called Jiu-Jitsu…from Brazil…Gracie something… this guy named Pedro….weird guy….can’t speak English…  I need to sign up. Now!”  

Given that my dad loved martial arts, he was happy to check it out.  Two hours later, I was in a kid’s BJJ class learning what a Rear Naked Choke was.  My mom was supportive, constantly signing me up for multiple sports to keep me busy and out of trouble:  baseball, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, anything that would tire me out by the end of the day. I was always moving.  If BJJ could help me expend some of that endless energy, she was a fan.


From that day forward, there were many fist fights, take downs, grappling, and choking lessons. (Yes, Pedro loved a good fist fight in the gym embracing the No Holds Barred mentality).  Intensity. Strategy. Body Mechanics. I loved it. Praised for fighting, instead of getting in trouble, was everything I needed to excel in BJJ. Since that fateful day, I have learned several martial art styles as well as wrestling with BJJ as my original foundation, always looking for new knowledge.

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Pedro’s mind is all about physics, understanding leverage and body mechanics, becoming stronger through position, a way of thinking has helped me tremendously.  From the age of six, I was set up with unbelievable training. Many fighters think they can use strength to cover up poor technique; however, I started so young, I didn’t have enough strength to cover up weak technique.  By the time I was 11, I was training with adults. Here is the best kept secret:  It’s not that strength and power aren’t important in BJJ. They are, but only after you have mastered technique. The key to using strength and power is timing.  Without timing, it can lead to uncontrolled thrashing instead of controlled strategy. Uncontrolled thrashing has given strength and power a bad reputation in the BJJ world.  Used wisely, strength and power will propel your BJJ to new levels.   

After I learned flawless technique, I added strength and power training to utilize during the magical moment of transitions.  Check out my DVD 1% Better Every Day, Strength Building System for how to build strength and power to improve your BJJ. Truly, the universe had my back that day on the playground when Tiessa choked me out.  As a truth seeker, I wanted that knowledge. Your assignment this week is to notice how the universe has your back. Where is it guiding you? Doesn’t matter what age you are, the right path will make all the difference.  

p.s. As always, remember to follow your BJJ academy’s etiquette.  Stay strong out there, my friends as you improve 1% Better Every Day.   

Ricky Lundell is a 4th degree Gracie BJJ Blackbelt under Pedro Sauer ((8th Degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Coral Belt under legendary Grand Master Helio Gracie and Master Rickson Gracie) and wrestled for Iowa State University under Cael and Cody Sanderson (Olympic Gold Medalist in Wrestling and 4X All American Collegiate Wrestler).  Ricky is the author of the 1% Better Every Day Strength Training System DVD on bjjfanatics and 1% Better Every Day, Ricky Lundell’s Personal Guide to Back Squats, available on BJJ Fanatics.

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