Q&A With Eli Knight!
I recently had the privilege to converse with Royce Gracie BJJ black belt, YouTube juggernaut, and true martial artist Eli Knight for a question and answer session.
Eli is not only a revolutionary coach and ambassador for the sport and lifestyle of BJJ, but is also breaking barriers in the form of digital media content and online instructional videos including an upcoming feature on BJJ Fanatics.
Jon McKinnon: What initially attracted you to BJJ/Self defence?
Eli Knight: The short answer would be Royce and the Gracie family. I saw the first UFC and had actually just started Ju-Jutsu (not Brazilian) at the time. It blew me away like it did everyone else that watched. What got me into martial arts and self-defence before that was several things, but I fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu and never looked back.
J: How long have you been training BJJ?
E: I say a different number every time, but a couple of decades anyway. Around 22-25 years.
J: What if anything do you attribute to your success as an instructor?
E: I’m not pretentious or dogmatic when I teach. I admit when I have found a better way of doing things, even if it means I was making some errors for a long time. I am open to outside influence and opinions, but critical at the same time. And I care about making sure I get the information across in a way that is digestible for the students.
J: Who was your biggest influencer in your pursuit of training/teaching BJJ?
E: Again, short answer would be Royce, but I am inspired and motivated by so many people for different reasons. Jason Hawkins, whom I have trained under and alongside for my whole career is my mentor in Jiu-Jitsu (and life in general pretty much). So I would have to say that all in all, I have been more inspired by him than about anyone.
J: You have a new video series being published by BJJ Fanatics shortly. Can you elaborate on what it involves?
E: I am really excited about it! It is Jiu-Jitsu based techniques and concepts for self-defence. It examines fighting from the Jiu-Jitsu paradigm, in terms of positions, transitions, submissions, standing and ground – mostly ground. Every aspect considers the potential for no-rules situations, but I make mention of how the same techniques can apply to competition with varying rulesets. It is virtually everything I teach for self-defence, minus weapons defences.
J: And will you be willing to create more content for BJJ Fanatics in the future?
E: There is so much more I wanted to include in the videos that I made, but we basically had one day and filmed for around 10 hours straight. I would be thrilled to come back and film follow-up videos of various topics.
J: What enthused you to create your “Street Fight Self Defence” videos?
E: I believe that is the foundation of Jiu-Jitsu. It is a fighting art, and people are inherently afraid of and fascinated by fighting. Everyone is worried about the possibility of violence, and learning self-defence is empowering and confidence-building. I am also fascinated by how the sport has evolved from the fighting aspect, as well as what techniques and positions can apply to both and what needs to be adapted.
J: If you had to pick, what is your favourite position/submission?
E: I like knee on belly a lot. Of course I would prefer to be fully on the back with a choke sunk in, but knee on belly is one of my favorites. It has a good combination of mobility and stability; it’s applicable for a wide variety of rulesets; and it is a transitional position that really allows for some creativity once you get proficient with it.
J: Is Kent Peters really that cool? If so should he have a feature on BJJ Fanatics in the near future?
E: Kent is pretty damn cool. Much cooler than I am. I would be really interested in seeing what a longer instructional from him would look like since his specialty is short and succinct breakdowns of techniques.
J: Let’s talk about your YouTube page for a moment. You have an incredible ever growing following. What was the main motivation to start your page?
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E: Fun. When YouTube came out, I was intrigued by the platform. So my friend and I decided we would try to put up a technique of the week…which was very inconsistent for a long time. I have always felt like it is pointless not to share what you love with people. What good is that?
I actually started my channel in like 2007, but only amassed about 6000 followers in the first 10 years. A couple of years ago, I had a couple of videos do well and since then I have been growing a lot. I am still surprised and super grateful.
J: With well over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, how satisfied were you to receive that Silver Play Button?
E: I considered making it into either a WWE style belt buckle or a large necklace like the way Flavor Flav wears his clock. So yeah…it was pretty satisfying.
J: Do you fear wasted time when it comes to training and/or life?
E: I guess everyone does that to some degree. Definitely things I wish I had done differently or sooner, and things I worry I am not giving enough attention or too much attention. I hate when I catch myself working when I am with my daughter or my girlfriend, and I try to keep it in check. I also don’t much like when I have spent a ton of time teaching in a week and not enough time training for myself, so I try to keep that balanced too.
J: What would be your basic developmental principles to becoming a better BJJ practitioner from a coaches standpoint?
E: Good question. I think making sure it isn’t about you is important. A lot of teachers and coaches teach what they want and how they learn, without recognizing enough what the student or athlete truly needs and how they truly learn. It is an easy trap to fall into, but you need to check yourself if you’re going to be effective. Be engaging, be funny, be real. Don’t be pompous or cocky.
J: What advice can you give to new BJJ practitioners starting out?
E: Be patient and have fun. Be organized with your training. Train with quality and attentiveness. Care about your progress but don’t get tied to the outcome. Prioritize and be happy with incremental successes. But seriously, have fun. If you don’t have fun, you won’t stay. Period.
J: What is next for Eli Knight?
E: I get to train and teach Jiu-Jitsu for a living…I am pretty happy. I just want to grow some more in various areas, streamline some things to allow me to get out to teach more, reach more and train more. Working on the Knight Jiu-Jitsu Affiliate Program and my work with the Fit-to-Fight Network of affiliates.
Looking forward to some bigger instructionals coming out from Budo Brothers and of course from BJJ Fanatics! Super excited about these. Some cool seminars and collaborations coming up as well. Looking forward to expanding my reach and optimizing my ability to be where I need to make the most impact.
J: After all of the dust settles, beyond all of the YouTube subscribers, Instagram followers and website features, what is the ultimate goal you hope to reach with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
I mostly just want to continue sharing this art/sport/system with everyone I can. It has changed my life in so many positive ways, and I just want to help that happen for other people if I can. Also, I have seen so much contention and fragmentation in the community as a whole, and I would love to be a catalyst in bridging the gap and helping people to see the beauty, importance and fun in all areas of Jiu-Jitsu. Trying my best at that.
Incredible insight from one of the greatest instructors in recent memory. You can subscribe to Eli`s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/eliknight173
The skills that are important to all of us are especially important to Police Officers. Officer and black belt Jay Wadsworth has created a number of great resources here at BJJ Fanatics. Check out Police Self Defense Techniques for the Streets and keep yourself safe! Check it out here!