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What I’ve Learned Filming The Best Guys In The World: 3 common themes by Michael Zenga

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What I’ve Learned Filming The Best Guys In The World: 3 common themes by Michael Zenga

In producing a lot of BJJ videos I’ve gotten a chance to spend time with some of the best competitors on the planet. These guys all have to eat and when we are in Boston I’m the one who helps them get food so there is a lot of time to talk about BJJ and life:

Commonality #1 most of them did not have superior physical ability at the beginning. Travis Stevens used to lose every match – for a long time, before he started winning. Keenan Cornelius was nothing special at all until 6 years in, and mostly disinterested for the first few years. JT Torres didn’t make the basketball team, Felipe Preguica was called lazy, Bernardo Faria was a futsol goalie and got benched so he started BJJ. The Miyaos used to do Judo in their rural farming community but liked BJJ better.

This is important to note – if you are starting BJJ and you are struggling, don’t worry about it. The very best guys did too. One of the most knowledgeable guys about BJJ and an instructor who is revered by his students – my own teacher Daniel Gazoni – was a white belt for 2 years and he ended up making a great life out of teaching the sport. So enjoy the process.

Commonality #2 – These guys know a lot about Jiu Jitsu. When you ask Travis Stevens a question about a position – one that seems complex to me like how to best pass a guard when an opponent has a cross grip, a foot on your bicep, your sleeve gripped and the other foot on your hip- he shows you 5 ways off the top of his head how to pass it easily and then he will askme “aren’t you a black belt?” – we are good friends so I’m not really offended but the truth is that he lives this stuff so well he has trouble understanding how someone with a black belt could not know.

Bernardo Faria showed mostly one pass on his passing DVD – 47 variations of it (Click here to check out) – and he only showed 47 because I said it was enough and not to show 48.

JT Torres knows the guard so well from passing it as well as he does. When he teaches you – the levels to which he is precise are amazing. He’s gonna pass the spider guard differently depending if the opponent has the foot on his elbow groove or his bicep 1-2″ away. He’s incredibly meticulous.

So I’d say the key is studying your favorite moves and knowing how to pull them off from dozens and dozens of situations- this means not getting on the mat and doing 100 reps the exact same way.

3 – They like to train- most of these guys want to train after they are done filming (rumors about the Miyaos being a little obsessive about training can be confirmed) – they all love to train, for most of them it’s their favorite thing to do.

So if you want to get really good at BJJ it seems to be a very achievable goal. You will probably never win at the highest levels and that’s ok – none of these guys I film with do BJJ for the money.

If you never give up, practice smart and are able to work into your best techniques from any position and you love to train / you will certainly become much better than you are now and if you are obsessive enough you might even reach the top.

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