Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ECU Fairfield in the News!

ECU Fairfield made the local paper!


Thanks and congrats to Alex and Joey for giving me a quick #23 (I have a great #25 planned, but was trying to find a direction for #'s 23 and 24.), but, most importantly, for running a great school. Every time I've trained at ECU Fairfield, I was happy I had.

I'm happy to see that my friends and training partners are doing so well.

If you're new to this blog, or just looking for some other mentions of ECU Fairfield, check out my post about my last visit to ECU Fairfield:


As always thanks for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA blog. Comments and suggestions are still welcome :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good Question:

Courtesy of Jeff, via Facebook,

“If a friend said to you: ‘...why don't you wake up at 6 AM, go running or go to the gym like a normal person to stay in shape INSTEAD of Jiu-Jitsu, which seems to take up a lot of time...’ what would your response be???”

A couple of weeks ago, ECU Purple Belt Jeff Schneider asked this very question on Facebook. Of course, my flippant reply was, “Anaconda Choke!”

Several of my ECU brothers and sisters made similar replies, leading Jeff to complain, “Lol. Legit discussion, good debate and all my ECU brothers can come up with is an unsupervised BJJ clinic.”

I thought about it for a while, and came up with my own answers, but ECU Brother/Wanderlei Silva Fight Team member Peter Simone (Undefeated Professional MMA Fighter) posted a great response, and since I can’t do better, I’ll just quote it now and suggest that we focus on the last sentence:

“I'd say, ‘Lets wake up at 6am go running then go to the gym then go train BJJ at 12pm and then train again at 6pm. Who wants to be normal when you can be special?’ "

While most of us can’t train three times a day like Peter does, those hours that we can find are indeed special. We train in an art that challenges us both mentally and physically, and, in a great environment like ECU, find a second family.

Can you do that on a treadmill?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BJJ United Team Day

On Saturday December 18, JoJo led thirteen members of our team down to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu United in Jenkintown, PA for the BJJ United Team Day. In addition to eleven highly regarded Black Belts, there were over one-hundred, probably closer to one-hundred and fifty students from various schools in attendance.

Between a great promotions ceremony, followed by an awards ceremony for all of the Black Belts in attendance, I was truly happy that I’d made sure I’d made it to this session.

As the Black Belt certificates were given out, BJJ United Founder Jared Weiner gave each recipient the chance to speak. As I student I was moved. As a blogger/reporter I wish I’d had my recorder with me.

Nevertheless, my thoughts when we actually got to the training and, hopefully, some of the thoughts from the Black Belts will be appearing in the near future.

My sole purpose in putting up this quick little blog is to congratulate the ECUBJJ students who were lucky enough to receive their promotions at such a HUGE ceremony/training session:

Daniel Cion – Blue Belt
Freddy Medina – Purple Belt

I promise that I have a lot more to say about such a great Saturday, and will include the rest of the promotions from TEAM DAY as soon as I receive them.

Finally, I’d like to thank Mitch, Tom and Aldo for some great training. Somehow, you guys all brought out the best in me.

Thanks again for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA blog. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Couple of Links...

I've started reaching out among the BJJ community to connect with my fellow bloggers.

In the future, I plan a post with tons of links to other great BJJ and MMA blogs, but for now I'll leave you with two:

The Mental Dojo (http://thementaldojo.blogspot.com/) is a great read. Author Angelo Popofski takes the time to talk about the thoughts every BJJ player has, but doesn't always want to talk about.

Due to my posting a request for contacts on the NHB Gear forums, I've also been linked to the EDojo (http://www.edojo.tv/m/sites/home/) site. EDojo is a mix of great free information, and what looks like excellent for-pay content. I understand that there are some big plans for this site in the near future.

While I first and foremost enjoy training BJJ, I cherish the opportunity to share my love of the art with as many people as possible. Hopefully, I'll be meeting new readers soon, and more importantly, my current readers will make some new friends.

Just Keep Showing Up!

In my nearly five years of training BJJ, I’ve learned that consistency is one of the most important attributes a student can have. Consistency is not always easy, but if you can find a way to keep a regular schedule, you’ll greatly improve your chances for advancement.

I figure a few good case-studies will illustrate my idea.

Since August of 2006, I’ve tried my best to train every single day there’s a class available. I’ve probably failed twenty-five times to make a class – and half of those involved me training at other schools. I’d like to think that my dedication earned me my Purple belt.

Now, we’ll take a look at two of the other higher belts in the ECU family…

Tim Orwin has a huge talent for BJJ. As a graduate of SUNY Maritime, Tim has had to spend time at sea. The fact that he and I received our Blue belts on the same night embarrassed me. Tim was far superior. Naturally, he earned his well-deserved Purple Belt first. Now that Tim is working a land job, he’s re-dedicated himself to BJJ and reminds 99% of us just how scary it is when a 6’3” 200+ pound guy is actually good at Jiu-Jitsu. Any time Tim shows up, everyone but Jo-Jo is worried.

Alex Lileika M.P.T. trains twice a week. Between owning his own business and having a lovely family, Alex has a lot of people pulling him in different directions. However, Alex makes sure that he gets in at least two training sessions per week. While some of us train more often, none of us are more committed to making sure we get our sessions each week.

Alex reached the rank of Purple belt early in 2010.

This particular post was a direct response to some of the White belts asking me what it takes to progress. My response was, “Keep showing up!”

Another time, I asked Jo-Jo his opinion. He thought about it for a second, and then said:

“Keep training! Every time you come here you get better."

This is #19 does anyone have any suggestions for #20 or #25?

Thanks again to everyone who reads this.

PS, I already have #20 in the wings so think of ideas for #25.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Didn’t Always Like Jo-Jo

I know it sometimes seems like I’m just a cheerleader for ECUBJJ and in some ways, I am. However, I’m an honest cheerleader. To me, the last 14 months have been nothing less than phenomenal. To my mind, ECU founder JoJo Guarin has done everything the right way – but I wasn’t always JoJo’s biggest fan.

In order to make sure that I keep my honesty credentials intact, I’ll admit a deep-dark secret – my first impressions of JoJo were not all positive. I thought he was mean and hated anyone who didn’t have world championship aspirations. As a fat thirty-something professional, you can see how I wouldn’t like that. However, I knew JoJo’s credential’s and decided to trust him for that one class and if I didn’t like it, I’d move on.

When it came time for sparring, JoJo fed me to one of the most fearsome Purple Belts in the class. I was arm-barred repeatedly, and was mad at JoJo for feeding me to the Wolf. Halfway through the round, between JoJo’s advice and the Wolf’s, I’d learned how to defend my arms. Years later, I’m still known for my submission defense.

A lot of times, the student doesn’t like what the teacher tells them. Even more times, the student doesn’t like the WAY the teacher tells them. However, a great teacher, like JoJo, finds a way to give and tell his students what they NEED!

As I got to know him, I realized that JoJo cares about every single one of his students. He’s just supremely adept at deciding what they need - “RIGHT NOW”.

As students, we’re not always ready for the lesson we need to learn. Our teachers know what we need, and they do what they think is best.

I love BJJ, and I’ve read a lot about it. Almost everyone says that the instructor who takes you from Blue belt to Purple belt is the most important instructor you will ever meet.

I got my Purple Belt from JoJo Guarin. I am blessed!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coming Back…

Somewhere along the line, everybody eventually gets injured. Whether it’s over-doing it during class, trying to hold out during a tournament, simply getting sick, playing tag with your young cousins, or just age, sooner or later, every athlete has to deal with injuries.

As everyone who reads this knows, I’ve been nursing a torn Hamstring. Thanks to Alex Lileika and New Rochelle Physical Therapy, I’ve managed to keep going on a limited basis (I could go harder, but decided to stop the “artificial hamstrings” that Alex creates before I got too accustomed to them.).

Two of my great friends have recently returned to full action. Their time away was brought on by different factors, but they did their best to keep themselves in the game.

ECU Fundamentals Instructor Eric Guido suffered an arm injury at a tournament in August. He later went on a trip to South America where he became ill. When he came home, he was immediately hospitalized. He’s slowly worked his way back, and is now ready to go.

ECU Head Kids' Instructor Anthony Vataj has had an even more convoluted path. Anthony slipped while playing tag with his cousins at a family party. He tried to keep training, but his doctors recommended that he take it easy. While he cut down on his own training, “Coach Vataj” arrived every day to teach the kids, even when he had to wear a boot.

While we all deal with injuries in our own way, it’s our friends who help us keep training.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Two More New Blue Belts!

JoJo also had two additional post-seminar promotions. Congrats to new Blue Belts John DiMarco and Shylton Matta!

My Latest visit to ECU Fairfield

This past Wednesday I was in Fairfield, so I decided that rather than battle I-95, I would train at ECU Fairfield. ECU Fairfield is a great facility located on Boston Post Road in the heart of downtown Fairfield. Open less than a year, ECU Fairfield already boasts sixty-seven students.

I was a little late, since I had attended a book signing (Baba Booey!) across the street, but was welcomed by ECU Fairfield Directors Joe Oppedisano Jr. and Alex Nachaev. Since the class was predominately White Belts, Alex demonstrated an excellent combination of fundamental techniques – Sweep to Americana to Armbar.

After drilling these techniques for a while, it was time to train. I managed to get in two rounds before my hamstring started acting up, and was extremely impressed by both Peter and Matt. If their skills are any indication, and I believe they are, Joey and Alex definitely have their students on the right track.

Whether it’s North White Plains, New York or Fairfield, Connecticut, the name East Coast United means quality training.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Open Up Your Game and Have Fun!”

I’ve been nursing a torn hamstring for the past couple of weeks. Thanks to the great Alex Lileika of New Rochelle Physical Therapy, I’ve been able to keep training, but I’m still not 80%.

Thanks to Alex’ help, I was still able to attend an outstanding seminar with “Rob G.” last Friday. Rob showed us an AWESOME series that I think will take everyone who attended the seminar to the next level.

Due to my hamstring injury, I avoided sparring most of the night. Late in the night, Rob asked if I wanted to train. Since I’ll NEVER turn down the opportunity to roll with a Black Belt, I immediately said, “Absolutely!”

Rob and I rolled for a while, I tried Spider, and De-La-Riva guards, but Rob quickly defeated them. Inevitably, I ended up in a bad position. I went into my defensive “shell”, and just tried to survive. Of course, Rob submitted me in the end.

Later, Rob took the time to talk to me about how I can improve my Jiu-Jitsu. While he had several excellent suggestions, the one that I think will be the cornerstone of my next steps in the game is the title of this article.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Congrats to the New ECU Promotions

Last night I attended an outstanding seminar, courtesy of "Rob G." Thanks to the seminar, I have plenty of ideas for new posts, but I want to get this out fast. JoJo promoted five new Purple Belts and a brand-new Blue Belt.

Congrats to all:

Purple Belt
Kith Pradhan
Terrence Cheng
Matt Kachmar
Tom Waldren
Adam Dickerson

Blue Belt
Anderson Perez

Since, I never like to leave my readers without visuals, here's a quick video of Tom Waldren in a match with elite ECU competitor Brian Kim...

Now I'm stuck with every writer's favorite problem. We've had such a great month at ECU, that I have tons of material. Rob's seminar only added to those tons.

How am I to choose?

Turkey Day Training!

JoJo decided that yesterday he would host a, “Thanksgiving throw-down! For Free!” Open mat 12-2 at ecubjj.com - open to all. "That's right so if your school is closed come to ECU and train for free! There will be no mat fess for visitors that day! Come burn some turkey!”

That’s what JoJo envisioned. I honestly don’t know how the entire time went since I arrived late and went home early (sorry, but someone had to pick-up Grandma), but I was glad to see some un-familiar faces.

Everyone who made it to the ECU Thanksgiving Open Mat brought their “A GAME”.

Now we get a seminar that not only features Rob G., but JoJo threatens "special guests".

I can't wait!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Love the Holidays!

I love training during the Holiday season. It’s a time when old friends come home and inevitably find their way to ECU for at least one night. Whether they’ve been away for school, work, or – in some cases – trying to become Rock Stars, it’s always great to see people who’ve, somewhere along the line, been a big part of my BJJ journey.

I wish everyone who reads this a Happy Thanksgiving, and hope that even more of our old friends will stop by in late-December/early-January.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


ECU founder JoJo Guarin is a Pan-American Gold Medalist. He has collected trophies, medals and Samurai swords too numerous to count.

He’s also a notorious guard-puller. JoJo has so many different attacks from the guard that he’s admitted to allowing takedowns in competition so he can bring the game to his world. It’s a good strategy – if your name is JoJo Guarin.

However, JoJo is not just a competitor; he’s first and foremost a teacher and coach. Realizing that his reputation has created an expectation about his students, JoJo has decided that he will begin a new emphasis on putting our opponents on their backs. Whether it’s a classic wrestling takedown or a Judo throw, JoJo is on a mission:

“Everybody knows I like to pull guard. Everybody thinks that all of my students want to pull guard. I want give my students options. I want their opponents to think ‘he’s going to pull guard’, and then get taken down.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

“Black Friday” Seminar

On Friday November 26, 2010, ECU will be hosting a three-hour seminar in North White Plains. The featured instructor will be none other than Rob G. himself, but JoJo is hinting that there will be several “special guests”.

I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Interview with Jojo and Rob G. PT II – Teaching Philosophies

After JoJo and Rob G. brought me up to speed about their history together, they wanted to spend some time talking about their teaching philosophies. Of course, I had to listen.

As one would expect, JoJo and Rob G. overlap on two of the most important traits a teacher can have:

  • Attention to detail; and
  • A willingness to adjust the instruction to each individual class.

JoJo and Rob G. make sure they have carefully and studied each technique they teach before they present it to a class. I’ve often watched JoJo rehearse a technique with his planned “Uki” before he presents it to the class. I’ve also witnessed classes where JoJo would, “shift-gears” in situations where classes were either more or less experienced than he had anticipated. Rob G. considers this one of the hallmarks of good instruction.

Finally, I’m going to Bullet-Point JoJo and Rob G’s principles of teaching, and end with a great quote from Rob G.

JoJo Guarin

  • Put every position under a magnifying glass;
  • Dedicate one month to every position;
  • Study other player’s techniques; and
  • Find the best way to teach every class.

Robert Gutierrez

  • Fitness! (I left this bold on purpose.)
  • Drills and Cardio related to the techniques he’s teaching;
  • Creating a path of techniques;
  • Feeling out the class before I teach; and
  • Never having a set format. Deciding the format based on attendance.

And now, as promised, the single best quote about successfully teaching BJJ. After the interview, Rob G. had one more thing he wanted to add:

“I feel that the reason I’m successful in teaching Jiu-Jitsu is that I believe 100% in what I teach. I believe 100% in the techniques I teach. I believe 100% in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I believe 100% that what I teach is effective. And I believe 100% that what I do helps my students.”

I still have plenty of excellent material from the interview that I hope to share with you soon – including the principles of ECU itself.

Thanks again for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA Blog. As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Friday, November 5, 2010

10/30/2010 ACOM-Sports Medal Totals!

ECU rocked the 2010 ACOM-Sports 2010 Grappling Grand Prix. Every participant in the Pro division reached at least the Second Round. Omar Delgado defeated an opponent who out-weighed him by well over 100lbs.

In the amateur divisions, ECU made a great showing. There were so many medalists that it took me a while. Here they are…

Joe Oppedisano JR – First Place Men’s Purple Belt

Wojciech Husak – First Place Men’s Purple Belt

Henry Strada – First Place Men’s Masters Gi

Terence Cheng – First Place No-Gi

Anderson Perez – First Place Men’s White Belt

Jose Duenas – First Place Men’s White Belt

Matt Kachmar – Second Place Men’s No-Gi

Rick Carde – Second Place Men’s Masters Gi

Daniel Acosta – Second Place Men’s Purple Belt

Terrence Cheng - Second Place No-Gi

Great Job everybody!

I've got some excellent stuff in mind for the next few posts. My only problem is deciding what to cover first. It's a good dilemma to have!

Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What’s in store for November?

October was half-guard month.

Since the time he founded ECU, JoJo has made it a point to pick a theme or technique for each month. JoJo believes that truly understanding a position or technique takes a significant amount of time. He decided to dedicate October to the half-guard.

The half-guard is not a glamour position, but sooner or later, everyone ends up there. Whether escaping the Mount, or missing a pass, everyone gets caught in half-guard.

In the basic classes students learned the cardinal rule of half-guard – DON’T LET YOUR OPPONENT FLATTEN YOU OUT! as well as basic sweeps and passes.

The advanced classes learned the nuances of the deep-half-guard, and advanced sweeps – DON’T LET YOUR OPPONENT FLATTEN YOU OUT! STILL APPLIES.

October has let me improve my half-guard tremendously, and now I look forward to what JoJo has planned for November.

Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome.

PS: I still owe everybody two blogs soon. First, I need to release the official medal count from the October 30, 2010 Acom-Sports tournament - it was too big for me to remember off the top of my head. I’ve also been asked repeatedly about my tease about Rob G.’s philosophy of teaching. The teaching post will follow as soon as I feel can do it justice.

PPS: I plan on an interview with ECU's youngest student.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Plethora of Medals at ACOM-Sports

The ECU family earned an impressive number of medals at the October, 30 2010 ACOM-Sports tournament.

Pics and Vids to follow.

I'll post the medal totals once I hear from JoJo and Joey O.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

ECU Coming in Force!

On Saturday October 30th, ACOM-Sports is holding its 2010 “Grappling Finals”. Three of my ECU brothers are competing in the All-Star Open Weight Championship division. ECU founder JoJo Guarin, ECU Brown-belt Jordan Lutsky, and one of JoJo’s most dangerous students – Omar Delgado - are all ready to roll.

The ECU team is coming strong. From White - Belts through Black - Belts, the East Coast United team has prepared diligently for this tournament. From Novices to Masters, ECU will be bringing competitors.

Let's all hope for a fun and well-judged tournament.

BTW, this is more of an announcement than a true blog. Check back Monday for a more detailed blog.

Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are always appreciated.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Interview JoJo and Rob G PT 1

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview ECU founder JoJo Guarin, and the man he calls his mentor - Robert, “Rob G”, Gutierrez. Both JoJo and Rob G took the time to give detailed answers, to my questions, and even suggested some other avenues for me to explore. When we were done I had so much material that I’m confronted with endless possibilities, and will have to break the interview into several separate posts in order to do it justice.

I think that I should start with a little history, and finish up with a great mission statement from JoJo.

In 1994, Robert Gutierrez (“Rob G”) entered a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school in Thornwood, New York. Eight months later “Rob G” earned his Blue Belt.

Not long after the promotion, a young man walked into the academy. His name was JoJo Guarin. Rob recognized JoJo’s natural talent for BJJ, and did his best to help him progress.

Through the years, JoJo followed Rob G to academies in the Bronx, and later to an academy run by three-time Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling Championship Medalist and UFC Veteran Sean Alvarez (both Rob G. and JoJo received their Black Belts from Sean).

JoJo and Rob G. have both had long journeys in BJJ. At times, their paths have diverged, but today, they are once again working together.

When JoJo founded East Coast United, he knew what kind of school he wanted to create

“I chose the name East Coast United, because I wanted to create a school that was united with some of the best BJJ guys around. If I want to get better, I have to train with the best. I look for the best training partners I can find, and I encourage my students to do the same. When I ran into Rob G at the New York Open, we realized we could help each other.

Re-UNITED, JoJo and RobG have been training together on a weekly basis. In addition, Rob G did an excellent seminar at ECU a few months ago. Working together, they improve both their own skills and those of their students.

Thanks again to JoJo and Rob G for taking the time for an interview. In a later post, I’ll let you know about the best quote I’ve ever heard about teaching BJJ –courtesy of Rob G.

Thanks for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA blog. As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tournament Preparation

A couple of weeks ago, one of my fellow ECU students asked Jonathan “JT” Torres, what he focuses on in the weeks leading up to a competition. JT quickly replied:

“I like to work on my favorite techniques when I’m getting ready for a tournament.”

I don’t compete that often, but when I have, I often spend the weeks leading up to a tournament trying to fill the holes in my game. I’ve noticed that I’m far from unusual in that regard.

Of course, JT has far fewer holes than I do, but I quickly recognized the logic in JT’s statement. The week before a tournament is not the time to add new techniques, or attempt to fix weaker techniques. It’s a time to focus on strengths.

Adding new techniques takes time, repetition, and testing before it truly becomes integrated. The time to test out a new technique is not during the stress of competition, but back home training with your teammates.

When I discussed this topic with ECU founder JoJo Guarin, he pointed out an extra benefit of focusing on favorite techniques – confidence! Favorite techniques are usually favorites because we’ve had success with them. We’ve probably used them hundreds of times in class, and know that they work, while we may be unsure of a relatively new technique we learned only a couple of days ago.

Finally, I would like to join all of my ECU family in congratulating ECU kickboxing instructor Daniel “K-9” Cion for his victory in his professional MMA debut.

I hope you enjoyed the second edition of the ECU BJJ and MMA blog. As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What a Year!

Hello and welcome to the East Coast United BJJ and MMA Blog. I figure that I should start off with a couple of introductions.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Black Belt JoJo Guarin founded East Coast United (ECU) in October of 2009.

October 1, 2009

ECU’s first year has been a time of growth. From new students to belt promotions to competition success to a second location to great seminars by Tito Hartz, Justin “Chim-Chim” Garcia, and Rob Gutierrez, the ECU family has had an excellent first year.

October 12, 2010

October 12, 2010

In addition to outstanding BJJ, JoJo has also established Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), kickboxing, Judo, and Yoga programs.
The children’s program has expanded greatly and now includes both grappling and kickboxing.

Since I’ll be handling the primary writing duties for the ECU BJJ and MMA Blog, I guess I should also introduce myself. I’m Henry Strada. I’ve had the great fortune of training under JoJo Guarin for nearly five years. I currently hold the rank of Purple Belt, and try to train five or six days a week.

As I said, this is merely an introduction. Going forward I’ll be covering a variety of topics, including ECU news, competition results, mini-interviews with ECU students and coaches, training tips from ECU instructors, and sometimes, I’ll just have a random thought or two that I think is worth sharing. I also plan on plenty of pictures.

As we go along, I hope that everyone will enjoy the ECU BJJ and MMA Blog. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please let me know.