Thursday, February 24, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, JoJo and JT hosted a seminar at ECU Fairfield. After showing some great technique JoJo and JT did a nice Q & A session. At one point during the session, JT pointed out a mistake that everyone in the room had made…


JT mentioned that he always brings a notebook to seminars, and writes down the techniques taught.

If a world-class, Black Belt competitor like JT takes the time to write down techniques, maybe the rest of us should do the same?

If you'd like some help building your own “notebook”, check out

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Something a Little Different…

ECU White Belt Josh Kaplan is one of ECU’s true success stories. Much like me, Josh is a former Lacrosse Goalie (I’ll admit he played at a better program than I did.) Also like me, he’s lost a tremendous amount of weight through his BJJ training. In fact, if I look at some older group shots it takes me a while to realize that it’s actually Josh in the picture.

This past Saturday, Josh competed for the first time. While I’m sure Josh would have liked better results, every member of the ECU family who watched Josh’s matches saw how hard he fought and how far he’s come on his BJJ Journey.

I had mentioned to Josh that I’d like to use his thoughts on his first competition for a blog edition. Not only did Josh write down his thoughts, he turned them into a POEM!

So here it is, Josh’s thoughts on his first competition - in poetry form:

Thoughts from a White Belt


It seems as if it’s the time of year.

Workouts intensify, attendance is up, shirts are printed, cameras, chatter, and then you get . . . the itch.

Never,... I couldn’t. What’s the point? I’m past prime, I have no knowledge base, I’ll be embarrassed, the fear of defeat; worse injury.

But there’s a magnetic draw, it’s almost planetary.

The week of nerves, the fear, the anticipation, hot sweats, cold hands.

The pre-planning, imagery, mental scripting, hope, nerves.

Relaxed conversations, predictions, key phrases.

What if I do it all wrong, what if I panic, what if I let a school of hard workers down.

I did panic, I did it all wrong, I lost, twice.

But not nearly as discouraged as I thought, in fact I immediately wanted to repeat each match again. But that, ... is competition; it, and you will never be the same.

BJJ is an art, it’s a tool, it’s a test, it’s about the mind, it’s a feeling.

Itch,... Scratched.

Josh Kaplan

Nice work Josh!

I also know that while you think you’ve scratched the itch, you’ll want to scratch it again at some point. Good Luck!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoyed Josh’s poem as much as I did.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Congrats to Joey and Alex!

At the seminar this past Saturday, I witnessed ECU Fairfield founders Joseph Oppedisano Jr. and Alex Necheav receiving their well deserved promotion to Brown Belt.

Joey also had the privilege of promoting his niece to Yello Belt.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate ECU’s newest Purple Belt Andrew Lobsenz. I’ve known Andy a long time, and he’s definitely earned the promotion.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Goal is Black Belt!

On Saturday February 12, 2011, ECU Fairfield added to the excellent ECU tradition of great seminars by hosting ECU founder JoJO Guarin, and ECU Competition Team Instructor – and World-Class Competitor Jonathan “JT” Torres.

While my participation was mostly limited to photography, I learned a lot. JoJo and JT demonstrated a lot of cutting-edge techniques. Some of them deviated so far from “accepted BJJ” that I almost wanted to question them. Fortunately, I decided to keep my mouth shut. JT and JoJo made it clear why they like these new techniques.

While I can think of many topics that I hope to cover from this seminar, I want this post to focus on one that JoJo stated:

“Everyone in this room’s goal is Black Belt!”

I’ve been in the BJJ game for less than five years. I’m not a prodigy, nor am I an expert, but I’ve seen students with huge potential falter because they became so obsessed on achieving the rank of Blue Belt that once they achieved that rank, their dedication faltered.

We should focus on the ultimate goal, Black Belt!

It may take us years, and we may arrive there by different paths, but let’s all enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

JoJo Guarin

As part of the process of re-designing, JoJo asked me to write a more detailed biography for him. Pleased with the results, JoJo and I agreed, that this would also make a nice blog entry. Enjoy!

A Yonkers, New York native, JoJo Guarin began his Martial Arts career in his late teens by studying Kenpo Karate. Later, a friend told him about a “new” martial art – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). At the Thornwood, NY academy JoJo met the man he considers his mentor – future ECU Queens founder Robert “Rob G” Gutierrez. From the time he first walked into school, JoJo has believed that BJJ is his “calling”.

Seeking to challenge himself, JoJo traveled to California to train and compete. He was eventually promoted to Blue Belt by the legendary Royce Gracie.

Later, JoJo traveled to Texas where he trained with the Pedro Alberto association under Eric Williams.

Returning to New York, JoJo began training with the Relson Gracie Association in Bronx, NY.

In 2002, JoJo followed “Rob G” and began training under multiple-time Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling medalist Sean Alvarez. JoJo would eventually be promoted to Purple Belt, Brown Belt, and Black Belt by Sean.

As JoJo progressed, he began assuming more and more responsibilities as an instructor. Eventually, he became the primary instructor at the academy he trained at. At the same time, he made an impressive showing in competitions. Some of the highlights include:

  • 2006 Pan American Champion;
  • Multiple-time NAGA Champion;
  • Multiple-time Grappler’s Quest Champion;
  • Ring of Combat (MMA) Veteran; and
  • Reality Fighting III (MMA) Champion.

Despite these impressive accomplishments, JoJo decided that in order to continue growing as both a teacher and competitor, he needed to train regularly with other highly accomplished BJJ players, such as Jared Weiner and Jonathan “JT” Torres. These experiences gave JoJo the inspiration to open his own academy.

When JoJo decided to open East Coast United (ECU), he not only named his school, but included a mission statement in that name:

“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.”

As always, thank you for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA blog. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

de la Riva Guard (Jared Weiner Seminar Part II)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the outstanding seminar BJJ United founder Jared Weiner gave at ECU. There was so much information that I knew I couldn’t do it justice without breaking into several parts.

The first half of the seminar focused on passing the guard, and attacking once we’ve passed. With its emphasis on “mean, nasty, and slow”, it was right up my alley.

The second half focused on advanced guard play. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate fully due to my knees. Wanting to make sure I did justice to the second half of the seminar, I decided to bring in a co-writer – ECU Purple Belt and Fundamentals Instructor Eric Guido. What follows what I’ll call Part A of Eric’s account of the second half of the seminar with only VERY minimal edit:

Thanks to a very eye-opening seminar conducted by Jared Weiner of BJJ United, my eyes have been opened to a number of new options for the de la Riva Guard that I have not looked for in the past. The concept of attacking and submitting my opponent from my closed guard is nothing new to me; however the idea of using a more advanced opened guard such as de la Riva to attack was not an option I had considered until Jared's seminar. Let’s take a look at some of the concepts and attacks:

Jared stated that he preferred to use de la Riva when an opponent is attacking from the ground position, having one knee up and one down, using his leg as a shield in an attempt to pass your guard. Getting a deep guard is vital to success when attacking from this position, having one leg wrapped around the outside of your opponents front leg and intertwined deep into his groin area while the crosses over the front leg and goes deep behind the leg.

The first attack from this position is relatively easy but a real "screamer". From this position your opponent may grab your gi lapel in an attempt to pass. You want to break the grip but still control the sleeve. Replace his hand back onto your gi, high up on the shoulder and cup the elbow for an inverted arm bar. Quick, simple and PAINFUL!

The next three attacks will depend on you getting a two-on-one grip and really stretching your opponent out from that de la Riva position. Essentially, you want to rock your opponent’s base and get him to base out using his far arm leaving you with an armbar, triangle or kimura option. As your opponent bases out and tries to stand back up, he will have one arm on the floor and one arm still being controlled by you and this will be your opportunity to open up your guard and secure a triangle position. If he postures up, transition to an armbar.

Another option would be the kimura attack. As your opponent bases out, abandon your grips on the sleeve and immediately transition to a kimura on your opponent’s far arm. He may roll to either side but keep hold of the kimura and complete the submission when your position is stabilized.

Next time will be various attacks from the foot on hip position, still having a two-on-one grip on the sleeve and transitioning to different guards from there.

Thanks Eric!

As always, thank you for reading the ECU BJJ and MMA blog. It looks like Eric and I will be collaborating on a Part III/B, and maybe an "illustrated" version of this post as well..

Finally, thanks to JoJo for arranging the seminar; Jared for giving a great seminar; and of course Eric for helping me write about it.