Friday, October 5, 2018

The Origins of Chiang Mai Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, by Bryan Garrison

Please note this post refers only to the history and personal journey that led to the formation of the gym Chiang Mai Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  

In August 2008, when I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I'd been studying Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for about 6 years. Originally, I trained under Claudio França (black belt under Master Francisco Mansor) and Garth Taylor (black belt under Claudio França) in Santa Cruz, California, USA.  Following getting my blue belt from Claudio, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for work where I continued to study BJJ under John "J" Janero (Rickson Gracie purple belt then/ current Saulo Ribeiro black belt).

I decided to move to Thailand and try living abroad before attaining my purple belt. A bittersweet decision as I regret not getting my purple belt, but I did truly love living in Thailand.

There were some very good options for training BJJ in Thailand when I moved here (Bangkok BJJ, EMAC, Bangkok Fight Club, Tiger Muay Thai, etc.) but those camps were all located in Bangkok and Phuket. Since I chose to live in Chiang Mai, it seemed like I had no options. After living in Chiang Mai for nearly a year I really started to miss BJJ.

A good friend of mine from Belgium and I were talking one day, and we started discussing BJJ. He had some martial arts experience but had never been exposed to the grappling or BJJ. After talking a bit, we decided to get together and train together.  For a couple months, we trained at Muang Chiang Mai Stadium on a permanent wrestling mat they had there.  Unfortunately, the mat room had open block walls and a lot of dust covered the mat daily.  We brought our own cleaning supplies (mops, buckets, etc.) and cleaned before we trained.  This routine got old and we decided to set up our own training space.

We renovated a room above his bar and laid down some custom made massage mats (the space is still there to this day).  Eventually more of our friends joined and after a couple months, we decided to make it official.  In May of 2009 we started Chiang Mai Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  It was definitely a unique situation as there was a bar below and BJJ above in the same building. It somehow took though, and the club started building momentum.

In late September 2009 Chiang Mai BJJ took a small team to Bangkok and competed in the 2009 FBT Thailand BJJ/ Grappling Open hosted by Bangkok BJJ and BJJ-Asia. It was a well-run tournament and we had a blast. A few of the guys did well in the white belt and beginners, no-gi divisions. The team even brought back a silver medal in the no-gi competition. It was a proud moment for me since the club had only been open for a few months, and we all trained hard for the competition.

As fate would have it, Niti Techottiasnee (owner of EMAC in Bangkok and now a BJJ black belt under Professor Adam Kayoom) heard mention of Chiang Mai BJJ at the tournament and realized there was some interest in BJJ in northern Thailand. A friend of his, Professor Pedro 'Bebe' Schmall (a Royler Gracie black belt) was looking to relocate from Beijing, China during this time. The three of us met briefly to discuss the potential success of BJJ in Chiang Mai. After the meeting, there was a lot of optimism about Pedro instructing BJJ in Chiang Mai.

About a month later (November 2009), Pedro moved to Chiang Mai to set up a new school.  The school was to be a collaborative effort between EMAC, Chiang Mai BJJ, and Pedro. EMAC provided the facility, Chiang Mai BJJ provided students (myself included) and it's BJJ network, and Pedro provided the BJJ expertise.  On March 11, 2010, after a few months of getting things established, MMA Chiang Mai officially opened with Professor Pedro Schmall as the head instructor.

The era of MMA Chiang Mai under Professor Pedro Schmall was short lived however.  In September 2010, Pedro returned to Brazil and MMA Chiang Mai continued as a club co-operated by myself and Krzysztof Hajtalowicz (a.k.a. Chris Haja).   Chris and I helped prepare another small team for the 2010 FBT Thailand Open (October 23 & 24).  Again, the team did well even bringing home a few medals.

In early 2011, MMA Chiang Mai merged into a collaborative effort with multiple instructors and the name was changed to GoldenTriangle International Martial Arts.  Muay Thai, western boxing, judo, and BJJ were all offered independently under the new format.  We had a number of visitors including Professor Adam Kayoom of Bangkok BJJ during the following months.  I continued to co-operate GTIMA until I accepted a position managing Bangkok BJJ in June 2011.

To be continued…

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Save the date! Professor Garth Taylor is coming to Chiang Mai. Saturday, January 21st Chiang Mai Fight Fit will be hosting a 3 hour seminar. Don't miss out on an opportunity to learn from one of the best BJJ instructors in the martial art!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Chiang Mai Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Conveniently located outside the northeast corner of Old Chiang Mai City, Chiang Mai Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (CMBJJ) offers traditional BJJ for adults and kids. As a proud affiliate of Professor Garth Taylor, quality instruction is guaranteed for all ages in a comfortable and friendly environment. No matter what your skill level, CMBJJ will help you improve with personalized focus on training.

Please visit our website for more details.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

FAQs - Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

What is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ)?
BJJ is a unique martial that emphasizes on grappling and ground fighting. In BJJ, the ultimate goal is to submit your opponent utilizing chokes and/or joint locks.

Are Brazilian Jiu-jitsu techniques effective?
Before it was showcased in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) by Royce Gracie, BJJ had a long history of success in Brazil. The UFC was based on the mixed martial arts (MMA) competition known as Vale Tudo (literally translated as “everything is allowed”) held primarily in Rio de Janiero. Royce’s father, Hélio Gracie (founder of BJJ along with his brother Carlos), began fighting in Vale Tudo in the 1930s. Hélio quickly demonstrated BJJ’s effectiveness against other fighting styles. Years later, BJJ still stands as one of the most effective fighting styles in the world.

Will Brazilian Jiu-jitsu techniques work for me?
BJJ was created to allow a smaller person to fight a larger person. It relies on leverage and angles instead of size and strength. No matter what body type you have, whether you’re a man or woman, or what age you are BJJ techniques will work for you.

Is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu difficult to learn?
Each person learns BJJ at their own pace. Some learn quickly and can apply their new skills soon after they’ve been taught with little effort. Others need to work harder. BJJ is a very individualistic sport. One thing is for sure- if you put in the time and effort, your skills will improve and you will become a better fighter.

What do you gain by learning Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
There are many benefits to learning BJJ. Learning self defense and how to fight effectively are only a part of what BJJ can offer. Physical fitness, discipline, mental wellbeing and self confidence are all qualities people gain from BJJ. In addition, the BJJ community is a unique environment that people often enjoy.

Who can take Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
Anybody can take BJJ. Since BJJ was designed for smaller, lighter people to fight larger, stronger people, the principles are universal for any weight class. Likewise, BJJ is ideal for both men and women. The age range is broad as well. We recommend that students begin training no younger than 6 years old, but the upper age range is up to the student. If you’re healthy and have a desire to learn BJJ, we invite you to start no matter what age you are.

Do I need to be young, fit, and athletic to learn Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
While being young, fit and athletic is an advantage to learning any sport, it is not a requirement. People start at varying fitness levels. You will become more fit the longer you train. How hard you train is up to you. If you feel you need to start more slowly, it’s your choice. Most people at lower fitness levels tend to be inspired to get more fit once they start BJJ. This is another benefit of learning BJJ.

Am I too old to start training?
Age doesn’t matter. If you have a desire to learn BJJ, you’re the right age. You should notify your instructor if you have previous injuries or health concerns, but your age is not a factor. A healthy desire to learn is more important than age.

Am I too small to learn Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
This is a very common question. BJJ was designed for smaller, lighter people to fight larger, stronger people. The principles apply to any weight class. No person is too small or too large to learn BJJ.

Can women learn Brazilian Jiu-jitsu too?
BJJ is an ideal art for women. The principles of BJJ are designed for smaller, lighter people to better defend themselves against people of any weight or body size. From a self defense point of view, BJJ training is about as close to a “real life” attack as you’ll get. Most people who attack women are larger, stronger and often try to get women to the ground. BJJ trains realistic defense in these situations (either by preventing being taken down or defending yourself once you’re on the ground). With grappling training, you’ll effectively be able to defend yourself enough to escape an attacker.

How much experience do you need to start training?
Quite simply, you don’t need any experience. You can start with zero grappling experience, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll learn and advance. Most people believe the best way to learn is “from the ground up”. Learning the basics without the influence of other grappling arts means you’ll have less to “un-learn”. Of course, many people are able to use previous experience to enhance their BJJ game. In reality, anybody at any level can start training BJJ.

What is a gi?
A gi (also known as a kimono) is the standard uniform for BJJ. It’s made of cotton and consists of a jacket, pants and belt. The jacket is specially constructed with a thick collar (lapel) and made with heavy, reinforced material designed to take punishment. The pants are more lightly constructed but are also very durable. The belt denotes rank and is wrapped around the waist outside the jacket.

The most common gi colors are white, blue and black. (White and blue are the only colors that are universally allowed in competitions.)

Is a gi required?
A gi is required for traditional BJJ training. With the recent popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA), people are becoming more interested in no-gi training (shorts and t-shirt). Most BJJ schools offer both gi and no-gi training. A gi is required for gi classes. Most people don’t prefer to wear a gi in no-gi classes.

What are the advantages to training with a gi?
Some people insist that wearing a gi isn’t representative of a “real fight”. After all who is going to be wearing a gi, either you or your opponent, in a street fight, right?

The gi does offer more options to the attacker (better grips, more control, more chokes/attacks, etc.) that might not be available in other situations. If you consider what wearing a gi means from a defensive point of view, however, then the opposite must be true. You have to work harder to escape better grips, not be controlled, and it’s more difficult to defend against chokes/attacks. In short, your defensive skills are dramatically improved.

Most people that train with a gi can adapt to a no-gi game with few problems. On the other hand, people that only train no-gi often have more difficulty making the transition to gi. Which is better? Try both and decide for yourself!

Do you have to be flexible?
While being flexible is an advantage, it’s not necessary to learn BJJ. We encourage people work on their flexibility because of its benefit to good health. Not being flexible, however, will not prevent you from learning BJJ effectively.

How do I know if the instructor is qualified to teach?
The BJJ community holds instructors to a high standard. Instructors are high representatives of the art. Very few people would claim to be qualified BJJ instructors that were not. However, it is a possibility.

In this day and age of technology, information can be obtained relatively easily. If you have concerns, ask your instructor what their qualifications are (politely of course). Most people will offer their history gladly. You can easily verify it online or via a few e-mails to their references.

How does the belt ranking system work?
There are usually five colors in the BJJ belt system- white, blue, purple, brown and black (in order of least to most experienced).

The amount of time to advance from one level to the other depends on the student. For adults studying regularly under an instructor’s supervision (6-8 hours a week) a schedule might look something like this:

White to Blue = 1-2 years 
Blue to Purple = 2-3 years
Purple to Brown = 2-3 years
Brown to Black = 2-3 years

This varies per student. Knowledge, experience, aptitude, training time and training/ work ethic (among many other factors) influence when a student is promoted. The art of BJJ has stringent standards for belt promotions. No student advances to the next level unless they are ready. The best way to advance levels is to train regularly and as often as possible with proper instruction.

Why is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu different from other martial arts?
There are typically two categories of martial arts: striking and grappling. Striking martial arts consist of disciplines that use kicking and punching while standing. Boxing, Muay Thai, aikido, taekwondo, karate and Kung fu are some examples that fall under this category. Grappling, on the other hand, focuses on taking the fight to the ground. American wrestling, no-gi grappling, judo, sombo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are all considered grappling disciplines.

BJJ is a unique martial art with an emphasis on grappling and ground fighting. In BJJ, the ultimate goal is to submit your opponent utilizing chokes and/or joint locks. Traditional BJJ training always includes 0.5-1.0 hour of sparring (attacking and defending at about the 90% level) with multiple partners. Sparring is invaluable in BJJ training as it allows students to practically apply techniques they’ve learned. Sparring is often considered one of the key components to the success of BJJ.

What is a general group class like?
Group classes are typically two hours and consist of three parts: warm-up (0.5 hour), technique (0.5 hour) and sparring (1.0 hour).

The warm-up focuses on stretching and light exercise to prevent injuries that are more likely to occur if the body is “cold”. Following the warm-up, the instructor then demonstrates one or more techniques that students practice in pairs. Finally, students spend the rest of the class sparring (attacking and defending at about the 90% level) with multiple partners.

How do group lessons and private lessons differ?
Group lessons are designed to teach small/large numbers of students at one time. Private lessons are focused on improving an individual student’s skills. During a private lesson, the instructor discusses what areas the student wants to work on and then addresses these points. Private lessons should be taken in addition to group lessons not instead of. They are extremely useful to advance one’s BJJ knowledge and experience.

What does “open mat” mean?
Open mat is a time for students to get in additional practice, revisit techniques they’d like to improve or simply stretch (cool down). However students choose to use open mat time is up to them. We encourage students to stay after class and take advantage of the opportunity to train more.