I started BJJ in September of 2007. Three weeks later I competed in my first tournament. I was a senior in high school working part time in the evenings at UPS loading trucks for less than $100 a week. Tournaments back in 2007 were $120 so I told myself “there is no way I’m losing.” At the time, I was so oblivious of the skill to experience ratio in BJJ that I asked to sign up for the black belt division. My coach smiled and said, “Sign up for the white belt division and if you win that, you can sign up for the blackbelt division next time.” I lost my very first match. It was a close match, but I still lost after a two hour car ride, one match, and $120 less to my name. Little did I know, I was about to become frequently familiar with losing.
I’d go on to compete again a few months later, winning for the majority of the match, only to have it slip through my fingers and not get my hand raised. It wouldn’t be until August of 2008 that I got my first win in a match only to get submitted in the next. November of 2008, 14 months after starting BJJ, I won my first gold medal after five matches in a NAGA tournament. I had competed in 10 tournaments up to that point, never making it to the podium.
I’ve learned some very valuable lessons from losing. Perhaps the most important lesson is not giving in to adversity, but overcoming it. You learn from loss. In losing, you can analyze and pinpoint where you did things right and wrong, and make the necessary adjustments to fix those mistakes and improve your game. Often times, our harshest critic is ourselves. I learned to not put so much pressure on myself to win, but to focus my intent on having a good performance while trying to minimize my mistakes.
This past weekend was Grappling Industries in Saratoga Springs, NY. We had a lot of students compete and some won while others lost. I’m incredibly proud of everyone, win or lose, for having the courage to step onto those mats. I wanted to share my own personal experience with losing because often times people see the high points of my career without recognizing the low. There’s a saying, “The master has failed more times than the beginner has tried.” Now, I’m no Master, but I’ve certainly failed a lot. 😉
– Coach Mike
Laina Giselle, 39, is a purple belt who has been with EGA for about a year and has trained jiujitsu on and off for nearly 5 1/2 years. Laina started training at Absolute MMA St Kilda under Lachlan Giles in Melbourne, Australia, after a colleague suggested she gain some self-defense skills. Laina had been working in crisis mental health services for a number of years, and at that time she was doing a lot of community work in a rougher neighborhood of Melbourne. When a colleague who trained asked Laina if she had any defense skills, she quipped, “My wit is my weapon.” However, after showing her the value of a good grip break, he convinced her to try out BJJ… What started as a casual drop-in to learn some self-defense, has become a total passion for her. To Laina, it’s one of the best highs and the ultimate mindfulness practice: “For me, it hits everything. It’s flexibility, mobility, strength and cardio. It can be strategic and methodical, while also being creative and improvisational. It’s intense, competitive human contact that can also flow like a dance. It’s individual growth in a social team context. It’s lighting up every part of our brain, that’s the euphoria.” The move back to the USA last year was quite difficult for Laina, as it was due to her mom’s diagnosis with leukemia and eventual passing. Joining EGA and training consistently with the Morning Maniacs has been a huge source of support and sanity for her. She cannot overstate what the EGA community has meant to her this past year; and along with all the warm fuzzies, she feels her technical growth has been propelled by all the amazing coaches and training partners she’s so grateful to be working with.
Kai Mason (Laina’s eldest!) is a 10 year old White w/ Black Striped belt. He trained a little bit back in Australia before COVID, and since moving back to the USA has been with EGA for about a year. Coach Matt says, “Always asking questions, paying close attention during instruction, and drilling methodically, Kai has shown great improvement in his skills since he began training at EGA! Kai also leads by example with his good manners, mat etiquette, and respect for his teammates and coaches.” Kai loves basketball, football, soccer and skateboarding. You can also see him on stage in his various performing arts and musical endeavors. For Kai, the best things about coming to classes at EGA are seeing friends, learning new things and “just having some good ‘ol fun”. Kai’s favorite position is closed guard, and his favorite sequence is going from the flower sweep into mount, and then arm bar. The triangle used to be really hard for him, and while he’s still working on it, he definitely can do it more efficiently than before. Kai says, “Work, work, work! That’s the secret.”
“My name is Chenhan Mike Tsai. I go my Mike. I’ve been doing martial arts on and off since I was 12 years old, probably inspired by Power Rangers. I’ve moved quite a bit and every time I moved, I found a martial arts school at which to practice. Throughout the years I’ve picked up various styles of martial arts such as Aikido, Taekwondo, and Kungfu, while training Kyokushin Karate the longest. I found EGA when I moved to the area for my family medicine residency. The classes have been a great stress reliever. I always enjoy a good sweat out session and learn some new skills. It also helps me to maintain stamina for working long hour shifts. I found EGA always welcoming and glad to be part of EGA community.”
Anthony Morello, who just turned 15, is a 4 Stripe White belt. Having played baseball his entire life, Anthony has found a love for MMA and began training nine months ago. Whether working on striking or BJJ, Anthony is at EGA every chance he gets, even helping in the kids classes! Coach Adam says, “As a coach I am very grateful for Anthony. His passion for learning and jiu jitsu is infectious. He is in the gym six days a week and on most days he does multiple classes. He is one of the most consistent and dedicated students. Congratulations Anthony, and thank you for being such a joy to have on the mats!” Recently, Anthony competed at Grappling Industries and brought home both Gold and Silver medals! We asked Ant what he loves about EGA and he says, “I love the community. Everyone is so real. Since starting I have gained a lot of coordination and confidence.” We’re proud of you, Ant! Keep up the hard work!
Don’t Miss It!
We’re heading to Spins, Wappingers Falls! All EGA kids and teens are invited to join us in an afternoon of bowling on Saturday, June 17th, at 2pm. $10 will cover two games + shoes. We do have to limit our crew for this event, so please make sure you can attend and RSVP as soon as possible at [email protected]. You may pay cash to Nickie at the door, or we can charge your account (+tax). If parents and siblings are interested in bowling as well, a waitlist will be started until we get an idea of how many students will be participating.
Have you been training for a bit and feeling ready to test your skill outside the gym? Maybe competing is something you’ve yet to consider or it maybe even terrifies you a bit! Pushing yourself into new situations is typically uncomfortable, but the benefits in this case, win or lose, are incredible for your growth in jiu jitsu. At EGA we don’t require you to compete. We do hope that you are looking for ways to keep growing and continue pushing yourself. Talk to your coaches, set some goals, and get to work! We promise to walk beside and support you through this journey.
Here are a few upcoming tourneys early this summer that are all still open for registration. If you have questions about how to register (*PARENTS, please consult your kids’ coaches regarding for which belt level to register!), reach out to your coaches or seasoned teammate.
For registration info regarding June 10th Grappling Industries in Brooklyn, GO HERE.
For registration info regarding Tap Cancer Out, New Haven, on June 24th, GO HERE.
For more info regarding registration for NAGA Championship in Albany on July 8th, GO HERE.
Thanks for picking up forgotten water bottles! This is your last chance to grab what’s left before they are cleared out for good. Take a look the next time you’re around!
As we head into the hot summer months, take a few and revisit this awesome blog post, For the Love of Salt, by Lou Torres. We learn about the importance of and many benefits that salt plays in an athlete’s life.