Visitor Testimonial

Over the years we’ve had many people stop in to train while they’re visiting Louisville or passing through for work. Without fail these visitors always tell me of the high level of training and the overall welcoming atmosphere of the gym. Being the head coach, this is a huge compliment for me. I’ve been training for years and have been involved or seen several BJJ programs in action. Many of them had things I liked and other things I didn’t like. When I become the head instructor back in 2009 my goal was to make a gym that provided hard nosed training in an open and positive environment. The kind of place where the training is tough and you go after it, but where you take care of your teammates and help them improve as well.  So, when a visitor who has no vested interest in me or my gym comes and trains and leaves with a great experience, well, that lets me know I am on the right track with my coaching. Here is the most recent message I received from a GI who was visiting Fort Knox on Army related work.


“Coach, Nick, “chewy” I just wanted to thank you for the time I had at Derby City MMA. You and all of your students were very welcoming and provided top notch instruction. I had to come back home earlier than I expected but I just wanted to thank you for everything.

Josh Casto”


Counter to side control defense

In this video Chewy shows a counter to a person’s side control defense from the bottom.


BJJ Interview with Chewy

Chewy did an interview for the BJJ Brick podcast. You can listen to the podcast here:

Most common worry about starting BJJ



One common , if not the most common, worry I get from people who are trying out their first class or who are thinking about trying their first class, is that they don’t want to “get in the way.” These people are fully aware of how green they are and don’t want to impede someone else’s progress. Maybe this is you? Maybe you want to start attending a BJJ class but you feel too intimidated. You want to train but you’re worried that you’re just too new and that you’ll slow down the class or bother people. I’ll tell you what I tell people that come into the gym with these same worries.

1st match

We were all new at some point

First off, don’t worry so much. We were all new at some point. We all sucked, it’s just how it is. No one starts off as an expert. If they did, I wouldn’t have a job. Some people have a natural disposition towards BJJ and athletics while others don’t, this is true, but EVERYONE was awkward and untrained at some point. You can use me as an example. I had wrestled in high school and had some grappling experience but I was still terrible when I first started Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Watching me perform a hip escape/ shrimp was pretty comical. If during my initial training, a higher belt had not taken the time to help me I would not be where I am today. So when I see newcomers I don’t cringe in irritation. Instead I get excited because it’s a chance to pay it forward to someone else. It’s my chance to help someone out just like others helped me in the beginning. This is also the way I encourage my trained students to view this opportunity. Just as someone at some point took a little time to help them out along the way; this is their chance to help someone out.



Pairing up with beginners can be a good thing for training

Let me also explain an added benefit that a skilled practitioner gains from helping out a newbie. This will help combat the feeling of you destroying their training for the day because you need a little extra assistance. This benefit I believe is that it helps them dissect and better understand the techniques. Being able to mimic someone else’s movements is far easier than being able to explain what you’re doing, break it down and make it consumable for others. Ask any blue or purple belt who’s been asked to teach a couple techniques for a beginner class. So maybe you as the newcomer view your lack of experience as an impediment to a higher ranking student’s progress. In reality though, it’s a chance for them to understand the techniques they are using even better, improving their understanding of BJJ.



Message to the higher belts

If you are reading this post and you are a higher belt who shies away from helping the new guys, maybe you should reconsider. Yes I know that sometimes you’re in the gym to drill hard and kill it. Perhaps a competition is right around the corner and you need those rough rolls to get ready. I understand that completely. But don’t forget that at some point you were a new person who felt awkward and out of place and were assisted by someone who was better than you. Someone took a moment from their training to give you advice or helpful critiques. They’re part of the reason why you’ve come to reach the point that you find yourself at now. Help the new guys on their journey.



Message to the new guys

If you’re reading this and you are someone who is either very new to BJJ or maybe you have not attended a class and you’re worried about dragging everyone else down. Please erase these worries from your thinking as they are irrational and unnecessary. I know it can be uncomfortable starting something new but remember no one starts off as a black belt. You might even be a little more awkward or less athletic than the average joe, but believe me, some of my best students now were the absolute WORST when they first began their training. But they kept training and have since amazed me. The important thing to remember is that getting better at BJJ is not a secret, nor is it determined by how good you are in the beginning. Simply put, it’s hard work over a long duration of time. No matter where you start you can get better. So, just come in the gym and train. I promise you’ll be just fine and you’ll more than likely be pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and willing many of the advanced students are to helping beginners.


As always, thanks for reading!


1 lesson for BJJ from a belt promotion (Don’t chase rank)


Last night was a pretty special night for me. I had the privilege of promoting a purple belt to brown belt. This is a huge deal in itself, but it was made especially rewarding because he was my first purple belt. I promoted him to purple in January of 2012 and over the last 2 years I’ve watched him grow so much as a BJJ practitioner. He really came into his own during competitions as a purple belt, winning and medaling in several big IBJJF tournaments. He is also a pretty bright guy (he has a PHD), and his abilities as a BJJ teacher have come a long way. I watched him teach a class recently and I was very impressed with his ability to break things down and string together techniques. In my eyes and those of the gym it was a much needed promotion.


Maybe I am a little bit too emotional about these things or maybe I’m just good friends with my students. But I get so excited and happy every time I promote a student, especially when it is a promotion to a higher colored belt. I’m happy to see that they worked through the rough spots and hit the next level and I get excited to see how they will progress in the future. It’s an amazing feeling to watch my students get better and to know that I had a hand in fueling that progression. There is a slight sadness mixed in there though, albeit very slight, because when I promote someone I am moving them one step closer to black belt. It’s almost like a parent whose children are growing older. You’re happy to see the child grow into their own but still feel a slight bit of “meh” because you’re ending a particular period of their life and moving to another. Before the promotion last night I flipped through pictures of Rich and I from the last two years. Photos of when I awarded him his purple, him and I sporting medals at the Chicago Open, and some random photos of us training. It was just a neat and slightly emotional feeling to see how far he’s come in the last two years and how much we’ve both grown together.




One reason I think Rich has done so well as a BJJ practitioner and one piece of advice I would love share with anyone in BJJ is to make the most of each belt. Don’t chase rank. I see advertisements enticing people with tricks or secrets to getting their belt in 3.5 years, 4 years or 5 years. But in my eyes, what’s the rush? Instead of rushing through it, make the most of each belt. Train hard, get out and compete, be the best you can be and most importantly be sure to enjoy the moments you have on the mats with your brothers and sisters.


I was one of those people who were hell-bent on getting a higher belt. As a blue belt I used to wear a purple sweatband on my ankle as a reminder to work hard during training so I could achieve the purple belt. I ended up being awarded my purple belt in a rather quick 2 years. I quickly realized that this was kind of a mistake and that it would have been better for me to have a little “time in the sun” as a blue belt and just rack up experience and skill. During my purple and brown belts I lost the desire for stripes, belts and rank. I think this is what helped me get so much better during my purple-black belt phase. I lost my care about who I beat, how many pieces of tape I had or what color dye was used on my belt. I learned to just love training and enjoy my time on the mats and let things fall into place as they may. When I revisit memories in my mind, what stands out isn’t my belt level, it’s the people, the hard fought competition matches, the fun in the gym with my training partners, being covered in sweat and bullshitting after training, trips together, etc. The experiences are what I think is most important.


Do yourself a favor. If you find yourself being a little too focused on stripes and achieving rank. Just stop. Don’t rush it; just let it come when it comes. Instead of focusing on rank, focus on the training and the time spent with the people at your gym. Be a sponge, train hard, ask questions, get out and compete if you want, and be a regular fixture in your gym BUT don’t get so fixated on chasing rank that you’re not able to sit back and enjoy your time along the way.

Remember once you achieve the next belt, that chapter of your BJJ is closed. It’s done! So, think about how you will look back on it as a black belt someday. Did you do everything you could, did you make the most of the time in the gym at the belt? How would you like to look back on that chapter of your journey later?


Wrestling Front Headlock for BJJ

A solid fundamental wrestling technique that carries over to BJJ very well. The Front Headlock can be used for its main purpose which is to stop the takedown but there are also lots of attacks that can be chained together with this technique. The Front Headlock is also pretty easy to pick up and add to your game even if you aren’t a wrestler traditionally.


Wrestling Lazy Arm for BJJ

Wrestling Lazy Arm for BJJ

Kids Brazilian Jiu-jitsu with parents!


This past Wednesday during my kids Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class, we had a   special “Parent + Kids Night.” Essentially, I invited the parents to jump into class and train alongside their kids. We went over the basic movements like the hip escape and bridge followed by several BJJ games they can play with their kids at home. We also had a game of dodge ball at the end with the parents vs the kids, which was fun to watch.IMG_9602

I’ve had this idea for a while and I wanted to do this kind of class because I wanted the parents to get a taste of what the kids do on a weekly basis. I wanted to give them an idea of just how impressive their children really are by letting them feel Jiu-jitsu rather than just watching! If you’re a BJJ practitioner yourself, you know how important the feeling part of it can be. Trying to perform the seemingly simplest movements can be both exhausting and hard. Having the parents feel this is important because their children aren’t coming into class making a loud “kiai,” punching air and then leaving. Their kiddos are training hard and learning an effective, but tough, martial art. In essence I wanted to help foster a basic respect for BJJ.


This was also a chance for the kids to bond with their parents. I really enjoyed watching the kids practice their movements and techniques with their parents and families. I was also a bit impressed by several of the parents when they would make a proper correction to their kids’ technique. They had more knowledge than what I expected and apparently pay more attention during class than I thought!

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a tough martial art. No doubt about it. It involves grabbing, throwing, squeezing, sweating and just a lot of hard work. But I am happy to have such a great group of kids who are ready to do that hard work and fantastic parents who continue to support and encourage their children.


Great quote for competitors

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt


I love this quote for so many reasons. I know it’s used a lot, but that’s for good reason. In essence this quote, to me, encourages you to be a doer and to disregard the negativity of others. This is especially important in competition. For instance in BJJ I know plenty of Black Belts that don’t compete anymore. They give their reasons but often times the real reason is that they’re too worried about things like their image, what people will think if they lose, what people might say, etc. I think this quote is perfect for combating those sorts of thoughts. If you take to heart the words listed above, whether it’s MMA, Boxing, BJJ, CrossFit or any type of competition, you will go into the competition knowing that there will always be people on the sidelines ready to give their critiques or to pass judgment. But it doesn’t matter, because you’re out there. You are putting it on the line. Part of the thrill of competition is just being in the thick of everything. I know I’ve personally had numerous situations where people were salivating over the thought of me losing. Ready to berate me for my shortcomings. But if I chose to avoid competition because I was worried about losing and damaging my image . . . well I’d probably never compete. I’ve competed a lot over the years. I’ve won more than I’ve lost, but I’ve lost plenty. In the end though the losses don’t stand out as negative experiences. They became learning experiences. I don’t remember a single negative criticisms that’s been directed towards me. Lastly, even in a loss my friends and students (the people who really matter) respect me for stepping up to the field of competition.

So if you are planning on competing in your chosen sport. Pay no attention to the keyboard warriors on Facebook ready to cut you down should you fall short. Give no energy towards the insecure individuals who look to pick apart small errors of your victories. Their focus on you and your endeavors are just a sign that their mind is in the wrong place. You continue being the doer and let them enjoy their view from the sidelines.

Drilling your weaknesses in BJJ




Drilling your weaknesses in BJJ


(my typical poop face after winning)




“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” – Michael Jordan
“You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.” – Knute Rockne




Drill your weak points and drill both sides- We all know how to drill to some degree. Drilling is a fundamental necessity to training, and it’s where we develop the movement and muscle memory required to execute a technique while rolling. Everyone that trains BJJ, drills in some manner from day one. But I ask you these questions?

 1st, Do you focus much of your attention on your weaknesses, or do you allow yourself to stick with the techniques and positions you’re comfortable with? 

Here is the 2nd question. Do you drill your techniques on both sides?

Often, the answer to both questions is no. I know I didn’t for a long time.




Before I share two personal experiences of my own, I am going to nerd out on you for a second so I apologize. I’m a huge history geek and I always draw mental parallels from what I see in history books to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I know that sounds weird so let me explain one idea in particular. When I watch two BJJ players engage in a match it’s like watching two armies engage in pitched battle. That’s the kind of encounter where the opposing armies’ line up on two sides of an agreed upon location and the conflict takes on the appearance of a sort of human chess game. Each army has a line made up of a variety of troops which are trained and directed to perform differing tasks. This is similar to a chessboard with its pieces, which have varying movement abilities that accomplish different objectives on the board. For instance, during Napoleon’s time, his artillery would be used to blast an opening in a weak point of the enemy’s line and then cavalry would be rushed through to exploit the opening with their speed before the opposing side could reassemble to close the gap. This could often lead to a rout where soldiers flee in fear, casualties begin to mount up and any resemblance of order on the line is lost. Effectively awarding the victory or in our chess meets history analogy, the checkmate.

Enough with the nerding out! Where am I going with this?

Failing to drill your weaknesses or neglecting your dummy side, is, in my eyes like assembling an army for battle with glaring weaknesses in the line, waiting to be exploited by the other side. You’re chess board is set and you’re missing pieces.




What if you’re like I was as a blue and young purple belt? I was a sucker for the triangle and I was not putting in the necessary hard work to fix the issue.


What if you’re a brown belt like the one in the story below and have a phenomenal side accompanied with a terrible one, and your opponent engages you on your weak side? 

Learn from the mistakes below and be sure to drill and focus on the parts of your game that are weak even if it’s not fun. Also, be sure not to neglect the side that doesn’t come naturally. . . you know. . . the dummy side.


Ignore the problem and it goes away, right?

Obviously I knew better, but for a while I was a real bonehead in relation to my BJJ. If you read the blog regularly you’ve probably read about my problematic relationship with triangle chokes during the days of my blue belt and early purple belt. I’ve always been a very “head-forward” style of passer, even during my time as a white belt. As the skills of my opponents progressed, my knack for getting caught in a triangle choke presented itself as a glaring problem in my game. In tournaments and in the gym I could pass most guards, but if you put a lanky, bendy, flexible bottom player in front of me I was probably going to get triangle choked. The real problem wasn’t so much that I was getting caught, but my lack of confronting the problem and doing the necessary drilling to eradicate the flaw. Instead, I was a bonehead as stated earlier, and like a stubborn bonehead, I ignored the issue and went on my way. Sometimes I would compete and not encounter a person with a solid triangle and I would win. Then there were other times where I would draw a tall lanky bottom player and. . . well you know. The triangle was my kryptonite.

Eventually my coach at the time, Colin, noticed the problem and he helped. . . forced me, to correct the issue. There was seriously a month where I was only allowed to drill triangle escape techniques during class. While everyone else was learning some cool new guard sweeps, my head was stuck between my buddy’s legs. Bummer. Even worse, once the rolling portion of class came around Colin made me start inside a locked triangle choke. If I escaped or if I was finished I would have to start back in the triangle. When we first started doing this I had to take frequent breaks because I would get frustrated or I running low on oxygen from being choked repeatedly.    By the end of the month my understanding of how the triangle worked and my ability to stay calm and get out of a triangle choke sky rocketed.  Subsequently, I have not been triangle choked in a competition since. I’ve been caught a few times thanks to my continuous head forward style. But it’s become more of a calculated risk rather than certain end on the mat, as I’m able to stay calm and take the necessary steps to escape.

Why didn’t I do this earlier? Well, I didn’t really know the escapes I needed at the time, but more importantly is because it wasn’t fun. That month was so helpful and changed my game and my outlook but it was incredibly uncomfortable. I had to choke down lots of pride and accept being choked out by just about everyone on the mat. I had to get out of my comfort zone. Big thanks to my coaches at the time. Colin for forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and start in the triangle and to Kyle for administering the triangle chokes.



“Oh that’s my dumb side”

Often I will watch techniques being drilled over and over again on one side then once the person moves to the other side they stumble a bit and remark, “oh that’s my dumb side”, and we aren’t talking about white belts either. I’m talking about seemingly advanced guys. . . purple, brown and even black belts in some cases. It is true that we will all inevitably have a side that is a little more developed than the other but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to have a side that is worthy of the title “dumb side.”

Brown belt to the right, white belt to the left.

A story that really illustrates the idea I am talking about comes from a few years ago. I was a brown belt at the time and another brown belt stopped in to train while he was visiting family in town. When we rolled I initially attacked with a pass to my left (his right). I remember having such a difficult time passing to that side, so I figured I’d switch it up. I transitioned and switch my attack from his right , to his left, and I passed with ease. We were doing a pass and defend drill so after the successful pass we restarted back to guard. I figured by the smoothness of the pass to the right side that I had worn him down a bit. So after we restarted I opened up my game with an attack to the left and again he stopped my pass attempts dead in their tracks, and just like last time, as soon as I switched my focus to the other side the pass came almost effortlessly.

After he and I were finished, I paired him up with one of my blue belts. I was curious to see if my passing was that good or if the guy really had a blatantly deficient side. Unfortunately for my own ego it was the latter. I watched as each one of my comparably skilled students would get halted by the guard work on his right side and then would switch and pass through the right side with less trouble.

The guy had no injuries at the time, as I asked him after class. He simply had an overly underdeveloped side of his game. So much so that one side felt like I was rolling with a brown belt and the other felt like a white belt. Granted this is not common, and most peoples b-side aren’t quite this deficient, the story gives you an idea of what can happen if we choose to completely ignore a direction in our game.


The take away ( simple but require discipline)

-Drill your techniques on both sides.

- In addition to drilling, do lots of situational rolling from the parts of your game that are the weakest. For example, escape or submit drills. Start in a bad position like bottom of mount and go until either you escape to another position or until they submit you. Restart after a successful escape or submission.  


-When you do full rolls, especially against people you’re much better than, force yourself to use the weaker areas of your game. It will give them a chance to play a bit more and you a chance to help develop your weaker areas.



Below is a video I made showing 3 of the techniques and escapes I use personally to deal with triangle chokes. Again, I apologize as I am terrible in front of a camera but I hope the techniques are of some help to you. Click the picture below to watch.





As always, thanks for reading. If you are interested in training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and live in the Louisville area, be sure to stop by and check us out. You can do a free class by calling 502-937-8797 or even shoot me an email personally at chewjitsu(@) if you have any questions.


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