Check out this awesome teaser video of the upcoming video series that is being made. The video series is going to give you an inside look at some of the BJJ training and the people here at Derby City.
A really common question I get, probably the most common, is where I got my nickname. Most people who meet me ask if it was because I was really strong, or maybe I was exceptionally hairy or maybe it was some sort of Star Wars reference. To all these I have to say “No.”
Before there was this guy
There was this guy
That’s right. I used to be a super chubby kid with a definite lacking in athletic ability. Then I started wrestling. I truly believe that wrestling was one of the things that changed my life for the better. Wrestling gave me the inner confidence to allow me to be, well, me. Wrestling also allowed me to see the consequences when hard work and gritty determination are used to achieve a goal. My wrestling coach used to say, “you’re the masters of your own destiny,” when talking about working hard and going after what you want. That motto from wrestling really stuck with me. I guess most impactful though, is that wrestling led me to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
The reason I bring up wrestling is because I had a great nickname from wrestling, which considering this blog is about my nickname, seemed like a fun thing to throw in to the mix. My wrestling nickname was, wait for it, Tugboat. Yeah, Tugboat. After my first wrestling match when I was still a hefty teenager I wheezed so badly that it made an almost horn like sound. My coach got a kick out of it and it stuck. Just like Chewy, Tugboat became my alternate name for that particular sport rather than just an occasional nickname. When they would call my name over the speaker system at tournaments it was always “Tugboat Albin.” I’m not sure what is wrong with my given name of Nicholas or even the shorter version of Nick.
On to Chewy
So, then there is this guy named Mike Colley
When I first started BJJ during my senior year of high school he was a green belt (a solid white belt). One day we were rolling and I did something. I can’t really remember what it was but it was something a spazzy white belt would do. Just to give you an idea of what I was like at that time. I would come into the gym hopped on pre workout like supplements and I would roll accordingly. Armed with a wrestling base, an overly competitive streak and too much caffeine, I was the textbook definition of a spazzy white belt. Right after I did whatever it was that I did. Mike said in a fit of justified irritation, something to the effect of “you big dumb wookie.” He would then periodically refer to me as Chewbacca which replaced “dumb ass.” But I feel like that’s how you know you’re IN with a group of close knit guys, when they start messing with you. At this time Mike was like the verbally abusive big brother I never needed. Eventually the nickname just sort of stuck and has since become my Jiu-jitsu namesake. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m not entirely sure many people in the gym and BJJ community would even know my real name.
So there you have it. That’s where I got the nickname, from being an ultra spaz on the mat. I’ve grown to love it, although it is a little weird that I’m a 29 year old man who is called Chewy instead of his real name of Nick about 90% of the day. The other 10% being divided up in no orderly fashion amongst Chew, Chewster, Chew Chew, Mr. Chewy, Chewbert, Big Chew and Nick. I like to think of it as kind of like a super hero. They have their regular name for the public and then once they’ve donned their costume they become Superman, Batman or whatever. Only mine is just sort of reverse. Oh and I don’t have super powers . . . stupid.
So, thanks Mike, without you I would just be a black belt with an ordinary name.
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.
Chewy did an interview for the BJJ Brick podcast. You can listen to the podcast here: http://bjjbrick.com/epi-38-nick-albin-he-may-not-be-a-jedi-but-he-is-chewy/
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.