Filip Novachkov, one of our amazing wrestling coaches dominating the 2014 Super Grappling Tournament in Indonesia! Filip teaches wrestling at Sunnyvale Smash on Monday Nights at 7:30pm and Wrestling Classes in San Jose Smash every day. Check the schedules at www.smashgyms.com.
Smash Kids Holiday Camp! Arts & Crafts, Games, Activities, Sports and Tutoring! San Jose and Sunnyvale Locations! Please email Debbie@smashgyms.com or call 408-744-6334 for more information!
Awesome job to all the competitors that competed in the 2014 US OPEN! Thanks to all the Smash Gyms Coaches and training partners that got them ready. What an amazing team we have! Another dominating performance!
Awesome Event Coming to San Jose on November 22nd at 4pm! This event features some of the best local talent in an amazing combination of kickboxing and mixed martial arts bouts. Get your tickets at TICKET MASTER or get a discounted rate at Smash Gyms!
Ryan’s note: Michael Jen is a 4th degree black belt who started training back in 1991. He is the Head Instructor at Smash Gyms in Sunnywale, California.
He recently taught at the BJJ Club of Michigan, and shared not only some amazing techniques, but he has a different perspective on Jiu-Jitsu. He has a wealth of experience in BJJ (and Judo), and he’ll share concepts with you that you won’t hear anywhere else. He is a teacher of teachers!
How did you get started in BJJ?
I started back in 1991 in a self-defense class in college. The BJJ was mixed in with other martial arts, but of all the arts, I was the most drawn to the BJJ.
When I began BJJ, it was for self-defense streetfighting. I had no idea that sport BJJ competitions existed and I thought BJJ was all about the old school challenge matches we saw in the Gracie Jiu-jitsu in Action videos where the Gracies fought practitioners of other styles.
I actually really disliked training in the gi and did very little of it in my early years of BJJ because I felt that sportive techniques didn’t relate to self-defense. What’s funny is that when no gi submission grappling started to grow in the US, I would hear people talk about how it was a new and different sport. I felt it was very odd to hear this since I was training no gi BJJ the first day I ever learned BJJ. Now I teach and train in the gi all the time and focus is more along the lines of the enjoyment of the art and science of BJJ rather than self defense.
How did you become such a technical practitioner and teacher?
When I first started training martial arts in my late teens, I was 5”11 and 135 lbs (now I’m 6”1 and 175 lbs). Being that I was as light as the average woman, I had to rely on technique as I sure didn’t have strength to rely on.
Plus, there was always a strong emphasis technique rather than strength with all the instructors I trained with back then. If you look at all the Brazilians who first came to the US back then, they were all pretty small guys. Any sort of supplemental training done by the Brazilian black belts at that time were all body weight exercises. None of them lifted weights or did any of the strength and conditioning that is so commonly seen nowadays. When we would see big huge Americans getting tapped out by these small Brazilians, we knew that the answer was in the technique.
As far as being technical as a teacher, I was heavily influenced by my first BJJ instructor, Roy Harris. He was an extremely technical instructor. In addition, there are two aspects of my personality that contribute to my teaching ability. The first is that if I decide to do something, I don’t like to take half measures. I want to be really good at it. So when I decided that I was going to teach BJJ for a living, I felt that I had to be the best instructor I could possibly be. I had many bad experiences where I paid instructors good money and did not not feel fully satisfied with what I got. I never wanted any student to feel like that with me.
The second aspect of my personality is the belief that anything I learned, I could teach it better than how it was taught to me. While some may think this sounds arrogant, I see it as nothing more than a desire to constantly improve. But this idea also applies to myself in that if I teach a certain topic one day and have to teach the same topic again the next day, the second time will never be the same as the first as I constantly try to improve what I am doing.
Can you tell us a little about your relationship with your teacher, Joe Moriera?
My relationship with Joe is different, especially from the generation of his students that came to train with him long after I did. I see many people refer to Joe as “Master Moreira”. While I respect Joe as my instructor, I never have and never will refer to him as “Master”. Such formalities never existed in BJJ back in the 90’s. That’s a recent thing. I’ve always referred to him simply as Joe and he doesn’t care that I don’t use any formalities with him.
Joe and I also play around in way that I don’t think many of his other students are comfortable with doing. When I would roll with Joe and he would tap me out, I would jokingly cry out, “You bastard!” When we have done seminars together and he is demonstrating a technique on me, he will mess with me and do a little “extra”. When he does it to me, I’ll softly curse, “Motherf*$&%ker!” and we both chuckle about it.
I recently did a private lesson with you, and I was blown away by some of the techniques, strategies, and principles that you taught. In fact there was a concept that I have never heard in my 20 years of BJJ – bilateral alignment. Can you explain briefly what MBF is and how it’s affected your Jiu-Jitsu and or students?
MBF stands for Muscle Balance and Function. It is a posture therapy exercise system. By the time I was in my early 30’s my body was wrecked. I had horrible chronic pains that I had lived with for well over a decade. I my search for a solution to my problems, I came across the MBF system and it not only fixed all my problems, but improved my body beyond what believed was possible. I was so impressed with the system, I decided to get training in it and become a practitioner. As a practitioner, I have helped many people with issues that, had I not seen it with my own eyes, most people would think were impossible to resolve.
My training in MBF allowed me to look at BJJ in a completely different perspective. It also allowed me to see greater commonalities not only between BJJ, judo, and wrestling, but also between all techniques in general. I began to understand it through physics, biomechanics, and postural alignment. I began to understand every technique on a much deeper level. It allowed me to understand how and why everything worked. It began to allow me to translate “feel” into concrete scientific terms.
What role do you feel diet and lifestyle plays in BJJ, if any?
When you are child or teenager, you can probably eat extremely unhealthy and have poor lifestyle habits and you may not feel noticeable negative consequences in your BJJ performance. I believe that when you get older, you start to suffer the consequences of the choices you made when younger. I feel many people wrongly blame the aging process instead.
So, in my opinion, if you want to have greater longevity in BJJ, especially when you are older, diet and lifestyle is extremely important. The consequences of poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle is inescapable and inevitable. Unfortunately, most people won’t make dietary and lifestyle changes until they are in serious pain and their health is suffering a major problem.
What advice would you like to give the BJJ students reading this interview?
Don’t double guard pull. Every time you double guard pull, a kitten dies.
If you want to learn more about Michael Jen, visit www.SmashGyms.com.
If you’re ever in the San Jose (California) area, go train with him!
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Smash has two Bay Area Locations. One Gym is Near Levi Stadium in Sunnyvale on Lawrence and Tasman and our other Gym is on Quimby and Capital Expressway across the street from Eastridge Mall in San Jose.
Congratulations to everyone that competed in NAGA! Smash had a great showing and the competitors brought home lots of medals. It's amazing to see everyone's progression. Thanks to Mario Rios, Manny Rocha, Crystina Zastrow, and Eli Sanchez for all the help coaching. Awesome day for the competitors and we know a lot of Smashers are looking forward to the US open.
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! Two of the Bay Area's Largest and Most Successful Martial Arts Teams are joining to create one Martial Arts & Fitness PowerHouse! Cung Le's USH Martial Arts of San Jose is moving! Their Coaches, Team and Students will now be training inside Smash Gyms!
Smash Gyms has two Bay Area locations! One in San Jose on Quimby and Capital Expressway across from Eastridge Mall and a Sunnyvale location on Tasman & Lawrence. Please see our website for more details! www.smashgyms.com
We are very excited about the joining of Cung Le's Martial Arts and Smash Gyms. Two world class teams coming together to give the very best to our members and fighters. We're looking forward to doing big things together! Thanks for all your support!
Smash Gyms offers Unique Fitness Alternatives such as BJJ, MMA, Bootcamp, Strength & Conditioning, Personal Training, Yoga, Judo, Kids Classes and More! Try a FREE WEEK!
The Smash Gyms Jiu-jitsu program includes a systematic blend of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Wrestling, and Judo into a complete grappling system that will safely progress beginners at an accelerated pace. Our system is designed as a path for the average person to progress safely and quickly into an expert grappler. The system has proven to be highly effective in both self-defense and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu sport competition. You will find that our unique classes are presented in a format highly conducive to learning while maintaining a strong focus on safety. Each class is taught by subject matter experts! Check our schedule at www.SmashGyms.com!
Troy joined Smash Gyms in February 2014 to supplement his new rigorous fitness program. Troy began his journey because he was fed up with having to consistently buy new clothes to accommodate his growing weight. That's when he decided that instead of making his next trip to the store for bigger pants, he made that trip to sign up at a gym. Troy has been training and dieting for approximately 2 years and has lost an impressive 90lbs.
Troy is one of the most dedicated students a trainer could ask for. He has become a leader in the Morning Bootcamp Classes by motivating his training partners. He has an unbelievably positive attitude with tremendous dedication and work ethic. I had the pleasure to watch Troy run his last Spartan Race last weekend which inspired me to sign up for future Spartan races myself. Troy is currently working on his Spartan Trifecta which he will complete with Team Smash in October at the Sacramento Super. I'm proud to be able to run with such an all-around awesome guy.
Morning Bootcamp Trainer