Michael Jen Interview

Kaizen BJJ Interviewed Smash Gyms Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Michael Jen. Below is the interview.

Direct Link: http://www.kaizenbjj.com/interview-michael-jen-bjj-wizard/

Interview with Michael Jen, BJJ Wizard

Written by Ryan Fiorenzi on . Posted in Adult BJJ In Plymouth, Mi.


Michael Jen, center (facing kids)

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! 


Smash Gyms NAGA Highlight Video

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 RiosManny RochaCrystina 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.

Beginner Friendly Mixed Martial Arts! Grappling Classes! BJJ, Judo & Wrestling!

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!


Smash Gyms Wrestling Camp- All Star Staff

This camp will be amazing! An all star staff of instructors at the brand new Smash San Jose location! Sign up now! Limited Space Available. The first 15 applicants get a FREE 30-day ALL ACCESS membership that can be used at both Smash Gyms Bay Area locations. Save your spot here! Ages 12 and up! Beginners and advanced wrestlers welcomed!


Learn From an All Star Staff!


Smash Gym San Jose is located on Quimby Road and Capital Expressway across the street from Eastridge Mall. Smash Gym Sunnyvale is located on Tasman Drive and Lawrence expressway near Great America and Levi Stadium. One of the fastest growing gyms in the Bay Area Smash specializes in beginner friendly classes for everyone. Whether your goal is to just have fun or to fight in the UFC we can help you reach your goals!

Filip Novachkov – Smash Gyms San Jose

Eastern Europe is known for producing some of the best wrestlers in the world, but growing in the Bulgarian city of Radnevo, Filip Novachkov was into another national pastime; Bulgarian Folk Dancing!

Filip & Boris Novachkov

His younger brother, Boris began sneaking away to go to wrestling practice, telling his parents that he was playing with friends. At home he would practice his moves on Filip, which is what convinced the older brother to trade his dancing uniform for a singlet. “I knew he was sneaking away to go to wrestling classes. The only reason Boris began training is because he heard they gave you a free pair of sneakers if you signed up for the wrestling team.” Filip said, “I didn’t think anything of it until my little brother started kicking my butt. That didn’t sit right with me so I signed up as well.”

Filip is part of our Amazing Staff of Wrestling Coaches!

The brothers excelled in wrestling ever since, winning multiple cadet national titles in Bulgaria. In 2003 Filip’s mom, Zhivka, received a green card package for the family of four and they made the move to California. “I was excited for the whole journey. I’ve always wanted to see what the other side of the world looked like” Filip mentioned. They moved to Sunnyvale and the brothers went to school at Fremont High School.

Filip won three CCS titles, was a three time state placer and California State Champion. He also took 3rd place at Nationals Championships. Filip was also an outstanding student having a 3.9 GPA. He was named the student-athlete of the year awarded from San Jose Mercury News in 2005. His accomplishments drew interests from university wrestling programs across the nation but ultimately he chose Cal Poly, where he received a full scholarship. As a Mustang, Filip was ranked as high as 3rd in the Nation and defeated a couple of National Champions. Filip placed 3rd in the PAC 10 conference as a Junior and earned a Silver Medal as a Senior. John Azevedo, Cal Poly’s Head Coach described the brothers as typical American brothers, but different in a way that they wrestled. “The European mentality definitely showed up when they wrestled”, Azevedo added.

Cal Poly Stand Out Filip Novachkov

After graduating from college with a degree in Industrial Technology, he began working for Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto. Filip feels that wrestling helped him earn the engineering position. He explained that the company was especially interested in the fact that he was successful student athlete who had excelled both in sports and academically. Being a part of a large space technology company is definitely an incredible experience, but something was missing.

Novachkov’s passion for wrestling brought him to Smash Gyms. Filip began training wrestling and BJJ at Smash and was immediately impressed by the friendly environment and high level of skill by the students and instructors. He began teaching wrestling classes and competing in BJJ competitions. Filip noticed the amazing growth of Smash and eventually he decided he wanted to open his own Smash Gyms location.

Two D1 Wrestlers and a BJJ Black Belt!

Novachkov jumped at the opportunity to help open a second Smash location in Evergreen and East San Jose.  He now is part co-owner of Smash San Jose. Smash Gyms is ran by an all-star team of martial artist including D1 Wrestlers, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belts, Pro-boxers and MMA Fighters. Filip hopes to use the resources at Smash to reach his goal of making the World and Olympic Wrestling Team and earning a black belt in BJJ. Filip’s brother Boris is seeing tremendous success on Bulgaria’s National Wrestlng Team. Boris’ success in international wrestling motivates Filip to keep on training; the long time brotherly rivalry that has helped them both see amazing success.

Filip runs wrestling classes at both Smash Gyms locations. Smash has two Bay Area locations. One on the border of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale near Levi Stadium and Great America and one in East San Jose and Evergreen across the street from Eastridge Mall. Filip is excited to share his amazing wrestling technique with the students and instructors at Smash. He is part of an amazing staff of wrestling instructors including Jacob Palomino, Eli Sanchez, Scott Clymer, Tina Linhsamout, Sam Spengler and more!

Smash Gyms Wrestling Coach

Teaching Professionalism

One thing that stands out about the Smash Gyms instructors is the professionalism in which they conduct themselves.  Anyone who have been involved in martial arts for a long time and traveled around to different schools can attest that this is  a quality that is often lacking by many instructors.  Check out this short video where Smash Gyms Sunnyvale Head BJJ instructor Michael Jen talks about this subject.

Is competing necessary if you train Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?

The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu competitors of Smash Gyms have done extremely well in competition and we often share their great results and highlights on this blog.  Some may wonder if competing is a necessary part of training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  Here’s Smash Gyms Sunnyvale’s head BJJ instructor, 4th degree black belt, Michael Jen, sharing his thoughts on this subject.

Smash Gyms Coming to Evergreen and East San Jose

Smash Gyms in Evergreen and East San Jose


New Smash Gyms Location right across the street from Eastridge Mall in East San Jose and Evergreen! Cross streets will be Quimby Road and Capital Expressway!

Please LIKE Smash Gyms San Jose Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/smashsanjose


Sunnyvale Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/smashgyms

Also sure to check San Jose Gyms website for updates: http://www.smashgyms.com/sanjose/

Smash Gyms San Jose 

2268 Quimby Road – Suite C  (Building A)

San Jose, CA 950122

Smash Gyms San Jose will offer the same great fitness and martial arts classes we offer in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara! Every class is taught by experienced professionals for a unique fitness and social experience that will allow you to reach your physical and mental potential. Smash Gyms instructors take a systematic and beginner friendly approach to teaching, with a focus on the individual needs of each student. Smash instructors are excited to help you reach your personal goals!

Specialty group fitness classes like Strength & Conditioning, UJAM, Yoga, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Grappling, MMA (mixed-martial arts), Self-defense, Circuit Training, Bootcamp, Zumba, Wrestling and more!

After School Martial Arts & Tutoring Available for youths in addition to world class martial arts instruction.  

To accommodate everyone’s needs we offer monthly memberships, annual memberships, drop in, and prepay options. We have special discounted rates for Police, Firefighters, Teachers, Students and Military Service Members.


New ranks promotions!!!

At our annual end of the year holiday party, a handful of Smash students were recognized for their hard work and increasing skill in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  Declan Boyd, Ian Masloff, Tom Lopez, Yane Pènev, and Debbie Sanchez were promoted to blue belt.  In addition, Sam Jung and Mike Herrera were promoted to purple belt.

In a big surprise, head BJJ instructor, Michael Jen, was promoted to black belt in judo by his former judo instructor, David Williams.  Michael began his training in judo 14 years ago and recently began to train handful of Smash Kids Martial Arts students  to compete in the sport.   These kids have competed in practically every judo competition in northern California and have been incredibly successful.

Smash Kids Martial Arts students Louie Noble Jr., Jonah Davi,d and Jovina David were both promoted to yellow belt in judo.  All the kids have shown great skill as they have medaled in every judo competition they have entered.

Big congratulations to all who were promoted!


80% of Success is Just Showing Up

Self-Improvement at Smash is simple; you just have to show up. You’ve already decided that you needed to improve when you signed up, so what is there to think about? Don’t even think about it. If you consider going to the gym you can talk yourself out of it. There is always an excuse if you’re looking for one. 

Show up mad; show up tired; show up when there is traffic; show up when you don’t feel like it. Just show up and we will take care of the rest. Do it now or you’ll wish you did later. 

 If you show up consistently and do what the Instructors ask of you, you will be surprised what you can accomplish. 

Let’s be honest, if you don’t show up it won’t change our life. If you do show up it will make a big positive impact on your life. We’ve been told this and thanked over and over by the people that showed. At Smash you will relieve stress, get in shape, meet friends, gain knowledge and skill, and be inspired you to do what you never thought you were capable of doing.

Commit to making a change in your life. You deserve it and we’re here to help. 

43 year old Jess Ramos lost 51 lbs by participating in every class at Smash! He takes BJJ, Kickboxing, Yoga, Strength & Conditioning, Self-Defense, Bootcamp & Kettlebells. Jess won the Jiu Jitsu US Open just one year after joining Smash! When he started Smash he was 187lbs and competed at 136lb weight class! Most of our students choose not to compete but Jess had made such amazing progress that he decided to test himself at one of the toughest jiu jitsu competitions in the US and brought home a Gold Medal!