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

How to Tie Your Belt!

There are many different ways to tie your belt in martial arts. In this video Smash Gyms Jiu-Jitsu Instructor, 4th Degree BJJ Black Belt, and Judo Black Belt Michael Jen shows us how he teaches our BJJ students to tie their belts.


Asher Falatic added to Smash Gyms Staff at Both Locations!

Asher is a certified athletic trainer and kettlebell instructor. He graduated with his Master’s Degree in Athletic Training from San Jose State University after moving from Ohio in 2009. While working as the assistant athletic trainer for the university’s football team he was exposed to kettlebells for the first time. Impressed by the challenging workouts kettlebells provided him, he quickly decided he wanted to be part of the cause. As a SFG I Kettlebell Instructor, Asher strives to work his clients hard and efficiently while implementing healthy lifestyle habits. Asher stays in shape by enjoying the outdoors through trail running and hiking. He continues to weight train and practice jujitsu.

A special congratulations to our awesome Kettlebell instructor Asher for getting his Masters thesis published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning!

Titled “The Effects of Kettlebell Training on Aerobic Capacity”, Asher used Division 1 soccer players to show that 20 minutes of kettlebell snatching with 15 seconds of rest significantly increases maximal oxygen consumption. The full text is available here:

Fantastic effort, and we’re proud to have him as a part of our team! Remember, we have Kettlebell classes throughout the week; be sure to check our schedule for details!

His classes are for people of all fitness levels. Asher is excited to help people at Smash reach their fitness goals!


Kettlebell, Strength & Conditioning Coach & Athletic Trainer

Sam Spengler’s New MMA Classes at Smash Gyms

Beginning Monday February 10th 2014 Sam “The Ram” Spengler will begin teaching beginner friendly MMA Fitness & Self-Defense Classes at the new San Jose Smash Gyms. Smash Gym San Jose is located in Evergreen right down the street from Quimby Oak Middle School where Sam has taught for over 12 years.

Sam Spengler - Teacher, Coach, Martial Artist, & MMA Fighter

As a veteran PE teacher, wrestling coach, athlete, and role model Sam Spengler has contributed to the East San Jose and Evergreen community in many ways. As a teacher Sam’s positive attitude is contagious and he is extremely popular with his students and fellow staff. Sam has had huge success as the Quimby Oak Head Wrestling Coach. He has led the Quimby Oak Lobo’s wrestling team to win their league for 12 years in a row. As a coach Sam has helped students fulfill their potential by guiding them in their athletic careers. He has created countless champions. Many of Sam’s students have gone on to receive scholarships, become coaches themselves, and be contributing members of the community.

2013 BJJ US Purple Belt Open Champion Sam Spengler

Sam has been wrestling since he was 5 years old. As a senior in high school he earned a bronze medal in the Montana State Wrestling Championships and also received a scholarship to play college football where he earned a degree in Education. A seasoned martial arts veteran, Sam has been competing in kickboxing and MMA since 2003. He began training kickboxing over 10 years ago at West Valley Community College with Brian Kuhn.  Shortly after Brian introduced Sam to Cung Le’s Martial Arts in San Jose where Sam began training MMA. Sam continued his MMA training with Cung Le and supplemented his training by learning BJJ at Smash Gyms. Sam has trained with many world-class competitors and instructors over the last 10 years.

Sam has competed in hundreds of wrestling matches, 22 kickboxing matches, dozens of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournaments and 9 MMA fights. Sam is also the head of his Physical Education Department in San Jose. This competitive experience in kickboxing, wrestling, brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts coupled with his teaching background lends him the unique ability to transfer his knowledge to eager students in a structured and systematic way. Sam’s organized and fun classes will help students of all skill and fitness levels learn technique and improve their fitness level due to a format and curriculum designed to create an optimal learning environment. Sam is happy and excited to pass on his experience and unique skill set to the Evergreen and East San Jose community at Smash Gyms.

2011 Jiu-Jitsu by the Sea Champion

2011 Jiu-Jitsu by the Bay Champion

2011 San Jose Open Champion

2011 San Jose Open Absolute Division Champion

2012 American Cup Champion

2013 US Open BJJ Champion


Kids medal at Hokka Judo Developmental Tournament

This past Sunday, a small group of Smash Kids Martial Arts students competed in the 2014 Hokka Judo Developmental Tournament.  This annual tournament was hosted by the Santa Clara PAL Judo club and designed for novice competitors and training upcoming referees.  The Smash Kids did extremely well as they took home 2 gold and 1 bronze.

Check out the highlights!

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!


James Cebedo Earns a Silver Medal in Weightlifting Competition

Smash Strength & Conditioning Coach and personal trainer James Cebedo of Santa Clara earned a Silver Medal this weekend in an Olympic Weightlifting Competition in the 69kg weight class. He weighed in at 66.08kg, and was the lightest guy in the division. James plans on making 62kg in his next competition. It was a tough competition since the 1st place guy is a nationally ranked lifter. James lifted 91kg (200#) in snatch and 111kg (244#) in clean and jerk. He plans on cutting weight to the 62kg weight class to qualify for nationals! James is a certified personal trainer and crossfit instructor.

“I have come a long way in my 13-year fitness journey. When I started my fitness journey I had no athletic experience, I was overweight and I had average or below average genetics. I began to research everything about becoming fit and experimented with all aspects of fitness. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned from them. I have experimented and tested every theory of fitness from diet, to training methods, to mental preparation. You would not believe the crazy experiments I have tried. Now I know what works. With the knowledge and experience that I have gained through certifications, self-study and experimentation I pushed my body into what most would consider an elite athlete. I had no idea when I started this journey it would take me this far.

I am here to gladly pass all of that information, knowledge and experience on to you. I can just hand it to you. Trust the other coaches and myself with your fitness goals and I guarantee you that will reach them. Whether you want to lose fat, get stronger, add muscle, prepare for a competition, or just general overall fitness decide on your goal and let us know. We will give you the steps to reach your goal and help you along the way.

To improve yourself you should have a definitive plan. Share that plan with your coaches at Smash and we will help you get there. This is the best way to continue to improve. It becomes easy to stay motivated if you are specific with your goals and reach them. It is hard to reach your goals if you have none. We all needs that sense of accomplishment to stay happy as athletes and just as people. If you are unsure what you should be working on come see us and we will help you set your goals.

Name your goal and we will tell you all the steps to get there. I have 100% confidence in that statement. Every single person in class who have trusted the coaches in class were the ones who improved the most.  Ask any of the dedicated strength & conditioning members at Smash…this is not a matter of opinion, I have fitness data to back it up. Be coachable, have goals and we will change your life!”

James Cebedo

-Smash Gyms Strength & Conditioning Coach

-BS In Health Science

-Minor degree in Nutrition

-Nesta Personal Training

-ISSA Personal Training

-Crossfit Level 1 Instructor

-Crossfit Gymnastics Instructor

-2013 Redwood Empire Weightlifting Championships – Silver Medal

-2013 Emeryville Max’s Gym Open- Silver Medal


Postural Deviation to Help Your Guard Passing

Teaching postural alignment and principles of proper biomechanics helps our students practice martial arts safely and gives them a deeper understanding of technique. This deeper understanding also gives students the tools to problem solve on their own.

These principles were identified by Head Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Michael Jen after he studied biomechanics and earned a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt from Joe Moreira in 2001. Joe’s incredibly effective BJJ relied heavily on causing mis-alignment in his opponent while maintaining proper alignment in his own body.

Below is an article written by Michael Jen in 2008.

Pressure Guard Passing and Postural Deviation  

In order to understand this, we need to first examine the ideal posture that serves as the original blueprint for the design of the human body in the standing position. From the front view, this consists of the center of the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder joints being vertically aligned. In addition, the center of those 4 load joints on one side of the body should be horizontally aligned with the same joints on the other side of the body. Also, from the front view, the head and spine should be aligned with the center of the body. From side view, the center of the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder joint, in addition to ear, should be vertically aligned. This alignment should be the same when viewing the left and right side of the body.

If you were to draw a line from one joint to the joint that is either vertically above or below it and also the joint that is horizontally on the other side of it, those lines would form a 90-degree angle. If you examine the vertical alignment of the joints from the front and side view, in addition to the alignment of the spine from the front or back view, you will see that it is at a 90-degree angle to the earth. So, if you look at the structural blue print for human posture, you will notice that it is all based upon 90-degree angles.

When the alignment of the body begins to lose its 90-degree angles, what is created are known as postural deviations. The greater the number of deviations that occur and the farther the angles are from 90 degrees, the weaker and the more structurally unstable the body becomes.

One of the most destructive postural deviations on the body is counter-rotation. Counter-rotation is when one side of the hips is rotated forward while at the same time, the opposite side of the torso is rotated forward. The more the upper and lower body are twisting in opposite directions, the weaker the body becomes. To comprehend how destructive counter-rotation is to the body, imagine trying to do a squat using a barbell loaded up with a lot of weight with the upper and lower body severely twisted in opposite directions. It would be very clear that the greater the counter-rotation, the less weight it would take to make everything come crashing down.

For this exact reason, the application of counter-rotation is an essential component to passing the guard with pressure. When an opponent is playing guard, he has the ability to use all his limbs against you at once. Power comes from the shoulder and hips working in unison. By applying counter- rotation to your opponent’s body, you are essentially severing the connection between those two sources of power. Once this disconnect occurs, all aspects of your opponent’s body weakens and that makes it much easier to pass, and much more difficult to counter. Let’s look at some guard passes that use pressure and see how the application of counter-rotation is an absolutely essential component.

The Margarida Pass:

I am placing my right shin over my opponent’s right inner thigh, pinning his leg to the ground. (A) This forces my opponent’s hips to rotate towards his right. My left hand is pulling up on his right sleeve as my right forearm pushes against his left torso. (B) This causes the upper body to rotate towards his left — in the opposite direction of his hips. However, the rotation in my opponent’s upper body is not created solely by the push and pull of of my arms. My left leg is placed in a position where the driving force is directed towards my right forearm.


The Leg-on-Shoulder Pass

(A) I have the opponent stacked up on his left shoulder blade. His own body weight (as well mine) keep his shoulder pinned to the ground. (B) My hips, abs, chest, and body weight drive my opponent’s right hip in the direction of his left shoulder. My left hand grabs my opponent’s left lapel and the pulling action further enhances his counter rotation. The compression through counter-rotation is what prevents the opponent from applying the triangle or armbar.

The Arm-Between-the-Leg Pass

(A) My right arm threading between my opponent’s legs forces his hips to rotate to his right. My left hand holds onto his right sleeve. (B) I place my head between his left chest and shoulder. The driving force of my legs is transferred through the straight line of my spine and head, twisting my opponent’s upper body in the opposite direction of his hips.

These three guard passes demonstrate how the one principle of counter-rotation can be applied in three different ways. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are many other postural deviations besides counter-rotation, and many other techniques in which they can be used. For those who are interested in improving the tightness and pressure of their guard passing, the main point to understand is: it’s essential for pressure to be applied in a way that creates and amplifies postural deviations. Without the creation of postural deviations, the feeling of crushing pressure can only be accomplished through the use of excessive strength or body weight.

Smash Kids medal at the North Bay Judo Developmental Tournament

Derek and Aaron Jen represented the Smash Gyms Kids Martial Arts Program and competed in the 5th Annual North Bay Judo Developmental Tournament.  This was a smaller competition with fewer competitors, so the brothers were put against opponents of higher rank.  Aaron placed 1st in his division and Derek placed 2nd in his division.  Congratulations to both boys!

Check out the highlights!


Weekends full of BJJ and Weightlifting Competitions!

A few weeks ago, Sam Jung represented Smash Gyms at the East Bay Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Open.  Sam put on a great performance and placed 1st in the gi division and 3rd in the no gi division.  That same weekend, Jonathan Bialoglovski competed in the Calfornia Black Belt League: Victory Challenge and place 1st in his division.

Then this past weekend, Christina Apatow represented Smash Gyms Women’s BJJ and competed in the KO Finisher Series Submission Only Tournament.  With no competitors to go against in her division, Christina moved up 2 weight classes. She did awesome and placed 3rd.  Christina finished two of her matches by armbar and gi choke.  The most memorable moment was when her opponent refused to tap to the gi choke and ended up being put completely unconscious.

While Christina was competing in BJJ, Smash Gyms’ Strength & Conditioning instructor, James Cebedo, competed in the Redwood Empire Weightlifting Competition.  James threw up some big weight and placed 2nd in his division despite only weighing 157lbs in the 170lbs division! This was James’ first weightlifting competition so he decided not to cut any weight and still took home a silver medal!


A big congratulations to all the competitors!

Check out the highlights of Christina at the KO Finisher Series!