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! 

 

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.

 

Mario Rios – BJJ Black Belt – Smash Gyms Instructor

People who know Mario Rios know two things about him. He is super nice and he knows A LOT about grappling! Mario is a very caring and passionate instructor. He has been involved in wrestling, judo and BJJ for almost 20 years.  This incredible experience in grappling provides a wealth of information anyone interested in advancing his or her grappling knowledge. If you take Mario’s classes you can look forward to highly detailed technical instruction explained in a way that you can easily understand and implement right away. He has helped many people advance in the grappling arts with his organized and systematic approach to grappling.

Mario started his training with grappling in 1995 while he was a student at Fresno State College.   In Fresno, there were no Jiu-Jitsu studios, so he started working out his house with Jason Hannen, now a black belt at Pacific Martial Arts.  Most of the techniques were drills based on Renzo and Craig Kukuk videos, since youtube was nonexistent, and information was hard to come by. 

Mario Rios & Jason Hannen BJJ Black Belts

In those early days Mario sought out other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students who were commuting long distances to train at some of the Gracie Academies and began training regularly with them.  Some of these partners were wrestlers from Fresno Pacific and Fresno State.  During this time, Mario was also training at the Fresno Judo Club before moving from the area.

Mario Teaching Classes at Smash

After completing college, Mario was faced with the decision to relocate.  He had two requirements, finding a job, and finding his passion, Jiu Jitsu.  Mario found both and moved to the Bay Area in 1996.  In the beginning, he took classes with Claudio Franca. Although he enjoyed the classes because of such a long commute to Santa Cruz, he decided to train in Mountain View at Ralphs.  Training at Ralphs was a great experience.  Mario was able to train with some of the premier grapplers at the time and began to really understand the dedication necessary to excel at this art.

In 1999 began training with Michael Jen.  Michael’s unique approach and attention to detail was different from the Jiu-Jitsu he had experienced in his earlier training. Mario was impressed with Michael’s highly detailed instruction and his openness to share techniques.

BJJ Black Belts!

In 2010, when the first Smash Gyms opened Mario immediately became a leader in the gym and helped many people in different programs. The environment and resources that Smash provided motivated Mario to focus and push himself until he received his Black Belt in 2011 from Michael Jen. Mario believes Smash Gyms amazing instructors and members helped push him to reach his long-time goal of becoming a BJJ Black Belt. After seeing the incredible growth of Smash and the value that it has brought to our members, he decided he wanted to help open another Smash in San Jose. Mario is co-owner of San Jose Smash Gyms and will be working full-time and teaching BJJ classes along with fellow BJJ Black Belts Rudy Sanchez and Michael Jen. Mario’s goal is to bring as much value as possible to Smash members in Evergreen and East San Jose.