Panda Jiu-jitsu

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The not-so-light Lightweight

August 9, 2014 - I returned to IBJJF competition two years after my dismal performance at the 2012 Vegas Summer International Open. I registered as a lightweight (leve) which is a weight class above my originally intended featherweight (pena).

In the months leading up to the tournament, I was training an average of 20 hours per week. With the added mat time, my jiu-jitsu game has improved exponentially. I have my team to thank for the much needed push. When everyone at your academy shares the same goals as you do, your game gets better as a result.

2014 IBJJF Las Vegas Summer International Open

I stepped on the mats with determination. Relentless aggressiveness was my game plan. I bull-rushed and set my sights on a takedown. I grabbed my opponent's collar and secured my grip as if holding on for dear life. I managed to put the pressure and pushed him to the edge of the mat. I was determined to lay him flat on the blue and yellow mats of the IBJJF. I didn't expect a guy a good 6 inches taller than me, brilliantly pull De la Riva guard. I instinctively maintained a low combat base - to which my coach yelled at in disapproval. I was stumped and decided to stay on that low almost squat-like posture. I should've kneeled and widened my base. I didn't stay low enough and got swept quite easily - twice.

From there I was on my side for most of the match. My opponent incessantly tried multiple submission attempts. I defended them with almost reflexively automated ease. I came on top in the final minutes of the match and gunned for my favorite submission, the mao de vaca or wristlock. I was given an advantage point for my bold attempt but it wasn't enough to secure a victory.

I was overcome with relief and what seemed like contentment - this was the first time I didn't lose to a submission. I had a "bring it on" attitude that defied my impulse to prematurely tap. The initial feeling of grief due to a loss was unavoidable, but the later realization of how my performance was had changed all that.

At the and of the day, I lost and then I won.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Re-writing my history through Jiu-jitsu

**This piece was originally written 2 years ago for my now inactive Tumblr page

Excerpts from The Cauliflower Chronicles by Marshall D. Carper
Chapter 10 - Hilo Rain pg 151-152

"In the meantime, I wallowed in the misery of my injury. Hilary e-mailed me. She asked me a slew of vague questions, like how Hawaii was, and how I was doing, and if I was having fun. It all seemed sincere until she asked, “And BJ Penn just fought, were you in his corner? Vanguard of Vaseline?”

Vanguard of Vaseline.

I told her that I had been training twice a day, five days a week I described the workouts and the rolling sessions. I admitted to crying after I thought Poai had broken my rib. I ended the e-mail by saying that I was comfortable telling her this because I knew that the people she could and would tell wouldn’t have lasted five minutes at the Academy. I knew that they had never been in a fight and would sooner run than stand their ground. There was nothing they could do to me now.

Who was this talking through me? I didn’t behave this way. I didn’t pick fights. I didn’t speak my mind to anyone. Had a month of training changed me that much? I was ready to fight every single person that had ever wronged me. I was ready to do it with a bum knee. I believed that I was tougher, stronger than anyone who hadn’t ever stepped onto a mat or into a cage.

When I hit send, I realized that I wasn’t training because it made me happy. I was training to prove them all wrong. I was training to prove that I was going to do what most people never could. Change.

I knew that I was changing, but I didn’t know if I was changing for the better.”

Downtown Cebu City and surrounding areas (photo courtesy of Cebu Daily News archives)

Change is constant in every person's life.

I was born and raised on the island called Cebu, in the Philippines. The years spent in the motherland became crazy yet overwhelmingly fun adventure, yet in 2009 I left the comfort of what I called home.

Five years ago to this day I decided to be a soldier of the United States of America. This decision earned me respect from friends, family, colleagues and truth be told, it felt good to be recognized.

The caveat of being the hero was being so far away from home. I missed out on weddings, birthdays, first-born children, engagements, funerals etc. I was in the loneliest state, even while being in the company of my brothers at arms. 
I loved being a soldier. Sometimes you just have to take the good with the bad. 

I left the ranks of Uncle Sam's military and began the transition back into a civilian - unburdened by the horrors of war, of the loss of my brothers. I abandoned my brothers while they continued carrying out the mission. I packed my bags and sought the comfort of comfortable sheets, warm food and family.

Seeking normalcy I reacquainted myself with people from the past. Although the subject of our conversations and jokes stayed the same, their delivery and timing were off. It just was not the same anymore. There are a significant number of people that I intentionally distanced myself from with some doing the same to me. In my eyes, they've all stayed the same: they who stayed and they who left.

I wasn't satisfied even as I made relationships, I still yearned for more purpose. 

It was then that by some stroke of luck Brazilian Jiu-jitsu found me.

Team Fredson Paixão 2012

From the moment I donned a gi and tied a belt around my waist, I wouldn't be happier and fulfilled. It was then that I realized the troubles of my day failed in comparison into getting choked out or being folded like origami.

I stand among the ranks of individuals that have to endure and relish the same struggles I have. For us to be better than who we were yesterday, to seek never-ending enrichment in the gentle art and in life. Jiu-jitsu isn't just a martial art it's a lifestyle. A lifestyle that goes beyond bowls of açaí, learning Portuguese words like obrigado, and hours listening to Carlinhos Brown. I am thankful that I get to share my jiu-jitsu journey with these training partners, friends, brothers, sisters - family.

Team Walter "Cascão" 2013

I have changed. This was the change my life needed.

I am alive. Jiu-jitsu breathes life into me.

Jiu-jitsu is my life.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ultimate Garbanzo Peanut Butter Protein Cookie

Competition season is upon us fellow BJJ players. We all try to eat clean to stay at our optimal performance. Also, some of us are hard at work to make weight. As much as we discipline ourselves,  our sweet tooth sometimes comes knocking at our doorstep.

To help with my hunger pangs, my jiu-jitsu instructor and good friend James D. gave me his recipe for a high-fiber, high-protein snack:

 Cookie monster approved chocolatey goodness... Can you ever resist that?


  1. 1 1/4 cup canned garbanzo beans drained.
  2. 2 tsp of vanilla extract
  3. 1/2 cup + 2 TB of Peanut butter
  4. 1/4 cup of honey or maple syrup, or agave
  5. 1 tsp of baking powder
  6. Pinch of salt
  7. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  8. Oven pre-heated to 350 degrees oven
  • Put everything in a blender but the chocolate chips.
  • Blend mixture and pour into mixing bowl. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Use a teaspoon to scoop and shape the cookies on an oiled cookie sheet.
  • Place in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
  • They are super soft when done.
Oh you little rebel - I used instead a spoon to scoop the batter, making bigger cookies.

My total prep time was a mere 15 minutes. In half an hour you can enjoy a great-tasting pre or post training treat!

I suggest indulging in this heavenly delicacy as soon as it cools down from the oven as the cookies dry up if you let it sit after a few hours.

You can thank me later, now go make yourself a batch! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Everybody has a plan, until...

I have always been the guy with a plan. I took pride in always being ready. But can anyone genuinely say they are ready for anything that life throws at them?

Mike Tyson said it best:  
 "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

Here was my plan: earn my degree, save up and see the world. I had a 7am-3pm job that let me do online school and train jiu-jitsu 6 days a week. I took that privilege for granted and then wham! Life throws me an overhand right - just like what Roy Nelson does best and it knocked me down. I lost the job that supported my education and my jiu-jitsu.

Since then I doubted myself and how I made decisions. I promised people I'd take care of them. I've always been quick to say, with an air of arrogance, that "I got this." When life's almighty fist connected - splitting my lips and breaking my nose, I asked myself "How can I take care of them if I can't even take care of myself?"

Then began my stages of grief. When you look at a panda, don't you just wonder why it looks so calm? I was the same way - people couldn't read me past the jokes, the laughter, and the smiles. Little do people in my circles know: this panda's fighting to regain control of his life. I was fighting to not let my self succumb to the acceptance of being worthless.

I wallowed in self-pity for weeks - more so after acquiring a meager job. I asked myself if this was all that I will ever amount to. Thankfully this new job supports my jiu-jitsu. At the brink of emotional implosion I heeded the help of others. I'm usually the person always ready with a funny story, but sharing this chapter of my life was different. It required every ounce of courage I had left. My family and friends have given me great advice on how to deal with my problems. One advice that I'll never forget was from someone very unexpected.

Definitely keeping this saved in my phone. Ivan sent me 
this message a day after flying out of Vegas.

I met Ivan through the r/bjj subredit. He posted a thread asking about legit places to train while on vacation in Vegas with his partner. I invited him over to train at my academy and I was very glad he accepted. Finally, I got to meet someone from r/bjj and not be limited to the confines of the internet. He was a great training partner in the few days he was with us at Cascao BJJ. Ivan left his native Brazil to pursue a new life in the Big Apple. You would think that being Brazilian, he'd have been practicing the art for years. However he's only been in it for one.

On their last day in town and right after Saturday open mat, I took him and his partner to lunch and we shared our individual stories. Over scrumptious plates of food and a soothing pitcher of sangria: we conversed like friends catching after being away for so long. All three of us had one thing in common: we were immigrants to the USA. We left our comfort zones at home to venture out and see the world. We all had a story about our own ups and downs. Ivan's stories however, made a bigger impression on me. I reveled on how his determination helped him overcome life's hurdles. It ignited my own resolve to conquer my tribulations.

I regained my courage.

A new year and a new plan - really scary if you ask me. I'd rather fail while trying to stand up to the challenge than fail lying down, letting life have its way with me.

This panda was down, but with his four, adorable, fluffy paws stood up and took on life again head on.

Ivan - Top row, second from left.
Me - Well, you just have to figure it out. 

Have you you ever had a time where you were faced with tremendous odds yet you kept on fighting? 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Post follow-up: My first (and so far only) IBJJF Tournament

In my previous blog entry I had mentioned about my extreme weight cut for the 2012 IBJJF Las Vegas Summer Open. So here's the video of (sadly) my only match that day:

As you can see I was a spastic white belt. I was trying to do an O Soto Gari but couldn't get the step in timing right. So I looked like I was cabaret dancer kicking my legs. When the match went to the ground my opponent got me on side control. There disproves my fear - body weight wasn't a factor for me getting pinned. My opponent didn't outweigh me by much. Props to him for being really good at using his weight to keep me on bottom.

I defended decently against the submission attempts. Except for the Ezekiel choke that got me. It wasn't that clear from camera view. You can even see the ref ask me if I was okay.

Lessons were learned that day. Hard lessons in fact. The name of the game is improvement. I know I'm going at it at a slower pace, but slow progress is still progress.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Grapplers!

Here's some holiday cheer from our friends at BJJ Training Journal. What BJJ or any martial arts related gifts did you get this year? Whatever they are, feel blessed that you get to spend this day with family and friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pena - The weight-watching journey

It's been 5 months since I began training with my new team - Cascao Jiu-jitsu and I'm finally seeing the results of it on my body. During my 9 month break from jiu-jitsu, I've managed to balloon to 190 pounds. That's crazy considering I used to compete at Pluma (Light Featherweight). For those new to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, see below for the IBJJF weight divisions.

IBJJF Weight Divisions

My competition goals for 2014 aren't far-fetched - I want to compete (and win of course) at Pena (Featherweight). I've plateaued at 170 lbs. (that's 12.14 stone for all you blokes) these last couple of months. It's taxing to control one's appetite especially during the holiday season.

Wise men have told me "Do not cut. Lose weight slowly and naturally". I had a fear of getting smashed by bigger, stronger opponents. That fear ultimately led me to cutting 15 lbs. in a month in preparation for the the 2012 IBJJF Las Vegas Summer Open. I dieted (more like starved) like crazy. I started my days with fat burners and CLA's. During competition week, my meals consisted of hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, protein shakes, broccoli and coconut water. Healthy? Hardly. I was focused on shedding weight instead of competition training. On a side note: weight shouldn't even be a factor. If an opponent knows how to correctly base and distribute his weight, you will be pinned.

Tournament day comes - my breakfast was a banana and a cup of yogurt. I was semi-parched throughout the day for fear of gaining water weight. Stepping on a scale at the bull pen, I actually weighed in at 140 lbs. with my gi on. That's a pound below the limit. So in my head I was thinking "Yeah, I got this!" But then expectations don't always coincide with reality. I started my match spazzing and midway through I had my adrenaline dump.

Weighing scal panda
"Shouldn't have eaten the last slice of that oreo cheesecake."

So here goes, lessons I took from that day:

  1. I should have focused on technique instead of consistently monitoring the weighing scale - I'm not a Victoria's Secret model.
  2. I shouldn't fear bigger, stronger opponents - that contradicts the entire existence of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

I am approaching the 2014 competition season not only smarter but also with utmost diligence. The plan is eating clean plus drilling and rolling more. I've been doing somewhat of a good job. However the real challenge is to NOT deviate from the plan. Let's see how this goes.

See you all at the tournaments!