Journey into grappling and bjj
From the moment I met Matt I felt I liked him. He was a fifteen year old kid teaching a very unsound standing arm lock but I liked his poise in front of the class, even if his arm bar technique was not what I’d have done. His sparring looked really awesome to me with his ability to lift his leg and chamber multiple kicks from the same position with accuracy and volume. I came to watch Matt and his brother Nick teach a class and to ask them for advice about starting a martial arts ministry at another church.
Matt did not share my assuredness that we’d be friends, not in the least. In fact, he was pretty sure that we weren’t going to be friends at all. I eventually took a few private lessons with Nick. I’d end up staying in touch with Nick over the years and that’d bring me around to Matt in a non-martial arts way a few times.
They were curious about grappling. Even still it was a hard sell for Matt. Eventually my perseverance paid off and the guy started thinking about grappling when he wasn’t training. He thought about it in the shower, going to sleep, at work during any down time he had, when he was eating, when he was driving home, he was hooked… He thought about it all the time and he started asking questions.
At that moment he became the single most important thing to my own growth as a grappler to that point. His ability to analyze positions and to filter out all of the arcane detail of my narrative teaching style and to distill it to the very important details would lead us both to grow in the art and would plant my feet firmly on the path toward teaching movement to other people. Without him I’d still be chasing people away from the art by unintentional obfuscation instead of inviting them to it with simple encouragement and plain language. Not long had passed and Matt was even able to help me analyze and solve the technical riddles and problem spots within my own jiu jitsu game.
I believe that’s the thing that separates Matt from the next guy, he’s learned to take the movements and balance of jiu jitsu apart analytically and make them accessible to himself and others in a way that is easy to grasp without losing the details necessary to keep the art applicable and relevant in live feedback circumstances. Beyond that he’s an example of character and friendship that is inspirational, the kind of guy you’ll never be embarrassed to be friends with and never embarrassed to be associated to. His armlocks are no longer unsound either.
- James Stillwell, Experienced submission grappler, blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, adviser and friend.