Thursday, August 29, 2013

Inside the mind of a fighter - an Interview with Casey Jones

Ever since I entered the martial arts world, I’ve found myself intrigued by those brave souls that decide to fight in the cage.  They seek out the octagon.  They crave it.  They want to step in there more than anything else.  I am fascinated by what drives these fighters.  What makes them tick?  What makes them want to get in that cage?  I love to interview people, so when I found out that Casey Jones was going to be coming over to Dirty Bay MMA and training his stand-up game, I knew that I was going to ask him for an interview.  I am so thankful that he agreed.  It has really been an honor to watch him go through this process.  To Casey I would like to say, “You are a warrior, you have fought the good fight, you have trained well, you have prepared yourself for battle and you have already won.  I am proud to call you my jiu jitsu brother.”  I asked his Coach at Iron Dragon to give Casey a shout out, and here’s what Beard Jitsu had to say, Casey has been awesome training for this fight.  His attitude and hard work were everything I could ask for as a coach.  Casey is my first blue belt and I have no doubt he will win this fight however he chooses, either standing or on the ground.  I'm proud to have him representing us at Iron Dragon MMA / Solis Martial Arts and of course Beard Jitsu.  Last word of advice is to just go out there and have fun, and show Houston what we are all about.”  Thanks Beard for those words. 

Casey will be fighting on Saturday, August 31, 2013 in Legacy Amateur Series 13.  He is going into this fight in the 135 pound weight bracket.  This will be his first fight with Legacy.  Thank you again Casey for the interview and good luck on fight night!
What all martial arts do you train and when did you start training? 
Well now I practice Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai Kickboxing and some wrestling. Then I try to put it all together for Mixed Martial arts. But I didn’t start out training at an actual martial arts school. I just by chance met my good friend Rich Casteneda through a friend and ended up training with him in his shed. He trained in Kuk Sool Won, and since I had no fighting arts experience period, I was an open book. Rich is also just a lover of all martial arts so he knew of Jiu Jistu and had friends that knew other forms of fighting that came by to train occasionally. So I picked up what I liked and threw away what didn’t seem to work for me. Richard eventually took me to Iron Dragon to expand our knowledge, and Rich humbly told me there wasn’t anything more he could teach me and we needed to know go to an school to learn more. So here I am 3 years later. And a side note, I still learn something from Rich every day when we grapple so the teaching never ended. I really do want to thank him for really being my bridge into the world of martial arts I wouldn’t have ever started this awesome journey if not for his willingness to teach me.
At what point in your training did you know that you wanted to get in the cage?
It’s hard to say when or if there ever was a specific moment. But I know that I began to feel that I was supposed to do this. Because I had never been particularly good at any sport. Mostly because a lot of sports like track, football, basketball all really depended on you to be fast, jump high, be strong or big. And I was none of these things so fighting seemed to be the only thing were you wanting it more than that guy across from you in the cage, actually played a factor in you winning or losing. Even though I wasn’t naturally aggressive or anything I seemed to be able to use it when I needed to.
Do you have any specific short term goals in BJJ?  MMA?
Well a short term goal is to win an amateur title for sure. Even though it’s just amateur that would be so huge for me. And of course over time when you fight you develop different reasons why you do it, and now I want to become known for my coaches and their schools to help them grow and prosper. Because my coaches like Bryan (Beard Jitsu) who is my Jiu jitsu coach helps me so much and has been supporting me the whole way through, and Vincent Serrano who is now my Muay Thai coach and has put in a ton of effort teaching me even though he has only known me a short time. I want to help them along with Master Jason white, who is the owner of Iron Dragon and got me my first cage fight, to build up their schools and business. That’s what I feel I can do in return for all they do for me.
What are your long term goals in BJJ?  MMA?  Or other martial arts that you train?
My long term MMA goals are obviously to get into the UFC and fight for that organization and go as far with it as I can. But that’s everybody’s answer pretty much. But I would eventually like to be teaching BJJ and No Gi, and MMA in either somebody’s school or my own school. Because I really do love coaching and teaching the newer guys that come in.
Do you have any aspirations to cross over to the professional fighting circuit in the near future?
Yes I do, as I said before I’d like to attain an amateur title and either stay and defend it for more experience depending on what myself and my team thinks, or move on and begin a professional career.
Preparing for a fight is physically and mentally grueling work.  Tell us how you managed your schedule and training and how did you prepare yourself mentally for the fight?
Well I’m 22 years old now so I’m still slowly making my way through school, so when schools going on that’s one more thing to worry about. But I work at San Jacinto hospital on the weekends part time, usually just two 12 hour shifts on Friday and Sunday night just to keep money coming in because, no money means no gas no food and without those things training isn’t too likely. But I chose to work weekends so that I could have all week to train. So when people at work would ask why I don’t work during the week I used to say because I have to train. And they would ask “train for what?” or “Oh cuz you work out during the week”. And since most of them don’t understand and give me this look like I’m just lazy or something. But I can’t expect anyone who doesn’t practice martial arts or who has never trained hard for anything to understand what I mean. So now I just say I don’t work during the week because of school to avoid the frustration.
What advice can you give those out there who might be thinking about getting in the cage to fight? 
Make sure you are at a good gym and that the coaches feel you are ready. Don’t just walk in a gym and say you wanna fight. You might, but that won’t stop somebody from pounding your face like a drum and choking you to sleep because you don’t know what you’re doing and just don’t have the experience. And I might be referencing a few of my early cage experiences. I do feel I starting fighting too early, mostly because I wasn’t a natural talent to I couldn’t rely on aggression or strength in there and really just need to be good at the arts and be technical. I’d say if you’re a guy who is picking up stuff pretty quick and are getting all areas of your game worked on (Striking, Wrestling, Jiu Jistu) then maybe about six months and see what your coaches think. I only was at Iron Dragon Maybe 3 months before my first fight. But I asked for it and Joel Scott gave it. Haha. Even though that first one got fight of the night, losing just isn’t okay anymore. I got a lot of good experience taking all those early fights but it left me with an ugly record to climb out from under. So make sure this is what you want and you’re willing to give up some things to make it happen.
BJJ is my passion, so I always want to know...what's your favorite submission and go to move? 
I would have to say, even though it’s nothing special, the rear naked choke. I’ve gotten two of my wins by RNC and the reason I prefer chokes to armbars, especially in MMA, is because a guy may let his arm pop to get out of it in MMA. But with a choke he can be tough all he wants, he’s still going to sleep.
What motivates you to keep going and what helps keep you on the right track?   Is there anyone that inspires you or someone that has been a big influence on your decision to train BJJ/MMA?
Honestly I think training actually keeps me on the right track in life outside of the gym. If I’m not doing right in life, my training will suffer because it can mess with head when you’re not doing what you’re supposed to and you’re consciously aware of it. Well all my training partners and coaches are such a big part of my motivation because I want to do well for them and for our school so that’s always a driving force. I also want to do well for my family my grandparents my little brother who for some reason looks up to me and my wonderful girlfriend Nicole. But mostly for my Mom, she’s had a rough life a lot of things have not gone well for her but somehow she keeps this upbeat attitude and is always smiling and trying to be happy. She’s been my biggest fan through all of my ups and downs in this sport and I know she will continue to support me always. She gets so excited when I have a fight coming up and wants to make posters and shirts and has all these ideas. I feel that by doing well and winning and giving her something to be proud of and excited about is something I can do for her to keep her smiling.
What would you consider the biggest life change as a result of your training?
I’ve really grown up since I began training. This growth has been evident in my 4 year relationship with my girlfriend and I’ve gained a lot of maturity over this time. And as I said before, my training keeps my life in check. So it’s helped me really grow as a man. Because as an amateur fighter, not even a well-known amateur fighter, you end up having to do a lot of the outside conditioning training on your own. So I’ve had to learn to keep myself accountable to the things I needed to get done if fighting means that much to me. So it’s also taught me accountability.
Where do you see yourself in the BJJ and MMA community in 10 years?
If my body holds up, possibly still fighting if I make it to the big show. And even if I am still fighting I might be teaching MMA or jiu jitsu classes as well.
Tell us something we might not know about you.  Do you have any jiu jitsu ink?  What do you like to do in your spare time? 
Well let’s see, I’m a Nurse Tech at the hospital going to school for nursing. I love outdoor stuff, hunting and fishing; I used to play paintball when I had the time. I loved playing football, hanging out with my buddies from high school. But most of that stuff I don’t have time for anymore. The only thing I really do on the regular is watch movies at night with my girlfriend Nicole when I get home from training but we try to do fun stuff like go to the pier and fish late at night or go to Galveston for the day or something, we find stuff to do. Like I said I work weekends and train all week but you have to make sacrifices for the things you want. If you want it that bad, it’s worth it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Looking back and smiling

Sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded about the beginning of the journey.  I am always excited when I meet someone so new to the sport that they are just glowing with excitement and anticipation.  They look at you with eyes shining.  They can’t wait to roll with you and test themselves and learn from you.   I am not the most athletic chick on the mat.  Not the most coordinated.  Not the most fit.  Not the one people ask for help.  But last weekend I got to train with some really cool newbies at Girls in Gis.  It was a privilege to train with them.  To show them what little knowledge I have about jiu jitsu.  They reminded me of a time not too long ago when my belt was fresh and white and clean.  They reminded me of a  time when my white belt had an empty black bar and was devoid of dirt and blood and sweat and tears.  I left that event with a full heart, smiling, happy, knowing that I had helped someone.  It may not seem like much, but it was just what I needed.  Sometimes you need to be reminded about the beginning to see how far you’ve come.  The journey, it’s so personal and unique for each person.  It will always be an honor when I can be a part of the beginning. 
As I tried to find the right words for this post, I remembered something I had read.  It was from Mark Johnson’s book “Jiu-Jitsu on the Brain”.  I just felt it was worth sharing.  Even though my belt is now blue and it is getting worn and frayed, I still love to remember the beginning, because without the beginning there would be no journey at all.
“The black bar on your belt represents the beginning; it’s blank, like your experience in jiu-jitsu.  You will be introduced to a new world, one filled with red-belted masters and wonderful techniques and weird uniforms and dealing with your own ego and frustration and knowledge and exhaustion and bliss.  It all begins with a search, a search for fulfillment or exercise or confidence.  The search has brought you to jiu-jitsu and this is where you begin.”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Meet Vincent Serrano

I want to start by saying thank you to my coach Vincent Serrano for allowing me the opportunity to do this interview.  I've known Vincent for several years now and as fate would have it he's now my instructor at Dirty Bay MMA.  I knew early on after meeting Vincent and watching him on the mats that he had a gift for teaching. But, you have to see it and experience it to know what I am talking about. Vincent can be a hard task master.  He doesn't see your age or what you might believe to be your physical limitations.  He will push you beyond your limits at times.  He will expect you to give him just a little bit more than you think you can give.  Even if you don't believe in your abilities, Vincent sees beyond that.  He sees what he knows you can become.  I am proud to call him my coach, my instructor, my friend.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  Thank you Vincent!

Meet Vincent Serrano.  Vincent is a Brown Belt and the Head Instructor at Dirty Bay MMA in Baytown, TX.  Dirty Bay MMA is an affiliate school of Solis Martial Arts Academy.  We are proud to be a part of Team SMAA!  Vincent currently teaches all classes.  We are excited to watch our small gym grow and blossom under his leadership. 

Dirty Bay MMA currently offers the following classes: 
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Monday & Wednesday / 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Muay Thai Kickboxing – Tuesday & Thursday / 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Wrestling – Tuesday & Thursday / 7:00 – 7:45 p.m.
MMA Sparring – Tuesday & Thursday / 7:50 – 8:20 p.m.
No-Gi Open Mat – Friday / 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.

How long have you been training Jiu-Jitsu?
I'm honestly not sure, I just know I started BJJ when I was a junior in high school and don't ask me what year I graduated either it’s been too long.  lol

How long have you been training Muay Thai?
I started when I was a freshman in high school.

What other martial arts have you trained?
I've trained Jeet Kune Do, kickboxing, and a little boxing. I've dabbled in others, but nothing too serious. My main styles are BJJ and Muay Thai Kickboxing.

How would you describe your teaching style for Muay Thai and for Jiu Jitsu?
Great question! The way I think about it, I never teach my students anything, I show them how I do it and let them figure out their own way with my supervision. I’m small and fast, so some things I can do that some people can’t, so I am always helping my students adapt to their body. In BJJ my style is very aggressive, always going for takedowns, always attacking, submissions, always staying on top and staying active. Basically it's a wrestling style BJJ game. If we get put on our backs our main focus is to put them back on their backs, so you will hardly see us trying to recover our guard. We love to smash guards and make you submit. lol

For Muay Thai it's the same as BJJ, very aggressive and very explosive. I show everything - kicking, punching, elbows and knees. We do a lot of combinations. I never show to just throw a single punch or a kick.  When we throw a strike, expect a powerful, very aggressive combination to come right after.

People can be intimidated to start training martial arts.  What would you say to someone who is out of shape or on the fence about training to encourage them to give it a try?
There's no such thing as "out of shape". There's always going to be someone who is faster, stronger, and has a better body than you. It doesn't mean you’re "out of shape". Out of shape is negative and I really don't like negativity around my gym.  We are all here to help and lift you up. You honestly never know how you feel about something if you've never tried it. I encourage everyone to give something you've never done a try.  Sometimes people are still on the fence about it, so I invite them to at least watch a class. Once they see our class and see how I am with my students, it usually makes them want to try. My students are very friendly and they will give you their last water if they had too. My students and I are always picking people up off the ground when they think they are too tired to keep going. When you experience something like that first hand, it's really amazing, and that's usually when people try out our class and make a life changing decision. We are all one, if someone falls we don't leave them, we stop, pick them up, and keep moving, even if we have to carry them. I love my ninja clan.

Do you have any long term goals for yourself and your training? 
My long term goal for myself is to make my clan bigger. By clan I mean my students/friends. We are a very close team and I make it a point to get to know my students in and out of the gym. One of my other long terms goals is to help my students reach their goals, whether it's becoming a black belt, owning their own gym, or becoming doctors, scientists, etc. I love my job and I love lending a hand. If you become one of my students, expect to get pushed past your limits in and out of the gym. My goal for training is too keep training and passing on my knowledge. Right now I'm all about the gym. I also plan on fighting very soon. I'm very comfortable and very motivated where I'm at. My technique and my skills have gotten so much better since I started teaching and training with SMAA, so look out for my comeback, it's going to be mind-blowing for you.

Tell us a little something about Vincent Serrano off the mat. 
With me there's no such thing as "off the mat".  I'm always thinking about training. I'm always finding ways to improve. I'm always coming up with new ways to make my training and my clans training better. So the mats go wherever I go.  lol

Friday, August 2, 2013

Anything is possible Tasmanian Devil Girl

I love the fact that my daughter and I train together. I affectionately nicknamed her Tasmanian Devil Girl on the mats. We have been blessed with some of our best memories because of jiu jitsu. Training together and going to seminars and attending Girls in Gis events and our Team SMAA open mats has given us countless hours of bonding time. Jiu jitsu allows us to push each other, talk to each other openly and support each other. I love that. The thing that I don’t love is watching her struggle. Lately I’ve been watching her feel defeated and broken. I feel helpless not being able to help her. Not having the right words to say to comfort her. It’s hard being a Mom sometimes. I want to protect her from everything bad in this world. On the mats I want to protect her too. I don’t want her to get hurt emotionally or physically. So, it’s a fine line we walk as jiu jitsu Moms. How do we let go enough to let them grow, but still protect them when we need to? I guess we will figure it out together. In the meantime, I will continue to support her and encourage her and even push her. I will pick her up from her first part-time job and help teach her how to drive and when she lets me, I will teach her to master the kimura from half guard and escape from side control even when it’s a 200 pound sweaty dude. And one day, when she’s ready, the bread and butter choke will be waiting for her. So, all you other Moms and Dads out there training with your kids, what do you do when you see your kids struggling on the mats? My wish for everyone today is peace, love and great Jiu Jitsu!