Straight from the source –
When searching for water and finding a river, you often travel upstream to find the purest water to drink. The same is with learning, the farther you are from the source, the more likely the original intention is lost. In 2010, I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to learn Muay Thai. What an incredible learning experience it was, to be coached by champions with three to four hundred fight records! On top of that, young kids from age 8-14 (in Thailand fighting professionally at these ages is commonplace) taught me much about balance, composure, efficiency and timing. In the two months I spent living in the Sasiprapa gym training twice a day I easily learned more than the years spent at MMA academies. Though in the United States we often provide more in the form of systemization and curriculum there is a purity that comes from hundreds of years of competition with the best fighters that cannot be crossed over.
The quickly rising sport of professional grappling has a much younger history than Thai boxing, the upside being that my generation is fortunate to be so close to it’s roots, especially residing in California which has been the hub for the Gracie family and many of the world’s legends who contributed greatly to the sport. Being able to learn from Xande and Saulo Ribeiro who’s lineage is but two generations from Helio Gracie, both receiving their black belts from grandson Royler, is invaluable to say the least. Many academies, with albeit well intentioned instructors, are not fortunate to be exposed directly to the original philosophies or principles. This negatively impacts the student body by exposing them to a pedigree of Jiu Jitsu that is removed from it’s true design. Something I learned from Saulo Ribeiro, author of University of Jiu Jitsu, (which I highly recommend for ANY Jiu Jitsu student), is that the greatest skill one can offer their students is that of defense. This opposes the idea of teaching nothing but a series of techniques that you as a professor find effective or simply like but rather where the overall goal is to understand how Jiu Jitsu works, from standing (Nage-waza) or on the ground (Ne-waza). With teachers like the Ribeiro brothers or the Kru (teacher) from one of the most famous gyms in Thailand, you will notice that you are exposed to far fewer techniques and many more details and nuances to them.
Me (Left) with Saulo (Middle) and Xande (Right) at Coachella Fest 2019