Back to Back Tournaments

This past weekend was a busy one! The team competed at two local back to back tournaments, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. In total, 12 students competed this weekend.

Newbreed Charlotte

On Saturday, six students represented Team Casarez at the Newbreed Charlotte tournament in Concord, North Carolina. Newbreed comes to the area approximately 2-4 times a year, and it is a great tournament for students looking to compete for the first time! It is a well organized event, which always makes the day more manageable.

Of the six students competing, it was the first time for three of the students. In total, the team brought home 7 medals – 5 gold and 2 silver.

Trinity, Ellie, Jenn, Megan, Turner, and David all did a great job!

Ellie earned 2nd in the No Gi and Gold in the Gi. In the Gi, she won her match by armbar. She recently placed gold at the Good Fight Tournament, also submitting both of her opponents by armbars.

Jenn competed in No Gi and decisively won her first match, ending the fight in an Americana. She advanced to the finals round, where she lost to a Kimura. This was her first time competing as a blue belt, and she earned 2nd in the division!

Megan competed in the No Gi division as well, and this was her first competition ever. She started off strong, initially winning her first match, but lost in the end due to points. Although she didn’t place, we are proud of her for going out and competing. Jiu Jitsu is a whole family sport for Megan, her husband, and their son, Theo!

Turner also competed for the first time this past weekend. He showcased a lot of the techniques and concepts that we have been working on in the fundamentals class. He swept his opponent, reversed multiple times, and almost got the back. However, he fell short on points in the end and was eliminated from his division.

David wrapped up the day with his matches, which he won by points after landing some strong takedowns. He earned double gold in his division!

FUJI Raleigh

The next day, another round of students competed at the FUJI Raleigh Spring Championship. There were 3 kids, Rowen, Silas, Arthur, and 3 adults, Kevin, Austin, and Mike.

Rowen, Silas, and Arthur began the day early with the kids division. Rowen and Silas had some tough matches, but kept a very strong attitude. This is impressive to see in such young competitors! Arthur won 2 of his matches, and earned

Kevin competed and had some great matches that earned him gold in the Gi. In No Gi, he got third place.

Austin competed in his weight class and lost the first match. He decided to compete in the weight class above him, and ended up winning all of his matches to get gold in the Gi.

Mike competed in the Gi division for his weight class and won gold. He executed a game plan that the team has been studying for the past couple weeks in class. He got an armbar submission in one of his matches as well.


All twelve of the students who competed this weekend did a great job, and we are very proud of them.

Looking ahead, the next event will be Toro Cup 20 on April 30. We have two competitors that will be fighting. This event will also be livestreamed by FloGrappling.

 

IBJJF Charleston Open 2022

On the weekend of March 26 and 27, IBJJF hosted the Charleston Open in South Carolina. We took a total of 4 competitors to this tournament, Professor Tony, Ferny, Riya, and Troy. There were also three students from the school who chose to travel to Charleston just to watch and support their teammates, Henry, Devin, and Anna. This was a 5 hour drive, so we especially appreciate their support!

Also, as a part of Alliance, our association was awarded 1st place of all the teams at the tournament!

Competition Results

Riya competed in the Juvenile Blue Belt Gi division, and after winning her weight class, she decided to also compete in the open class. She won the open class as well, ultimately bringing home 2 gold medals. She got two submissions, a kimura and an armbar. Riya trains almost everyday in the evening classes, she helps out with the kids classes, and she studies Jiu Jitsu outside of training. She now has her eyes on Pan Ams 2022, where she will compete next week!

Ferny competed in the Adult Purple belt division against some of the toughest purple belts in the world. This is his 3rd IBJJF as a purple belt, and he competed in both the Gi and No Gi divisions for his weight class. In the Gi division, he was calm and used his pressure to get in good positions. When he was utilizing his guard, he was able to trap his opponents shoulder and secure a triangle and then lock up an arm bar.In the semi finals, he lost to the champion (an Alliance teammate and great friend of the academy) by armbar, but fought hard throughout.In the no-Gi division, he won by 31 points. He didn’t get the submission, but he was hunting for the submission the entire time. He didn’t get scored on at all. In the finals, he was up 2-0 from a sweep he set up. He then got caught by a triangle from the closed guard. Ultimately, Ferny fought his way to 3rd in the Gi Division and 2nd in the No Gi Division.

Troy competed in the Blue Belt Adult Division for the first time, and put on some great performances! In the Gi, he had a tough match against the champion (a member of Alliance and great friend of the academy). In the match, he showed heart and technique, with a very strong passing game in the beginning, but got caught by a bow and arrow in the end. In the no-Gi, his only opponent didn’t make weight. So he automatically won the division. With the hunger for battle, he went into the open class and fought an opponent over 30 pounds heavier. He was able to sweep and score points, but then lost by armbar to his opponent who medaled at the open class division. Troy has a bright and exciting future ahead of him in competition, since he is always positive, hardworking, and composed!

Professor Tony competed in both Gi and No Gi. With eyes on Pan Ams, he wanted to test his cardio in the most fast paced and technical division in the tournament – Adult Black Belt. Although the matches did not go his way, his performances were strong and he showcased techniques he teaches everyday at the school. His cardio was tested, and he took notes on what he wants to improve for the upcoming competitions! There will also be a breakdown of his No Gi matches on the YouTube Channel soon.

[Coming Soon]

Day In The Life

To see an inside look at the tournament, check out this vlog created by one of our students that shows a Day In The Life of competition Jiu Jitsu!

Upcoming Events:

Keep an eye out on the blog for gym updates or follow us:

Instagram: @tonycasarez | @lepribjjraleigh
Facebook: Tony Casarez | Lepri BJJ Raleigh
Youtube Channel: Tony Casarez

Taking Notes for Jiu Jitsu

I have always encouraged students to take notes during class. Why? Because I cover details that are directly linked to the belt exams that they are required to take (if they do not compete regularly) in order to get promoted.

I also want students to get the most out of each training session.

However, I realized that the problem with taking notes during class is that students will scribble details, and then never look at the notes again. This is not beneficial for memory retention.

In fact, research shows that recalling information after the fact is better for memory retention than passively writing details down as you hear them.

So, I have started to send out a weekly technique review to all of my students through email. It lists the drills and names of the techniques that we discussed, but it does not include any of the details of the technique.

My hope is that students will see the list in the weekly review, and then fill in the details themselves. This requires students to think back to the class and what was taught. They will need to ask themselves, “what do I remember about this technique?”

By practicing memory recall and writing down what they remember after the fact, they are more likely to retain the information and remember it for when they are rolling.

Example of How to Use the Weekly Technique Review

Here is an example of what a student’s notes might look like after this week’s review:

  • Pass: Walk Back to Headquarters to Back Step
    • Headquarters: squat position with one of opponent’s leg in between your legs. Pull on their outside right knee with your left hand to walk back to headquarters (from knee cut for example). Once in headquarters, grip opponent’s left outside knee with right hand, and use left hand to reach for opponent’s collar or cross face. Backstep to the right. Drop hip and head to stomach at the same time.
  • Pass: Drop Elbow to Knee Cut
    • From headquarters, drop elbow to the inside of opponent’s leg to block the knee shield and go for knee cut. Knee cut: elbow stays low to prevent knee shield, opp arm reaches for near side collar, outside leg stays far away to avoid getting underhooked by opponent, head and shoulder low, strong base.
  • Pass: Pin Top Knee Shield with Grip on Sleeve and Point Knee Towards Elbow to Back Step
    • From knee cut (to your left) when opponent has a knee shield, right hand grabs their sleeve and right elbow pins their knee down. Knee points to the other direction and backstep to the right. Keep walking back in backstep until you have passed.

As you can see, the notes are not perfect. They are just what comes to mind when you try to remember what we drilled in class.

Focus on What Makes Sense to You

I also want to emphasize that there will be some techniques that just did not click for you, and others that make sense.

Really focus on the ones that make sense, and do not stress too much about the ones that left you confused. I show a handful of variations because I know that some people will prefer one technique to another, and that it differs from student to student.

Focus and pay attention to the techniques that make sense and feel comfortable to you. These are the ones you will be more likely to use in a roll anyways.

Try recalling details for the techniques in the Weekly Review for at least a month, and see how it improves your jiu jitsu!

As a reminder, here are some of the upcoming events at the gym:

Keep an eye out on the blog for gym updates or follow us:

Instagram: @tonycasarez | @lepribjjraleigh
Facebook: Tony Casarez | Lepri BJJ Raleigh
Youtube Channel: Tony Casarez

 

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your Jiu Jitsu Goals for 2022

Welcome to 2022! It’s a new year, which means new  Jiu Jitsu goals for 2022!

Goals in Jiu Jitsu are so important. If you have not yet created a list of goals for yourself, go ahead and do that now. Goals will help you to measure progress, stay motivated, and continue improving.

I’m not here to tell you what goals to create for yourself. Everyone is going to be different when it comes to their goals in Jiu Jitsu. Some students want to win tournaments, others want to lose weight, some want to make friends and improve their mental health. This is where you need to take time to get to know yourself on the mat and what you want to achieve. If you are a white belt, here are some common themes to focus on to get you started with your goals. 

What I can provide you with is 3 of the most common mistakes that are made when creating goals for Jiu Jitsu and how to avoid them. This will help you create goals that are productive and effective in your Jiu Jitsu journey.

Mistakes to avoid in your Jiu Jitsu goals for 2022:

1. Goals that you can’t control

The most common mistake that students make when creating their Jiu Jitsu goals is creating goals that they cannot control. What does this mean?

Goals that you cannot control include goals that involve outside variables and factors. For example, if you commit to the goal “end every roll with a submission”, then you are bound to be disappointed.

Why? Because you cannot control the technique, intensity, or experience of your opponent. Your opponent is the external factor that you cannot control, and so if your opponent has great defense and you are unable to submit them, you will become disappointed, demotivated, and ultimately give up on your goal.

Reframe this goal to: “Begin every roll with a submission in mind”. This goal involves only factors that you can control – your mindset before a roll. You can control the conscious thoughts that you engage in before a roll, and no matter the external factor, you can always begin every roll with a submission in mind. This is a goal that will improve your Jiu Jitsu, without causing frustration and disappointment. Some other examples of goals that you can’t control and how to reframe them include:

  • Never get my guard passedNever accept a pass (meaning don’t get discouraged when you are about to get passed or if you get passed, and always be looking for a way to recover)
  • Roll 8 times every class (there may be days where the instructor does not alot time for 8 rolls)focus on my breathing during every roll
  • Don’t tap (inevitable…this is jiu jitsu, hopefully you tap! Otherwise you’ll get put to sleep, arm broken or leg snapped off)Take notes after I get tapped out, and focus on learning rather than getting discouraged

2. Goals that are outcome oriented

Not only do I hear this all of the time, but I myself have made this mistake. Outcome oriented goals are the infamous “I am going to win 5 tournaments this year”, “I am going to win the Worlds”, “My goal is to get my purple belt before December”.

Instead of writing goals that are outcome oriented, focus on writing goals that are process specific.

For example, instead of “I am going to win an IBJJF this year”, your goal should be “I am going to follow this training plan with no exceptions, read books on champion psychology, and lift at least 4 times a week”

These goals are process specific, so they set a clear path forward. By following this goal, you enter the competition feeling motivated, prepared, and confident. The next step is to simply trust the process that you created for yourself, and let the outcome speak for itself.

Ironically, goals that are process specific as opposed to goal oriented are more likely to help you reach your goals.

  • I am going to get my purple belt by DecemberI am going to train at least 3 times a week and study at least once a week

3. Goals with no foundation

The final most common mistake students make is creating goals because that’s what they were told to do and that’s what everyone else is doing, but they take no time to understand why they are creating the goals.

The truth about goals is that they take time, and time inevitably involves bad days, curve balls, contingencies, and other roadblocks we cannot predict.

Whatever goals you create, you want to expect and plan for the inner voice that will tell you, “you don’t really need to do this”, “do you really even want this?”, “no one cares if you make this goal or not”. You have to plan for the days when you are sick, when you are tired, when you receive bad news or are feeling unmotivated and overwhelmed.

What will carry you through these days is a foundation. A “why” for every goal you create. It will help to write these “why’s” down, because on the low days, it will be very hard for your mind to retrieve them. This will help keep your goals alive, and will avoid them falling to the wayside because “well they’re not that important anyway”.

If it’s something you want, then understand why you want it.

For example…

  • My goal is to train 3 times a weekwhy? Because this will help my mental health and I will be a better father, husband, and employee if my mental health is in check.
  • My goal is to follow my training plan to a tee and hopefully win this next tournament → why? Because I’ve wanted to for a long time and it will make me feel proud of myself. Because I want to set an example for my son and for my students. Because I want to prove to myself that I can.

Any and all of these are sufficient for your “why”. As long as you have your “why”, you are more likely to achieve your goals and overcome the days when you feel like giving up.


Take time now to reflect on the goals you have set for yourself this year, and maybe reframe some of them to avoid these most common mistakes. When you have goals that are intentional and well written, you will be more likely to achieve the goals and grow further in your jiu jitsu journey.

5 Rules for Cross-Training

The question is not necessarily whether cross-training in itself is good or bad, the question is moreso, how can I cross-train respectfully?

There is nothing inherently wrong with cross-training. It can be beneficial to you as a student if you want to get to know other jiu jitsu students in the community and diversify your training.

That being said, if you are going to cross train, you want to make sure that you are respectful to your home gym, your visiting gym, and to all of the members that you meet in the process.

Here are 5 Rules for Cross Training that will help ensure that it is a positive experience for all parties involved:

1. Let your home gym and the visiting gym know that you are cross-training

Inform the head instructors at both gyms that you are cross-training. This shows courtesy and respect to both gym owners, and makes the intention for cross-training very clear. When you make it clear that you are cross-training, the instructor at the visiting gym knows that you are not their student, meaning they are not going to promote you, and you are also not a potential member. By being open and honest about your cross-training, you avoid any confusion about your intention at each gym.

2. Always offer to pay a mat fee

More often than not, a mat fee will be required. However, some gyms will not require a mat fee when you visit them, but I always suggest to my students to at least offer to pay something. By paying a mat fee, you show that you value the training, the facility, and the instruction. You are also showing respect to the members of that gym who are paying monthly dues to train there. If they do not accept your offer, then buy merchandise, help to sweep the mats, or offer to pay for a meal after training. You can get creative, but the point is to always show that you value the school that you are visiting and the training that they offer.

3. Understand what techniques are allowed

If you are going to visit another gym, it is extremely important that you know what techniques are allowed, and for which belts.

At our gym, for example, we do not allow white belts to do heel hooks. This is to avoid unnecessary injury. We will train heel hooks amongst colored belts, but only as long as it is agreed between sparring partners. It is important that all students visiting our school are also aware of this rule.

Always ask the head professor or fellow students if there are any specific rules in regards to which techniques are allowed for which belts.

4. Learn the rules of the school

Different schools have different rules and requirements for training. Always be aware of these rules, including what gis are allowed, or if you are allowed to wear another school’s patch. If the school you are visiting requires a specific gi, and you do not have that gi, rent or buy the gi that they request. Always be respectful of the rules in place. If you do not agree with the rules, then don’t train at that gym.

5. Be aware of poachers, and don’t poach another school’s students

Poaching is unnecessary and disrespectful. The quality of jiu jitsu at a school should speak for itself. If a school owner is trying to get you to leave your school and join theirs, what does that say about their jiu jitsu?

Be aware of students and coaches trying to get you to join their school, and never encourage other students to leave their school and come join yours. The purpose behind cross-training is to enhance your training, never to poach.

When a student from another school visits, I make it very clear that I am not their instructor, they are not my student, and I will not promote them. Students have asked me before if they should train at another school or my school, and I make it clear that that is not my decision. I have also experienced other schools poaching my own students, so I know what that is like, and will never do that to another coach.


My last and final suggestion is to always open a dialogue with your professor if you do decide to leave the gym. Take the time to talk to them, and let them know why you are leaving. Even if it is because you have a problem with your current school, be honest about the issues that are driving you away. This will always be more appreciated than an excuse.

I hope that these rules are helpful to you as you consider cross-training. As always, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on cross-training. Let me know what you think in the comments section of our Youtube Video.

Instagram: @tonycasarez | @lepribjjraleigh
Facebook: Tony Casarez | Lepri BJJ Raleigh
Youtube Channel: Tony Casarez

Team Casarez Goes 4-0 at the Toro Cup

The Toro Cup is a Super Fight hosted by Cageside and Toro BJJ that invites competitors from blue to black belt to compete. The Super Fights are highly competitive and intense matches. The Toro Cup also donates 50% of the proceeds to an important cause.

In the case of Toro Cup 18, the proceeds were donated to Trevor Hayes, to aid with medical bills and a stroke. We are proud to be a part of this event, for the support that it provides to the community and the competition it offers to my students.

We had four students compete in the Toro Cup 18. Two brown belts, Kevin and Mike, one purple belt, Milo, and one blue belt, Christian. All of these students have been training with me for years, and I felt very confident that their preparation and training would lead to successful victories. All of my students won their matches, 3 by submissions and 1 by points.

Kevin wins by Loop Choke

Kevin was offered the match at Toro Cup two weeks before the event, which means that a lot of his preparation was due to his consistency and hard work in the months leading up to the fight. Kevin’s game plan going into this fight was to change it up from his previous matches and really impose his game on his opponent – starting off with an initial takedown. Even though the takedown was not successful, he immediately adjusted to pulling guard and worked toward sweeping his opponent. At one point when his opponent was in the process of passing, Kevin snuck in a loop choke. When his opponent fought the choke, Kevin sat up, secured a leg, and took his opponent down, with the choke still in place. The opponent was not able to get free of the loop choke, and the match ended in a submission.

When asked how he prepared for the match, Kevin says that he was lifting 3-4 times a week and in the gym anywhere from 2-5 times a week. He also watched some footage of his opponent to prepare for his opponent’s game. He knew that his opponent liked to pass with his head low and hips high, which is typically a very successful and strategic way to pass. In this case, though, it was the perfect setup for the loop choke.

Looking ahead, Kevin will be competing in the FUJI Raleigh tournament on January 16.

You can watch the full Live post-match interview with Kevin here.

I also breakdown his match on the YouTube Channel, going through step by step what he did well and what he can work on. I encourage you to check out to see what you can learn from it!

Milo wins by Bread Cutter Choke

Milo took this match with a 2 day notice, which says a lot because competitors will usually spend weeks or months preparing for these matches. Milo’s training has been consistent and intentional, so he felt confident and prepared to take on his opponent, even with the two days notice.
It also helped that Milo competed against this opponent in the Tap Cancer Out tournament in September. He knew that his opponent was experienced in Judo, so his game plan was to pull guard, because he did not want to engage in his opponent’s stand up game. After pulling guard, Milo swept his opponent and then submitted him with a Bread Cutter choke.

When asked how he stays prepared for these kinds of matches on such short notice, Milo said that he tries to stay as consistent as possible. Mondays and Wednesdays are non-negotiables, and he will try to make it on Saturdays as well.

An important point that he made is that he comes in “not as much as possible, but as much as possible to the point where I don’t get burnt out”.

This is especially important, and a key point that I have been trying to stress to my students recently.

While Milo does not have any upcoming tournaments lined up as of yet, he feels very confident following this match and has plans to compete regularly in 2022.

Christian wins by Foot Lock

Christian is one of my most consistent students, he is always at the gym helping his friends with their technique or challenging himself against other students. To prepare for this tournament, Christian says that he was lifting 1-2 months before the tournament, and committing to extra rounds in the gym to keep his cardio up. In the week leading up to the tournament, he toned down the training, still coming in to “keep the blood moving”, but not enough to wear him out or injure himself.

His plan going into this Super Fight was to pull guard and establish a strong de la riva, which is his most confident guard. Ultimately, his guard was passed and his opponent took his back. Christian showed great composure even in this position. He stayed calm, which helped him notice that his opponent’s feet were almost crossed. This is a day 1 lesson that we teach students – do not cross your feet when you have the back! Christian moves his opponent’s foot so that it is directly crossed, and then sinks in a deep foot lock which leads to the submission.

Christian’s goal is to continue improving in jiu jitsu, and he sees competition as an opportunity to highlight his flaws and test his strengths. His plan is to continue competing as much as he can so that he can continue to improve.

Mike Dominates by Points

Every now and then, it comes down to who wants it more? It was obvious from the first couple seconds of Mike’s match that he wanted this win. His opponent was making faces, not taking the match seriously, and taunting Mike. Mike was all focus, and it paid off when Mike secured the win. He showed incredible technique, discipline, pacing, and patience during this match. It was evident from the very beginning who was going to win.

He was coming into this Super Fight after winning first place at the NAGA tournament in Charlotte on November 13. His confidence and hunger to win again was very high, and you could tell from the way he fought and how he approached the match.

Jiu Jitsu is not just a physical game, but a mental game too. In fact, I would argue it is more important to be mentally prepared than physically prepared. If you are in great physical shape, but you have no mental strength, you will not last a match or push yourself when the time comes to go for gold.

Mike has been making his mental health a priority in preparing for his matches, and it is paying off and becoming very evident in his success. He dominated his opponent during this match, ultimately winning by points.

Mike’s plan going forward is to continue building on his success by pushing himself through competition in the 2022 year.


The Toro Cup 18 was a huge success for Team Casarez, and we are excited to continue participating in the event in the future. The next Toro Cup will be February 5, 2022. It will also be held to raise money for someone in need in the community. Look out for Live videos and interviews on our social media accounts:

Instagram: @tonycasarez | @lepribjjraleigh
Facebook: Tony Casarez | Lepri BJJ Raleigh 

YouTube Channel: Tony Casarez

 

Advice to My White Belt Self

 

It took me over 10 years to get my black belt in Jiu Jitsu. During that time, I learned a lot of lessons. In the hopes that it will help some of you on your journey, here is some advice I wish I had been given when I was a white belt:

Consistency is Key

Prioritize consistent training over hard training. I would rather see you roll 4-5 days a week consistently, than 1-2 hard days. The problem with rolling hard every class is that the next day, you are beat up and exhausted, with little to no motivation to go back and train. If you do go back and train, you get run down and your motivation starts to take a hit. Instead of this approach, train consistently, without the pressure of training hard every day. Some days you should just drill, other days roll only with lower belts, other days roll lightly as best you can. Whatever you need to do to continue showing up multiple times a week and stay consistent.

Get Involved and Stay Committed to Other Arts

Do not quit the other arts. I trained judo, wrestling, and striking briefly when I was a white belt. My advice to myself then would be to keep up with these arts and incorporate them into my training. Whether that means once a week, once a month, or once every couple of months, I know that it would have significantly improved my jiu jitsu journey. If anything, I would have also been a black belt in judo by this time. Whether that means wrestling clubs at schools or in the community, anything you can do to get involved. If a competition is available in these arts, even better! Do it.

Create Healthy Diet and Recovery Habits

Habits take a long time to build, and I wish I had started prioritizing a healthy diet and lifestyle when I was a white belt. When you are young, you can get away with eating any food you want or getting little sleep, and showing up the next day ready to train. As you make your way to black belt, the years inevitably tick away. Getting older means you need to be watching what you are eating and your lifestyle habits. My advice would be to create habits now that will benefit your older (black belt) self in the future.

Do Not Stop Lifting Weights

A stronger version of you is a better version of you. Lifting weights improves jiu jitsu and also prevents injury in jiu jitsu, which means you can be more consistent. I lifted weights during the early years of my jiu jitsu career, but stopped on and off throughout the decade. My advice would be to keep lifting, and consider it a part of your training. It will benefit you in the future.

Learn How to Study Jiu Jitsu

It’s boring, and no one wants to sit in front of a computer when they can actually roll with friends, but it has to be done. Studying jiu jitsu online is one of the best ways to improve quickly and develop a greater understanding of how and why jiu jitsu works. Like the healthy diet and lifestyle, my advice would be to start learning how to study jiu jitsu as a white belt. Push yourself to incorporate this into your routine. I would tell myself that it is helpful and worth the time.

Travel When Possible to Learn from Others

I traveled a lot to compete, but sometimes I wish I had used those resources to go to seminars of world class black belts and learn different styles. Of course you learn a lot from tournaments, but every now and then, choose a seminar over a tournament to get a taste of different styles and improve your game outside of your home gym’s instruction.

Jiu Jitsu Can Be Your Career

For almost the entire decade that I trained, I was told by family members and friends that jiu jitsu was just a hobby, a past-time. I was told that I needed to focus on my career. I am proud of myself for going to university and getting my undergraduate and masters, but I wish I had been told that jiu jitsu could be more than a hobby. I always believed it for myself, but it was hard to stay motivated with outside pressure pushing me to be “successful” in society’s eyes. For a while, I was in denial of following my path. I would tell myself as a white belt that it is okay to commit to jiu jitsu. Don’t hold yourself back because of what other people expect or want from you. If you know it’s your path, then follow it.


Most of all, enjoy the journey. I hope that this advice is helpful. I would love to hear what advice you would tell yourself as a white belt, or even just as your younger self. Let me know in the comments on Instagram and Facebook.

Facebook: Tony Casarez
Instagram: @tonycasarez

Stop Trying to Fix Your Cardio & Do This Instead

The biggest misconception in the Jiu Jitsu community is that you need to improve your cardio in order to keep up with your opponent.

The problem with this philosophy is:

Training cardio outside of Jiu Jitsu makes you more tired and less recovered for your cardio training during Jiu Jitsu.

Rolling in Jiu Jitsu is aerobic exercise in itself. In other words, by showing up to Jiu Jitsu and rolling, you are training and improving your cardiovascular system. There is no need to push yourself on a 5 mile run or spend an hour on an elliptical to improve your Jiu Jitsu. If anything, training aerobic exercise outside of Jiu jitsu will hinder your training because you will have already taxed your nervous system before you even step on the mat. The best way to train your cardio for Jiu Jitsu is to train Jiu Jitsu, so you do not need to be doing cardio exercises outside of Jiu Jitsu.

If you are tired of feeling tired, and training cardio is NOT helping, then keep reading to find out what you should do instead.

Learn when and how to breathe in Jiu Jitsu

At the seminar, Gui Mendes said:

“What separates lower belts from high belts is not cardio. It’s knowing when [and how] to breathe.”

While cardio is important, learning when and how to breathe in Jiu Jitsu is what will make the difference between you and an opponent who has similar, or possibly even better, cardio.

With a strong breath, you can learn to reduce fatigue and improve your focus, both of which are essential when rolling.

How to breathe in Jiu Jitsu

Inhale and Exhale through your nose for as long as you can during a roll. This type of breathing is known to allow more oxygen to get to active tissues, which is essential for muscle energy and endurance. If you want to learn more about nose breathing, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:

Eventually, you will find it very difficult to continue breathing through your nose in the roll. This is a sign to focus on your breathing once again. Focus on inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Relax your mind. Decide how you want to proceed.

If you are interested in this topic and would like to know more, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:

When to breathe in Jiu Jitsu

It’s tempting to work your way to closed guard, side control, mount, etc. and rest once you get there. Avoid this.

Why? Because you have just secured a dominant position and should capitalize on this position before you allow your opponent to recompose themselves and their breath.

The when to breathe in Jiu Jitsu is in the time after you have just tried a submission, sweep, or pass and it did not work, or right before you are about to pass, sweep, take the back, or go to mount.

Improve your endurance with strength training

If you are going to spend time at the gym outside of Jiu Jitsu, then you should be focusing on strength training. Lifting weights with long periods of rest in between sets.

You are already training your cardio by showing up to Jiu Jitsu. What you should focus on improving is your strength. When the muscles are stronger, they are more efficient in the energy that they use.

By giving yourself more time in between sets, you allow your muscles to recover for the next set so that you focus on strength over cardio.

If you want to improve your strength training routine, I encourage you to research kettlebell workouts and programs. I especially would recommend Strong as Hec Programming: Kettle Bell Workouts .

I will also be uploading a Youtube video that outlines my strength training routine. As always, if you have any questions about strength training, feel free to ask me at the gym.

How to Create a Routine for Rest and Recovery in Jiu Jitsu

The truth is, most of us already know that we need to eat well after a training session, or that we need to make sure we are getting sufficient sleep in order to recover properly.

And yet, we don’t always do it.

It is easy to get distracted by other priorities, to get lazy in our recovery routines, or just be inconsistent depending on our mood.

This is a reminder to prioritize your recovery routine just as much as you do your training sessions.

Here are some tips I have found that will make a consistent recovery routine more likely to happen:


Make your post-training recovery drink readily available

What does this mean?

After training, you are exhausted. If you do not have a go-to product or already made drink, the chances that you are going to stop at a store or make a smoothie as soon as you make it home are pretty unlikely. And if you are a student that likes to chat after class, the 30 minute window to recover has probably already closed.

My advice would be to purchase a recovery drink in bulk for the week, and bring one to every class so that it is ready to drink on the way home. If you prefer a powder recovery, then bring the powder to class and make the drink before you leave so that you can drink it on the way home.

The key here is to come up with a routine that will help you be more consistent in how you refuel your body after training.


Relax your nervous system before you leave the gym/before you sleep

Again, we all know we need more sleep. Sometimes that’s just not possible with families, work, and other responsibilities. I’m not here to tell you that you need to start getting 10 hours of sleep a night. For most people, that’s just not going to happen and frankly, not helpful, you already know you need more sleep.

What I will say is that training jiu jitsu is taxing on the nervous system. Your muscles are being activated, your cardio is being pushed, and your brain is under the impression that this is a fight or flight situation.

This can result in the release of the hormones norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. These are helpful in the moment because they work to increase your heart rate and enhance focus.

However, if you do not properly relax your nervous system before you leave and especially before you sleep, you will carry these hormones into your nightly routine. This will disrupt the quality of your sleep.

The next time you end a training session, take a minimum of 2 minutes to close your eyes and take deep breaths. This will help ‘reset’ the body temperature, calm the central nervous system and bring your breathing rhythm back to normal. You can also think of this as a time to soak in all that you learned on the mats. You can do this in the gym just sitting against the wall, or while you are stretching. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in the gym, you can do it in your car before you leave for home. At the very least, do it right before you go to sleep at night. This will help to prepare your body for a restful night’s sleep.

If you are looking for more of a guided meditation or breathing exercise, there are many online and hundreds of free ones to choose from on an app called Insight Timer.


Support Your Recovery with Magnesium & Zinc

If your recovery drink does not have Magnesium or Zinc, I highly suggest taking these supplements before you go to sleep. Magnesium supports the body’s metabolism, muscle recovery, and improves sleep by naturally helping to calm and regulate the nervous system. Zinc supports the muscles in recovery and protein synthesis. It also improves your body’s immune system response.

These supplements will be what help you to make it to the end of the week without feeling run down, congested, or sick. They will help you to show up better the next day for training.

EVL’s Sleep and Recovery Complex is a great place to start if looking to add these supplements to your nightly routine.

You can find more information about this supplement for men here. 


These are just some of the tips that I would suggest to students who are struggling to commit to a consistent recovery routine. By making recovery as convenient as possible, we are more likely to remember and commit to doing it, even on the days we are exhausted, burnt out, or unmotivated. Consistency is key, so come up with a routine that best compliments your lifestyle and personality, and stick to it. Notice how your body feels when you implement a consistent and healthy recovery routine.

FUJI Raleigh Tournament October 2021

The FUJI Raleigh Jiu Jitsu tournament was hosted on October 24, 2020, and we had 13 students that competed and represented Team Casarez. For many of the students, it was the first time competing. It is always exciting watching students compete for the first time because there are a lot of emotions that come with competition.

Managing the emotions that come with a jiu-jitsu match at competition pace is challenging. There is excitement, but there are also nerves and fear. This is normal, and I encourage my students to compete if they can because it is a way to face these nerves and fears that we have. These weekends always leave me so proud of the students as they take on these emotions head first.

The 13 competitors brought home a total of 17 medals, with the following results:

Kids:

Silas – 3rd
Valentina – 3rd
Cristalia – 3rd
Gabriel – 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
Caike – 1st, 2nd

Adults:
Caike – 3rd
Noah – 1st
Xavier – 3rd
Shawn – 3rd
Brian B – 2nd
Andrew – 1st, 2nd
Brian – 2nd

Arthur and Henry also competed, and while they did not medal, they fought hard and showed true understanding of technique as they competed. This is important to me because it shows that the students are learning and improving, and are able to retain this information even under a stressful situation.

I would also like to shout out Andrew, who competed for the first time in the purple belt division. He earned his purple belt only 2 weeks before the competition, and won his division in Gi and got 2nd in No Gi. It was also his birthday, and it says a lot that he chose to spend the whole day competing! We are very proud of him.

We also had students who were not competing come out to support, including Sarah and Trinity. It is always a good feeling to have teammates cheering you on as you compete, so we appreciate students who take the time out of their weekend to be there for their teammates.

Every competition, we learn more about what we need to improve and focus on, and we take these details into the gym, and eventually into the next tournament.

Congratulations to the whole team for an amazing and exciting weekend!