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Amechi Akpom


VERBAL TAP (Episode 76) with Amechi Akpom and Brian Carlsen

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Raf's Recollection | On the podcast this week: Amechi Akpom and Dream Jiu-Jitsu’s Baddest Brown winner Brian Carlsen.

But first, let me just start by saying, I’ve ingested a lot of jiu-jitsu this week. And by a lot, I mean, even more than the ridiculous average I normally ingest in a given week.

My weekend started with a fantastic seminar conducted by my pal (and former Verbal Tap guest) Travis Conley last Saturday afternoon. Kev has spoken so highly of his friend Travis for so long that any time I’ve asked what it’s like to train with him, Kev merely lets out an exhausted sigh and mutters “…rough.”

At his own BJJ home base in Virginia (BJJ and MMA Academy), Kev is surrounded by a set of friendly, but competitive killers. And as someone who is no averse to an aggressive style of sparring, his recommendations are highly respected.

So there was little doubt in my mind Travis would bring a certain kind of game to a seminar.

IMAG0243And the man did not disappoint.

Travis’ style is heavy. It’s pressure filled, it’s intense, and controlled all at the same time (kind of the exact opposite of my own style I bring to the table)—which is all the more reason I wanted to see him at work. I like learning from people who challenge me to venture outside of my comfort zone.

But there’s more than just the element of smash that Travis brings to his seminar instruction, it’s an impressive ability to adapt to the needs of his individual students.


We had a wonderful spectrum of folks at the seminar whose skill levels were varied (ranging from experienced BJJ practitioners to my buddy, Ross Ellis, who was there to try out jiu-jitsu for the very first time) and Travis did an excellent job of making sure each student walked out with more than just a choke or a guard pass, but that every person in attendance left with something to improve their individual game.

That’s a tough thing to do.

We want to send a very sincere thank you to Travis for taking the time to stop by The World Famous Gracie Barra Encino to conduct a truly one-of-a-kind seminar. We also want to send a big shout out to the homie, Marcus Kowal, for playing host and being so welcoming with his establishment.

IMAG0257And our biggest thanks go out to the great people who came to join us. Many of the folks in attendance are friends of the podcast and their support was a wonderful reminder of the excellent company we keep here at the podcast. And to our new friends: I look forward to training with you beasts again sometime soon!



The day after the seminar I got the chance to work Media for Dream Jiu-Jitsu’s Baddest Brown tournament.

For those not in the know, Dream Jiu-Jitsu is leading the charge of alternatives for BJJ junkies who are seeking more just out-advanting-ing or point-ing their opponents. This California-based organization has quickly made a name for itself by providing athletes with a series of tournaments that feature creative and innovative stipulations.

The main attraction of last Saturday’s tournament: a 32 man, brown belt invitational that’s no time-limit and submission-only. The catch? Competitors flip a coin before each round to determine if they will compete in either gi or no gi competition.

Crazy, right?

So it was no surprise when I found out that Travis was contacted to be a part of this group.

I was fortunate enough to interview all 32 participants in the competition and found myself immersed in their backstories (in the coming days, we’ll be posting some of the fun interviews we conducted at the tournament). Each of these killers seemed excited and motivated to be a part of tournament that wouldn’t be left in the hands of a ref or lost by a sweep in the last thirty seconds. And the thrill of shifting gears between gi and no gi proved to be a great catalyst for their excitement.

10459093_716119845114174_7648174429276656614_oAmong the interviews, I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Carlsen (from—a mild mannered, self-described nerd who’s spent the better half of the past year competing at tournaments every other weekend. Carlsen’s upbeat attitude and easy-going attitude made him a breeze to interview (I mean, he shouted out his grandma and grandpa during my pre-interview with him, how can you hate the guy?).

And while I was not surprised to see him win the entire tournament—having had a front row seat to the grueling wars between highly skilled BJJ competitors that were all around—I was keenly aware of the degree of difficulty involved in each of those hard fought wins.

I was thrilled he agreed to come on the podcast to talk about his experience. On here, he talks about the tough mental stamina used to win the tournament, the caliber of his competition, and then Brian describes the hero’s welcome he received when he got back to his training partners back at Easton BJJ.

On a personal note, I was truly inspired by the dedication and resolve demonstrated by each of the guys in the 32 man invitational. In getting to know many of them and their backstories, you really got a sense for their love of sport. It’s my hope to be able to relay their narratives, as thanks from the wonderful technique, heart, and soul they left on those mats.

I learned so many things from them all and can’t wait to butcher all of their technique back at my gym.

But Wait There’s More…

Our pal, BJJ Training Journal’s (, Amechi Akpom, returns to the podcast to take on Kevin on another thrilling installment of Over/Under Kevin for UFC 174. Listen in to find out if Kevin will remain undefeated at losing, or if Amechi will be the first person to lose to my slow-witted co-host.



VERBAL TAP (Episode 58) with James Puopolo


VERBAL TAP (Episode 58) with James Puopolo

James PuopoloRaf’s Recollection | Here's the good news: I didn't scare James Puopolo away back at FIVE Grappling.

Last November, I got the chance to conduct a quick interview with James about his participation in the extremely cool five man round robin the good folks over at FIVE Grappling put together.

Not only was James gracious with his time, but he provided us with some cool insight about his recent decision to quit his former day job as a math teacher and devote himself entirely to competitive (and teaching) jiu-jitsu.

Additionally, James gives us some insight into his training, studying under Rafael Lovato Jr., his travels all around the word, what it's like to compete at ADCC (the smog conditions in Beijing are apparently to die for... literally), and even his competitive goals for 2014.

And for those who feel like they'll never quite reach the heights James has in both competitive and recreational jiu-jitsu, you definitely should listen to the story he tells about wanting to get his blue belt to help put things in perspective.

And if you find yourself in the Oregon area and want to train BJJ, definitely hit up Salem Keizer Brazilian Jiu-JItsu Academy.

John EvansOver/Under Kevin UFC 169: The Results Show

I surprise Kevin with the return of John Evans to find out who won our latest installment of Over/Under Kevin.

On the podcast we discover who lost and (by proxy) will be forced to put up a picture on their Facebook of their best impression of Urijah Faber.

Yes, those were the stakes.  No, I'm not even really sure what that means.  But we're always up for this kind of nonsense, so keep an eye on the Verbal Tap Podcast Facebook Fan Page.

But Wait There's More!

bjj training journal logo-mainOur pal, BJJ Training Journal's Amechi Akpom, returns to check in on my training regimen.

Which is nothing to write home about lately.

Sure, I've been training, I just haven't had the time to write the follow up to the training journal blog I started a couple weeks ago.  It's been a chaotic time at work (you might have heard a thing or two about it in the news).

But, rest assured, as I wrap up my final week at NBC, there's going to be plenty of time to give you a worthy follow up.  I'm quite excited to start working on what promises to be a mildly amusing set of narratives about my struggles in BJJ.

As always, hit us up with any questions, comments, concerns, hints or allegations.  @VerbalTapCast.  Until next time, fight fans.



VERBAL TAP (Episode 55) with Amechi Akpom and Matt Kirtley

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Raf's Recollection | Although Kev and I have very little to offer the jiu-jitsu community, we are fortunate enough to have friends who are making really cool contributions to the sport.

On this BJJ-heavy installment of Verbal Tap, we talk with two people who are doing amazing things to improve and modernize the sport that we all love so much.

BJJ Training Journal

BJJ Training JournalIf you’re anything like me, you try as hard as you can to keep records of your BJJ training, but it doesn’t always work out right.  Sometimes you forget the techniques that you’ve used during training, you have a hard time trying to recall the exact steps your instructor showed or, even worse, you go days without updating your records.

Our pal Amechi Akpom is trying to eliminate those problems. On February 8th, he will launch a new app targeted at BJJ practitioners like you and me called BJJ Training Journal (available on all iPhones).

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 8.57.49 PM

In a Verbal Tap EXCLUSIVE we get Amechi to take us through the app (and the accompanying website on how you can keep records of your mat time, how many times you submit your training partners, and even how you can keep a digital log all of your notes and techniques that you utilize during training.

And even if you’re lame and don’t have the use of an iPhone (like me), you can still sign up and use the Beta-version of the website over at

On the podcast, I mentioned to Amechi that I will be blogging about my experience using his website over the next month.  If you are vaguely interested in reading how bad I am, I highly encourage you to set up an account over at and then friend me here.

If you train with me, go ahead and sign up so you can keep a log on how many times you tap me out.  And if you even remotely like jiu-jitsu, you’re gonna want to sign up so you can really start improving your game.

Over the next month and a half, I'll try to make things fun and interesting!

Aseopian Media

As much as I would like to call Matt Kirtley a nerd, I happen to know the man can break my arm with relative ease (see the video above).  But Kirtley’s nerdiness comes in a form many of us can relate to: devotion to the world of jiu-jitsu.

Matt’s a black belt (under Eduardo de Lima) and gives us a lot of cool insight into his latest project with beloved Verbal Tap guest, Marshal Caper (of Artechoke Media).  These two awesome BJJ guys are now working on a sweet Reverse Omoplata from Crucifix Instructional.  The instructional is the first planned to be released in conjunction with Artechoke’s new ebook 3-D Jiu-Jitsu: An Introduction to Thinking Conceptually.

3D Jiu-JItsu is an online ebook (you can view it right here for Free.99) that utilizes multimedia platforms to demonstrate armbars, arm drags, and single leg take downs.  The book combines Marshal’s penchant for thorough description with animated GIFs on how to do the moves and Matt’s guidance and jiu-jitsu badassedry.

While 3D JIu-JItsu is currently up and running, the guys are looking for funding to complete their  Reverse Omoplata Instructional.  They’ve got a campaign up at IndieGogo and are offering some pretty cool perks to those who contribute.  Give it a look, and definitely help these guys out.  If this project does well, they’ve got even more in store for you all (as they outline in the video below).

Magic - RafIn fact, there was one perk that Matt kindly extended to myself and Kev.

Some within the BJJ community know Matt as the guy who made a set of trading cards for elite level BJJ Practitioners.  Somehow, we were able to get him to make a couple cards of “Magic” (see what I did there, please don’t sue us Hasbro) for Kevin and yours truly.

Awesome, right?

(That’s not a statement, I’m aMagic - Kevinctually asking you.  Are these good?  Accurate?  I'm clueless here)

I have no idea how that game is played, but I think I’m goblin?  Kevin, however, has never looked better and looks like an evil wizard from the Smurfs.  So kudos to our pal, Matt.  I can now tell my grandchildren one day that, yes, I once had a collectable trading card made about me—and, no, I still have no idea what any of it means.

Don’t forget.  3D Jiu-Jitsu is the shit and go contribute to their IndieGogo immediately.

But Wait, There’s More


As you may have guessed from the preview video above, I am not happy with my BJJ Podcast Nemesis, Paul Moran.  Upon hearing that the news that Matt Kirtley had been booked on both our show and Open Mat Radio in the same week, I might have gone on a small (but justified) rampage by podcast’s end.

Should you care to listen to my meltdown, you can find it around the 1:14:07 mark of the podcast.

And if for some reason you want to listen to whatever it is Paul is passing off as an “interview” with Kirtley, you can head on over to his website and let your ears burn in agony.  I challenge you all to let us know who really had the better interview (you hear that Paul!).

As always, comments, likes, and shares are always appreciated.  Happy training, Verbal Tap fans.