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BJJ Training Journal


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 57): UFC 169 Preview with John Evans


VERBAL TAP (Episode 57): UFC 169 Preview with John Evans

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Raf's Recollection | It is always a good time when John Evans stops by the podcast. This week, I surprise my slow witted co-host in our latest installment of Over/Under Kevin with the return of John Evans to help us preview UFC 169.

It seems like it’s been forever and a day since we last had John on the podcast, but we get a chance to catch up on what the very busy jiu-jitsu badass and all-around-good-guy has been up to.

And man, has this guy been busy.

Last week, John hosted the very first BJJ Breakdown Blue Belt, Submission Only invitational.  It was a live event that John organized and streamed that featured some great match-ups among some of the most respected blue belts around our community (and ultimately won by the awesome Kyle Buena).

For those who missed the live stream, John just put up the first match from the event up on his YouTube page.  I’d highly encourage you to check it out and keep an eye out at BJJBreakdown YouTube page for even more awesome fights.

Verbal Tap Covers RFA 12

So, not only do we preview who will win UFC 169 with a game of Over/Under Kevin between Evans and Kevin, but we also talk about the awesome time we had covering Resurrection Fighting Alliance 12 last Friday.

The fights did not disappoint.  Not only did we get to see our friends from Systems Trianing Center pull off a hat trick’s worth of submissions at the event (Dmitry Gerasimov, Terrion Wear, and Pedro Munhoz), but the entire fight card from start to finish provided a set of spectacular finishes, knock outs, and battles inside that cage.  It’s no wonder this organization has sent 8 fighters to the UFC recently; the caliber of the fighters involved is nothing short of spectacular.

My eternal thanks to our pal Octavio Villanueva for his fantastic work helping put this all together.  In addition to being an awesome BJJ practitioner, Octavio also put together this fantastic RFA 12 highlight reel that deserves your attention and your likes.

Starting a Rukus

MikeyWe also speak with Fight Music producer Mikey Rukus about his upcoming music tour.  If you’re not familiar with Mikey just yet, chances are you’re already familiar with his work—as he’s provided the walk out entrances to some of your favorite MMA athletes.

Mikey’s about to embark upon a music tour that will be touring alongside the next series of UFC events across the country, so definitely go check him out if you get the chance!

Thank You, Readers (and BJJ Reddit)

BJJ redditWe also talk about the first entry about my BJJ Training Journal series (Shouldn’t You Be a Blue Belt by Now?) and describe how blown away we were by the community’s support (especially the great folks over at BJJ Reddit).

My mind's still blown that an introspective piece about my own experiences would resonate with so many people, but I'm humbled and encouraged by all of your kind words.  It's moments like this that remind me I am involved in the right support and prove why the jiu-jitsu community is the best in sports.  As such, I will continue to keep you updated on my progress through humorous essays and recaps.  Again, thank you all so much.  I can't wait for you to read the next one.

Also, feel free to throw topics and ideas at me.  I'll be happy to write essays and jokes about prompts that you guys throw at me, so feel free to do so over at @VerbalTapCast.

In Case You Missed It

Check out my interview with Ralek Gracie from RFA 12, where we talk about Metamoris 3, why it’s so hard to make money in jiu-jitsu, and why you should buy the live stream of Metamoris 3.

And, don’t sleep on my post-fight interview with recent Verbal Tap guest, Dmitry Gigapet.

Or is it Gerasimov? I can never remember.

That's all for now folks.  We'll see you back here next week with another thrilling installment of Verbal Tap.