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Brian Carlsen


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.