The White Belt Chronicles: Vol. 1 - Traditional Jiu Jitsu on the 10th Planet

Everyone has their own story, but I think everyone embarks on this journey in a similar manner. Some may just see it in the UFC, others may have been exposed to it first hand, be it from their friends or even their family. All of us begin by seeing two men rolling around on the ground in a way we’ve never quite seen before. Quick, methodical movements. We may even hear the audience boo because they aren’t knocking the shit out of one another. But we see something else. We see more than just the chokes, or the shoulder being dislocated. We see a chess match playing out on the canvas. For years I had told myself that I would pick up this chess game. Years passed and either money or time, or a combination of the two, kept me from training. After a bit of true introspection, I came to the conclusion that these were really excuses I had been making for myself. As my New Year’s Resolution, I took the plunge. My Jiu Jitsu journey began on January 2nd. 


I started like most people do--Google. I looked at a few places and ultimately decided on Ludus MMA in Jacksonville, FL. I began learning the fundamentals from Mike Pope, a professional MMA fighter and Brown Belt under Ryan Hall. After five months of training, I earned the first two stripes on my belt. Those two little pieces of sports tape don't mean much to someone that doesn't train, but in that moment, they meant the world to me. I was finally able to tread through the waters that most would drown in. 


Pope teaches a more traditional form of Jiu Jitsu, believing in the efficiency of the fundamentals. Through this I learned how to survive in each position. Once position was acquired, we were taught a variety of submissions from that position, consistently drilling the intricate details of each one. This is inarguably an efficient methodology, and as a result, I gained a solid base to move forward with my Jiu Jitsu journey. However, due to distance and new employment opportunities, my ability to train with Pope all but vanished.


This put me in an awkward position. I was right back to where I was in the beginning of the year, only now I could tread through the turbulent tides of grappling. As a frequent listener of The Joe Rogan Experience, I knew what 10th Planet was, but had never stepped foot into one. Eddie Bravo, the founder of 10th Planet, is a frequent guest of Joe’s, and with how genuine and passionate he is about Jiu Jitsu, I would be doing a disservice to myself to not at least drop in, especially after finding out that both Brown Belts in town are under Eddie himself.


On the 4th of July I decided to head down to the Orange Park location (10POP). I came in ready for a class, and instead found myself intruding on a podcast and the beginnings of an open mat and barbeque. Rather than being shooed away, I was welcomed into the production room as though I was already a part of the family. After the podcast had wrapped up, we went out onto the mats for some rolling.


This is when things got interesting. 


I had warmed up with one of the newer members who has a bit less time on the mat than myself and even then still found myself in compromised positions, so I knew going against the experienced guys certainly wouldn’t go well for me. This was proven when it came time to roll with Art himself. He knew my background in traditional Jiu Jitsu, so I believe what he did next to be intentional. He showed me some of the most unorthodox (yet highly effective) techniques I had ever seen. Up until this point, I had rolled with what I would guesstimate to be 60 people, between two competitions and numerous open mats. I hadn’t experienced, heard of, or seen anything like this before. He showed me a seated mount where his legs were stretched outright, controlling my arms. An attempted bridge and rollover sweep was laughable. Balance was maintained, and he just kept position while I squirmed trying to figure out how to maneuver out of it. When I couldn't, he finished with what I could only call (keep in mind I’m a white belt here) a modified Ezekiel choke. I knew when I agreed to roll with a Brown Belt that my odds of earning the tap were less than 1% (as it should be) but I wasn't quite prepared for that. After a few more rolls, I was hooked. I had to learn more. 


So, I signed up. 


Two days later my I went to my first full class. I'm used to only getting an hour in, so I was stoked to get a full two hour class in. It started out as you'd expect. Standard warm ups for flexibility followed by takedown drills, then the technique of the day. This is where I really began to admire the system. A standardized curriculum, with unique names and practical applicability. These techniques incorporate the traditional fundamentals I’ve come to be familiar with, along with the uniqueness of the 10th Planet system. Aside from the foot and ankle techniques that I was previously told were forbidden until Blue Belt (and consequently have very limited experience with), it was a relatively smooth transition, that I don’t believe will be difficult to adapt to. All I know right now is that I'm hooked, and can't wait for what comes next. 

**Author’s Note: I’d like to thank Art and the Locker Room Talk crew for inviting me to write for them. Stay tuned for more posts. Be sure to subscribe to Locker Room Talk’s podcast. Now go get some rolls in.


Author: Nolan Callahan