MassBJJ Newsletter Dec. 2015

MassBJJ News

  • 2015 in Review
    I just want to take a moment to thank everyone involved in making the MassBJJ family what it is today. We support each other on and off the mat and continue to grow and evolve as practitioners of jiu jitsu and also as friends. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished in Arlington in under 4 years! The gym went through an extremely stressful move while waiting for the new space to be completed and the uncertainty of not being able to stay in the old space while we waited. Then we got the go ahead to move over the 4th of July weekend and everyone stepped up to help on your holiday. I’ll keep this short but thank you for your hard work and dedication to the school and to the art. MassBJJ is more than just one person, it’s a collaboration of like-minded and hardworking men, women and kids who share a common interest. I think a lot about the future and both personal and professional goals but let’s not forget what we’ve gone through to get where we are. Now let’s go CRUSH 2016!!!!!!!!!

– Mike                  

  • Arlington Holiday Schedule
    • 12/23 Normal Classes
    • 12/24 Closed
    • 12/25 Closed
    • 12/31 Open Mat (go to Arlington’s Facebook for details)
    • 1/1 Open Mat (go to Arlington’s Facebook for details)
  • Acton Holiday Schedule  
    • 12/23 Normal Classes
    • 12/24 Open Mat – 12:00 – 2:00pm
    • 12/25 Closed
    • 12/31 Open Mat (go to Acton’s Facebook for details)
    • 1/1 Open Mat (go to Acton’s Facebook for details)

          Upcoming Events

  • MassBJJ In-House Tournament
    • Date:   Sat 1/16/2016
    • Time: 11am-3pm
    • Location: MassBJJ-Arlington
    • Double Elimination (2 match minimum)
    • $20 entry fee
    • Kid’s, Women’s, and Men’s Divison’s
  • MassBJJ Holiday Party
    • Date:  Sat 1/16/2016
    • Time: 6pm-10pm
    • Location: Wedgewood Pines Country Club in Stow, MA
    • $20 food fee, kids under 12 are free
  • Arlington Student of the Month
    • Make sure you congratulate Andrea Sexton! She was recently chosen as the Dec student of the month and has a great write up on the bulletin board in the school about her experiences training with us! Check it out!
  • Congrats to Scott Gamin on earning his Purple Belt!

Let’s make some goals for 2016 and take our potential to the next level. Here’s a quote to get your started:

“Everyone has talent, but rare is the courage to follow that talent to the places it leads.”


See you on the mat!





Why do you compete? One students perspective here.

Roman Soboliev reflects on his experiences:

I’d like to start this note with three random facts about me: I believe that AC/DC is the greatest rock band of all time. I’m brown belt with four stripes in dad jokes. I don’t enjoy competing all that much.

After reading the above logical question is: “Why only brown belt?” Well, it’s complicated. I’ve been in US for almost 9 years and still catching up on pop culture and humor. The next question you might have is: “If you don’t enjoy competing, how come you did three tournaments in past half a year?”.

This is great question. And pretty loaded too. I’ll try to answer it to the best of my abilities handicapped by poor grammar and Word’s autocorrect, so bear with me. On an unrelated subject I recently found out that “bare with me” is actually an invitation to undress. That explained certain things…

Anyway, back to competition stuff. Before my very first tournament I was told I “need to go out there and have fun”. Well, the whole fun part didn’t happen since I was absolutely terrified. For crying out loud, I’m about to get in front of a dude whose sole purpose for next 5 minutes would be to take my head out. What’s fun about that?

After years of training I was able to build up sufficient level of confidence and trust in my technique to realize not only I can survive out there, but also be a threat. However time spent in a bullpen right before match still sucks. And in poorly organized tournaments you can be stuck there for an hour. The whole event can be lost while waiting for your name to be called even before the first match starts. So again, if these “pre-flight” minutes are so dreadful – why do it at all?

On philosophical level I believe testing technique in “battle” is necessary if practicing martial arts. That’s the only objective way to know if what you do works. And competition provides setting that is as close to real fight as it gets, yet still safe.

On personal level… That’s where it gets a bit dicey. To put it simply I was bullied as kid. To the point I didn’t want to go to school or run choirs  for parents in fear to run into certain kids. It’s important for me to know I can confront my fears. To see things through regardless how uncomfortable they make me. To be in control.

Also there is sense of camaraderie you build with teammates. You live through their fights, you cheer till your voice is hoarse and then some. Honestly, I’m much more nervous when my teammates are competing then when I’m on the mat myself. And when I am – it’s remarkable to hear familiar voices, even if words are muffled by the crowd. I can’t describe how awesome it is to catch wild eyed faces of your teammates when stealing a glance at score board. They are there regardless if they just won or lost. Or if they are about to go and probably should be warming up now. Or if they don’t compete themselves, but took time out of their weekend to come and support people they train with.

And then there is sense of deep relaxation after all said and done. Minutes of complete stillness during which months of preparation leading to the event, aggression during the match, joy of victory or sadness of defeat seem surreal and distant.

On my way home I start thinking what I’m going to work on come Monday. What areas of my game exposed by competition I need to improve. I usually have faint smile on my face thinking about next steps in my jiu jitsu journey, as I do right now. All those months of hard training and diet leading to competition, minutes from hell in bullpen – can’t wait to do it all over again.

I’d like to close by saying thank you to each and every one of you. Coaches, Mike and Nate, for providing not only place to train, but build long lasting relationships and sharing the knowledge it took many years to collect and perfect. Training partners because there is no growing without your help. Either it’s practicing techniques, support during competitions or tolerating my sense of humor.

10 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Arlington Training Lessons From 16 Years On The Mat

This is written as I reflect briefly on the past 16 years of my training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We all have our story when it comes to the major turning points in our life that help mold and possibly change us. Starting BJJ was one of those life events for me. I have been training BJJ since 1999. I started in the art at 18 years old, received my black belt in 2007 at 26, and now at 33 I am proud to be the instructor of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym in Arlington, Massachusetts called MassBJJ-Arlington. If you do the math, it took me 8 years to get my black belt and I’ve also been one for 8. I truly feel that I’ve learned more in the 8 years since I got my black belt than I did during the 8 years it took me to get one. I honestly can’t recall a period of time that I spent away from the BJJ mat in the past 16 years. Even when injured I found a way to stay on the mat. For example, I injured a rib in training and it hurt every time someone was able to secure a solid side control. This forced me to work my guard retention and not allow the person to achieve side control in the first place. Instead of complaining my rib hurt when someone got side control, I just worked smarter to not let it happen! Here’s my list:

1) Grit
I love how training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brings out the character of a person. If you haven’t built toughness for some reason before, this art will do it. In some grappling arts, rules will save you from bad positions. In wrestling if you are pinned it’s over. In judo, on the mat you have 20-30 sec to work until you are stood back up. In BJJ, if you are mounted, no one will save you so it forces you to get tough and find a way out!

2) Emotional Stability
I always tell students they should not be training with emotion. You should not celebrate victory or express disappointment in defeat. That doesn’t mean you can’t have those emotions, I just don’t want them affecting your technique. I don’t want people expressing emotions after tapping someone or slapping the mat in disappointment after they’ve been tapped. You just dust yourself off and put your hand back out there to start the next roll. Emotions are up and down, technique shouldn’t be. Putting your technique on the line every single time you spar will develop this emotional stability.

3) Patience
In many things in life you are able to develop a relatively competent level with practice. For example, I recently wanted to learn how to shoot a compound bow. It took me about 2 hours of practice to hit the bullseye. Granted there was a component of luck involved but regardless I hit the bullseye and this is the “objective” measure of ability in that art. You can’t get this with BJJ. You will never hit the bullseye in your first class. I’ve been training 16 years and still haven’t hit it!! In BJJ you will train for 2 years and still not be sure if you are any good. I tell my students at MassBJJ Arlington you need to be patient and just enjoy the journey. Don’t count stripes and don’t keep score with who beats who. Just continue to train and work hard. As a student if you do 2 things you will improve: 1) Do your best 2) Be willing to learn.

4) Persistence
This goes along with patience. If you want to improve, you need to be persisted through the ups and downs and just keep going back. I’ve never met anyone that regrets going to train when they don’t feel like it. It’s only those that don’t go train that regret it. A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.

5) Accountability
It’s not about you! Your training partners need you. If you make your training partner the most important person in the gym then the culture of the gym will be a place everyone wants to be a part of. Having that in mind will make you better because you’ll be training consistently and as your partners improve. So by being selfless you will improve faster than if you are selfish.

6) Potential for Leadership
There will always be new people that want to learn BJJ and this gives you a chance to take them under your wing and show them the ropes. Tell them the things it took you a while to figure out or pick up on. Be a smile and a resource for them as they will gravitate toward you as you will be a familiar face on a regular basis. Pay it forward. They will do the same for someone if it’s done to them. A BJJ school is greater than one person, it’s a sum of all its members and each person contributes to the overall culture of the gym. You don’t need to be the instructor to be a leader.

7) Summer jobs
This is true! I was in college and needed work for the summer. I was talking with some guys in the school and a few mentioned they needed their houses painted. I had no idea about painting but I told them I would do it anyway. Turns out I wasn’t too bad and made some money to help fund my BJJ addiction. If you have kids, maybe they will find a connection through the team or an internship for them to build life experience and help choose a future career. Then again your kids should be training and building those relationships themselves!!

8) Friendships
I’ve seen a quote that goes, “I’m at a point in my life where most of my best friends are also trying to choke me!” I’ve had the chance to meet people from all over the world and could travel to many parts and know someone there. I also always travel with a Gi so I can drop in at different schools and meet fellow practitioners of the art. I would encourage you to do the same.

9) Health
I’ve had the luxury of never being out of shape due to BJJ. I don’t fluctuate in weight because I’m always training. I don’t even look at BJJ as exercise which means I never get bored of it or dread training. I even miss it if I’m unable to make it to class. It’s perfect. Improving health and fitness is a side effect of learning and training in BJJ. Along with learning a practical martial art that might save your life one day. I can’t really see a reason not to train.

10) Beginners mind
There is so much to this art that you can’t possible know everything. I’m constantly studying and reviewing techniques trying to stay fresh, learn and improve. There can be no boredom since the learning is endless. You get bored when you no longer care, and people that don’t care about learning do no last in BJJ.

I’m sure my list has evolved over the years with training and being involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. When I was a white belt these 10 things were totally different. That’s the beauty of BJJ, constant evolution!

See you on the mat!

Mike Pellegrino

2nd Degree Black Belt

Learn More About my BJJ Gym in Arlington!

Fundraising Seminar Recap

Thanks to everyone that came out or donated in and effort to raise some money to help finance the new mats needed for the move to 26 Mass Ave in Arlington. I hope you all have had a chance to try out the awesome techniques Jay and Tad shared and I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to come down and help our the school.

The move is hopefully happening in a few weeks so stay tuned for more details and how you can help! You guys are going to be blown away with the details of the new location and I’m very excited to share this with you!

Check out the pictures from the event: Jay and Tad Seminar Pictures

See you on the mat!




Build a System First Then Find Your Own Game

System: An aggregate of offensive and defensive techniques from your hands to your feet and applying these techniques starting from a standing position to your first position on the ground.

When I was 12 years old I took guitar lessons. My teacher taught in a very ordered manner. He stressed that you must have discipline to learn the lessons of music theory first (Imagine that!). I just wanted to play like Eddie Van Halen. Show me how to play Eruption! I thought, if I can learn Eruption, I will be a good guitar player. My teacher would have none of that. He knew if he taught me this it would be meaningless and would just satisfy me in the moment.

He always drilled the “caged system” as he would call it, “See, you can play “A” major chord starting here, then here, and here; they are all “A” chords, but they have different shapes. You just need to know how to play the major chord then learn to find the same chord up and down the neck.” He would show me a few and then say, “You find the next one on your own, then find which one you like to play.” I thought many times, “I know my chords let’s move on!” I couldn’t understand or appreciate these lessons until I was older. I eventually realized that I was completely wrong and didn’t recognize the value of what he was trying to teach me by just showing me the depth in one single chord.

You all know what I am getting at here. Sometimes I feel guilty that I do not show the latest fancy techniques, but then I quickly remember why I don’t and what I believe in. I can tell when someone hasn’t developed a system or flow or when they are on their feet they do not know what to do. They get lost, play catch as catch can, or try moves that just don’t make sense. The problem is that too many students never have the patience to learn the system first, especially on their feet. They get to a certain level and then they start copying. How can you learn a system if you are always copying the best moves of the best players?

My job is to teach a system and build confidence in students so they have something to build on, both on their feet as well as on the ground. If you can be disciplined to build this system first, going out of the box and getting creative with your game is going to be so much more effective. Jiu-jitsu is constantly evolving and this is good, but that doesn’t mean you forget what is important.

When you have done this hard work, then it is time for you to find your own game!


Event Reminder: Sat Jan 10th Arlington Seminar 11-1pm and Holiday Party 6-10pm

  • This Saturday Jan 10th 2015 in Arlington, we are having our Fund Raising Seminar 11am-1pm to help out with the costs of moving the school. Jay Mansfield and Tadashi Takashima will be teaching their best stuff so don’t miss it! We are suggesting a $20 donation but more or less is perfectly acceptable.
  • Also on Jan 10th from 6-10pm we are having our Holiday Party at Wedgewood Pines Country Club in Stow, MA. This is a catered event and will be $20 for Adults. Kids under 12 are free. Please sign up at the front desk! Hope to see everyone there to celebrate an awesome 2014 and ring in 2015 together!

In-House Recap and Belt Promotion From Acton Jiu Jitsu

In-House BJJ Recap:

Great job everyone yesterday at the BJJ In-House tournament in Acton. Competition fuels motivation, motivation fuels dedication, dedication fuels improvement! These BJJ tournaments are meant to do nothing more than provide an environment of stress for your skills and see how you handle it. I equate these tournaments to a financial stress test of a bank. Does the system hold up under pressure? Does your jiu-jitsu hold up under pressure? If not, there needs to be some reflection and organized assessment prior to establishing a game plan to fix the system.

If you competed, try and reflect on the experience and pick a few SPECIFIC things to work on. Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to fix too many problems at once, as it’s better to fix one issue permanently then fix several issues temporarily. This event is nothing more than to make our team technically stronger as a whole. Remember, iron sharpens iron!

Make sure you respect your opponents, as you can not be taken to your full potential without them. They are one of the most important ingredients to success. In this case, your opponent is also your teammate, build relationships and help each other improve. I always say at some point in your training you are going to need to take responsibility for yourself and what it is you need to improve on. Our BJJ and MMA gym in Arlington & Acton are full of people looking to help, so speak up if you have questions!

MassBJJ is more than just 1 man, and nothing could have been accomplished yesterday without all of the amazing people who helped out. From the check in and weigh in process to the brackets and reffing, everyone did great! Each event we get better and better and are planning our next one for around April/May in Arlington. Stay tuned.


Congrats to the 4 new blue belts in BJJ Arlington who were promoted right before the competition began! They were definitely caught by surprise being promoted right after the rules meeting! These guys performed beautifully wearing their new belts and their promotion was more than well deserved. Now all the upper level belts can sleep a little better knowing these guys no longer are wearing white belts!

With all that said, SEE YOU ON THE MAT!

Here are some pictures of the belt promotion.

View Pictures on Facebook

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BJJ 3 Quotes to Inspire

I’m a big fan of motivational quotes. These are 3 of my favorites:

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard to find alloy called guts.”
-Dan Gable

“One of my first lessons as a coach was that talent is everywhere, but a winning attitude is not.”
– Dan Gable

“Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
– Vince Lombardi