Back when I was in Law School in Boston, I was woefully out of shape. I started going to the gym every day with some buddies and it felt great. After a while I started getting bored and was thinking that I should try to do some martial arts. My friend and I were walking around a video rental place and he comes over with this video and says, “Watch this guy. This is what you want to do.” That video was the first UFC and that guy was Royce Gracie. That changed my life. The year was 1996.
After I finished law school in 1997, I moved back to New York City to take the bar and begin working at a small record label, TVT Records, and start training at the Renzo Gracie Academy. Back then it was the Gracie/Kukuk Academy and there I got to roll with Renzo, Craig, Matt & Nick Serra, Rodrigo Gracie, Ricardo and Flavio Almeida, John Danaher, Gene Dunn and many, many other people that went on to get black belts, fight professionally and open their own schools.
From 1997 until around 2004 jiu-jitsu dominated my life. I definitely got into other things like yoga and CrossFit during that time, but I always considered myself a jiu-jitsu guy that did other things. I had this belief that I could never open an academy because I’m not Brazilian and my name isn’t “Gracie” and I didn’t really compete that much. However, I really loved teaching. That’s how come I really embraced teaching yoga and then CrossFit because it satisfied my need to be a teacher. I felt there was more opportunity in yoga and CrossFit for me to earn a living than there was in BJJ. Also I found that I was injured a lot from BJJ and yoga and CrossFit were much safer.
I was a blue belt for about 6 years and then I finally received my purple belt. The thing I liked about Renzo’s system was that it was obvious when you were ready for a promotion but he still wouldn’t give it to you until it was a little overdue. I knew many purple belts that were dominant against purple, brown and black belts. I knew many blue belts that would be high level purple belts at other schools. Renzo made people wait. It was such an honor to receive my purple belt from him.
One my deepest regrets is not continuing to train over the last decade. I am so grateful every day that I decided to start training again. I feel reborn.