Judo Olympian Travis Stevens On His BJJ Journey

BJJ Rants: How did you find Judo and BJJ?

TS: I found judo on accident when I was 7. I signed up for the wrong sport at the local youth center and stuck with it. I found BJJ when I first moved to San Jose State for judo. I was looking for extra training sessions so I walked into AKA and started training with Dave Camarillo. I stayed there for about a year. Then almost 6 years later I stepped onto a BJJ mat again at Renzo Gracie’s Academy in NYC in March of 2012. I sought out Renzo’s because I suffered a terrible foot injury just months away from the games. And I needed to stay active and in shape so I figured why not BJJ my foot is bad but I should be able to sit on my butt and play guard. Then after a few moths there I fell in love with it.

BJJ Rants: Is there a big cultural difference between the Judo and BJJ Lifestyles?

TS: Judo and BJJ are exact opposites. In judo we are allowedd to train at other clubs without being considered a “traitor”. Yet most judo players are cold you could walk into a judo club in Japan and no one would say hello or help you out. It’s almost the mentality of you can be here but figure it out on your own. With BJJ you’re not allowedd or suppose to train at different clubs. Yet everyone individually in BJJ gets along great at least with the people I’ve met.

BJJ Rants: Can you share what a normal training routine would be for you?

TS:
Monday:
7:15-8:15 no-gi BJJ
10:30-12 judo
12:30-1:45 running and sprints
2-3:30 lifting
6:30-8 judo
10:30-11:30 running (only 1 week out from departure of competition)

Tuesday:
7-8:30 judo
12-1:30 BJJ
2-3:30 lifting
5:15-6:30 BJJ
10:30-11:30 running (only 1 week out from departure of competition)

Wednesday:
7:15-8:15 no-gi BJJ
10:30-12 judo
12:30-1:45 running and sprints
6:30-8 judo
10:30-11:30 running (only 1 week out from departure of competition)

Thursday:
7-8:30 judo
12-1:30 BJJ
2-3:30 lifting
5:15-6:30 BJJ
10:30-11:30 running (only 1 week out from departure of competition)

Friday:

Option 1                                                     Option 2:
7-8:30 judo                                              7-8:30 judo
8:45-9:15 running and sprinting     8:45-9:15 running sprinting
10:30-12 lifting                                       1:30-3:30 BJJ RGA Manhattan
6:30-9 BJJ                                                7-9:30 BJJ RGA Fort Lee Teo BJJ

Saturday:
11-12 BJJ Teo BJJ
12-1 no gi Teo BJJ
2-3:30 gi RGA Manhattan

BJJ Rants: What were some difficulties that you find yourself having in competition for Judo and BJJ? What advice could you give for competitors in competition?

TS:  Judo: my biggest difficulty is dealing with staying healthy. I’ve spent the last two years dealing with injury, after injury; so when I walk away from a competition injury free that’s the real victory for me at this point in time.

BJJ: My biggest difficultly is the scoring! In judo when there is a score, the referee signals it and verbally announces it for everyone to hear. In BJJ they just signal, so some times I look up and I’m just thinking to myself where did that come from and I’m clueless. I lose my focus trying to wrack my brain around how he got that point or advantage. But if I had to give advice to competitors it would be never become complaisant or have an attitude of “oh well better luck next time”. Strive for improvement there is always something to be learned or improved on.

BJJ Rants: Unlike most of the BJJ top names in competition today, you have actually competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics how has that experience helped you in big competition such as the IBJJF Mundials and Copa Podio?

TS: It doesn’t help at all. Judo and BJJ are not the same in anyway shape or form and anyone who thinks so has never done either at a high level. Yes they both complement each other but being good at one doesn’t make you good at the other it just means your learning curve is smaller. I wished it helped. I thought it would but, that was a huge mistake. When I go I to a judo competition I know exactly what to expect from every competitor in my weight class in the world there are no surprises so I can really game plan and mentally prepare. But in BJJ, I have no clue what’s going to happen. I don’t know what I’m going to be dealing with it’s all just spur of the moment type stuff. (I’m assuming that will change with experience in the sport) I’m sure the top guys in BJJ have game plans for everyone in there divisions. I couldn’t even name you one person in my division.

ts 3

BJJ Rants: You have competed a lot, who was your hardest competitor when you competed? And what changes have you made since then?

TS: There is no such thing as a hard competitor. Yeah there are skilled ones that give me problems but no one in judo gives me such a problem that I stay awake at night wracking my brain trying to figure out how I’m going to win. I know how to win it’s just executing it that’s difficult sometimes. But that being difficult is my fault. It has nothing to do with my opponents. In BJJ everyone is tough. I feel like a blind dog most of the time trying to sniff out his bone. And it’s not that I don’t know what to do or how to react I am just unsure of what the result will be every time we move. Every time I compete in BJJ, I find myself asking people on the side of the mat if I’ve scored or gotten an advantage or not. So I’m really nervous most of the time just because I don’t know the out come of each individual exchange. Like is he doing this for an advantage or a sweep? But that’s what I love about it it’s like a puzzle I need to figure out and there is no better way then trial by fire.

BJJ Rants: With such a busy schedule competing and doing so many Judo seminars, how do you fit teaching in your new academy in Massachusetts?

TS: I feel terrible every time I’m not at class with my students I truly love watching them grow and develop. I love to see the look on there faces when the “light bulb” goes off and the move they have been working on finally clicks. I’ve decided to cancel all seminars and I’ve put a price tag on all seminars for me at $5,000 plus air fair and hotel. Just because it’s not fair to my students who need me there teaching and mentoring to be gone all the time. But I’m fortunate enough to have help and when I’m gone I have a black belt who takes my class run class while I’m gone.

BJJ Rants: What would you say is your strongest asset to you in competition and why do you think it is to you?

TS: For judo my strongest asset is my aggression I can be a mean S.O.B. For BJJ though you can’t really approach the sport in that way. You don’t get very far so for BJJ I would say my ability to dictate where the fight is going to take place. Because of my judo I can almost assume 95% of all BJJ guys will pull which is nice but if I do get swept I’m very happy playing guard or deep half and I can quickly reverse the position and sweep back or just kick out and stand up. And go back to playing from top.

 

BJJ Rants: With so many jiu jitsu and judo events up ahead, which events have caught your eyes the most. Also, what about the rumors of you going into MMA?

TS: I’ve never heard any rumors of me doing MMA just a lot of people asking if I would. And if someone is willing to pay me I’ll glove up and fight. But until then ,I’ll stick to judo and BJJ. Well I’ve just finished the expo with a very disappointing performance. I’m so ashamed to even call myself a brown belt under Renzo and John Danaher with that performance. I just can’t figure out the rules and scoring system. I keep giving up points and advantages for no reason other than I just didn’t know that they would get points for it. So I’m constantly fighting a losing battle.  For that reason I’m not even sure when I will do another BJJ competition; other than Copa Podio on January 11 2014. But right now I feel like my Jiu Jitsu is good enough to win a world title. I can train with just about anyone and hold my own I just can’t figure out the score and strategies to BJJ. It’s sad to say but, that only comes with competition experience and with my judo schedule I just don’t know if and when I’ll be able to compete enough in BJJ to gain that knowledge. I’ve talked with a lot of top level BJJ guys to help me in this aspect but, it’s so foreign to me. It’s like trying to throw a ball with your opposite hand. For judo I’m finishing out the year with a Grand Prix in UAE, a Grand Slam in JPN, and the European Club Cup Championships in FRA. Judo will always be my main focus at least until after the 2016 Olympic Games. But I would like to clarify that I have every intention of wining an Olympic Gold Medal in Judo and a World Title at black Belt in BJJ along with an ADCC gold. Right now competitions like the expo and Copa Podio are all geared to gain knowledge so that when the time comes I’m ready to win those titles.

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