Budo Jake

Tell me about Budo Videos and about how you got involved with martial arts.bv_logo_chrome


I’ve been in martial arts my whole life, since I was a little kid, so it’s been over 25 years. It’s nothing new for me to go into the academy and talk to people and train. It’s just an extension of my life really. I teamed up with my long-time friend and now business partner, Budo Dave, and we just put something together where we started importing a lot of the products that we liked and just branched out from there and grew. Jiu-jitsu and MMA grew like crazy in early 2000 so we just kind of rode that wave and kept on doing it.


What was the first martial art that you got involved in as a kid?


Karate was the first one. I did that for a few years and then some Kenpo. I did some Aikido for a long time, moved to Japan and trained in Aikido in Kendo in Japan. Then the last one is the one that’s stuck and that’s, of course, Jiu-Jitsu.


Tell me about moving to Japan. That sounds interesting.


I’d spent some time there as a home stay student when I was in high school. I’d always wanted to go back but I didn’t want to just go there as a vacation. I wanted to actually live there. So, after I graduated from college I moved over there and taught English for three years. I didn’t have a lot of English-speaking friends so I immersed myself in the culture and the language. I met the woman who would become my wife and just trained like crazy so it was an awesome experience.

Dojo Randori

Did immersing yourself in Japanese culture color your perception of the martial arts?


Yes, especially Japanese martial arts. I think there can be cases where people take the outer ritualistic things and make too big of a deal about them. For example bowing. We bow in almost all martial arts, but sometimes people take it a little too seriously. Whereas in Japan a bow is just like a handshake, it’s not a big deal and you don’t have to bow really deeply. When we don’t have the cultural things around you explaining the reference point, things can be misunderstood. Jiu-Jitsu comes from Japan originally and then from Brazil so a lot of things get a little mixed up. But having  spent time in Japan really clarified the roots of a lot of martial arts for me.


Do you have any experience with Judo?


No, pretty much just Jiu-Jitsu. Sometimes we have some Judo guys come into the academy. I trained for that in Japan. Judo has a little bit higher status in Japan just because it’s a 100 percent Japanese martial art, where Jiu-Jitsu, especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, isn’t. So some Japanese guys look down on Brazilian, Jiu-Jitsu but once they get on the mat then they learn to respect it generally.


Jiu-Jitsu came from Judo, right?


Well, actually it’s vice versa. There were a bunch of different Jiu-Jitsu schools and then Kano (Jigoro Kano) got them all together and then made Judo in 1882.


And then BJJ branched off from that, right?




I think you are probably one of the top people in the world to address the following question because of your wide involvement with all the different schools of martial arts and the fact that you’re so heavily involved in digital media. One of the things that I always found interesting with martial arts and the way they have developed through MMA is how the Internet changed the teacher-student dynamic. What do you have to say about that?


That’s an interesting topic. Before the wide availability of all kinds of media, the instructor could really piece things out very slowly and choose not to teach some things if he didn’t want to. He could keep some secrets just so he could always beat his top student. A lot of teachers worry about their students getting stronger than they are so I think there were a lot of secrets in the past.

Of course nowadays, everything’s out there on YouTube, and not just YouTube but instructional DVD’s, websites etc. There’s so much information available that the limiting factor is how much time you can devote to training and no longer can the instructor keep things secret from a student. I think it’s a fallacy that the instructor should always be stronger than a student. I think that it should be the other way around. You should be developing students that some day get better than you and therefore the art evolves and doesn’t die out.


Another element in the quick development of martial arts over the last several years is that now, in addition to there being consistent money to be made competing as a martial artist, there’s sort of a crucible now in which the various techniques can be proven. Today, what works and what don’t work is very obvious, very quickly. 


Right, for sure. I read a recent interview, I think it was with Crowley Gracie, and he said it was so easy for him to make money when he moved to the United States in the ’90s because everybody was living in a fantasy land believing a lot of these other martial arts worked in combat situations when actually they didn’t. The U.S. was a little bit behind Brazil in determining the combat efficiency of martial arts.

I’m not saying that’s the only thing that martial arts should be based upon. Not everything should be relegated to combat, but if you’re teaching something and you’re telling your students that this is going to work on the street or in a full contact situation, you should be teaching techniques that are applicable.


What would you say about the argument that when Kano emphasized non-lethal techniques he made Judo, and ultimately Jiu Jitsu, more effective because students were able to train at force more, as opposed to say Karate or other martial arts that have more catastrophic techniques, designed to kill your opponent, that you can’t ever really train.


I think there was some very good logic that went into making the decision to take certain things out, certain leg locks and neck cranks, things that can cause irreparable damage. You see, back in Japan there used to be a very small teacher to student relationship so you could practice dangerous techniques and the instructor was right there to make sure nothing went wrong. But when they wanted to increase the art and spread the art, then they started to have larger ratios of student to teacher relationships. They took away some of those techniques and I think that was a smart thing to do. We don’t need to be hurting our training partners and it’s good to know those moves, but for a sporting situation, nobody wants to be injured and knocked out of training for a long time.


Do you think that something has been lost in the martial arts since the individual teachers aren’t as important as they once were? Is some of the value of the martial arts for character formation also being lost?


I think it all depends on how you view the martial arts. In my opinion, there are three ways too look at it. One is looking at martial arts as something which develops you physically and mentally over the long term; martial arts as a way of life. Another point of view is looking at it as a sport where you compete. A third way is looking at it as a self-defense, not caring about any kind of character development or competition, just looking at is as how I am going to survive if I get jumped on the street.  So people will have very different opinions about a lot of things we’re talking about based on what lens they view martial arts through. For me, I look at it more from the lifestyle and sport point-of-view. I think what we have gained through the things we’ve talked about is more than what we’ve lost but I do think that there’s a lot of value in going back and studying some of the things that were practiced in Japan hundreds of years ago. But I think only a very particular person is going to be interested in doing this and probably not the masses.


You talk about on your site the “martial arts life”. How does that specifically apply to you other than the fact that you’ve become very successful in business by marketing to martial arts enthusiasts?


It applies in so many ways. I’m in better shape now than I was 10 or 20 years ago. Jiu-Jitsu is a sport. I’m going to call it a sport in the context of this conversation. It’s a sport where you are going to be fighting with somebody every time you go to train. Knowing that in the back of your mind, it makes you think, ‘You know, do I really want to eat this junk food right now? Am I going to be a little less effective when I go train tomorrow?” It makes me think, “Ok, I need to keep training as much as I can,” because nobody likes to lose and you want to do well so it really keeps me on a stricter schedule than something that didn’t have competitiveness would. Like if I was digging the Ping-Pong, I wouldn’t need to worry about my diet so much but Jiu-Jitsu’s a very physically demanding activity where the other guy is trying to cause you bodily harm—he’s trying to choke you or break your arm. So if you can deal with the physical and mental stresses of Jiu-Jitsu, everything else in your daily life becomes easy. If somebody’s mean to you, whatever. At least they’re not trying to break my arm. So I’ve found that it just keeps me calm and relaxed in daily life and it’s something that isn’t nearly as bad as dealing with a 300-pound guy’s shoulder in my jaw.


You’ve trained a lot. What’s your high point in your competitive Jiu-Jitsu life?


I think I’m still—I don’t think I’ve reached my peak yet. I’m certainly not able to train and compete as much as a world champion or somebody who has no other business responsibilities. But I got my black belt about five months ago and I’ve been competing quite a bit. I won the black belt national title in September.



Who awarded you your Black Belt?


From Marcio Feitosa and Carlos Gracie, Jr. I really enjoy competing at black belt, more so than the other. You just feel like there’s more eyes on you and it’s nice to be able to compete against some of the guys that I’ve interviewed before but as far as competition, my high point would be the American Nationals this year where I submitted my opponent and got gold there but I’m trying to compete a lot more in the near future.


How do you come down on the whole gi or no gi argument?


They’re very different, but they both complement each other very well and I think it depends on your reasons for training. If your sole reason for training is to compete in the UFC, then you should probably spend 100 percent of your time in no gi. But if your focus is understanding the art as well as possible, then I’d say you’d have to start in the gi. You could do 50/50 but I think in rare cases should you neglect the gi.


Who is the best Jiu-Jitsu competitor that you’ve ever seen?


It’s hard to argue against Roger Gracie. He’s won the most world titles at black belt as anybody and winning every match with the same submission. One year it was all chokes from the mount, one year it was all chokes from the back. That’s pretty dominant.

Who’s the best teacher you’ve ever seen?


That is a tough one but I’m going to go with Shawn Williams. Shawn does a lot of via commentary with us for the live broadcasts and he’s like a human DVR. There will be a big scramble and it almost looks like a Tasmanian Devil ball of dust when it’s over but he’s able in his mind to go back and say, “ this guy had a grip here, he moved to the left, he did this, he did that,” and lay everything out without even watching it again. He has a very analytical mind and he leaves no details untouched. He really deserves to be better known than he is.



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