4ever BJJ

An aspiring Jiu-Jitsu player's take on the world of BJJ.


These days, Jiu-Jitsu is my job, and it’s great, I couldn’t ask for a much better life. Yet, the problem is that it causes me to take things too serious. Sometimes I find myself longing for the days, when it was my hobby, when I could have fun losing in practice, when I didn’t try to pick apart every little mistake I made in training. It can get quite frustrating sometimes always working hard to be the best. Is it fun? Sometimes. For the most part, hard work isn’t fun. Ask anyone who’s acheived anything in their life; you have to do things that you don’t want to do. Seems like these days, I’m just doing what I can to stay one of the top guys in my division. It would be nice to find some kind of balance between job and hobby. With my goals though, it seems like I’m stuck with the never ending hard work. Looks like I’ll have to have fun when I’m done.


It’s kind of funny when you realize that your dreams are slowly coming true. The other day while teaching class, I had an epihany, or something along those lines. This couldn’t have come at a much better time considering I was a little down on myself from my poor performance at No Gi Worlds. “It happens!” “You’ll get ‘em next time!” blah blah blah. I know, I’m human, I’m allowed to be upset for a little bit, alright. Anyways, back to the topic. I’m sitting there, watching my students warm up and it hits me: This is my life! At 21 years old, this group of older, grown men trust me to teach them how to defend themselves, how to choke people, how to compete. Not trying to get to up on myself here, but it’s kind of nice realizing that hard work does pay off. I mean, my sole job is teaching Jiu-Jitsu, I have two sponsors, Aggro Jiu-Jitsu Brand and Preferred Rehab Spine and Sport (speaking of which, my sponsor has made a shirt for me, a portion of proceeds goes to sending me to Portugal for the IBJJF European Open, if you’d like one, you can find it here. Shamless plug, I know ;)) and I get to train full time. I may not be at the top of the food chain yet, but I can see results.

I guess the point of this post was to just show that if you put your mind to things, they can be done. If I don’t acheive my goals in life, I’d like to at least inspire others to try. So, I’m about to be cliche: Kids, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything. Follow your dreams with all your heart; all it takes is HARD work.


Well, it’s been almost a year since I’ve consistently posted on here, so I guess me and the internet world have some catching up to do. A lot has changed, I’ve been working harder than ever, getting more recognition, and coming to some realizations.

First off, training has been completely changed up. Morning classes are running about an hour longer than scheduled and we’re drilling harder and more than ever. Drilling has consisted of long, repetitive blocks of time doing the high percentage moves of world class black belts over and over. A combination of this and cutting weight tends to make me pretty crabby. But, all of this hard work has paid off.

The gi World Championships have long since come and passed, leaving me with a disapointing yet solid performance. Went all the way to the third round and lost a close match to a tough competitior in Dominic Damian. The time before Worlds was basically my transitional period into a smarter, more well rounded Jiu-Jitsu player. My game changed, I’m more aware of the system; all in all, everything improved. Which is probably why I was promoted to brown belt soon after the World Championships.

I first tested out my new belt at the Las Vegas Open, back in August, where I came close, but fell short, losing in the finals to Israel Ceron of Ralph Gracie. It was disappointing, but I learned and when it was all said and done, not a bad performance for my first outing at brown belt. Next came the American Nationals where I had the best performance of my Jiu-Jitsu career. I won’t bore you with the details, but I brought home gold in the gi and no gi. If you really want to know how it went down, check out this article on GracieMag: http://www.graciemag.com/en/2011/10/ryan-heilman-wins-double-gold-at-featherweight-at-american-nationals/.

This time in my life has also brought me to a realization. I’m with the big boys now. I mean, Abu Dhabi trials, I’m competing with the cream of the crop: WORLD CLASS black belts. Getting promoted and winning a big tournament at this new rank has really made me think about how lucky I am and how close I am to reaching my goals. I’ve still got a long road ahead of me, but I can see my efforts paying me back. It’s kind of nice and motivating.

So, hopefully I’ll get back in the swing of things and my writings will be more about things actually going on in BJJ like they used to be and I won’t be boring you by writing about myself like this post. Hope you guys enjoy. As always feel free to comment and let me know what you think!


Hey guys, I know its been awhile, I haven’t quite had the time to keep the blog up lately. I’ve been writing for the Nova Uniao website; between that and other things I just havent quite been able to keep up with this, but hopefully I’ll be back for good now.

Anyways, this past weekend was the 6th International AZ Open of BJJ, another great tournament run by Gustavo Dantas and the AZSBJJF. I could do a whole new review for this tournament, but I’ll just give you a quick run down considering most of the tournaments managed by Gustavo will get the same review, excellent. Besides being on time as always and all that good stuff, this was actually the largest tournament AZ has ever seen, 700 competitiors. This is just a testament to how hard Gustavo works. This time around the tournament was host to a huge 16-man black belt, open bracket. With big names such as Roberto “Tussa” Alencar, Bruno Bastos, Samir Chantre, “Barata”, and more. There is good reasoning for such a star-studded division though. The whole division was worth a total of $3000 ($2500 for first and $500 for second). There were tons of great matches, but the final put Nova Uniao’s Bruno Bastos against GB athlete, Roberto “Tussa” Alencar. This was a great match that left “Tussa” the victor on points. You can check out the whole match below.

Like I said earlier, I could go on about the quality of this tournament, but you could get that from my review of the Southwest Classic, found here. What I really want to talk about is some tournament etiquette. As an avid competitior and mat coordinator for Gustavo, I have seen it all from both sides. One of the most important things to remember if you want a well run tournament is YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR PART AS WELL. Do your research, read what is posted online. If there is anything I like least about mat coordinating is people interrupting me from doing my job to ask me what time they compete. Competition times are posted on the web prior to the tournament and are posted at the tournament. Gustavo constantly talks about not reading what is clearly posted and I completely understand his grief. If tournament workers constantly stop what they are doing to answer questions that you should be able to find out on your own the tournament will run behind schedule. Then, not only are we answering question, but we also have to listen to people complain about how things are not on time. This is just one small example, but there are plenty, so, please do your part and read what is there for you. It will make everyone’s job easier.

Thanks guys and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with the blog. See you around.


After a recent post on http://www.graciemag.com/, I’ve decided to analyze a few different ways people celebrate just for fun, nothing too serious. It’s funny to me how emotions can take over and you just do what feels natural or maybe you planned something out that you think looks cool, but in reality, planned celebrations tend to be pretty lame or come off as arrogant. Either way, do what you want to do, it’s your win.

The Fail

Let’s kick the post off with the celebration I saw on GracieMag. Back flips are cool, right? Well, as long as you land them. Things didn’t quite go as planned for this Japanese fighter. He may have gotten the win, but that’s not what his friends will be talking about when he gets home:


The D-Bag

This particular celebration comes about when one gets the victory and still decides to act like an ass towards his opponent after; it’s called humility, you don’t get in someones face and prove how much of a tough guy you are after you just beat him. This particular example comes from the 2010 World Championships in the brown belt feather weight division, in a long awaited match between Ary Farias of Atos and Michel Langhi from Alliance. This usually comes from people who are just all around punks and after some research it seems that way, a quick read at http://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-fighters/ari-farias-bjj-wiki, tells us at the age of 16, the young Farias had a falling out with his instructor, Henrique Machado. Tell me, where does a teeneager get the nerve to argue with his fully grown mentor? What makes people this way? Who knows? Maybe he wasn’t loved as a child, but enough with the babble, sorry, I don’t like arrogance if you couldn’t tell, here is the match, skip to 8:15 if you don’t want to watch a boring match:



This is either reserved for the ultimate jerk or when you’re a big enough name to have your nick name thunderously chanted throughout the stadium, in which case, it is acceptable. Fernando Augusto, better known as “Terere”, was one of these few exceptions. Groups cheered his name, and why not? He was a crowd-pleaser, fast-paced and always looking for the submission. He was a man among boys and when you have the legend that surrounds a guy like “Terere” does, you can pretty much celebrate however you feel is necessary. So, here is a highlight of Fernando “Terere” Augusto where he starts dancing to the crowd about 10 seconds in, it’s actually pretty cool hearing all the people that are behind him, celebrating his victory along with him:


The Emotionless Killer

Only the toughest guys on the planet are allowed to use this one, the guy who goes on a streak for years and is feared by everyone in his division, i.e. Fedor or Roger. (Note: They have both reached the point of only single name necessity, such as Maddona or Sting. Yes, I compared two of the toughest dudes on Earth to Madonna and Sting, what of it?) This is when you just complete one of the most amazing feats known to man and just walk off like you just got done cleaning your room. Here’s a pretty good example of Roger becoming a World Champ and acting like it was another day at the office:



Year is coming to a close people, it’s time to let you guys in on some of my favorite BJJ moments of 2010. This year was pretty exciting and it was hard to chose my top few, but here it goes in no particular order:

Abmar Barbosa and Kayron Gracie’s March to Pan Ams (Yes, I still call it Pan Ams) Final

This year’s intallment of the Pan Ams really showed us who the two newest contenders are in the most stacked division in the sport. Watching these two this year left me with a feeling of, “Holy Crap! These guy’s are for real!” Barbosa had a tough road, taking out both of last year’s finalist, dismantling Kron Gracie, 11-0, and taking out Lucas Leite via armbar. The young Gracie had no easy path either, running into 2008 World Champion, Sergio Moraes, in a very tight match. Not only did these two go to townn in the preliminary rounds, they also put on a show in the final, with Kayron taking the championship home in an awesome match.

Caio Terra Bringing it for the Little Guys

Not only did Caio Terra (Rooster/Light Feather) compete in the open weight divisions this year, he won TWO of them. Terra kicked off his ‘David vs. Goliath’ show at the Las Vegas Open, defeating Robert Fonseca (Asle) in the finals. The Gracie Fighter athlete continued his open weight journey at the American National Championship, where he took out such beasts as Rodrigo Simoes (By flying triangle), Marcelo Mafra (6-2), and the super heavyweight, Bruno Bastos. Caio is definitely a guy that the big boys should not take lightly.

Cyborg in General

It seems like everywhere I looked this year, there was Cyborg competing again and again. The guy deserves a lot of props for constantly putting it on the line time after time. It didn’t matter if it was IBJJF or Grapplers Quest, he was there. Cyborg showed tons of technique and heart this year, winning many super fights, a very memorable one against Rolles Gracie found here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcPrnMkIuIY, and taking home multiple IBJJF titles. Cyborg is on tear and is one of the guys everyone needs to watch out for in 2011.

These are just a few moments I found memorable, let me know what stuck out to you!


It’s funny how the attitude of your family and peers changes as you grow. In the beginning it’s all, “Follow your dreams, you can be anything you want be!”, but somewhere along the line, this all goes out the window. It becomes, “Get good grades, go to a good school so you can get a good job.” What happened to all the positive support we once all got from our parents? Is there just a certain age where it becomes taboo to want to do what makes you happy? It saddens me when I look around at my family and friends and see them do something day in and day out that they hate, but for some odd reason they seem completely content with it. I don’t know if I’m just weird or a social deviant, but I would much rather make just enough to get by doing what I love, than making boat loads slaving away at something that I hate. Why are material things so important to us that we are willing to give up all our hopes ande aspirations to make more money. I for one am fed up with all the go to school and make good money crap we’re fed as teenagers; I decided a long time ago that I’m going full speed ahead towards my dreams.

Shooting for the stars was all it once took to make Mom and Dad proud, now that’s just not enough. Well guess what, I don’t care anymore and neither should you. Do what makes YOU proud. I for one have huge dreams that most probably think are childish and impossible, does that make them wrong? Not at all. I don’t want to be “just another faceless nobody” in society, I want to be remembered 100, hell, 1000 years from now. When future Jiu-Jitsu players are sitting around the mats in the centuries to come, discussing Jiu-Jitsu, I want MY name to come out of their mouth. “Who do you think was the best ever?” “Oh man, ‘Jacare’ was great!” “Roger always smashed everyone!” “What about Ryan Heilman?” “That guy was amazing!” That’s what I want for myself! And if that’s too much to ask, I’m sorry, but I will die in pursuit of that dream. You have one life to live, why not make it the best? If you died today, would you look back and say, “I did all I could do and I’m happy with myself” or would you more likely say, “I just survived, living another meaningless life that no one will care about once my relatives are gone,” probably the latter. I’m not saying you have to be Babe Ruth, but at least do what makes you happy, and if you fail, at least you did what you loved while trying.

Here’s a song that I really enjoy that helps me to remember that I don’t just want to be the guy that hates his job and that I truly don’t want to grow up:


It’s not everyday that you get to train with one of your favorite Jiu-Jitsu players, but this happened to be the case for me right before the 2010 World Championships, one of the perks of training at the head of Nova Uniao in the U.S. A few weeks before the tournament, Marcelino Freitas stopped by to finish up his preparations with our team and boy was it a great experience! Just to be on the mat with someone of such caliber is a pleasure, but actually rolling with him was insane (I mean I’ve rolled with Robson Moura plenty of times, but that dude sucks 0_o)! Seriously though, it was great to roll with him because his body type and game are so similar to mine. I learned so much just from the few weeks that he was there; his top game is tight, his bottom is fluid, and is an all around animal.  I think one of the best thing you can do, training wise, is to get a chance to roll with the top guys in your division that play similar to you. If you ever have a chance to train with him or do a seminar, jump on it!! He is one of the most underated players today, I mean he has beat Bruno Frazzato 3 or 4 times… Just saying. Check out his highlight above.


Hey everyone, I just wanted to share with you guys this cool site that I found on the internet. It’s a site that just shows you a bunch of links to different BJJ related websites, whether it be gear, blogs, etc. Everyone can submit their own site for free, so it’s a great advertising tool, check it out: http://www.jiujitsulinks.com/.


Hey guys, I recently wrote an article for Yahoo about my experience with a great high school wrestling coach and what hard work really is. Check it out here: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6040532/the_gift_that_kept_on_giving.html?cat=14