Interview With One And Only Hywel From BJJHacks

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1. How did you get started in BJJ?

Like many people I found jiu-jitsu through an interest in MMA. I had trained for a few years in various martial arts but always found them lacking in any sense of realism – I looked for the most realistic of all combat and that was MMA. By training MMA I was introduced to grappling, the most effective system of which is Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

2. What is your current belt/rank?

Brown belt.

3. What is your academy/team?

I train with Ricardo de la Riva at his academy in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro.

4. Are you a part time athlete or you have a job apart?

I’m not an athlete, I’m just an average person who loves jiu-jitsu. For over 10 years I’ve been working as a journalist, the last few years of which I’ve spent focussing on video production for my jiu-jitsu media company ‘BJJ Hacks’ www.bjjhacks.com. I also do select commercial work and occasionally freelance for various magazines, websites and so on.

5. How many times a week/day are you training?

I train jiu-jitsu on average about 3 or 4 times a week.

6. Do you do No Gi/Judo/Wrestling as well?

I used to, but not any more. Nowadays my focus is 100% gi jiu-jitsu.

7. What is your attitude to Crossfit or circuit training? Have you ever include it in your training?

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Strength and conditioning is important for players of any level, and Crossfit is one of a wide number of options for someone looking to engage in supplementary training off the mat. I was lucky to train with a very good Crossfit coach who convinced me of the benefits of pure strength training, he completely changed my physical condition and this had a massive positive effect on my jiu-jitsu.

8. New School vs Old School Jiu Jitsu, any thoughts?

I talked about this with Fabio Gurgel in an interview, and I’m inclined to agree with him: Old school isn’t more efficient than new school, and new school jiu-jitsu is simply better than old school.

I wouldn’t describe myself as either, but I feel that anybody who ignores modern developments thinking that old-school jiu-jitsu is somehow better or more effective is completely wrong. But anyone who wants to work complicated ‘new’ jiu-jitsu techniques needs to have a proper understanding of the ‘old school’ fundamentals to make them work.

9. What is your personal style in jiu jitsu?

I’m lazy and opportunistic – I don’t really force anything but if I see it hanging I’ll go for it. Technically, I always try to emulate the smoothest guys in the gym as I aspire to being one of those guys who doesn’t need to rely on strength or speed to dominate a roll.

10. If you could choose one super ability for jiu jitsu, what it was?

Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton and healing ability would be pretty useful! You’d never need to worry about getting injured again.

11. Are you following any special dieting?

Not really. I try to eat clean, don’t drink too much and I listen to my body.

12. Do you use any sport supplements? If yes, give us an example of your favourite?

I keep buying supplements but I never remember to take them.

13. Do you have something special in your training program?

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I believe everyone needs to take responsibility for their own development. Every few months I look at my game and try to identify an area that needs work. I then spend 3-4 months developing my knowledge of that position or concept and focus on refining the key details that make it work.

De la Riva is great at helping me with this, I always ask him first if there’s anything he feels I need to work on. If not, I’ll get his thoughts on the area of my game I’m working and he’ll give me some options to try. I’ll go off and do my work and keep checking back with him for feedback and guidance.

Once I’ve gotten comfortable with it and it’s working against people of all levels, I move onto a new position (or revisit an old one) and repeat the process all over again.

14. What do you prefer – rolls over drills or drills over rolls?

Depends. Rolling is the most fun and I enjoy the creative aspect involved in trying out moves and discovering the possibilities and reactions. Drilling is best for reinforcing technical details and is a great BJJ-specific conditioning tool.

15. What do you like most and least about BJJ?

I don’t like getting hurt, but that’s the risk we take. I’m not sure what I like most – that’s like asking what do I like most about breathing or seeing the sky every day.

16. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

My goals are to get my black belt and be fluent in Portuguese. De la Riva joked with me I’ll get my black belt long before I’m ever fluent!

17. What are your thoughts on BJJ tournaments?

I’m a fan of sport jiu-jitsu and I’ve competed myself. I think everybody should compete once just to experience it as it tells you a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about your jiu-jitsu. I have crazy respect for hardcore competitors as it’s an extremely tough sport and requires massive amounts of dedication and training to be able to compete at even an average level.

18. What is your bread-and-butter move?

That’s a secret!

19. What advice do you have about BJJ?

Just to repeat what I said earlier about taking responsibility for your own development. Training in a large team doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get the input you need from the main coach, so seeking out people who can help you in different areas of your game is imperative. On the other hand, relying too much on a coach can be a bad thing as you can end up being spoon-fed and lacking any kind of self-direction.

20. What does the jiu-jitsu lifestyle mean for you?

For me the jiu-jitsu lifestyle is about having friends from all walks of life and all levels of society – a camaraderie with people who you may never have otherwise met in your day-to-day life.

21. How the idea of your site was born? How did it begin?

BJJ Hacks began as a pet project in 2011. I wanted to indulge my passion for jiu-jitsu while exercising my journalistic skills. I spent a few months writing articles and doing interviews before releasing a couple of videos. The reaction was incredible and it made sense to focus all my energy there. At the time very few people were making high-quality jiu-jitsu videos and so I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

22. Did you expect your project become so big?

No. It began as a hobby and now it’s my main job. That’s amazing.

23. What is the main message of your blog?

It’s that wherever you look in jiu-jitsu there is always something or someone that can give you inspiration or advice to become better – you just need to know how to look for it.

24. Do you consider it a full time job?

Yes, I still do a few bits here and there outside of BJJ Hacks but everything I do is somehow related to jiu-jitsu.

25. What is Jiu-Jitsu for you?

The best martial art on earth.

26. What are the tips you got in bjj and use through your journey?

To just relax and enjoy the ride.

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