Unlock Your Power

Buried within everyone is an inner warrior, it doesn’t brag or boast, but if you get between her and her family you’re in for a reckoning. At RCW we purposefully tap into the warrior spirt with tried and true techniques that work for men and women of all shapes and sizes. Our Gracie Jiu Jitsu heritage spans decades in the evolution of grappling. What was once a niche activity is now a mainstream sport that provides women with astounding confidence, respect, and self defense.

Unlike the magazines and posters at the gym that focus on an ideal shape of one possible body type, Gracie Jiu Jitsu leads practitioners to a comfort within their own skin. Rather than compare what our bodies look like next to another, Gracie Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) exclaims “look at what my body can do!”

Classes just launched, a great time to get started with other beginners:

At RCW we have numerous co-ed classes throughout the week, but today we are thrilled to announce the return of our AMAZONS. A program for women, led by women in the BJJ community. Our top coaches have trained for more than 7-8 years to be able to offer this program with the authenticity you deserve. Come check out any session on our schedule and start your path to becoming a warrior in your life. You’ll find our Amazons class currently every Monday night at 6pm and we always offer a free trial to help you get started. River City Warriors is located conveniently in the Lake Oswego, Tigard, and Tualatin triangle. We have a Portland address as we’re right off of both I-5 and 217, we’re super easy to get to when you make the leap to come down and join us.


We look forward to seeing you on the mat and being a part of your success.


RCW Staff




(UPDATED 6/8/20)

NOW OPEN!! Here’s what you need to know.

Today Washington County was approved to reopen following Covid-19 guidelines set forth by the state. That  means River City Warriors can reopen as well! We’re excited about the opportunity to see all of you in person and return to the community we’ve so proudly built. With that we need to inform you that outlined by the state are some baby steps in moving forward.

What does training look like now?

Business owners tackle one obstacle after another and this is no different. I can tell you we absolutely never thought we’d be facing public health challenges to keep our doors open. This is a learning process for us, and our goal is to follow the ethical and legal guidelines while offering the most comfortable environment possible. Here’s what we have determined in the moment.

Participation and Health:

  1. Students will be REQUIRED to sign up for classes in advance. We have to limit the space available for all classes to keep the six foot social distance for students. There’s two ways to do this, you can sign up right on our website under the schedule tab HERE. The second way would be to check in using the River City Warriors app found on the Google Play store or the iOS App Store.  This also helps us avoid the step of taking manual attendance and having every student touch the same tablet at the front desk. IMPORTANT: Either step will ask for a password and most students will not have this. You need to use the email you used when enrolling at the school, AND choose “Forgot Password.” Otherwise what you’ll do is end up duplicating your account and it will NOT let you register for classes.
  2. According to the state’s guidelines masks are required for staff and we’re going to require them for participants. (including kids) As we engage in boxing, in visceral workouts, we cannot understate the importance of this step. The mask as I’m sure you all know do a tremendous amount to protect those around you. When you mask up, you’re stating you care about your fellow student’s health and well being, and their families.
  3. Classes will be 45-50 minutes during Phase I: The state mandates as a “fitness” facility we MUST clean all equipment and surfaces every hour after each session This window of time we’ll let us prep for the next session. We’ll be using all CDC approved cleaning supplies as well as having soaps and sanitation supplies for students.
  4. You must use your own equipment, particularly GLOVES as there’s no way for us to clean these items as thoroughly as required. You’re welcome to find your own, and we’ll be selling gloves and equipment at 50% off upon reopening to make this as accessible as possible. As always you’re welcome to find gear online or any store of your choosing.
  5. During our 15 minute cleaning window in between classes. We’ll need everyone to exit the building to allow us space to clean. This will also avoid people congregating at the lobby in close proximity.
  6. We encourage students to explore the arts in this unusual time. Many of our programs will look different as we’ll list in a moment. Take this time to explore something new with an open mind, and get to know your fellow students who share our community.
  7. June 8th, 2020 – We’d like to announce kids classes today. Due to the aforementioned strict guidelines some things you should know. All requirements and procedures for adults are in effect, and youth students will need to bring their own grappling dummy to train with at class. We may be running them through a variety of drills but we have numerous safety measures in place.
    1. Students will find designated spots to line up on the floor that are six feet apart. They won’t have to wonder or worry if they’re social distancing, we’ll do that for them
    2. Parents may only drop off and pick up at this time, we cannot allow family members to sit and watch youth classes at this time.
    3. Our schedule will be limited as we have staff that cannot return at this time. It should be updated right here online at RCW, but in general we’re aiming for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5pm, and Saturday Mornings at 9am.
    4. Thanks for your patience and understanding, we’re trying to do our best to accommodate everyone at this time.
    5. Kids are still welcome to attend all ages ZOOM sessions Monday and Thursday nights during posted class times.


How will the actual training work?

Again, as we’re excited to open, a few changes dictate what we can do in Phase I of this reopening. Keep in mind Oregon is currently in a fortunate place, our Covid 19 cases are fairly low in comparison to the nation. We’re happy to move forward cautiously to help keep this trend going in the right direction. Hopefully these restrictions are temporary and in a few short weeks we’ll move in to Phase 2 and then onto 3 which is a complete return to normalcy.

  1. Kali/JKD – This program will be converted to mostly handheld tools in the short term. Using eskrima sticks will allow us to keep six feet apart and still be able to train with another person. We look at this as a blessing, and feel fortunate that this is one area we can continue to train in a familiar way. Class size will be limited to 20 students.
  2. Muay Thai/Kickboxing – Phase I unfortunately doesn’t allow for contact among people even wearing boxing gloves or equipment. This session will be circuit driven as we cycle students through heavy bag, medicine ball, rope, and combination drills. There will be a form of sparring and a myriad of inspiration from us as coaches where we’ll explore the art more than we can describe here on virtual paper. Class size will be limited to 20 students
  3. BJJ – In this phase this class we’ll look a lot different. Professor Erik and I have gone back and forth on what we can do during this time. We determined that the best way to serve students at this time is to have a class where all students bring their own grappling dummy. We’ve posted a couple different ways to build your own low cost BJJ partner using materials around the house. Since there is no partner contact allowed, this is the best solution we could arrive at in lieu of canceling the class altogether. Class size will initially be limited to 10 participants.


What and When?

We’re thrilled to announce that we can reopen as early as this Monday June 1st! During this initial week, we’ll be launching all ADULT co-ed classes. We expect kids classes to resume the following week, we’ll look at capacity in regard to the Amazon’s BJJ class for women. In addition we’ll be doing daytime BJJ on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. We’ll do our best to reflect the temporary schedule changes online as well, and expect our full class syllabus to rapidly return. In addition to the schedule, we’ll be streaming classes live via either Facebook or Zoom for anyone who’s still hesitant to come in.

This gap in the schedule at the moment will give us space to make further improvements, prepare the space, and give attention to other requirements on RCW during Phase I. We’re thrilled to be here for you, to see everyone again, and while this list might seem like a lot to follow it’ll flow smoothly. We never expected to face these changes ourselves and never in our lifetime has the model of martial arts been uprooted like this. It’s an usual time, but like we’ve stated since the start of this situation, we are all in this together. We’ll get through this, manage the changes, and before we know it training will return to the lifestyle we all enjoy.


Before we get this show on the road, A HUGE THANK YOU

We can’t overstate the amount of support we’ve received from our students and their families. Over half of our students voluntarily kept their membership active during this pandemic. Many of you reached out personally and let us know how much RCW meant to you, that you wanted it to be there when we could return. It is your actions that allowed us to navigate this trying time and we’ll keep our promise to return the favor. Words can’t express how truly grateful we are for everything you’ve done for RCW, for us as people, and our community. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.



Professors Joe & Erik



Life vs. Sport, the tale of the tape:


Chances are you’re on this website looking for self-defense. While we offer many classes like Muay Thai and Boxing, it’s important to delineate the reality of a street fight. First and foremost and the core tenant of this article is the intent behind an attack, mugging,  or a street fight is vastly different than anything that occurs in a ring.

Should someone attack an individual they might trying to drag the person away, bite them, use a knife, or any other means to get what they want. The assailant isn’t trying to “win” in the traditional sense except that they want your property or something from your personhood.

This is why the curriculum in our Gracie Jiu Jitsu and JKD/Kali programs are so important. Both can assist in ring sports like MMA or Kickboxing, but these methods convey the intent of an aggressor. When someone wants to do a takedown for a few points in a BJJ match that energy and attempt is drastically different than when someone wants to carry you away or drag you to a car. The takedown doesn’t even function the same! This means that if you prepare for a street fight by doing sport methods, you will be left severely unprepared.

River City Warrior has you covered:

Check out this common street hold, the side headlock:

Notice that the blue belt student here is representing a common thug. Someone not that educated, who refuses to let go of your neck. He just wants to pull you down and try to exert his will. This is more realistic for a street fight, whereas this hold in an MMA situation isn’t that valuable. Your average assailant doesn’t have an idea to punch when you start resisting a hold, they think they have something good and will hold on for dear life! It’s our job as educated practitioners to take advantage of their commitment level and use it against them.


In a street fight there’s no rules, no gloves, no points, just an attempt to get home safely. This examples illustrates a concept of destroying the attackers limbs in order to gain an advantage. A lot of this won’t even work with a glove, but did you catch that elbow smash to the knuckles? Brutal! Not only is it effective here as an “empty hand” technique, but you can substitute any handheld tool. Maybe you have a leatherman in your pocket, a flashlight, a ballpoint pen, a knife, or you’re carrying an umbrella or cane. All of these hits can target the same component with even better efficacy if you know the basics.

If you’re training for life, make sure it’s legit:

The last example we’ll cover today is pretty brutal, if you can’t watch we’ll try to describe it for you.

The man on the bottom, to the bewilderment of the announcer, is using a move for BJJ SPORT that does NOT translate to an MMA fight. Okay you got us, we’re comparing two different sports here. We feel it can shed some light on the concept in this article. In BJJ this position on the bottom is called half guard, and is relatively safe. The term “half” meaning that both opponents have an equal position for offense and defense. However, when you add strikes into the mix you MUST have a knowledge of how to deal with punches and strikes while on the bottom. Sadly, most people don’t and this is the result.

This is why at River City Warriors in Tigard, we NEVER do BJJ moves that are purely for sport. We have a detailed program that covers these aspects of a real fight and more. In fact our Brown Belt exam is an hour long test where the student demonstrates street self defense in Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

This is a philosophy we’re proud of but can’t take credit for, people like Pedro Sauer and Dan Inosanto have been teaching and prescribing street self defense for decades. We get a lot of our education from these two amazing mentors and do our best to pass it down to all our students.

If you’re interested in self-defense, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, MMA, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do or the other programs at RCW we always offer a free trial. We don’t expect anyone to take our word for it.  Come see for yourself the quality of training at River City Warriors.


You can get your free trail here —> rivercitywarrior.com/free-trial <—




And as always, thanks for reading,

Professor Joe

After decades of experience I’m ready to share my SECRET training formula!

I don’t normally like extreme titles, but hey, it’s more eye catching than “You Should Just Practice More!” We all hear that in any sport, we need to train, practice and evolve on a constant basis. Many people in all physical activities will hit plateaus from time to time. That’s still going to happen and you need to be driven to solve these plateaus and move through the boring times into another gain.

When it comes to martial arts, we’re often told size doesn’t matter, rely on technique, and anyone can do it. All those things might be true at any given moment, but they don’t FEEL true when you’re on the opposite end having your hopes and dreams crushed. We have this expectation that after TIME has passed we should be at skill level we imagine in our head. Here is the hard truth about training, time is a factor, but it’s how you spend that time that’s most important. In this article I’m going to break down a method I use to get results. What you’re about to read is tried and true and tested time and time again.

Take it Step-by-step

I often espouse that any good martial arts program whether it’s Jeet Kune Do (JKD), Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing or Kali (knife handling) should have a progression. You’ve got this pile of knowledge, but if that information isn’t organized your approach to it will be riddled with holes. Your math teacher didn’t randomly jump subjects and start teaching history, or go from geometry one day and then algebra the next. You take sequential classes and they build on each other along the journey though academia. If you’ve already got that pinned down, you’re probably on the right track. MOST martial art schools I grew up in were a chaotic mess. If you could fight and pick things up quickly you learned a thing or two or just got tough, but there wasn’t a product. There wasn’t a mass of people in a community that all had the same skill set like a Pedro Sauer Gracie Jiu Jitsu Black Belt. Being organized is half the battle, the more you know.

The secret not secret formula to my success:

Once you’ve got information organized, you need to keep these simple 5 steps in mind:

  1. Rep technique with good, clean, form.
  2. Drill technique with focus, intent, and athleticism
  3. Drill technique with a partner AND contest it
  4. Spar with the technique in mind and try to produce it.
  5. Find examples of other experts using the technique, emulate it, research it, explore it, and BREAK it.


Level 1: Good, Clean, Form.

Slow down! To wire the process of new movement and various calibrations into the body you need to go slow. Think of Tai Chi masters who gracefully perfect their form. Rickson Gracie said that “to move fast, you need to go slow.” It seems counter productive but it’s absolutely true. When you’re learning a new skill you need to stay calm and perform it slowly. One of the greatest hurdles to this besides our own ego, is a bad unwilling partner. A partner that won’t let you slow down to check your movement is not a partner at all, but an adversary. You need their help to understand the movement and make it your own. Imagine you’ve never driven a car before and it’s a manual transmission, would you grab the keys and hit the highway immediately at 80 miles per hour? Of course not, cultivating good form is exactly the same. Take it slow and give your body and mind time to marinade on the movement. Skipping this step will hold the student back and a level of sloppiness will permeate all their movement. It doesn’t matter how athletic or gifted an individual is they must take the time to build good mechanics.

With good mechanics, the disadvantaged can overcome.

Level 2: Drill with focus, intent, and athleticism

We know how it is, you’re in class and there’s a lot of material to cover. It seems like the main goal might be to memorize everything. That’s not quite the case, although memorization is part of the process it’s not the immediate goal. Your memory isn’t going to fail you, you’re going to learn and progress and one of the best ways to accelerate your learning is to drill. At RCW that means getting solid reputation on what you can EASILY remember. Class segments can sometime be brief and then we’re moving on to the next technique. Maximize your time by focusing your reps in class AND possibly spending 5 minutes just drilling what you felt was the most important aspects of the hour. If you’re drilling well you’ll see quick results you can feel every 2 weeks to 30 days. One way you can ensure this happens is to watch the chatter in class. Drilling with your partner shouldn’t be constant question and answer time. If you’re talking too much you’ll be moving way to slow to get anything done.

We know you want to get everything perfect, but that will come in the process. Beware the illusion of perfecting everything RIGHT NOW! You will become one of those endless chatters in class and spend more time talking than moving. Drill, repetition, focus, intent and athleticism.

Level 3: Drill with a partner AND contest it:

When you add variety to a technique Bruce Lee referred to this in Jeet Kune Do (JKD) as “liberating from the nucleus.” He was referring to the idea that although you’re at the core of the same technique, the nucleus, you now have a need to bend it, stretch it, break it down, and solve the puzzle. In BJJ it’s pretty simple, spend the class learning the armbar and now at the end go and spar, and try to get land the armbar on your partner. What’s different in drilling and Bruce Lee’s thought here is focus. For example in BJJ you might want to spar or roll as it’s called in Jiu Jitsu, but it might be better to train a specific area. Try to hit the armbar, but only work from the guard. Give your partner parameters: “Hey will you try to defend this, but I’m going to try to work from this position, if you escape the guard or counter the move can we just start over?” Your chances of seeing the puzzle and process of the technique in action go way up. Now that you have a partner who isn’t just handing you the technique on a silver platter you have to figure things out for yourself. This is where a very high form of learning takes place, because it’s experiential.

Level 4: Spar with that technique in mind and try to reproduce it.

When you begin to work on contesting technique, avoid the tendency to work on more than 2 things at once. Let’s do the guard, and I’ll try to sweep or choke my partner. Let’s work on boxing and I’m only going to use Jabs or straights as my strikes. It offers you an area of focus where you can remove the thought process a little, kick up the enthusiasm and get a good result. You’re still sparring, but you’re not quite doing every component of sparring yet.

When that starts to go well, and it may only take a few minutes, then begin sparring with every option available. Depending on if you’re doing MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing, BJJ, JKD, Krav Maga, etc, the tools available might be limitless. In BJJ you might be rolling, but you’re still trying to find your way to the guard to land that arm bar. Maybe you’re trying to find the armbar in every possible position like the mount, back, guard, and cross body. That’s good to do, but focus is usually key, so if you feel overwhelmed and that you’re no longer seeing the technique you’re trying to produce scale it back. Never be too worried about slowing things down, shaping the training, and going back to specific training where you’re trying to deliver the technique amidst resistance.

Everyone advocates for technical sparring, but few stick with it. Resist the urge to go “all out.”

Level 5: Find other examples

Relying on yourself is one of the strangest sensations and final skills you develop as a martial artist. I don’t mean relying on yourself in competition or a contest. We all crave answers and are conditioned our whole life to seek that knowledge outside of ourselves. This is important for foundational learning, and especially the basics. In Martial Arts you walk into class and right away your coach or professor is going to impart their wisdom. You soak it up, this is what we call the parroting phase. You see your mentor do something and you emulate it, much like the rest of life.

It’s important during this time to trust your mentor that they’re leading you down the path to a high skill level, filled with knowledge and truth. To compliment that you should absolutely look to other experts in the same field and compare the same methods being taught. In a martial arts class it might be as close as another instructor at the academy, a high level student in the same class, or maybe they have a supplemental course. In our BJJ program students can access all the curriculum on video with our head instructor Professor Pedro Sauer performing all the Gracie Jiu Jitsu techniques himself. This goes a long way to ensure that your copy cat system is developing. You see the same technique everywhere with subtle differences and you can cross compare.

Over time this cross examination and constant observation of subtle differences starts to reveal your own ideas to you. Within the span of 5 to 10 years you’ll not only be building your skills that will last a lifetime, but you’ll also have an eye for creativity. To quote Bruce Lee again he had a saying “know the rule, follow the rule, bend the rule, break the rule.”

All human creativity comes from remixing ideas, it is nearly impossible to create something utterly unique. However, it is very healthy and transformative to tweak, combine, and mesh together. It can be a pretty amazing journey through Martial Arts where you never stop seeing new ideas, while you never stop cultivating your own creativity, and never stop honing the basics.


Life runs in cycles:

It’s the same for myself too, after 30 plus years of training I still follow the same advice I’m dolling out. You can find me in the academy, slowing down, and repping one thing at time. Moving on to contesting it, specific training, sparring, and trying to be creative. Then I’ll rest and put it all back the beginning again, because it’s not all the techniques we’re after in the world but the principle behind the movements. If you follow my layout here you’re guaranteed to have success on and off the training floor.


As always if you’re interested you can find River City Warriors right here in Tigard where we always have a free trail. You can hit us up with any questions or comments you might have at RiverCityWarrior@gmail.com

We appreciate you taking the time to read our blog and let us share our experience and energy with you.


-All the best,

Professor Joe



In real martial arts and self defense, strength is only one small aspect of the total arsenal:

After 20 years training countless students, it’s fairly often that a new student has the common misconception that brute force solves a puzzle. Whether it’s Muay Thai Kickboxing, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, or the Knife play of Kali, beginners sometimes think that if they just “go harder” they’ll be able to achieve something. Maybe they’ll learn faster, prove to themselves they’re not weak, or invalidate technique. Maybe it’s such a simple option that it’s the most obvious solution.

It’s only natural…

I can’t fault them for it, centuries of human nature are kicking in. After all, how could someone smaller and weaker than you put you in an arm bar and utterly dominate you? In our lizard brain it doesn’t make logical sense, at first. It’s such a massive affront to everything we understand about gender, masculinity, and how the world works that it can be a massive blow to the ego. After that break in the psyche it is also the most empowering and liberating concept you’ll ever learn.

Check out this Documentary on the women of BJJ and why the principles of leverage and technique can beat strength every time. (article continues below)

Ready to throw off the shackles of this paradigm? Let’s do this!

First, here’s what did it for me…


I was a tough guy:

My first experience with real technique in a grappling sense was with Relson Gracie. Many of my students have heard this story, but I entered a seminar with Professor Relson and proceeded to be a complete noob. I had done some grappling before, but it was all at meat head factories where explosive force solved everything. If you injured yourself or your partner that was just par for the course. I was doing my thing, being an ass, and Professor Relson tapped me on the shoulder. “Wow you’re pretty strong my friend, why don’t you play with me for a minute.” I was in my prime, 28 years old and working out for a living which meant weights, boxing, kick boxing, grappling, and Kali every day for a minimum of 8 hours a day.

Or so I thought:

He put me in his guard, which as the name implies is a position that protects you in Jiu Jitsu, but is unique because it also allows you to go on the offense. Imagine all the abilities of a Goalie in soccer, but also the two passing forwards. I began to activate my super power of youth and explosive strength. In the next moment I was utterly shocked, as soon as I tensed up Professor Relson relaxed. I found myself stuck in a mouse trap where I had just grabbed the cheese expecting to claim the spoils. Contrarily I couldn’t move anywhere, I was literally stuck under my own weight. Then I began to notice that Relson was almost tipping me over but wouldn’t let me fall, and to top it off he was choking off the blood to my brain and breaking my arm ALL AT THE SAME TIME! All I could do was tap out and let him release me from the web with a big smile on his face.

A realization was about to unfold:

I had never seen this kind of Jiu Jitsu in Portland up until this point. I had no clue how to fathom what Professor Relson was doing. We were wrestling, but I could not comprehend HOW he was controlling me with ease. This hooked me immediately,I laid down my ego and signed up for classes  as a white belt and never looked back.

What I quickly noticed over the next 11 year journey to attain a Gracie Jiu Jitsu black belt is that all the top tier athletes and coaches follow the same prescription. The very best boxing coaches, UFC fighters, BJJ athletes, they all strive to be smooth and use finesse, leverage and technique before strength. They all have academies where learning and authenticity go hand in hand with safe training practices.

The benefits of using finesse, leverage, and technique when preferred over strength

  1. Better Cardio: Because you’re not exploding all the time, you learn better cardio management and can function almost the same level throughout your work out
  2. Injury prevention: In any sport where there’s brute force you’re susceptible to ailments like muscle and soft tissue damage. This is compounded in combat sports and self defense where another person is already trying to do you harm.
  3. Calmness of mind: when you slow down, along with the breathing being more regulated, it also gives you time to think. In a fight that can save your life, in the academy, it gives the body time to process movements, plan, grow, and learn. Your workout will be far more productive and you’ll retain information better.
  4. Longevity: Most people get hooked on training and they want to do it for the rest of their lives. Now you can train into old age, and even be better than when you were younger!
  5. Everything works! This is the best part, when you start to use technique and your mind is calm, all these factors become extremely rewarding. Once you get a taste, the first time you use technique to control and own someone using muscle it’s 100% addictive! You’ll never go back to your former inefficient idea of brute force.
  6. It changes your thought patterns! Once you’re calm and using crafty planning to solve the puzzle of your opponent you begin to think differently. All of the sudden you start to look for the most efficient way to be good at everything. Driving through traffic, managing relationships, negotiating a sale, daily life events shift as you start to apply subtle technique in every situation.
  7. Learning is a constant: Once you open the door to strategy and start being solution oriented you will be amazed at what you learn. There’s rarely a plateau because you keep your ego in check and are always looking for new tricks, new understanding, and ways to build upon what you have.
  8. When you’re easy going, everyone trains with you: When the attitude in the academy builds on all these tenants there’s strategy everywhere. Maybe you catch your partner in an arm bar and there’s no way out. They tap, but the excitement is just beginning, because you caught them in a friendly way with technique they immediately want to see if they can escape it the next time.
  9. The training hall is a science lab: When everyone is playing like this with good mechanics, tapping out is just a training protocol. It’s not a win or lose thing, because again we’re winning KNOWLEDGE. Now what happens is everyone in the school starts sharing with everyone else and it flourishes. When it’s all muscle people ended up hiding moves, details and technique from their partners and rivalries begin.
  10. Self-Defense is perceived as effortless and you feel safe every where you go. When you can control any size of human being despite their athleticism it’s a very comforting feeling. All the machismo is gone, and you don’t feel intimidated by other people. This allows you to brush off conflict and if it’s unavoidable you have tremendous confidence.

What can you expect if you HULK OUT all the time:

  1. Constant injury: You might win the battle, but the war rages on. People in martial arts that are injured all the time are constantly taking time off. That means your training partners are getting better while you’re sitting at home. The only trophy for time on the mat is learning, you don’t take anything home with you but your body and knowledge. If you’re going to risk an injury it should at least be for a real street altercation or a professional match.
  2. False power, false success: Since muscle does work from time to time, it will reinforce the habit and belief that your strength leads to success. Since it’s a falsehood what will happen is you’ll inevitably meet someone stronger, and worse you’ll meet a plateau. The early gains of training will fade into a stagnate wall you’re unable to process.
  3. The hammer problem: Part of that learning curve decline is because every problem is only viewed with the one solution: athleticism. There are many activities that require hardly any muscle in life, archery, horseback riding, music, cooking, writing, disc golf, and on and on. You wouldn’t try to solve the mystery of these disciplines with more power. It’s like taking a hammer around the house and trying to do every job with one universal tool. Very quickly everything starts to look like a nail whether it’ll help you or not.
  4. You will hurt yourself far more than other people: Strength = toughness, and the same idea that brought us here brings the downfall. Its our ego trying to prove that we are not weak. You can expect cauliflower ear, arthritic fingers, lots of medical tape, for YOU! When you apply a force on an object some of that force is applied directly to you. I made these mistakes as well, I wanted to sweep my opponent flat on their back. I managed to do it, but in the transition I applied so much strength that I tore the cartilage in my ribs.
  5. How you train is how you live – Smashing things with a hammer? Unable to learn? Plateaus everywhere? I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this is also a metaphor for the other areas of your life. Chances are you’re not listening in your relationship. You’ve plateaued at your job or you might be angry all the time. You have to put the active mind to work to counter the lizard brain.
  6. People won’t want to train with you: When someone is using a tremendous amount of muscle against me these days I don’t flip out. I calmly subdue them and work my game with a smile on my face. This usually infuriates them more! I’ll do this a number of times before I say something like “hey partner are you looking for a fight here, if you’re going to go 100% and try to hurt me, why shouldn’t I do the same?” Sometimes that will sink in, other times I just start avoiding that person because I’m not getting anything out of training any more. I already know I’m tough, my goal is to learn and come back tomorrow. The only thing that individual can offer me is a chance to see how calculating I can be while someone goes crazy. That opportunity is easy to find and the benefits are infinitesimally small.
  7. If they do train with you, they won’t help you. Take the same partner I described above, instead of avoiding I train with them all the time. I feel comfortable and I get to own them in sparring any chance I want like a fun game. When we wrap up they’ll say “oh man, lucky you got me there I could’ve had a grip or I could’ve done this…… but tell me, how’d you do that?” To which I always reply “Gee I don’t know, you’re right on my friend, I just got lucky again!” There’s no point in imparting advice because the Hulk has proven he doesn’t have listening skills and the ability to change.
  8. You will find others like you – If you stick with a place like RCW where everyone is trying to use good mechanics first, you’ll try to find like minded people and roll with them. Hulk vs Hulk is about to happen. Injuries are more likely, but what you’ll do is reinforce with each other that muscle is the way to go. After all this person agrees with you, so it must be the way. Should that plan fail, a lot of Hulks end up quitting and finding a gym that FOCUSES on strength and athleticism. Usually cauliflower ear and taped joints are in sight.
  9. You’ll start to fear people with two years or more of experience: Since the Hulk has to defend the belt and smash, when he’s encountered with a fresh faced blue belt who’s been technical from the beginning it can be devastating. For the Hulk! A black belt journey is 10-12 years under Gracie Jiu Jitsu, so now the guy who was 28 and in his prime is 40 and looking back at the college kid. Ego got in the way of his training and he refused to believe in finesse, but the college kid is smart and has his number. Pretty soon the Hulk quits rolling with the more technical lower belts and might quit sparring altogether if they don’t quit the school.
  10. You could become a bully: It’s true story time. We had a Hulk floating around the academy for a while, we cautioned the guy. He was super rough, never listened and once even said he hurt his partner because he didn’t tap “fast enough.” Just a meat head through and through, and if you ever had his number he’d whine and bemoan about how life isn’t fair. Finally we decided it would be best for the school if we didn’t have this person around and we told him to pack up his loin cloth and go. Within the first month he found a like minded meat school and was excruciatingly injured. In martial arts it often doesn’t end well for the bully.


The truth is out there…

The last few words I’ll leave you with is understand we’re all the same. What’s tough for you was at one time tough for me. I couldn’t believe what people like Pedro Sauer were able to do on the mat, it was like magic. The best way for us to embrace change, is to hang out with people who set the example we want to emulate. If using finesse, leverage, technique and good mechanics sounds too good to be true, then you just need to find a place like River City Warriors that offers a way to train these elements. To gain understanding you need to feel it, to experience how it’s different. Let me tell you this my friends, once you get a little taste of how good technique can be you will search endlessly for the same results.

Don’t just take my word for it, come an experience quality training at RCW and see for yourself.  We always offer a free trial for new students conveniently located in Portland, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Tualatin and the surrounding areas. You can find that on our webpage and a direct link right here —> FREE TRIAL <—

If you don’t live in the Portland area but need to find a good Jiu Jitsu school we’re happy to help you search nationwide. We’ve trained across the continent and know many of the best coaches all over the country.


Stay safe, and stay effective by practicing good mechanics!

– Professor Joe Heller

Gracie Black Belt


Gracie Jiu Jitsu isn’t just for the athletic, the strong, the young, or the GIANT! 

Helio Gracie, who launched Jiu Jitsu into the mainstream along with his sons, was not a large man. Tipping the scales at 145lbs and a height of 5’9 he was average in stature. What he accomplished is the stuff of martial arts legends and the point I’m going to make is beyond the fact he was an immigrant to the U.S, learned a foreign martial arts style (Jiu Jitsu was originally from Japan), and completely disrupted that system and evolved the ground game. Then along with his sons he developed the idea for the UFC and lit the world stage of MMA on fire. What I’m saying is, Helio Gracie and the authentic pioneers still pushing the art did something even more incredible than all of this!

Quest for authenticity:

I have been on a journey since the 1980’s to find “real” martial arts. There’s a number of reasons for this like having a fraudulent karate instructor who lied about teaching Jeet Kune Do (JKD) like we do at RCW. Another contributor was an MMA school where I was supposedly learning BJJ and Grappling. Yet, it didn’t seem to work on students bigger or more athletic than myself. I looked inward for blame and surely thought I must be doing something wrong! This is the nightmare that keeps me awake at night, someone is out there who hasn’t found this piece of the puzzle yet. They think Krav Maga and all the confidence they instill in their class is ready for genuine reality. In my career path I have learned the different between feeling confident, and having skill. You have to be certain without a shred of doubt that your material is going to work for you when you need it.

Real self defense prepares you to survive any situation

GM Helio Gracie’s biggest contribution to the world was packaging a system that could serve any one, any size. Other greats have been able to do this like Dan Inosanto who is the heir apparent to JKD. Gracie Jiu Jitsu/BJJ when done correctly though, is such an efficient form of defense that you almost don’t need anything else! That’s a monster claim, and I’ll address it momentarily, but for now check out our own Coach Holly demonstrating one possibility for escaping the bear hug. This hold can be used in a variety of ways, but typically on the street it is used to drag people somewhere they don’t want to go.

Self defense with coach Holly!Rivercitywarrior.com

Posted by River City Warriors on Thursday, 19 September 2019


What if…???

It’s one possible escape for the bear hug as shown here, and there are numerous others and perspectives that include striking. So why not do those? Well for one, this is the method as Helio Gracie and his successor Pedro Sauer teach it. Secondly, and this is the struggle for real BJJ, it often looks like there’s something else you could do like hit the groin or the throat. When someone grabs you correctly, it is impossible to do those things. Think about this, those moves were legal in the first several years of the UFC, but how come Royce Gracie didn’t get hit in the groin or the throat? Because the technique works! At our academy we believe a move or technique must satisfy a few requirements. It should be based on leverage, a connection to the opponent using weight and scientific principle, it should also be effective when done slowly against a full on 100% resisting partner. Sometimes when you’re looking from the outside, you can’t get a sense for how it feels. You might think to yourself it looks easy to fly a plane or drive a formula one race car, but behind the seat of the machine it’s a whole other world. Jiu Jitsu is like that, it’s simple and effective, but sometimes slow and once you have a feel for it you won’t settle for anything less.

Using BJJ as a way

Back to the packaging of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, when it’s authentic the curriculum encompasses all manner of scenarios. For instance on our white to blue belt exam, the first major milestone of your journey, we emphasize about 35 standing defensive maneuvers. Out of list of 88 total moves this is a huge percentage of the exam. This is what sets RCW apart from schools that do BJJ solely for tournaments. GM Gracie and Pedro Sauer believe that the self defense aspect is one of the most important pillars of the art.

If you get in an altercation out on the street there’s no points, and you certainly wouldn’t sit down on the ground and expect your assailant to walk in and grapple with you. Because of this we feel it necessary that all students at RCW have these stand up elements like the one shown in the video. Eventually all students will do these techniques under a high level of stress and pressure, because they’re ready for it and they have to KNOW that it works.

This is what I mean when I wrote that if you only had Gracie Jiu Jitsu as a form of defense it would be enough. We can ponder things like John Wick, but how many of us are going to whip out our .45’s and go guns blazing. Nobody, self defense is going to come in the form of someone grabbing you on the street, or a single person trying to hit you. If you’re smaller, or female, odds are that the person is trying to intimidate you with their size and strength. In altercations like these the techniques that come out of Jiu Jitsu address the most common situations you could ever get into. And because the movements aren’t size dependent, anyone can feel confident in their own skin.

BJJ = Gracie Jiu Jitsu

Sometimes. Maybe. It depends. At RCW we were trained by the source, we have two Gracie certified Black Belts on site teaching classes each week. The curriculum that was passed down to us features a strong back bone in self defense that continues even on the ground. Meaning when we are “rolling,” the sparring in Jiu Jitsu, we are always aware of how to defend strikes and get to the best position for an advantage. Many sport based BJJ schools throw out this material altogether and focus on winning certain competitions by points alone. They don’t do any stand up defense and you’d be lucky to find a school that has solid takedowns found in wrestling. Usually these places have a few athletic students, frequent injury, and less than 1% of people that come through the door progress through these systems.

The knowledge of self defense prevents your joints and ligaments from being vulnerable to injury. In fact I have had several intermediate to black belt students visit our school and the ones from outside the Gracie method have NEVER seen the self defense positions like we offer. Be very wary of schools where BJJ means a lot of grip strength, jumping around, flashy agility, and moves dependent on flexibility. This is not the art, and these athletes generally don’t hold up well tot he test of time. Pedro Sauer opens seminars with “you need to be spoiled by good mechanics,” built on leverage, finesse, and skeletal structure. Once you get a taste for this elusive style of Jiu Jitsu you’ll be after it’s rewards forever AND you’ll be able to enjoy a long and healthy relationship with an art millions around the world love.


Don’t take our word for it.

In closing, one of my favorite quotes from Master Sauer is a simple “let’s see if that’s true.” Everything must be tested, much like the origins of JKD, the early days of the UFC, we need to put ourselves out there. At RCW we do exactly that, come see for yourself any time the difference in our Jiu Jitsu. Maybe you’re new to the sport, maybe you’ve been injured before, maybe you moved right after you achieved your purple belt, whatever the reason we welcome you with open arms.

In fact, we offer a free trial year round and typically the first 30 days for $1 dollar to prove we have the goods to keep people around. You can get yours right here –>FREE TRIAL<–


Thanks as always for reading!

Professor Joe Heller