Elliot's game has only gotten better and shows no indication of fatiguing any time soon.
Elliot Marshall is not one to seek the attention of the crowd. He is far too engaged with the moment whether he is training, teaching an eager batch of wide-eyed youngsters or just relaxing at home with the Missus. Regardless, attention is something of which Elliot has been receiving a great deal... and deservedly so. He's been a regular name on the "one-to-beat" list since his days as a blue belt. And after a 6 month recovery from a knee injury in the last year, Elliot's game has only gotten better and shows no indication of fatiguing any time soon.
His past victories include:
2001 Pan Ams - silver
2002 Pan Ams - gold
2002 Pancrase USA - 1st
2002 Pancrase USA - 1st Absolute
2002 USA Team Trials - 1st
2002 USA Team Trials - 2nd Absolute
2002 Grapplers Quest West - Bronze
2003 IGJJF Open - 1st - Purple Belt
2003 IGJJF Open - 1st - Absolute- Purple Belt
2003 Pan Ams - gold
2004 IGJJF Open - 1st - Brown Belt
2004 IGJJF Open - 1st Absolute - Brown Belt
2004 Grapplers Quest North American Championchip - silver - under 210 lbs.
2004 Grapplers Quest North American Championchip - gold - Absolute
2004 - #1 RATED abolute competitor of the year
2005 - Pan American Champion - Absolute - Brown Belt
And if I'm not mistaken, Elliot is the first American to win the Pan Americans at every belt level from blue to brown in the Adult division.
This interview was conducted at Amal Easton's academy, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Boulder in Boulder, Colorado on the evening of May 4, 2005.
OTM: So you started training in martial arts at age 6. What style did you study and who was your instructor?
EM: I did start training when I was 6 years old. The style was Soo Bahk Do Muk Kwon and my instructor was Michael Garaguso in Williamstown, New Jersey.
OTM: What got you started at such an early age?
EM: Oh, man... uh... I saw the movie, "The Karate Kid," y`know, the first one...
OTM: Hell, yeah, I saw "The Karate Kid!"
EM: ... I did, uh, I did that jump kick that Ralph Machio did to win the tournament and I broke something in my parents house so they enrolled me in karate class.
OTM: Was it because you had to stick up for yourself for having such a girly name?
EM: Man, I think my name`s kinda cool, bro! Like you know how the Brazilians say, (mimicking Brazilian accent) "EHL-liot MAR-shall!" (more laughter) It`s only me!
OTM: How many years did your training span and when did you earn your black belt?
EM: I`m not a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, so we`re not talking about Jiu-jitsu... Soo Bahk Do I got my black belt when I was 9 years old and then I got my 2nd degree when I was 11 and then my 3rd degree when I was 14. I stopped training Soo Bahk Do when I was 18, so from the age of 6 to age 18 was when I trained.
OTM: At what age did you begin to compete?
I was a green belt at the time, so maybe around age 6 or 7, like late 6 -- early 7 year old.
OTM: Were you always a very competitive person or was it something you grew into over time? Because I remember the very first time I met you I introduced myself, like, "Hey, Elliot! I saw you fight at Grapplers Quest West. Good job!" and you were, like, "I got 3rd place. It doesn`t count."
EM: Ha! ... I`ve always been pretty competitive, but... ah... I dedicate my life to Jiu-jitsu. So for me 3rd place doesn`t count in Jiu-jitsu.
OTM: I gotcha. But were you like that when you were a younger kid...?
EM: Yeah, I was competitive. I was competitive, but I was sort of a fat, out-of-shape,younger kid... (laughter)... so...
OTM: Really? Do you have photos from this period of your life? We could post them with this interview on the website!
EM: (Laughter) I don't think so!
OTM: We could do a "BEFORE & AFTER" sequence...
EM: We`re gonna SKIP the pictures!
OTM: Tell me about your introduction to Jiu-jitsu. Did things fall into place naturally for you, or do you feel as though you had to start from scratch?
EM: My intoduction to Jiu-jitsu`s kind of a funny story: A lot of guys know John Hassett. I grew up with John. I`ve known him since I was 6. He`s older than me, but I`ve known him since I was a little kid because we trained Soo Bahk Do together... and we were at a big tournament for that style and he dodged my division and went into the old man`s division and I made fun of him for that so he told me to show up at his house on Friday... and I didn`t know he was doing Jiu-jitsu... and he beat my ass for 3 hours. I was 18 and I thought I was THE MAN and he beat my ass for 3 hours using Jiu-jitsu. So after that I moved to Colorado and was, like, "Man, I gotta learn that!"
OTM: So you moved out to Boulder, is that when you met Amal [Easton]?
EM: Yeah, actually I met Amal in A MALL (laughter) and trained with him for a month my Freshman year and then I ran out of money and then I started training with him again my Sophmore year. At first when I met him he was teaching at a Karate school and when I saw him again I heard that he had opened his own academy and he let me clean the bathrooms in exchange for training.
OTM: And Amal was a purple belt at the time?
EM: Amal was a purple belt then.
OTM: And what year was that?
EM: That was September 30th of 1999.
OTM: So who were some of the fighters you looked to for inspiration as you were coming up?
EM: As I was coming up?
EM: Um... I`m STILL coming up, so... I`m not there, yet! I don`t know, I really didn`t get that much exposure to many fighters NOW, you know? God, man! As far as Jiu-jitsu goes, Renzo`s my idol. Renzo could act like he's THE MAN, because he IS, but he doesn't. Instead he treats you like YOU'RE the MAN, when really HE'S the MAN. Another idol for me is, of course, Amal Easton. He teaches me everything I know... for nothing. I gotta give it to Jay Jack because that guy`s an innovator, man!
OTM: Tell me about it! For real! Okay, so... how would you describe your game?
EM: I want to say my game is very basic. I don`t do many crazy things. I don`t think I`m any better than when I was a white belt. I`m still doing the same moves except now I do a foot-lock (laughter) because now I`m allowed. Amal doesn`t yell at me anymore. But I think my game is very basic and I think that`s what`s important, you know, the basics.
OTM: Now you've had to recover from a knee injury which put you out of commission for an extended period of time. COuld you tell me a bit about that ordeal?
EM: Man, I`ve had THREE knee surgeries: two little ones and one ACL. And the ACL changed my life a little bit in the fact that... ah... when I hurt my knee I couldn`t train Jiu-jitsu so I was determined to get in the best physical condition I could and ever since then my game`s been light-years better because of my conditioning... I NEVER get tired!
OTM: So what was your recovery time for that?
EM: Six months.
OTM: And how were you able to stay focussed during that time?
EM: The whole time I was thinking about my cardio, my conditioning, my physical fitness... never getting tired, never getting tired... in my mind I was thinking, "Okay, everyone is going to SUFFER when I get back!"
OTM: Even during that time when you were out I remember that you were still spending a lot of time IN the academy on a very regular basis though you couldn`t train. You were still watching people and stuff. Did that help you keep your mind on your game?
EM: The academy`s my home, you know? Other than spending time with my wife, the academy is my home.
OTM: So after that ordeal it seems as though you`ve jumped back into things with both feet. Tell me about your activities since your recovery.
EM: Man, I`ve been trying to train like a madman... trying to be the best that I can be... trying to just develop my game and get better.
OTM: So since your return where have you been competing?
EM: My first tournament back I did the USA Trials for Grapplers Quest and I lost to Marcelo Fererra in the semi-finals... tough match. Then after that I did a local absolute division in Colorado and won that and then I went to Rorion`s tournament which is the best tournament out there right now. All the points don`as absolute. I finished everybody. Then I went to the Abu Dhabi trials and lost to Brandon Viera in the semi finals. What did I do after that? Then I went to Grapplers Quest in New Jersey where I won the absolute division. I finished everyone. Oh, and I just won the Pan Ams, brown belt / super-heavy division.
OTM: So I`d like to talk to you a little bit about your skills as a teacher, esspecially with children. You seem to really have a knack for it and some of the kids seem really responsive to you as an instructor. Would you say more goes into the kids class than with teaching adults?
EM: I wouldn`t say that more goes into it, but I really have to give all my credit as far as learning how to teach children to my first instructor, Michael Garaguso. I`ve taught for him since I was 12, so I`ve never lost that feeling of what it`s like to be a kid!
OTM: Besides techniques and positions, what do you like to place particular emphasis on with kids?
Technique, positions and they gotta have FUN! If they`re not enjoying themselves, they are going to quit. I just try to do as many things as I can to change it up a little so it` snew and fresh... different thing... different ways to engage them.
OTM: I`ve watched the classes and I`ve watched the parents watch you teach their kids and it seems as though the parents get as much of a kick watching you as an instructor as their children.
EM: You have to be funny with the kids. They have to respect you and know that when it`s time to be serious that you`re the boss, but you have to play with them. They have to really LIKE you. They have to know that you`re not their DAD... that "Dad" is something different... you`re NOT their parent, you`re their TEACHER.
OTM: I`ve been present at some of the meetings with you and Amal and the other instructors and all of you guys seem OBSSESSED with improving on what is already an outstanding cirriculum.
EM: Jiu-jitsu is very difficult to teach the kids, you know? Because to be good at Jiu-jitsu, you really have to know HOW TO DO IT! With Karate and stuff, you can have kids punch a million different ways or kick a million different ways. None of it really works and you can play games with them the whole day and they think that they are learning something... but Jiu-jitsu is different. I want to really TEACH the kids. I want them to have the same self-confidence that I have because of Jiu-jitsu.
OTM: So what is your proudest moment so far?
EM: My proudest moment? (pause) Ah, man... that`s a hard one! Are we talking about my life or just Jiu-jitsu?
OTM: Let`s do both.
EM: In my life... I`d have to say that I`m not exactly "proud" of my parents. I was just incredibly LUCKY to have two great parents that gave me everything and still give me everything that I need. My proudest moment? I don`t know. I love my wife so I`d have to say the day I got married.
OTM: And Jiu-jitsu?
EM: The first time I won the Pan Ams when I was a blue belt.
OTM: Now that you`ve earned hard-won recognition as one of the best of the best, what are your goals for the next couple years?
EM: Ahhh, Link, I`m not the best of the best, man.
OTM: ONE of them. ONE of them.
EM: I`m not one of them either. I`m still up-and-coming. My goals for the next couple years? I want to fight. I want to fight MMA. Hopefully I`ll fight this year. I want to win the Worlds, just keep challenging myself.
OTM: So MMA is definitely in your future?
OTM: Is there anyone you`d like to mention before we conclude?
EM: Of course, my family! My wife because she puts up with me because I`m cranky and I get tired when I train!
OTM: Both of you are quite the handful.
EM: No. I`M the handful. She`s not the handful! As far as Jiu-jitsu goes there isn`t any one I can thank more than Amal. Like I said before, I didn`t think it was fair that all I had to do was clean the toilets. I think I got the better end of that deal. All I had to do was clean the toilets twice a week and in exchange he showed me everything he knew and he always has. So I guess he REALLY didn`t want to clean those toilets!
Elliot is available for 1st class private instruction. For more information on Elliot,please log-on to bjjboulder.com.
Discuss the interview at the OTM forum!