Hollywood BJJ is known as one of the top BJJ clubs in California. Top because it has an amazing head instructor (Shawn Williams), great atmosphere and is producing excellent fighters. I have always heard the tales of people visiting Renzos school in the past or Shawns school now and declaring Shawns knowledge of BJJ surpasses most instructors. Shawn has been there and done that in many different avenues of BJJ, Submission grappling and even MMA.
Recently, HollywoodBJJ enlisted Canadian friend and Renzo Gracie team mate, Pat Cooligan, to be in charge of the daily academy management as well as promotion of the school. Pat is known in the Canadian circles for his greatly successful school in Ottawa Ontario which is now one of the biggest BJJ schools in the whole country.
BALEIA-Pat, first off tell the OTM readers a little bit about yourself.
PAT-Hi Rick thanks for having me. Well I started Martial Arts seriously when I was eighteen in a traditional style of Jiu Jitsu where I eventually have reached the rank of fourth degree black belt and while I cherish the experience I got from training a traditional style I soon realized that it had many inadequacies. And like many others watching Royce Gracie in the early nineties got me interested in BJJ. I did my first BJJ seminar with Royce around 95-96. I did as much BJJ as I could for the next few years but as I am sure you know it was hard to come by here in Canada. In 2000 I started to get serious in regards to BJJ. I am now currently a Brown Belt and I am proud to represent my teacher Renzo Gracie. I do BJJ full time teaching at my Academy as well as coaching a bunch of my top guys fighting all over the world. I also work a lot with DND (National Defense) doing some training for the Canadian Forces.
BALEIA-Tell the OTM readers about your academy
PAT-Well my Academy is located in Ottawa Canada. It is a full time facility catering to all a students needs it is 6500 sq feet I just recently broke the 400 student mark. The academy is primarily adults we have fewer that 90 children. Our adults do a split of Muay Thai, MMA and BJJ
BALEIA-How did the affiliation with Renzo come about?
PAT-Well as I said earlier in 2000 I started to get serious I would go to California to train with the Rickson Gracie Academy. After 911 airfares had bottomed out and as my little stand against terrorism I went to Hawaii for a vacation. I ended up training at Relsons school and while I was there he told me that he would be going to NYc in the following week to do a seminar and he asked me to attend. Well I went to NYC for the seminar and while there we went to check out the Renzo Gracie Academy. Back in 1998 Syl Maroney had Renzo to the Grappling Arts Academy in Woodbridge. I attended that seminar and afterwards we went out and if you know Renzo you know what that means. Well there was a small group of us only six people and it was a night to remember. And that is exactly what Renzo did almost four years later as I sat in his NYC school and he walked in and started talking to me one of my good friends and first BJJ students Jason Doyle asked me how I knew Renzo Gracie!! Renzo remembered meeting me in Canada and that crazy night the only thing that slipped his mind was my name!! I thought to myself how the hell does this guy remember me of all people and then I just realized it had nothing to do with me but it was all Renzo. Right then and there I knew there was something special about him as a teacher and person and from that moment on I was dedicated to joining his team after dozens of drives to NYC sometimes 2 or 3 a month six months later I became a official Renzo Gracie school and representative.
BALEIA-How is it that you are lucky enough to have down Renzos guys so frequently to teach?
PAT-Well now that I have been with the team a long time it is easier, I am now personal friends with all the guys I can literally just call them up at home and ask them to come up and everyone is super supportive of one another and the team. A lot of teams spout a lot of hollow words about how they are a family etc etc with Team Rezno Gracie it is really true if I need something I can just call Renzo or any one of the guys and they hook it up. Another key thing is I have so many students I always have great support for the seminars so it is really worthwhile for them. Not to mention I am a great host for the boys I can’t really elaborate more than that!!!
BALEIA-Why do you take you guys all over to compete is it not tough to do and expensive??
PAT-Well In my opinion if you want to be the best you have to go and test your self for example in BJJ we have done the last four Pan-Ams in Cali and the last three worlds in Brazil. These are the toughest tournaments in the world for BJJ and if you are serious about making BJJ your life you have to measure yourself against the best to fight in a small tournament with a 100 competitors might be fun and good practice but it fails in comparison to the Pans or Worlds it is like comparing a local MMA show to UFC different league altogether. For my MMA guys we got a great offer to fight in Guam earlier this year it was on the other side of the planet in a tropical paradise all expenses paid and the purse was good as well. Now in terms of Thai boxing my top guys all have fought pro in Thailand and won and one of my guys is still undefeated 4-0 and has a big pro fight in NYC in a month. When you fight pro all expenses should be paid or we don’t do it. Unlike a lot of schools I won’t put guys to fight just to say I have guys fighting the offer needs to be good. And if you want to be the best or call yourself the best you need to get out on the road and fight abroad you can’t stay in your little region or comfort zone you have to go see what is out there it doesn’t matter if you live in LA or Ottawa the world is a big place with a lot of tough fighters
BALEIA-I heard a rumour you might be moving out to LA now, can you tell me more about this?
PAT-Well I got a really great offer from a long time friend of mind Shawn Williams and his partner. Shawn is a Renzo Gracie Black Belt and is currently running Hollywood BJJ. Since it is Hollywood BJJ it is only appropriate that the other person involved is an actor. Sean Patrick Flannery is the star of such movies as Boondock Saints. Flannery is also rather accomplished being a brown belt and having several tournament victories under his belt. They basically asked me to come out and lend a hand in all aspects of the school but given that Shawn Williams is a extraordinary teacher. I feel my focus will be primarily looking after the business end of the school. Most tings are in palce I have an apartment already and am in the middle of the transition now on top of all this I feel that getting to train with Shawn daily should help my game immensely.
BALEIA-What do you think you can do to improve the already successful HollywoodBJJ?
PAT-Well I will bring a lot of Structure and organization to the school people have to realize that we are there to teach high quality BJJ but things have to run a certain way to have success. And I look forward to bringing the immense success my Ottawa location has had to California. The number one most important thing for me is to spread Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu and to make Renzo proud of his students and his network of schools.
BALEIA-How often will you be in Hollywood and Vice Versa?
PAT-Initially I plan to do a week there and a week in Canada so I will go and back and forth every week. I will do this until things settle down into a routine so I expect about sixth months or so. After that Ideally after that in the winter I will send the bulk of my time in LA in the summer the bulk of my time in Canada. That is the plan but ultimately I will be where ever I am needed my students and schools will really dictate that.
BALEIA-What do you think the key to a successfull BJJ school is? Both competition wise and financially?
PAT-Well competition is easy you need to focus on good basic BJJ too many people today want the flavors of the week or the cool technique you need to rep rep and then rep some more if you do not have strong basics forget it!!! We have heard this since the inception of BJJ and you here it from people who are a hell of a lot better at BJJ than me yet so many people discount it and it is so frustrating for me!!! If you look at Roger Gracie and Marcello Garcia who in my opinion are the two best in the world they might lose occasionally but how often does there guard get passed?? or how often do we see either get mounted?? There basics are almost flawless hence there BJJ is almost flawless… Just my opinion… And while Financially I do not want to give my secrets away… I will actually be starting a consulting company soon to help the so called hard core martial arts schools grow so they can enjoy the benefits that many other karate schools TKD schools etc enjoy from a financial perspective!! But it boils down to this people want that one big thing or idea to implement to make the school successful financially but it really is a combination of dozens of little so called insignificant things that make the real difference.
BALEIA-Have you ever seen Renzo angry?
PAT-Ohhhhhh Boy not sure how to answer that one. I would say no I have seen him upset and that is enough.. If you are to make Renzo angry you deserve what you are gona get because Renzo is the nicest guy you will ever want meet and I am just proud to be associated with him