It is said that nothing great in this world can been accomplished without passion & dedication. If you look back at great athletes over the years their love and dedication for this sport allowed them to rise and become remarkably great at what they did.
For bjj practitioner Erik Anderson his passion & love for the sport has lead him to many great achievements. Training at Aloisio Silva BJJ Academy in Lawndale, Ca with in a short period of time Erik has already reached the rank of brown belt & has placed in big tournaments like American Nationals, North American Championship (7x), & Mundials. It is a true testament of how far passion & dedication can take you in this sport when you put your mind to it.
Seeing him compete myself he is defiantly someone to look out for in the future and he truly deserves to have some shine and be introduced to the OTM audience.
- Monta : First I would like to start off by saying thank for the interview. How is everything going with your training as of late ?
Erik: Hey Monta, thanks so much for getting in touch with me and giving me this interview. I'm coming off an injury that kept me out for a couple of weeks but I've been increasing my training recently and hopefully I can be back to training 6 days a week before the end of the year.
- Monta : So how did you get involved in BJJ ?
Erik: I had done Karate as a kid and I wrestled throughout high school, but for my first three years of college I wasn't involved in any sports or physical activity. The beginning of college was a part of my life where I became severely depressed and felt without direction. In 2007 I began to watch a lot of MMA highlight videos. I started researching all the different martial arts, but I was so inspired by the story and the style of Kazushi Sakuraba that I was convinced I had to find a catch wrestling gym. Since I couldn't find any catch wrestling gyms in Madison, Wisconsin where I was going to school I "settled" on a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school. I didn't know anything about the sport at the time. The place I started training was called the Monkey Bar Gym. We were taught there by a purple belt named Thales Blaso. I fell in love with the sport very quickly, showed up to class early and left late. Despite my love for the sport I was still the spazzy white belt who wrestled you and went for unorthodox positions. My gi stunk and I was probably a little bit of a nuisance but everyone at the gym was incredibly nice to me anyway and treated me like family. Jiu Jitsu lifted me out of that depression I felt in my early college years.March 13th, 2007 was my first day, the anniversary of when I fell in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
- Monta : WOW !! 3.5 years and your already a brown belt that is very rare. How did you reach such a rank in such a very short period of time ?
Erik: There are many factors. A major one is obsession. Jiu Jitsu is always on my mind - I probably watch an average of five competition matches a day on youtube and I fall asleep going through the motions in my head. I leave training thinking about everything that happened while I was rolling with my training partners and come to the next training session thinking of techniques that I want to incorporate while rolling that day. Having a flexible schedule also helped. I scheduled my college courses so I could train nights and this schedule allowed me six hard days of training a week. I also have to credit wrestling in high school. In addition to giving me a multitude of techniques that are applicable to submission fighting, wrestling also taught me how to learn. Having already learned how to watch a grappling technique performed and then replicate it helped me assimilate a lot of the techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
- Monta : With the exception of your academy, You had a brief stay when you moved up north, what was your experience like training at Claudio França’s school ?
Erik: It was really incredible. They have a really big team of incredible athletes at Claudio's school up in Santa Cruz. It was a huge influence on my Jiu Jitsu to be able to train under Claudio, Mike Weaver, Mike Roberts, Gary Casey and Nate Mendelsohn while I was there. Their gym has a huge Jiu Jitsu family that I'm glad to be apart of - we all keep in touch.
- Monta : You have also had the opportunity to train with a lot of great names through your bjj journey, what was your favorite experience ?
Erik: Oh man, my favorite experience has to be training with Ryan Hall up at Kaijin in Santa Cruz. He would come out for a week to train with Black Belts Paul Schreiner and Garth Taylor and would teach a seminar on the weekend. The straight ankle lock was one of my favorite techniques for a very long time and the first Ryan Hall seminar I went to dealt primarily with techniques surrounding the straight ankle lock – it totally changed how I approached the move and had a major effect on my game. I really, really enjoy the analytical way in which Ryan breaks down Jiu Jitsu. His techniques are incredibly crisp and he's very articulate when he teaches. He's also just generally an interesting guy. I flirted with the idea of traveling to Virginia for a week in November to train at 5050BJJ, but that plan was sidelined by an injury. Hopefully I'll be able to make it out there in the next few months.
- Monta : Do you have any BJJ influences..if so who and why ?
Erik: My biggest influence has to be my home instructor, João Silva. I've spent the majority of my time training and learning at Aloisio Silva BJJ in Lawndale, so Joao has definitely had a major effect on the techniques I use. I have learned all my most basic techniques from him. I'm kind of a bad student because I'll argue over techniques with him, but he always keeps a good spirit about it and works on the weak points of my game with me.
- Monta : You have placed in a lot of major events in your short years in bjj, just recently you placed in mundials as a brown belt in your weight class and absolute..how did it feel to achieving such an amazing goal ?
Erik: I went into the mundials with no expectations. If I'm not injured, I'm training hard. At the time I was in good physical condition so I was prepared. When I won silver in my weight, I truly questioned my achievement. I was on the podium with some amazing athletes. I went back to the stands questioning whether I should sign up for the absolute division or not. I was talking to my friends from Team Claudio França when the call for Brown Belt Open division came over the loudspeakers. Claudio looked at me and said "Erik, you better go sign up now or we will all think you are afraid." So I signed up. After I medaled in the Open division I think the weight of my accomplishment settled in. I felt more confident that I had earned my spot on the podium that day.
- Monta : At mundials you were triumphant against heavy favorite Ian McPherson, was it any pressure going against such a big name ?
Erik: That day was a perfect day for me to compete. I felt no stress going in, I got all my jitters out during my first match and for the rest of my matches I felt lucid. Before our match I looked over at Ian and it was clear he was human, just like me. Everyone on the mat is human. I had choked my previous opponent unconscious in under a minute and I knew Ian had been watching. I was a little wary when we started and Ian began scoring points on me. Ian has good strategy and technique and he was beating me on points the whole match. I am a submission hunter to a fault. I look for the submission the entire match. We traded leglocks but he refused to tap. I kept pressure on Ian and halfway through the match he began to tire. When he tired I took his back and was able to secure a collar choke. I was elated to defeat him because he's skilled and well known. He was on his knees, getting up and I went down and told him he's a great competitor and thanked him for the match.
- Monta : What is your motivation for competing and training as much as you do ?
Erik: I love the sport. I love training. I love training with people who are better than me. I love going to new gyms and training. I love going to competitions. It's not something you can give or teach - I'm fortunate enough to have found something that I have an incredible passion for.
- Monta : Through your progression have you experienced any doubt ?
Erik: Absolutely. In the middle of every belt you feel like you're on a plateau. Only sometimes do you actually notice that you're progressing. Sometimes you even feel like you're regressing and you ask yourself "why don't I get armbars from the guard as much as I used to?" or "why don't I get the armdrag on people any more?" or "why can't I pass his guard?" There is always doubt but you just keep training.
- Monta : What is the biggest lesson you learn through your growth in the sport ?
Erik: The biggest lesson for me was confidence. I had a hundred different things that should have made me confident in life, but none of them had as profound effect upon my confidence as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Feeling accomplished, focused and just generally good about my abilities, discipline, training and competitions taught me to be confident in every day life. It's because of this lesson that I recommend Jiu Jitsu to others.
- Monta : Any future plans? Will you open a school? Will you get into MMA?
Erik: At this point I'm not sure whether I want Jiu Jitsu to become my career or remain my hobby. I'd really like to join an MMA gym, but there aren't any MMA gyms of major import in my immediate area.
- Monta : Finally Do you have any advice for people just starting off in bjj hoping to grow in the sport?
Erik: Most Jiu Jitsu gyms have many casual practitioners and they encourage people to train lightly. This is very good for the sport and I love that so many people enjoy Jiu Jitsu as much as I do. But to get better, you need to find the partners with whom you can train hard and you need to go full bore with them. This might mean traveling to another gym where people will try and tear your head off because they see you as a threat - this is an opportunity. Never hurt your training partners, but when you find someone who will train hard with you, train to win. This is the truth for competitions: "you play like you practice."
- Monta : Any shout outs?
Erik: I'd like to say hi to my first Jiu Jitsu coaches ever, Thales Blaso and his wife, Casey Blaso. Even though my gi stunk and I often wore wrestling shoes, you took me into your Jiu Jitsu family. It healed me and had an enormous, positive effect on my life. I'd like to tell Team Claudio França and Team Kaijin up in Santa Cruz that I miss being able to hang out with them! I'd like to thank my current coach, João Silva, for being at every tournament early in the morning and staying all day.
- Monta : Well that wraps things up, thanks for your time Erik and best wishes with everything.
Erik: Thanks so much for the interview, Monta!
If anyone want to check out Erik Anderson's amazing bjj highlight here is the link