I have been a fan of Ryan Hall for awhile now, the triangle was the first attack that I really implemented in my game and I was a really big fan of his triangle instructional DVD.
I not only enjoyed the material, but I like the way he approached the technique, how he explained it and the depth at which he did. I think Ryan Hall is a great competitor and is proving himself to be an awesome instructor as well.
While making a video highlight of the IBJJF Houston 2011 open, I was able to watch Ryan Hall compete in person for the first time but was either too busy coaching, filming or trying to give him space so he could focus on competing that I didn’t get to approach him and introduced myself.
(The video from the tournament)
A little before the IBJJF 2011 worlds this year, I was able to get in touch with Ryan for an interview for you guys.
1. I see you’ve been invited to compete in the <65.9k class a the 2011 ADCC Finals in Nottingham, England this year. How is training for this going?
Training is going great. Literally couldn’t be better. I’ve been in New York City training with Marcelo Garcia and the rest of the team for the past 2 weeks and I’ll be here the following 4 right up until ADCC. Everyday I get to learn from and train with some of the best BJJ players in the world, so I couldn’t be happier. In addition to Marcelo, there are Henrique Rezende, Antonio “Batista” Peinado, Lucas Lepri, and a bunch of other tough guys are around to roll with. I feel sharper than ever before. I’ve started working with a sports nutritionist, too, so physically I feel great as well. Having handled my diet in a pretty less-than-ideal manner in the past, I am now really seeing the benefit of letting a professional tell me what to do. Haha.
2. How did you get started in Jiu-Jitsu.
I started in 2004 at a small school in NYC called Ronin Athletics (www.roninathletics.com). It’s run by my good friend Christian Montes and I still drop in to train there whenever I can. It’s a great place and I really thank Christian and the other guys there for sparking my love for Jiu-Jitsu.
3. You seem to approach BJJ in a mechanical manner, the first instructional I heard you in It sounded like you were an engineer explaining how structural strength, hinges and leverage worked and it opened my eyes to a way of viewing or approaching jiu-jitsu. Is this approach inherent or was it taught to you this way?
Well, I went to school for Electrical Engineering and my dad is an engineer and a mathematician, so I’ve been immersed in that kind of thinking for as long as I can remember. I’ve always looked at things from a structural/geometric perspective and it’s still what makes sense to me now. I feel that anything complex is really just a series of simpler ideas laid on top of one another, and approaching things mechanically/mathematically seems to me to be the easiest way to make sense of it all. I was actually looking through my old college note books from my Math and Engineering classes the other day and found a mostly drawings of triangle angles and set-ups instead of notes on my class material. It kind of cleared up the mystery of why my grades tanked as my interest in Jiu-Jitsu grew. Haha.
4. How do you get the most out of a training session. Do you set specific goals for yourself when rolling; e.g, I’m only going to attack on the left side, I’m going to try and only work from the bottom etc.
I try to focus on different things with each different person I roll with. I always want to make the other person as difficult as possible to beat so that I can get the absolute most out of rolling with them and learn as much as I can in that moment. For instance, if someone has a tough half guard, I want the training to take place there. If they sweep me 100 times, they sweep me 100 times, but I’ve learned a ton of lessons about what makes their positions work and hopefully I’ll be able to apply that knowledge either in the moment or after the fact to improve and adapt. I really try to avoid “cheating” by using any knowledge I have of someone I train with on a regular basis to gain an advantage (i.e. by baiting a submission I know they’re not dangerous with or running from their best positions). There are some days when I’ll try to deny everything to the other person and make training as close to a match as possible, but it won’t be like that everyday. I guess I’d say that you can train any way and improve as long as it’s part of a larger plan and your actions make sense in the context of something bigger. If all you ever do is flow roll, you won’t get far. Same can be said for just trying to kill each other. In my opinion, training should be approached as a long-term growth operation, and no one would undertake something like that without a plan.
5. Roger Gracie is out of the worlds, who do you think is going to step up to the empty thrown and grab the crown?
I know I’m a little late on this one, but I called Rodolfo Vieira. He’s been incredible this year. I’m a big fan.
6. A lot of readers want to know how you feel about Caio’s comment on steroids and the idea that everyone should be tested.
I think that it would be great if steroids disappeared from competitive Jiu-Jitsu. I honestly have a hard time seeing anyone reasonable arguing with this statement or the idea behind Caio’s. As things stand now, it seems that illegal performance enhancers are a serious and common problem, particularly at the top levels. There is no way to eliminate cheating entirely, but it would be a step in the right direction to take some action here.
If someone can come up with a reasonable and cost-effective testing solution, it would be great to see it applied at the Mundial and ADCC (at the least). Any testing should be done by an independent body with no connection to anyone in Jiu-Jitsu, though. Conflict of interest would be an important thing to avoid.
7. Another question by readers, do you think the rubber guard is still a flawed position?
I think it’s neat, but it’s certainly flawed from a technical perspective. Does that mean that no one can make it work in any circumstance? Absolutely not. Does that mean that there are better options in most situations, particularly for people not gifted with abnormal flexibility and/or an opponent ignorant to their strategy? I think so.
8. Who do you think will win the possible upcoming rematch between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo.
I would have loved to see this rematch, but I guess it’s looking like it’s not likely to occur. I suppose the only thing I can say is that I wish it would’ve taken place a few years ago when both guys were a little younger. If, hypothetically, they were to square off…anything can happen in a match or fight, but I go with Royler here. A champion is always a champion and he is one.