Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Random White Belt To Blue Belt World Champion

In the US, there is a certain mindset among the BJJ players, from the students to the instructors. It will be that good high school, good college, or great college wrestler who walks in through that door who will get you that world championship at BJJ. There's a certain obsession here, maybe it's because of MMA, but there's this belief that a pedigree or a natural ability to wrestle will equal championship gold.

There's many instructors who've taken their time to mold someone, banking on that idea. If not the wrestler, maybe just a really good athlete or someone really strong.

You're not going to think it's that scrawny kid from the Phillipines who learned BJJ out of some books. The thing they don't account for is the student's dedication, heart, and work rate. They think, man this kid is a good wrestler, he just needs to learn to fight off his back and he'll win a world title. There have been times when this has been proven right, there's been a lot of times this has been proven wrong.

I'm sure no one who saw Ram Ananda as a white belt thought he would win the Worlds. They thought he's tough, or he's close to a blue belt now, but there's a huge gap between tough guy in your school and the best guy in your class in the world. No one was probably banking on him, thinking I need to mold this kid into a champion. He wasn't even a track and field star or a football guy. But as far as I know, there has never been a NCAA or high level college wrestler yet to win the worlds at black belt (eventually this may change), but you do hear a lot about guys who won, being the guy who worked the hardest in the school and trained the most, even if they weren't initially the most gifted. So beyond background or athletic ability, seems like dedication is the key ingredient. Having a background in wrestling or being a great athlete helps, but it's not everything.

In BJJ and in life we can't judge a book by its cover.

So I asked Ram how he made that jump. How he went from random white belt to a world champion:
"I would have to say that everything changed! Starting as a white belt, I lived in the Philippines for 2 years and learned BJJ out of Kevin Howell's Saulo book. My instructor was a book! This book was all I had for 8 months! Eventually, I learned that there were BJJ DVD's. I got a hold of Cobrinha's, Robson's, Demian's, Saulo's, Marcelo's DVD's. Those were my teachers. I moved back to America and I was really itching for some formal jiu jitsu.

So I have always had goals and made sure to work towards them. I have a burning desire to win.
I make sure I am positive all the time, I have great teammates who are great to be around and beasts on the tournament scene. So as long as I'm enjoying the process it keeps me motivated.

I make sure I am being a good citizen and student at the academy, Learning from my Professor Cobrinha and Fabbio Passos, that's amazing as well. I would say Cobrinha is the consummate professional. I pick up amazing tips on how to improve on jiu jitsu and life by asking and watching him.

In summary, if I could pinpoint a couple things, it would be do not lose sight of your goals. BJJ doesn't happen overnight. Even if you came from nowhere! Having a great support system of a coaching staff and team mates is primary as well."
I asked Ram about how much he trained for the worlds. He said he ramped it up to twice a day every day on weekdays. I know a lot of people who train twice a day, but its a bit different. We both ended up at Cobrinha's, and seeing him train, I know truly what a 2 a day means.

If I came to the noon class, I would see Ram there drilling, already sweating. I asked him how long he's been there, he would say an hour, sometimes 2 hours. That's before the noon class! And then noon class would run from noon to 2PM or sometimes 3PM. So that's anywhere from 2-5hours in the morning. In the evening if I miss noon class, I would go to the 6PM class. I would see Ram there drilling. I ask him how long he's been there, sometimes he would say an hour. Sometimes he would say he's been there all day. The last class gets out around 10. This isn't including the long Saturday and Sunday practices leading into Worlds or the team conditioning training.

So how many hours is that a week? Well over 40 not including times he's watching tape or doing stuff at home on the mats he has at home. So if you are a guy who trains once a day 6 days a week, that's a lot compared to most people. That's maybe 6-12 hours. Or if you train twice a day, maybe 20-24 hours. So a guy training over 20 hours a week from some small school will never in his wildest dreams imagine someone is training more than him, but there are.

How does he train so much without hurting himself? Most of those hours are spent drilling. Not just drilling submissions like most people do, drilling key transitions, sweeps, passes, and situations. He's also eating right and doesn't cut much, living clean, and sleeping well.

How does he know what to drill and how? He has a 4x World Champion at black belt as his head coach. He has a host of other black belts and World Champions constantly visiting and also preparing as well. He has several teammates who have won the same tournament at white belt, blue belt, purple belt, and brown.

Drilling time, setting goals, the right environment, and a burning desire to win seemed to be the perfect combination for this title and in hindsight it seems its obvious he would win. But as a white belt coming to the US to train, not so obvious.

For more info on Ram or if you want to sponsor Ram in his journey to become the best, you can find him at http://www.facebook.com/rambjj. Or to get more info about where he trains, go to http://www.cobrinhabjj.com/


Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletter. You can also connect to Inner BJJ on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Great article, Sam! Ram is a great guy! Deserves all the success!

  2. lol. I don't think he learned everything in a book. I've trained with this guy in the philippines. I ain't dissing his success and all. Ram is very hard working in training but really?? 2 years of learning from a book and saying that when he returned to America he was itching for some formal training? I guess we all know you need training partners right? So how can you do that with books and dvds? We ain't dissing this guy and we're proud of his success. To say that he just learned everything out of a book and is really bullshit. Congrats to ram but just saying, this ain't the truth and i'm pretty sure he didn't learned everything in a book and dvds for 2 years.

    1. Thanks for the input and you are probably right. Ram may be a great BJJ player but probably poor at explaining himself, like many athletes are. It took me a long time just to get him to give me an answer that was longer than one word or any answer at all. He's not much for elaboration. So that's just Ram. I don't think he was trying to misrepresent.

  3. Ram was representing Deftac Cebu in the Philippines in 2009, if you look up regional comps, he was a beast in South East Asia. So I'm not sure where this books/dvds thing is coming from?

    1. Maybe he felt like he couldn't bring up his past schools without comparing it to his current one. So he left it out to avoid BJJ politics.

    2. You're probably right, but I guess saying that he learned from books and DVDs really means that the school didnt give him anything at all? Damn!

    3. He's also not used to having anything he said posted online. He'll get better with it over time.

  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jz1LuWgfi4

    Dude was 2nd at the pan asain absolute in 2010 at blue belt. He should have been a purple belt this year

  5. Sandbagging... Since when did white and/or blue belts become so significant? No need to be attributing such celebrity to them.

    1. He's now an adult purple pan am champ, a masters world purple champ, and is competing at adults worlds in a few weeks.

  6. How does he get money to eat? I'd train that much without a job! No kids or wife or commitments.


    1. That is the eternal BJJ mystery...



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