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SBGi's HUGE 2013 Year in Review

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Travis Davison View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26 Feb 2014 at 11:11am
It was a great year and 2 months into 2014 it appears we may top 2013!
Viva SBG!
Dude, I can't believe nobody picked the duck yet!
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SBGi's Huge 2013 Year in Review
pictures, videos, quotes & news from a year in the life of SBG
Just a 'few' of the highlights from the year; starting in January & proceeding to Dec 2013
2013 started with a very specific objective:

“I am on a mission to create JIU-JITSU SCIENTISTS. People who discover not just assorted FACTS (functional techniques), but THEORY, universal principles that explain how and why those facts WORK. In that vein, the SIMPLEST theory will always be the most ELEGANT. The most elegant theory will always give rise to the most EFFICIENT techniques. And, efficient techniques are by definition, intelligent. BEAUTIFUL (perfect) Jiu-Jitsu, simple, efficient, intelligent, that's how we advance the Art for; and that is what SBG is all about.” –Matt Thornton
That's Jiu-Jitsu - That's SBGi
Early in 2013 a portion of a video being produced about SBG, was released. Here it is: That's Jits - That's SBGi Video

SBG black belt, Priit Mihkelson, the Jits Vulcan, visited Canada & the USA
Priit went on a very successful tour, starting in Eastern Canada, working his way across the country, moving down into Montana and eventually ending up at SBG headquarters in Portland Oregon.

Rumor has it Priit will be returning for SBG's epic Spring Camp in Niagara Falls this coming April 2014.

What will the Jits Vulcan be teaching?

Here is a note from Coach Priit giving everyone a sneak preview:

"With me new "grilled chicken guard", I will give every-BODY instantly the only guard they ever going to need and I am serious about that...the ONE guard that rules them all ...this is magic when you see this...crazy simple, very efficient, very-very hard to pass. Also, I'll be applying functionalistic minimalism to both the top game and escape game. People will be blown away!"

Priit's material has always lived up to the hype, so this should be exciting.

Matt's twitter ID is @aliveness_ape
We've included some of his tweets over the year in this review.
Follow his account for more:

@aliveness-ape: My objective as a coach doesn't end at the development of combat athletes; I am also interested in the development of intellectual athletes.
SBG coach John Kavanagh athlete, Gunnar Nelson, won his second fight in the UFC.
BJJEE did an excellent interview with his coach, SBG BJJ black belt John Kavanagh. You can read it here:

“John Kavanagh runs the Straight Blast Gym Ireland and was the first Irish person to be awarded a black belt in BJJ. John fought in MMA to get a basic knowledge and experience of it before he moved into coaching, and where his true love lies in teaching. The fighters he coaches are among the top that compete in Irish MMA and are belt holders in the major Irish promotions such as Cage Contenders. He has trained notable fighters, such as Gunnar Nelson, Paul McVeigh, Cathal Pendred, Aisling Daly, Conor McGregor, Chris Fields and Owen Roddy. Eastern Europe spoke with John to find out a bit more about BJJ in Ireland, How he met Matt Thornton, Gunnar Nelson etc..“

Question: What sets apart the Straight Blast Gym training methods and mentality from other BJJ academies?

“Well i have Matt Thornton to thank for that. check out for more! also we might be a little different in that there are not too many academies out there producing champions in IBJFF gi/no gi, grappling, submission and mma pro and amateur.”

Question: Please tell us about how you first met Gunnar Nelson. I heard that even though he was your student, you were ok with the fact that Renzo Gracie promoted him to black belt instead of you, why is that so?

“I met Gunni about 7yrs ago. Actually I just recently saw a video of the first private lesson i gave him, and it funny seeing him all awkward and beginnerish. Also funny seeing him use the techniques I showed him to win a UFC fight 7yrs later! It was of course a great honor to have someone like Renzo Gracie recognize his abilities and and award him his black belt. I probably have a different view of belts in BJJ than most people, losing a family member to cancer is serious…BJJ is not.”

Matt Thornton talked martial arts, business, life skills & practical advice for the TRACE program

SBG founder and BJJ-MMA coach Matt Thornton spoke via Skype in Portland Oregon, to the TRACE program in PA.

TRACE, or TRAnsition to Community Employment, is a two-year employability skills program for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism.

Matt spoke about his history with the Martial Arts. His early years, running his business, and lessons learned along the way. After a brief talk, he fielded questions. Subjects discussed ranged from the Martial Arts, to self defense, dealing with bullies, depression, health and fitness, goal setting, and much more.

Many thanks to Karla Porter: for providing this opportunity.

You can view the video here:
SBG's Conor McGregor signed with the UFC!

SBG BJJ black belt John Kavanagh has signed yet another of his SBG athletes to the UFC. Cage Warriors Champion Conor McGregor!

If you’ve never seen Conor fight yet, get ready for some amazing action and talent when he steps in to make his octagon debut. Here is a post fight interview with Conor:

You can follow Conor on twitter @TheNotoriousMMA

And you can bet that SBG members from Ireland, the UK, Scandinavia, Canada and of course the USA will all be rooting for him as he steps up to face the competition!
SBG founder awarded the title of
"best ass kicking pioneer"
in his home town
In case you missed it, the Willamette Week listed Matt Thornton as one of the Best of Portland. Specifically,
Best Ass-Kicking Pioneer

“I classify traditional martial arts as superstition, like religion,” says Matt Thornton. It’s an opinion that has led the Portland resident and owner of Straight Blast Gym International to be one of the most polarizing figures in the international martial arts community. Some consider him a visionary; others see Thornton, a hulking, tattooed 6-foot-7-inch former soldier, as an “aggressive jock.”

You may disagree with his ideas—that you can’t learn to fight or defend yourself with karate katas and goofy Asian mysticism—but it’s hard to lump the guy in with the cliché of a Tapout-wearing MMA redneck. At his gym in the Hollywood neighborhood (1812 NE 43rd Ave., 230-7924), men, and a few women, of all ages—some have tie-dyed their uniforms—grapple competitively but sociably before a class. Thornton, a laid-back California native, slips in quietly and puts a jazz album on the stereo.

A former Jeet Kune Do instructor at the now-defunct Portland Martial Arts Academy, Thornton started rebelling against those “traditional” training methods after meeting legendary Brazilian jujitsu fighter Rickson Gracie in 1993. “There were 18 or 19 other guys—big judo guys—and he’d tap them all out without using his hands!” says Thornton. “I wanted a gym where people actually sparred, doing what was essentially mixed martial arts…. But everyone was telling me: ‘You’re never going to make it. Nobody wants to spar, nobody wants to sweat.’”

Fortunately, Thornton says, he proved them wrong. He left the academy and started the first Straight Blast Gym in Salem in 1993, later becoming Oregon’s first Brazilian jujitsu black belt, and began selling videos demonstrating his methods and ideas around the world. There are now 12 other Straight Blast and affiliated gyms across the U.S., as well as in nine other countries, while Brazilian jujitsu and MMA have exploded in popularity in Portland. When we met, he had just returned from a teaching tour of Ireland, Sweden and Iceland.

Despite fans, students and critics around the globe, Thornton acknowledges that the average Portlander has no idea who he is. He’s not even the biggest name in local martial arts—cage-fighter-turned-Republican politician Matt Lindland gets all the press. But he is certainly the most influential. “I think, one way or another, you can trace 90 percent of the competition that I have [in Portland] back to my own gym,” he says.

Coach John Kavanagh continued to have a huge year
SBG coach John Kavanagh had a busy year. Here is a video interview he did early in 2013, where he discusses MMA:

And here is an interview he gave where he discusses all sorts of interesting things.

To quote:

JOHN KAVANAGH MAY be recognised as Ireland’s elite MMA coach today but he is the first to admit that it has been a rocky road to success.
The founder of Straight Blast Gym Ireland currently trains some of the country’s best fighters – Iceland native Gunnar Nelson won his second UFC bout on two weeks ago, Conor McGregor is a month away from his debut while the likes of Cathal Pendred, Chris Fields and Owen Roddy have been making waves in recent times.
When asked about the gym’s humble beginnings, Kavanagh talks of wandering through a Laser Video store nearly 17 years ago and spotting a cover displaying eight men and a cage.

“I didn’t even think it was real,” he tells “I thought it was pro wrestling at first.”

After instantly falling in love, he began training the very next day. With little or no knowledge of the sport, Kavanagh met a Judo player named Andy Ryan before being offered a fight in South Africa in 2000 thanks to a Dublin-born matchmaker living there.
Although he lost, Kavanagh struck up a relationship with his opponent’s coach. Renowned trainer Matt Thornton who had established Straight Blast Gym in the US back in 1992 and decided to take Kavanagh under his wing.
“I went training with him and a lot of stuff that he said made sense to me. This was the beginning as everything I had learned before was wrong.”
Returning to Dublin, Kavanagh set up SBG Ireland and endured a shaky first couple of years. Also studying mechanical engineering at the time, it was tough balancing the two and when he graduated, there was a decision to be made.

“I knew I wanted to do this but wasn’t sure if there was a living in it. UFC itself was very small at the time. I said I’d give it three months and if it didn’t work out I’d be an engineer. That was eight years ago and I’m still at it.”

SBG headquarters, racked up BJJ wins all year

SBG Does it again at the Revolution Tournament!
Despite being greatly outnumbered by large Seattle schools, SBG once again took the #1 Team spot in the Pacific Northwest.

How do we do it?

It’s simple.

Rather than a few star BJJ athletes, we make sure everyone on our mats grows and becomes better.

As we’ve said before, by % of medals to BJJ competitors, nobody can touch us.

This is a testament to the SBG training methods, the SBG professional coaching staff, and the focus on fundmentals that ensures our BJJ competitors remain a step ahead of their competition.
SBG is for everyone, male, female, old or young. And the fact that nearly every person who ever enters from SBG ends up on the podium, proves that point.

A few highlights:

Amanda Lowen GOLD gi BJJ and no gi
Josh Smith dominated for GOLD in gi BJJ 0 points scored against him in 3 matchs
Trent Shadduck GOLD with 0 points scored against him from all matches, he also avenged a loss winning 15-0 in first BJJ match.
Eddie Ziegler GOLD in no gi, with SBG’s Mike Mangin taking SILVER in the same division.

As the year progressed SBG's BJJ team continued to rack up the wins.

Here is a video from one of SBG headquarters coaches Amanda Loewen's matches:

@aliveness_ape: It's never about what you think, but rather, how you think.
Matt Thornton was interviewed on SBGi's training methods
In March Matt did an interview with BJJEE, where he discussed SBGi, training methods and BJJ competition.

"Teaching is for us, a science. And like all things in science, we use self-correcting mechanisms to constantly improve our coaching and methods" - Matt Thornton

"I am involved with a group of quality people. This makes me think I'm on the right path." – Karl Tanswell

“Best advice I could give you would be to learn jiu jitsu from the smartest laziest black belt you know. You better believe they've found the absolute most efficient way of moving based around using the least amount of energy. Luckily Matt Thornton was my coach!" – John Kavanagh

Amanda Loewen won silver at the Pan Ams

@aliveness_ape: If you're a BJJ black belt & not producing competitive brown belts who are capable of beating you either your last name is Buchecha, or you're a terrible coach.

Matt gave a talk on Skepticism & the Martial Arts for CFI (Center For Inquiry)

Early in the Spring Matt gave an hour long talk, followed by a question and answer session for CFI. This was a skeptics in the pub event, held at Portland's Rougue brewery. Beer and conversation, what more could you ask for?

"As a skeptic you have to first understand this, Martial Arts contains a tremendous amount of superstition. Since we all value truth, we should be able to grasp the value the ability to differentiate between what is a fantasy based system, and what is in fact, functional. Some people don't understand that, and they reach for simplistic fallacies like "don't all arts offer something good"? People falsely assume that because something has been around awhile, it therefore must serve a useful purpose. But this is a mistake in thining, and a misunderstanding of exactly how evolution works. Things don't stick around along time because they are always useful. Things stick around for many generations because they are good at replication.

Relatvistic arguments just don't hold up under rational scrutiny. The reality is, there are bad ways to do things and good ways to do things. Build a bridge using a faulty method and people get hurt. Bridge building requires the right information and methodology, and so does fighting. To claim it is all relative is simply fallacious.

Some people may feel that bothering to explain Aliveness is a waste time, as it is “common sense”, or that the people who fall for traditional martial arts believing them to be combat effective are simply stupid, and deserve their fate. But I don’t share that opinion. I sometimes lecture at our local University in a critical thinking class. The class covers various topics, from faith healers, to astrology, alternative medicine, physics, mediums, and traditional martial arts. My topic is of course martial arts. We start with various clips from people like George Dillman (no touch knock outs), Aikido, yellow bamboo kung fu, and others; and then follow with a discussion on the distinction between Alive combat sports, and these types of dead patterns, fantasy based arts. As a skeptic, I find that sharing critical thinking skills on all these topics is both rewarding, and important; and anyone that thinks distinguishing between reality and these sorts of superstitions is “common sense”, just hasn’t spent enough time looking at the data."
- Matt Thornton

SBG welcomed a new Academy, SBG Seattle

"What can I say. I've been known to a lot of people as the jiu-jitsu guy that marches to his own drum. I've been through a lot the last 3 1/2 yrs, including a black belt that left me and others out to dry. SBG is where I belong, and every single person I have met within the team has confirmed that. No other place I have gone has made me feel like family the way these guys and gals have. I am SBG for life."

- Jei Omar Head Coach SBG Seattle

P.S The ironman ain't no bitch.

Conor won his UFC debut!
Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor “blew away” the competition in his debut at the Ultimate Fighting Championship last week, attracting a storm of media attention and even the praise of UFC president Dana White.

In 67 seconds, Conor had transformed from regional contender to global superstar.
The repercussions of Conor’s fight will endure far longer than the 67 seconds the fight lasted. The UFC TV production crew were the first to act as they replayed Conor’s fight during the main TV broadcast, the only prelim fight to make it.

To say UFC president Dana White was impressed is an understatement. Speaking at the post fight press conference in Sweden, White gushed about Conor: "Let me put it this way - I'm blown away! First of all, it's his first fight ever in the UFC. He walked out tonight and got into the octagon like it was his 100th fight in the UFC. From the minute it all started, he was nice and relaxed. He moved around. Even after he gets the knockout, it's like he's been here before and done it 100 times. Kid is totally relaxed. He's a beast. I'm impressed."

White also awarded Conor €60,000 in the form of a ‘Knock-Out of the Night’ bonus that are a feature of all UFC events.

SBG's Spring Camp turned out to be. . .EPIC

You missed it.
You told yourself you would go to the next one.
You screwed up!

It isn’t easy to articulate just how inspiring, informative and in short amazing, SBG’s Spring Camp 2013 was. We promised the biggest and best camp ever, and we delivered. Each evening featured a restaurant and bar which was designated for SBG camp members ONLY. We had the total run of the place, which led to an epic karaoke session on Saturday night!
Massive thanks to Travis and Kisa Davison, they have truly set the bar to a new high in terms of organization and enjoyment. It isn’t easy to articulate just how inspiring, informative and in short amazing, SBG’s Spring Camp 2013 was.

Original SBGr's Adam & Rory Singer were on hand offering great coaching & friendship.

“Had an amazing weekend with some of the kindest and most inspirational people I have ever met. Thank you Travis Davison and Kisa Davison for hosting such an awesome camp. Spending time with everyone from SBGi left such an impact on me and I am sure I will never forget it for the rest of my life. SBGi for LIFE!!!
- Nicholas Guidaboni
After the Coach versus Coach section an SBG Ironman took place.
If you’ve never seen one of these first hand, it is remarkable.
*(If you’ve not read about why the Ironman is an SBG Tradition, check this out:
Jake Oyler, a Travis Davison brown belt stepped up and wrestled over 65 people in a row, over the course of nearly two hours, before having his black belt tied on by Coach Travis.
Very few dry eyes in the house during this event, it was inspiring to say the least, and cool to see the belt tradition as done the SBG way.
"For me, what made this camp so special was having 7 out of my 10 black belts, all on the mat, all at the sametime. Along with old friends and orginal members. That was something I will never forget."
-Matt Thornton

You can read a full review of the entire event here:
“There exists a pervasive and misguided belief that human beings have a right to not be offended. That one can, and should be protected from having their ideas challenged. Closer inspection reveals this to be a dangerous ideology, a disease of the mind that goes under the name, intellectual insecurity. Only a deeply fearful human will demand that we respect the following notion, that freedom of ideas is less important than freedom from ideas.” – Matt Thornton

Jiu- Jitsu Style Magazine featured the history of SBG

@aliveness_ape: BJJ should be a healthy, lifetime activity. Roll like you are 50 in your 20's, so you can roll like you are 20 in your 50's.
SBG invaded the World Championships
Highlights, Leah Taylor (last years Mundial champion) takes silver!

Amanda Loewen losing a very close match on advantage to the current world champion (she gets revenge later in the year)

Hanging out with SBG competitors from the UK, Ireland and across the USA!

"Awesome trip to Worlds in California. Back in Portland, I just wanted to thank everyone for all of the support. I have the very best coaches with Matt Thornton, Travis Davison, Ricky Davison, Cane Prevost, Chris Stearns, and Rohn Figgins. Thanks so much to everyone for all the extra rolls." – Leah Taylor

"On the way home from the world championships now had a great weekend at the pyramid competing watching and learning. Was disappointed to lose in the first round but it was against a great competitor and person. Feeling richer for the experience and had an amazing time over the last few weeks in America really feel like my game has been raised

to a new level. Had great training with my SBG brothers and sisters in Portland made some great friends been to some great places and seen some great Jiu Jitsu. Thanks to everyone that has helped me out in prepping especially my coach Karl Tanswell for everything he does for me year in year out and all the boys back at SBG Mainline Manchester (too many to mention sorry, love you all). Matt Thornton for welcoming me into his gym and helping me with my final prep and everyone at SBG Portland. Thanks to Tatami Fightwear for kitting me out. To the Finnish BJJ association for putting back into the sport and making it possible for athletes to make the trip. And of course my wonderful Fiancée and Family for the constant love and support. Peace and love to you all." – Casey Jones

If your love of BJJ extends only to your own performance, you'll quit once you get older. If your love of BJJ extends to the discovery of the Art itself, you'll do it for a lifetime. But, if you don't have your own community, your own tribe, you'll have no one to share that love with; and you will miss a lot of the beauty and meaning this journey offers.” – Matt Thornton
Matt came back from surgery, rolling on at Steve Whittier's
"First day on the mat since surgery; no better people to jump back into the water with than John Frankl, Stephen Whittier and Jeff Perez. Thanks guys." - Matt

"1st half of a great seminar with Matt Thornton, totally stoked. Can't wait for tomorrow."
– John Murphy

"Fantastic first day of the Jiu-Jitsu training camp with Matt Thornton and a packed room full of great people. Awesome Guard Passing and BJJ for MMA/Self Defense material. Can't wait for Day two tomorrow as we head up to Connors MMA."
– Steve Whittier

"Learned so much valuable info at the Matt Thornton seminar this weekend. Just an outstanding experience. Can't wait until next year. Thank you Matt Thornton"
- John Connors

Q: "When you put on the guillotine can't they grab your balls?"

A: "In my guillotine, you won't even be able to grab your own balls."
- John Kavanagh
Original SBG student & Hardcore Gym athlete, legendary fighter Forrest Griffin, inducted into the MMA Hall Of Fame!

"Congrats to one of my dearest and oldest friends, Forrest Griffin, on his induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. You earned it with years of amazing performances and giving it your all each and every time you entered the cage. Love you bro."
- Rory Singer

"Life should be lived to the point of tears" – Camus
Matt Thornton's seminar in Montana was a blast
"In a couple hours my friend Peter Boghossian gives a talk at James Randi's TAM on Authenticity. The one thing the community I care a lot about needs to hear most. Meanwhile, Salome, the girls and I will be here in big sky country, enjoying a literal paradise, and listening a live blue grass band. What is this? Just another day in the office for SBG!" - Matt

Here are some of the valuable insights I was reminded of during Matt Thornton's excellent BJJ seminar this weekend. Jiu Jitsu always reveals the truth. There can be no delusion or self deception on the mats, because what you're capable of will always shine through. It's a self fulfilling mechanism that will never allow your ego or some other form of grandeur to get out of control. Honesty will prevail every time. It's also in this way that Jiu Jitsu improves our lives personally off the mats, in ways that no other sport or physical activity ever can. This is how it builds character and enhances our lives in every imaginable way.

On a regular basis, you should never need to be in any more than a relaxed state when training with an opponent, with the exception of competitions in some cases. But even then, the most succesful competitors are always the most calm and relaxed. In order to learn and improve in the most efficient ways possible, you need a relaxed body and mind, you need to let go of outcome dependancy and you need to consistently allow yourself to move into new, bad and unfamiliar places.” - Rory Cubitt
@aliveness_ape: Stop looking for meaning in life, look instead to fully embrace the experience of being alive.

"Nothing is more interesting to me than Jiu Jitsu basics. Nothing is more boring to me than "advanced" Jiu Jitsu. Beware of anything you see online that has more than 3 steps to finish a move. Any more than 3 steps and you will always have a transition position that somehow is never shown. Any more than 3 steps and you probably should not even bother. The best Jiu Jitsu is simple efficient motion. It will always be that way. The most effective Jiu Jitsu is what you learn as a white belt. That will always remain true. In fact the more experience you get the more true it becomes. True."

– Cane Prevost
Matt Thornton taught & toured Ireland, plus SBG gained a new black belt

"Nothing quite like waking up at 5am to catch a flight. I am looking forward to seeing John Kavanagh, and all the Irish SBG people. Even after 25 years BJJ still reveals something new about core fundamentals on occasion; and what I recently sorted from guard, and will be showing in Ireland, is going to change everyone's game immeadiately. I also have a ton of writing to get done. See you soon Dublin." –Matt

"Paddy Holohan will collect you at airport. He's been instructed to play gangster rap loudly the whole way home." -John Kavanagh

My Icelandic cousin Aron Elvar, training with SBG UFC fighter Conor Mcgregor. Aron's BJJ has come a long way since I saw him last!

"You can tell from my sweat that the training in Killarney was a blast. Every time I train with John I pick up a little something new." - Matt

"I am in the countryside of Ireland, where two designated (the job is inherited birth) men, pick a wild goat each year, place it on a platform, and worship it for three days. If I don't make it back to America, I've likely died in a wickerman." - Matt

"So far I've visited a part of Ireland thatcelebrates a crown wearing goat on a giant platform for three days; engaged in several hours of conversation with a woman that's been a nun for over 50 years, and will as I understand it, be dressed as a Cardinal tomorrow night. *(I think this grants me special powers, we're looking that up). I'm wondering how this trip could possibly get more sacrilegious, yet, I am guessing it will." - Matt

At the event Matt awarded his first ever, two stripe black belt, to John Kavanagh. Other promotions followed, including John's first homegrown BJJ black belt, the outstanding Tom King.

"Big night tonight. To start with, I gave my first ever two stripe black belt, to the coach who has earned it a hundred times over, John Kavanagh. Secondly, John gave his first home grown black belt to Tom King, who has been with John for a decade, who is a BJJ beast and who is the first Irishman to receive a black belt from an Irish BJJ black belt. All of that is amazing enough, but on top of this I was presented with a very cool piece of art to commemorate my decade of travel to Ireland. It's stunning and will be shipped to SBG headquarters for display. SBG is a community. It's power and value is found in its members. And I couldn't be happier or prouder with how John has carried on that legacy." - Matt Thornton

"Tonight I was promoted to Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by my coach John Kavanagh and his coach Matt Thornton. I seems like a lifetime ago when I first walked into SBG and to say it has changed my life is an understatement. I'd like to thank Teresa for her support, all my team mates and training partners and above all my coach." – Tom King

"I've spent along time training and competing in MMA and BJJ. I have achieved a lot over the years and I have reached a level that I never thought possible but nothing comes close to what I achieved tonight from my coach John Kavanagh. I have been a purple belt for a long time and to receive my brown belt is overwhelming to say the least. I like to thank my coach John kavanagh, Matt Thornton and my team mates for SBG and Primal Mma for all the training over the past 12 years. It's much appreciated!! Also a huge congrats to James gallagher purple belt, Clive Staunton brown belt and Tom King black belt." – Owen Rody"I've spent along time training and competing in MMA and BJJ. I have achieved a lot over the years and I have reached a level that I never thought possible but nothing comes close to what I achieved tonight from my coach John Kavanagh. I have been a purple belt for a long time and to receive my brown belt is overwhelming to say the least. I like to thank my coach John kavanagh, Matt Thornton and my team mates for SBG and Primal Mma for all the training over the past 12 years. It's much appreciated!! Also a huge congrats to James gallagher purple belt, Clive Staunton brown belt and Tom King black belt." – Owen Rody

Pictured on the left, up & coming SBG star Nathan Kelly. You can watch a video of Nate rolling with Matt here:

And you can follow Nate on twitter: @natedogmma1

There was also a pretty cool video of the Ireland seminar that was shot.It gives you a peek into what my day to day office, also known as the mat, looks like.

"Between Matt Thornton's recent innovations regarding spider guard, and then today Priit Mihkelson making me look at bottom position a new way, and Martin Aedma changing my approach to guard passing, I've never learned so much new jiu jitsu in such a short space of time. Decade and a half consistent training and still regularly having my game reinvented. I can't imagine if I decided to become a javelin thrower there would be the same opportunity for continuous growth. BJJ - it's a beautiful thing!" – John Kavanagh
Self Defense seminar, 2013 Ireland

"Jiu-Jitsu is like a tree. Its roots are Base, its trunk is Posture, it's major branches are the Pressures, and the offshoots, all the small branches, are the Possibilities that proper base, posture and Pressure create.

The common mistake is to focus on the fruit, the sweeps, submissions and finishes. But the Art, the Science, the secret of good Jiu-Jitsu, is the tree itself."

- Matt Thornton
"While I neither train nor teach martial arts full-time, I'm as much a part of the Straight Blast Gym and HardCore Gym as I ever was. Because they're not only warriors but equally they are writers, poets, philosophers, scientists, creators and destroyers. That's the difference. If you fancy a modern day hero's journey you will find no better starting point." – Paul Myatovich

@aliveness_ape: Believing that martial arts will make your child violent, is akin to believing masturbation makes them more likely to have sex.
A talk on violence & a contribution to the blog of Sam Harris
In August Matt contruibuted to the blog of best selling author Sam Harris, on the topic of violence and self defense. His responses were written while touring in Ireland.You can view the full article here:

Towards the end there is a fairly extensive dialouge on weapons. These are a few highlights:

Matt Thornton: One point I’d like to make in this context is that the best defense against violence is always your own mind. People tend to overlook this because it sounds like an empty platitude, but it’s true. Some people acquire the maturity and understanding to avoid violence early on, but these days—and this is obviously a good thing—most of us go our whole lives without encountering violence, so we need to be taught what to look for. We also need to be willing to see it, and we need to know how to manage our distance from it.

From the victim’s perspective, an attack may seem to have occurred suddenly, but we know that in most cases it was anything but sudden. If people were more open to their own instincts—what you referred to as “profiling” in the example you gave of the man at your daughter’s school—many crimes could be avoided altogether.

"A reasonable response to the problem of self-defense begins with maturity, focuses on awareness, and develops functional physical skills in all ranges of combat. Those functional skills can only come as a result of what I call “alive” training: The kind of training that involves resisting opponents, and coaches who have real skill in those delivery systems. This is why I always encourage people to focus on combat sports as opposed to the more fantasy-based “street” or traditional martial arts systems.

But the truth is, I don’t even like my MMA fighters exchanging punches when they fight, because it can always mean a loss by knockout. It is always a roll of the dice. Why on earth would I suggest they use a blade against a blade? If possible—meaning you’re not cornered or defending someone else who can’t flee—when faced with a blade you always run and/or put an object between you and the attacker—a car, table, your father-in-law (just kidding). A firearm alters things even more. Rather than being the magic wand of self-defense, a gun is a massive responsibility that limits rather than expands your options as they relate to violence. That needs to be thoroughly understood by anyone who is considering carrying one.

Shortly after Matt's return from Ireland he gave an hour long talk at PacificPower for their employees, on the subject of violence and personal self defense. It was a good kick start for a larger presentation he will be doing soon. Stay Tuned!

@aliveness-ape: As long as you're pretending to know things you don't actually know, you're prevented from understanding the right questions to ask.
Philosophy as a verb

When it comes to Martial Arts philosophy in general part of what made SBG what it is today isn’t just the functional nature of what we teach. Though true we were doing MMA before the sport even existed, and true that the thesis we championed for Alive training has now gone full circle from “That’s crazy”, to “how dare you say that”, and finally to “everyone knows that already”, all of which is a sign of success for us if ever there was one; it wasn’t just that which put us on the map. When you look back on the record it’s pretty clear it was also an ideal, one which encouraged the doing of philosophy, of philosophy as a verb, for those who were seeking the ‘truth’, whether in martial arts or life in general, truth in the fact sense of that word, truth in the sense of aligning as much as possible our beliefs and methods with the actuality of the natural world.

Read more here:
@aliveness_ape: If you find yourself worrying during a roll, go back to playing. Worry requires self-consciousness. Good Jiu-Jitsu is never self-conscious.

SBG achieved redemption in Vegas
Looking for a second chance at some of the opponents they faced at the IBJJF World Championships (mundials), John Diggins and Amanda Loewen ventured to the IBJJF Vegas open. John ended up taking second place in his weight, losing to 1 advantage point, despite taking his opponent down twice with double legs. For some reason the take downs were not awarded points.

Not one to complain, John accepted the silver, entered the open class, and choked out the opponent he "lost" two, taking GOLD!

Amanda Loewen did what we all knew she could do, she beat the IBJJF world champion in her weight class, winning the absolute division!

A nice way to start a weekend where we had gathered to see SBG's Ella Yee and Karl Tanswell married.

"Whenever we find thinking hard, it is because the stony path to truth is competing with seductive, easier paths that turn out to be dead ends." - Marcel Kinsbourne
Karl tied the knot
"About to marry off my brother. Couldn't be a better day. I love this family." - Matt

What was seen in the window that night, will never be spoken.
Keeping it playful is keeping it powerful

John Kavanagh & Conor having a little fun before Conor's win next Saturday.

I'd like everyone to watch this video and note three key things:

1- The relaxed pace.
2- The emphasis on posture.
3- How technical it is.

This is what physical intelligence looks like.

Keeping it playful is keeping it powerful.

"Think Street Train Sport"

Conor puts it perfectly here; and gives an insight into the thinking of a champion.

@aliveness-ape: A good coach will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. A great coach will do the same, all the while looking to move you past where they themselves have taken the game
@aliveness-ape: Basic Jiu-Jitsu maxims, the stronger your opponent is, the more relaxed you need to be.The more aggressive your opponent is, the more focused you need to be. The more skilled your opponent is, the more playful you need to be.
SBG's Conor McGregor won his 2nd UFC fight. He sustained a knee injury, but carried on for the win!

Dublin’s Conor McGregor remains unbeaten in the UFC after a dominant featherweight win over Hawaii’s Max Holloway in Boston.

The Irishman won by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26), despite a knee injury he sustained in the second round that forced him to rethink his strategy.

Until then, McGregor, who received a rapturous welcome from the Boston crowd having fought just once in the UFC before tonight, had been in total control of the fight. “I’m at a loss for words,” McGregor said of the support he received from the crowd at TD Garden. “I wanted to stand up all the way, he caught my leg in an awkward position, my leg was wobbly when I got up. You live and you learn.”

Read more here: Conor goes 2-0!

@aliveness_ape: Opportunity is rarely equal. It doesn't have to be. For the talented, intelligent and motivated, all it has to do is exist.
Matt Inman scored a big win in Chechnya
At Cage Warriors 58: SBG UK's Matt Inman defeated Bagautdin Sharaputdinov via TKO.

You check out the win here: matts win

And make sure you ask Karl about Chechnyan airports.

"Within the martial arts this manifests as which style is better, X or Y? Is such and such superior to such and such? The first thing this line of questioning reveals is the lack of understanding at is relates to Aliveness on the part of the questioner.

The second thing worth noting is that the biggest obstacle between truth and confusion, in these cases, is the relativist. The one who refuses to say this is better than that; either because they are a coward, because they don't actually know, or because they have yet to grasp just how vacuous the relativist position is.

Regardless, it's not subjective, or a mystery. Some things are simply better than others."
- Matt Thornton
Matt gave in interview to Severe MMA

Ever wonder what Matt's thoughts were on the current state of MMA?
Wonder no more.
He gave an interview in Sept 2013.

During the interview Matt talks about the qualities great athletes share. The thinking process, the role curiosity, passion and intelligence play. The need to create your own unique model within your head. Plus much more. Anyone looking to learn MMA, BJJ, or really anything else; should pay close attention to this interview.

You can listen to the fulll interview here: Matts Interview

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde
Matt & Salome visited Washington DC

"We were taken to the airport by a first generation Egyptian immigrant who arrived in Washington, D.C. sixteen years ago.

Despite having a graduate degree, he took the job he could get at the time, busboy. A year later he was dishwasher. A year later he was a waiter. As a waiter he manage to make enough to save some income. He brought his family here. He bought a car and entered the limo business. He worked hard. As he said, "I don't believe in superstition, I believe in hard work".

Now he is driving a Mercedes, owns a home in downtown D.C. (no easy feat), and is purchasing property. He has five kids, and wants them all to do better than he has. He'd like them to be doctors or engineers. I have little doubt they will be.

This is and always has been, a Nation of immigrants. They inject life, ingenuity, work ethic and energy back into our economy. He sees America as a land where anyone smart who is willing to work hard enough, can achieve prosperity. I don't know if he is a citizen yet, or holds a green card still; but as far as I am concerned, he is as American as it gets."
- Matt Thornton

Salome Thornton, doing some Primate Yoga with the Kennedy Center in the background.
SBG, always on my mind, self defense with Matt and training at SBG Berkeley

SBG always on my mind, a clever promo for the massive, new, SBG Ireland Academy that opened in 2014:

Matt gave a seminar late in 2012, the video clip came out in 2013 & covers some of Matt's thoughts in self-defense, as well as a pretty good finishing move:

Just back from a great weekend in my home away from home, the CA Bay Area, with Lily and Alan Pagle ,SBG Berkeley.

Watching the great sections taught by Ricky Davison and Hamilton Ash was an inspiration. Giving out two well deserved purples to some Reno SBG beasts, Tom & Chris, was also a privilege. They are a testament to Coach Raymond Price's teaching.

@aliveness_ape: Strength, speed and power are not Jiu Jitsu. They are what you do when you have weaknesses in your Jiu Jitsu.

Matt toured Sweden & awarded his 10th BJJ black belt!
"36 hours home, and I am about to head out to Sweden and the UK for a great couple weeks of teaching alongside the VP, Travis Davison. Can't wait to see my across the pond tribe." - Matt

"Travis Davison and I just saw our first Swedish soccer hooligan mob. About 30 guys, chasing two. Hope those two are quick, we're busy eating pasta.Travis Davison and I just saw our first Swedish soccer hooligan mob. About 30 guys, chasing two. Hope those two are quick, we're busy eating pasta." - Matt

I am very proud to have just awarded my 10th BJJ black belt to Said Zeiai.

Said has the performance skill, teaching skill, deep understanding of the art and personal character, to represent SBG at it's finest.

As is our tradition, Said put on a display of awesome Jiu Jitsu in a 40 person ironman.

Said now joins Luis Gutierrez, John Kavanagh, Karl Tanswell, Travis Davison, Ricky Davison, Cane Prevost, Lily Pagle, Rohn Figgins and Priit Mihkelson.

SBG, the legacy continues.

Matt & Travis toured the UK & Karl awarded two new SBG black belts!
@aliveness-ape: Back in Manchester: Healthy is the new high, calm is strong and if you're not playing relaxed it's ridiculous. This is Jiu-Jitsu, we win the intelligent way.

So very proud to have the privilege of giving Karl Tanswell his second stripe today. He exemplifies everything SBG is about.

Two new SBG BJJ Black Belts Glyn and Chris.

"Proud to have been there as Coach Karl Tanswell gave out two more BJJ black belts (making three he has produced so far, with Casey Jones being the first), to long time students Glyn Powditch and Chris Coltrane. It was one of the most impressive two hour ironmans I've ever seen".
- Travis Davison

"The best guard in Jiu-Jitsu doesn't have a name. It forms itself according to the opponents pressure and movement. And it capitalizes on every mistake they make." -Matt Thornton

"Watching Chris Coltrane and Glyn Powditch earn their black belts today was an amazing event to witness. Rolling to sumbission with 50+ people with such finesse and patiance. I learned a great deal from them both thats going to develop my game greatly. Well deserved. That was after a 4 hour seminar with Matt Thornton who stripped the spider guard down to a fine science, rounding it off at the end by adding a minor element that changed the game completely. Also congrats to Karl Tanswell who recieved his 2nd degree black belt. My good friend and amazing coach."
– Darren Palma

"Off to Liverpool. Time to teach some BJJ and hang where the Beatles hung".
- Matt

Back to earth with a bang after such a great weekend. Brilliant Matt Thornton seminar, top class coaches and generally surrounded by smart people who have really captured and can break down bjj in its purest form. Mind = blown. Some serious technical beasts being created. Thanks for having us Aberdeen lads down
- David Alexander Philip

@aliveness-ape: The key to a good leg lock is hip position. The key to a good leg lock escape is hip movement.

From Glyn: "Here goes....Congratulations to Chris Coltrane on his BJJ Black Belt - I wish I was that good (and thats NOT a plea for any sychophant comments) as his game is on another level as witnessed by all on Saturday. Special Thanks to Karl Tanswell for the past 10 years - amazing coach and individual. To all my training partners and friends especially the '6am hardcore' Casey Jones Chris Coltrane Pete Joyce, Matt Inman, Louis Loo and all the SBG crowd. Thanks to Elizabeth Clark for putting up with me. Great classes at the weekend with Matt Thornton and Travis Davison - already looking forward to the next one. Finally met some cool people at MMA Academy Liverpool with Jason Tan, Cheers." - GlynPowditch

"5 days on the Matt Thornton diet and feeling awesome. Never felt so vascular and recovering probably 18.4 times faster than a vegan.5 days on the Matt Thornton diet and feeling awesome. Never felt so vascular and recovering probably 18.4 times faster than a vegan." - Casey Jones

@aliveness-ape: Posture gives you structure. Structure gives you strength.

"When the fundamental understanding of the core principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are matched with a freedom to develop your own rolling style on the mat, diversity is the norm, creativity thrives and all options naturally open to the practitioners who are ready to use them. The process of meritocratic competition moves the whole academy forward.

When the fundamental understanding of the core principles of science are matched with personal freedom, diversity is natural, creativity thrives and all careers open to talent. Meritocratic competition moves the whole society forward." - Matt Thornton

@aliveness_ape: Where good Jiu-Jitsu exists, reliance on strength isn't necessary. Where good Jiu-Jitsu is absent, strength is all you'll have.
Mexican paradise, Niagara Falls & Toronoto.
A month in the life at SBG
"First you learn the proper mechanics, structure and posture. Then you add Progressive resistance. You must put yourself in positions of vulnerability, yet try to never really get injured. Regardless of the venue, it's the same process; it is a universal principle. The first part is the delivery system, the second part is Aliveness. Together they form the epistemology of progress." - Matt

In October members of the SBGi tribe gathered in a literal paradise on earth, to train, socialize and enjoy life.In addition to the amazing food, warm ocean and poolside chats, members got a sneak peak into the second phase of SBG's Coaching University curriculum, more info and details on the Growing Gorilla's program, with its creator Travis Davison, some amazing grip, choke and takedown material courtesy of Lily Pagle, some world class BJJ and stand up with Steve Whittier and a run through once more of Matt's 2013 spider guard curriculum, which was a game changer for everyone who took a Thornton seminar last year.

Look for future retreat in the coming year, with the next major camp being held in the beautiful Niagara Falls in April 2014!
@aliveness_ape: The four noble truths of reason.

1- A commitment to reality as it is, as opposed to how we want reality to be.

2- An unwillingness to make factual claims about reality that are not based in evidence. Don't pretend to know what you don't know.

3- A willingness to proportion your beliefs to the evidence. Don't exaggerate or minimize what we do know.

4- A willingness to revise your beliefs in the light of new evidence

After returning from Mexico Matt headed out to the East coast, for the first of two visits to Canada. He started at Rich's Niagara Falls location where students went through the full 2013 material, all things spider guard and the power collar chokes curriculum.

"I shared two awesome classes under the one everyone said was the one not to miss -Coach Matt Thornton. The intellectual giant of a man conquered Southern Ontario once again. I attended two of the three dates, Saturday was at Rich Beaupits SBG-Niagara and the other was at my second home, Turning Point Training Methods.

Saturday: We went over the Lasso/Spider guard techniques which Travis Davison had went over. It was a good reminder as I have been building more confidence within the open guard. I busted my bad knuckle AGAIN and there was no way I was staying off the mats.

Monday: We went over cross collar chokes and I learned a detail which may have cost me a match or two in the pas (Locking elbows in BEFORE airplaning to center. I sat around and had a few cold ones and heard some awesome stories. Awesome times once again. Viva SBGi! " - Aaron Hail Mary Daniels

@aliveness_ape: Intelligent BJJ seeks the greatest results with the least effort.

"Don't worry, I am a superhero. It is going to be okay."

First words my daughter said to me when I woke up this morning.

It was a very SBG Halloween

Interviews, podcasts, videos & one hell of a match

Hamilton Ash, enjoying himself while he stayed in the UK to train with world class coach Karl Tanswell & the SBG UK Team.

In November 2013 Matt Thornton did an hour long podcast with Karla Porter and Justin Vacula on BraveHero Radio.

You can listen to the full show here:

@aliveness_ape: Strength and explosiveness are not Jiu-Jitsu. Strength and explosiveness are what you fall back on when you have weaknesses in your Jiu-Jitsu.

Toward end of 2013 a very cool 17 minute mini-documentary video went up featuring SBG UK BJJ black belt & competitor Casey Jones.

Casey made a big impression on everyone when he came to visit and train at the Portland SBG Academy, prior to the Worlds. It's nice to see him profiled, his teaching and understanding of the art is top notch.

@aliveness_ape: Jiu Jitsu always works best when you're cool. What do I mean by cool? An absence of desire or fear, aka: cool. No food, no sleep, stay cool & it's no problem. Get frustrated, even for a minute, and you lose it. It's a beautiful thing.

SBG's Amanda Loewen puts on an amazing display of technical skill!

Amanda traveled to Southern Ca, where she entered a no time limits, unlimited weight class BJJ tournament.

As an SBG purple belt, she was matched up with 7X black belt IBJJF Heayweight World Champion, Tammy Griego.

Although Tammy is a 7x World Champion, she had never fought in a submission only event before. The match lasted 64 grueling minutes before Tammy won.

64 minutes for a lightweight (under 140lbs) SBG purple belt, versus a 7 x black belt heavyweight world champion?

That's impressive!

That's SBG.
It was time to add a new brown belt to our staff at SBG Portland

Amanda Loewen has shown herself to have a deep technical knowledge, love and appreciation for the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And she's also turned out to be a great coach, as well as a competitor.

She was awarded her brown belt at the end of 2013 from Matt Thornton.

Now this, is a great staff!

In our ongoing effort to bring the benefits of SBG to a larger and broader community, we've added a lot of new programs to our roster. Coach Amanda's Teen's Class has been a huge and growing success!

And then there is the always expanding Primate Yoga program.

Primate Yoga is a functional, safe, science based approach to Yoga and combat athletics. Woo-woo free yoga, no bullshit, no superstition.

In short, a Practical Practice.

If you're interested in a Primate Yoga session or seminar, contact the Portland SBG Academy:

The year ended in the best way possible, a visit from an old friend and original SBG'r, Rory Singer.

The UFC vet and BJJ black belt taught a one day striking workshop, which turned out to be a huge success.

It was great to see Rory back on the SBG Portland mat.

Don't forget!
SBG's HUGE Spring Camp 2014 is set for the weekend of April 11th in the beautiful Niagara Falls!

You can stay update on it here:

Word is, a Jits Vulcan will be there:

2013 turned out to be a beautiful year.
And 2014?

For SBG, it only gets better!

Carefully note that the will to believe & the wish to understand are two completely different things; & only one propels us forward.

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