Before I started writing and interviewing people in the MMA world, I assumed that the best interviews were going to come from the fighters. They are the ones getting into the ring or cage and putting their training and skills to work for the entertainment, pride and financial rewards that the sport provides. However, after more than a year, that notion rests on the scrap heap and I now believe that trainers and coaches make for the best interviews.
These trainers and coaches may or may not have fought before, but the demands of their job - instilling better technique in their students, figuring out how to push a wide variety of individuals to improve, using their analytic skills to build solid gameplans and communicating effectively with other coaches, the media, family members and fighters while walking the balance between total honesty and what's best for their students - make for wonderful interviews.
On the evening before he would appear at UFC 143 as a cornerman for Josh Koscheck, Dave Camarillo appeared on the radio show I host alongside MMA Mania's Brian Hemminger and Gerry Rodriguez. We were expecting a quick promo appearance for his new Victory Belt book, Submit Everyone: The Classified Field Manual For Becoming A Submission-focused Fighter, but Dave spent a full hour with us answering questions with aplomb about his approach to grappling and teaching. Dave was amazingly generous with his time and expertise with us and now I bring that interview to you in readable form.
For those of you who are a bit hazy on who Dave Camarillo is, he was the head grappling instructor at American Kickboxing Academy (better known as AKA) for years. His students include most of the AKA mixed martial arts athletes like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Cain Velasquez and his calm, cogent corner advice can be seen on quite a few UFCs.
Dave recently left AKA to focus on his schools and the incredibly aggressive style of grappling he employs is a legacy of his many years in elite level judo and starting his Brazilian jiu jitsu training at the same time as some of the very best black belts to come out of the West Coast. The following video highlight reel - especially the match with his brother Dan - shows how swift, attacking and fluid his grappling can be when done right. Dave and Dan Camarillo may be two of the most exciting grapplers that I have ever seen on video and their perspective on the sports of competitive grappling and MMA is unique.
Hit the jump for the first third of the Hour with Dave Camarillo.
Brief intro as we call Dave and Brian introduces himself as the Verbal Submission radio show guy. Hemminger completely name-drops that we had Diego Sanchez and Sheldon Westcott interviews just prior and goes on to say that I "want to dig into [Dave's] skull" about the philosophy of jiu jitsu and grappling in general.
BH: Let's start off with your book, Submit Everyone from Victory Road. I've read it and I like it. The first thing that stood out to me right away is the style of the book, as it reads like a top secret classified document that draws in you in because you are now in on the "secret". Did you have a say in the style?
DC: I definite had a say, but I did not create the specific set-up or the outlay of the book. We got together and did a bunch of interviews over time. I'm talking years, a bunch of years. I call them up We met on photoshoots, I called them up with this stuff or that stuff, do it this way and so on. I established a direction, or what you could call an outline and then we thought about what this book is going to look like and how to make this thing pop? As of course, we want the book to sell and when you make something important like this book, you have to make some kind of buzz about it and make the book look like something you need to get. At that point, we had an outline and I sent them some chapters. Now in college, I'd always been interested and reading about the military and tactics and so on. They [Victory Belt] came back and suggested a military, kind of guerilla look and suggested a manifesto for sports look that really interested me. I said "Yeah, show me what you got," and they took it and ran with it. It worked out well and I was blown away that we could make this.
BH: You had a different author for your first book, Guerilla Jiu Jitsu. You were so impressed with your co-author Kevin Howell that you would not want to do a third book unless it is with Howell, right?
DC: Yeah, Victory Belt is run by Erich Krauss. He wrote the first book, which was actually the first Victory Belt book. My brother and I were throwing each other and doing crazy stuff and we sent them a basic outline. To me, it's a good book for us not really knowing what we were doing. It's kind of a textbook. This book is totally different, it's a monster. It's very conceptual and it's tactical. It looks like my mind. When I roll, yeah, I play around with positions, but I always look for submissions, like when I was doing judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu tournaments, this is what it was like.
BH: One of the concepts I really enjoyed was that a great offense is better than a great defense because if you keep them on the defensive, you don't have to worry about their attacks and you are a step ahead.
DC: Yeah, the thing about BJJ and judo is that it's a mind game. People think that it's a physical game and that it's 80% that. It's 100% the mind. The mind controls and moves the body. It sets the tactics. The ability to execute is not the body, it's the mind. I remember something my mother told me long ago. You know, my mother is a martial artist by osmosis - she was taking classes at the time my father was an instructor - and she would tell me that there is a linkage here and that your best defense is offense. Today I analyze things and realize it's true. If I get too focused on defending, I'm going to keep my attack going and my arms high and I'm going to get you eventually. And that's what this book explains and that's what it gives you.
BH: The thing I like about this book is that you have a background in judo and jiu jitsu, but this book isn't just a jiu jitsu book that's magically applicable to MMA. It's a grappling book. This book has stand-up techniques, it has judo techniques, jiu jitsu techniques. This book incorporates everything and it makes readers extremely dangerous on the ground.
DC: I'm a perfectionist and I like to supervise things and I want to answer questions in full. When I did this book, I didn't want to make it pure Brazilian jiu jitsu, I wanted to make it about grappling. As an MMA coach, I train judokas, wrestlers and strikers and I wanted to take all of that information and put it into the book and make it useful to others.
BH: I noticed that the further you get into the book, the more you discuss the mental aspects of this book. It's almost as if you're envisioning a chess game. Can you discuss the setting up of traps for opponents when you know what they are going to do and how to react accordingly?
DC: Let me give a situation where this situational awareness is key - and that comes with experience and training. There is a part of the book where I talk about drilling over and over things that start with the question "How are you getting into armbars? How can I be in this move over and over again with you?" Let's look at getting armlocks from the guard. If I see that armbar coming earlier, I'm more aware of what is coming, therefore I can start beating people to the spot. If I beat you to the spot, I can counter you. I'm out of it before you know it and I'm on the attack. That's the kind of mindset you're getting from the chapters.
Another thing is that one of my favorite things in the book is called "Creating the Firebase". It's a position where you have the greatest control and options. You're very comfortable and confident there. In MMA, that's what you want to do - put the opponent in a position where they are weak and you are strong. It is also an aggressive position. It is a place where you can finish people and it has to be.
BH: Looking at your more famous students, we see Jon Fitch, one of the best welterweights in the world and known for his wrestling. Fitch is terrific at not being submitted and launching some attacks of his own where he seems a step ahead of most. He seems to exhaust his opponents with your teachings.
Dave ties a Guerilla jiu jitsu black belt around Jon Fitch's waist.
DC: A lot of people talk about "Finish this" or "Finish that". Jon Fitch may not be the most athletic guy in the world, but he is very smart. He wins by these concepts. In fights, he will go into triangles and so on to attack. He has so much confidence in his defense that he gets in close without fear and deals some damage. With that guillotine, he's so familiar with it and the right defenses that he can exhaust his opponent and then go on the attack. After that first round guillotine, the opponent is exhausted from trying to finish the fight and Jon is even stronger and ready to attack. A lot of this is tactics, this isn't guys going around to punch each other. It's all tactics and that determines who comes out on top.
BH: Now this book has some rather complicated techniques inside. Who would you say is the target audience for this book?
DC: Everyone. This is Submit Everyone. You know, we didn't want to do a book where it was just jiu jitsu guys and that other people who don't train jiu jitsu couldn't do this or would get hurt doing this. Yeah, there are some advanced systems in there, but they are used as examples. However, we wanted this to be applicable across a wide range of skill levels, and thus there are beginner-level techniques in there as well.
So a beginner can pick up this book and do some stuff - of course, if that's all you do you're not going to get it [referring to grappling in real life in classes and so on]. You can pick up this book and move from one chapter to the next and really make this work for you. For example, I'm an armlock guy, I build armlocks into every position and submission. However, if you're a leglock guy or a guillotine guy, you can modify the principles of these chapters to work for you.
BH: One of my last questions before I send this to Ben was that one of the things that struck me about the book was the variations on the kimura grip. You could just tell reading the book that this grip was special to you and the possible adjustments were extensive. I felt that this grip was important to the system; am I correct in saying that?
DC: The kimura grip is my #1 grip. I believe the kimura grip is the best offensive/control grip possible in jiu jitsu and if it's not your grip, pick up the book and I'll make it your grip.
End of Part One
Also on Bloody Elbow:
It would be remiss of me to not link to my favorite coaching picture in recent MMA history: Dave in tears after Cain Velasquez beat Brock Lesnar to win the heavyweight title.
Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for Part Two and Three, which dig into Dave's philosophy of teaching, discussions of speed versus tactics, the key to Anderson Silva's success and the mentality he brings as a cornerman to the fighters he trains.
As a special bonus, here is Aesopian's review of Submit Everyone.