As a martial artist, I attend seminars to experience new techniques, concepts, and meet other martial artists. The majority of the seminars that I’ve experienced are with my instructor Master Zach Whitson, and I’ve also gone to a few different Filipino martial arts (FMA) seminars. I usually don’t stray too far from FMA training, but on Saturday 12/12/2015, I attended my very first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) seminar, which was taught by Professor Rodrigo Vaghi. At this time, I don’t practice any type of ground grappling other than the CTS ground curriculum. So, going into the seminar, I was not sure what to expect. Would I be totally out of my element? Would I be able to keep up? Do I look good in a gi?
Professor Vaghi is a fifth degree black belt under the legendary Rickson Gracie, and he teaches in the Ballwin area of St. Louis County. Accompanying the professor were three of his black belts: Mike Rogers and Tracy Taylor of St. Charles MMA and Rob Stone of Team Vaghi headquarters. Alan Smith, a Team Vaghi brown belt, hosted the seminar at Dynamic Edge Martial Arts in Springfiled, MO. Team Vaghi Brown Belt and Strikeforce veteran, Matt Ricehouse was also there to assist. Simply put, a lot of high level jiu jitsu instruction was available during the day. Over the course of the seminar, I interacted with Professor Vaghi and each of his black belts. They were a humble group of guys who genuinely cared that we learned and understood the seminar material. Rob, Tracy, and Mike also showed us little additional aspects as they helped us understand the techniques. It was clear from the start that instruction was the focus, and I know that I am a better martial artist for it. As we improved our ability to do the technique, each of the instructors would encourage us. From start to finish, the whole seminar was filled with a positive and supportive attitude. If you struggled with a technique, someone was there to help you, and when you overcame your obstacles, a compliment was sure to follow.
The seminar was scheduled for three hours, but it stretched into four. Engrossed in training, no one noticed how much time had passed. Professor Vaghi’s teaching style was detail oriented and concise while remaining comprehensive. Much like his jiu jitsu, his method of instruction was efficient. Since I’m a beginner, I expected to be lost. The moves we learned had a lot of details: precise grips, positioning, move your hips here, if you don’t do this your opponent will counter like that, etc. A lot of information was conveyed in a short amount of time. I expected to be overwhelmed, but after watching the demonstration, I retained about 80 – 90% of the move we were drilling. This was due to the detail oriented instruction. When the black belts came around, they filled in the remaining parts. This style of teaching worked for me, and I have retained most of the seminar material today.
Not only educational, this seminar was fun. Team Vaghi was very knowledgeable and also genuinely good guys. The material was appropriate for my skill level, and like I said, I was able to follow along with every technique. Experienced jiu jitsu players learned much more than I did. Training in a gi was new for me, and the grips add a new dimension to grappling. While grip fighting was foreign to me, the seminar wasn’t completely new to me. I was pleasantly surprised by the similarity in concepts between what I’ve studied in Counterpoint Tactical System and Cacoy Doce Pares with the concepts that Professor Vaghi taught. The techniques and methods were different, but the conceptual foundation was similar: don’t be tense, proper mechanics over muscle, don’t fight strength against strength, look for efficiencies. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the pressure that Professor Vaghi was able to apply without being tense. Relaxed pressure is a concept that I’ll have to study more because on the ground, I have an aggressive top focused strategy. So, what I learned fits smoothly with a self-defense approach to the ground game.
This seminar set the bar very high for any other BJJ seminar that I attend. Between the excellent instruction and fun techniques, Professor Rodrigo Vaghi gave me more than my money’s worth. Despite not training jiu jitsu, I gained techniques and concepts that are applicable to my art. Would I attend future training with Team Vaghi? Without question, yes, yes, I would. If you get a chance to train with Professor Vaghi or Team Vaghi, I highly recommend that you do.