Alberto Da Silva – Tough guy finds peace with Jiu Jitsu

BJJ black belt turns from payback to paying it forward

By Brett Hart

A humbling street fight experience spurred a ”tough guy” from New York to join an underground jiu jitsu club, and eventually turn that into a career helping others.

Alberto Da Silva grappling AGF BJJ tournament Greatmats

Former United States Air Force staff sergeant Alberto Da Silva recalls first being exposed to the martial arts when his parents ”got tired of beating my butt and getting no response. So they paid someone else to do it.”

However, he had his eyes opened to the sport jiu jitsu in high school when a kid named Andre used it to knock him back a peg in high school.

”I used to think I was tough,” Da Silva said. ”He had just moved to New York from Brazil and was a yellow belt in jiu jitsu. … Sometime later we became friends.”

The duo, who ended up wrestling together for Long Island City High School in New York, would practice garage jiu-jitsu together throughout high school.

Alberto Da Silva Podium BJJ Tour Greatmats
After high school, Da Silva discovered a new fitness gym in Astoria Queens, and while working out there in 1999, he found a hidden room in the basement where a group of guys were training jiu jitsu under the instruction of Marcello Mello.

”It was there, that I earned my first real beating,” Da Silva said. ”I’ve been hooked to the science ever since.”

Now a 34-year-old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under professor Luiz Sergio ”Marra” Corra, Da Silva owns Marra Senki Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an academy in Panama City, Florida, which he runs with the help of his wife, Pamela. His daughter even trains with them almost every day.

Alberto Da Silva family BJJ Greatmats
Reaching the rank of black belt wasn’t easy for Da Silva.

”It’s been a long, rocky road,” he said. ”I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve quit a few times.”

It was during those breaks that he joined the military, traveled and went to school.

”I’ve learned a lot and have many skills from the Air Force, but I’m happy to say my profession is helping others,” Da Silva said. ”I try to visit our headquarters in San Antonio, Marra Senki Jiu-Jitsu, at least once or twice a year to train with Professor Marra.”

Alberto Da Silva's academy Marra Senki Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Greatmats
In the meantime, he actively trains with Professor Filipe ”Zicro” Neto in Tallahassee, Florida.

The evolution of the sport is what really keeps Da Silva’s attention.

”It seems like it’s growing in multiple directions at the same time,” he said. ”Techniques are constantly changing and becoming more efficient. New methods and ideas are constantly on the rise. I think that’s all extremely exciting. It’s like a student of mine said, ‘Jiu-Jitsu is like standing at the beach, looking to the ocean.’ To me it means that no matter what, there will always be room to learn more.”

Da Silva’s students recently drove 5 hours to compete at the Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Jacksonville BJJ Championships at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, Florida, and brought home a third-place overall finish. His traveling team performed particularly well in the Kids No Gi Division where it placed second.

Da Silva most enjoys attending AGF tournament because of the crew.

”They’re professionals,” he said. ”You can tell that that enjoy what they do. They take the time to know the people around them. It’s like they have this southern hospitality to them. … AGF is the main organization our school in Panama City follows for competition.”

While his journey into jiu jitsu started with the desire to beat up his childhood nemesis, Da Silva is now motivated by peace.

”Jiu-Jitsu is my peace in this world,” he said. ”Even on the worst of days, I can always find peace in the struggle of a roll.”

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.American Grappling Federation logo sponsored by Greatmats

Alberto Da Silva
Marra Senki Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Panama City FL 32405
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Joshua Bowlin team AGF Columbus BJJ championships Greatmats

Joshua Bowlin Motivated by the Daily Grind of BJJ

Georgia Instructor leads team to AGF Columbus Championship

By Brett Hart

Joshua Bowlin, 31, began his martial arts career looking to fight MMA. He trained in wrestling, boxing and Muay Thai, but it was is jiu jitsu training that really grabbed his attention.Joshua Bowlin grappling martial arts Greatmats

”Getting punched in the head gets old over time,” Bowlin jokes. ”BJJ to me is a huge outlet for stress, self expression and creativity. I practice it because it challenges my mind and body on a day-to-day basis.”

His jiu jitsu training began in a little self defense gym where he learned under the instruction of army ranger and Gracie Barra black belt, Pedro Lacerda. After Lacerda passed away due to a brain aneurysm at the age of 30 (in 2010), Bowlin went on to earn his black belt under Professor Fabio Costa of Gracie Barra Georgia and became owner and head instructor at Gracie Barra Columbus.

Joshua Bowlin teaching class Gracie Barra Columbus Greatmats

Bowlin says his favorite part about BJJ is the ”endless supply of knowledge. There’s always something to improve.”

”The grind motivates me,” he added. ”The day-to-day victories; whether it’s my own victories or my students’ victories. When a technique finally clicks, and there’s that little sparkle in their eyes, along with the ‘AHA!’ moment. (It’s) very gratifying.”

One of the competitive highlights for the MMA convert was defeating Samir Chantre in the finals of the Open Weight Adult Black Belt No Gi Division title at the 2016 Atlanta Open.

Joshua Bowlin with youth students Gracie Barra Columbus Greatmats”I firmly believe if you’re not challenging yourself and trying to be the best person you can be, you become stagnant and lose purpose of what’s important in life,” Bowlin said. ”Competition is the fastest way to find holes in our game. Being out there, feeling the adrenaline, and the pressure really imprints the memory of how the match transpires. So when you get back to the gym, you know exactly what you did wrong and what you have to work on.”

At the recent Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Columbus BJJ Championships on May 20, 2017, Bowlin’s Gracie Barra Columbus team claimed a dominant overall team victory, along with divisional titles in the Kids No Gi, Kids Gi and Adult Gi Divisions.

Joshua Bowlin team AGF Columbus BJJ championships Greatmats

”Watching the kids apply everything they’ve been taught – the sportsmanship and discipline each one of them displayed was incredible,” Bowlin said. ”It made me very proud. Also watching each one of our adults place was awesome. Those guys and girls train so hard and put everything they have into every session. It was awesome to see the hard work pay off.”

Bowlin is impressed by the professionalism and organization at American Grappling Federation events.

”The refs are great with the kids and know what they’re doing… super patient,” Bowlin said. ”I haven’t had a bad experience with them yet. We will always support AGF, especially when they visit Columbus, Georgia.”

Joshua Bowlin team Gracie Barra Columbus Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.

 

Joshua Bowlin
Gracie Barra Columbus
Columbus GA 31909
For more on this topic please review our Grappling and MMA Mats product page.

Lone Warrior Wegert is Driven to Become NBL World Champion

4th Degree Black Belt Hopes Third Time’s the Charm

By Brett Hart

It’s the third go ’round for 24-year old martial artist Tim Wegert in his quest for a National Blackbelt League world title. The American Freestyle Karate 4th-degree black belt competitor and instructor’s first two attempts were cut short due to ankle and ACL injuries, respectively, but his focus toward the goal of becoming a world champion has not wavered.

Tim Wegert Grand Champion Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 GreatmatsWegert recently traveled from his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, to compete at the Greatmats-sponsored Infinity National Championships at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin and returned with two forms division championships and one grand championship title.

”I’m excited to be back in the circuit,” Wegert said.

While it’s challenging enough to accomplish such a feat at a national level, the test to Wegert’s dedication is ramped up to yet another level, considering he does it all on his own.

Tim Wegert handspring Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 Greatmats”I train myself entirely,” said Wegert, who instructs at his brother’s school, UpLevel Martial Arts. ”I don’t have anyone to train me here.”

Despite the challenge, Wegert placed first in Open Musical Forms and Limited Forms divisions and was second in choreographed musical forms before earning the Adult Contemporary Forms Grand Championship at 2017 Infinity National Championships May 12-13.

”I’ve always been a very competitive person,” Wegert said, noting that he’s also been successful in soccer and dance.

In fact, soccer was his first love. However, after competing in his first karate tournament as an orange belt, he reached a turning point where he transitioned to more karate and less soccer. He remembers thinking after that in-school tournament, ”Whoa! This is pretty cool. I could be pretty good at this. I could compete.”

Tim Wegert backflip Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 Greatmats

Family Inspired
Wegert began his martial arts journey 11 years ago when his father and a couple older brothers took some classes in Isshin-Ryu under heavy encouragement from his mother.

A couple of years later, Tim’s brother, Sam, borrowed money from their parents and purchased a school of his own at the age of 15.

When he took over the school and started teaching, that’s when the rest of the family started to support him as students.

By the time Tim graduated from high school at the age of 16, he was doing karate professionally full time. In fact, of the 10 members of his family, six are are now black belts, and four have turned karate into their full-time career. Sam now owns four UpLevel Martial Arts schools in Virginia and North Carolina.

Tim Wegert Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 Greatmats

Lofty Goals
Now with a NBL World Title in his sights, Tim is looking to expand not only his personal but is family martial arts legacy in his own right.

”I’ve been really good at a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never be the best at something at a competitive level,” Tim said. ”I really want to be able to say I did this, and I went all the way, and I came out on top.”

Part of that process is positioning himself as a favorite at the NBL World Games, which allows competitors to earn points through national and regional competitions as a form of seeding process.

“Whoever has the most points goes last in the division,” Tim said. ”Therefore, not only do the judges tend to see the better competitors last, but also it helps to go last as well.”

”I’m doing five tournaments before the world games,” he added.

Tim Wegert sidekick Infinity National Championships Karate 2017 GreatmatsThe Infinity National Championships was a big step in the right direction for Tim who said the venue was great and it was nice to go up against a lot of new competitors he had not seen before.

”They obviously have great schools up here with high levels of competition,” Tim said. ”It was neat meeting the Infinity people and competing against them.”

Keeping his eyes on his target, Tim Wegert is well on his way to achieving his goal of winning a world title.

”I appreciate the platform that the NBL and other tournament hosts have put into it… working towards a world title,” he said. ”It’s neat. It’s inspiring, and it’s fun to be a part of.”

Greatmats is the official mat supplier of the Infinity National Championships. Learn more about the Infinity National Championships and other Greatmats-sponsored martial arts events.

Tim Wegert
UpLevel Martial Arts
Charlottesville VA 22901
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Trenton Conway – Pushing Mental and Physical Boundaries

20-year-old Blue Blue Belt Absorbing All That is Jiu Jitsu

By Brett Hart

Trenton Conway grappling BJJ GreatmatsPushing mental and physical boundaries serve as plenty of motivation for 20-year-old Trenton Conway to continue is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.

He says the combination of the competitive side, self defense and brotherhood/sisterhood of the sport make it very rewarding to him.

”I have met amazing people through jiu jitsu and friendships that will last a lifetime,” Conway said. ”My dad got me started in jiu jitsu when I was around 10. When he took me to my first class, I was hooked.”

While still young in the art, the blue belt now runs Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Harrison, Arkansas, with the help of owner David Phelps and professor Luis Rubalcava.

Trenton Conway team photo GreatmatsHe strives daily to perfect his craft, whether teaching, training or learning how to run a school, and he views his biggest accomplishment thus far being staying active as a competitor while teaching kids and seeing them win tournaments.

Conway, who also has background in judo and golden gloves boxing says jiu jitsu has taught him confidence, discipline and meditation – all things he plans to pass along to his students.

”After all, they are the future of jiu jitsu,” he said.

When not performing his duties at Mixed Martial Arts Academy, he trains at Professor Rubalcava’s school in Springdale, Arkansas.

Trenton Conway and Luis Rubalcava Greatmats”God, family and everybody under the Rubalcava Jiu Jitsu affiliation motivate me in life and in jiu jitsu,” Conway said, noting that his father and little sister also train in jiu jitsu. ”You know that saying. A family that trains together stays together.”

Competing in the American Grappling Federation
He recently competed in the Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation’s Springfield BJJ Championships at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, on April 29, despite coming off an injury and moving up two weight classes. While he admits, he could have done better, Conway kept his head up saying, ”No excuses. There will be another one.”

Trenton Conway winner AGF tournament GreatmatsConway enjoys the AGF tournaments, saying they are some of the best run tournaments around.

”They are always on time,” he said. ”The staff is friendly, and there is high level jiu jitsu at every tournament.”

”You are going to have your great days in jiu jitsu and your bad days,” Conway added. ”The jiu jitsu journey is a roller coaster, mentally and physically. We have all had our days, but at the end of the day your jiu jitsu journey is your journey not any one else’s, so keep the journey going and keep rolling! It will be worth it in the end.”

Trenton Conway winner St Louis AGF tournament Greatmats
To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.
Trenton Conway
Mixed Martial Arts Academy
Harrison AR 72601
For more on this topic please review our Grappling and MMA Mats product page.

AGF’s Phoenix BJJ Championships Recap

Gracie Barra edges GD Jiu Jitsu in Phoenix

Gracie Barra had tough competition at the 2017 American Grappling Federation’s Phoenix BJJ Championships. The tournament was held on July 29 at the Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona. More than 50 teams competed in the tournament.

The powerhouse Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school, Gracie Barra, claimed the overall team title with 316 points, edging out GD Jiu Jitsu by 23 points. CTA finished in third place with 252
GD Jiu Jitsu claimed first place in both of the kids divisions, winning Gi by 37 points and No Gi by 39 points. CTA took second in the Kids Gi division followed by Atos in third place. One Jiu Jitsu was the runner up in the Kids No Gi, while CTA finished in third.

Gracie Barra won the Adult No Gi Division by 20 points while Arizona Combat Sports placed second. Black Flag Jiu Jitsu Club claimed third place.

Gracie Barra dominated the Adult Gi division by 68 points over runner up CTA. GD Jiu Jitsu was the third place finisher.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Gracie Barra 316
  • GD Jiu Jitsu 293
  • CTA 252
  • Black Flag Jiu Jitsu Club 138
  • Atos 117
  • One Jiu Jitsu 93
  • Arizona Combat Sports 77
  • Maracaba BJJ 76
  • Carlos Farias BJJ 58
  • Soul Fighters Arizona 50

Kids No Gi grappling AGF 2017 Phoenix GreatmatsKids Gi grappling AGF 2017 Phoenix Greatmatsagf-phoenix-bjj-0972Adults No Gi BJJ tournament AGF 2017 Phoenix GreatmatsAdults BJJ tournament AGF 2017 Phoenix Greatmats

To learn more about Greatmats-sponsored American Grappling Federation Tournaments and athletes visit Greatmats’ AGF Tournament Resource Page.
2017 Phoenix BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
Phoenix AZ 85048
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