Drew McCurdy 4-Time AKF Grand Champion

Four Time Grand Champion Still Fond of ‘Firsts’

By Brett Hart

Drew McCurdy Amercian Kyuki-Do Federation Grand Champion GreatmatsBecoming a black belt has been a lifelong dream for Drew McCurdy, and in May of 2001, he began that journey when he walked in the doors of Kim’s Black Belt Academy in Elgin, Illinois.

”I thought a place with black belt in their name was a good place to start,” McCurdy said.

Now a third-degree black belt in Kyuki-Do, McCurdy has expanded his martial arts repertoire to include Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Jeet Kune Do and Kali techniques.

With years of training and a multitude of disciplines under his belt, McCurdy’s list of instructors is equally as long, including the likes of Rick Steinmaier, Jeff Kim, Rick Bjorquist, Christine Bjorquist, Chris Koffenberger, Lloyd Holden, John Canton, Reggie Madrigal and Yolanda Morales, among others.

McCurdy has been putting his training to good use at American Kyuki-Do Federation tournaments where he recently claimed his fourth Grand Champion title at the 2017 Spring Tournament of Champions.

”It’s an honor every time,” McCurdy said. ”I compete for my academy and the kids around Kyuki-do.”

Drew McCurdy Board Breaking Amercian Kyuki-Do Federation GreatmatsMcCurdy won both his sparring and breaking divisions while claiming second in forms and weapons, leaving it as no surprise that sparring and breaking are his favorite events.

”Sparring really tests some of the actual applications and techniques,” McCurdy said. ”There’s no substitute for knowing a mistake could cost you a shot to the head. Breaking really tests your physical and mental limitations as well, especially now that it’s at the end (of the tournament). Do you still have what it takes to break these boards after two hours of vigorous activity?”

The Area Director at Apex Fun Run For elementary schools in Illinois and Wisconsin, McCurdy currently does his martial arts training at Kyuki-Do Martial Arts of Elgin (formerly Kim’s Black Belt Academy) and Fusion Fitness MMA in Elgin.

With all he’s accomplished in the sport, McCurdy is still most proud of achieving his Kyuki-Do black belt.

”Looking back, I can’t believe the amount of work I put into it,” McCurdy said.

2016 AKF Spring Tournament kyuki-do Grand Champions GreatmatsIn similar respect, he views winning his first grand championship as one of his biggest achievements.

”It took quite a few tournaments before I achieved one,” he said. ”I almost thought it wouldn’t happen.”

Great competition from colleagues such as Nikki Holden, Reggie Madrigal and Joe Moniot help keep McCurdy motivated to continue competing.

”It’s about growth,” he said. ”There’s no animosity before or after.”

His passion for martial arts has also rubbed off on his family. His wife is now a brown stripe and his oldest child, Devin, is a 5-year-old red belt in Pre-Kyuki-Do.

”My two-year-old doesn’t currently train, but in her mind, she is a 12th Dan Master!” he added. ”Kyukido family is real – not just a saying. If I want to go hard and train hard with adults, I can do that. If I want to my kids to learn discipline self defense and a host of other qualities, I can give them that. If I want to train as a family, I can do that. There are a lot of places where you can only get one of those things.”

”I’d like to thank Greatmats for their continued sponsorship of the tournaments,” he said. ”The word is still out on Eau Claire (Summer Tournament of Champions) for me, but I will see if I can make it to Nikki Holden’s last tournament before master. Plus the competition in Eau Claire is always awesome!”

Learn more about the American Kyuki-Do Federation events and athletes.

Drew McCurdy
Kyuki-Do Martial Arts of Elgin
Elgin IL
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Blood or No Blood, BJJ is Family Business for Blake Dvorak

Train, Compete and Teach: Tools for Bettering Self and Others

By Brett Hart

Blake Dvorak 2016 AGF Dallas Summer Classic BJJ GreatmatsWhat began as a father/son bonding excursion turned into a lifestyle for 24-year-old Blake Dvorak. Big fans of the UFC, Blake and his father, Dave, spent a lot of time watching the mixed martial arts fights. One day a co-worker of Dave’s mentioned that he was training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at a local academy, and the father/son duo decided to check it out.

”We went in and tried a class, and we’ve been hooked ever since,” Dvorak said, noting BJJ is his first and only martial art. ”From the first time I stepped on the mat, I’ve been consumed by it, and didn’t want any other art to get in my way of progressing.”

His family is equally as thrilled with Blake finding his calling in the sport.

”The first time my wife’s parents came to watch me compete was at a BJJ classic event, which is a no points/no time limit event,” he said. ”My match went for over 17 min. Once it was over, and I finally landed my submission, I began to walk over to them and say hi, but quickly had to run to a trash can to vomit. They were a little weirded out, but after a few more events, they were on board.”

Now a 4-stripe brown belt, competing at between 145-160 pounds, Dvorak will celebrate 10 years in the sport this September. Along the way, he and Dave (also a brown belt) have accomplished many feats.

As a blue belt juvenile, Blake placed second at the Dallas ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) trials. He’s also earned bronze medals at the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) Dallas open in both Gi and NoGi competition. Twice he’s competed in F2W (Fight to Win) Pro events.

”I have always had my best results at submission only events,” Blake said.

Blake Dvorak 2015 AGF Oklahoma BJJ Champion GreatmatsBut what may just take the cake for his own personal satisfaction is leading his team to multiple team titles at American Grappling Federation (AGF) championship tournaments.

”My favorite thing about BJJ is teaching,” Blake said. ”I was fortunate to have the opportunity to run the kids program at my previous academy, and instantly knew that I wanted to do this forever. Having someone come through the door looking for something – be it, fitness, camaraderie, a new skill, or whatever they may be looking for and helping them find it. I’ve seen men, women and kids become new people, and no accomplishment I’ve had in the sport compares to that.”

Blake Dvorak and Allen Mohler trophy BJJ GreatmatsThree years ago, Blake and Dave opened their own academy – Top Game Jiu Jitsu Studio – in Denton, Texas. When he’s not teaching or training at his academy, Blake is training in Coppell, Texas at Mohler MMA under the instruction of 4th degree black belt Professor Allen Mohler.

When it comes to competing, AGF tournaments are where Blake finds himself most comfortable.

”The American Grappling Federation is like a second home to me,” Blake said. ”Chris (Carlino) and the team are always working hard to make their events better, and it shows every time. Best customer service; the medals are high quality; professional photos of competitors and podium winners; and it’s a family business. If there is an AGF tournament in town, you’ll always see me and my team on the mats.”

At the recent Greatmats-sponsored AGF Winter Classic on Jan. 22 in Duncanville, Texas, Blake won his first NoGi match by a heel hook but injured a rib in his finals match and had to bow out the rest of the event. Meanwhile, much to his delight, his team put together a strong performance, earning a second place in the Adult NoGi Division and third place in the Adult Gi Division.

”BJJ is a part of my life,” Blake said. ”It’s how I make my living, how I deal with my stress, how I make new friends, how I get to give back to my community and help people find what BJJ has to offer.”

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

Blake Dvorak
Top Game Jiu Jitsu Studio
Corinth TX 76208
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Kristina Barlaan – Inspiring Women of BJJ

Caio Terra Black Belt Building Legacy in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

By Brett Hart

Kristina Barlaan BJJ competitor GreatmatsFor 30-year-old jiu-jitsu black belt Kristina Barlaan, martial arts movies and television shows grabbed her attention at a very young age. But it wasn’t until she was 20 years old that she was able to start training. Now it’s become her full-time passion.

By the time she was a purple belt, in 2011, Barlaan had created Inspire: All Female Open Mat, a jiu-jitsu open mat that brings hundreds of women of various ages, teams and states together to train and inspire women to be champions on the mat and in life.

”Competitive wins are solely for myself,” Barlaan said. ”But creating something for the women’s jiu-jitsu community leaves a lasting legacy.”

Training under 11-time world champion Caio Terra at the Caio Terra Academy in San Jose, California, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has become her way of life, despite getting her martial arts start in Muay Thai. Now she focuses completely on training and teaching jiu-jitsu.
Kristina Barlaan BJJ award Greatmats
”I love how I feel like I am most in my nature state,” Barlaan said. ”Jiu-jitsu allows me to be myself, and it feels very liberating.”

Barlaan, who is the first in her family to practice martial arts, said at first her family was a bit concerned about her entering a sport that was uncommon to her family, but ”Once they started seeing my passion and ability to do good with it, they have become very supportive.”

Competitive Spirit
Barlaan mainly competes in the light featherweight division (118 pounds), but has been known to move up to the featherweight division (129) pounds at smaller tournaments. While her competition schedule as slowed since becoming a black belt, Barlaan still competes about six times per year. BJJ tournament Kristina Barlaan IBJJF Greatmats

”I’m driven to bring my goals to fruition, and that will only happen with hard work, determination and perseverance,” Barlaan said.

Barlaan recently competed in the Greatmats-sponsored Rumble in the Redwoods on Feb. 11, in a superfight against Bethany Schulze of Tiger Martial Arts – a rematch from a 2015 bout at the same event when they were both brown belts. Barlaan won the superfight by points.
Kristina Barlaan BJJ competition Greatmats
Barlaan said she enjoys competing at the Rumble in the Redwoods (in its 12th year) because, ”It’s a well run local tournament that is excellent for young and lower belt competitors to gain valuable experience.”

Kristina Barlaan womens BJJ competition Greatmats

Kristina Barlaan
Caio Terra Academy
San Jose CA
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Justin Rader: Two-Time World BJJ Champion Passes Along Passion

Third Generation Martial Artist Finding Rewards in Coaching

By Brett Hart

Martial arts are in the blood for two-time world champion Justin Rader. A third generation martial artist, the 30 year old has been involved in grappling arts for 26 years, nine of which he also trained in striking arts. For the past six years, he’s been passing on his knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in which he is a second-degree black belt, as a coach for the Lovato Warriors Kids BJJ program – which recently dominated both kids divisions of the American Grappling Federation Oklahoma State BJJ Championships.

Justin Rader coach at Lovato's School of MMA and BJJ Greatmats

Rader couldn’t have been happier with the tournament, from the way it was run to the way his team represented Lovato’s School of MMA.

”The AGF Oklahoma Championships was probably the best, most well-run tournament AGF has put on to date, as well as one of their biggest,” Rader said, adding, ”It was definitely one of the strongest, most solid performances by our team ever.”

Proud of how his Teens Leadership Team led by example in their preparation, Rader was happy it was able to see the results of that prep work as several of his athletes won multiple gold medals.

Sara Lau claimed gold medals in both the green belt teen and juvenile gi divisions. Ian Foster added a pair of golds in his weight class for both gi and no gi. Hannah Degand, who competed in the juvenile gi division for the first time, also grabbed two gold medals.

Others earning gold were Blake Nance (Green Belt Gi) and Madison Griffin (Green Belt Gi).

Rader was also pleased with the tenacity of 16-year-old blue belt Jacob Absher, who competed as an adult blue belt and claimed a silver medal in his no gi division.


A Lifetime of Martial Arts
Rader started wrestling and tae kwon do (at Poos Tae Kwon Do school) as a four-year-old. At the age of 12, he switched from TKD to BJJ, training at Lovato’s School of BJJ and MMA, in Oklahoma City, under Professor Rafael Lovato Jr. He wrestled through high school and during that time also began and five-year run in Kyo Kushin Karate.

”I always seemed to be training multiple disciplines of martial arts throughout my entire life,” Rader said. ”My father (who trained in martial arts with his father) got me started at a very early age. He thought martial arts was a great way to teach me self defense, build my confidence and self-esteem, as well as help instill the many values, virtues, and principles that come with learning martial arts.”

Justin Rader and Rafael Lovato Jr Lovato's School of MMA BJJGreatmats

Continual Highlights
In 2010, Rader won the IBJJF No-Gi Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Featherweight World championship. Three year’s later, he repeated the fight and was also a bronze medalist at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships in Bejing, China.

”I really like how efficient BJJ is as a martial art, both in sport and in self-defense,” Rader said. ”I like how it applies concepts of leverage and technique to overcome strength and athleticism (within reason). This makes it a great art for instilling confidence and self-esteem, as well as teach and instill respect and humility. … I have seen firsthand through both myself and through others, the power martial arts has to transform and positively impact people’s lives, and I wanted to help others come to realize their true potential through this art by passing on what I have learned as a coach.”

In his six years a coach, four of Rader’s students have remained with him the entire time.

”I could never have imagined how rewarding and fulfilling it has been watching them grow up into the young adults they are now today,” he said. ”They are all now strong, confident, humble, disciplined, honorable and respectful young adults with an incredible amount of potential to impact the world in a positive way with any route they choose to pursue in life.”

With that being said, Rader recognizes, ”We are never perfect, and there is always something new to be learned or something to be perfected.”

That’s something both his team and the AGF have embraced.

”The AGF has, in my opinion, has done the best of any tournament organization out there right now to listen to feedback and make changes to deliver the best possible tournament experience, and not just to the paying athletes, but also to the spectators and coaches,” Rader said, noting improvement in every area from rules to scoring to venues and refereeing.

”I want to throw a shoutout to the table workers as well, who did a solid job running clocks all day,” Rader said. ”AGF has their crew running things very well. Overall, they put on a fantastic tournament with the AGF Oklahoma BJJ State Championships.”

Justin Rader AGF Oklahoma State BJJ Championships Greatmats

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

Justin Rader
Lovato’s School of BJJ and MMA
Oklahoma City OK 73112
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Gracie Barra dominates AGF St. Louis BJJ Championships 2017

Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ in distant second place at St. Louis Tournament

At the American Grappling Federations’ St. Louis BJJ Championships, Gracie Barra claimed the overall team title by a landslide. The tournament was held at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri on July 15, 2017.
Gracie Barra claimed 732 points which was more than triple the points of second place finisher Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ with 239 points. Illinois BJJ Academy took third place with 185 points. Gracie Barra took all four divisional titles with its largest margin of victory of 172 points in the Adults No Gi division.

”St. Louis continues to grow,” said Tournament Organizer Chris Carlino. ” It was our largest tournament to date in Missouri.”

The closest division was in the Kids No Gi. Gracie Barra claimed the tile by 15 points. Illinois BJJ Academy claimed second while The House MMA Academy took third place.
Illinois BJJ Academy claimed second as well in the Kids Gi division following Gracie Barra by 68 points but ahead of Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ by 57 points.
Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ took second place in the Adults No Gi division edging out Absolute MMA. Rodrigo Vahi earned 121 of it points in the Adults Gi division, even though they finished 118 points behind Gracie Barra. Rubalcava Jiu Jitsu finished in a distant third in Adults Gi division.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores
Gracie Barra 732

Rodrigo Vaghi BJJ 239
Illinois BJJ Academy 185
Bquick JJ 81
Cavalo BJJ 67
BJJ Lifestyle Academy 55
The House MMA Academy 54
Rubalcava Jiu-Jitsu 51
Watson’s Martial Arts 49
American Top Team 36

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

adult BJJ tournament AGF St Louis Greatmatsadults division AGF St Louis GreatmatsBJJ tournament AGF St Louis 2017 GreatmatsBJJ Championships AGF St Louis 2017 GreatmatsAmerican Grappling Federation St Louis BJJ 2017 Greatmats

2017 St. Louis BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
St. Charles MO 63303
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Gracie Barra wins AGF’s Jacksonville BJJ Overall Championship

Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville owns Adult Divisions

Gracie Barra Jacksonville picked up a convincing overall team win at the first-ever American Grappling Federation Jacksonville BJJ Championships on July 1. The tournament was held at the Prim Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, Florida. The Championships was sponsored by Greatmats.

The Gracie Barra squad topped runner up Brazilian Top Team Jacksonsville by 51 points in the overall team standings while each team collected two Divisional Titles.

Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville claimed the Adult Gi and No Gi Divisions while Gracie Barra topped the Kids Gi and No Gi Divisions.

Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu took second place in the Kids No Gi Division while Searcy Wrestling Club was third.

Soul Fighters Flagler was the Kids Gi runner up, followed by Twin Tigers BJJ in third.

Jean Jacques Machado edged out Swamp Academy by one point to earn second place in the Adults No Gi Division.

Gracie Barra was second in the Adult Gi Division, followed by American Top Team.

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

  • Gracie Barra (Jacksonville) 243
  • Brazilian Top Team Jacksonville 192
  • Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu 117
  • Spartan Academy 98
  • Five Star Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 79
  • Jean Jacques Machado 76
  • Swamp Academy 63
  • Twin Tigers BJJ 57
  • Soul Fighters Flagler 52
  • American Top Team 48

kids grappling AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatskids no gi AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmats 2017youth grappling AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatsgrappling action AGF Jacksonville BJJ Greatmatsgrappling action AGF Jacksonville BJJ tournament Greatmats 2017

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

2017 Jacksonville BJJ Championships
American Grappling Federation
Jacksonville FL 32204
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Triton Fight Center claims 2017 AGF Tulsa Open Title

Clinch Martial Arts Academy Takes Second Place

Triton Fighter center claimed the Overall Team Title narrowly edging out Clinch Martial Arts Academy. The overall team tile was a tightly contested race at this year’s American Grappling Federation Tulsa Open. The competition was held on June 17 at UMAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Lovato BJJ placed third place, with the top 3 teams finishing within 28 points of each other. 80 teams earned points in this tournament.
Lovato BJJ had an outstanding performance in the Kids No Gi division where it topped second place Triton Fight Center by 73 points. Triton Fight Center took second place, and Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy was only two points behind them, finish third.
Lovatao BJJ claimed first as well in the Kids Gi division with a 36-point margin above Triton, who finished second. American Elite MMA claimed third in the division.
Clinch Martial Arts placed first in the Adult Gi division with a 102 margin over the runner up, Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy. Triton Fight Center finished in a close third place.

Triton Fight Center’s persistence and consistency paid off in the Adult Gi division where they defeated Clinch Martial Arts Academy by 32 points, allowing them to secure the overall team title. Rubalcava Jiu-Jitsu claimed third in the Adult Gi division.

”Tulsa was HUGE,” said event organizer, Chris Carlino. ”It was our 2nd largest tournament in Oklahoma – second only to our state championships earlier in March.”

Top 10 Overall Team Scores

    • Triton Fight Center 399
    • Clinch Martial Arts Academy 387
    • Lovato BJJ 371
    • Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy 271
    • American Elite MMA 226
    • Rubalcava Jiu-JItsu 221
    • Omar French BJJ 154
    • Sandro Sampaio BJJ Academy 146
    • Valor Martial Arts 115
    • Team LDMA 114

youth AGF Tulsa Open grappling competition Greatmatsyouth boys competiting AGF Tulsa Open Greatmatsyouth grappling AGF Tulsa Open 2017 Greatmatscompetition AGF Tulsa Open 2017 Greatmatsgrappling competition AGF Tulsa Open 2017 Greatmats

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

2017 Tulsa Open
American Grappling Federation
Tulsa OK 74133
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