Rollin' Through The Valley

Rollin’ Through The Valley – Gracie Arizona


2022 AZ Open

By Danny O’Donnell

Bell Bank Park in Mesa, Arizona played host to the first AZBJJL event of 2022. The new venue will be the site of all 2022 AZBJJL events and is the latest upgrade to the premier jiu-jitsu organization in the state. Bell Bank Park is a 320-acre facility that features a 3,000-seat outdoor stadium, a 2,800-seat indoor arena, multiple sports fields and courts, a zipline, and even a restaurant. The additional space, bathrooms, and concessions made the tournament experience more enjoyable and family friendly.

Tournament director Heath Flicker commented on the decision to move to the new venue. “The AZBJJL invested in moving to a new venue because we had outgrown our previous venue, Phoenix College.  As always, we try to incrementally improve the tournament experience for the Arizona BJJ community, and we see the new venue as an integral part of that process.”

The Arizona jiu-jitsu community showed full support for the event and new venue, with over 800 competitors registered to compete. With 12 mats at this event instead of 6 that were used at previous tournaments, all divisions competed on one day. Heath touched on how the new venue will benefit coaches, competitors, and spectators. “We hope that the venue provides benefits for all segments of our community.  We now have double the number of competition mats, which allow us to conduct the tournament in one day instead of two.  We have space for a center aisle for coaches and staff.  This provides fewer logistical hurdles for the coaches and staff and provides a less obstructed view of the competition area for spectators.”

In addition to being the first event at Bell Bank Park, the 2022 AZ International Open was also the first event of the 2022 season. Below are the top ranked single academies and teams for both the kids and adult divisions.

Feedback received from everyone who attended the event was very positive and left the community itching for the next tournament. “Running our first tournament at a new venue in a single day with double the competition mats certainly brought some operational challenges that may be unseen to the casual observer. The feedback from the community was overwhelmingly positive.  However, we noted many areas that we can improve and are already making plans to do so for our next event in April.”

These next events will be the Kid’s Cup and Copa Bella tournaments on April 16,2022. For more information on these events please visit For full team and individual results of the 2022 Arizona International, please visit



On October 16th and 17th, Phoenix College hosted another AZBJJL Southwest Classic event. The Southwest Classic was included in the 2019/20/21 rankings, which also include the 2019 No Gi AZ State Championships, the 2019 Southwest Classic, the 2019 Master’s Cup, the 2020 AZ International Open, and the 2021 AZ State Championships. 

The kids divisions took place on Saturday, October 16th as GD Jiu-Jitsu Association looked to build on its lead as the top ranked kids’ team in the state. GD Jiu-Jitsu Association did just that, racking up 2,035 points with 64 wins, 15 gold medals, 19 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals. Finishing 2nd among kids’ teams was Double Five, scoring 1,415 points with 46 wins, 13 gold medals, 6 silver medals, and 5 bronze medals. Lotus Club Arizona rounded out the top three kids’ teams with 1,240 total points. The top three single academies for kids were Double Five Glendale, Refuge BJJ, and Lotus Club Fight & Fitness.

The adult competitors took to the mats on Sunday October 17th. GD Jiu-Jitsu Association came away with its second overall team title for the weekend, amassing 1,745 points from 47 wins, 13 gold medals, 14 silver medals, and 14 bronze medals. Lotus Club Arizona and Maracaba BJJ AZ followed GD Jiu-Jitsu, both scoring 1,430 points. Lotus Club Arizona finished with 33 wins, 12 gold medals, 8 silver medals, and 9 bronze medals. Maracaba BJJ AZ had 30 wins, 12 gold medals, 11 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals. The tops three single academies for adults were Maracaba BJJ, Lotus Club Fight & Fitness, and Ximenes BJJ/Double Five Scottsdale.

The following competitors won gold medals in both their weight classes and the absolute division, contributing significant points for their teams overall rankings. Michael Ritchitelli of Maracaba BJJ (Blue Adult Feather), Corbin Zimmer of The Agora BJJ (Blue Master 1 Heavy), Damian Hosokawa of Marcio Andre Jiu-Jitsu Academy (Purple Adult Feather), Michael Ayala of Refuge BJJ (Purple Master 1 Heavy), Connor Carpenter of Maracaba BJJ (Brown Adult Feather), John Lightfoot of Soul Fighters Tempe (Brown Master 4 Heavy), Ashley Lightner of Lotus Club (Blue Master 2 Light), Sarah Maracaba of Maracaba BJJ (Blue Master 3 Light Feather), and Breezy Schumacher of Mountain Tribe BJJ (Purple Adult Middle) all won their weight classes and their respective open weight divisions.

The league recently announced its plans for 2022 to relocate its events to Bell Bank Park in Mesa, a 320 acre sport and entertainment facility that will bring your competition experience to the next level. The last tournaments at Phoenix College will be the AZ Kids Cup on Saturday December 4th, and the AZ Novice Cup and No-Gi State Championship on Sunday December 5th. Stay tuned to the AZBJJL Facebook and Instagram pages for updates regarding all future events.

And as a reminder, if you are a black belt coach and haven’t already completed the application for your black belt ID card please do so at



We are currently living in an interesting time in the United States, let alone the world. Our social dynamics are changing for an indefinite period of time. It could be weeks, it could be months, but however long it takes, many Jiu Jitsu students are now without a gym, coaches or training partners. In the grand scheme of things, finding a place to train Jiu Jitsu, or even stay in shape, is relatively low on our list of needs. Ultimately, the goal is weather these changes in good health and good spirits. However, Jiu Jitsu a huge part of the lives of many people, and the effects of not training go farther than just losing your edge.

It’s important to keep in mind that this is only temporary. Many Jiu Jitsu students over time have found themselves in circumstances that prevent training on a mat with other people. Think about deployed soldiers, for example. They have improvised ways of getting their training without the trappings of civilian academies. We can look around for inspiration, and know that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In case you are not plugged into the social media Jiu Jitsu culture, take a look at what’s going on with some of our high-profile instructors. BJJ Fanatics is a company that develops cutting-edge instructional content. Through their website and Instagram, Professors Bernardo Faria and John Danaher graciously offered free downloads of some of their instructional content. John Danaher specifically released a solo drills instructional to help with students who cannot access training partners right now. Other elite coaches such as Marcelo Garcia and Renzo Gracie are releasing daily technique videos on social media, as well.

Another idea is to stay in touch with your instructor and your team. Your instructor might share tons of useful info on how to stay sharp and stay in shape while schools are closed. He or she will also benefit from knowing that you are standing behind them as a student, and understand that this situation is temporary. Our schools will open again, and we will resume smashing each other on a regular basis.

In the meantime, you can also find an entire world of CrossFit Workouts of the Day, BJJ solo training programs, yoga, fitness, and all manner of at-home workouts online. Even if the exercise you are getting is not what you’re used to, it’s important to be open-minded and flexible so you can find the in-home training that’s right for you. As the saying goes, the best gym is the one you can show up to!

*Here are just a few resources. Many thanks to those in the BJJ community who are lending their time and effort to help us keep training while our schools are closed:

– John Danaher, BJJ Fanatics Free Solo Drills instructional

– Bernardo Faria, BJJ Fanatics (Coupon Code FARIAFREE):

– Caio Terra, two weeks of free online lessons

– Lucas Lepri, two week of free lessons

– Renzo Gracie, 30 days Free Online Access:

– JTS Strength has great BJJ related conditioning content on their YouTube Channel:

If you can think of any other helpful resources to keep us moving at home, please link them in the comments!



There is an interesting duplicity to the amount of information available at our fingertips. On one side, we can follow any curiosity to its absolute end on devices that fit in the palm of our hands. We can start a new hobby, take up a new sport, or pursue any interest, and the amount of information available on that subject is nearly endless. On the other side, we often suffer from information overload, and an inability to distinguish information that is truly useful from information thrown around by unqualified sources.

This phenomenon is approaching a cross-roads with Jiu Jitsu. As little as ten years ago, the availability of information on heroes of the sport was mostly limited to grainy videos of competition footage and very expensive instructional DVDs. If someone wanted to learn from the best, their options were limited. Instructional videos and books were hot commodities – the only other option was to train under people from a similar lineage. Certain icons of the sport became known for their unique style, and those who trained under them may have a similar arsenal of techniques. However, it is important to note that learning a particular aesthetic from your instructor is very different from emulating that person’s style.

Let’s take the ubiquitous Danaher Death Squad. The famous team of elite-level competitors who train under John Danaher all have a particular approach and methodology which many believe to be the key to their success. Now that we have a steady flow of instructional information from each of these competitors, Jiu Jitsu students anywhere can learn the techniques and philosophies of this team. The same can be said for Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie, the Mendes Brothers, and others. It becomes easy to believe that the fountain of knowledge flows to us through the Internet, and this is the danger. Students who place too much stock in learning from all of these different sources at once risk having unfair expectations of the results, or a lack of focus that hinders progress.

The intent is not to put down instructional videos or learning from your heroes. It’s fun to learn techniques that you see are successful, and it’s always helpful to hear a different perspective on Jiu Jitsu from a high-level practitioner. No one on Earth can argue with instruction from Marcelo or Saulo or Xande – they are kings of the sport, and their unique approach may resonate for you differently than someone else. Also, instructional videos, private lessons and seminars are part of the economy of Jiu Jitsu that allows your heroes to earn a living from Jiu Jitsu, thereby allowing them to keep their academies open, and continue to share their experience with the Jiu Jitsu community.

We should always keep in mind, however, the aspects of emulation that we don’t see. We don’t see the amount of time Nicky Ryan spends on the mat each week. We don’t see the amount of strength and conditioning work put in at Atos on a daily basis. We don’t see the systematic approach to learning that Professor Danaher has implemented for years to help his team perfect their craft. So enjoy this amazing new world of instant access to your Jiu Jitsu heroes – but remember that your style will always be based on your attributes, and it will only contain the information that you focus on the most. There is great value and great fun in learning from the best, but remember that the best school is the one you can show up to.

What are some of your favorite instructionals? Who’s style are you enjoying learning from right now?

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In mainstream sports, it’s well known that being a better athlete is a big advantage. Looking after your strength and conditioning, diet, and recovery protocols is a sure way to get better results in competition. Jiu Jitsu is no different. As the sport becomes more professional, competitors are investing more time and money into these activities when they’re not on the mat. They are doing these things because they work. A stronger and better conditioned athlete will get better results in training and competition than if they had less of those attributes. The physical side of Jiu Jitsu is obvious, but is it more important than the mental side? And how can you use your mind to develop better Jiu Jitsu without always having to use your body? Below are three tips for using your mind to develop better Jiu Jitsu.

Reflect on your Training and Competition Matches

While you’re training, you generally improve your timing, your conditioning, and your use of strategy. However, much of your technique development happens while reflecting on your matches. You think about the things that worked and the things that didn’t. You then think of way you could have done better. These are the thoughts that inform your next training session. This cyclical process of evaluation and making adjustments is how your technique evolves. Of course, your instructor will provide technical options for your problems, but it’s still useful to develop your own analytical skills. The insights you come to through your own trial and error will stick with you throughout your Jiu Jitsu journey.

Watch High Level Competitors

Nothing replaces mat time as Jiu Jitsu is predicated upon feeling the technique and your opponent’s reactions. Watching high level Jiu Jitsu, however, can be a great supplement to your training. When we watch a lot of Jiu Jitsu, we tend to mimic what we’re seeing. This doesn’t mean we can become black belt world champions simply by watching their matches. But it does mean that we can pick up on some of the patterns and replicate them to the best of our abilities. Watching matches also gives you ideas for certain techniques or positions. If a high-level black belt is using a technique successfully on another high-level black belt, you know the move works, so it gives you confidence when trying to apply the move yourself.

Visualize Yourself Successfully Performing Techniques

There have been multiple studies on visualization and its effects on performance. In one popular study, athletes were asked to physically practice free throws while other athletes were asked to visualize themselves making free throws in their minds. The study found that the athletes that visualized showed nearly the same performance as those who physically practiced. Visualization should not replace physical training, but instead should be used when your body is tired or when you’re injured and can’t train.

Debating whether Jiu Jitsu is more physical or more mental is very difficult because both elements are essential. However, you cannot deny the benefits of additional mental training off the mat. How do you use your brain to develop better Jiu Jitsu? Let us know in the comments!