Judo Youth Olympian Vandric Castro Transitions to Jiu Jitsu

Listen to what The Arena’s Vandric Castro has to say about his transition from a high-level Judo world to the foundations of his new journey in Jiu Jitsu.


Vandric Castro:
My name is Vandric Castro, I’m 22 years old from the Island of Guam. My first real love of Martial Arts came from judo, started when I was about seven years old. It’s taken me in a lot of places, I’ve competed mostly in the Asian circuits. Probably my biggest accomplishment being participating in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. About the age of 20, is probably when I made the transition into Brazilian Jujitsu. I started in the Academy of Purebred back in Guam, went to college four years, moved out here to San Diego, then I found The Arena. It’s been a really good experience learning from them rolling with the guys, sharing what I know of Judo and just taking in all the knowledge they have of Jiu Jitsu and just trying to blend it together to make a pretty unique style. My goal is to make the transition from the standup to the ground a little more fluid.

Coach Baret Yoshida:
Off to start, We could tell he had phenomenal judo. I watched him all the time. You make guys do somersaults and you just demolish these guys. It’s very fun to watch him. Sometimes it gets him in trouble when he misses a throw, he could end in a bad position. But I think he’s getting better at recovering. Slowly, he’s going for less and less higher risks rolls.

Vandric Castro:
A lot of times, my throws don’t go exactly how I want. So I end up with this guy just monkey holding my back, and that’s a recipe for disaster in the Jiu Jitsu world. So I think that’s one of my biggest challenges right now is to complete the throw in a way that I can land in a more advantageous position. I really wanted to jump into a new world where I could be a beginner again and just work on absorbing knowledge. I think it’s what motivates me and being in this new world, swimming with all these sharks, there’s just a lot of fun. Wouldn’t really trade it.

Tip of the Week: Options for The Clinch

How’s it going? I’m Coach Vince Salvador from the Arena.

I’m Coach Charles Martinez. We’re here to discuss some options for the clinch different than what you may have seen before. We’ll start here.

A lot of times in the clinch, the basic rule for the clinch is to have my hips close to his hips. People say cup to cup or belt to belt. If I’m out here in a clinch, I’m gonna get kneed all day. It’s easier to snap my head down if this is MMA. If I see my feet in the clinch, I’m probably gonna see a knee in my face, as well. I need to bring my hips in and I need to trap the inside of his biceps. When I do that, it prevents him from being able to grab me. It prevents him from hitting me, punching me, throwing elbows.

Also, if he tries to throw a knee, I have a steering wheel. The steering wheel is what I’m gonna use to open up the space for me to land my shots. If I’m controlling the bicep here and I wanna make some space, I’m gonna use my inner thigh and my steering wheel to open up one side. If you come around to this side, you can see it on this side. We’re hip to hip. I have no space. I cannot knee from here so I need to make some space.

What I’m gonna do is I’m gonna get his weight to this side so this leg is light. The way I do that is with the steering wheel. I can use this grip, this grip, either/or. It’s really a preference thing. I like this grip. This is gonna make it easy for me to bring his head down. For me to do that, I distract him with a knee. Then his weight goes here. I pull where my inner thigh is gonna meet the inner thigh of his inner thigh to open up his body.

I’ve already opened up that side with my elbow lifting. Now my left knee just comes up and right back down. When I land that, I don’t wanna leave it there too long, ’cause he might grab it. If it’s MMA, I’m going on my back. It’s quick and down. If he does grab it, I can still kick my leg down, throw an elbow to attack on that same side, but as long as I have the bicep I’ll be strong here.

Often times, when you’re taught this, everyone’s taught to clench the head right away. That means that you’ve gotten past all these other phases of pummeling and clench. A lot of times here, this happens in the pummel. He goes to swing his hands inside. If I reach for the head and I’m strong, he has a hard time breaking this off but he swings his hand to the inside, he can use the bicep to start to clear that grip. If he swings his hand to the inside to the collar tie, when I clear the bicep, I also use leverage in my body and I try and establish that inside control.

If you want to think about it from an MMA perspective versus a Muay Thai perspective, when I’m controlling the biceps, he reaches in, tries to grab it under hook, I’m already in contact. If he tries to try and run his body that way, I’m able to start wizzering hard on that side and I’m already in contact versus being up here where it makes it easier for him to kind of bump and establish this good hard under-hook that he’s really looking for.

So close, head in, and then I’m able to start advancing to a better clench from here to deliver the unbalances, knees, elbows and I’m able to be attached to him to prevent these take-downs.

That’s your tip of the week.

Tip of the Week – Rolling Back Take

Jamarr Coleman:  Hey, what’s up everybody. This is Jamarr from The Arena. I am here with the rattlesnake, Ryan Fortin, one of our jiu-jitsu coaches here.

I got a question for you. I know we were working on the rolling back take. I try it, and I’m like a damn ostrich. You know? I’m like hitting my head smack into the ground.

How do I make this rolling back take smooth?

Ryan Fortin: Definitely. Definitely. I see this a lot. You know a lot of people have this problem. Right? Let’s get into position.

Jamarr Coleman:  Okay.

Ryan Fortin: So we’re gonna start in the three-quarter mount. Right? So go ahead, take mount.

Jamarr Coleman:Okay.

Ryan Fortin:And then the guy’s got your ankle.

Jamarr Coleman:   All right.

Ryan Fortin:    Okay? So a lot of times probably what you’re doing is you’re trying to roll right from here, right?

Jamarr Coleman:   Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I’m sitting up here and I’m really looking like an ostrich…

Ryan Fortin:   So, the problem is is that there’s too much in the way, so just try walking with your hands more towards my feet. Right?

Jamarr Coleman: Oh, okay.

Ryan Fortin:    Yeah. Now you’re creating a stronger leverage, so now when you roll, my hips are a lot lighter.

Jamarr Coleman: Oh.

Ryan Fortin:It’s much easier for you to clear that space. Make your rolling back take easier.

Jamarr Coleman: Hey, there you have it. Move of the week.

Judo: A Brief History

In mixed martial arts, there are many ancient sports that athletes study in order to become better fighters. These include Greco-Roman wrestling skills and boxing, both of which date back centuries. Judo, however, is quite important to MMA, but was only developed in the later part of the 19th century. You will find it similar to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in many ways, and that’s not hard to understand, since BJJ actually developed out of the world of Kodokan Judo.

In Judo, the main objective is to find a way to knock your opponent to the ground and then use a lock or a choke in order to gain an advantage. Judo students do learn striking, however, throwing techniques and grappling skills are far more important. In fact, striking is not a part of either sparring practice or allowable in competitions. In the century or so since Judo was developed, there have been many figures important to the sport.

Obviously, Jigoro Kano deserves the first mention as he founded the art, which became the first martial art included in the Olympic Games. Kano, much like Helio Gracie, was a bit of an underdog. Small and physically weak, he turned to jiujitsu to increase his strength. Eventually, he added wrestling techniques and techniques from other martial arts that he found to be effective, and out of many arts, a new one was born.

Like many who have sought out the teachings of Judo, Mitsuyo Maeda was not a particularly strong or large man, but he wanted to get stronger and he wanted a solid set of defensive skills. Taught by Jigoro Kano, he did so well that he was sent to other countries to spread the martial art. While visiting Brazil, he met Carlos Gracie, who was quite impressed with Judo and became a student. Eventually, Gracie opened his own school and with the help of brother Helio, the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was developed. Maeda was an impressive fighter and earned a 7th dan black belt from the Kodokan Institute.

Maeda’s primary teacher was Tomita Tsunejiro, and he certainly has earned his place in the world of Judo’s Greats. Tsunejiro was one of the very first students of Judo, trained by Kano Jigoro himself. Tsunejiro also was the first student to earn a black belt and is also considered to be one of the Four Guardians of Judo.

Aside from boxing and wrestling, Judo was the first true martial art to be a part of the Olympic Games, and it was displayed as early as 1932 and became an official part of the summer games in 1964. The first gold medalist in the sport was not from Japan, but The Netherlands. Anton Geesink was the first Judo gold medalist, and although he eventually earned the rank of a 10th dan black belt from the International Judo Federation, this rank was unrecognized by the Kodokan Institute, which has awarded very few 10th dan black belts and none to anyone outside of Japan.

Because Judo is so effective as a way to overcome an opponent no matter what their size, it is very useful for mixed martial arts. There are several Judo experts in the world of MMA, such as Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anderson Silva. Ronda Rousey has used Judo effectively to win each of her professional MMA fights, and she won the bronze medal in Judo at the Olympic Games of 2008.

Fight Better With A Balanced Approached To MMA

MMA Balanced Approach

If you switch from a single sport, such as wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the world of MMA, you probably quickly realized that relying on one single skill set is not going to further your career. While adding Muay Thai or Boxing to your main skill is an excellent idea, it might be even better to expand your training to include four or more different fighting styles. Here are just a few of the fighting styles all MMA fighters should have in their arsenal.

If you have never taken Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes, this is something that definitely should be added to your to-do list. This martial art is an excellent method to study because it focuses on grappling and ground fighting. With strong Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, you can often overwhelm a larger opponent, bring them down to the ground and even the playing field a bit.

To improve your defensive skills, consider adding Judo to your program. Judo is similar to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and BJJ, in fact, was derived from the ancient combat art of Kodokan Judo. Judo, unlike Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, focuses on fighting in a standing position rather than forcing your opponent on the ground. The main advantage of studying Judo is that it can act as a strong defense against an opponent who is trying to wrestle you to the ground and apply submission holds.

While you cannot rely solely on boxing skills during an MMA fight, it is still a very important part of training. Boxers not only learn the best techniques for throwing a punch, they also learn how to take a hit and block hits. In addition, when training for a fight, boxing classes can improve your footwork and improve your conditioning overall. Boxing also can be incorporated easily into your MMA skill set and used in combination with Muay Thai and kickboxing.

In additional to traditional western boxing, learning Muay Thai skills is also important for your MMA arsenal. In Muay Thai, you will learn dozens of strikes involving the knees, elbows and hands, as well as several different types of foot thrusts or jabs. In this way, Muay Thai serves as an excellent defensive weapon, but you will also find that many fights that end in TKO were due to Muay Thai-style kicks and strikes.

So when you decide to get really serious about MMA and select a gym that specializes in mixed martial arts, spend some time researching your local gyms. A good gym will have a monthly fee that includes gym use as well as unlimited classes in multiple styles of fighting. In addition, a great gym will hire instructors that have been or currently are professional MMA fighters.

What You Need To Know About Weight Cutting


From the time of a weigh-in to the moment the fight begins, you will often see many fighters go through a tremendous physical transformation. Within a 24 to 30-hour period, they can lose and gain as much as 10 pounds or more, which can be a huge advantage during the fight. While weight cutting is a typical part of many fighters’ game plans, it can be dangerous. Thoughtful, careful weight cutting can reduce the impact this process has on a fighter’s body.

The dangers of weight cutting include damage to the organ systems of the body, particularly the kidneys. In addition, severe weight cutting can increase the risk of injury.

“If you cut too much weight, you can tax the organs,” explains Jeff Clark, an MMA coach and manager at The Arena in San Diego, California. “The other main problem is that you can lose too much fluid around the brain. This can cause some trauma and make you more susceptible to knock outs.”

In general, it is smart to start thinking about weight cutting about four to six weeks prior to the fight. Your goal is to get as close to the weight limit as possible, to give yourself more space to bulk up after the weigh-in. This means that a fighter typically should be about 7 to 12 pounds higher than fight weight a week prior to the weigh-in date. The best way to get to this point is with a combination of heavy training and eating a healthy and balanced diet that is low in fat.

When you do reach that crucial 7-day mark, the more extreme side of weight cuts begins. One way many fighters begin is by drinking only distilled water. This throws off your body’s PH balance and allows you to quickly remove water from your system. The night before the weigh-in, cut all water and head to the sauna as this will help you quickly strip off the water weight.

After weigh-in, you will have maybe 30 hours at the most to put weight back on rapidly. The safest way to do this is to eat healthy foods, especially fruit and complex carbohydrates. As far as hydration goes, drink small and steady amounts of water, coconut water and electrolyte drinks such as Pedialyte.

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