I honestly can’t remember the first time I trained with AJ. I am pretty sure that it was at a pass-through seminar set-up by my Professor, Dustin Ware. Professor Ware organizes and promotes the largest grappling tournaments in the mid-west, the American Grappling Challenge and AJ went to the Ohio State University for wrestling so they go back a ways!
Anyway, what I can say is that somewhere along the line I started taking private lessons from AJ and have learned A LOT from him.
For those who aren’t familiar, AJ Agazarm is a Gracie Barra Black belt under Professor Eduardo De Lima and won his first No-Gi World Championship in 2014, along with numerous Brazilian and Pan-American championships as well.
Where do I start with all of the lessons I have had with AJ?
Well, for starters– and readers of my blog will see the trend in this– AJ played a strong role in my omoplata game. He also gave me my first introduction to the lapel game. Not Worm guard specifically (SAS Black belt Rich Ryu and GB Black belt Romulo Barral gave me that first lesson 🙂 ) but a version of half-guard / shinguard / X-guard transitions.
Let me start with an overview of my first private with AJ. It was a split with one of my best training buddies Andrew Sabatino. We showed up with very little expectations. We had just done a mini-seminar with him the day or so before where he had spent the entire seminar (about 2 hours) working single leg take-downs. Now, I will admit…I was really disappointed (at the time) that we spent the whole seminar going over a wrestling technique. Admittedly, since then, I use this specific variation of a single-leg pretty often 🙂
Anyway, AJ was in town for a few days after the seminar so Andrew and I hooked up for a private with him on that Saturday.
Andrew and I were about 15 minutes early to the Ohio Combat Sports Academy so we had already changed and were warming up on the mat when we realized AJ had shown up, changed, and was watching us from the side of the mat. We had been rolling for about five or so minutes and Andrew had me in a bad way a couple of times with an omoplata position that I had managed to escape from.
I guess we had been rolling for about 5 or 6 minutes when AJ said “Hey guys, let’s go back to that omoplata position. Andrew…why did you let go of the omoplata when Eric postured up?”
The session ended up running about 20 minutes long as we went over omoplata transitions including sweeps from omoplata, armbars from omoplatas, etc.
The one thing I remember the most is a nice transition into what I call the “sit-up” triangle from armbar escape. AJ used it a couple weeks later versus Oliver Geddes at the Polaris invitational (watch here: submission at about 11:40, or just watch the demo).
Anyway, I went on to take another half dozen or so privates with AJ and he went on to expose me to some very cool lapel guard and 1/2 guard stuff that I am still working on integrating into my game. AJ travels even more than I do so I don’t know when the next time I’ll get to train with him will be, but until then I have plenty of stuff to work into my game. I am still working on my omoplata game and even though I keep finding really cool stuff to add to it, I still don’t seem to play it instinctively. After all of the seminars and awesome privates I’ve had on the omoplata I think I am still missing the critical piece to the puzzle…that might be transitioning into omoplata, or it might just be the confidence to go or it. Either way, I’ll just keep trying new things and when the piece fits, it will fit! Oss!