As a martial arts instructor and parent, I can tell you that the subject of bullies is always on mind. I personally was bullied in one way or another most of my childhood. A lot of my facial features where larger than my body growing up. My nose and ears where really big and I was skinny so I was a easy target for bullies. I can say that there were sometimes in my earlier years that I contemplated taking my own life!  Sometimes it just wasn't one kid but several and people that I thought where my friends that made fun of me. In the beginning, I did not know how to handle it and then later it became less name calling and more hands on. This was the late 70's and early 80's so lots of disputes where handled during recess and I can say I fought alot from the ages of 5 to 17. Most of the times I fought were a reaction to someone putting their hands on me and other times I threw the first punch knowing it was coming. This is one of the many reasons I got involved in wrestling at an early age. We did not have martial arts in my hometown. In every fight or scuffle I ended up in, we ended up on the ground so wrestling just seemed like the right answer. I think my parents knew I needed it because they were in full support of me wrestling.  Through wrestling I learned how to fight, essentially by using the moves we learned to take kids down and hold them down. Wrestling helped me more time than I can count in bad situations. Thank you Coach Ramstetter for being such a great mentor to me in my early ages. 

     I now own my own gym and most of the kids that come to me are coming for the same reasons. 1. They are getting bullied in school. 2. They need better self esteem. 3. They need better social skills. We normally have 20 + kids in a class.  We talk alot about bullies and being bullied. Parents,  I do not know how often you talk to your kids about this situation, but it is alarming how many of the kids that attend my classes have been bullied or have seen or witnessed someone get bullied. In some cases, my kids admit to actually calling people names and being mean when they should not have. Parents, bullying has not got worse.  It has always been bad!  The delivery methods have just got scarier and more real as social media and smart devises help bring these things to light faster that when we were growing up. 

   Obviously, we do not want to make our kids so afraid of being picked on that we do not allow them to go outside. So giving them a skill set on how to handle situations seems to be the right answer. I can tell you we can not bully proof our kids. It is a lie! We can teach the skill sets to help them deal with situations, but we can not fully stop it.  Why do I think martial arts is a good way to help with this? I can not speak for all schools but being in the business for over 20 years I can tell you all the schools I personally know have it covered.  Martial arts work on your child's self esteem by giving them lessons and techniques that will push them to their limits. They will have to process through these lessons and techniques to accomplish the tasks. They will learn that through hard work they can to anything. Martial arts teach confidence in the same way by working and pushing your child during their classes. Kids will learn that anything is possible.  Martial arts teach discipline, respect, and integrity.  These three things, to me, are the core fundamentals of martial arts. Kids learn to line up and listen to directions as part of the discipline . They learn to respect boundaries, training partners, elders, and facilities. They are consistently pushed on integrity through the many life skills presented in training. Obviously, they are being taught moves that will help them during situations that may end with them having to protect themselves or others. We talk alot about bullying in class and how we handle it through roll playing and practical application.

  So in closing, can BJJ bully proof your child? The honest answer is yes and no! Your children will need a lot of guidance from you and a good martial arts school to help them during these trying times.  A good BJJ school or martial arts school will help give your child the tools they need so when situations come up, they will be able to handle the situation to the best of their ability. You, as a parent, will need to let them know when and how they can handle a situation. I have had parents come up to me and tell me, "Coach, my son was hit on the bus today and he didn't defend himself."  I, in turn, talked to that young man and his was afraid to defend himself because he thought he would get in trouble at home! Remember, we give them the tools but we must guide them with these tools. 

  I hope you as a parent take that first step by enrolling your child in a school. Most martial arts schools have a trial period. Take advantage of that and see if the fit is right for you and your child.  Give your child the tools that will last a lifetime! Martial art is a life skill that every child should have in their tool box. 



Why Martial Arts training is important to our children

As a parent and as an instructor, I can not begin to to tell you how important martial arts are to our kids. On a personal level, I can tell you that one of the most important things my parents did for me was to get me involved in wrestling as a 5 year old boy. Yeah, I know some will think wrestling is not a martial art but it is! We did not have a martial arts program in our small town. The lessons I learned from wrestling carry me to this day. It was one of the most exciting, frustrating, and down right hardest sports I did. I learned how to win and how to lose. I can say that I cried many times coming off those mats.  Sometimes I wanted to quit, but my mother and father would not let me. They were never overbearing about the sport, but looking back, they knew it was making me into a independent young man. In the late 70's, there were no participation medals or making the team simply because you tried out. No way! There was an A team, a B team, and the dreaded practice squad. I never remember my parents coddling me or feeling sorry for me when I didn't make the A team. I do remember my father telling me that I had to practice more and try harder if I wanted to make the A team. They never had a lot of money, but I can tell you I never missed a camp that I wanted to attend.  Those camps never came free (I did lots of yard work and other work). I, in turn, worked hard to make my teams and t0 win matches. My friends were my push.  I always wanted to be as good as them, if not better.   My senior year I had a wrestle off every week during lunch with a young man two years behind me that was honestly better that me by all accounts and went on to be a state champ after I left. He never beat me in those wrestle offs. I can say on my side it was because of all the lessons I learned during my years of wrestling and hard work plus having a coach that always believed in me and held me accountable even when I gave excuses or didn't come to wrestling practice when I was younger.  

  Fast forward to 3 years ago when my daughter was old enough to take class. Now, this is easy for me, as I own my own gym and instruct all classes. I started our Mini Rhino's class for 3 to 5 year olds.  This class is only 30 minutes long and we work core skills in the class, but the kids love it.  We have a loyal 20 kids in the program. Our parents do not miss a class and always tell us what an improvement they see in their kids.  For my daughter, it has helped with her self esteem, her balance and strength, and most of all she is very confident(maybe from her mother) but I say it started with her martial arts training. I have now seen her and some of our other kids that have moved onto the bigger kids class and they might be scared for the first class but they blend right in after that first class and do very well. I attribute their easier transition to their earlier training as opposed to the brand new 6 year old coming into our big kids class. I have also seen so many of our 6 to 13 year old's flourish in our programs. Some come in as total brats and end up being such great kids. Other's need a little push with confidence and let me tell you nothing can give you confidence better than martial arts and competition. I have seen kids come in and  be so scared of just trying class to standing on a medal podium a year later with such confidence.

  So again, why is martial arts training so important for our kids? I believe there is no other sport, outside wrestling, that is going to teach kids the ability to process on  individual level. It is a team sport when it comes to training and preparing for competition, but in competition, there is only you putting it on the line. There is no team to blame for lack of aggression or missing a move. I believe having to rely only on yourself is a tough thing for a young person and teaches them so many core values.

Processing Losing - How to process losing is not easy.   They learn that skill early and use it everyday in training. No one likes losing,but they have to be able put it behind them and start another match right afterwards.  they have to process through that loss and get right back in the game. I know a lot of adults that need this lesson. Think how some adults react when they lose. For most, it is devastating and they will not get back out there and try again. These kids, more than likely, will never encounter that as adults as they learned that process earlier in life. 

Obstacles- Martial arts give you more obstacles that you can count: from new moves to rolling with someone who pushes you or beats you. These kids not only tackle those obstacles but beat them in most cases.  This is such a great life lesson to give our kids. 

Winning-I can not speak for all schools but at our school, kids know that winning a match or mastering a move is not the ENDSTATE! They learn what they did correctly and how to repeat and improve that process. Once they master a move, they are taught how to advance that move into something more. Again, this is another great life lesson.

Lastly is Envy- So many people want what others have without knowing their journey . Martial arts teach you that your journey is your own and only you are in charge of how you train, compete and react. No one else can step on those mats and do the work for you. Do not worry about what belt rank others have; worry about how you get to that point. 

In closing, I can tell you that as parents it is our duty to give our kids a head start in life and the life lessons to make sure they can process through what that life will throw at them. So why not try out martial arts for your child? It may change their life. 

Impossible is possible

What is impossible? It is a word that I do not like to hear. When I here people say something is impossible the first thing that comes to mind is did they even try and if so how hard. When I was in the military I heard guys talking about Ranger School and how impossible it was to get a Ranger tab, but I saw other guys walking around with a Ranger tab on their shoulder. I had heard it was one of the roughest leadership schools the Army had to offer and the attrition rate was very high. So why impossible? I just didn't get it ,but I was a you PFC(private first class) what did I know. I was an athlete and considered myself a good soldier, but the thought of Ranger school scared me because so many people told me it would be impossible for me to get their and graduate. I can honestly that going through Ranger School was hard and I quit a million times internally, but the work impossible kept popping up. Impossible it was not hard it was. On the day the I was pinned with the Ranger tab I new impossible was a word used by the weak and faint hearted. To this day the lessons I learned in Ranger school follow me and my approach to life. Nothing is impossible as a matter of face with the right mindset and determination everything is possible. So as you tackle those hard things in life that seem impossible know they are not. Sure what you are facing might be hard and test you in every manor possible, but in the end you can and will succeed if you really want it bad enough. Never let anyone tell you something is impossible.





Simple Strength and Conditioning

Author: Matthew Boyd at Crossfit Combustion

I thought that it might be productive to do a short blog about Strength and Conditioning as it relates to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve seen other articles similar to this but, perhaps I can have a little different take. My perspective comes as a Strength and Conditioning coach turned BJJ athlete. I want to take the approach that you might want to improve as an ATHLETE by doing some work outside of the Academy. Here is my thinking on this: any athletic endeavor or sport, that you participate in, will be improved IF you make yourself a better athlete overall. This is what we refer to as General Physical Preparedness (GPP). Having said that, I constantly hear Coach Rachel in my head saying “To get better at Jiu Jitsu, do more Jiu Jitsu”. I’m talking about ENHANCING your BJJ game by improving as an athlete. This approach is why in nearly every sport, athletes train outside of their sport specific training.

Now, I will be the first person to tell you that we all have different needs to improve as athletes. To illustrate this, let’s compare two real life BJJ athletes. We will take a very simple approach here.

Athlete 1: 5’8″, 155 lbs, low body fat percentage, very quick, explosive, fast, flexible

Athlete 2: 6′, 240 lbs, higher body fat percentage, slow, not flexible, strong

It’s obvious that the two athletes have very different areas to improve upon to get better overall. One should focus on getting stronger. The other should focus on shedding body fat by doing anaerobic training.

Essentially, we want to identify an athlete’s weaknesses and train those weaknesses up. By proxy, increasing that athletes overall fitness. It’s really pretty simple when you think about it. But, what movements, lifts and exercises do we use? Again, I want to take a VERY simple approach.

Let’s assume a very general scenario is of a BJJ athlete that trains Jiu Jitsu 3-5 times per week and has a full time career. I think that scenario fits a good number of our folks at TBJJA. If that athlete tells me that he or she can train toward general fitness an additional 3 hours per week. I think 3 hours is realistic and attainable for this individual. Again, this is a very simple approach. If an athlete wants to be a World Champion, she is single and doesn’t have a full time job, much more training is definitely called for.

Having said all of that, I want to give you a short, simple list of movements and lifts that will absolutely improve you as an athlete. This is not an all encompassing list. This list will build a foundation from which you can build. Again, as I stated earlier, we all have different needs but, these movements are FOUNDATIONAL movements that everyone should start with.

1. Squat- specifically, the Back Squat. The undisputed king of strength building. Squatting is highly functional (meaning, it applies to the real world). One wives tale about squatting seems to never die. The one in which squatting hurts your knees. In spite of this being disproved many times over many years, this idea still floats around. If you want to get stronger and more flexible, SQUAT.

2. Deadlift- the posterior chain is crucial to good movement. The deadlift is perhaps the best lift for strengthening the posterior chain. Deadlifting PROPERLY has also been shown to improve back pain. It’s virtually a requirement to get stronger overall.

3. Press- I’m going to include several presses here. I recommend incorporating the press (AKA military, standing, strict press), the close hand bench press and the push press. I prefer the close hand bench press over a standard (wide) grip bench press because of the safer shoulder positioning. Varying between these presses may be preferable.

4. Pull Ups- Not everyone can do a pull up or several pull ups. There are progression movements like; gymnastics ring rows, jumping pull ups, negatives, resistance band assisted pull ups, that will help toward learning to do pull ups. For strength, I recommend strict, weighted pull ups when possible. I’m pretty sure they cause world peace.

5. Wind Sprints- these have been shown to aide in muscle growth as well as to shed body fat. I am a strong believer that anaerobic training is THE way to lose body fat as well as improve cardiovascular endurance.

I wanted to keep my list to 5 movements and lifts to keep it simple. These will get you started. I have written programs for a couple of folks in the gym. I’m happy to do that for any of you. But, just make sure that you are dedicated to putting in the work. I’m happy to field any questions that you have.

Coach Matt


Matt is a BJJ white belt at Tennessee Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy and the co-owner of CrossFit Combustion in Spring Hill, TN. Visit for more information.

Students of the Week and Family of the Month

Will Morrison - Will is our kid's student of the week. We have known Will since he was 2 years old and he has been a part of the TBJJA family for 4 years. Will received his grey/white belt this week and has been a true leader in our Mini Rhino's program.

Kassidy Riley- Kassidy is our adult student of the week. Kassidy is a bronze medalist at the 2014 Pan Am's. Her hard work and determination has helped push her to get her blue belt this year. Kassidy is a great mother and great competitor.

The Hurst Family- Stephanie Hurst and her two boys Will and Brady all train Jiu Jitsu at our Academy.  They've been with TBJJA since the beginning. We are proud and honored to have this family with us. TBJJA would not know what to do if we did not see these faces in the gym everyday.

Students of the Week

Shayna "Pink" Roberts:  Shayna is our adult student of the week. Not only is Shayna a coach at TBJJA but she is an amateur boxing champ and 3 stripe white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Shayna goes above and beyond to help our students grow and it starts with her work ethic. NO ONE in the gym has work ethic like this girl!


Maxim Froman:   Maxim is our kids student of the week. Maxim is in our Mini Rhino's program and is one of the most fun kids in class. You will not catch Maxim on the mats without a smile. Coach Ray enjoys Maxim in class and loves watching him grow as a student and as a great young man.

Atlanta Open

This past weekend I was able to take 6 of my students plus myself to Atlanta to compete in the IBJJF Atlanta Open. As a coach and competitor, these events are hard for me as I am trying to juggle making sure my students are prepared to compete as well as myself. Honestly, it can be hard sometimes, but we are always ready.  Failure is not in my vocabulary.  I like this tournament because there is always good, tough competition. What better way to test your skills than with some of the best competitors in the South? Our students did well, I never like to use the word "awesome" as we always have things to improve upon, but I could not be more pleased with our results. 7 total competitors - 9 medals (3 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze). Now back to the drawing board as we prepare for the NO GI Pan Ams, NO GI Worlds, and Master Worlds. 

Students of the Week

TBJJA is thrilled to announce our students of the week. We look forward to featuring a new student from the TBJJA family every week.  





Cole has been a part of our kids program for over two years and is one of our funniest kids. He is always asking questions and striving to be the best in class.

Teri Froman

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Teri in the last month has come so far and conquered a lot of fears. We look forward to seeing her grow and conquer more challenges. 

NAGA and Family!

February 22nd 2014 – Our Tennessee Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy Team competed at the NAGA (North Atlantic Grappling Association) tournament. We had kids, teens, adult women, and adult men from white belt to Brown belt competing.  First and foremost, I would like to say as the head of the team I could not ask for better coaches, students, and family members.  We had students competing for the first time; they did awesome.  Remember no one e ever wants to lose, but you do learn from it and come back stronger.  Nothing great comes easy, I promise you.  So to all of our students that stepped on the mat for the first time, win or lose, we are proud of you.  Keep up the hard work.  Now prepare yourself for your next tournament.  We had kids compete this weekend that are seasoned and have had their ups and downs in tournaments.  You win some and you lose some, but in the end, it is how you conduct yourself in defeat or victory. I am proud of all the kids that competed and brought home belts, swords, and medals this weekend. Keep up the hard work and more importantly keep up your great attitudes.  We had a lot of teens compete and some jumped up one or more skill levels. Man, you guys/ladies never cease to amaze me.  Seriously we brought home belts, swords, medals and showed that we belong with the best schools in the state.  Your coaches could not be more proud of you guys/ladies.  Our Women’s team was again out in full force and had a great weekend. I will say this: as you ladies up your game, understand others schools are taking notice and your competition is only going to get better. Some of you tasted defeat for the first time, others had to move up a belt level but at the end you all come out stronger and better.  One thing is for sure none of you have quit in your game and I respect (hespect) that in you. We had several men competing from white to brown belts, some of you seasoned in tournament play, others your first time stepping on the mats. At the end of the day, we came home with belts, swords, and medals.  Keep up the hard, work learn from your mistakes, and continue your tournament competitions.

Now I get to heart and soul of our team – which is our families. None of this is possible with out the wives, husbands, grandparents, brother, sisters, and friends that sacrifice time so their loved ones can train and compete.  As I was walking around yesterday, I could not be more proud of what we built. It was my vision to make this school about family and friendships above all and seeing the camaraderie shown yesterday, made me realize we have what I wanted.  I understand some schools want to show they are the best in the state, etc, but honestly that is last on my list.  I want a family that cheers each other on and helps when no one is looking.  So to all your family members – thanks for being there yesterday to cheer on your friends and family members.  Oh yeah, and to everyone, thank you for taking care of baby Tristan.  We could not have done it without everyone’s help yesterday.  Big thanks to Mrs. Vikki Roberts and Shayna Roberts for what you guys did.

Much Respect (hespect)

Ray Casias

Welcome to the Academy!

I would like to welcome you to Tennessee Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy. Even if your are just reading this Blog and not a student welcome. Here is some info that will help you out with your transition to our academy or any academy. As a new student of BJJ remember BJJ is more than Martial Arts, it is a brotherhood, and will be part of who you are as a person. Now you have signed up and are ready to go. Below are some helpful hints that will make your transition smooth and enjoyable.

-try to make it at least twice every week! More is better but you want this to become a habit.

-if for some reason you cannot make it that week force yourself to be there the following week. (No excuses)

-make friends! Seriously do not sit in the corner and not talk to people. You will find yourself as a third wheel quick.

-Ask questions, you will have plenty trust me. No question is a dumb question, so just ask your peers or an instructor.

-Keep in touch with the gym thru social media. (facebook, twitter, gym website, newsletters, etc).

-The biggest thing is have fun you are going to be horrible for a while embrace the suck and know soon it will all make sense. 

Now what are you waiting for put that GI on and come in and see why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will change your life. Be a better father, husband, son, Brother, and friend. Jiu Jitsu will help you become the person you always thought you should be.

Are You Ready for the New Year?

As 2014 starts we are all wondering the same things.

  • Am I going to keep my goals this year?

  • What are my goals going to be?

  • How will I make a difference in the world?

  • Will this be the year I make it?

And the answer is yes you can keep  your goals, you can make a difference , and this will be the year you make it. You are in charge of your destiny and no one can stop you but you. Now people are going to try and stop you, circumstance are going to come up which make it hard and sometime feel impossible. Nothing worth having comes easy and you will find every excuse in the world to not make your goals. Do not give into temptation and give up. When you have that urge remember this quote ” PAIN IN TEMPORARY, QUITTING LASTS FOREVER”-ERIC THOMAS.  I live by this every time I want to quit and it helps me pull through.  Now go out there and make your goals, do not hold back make them strong. I wish you all the best and remember your soul, family, and friends will be judging you ! lead by example and show them that you will make a difference this year. 

Ray Casias