E5: Jeff Ake -- Human Connections

Sep 30, 2019

This episode features Easton Black Belt, Jeff Ake. Professor Jeff shares the story of his beginnings as a martial artists to his challenging path to become General Manager of the Easton Arvada academy. Eliot and Jeff discuss the keys to overcoming his many both personal and professional obstacles. 

 Listen:

 Transcript: 

- Welcome to Easton Online, thanks for comin'.

- [Jeffrey] Thank you for having me.

- I was a little late today, I'm sorry.

- [Jeffrey] That's okay.

- PT, little PT before ADCC, so yeah. He could squeeze me in, so I had to get it done. Sorry guys.

- [Jeffrey] That's okay, you gotta get the machine right before your big day.

- There ain't no gettin' this machine right, bro. So, man, you have the only odd experience of not every belt with us, not white to black with us.

- [Jeffrey] That's correct, I was a blue belt when I came to you guys and I was deep in the land of the eternal blue belt.

- Really, how long were you a blue belt?

- [Jeffrey] I was a blue belt for almost six years.

- How long were you a blue belt before you came to us?

- [Jeffrey] Uh, about four years. 'Cause I think it was about a year and a half with you guys brought me on.

- So I was a dick about that.

- [Jeffrey] No I mean, I think anytime someone comes in from the outside you want to keep an eye on them.

- You wait.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, always. I say two year minimum, yeah.

- Two year minimum.

- Yeah, so you guys even I think you moved me along a little bit quicker.

- Yeah maybe I just forgot. By the way how's the coffee?

- [Jeffrey] It's delicious, thank you very much.

- It's delicious, I was late on the coffee too, goddammit, right?

- [Jeffrey] I mean it's here, that's really all that matters.

- It's here, it's here, but yeah. So blue belt, blue belch when you came in. And then what was that like for you? Because like deep into blue belt, and then moving to a new school. Why did you leave New York by the way? You were in New York, right?

- [Jeffrey] I was in New York for five years. I think my wife and I had gotten, or she was my girlfriend, fiance, when we left. I think we had gotten everything out of that experience that we were looking to. I think New York's a really fun place if you are what I like to call pajama rich, or so young that abject poverty is like not that big of a deal.

- What's pajama rich?

- [Jeffrey] Like you're so rich that you don't even have to put clothes on in the morning, and no one cares, right? If you're so wealthy that getting to a lovely place out of the city really is just no impediment to you whatsoever, New York is a great place. But if you're stuck there, which most people are, physically getting yourself out of the city is very difficult and expensive, you know? And I think over time it just wears on you. We wanted to be back close to family.

- 'Cause her family's here too?

- [Jeffrey] Yes. We wanted to purchase a home and really none of those things were gonna happen while we were still in New York.

- You mean you didn't want to spend $10 million on a two bedroom 500 square foot apartment?

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- Okay, even though I love New York.

- [Jeffrey] It's a fun place to visit.

- Yes, it's a fun place to visit.

- [Jeffrey] It's a great place to visit.

- Yeah, I couldn't live there.

- [Jeffrey] It's a challenge.

- It's a challenge. I need, I don't know why I couldn't live there, but I couldn't live there. It makes me go to my dark place.

- [Jeffrey] Well you're just bombarded by energy all the time.

- All the time.

- [Jeffery] No matter where you are there's like a thousand people within 100 feet of you.

- Even when you're sleeping. Right, like everything, there's no time where it's peace and quiet.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- You never hear crickets.

- [Jeffrey] And all you do is work and drink. There's really not that much else to do.

- You could train, you could train.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, you could train.

- So you got your blue belt, you got your blue belt from Chim Chim?

- [Jeffrey] No I was already a blue belt when I trained there. I got my blue belt from a guy named Carmine Zaki.

- I don't know Carmine.

- [Jeffrey] He got his black belt from a guy named Marcelo Melo.

- I know Marcelo Melo, okay.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- So you were a blue belt at another school.

- [Jeffrey] Multiple schools.

- So you got your blue belt and then, from Carmine Zaki who was where?

- [Jeffrey] He just kind of had his own thing going on. Like Carmine was just--

- In New York?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah just like a roving pirate ship.

- So he's like, hey guys the YMCA today at four?

- [Jeffrey] Exactly.

- Fuck yeah, all right.

- [Jeffery] If you pay Carmine, you were just allowed to go, whoever was allowing Carmine to teach at that particular time, you know? And so we just kind of followed him around and I wanted to get promoted, I had a horrible ego problem as a blue belt, you know? I thought I was much better than I was. I thought I should be getting moved along more quickly. And the problem resided with anyone that wasn't me.

- Well, that's everyone's problem. So you get your blue belt from Carmine.

- [Jeffery] Correct. And then you leave Carmine, because?

- [Jeffrey] I wanted to be promoted and I didn't get promoted.

- You wanted to be promoted to purple belt?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- Okay. So you were with Carmine as a blue belt for how long?

- [Jeffrey] I think it was probably about a year.

- So you're a year with Carmine, and then you go see Chim Chim.

- [Jeffrey] Correct, trained with Justin up in the Bronx for a little bit. Great school, just the vibe wasn't for me.

- Right.

- [Jeffrey] Trained a little bit with Justin, Griffiths over at Clockwork, and then the last year--

- God he was around the scene when I was around the scene.

- [Jeffrey] He's good!

- Yeah he's good.

- [Jeffrey] And then the last year that I was there I was doin' like noon classes at Marcelo Garcia.

- Okay, well can't complain about that.

- [Jeffery] No.

- No, there's no complaining about Marcelo.

- [Jeffrey] No, it was a great school.

- Yeah, Marcelo's the man. I started watching his thing on flow grappling.

- [Jeffrey] It was very long.

- It was very long, it's like two hours long.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah I got a little intimidated by the time stamp on the bottom of the page.

- So that used to happen to me with Jeff Suskin. Suskin used to send me videos all the time. Like, "Hey, watch this." And then I'd click on it and my kids were real young, Keenan was like four, and Simon's one. So, it was like three or four years ago that this was. And I'm like, "No." And then he'd be like, "Did you watch this?" I was like, "No dude that said an hour. "I don't have an hour on YouTube, like ever." You know? So yeah I get that, I get that. I started watching it, it was good. The first 15 minutes was good.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah I'll get around to it I'm sure.

- Yeah, in pieces, you do it in pieces. Like I'm at the 15:52 timestamp right now. So I'll fast forward to 15:52 and watch another 15 minutes.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah bit by bit. Mike sent us a really great Jocko podcast yesterday about performance evaluations, great content. But there's like a 30 minute chunk in the middle where he's basically just reading off government paperwork, so I had to pause and I'm gonna come back to it.

- Goddamn I love me some Janahar DVDs, but holy shit. Did you watch the arm bar one?

- [Jeffrey] I haven't, no.

- Dude, it's four hours on the top lock.

- [Jeffrey] All right.

- And I've gone through it two or three times now, you know? He's thorough, he's so thorough. But yeah, you have to do it in chunks.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, that's fair.

- So after you left Marcelo's then you moved back to Colorado.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- Okay, because of all the reasons you said?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- What made you find Easton?

- [Jeffrey] So it was really funny. I came back and I'm like, I'm gonna try a class everywhere. I wanted to check everyone out. Obviously your reputation precedes you. I took one noon class with John Boil and basically just threw my American Express at him into a six month payment.

- J.B., John Boil! Hell yeah, killed it, killed it. He was the god of morning and noon.

- [Jeffrey] Oh yeah.

- You know? So, done, didn't go anywhere else?

- [Jeffrey] Nowhere else.

- What did it?

- [Jeffrey] Boy. For a long time jiu-jitsu, it had ceased to be fun for me, right? Because it had no longer become like a process-oriented thing, right? It was all about goals and competition.

- Getting promoted.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, and I wasn't getting either one of those rewards that I was looking for, right? And I took his noon class and it was fun. I smiled, I laughed.

- Because he told jokes, or just how he reacted with everyone? What was it?

- [Jeffrey] So, it was the interaction with the students, it was, yeah, he had a great sense of humor, but it's also, man, when he's on that mat teaching, there is a real sense of joy that comes out of him and you can't help but take part in that, you know? And it was like the first time I enjoyed taking a class.

- What belt was he at the time?

- [Jeffrey] He was a purple.

- So he wasn't a black belt,

- [Jeffrey] No.

- He wasn't Marcelo Garcia,

- [Jeffrey] No.

- He wasn't Chim Chim, not Josh Griffins.

- [Jeffrey] No, not Josh Griffins.

- And not to knock any of those guys.

- [Jeffrey] No.

- So there's no way he could probably teach you as good a technique as any of those guys.

- [Jeffrey] Probably not.

- Because he was a purple belt.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- And he's not a four time ADCC champ.

- [Jeffrey] No he's not.

- Never even been there.

- [Jeffrey] No.

- Interesting, right?

- [Jeffrey] I don't know if John has ever won an IBJJF match.

- I don't think he has.

- [Jeffrey] But he's one of the best teachers I've ever had.

- I think we've talked about that. I think we talked about that with Mike Paz, his goal was to win an IBJJF match. So he's never even won one. But this purple belt, like, just boom, done.

- [Jeffrey] It was just joyful, it was fun.

- So where do you think you got this idea beforehand of that the other stuff was so important? Or was it you, was it your ego?

- [Jeffrey] It was my ego.

- Or was it a little bit if both?

- [Jeffrey] It was my ego, 100%. It had all just become about external gratification.

- The journey of jiu-jitsu

- [Jeffrey] Yes.

- And you weren't meeting that.

- [Jeffrey] I was not.

- Were you winning, were you beating people up?

- [Jeffrey] So I was winning and then I stopped winning. Yeah, yeah.

- Oh, oh no. Oh no, that's the worst! So build build build, ego, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the mayor.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, let's just hit those breaks.

- Hit those brakes and then you start gettin' fucked up.

- [Jeffrey] Smashed, and then you get in your head, right? And then it's not even really about your jiu-jitsu anymore, it's just become about conquering your own inner nonsense.

- Oh no Jeffrey, you had a hard path.

- [Jeffrey] I did, I did, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

- Yeah well you couldn't choose that, you had no fuckin' choice.

- [Jeffrey] That's very true, you can't just hit the rewind.

- God, I got cancer right now, I wouldn't have it any other way. Well, that's good,

- [Jeffery] That's good because you can't.

- because you got it! So many places we can go here with this. Do you think the culture of the schools, what were the schools like? Were they very competition driven that you were going to? What was that, and again, we're not knockin' those schools, but a lot of schools are highly, okay, if A beats B, then A gets promoted.

- [Jeffrey] Correct and for Carmine it was all about fighting and MMA, and that was a place I did not belong, right? And I was participating because, again, I wanted to play the game.

- You have 10 MMA fights, right?

- [Jeffrey] Six, yeah.

- Six. You did not want to fight MMA, but you got sucked into it.

- [Jeffrey] I was, I don't want to say pressured, but it was just the culture, right? And you want to go along with the culture, you want to be part of the team. And, right, you have goals that you're trying to meet, and so you see it as a means of achieving your ultimate--

- This is the way to get to my goal.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah and I had no business being out there. I would do everything in my power to not participate in striking, and then you get out there and just--

- Oh god, you were the worst dude.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, terrible, just absolutely terrible. No business being out there.

- I feel very similar for me though, I feel like I had no business being out there either, when I was out there.

- [Jeffrey] Well you took it a lot farther for someone than I did not really belonging out there.

- I still had no business though, I just wanted to follow Jay.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, I get that.

- You know? For us, Jay was the standard of what it was, you know? And I just wanted to follow him, and fuck, yeah. It worked, I got a little luckier than you, maybe, let's say.

- [Jeffrey] I dunno about luck, you know?

- Luck, a little bit, we'll just keep it there. You were doing it as a blue belt?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- So you weren't very good at jiu-jitsu. So you could still get beat up easily by a white belt, on a bad day.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, correct.

- No white belt was beatin' me up by the time I started fighting. I was a brown belt and I was a good brown belt. So there's no white belt that was gonna come in and fuck me up. So, I could always win in the grappling area, where you didn't have that. So that's what I'm saying, a little luck, a little this, timing, things like that. So anyway, oh god, so you were trying to do that through MMA. So then you left Carmine, probably because you didn't want to fight MMA.

- [Jeffrey] I think in retrospect it has a lot to do with it, yeah.

- Right, okay, and how about the other competition? So when you to Chim Chim and you went to MG, were you still trying to compete a lot?

- [Jeffrey] When I was trying it up in the Bronx I competed a little bit. But the culture there wasn't really about that. It was like, hey, if that's what you want to do, we can do that.

- Did he spray you in the eyes with the, you were not there for that day?

- [Jeffrey] I did not participate in the pepper spray incident.

- Yeah, my boy Chim Chim's crazy, bro!

- [Jeffrey] But, I mean that's his whole ethos, right?

- You don't want to touch that?

- [Jeffrey] That's his whole ethos. He's just about creating hard human beings.

- Fuck yeah he is.

- [Jeffrey] And he does it well, there are a lot of really, really, insanely tough dudes up at that school.

- Yeah well he makes them get choked to sleep and sprayed with pepper spray.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, I'd like to hope that toughens you up.

- Yeah I would like to hope at some point, all of our soft 20 year olds, maybe we should do that to, right? Like,

- [Jeffrey] Just call the lawyer first.

- What's that?

- [Jeffrey] Maybe we should call the lawyer first.

- Ah, they signed the waiver. So anyway, so that wasn't for you. And then you're out here in Colorado and Boil changes your life.

- [Jeffrey] Correct, just, the culture was amazing, and I think, obviously my jumping around had a lot to do with like my struggle with my own ego, but I also think that I was looking for the right place for me, you know? And I hadn't really found it. I loved Marcelo's, and if we had stayed in New York, I definitely wouldn't have left.

- Everyone loves Marcelo's, from what I hear everyone loves Marcelo's.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, I definitely would not have left. But then I came to Easton and I was like, "Oh my god," "this is definitely the place I've always been looking for." The jiu-jitsu is incredibly high level, right, to the point where it like definitely made me feel very self-conscious about my own skills. But the people man, everyone was so welcoming, so cool, so eager to help, so ready to share information and technique.

- And what year was this?

- [Jeffrey] 2012, so you had just opened.

- I had just got there, yeah.

- [Jeffrey] You had just opened the new school.

- So this was Larry still, not even Ian yet.

- [Jeffrey] Ian had not come in yet, yeah.

- So this was before we even knew what the fuck we were doing.

- [Jeffrey] You wanna have a great Larry story?

- Yeah! Larry I love you, Larry King is the fucking man.

- [Jeffrey] My first advanced class, right? And blue belt, new to the school, obviously you want people to think you're good, right? So I probably just went at Larry way too hard, you know? And he kind of lets me tire myself out, you know? Sweeps me, passes my guard, mounts me, looks down and smiles at me, opens his jacket, and just lays his harry belly right on my face until I tap.

- Oh shit, fuck yeah. So, I had slightly this experience this weekend, on the giving end.

- [Jeffrey] Sure.

- I was training, and this purple belt, I asked him if he wants to roll, he was my size. And he's like, "Yeah," it's our first round. And he's like, "I haven't trained in three years." I'm like, "Okay, cool, we'll just go nice and easy." And then he proceeds to try to rip my fucking head off, he is just going, just going. And I'm like handling, still trying to like warm myself up. And then finally I'm like, man, I am not gonna be able to warm up like this, because I'm fighting for my life. So I pass, get side control, get everything I want, pull it tight and I'm like, "Hey, we can go easier if you want." And he looks at me and he goes, "Man I would really like it if you went easier." And I'm like, "Uh uh," I was like, "you need to go easier!" I was like, "I was going easy! "You need to go easier and then I won't do "what I just did in the last 10 seconds, okay? "Stop doing that to me. "Like bro, we're just warming up." He goes, "Okay, okay." And then he basically does nothing for the rest of the round, and then two rounds later he's vomiting in the trash can. So he was just gone, right?

- [Jeffrey] We saw it all, right, we hit the whole spectrum.

- He was just gone, so very similar, you know? Dude Larry's top is ridiculous though.

- [Jeffrey] Oh my god it's so heavy.

- Oh, it's so heavy. And then the hair doesn't help. [Jeffrey] It does not.

- It does not fuckin' help.

- [Jeffrey] He's worked up a good lather, you know?

- Yeah, it's a little sweat, it's not fun. So that was a good Larry King story. We had just opened then, so you had never experienced the Fivela.

- [Jeffrey] I had stepped foot in the Fivela.

- The Fivela, for everyone that doesn't know, is we used to have this old Denver school on Third and Broadway, it a was a shit hole, I mean it was just a shit hole. Shitty mats, shitty everything. Locker room could barely fit 10 people. But yeah we call it the Fivela, so... But we moved from the Fivela, so, I don't know if it's a penthouse yet. I think AOJ is probably a penthouse, you know?

- [Jeffrey] Sure, yeah.

- But we moved, so you got John Boil in the new school.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- So how long did you train? When did you train before somehow, I dunno, who caught wind of you to start teaching? Was it me, was it Ian, was it Boil? Literally you and I are great friends, and I mean we've been friends since 2013, '14, probably, so like six, seven years now, and I don't know this. I don't know what made you start.

- [Jeffrey] So my recollection was at some point someone pulled me aside and was like, "Hey, I really think you should start "taking the advanced classes at night." And then I was taking the advanced classes a little bit, but mostly trying to get noon. And I had to have my knee scoped so I was away.

- This is not the ACL?

- [Jeffrey] No, just like a quick clean up on a meniscus, I think I was gone like six weeks.

- Don't ever do that again, it's so stupid. Both of mine are torn right now.

- [Jeffrey] You just keep going back to the lab?

- Yeah, it's the greatest surgery ever for doctors. That and tit jobs.

- [Jeffrey] 'Cause he's in there for 20 minutes and he knows he's gonna see you again in three years.

- Exactly, same thing with boobs, right? And yeah these aren't gonna last for so long, and she's gonna want more.

- [Jeffrey] So I came back from my having my knee scoped and Ian was the new general manager. So I just introduced myself, I was like, "Hey, welcome to the Denver Academy, "I've heard like so many amazing "things about your jiu-jitsu." Because, him and Mike were very legendary in the Easton community.

- What was their legend?

- [Jeffrey] They're just really good, you know? People would talk about how amazingly good their jiu-jitsu was.

- Nobody could pass Ian's guard, and Mike's a freak.

- Mike might eat your face.

- Mike might pick you up, and fuckin' swing you around like the fuckin' Hulk and throw you back down.

- [Jeffrey] So I started taking his advanced classes, and Amy Fidelis wasn't really able to make it, the way her work schedule worked out at the time. She had to be in super early, so staying for the night class wasn't working. So, in the afternoons we would drill together, and I would just like do my best to articulate to her like what we had gone over in the advance class the night before. And Ian saw it and pulled me aside.

- Were you a blue belt still, or purple?

- [Jeffrey] I was still a blue belt, still a blue belt. He was like, "Hey man, I'd love it if you "would start teaching intros for me." I did intros for a few months and then Junior went to Brazil for an extended period of time, and I taught his classes while he was away, and then at the end of that you guys gave me noon classes.

- Because Boil left.

- [Jeffrey] Boil had left and Peter was teaching, but you kind of felt like maybe you needed to split that class because there was a lot of blue and purple belts in the noon program, and you needed a fundamentals class but you also needed something to let--

- Oh that's right, you guys were teaching at the same time.

- [Jeffrey] For a little bit, and then you put us on opposite days.

- Right, I remember that. All right, so that was your in. Your in was helping somebody.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- So you're literally just like, okay I'm gonna teach Amy. And then you just get on the radar.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- You just get on the radar somehow. Man this is such a key concept that I think people just miss sometimes, is I get asked a lot, what is it that I can do professor, coach, whether it be MMA, Eliot, whoever it is. What can I do to move up? And my answer is like, look, at first, just don't let me walk in here without seeing you. Just be in my face all my time. You don't have to talk to me. You don't have to be like, hey, I'm here, you're not checking in. But hey, goddammit, there he is again. Well, there he is again. Yep he's still here. And he's here again. And hey, Ian, are we payin' that guy? No we're not, okay. Maybe we should start payin' him. He obviously really wants to be here, it's been six months, I see him everyday. This idea is so important, it's so important.

- [Jeffrey] Yes, be around and be ready to say yes.

- To everything.

- [Jeffrey] Everything.

- Even if it sucks.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, 'cause that was, I think if there's one thing I can point to that got me to like the position I'm in now is I said yes to everything. You want to help with kids? Yes. You want to teach at 7:30 p.m.? Yes. You want to teach a noon class at the same time that someone else is teaching a noon class? Yes. You want to cover? Yes.

- Yes, if it's what you want, you know? I talked to Marc Vetri about this, you know who Vetri is?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah I know Vetri.

- Yeah, you were there!

- [Jeffrey] I've taught noon class to Marc.

- You were there for the phenomenal Vinner. So good, right? So good. Were you there for the phenomenal, yeah you were, no.

- [Jeffrey] No, he didn't come to Vegas.

- You didn't go to Vegas, that's right, that was Cory R. By the way Velort, don't ever bother asking Velort to go places for food, he doesn't like food, right? For all of you watching, don't try to arrange food around Velort, 'cause he eats a bite and then says it's delicious. You don't know that's delicious, you had half a bite.

- [Jeffrey] I appreciate your manners.

- So anyway, Vetri, I was talking to Vetri about this, and he says it's kind of a sad thing in the restaurant industry. He's like, look, he's like, "I never went to culinary school. "And so the way I got good was literally "I just showed up at the kitchen "the second it opened and I worked for free. "I just worked for free." They were like, "Oh, we need this cut." "All right, I'll cut it." And then eventually they give you some shitty job. He's like, "Unfortunately, in the restaurant industry," "it's not allowed anymore." Because taking advantage of employees, of workers, right? And I get it, this is all very important. But man, do it for free. Be like, look, I don't care what it takes. Give me whatever. You need the mops mat. Why can't I say this? The mats mopped.

- [Jeffrey] There it is.

- Too much coffee, you know? Yeah, let's go, let's go.

- [Jeffrey] What do you need, I'll do it.

- So important. So that's how you got in. And now, what happened? Now you're GM.

- [Jeffrey] I'm the General Manager of the Arvada location.

- General Manager of the Arvada location. Did you move up more after that, or was it always noon class?

- [Jeffrey] So it was noon class, I was teaching fundamentals at night, and then I kind of became the go-to sub for your intermediate classes and Ian's advanced gi classes.

- I always have that, this is my thing. I'm like, okay, who am I calling? Because I don't let anybody teach my classes.

- [Jeffrey] Well it has to be someone who goes to your classes.

- Yes, yes. So there's a specific list of people that I'll call, and after that I'm like, "Hey, Ian, none "of these people can do it, can you find somebody?" You know? So, okay, you became the super-sub.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, and then you asked me to move my personal training business into the academy, which made it very easy for me to just be there.

- I asked you to do that?

- [Jeffrey] You did.

- Damn.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, you asked me to do that.

- This is crazy, I don't remember any of this. I remember you moving it into the academy. Why did I ask you to do that? Oh because you were working at another place.

- [Jeffrey] I was workin' at another place--

- Yeah, and I didn't like that probably.

- [Jeffrey] Probably but also I mean, there was a decent amount of monthly billings that were gonna hit the academy too.

- Yeah, no, that might have been just some bullshit I said.

- [Jeffrey] Oh, okay.

- 'Cause yeah I just didn't like, well, because you were keeping all of it, right?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, it was all going in my pocket, yeah.

- So I wasn't looking at selling, so the only reason I would care about the monthly billing was for our revenue thing.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- Like if I was thinking about selling.

- [Jeffrey] Well, no we had a split, 'cause I had to pay rent at my other place, so it wasn't like I kept 100%. And then you came in and we just went to a more traditional split like you would in corporate fitness.

- Got it, okay, okay. Yeah I wanna say mostly it was because I wanted you in there.

- [Jeffrey] That's fair, yeah.

- Yeah, you just were in my face all the time, so then you have to find ways to get the person in your face more once you're like, okay, this person can really do it.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah.

- So then you were doing that, because I remember I would work out at the same time, when you had all the same people back there working out. Me and Gwen and who else was it? There was somebody else that worked out with us, I don't remember. Oh well, it doesn't matter. So you moved your personal training business, and then you left that, right? And man you had just dropped a pretty penny, right? Like you went to MAT school and all of that, right?

- [Jeffrey] Correct, correct.

- And that's not cheap, what is that, like 20 grand, 15 grand?

- [Jeffrey] It was like 12.

- Okay 12 grand.

- [Jeffrey] I think all told I spent about $12,000.

- So you would've liked to have seen that back.

- [Jeffrey] I made my money back.

- Oh you did?

- [Jeffrey] I made my money back pretty quickly,

- Oh, okay.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, 'cause I was able to take my hourly rate significantly higher after finishing my MAT. So I made my investment back pretty quickly. And I had had my ACL done twice in 2016. And after that second surgery, you have the moment where you sort of have to ask yourself, is it time to think about what's next? And I remember having like a very tearful conversation in Ian's office kind of along the lines of what am I gonna do?

- Like with my life?

- [Jeffrey] Yeah, at this point I've invested the last five years, day in, day out, to jiu-jitsu. And pretty early on in the recovery process from that second ACL surgery, you don't know what the future is gonna hold. And Ian just kind of told me, "Hey man, everything's gonna be okay." And about two weeks later you gave me a call and let me know that you guys had purchased the Arvada location and you were wondering if I'd be interested in the General Manager's position.

- Word, so it worked out.

- [Jeffrey] It did.

- That was a tough gig, though.

- [Jeffrey] It was.

- That's not an easy gig, right? Because we had nothing to do with Arvada. So we'll get into this here, right? We purchased a school from Nick and Chris Klein. They were Easton but not like all the way Easton. Love those guys, but...

- [Jeffrey] Amazing, amazing black belts, great human beings, but yeah, they definitely had their owns systems, their own processes.

- Right, I don't even think they followed the curriculum, right?

- [Jeffrey] No, they had their own curriculum.

- And it wasn't like a failing school.

- [Jeffrey] No, I think there's probably 150 students.

- The profit was like $50,000 a year, 50 to $60,000 a year.

- [Jeffrey] It was profitable.

- It's profitable, it's a profitable school. I think most schools might do a little more. Like 60 grand a year if there was one of them that would probably cut it. Because you always pay yourself and then what the profit is, right? So that's probably like 80 grand to one person, 80 to 90 grand, so yeah, if that was one person, they'd be doing fine. But they wanted out and we came in, we had you take over. And what was that experience like, the switching a culture, getting everyone to buy into you? There's so much we can go into here. What did you do?

- [Jeffrey] Well I'd say the first thing I did was kind of replicate what had gotten me to that point, was I was just there, all the time. Ready to talk, ready to let people get to know me. Because they're used to what they're used to, you know? There's a very--

- People hate change.

- [Jeffrey] comfortable small club feel, it was very casual, it was very relaxed. And we were trying to institute a lot of the systems that we've found to be successful.

- Families and older adults, right? Like you don't have many 20 year olds, do you?

- [Jeffrey] Very few.

- No killers. I mean you might make some killers, I'm not saying that, but like--

- [Jeffrey] It's a very family-oriented academy.

- It's a family oriented academy.

- [Jeffrey] Correct. And so I think their big worry was that we wanted to turn this into the Denver Academy. Which it's a tough room.

- It's a tough room, it's a tough room. And I'm tough!

- It's a tough room full of young people who are very dedicated to jiu-jitsu, a lot of people that are serious about being competitors or fighters. I had to just let them know like, "Hey, we want Arvada to be Arvada. "There are things that we think could be done differently, "and it's not to say that what you guys were doing is wrong, "it's just we've found this to successful."

- They saw that you were coming from Denver and how intense Denver can be.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- Especially on the front end, 'cause Denver, we're pretty soft actually, I believe.

- [Jeffrey] I think so.

- Like our community is very nurturing and tight. But I could see that, right? You come in, there's 50 people in a class, and 30 of them are murderers, right? I'm sure sometimes people might have to, I'm just assuming now because you said that, that people might have to get themselves psyched up a little bit to come to Denver at 7 o'clock at night.

- [Jeffrey] I know I certainly did at first.

- Yeah, like, okay, I can do this. You know? That's interesting. Because I used to have to do that when I was fighting. When I went to Albuquerque, like okay, shark tank. All right, fuck, all right, circles, here we go, All right, I can do this, I can do this. And I'd be up all fuckin' night. So maybe they're not up all night, but I'm sure it takes some work.

- [Jeffrey] I think if you're a guy who's a little bit newer to jiu-jitsu and you're sitting--

- Just got your blue belt.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah just got your blue belt, you're sitting at your desk at work, and you're walking into the lion's den at 7pm tonight. I'm sure there are a lot of people who at first have to take themselves to a specific place psychologically before going into that advanced class.

- So Arvada could've been very scared that one of the teachers from Denver is gonna come to Arvada and try to do that there.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- And we don't want that at all.

- [Jeffrey] No, not at all! I mean we wanted to institute our curriculum, because we want a replicatable product from academy to academy to academy, right? We want consistency, we want predictability. So we're gonna teach the same stuff that everyone else is teaching. We want a schedule that a little bit more closely mirrors what's going on, Denver, Boulder, Centennial, right? Fundamentals, intermediate, advanced.

- Arvada was gonna be the fourth school, of like, centrally owned by me and Amal, basically.

- [Jeffrey] Correct. We wanted to have a more clearly defined sales funnel, you know? Process for taking someone from calling in with an interest, right, to being a member. But we weren't looking to turn Arvada into Denver, 'cause Arvada's never gonna be Denver. Arvada should be Arvada, it's been open for 10 years, it has a culture. There was a very large group of purple and brown belts there. They didn't have any black belts at that point, you know? But they had a lot of purple and brown belts, and we weren't looking to change who's in the school and like who those people are, you know what I mean?

- You're not looking to change the culture.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- We know what the culture is, right? And we're looking to better it, not change it.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- You know? We're looking to improve it not flip it on it's head.

- [Jeffrey] Exactly, it was less about community, and just more about some of the business systems.

- Right, yeah, yeah, the community was strong, obviously. And I think sometimes that's a lot of problems that happen when people like come and buy a new school, is they're like, okay, they come in and hammer down like this. I have this successful school over here, and I am goin' to do it like this, and they start to worry about the systems, and they stop worrying about the people, right?

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- And we know, like, is this the fourth, fifth podcast? Fifth podcast, people first, it's always people first.

- [Jeffrey] It has to be able the people.

- Yeah, because if you make it not about the people, and if you make it about the money, if you make it about the systems, if you make it about this or that or whatever, everyone eventually is gonna feel that.

- [Jeffrey] Correct, and that's not to say that it wasn't a challenge, right?

- 'Cause you still have to do that stuff!

- [Jeffrey] You still have to do the stuff, and to a certain extent for a little while I was very much an outsider. It took time to build trust with those people. And so sometimes it became easier to be about the systems, the business, the metrics, especially when you're not gaining the traction with the people in a way, 'cause you have an idea in your mind how you want it to work out, and it doesn't necessarily always go that way. It's gonna take some time.

- Bro when I went to Denver I think like the second night that I'm in Denver at the Fivela. I go in, I'm teaching, I tell this joke that I think is funny and no one really knows me yet, right? And crickets, fucking crickets, and I'm like, fuck, not good, not good! I was like, "Why'd you guys not laugh at that?" Because they weren't comfortable with me, right? And sometimes you want to take the same way you were in Denver, let's say for you, and you want to take that to Arvada 'cause it worked with everyone in Denver, and fuck, it's just not there yet.

- [Jeffrey] Well there's a wonderful piece of advice you gave me before I started which was don't get too comfortable too quickly. You know? It will be easy to slip into the way that you behave and interacted with people that you've been teaching for years. Give it some time, you need to let them get comfortable with you, you need to let them get to know you. Don't kick your shoes off and put your feet up on the table right away, because you won't necessarily know how that will be received.

- I think it's 'cause they will respect you, but they might not buy into you, they might not love you. Because they're a little bit being told to respect you. They're like, okay, here it is, this is the guy. He's here, respect him. And just like the... Even harder!

- [Jeffrey] It was, yeah.

- I just remembered that, we didn't, god we are assholes. At least if we had given you a black belt.

- [Jeffrey] And I wasn't physically able to train yet. So I wasn't able to bridge the gap that way either.

- Jeffrey, we fucked you.

- [Jeffrey] Well I mean I can't say that it didn't work out. I think having done it this way really forced me to address some of the shortcomings that I have as a human being, right? 'Cause I had to do this like purely on the basis of human relationship. It couldn't be about my jiu-jitsu, because they didn't actually know how good I was.

- When could you train?

- [Jeffrey] I took over in February, by like May to June I was kind able to lay in the bottom of side control and paw away at people, you know?

- So you just had to get beat up still.

- [Jeffrey] There's a lot of like, yeah, framing and using your top leg as a butterfly.

- Because what does it for us, what does it for almost everyone, is to go in, feel the person's jiu-jitsu, and then you get almost immediate more buy in.

- [Jeffrey] Well there's just that level of physical connection too, like it bonds you to a person in a way that many other things, I don't know anything else that does it better.

- Yeah if I have to have a hard conversation, I call someone to train first.

- [Jeffrey] Always train first, always.

- Train and beat each other up. They beat you up, you beat them up a little bit. Go over some stuff and then be like, fuck man, that's great man, and then into it.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- But you figured it out, human connections.

- [Jeffrey] I figured it out, human connections.

- But harder?

- [Jeffrey] Much harder.

- Because you have to break down the ego first, and the reason that we like to train first is because the training crushes the go, yours and mine. So if you and I are gonna train, the physicality of everything, the intense working out, the choking each other and then this and then that, it breaks both people's egos down. Even if you're the top dog and you're beating me up, you still have to take care of me in a way, right? Please don't take this training first thing as a dominance thing, no, it's not a dominance thing. It's not a I beat your ass and then you listen to me. It's a you can feel that I'm caring for you. So the training has to be done in a very specific way.

- [Jeffrey] Yes, yeah, you don't go in and just smash someone and just put them in a deep dark hole of despair, and fragile ego.

- You don't mount them, open your gi, and take your sweaty chest hair and put it down on their face and then be like, okay, let's talk. So man you had it even rougher than I remembered. So not only were you not a black belt, 'cause that just gives instant street cred. And then you also couldn't even do the task that we were asking you to do, like the actual art. So you had to do it like people in an office building.

- [Jeffrey] When I first started teaching there, I had to teach with two oo-kays. I wasn't even physically capable. Hey, if you're gonna be within 10 feet of a jiu-jitsu mat, here's your titanium steel brace that keeps you from locking the knee out.

- Damn man, hell yeah, good work.

- [Jeffrey] Thank you.

- Good work. How'd you break your ego, 'cause you said you still had to work on you. That must have been hard. You said you came in with all these problems with yourself still sometimes, a little bit anyway.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah for sure, I mean we're all works in progress.

- I'm perfect.

- [Jeffrey] And we all have our fears and insecurities and blind spots.

- I'm perfect.

- [Jeffrey] And pretty quickly after taking that job, my wife's pregnant at the time too.

- Oh god!

- [Jeffrey] So I just started therapy, honestly. I just started going to therapy when I took the job. Mike gave me a lot of great books to read. I started the therapeutic process.

- Are you hearing this? So he can't train, right? He has no black belt, and he has a first time pregnant wife.

- [Jeffrey] Correct, baby on the way, baby on the way.

- Oh my god, therapy, therapy.

- [Jeffrey] Therapy, a lot of it.

- Therapy, a lot of it. Did we have to pay for it or did you pay for it?

- [Jeffrey] No, I paid for it myself, I paid for it myself.

- I think we probably owe you more. Talk to HR.

- [Jeffrey] Cool, that's you, right?

- No, no, no, no, no, no. It's not me and it's not Mike. I think we hired somebody.

- [Jeffrey] That's right!

- We have an HR person. That shit. Once we hired the person I don't hear about anything. Yeah unless it's really major, it's amazing. I don't even know if we've used her yet.

- [Jeffrey] Hopefully not.

- Hopefully not, do you know? Fuck yeah, even better. So man, so a lot of therapy, a lot of inner self work.

- [Jeffrey] Correct, and it's still, it's an ongoing process.

- You don't have it figured out yet?

- [Jeffrey] No, course not.

- Yeah, me either. You think you will?

- [Jeffrey] No, never.

- Just keep working.

- [Jeffrey] It's just like jiu-jitsu.

- Just like jiu-jitsu, just like the school, right?

- [Jeffrey] You just keep working, you're gonna have problems pop back up, you're gonna have new problems come up that you didn't even know about. You do the work.

- That's one of the most important things to not get frustrated with is when the same problem rears it's head in another way. It happens in our life and it happens in our work. Right like you think you have this thing in the school figured out, and you're like, I handled this! And the thing is is maybe it could've just been the person that you put in place to do it. And they were so amazing, they were amazing, and then you move them up and the next person comes in, and you're like, oh fuck.

- [Jeffrey] Yeah I mean I certainly, when we first were in there, we weren't seeing the kind of numbers in the striking program that we were looking for.

- Right.

- [Jeffrey] Matt Bloss went away to Thailand, came back a new Matt Bloss, just ready to go, blew that program up, was very. Was basically teaching all of the classes, which.

- You find an amazing instructor, you put them in, program grows.

- [Jeffrey] Exactly. But it can be problematic, right? People get injured, people get hurt, people need to go on vacation, people get promoted. And if any of these things happen and you have the entire program on one person, it can be a problem. So Matt Bloss came back ready to bring people up underneath him, was doing a phenomenal job. We thought we probably had another year or so of runway to continue doing what we were doing, and then the job in Boulder came up.

- The GM job in Boulder.

- [Jeffrey] Exactly, the GM job in Boulder came up, Matt Bloss was the clear choice, and so now, start from scratch, and we're right back to working on building up the striking program.

- Yeah, sucks, right? So your striking program didn't get better. You had Matt Bloss, he got better.

- [Jeffrey] Oh my god, just, man. Literally the minute he got back from Thailand it was like that guy just was on a rocket ship to success.

- Good, yeah, I remember when I met with him. 'Cause I never really talked with him before. He came over and we talked and I was like, all right, yeah, this guy can do it, you know? And what made me know that he could do it was he was like, "Anything you would like me to do? And I was like, "Yeah, read this book." And I just tell people to read books. I just want to see if they'll do it. And he was done in a week. Like he texted me some stuff from the book in a week. I was like, oh fuck yeah. He did it, he really wants it.

- [Jeffrey] Absolutely, and he didn't need it. Matt's a massively talented human being. He's a model, he's a DJ, he had a number of--

- He's a model?

- Yeah.

- Does he still model?

- [Jeffrey] No.

- Okay, good.

- [Jeffrey] Right? He has any number of things that he could be very, very good at to support himself. He chose this and he decided that this is what he wanted to be good at.

- Nice, yeah, I didn't know that. A model, and I think I knew the DJ thing, fuck yeah. So what's that like for you right now, trying to figure out that striking program?

- [Jeffrey] We're just really committed to the process of building up bench strength. Just identifying as many people as possible who want to teach, because you have to want to do it, it can't be something that someone's like, hey, you need to do this. And that are willing to put in the work.

- Right, yeah. Can I give you some advice, maybe?

- [Jeffrey] Absolutely!

- So the way sometimes that we're doing it in Denver for sure, that's where I'm at, and have the most influence on, I would say, is you can't move up in your job until there's somebody that can take your place that's better than you, right? And I know this was a sticky situation with Matt Bloss, right, like, okay we needed a GM and here he is. But like all right man, great. Sorry, I don't have anybody else. You teach too good of an intro class, I can't let you go. Maybe you know this already and I don't need to give you this advice, but it's good for the podcast.

- [Jeffrey] It's great advice.

- I can't let you move up to teaching noon class until there's somebody else that teaches a better intro class than you. 'Cause I can't go down in intro classes, I can't lose that. Oh you want to be the head instructor? Well man someone's gotta teach the noon class better than you. Right, like, and then just all the way up the line. If you want to move up someone's gotta take your place and do your job better.

- [Jeffrey] 100%, because that's how, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that process, right, of Ian seeing me fumbling my way through his advanced curriculum and saying, "Hey, I'd like for you to do this." He taught me how to teach intro classes, you know? Peter helped teach me how to teach a great noon fundamentals class, right? You taught me how to teach a high paced, vibrant, energetic, no gi intermediate class. Got to move step by step by step by step. But yeah, it has to start at the bottom.

- Now you're in the position of making people better. That's also good practice for anybody that does want to move up. If you want to have a managerial role in a place, it's not because you teach a great noon class, right?

- [Jeffrey] No. Or it's not because you do a task well. It's because you got somebody else to do the task well.

- [Jeffrey] Correct.

- Because now your time is free, right? Your time is free to do something else. 'Kay, noon classes handled, right? Noon classes handled, that's amazing, I'm gonna work on this. Okay, so hold on I don't wanna work on this anymore, I need someone else to get really good at this. So you're always freeing your time so that you can do other great things. But you can't let that other thing fall off.

- [Jeffrey] No, and as the manager you have to be able to put your hands into every part of the business to do that. I was able to not teach morning classes anymore because JT Bearwolf was always in my morning class.

- In Arvada, right?

- [Jeffrey] In Arvada. And at some point, I kind of peeled the curtains back for him.

- Bye, I'm not getting up at 6:30 anymore!

- [Jeffrey] Gave him a chance and now. We have 100 to 110 people in our jiu-jitsu program, so not overwhelmingly large. We had 20 people in his morning class this morning.

- There you go, right, there you go. That's as big as any other school. So that's the teacher, you know? If he wants to stop that class--

- [Jeffrey] He's gotta find somebody to do it better.

- Yeah, he's gotta find someone to do it better, you know? He's gotta find another JT that's just like in his class and in his class and in his class, and knows exactly how it's done, and follows the culture and understands the people, and blah blah, boom boom. And then it's like, okay JT, now you can have more, right? You can have more, you can give them more. A lot of times people want more, but they don't understand what more really looks like.

- [Jeffrey] No, you have to put the horse in front of the cart.

- You know Ana and Nick don't know that term? These young kids today. You know? These young kids today. They're like, huh?

- [Jeffrey] They're very young, 'cause I remember distinctly my wife and I were driving him home from somewhere, there's like some sort of event, and I kind of leaned over to her and I was like, "You know, biologically, he could be our kid. "I'm doing the math, it would work."

- So the other day I was teaching Ana how to parallel park and I can remember my dad screaming at me when I was learning how to drive and parallel park, so I wanted to put a little pressure on her, so it wasn't just me and her. So I FaceTimed my dad and I was like, "Hi dad say hello to my oldest "daughter that you haven't met yet."

- [Jeffrey] Does this seem familiar to you?

- He's like, "Your oldest daughter?" I'm like, "Yeah, it's Ana." So yeah, they could easily be our kids. But all right man, I appreciate it. I hope you had fun.

- [Jeffrey] I did, thank you so much for having me.

- Another episode of Easton Online. People first.

- [Jeffrey] People first.

- I don't think there's anything else, we keep getting back to this, it's always the people in your business. Like the systems come and this comes and everything comes and goes, but if you have the people and you treat the people well, right, like really really well, and it's not necessarily money, right, it's not necessarily money. Because that's not it, that's part of it. It's how they feel when they're around you.

- [Jeffrey] Everyone has something different that they're gonna need, and you have to be able to identify what that is.

- That's a good point, you have to be able to identify what that person needs. This is my weak spot, I'm bad at this.

- [Jeffrey] I'm workin' on it too.

- I just bring the fuckin' hammer, I gotta get better at it. Anyway that's a good point, I'm gonna work on that Jeff, thanks.

- [Jeffrey] Thank you.

- All right guys, that's it, have a good day.

 

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