Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has been a huge part of the Straight Blast Gym (SBG) curriculum from day one. Not only does this amazing Art serve as the base for all the groundfighting that is trained within SBG, it also serves as a living reminder, a moving, breathing example of what fully ‘Alive’ Arts look, feel, act, and perform like.
All SBG Instructors are required to have performance proficiency in the Art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and each Coach is measured within the regular and established BJJ belt system.
SBGi follows the IBJJF approved belt system for both adults and children. Evaluations are given to SBGi BJJ Association members for belts on an individual basis. This can only be done in person. with an SBGi BJJ black belt, and tested by ‘rolling’. When an athlete achieves that level of performance, where they are capable of giving ‘game’ to the other athletes of a particular belt, then they to are the belt. The belt system is as follows.
Matt Thornton bio:
Qualifications, Publications / References:
Having been introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 1991, Matt Thornton was part of an early group of Americans to become involved in the art. He was also the first person from the State of Oregon to receive a black belt. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gained popularity after the airing of the first UFC on November 12, 1993. It was at that time BJJ became the focal point of what is now considered Mixed Martial Arts.
As a teacher Matt produced a video in 1999 titled, “Aliveness”. It went on to become one of the top sellers of all time in the martial arts community. The tapes set off a firestorm of controversy, and remain a central catalyst in the Martial Arts training revolution still taking place all over the world. They were voted as one of the top five self-defense videos of all time by Black Belt magazine.
Martial Arts video reviews said:
“If you buy only one set of videos this year, let these be the ones. If you believe that there has been an evolutionary development in the martial arts over the last few decades, from Bruce Lee to the Gracies to the all-round fighters of then you will want to see these tapes. If you have to sell your body to medical science or your sister to an Arab oil sheik, buy these tapes!”
Matt’s first series still remains a top seller, and has sold in over 70 countries.
As a coach he has awarded ten of his own Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts. The list includes: Famed UFC coach, and father of MMA in Ireland, John Kavanagh; the UK’s most successful MMA coach, Karl Tanswell; as well as other great teachers, competitors, and trainers of champions.
Over the decades Matt has worked with some of the best MMA fighters, grapplers, and combat athletes in the world. This list includes UFC hall of famers Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, and others. He also responsible for producing Oregon’s first and presently only, Mundials world champion.
“The training with Matt Thornton, and SBG has been instrumental in my preparation for reality fighting in the UFC. Matt’s expertise in stand-up and ground fighting techniques has helped me win the Ultimate Fighting Championships.” – Randy Couture (UFC Legend)
Matt has been hired to teach seminars on functional martial arts all across the globe, including: Germany, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Denmark, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Reunion Island, Thailand and France, to name a few.
In addition, he was the first Instructor to bring the arts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA to both Reunion Island, as well as the Nation of Iceland; where he met his wife, Salome.
In 1993 Matt received his blue belt from the legendary Rickson Gracie. He met his main coach, Chris Haueter the same year. Chris is part of an elite group, known in the BJJ community, as the “dirty dozen”. These are the first twelve Americans to earn a black belt in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Matt appreciated Chris’ conceptual and no nonsense approach. Chris became a regular guest in Oregon for seminars and training. Matt’s school, SBG, became Oregon’s first MMA style gym. Eventual spin offs included Team Quest, Impact Jiu-Jitsu, Nemesis Academy and many more.
Chris Haueter awarded Matt his purple, brown, and in 2001, his black belt.
In addition to running his own Academy in Portland, Oregon for over twenty years, Matt is Head Coach of Straight Blast Gym International (SBGi); an organization comprised of over forty affiliate gyms in more than eleven countries. His duties include coaching top-tier athletes and giving workshops on Aliveness around the world. This has allowed Matt to opportunity to write and be published in martial arts publications such as: Black Belt magazine, Inside Kung Fu, Martial Arts Legends, Fighters, Martial Arts Illustrated, and many more.
NY Times best selling author Sam Harris said:
“Matt Thornton is one of the clearest Martial Arts instructors I have come across.”
Matt’s main emphasis over the last decade has been addressing superstition as it relates to the fields of sports training, combat sports, and martial arts. The methodology known as aliveness was designed as a tool to help people distinguish between fact and fiction.
In the past few years his writing has branched off into other areas. He is currently working on a book covering the topic of violence and its relationship to both combat sports and skepticism.
SBGi BJJ Black Belts from Matt Thornton:
Long time SBG instructor, Luis was the first person to ever receive their BJJ black belt from Matt Thornton in 2005. The creator of the popular SoFlo Jiu-Jitsu series, the creator of the ISR Matrix Law Enforcement & Military program, the innovator who formulated the PAW (Play As the Way) BJJ program for children, the 2003 North American Grappling Association Instructor of the Year, and a staple of the Florida BJJ scene for the last fifteen years, Luis represents the high standards, and creative spirit that marks a solid SBGi Coach.
In Feb 2007 long time SBG coach John Kavanagh was the second person to receive a BJJ black belt from Matt Thornton. The first person to really bring proper BJJ into the Country of Ireland, John has made a name for himself as a competitor, and a world-class coach. Here is a not from Matt written shortly after awarding him his belt.
“Anyone that has rolled with John knows that his own personal BJJ game is phenomenal. He is a world-class BJJ athlete, and his skill at the fundamentals of each position in BJJ, are top notch. In the dozen Years or so I have had to Coach BJJ athletes I have yet to work with anyone that matched John’s level of technical finesse.
However, in addition to his own ability, John also has a complete understanding of why BJJ works the way it does. What makes something a fundamental, why the positions, pressures, and moves of BJJ work the way they do, why things occur in the order that they do, in short the scientific understanding of how grappling works. And it’s that understanding of BJJ that ensures John will be able to pass on his BJJ knowledge to the next generation of athletes. Ensuring that the future generation is able to take the game even farther then we have now.”
In July 2007 the UK’s Karl Tanswell became the third Instructor to receive his BJJ black belt from Matt Thornton. Here is a note from Matt regarding this promotion:
“I have known Karl for about Eight Years now, and those of you that have worked with Karl already know he is a world class Coach. Whether you have seen his work on BODOG with Rosi, or had the pleasure of attending one of his workshops recently to see the innovative MMA curriculum he has developed, their is no doubt Karl is one of the top MMA Coaches in the world at the moment.
What you may not know is Karl is equally skilled with a gi. He can teach the entire Art of BJJ, gi, no-gi, MMA, and the self defense applications. He has helped Coach multiple world Champions, and the UK SBG athletes consistently dominate in both submission and MMA events. And I am proud to add Karl to my list of black belts.”
In Dec 2009, Travis Davison became the fourth person to receive a BJJ black belt from Matt Thornton. And marking this special occasion was the fact that Travis was the first student trained from Matt’s own Portland Gym to receive this honor. After eleven years with the Portland Gym, Travis moved to Montana where he now runs SBG_Montana, an ever-growing BJJ/MMA Gym. Not only has Travis shown himself to be a tough competitor on the mat, he is also considered one of the SBG’s best coaches, able to articulate complicated BJJ movements, in easy to understand, and functional class formats.
Rick Davison started with SBG in 1998 along with his brother Travis. Both Rick and Travis had seen Royce Gracie take on all competitors at the first UFC’s and wanted to experience for themselves what this art was all about. Neither has looked back since. Travis has gone on to run SBG Montana, while Rick has divided his time between competing MMA and teaching on a regular basis at the Portland Gym. Rick’s MMA classes are always well received due in part to the high level of individual attention he gives his students, and his educated eye.
Cane Prevost is widely considered one of Portland’s top coaches. His ability to break down BJJ to it’s core fundamentals and impart that to the his students is second to none. Cane’s posture – pressure – possibilities teaching model has been adopted by the entire SBG organization worldwide, and is now the common format used in places like the UK, Ireland, Sweden and everywhere the SBG exists. If you are new to BJJ, or you’re an advanced student looking to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of Jiu-Jitsu then Cane’s classes are something you won’t want to miss. In August 2009 Cane became the sixth person to receive a BJJ black belt from Matt Thornton.
Lily began training with me over a decade ago, at the age of 50. In that time I have watched her game skyrocket; her positional skills, timing, defense, submissions, and understanding of the science of BJJ is top notch. She has also shown herself to be a talented coach, with a solid understanding of how to break down and pass on the game; as well as all the drilling methods that SBGi is known for. And finally, as a person Lily represents the best of what SBGi can be. Lily is my seventh black belt, and my first female student to achieve that level. At the age of 61 she stepped up in true SBGi tradition and iron-manned all the higher belts in the room. It was an inspiring display of an impressive, and highly technical game. It was an honor to be part of it.
John Diggins started training with Matt back in 2003. Before training with Matt, John had spent several years training in both freestyle and Greco roman wrestling. He received his black belt from Matt Thornton at the 2012 Spring camp in Niagara Falls. Diggins also leads the BJJ competition team in Portland Oregon. He’s a seasoned coach and active competitor in local, national, and some worldwide tournaments.
Hi, I’m Priit Mihkelson from Estonia. I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under SBG President and founder Matt Thornton. I’ve been involved in martial arts for eighteen years, ten of them devoted to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Grappling and MMA. I’m the head coach of the largest Estonian Grappling and MMA school 3D Treening. My approach to training can best be described as ”Functionalistic Minimalism”. It’s based on fundamental postures and movements that every grappler and MMA fighter needs to know. Teaching is an art in itself and I think that I have a lot to contribute to this aspect of our sports.
Said Zeiai, is Matts 10th blackbelt. He has been training martial arts since 1999 and BJJ since 2003. He is the head coach of Stockholm BJJ Center in Sweden. Said is a firm believer in fundamental posture and pressure, which is also reflected in his style of coaching. He believes that the fundamentals of BJJ and the way they are thought within SBG are easily translated into all parts of life. Said competes regularly in national and international competitions and in his free time he does his residency in pediatric surgery.
Ray met Matt during a private weekend seminar in 2002. During that weekend Ray witnessed the most eye opening experience due to the level of skill everyone in the gym possessed and was able to deliver. In 2004 Ray was given his blue belt from Matt Thornton and began a training group that met two days for several hours at a time. In 2006 Ray opened a SBGi gym in Reno and received his purple belt from Matt Thornton in 2007. In 2011 Ray received his brown belt from Matt at a spring camp in Berkeley and endured an Ironman of over 40 people. Finally on October 18th, 2014 Ray received his black belt from Matt and partook in an epic ironman (70 + people) alongside two incredibly talented SBGi black belts Amanda Diggins, and Leah Taylor. Ray refers to his Jiu Jitsu game, which was developed by the training methods of SBGi, as SLOTTH Jits, Slow, Low, Offensive, Tight, Technical, and Heavy.
Amanda Loewen(Diggins) started training in 2009. She is an avid competitor as well as a full time coach at Straight Blast Gym’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Amanda quit her job and schooling to do Jiu Jitsu Full time. She took gold at the Vegas open in absolute in 2013 against the current (at the time) IBJJF world champion. She then went on to take 2nd at Worlds only a few months after being promoted. Amanda is a great coach and competitor with a bright future ahead of her.
Leah Taylor is one of the first two female black belts in Oregon. She began her training in 2009 at Straight Blast Gym of Montana with SBGi Travis Davison. She found the sport to be a great transition out of her gymnastics and traditional martial arts background. Leah has medaled three times at the Jiu jitsu world championships including gold as a blue belt in 2012. Outside of the gym she enjoys hiking, snowboarding, as well as teaching life sciences.
Other SBGi affiliated BJJ Black Belts
In closing this is what the SBGi BJJ Association is about, to quote
Matt: “Many people tend to evaluate themselves, to ‘measure’ themselves based on “association”. They place a heavy emphasis on ‘who’ they trained ‘under’, and as such they define themselves through association to others. What I try and steer people towards instead is to ONLY measure themselves based solely on performance.
Those two attitudes are very different. Attract very different personas, and create very different training environments.
Those that tend to define themselves through association, also tend to be more inclined to politics, gossip, certificates, and dead patterns. When asked a question related to performance they will also answer with comments such as, “well Sifu so-and-so does it this way”. There also tends to be a movement towards secret ‘moves’ and Martial Arts mythology with such people. As a whole I feel that defining yourself based on your association to another is destructive for a persons character. And I believe that unhealthy attitude can be felt, and identified quickly when one walks into Gyms that place a large emphasis on lineage, and dead patterns.
People that measure themselves solely through performance tend to steer clear of politics and gossip. They don’t care about those things. They are concerned with who can help them perform better, not who that can attach’ themselves to for purposes of ego. They would answer a technical question with a statement like, “I do it this way because when you go against an opponent I find that’s what works best, or that’s what all the athletes I know do because that’s what works under ‘pressure” As opposed to… “well Sifu-so-and-so teaches it this way.” They can answer based on direct first-hand experience on the mat. All in all it’s a very different thing. It attracts a different type of individual. And it creates a much healthier environment to train in.
Again, if you ever walk into an SBG Gym anywhere in the world, you will notice that. Everyone is nice, friendly, no ego, no politics, no weasels. That just happens naturally when you shift the paradigm from association to performance.
It’s a beautiful thing.
What we are doing with the Association is bringing this mentality to others who share our common goal. The association is not for people who want to ‘belong’ to it for purposes of ego, and self image. The Association is a tool that allows us to spread that message across the globe, along with others who share this concept of a healthy, sane way to train. Together we can grow and prosper”
Copyright © SBGi. All rights reserved.