History of the SBGi
SBGi BJJ Association was created in 2001 by SBGi President Matt
Thornton, and Machado BJJ black belt Chris Haueter. It was formed
due to the fact that the Art of BJJ had become a major focus of
the SBG Gyms worldwide. SBG athletes all over the world were competing
in no-gi, gi/bjj, vale-tudo, and various MMA events, with great
success. As the Gym grew, and more and more people began receiving
there training through the SBG, it became obvious that an Association
was needed in order to organize the training, teaching, and awarding
of belt rank within the Art of BJJ.
The SBG has a unique take on BJJ. Each BJJ class taught at an
SBGi Gym is 100% Alive. That means the Coaches use the "I"
method of teaching, and allow each individual athlete the freedom
needed to develop his, or her own game to it's highest levels
Classes are taught with the gi, no-gi, and also
in the vale tudo format (with strikes added). In addition all
the SBG/JKD classes included large amounts of BJJ training for
the groundfighting portion of the curriculum. When combined with
the other aspects of stand up striking, clinch fighting, weapons,
and self defense training, it composes the totality of the SBGi
curriculum. The emphasis is always placed completely on Alive
training, and the performance of the individual athlete. All taught,
and learned within a safe, friendly, and fun environment.
About Matt Thornton:
began his Martial Arts career with boxing. After serving in the
US Army Matt returned to the USA and began training in JKD in
1988. In 1990 Matt moved to Portland where he managed, and taught
at a Gym for a little over a Year where the focus was JKDC, alongside
one of Mr. Inosanto's Instructors. During that time Matt was exposed
to a multitude of JKD Instructors including Burton Richardson,
who would go on to become a close friend, Dan Inosanto, and many
In 1991 he had the privilege of meeting and training
with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie. It was the meeting,
where Matt reports "I watched Rickson wrestle a room of Judo
black belts. He taped them all out within seconds, without using
his hands, and I knew this is for me!" It was from that meeting
that Matt discovered the need to place the emphasis on self-discovery
through Aliveness. It was more from his boxing and initial introduction
to BJJ (Rickson) which physically challenged all the mental constructs
and concepts that were being shown to him as physical possibilities
for fighting, then his involvement with JKD that shaped the ideology
of Aliveness. From there it just continued to flourish through
personal experiences field testing everything others had taken
for granted would work.
training methods, focus, and philosophy were headed in a completely
different direction from where that school was, so he eventually
opened the first Gym in which he had complete control in Salem
Oregon around 1993. At that time he was a blue belt with Rickson,
and focused a lot on his ground game for the next several Years.
He kept the politics and nonsense out of the Gym, and just trained
hard, and as the Months went by the place began to fill up. It
was at this time that SBG Coaches Tom Oberhue, Dan Robinson, and
Steve Boyd began training with the SBG.
Matt met up again with Burton shortly after that,
and his focus in Kali was really shifting thanks to the Dog Brothers.
Thanks to Burt, and the DB influence, Matt completely changed
the weapons curriculum at that time.
Matt had this to say about this time period: "In
the past I had been told over and over again by all the Instructors
I had known that you could not run a Gym the
way I was running it. . .with no titles, no ritual, and lots of
Alive drilling and sparring. . . 'people won't stay, they want
the b*llsh*t drills, so teach them to keep them in the door, or
you wont make
any money!'. Long story short, they where ALL wrong. So many people
where making the 40 minute commute from Portland to work out in
the tiny Salem Gym that I needed to open a Portland location to
respond to the market. Within 12 Months we had moved to a large
Salem location, a fair sized warehouse, which was the first Portland
Gym, and was able to quit my job. I had assumed that those that
had spoken about the need for those drills to me in the past,
knew what they where talking about when it came to running schools.
But I could not bring myself to teach people what I knew was nonsense,
just to make money. So I figured I would also always have to work
a 40 hour a week job. The thing that I am happiest about is that
all those people where completely wrong, and it turned out to
be just the opposite. People loved the way we trained, and I have
been able to make a living without ever teaching anything I found
questionable, or 'watered down'."
A few Years later Matt met Randy Couture, and that
completely changed the way the SBG trained "trapping",
or more aptly put clinch range. The SBG had always taught a strong
boxing base at their facilities, and in addition BJJ had become
a huge part of the curriculum from the start,
now they had the full package.
Gracie awarded Matt his blue belt in 1993. As a blue belt Matt
competed in Rickson's first tournament, where he swept his division,
making it to the finals by winning all his matches via submission.
His only loss occurred against the former UFC Champion Rico Rodriguez,
in a tough match that saw Rico narrowly escape a triangle by Matt
and take cross sides. In 1995 Matt was awarded a purple belt through
the Machado brothers, and Chris Haueter. As a purple belt he competed
in JJ Machado tournament in Vegas, winning heavyweight gi purple
belt by submission, and winning a no-gi match versus the agile
fighter 'Amed', who had just come off a victory by submission
(heel hook) versus Rico Rodriquez in the tournament before. "Matt
won the match by escaping a heel hook attempt, and applying a
triangle submission. In 1999 he was awarded his brown belt through
the Machados, and in 2001 was awarded his Black Belt. Matt continues
his BJJ training through his current BJJ Coaches Rigan Machado,
and Chris Haueter.
Matt began doing seminars in 1995 at the request
of the USA's first Savate Instructor, Daniel Duby, who asked if
he would fly to his Island of Reunion to teach a series of seminars.
Daniel provided the Savate influence they have at the Gym, and
also became a great friend of the SBG. Since that time Matt has
given over one hundred seminars and traveled all over the world
to spread the message of Aliveness, the curriculum of the SBG,
and the beauty and Art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Matt has taught
in Africa, France, the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Reunion Island, the
Seychelles, and all across the USA.
It has been this travel, teaching, training, and
process of self-discovery that has shaped Matt's philosophy on
what training 'healthy' in the Martial Arts is all about.
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.
Other SBGi affiliated BJJ Black Belts
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
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
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