Have you ever had a BJJ sensei inspire you so much that you wanted to change your life and dedicate it towards something positive? Eric was inspired to live a better life after a tragic event. Since then, he has dedicated his expertise in fitness to help other jiu jitsu practitioners. This is article is perfect if you are looking to improve your grappling and gain insight on BJJ from Eric Falstrault.
By the end of this martial arts story, you'll become inspired, learn something valuable for your training and have the option to dramatically improve your strength and conditioning capabilities even further.
Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @eric_bodhi_falstrault
Full Name: Eric Falstrault
Belt Colour: Blue
Professor: Glen MacKenzie Gracie Barra Montreal west.
How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?
Did traditional Jiujitsu a few years ago for 2 years and loved it. Been into Brazilian Jiujitsu for the last 3 years.
Where do you train out of?
Gracie Barra West island with Professor Glen Mackenzie. I also built a small Dojo in my semi-private gym in Montreal which I train with Andrew Prata a brown belt also from Gracie Barra West Island. I drill and roll with all my trainers in the afternoons and spare time.
Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
I like both, they complement each other well.
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
I help them get healthier and stronger, they help me become a better man and father.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
Just show up. Support the team even when injured. The brotherhood is incredible. It is also a big ego buster. Never expect to win them all and let the ego at the door. Roll and learn...
How often do you train?
I try to get in at least 4 training a week, and 2-3 strength and conditioning in there as well.
What made you want to start training?
I did all kinds of martial arts, but what I found in bjj is much more than just the thrill to fight. It's how to solve problems under pressure. I started training BJJ because I needed something else than strength and conditioning. All-day, every day I train people from all walks of life, from the elite athletes to kids, and then I have to train myself.
After more than 25 years in the business, I needed a challenge. I also needed to do something in my afternoons. So I hired a bjj coach (Andrew Prata) and got a few friends to come and join the tribe. It's been three years and growing strong.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
Absolutely. I want my black belt and when/if I retire from the strength and conditioning field, I'll be teaching bjj as my retirement plan.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
I love the chess game. Every problem has a solution and vice versa. When I roll, all I think about is this. No time for your mind to wander about other useless things. You are right there, at the moment, everything else is irrelevant.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
When I started, I was fed up of training with weights, since I am in a gym all day long. It gave me another purpose. I needed to get in better shape to avoid injuries and be stronger and faster, to lose fat and be in the best shape possible to perform at my best.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
It definitely keeps me sane. I went through a divorce and I know for a fact that it kept me on the right track.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
I think everything I did wrong, the mistakes, are the results of what I become today. I also think that those mistakes are part of the learning curve. You have to do them to understand and become better. I wouldn't change a thing.
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
Learn the basics first and just have fun.
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
Get that black belt.
What’s your favourite move?
Bow and arrow
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
Still in a gym, lifting weights, trying to find a purpose besides getting people in better shape.
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Both of my teachers have a way to help bring the best out of you. No bullshit approach always worked for me.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
To relax, not use strength so much. From a guy who trained most of his life, it's not something easy to do. Now that I can, I laugh at myself when I think about how I was when I started. Still a part of the learning curve and a mistake you need to do.
You'll roll with white belts and strong people, so you know how to counter it and the mistakes they will do since you were in that seat at the beginning.
If you could roll with any practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?
Tom Deblass, Marcello Garcia and George St-Pierre
If you had to describe Jiu-Jitsu to someone that's never heard of it before in under 5 words, what would those words be?
life-changing, ego balancing hobby
What has been the most memorable moment you've had on the mats so far?
Perfect roll. Everything was kinda slow motion. Happened a few times that everything was flowing,
effortless and like all the solutions where right in front of me and I had total control.
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
One of my close friends, my first jiujitsu sensei died of cancer, and since then, I swore that I would devote my life to helping people to the best of my abilities to make them healthier and stronger.
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
I can think of a few times, but going through a divorce and everything related to it (mostly my kids) was the hardest time. I literally kept me up and sane.
What got you interested in becoming a strength coach?
I've always been into training and martial arts. My parents bought my first set of weights when I was 12 years old and I never stopped lifting weights since. I started working in gyms and making programs for clients when I was 16.
For those that may not know, what exactly is a naturopath? And how can someone apply naturopathy to their lives?
Naturopathy is by definition a system of alternative medicine based on the theory that diseases can be successfully treated or prevented without the use of drugs, by techniques such as control of diet and exercise, which is what I do every day with tons of people. The body has a way to heal itself but you must give him the tools and nutrients in order to do so.
What inspired you to create "Roll Strong(er): Strength and conditioning for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu"?
First, for the love of the sport. I also see a lot of contradicting and misinformation on how to train for the sport. The blatant use of ergogenic aids (steroids) is very common. Even though I don't give a crap if someone wants to use it or not, people emulate what they think needs to be done and look up to some of the pros, which is a big problem since most never trained or can't do or shouldn't do the same as the pros.
There is a delicate balance between training for performance and training for injury prevention for jits, and this is what is missing in this sport. especially if you never trained with weights before. So I designed the book in a way that the beginner and the advanced athlete could benefit from it.
What are some simple exercises anyone can start doing today to improve their fitness for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
I think, for most, injury prevention is what people should focus on. Core, neck and shoulder strength is primordial in the beginning and knee strength stability is a must for longevity in jits.
The big lifts such as deadlifts, squats, pull-ups and presses are to be included in any strength program but make sure the lower back, knees and shoulders are healthy before starting to deadlift. The biggest problem I see is a strong discrepancy between the left and right leg so doing heavy squats or deadlifts could be an injury waiting to happen.
One of the first things we learn in martial arts and contact sports, in general, is that the head controls the rest of the body. Move the head and the body follows. So it goes without saying that a strong neck can save you from a few bad situations. After a few months of guillotine and choke drills, you’ll notice a few gains in the traps generally. The major pains in the neck (literally) are the mid-back (trapezius 2-3) and scalene muscles, which are often twisted and stretched to their limits while rolling and trying to resist those chokes. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game.
For neck training purposes, I would advise going with very light loads. These are very small muscles and are easily to strain.
My go-to exercise to train the neck extensors is the swiss ball neck support.
Level 1 (top right) is done upright while you are holding the ball with the back of your head against the wall. Use a 3-second isometric contraction (push your head in the ball at max 25% effort) for about 3 sets of 10 reps.
Level 10 is done by bridging with only your head and shoulders on the ball, as the starting position. The goal is to lift your shoulders off the ball while pushing your head into the ball for 3 sets of 5 repetitions of 5 seconds isometric contractions. For level 2 to 9, come for a consult with our team
You can also use a weight behind your head and do neck extension face down at the end of a bench (bottom right) Reps of 6-8 with a slow tempo.
What is contrast training and how does it improve strength for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Contrast training uses the post-tetanic potentiation (PTP). We will be forcing the muscles into becoming stronger for a few seconds by controlling the speed and choice of exercises we pair together.
See it like lifting a half-can of water when you think it's full. Improving functional strength is a must in combat sports. Speed and explosion while fighting a force equal or greater than ours is often the case so preparing for that with contrast training will give you the edge.
What are some effective ways a martial artist can improve their cardio/conditioning?
Besides rolling more with specific goals, you can do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but specific for the goals of the sport. Rounds are about 5 minutes average with a burst of short high-intensity fights with lower intensity scrambles.
What we like to do is some type of strongman style circuit with equipment like tire flips, sandbags, prowler/sleds push and pull, etc. 30 sec of work with a short rest of 10-20 seconds before moving on to the next station.
How can someone optimize their rest and recovery protocols?
Once you get home, eat little something like a post-workout shake and a few fruits. Carbs after training help to bring cortisol, the stress hormone and will help maximize recuperation.
To slow the mind and body down, you have set the mood first. Dim the lights, read a book, no technology. You will get into sleep mode much faster that way. You could use supplements. One of my favourites is Optisom from ATP labs. A special blend of herbs that supports restful sleep patterns.
One must learn when to calm down, to take it easy, rest and restore, take a break from practice and training. This is where the efficacy of the periodization principle lies. Our body (and obsessive propensities) does not always recognize the early symptoms of overtraining.
Don’t wait until you crash and burn, keep progressing by implementing this principle. This will prevent many overuse injuries and will add many more years to your practice.
Do you believe flexibility and mobility is important for combat sports? If so, what can someone do to improve these aspects of fitness?
I believe yoga is helpful to maintain flexibility. But like anything else, too much of a good thing can become a problem. If a muscle is tight, you must determine why it is so. This is why one of the reasons why strength training is useful.
The muscles, when used effectively, will learn to relax by themselves. If the tightness remains or worsens, I suggest you go consult a physio or some type of manual treatment therapist.
How can someone contact you and learn more from your expertise?
What would you like to say to everyone that has supported you on your journey?
I've learned something from each of my clients and athletes, so they have been an integral part of my learning process. I owe them my success and my constant motivation to learn and become better so I am forever grateful for them. I don't see myself stopping anytime soon.
When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?
I love the quote from Marcus Aurelius. ''What we do in life echoes in eternity''. As coaches, we have the opportunity to help a lot of people, which in turn, helps their surroundings. Do your best and they will do theirs.
I always want to be a positive presence in everyone's life. If I can help people become better, body mind and soul, I have achieved my purpose here on earth.
If you enjoyed this article, I highly suggest you check out this strength & conditioning coach's functional training for injury prevention & recovery for more effective BJJ exercises. Looking for more helpful and inspiring stories like this one? You might also like to see how the jiu jitsu community was supportive of this BJJ woman as she battled cancer. Make sure to pick up a copy of Eric's book Roll Strong(er): Strength and conditioning for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for more helpful BJJ content.