Chris' BJJ Journey So Far...
My Jiu-Jitsu journey began in 2014 with an Xtreme Couture MMA affiliate within a gym in Whitestone NY. I trained under Howard Niego (Renzo Gracie brown belt) for about a year until submission grappling was removed from the schedule by management. Within that year I competed and placed at Grapplers Quest, ADCC, Amateur Grappling League, and NAGA.
I then moved to Serra’s of Bayside with Howard and began training/teaching children’s classes under Persian Nick Safar (Matt Serra blackbelt). Within 3 months Professor Nick promoted me to a blue belt. Nick sold the gym to a Muay Thai promoter and the BJJ program/Serra affiliation diminished. I still always make sure to catch up with Master Howard as he was my first instructor in Jiu-Jitsu.
Without a gym, I took about 7 months off from training. I returned to an American Top Team affiliate in Whitestone NY under Professor Chris Manuel who is directly under Master Ricardo Liborio. Here I found an amazing team and competed for 1-2 per month, it was an amazing atmosphere for training. Unfortunately, the affiliation was lost and the gym closed.
I did not miss a day of training and went 3 blocks north to Ultimate MMA Academy under Professor Luiz Gustavo Costa ( Renzo Gracie black belt). I trained at Ultimate for 6 months before moving to Selden.
In Selden, I joined the Red Dragon Jiu-Jitsu / Tech Cell BJJ Team where I currently train under professor Krishna Miraj Cold (Matt Serra black belt and strategist for Eddie Cummings, founder of Tech Cell BJJ) and Sensei Nick Riopi (Lifelong JKD practitioner and a highly skilled brown belt in BJJ). I received my purple belt from Krishna and Nick in under a year and have also received one stripe. Under their tutelage I have won:
2018 Long Island NAGA Expert Champion
2017 Good Fight NY Summer Open Silver Gi/NoGi
2017 Good Fight NY Winter Open Gold NoGi
2 Men of War super fights
I’m sponsored by The Rabbit Hole Project and I also coordinate, match make and run The Submission Mission, a Sub only tournament with cash prizes.
Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @chris_submissionmission
"The best fighter is never angry." Lao Tzu
Full Name: Chris Shahgholi
Belt Colour: Purple
Professor: Krishna Cold Miraj / Nick Riopi
Short Term Goals: Improving my standup/takedown game and integrating it with my strengths on the ground
How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?
Where do you train out of?
Do you prefer BJJ in the gi or no-gi?
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
Absolutely I consider my instructors/training partners mentors and family. For the most part, my jiu-jitsu family knows about my life struggles as well as successes.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
Sometimes in life, you won't always be on top, but as long as you're not giving up you're doing good. Surviving is progress, just keep inching forward.
How often do you train?
3 weekdays minimum at the academy. Then I add in open rounds at home where I have mats. Also if time allows I try and make a weekend class at least once a month.
What made you want to start training?
I was limiting weights at a regular gym and some MMA guy wanted me to sign up for the program, and it was only $20 a more a month for unlimited classes. I tried all the classes but fell in love with grappling. That plus the great results in my health made me addicted.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
100%, I will always train, drill, or at least flow. Both my kid's train and I am on the cusp of getting my girlfriend on the mats so this is a lifetime commitment.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
The absence of uncertainty. Every time I train or compete I know exactly where I stand. There is no wondering or contemplating, that always leaves feedback as to what to work on the next day and the next day etc etc.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
Jiu-jitsu brought me from 260 lbs at one point to as low as 179 lbs. Although training makes my body sore sometimes, training has removed nagging aches and pains from my body that were present for years before I started training.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
I would say the mental health benefits of Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most beneficial aspects of my case. I have a rough commute, stressful position at work, and I'm a parent of 2. When I get on the mats and clear my mind it's so refreshing. I consider it a form of therapy. Post-training my mind is so clear and my thought processes work more efficiently.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
Yes, I would start in the Gi and spend the first year focusing on fundamentals.
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
Eddie Bravo said something interesting about this. He said something to the effect of "Imagine you could control and be able to choke out everyone in the room? And all you have to do is show up and train and you can do it too."
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
Compete in another country. Also one day I'd like to open a school. Not the general academy style, but more of a club that's integrated into the community.
What’s your favourite BJJ move?
Straight ankle lock.
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
Without a doubt extremely overweight. Also more heavily into alcohol. I drastically reduced my alcohol intake because of the negative effects it had on my training.
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
I would love to see Jiu-Jitsu as a sport in Middle/High School. And I think everyone would love to see BJJ in the Olympics.
Has any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Yes! My training partners are the ones there to push me to my max during training so that when I get to a competition it is similar/easier than training.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
Weight distribution and off-balancing.
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
Inspiring and motivating other people is not only the right energy to put out into the universe but eventually, it benefits you. When you motivate someone and they accomplish a goal you feel the accomplishment too.
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
Yes, there was a time during my training that I was peaking with a great time while simultaneously going through a separation with my ex-wife. It was an interesting dynamic going through such a rough patch in my personal life while succeeding so much on the mat.
What would you tell someone that’s going through a break up/separation right now?
It is going to suck, BUT, keep moving in the right direction. Keep moving. Don't sit around harping on it, keep your mind off it. Eventually, you heal with time, that's not a cliche. I trained 3-5 hours a day during my separation to keep my mind off it. Next thing I know it was a year later and I was dating an amazing woman. Time heals all.
Submission Shark BJJ Interviewer:
Thanks for sharing Chris! Excellent read, it was great to get to know you better. Your advice is great for those going through a breakup. Time will heal and choosing positive activities like martial arts does make you feel better. Personally, it has helped me get over my last break up as well.
Jiu-Jitsu requires a lot of focus which tends to distract you from problems you can't control. I love how you are teaching your kids at such an early age. The amount of character building is going to be great for them and the self-defence aspect as well. Keep doing what you are doing and welcome to the Submission Shark Community!
Has BJJ or any styles of martial arts helped you through a breakup? Let me know if you've had similar experiences in the comments. If you enjoyed reading this article, check out how Mikey Hothi, a BJJ brown belt at Nick Diaz Academy managed to find himself through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after being bullied. Just starting BJJ? visit the BJJ for beginners section for some helpful tips or browse through the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle hacks for more advanced methods.