The newest edition the Shanghai BJJ team, Ethan Day shares a bit his background and how he come to China. A BJJ brown-belt, he will be instructing both the BJJ and MMA progam in Shanghai. Thanks to Ryan for putting this one together for us. -Luke Can you tell us something about your background and how you got started in BJJ?
My dad was a cop when I was younger and he used to box and do karate so I grew up around martial arts and was always really interested in training. I trained in other martial arts when I was younger but didn't start bjj until I was 19. I was severely hurt playing American Football one year before I started doing bjj so my first four years of training were very difficult because I had pins and a rod in my left leg and underwent multiple surgeries keeping me off the mat for several months at a time. I stuck with it though and BJJ was a big part of my full recovery and has been in my life ever sense the first day I stepped foot on the mat.
How long have you been training for?
I have been training for a little over 8 and 1/2 years and currently am a brown belt under Renato Tavares from American Top Team
Tell us about your competition history.
I have competed about 25 times and medaled around 20 times. Most of the tournaments I’ve competed in were regional events gi, no gi, and in judo. Some of the bigger tournaments that I have participated in include NAGA and the Arnold Classic in the U.S and the America Golden Cup, the Mundials, and the World Cup in Brazil. I also won my MMA debut by submission.
You have trained with many notable instructors and fighters over the years; can you share some of your training highlights with the readers?
I trained for 3 years under Gracie Barra black belt Daniel Montanha when he lived in my city. Montanha moved away from my city to open GB Miami and Suyan Quieroz, a black belt from BTT opened a school and eventually I started training with him. Suyan was going home to Brazil for a visit and around the same time I moved to Brazil to train at BTT. This was in 2005 during the heated rivalry with Chute Boxe and the training was very intense. I got the opportunity to train with all of the famous fighters and great teachers at BTT. Suyan moved to the Asia (UAE) to teach jiu jitsu for five years with Carlos Santos so when I returned to the states I was promoted to brown belt by his friend Professor Renato Tavares, who is an excellent teacher. Since I was promoted to brown belt, I've trained extensively under Dustin "Clean" Denes who is a world-class instructor and Leonardo Pecanha who's a former bjj world champion and very good friend of mine. Dustin moved into my area for a year to teach and Leo comes to stay with me when he has fights in the U.S. In 2006, I spent a year training active duty Army soldiers in Combatives at Fort Riley, Kansas. I am a level III certified U.S. Army Combatives instructor and still do Combatives training from time to time. While I was at Ft. Riley I received very good training at Combative Sports Center which is a top regional MMA/BJJ school founded by the Ft. Riley Combatives coaches. Also, I wouldn't be anywhere without all the great training I've gotten over the years from everyone at Kansas City BJJ which is my home town academy.
Why did you decide to come to Shanghai, China?
I was working for Title Boxing back in the states and between projects at work and traveling to boxing related events, I wasn't spending as much time on the mats as I would have liked. When the opportunity to teach and train full time came up I jumped on it. I also just received my Master’s degree in International Business back in the U.S. and I want to look into business opportunities here in China.
What do you think of Shanghai so far?
Shanghai is by far the biggest city I have ever lived in. Originally, I'm from a small city in Tennessee (USA) of about 10,000 people but have lived in bigger cities since then. I'm still adjusting to the pace of life but I like the lifestyle that I have here and the opportunities that Shanghai provides. Shanghai is a very big city with a lot of things to do at any time of the day
While in the US, you had a full time job but still managed to teach, train and compete regularly. Most people who train in BJJ also have family, work and other commitments, do you have any advice on how these people can keep up with the rigorous demands of training?
It's really difficult to find time to train when you are working long days and have a family at home. I think BJJ is a great balance to a hectic schedule because besides being an excellent hobby for self defense it is also one of the best activities you can involve yourself in for fitness, stress relief, and comrodary. When you’re on the mat all of the problems from the day disappear. When your done training your tired and feel like you've accomplished something for yourself. It's a great way to wrap things up and get a fresh slate for tomorrow.
BJJ is obviously a very young sport/art in China, how do you see BJJ progressing and do you think it will become as popular as it has become in the US?
The U.S. has a very sports oriented culture as does Europe, Australia, Brazil, and Japan. In order for BJJ to see the same popularity in China as it has in other countries I think China must keep the Olympic fever for sports and I think this is happening. Right now is the perfect time for BJJ to get the exposure it needs to attract Chinese people to the sport. Once people in China try BJJ they will be hooked just like people in the U.S
What is your advice for wanting to excel in BJJ?
Find a qualified credible instructor that can trace their roots back to the Gracie family and start training in the gi. Technique is everything so pay attention to the details. Also, don't skip on rolling. Rolling is very important. The best cardio for bjj is training BJJ. Competing can help you excel as well.
Do you think it is necessary for students to compete in order to be competent at BJJ?
It is not necessary to compete in tournaments. Many people train bjj for fun, comrodary, fitness, self-defense, and never plan on competing. The head instructor at Renzo Gracie's in NYC is one of the best BJJ teachers in the World and he doesn't compete. His name is John Danaher and he is a black belt.
Any closing remarks?
I'm just thankful for the opportunity to be in China doing what I love to do everyday. I hope to meet a lot of new friends while I'm here and anyone that wants to train while in shanghai feel free to stop by Shanghai BJJ. Thanks.