Go Compete at All Star #2 in Santa Cruz and Meet Nathan Mendelsohn

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Nathan Mendelsohn

Nathan Mendelsohn

There is still a chance for you to register for the All Star #2 Tournament! Regular Registration for the All Star #2 Tournament will end on Friday, Feb. 8 at 11:59 p.m. PT. The price for Kids is $75 and the price for Juveniles, Adults, Masters and Seniors is $90.

There are new divisions this year at the All Star #2 Tournament! A kids division is included for all ages and belts, and also a new Women’s Master division! Check out the website for more information!

Also, the official hotel for the All Star #2 is the Continental Inn in Santa Cruz, Calif. There are special rates during the dates of the tournament, as well as a day before and after.

Information for the hotel is as follows:

Continental Inn

414 Ocean Street

Santa Cruz, California 95060

Hotel: 831-429-1221

Reservations: 800-343-6941

Call the Continental Inn and mention the All Star Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament to receive the discount:

$58 One Bed Per Night

$78 Two Beds Per Night

One of the big stars of the All Star #2 Tournament will be recent black belt Nathan Mendelsohn. Here is an exclusive interview with him where he talks about his career, diet, a trip to Brazil, Jiu-Jitsu in Northern California and much more.

GRACIEMAG: How’s Jiu-Jitsu  in North California?

Nathan Mendelsohn: Jiu-JItsu in Northern California is really strong. Our sport has been growing here for a long time and the teams from this area are producing lots of high caliber competitors. I’ve watched as the level at our academy (Claudio França BJJ) specifically has risen immensely since I started training in 2000 and how the number of students with high belts is much larger than back then. When I started going to Brazil in 2007 I was amazed at how many black belts were on the mat at once. Now I’m starting to see a lot darker colors on the mats across Northern California as well. Our academy just promoted nine new black belts at our annual belt promotion in December and the other academies in the area are constantly growing as well.

What were your best results in BJJ competitions?

Well as a brown belt I was champion of weight and absolute at the 2011 CBJJO Mundial in Brazil and the All Star BJJ #1, was Absolute Champion at the 2011 American Cup and 2010 IBJJF Honolulu Open, got gold in my weight division at the 2010 American Cup and IBJJF Las Vegas Open, silver weight and absolute at the 2012 IBJJF S.F. Open, and silver in my weight and bronze in the open at the 2012 IBJJF U.S. Nationals. I was five-time U.S. Open Champion, three times at blue and twice at purple, and at purple belt I also won the 2009 IBJJF U.S. Nationals, American Cup, CBJJO World Cup, and the FJJD Rio Circuito Mineirnho 3 Etapa Ranking, and also took silver at the 2008 Rio Open and bronze at the 2009 IBJJF Pan, among many others.

You are American and you started practicing BJJ when you were ten years old . Not too long ago, you got your black belt under Claudio Franca. What’s the impact that BJJ have been causing in your life? What’s the importance of BJJ in your life, in and outside of the mats?

BJJ has definitely been the most positive influence in my life except for maybe my parents who have always been incredibly supportive. Jiu-Jitsu really is a lifestyle for me, and it helped me to find my identity when I was younger and still figuring out who I was. I started in martial arts when I was four, with Karate and then Ho Kuk Mu Sul, and I used to play water polo and play in the band and do a lot of other things as well, but once I started Jiu-Jitsu it was only a matter of time before it became clear what my path through life would be. In Santa Cruz a lot of people identify with the surf and skateboard culture, and while I liked doing both those things I never felt exactly like a “surfer” or a “skater.” Once I found Jiu-jitsu, I really identified with the culture and it became a source of self-esteem for me and gave me something that I feel like I belong to more than anything else. It has given me something constant in my life that I can always count on to keep me happy and on track. A lot of young people don’t have something like that in their lives and it’s very easy to lose your way. In Jiu-jitsu you have to be honest with yourself because your lies don’t help you on the mat, and if you’ve been falling off track your training partners will always let you know it when you get back on the mat. A Jiu-Jitsu team really is like a second family and my instructor, Claudio Franca, is like a second father to me. I thank Jiu-jitsu and my team for making me the person I am today.

Did you ever get bullied at school or experienced any situation that you had to use BJJ to defend yourself?

I never got bullied too much, partly because a lot of people at my school had heard that I was a Jiu-Jitsu competitor. My cousin and I, who also trained Jiu-Jitsu with at the time, would invite our friends over for MMA sparring sessions in the garage sometimes, too. I never had a tough guy attitude, though; I’m really the opposite of that. I think the confidence that you gain from Jiu-jitsu takes away some of that need to prove yourself that young men feel, so I’ve always been pretty good at letting things slide to a certain extent. There were definitely some older kids who were disrespectful to me at times, but the fact that I really take the philosophy seriously — that Jiu-jitsu should only be used physically off the mats if it’s completely unavoidable  — has kept me out of trouble for the most part.

All Star 2 will be the first time that you’ll be competing as a black belt . What are your expectations?

I’m expecting it to be really exciting! I love competing so any chance to get on the mats and do what I enjoy most is a real blessing. So far its just me and Tanner Rice, last year’s brown belt lightweight world champion, in the bracket. I beat Tanner here in Santa Cruz at last year’s All Star and then he went on to beat me at the Pan so I’m looking forward to the rematch. Should have a lot of great support from my friends and family at the event so I’m stoked to have the chance to compete in front of them in my hometown!

Please talk a little bit about your diet.   

My diet in competition season is really strict because I typically have to lose a lot of weight to be in my weight class. Really, I bounce between two weight classes depending on the tournament because making the lower of the two is really difficult, so I save that for the most important competitions. When I’m going for the lower weight class I have to eat really lean and cut out all non-essentials, eating a lot of salad with no dressing, grilled, unseasoned chicken and fruit. When I’m going for the higher weight class I can be a little more relaxed but I still only eat things that are going to be good fuel for my body. This is hard for me, though, because, truthfully, I love junk food and on the way back from fighting a tournament in L.A. I always make sure to make one or more stops at In-N-Out Burger.

Because of the fact that there are a lot of kids practicing BJJ, do you think that there’s a strong new generation of American black belts rising?

Most definitely! At our team we really focus on the kids’ program because the kids are our future and we have quite a few talented young ones that are sure to be top black belts one day as long as they stick with it. When I go to the kids’ tournaments like the American Cup or the Pan Kids or now the All Star, I’m always amazed at the level of BJJ the kids display and how many of them there are. Some of those kids look like little mini purple belts! When I was a kid there weren’t a whole lot of big tournaments for kids. The Copa Pacifica used to be one that had kids that I would get excited to travel to L.A. to compete in, but it wasn’t on the scale of the ones we have today. It’s going to be really fun watching the new generation of munchkins grow up to kick all our butts in the future!

Please talk a little bit about your trip to compete in Brazil …

I love Brazil. I’ve been five times, last year was the first year that I didn’t go since I first went in 2007 when I was seventeen. It’s a paradise. It’s got great food, amazing beaches and it’s the mecca of Jiu-Jitsu. There’s no place I would rather go so that’s why I keep going back! I’ve been lucky that my parents have been willing to open our home to many Brazilian competitors over the years who have come to Santa Cruz to teach and/or compete, and they are always happy to put me up when I go to Brazil so I always have a place to stay and train. Over the years I’ve spent time at the homes of competitors Theodoro Canal, Rodolfo Vieira, Marcus Antelante and Joao Gabriel among others. My Brazilian friends and their families have always been extremely welcoming and have taken care of me really well every time I’ve gone to visit them. Most of them live in Rio de Janeiro so that’s where I’ve always gone, all five times. While I’m there I train with GFTeam and Soulfighters, compete as much as possible and always make huge improvements to my Jiu-Jitsu.

Are you going to participate at the IBJJF rules seminar with Alvaro Mansor? What’s the importance of this seminar in your opinion?

I probably will attend the rules seminar with Alvaro, though I’m not 100 percent sure. I’ve done it before and its extremely helpful. The rules in our sport are full of intricacies and nuances, and it really helps for a competitor to understand them. I try to run away from reffing as much as possible because it’s really difficult and a lot of pressure — a different kind of pressure than it is to be one of the combatants — but I think it’s just as important for competitors to know the rules as it is for the refs.

What can you say to the folks that will compete at the All Star competition in Northern California?

You’re in for a treat! If you’ve never been to Santa Cruz before then you’re going to love it, and if you have then welcome back! The tournament is sure to be well run and fair and a good experience for everyone. Good luck, fight hard and see you on the 16th and 17th!

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