A Very Hard to Submit interview, Sean Roberts



We at VHTS had the great opportunity to have our blog editor (who lives in Guatemala) train with the great Sean Roberts. Sean was in Guatemala for a couple of weeks, sightseeing, eating the local cuisine but mainly training and having load of fun. We had the chance to get a one on one classes, sparring practices and of course an interview. We talked about a lot of things from Ralph Gracie to comp, training and his new team CHECKMAT. 


Hey Sean, thank you for taking the time. How is it that you got into Jiu-jitsu, what’s your origin story?

I did karate when I was young, like a lot of kids in America that do martial arts. When I was around 10 maybe I got tired of it. So then I did basketball for a long time, about 6 years and when I got into high school, I was pretty good at basketball so I made the all-star team. But when I went to high school as a freshman well you know I got cut from the freshmen team first round. I later found out it was because there’s a lot of politics in that, parents that pay to get their kid in the team and stuff like that.

After a year I didn’t do anything and then I decided to get back to karate, I remember I liked it but my dad didn't want me to go back. So I remember my dad showing me Royce Gracie in UFC 1 just crushing people but he said he didn't want to show me that when I was younger because when I was younger I was really hyper so he didn't want me choking out people on the playground, but now was the time so he showed me and then I started following the gracies and did their techniques online and then I just got tired of doing it online so I signed up at this place with Ralph Gracie and ever since I've been team Ralph Gracie and I even teach there, there's only been one change since I began because now I fight for Checkmat but I teach at Ralph Gracie.


And do you still see instructional videos?

I used to use them a lot from white to purple belt. But now it's really hard to find new stuff. Although I still do look for good bjj videos.


So now you teach at Ralph Gracie but fight for Checkmat, how's that?

My family we own a school in chino hills California so I teach there part time and the rest of the time I train there. 


Why is it that you went away from Ralph? (training wise).

So I used to live in San Francisco and I went up there to train instead of going to college. Then I got my blackbelt and I came down and had to teach at my school and lost my northern California team. Ralph is really good in northern California, if there's a tournament in northern California Ralph's team is going to win, they’re really tough guys and there’s also a lot of them too. So when I moved back down I had only two blackbelts to train with and I had to find someone else so I could have better training. I'm not gonna give up my dreams for just the team, I don’t believe in loyalty to that extreme where you have to give up all your goals to stay with the team.


In regards to Ralph Gracie, he's known to be very intense. Could you elaborate on that?

He's really intense and up there, especially when we train he goes really hard. He's nice and really intense, regarding the stories some of them are true you know (laughs). But If i had to pick someone besides my family members to be there at a certain time or else I'd die, it would be Ralph, like: "Ralph if you're not here at 3'o'clock I'll die" it would be him. Because I trust him that much. 


Is Ralph really specific when you guys train, like he wants you to do things exactly like he wants it or is he more lenient or permissive?

He’s open minded, he really helps you out with your mental game. You're a reflection of you instructor so he's intense and known to be really stubborn but that's good for jiu jitsu, being stubborn and never giving up. So I'm a reflection of him in a way, although I'm not super intense. 


What upcoming competitions do you have right now, which you're training for?

I try to take them as they come, because right now I'm not eligible to do the world championships because I don't compete a lot. I might be doing Metamoris again, or a new series that is still secret. I can't give you guys the scoop.


What is your training schedule and what do you do when you're training for a competition.

I train twice a day every day when it comes close to competition and that's it basically I just train a lot. I do drill, but I don't just do the same thing over and over again.  I don't necessarily drill the techniques I do specific movements over and over and over, it's not like I have a new technique or something special that I just drill drill drill. I kick up the training sometimes and still do twice a day everyday but HARD training.  Not longer rounds but just more intense rounds. 


A lot of people, myself included, don’t compete that often. So normally the pressure of competing and nervousness make you feel really unprepared. What advice would you give someone starting out in jiu jitsu and someone who goes to their first comp?

When I was a white belt and I competed I felt like tournaments are almost a month worth of training so you can really find the holes in your game. And if you lose, a loss is a lot more dramatic than losing in the gym so you definitely learn from that because the dramatic experience helps you learn a lot faster. So doing comps is a must if you want to get better.  But to get over the nervousness, I mean I still get nervous every time. It's not like you get used to it but you learn how to handle it and manage it better, I’m still you know, get nervous my knees shake I have to get into the combat mindset and stuff

Can you spot the VHTS ninja?

Can you spot the VHTS ninja?


In terms of nutrition, either for comps or for daily training, what’s your diet like?

I'm not super healthy, although one thing is that I don't drink a lot of alcohol or any at all. Maybe for a special occasion and only if I don't have a comp. I do definitely eat healthier when it comes closer to competition day. But when I don't have anything coming up I'll eat what I want, if I want Taco Bell I'll eat Taco Bell, if I want a grilled chicken I’ll have a grilled chicken. 


Do you use any supplements (protein, creatine)?

I have used before, but it's really expensive.  I never really got into that whole hardcore supplement taking. I see people come in with preworkout and postworkout and there’s this and that and this, and I'm just like "do you really need that?”  I mean every advantage you can get helps but taking all that to me feels very excessive.


What about supplement training? Marcelo Garcia is an advocate for not doing crosstrainig, weight lifting, running or anything else and only does jiu jitsu for jiu jitsu. This mindset works for some people but what is your take on that?

I can't really talk about strength and conditioning because I've never really done it anyway, so it's not like I've experienced both worlds. Like I do know the difference but I've never been into that, I do believe that a stronger athlete is a better athlete and it's really hard to argue with that because a stronger athlete is a better athlete. I do believe that doing strength and condition is good but I just don't do it, but at the same time I feel like if I train too hard I get burned out in jiu jitsu so I like to keep things not so intense so I don't burn out before a tournament.


People you look up to in the jiu jitsu community.

Technique wise I really like Leandro Lo, I like his style. Marcelo Garcia. A lot of good people. Those two guys pretty much, as well as my teammates and Ralph Gracie. 


Which BJJ guys that you haven't trained with would you like to meet and train with?

I've trained with a lot of people but definitely I'd love to train with Cobrinha and Marcelo Garcia.


Regarding up and coming jiu jitsu guys, specially blue belts and white belts that really want to dedicate themselves to jiu jitsu for a long long time, what advice do you have?

You have to want to become the best, so just keep training. I was a white belt at some point as well. I wanted to be the best so I kept on training there's really no shortcuts. The most important thing is to have a great instructor who can help you and just keep doing the hard work, that's basically it.


Which was the hardest belt transition for you?

Blue to purple is normally the hardest, I want to say for me what specific belt would be the hardest but more than a belt it’s a specific time in your career. For example I don't have a big ego and once you're comfortable with being tapped and you realize that the gym is where you learn and it doesn’t matter who taps you, that's when you'll get better.  So it's more a specific moment in my career, and once I got over that, that's when I started to excel in jiu jitsu. It's sometimes demoralizing when a lower belt taps you but it just gets easier and easier as you go through the ranks. There will always be lower belt who catches up to you every time. I've had it and I know other people who’ve had it but that's something that really tests your jiu jitsu mentality, it's hard and frustrating because you think "I used to tap this guy all the time, and now he's passing my guard and getting better positions" so it’s hard.


What is your schedule or plans regarding training outside the US?

Being here in Guatemala is one of the few times I've been outside the country for training, I was once in Costa Rica but I don't count that because I only trained a small group of guys.

Photo by Andy Ramirez

Photo by Andy Ramirez

Regarding your training here in Guatemala, we're kinda new to BJJ and have been into it for less than 10 years. What has your training been like?

I like it, all the guys are really dedicated and I feel like it's only a matter of time before you guys catch up. It's hard for you guys here because you don't have many blackbelts. As a student it's not just your instructor's job to get you better, it's also your job to get yourself better. It's your job to learn new techniques and watch the videos, you have YouTube you know? Without YouTube and internet Guatemala wouldn’t have had jiu jitsu and now all the information is online so you can train really hard.

We thank Sean Roberts for taking the time to train with us and to speak to us so we can do the interview. We wish him the best in his future comps and in his growing career.


very hard to submit

Posted on August 6, 2015 .