28 Nov 2013
BJJ fans will more than likely have come across a great regular podcast called Open Mat Radio. The show is broadcast weekly and has featured a number of high profile guests including Mauricio Gomes, Kurt Osiander, Henry Akins and many many others. It's a great way to become immersed in the words and thoughts of so many of the people notable in our sport. I chatted to Open Mat Radio's founder Paul Moran: -
Hi Paul, let's start off with a little about your personal BJJ background?
I started jiu jitsu in Buffalo, New York with Matt Godden and Mat "Rosco" Rosborough under Chuck Anzalaone. Chuck was a purple belt under GM Carlson Sr at the time. It was amazing to get some great training with Carlson Sr and Junior as well as Prof. De la Riva. When I moved to Las Vegas I stayed with Carlson Gracie Team under Riccardo Cavalcanti. While I thank Riccardo for our time together we both agreed my training would be best with another coach. For the past few years I have had the honor and privilege to train under Sergio Penha. Sergio has been an amazing teacher, mentor and friend. I also credit Andreh Anderson as a huge support for me along this jiu jitsu path.
Why did you start a podcast?
Without the support of major networks like ESPN jiu jitsu players have always turned to the internet for coverage of our sport and culture. The Fightworks Podcast was, and always will be, the gold standard of jiu jitsu media. When Caleb started to increase the time between episodes I felt the need to fill that gap. Myself, Rafael Penha and Richard Heinrich put together OpenMatRadio after working together on the World Pro Trials in Vegas and San Diego. It was awesome for us to get Caleb's "blessing" on our show. Richard has recently departed from the show to focus on his game, planning his wedding and more. Raf is currently in Brasil working in the Supreme Court. The show goes on!
What are the benefits that you think a podcast can bring over other forms of media?
Podcasts allow for long format interviews not usually available in other forms of media. We keep the shows free and always available in our archive. So folks can listen on their terms. I would love to get into more documentary style videos. Hwyel Teague, Scotty Nelson, Gumby and the fine folks at Jits Mag are very inspiring in that regard! I should also add that our website has nutrition articles, youtube interviews, a style guide and more. But the main focus is our podcast.
Who's been your favourite guest and why?
I get this question a lot and I really don't have an answer. I would say our show breaks down into three types of content; current/up-and-coming stars, historical figures and guests that are using jiu jitsu to make the world a better place.
We've been lucky to cover all three areas with amazing guests. I've had the privileged to interview many of my friends and start friendships with many guests. I've even built new ventures with guests (Nic from the Jiu JItsu Brotherhood is my partner in TheJourneyPodcast.com, Scotty Nelson from OTM/Lucky GI is also a supportive friend/partner as is Callum Medcraft from JJStyle Mag).
Our most popular shows are probably our two part series with BJ Penn, Enson Inoue, Ryan Hall or Mike Fowler. The show with Matt Godden was fun because Matt has been there since I got into jiu jitsu and is like a brother to me. Interviewing my good friends and mentors like Ryan Hall, Mike Fowler, Tom Callos, Justin Rader, Nic Gregoriades and Denny Prokopos is always an honor. Mauricio Gomes was also a major highlight for me.
You put out a show pretty frequently, how difficult is it on a technical level to operate a regular podcast?
It isn't easy that's for sure! We are lucky to get more requests for guests wanting to be on the show than we can handle. Scheduling is a huge obstacle. Many of our guests are training full time, teaching full time and trying to compete all over the world. I would say the average show takes 4-10 hours of time.
Between, research, recording and promoting discussion on message boards it all adds up. We're lucky to be in Vegas where a lot of folks pass through for fights, tournaments and vacations. We also do our best to cover big events in SoCal and NYC. Whenever possible we do interviews in person. When that isn't possible we tap into the power of the internets!
Many of your themes and questions touch upon social issues, what aspects of BJJ have inspired you and what have you seen about the sport that you deplore?
Jiu JItsu changes lives. For the better and at times for the worse. OMR operates under the belief that it's better to celebrate things you love than attack those you hate. The Movement Mixtape series I did was my way of showing our community positive and ethical ways to run a martial arts business/association, reach out to our respective communities and even compete. That took place at the peak of the various Lloyd Irvin scandals.
Adisa Banjoku, Tom Callos, Mike Fowler and The Thrasher's (Vector JIu JItsu) all demonstrate how powerful jiu jitsu can be in changing lives for the better. Ryan Hall's open letter to the community (http://livingthemartialarts.com/) showcases the "dark side" of jiu jitsu better than anyone. Anytime someone is taken advantage of I am disgusted. Anyone that uses jiu jitsu to manipulate others disgusts me. Selling belts, or even worse, manipulating others via promotion also disgusts me. All that said, there is much more positive in the world than negative as a result of jiu jitsu.
Last year you underwent treatment for cancer, would you like to tell the readers about your time dealing with cancer and what it was like to get back on the mats after?
It has been and continues to be a crazy journey. For a long time I wondered what all this "training" was for. I rarely compete and will never be a world champion. Was there a point to all the injuries, blood, sweat and tears that come with training? I got my answer when I was diagnosed.
I can honestly say jiu jitsu has saved my life, twice. The first time was adjusting my lifestyle for jiu jitsu. I quit smoking, started to eat better and discovered a world of positive influences. The second was a bit more literal. Between rolls I found myself running to the bathroom. This along with other symptoms led me to get checked out. Turned out I had Stage IV rectal cancer. I underwent radiation, chemo and multiple surgeries.
In recovery from my first surgery (which left me on a temporary illiostomy bag) I found out it had spread to my liver. After more chemo, another surgery, even more chemo and a liver drain I got the all clear in May. It's a constant battle to keep my mindset and lifestyle in a positive manner. There are lasting effects from surgery and chemotherapy. I'm still not back on the mat where I would like to be. I lost 30lbs and have some very cool scars covering my body. I'm still fighting. Sergio has let me teach a drills/fundamentals class three days a week to ween myself back to the mat. Recently I've been training around multiple hernias caused by the surgeries.
Tell me the important role Sergio played in your recovery?
I have to credit Sergio Penha and our team for helping me get through things. Sergio tells stories of his days training under Osvaldo Alves. Osvaldo would send killer after killer to roll with Sergio. Weight, age, experience, it didn't matter. Sergio had to find a way to win. He said, "Everyday Osvaldo would send me lions, I would kill them and stack them high. Somedays it might be a few, somedays it could be 20." So with the "Just another lion to kill" mentality I fought cancer. Each time I had another chemo treatment, radiation session, surgery or night in the hospital I said to myself, "It's just another lion to kill."
When I can get a tattoo, it will incorporate that saying. Sergio helped save my life. For that I will be forever in his debt. I had that attitude in training as well. Whenever Sergio asked if I wanted another roll, I'd do my best to say "Yes."
Jiu Jitsu is the best analogy for life there is. It isn't the strongest fighter who wins but the most resourceful and resilient. The "secret" to life and jiu jitsu is to stay humble, stay fighting, keep positive company and continually progress.
What are your future goals for the radio show - any guests you have yet to interview that are high on your list, for example?
I'd like to keep up the current pace of one show per week. It will be a challenge without Richard but I'll do my best to make it happen. One of my goals is to take the show more globally. I've tried hard to highlight the scenes in the UK , Abu Dhabi, Africa, Dominican Republic and various parts in the US and Canada.
We've got guests tentatively lined up from Wales, Guam, Mexico, Japan and the Middle East. I'm also looking forward to getting more women on the show. I can't mention specific names because every time I do Murphy's Law kicks in! I can promise that whoever we have on will be an interesting guest doing positive things in our community. I have no interest in starting "drama" or putting a spotlight (whatever the size) on negative people. With Nic (JiuJItsuBrotherhood) we hope to take TheJourneyPodcast.com to some places that OMR tends not to go. We'll be looking at mentality, spirituality and the human experience as Nic says!
Who would you like to give a shout out to?
I don't mean to come off as a "name dropper" but I have had the great privilege to work with amazing people. I have to thank my wife, Stephanie, without her support there wouldn't be a show. My best friends, you know who you are! My partners who helped make the show what it is, Rafael Penha and Richard Heinrich. My coach, personal Yoda and mentor Sergio Penha. My entire Sergio Penha team, especially Sir Raymond Winters, John Tan and Grant Okinaka. Andreh Anderson, Nic Gregoriades, Ricardo Amendolia, Mike Fowler, Denny Prokopos, Scotty Nelson (OTM/LuckyGI), Derek Okahashi (31Fifty), Alberto Marchetti (Manto) Justin Rader, Callum Medcraft and Tom Callos for their friendship and constant support.
A special thanks to Ryan Hall and Bernardo Faria for helping me through the hardest days of my life. No matter where they were in the world their support made it to me. Thanks to every guest that has been on the show. Of course thanks to every listener, without you there would be no show! Caleb for blazing the path of jiu jitsu podcasts. I also want to thank all the other grappling/mma podcasts out there,Take it Uneasy, Aesopian's, Verbal Tap, InsideBJJ, This Week in BJJ and all the rest! The more shows the better as far as I'm concerned! There are so many amazing people doing amazing things in our community, it takes an army of podcasts to showcase them all.
Listener feedback is what keeps OMR going. The greatest compliment we can get is knowing we helped inspire, motivate or other wise helped out others. If nothing else I hope OMR can serve as a testament to how powerful and positive the grappling and jiu jitsu community is. Please keep me informed of all the amazing things you're up to! And, thanks to Meerkatsu for all his work on and off the mat! It's inspiring to say the least
Thanks so much for this fantastic interview Paul!
OPEN MAT RADIO website - http://www.openmatradio.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/openmatradio