We are happy to welcome Brandon Bergeron to our Instructor family here at Minnesota Top Team and to add two additional nights per week of BJJ training. Please be sure to say hello and welcome him when you see him around the gym and read our interview below to get to know him a littl better.
Where did you grow up? - I grew up in Wisconsin. Originally born and raised in Chippewa Falls, WI.
How long have you been doing BJJ and what has been your path? - Since April of 2007. I started during my Junior year of High School under Nate Homme in Eau Claire, WI. I jumped into MMA right away. After a year and a half, Nate shut down his classes because he was commuting from Minneapolis to Eau Claire three times a week to compete. When he decided he was going to shut down his classes, I made plans to move to the Twin Cities so that I could continue training with him at the Academy. I got my Blue belt at the academy in March of 2009 and I got my Purple belt at the Academy on March 22, 2011.
Why do you do the sport? - I started doing BJJ because I wanted to be an MMA fighter. I had several fights, but after awhile I decided that I wanted to hang up the gloves. Whether or not I ever return to the cage remains to be seen. Even though my initial intent for starting BJJ was to be a successful fighter, now I do it purely for the love of the sport. Actually, I remember thinking when I decided to quit fighting that “MMA is not nearly as fun as Jiu Jitsu.” I have a passion for Jiu Jitsu because it is fun--plain and simple. All of the different techniques, the knowledge and skill of learning how to move your body and when to do it, and the creativity in trying to develop new techniques provides endless possibilities and a real mental challenge and puzzle which you’ll always be trying to solve as perfectly as possible. Even after six and a half years this is all still so fascinating to me.
What do you do for your day job? - As of now, my “normal” job is a loss prevention officer. I watch cameras at retail stores throughout the metro and use that as a means to catch shoplifters. My martial arts skills have proven useful in this line of work as shoplifters are not always the most cooperative of people.
Tell us about your family. I am not married with a “family of my own” so to speak; however, I do have a girlfriend, Sami, who I have been dating for the last two and a half years. Sami and I also have two dogs: a Siberian Husky named Dexter (after the TV show) and a Shelti named Lucky but we just call him “Dog.”
What do you do in your spare time for fun besides roll? - To be honest, in my spare time when not practicing Jiu Jitsu, I can be a bit of a couch potato. I like to watch TV shows in a series, one episode after the other, thanks to Netflix. I also enjoy playing video games. Most of my outside stuff is done during the summer as I really am not a fan of cold weather. I enjoy taking Dexter to the dog park, I like swimming and I enjoy cliff-jumping . I really wish that this section was a little more exciting but, for the most part, a lot of my free time is taken up by Jiu Jitsu.
Tell us your most embarrassing moment on the mat. There are 2 that come to mind. I was competing in a tournament as a purple belt and I was tapped out wiht a basic ezekiel choke....from within my own guard....BY A WHITE BELT! I walked off the mat feeling much shame. I competed in a tournament here at MTT. When I got home and reviewed footage of my matches I heard Tao laughing and shout out, "he's singing." So I watched more closely and sure enough...I was singing in the middle of my match.
How important do you think it is for people to compete in tournaments? - That depends on the person's goal or what the individual feels is important to them. If you want to be a competitor, then it is obvious that competing in tournaments is an essential. If you are looking for self-defense, then competing in tournaments is a great way to guage where you are at, but it won’t be as essential as it is for those who want to be professional competitors. If you are focused on real improvement and becoming a black belt, then tournaments are important, because they put you in situations where you are forced to go harder and are much more critical of yourself. When someone walks away from a tournament, especially if there are losses, that often leads the individual into a problem-solving mode. They replay the tournament or specific matches back in their mind and try to figure out where they went wrong or what they could have done better and they problem solve from there to fix it. So while competition in tournaments itself isn’t directly essential to improving and getting a blackbelt, it gets the individual into the right mind set and the problem solving “mode” that IS essentially to developing skill and becoming a black belt.
What's your best advice to someone just starting in the sport? - Slow down and focus on technique. Many, nearly all, people come into the gym there first time with an ego. They go hard and fast, and they try to muscle things instead of focusing on the technique. Significant improvement is difficult until they “grow” out of this phase and realize that technique is what makes a great grappler. When a new person stops trying to “beat” their training partner and focus on incorporating correct technique into their live rolling is when they will begin to see greater improvement. On a side note, and probably an even more important piece of advice is this: Don’t quit. Remember, a black belt is just a white belt that never quit.
What's your best advice to someone who's been in it a while and is plateauing? - Plateaus are something I struggle with just like any other martial artist. My best advice to someone who has hit a plateau is to not get discouraged. Like I said previously, a black belt is just a white belt who never quit. Eventually, you will get off your plateau and start seeing improvement again as long as you are coming to class and rolling regularly (at least 3-4 times a week.) If you are looking for a more specific answer to getting off of your plateau, then I would say this: change.
Think about it. Being on a plateau means that you aren’t improving and you aren’t declining. You are staying the same….Same. If you don’t want to stay the same, then change something. When I feel that I’m on a plateau, I notice that I am just playing my same game over and over again and am not incorporating new techniques or trying new, weird stuff when rolling. Go to class, learn a new technique or set of techniques and attempt to put them to use when rolling. Another piece of advice is to focus on a specific part of your game that you want to improve. It can be hard to know where to start when you are trying to get better because there are so many different techniques and positions; it can feel a little overwhelming. Instead of think, “I want to get better,” think, “I want to get better at passing the guard.” Then you can change your rolling style accordingly. When rolling, pass your opponents guard. Then, instead of continuing to roll as usual and trying to “beat” your training partner, let him work his shrimp and put you back into guard and then pass his guard again. Rinse and Repeat. This will cause the desired aspect of your game to improve more rapidly.
Thanks Brandon, welcome to MTT.
Join us for a free Jiu Jitsu class at Minnesota Top Team in Eagan, MN.