We Defy & Grappling Mastery Featured in Orlando Sentinel

We Defy Foundation

Grappling Mastery is a proud Affiliate of We Defy Foundation.  We were featured by Orlando Sentinel in this article about our Mount Dora We Defy Location:  Orlando Sentinel Article about We Defy and Grappling Mastery in Mount Dora

If you are a Disabled Combat Veteran you can learn more about how to apply for a We Defy Scholarship here.

Here is a quick video about Grappling Mastery: BJJ & We Defy from the article!

We Defy Foundation – Training for Disabled Combat Veterans!

We Defy Foundation

We Defy Foundation Slogan LogoWe Defy Foundation and Grappling Mastery are dedicated to improving the lives of our military disabled combat veterans through the use of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Physical Fitness training. Our coaching staff and members are comprised of both military and non-military personnel. We understand how important it is to take care of our returning veterans. We are committed to giving them the tools to combat life’s challenges.  We exist to improve the lives of mentally and physically disabled combat veterans. Through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Fitness training we will provide combat veterans suffering from life-disabling injuries and/or PTSD a long term means to overcome their challenges.

Grappling Mastery: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai Academy in Mount Dora was featured in the Orlando Sentinel for bringing We Defy Foundation to Lake County, Florida

to our country, our combat veterans, our team, and accomplishing our mission.

through integrity, personal accountability and selfless service.

to stay relevant and effective for the long term.

Veteran athlete qualifications

All veterans applying for sponsorship as an athlete must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be a veteran who served in an area of combat operations.
  2. Must be separated/retired from active duty status (National Guard/Reserve duty not included).
  3. Must be a disabled combat veteran (mental or physical).
  4. Must provide proof of honorable discharge from military service DD214.
  5. Must provide VA entitlement/rating letter.
  6. Must be willing to commit to training at least a minimum of one time per week at a We Defy Foundation Approved Training Facility for the duration of one year.
  7. A Special Criteria Waiver exists on a case by case basis for unique circumstances (e.g. training accident, sexual assault, other circumstances related to military service).

Our Approved Athletes will receive:

  1. One Year Free Grappling Mastery Membership
  2. One Year Weekly Private Lessons
  3. 2 Custom Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Uniforms

To Apply as a Grappling Mastery / We Defy Athlete Click Here

To Support We Defy Click Here!

The Fit Life Podcast: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu featuring Professor Brian Ruscio

Rick Copley of The Fit Life Podcast recently interviewed BJJ Black Belt, Brian Ruscio of Grappling Mastery

The Fit Life Podcast is a fitness blog hosted by Rick Copley. Rick Copley is a gym owner, an online fitness coach and 30 year veteran of the fitness industry. He helps people to lose weight, get fit, live with vitality and enjoy the process.  He recently asked Grappling Mastery’s own, Professor Brian Ruscio to speak on fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.

Rick Copley is a personal trainer in Tavares Florida at No Limits Fitness with several certifications and track titles and accomplishments.  Rick has owned several successful gyms and now has continued his efforts online with The Fit Life Podcast.

Brian Ruscio is a 1st Degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt and owner of Grappling Mastery with several Personal Training Certifications of his own.

Military Veterans, PTSD, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Ted "Doc" Kendall, Navy Field Medic
We Defy Foundation
We Defy Foundation supports Disabled Veterans by providing High Quality BJJ and Fitness Training

63 Year Old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Artist at Grappling Mastery, Tom Benitez recently put his skills in photography and his passion for BJJ together to create this enlightening piece on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and how it can help Veterans overcome or deal with PTSD and other issues.  This is part 1 in a 2 part series.

Ted “Doc” Kendall, a veteran combat medic for the United States Navy, recently discovered that Jiu Jitsu is an effective and life-changing therapy to help him deal with the PTSD he incurred from an IED attack in Iraq. Kendall has been training at Grappling Mastery, in Mount Dora, Florida, where he often attends multiple classes a day. The martial art gives him a much-needed outlet for his depression, anger, and frustration.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result, many veterans experience nightmares, flashbacks, and survivor’s guilt, along with a host of other symptoms. Veterans often have difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life after they are discharged. A report released in 2013 estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide per day.

Doc from Tom Benitez on Vimeo.

Ted “Doc” Kendall, a veteran of the United States Navy, discusses how Jiu Jitsu has allowed him to cope with PTSD he has as a result of being injured in an IED attack in Iraq.

Click here for Part 2 “Grasshopper”

Grappling Mastery is an Official We Defy Training Facility offering Free Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing Training to Disabled Veterans!

We were also featured in the Orlando Sentinel for being a pioneer of the We Defy Program in Lake County, Florida at our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Mount Dora.

Army Medic, Tony Tindell in Afghanistan
Army Medic, Sgt. Tony Tindell in Afghanistan

You hear a lot of stories about returning Combat vets. They’re Angry, Drinking, Depressed or have PTSD; well I’m glad to say this isn’t me and there one very distinct reason for that, besides my wife; Grappling Mastery. I was still in Ghazni Afghanistan when I contacted Professor Ruscio initially. I explained my need for a coping mechanism upon my return and he offered to help. I’ve been training with Grappling Mastery for four month now, since returning from the battlefield. In addition to BJJ he taught me patience, diligence a bit of humility… Read More

Improve your Cardio and Fitness for BJJ and MMA

Get in Fighting Shape at Grappling Mastery

Become an MMA Conditioning Coach

What is the best way to improve your cardio and fitness level for BJJ or MMA?

Is it important to be stronger, faster, or more flexible?  Some would say all of these things, while others would say none and just focus on technique.  In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specifically, it is said to focus on technique over everything.  This is not always that simple.

A lot of confusion begins at the white belt level, when there is an absence in the understanding of technique.  When it comes time to “roll” or “spar” and two individuals are still new, technique plays a very small role in the outcome.  When two individuals do not have proper technique it comes down to who is stronger, faster, or more aggressive.  This leads people into believing that they need to be strong, fast, or have great cardio to compete in BJJ or MMA.  Once athletes reach a level of proficiency in the martial art, they have an understanding of technique and leverage that will overcome all but the strongest and fastest opponents.  These “rolling” or “sparring” sessions usually are determined by the style or “game” of the fighters and who has better technique, or game is superior.  At the highest levels, when everyone’s technique is fairly equal, this is where fitness and cardio start to matter most.  When there are no difference in technique or game, the more athletic opponent has the advantage.

Whether you are new to BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, MMA, or any other martial art you probably are interested in becoming physically fit enough to compete or at least be able to last in training long enough to benefit from some sparring sessions.

So what to do?  Do we lift? Do we run?  What is the best way to get in shape for BJJ or MMA?

Fortunately, the answer is very simple!  The training principle of specificity states that sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce a training effect.  The Specificity Principle simply states that training must go from highly general training to highly specific training. The principle of Specificity also implies that to become better at a particular exercise or skill, you must perform that exercise or skill.  This is why runners run, and swimmers swim!  This is also why you will hear, “It’s a different kind of cardio.”  Our body’s are very adaptive and built for survival.  When we perform certain exercises to exhaustion our body responds by improving those functions so we have can better perform the next time we need to do the same thing.

This means that to get in better shape for BJJ or MMA you should do exercises that most mimic BJJ or MMA.  Whether you want to get stronger, faster, more flexible, or even improve your cardio, this is the best way to do it.  In the most general sense you could perform movements or exercises that are similar to actually competing in BJJ or MMA.  This means doing your BJJ functional drills, Wrestling Drills, MMA drills, etc.  More specifically would mean actually training BJJ or MMA.  Actually training with live opponents.  You will get tired, fatigued, weak… just keep training and focus on your technique.  Those are the times you are improving your body.  If you continue to stop when your mind tells you to, you will always stay in the shape you are in.  If you challenge your mind and see what your body is really capable of, you will improve and become a better you.  According to the principle of specificity, this is how you want to train to improve your fitness level for mixed martial arts.

So what about cross training?

Cross training is training in two or more sports in order to improve fitness and performance, especially in the main sport. If you feel the need to do more or to cross train, first ask yourself if you have more time to be at your BJJ or MMA Academy.  Remember what is most important, technique before strength, speed, or cardio.  These things will leave you as you get older, however technique will always be there.  There are stories about Carlos Gracie Sr. and Helio Gracie well into their senior years before they passed and they definitely did not have the strength and speed, or cardio of a 20 year old.

First you would want to participate in alternative classes.  Does your academy offer Wrestling, Muay Thai, Judo, Boxing or some other martial art?  These would be most similar to what you are trying to get in shape for besides your main martial art.  If you are training for MMA, which literally stands for Mixed Martial Arts, you should be training to master these different styles anyway!  What about alternatives like Yoga to improve your flexibility?

If you still have some free time that your academy doesn’t offer classes you could do sport specific exercises or functional training at a local gym.  These sport specific exercises should be developed with care and introduced to you by a qualified professional, instructor, or personal trainer familiar with your martial art.  If you develop muscles the wrong way you could hinder your performance or worse yet, injure yourself and not be able to train, slowing down your improvements and setting you backward.  You need to be familiar with the FITT principles, proper frequency, intensity, time, and type.  Some of my bigger recommendations of training methods to improve BJJ, Wrestling, and MMA would be HIIT and Tabata style training.  HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training or High Intensity Intermittent Exercise.  Tabata style training only last 4 minutes.  However, you push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds until you complete eight sets.  You can do any exercises you choose, though we recommend you make them very specific to movements you would do in BJJ and MMA. Many times in a sparring session or competition you have intervals of high intensity and intervals of rest.  This style of training mimics that but is only one aspect of the training.  Professor Brian Ruscio has had multiple Personal Training certifications and can guide you into the right training methods.  You can contact him at Grappling Mastery if you have more questions.

In closing, we’ve catered to those who MUST feel like they are getting that extra competitive edge by doing something outside of the academy or dojo. Though, we’ve also given you the real secrets to getting in the best shape for fighting and martial arts.  Packing on extra muscle mass or trying to get milliseconds quicker will not overcome great technique, unless you also already have great technique.  Getting better cardio for Jiu Jitsu and MMA can best be done by sparring and drilling more BJJ and MMA.  Getting functional strength, speed, and flexibility will come with more sparring and rolling.  Just like working out in a gym, results take time, dedication, and hard work.

“Swimmers swim, Runners run, and Jiujitsueros roll!”

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Fighting with Disabilities in MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Jean Jacques Machado

I’m reminded of an old wrestling poster that said “Any Body can Wrestle!” featuring a large heavyweight and a very small wrestler, both Champions.  This is especially the case in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where many times it’s focus is to use leverage and technique to overcome strength and size.

But what about people with disabilities?

In my BJJ journey I’ve learned that many of the “guards” and other positions/techniques were often developed to overcome a handicap or injury that an athlete had.  From PTSD to a bum leg, amputees, partial hands, diabetes, suffering seizures, and being exceptionally weak are only a few real examples of disabilities BJJ and MMA fighters have overcome. These are some physical or mental disabilities that people may be concerned about.  I have also experienced parents with concerns of their children having ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and other behavioral disabilities or special needs that they think might hold their child back from learning.  In many cases, I found it to be the complete opposite! Many times these are the children that excel and thrive in my kids classes!  Many adults and kids experience huge benefits from Grappling specifically pertaining to their challenges.  This is in addition to the long list of benefits of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every person who trains can tell you about.

In the following post I’ll be reviewing some of the most popular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and MMA athletes that overcame their disabilities to improve themselves rather than letting it hold them back.

  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Jean Jacques Machado
    Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Jean Jacques Machado

    The first that comes to mind is Jean Jacques Machado.  Cousin to the Gracie’s, and a Black Belt under Carlos Gracie Jr., Machado suffered birth defects resulting from Amniotic Band Syndrome, which left him with only his thumb and pinky finger on his left hand. Despite this affecting his ability to grip in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he won many National and International titles, including Gold in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Nationals for 11 consecutive years.  He also won a Gold in Abu Dhabi and earning the “Most Technical Fighter” award.

  • Kyle Maynard wrestling
    Kyle Maynard wrestling

    Kyle Maynard, born with congenital amputation, is a quadruple amputee who wrote the book No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life.  Maynard began training in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in 2005.  He had his amateur debut fight on April 25, 2009.

  • At 19 years old, Roberto “Gordo” Corriea suffered a knee injury in competition and damaged the cruciate ligaments in his knee.  This injury lasted a very long time and prevented him from using one of his legs.  He didn’t let this stop him from getting better.  He overcame the injuring by working around it. Through his adjustments in his jiu jitsu game, he contributed to the development of the “Half Guard”, one of the most important positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today!
  • Keith Miner, MMA fighter
    Keith Miner, MMA fighter

    In May 2000, then 19 year old, Keith Miner was feeding trees into a wood chipper when the driver of the truck it was on pulled forward without telling anyone. He tripped and his hand and forearm got caught in the wood chipper.  Right handed, but now without without being able to move anything past his shoulder, he had to learn how to do everything left handed!  He started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA, holding a record of 5-5 and becoming the first professional amputee fighter.


  • Tracy "Tra" Telligman, UFC Fighter
    Tracy “Tra” Telligman, UFC Fighter

    Tracy “Tra” Telligman was in a car accident crushing his ribs when he was only one and a half years old. Tra can be seen fighting with a deep recess in his chest because he is missing his right pectoral muscle and his right lung due to the accident! Telligman began training in karate when he was 8 years old, continuing until he was 13 years old, and then began boxing until he was 15. During high school he started training in jiu jitsu.  Tra Telligman has a professional Boxing record of 4-2 and MMA record of 7-5-1 and has fought some legendary UFC fighters!

  • Garrett Holeve, MMA Fighter with Down Syndrome
    Garrett Holeve, MMA Fighter with Down Syndrome

    Garrett Holeve, of Cooper City Florida struggles with Downs Syndrome and is also fighting to be allowed to compete in MMA.  On November  8, 2014 he earned a victory in his first sanctioned MMA bout.


“You expect great things from your children, but you learn how to be realistic with a child that has sensory problems early on. You learn their limits fast and try not to push too far past those too fast. Most people know my awesome fun loving son, but haven’t seen what it took to get there. He amazes me all the time, but on this day he really went past his limit and way beyond. He showed strength, heart, control, and above all respect. He put it out there on the mat then with the exception of a few heartbroken minutes he left it there and told me what he was going to work on in the future. I am proud to call him my son and I have seen the struggles we went through break through the clouds to a beautiful moment. It’s almost too much and I never though Jiu Jitsu of all things would bring this out of him. So thank you Brian Ruscio and Rita Rojas, you have given me something way more precious than any medal he could bring home.”
– Brandi Rust, Mother & Behavioral Health Tech.
“Building Champions On & Off the Mats!”

Power Yoga for Fighters

Power Yoga for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA Fighters at Grappling Mastery

Yoga Gear from YogaDirect.com

Rickson Gracie doing Yoga and Breathing Exercises
Rickson Gracie doing Yoga and Breathing Exercises

Grappling Mastery offers Power Yoga for it’s athletes. Yoga is known to enhance flexibility, reduce injury, muscle stability, and relieve stress. Many top BJJ Athletes and MMA fighters use Yoga to improve their flexibility and breathing habits.

Most athletes focus on strength and explosiveness, while flexibility is often ignored. Flexibility can give you advantages by allowing you to perform techniques that opponents may not expect. It can also give you some resistance to certain techniques where others may have to submit. Where there is flexibility, there is also mobility and strength. Your agility will improve along with this flexibility.

The biggest focus of Yoga is your control of breathing. Proper breathing also helps control your heart rate. This in turn, will improve your cardio greatly allowing you to last longer in matches!

Read more about how Yoga can improve your performance and flexibility!

Grappling Mastery Members enjoy Free Yoga Classes included in their membership!


Onnit Multi-Mat

Burn 888 Calories per Hour and Get in Shape with Mixed Martial Arts!

Get in Fighting Shape at Grappling Mastery

It is well known in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community that wrestlers are among the most well conditioned and mentally tough athletes there are.  Wrestling is a Grappling Martial Art that does not involve punches or kicks, as opposed to Striking Arts like Muay Thai Kickboxing.  Other similar arts to Wrestling are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), Sambo, and Judo.

According to Harvard Medical School, Martial Arts like Judo, Kickboxing, or Boxing Sparring can burn anywhere from 400 to 444 calories every 30 minutes for a 185 lb. person.  That’s up to 888 calories/hour!

Not only will you get in shape and gain energy, you will also learn a skill that could help you protect yourself and your family in the future.  You will lose weight and tone up without realizing the workout you are actually getting.  Thinking about the techniques and what to do next keeps your mind on the moment instead of the workout.  You will relieve stress and have a great time!

Grappling Mastery offers 30 Days Free so can get started on your Fitness Goals now and Get in Shape using Martial Arts.  So come check us out today!
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Benefits of Glucosamine in BJJ and MMA

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Glucosamine (GS) is a supplement used by many active individuals who want to maintain healthy joints and prevent osteoarthritis.  It is also said to relieve pain as well as increase flexibility or range of motion in the joints.  Glucosamine is most effective when it is combined with MSM and Chondroitin Sulfate (CS). Research suggests that oral intakes of Glucosamine and chondroitin, either alone or in combination, reduces joint pain and improves mobility in persons with osteoarthritis. A multivitamin and essential fats such as fish oils, omega oils and flax oil supplements are also suggested for best results.

More information and references

New Muay Thai Classes in Mount Dora!

Kids Muay Thai Kickboxing Classes in Lake County, Florida
Ladies and Kids Muay Thai Kickboxing is great for self defense
Muay Thai Kickboxing Classes for Kids and Adults!

Grappling Mastery is proud to announce our New Muay Thai Kickboxing Class Schedule.  Due to our continued growth we have decided to split our class into a Kids Muay Thai Kickboxing Class at 5pm until 6pm on Fridays and Adult Muay Thai Kickboxing Classes every Friday at 6pm until 7pm.  We will hold Open Mats afterward to allow time for additional drilling, sparring, or even rolling.  You can find the Grappling Mastery Class Schedule here.

Grappling Mastery Head Instructor Brian Ruscio and Muay Thai Coach Mike Sgroi
Grappling Mastery Head Instructor Brian Ruscio and Muay Thai Coach Mike Sgroi

All Muay Thai Kickboxing Classes are taught by Coach Mike Sgroi and Coach Brian Ruscio!

Muay Thai is known as the art of 8 limbs.  Some of the greatest fighters in the UFC and other MMA events are Muay Thai fighters.  Coach Sgroi and Coach Ruscio have trained many MMA Fighters, both Pro and Amateur.  Muay Thai is an effective martial art for self defense and will prove to be a great workout as well.  Many places offer “Cardio Kickboxing” which may give you a workout but wouldn’t serve you well to protect yourself or your family.  Our Muay Thai Classes at Grappling Mastery will teach you proper techniques to help you learn how to defend yourself should you ever need to while giving you workout you are looking for.

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