Interview for

December 17, 2007

Paul Greenhill Interview for

Lenny:  Hello.  This is Lenny Maggio conducting an interview for with the unsung hero for the older and non-traditional grappler, Paul Greenhill, (aka TheWise Grappler).  How you doing today, Paul?

Paul: I’m doing well, Lenny.  How about yourself?

Lenny: I’m doing great.  I’m doing great.  How long have you been practicing Jiu-Jitsu and how did you get started? 

Paul: I’ve been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for almost eleven years.  I got started with Jiu-Jitsu the same way that most of the guys did that started back in the 90’s.  I saw Royce Gracie in the first UFC fights in the early days and was amazed that a man his size could easily handle larger opponents.  I figured that was the style I just had to master.  And after I was finally able to find a school that actually taught BJJ and not just used the word “Jiu-Jitsu” or “Ultimate” to get people to take classes, I took a class and fell in love with it.  The rest is history. 

Lenny: Where did you begin training and who have been your main teachers?

Paul: If you don’t count the year I spent training with a couple of buddies in a basement watching video tapes, I began my formal training in the Washington, D.C. area in 1996 at the Yamasaki-Dalla Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy.  That’s where I met Lloyd Irvin.  After Leo Dalla went back to Brazil, Lloyd decided to open his own school and I went to train with him.  Lloyd has been my primary instructor, as well as his instructor, Leo Dalla. 

Lenny: Ok.  How has Jiu-Jitsu influenced your life?

Paul: Before Jiu-Jitsu, I’d studied kung-fu and Muay Thai for several years, but neither of them gave me the feeling that I wanted to master the style.  That’s what Jiu-Jitsu gave me; an opportunity to master a grappling system that looked like a human chess match to me.   But once I started training, Jiu-Jitsu became a flashlight in my life that revealed and helped me to fix the mental roadblocks that blocked me from reaching my maximum potential, both on and off the mat. Once I became a black belt, it gave me the opportunity to share what I have learned with my students and help develop them in areas that the style helped me to become a better person as well. 

Lenny: Do you have any mentors?  If so, who are they and how did they influence you?

Paul: Absolutely.  There are many people that have had an impact in my life, but there are three mentors that stand out the most and have been more influential. The first one was my oldest brother, Donald Greenhill (deceased).  His influence enabled me to become the man that I am today.  He was my role model growing up and I patterned my entire life upon the kind of man that he was.  My second mentor has been Lloyd Irvin.  He has been a friend, a coach, a brother, an instructor, an agitator, a pain in the butt, and a guy who wouldn’t let me settle for just being marginal.  I appreciate and love him for that. We all need someone in our lives that won’t allow us to accept being average or think that being average is ok.  The third mentor is young enough to be my son, as he has mentioned to me many times, but just goes to show you that mentoring isn’t bound by age.  And his name is Mike Fowler.  Mike Fowler showed me that you could achieve any goal in life if you set your mind to it, worked hard to achieve it, and kept pressing toward completing it, regardless of the setbacks or the amount of time that it takes to achieve it. 

Lenny: What are some of your most memorable experiences in Jiu-Jitsu and do you have any stories that you would like to share?

Paul: My most memorable moment was January 25th 2006; the day Lloyd promoted me to black belt.  The reason that one stands out so well in my head was because it was the same day that my daughter Nicole took her first class at our academy.  I remember being so proud of my baby in her little uniform and then later on being promoted black belt with my teammate, Dave Womack. The black belt means so much to me because I was so close to quitting BJJ completely as a purple belt that had been training for 6 years due to my horrible mat attitude. I was mentally weak and had no self-confidence to carry me through to black belt in Lloyd’s System.  I was trying to create my own system instead of listening to him and using what worked.  I found out the hard way that trying to do it my way wasn’t working.  But once I made the transformation in my attitude and started working Lloyd’s “Grappling Blueprint”, with me fine-tuning it under Lloyd’s guidance to suit my training needs, everything changed for the better and I was like an entirely different person.  I know it sounds like hype, but it true.  I guess you had to know me back then to really appreciate what I’ve become now.

Lenny: Paul, a lot of people don’t know too much about you and how you are committed to helping older grapplers learn and excel in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Paul: I started training in BJJ when I was 32 years old.  In the early days with Lloyd, I was usually the oldest guy in the class.  And if we had guys that were older than me, they didn’t stay around very long due to the demanding training.  Personally, I didn’t feel old physically, but my mental roadblocks made training very difficult for me.   I had a lot of insecurities and self-doubt that were crippling me, both on and off the mat, but was harder to ignore on the mat because I was forced to deal with them every night. And on many occasions, they kicked the crap out of me. And because I was considered a successful person off the mat (Marine, college graduate, Computer Professional, etc.), it was easy for me to wear a “mask” and conceal all those mental roadblocks that hinder my grappling training.  So, as I started to improve and work through those mental roadblocks, I became a stronger grappler and a stronger person.  And as I started climbing out of my mental mindset trap, I realized that those same traits existed in almost every other grappler, but are most crippling to the older and non-traditional students who already have other, more obvious obstacles to overcome – like physical conditioning, weight, flexibility, a job and a family. It was then that I made a decision to reveal the training system that I’d created to help people pull themselves up out of their holes like I did; not only to help them to become better and stronger grapplers on the mat, but to help them become stronger and better people outside the gym as well. You know, some people think I have it in for younger grapplers, but I don’t. It’s just a lot harder to get them to listen – they suffer from “know-it-all”-itis. The good thing about older grapplers is the fact that although they have more obstacles to overcome, they are also more open to unconventional approaches. They’ve learned that thinking “outside the box” works for them in their lives off the mat, and so they are willing to apply it to life on the mat as well. The “Young Punk/Young Gun” Grapplers usually just try to rely on brute force – not only in their physical approach, but also in their mental approach. I think you have to be a little trickier, a little clever, and a little wiser than that. There’s a reason they call it “Jiu” or “gentle” Jitsu and not “Brute Force-Jitsu.”

Lenny: How did the nickname, The Wise Grappler, come about?

Paul: Well, I was trying to figure out what did I want to be known as.  I thought about calling myself “The Smart Grappler”, “The Old Grappler” and “The Sneaky Grappler”; which would be how I would describe my style of BJJ.  But none of those nicknames sounded cool and I wanted to sound cool and convey wisdom at the same time.  Once I locked onto the wisdom part, I eventually got to wise and it sounded cool. That’s how the Wise Grappler came to be.

Lenny: Ok.  Your website,, is an excellent resource for older grapplers, women, and less physically gifted individuals, as well as regular students to help them learn and excel in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu while avoiding some common pitfalls of training.  What were your goals when starting the website and what do you hope to achieve through it?

Paul: I would like to give the older (over 30) and non-traditional grappler (non-competitive, female, recreational, etc.) a new way of thinking.  Right now, what exists in a lot of schools is a survival mentality from older and non-traditional grapplers (which I refer to as OGs).  Most OGs are just grateful that they weren’t beaten up too badly and made it through class in one piece!    Since they survived another smackdown from the young punks and can make it to work the next day healthy, that’s a good thing for most OGs!  When just surviving each training session is what you have to look forward to, it’s going to be really hard for someone to commit to and achieve the goal of black belt.

What I wanted to do was show them a different way of thinking about grappling and themselves in general.  I wanted to show them a systematic approach that will not only show them how to survive, but also give them the tools necessary to kick ass too!  There are OGs that don’t know they’re supposed to be in survival mode and are beating up on young punks every time they hit the mat!  And I believe that’s achievable for every OG, not just a few.  But that can only happen once the OG believes that it’s possible for them; not just for someone else.  If I can convey that to OGs around the world, then I will have achieved the purpose behind the website and accomplished the mission of The Wise Grappler. 

Lenny: How has the response been to your website and your philosophy on teaching the older grappler; the OG?

Paul: The response to the website has been phenomenal, better than I expected it to be.  It just confirmed my belief that there are lots of technique and cardio routines being shown at grappling academies, but not enough mental coaching.  And I’m not talking about coaching for competitions.  Students need mental coaching that has nothing to do getting ready for competitions and that’s something that lots of instructors either overlook or just don’t know.  Then again, lots of people are just repeating the way they were taught.  So, if they were only given coaching as it relates to competing and nothing else, they can’t teach what they don’t know. And that’s not meant to be a putdown, it’s just a fact.  

The grapplers that respond to my website fall into a couple of groups.  There is one group that’s grateful for the much needed help and this group is in the majority. I receive emails from those OGs daily saying stuff like, “I thought I was the only one that was going through this.  It’s good to know that there is someone else out there who is not only going through this, but has a solution on how to deal with it.”  There is another group that just kind of concentrates on the fact that I use the words ‘young’ and ‘punks’ together in the same sentence. They consider me being a negative grappling influence or a bitter old guy that got his ass kicked a lot on the mat.  Even when I define what I consider a young punk, they still get offended by it.  Even though I’m sure they don’t consider themselves young punks, they figure I’m automatically talking about them since they’re young and I’m an older grappling making these comments. Unfortunately, they’re missing the point. 

Lenny: Now, the name of your website is a little controversial.  Do you consider all younger grapplers to be punks or is it just a reference to a select few?

Paul: No.  It’s a reference to a select few.  I think young grapplers fall into two categories.  The first category is what I call the Young Gun (YGs).  Those are the guys that are tough competitors that instructors love to teach and coach.  Those are the grapplers who are there because they have goals and dreams of becoming champions.  They are there to listen, learn, and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.  I love those guys!  I’ve been training, teaching and existing around guys like that for years and have no problems with them.  They are great, display the best grappling spirit, and I would never consider that kind of grappler as a young punk.  When I think of young guns, I think of guys like Mike Fowler, Ryan Hall, Mike Easton, Brandon Vera, Danny Ives, and hundreds of other guys that are either on our team or I’ve met at tournaments around the country.

As for the young punk, he’s the exact opposite of what a young gun is.  A young punk is the guy who sandbags at a tournament; someone that’s been training for 3-4 years, but will compete in a novice division and do a flying triangle on somebody just to get a medal.  A young punk will avoid training with the tougher grapplers on his team, but would stalk and neck crank a female that he outweighs by 50 pounds or a 60 year old accountant that decides to learn Jiu-Jitsu because it looks like fun.  And if the young punk does train with the tougher teammates, he’s always got some excuse as to why he gets submitted!  There are just so many things wrong a young punk that I don’t see how anyone can defend them.  And if everyone looked around at their teammates where they train, they will discover that they have at least one young punk at their school too!

Lenny: I would hardly call you old at 42 years of age, but what advice can you offer the older grappler to help prevent injuries and increase their training longevity?

Paul: You’re right; I don’t consider myself old at 42 either!  I’m older at 42, but not old and there is a difference.  The first thing I would tell the OGs is accept the fact that they don’t have to try to match strength with strength with the younger guys by trying to relive their glory days.  That’s all ego-driven and there’s nothing for them to prove.  Once they’ve accepted the fact that they don’t have to try to match strength with the youngsters, they’ll be in a better position to start adopting the Wise Grappler Training Philosophy; maintain a sneaky defensive posture until the aggressive punk creates an opening, then make them pay for their mistakes.  But before you can use that philosophy, you must learn how mentally survive under fire instead of just folding from the pressure.  And that can only come from being mentally tough.  Once they learn how to build their mental toughness, then they can start imposing their will on their frustrated opponents and be in a position where they can start to develop their offense and attack more. 

Lenny: How important do you feel it is to focus on all three aspects of The Training Triangle (as you refer to it) of technical, physical conditioning and mental conditioning?

Paul: If you plan on having any kind of success in grappling, you need all three.  If you just have one or two of the three, you can have some level of success. But when things get tough, you are going to buckle if you don’t have all three. There are so many products out there for both young and older grapplers that concentrate on the technical and cardio parts, but not a lot for the mental part of The Training Triangle.  You can always find a flashy new move or all kinds of crazy cardio routines to get you into top shape.  But if you don’t address that mental part, then it’s just a matter of time before you get into a situation where that fancy technique and being in top shape won’t help you because you’re mentally soft.  OGs need to be mentally tough!  If not, most of them will never make it to black belt!   

Lenny: Do you offer students any advice to shorten their learning curve and speed their understanding and development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Paul: If they wanted to shorten their learning curve, they need to drill until they get sick of doing the techniques and do reaction-type drills.  For some reason, there are lots of people that think if they show up for class and just spar for an hour, they’ll get better.  That’s not the case.  You need to drill to develop your mat vision.  Mat vision comes from recognizing a body in a particular position (what I call a mat picture) and knowing what you need to do when that picture presents itself.  The only way you are going to get that is through drilling.  Now there are different types and levels of drilling.  For example, you can do drilling with no resistance, slight resistance, flowing from technique-to-technique, looking for one technique from top and bottom positions, using grappling dummies, one/two-man drills, and anything else you can set your imagination to creating for your training.  There are lots of drills, but you have to know what your picture is and an idea of what to do with it when it occurs.  If you don’t recognize it when you see it, then you’re learning curve will be long and very frustrating. 

Lenny: How important do you feel technical drilling is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and do you feel that this is sometimes overlooked as compared to rolling and sparring?

Paul: Both drilling and sparring are important, but if I only had time to do one, I’d pick drilling.  I think it provides the most benefit, but is considered dull and repetitive to beginner grapplers.  Lots of grapplers think if they showed up for class and found out there’s no sparring, they feel like they’ve been cheated out of training and consider a “drill-only” training session a waste of their time.  Sparring is very ego-gratifying.  There is nothing like beating someone down on the mat.  It feels good and I like doing it too!  There’s also nothing like getting a beatdown on the mat.  And that doesn’t feel good!  But if you put too much time into sparring and not enough into drilling, you might as well get used to receiving the mat beatings.  You’ll be tough from all the sparring, but “being tough” with little or no technical skill won’t be enough to compete against good grapplers.  

Lenny: Why is it that some people get so competitive and focused on winning every sparring session instead of learning the training collectively and apply good technique?       

Paul: It’s a mental roadblock based on low self-esteem and the need to feel important.  Even when they’re beginners and don’t know anything, some expect to be able to give the instructor a hard time when sparring on the first day and expect to beat up the instructor by the end of the week!  That’s all about wanting attention and recognition.  They have to be the toughest in the class.  Why?  I don’t know. I guess that’s how they got recognition in the past and that’s how they continue to get it.  They treat a class training session like it’s the Abu Dhabi Championships and feel proud when they get submissions in class so they can go brag about it in the locker room and online forums.  And it never ceases to amaze me what people will do to win a training match.  Over the years, I’ve seen guys do a lot of stupid things and hurt people just to win a meaningless match.   And those are usually young punks that display that “win at all costs” mentality.  Part of my “Mental Mindset” System will help an OG handle that type of punk-ish behavior so it doesn’t discourage or kill their desire to study grappling. 

Lenny: What do you think makes a good instructor and how do students go about finding a good school?

Paul:I think a good instructor is someone who wants his students to be better than he is.  I have no problem with teaching everything that I know because I think it’s the mark of a good instructor.  A good instructor will always want their students to exceed them in ability and achievement.  I can’t think of a higher compliment to an instructor. An instructor that never produces students beyond their own abilities has failed that student.  Holding stuff back from your students to maintain some form of superiority is ridiculous and says something about you as a person.  For example, if I’m the best auto mechanic in town and someone works for me for many years, at some point, if I am really teaching them what it is to be a good mechanic, they ought to be the next best (if not the best) mechanic in town.  But if they’re not as good (or better) than me, then what have I been showing them all this time. That is what I want for my students.  I expect them all at some point to be able to learn what I have to teach them and take it a step farther than what I gave them and to do the same for their students as well.

As far as how to find a good school, I think you need to look for instructors that are concerned about the student’s needs and helps the student achieve the goals that brought them to grappling in the first place.  Students aren’t there to be abused by instructors or build their reputations to get more students to join their schools.  Look at how an instructor treats his students, former and current.  If he’s mistreating students, for whatever reason, there’s a very good chance that one day it will be your turn to be mistreated.

Lenny: Do you feel that competition is a good way to pressure test yourself and help you face your fears?

Paul: Absolutely, as long as you’re doing it because it’s your decision; not because an instructor is pressuring you or denying you a belt promotion. I think competitions will force the real you to the surface. That’s what happened to me.  It allowed me to see where I needed help on the mat, both technically and mentally. It can be a valuable training tool, but as long as it’s used the right way.  Lots of people joined BJJ to learn self-defense; then get a “bait-and-switch” on them because now they’re expected to be sports BJJ competition hounds.  I’ve heard many OG stories where they’ve heard from instructors, “If you don’t compete, you can’t get promoted beyond a certain level.”  I didn’t know sports competition was the main reason BJJ was created.  I thought it was founded so smaller people could defend themselves against larger opponents using different types of leverage and techniques.  What winning a grappling match by an advantage point has to do with defending yourself is beyond me.  I could be wrong, but I don’t see how. 

Lenny: Is there anyone in particular that you would like to watch compete in Jiu-Jitsu, submission wrestling, or mixed martial arts?

Paul: Absolutely!  I’ve got some teammates that I really enjoy a whole bunch.  They are Mike Fowler, Ryan Hall, Mike Easton, and Brandon Vera.  The thing I like about those guys is that they are always attacking.  They are out there trying to win, get the submission, and they’re not out there just trying to get the points and then stall or win by decision.  As far as non-teammates, in MMA, it’s Randy Couture because he’s an OG still getting it done at 43 years old.  I enjoy watching him compete and was even more ecstatic when I was able to present Randy with his induction into The Wise Grappler Hall of Fame.  The other guy I like to watch compete is Jeff Glover.  The guy never seems to run out of energy and always goes for the finish. 

Lenny: What are your thoughts on cross-training and other arts as well as strength and conditioning methods for students and instructors and modern day competitors?

Paul: I think more is always better.  Anything that develops a weakness can’t be a bad thing.  The day of thinking that one style fits all should be gone, but it’s not.  There are some guys that still think that I only need Jiu-Jitsu or Boxing or Tae Kwon Do and I think it’s all wrong.  I think you need to be able to cross- train and your get the best benefit out of whatever styles you come into contact with and develop them. And you need conditioning to go along with it. 

Lenny: How important is self-defense, and do you feel that some people are overlooking this?

Paul: Yeah.  I think self-defense is extremely important.  I think there’s an over-emphasis on sports BJJ; causing people to delude themselves into thinking they know how to defend themselves when they really don’t.  I’ve heard stories about guys getting into disputes (whether with strangers or family members) and jumping guard or trying to triangle somebody while they are on their backs in a parking lot.  I’m not saying it won’t work; I’m saying I wouldn’t try it!  I’d be too concerned about getting my head kicked in by one of his buddies standing around us while I’m trying to apply my triangle during our “fair” fight.  I think every student needs to be aware of the fact that there is a line between what works at the academy under controlled conditions and what will work outside the school.  

Lenny: Thank you very much for your time, Paul.  Is there anything that you’d like to add or anyone that you would like to thank?

Paul: I would just like to say thanks for helping me spread the message to all grapplers around the world that are tired of just “surviving” another training session.  If that’s you and you’re ready to invest in a system that will show you how to transform from survivor to mat animal, the first step is to sign up for my free report (7 Survival Secrets That Every Older Grappler Must Know) and my weekly ezine at And if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Last but not least, I would like to thank Team Lloyd Irvin and The OG Nation for their support.


Paul M. Greenhill, “The Wise Grappler”, is the creator of The Wise Grappler System and author of The Wise Grappler Ezine, a weekly ezine that provides grappling and mental mindset training tips for the older (over 35) and non-traditional/non-competitive martial artists. To learn more about “The Wise Grappler” and to sign up for more FREE tips like these, visit his site at or

Jumping Guard: Valuable Technique or Hiding Flaws?

December 8, 2007

Another weekend has come and gone.  And with the closing of another weekend, another set of grappling tournaments have concluded.  And even though those tournaments are in different locations throughout the world, they have things in common:  competitors that are willing to take the challenge by going out to test their skills against one another (which is very admirable of them).  They also have something else that I don’t understand…competitors that lack any takedown skills.

Now, I really struggle with this because I just don’t understand how “jumping” or “sitting” into guard can be the first takedown option for lots of grapplers. And the more I think about it, I still can’t come up with an answer that acceptable to me.  I don’t think “jumping” or “sitting” into the guard is a bad thing when it is an option for a grappler and part of a strategy.  It should NEVER be the first option for a beginner grappler, in my opinion. When I see a beginner/intermediate grappler jumping guard, that tells me they’ve probably spent too much time drilling the “fun” positions (i.e. ½ guard, mount, etc.) and consider mastering those positions more valuable than perfecting their takedowns, even though securing a takedown can give you a point advantage (as well as psychological one.).  And the reason that grapplers continue to do it is because the weakness of having no takedowns hasn’t been exposed in a match in the past and feel that sitting (or jumping) to their guard is all they need to get to the mat during a match.

But what happens if they’re going against someone that thinks the same as they do?  Have you ever seen a match between two guard jumpers?  I have and I gotta tell you that the first minutes of the match has the potential to be boring if both are trying to get into position to jump and neither knows how to execute a good takedown. A few years ago, I coached one of my teammates against a competitor that I had noticed jumping guard in the two previous matches before meeting my guy in the semi-finals.  Since our guy was good at doing a double leg takedown (as well as jumping guard), the strategy was to defend against the guard jump and jump guard on him instead.  I figured that a guy that seemed so anxious to jump guard probably wasn’t used to having the script flipped on him and I was right because the strategy worked beautifully!  My teammate blocked his  opponent’s guard jump, did the guard jump on him (to his opponent’s surprise), and finished him with an armbar from the guard.

What lessons should the opponent have picked up from that match about his grappling game?

 – He had no takedowns
 – He had no clue what to do if unable to jump guard
 – He didn’t know how to stop someone from jumping guard on him
 – He had never considered what strategy to use if grappling against
    an opponent who had a style similar to his own

I can’t help but wonder if he actually (or his coach) recognized the problems and they did something to correct them…or did they just consider it a bad day and continue to jump guard in every tournament after that day.  If I had to bet my mortgage on it, I’ll go with the having a bad day to explain his performance.

Drilling takedowns may not be as “fun” drilling submissions, but they’re a vital part of every grappler’s arsenal.  No grappler should consider takedowns as something that they only work on the week before a tourney, but must be put into the drilling schedule just like you would an armbar or triangle.  There’s no guarantee that jumping guard will work and I haven’t seen a match outside of training start on the knees yet.


Paul M. Greenhill, “The Wise Grappler”, is the creator of The Wise Grappler System and author of The Wise Grappler Ezine, a weekly ezine that provides grappling and mental mindset training tips for the older (over 35) and non-traditional/non-competitive martial artists. To learn more about “The Wise Grappler” and to sign up for more FREE tips like these, visit his site at or