We were very proud to host BJJ expert and MMA fighter Tom DeBlass for a two-hour workshop at our school this past June. Prof. Tom is a black belt in BJJ under Riccardo Almeida and has an impressive record in both competitive grappling and in MMA. A "retired" ROC champion and two-time UFC veteran, Tom is now focused on grappling tournaments and teaching at his Ocean County BJJ academy. Although not actively focused on MMA anymore, he still does show up in the Bellator cage from time to time.
Back when Tom was getting ready to fight in the UFC in Macau he asked me to help him find a spot to practice at the week leading up to his fight. Being that I am pretty much the white-guy authority on all things HK and Macau (at least martial arts related), I found a small BJJ school for him to practice at. In return for the favor he said he would teach a workshop at my school and thus this is how the whole thing came to be.
Although we teach a traditonal Chinese martial art and Tom teaches the very different BJJ and MMA, we found more similarities than one might think. A lot of Tom's advice (for example getting very close to the opponent so his punches are not as effective) seem to come right out of the WT playbook. Tom showed some fantastic clinch work (some of which was nearly identical to what we teach), as well as some locks, takedowns and groundwork that was new territory for my students.
I want my students to be exposed to different martial arts and methodologies so that they can better apply their own Wing Tsun. Most traditional martial arts practitioners just talk, but I want my students to know first hand what it's like to train with elite practitioners of different styles. At the beginning of the workshop Prof. Tom said that there was a lot he can learn from us too. A truly humble attitude from a top fighter like Tom should be a lesson to all the keyboard warriors out there!
For the last 30 minutes Tom had a Q & A session and regaled us with amazing stories of his experiences in both the grappling and MMA world. He also explained the brutal weight cutting procedures and gave great insight into fighting sports.
I have to say that I have had many teachers over the course of my long martial arts career and Tom was definitely much more polished as an instructor than I would have expected. No doubt he knows his stuff, but what sets Prof. Tom apart is his rare ability to communicate it to a broad and (in this case) non-BJJ audience. My student's know what an emphasis I place on proper teaching pedagogie, so it takes a lot to impress me!
The proceeds of the workshop were all donated directly to Tom's student(s) who were affected by the devasting Sandy hurricane last year. If you are in the Forked River/Tom's River NJ area, please check out OCBJJ or visit http://oceancountybjj.com/
I rarely openly endorse instructors, but Prof. Tom is in a class all by himself.