Mikyo Riggs Interview

One of those shooting for the number one spot is purple belt Mikyo Riggs, alsoknown as “Mikyozhino”. He is truly passionate about the ART of jiu-jitsu. Mikyo is no knuckle dragger in a gi trying to prove himself worthy of praise. He is a rare gem in terms of strength, technique and philosophy. The United Gracie Tournament, Sept 22-23rd in San Francisico California just might prove to be one of the best tournaments ever. People from all over the world are training numerous hours in order to take 1st place in sunny California. One of those shooting for the number one spot is purple belt Mikyo Riggs, alsoknown as “Mikyozhino”. He is truly passionate about the ART of jiu-jitsu. Mikyo is no knuckle dragger in a gi trying to prove himself worthy of praise. He is a rare gem in terms of strength, technique and philosophy. Mikyo is one of the stand out players from the United Gracie Team (of which there are many). Luckily, I was able to interview Mikyo about his unique history in martial arts, and what he does tostay motivated on the mat.

Adissa- Mikyo is an interesting name, where does it come from and what does it mean?

Mikyo- My parents had originally named me Mikael (after St. Michael the arc angel) When I was still a baby my parents were studying religion and spirituality with the Tibetan lamas or priests. We were very involved in the Tibetan monastery, and the lamas renamed me Mikyo Dorje. Mikyo Dorje was a renowned Buddhist teacher, leader, artist and warrior in the 1500s. Mikyo Dorje itself translates to “Omnipotent One”. Big shoes to fill huh?

Adissa- How long have you been training in martial arts?

Mikyo- I can always remember being attracted to the martialarts from an early age. I didn’t begin to train until I was 16 though. I began to study a style calledpractical martial arts or freestyle fighting as it came to be called. It was primarily boxing and kickboxing, and tae kwon do, with some trapping, self-defense, and basic wrestling and judo takedowns.I did that until I earned my black belt in 94. Then I began focusing on my kickboxing and boxing skills. I helped train some amateur fighters mostly as a sparring partner and was teaching lots of classes a week. I was also around this time that the UFC came out. Like everyone else, I was completely fascinated by jiu jitsu and its effectiveness. I went to try out jiu jitsu in Pleasant Hill under my first instructor Caesar Gracie. I trained there for a few months only once or twice a week. I never really understood jiu jitsu at that time and was a strong believer in striking. The training was very hard and I remember always feeling happy just to survive a class without getting injured. Around this time I was teaching classes and training and wondering what else was out there for me so I decided to go to college at the university of Colorado in Boulder. During this period of time, I realized I wanted martial arts to be a focus in my life as well as fighting in the UFC a goal. This was an important turning point in my career. So I moved to Los Angeles to train with one of my favorite fighters at the time Vitor Belfort. I had no money and no job so training was very difficult and expensive. I decided to move back home to northern California and hook up with Caesar and Ralph. I went to Cesar’s for about a month but didn’t have a car and it was over an hour from my house. So I just trained at my old school mostly by my self until I heard that Ralph opened a school in the San Francisco, (which is still an hour from my house). I went down there the first week it opened and saw my old friend Kurt. Kurt was the main instructor and it all kind a fell in place. I have been training there for about 2 years and 9 months. I am a purple belt under Ralph, which is a great honor for me.

Adissa- How did you come to train at Ralph Gracie’s?

Mikyo- I met Ralph at Caesars back before I went to college. He had started to teach at Caesars before I left. When I was living in Colorado is when Ralph was fighting in the extreme fighting championships. I saw it and waslike “Damn, that’s the guy I used to train with. I always knew he was a savage!” It was at this time I began to believe that Ralph could help me reach my goals in no holds barred. When I moved back to northern California, Ralph already had his own academy. It was closer to my house than Caesar and I stopped by. I saw Ralph and he remembered me and trained with me. I knew his jiu jitsu was effective.

Adissa- What are some of the recent tournaments you have placed in over the last few years?

Mikyo- The last one I fought was the Pan Ams. I was doing OK. My first match I kind of paced myself and won 12-0. Then I was fortunate enough to submit my next 3 opponents. In my last match, it seemed a little controversial. They changed the referees around, and I could tell from the beginning that if the fight was close I was going to lose. I almost had his arm and a choke but never got advantages. The score was 0-0 and he won. I kind of lost my temper after that which I was and am very apologetic for. I ended up getting third but my teammate Luke won so it was all good. I also fought at the grapplers quest west in the advanced division. This was my first no gi competition and I got third place. I am also a California state champ, Hawaii state champ, and Joe Moriera international champion for jiu jitsu. I fought in a few striking tournaments also. I got second in the sparring division at tat Wong’s San Francisco championships black belt division. I fought in Navarro’s North California championships and was the sport jiu jitsu grand champion, and second place in the Muay Thai tournament. I am hoping with more experience, I will have better results in competitions.

Adissa- You have a very impressive guard. How would you describe your mat strategy?

Mikyo-With my guard I like to focus on out teching the guy. I like to always be attacking sweeps and submissions in combinations and series. My teammate Dave Camarillo told me “Your guard has to be a place people hate and fear to be” so I try to emulate that by staying aggressive. I try to figure out which attacks are suited for my opponents, and keep throwing different positions at them, keeping the pressure on at all times. I want to physically and mentally dominate the guy, and just methodically beat him down. I try to rely on my technique because Ralph told me “You have to believe 100% in your technique,” which I think is true. I have a lot of faith in the techniques of jiu jitsu, and I work very hard on my game so that my confidence is solid. I am always trying to upgrade my guard with new sweeps, and attacks, and make my positions stronger. Every day I train I learn something. I love this sport!

Adissa- That is some awesome footage they have of you at www.onthemat.com . Do you remember your matches when you compete? Or, do you just do your job and remember details later?

Mikyo- Competition is one area where I feel I have a lot of room to improve. I think each fight for me is completely different so I try to go with the flow and take advantage of any mistakes my opponent makes. At the same time I want to stick with my strategy and attacks. When I fight my body just seems to know what its doing. I almost feel like a spectator in my own body, I just go on instincts. I am not really aware of what’s going on until after the match. A match is like a fight and I just try to bring intensity to the match. I try to stay present in the moment and one step ahead of the other guy.

Adissa- Are you excited about the United Gracie Tournament?

Mikyo- I am very excited about the United Gracie tournament. I have been injured for a while so I am trying to heal and get ready. Our school is training really hard right now and it will hopefully pay off at the tourney. If everything goes as planned, this could be one of the biggest, best tournaments in America. (Editors note: Mikiyo could not compete at the Gracie open due to injury)

Adissa- How much do you weigh right now?

Mikyo- Right now I weigh 174 but I compete at 169. I fight middleweight or medio.

Adissa- Do you have any plans for NHB in the future?

Mikyo- I want to fight NHB very badly. I consider myself a martial artist and NHB the ultimate test of ones style and self. I want to test my skills against the best and see where I stand. I am doing some physicaltherapy right now and then plan to begin my NHB training. I have spoken with IFC and gladiators challenge about possible matches. King of that Cage is also a possibility. But UFC and Pride are the goals.

Adissa- Are there any books, movies or songs you use to staymotivated when training for a competition?

Mikyo- If I told you what was in my cd player at the last tournament you and everyone else would be laughing at me! The week before a fight, I rest a lot and watch lots of movies. Mostly the ones you would expect. Anything that deals with overcoming and triumphing obstacles. Book of five rings, art of war stuff like that I love too. I like to listen to music that relaxes me not that amps me too much. I don’t listen to too much rageand limp bizkit. I like more hip-hop and rap. I like a beat that relaxes me, and helps me get into the zone but Sometimes I start to think about partying and getting chicks too much so that’s not to good. I mostly work on mental preparation and drilling, including meditation and prayer. I use my goals, hard work, and sacrifice to motivate me. I try to believe in myself and pray I get the job done.

Adissa- Any last Words?

Mikyo- I would like to thank you, and OntheMat.com for recognizing me. I would also like to thank all my teachers and training partners, friends, family and supporters for the help they have given me because without it I would not be who I am. And thank my sponsors, Onthemat.com, the amazing Foodform Vitamins (available at www.Foodform.com.), and Gold’s Gym Marin. Oh and if you want to sponsor me, don’t be shy. I would also like to say that martial arts has been a blessing for me in my life, so I would like to encourage everyone to keep training and striving for greatness. If anyone needs to get in touch with me my e-mail is mikyoriggs@aol.com

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Adisa Banjoko