William Vandry Interview

11/16/02Q: What is your history in Martial arts?

A: I had been fascinated with Bruce Lee as a child… when I saw he and Dan Inosanto do the nunchaku duel in Game of Death, I was in awe. I think so many of us were inspired by Bruce because here in the U.S. we had the culture of martial arts blend from the 1900`s and it really was beginning to spread after world war 2 when Judo and Karate became interesting to Americans. I think the Bruce Lee craze in the 70`s gave Americans the hunger for learning. I studied Isshin ryu Karate as a child, but due to my father being in the military we were constantly being stationed at a different base every few years. I met a friend when I was in junior high and learned Wing Chun Kung Fu from him and achieved rank of instructor. I trained Western boxing as a teenager, and when I heard of Muay Thai I became very interested. I trained thai for about three years.

Q: How did you get into BJJ?

A: I heard of the UFC on pay per view in 1993, and when I watched it, I think like many other Americans, it had a sort of shock value to us. We had never viewed an actual no holds type event and all of a sudden reality started coming out. Royce Gracie was a phenom then, and I think many were wondering if it was a fluke, what would he do aagainst a judoka or a wrestler, etc.. I think his quick choke against Shamrock in UFC 1, and his choke on Remco in UFC 2 and the triangle choke (figure four with the legs around the head) against Dan Severn in UFC 4 proved that BJJ was something totally different. I was hooked and had to find more, yet at that time here in Texas all we had access to was video tape instruction, now we have 5th Degree Black Belt Carlos Machado and 7 Machado black belts in Texas as well as a black belt under Pedro Alberto.

Q: Who is your instructor?

A: I met John and Carlos Machado in 1995 and have trained with the Machados ever since. I also was interested in learning from other BJJ black belts, so from white belt til now I have trained with the Machados, Reylson Gracie, Royce Gracie, Rickson Gracie, Pedro Carlvaho and other Black belts in BJJ. In my interest in grappling, I have trained with wrestling coaches to learn single and double legs better as well as picks. I have trained mainly with all the Machado brothers, and had a very good intense week last year with Rigan, John and Roger Machado prepping for the Pan Am. My chief instructor is no doubt Mr. Carlos Machado. And that`s with a BIG MR….(laughs)

Q: Tell us a little about Carlos Machado

A: How about I tell you a lot about Carlos Machado? (laughs) Carlos is a magical human being, when I first started training with him I learned the lessons of leverage in BJJ. He is a very fluid technician… I think he is a problem solver in the sense that he has expounded upon his knowledge of not just BJJ, but grappling overall as well. I was so impressed with his ability to wrestle using takedowns and open guard such. He is also a master at the sweep. Carlos has sweeps he sets up from a sweep that you defend… and what I mean by that is if he tries to sweep you and you defend, all of a sudden that was a setup for another sweep. When he won the 2000 World, he defeated everyone using his sweep game.. he also won the open class as well. Big lesson for all of us on sweeping. I also would like to point out that Carlos weighs 175 pounds.. that is not the biggest person in the world but he is a Spartan warrior and athlete. He is so detailed on his BJJ, his wrestling, his sweeps, his nutrition, diet, techniques… just a true master of the craft, and above all he is the kind of guy you feel you know him like your brother after five seconds of meeting him. Great guy and a dear friend as well as my Professor and a brother.

Q: What is it like rolling with the Machado brothers?

A: In two words, fun and educational. (laughs) Tell you what, why don`t I just break down each Machado and go from there? Ok, I will start with oldest to youngest, First of all Carlos. Carlos is a guy that is a bait (listen closely out there (laughs)), with Carlos, he will pull you right to his guard and go for submission but will sweep you and finish. He is very adept at finishing from guard but is addicted to his sweeping ability. He has so many dimensions of the game. He absolutely loves elbow locking from the top position as well to a lesser extent his armbars and Kimuras. He is also very crafty at defense. I remember at one seminar I hosted for him here in Austin, he was answering questions. I had one of my blue belts ask: ” Carlos, how do you get out of the Kimura when they are applying it? “He says :” Put me in the Kimura” It was so ridiculously funny because one of my students applies a Kimura ( shoulder lock) and he brings his foot over his head to block the Kimura. I remember my student then said: “Ok Carlos, now what would us normal people do to get out?” (laughs) Carlos also is fantastic to roll with in the sense that he will also sit and tell you how to adjust your game to defend his attacks. I remember when I was a blue belt, he was actually designing a way for me to beat his game because he wanted to see how he would come up with new attacks.

Ok, Roger is very akin to Carlos in the instructional way… very fluid as well, but Roger to me was born to be a BJJ instructor. He was also a fantastic competitor but I personally hope he never gets bored with BJJ because he was very good at fluid rolling and defense. Roger came up with this move called the “Armpit Americana” that he taught me last year. It is a great move that describing it online wouldn`t even make sense. (laughs)

Now I will go to Rigan. I think everyone asks me more about Rigan than anyone else. Rigan and I rolled and worked with mainly no gi and I learned a few of his favorite moves. He loves the “Twister” which is a move popularized by Jean Jacques` brown belt Eddie Bravo. (By the way, congratulations Eddie, wish you well at Abu Dhabi) Rigan is powerful at the side control and sweeping as well. I think Rigan has been known to be one of the most respected BJJ blackbelts AND Grapplers period. Rigan really workd incrementally when wrestling. In the guard he doesn`t rush. He takes his time.. he will stop, clamp your legs with his and move inch by inch to side. Then, Kimura, Twister or whatever he thinks of. Rigan has had injuries and some bad timing on things, otherwise I believe he would be winning his Abu Dhabi divisions with respect to other competitors.

IIf you see Jean-Jacques game, he is flexible, fast, methodical and if you roll with him, it appears that he has a patient game of “I am going to get you and there is nothing you can do.” Obviously from his Abu Dhabi success, JJ is fantastic on top or bottom and does things that I think if you don`t study him, you better not get him in your division.

John Machado is a super instructor as well, John has some interesting concepts in his game. I think John likes to be physical as well as technical. He likes to mix it up with his offensive game. John is sort of a mix between Rigan and JJ. There is a great necklock he showed me last year that is great from topside.

Q: I know you got your Black Belt with three instructors, who were the other three?

A: When I was younger, my Karate instructor was Hadley Watts, My Wing Chun instructor was Sam Estrade and of course my BJJ instructor is Carlos Machado.

Q: Tell us about your school. How many students, Men, women, children?

A: I have my own Academy here in Austin Texas. I have around 100 or so students and a separate women and childrens class. BJJ, like other styles are mainly male dominated, so I decided to open my women`s class, and it is absolutely fantastic. I actually have women who have never done any martial art or anything athletic for that matter, and they pick up so fast. I think women have a potential to attach to the technical side of Jiu Jitsu faster than some men due to the fact that they are smaller physically and are forced to rely on technique as opposed to strength. In two weeks, I already had women doing armbars from the guard, sweeps and chokes… basic things but in two weeks? Good God, in one year they are going to be very scary, I may have to stop wrestling with them then (laughs). I say ditto for the children. I have a young lady in the children`s class at nine years of age who is doing single leg takedowns, chokes, armbars, leglocks… I think every year the process of evolution in BJJ elevates. I remember some things from 6-7 years ago we have eliminated and some things we still utilize… at my academy I like to work beginning students with basic techniques… guard, all fours, armbars, passing the guard, attacks from the guard, submissions, but I think it`s important to not pound on new students to pressure them or anyone else for that matter to be world champions. At my academy a majority of my students have families, full time jobs and I think most people in BJJ are similar. BJJ should be fun while learning self-defense, getting into shape, possible tournament competition and maybe NHB fighting. I also note that my students are not just paychecks every month, you have to endear them and help them grow. When the BJJ rage started in the 90`s, all over the U.S. people were “teaching” BJJ when in fact they had never even trained. I think many people were thinking this was the big cash cow to get into… we all want to make a decent living, but your mentality to teach BJJ should have prioritized on spreading BJJ and teaching it the best you can to have future blue, purple, brown and black belts, not the mentality of ” I can make a killing at this.” I think that is one of our main strengths in BJJ, if you are a Black belt, you have credibility through legitimacy period. It is up to you to be a person who can be a terrible instructor or a selfish instructor or one who can share, correct or go out of your way to help that student having trouble with a technique and to keep arrogance to a minimum.

Q: What other BJJ people do you admire?

A: Royce started this all in the U.S., this guy went and put the BJJ map for all of us to follow. I admire his brother Rickson for his accomplishments in his years of training and putting it on the line. I liked Roleta`s guard and his fantastic sweeps…. Roberto Traven is another great guard player… of course guys like Fabio Gurgel is very technical and I enjoyed his NHB fights too. Margarida is the man with the spotlight. I think he has a complete game and finishes well. Saulo Riberio has great guard and top as well, I like his composure and patience. Pe de Pano just won the Mundial and has a good game to study for your defenses… Nino Schembri has a fantastic guard I used to study back in 96`, he is still one of the best out there…. Fantastic agility. Outside of just good fighters, I look at Carlos Gracie Jr. as one of the people keeping sport BJJ alive and well with the Pan Am and Mundial. Crolin Gracie, too many to name.

Q: Outside of your instructor, whose BJJ game do you like to watch?

A: Although my vision is limited, I do research the styles of others and I with my instructor Carlos Machado work with the newest techniques and styles, he usually discusses the advantages and disadvantages of my preferred fighters. I like Ricardo Liborio, and outside of the Machado brothers, I emulated his style because he is a good sized guy around 200, yet he is very technical and can finish you from top or bottom. When I was a blue belt, I wanted that type game too so I would study his tournament strategies and fighting styles. I also like Nino`s game because one of my chief weapons is the kneebar from the guard. I study kneebar attacks from guard in a smashed position, being passed, half guard, you name it. My goal is to be able to handle any angle to kneebar and Nino has that in his game.

Q: Any students or former students of yours we should keep a look out for in BJJ or NHB scene?

A: Yes. I have a few that have actually been training for sometime. I do wrestling takdowns, kickboxing and boxing, Muay Thai and of course our BJJ ground game for some looking for the NHB. I have a student named Josh Hill who is great on the mat, he is a blue belt who has some good boxing and kickboxing skills who plans to fight soon. I have another student Rob Furlano who has done Thai and is a blue belt of mine with great skills and aggression. I also have a student named Jerry Cerda who will be planning to fight as well. As for BJJ, I have a student Sean Cooper who just devastated his weight class at the Dallas Carlos Machado tournament Oct.19th. Sean has a great guard finishing game in which I work with. I have worked a different type setup to armbars and reverse triangle chokes from the guard that he picks up faster than anyone else at my school. Look for him at the Pan Am and possibly the Mundials. One of my purple belts Gary Claxton is a small guy (5`3″ 140) but he can hang with any weight size. He is a great kneebar finisher from the guard as that is one of my favorite techniques he picked it up quick. I look for the Pan Am and Mundial for him as well. He also won the Jean Jacques grappling games last year. David Thomas is another one of my students who is very strong and aggressive for his size. (140lbs.) He won the silver medal at the Pan Am this year and I think he will be winning Gold next time. I have a student named Alan Shebaro who trains with Carlos Machado in Dallas now, and he is also a brown belt. I think Alan will be fighting NHB soon as he trains with my fellow black belt and good friend Travis Lutter from Dallas

Q: Everyone has to answer this question so what do you think of Rickson Gracie?

A: Rickson is well known through the BJJ world and is also a legend. Rickson was up and coming when Rolls Gracie was the top of the game. When Rolls died, the mantle was handed to Rickson. There were also others who were part of the Gracie army that fought many NHB battles as well such as Pinduka and others. Rickson has competed in Sambo, wrestling, BJJ, NHB and other sports and has been the champion of the Gracie family for some time. I think Rickson dissects his opponents as he is in battle with them to probe for their weak spots. In a 1995 article about Rickson, he was quoted as stating: “The day I stop learning is the day I die.” What a remarkable man not just jiujitsu, but a family man as well. When his son Rockson passed away, that was a devastating loss to him and his family, however I was glad to see him keeping this issue so private and not to let the media jump on such a subject. We owe him a bow for so much he has done to popularize the BJJ fighters for Japan. Renzo, Ryan and now Almeida and Minotaurio all are fortunate to have their doors of opportunity from what Rickson started. I think everyone discusses his fighting prowess so I am discussing this angle where few touch upon.

Q: How long have you been training?

A: I assume you mean BJJ, I started with a few seminars in 1994, and started training with the Machados in 1995. When Carlos moved to Dallas in late 1995, I began driving up there every Tuesday and did the group class and then I would do a one hour private lesson after. In each private lesson, Carlos would engineer a game for me and what he thought I should aim for and what type attacks. He then would proceed to wrestle with me and I remember Carlos would never take it easy on me wrestling even though I was just a white belt. (laughs) I use to think “Boy, did I say something?” I found out later that Carlos in fact was training me this way because of my far drive and dedication to BJJ with him. He nicknamed me “The Creation” because he actually Dr. Frankensteined me into a lot of what I am today. He would teach me how to beat his guard, how to frustrate good wiry, technical fighters and just overall a good game for me. I had stated earlier that I am known for my leglocking game, yet even this all started when I was a white belt I asked Carlos; “Can you show me a kneebar?” Look what a can of worms that opened!(laughs) Anyway, I have been training with the brothers since 1995 and I still train with them. When Carlos comes down for a seminar, he usually spares an hour time for a private lesson for me just have a good sparring hour.

Q:Tell us about your tournament experience.

A: My goal has always been to win a world championship. I have competed as a blue, purple and brown belt and I have aimed my goals for either the Pan Am or the Mundials world championship and have competed at the Pan Am in all three of those belts.

Q:What is your tournament record? Let us hear about the major events and how they went for you in detail

A: I have placed fourth as a purple belt at the Pan Am, and I placed second last year at the Pan Am as a brown belt. As a purple belt, I was in a semifinal match and I was winning but with about two minutes left, I got jabbed with an accidental finger in my eye. I was a little too concerned about my eye and got swept. I was trying to hurry and pass but my time ran out. That was a fast paced match and I felt the sting of unfortunate happenstances in life, but I sat right there and the first thing I said to myself was: “I swear I will be back here next year.”

As a brown belt I was in a very slow paced match and I passed 4-5 times but did not get the side for three seconds. It was more of a boring match in my opinion, the match was 0-0, and I remember one of my students yelling: “It`s 0-0 William, 15 seconds left!” I then heard the dreaded clink of an advantage point. For a second I thought: “Wow, they gave me an advantage point for aggressiveness, then reality came back and I said nahhhh!!”.(lauging hysterically) So I got the silver.

Q: How blind are you? Were you born blind or was it an accident?(details?)

A: I have been diagnosed with the clinical and legal diagnosis of blindness in both eyes with a vision no better than 20/200. I also have a condition by medical definition called Agnosia. Agnosia is a rare disorder characterized by an inability to identify or recognize objects or persons despite having knowledge of the characteristics of the objects or the persons. For instance, if there is a cassette on a table, I may think it is a remote control. I also have Prosopagnosia which is a condition also called Face Blindness. Prosopagnosia is a neurological condition that impairs a person`s ability to recognize faces. Usually Agnosia are caused by a head trauma although not always. There is a website to explain Prosopagnosia in laymen terms if interested, it is www.prosopagnosia.com and Agnosia`s in general for more medical definition, which is www.ninds.nih.gov/health_and medical/disorders/agnosia.htm . These conditions are certainly interesting, if you look at me you would not be able to tell I have a visual problem unless you specifically knew. I think most people think if you have a visual problem then you need glasses and a cane, not always. There are some people who have been legally blind and still do every day things.

In 1997 a random person who had an argument with someone else and came to shoot that person but I was shot in my left temple and the bullet exited through the lower right half of my head. The bullet had went through my Occiptial lobe and the eyes are connected to the Occipital lobe which transfers the image of sight to the brain. Due to the injury which caused lesions, that interrupts the complete image sent to the brain which causes the sight impairment. I spent a few years recovering from the physical part, then the mental then the retraining in a different way. I also managed to get back to the art I love so much, BJJ and with so much help from family and Carlos Machado I was able to be better than ever—with exception of sight.

Q: What is your future plans? Tournaments? School?

A: I have plans to compete in future tournaments, possibly the Mundials next year. I also think I would like to keep spreading BJJ in my area to children and women as well as adult men. . My school I plan to keep expanding, I have some locations which I may expand different locations in Austin and South Texas, but one thing at a time.

Q: What is the view of the Texas BJJ tournament scene in terms of growth and potential?

A: I see Texas as expanding in BJJ. I remember the days where I was the first Machado purple belt and now there are others as well as four of my students who are purple belts, and three are Pan Am medallists and one is a Grappling Games gold medallist. I remember 7-8 years ago, there were maybe ten blue belts here in Texas, now there may be close to 100. As far as quality, look at the top level of instruction here in Texas. We have Black belt Carlos Machado who is the top guy in Texas, then Machado Black belt Travis Lutter in the Ft. Worth area, Machado Black belt Terry Corkran in Lewisville, Machado Black belt Klay Pittman in Lubbock, Machado Black belts Roman Kilgore and David Sullivan in Dallas, and Pedro Alberto Black belt Eric Williams in Houston and myself here in Austin so we definitely have grown the BJJ grass here in Texas and it will continue to grow.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I hope to have won the Pan Am or Mundial and competed and made a good showing in a future Abu Dhabi. Brazilian Jiujitsu will also be an Olympic demonstration sport in 2004 so wouldn`t that be nice to compete and win the Olympics? Outside of competition, I hope to have my own future brown and black belts and to form an international force in BJJ.

Q: What is your training regiment like?

A: I teach BJJ six days a week and twice a day during the week. I also teach privates during the week so teaching and training are a little different. I do spar almost every class with my students to both check their game and to keep mine up as well as to experiment with different escapes and new finishes. I do heavy weight training twice a week and incorporate cardio as well.

Q: Do you have a special diet?

A: Yes I do. I eat 5-6 times a day, yet 3-4 of those meals are in the form of protein shakes. It is hard to eat solid food and grapple twice a day so I have to watch my diet. I also need constant red meat for the iron quality, but my main source of protein is chicken or turkey. I consume fiber in the form of salads to clean out my system but I use the Mediterranean diet in which you eat your meal first and your salad after, why? Because the food gets digested first, and the fiber cleans afterward. Minerals are important in my diet due to the constant sweat of each training session.

Q: What techniques are you known for?

A: I am primarily a guard attacking stylist. I enjoy pulling guard almost every time, yet I enjoy the side mount too. From guard game I enjoy the armbars, but I have a move called the figure four armlock which my students are all picking up well. I also invented a variation of the triangle choke which is called the loose lock triangle. It looks like you have a loose lock with your legs but it chokes just as fast as the triangle. One of my students won a Pan Am match this year using it. Definitely my favorite move I use and very often is the kneebar. I feel it is the great equalizer, and the way I do it is primarily from the guard, not from top. I actually learned a few from the way Jean Jacques does his and I just kept at it, reverse engineered kneebars and started to develop a great kneebar game. I have so much faith in my kneebars that I don`t mind using them while smashed or someone trying to pass… it`s the best time.(laughs) Carlos Machado calls me “The legbar wizard”, and he actually works with me on leglocking because it helps me to think of new ways due to his defense.

Q: From your perspective, what would you like to see with BJJ? Do you plan on hosting any tournaments?

A: I would like to see the “Gentleman`s art” of jiujitsu come out. I would like it if we toned down on some of our poor behaviors and trash talking and try to remember that we have to promote our art and sport that we all love for the future. If we ever plan on packing tournaments with spectators, we have to appeal to them, I would like to see more media covered tournaments, more sponsorship from companies, I am actually working with one on sponsoring my team for overseas tournaments such as the Mundial. We need to think of the old 50`s boxing days with Rocky Marciano, who used to have his own boxing tv show. He exuded class, he talked with class, and he made boxing classy. I think more opening and closing ceremonies for world championships such as the Pan Am would be a shot in the arm. More thanks to competitors, especially here where American competitors go to a Pan Am and pay big bucks to fly out, compete but really we are fighting for the love of it, certainly not CNN coverage. It would be nice to see promoters sponsoring schools for students who are underprivileged or children. I could go on but we would be here til next year. I have been working with computer equipment and design for a tournament, possibly prize money and worthwhile media coverage for two years. I plan to have a tournament started next year that will be too enticing to miss out on! Overall, I love BJJ and want to put my effort to make this as much of a mainstream sport as possible.

If that wasn’t inspiring to you, you are a dead lazy couch potato. How many of you would have gave up after being shot? What a man. Thanks so much for sharing Willam and Craig. OTM would like to wish you all the luck in the world with your future plans and goals! Keep training and send us some videos for the next tape Scar Tissue!

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About the author

Craig Burt