Team Casarez Goes 4-0 at the Toro Cup

The Toro Cup is a Super Fight hosted by Cageside and Toro BJJ that invites competitors from blue to black belt to compete. The Super Fights are highly competitive and intense matches. The Toro Cup also donates 50% of the proceeds to an important cause.

In the case of Toro Cup 18, the proceeds were donated to Trevor Hayes, to aid with medical bills and a stroke. We are proud to be a part of this event, for the support that it provides to the community and the competition it offers to my students.

We had four students compete in the Toro Cup 18. Two brown belts, Kevin and Mike, one purple belt, Milo, and one blue belt, Christian. All of these students have been training with me for years, and I felt very confident that their preparation and training would lead to successful victories. All of my students won their matches, 3 by submissions and 1 by points.

Kevin wins by Loop Choke

Kevin was offered the match at Toro Cup two weeks before the event, which means that a lot of his preparation was due to his consistency and hard work in the months leading up to the fight. Kevin’s game plan going into this fight was to change it up from his previous matches and really impose his game on his opponent – starting off with an initial takedown. Even though the takedown was not successful, he immediately adjusted to pulling guard and worked toward sweeping his opponent. At one point when his opponent was in the process of passing, Kevin snuck in a loop choke. When his opponent fought the choke, Kevin sat up, secured a leg, and took his opponent down, with the choke still in place. The opponent was not able to get free of the loop choke, and the match ended in a submission.

When asked how he prepared for the match, Kevin says that he was lifting 3-4 times a week and in the gym anywhere from 2-5 times a week. He also watched some footage of his opponent to prepare for his opponent’s game. He knew that his opponent liked to pass with his head low and hips high, which is typically a very successful and strategic way to pass. In this case, though, it was the perfect setup for the loop choke.

Looking ahead, Kevin will be competing in the FUJI Raleigh tournament on January 16.

You can watch the full Live post-match interview with Kevin here.

I also breakdown his match on the YouTube Channel, going through step by step what he did well and what he can work on. I encourage you to check out to see what you can learn from it!

Milo wins by Bread Cutter Choke

Milo took this match with a 2 day notice, which says a lot because competitors will usually spend weeks or months preparing for these matches. Milo’s training has been consistent and intentional, so he felt confident and prepared to take on his opponent, even with the two days notice.
It also helped that Milo competed against this opponent in the Tap Cancer Out tournament in September. He knew that his opponent was experienced in Judo, so his game plan was to pull guard, because he did not want to engage in his opponent’s stand up game. After pulling guard, Milo swept his opponent and then submitted him with a Bread Cutter choke.

When asked how he stays prepared for these kinds of matches on such short notice, Milo said that he tries to stay as consistent as possible. Mondays and Wednesdays are non-negotiables, and he will try to make it on Saturdays as well.

An important point that he made is that he comes in “not as much as possible, but as much as possible to the point where I don’t get burnt out”.

This is especially important, and a key point that I have been trying to stress to my students recently.

While Milo does not have any upcoming tournaments lined up as of yet, he feels very confident following this match and has plans to compete regularly in 2022.

Christian wins by Foot Lock

Christian is one of my most consistent students, he is always at the gym helping his friends with their technique or challenging himself against other students. To prepare for this tournament, Christian says that he was lifting 1-2 months before the tournament, and committing to extra rounds in the gym to keep his cardio up. In the week leading up to the tournament, he toned down the training, still coming in to “keep the blood moving”, but not enough to wear him out or injure himself.

His plan going into this Super Fight was to pull guard and establish a strong de la riva, which is his most confident guard. Ultimately, his guard was passed and his opponent took his back. Christian showed great composure even in this position. He stayed calm, which helped him notice that his opponent’s feet were almost crossed. This is a day 1 lesson that we teach students – do not cross your feet when you have the back! Christian moves his opponent’s foot so that it is directly crossed, and then sinks in a deep foot lock which leads to the submission.

Christian’s goal is to continue improving in jiu jitsu, and he sees competition as an opportunity to highlight his flaws and test his strengths. His plan is to continue competing as much as he can so that he can continue to improve.

Mike Dominates by Points

Every now and then, it comes down to who wants it more? It was obvious from the first couple seconds of Mike’s match that he wanted this win. His opponent was making faces, not taking the match seriously, and taunting Mike. Mike was all focus, and it paid off when Mike secured the win. He showed incredible technique, discipline, pacing, and patience during this match. It was evident from the very beginning who was going to win.

He was coming into this Super Fight after winning first place at the NAGA tournament in Charlotte on November 13. His confidence and hunger to win again was very high, and you could tell from the way he fought and how he approached the match.

Jiu Jitsu is not just a physical game, but a mental game too. In fact, I would argue it is more important to be mentally prepared than physically prepared. If you are in great physical shape, but you have no mental strength, you will not last a match or push yourself when the time comes to go for gold.

Mike has been making his mental health a priority in preparing for his matches, and it is paying off and becoming very evident in his success. He dominated his opponent during this match, ultimately winning by points.

Mike’s plan going forward is to continue building on his success by pushing himself through competition in the 2022 year.


The Toro Cup 18 was a huge success for Team Casarez, and we are excited to continue participating in the event in the future. The next Toro Cup will be February 5, 2022. It will also be held to raise money for someone in need in the community. Look out for Live videos and interviews on our social media accounts:

Instagram: @tonycasarez | @lepribjjraleigh
Facebook: Tony Casarez | Lepri BJJ Raleigh 

YouTube Channel: Tony Casarez

 

FUJI Raleigh Tournament October 2021

The FUJI Raleigh Jiu Jitsu tournament was hosted on October 24, 2020, and we had 13 students that competed and represented Team Casarez. For many of the students, it was the first time competing. It is always exciting watching students compete for the first time because there are a lot of emotions that come with competition.

Managing the emotions that come with a jiu-jitsu match at competition pace is challenging. There is excitement, but there are also nerves and fear. This is normal, and I encourage my students to compete if they can because it is a way to face these nerves and fears that we have. These weekends always leave me so proud of the students as they take on these emotions head first.

The 13 competitors brought home a total of 17 medals, with the following results:

Kids:

Silas – 3rd
Valentina – 3rd
Cristalia – 3rd
Gabriel – 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
Caike – 1st, 2nd

Adults:
Caike – 3rd
Noah – 1st
Xavier – 3rd
Shawn – 3rd
Brian B – 2nd
Andrew – 1st, 2nd
Brian – 2nd

Arthur and Henry also competed, and while they did not medal, they fought hard and showed true understanding of technique as they competed. This is important to me because it shows that the students are learning and improving, and are able to retain this information even under a stressful situation.

I would also like to shout out Andrew, who competed for the first time in the purple belt division. He earned his purple belt only 2 weeks before the competition, and won his division in Gi and got 2nd in No Gi. It was also his birthday, and it says a lot that he chose to spend the whole day competing! We are very proud of him.

We also had students who were not competing come out to support, including Sarah and Trinity. It is always a good feeling to have teammates cheering you on as you compete, so we appreciate students who take the time out of their weekend to be there for their teammates.

Every competition, we learn more about what we need to improve and focus on, and we take these details into the gym, and eventually into the next tournament.

Congratulations to the whole team for an amazing and exciting weekend!

IBJJF Charlotte International Open 2021

Alliance Team takes 1st Place in Gi and No Gi

As Lucas Lepri affiliates, Team Casarez students competed under the Alliance association for the IBJJF Charlotte competition on October 2.

Alliance has won 1st place in the previous four IBJJF Charlotte competitions, and secured a 5th title this year. Alliance is now 5X Charlotte Open Team Champions.

This was also the first year that the IBJJF Charlotte hosted a No-Gi team competition, and Alliance won 1st place in this competition as well. We are proud to be a part of this association that prides itself in world class techniques, competitors, and culture.

 

Team Casarez Individual Student Competition Results

As an individual team, we took 11 students to the competition. This was an exciting day because it is the most students we have taken to an IBJJF competition from Team Casarez. We also had students of all belt ranks participate in the competition. As an individual team, our students brought home 16 medals, with the results as follows:

 

White belt:
Troy competed in his first IBJJF competition. He has been training very hard at the gym and has been successful in local tournaments. He had two submissions in the tournament, and multiple exciting matches, and secured the gold medal.

Blue belt:
We had two blue belts compete in the competition, Catherine and Andrew. Andrew lost to a very tough opponent in the first round, but he was proud of his performance and we are proud of him as well. Catherine competed in both Gi and No Gi, and this was her first IBJJF competition. Even though she lost her matches, she was able to take away key learning points that will help her to improve for the next competition.

Purple belt:
Milo, Ferny, and Carl represented the purple belts from the school. Milo won 2nd in the Gi, and 3rd in the No Gi. Ferny took 3rd in the Gi, and 2nd in the No Gi. Carl won gold in his Gi division and 3rd in the absolute Gi division. All of these competitors had great performances, and we are very proud of them.

Brown belt:
Mike and Adam competed in the brown belt divisions. Adam competed in the absolute division for the Gi and won 2nd place. Mike competed in the Gi and No Gi division, and also won second place in both divisions.

Black belt:
Professors Tony and Brian competed in their Gi brackets for their divisions. Brian placed 3rd in his division. Tony competed in the adult division and lost by points. It was a great experience for both of them as they competed against high level black belt competitors.

 

We also had students make the drive from Raleigh to Charlotte to support the competitors. Jenn, Henry, and Megan all showed up to cheer on the students. Bringing snacks and recording matches helped to boost the team morale, and we are proud to have students that take the time out of their weekend to support their teammates.

Thank you to all of the students who represented Team Casarez on and off the mats at the Charlotte competition. We are excited to take the lessons learned from this competition to help us get ready for the next one!

3 Takeaways from the Tap Cancer Out Tournament 2021

On September 11, we took 21 students to the Tap Cancer Out tournament. The event was full of exciting matches and team camaraderie. From the tournament, there are 3 clear takeaways that I want to discuss.

1. Fundamentals are Key!

The first takeaway is that I noticed that our students had a different particular style compared to the other competitors. Because we are under Lucas Lepri and Alliance, our students tended to play a more controlled game with a good, steady pace. For example, there were a lot of fundamentals, such as knee cut passing to side control to basic finishes. Our students played both open and closed guard. They also demonstrated knowledge of basic takedowns from our curriculum which focuses on basic judo and wrestling influenced techniques that are part of our style.

Out of the 21 students who competed from our school, 17 medaled. Out of those 17, 8 got gold. And out of the total competitors, only 1 was a full time competitor who happened to snag a gold. This means that the 16 students who competed and medaled are all hobbyists who train only a few times a week. They have families, full-time school or jobs, or businesses of their own. Their success further proved the system we practice is effective. This was a local tournament but it was still interesting to see this dynamic played out through statistical data.

I learned that our students who practice consistently even just a few times a week can still build the fundamental framework needed to do well in a jiu jitsu tournament. Afterall, fundamentals are key.

2. We Are Family

The second takeaway I noticed at the tournament was that our team relied on each other as family. Since many students were competing at one time, it was hard to coach every single one of them.

Students stepped up, and were able to help each other: from coaching to helping with warm ups to taking videos and pictures of the matches. Our school culture is very important to us as it displays lots of brotherhood and sisterhood that is supportive and encouraging, regardless of results.

Our head of our association, Lucas Lepri, always preaches “we never walk alone,” and this past Saturday was a great example of this. Win or lose, we fight together. And the incredible support from the family and friends radiated and showed us that we are not only a team; we are family.

3. Winning Isn’t Everything

Finally, the 3rd takeaway from the tournament is that this was a great learning experience for everyone. A lot of our students learned from their mistakes. Being humbled is undoubtedly one of the best things that can happen to a person. Everyone wants to win, but winning isn’t everything. As cliche as it sounds, you learn so much from losing. Our team was able to pick the pieces up and rebuild from any losses they experienced. Those who were defeated at the tournament were back on the mats the Monday following.

Where they go from here is really up to them. I am proud of them for all they did not only at the tournament but also the preparation that was involved. As I mentioned before, the majority of these students have full-time lives outside of jiu jitsu. Yet, they made time to prepare mentally and physically. Now, they all know what it feels like to compete. And they know what to change or continue as they move forward.

I’m also really grateful for even the students who didn’t compete because they were there helping out. If they weren’t, they were there in spirit with support. They also helped to prepare these competitors with training at the gym beforehand. In jiu-jitsu, the beautiful thing is you can’t get better by yourself. You lose as a team; you win as a team; you fight as a team.

 

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Jiu Jitsu Team Helps Competitors Win at FUJI Tournament

Referring to Jiu Jitsu as an individual sport is accurate to an extent. After all, it is one-on-one grappling and competing. However, Jiu Jitsu is more of a team sport than a lot of us realize, and this was explicitly clear when Team Casarez competed in the FUJI tournament on April 25 in our hometown of Cary, North Carolina. 

Jiu Jitsu Training Program

The weeks leading up to the tournament included extended rounds of rolling. Students who were not planning to compete contributed to the training of their teammates by pushing themselves during these 8-10 minute rounds. The entire gym, competitors and noncompetitors alike, stepped up the training intensity in preparation for the upcoming tournament. As tournament day approached, you could hear a lot of students asking their teammates about game plans, how they felt, offering advice, and encouragement. 

Grappling Family 

On the day of the tournament, teammates who were not competing took the time out of their weekend to show up and support their fellow students. 

Thank you to Lelani, Jenn, Carl, JD, Brian, Kyle, Aaron and Todd for cheering on the competitors. Jenn brought snacks, Carl recorded footage, and Aaron took the time to post live updates on the Facebook group and share results with the rest of the team who were asking for updates. The energy, encouragement, and support from these teammates helped energize the competitors as they made their way onto the mats. 

The Martial Arts Competitors

There were 14 total competitors from Team Casarez at this tournament: Riya, Caike, Ferny, Garrett, Milo, Christian, Mikhael, Adam, Troy, Mike, Sach, Catherine, Thryn, and Frank. For some of these competitors, it was their first time competing. Competition is highly encouraged because it pushes students to challenge themselves mentally and physically. We are so proud of all of these students for deciding to compete. Regardless of any outcomes, competition will always provide helpful insights and lessons into your game. By the end of the day, the students had earned 19 medals among them. 

 

Jiu Jitsu Competition Results

Riya and Caike represented Team Casarez in the youth division. It was Riya’s first tournament, and she demonstrated impressive composure and technique as she submitted some of her opponents. She even went up against boys in her division. Riya placed gold in both Gi and No Gi. It was also Caike’s first tournament and he placed silver and bronze in Gi, and double bronze in No Gi. Both of these students are young and have bright and impressive futures ahead of them. 

In the adult division, we had 12 competitors: 6 white belts, 4 blue belts, and 2 brown belts.

Of the white belts, Troy earned silver in Gi and No Gi and showcased excellent passing and technique. Catherine won gold in Gi and No Gi and had some impressive take- downs in her matches. Ferny, Milo, Mikhael, and Sach represented the blue belts. Ferny earned gold in the Gi and bronze in the No-Gi. He also had the fastest submission of the tournament with an ankle lock at 9 seconds. Milo also won gold in Gi and bronze in No-Gi. He went up to the advanced division in No-Gi where they allow leg locks and heel hooks. He is only 17 and wanted to challenge himself against the adults. Mikhael won gold in both of his divisions, Gi and No-Gi, and finished all of his opponents by submission. Sach competed in the Gi and won silver. This was  both Sach and Mikhael’s first tournament as blue belts. In the brown belt division, Mike won gold in the Gi and silver in the No-Gi. 

Martial Arts Lessons Gained

We are so proud of all the competitors who represented the team at this tournament. Competition is a great way to test your jiu jitsu in a high-pressure environment. It is also a great way to pinpoint where improvements can be made in your game. From this tournament, we have learned some essential lessons as a team. 

Three main takeaways I want our team to focus on from this tournament are improvements on tactics, mentality, and training volume. 

  • Tactically: we can improve by dedicating more training time to learning what a strategy is, how to build it, and how to execute it in the tournament. 
  • Mentality: we can all improve our mentalities by arriving more prepared for the tournament, whether that means eating well, drinking plenty of water, getting sufficient rest the night before, arriving early, properly warming up, and making sure that the mind is focused. All of this will result in more mental clarity and confidence as you approach the mat. 
  • Volume: If you are planning to compete, make sure that your training volume is increasing. If your schedule allows you to train only a handful of times a week, make the most out of those sessions by limiting breaks, extending rounds, and pushing yourself to roll with teammates who have been resting. All of this will make you feel more confident on the day of the tournament. 

 

Remember, Jiu-jitsu is a team sport. We win together, we lose together, we train together, and we are in this together. Great job to the whole team on the success at the FUJI tournament on April 25. Let’s get ready for the next one!