Professor Justin Rader Interview

          Last week I had the opportunity to train with Professor Rafael Lovato and his first Black Belt, Justin Rader at Lovato's School of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA in Oklahoma City, OK. He is currently training for his superfight with 10th Planet's Denny Prokopos on June 15th in St. Louis. (More info can be found at   http://midwestsubmissionchallenge.com/2013/04/16/msc-5152013-st-louis-mo-featuring-superfight-justin-rader-vs-denny-prokopos/) Needless to say, he will be ready for that battle! Professor Rader was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, which can be found below.

First off, for those of you that didn't know, Rader was the 2010 Black Belt Featherweight No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. He is a 2X ADCC veteran and multiple time Grapplers Quest Professional Champion. He is also one of the black belt instructors at Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, the wrestling instructor, and the JR Warrior Kids Program Instructor.

AV: So you have a submission only super fight coming up against Denny Prokopos, how do you split up training in the Gi and without?

JR: It really depends on what tournament or event I have coming up, and whether the event is Gi or No-Gi. My super fight with Denny is a No-Gi match, so I am training primarily No-Gi. It also depends on what my teammates are training for as well, as I love to help them train for their tournaments and events too. Right now, Professor Rafael Lovato Jr. will be competing at the Brazilian Nationals and World Championships, and many of my teammates will be competing at the Dallas Open, which are all Gi tournaments, so I do like to throw on my Gi and help train them a little as well and give them a good round during their training, and they all get their No-Gi gear on as well to help me. I also teach classes nearly every evening, so I put the Gi on quite a lot. But my personal training and sparring right now is primarily No-Gi.

AV: Somewhat of a popular question; Do you think training in the Gi helps the NoGi game? Or vice versa?

JR: I absolutely think training in the Gi helps the No-Gi game and vice versa. Each is different in its own way, and you can bring pieces of one to the other to make you a better all-around fighter. I tell my students all the time, especially those that are very eager to begin training No-Gi, that the best way to understand jiu-jitsu at a real technical level is to train in the Gi. Training in the Gi also teaches you to be patient and wait for positions to develop, especially because of the grips. This will in turn give you a better understanding of how to apply jiu-jitsu in No-Gi. No-Gi is also very explosive and can create the opportunity of more scrambles happening for you to take advantage. In my opinion, it requires no less technique to be good at No-Gi or is a less technical game, it’s just a faster pace and you need to try to create scrambles that favor you. This is something you can also apply to the Gi that can help when you understand the positions and opportunities that you need to be explosive.

I also believe, as a teacher and instructor, it is important to understand both to be the best, well-rounded teacher and instructor you can be for your students. You will always prefer one over the other, and that is ok, but you should be proficient in both to teach your students to be well-rounded.

AV: In regards to your training regimen, how important do you think strength and conditioning is to your competition game plan? How about for up and coming jiu jitsu fighters today?

JR: I think strength and conditioning is very important, especially for my upcoming super fight with Denny, as it is a submission only match that has a 20 minute time limit. This means I need to be able to push the pace for 20 minutes to keep the pressure on to earn the submission. I’m working very close with my strength and conditioning coach, Luke Tirey, right now to make sure I’m in the best possible shape for this event. It’s a very fine balance too, to make sure I’m not being pushed too hard for when I train and spar at jiu-jitsu practice in the evening, as that is just as important.

I also think strength and conditioning is very important for all jiu-jitsu athletes, and to hold it in its proper respect. Going to a strength and conditioning session does not always mean pushing yourself to the max and breaking yourself down so that you can’t do anything else the rest of the day. This will also hurt your ability to train jiu-jitsu or cause you to have bad training sessions because you are too burned out, and bad training can lead to bad performances. Strength and conditioning is there to supplement the training you already do. So it’s important to understand that some days will need to be light, and that’s ok. I’m working very close with my strength and conditioning coach Luke Tirey to make sure I train not only hard, but smart. Luke is incredibly knowledgeable, and I’m very happy to have him helping me get ready.

AV: With this fight in mind, do you train with guys that are much larger than you or are you trying to train with guys more your size? How does that differ from your normal training routine, if it does at all?

JR: I usually do try to train with guys that are my size so as to emulate my opponent as much as possible. I also try to have them spar like my opponent at times, or start in positions that I know my opponent is good at to try to work my way out. I do not ever really change up my style based on something my opponent does, but I do make myself aware of what they do, drill it a little to understand it, have my training partners start there to feel it in a live sparring session, so that I will not have to shy away from anything I do that is part of my style. This way I’m aware. I do like to train with Professor Rafael though, even though he is bigger, because there is nobody who understands the game like he does and can analyze and strategize like he can. There is also nobody who understands me and my style better, as all of my jiu-jitsu came from him.

AV: And last question, with your kids program growing at such a fast rate and the Cash prizes that are being added to super fights, like your own with Prokopos, how do you think BJJ has progressed since you started training? Where do you think it will be in say; 5 years?

JR: BJJ has progressed so much since I started training. I remember when spider guard was like the new thing and everybody was getting so good at it. Professor Rafael often speaks of remembering when butterfly guard was so popular too even before the spider guard. Then there was the 50/50 and now the berimbolo. BJJ will always continue to adapt and evolve as it always has, and I think it will be what the rules make it to be in 5 years as well. Hopefully we see the rules evolve and adapt with the new styles that are popping up to help ensure the integrity of this martial art as much as possible in sport form.

There is also more that is offered to everybody now, especially speaking in terms of cash prizes. With such tournaments now like the Abu Dhabi Pro World Championships, even a blue or purple belt can make up to $5,000 or $6,000, and this is a great thing.

I’d also like to take a moment and brag on my kids too, as I’ve been very impressed with them and continue to be impressed and inspired by them every day I teach them. It’s been so incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to be even a small, positive influence and to give back as much as I can to them from an art that has given me so much. It’s so awesome to see them doing things and understanding things I didn’t even see or start using until I was like a purple or brown belt, and I can’t wait to see how much better than me they will become. It’s been a real honor and privilege to teach them. Shout out to all my JR Warriors and their parents!

AV: And finally, is there anyone you would like to thank? Training partners, sponsors, etc.?

JR: I’d like to thank my parents David and Mary Jane Rader, Professor Rafael Lovato Jr., and my wrestling coach Andy Howington, and my strength and conditioning coach Luke Tirey for all of their influence and investment in me. I say often that I am motivated to train and fight by those that have taught me so much, invested in me, believed in me, been teachers and mentors to me, and have been like family, and each of these people have done that. When I step out onto the mats, I represent them, and hope to make them proud. I’d also like to thank Professors Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, and Chris Savarese for their influence as well.

I’d also like to thank my sponsors OnTheMat and Lucky Gi, Novatek Laboratories, Kize Concepts, and Tirey’s Training for all of their help and support.

You can follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/DarthRader86, on twitter @darthrader86 and on instagram at darthrader86. You can message me on facebook if you’d like to have me out for a seminar as well.

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