I’m a giant fan of Mike Swain —and Swain Mats / Dollamur Mats are the finest mats I’ve ever trained on. BJ Penn, Keenan Cornelius, and millions of others have taken their first falls on Dollamur / Swain mats. I love this video too.
The fellow on the left is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Flavio Almeida (read about his career, so far, here). On the right is Judo legend Mike Swain (bio on Wikipedia, here). I’m taking the photo out in front of Mike’s offices located in Campbell, California. Flavio came down
to chat about what he’s up to with Dollamur mats and his organization Gracie Barra —and to teach a seminar at San Jose State University for the judo team that practices there 6 night a week (including judoka Marti Malloy, who’s headed to the Olympic Games (see here Wikipedia bio here).
By the way, while I’m name-dropping, I should mention that I owe my renewed interest in judo, which was the first martial art I ever engaged in (my first lesson was in 1969), to UFC veteran BJ Penn. When I was last in Hilo, BJ told me he was seriously studying —and enjoying —judo, and that he wished he had started earlier in his career. BJ’s enthusiasm for what he was learning in his judo classes inspired me to start studying “the gentle way” again.
On a funny sidetone to that, when I first started teaching and working out with BJ Penn back in the 90’s, I tried to talk him out of fighting. I told him about my kick-boxing friends who’d tried to make it as professional fighters and how hard it was and how little money they had made. I suggested, instead, that he let me introduce him to Mike Swain and that he should consider trying out for the Olympic judo team. I remember saying, “There’s no money in judo either, but at least it’s prestigious.” Boy, was I wrong. Obviously, BJ didn’t let that detour him from his path.
The Almeida / Swain (Gracie Barra / Dollamur mats) Connection
I’ve beenhanging out with Mike Swain lately, as, well…not only is he a longtime friend, but if you plan to start taking judo lessons, who would be better to go to but one of the best coaches / judoka in the world, right? It turns out that’s also why Flavio Almeida flew into San Jose, CA; not just to get some judo pointers, but to connect Gracie Barra to the best mat surfaces in the world. Gracie Barra has adopted Dollamur Mats / Swain Mats as the official flooring of all Gracie Barra schools worldwide.
I asked Almeida why:
"Safety," he said. "We have to put the safety of our students above all other considerations. Gracie Barra believes Dollamur mats are not only the best constructed mat surfaces on the planet, but that Mike Swain and Dollamur are committed to athlete and student safety as much as we are."
When he said that, it didn’t come off as a “line” from a company press release, I could see that he genuinely meant it. I got to chat with Falvio quite a bit, we even drove over to Master Ernie Reyes Sr.’s “Mastery Test,” where about 100 of his highest ranking students were getting ready for a 5 day testing ordeal. More on that and more of my thoughts on Almeida, Gracie Barra, and some video from the seminar at San Jose State coming in my next blog.