Me and a friend of mine decided to visit Mo's Shotokan Karate in Cary NC, because of a BJJ Black Belt with questionable experience and credentials began placing rolling and technique videos on the internet. I say questionable because the videos did not display proper technique, or do much in the way of explaining in detail why the technique works. I know first hand how important this is, because my instructor is very clear about why the technique works the way it does. He is also very thorough in explaining to me why the technique won't work if not done properly. It is because of this I place very high standards on anyone who claims to have a Black Belt in BJJ.
Upon arriving at Mo's Shotokan Karate, where their BJJ class starts at 7:30 on Friday, their Karate class was finishing up and most of the children there were packing up to leave. The Karate instructor (forgive me for not remembering his name) introduced himself and was very friendly. He greeted us warmly and assured us that the BJJ class would be starting soon, and directed us to where we could change in the back of the school. Shortly afterward James Parades arrived and introduced himself. Again we were greeted warmly and shook hands with James and explained to him that we were there to check out his BJJ class. I recently have moved back to Raleigh, though I practice BJJ consistently with Billy Dowey in Raleigh, we were curious about who this new BJJ Black Belt was. We were not there to embarrass or humiliate anyone, we were simply there to try a class and to witness firsthand his teaching ability.
Shortly after changing, Mr. Paredes asked us to join him in the office in the back of the school because he wanted to talk to us away from his other students. Transcribing everything he talked about would take far too long, as we were in this small office for nearly half an hour. We all sat on the floor while Mr. Paredes explained that his style was a blend of Kosen Judo and BJJ. He also explained that he placed great weight on the philosophical side of Jiu Jitsu and told us that Jiu Jitsu is a journey and he was there to help guide us in this journey. He told us that it took him 14 years to get his black belt, and that he had spent time living in San Diego but made the commute to Torrance to train there with the Gracies. He never revealed exactly who it was that he trained with, but mostly stated that he started back in 1989 and towards the end of the conversation my friend John clearly asked who it was that gave him his black belt and he quickly moved the conversation onto something else. Mind you the entire time this conversation was happening, Mr. Paredes seemed to be somewhat nervous. I thought the whole experience was somewhat strange, especially that he felt as though he needed to do this away from his other students for some reason. Near the end of our conversation Mr. Paredes urged us not to injure his students and to really take it easily while we rolled. Even though I thought this whole conversation on the floor of an office in the back of the school was unusual, Mr. Paredes did have some good things to say about how Jiu Jitsu can improve a person's mental and physical health.
When this conversation was over, we had to assemble the mats that were going to be used for the Jiu Jitsu class. After we finished assembling the mat, we began our warm up, which mostly consisted of the school blue belt leading the class in some light jogging around the mat and some simple stretching. Mr. Paredes introduced us to the entire class and explained to the other students there that we had experience and that they should learn from us and we should learn from them. I think it is important to note at this point that there was not a single adult in the class. Most of the students looked to be around the ages of 12 to 15 years old. Mr. Paredes explained to us that there are usually more people there and to come back the next day when their purple belt was there so that we would have someone to roll with. He then had everyone in the class pair up and have some rolling, before we have even done any technique or drilling. Even though this is not the norm at any BJJ gym I have been to, Mr. Paredes paired me and my friend John together and said he wanted to watch us roll so he could gauge or experience level. Me and my friend rolled for about two minutes while Mr. Paredes coached us. He was trying to help me escape a inverted triangle I was caught in, but to be honest, I could not make out exactly what it was that he wanted me to do. I was trying to posture and break away from the legs, which is what I have always been taught to do first when trying to escape any triangle, but he was trying to convince me I needed to drive into him and basically try to run around his legs. We stopped rolling shortly afterward and told us that he liked what he had seen and he also commented that he saw where we both could make some improvement and was more than willing to help us correct any mistakes we had made.
On to the technique.
After the short rolling session Mr. Paredes began his technique instruction, which I can say from my experience in practicing Judo with Sensei Shawn Madden and Bill Cabrera at Carolina Judo, along with my years of experience practicing BJJ under Billy Dowey and Jason Culbreth, left me asking many questions. To be as accurate as possible, I have to say that I had a lot of difficulty getting his techniques to work. I had never struggled so much to get someone to tap, and most of the submissions used far to much strength for me to be comfortable using, or ever show anyone else.
He began by showing attacks from Kesa Gatame, a straight arm bar using the legs, and an Ude Garame where you figure four your legs around your opponents arm. The first arm bar did not seem to work unless you had their arm placed perfectly (which almost never happens in live rolling sessions with anyone experienced). I am quite familiar with these attacks from Kesa Gatame, as it is a formidable pin that both my BJJ and Judo instructors use with great success and have their own series of attacks from. None of the finer details of this position were discussed and I noticed that Mr. Paredes also did not use the underhook in this position, which is crucial to prevent your opponent from bridging you over, or scrambling to your back. The second entangled arm lock he showed I did manage to get my partner to tap, as it is a very simple and effective arm lock. However, it is in my experience that these armlocks have a very low success rate on experienced grapplers.
Mr. Paredes then demonstrated the arm in triangle and how to transition to this submission from cross side control. This is where I noticed some very big gaps in how this submission works and Mr. Paredes version, which I tried over and over, did not seem to do anything more than crank my partners neck and make him uncomfortable. It is also in my experience that this will not make any experienced grappler submit, as his version of this submission was more of a crank than a choke that blocks off the carotid arteries. We also did an arm bar from cross side control when then opponent grips you tightly and will not leg to where you spin around to the other side and finish with a cross arm bar. Mr Paredes version of this arm bar finished with you body mostly at an angle where the opponents arm is still left with their thumb pointing at the ground, which makes it difficult to apply pressure with your hips under their elbow and finish the submission. The setup of the position was somewhat effective, but I feel that this submission left way to much room for the person to escape and would again not be tight enough to finish an experienced grappler or someone who was simply strong enough just to jerk their arm out.
Mr. Paredes was very nice to us during the entire visit to his school, but from my own experience I do not have much confidence in the technique that he displayed. I was also a little concerned over some of the comments that were made during the class. At one point, Mr. Paredes commented that he would not take our belts from us, and the he would allow us to wear our rank. He said this in front of the entire class, which I really did not understand. I have never been asked to take my belt off at any school, club, dojo, or academy I have ever been to. He sounded as if he were joking, but most BJJ and Judo practitioners I know would be seriously offended if someone had made a comment about giving up their belt while visiting another school. Mr. Paredes did comment that he knew that we worked hard for our belts, so he would allow us to keep them on. I would also like to point out that I was wearing my Judo rank, and my friend John was wearing his BJJ rank.
Nearing the end of the class my friend John clearly asked out loud if Mr. Paredes would roll with him, something he and I both wanted to do. John and I both welcome with great enthusiasm any chance to roll with a BJJ black belt, even more so if they are of smaller stature (Me and John both have natural weights below 150 lbs. and Mr. Paredes is shorter than both of us). Mr. Paredes was quick to tell John that he does not roll with new students. This came as quite a surprise to me because I almost always have been welcomed with an enthusiastic yes whenever I have asked a BJJ black belt to roll. There was also no free rolling session at the end of the class, which also came as a surprise because this is pretty much the standard protocol for any BJJ class I have attended previously.
The conclusion of the class ended with me and John both thanking him for welcoming us to his school and allowing us to participate. Me and John both respectful bowed out before going to change. We told him that we would like to come back when we would have an opportunity to roll with some of his students, and again shook hands before going home.
In conclusion I can say that Mr. Paredes was very friendly and cordial to us when we arrived, but I drew concerns when he avoided telling us exactly who promoted him to black belt, and who his previous training partners and instructors were. I also asked him towards the end of class if he went to Japan, because as far as I know Kosen Judo does not exist outside of Japan and I have not heard of very many legitimate practitioners of Kosen Judo in the United States. I have read books on the roots of Judo and BJJ as well as the Kosen lineage of Judo, but from what I understand it is extremely rare to meet anyone who has trained with Kosen Judoka. Mr. Paredes explained to me that his style is a blend of Kosen Judo and BJJ, and I am still curious as to who exactly taught him Kosen Judo and who provided him with his rank of black belt in BJJ. This along with what I experienced was technique that I personally struggled to use with success and from what I could tell, was not on par with most other technique I have been taught by other BJJ black belts. I think this raises some serious questions about Mr. Paredes credibility and experience level with BJJ.
I hope that this review helps anyone who is interested in learning from Mr. Paredes or considering joining his school. My intentions were to make a friendly visit to another school, which I have done many times before and provide everyone with an accurate recount of my experience. I do believe however that Mr. Paredes should answer some of the questions about who promoted him to BJJ black belt, and his experience with Kosen Judo.