Erik Paulson Interview

In this episode of the podcast, I talk to one of the forefathers of American MMA & submission grappling, the founder of Combat Submission Wrestling, Erik Paulson. We discuss the benefits of note-taking and the ability to be a free thinker and having freedom of movement, along with stories of the early days of training with the Gracies & the Machado Brothers alongside Shooto & Catch Wrestling.

Listen to Erik Paulson


Note Taking Techniques

Actually, right now it is a good time to write down your ideas. That’s what I do, I write down my ideas and then my wife helps me type them out. That’s how we work together. It’s funny because I’ve been working on this for a long time, and I finally got my wife to help me. But I wrote an entire booklet that was created specifically for students.

It can be anyone who trains you – fighters or students. And we were always taught at the Inosanto Academy through Guru Dan that we should write everything down so we can remember it later on. It’s funny, I see no one taking notes today except for one person. And I go, well, that’s because they remember it all already.

Many people say that if you’re on a journey to become a coach or teacher in the future, you might forget some of your information if you don’t write it down. In the long term, what if you forget something important? Journaling and writing notes can help you remember things.

It’s funny because this guy asked me where I learned all my leg locks from, and I told him from my videos. But he didn’t believe me. I said it was a joke. Anyway, it’s helpful to watch your old videos to remember what you have learned. This is how you continue developing your skills.

Shooto vs Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I started learning Brazilian Jujitsu at the same time I was learning about positioning, escapes, and transitions, and I was lucky enough to learn from some of the best instructors in both fields.

I found out in Jiu-Jitsu that it was based more on positioning and staying calm, which they called real estate. This was different from what I learned in Shooto, in which you need to get into position and attack quickly because you only have 10 to 30 seconds before returning to standing up and fighting again. That’s why all the submission stuff that Shooto taught was called quick kills, where you need to attack fast.

I remember one time when I had to fight ten guys in a row. My coach said that I needed to take them down one at a time and not play around. I needed to be aggressive and go for the kill. So I did, and after I defeated ten or twelve guys, he told me I had to submit each one of them.

I remember letting a guy pull guard on me, and I played around with him. But then my teacher came over and told me I needed to attack. He said I didn’t have enough time and energy to play around. So as soon as someone would pull guard, I attacked them. If they were good at defending, I would catch them. But if they weren’t, I would use a leg attack.

Leg locks become a guard pass because they would pull their feet back and hide them, and then I would attack their upper body. I knew that all the fighters in Shooto, as a shooter, had to learn combinations of techniques one through ten. This is approximately 148 submissions. Each combination has 6-30 techniques, making up your arsenal of attacks. It was good because of positioning and attacking. What Shooto lacked was defence and transition, which had to come from Jiu-Jitsu’s guard.

The Difference Between The Gracie & Machado Guard

I’m learning from all of the Brazilian guys. So as you’re learning from the Brazilians, remember that the guard is 90% of the game. You need to learn how to sweep, pass, and attack with your guard. Back then, most people were using closed guards. But I remember at Rickson’s academy, they would say, “keep your guard closed, or it gets passed.”

Then I went to the Machado academy I immediately noticed that everyone at the Machados was opening their guards and I asked them, “why don’t you keep your guard closed?” Rigan answered, “How will you get better if you don’t open up your guard?” For me, when I saw everyone opening their guards at the Machado academy, I was excited because I knew it was a good opportunity for me to attack with leg locks.

So when I saw this, I got excited because I knew I could attack them by taking advantage of their open guards. However, Rigan told me to show them something new and innovative. I didn’t know what he meant, so he explained to me that I should stop attacking their legs since they were already aware of my strategies.

Erik Paulson Resources


The deal is, there’s so many black belts in jujitsu out there, so they’re all kind of doing the same thing, right? So what would be different that I could add to my arsenal that most people don’t know or haven’t seen catch wrestling, and they go, what is catch wrestling? I go? Well, I don’t know. Do you do neck cranks? Because that’s part of catch wrestling. Do you attack the legs a lot? That’s catch wrestling.

– Erik Paulson


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