Feeling Better About Your Discomfort & Pursuing Your Passions for 30+ Years with Brilliant Coach Kenny “Bolt Wrestling” Johnson

Kenny Johnson landscape

My guest today is MMA coach and lifetime wrestler Kenny “Bolt Wrestling” Johnson. Now before all my non fighting fans run for the exits, you may want to spend some time with us. Kenny is not only one of the most energetic, passionate people I know, but his take on approaching challenging goals and coaching is brilliant. He shares how he went from a 96-pound freshman to training the likes of BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, Alexander Volkov, and Lyoto Machida to name a few.

Kenny’s ability to go hard and stay passionate about wrestling and helping others for close to 40 years is inspiring. He coaches at Black House MMA and Mira Costa High School.

Kenny is on a mission to help young people develop and improve and uses wrestling to do that. This show is not about fighting (even though there are a lot of amusing stories) it’s about being human and taking on lofty goals because you believe in what you’re doing. Kenny wears his heart on his sleeve and likes to say the word F**k from time to time (keep your eyes on the message). Enjoy!

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Feeling Better About Your Discomfort & Pursuing Your Passions for 30+ Years with Brilliant Coach Kenny “Bolt Wrestling” Johnson

Welcome to the show. My guest is Kenny Johnson. Kenny Johnson is also known as Kenny Bolt Wrestling. Before my non-fighting fans run for the exit signs, we talked about fighting, we even break down the disciplines of MMA, and some of the nuanced differences, what you should be wearing if you decide you want to go to a jujitsu class. This is not about fighting. That’s his landscape. He grew up wrestling. He went to the University of Iowa. He trained for seven Olympics. He uses wrestling not only for himself, this was his learning environment, but he helps high school athletes and professional athletes do hard things.

He’s a brilliant coach. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s funny. He has a lot of beautiful little tidbits to remind us, “How would I approach that? How do I manage this? How do I take something on that seems daunting?” For so long, Kenny has been pursuing his passions for almost 40 years. When I say this is somebody who leads from the front, he will put himself in equally uncomfortable situations with his athletes. He trains twice a day. When he’s in town, he comes to my house.

I know Kenny pretty well. He will put himself in uncomfortable situations. In my pool, you think Kenny’s close to drowning. I joke that he makes me feel better about my discomfort when I look over what he’s willing to go through. It’s all out there. He’s smart. I’m going to go on a limb and say you’ve probably never met anyone like Kenny. If you have, you’re probably pretty fortunate. He wears his heart right on his sleeve.

He loves the word fuck. If that somehow is going to upset you or detract from the bigger message, I’m going to let you know. I admire Kenny. He puts it all out there. If any athlete was ever lucky enough to work with Kenny, this is a guy who says, “You bring one, I’ll bring two. You’re going to bring two, I’ll bring four.” I don’t know who wouldn’t want someone like that in their corner.

Kenny Johnson, my friend, welcome to the podcast.

Nice to be here. It’s the first time I’ve ever sat at this table. I’ve seen it.

The family always gathers in the kitchen, let’s face it.

I’ve never surpassed that line.

You haven’t?

Never.

We’re in the adult part of the house.

This seems like the adult part of the house. It’s the size of a ping-pong table.

I forgot about the COVID ping-pong table. Kenny, I want to jump right into your background. To say that you have made a lifetime around and in wrestling would be an understatement. It would be like saying that Laird has made a life surfed here and there. You are as dedicated to your sport and sports as anyone. First of all, you are a huge guy in high school, 200 pounds.

My first two years in high school, I wrestled 98 pounds and then went to 112. I skipped a weight class. I then went to 126. In my first two years in college, I was 126. In my last three years, I was 134. Every year, I got bigger and bigger. When I was cutting to 134, I was weighing 175 so it’s a lot of weight. I wasn’t the physical force that you see in front of you in ’84.

For a lot of people, even trying a new sport, especially what’s considered a fighting sport, there is intimidation to that. As a kid, what drew you to that? Was it what you did where you grew up?

No. I played baseball up until I got to ninth grade. My grandpa tried out for pro baseball and my uncle played semi-pro baseball. My baseball was living and breathing. I remember Robin Yount played for the Milwaukee Brewers and he was drafted out of high school. I’m like, “That’s what I want to do.” I got to high school and I never touched another baseball when I found wrestling. I played football and wrestled and then baseball season was coming in. I wrestled year-round. I played football. I pole vaulted a couple of years. There’s a girl I liked on this track team. I couldn’t jump or do anything else in the track so I was like, “I’ll do whatever. Let’s see if I can run the laps and if I can make it there.”

I got into wrestling. The coach usually tells the kids on the team to recruit other kids. One of the kids is named Paul and he was my friend. Sometimes he’d be annoying to me. I haven’t seen him since high school. He is from Tennessee. He had an accent. He’s like, “Coach said that if you want to join wrestling, he’d give you a pass. You’d go to the study hall to lift weights.” I said, “I got straight A’s. I don’t need study hall.” He’s like, “We’re the same weight. We’d probably wrestle each other.” I’m like, “I’m in.” All I thought of was Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Superfly Snuka. I’m like, “I’m going to body slam this guy.”

All 96 pounds of you are going to body slam Paul.

He weighed 92. We’re talking about the force on force here. I went, I signed up for wrestling, and I beat him out for varsity that year and never looked back. I was 1 in 9 in my freshman year. I don’t think that everyone’s thinking I should keep wrestling, 1 in 9.

What was it about wrestling?

I don’t know. I had great coaches. I had support from my family, even though they didn’t know what they were supporting. The kids on my team are still some of my friends to this day. There was just something about wrestling.

It was inside. You have two daughters. If your teenage daughter was like, “I’m doing the sport.” Let’s say it was an individual sport like wrestling and that season, should be 1 and 9. As a parent, what would you do knowing you?

For me, it’s different than my parents, they weren’t athletes. I would look and see if she was progressing in her sport, if she was learning, and if she’d loved to do it. Honestly, I would have to take that approach. I’ve been trying to get my daughter to wrestle for a while. I’d buy her wrestling shoes and I put them in her crib so she’d please them for toys and things and nothing worked. I would see if there are other things that she might be as interested in. I’d see if she liked it and if there was some growth that was occurring.

You’re a coach. You have high school and you have pros and you have people use it for training and they’re good. You even work with high school. You’ve got a young kid, he comes on the team, he’s 1 in 9 but he shows up, and he works hard. What are you thinking about that kid?

To begin with, there's no respect. That's why you have to earn it. It's not given. Click To Tweet

It happened this 2021. I tell the story all the time because most of the kids I teach are in Manhattan Beach. It’s not the hardest core area for 1 on 1. I had a kid on the team.

There’s a lot of padding.

I can’t remember his real name. His name is Beat It because after he was moving, he was shaking around like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk. We call him Beat It and that stuck. He won one match the entire whole year. I created an award for him at the banquet called The Savage Award. You wouldn’t think it would be but this kid has a smile on his face and took his beatings every single day. He did not win one position ever in practice against the girls or the boys.

He wasn’t the fastest runner, he was weak, everything that could go against him for wrestling. I don’t think it wasn’t determination. He wanted to wrestle. He was just sticking it out. He won my first-ever Savage Award. I told him, “If you win one more match, you could be double what I was.” That’s the type of kid I want.

I have a picture of when he won his first match. I’ll bring it to you and you’ll see how happy this kid was. It was unbelievable. Sometimes with the wins and losses you’re looking at as young, what’s the direction they’re going? Are they progressing? Do they like what they’re doing? We talked about, “You’re doing this to win,” that’s at the top percent. A lot of people do it because they enjoy it. How the hell do you enjoy wrestling without winning? That’s the only enjoyment.

Several years ago, maybe the fact that you were 1 to 9 has made you a much better coach having had that experience instead of winning straight out of the gate or being one of the bigger guys or what have you. You go to the University of Iowa and you wrestle there. As young men do, you probably get a lot stronger. That time is when there’s a great expansion, adding weight and mass and things like that.

Mass from 126 to 134.

That’s a percentage.

A little. Yes. I was young. I was 16 when I went to college.

Why were you 16 when you went to college?

I was young to start and I skipped a grade.

Did they want to get you through or are you smart? What’s up? I’m kidding. Kenny, I want to hear it.

I was getting into a lot of trouble, not bad trouble.

Seriously, they want to get you out of there?

My dad had come to school and I told him. We’d pulled the grades and I’m getting all the highest marks. In grade school, there are no As or whatever. He asked me why I wasn’t focusing. I’m like, “I’m down to work. This is easy.” He’s like, “All right. We’re going to challenge you. You’re going up a grade.” My dad told the principal, “Here’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to bump him a grade.” I started in 5th grade and end in 6th grade.

I had to do all the work for both grades in one year and it didn’t matter. It was super easy. I still got the same trouble. I probably could have gone two grades. That was how that ended up happening. Plus, my birthday is in late August. I was younger going to school to begin with and then skipping a grade. Originally, the intention was if you have too much more work to do and harder and you’re above, you won’t have time to be disruptive, talk, or play. It was the same, it was very easy.

When I got to college, I was 16 and turning 17 and I was going against 22 and 23-year-old men. I didn’t know the difference because it didn’t matter. They didn’t care if I was 16. They wanted to smash. Being younger from a young time and always being around older people, I always had to find a way to catch up. I didn’t have time to read the instructions and ask questions because they weren’t going to have patience with me. They’re like, “Look at this little kid, what the hell?” That’s my friend and the people around.

I always felt I had to learn faster to not get people yelling at me, “Come on. Hurry up. What are you doing? You don’t know anything. You’re so young.” I had to get it and I had to do it and I had to excel because I was smaller. I didn’t have like little kid syndrome. I wanted to win. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter if I was what grade or how big. If we’re playing football and there’s a big guy, I don’t care. “You did good. He’s bigger.” I had to win or I didn’t do good. That was me. I always had to pick things up faster because I was always younger and I didn’t want to stick out as that young kid.

The one holding everyone back.

I could not be that kid or that person. My thing on the uptake is I want to be quick on the uptake but not quick and miss everything. If I ask the question, I want to legitimately know everything I can know. I don’t know everything but I approach situations like I want to learn everything. Part of that is I like to learn but part of that too is I don’t want to be the one holding everyone back because I’ve always been the younger and smaller person.

Why Iowa? What was it about Iowa that you want you chose to go to school there? I know that you have a history.

At the time and is still the best, we have Dan Gable, who’s the best wrestler/wrestling coach ever in the world. There’s no doubt about it.

What does that mean in the world of wrestling, American wrestling?

He was an Olympic world champ. No one scored a point on him in the Olympics. He then came over and he was a two-time national champion. He’s going first and third. He lost his last college match. He went on and won the Worlds. He won the Olympics. He coached in Iowa to 25, 28, and 29 big titles in a row, 15 national championships. He put out countless Olympians and world champions. That room was the greatest room you could probably be in. Of course, there are other greats. I’m not taking away from the other pros. When you say Iowa wrestling, you know it’s the best. To be in that room, if you’re going to be the best and wanted to be the best, you’re going to be there.

You say you’re small and you say all this stuff but something was happening by your senior year that you got to go to Iowa. What was in you that your Coach Gable saw that he’s like, “We have room for this kid.” That is a big deal.

I originally went to a Division III school in Iowa called Cornell College. My coach there went to Iowa. He was a national champ. He trained for the Olympics. I had some great teammates. Come my junior year, a couple of teammates left. One of my coaches said to me, “If you want to continue to wrestle outside of college, you’re not going to succeed in that goal. You’re going to do well for me next year but then it’s over for you. If you think that you want to go further like pushing forward to the Olympics, you’re going to need to leave.”

A couple of training I had were gone and I was going to be the better person on the team in this area where I wasn’t going to get pushed. Before, two guys above me were the national champs. When they left, I was going to be there. I had a good team but not someone who was going to push. It was a choice. He made the introductions. We went there to work out but I never went through the athletic department or anything. I applied as a normal student.

I got to college. I found out what day the workout started and then I continued my college career like a normal kid until the first day. I remember coming into the room and I had met Gable only one time. We’re there and he was going through the roster on the first day and he’s like, “Johnson, what are you doing here?” I told him, “I go to school here now.” He’s like, “No one told me.” I’m already feeling a little embarrassed a little bit because I’m looking at all these guys.

Kenny Johnson caption 1

Kenny Johnson – Feelings aren’t facts. Your mind has to be stronger than your feelings. Your feelings will keep you in bed and your mind gets you out.

He said, “We’re doing medicals tomorrow.” He looked at me and he goes, “If you’re going to come up for the team and quit, that’s going to cost me $100.” I looked at him and I said, “If I quit, I’ll pay you back.” He goes, “I like that.” That’s how my relationship started with him for 30-plus years. He couldn’t see anything. I can’t imagine what anyone saw in me until a certain point. I wanted to go to the military or I wanted to work in a machine shop.

You want to be a machinist?

Tool and die maker. I was good in high school. I won all the awards. I loved doing that. The thing about college is I started getting letters and my guidance counselor would get them. She was an older lady. She never had a person that was getting letters for scholarships ever. She was probably 70 maybe. She was so happy about this. I would get them and I’m like, “I’m not going to college.” I remember I’d take them and throw them at home.

One day, I got one letter from Cornell College that I liked the stationery so I opened it. I called and talked to my coach. I’m talking to the guy, his name is Shawn Voigt. He was a national champ. I went for a visit. I remember I had to take a Greyhound bus. We have a car. I was the first person in my family to go to college. My family is military. I took the Greyhound bus. I got there. I signed when I was there. I came back. I didn’t even take the ACT test yet so I had to take the ACT. I didn’t know anything. There it is. I had a good work ethic that got it from my parents.

Besides that, there’s a lot there. Gable coaches you. How do you go from that to going and training for 7 Olympics?

I remember in ‘84, the Olympics was in America. I live in Wisconsin at the time. I may have been to McDonald’s since then. They had to sponsor the Olympics so you’d always see the Olympic cups and the Olympic rings. I remember even before then in ’80, we boycotted Bruce Jenner with the Wheaties box and the decathlete. It was the whole biggest thing. I remember that slightly. In ’84, I remember I didn’t wrestle by this time yet. I started wrestling that year. It was after the Olympics.

I remember the Olympics and I thought, “The Olympics.” You’re watching it. It seems so amazing. I had no thought in my mind what that could be because I played baseball and baseball wasn’t in the Olympics at the time. It didn’t hit me except for a while. When I got to college, my coach said, “You should think about maybe if you want to train for Olympics.” That’s how it started. I was like, “Olympics. Gold medals.” That’s all I thought and that’s it.

We’ve talked a lot about it. I’m going to tell my own side of the story for a second. Kenny comes here. You’re from Wisconsin. You’re more compact built and dense. Water is a challenge for you. I always joke that I somehow feel better about my suffering when you and I train together because I look at you and I’m like, “It’s not that bad. Kenny is almost drowning. It’s going to be okay.” Watching your progress in the water and taking something on that is difficult. we’ve had a lot of conversations around coaching.

You took a path in wrestling where maybe girlfriends, wives, or dads were like, “What are you doing with your life?” You followed something important to you. It wasn’t a clear path. A lot of people go through things in their life and they love something and it feeds them in a way. Sometimes it’s not so clear how it’s going to work out. When you experience that, what inside of you have the confidence to say, “I’m going to stick with this.” I never get the impression from you that it’s about the outcome. I always get the impression from you that it’s a genuine passion for what you’re doing.

I don’t know if there was a turning point. If there ever was, it’s when I started wrestling. I never thought I wasn’t going to wrestle. I was going to keep wrestling. I never thought I could wrestle past high school until college. In college, the Olympics and then that Olympic flame, metaphorically speaking, is what drove it.

My dad always said, “You should be a wrestling coach.” I’m like, “They don’t make money.” We grew up so poor. I’m going to be a lawyer. I’m going to make bank. I saw this movie called Regarding Henry by Harrison Ford and I decided I’m never going to be a lawyer. I decided that I am going to follow my dream. I don’t have anything. I didn’t have anything. The only thing I would be losing is my dream. I’d rather have dreams than regrets and have memories than regrets.

I started wrestling and kept wrestling. There wasn’t a finish line. I was sprinting in a direction without knowing when I had slowed down. I figured if I slowed down, I wouldn’t get where I was going. I never knew when to stop. There was never a path in front of me, no family and no friends. I didn’t know. I probably looked like the person who maybe a little misunderstood but that was because I wasn’t willing to follow different people’s paths. I didn’t know where it was going to take me.

It took me to college and then I started coaching at Northwestern and trained for the next one. I thought after college, I was done, get a job, and get a suit. I remember I didn’t have enough money to get a suit for my job, I had to borrow my friend’s. He’s 6’3”. I looked so stupid when I went to this job and I got the job.

You did get the job.

I was an academic counselor at Northwestern Business College. I lasted there for six months. Every day at 3:30, I started getting sweats. For nine years, I’ve been training. I was like, “I got to wrestle.” I went to Northwestern and said, “I’m in town.” I became a coach there and trained for the Olympics there. I was like, “In 2000, I’m done.” At the Olympic trials, I lost. I was going to put my shoes on the mat. I was untying my shoes and I was like, “Not yet. I’m not done.”

Explain to people that there’s a ceremony.

For wrestling, you would take your shoes off, and then you have to have a handkerchief in your singlet. If you’re going to play, you have to wipe your sweat. You would pull it, you have to show your handkerchief to the referee, and you put it in. When you retire, you undo your wrestling shoes, put them in the center, and take your handkerchief and you put them over your shoes and walk off. When you’re untying your shoes, everyone knows.

I was starting to untie my shoes and they were starting to be like, “He’s been here for a little while.” People knew who I was and everyone that was in that zone. As I was starting to untie my shoes, people start clapping and I started thinking, “Not yet.” I stood up and waved and walked off. I had no idea what things were going to happen. That was the third one. I did four more.

I had no path. I had no understanding. My fiancee at the time who I’m not with, her parents were like, “Why don’t you get a job and be a man?” I was like, “I have a job. I am a man and I like to wrestle.” It was never something that you can make money at. There was a transition when the UFC came in. All of a sudden, this wrestling skill that I had acquired over the years kicked in,\ and then it became something new. That didn’t happen overnight either.

I was running a race that I wanted to win. I couldn’t see my competition so I was sprinting. I didn’t know how long I had to sprint, I just kept going. It was first all about winning. Sometimes when you don’t win, you look back and go, “I’ve failed. This isn’t good.” You could spend hundreds of hours training for six minutes. If those hundreds of hours weren’t enjoyable, how could that hand be raised? I won a lot. I expected to win because I put the time in.

When I would lose, I would feel like, “What happened?” It wasn’t the ego, like, “I should win.” I worked hard so when I lost, I’m like, “What happened?” My enjoyment of winning wasn’t there. As long as my hand was up, that’s how long I enjoyed it. As soon as I’m walking off the mat, I know there’s another match and I know there’s another tournament. What do I have to work on? I no longer took enjoyment from winning ever but I enjoyed the journey. That journey was beautiful.

If you had to say, would you enjoy 200 hours of your life and suffer for six minutes? You don’t enjoy the time you’re wrestling. You would enjoy the winning part. You’d enjoy one second and suffer for 200 hours. That’s not me. When you did fail but you were doing everything right, you could get real hard on yourself. I didn’t have that. I knew that the competition was whether I won or lost, which I wanted to win, no question. It was a guide. How was my training?

I became a fighter to be a better coach. Click To Tweet

If I won, I was like, “I’m great. Do the same thing. That guy, I’ll do times x25 more.” There’s another guy and then you take a loss. You’re like, “Whoa.” You then have to readjust and go. I never dwelt on losses. I tell you one time and I’ll tell you how I learned two times. One time, in senior year, I ranked number one. I wrestled at home. In high school, I’m wrestling a kid in my wrestling club that I will demolish this kid. I hit this move I shouldn’t hit and it was a risky move. I didn’t have to do it.

Were you trying to be flashy? What were you trying to do? Were you trying to humiliate him? What were you doing?

I felt like I had this kid and I got it so I was doing a different move than I should have done at that particular time. I rolled through and I popped my rib while I was on my back and he pinned me. I got pinned by this nerd in front of my home crowd and I was beaten up over it. I’m walking home. It’s February in Wisconsin and it’s freezing. I’m leaving with no coat, I left them in my locker. I went walking home in my singlet, I swear to God.

My girlfriend comes up and was like, “Get in the car.” I was like, “FU. I don’t want to even date you anymore. It’s my loss.” I broke up with her. I was freezing. As she drove away, I was trying to flag her down but she didn’t see me so I had to walk home. I realized that was stupid. There was another time in college I lost. Fast forward, I wrestled that kid in the conference finals and smashed him. Fast forward 25 years, I get a call from my friend and he’s like, “I’m at Scott’s house.” I was like, “Tell him I said hello.” He goes, “You wouldn’t believe this. Above his fireplace, there’s a huge picture of him pinning you.”

Are you serious?

This was in his 40s.

That was the best moment of his life.

It had to have been. What’s over your fireplace? Something. Antlers from some big hunt. Here’s the silver lining. I had almost broken my nose. They have this wrestling mask you put on and you can’t see who it is. That picture is not me. He must have been pinning somebody else.

What you’re saying is don’t ruin your whole life because you lose one moment. Also, one win, hopefully, wouldn’t define your whole life.

Gable lost his final college match. He said that when he was going into his third one, he had a thing he had to say, “Hi, my name is Dan Gable. I’m the first three-time undefeated national champion.”

He filmed that before then.

That was what he had to do but he was thinking about it. He said he had to tape it so many times. You had to film it before.

Before he did the third?

Yeah. They were calling his name and he was late. He had to rush out there. He lost. Coming off, you heard, “Hi, my name is Larry Owings. I’m the man that beat Dan Gable.” He didn’t matter no more. What happened is he said that he thinks about that match every single day of his life. It has driven him to be the greatest. You hear it and you can hear stories. One day, we blanked Minnesota and he yelled at us in the locker room.

You did what to Minnesota?

We beat them. They didn’t win one match against us.

What do you call it? Blanking?

We blanked them. They didn’t win anything. It’s zero. He yelled us up and down the line. It was midnight by this time, he was like, “Get your stuff on and go train.” We’re done and he’s like, “See you at 5:00 AM.” I was leaving and I said, “What’s going to make you happy?” At that time, there were ten weight classes. He said, “I want ten undefeated national champions.” Maybe one of the whole colleges is undefeated a year and he wants ten on the same team. I said, “No. At least now I got a place where you want to go.” He said, “That’s where we’re going.” I said, “What if that happened?” He goes, “I want it two years in a row.”

From then, I call it chasing the ghost. You could never catch him. You could never make any excuse. You could never say, “I’m sore. I’m tired. My girlfriend broke up with me. My dog died.” Nothing you could say is going to alter the fact that he’s done everything that you could never do so you’re going to chase it. I called it chasing the ghost and that’s part of the motivation when I do certain things.

Let’s go from there. You have trained a lot of good fighters for MMA. I’d love to hear from you some names of fighters that you’ve worked with on the professional level.

I’ve had 26 UFC champions. A few of them that people would recognize is BJ Penn. In the UFC, there are other guys like Paul Daley, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Carla Esparza, Cyborg, Werdum, Chuck Lidell, and Randy Couture. There are a lot of people that have spanned different generations in different decades. We’re looking at over three decades. There are a lot of people and I’ve learned a lot of great things starting from when the UFC and MMA first started and watching the different advents of it change. I was fortunate to be around it.

Can you share a story of when you were moving on your moving day into a new home in California? That was an important day.

It could be said that was a pivotal day in my life.

Tell the real story. Don’t make it all fluffy.

I can’t fluff it. One thing I look at in my life is Price is Right’s Plinko board. They drop a big chip and it bounces all over the place and you can win a toaster or a car. It depends on the thing you hit. You’re like, “Yes, a car,” or, “Crap, a toaster.” You’re close. You’re watching it bounce all around. You’re like, “Toaster.” I was watching this my whole life. You only could see that when you’re home from school sick, which was rare because my ass could never stay home because my parents would never allow that.

At the time, they did watch the Price is Right. You’re the chip and everything you hit is your experiences, people, and everything. That Plinko board is your life. If you could have this as your life, here’s my first loss. Here’s Gabby and Laird. Everything you hit and how you hit it bounces you somewhere. I haven’t landed wherever I’d land yet and I hope I don’t land in the toaster. This is one of those times.

I was moving in with my first wife. We bought a house in Redondo Beach and we’re moving in. One guy comes to my moving and he’s a tattooed face teardrop guy. He’s like, “This is my neighborhood.” We live in Redondo Beach. I didn’t think we were going to have this conversation where I was moving into. I said, “I bought this house. This is our neighborhood. If there’s ever a problem, let’s be together. We’re on the same side.” I figured that’d be good. He’s like, “Do you fight?” I’m like, “No, I don’t. I coach. I have fought.”

He was like, “All I was going to say is we come to train.” “Let’s go. You’re going to train?” He said, “Yeah.” I was like, “I’ll come train.” He said we. I don’t know who we was. I was like, “You’re going to train. We’re going to see whose neighborhood this is right now.” I went in. I got the movers in there. My wife’s in there. I said, “I got to leave and go train with this guy down the street.” My wife was looking at me and I walked out. I said, “We got to figure out whose neighborhood this is.” I left. I go down the street and it was him and a couple of other people. I beat the brakes off of him and his people.

Let’s talk about that, beat the brakes. What type of training were they doing?

MMA and jujitsu type. It wasn’t pure wrestling and I’m a pure wrestler.

At that time, were you a pure wrestler?

A pure wrestler. I’d never done jujitsu.

Nothing.

I had some fighting experience.

What kind of fighting? Hitting, punching, or boxing?

Some. It’s not to the extent I have now for the last several years.

You’re going one by one of these guys?

Kenny Johnson caption 2

Kenny Johnson – The art of wrestling is takedown and takedown defense. Jujitsu is for everything on the ground.

One by one. I went in. I don’t know who these other guys are so I’m not going with them first because I could get the brakes beat off of me. I’m going to get this guy first. This is what I’m here to determine.

You knew you could handle this guy?

I had no idea. He looked like a teardrop. He looked like he already handled some things but I’m going to handle this guy right now because I got to determine this. I figured man, “If I can get this guy, smash him to death, at least the neighborhood is mine.”

A lot of people don’t know about wrestling. What is one’s approach to smashing an individual in the terms of wrestling? Is it, “I’m going to pick you up and shock you and smash you on the ground?”

That’d be one piece. The other piece would be, “I’m going to control you.” As always say, I want to walk into your soul and rearrange the furniture.

I have seen a lot of videos and we’re going to get into some technical aspects of grappling and striking sports. When you grab the back of the head or the neck, that would throw a lot of people off. You guys do that with a lot of force.

It’s good Iowa-style wrestling called Collar Tie. You want to use the head to control people. You could smash someone like that. You can smash someone by picking them up and smashing them. They’re going to start getting tired. Fatigue will make a coward of you real quick. That’s your goal. My goal was to walk in your soul and rearrange your furniture.

How I think about that is you know your whole house. If you turn the lights off and you had to come into your house, you can walk through your house. Before he got home, I moved all the furniture around and then you walked in, you probably stub your toe. You’re going to trip over things. You wouldn’t know what’s going on. You have no control of it because the lights are off and you got to get upstairs. My goal when I’m competing or hard training is to make you have that feeling in your life like you don’t know where you are.

Where are you looking? Are you looking at the neck and the chest? Do you ever look up in the eye?

I don’t need your eyes. It’s from here to their waist.

That’s what you’re looking at.

I can see peripheral hands. I need to know where the hips are going to go. I don’t need their face.

Do you ever want to look up in the eyes and see what’s going on?

Unless I’m going to ask them on a date. I don’t need to know what’s going on with their eyes.

You’re just watching.

I need to see the mass of their body so that I can see the peripherals of their hands and their arms.

How quickly did you get this guy? Are you messing around with him?

One minute, he’s out. He must have hung around his friend that says he trains with him. He’s done. At this point, we understand that it’s my neighborhood from now on. It turns out that he’s a super nice guy, his name is Angel. I trained him, his kids, and his wife. Everything good.

Did you have to fight a few others?

Two more. We got to the fighter guy and I broke him apart and I trained him. Matter of fact, his kid went to America. I trained his kid for a little bit too. His brother was a photographer that took my picture when I came to America. It’s generations of ass-beating. It doesn’t matter if you get beat up or they get beat up.

You respect each other.

To begin with, there’s no respect. That’s why you have to earn it. It’s not given. The coach that was there, his name was Rigan Machado. I had no idea what jujitsu was so much. I didn’t know who he was. I went home, I looked it up online, and I was like, “You got to be kidding me.” I said, “This is the Dan Gable of jujitsu.”

After I beat his guys up, he put his arm around me and said, “My brother, do you want to be my wrestling coach?” I was like, “Yes.” In the area I am, there’s not a lot of wrestling so I started coaching there. He introduced me to Nogueira, Lyoto, and Anderson. From there, it’s not a bad idea to coach them and it gets more, Black House, and people. It spans off. That was a great Plinko board plot to hit. I noticed that a lot of things in life, you can’t say no to.

For people reading, the Machados are related to the Gracies.

Cousins.

We knew Jean Jacque for probably maybe more than 25 years.

That’s Rigan’s brother, 1 of the 5 that came over.

What’s with the Brazilians with all sons? Would they have a lot of sons all the time? All of a sudden, it’s them in their five brothers, it’s them and their eight brothers. You’re like, “What’s going on?”

If you’re in a good family like that and they have a daughter, they can keep their name. The guy that marries in, they can’t the Gracie name.

Have you noticed that?

If you had to talk to Khonry, he’ll explain it. You might talk to somebody else and they’ll say, “He’s not a real Gracie. He married.” It’s a big deal, “He doesn’t have Gracie blood in him.” He can still kick your ass nonetheless. Whoever’s blood’s in him, he’s good, and he’s got the Gracie name.”

Imagine they have to try to date these girls with all these brothers.

It would be the worst.

Machado is related to the Gracie family. We’ll fast forward. I would like to mention that you are a Black belt now in jujitsu. You’re highly accomplished and good.

That was the first day. I started jujitsu that day. I went and bought a Gi because I saw this is the Dan Gable jujitsu.

“I’m not going to mess around.”

I want this.

Are you scared? You’re starting not at the bottom because you have conditioning and you’ve had contact. You’re ahead in a lot of ways. How do you approach something as a student?

You don’t know you’re ahead because it’s brand new. To me, jujitsu is a component of MMA. Jujitsu and wrestling are different but the same. I call them the same other different fathers. There are a lot of things that are not the same and there are a lot of things that are the same. It’s the concept of controlling somebody. If you’re a true student, you come to learn. You tie your White belt on and it doesn’t matter. I had no idea how wrestling was going to help me in jujitsu until I got into jujitsu and followed the path. As I’m walking the path, where does my wrestling plug-in? That became this a-ha moment. I like Oprah so that was the a-ha moment.

Did you say you like Oprah?

I do. I love her magazine. I watch Oprah. I look at Oprah’s stuff. If it’s Thanksgiving, her and Martha Stewart. If I’m looking to put something together, it’s 1 of those 2.

If it’s not there, you’re not going to do it?

No way. It’s got to be one of those. The a-ha moment I had was as I was following jujitsu, I’m finding out wrestling, and they crossover. I’m walking along and all of a sudden, wrestling can plug in. I can run for a minute and then I can walk and I can run. They’re not like here. The same mother and different father. That’s all it is. It’s not two different families. It’s close. I then started taking it even more seriously. I’m going to do better in jujitsu because of wrestling. I trained for my last four Olympics without ever wrestling a wrestler. I only trained in jujitsu and MMA. My wrestling got better.

I was going to ask you. To become a Black belt in this short period of time, you’ve had to dedicate a lot of hours.

I’d rather have dreams and memories than regrets. Click To Tweet

I did. Mine was longer than most. Mine was twelve years. I’m a first-degree Black belt. Twelve years is a lot of time. People are going to 8 to 10. They held me back a little bit but I didn’t care. I was learning. I was dedicated every day and all day. Plus training, I train in wrestling and jujitsu every single day. I love it.

I want you to put training wheels on it for a second. A lot of people participate in jujitsu and they use it for conditioning and they use it for the community. A lot of people enjoy this gentle art. Can you break it down clearly for men and women what they should be wearing underneath their Gi?

We have a Gi. Men and women probably should wear, more for men, some type of compression shorts under their Gi.

Straight up, why is that?

I don’t want to be someone free balling while I’m trying to maybe get caught in a triangle or some type of thing with all their berries in my face. I don’t want to feel like doing that one. I don’t want to feel balling. It doesn’t feel right. If you’re playing volleyball and you had to be next to a guy for 30 minutes and he had no underwear on and his straddling your leg, you’d be like, “I can’t focus on setting right now because this guy is on my leg and his friends.”

Compression shorts. Some kind of compression where? Keep everything close.

Underneath the Gi.

What about at the top?

On top, have the Gi and have a t-shirt or a compression shirt on because you’re going to sweat a lot. If the Gi is wide open because it’ll be open and you’re on top of someone, it’ll be dripping sweat in your face like Chinese water torture. It keeps the sweat away. It should be clean. It should smell good because your face is going to be by their armpits. You should have a shower. Your stuff should be cleaned. It sounds funny but it’s true.

I had this conversation with wrestlers and I’m like, “You have to wear deodorant, whatever your family background is. Don’t wear them all the time but wear them when you come to practice.” A lot of times, the thing that smells are bacteria. Bacteria is a killer for a mat sport. Staph, ringworm, and impetigo, all those things come from people not being clean. You’re wrapped up with them so tight. To be smelling good is a plus. You don’t have to wear cologne. If I smell Tide, that’s the best cologne I want to smell. I want to smell Tide from three days ago.

It’s important. Let’s slide over to MMA, the discipline. Patty the Baddy was here to interview Laird and he was talking about how when they raised his arm in his first-ever competition when he was a kid. He was like, “This is for me.” It seems like he and his generation a little bit more train all the disciplines but they don’t come from one specific background. You come from wrestling. Certain fighters have come from kickboxing, boxing, or what have you. You have different generations of doing this. For most people, recreationally, for fitness, it’s boxing and it’s jujitsu, don’t you think?

That’s probably boxing, Muay Thai, and jujitsu. There’s no place to go recreationally wrestling. You wouldn’t because it’s not recreationally fun.

How do we equip someone with the basics? We said what you should wear in jujitsu. Also, it’s to be careful. A lot of times, beginners are the ones that hurt each other.

They hurt themselves because they don’t understand what’s going on. A lot of that is a function of the teacher and how the class is structured. You shouldn’t be on your own. You’re not going to send me with a 50-pound weight in the deep end and turn your back on me on a breath hold. You got to structure the class so that you know what happens.

At the end of the day, the lower level belts don’t understand where things are and they don’t maybe have control of their body. Elbows are flying, knees are flying, and they do things. They’re in a hole, they don’t know how to get out of this and do something and maybe they turn the wrong way in that wrong way is what could hurt you. It’s not necessarily you will lose but if your ankle or your knee or elbow is bound up and you do something wrong, you could hurt, break, or tear a ligament, or something.

The goal in jujitsu is to put them into submission. While you’re there and you don’t understand that’s a submission area and you try something by pulling out or turning a certain way, you can injure yourself badly so you have to learn that. At the same time, if they that on you, they don’t understand how delicate it can be. They use all their force and they hurt you. Be careful at the lower levels and listen to your instructor.

It’s interesting, you have striking and grappling. I was talking to Khonry a bit. First of all, to walk into the cage and the door locks, that right there takes a certain athlete mentality person. What do you see from the athletes you’ve trained? Is there something they have? I know they’re all probably incredibly different. I know they’re all tough. What do they have in common that even enables them to be like, “Yes, I’m willing to go do that.”

If you laid out the people I’ve worked with, I would know each of them. I can know how different they all are. A common thread is they start training this. Everyone sees something on TV and is like, “I’m going to do that.” When they find out what they have to do to do it, a lot wanes away so you’re left with what’s left. There’s no aversion to toughness, aggression, and injury. No one wants to get injured.

That’s not holding them back from doing it.

That can hold a lot of people back. Everyone talks about fighting, “I will do this and I will do that.” I promise you, slap someone as hard as you can in the face. If they had to determine if they want to do that or someone else, most people are going to go away. There are some who don’t mind the aggression and they don’t mind the opportunity to get hurt and then they’re probably pushing themselves a little. A lot of the fighters I’ve seen, I don’t necessarily think it is for them but they have this idea that this is what they want to do so they’ll pursue it.

Do you mean it’s for their family?

It’s cool. MMA is sexy now. There are a lot of people that get into that but then now it refines more. You go from the people that don’t mind digression and don’t mind hitting. The pyramid goes smaller and smaller. Once those people get in and they realize, “Maybe this isn’t for me,” then you’re left with what’s left. Those people what’s left is, “We’re going to lock the cage and we’re going to go.” Every one of them has nerves. Every one of them has doubts. That’s normal. They have the same doubts as a volleyball player or something else. The same doubt and the same nerves.

You can get hurt though.

The consequences are different but they’re the same nerves. You would start saying, “I’m nervous. Did I work hard enough? Am I in shape?” Maybe there’s grit to them and they’re willing to do it. For people, the better. When you get your fair-weather people, they’re okay to be there. When you’re talking about the committed, you have to win or lose. I got committed. People lose all the time. They’re willing to accept that risk and you negate that risk by training. For the people that don’t train as hard, that risk is injury and loss like anything else.

Laird always talks about that when you’re held under, in surfing and it’s a big wave so you’re under, he goes, “Your intention, at that moment, is clear why you’re there.” If you don’t want to be there, that’s not for you. When you do, you also understand it’s part of it. Do you think an athlete like that is born that way? Have you ever seen an athlete, somehow through developing, training, and maybe having a few fights under their belt, they got better at that?

I have a lot of experience with different athletes. We can throw their names out. Maybe it doesn’t exactly pinpoint everything because I wasn’t inside their head. When I started training, I was Randy Couture and Dan Henderson. These older wrestlers like Mark Kerr and Coleman are all huge and were also wrestling. That’s the MMA in the early 90s. MMA wasn’t something I even thought of because how am I going to fight Mark Kerr? He’s 300 pounds and I’m 140. You then get a guy like Royce. You get this guy.

When I started getting involved in it more, I took some fights not because I wanted to be a fighter. I was in the coaching realm of this area and I was training for the Olympics so I didn’t want to fight as a fighter. That didn’t appeal to me. I was like, “If I’m going to coach these guys, I need to know what they’re going through.” I became a fighter to be a better coach.

I remember my first fight. I fought a guy that was 180 and 1. I was 0 and 0. How about this one? In my mind, that’s my fighting record. I’ve had over 1,400 wrestling matches. He could screw off. That’s how we went into that one. I remember they shut the cage door and it’s distinct. There’s metal on metal but there’s some padding. There’s the pin that goes and you can hear it over everything. I remember staying in the corner and I looked at my boxing coach and I said, “I don’t even need to be here.” He goes, “You’re here. Let’s figure it out.” It went well. I won.

How did you win?

This guy, I couldn’t submit him. I was elbowing him and punching him in the face. By the way, I was working on my jab. I was working on my boxing. I’m not going to wrestle at all. I’m going to go in and I’m going to knock this guy out. This guy was a Muay Thai guy. He kicked me so hard in the leg.

In the IT?

In my thigh. Before his foot hit back to the ground for kicking me, I already took him down. In my mind, I was like, “Never again. This guy is not going to touch me.”

You didn’t want to get kicked again.

Kenny Johnson caption 3

Kenny Johnson – For me, this is the most powerful. When a professional athlete wins a competition or learns something, they appreciate the win.

No way. I’m a pussy. I’m not going to get kicked again. For three rounds, of the fifteen minutes, we’re on our feet for maybe fifteen seconds. That was only because, at the end of the round, you have to then start over and you have to come back around and move around. I got kicked one time and that was it. I was on top of him. I was punching him. I was elbowing face for everything I was worth. He was looking at me. He was this Thai guy. I saw lumps all over his head. I was bleeding. My elbow was sore for a month from elbowing and this guy’s head. Every time I elbowed him, he’d shake his head smiling at me for everything I was worth. I was like, “What?”

I went from that advent of, “I don’t even need to be here.” I did it some more because I want to be better. I took fights on my day off. I train every day. If you want me to fight right now, I can go because I’m trained. That’s another thing. Some fighters won’t take fights, “It’s only a five-week notice.” I try to tell him my story but then they’re like, “Coach, that’s you.” I’m like, “That wasn’t me at the time. That was nothing I knew about. I did that so I could tell you that you should be training every day.”

I’m a little harsh on people when I talk to them but I’ve gone through it or someone I’ve known went through it. A lot of times, in my experience, I’ve tried to gain myself. Even my dad told me that experience is the cheapest. You learn secondhand. I need to touch the stove to see if it’s hot. Natter of fact, let me see how deep I can get burned too while I’m at it. Let’s go deep, fourth-degree burns. I’m dumb in both sections. I was hard-headed.

One of the fighters, why they’re doing it? Is it something because whatever fuels them but they get into it? When they find it, they keep training. You’ll see people have a metamorphosis that exists between where they were and where they’re going or they’re like, “Not for me. I’m out.” You’ll see it on the amateur level. There’s California Amateur Athletic Commission and I have a website. When you’re matching up amateurs, you can go to the website and the weights. Most people don’t have more than 1 or 2 fights. They’re amateurs. It’s rare.

They get kicked one time and they’re like, “No.”

I was like, “How can I not get kicked but still win? I got to do this again and check it out.” I go out there and get my face cut open. I’m like, “Okay.” I fought a guy who was 6’3”. He kneed me in the face. My face, your hand could go in it. It’s like, “This happened. How am I going to win this fight while going through this whole thing?” It’s different experiences and cutting weight and things. The common thing is if people are willing to understand what they’re up against, go through it, and then stay, it starts distilling down the right people.

There are two buckets in MMA, you’ve got the grappling, you’re on the ground, and then you have the striking, which would be boxing, Muay Thai, or kickboxing. Am I missing something?

You can have three buckets. You have striking art. There’s more. The main is karate, boxing, taekwondo, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. Of the striking arts, that’s going to cover 99%. There might be some obscure Chinese foot boxing and different savant. Also, jujitsu and wrestling. Three buckets.

You’re not putting jujitsu and wrestling in the same?

No. They like to say that but they’re not. Wrestling is different because I come into jujitsu, I’m three Olympics deep, and I know nothing about jujitsu. Jujitsu and wrestling are about the same as volleyball and soccer. You have a ball. You have footwork. You have wrestling and then you have jujitsu, which is ground fighting

You can tell me if I’m wrong. There are more moves in jujitsu than in wrestling. There are many different levels of types of moves.

There’s probably an equal number. Let’s say there are 100 moves in all of wrestling and there are 100 moves in all of jujitsu. There’s more but let’s use it for a rough number. Nothing on the ground of wrestling is going to help you in broad terms. In jujitsu, there are no takedowns. They bring those from wrestling. The minor ones, they put into their curriculum. The art of wrestling is takedown and takedown defense. Jujitsu is for everything on the ground.

If you’re watching MMA, you’ll see a bunch more jujitsu because wrestling looks like, “You took him down.” There are 50 different takedowns but you’re only going to hear him call 1 or 2. Of those 100 moves, 10 are takedowns, and only 2 will work in or in MMA because you have punching and submissions.

You got to deal with legs.

There are different rules. You can’t choke wrestling, joint manipulate, nothing. A lot of these positions you’ll get in wrestling would put you in a bad position if there were different rules. Your neck can be exposed in wrestling and you have to worry about protecting your neck. In jujitsu, you’re going to get choked. In jujitsu or wrestling, you don’t have to worry about getting punched so your head can be wherever. If you’re in MMA, some can elbow you in the nose and smash your face apart.

If I said, “Let’s do jujitsu, Gabby.” We would start rolling around and you’re trying to defend and I’ll elbow you in your face. You’d say, “Did you say jujitsu or MMA?” It’s different. Different rules are going to dictate what moves can come from this. With boxing, you’re going to grab a few things from boxing because there’s not a lot. There are punches to the head, the body, and the face. It’s an intricate art. I’m not saying that. Footwork, body position, all that carries over but it’s not pure boxing.

If you come as a pure boxer, you will lose to a Muay Thai guy because you’re getting kicked and you never defended a kick before. If you’re a pure Muay Thai and you’ve never had defended takedown, you’re probably getting put on your back. The jujitsu guy is going to expose you. If you’re the best striker, a jujitsu guy just has to somehow get you on the ground and it’s over.

Let’s say 10% of wrestling and 10% of jujitsu and a little striking because it’s on your feet, to begin with. That comes together and forms the mixed martial art. If you wrestle, everything you’re doing in wrestling is grinding you towards a goal. In everything you’re doing in jujitsu, you can take these concepts of body movements, controls, how you’re controlling distance, angles, and levels.

Every once in a while, you need to move to work in MMA. There are a lot of concepts that you need to learn in order to do a move. Once you learn that and then you learn more jujitsu, sometimes being tough and learning how to get out of this wrestling hold will help you over here. If you had to put it on paper, these 30 moves will transfer over to MMA and these 70 won’t. You can make a clear distinction Of these 70, if I didn’t know these 70, these 30 wouldn’t work as well. Of these 70, they have nothing to do with these 30.

How you move your body to do this one is called center gravity, angles, levels, and control. I talk about stealing people’s energy and losing a finger on the pulse. You learn that in a whole discipline. You take everything you learned from this discipline and then these couple moves then do that for jujitsu and do that for striking and put them together. Imagine if you’re amazing in soccer, volleyball, and rugby, and now you need a new sport. Put those together and now it’s some type of spiking with your foot while someone’s kicking you, and now you’re in MMA.

Imagine being at the top of your volleyball game and then you have to be at the top of rugby and top of soccer. If you’re not, you’re not going to win. You can get lucky because there’s always a puncher’s chance but you’re not going to get lucky in jujitsu. You’re not going to get lucky in wrestling. Anybody can knock someone out. You could come over to me and not like me and swing your fist and clip the button. You could someone with a brick and they don’t even feel it. They call it a puncher’s chance.

My dad told me that experience is the cheapest. You Learn secondhand. Click To Tweet

There is no such thing as a jujitsu’s chance or a wrestler’s chance. They call it a haymaker, Hail Mary, or throw it across the court. It’s not going to happen. It takes these three sports to move into one. Who can put those three together is the best? In the first advent of the UFC, it was discipline versus discipline. Royce versus the sumo guy versus the karate guy versus the boxer.

The second coming of MMA was someone that got good in two. Let’s say the first event was Royce or Don Frye. One discipline. Dan is in wrestling, jujitsu, or whatever. The second one, you had someone like BJ Penn, Black Belt jujitsu. With striking, he could knock people out. You get a third one, which is like GSP where he could wrestle. He’s a black belt in jujitsu and he could strike. We’re in the fourth now. In the third one, this person had a single discipline. They didn’t know the other ones. They just saw them and they went after each other because it’s so new.

The second got to watch the first but they still come from one and they noticed there were some others so then they would start putting some things in. That’s when jujitsu starts getting big because of Royce. they were still good at one because they came from one and started filtering in. The 2nd and 3rd are in the same zone. They were watching the second. They came from one but they had a school and now they’re doing jujitsu and striking. Now they learn two and then filter in a three. They still had a base.

This 4th has regressed. They don’t have a base at all and they just do all of them. I’ll ask someone, “How long you’ve been wrestling?” “Three years.” I’m like, “How many times a week?” “Once.” “You’ve been wrestling for three months.” Before, if someone said, “How long have you been wrestling?” “Forty years.” “Once or twice a day?” “Every day for forty years?”

“Royce, how long have you been doing jujitsu?” “Since I was 1, every day for my whole life.” That’s a base. It’s not, “I do wrestling twice a week. I CrossFit twice a week. I do boxing twice a week.” These guys are great athletes because now they got sports and conditioning that are so important. Now, it’s almost trumping the skill of the fight. You get these athletes that can do certain things then they run up against someone that’s trained in 1 or 2 areas.

When the water gets super deep and things are going, you need a place to go. You need a home base. If they don’t have a home base, they start flailing. That’s younger. Now the look is the more important or they’re talking about, “I want Khonry’s money. I want Floyd Mayweather’s money.” You hadn’t even made any money. They think that Instagram and all these things are going to get it for them. We’re in the fourth advent of it and no one has a base but they’re still great fighters.

In a way, if I was an athlete in that environment, I would think, “I’m supposed to be able to do all these things.” It’s an interesting conundrum for these guys to be in because if you’re only a wrestler, would you think, “I could take on this guy who’s that good at Muay Thai and boxing.” Also, let’s say they’ve adjusted a little bit and that they stand everybody up too. If they’re on the ground too long and nobody’s punching and nobody’s doing anything, one of the adjustments they made, I don’t know how many years ago, they get everybody back up on their feet because the audience wants to see a knockout.

Do you know what’s funny about that? Do you know that there is nothing when they’re boring on your feet and they’re like, “We’re going to put you on the ground.” They don’t have that. That’s a crazy thing for me. For example, you could take jujitsu or wrestling, especially jujitsu. To the untrained eye, two dudes laying on each other is bullcrap. To the person that’s trained, you’re like, “Did you see how he moved his pinky? A millimeter. Revolutionary. I’m going to go do that.” To everyone else, it’s two dudes on top of each other and it’s boring, “Stand them up. I want to see blood.”

Why do you think basketball is points and more points? “Score more points.” Wrestling and jujitsu, if you don’t know, that’s why they’re not high-revenue sports because they’re not fan-friendly. They don’t ever take two boring strikers and like, “Let’s see how they’re good on the ground. Go to the ground.” They don’t. They get you mixed up on the ground and go. The rules were geared towards that.

They also have stylistic matchups and that’s why they don’t have number 1 versus number 2 like a ranking. This guy and this guy, even though he’s ranked number 7 and he’s 1, “He’s got 1 million followers. He should be a champ. He’s talking crap.” Style-wise, wrestlers, and spikers. Check it out.” The number two guy passed over. It’s a business. As long as you know it’s a business, it is what it is. Your job is to get good at these.

These people come in and they think they’re going to train for the best and just hope. They come in and they’re not willing to do what it takes here. They’ll be exposed and you can watch it every week. There’s a new UFC. Someone will be exposed because they didn’t practice their jujitsu or wrestling or their striking is garbage. More importantly, they didn’t cut weight right. Whatever it is, there’s always an excuse. They’re not serious. Most professionals aren’t professionals. These excuses are not had in football and baseball because they’ve been around for over 150 years. This is over 30 years old.

It’s just sprouting. This whole thing is just getting figured out. Do you think there would come a day when maybe a kid starts wrestling? I wouldn’t even know. Which sport do you think would be the one, as a kid, you’d want to do first?

I come from wrestling from kids. It would sound biased coming from me. I can tell you what everyone says to me when I train them, they wished they would have wrestled younger. For me, when people say wrestling is the toughest sport in the world, I’m like, “Nope, it’s not to me. It’s not even close.” I always say now, “Have you ever tried surfing in big waves? Not me. I’m sure you can die.” You can’t die in wrestling.” Do you know when I went to the Olympic training center? I told you that story.

Let’s hear it.

I got to the training center where the wrestlers were eating. We had a cafeteria where everyone eats in. Some girls were sitting next to us, a couple of cute ones. Wrestling was new there. Freestyle wrestling has just gotten there. I go, “I’m going wrestling.” They go, “Were you at badminton?” I smiled a little bit.

You chuckled.

I had to. In Wisconsin, when you play badminton, it’s a saggy net. A volleyball comes in the same pack. It’s the rubber, Voit, and volleyball. I’m thinking of my aunt when I went to hit them. This is a true story. I went to hit the birdie, it smacked my aunt in the head so hard on accident. I’m thinking of the saggy net and you know there’s barbecue and beer. She’s like, “Badminton is bullcrap to me.” It all happened quickly. I didn’t mean to laugh at her. She goes, “Do you play badminton?” I was like, “Yeah.” I have no idea where we’re in for. I’ve never seen it in my life, besides a park in Wisconsin. The score is 25. She goes, “I’ll spot you 24 points.”

She said, “I’ll spot you 24 points.”

In front of everybody, I was like, “Okay.” We left and played. She beat me 26 to 24. I didn’t score one point. This girl is probably 80 pounds or 90 pounds and was blasting me to death. I went on a couple of dates with her. It was fun. We were friends. It was nice. I got my ass handed to me by a little girl. At that point, I’m at the training center. I’m going to take advantage of all these amazing athletes so I did every sport I could. I went shooting. They have air pistol and air rifle shooting, which is unbelievably boring.

Their heart rates are in the 30s and they shoot between their heartbeats. Everything you hear, you’re like, “It’s intense.” The shooters at the Olympic training center get workout programs. They’re not supposed to even run. They have to do everything slowly. They have a problem with their bodies not being so fit because they’re not supposed to get their heart rate elevated and all these other businesses.

In gymnastics, you can’t do an Iron Cross. You’re not going to flip above the bar. You just go in there. Blaine Wilson was a good friend of mine so I’m going there. Everyone, I could go swimming with. I did everything to learn. You start realizing that wrestling is easy. Ping pong is hard. I found out badminton has the most participants in the world. Over 1 billion people play badminton. It’s the official sport of Asia. You learn all these facts. It became a whole new world.

When people say wrestling is tough, I’m like, “No, it’s not. It’s easy.” In jujitsu, you can break someone’s arm legally. You can choke them. You can do whatever you want. In wrestling, if you grab their head hard and you do that in jujitsu, they’re upset. You can break someone’s arm. When these kids are seeing these things wrestling, every one of these great fighters said they wished they would have wrestled sooner.

For training, if you’re an adult, jujitsu and boxing seem to be the most available for people. You coach. One of the things that were said about you that I appreciated was that with your coaching, you don’t ask the fighter to conform to your ideology. You will adapt your training and suggestions for the fighter’s style.

Of course, you’re going to work on someone’s weaknesses. You’re like, “If you’re longer, taller, lankier, or more compact, whatever it is, you have that ability.” You’re very intense. I’ve spent time with you. You will get up in the grill of your fighters. We’ll talk about your high school. I can only imagine what it’s like to train for you in high school. You will get up in their face with passion but you don’t have an ego. What do you think that is? What is it in you? When you’re training someone as a coach, what are you thinking and what are you trying to accomplish?

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Kenny Johnson – It is the function of the teacher and how the class is structured. You shouldn’t be on your own. You’re not going to send me with a 50-pound weight in the deep end and turn your back on me.

Everything that’s happened, I’ve always thought of it in as a story of something that happened to me so I can translate it and not like, “I’m fucking tough.” I might be tough to me but not to you. I can tell you about some experiences that got me. There’s no way that everyone could do exactly what I do. I never became the Olympic champ. You’d better probably do something different or else you’re going to end up, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. You need to take me plus. That’s one.

Another thing is everyone’s different. Size, strength, speed, and flexibility are different. What works for you doesn’t work for someone else. The move is a move. A technique is a technique. It’s real. It can work for you. Maybe another technique would work better. What I try to do is I try to see the person. If it’s wrestling, MMA, or jujitsu, I’m seeing how they move. I trained with everybody so I can have my finger on their pulse. That’s a big difference from looking at them because I can feel their balance and their movement. I can see them, feel them, and touch them.

I can also see their previous performances and then I can ask them what’s their goals, what is their strategy, what they want to do, their weaknesses, and their strengths. We then can move that. I want to make them a better version of themselves and not something different. A lot of times, some will say, “Kenny, can you show me that double leg?” Double leg is a common wrestling move.

I’ll say, “Let me see how you do it.” They’ll do it and I’ll say, “That looks good. I would move your head up a little bit. Here’s why. Other than that, it looks perfect.” I could start at zero and then spend fifteen minutes and they already know it. I could start at zero and then spend fifteen minutes and they already know it.

Some people come in and go, “Teach me that takedown.” “Which one do you want to learn?” “I saw the double leg.” I said, “Show it to me.” If I teach you from zero, I’ll teach you exactly how I’m doing it. Maybe you’re doing it right but you’re not interpreting my words into how your actions are. You’re trying to conform and then you miss the entire thing. It’s like looking at the Grand Canyon with a telescope, you’ll miss it all. What you want in that utopia or wherever that technique is, you’re standing on it but you’re looking through a telescope. I’ll say, “Show me and I’ll make the adjustments and then I’ll tell you why.”

I always say that I don’t correct wrong moves, bad technique. Every move is real and viable. If you set somebody and they jumped from the ten-foot line, that’s a real spike. Except if they’re in the front row and they ran backwards and come back. If you set them and you back set them and they ran and jumped here, that’s a real spike. The ball is over there. The wrong move at the wrong time.

“Perfect form, by the way, on that jump. Your chest was over the net but the ball was back there.” That’s the type of thing. I don’t correct wrong moves, bad technique. The move was right but the head was in the wrong position and the hand was wrong and then we correct that. Therefore, I can retain as much of you as an individual as possible and correct the pieces that are wrong.

As that moves forward, they develop their own style and the way they move. I don’t change their movement. I changed that bad technique. Hopefully, that will then start putting them in the line. I want them in their own line. I could look at someone like, “You’re not winning. That’s wrong. We’re going to teach you all this over here.” You’ll find that people are resistant to that unless they’re not. The chances of you deconstructing an adult and starting them at zero is not possible. I change what technically is wrong.

I always tell people that this is a skill that you’re learning. This is a craft. This is not art. This is done with repetition. If you want to be outrageously original, work on the art later. This is a craft and skill. This is a repetition of moving your hands. You want to have your own flash, that’s the art piece of it. Be original later. It’s a skill now. I want their skill to be up. Once they know these moves, they can determine what’s good for them or not.

It’s like parenting. I always say to my girls, “We’ve got to get you a certain foundation. Whatever color you want to paint the house, that’s on you. Let’s get some of the basics like hard work, communication, and honesty.”

I have what’s called the six dimensions of a wrestling match but it could be a fight as well. There are three physical ones, there’s the distance between you and your opponent. Distance is important in martial art because you’re usually dealing with a threat that is in front of you. The distance between you, there are angles and levels. That’s your 3D box. That’s the real thing you’re dealing with. How you interact inside that box has to do with your technique, your cardio, and most importantly, the will to win. You take those and you put those together and that is what your fight is about, whether it’s wrestling, jujitsu, or anything.

Heed your technique because that’s what’s going to get you there. This is a craft. This is something where simple daily discipline compounded over time and worry about being original later. It’s the same double leg over 100 years ago. You’re not going to change it. It is what it is. How you lead into it, how you strut, the clothes you wear, there’s your art. You develop your own style, your flash, and your pizzazz, but the technique is a technique.

When you have had doubt going on a mat or in a ring, what’s your own technique for handling that voice? We all experience that.

I was lucky. My coach in college was getting his Master’s in psychology so I was his guinea pig. This is the best thing. Another little thing on the Plinko board of life. He gave me a book with blank pages. He was doing whatever he was doing at the time. He’s like, “Every time you have a negative thought, I want you to put a T on the page. Every day, I want you to put the date.”

“For every negative thought that goes through your mind, write it down. Every positive thought, I want you to write it down.” I’m like, “Okay.” When you wake up and you’re like, “These clothes look ugly on me,” write that down. He’s like, “Put everything.” I didn’t know where he was going with it. I was just doing what he said. “I felt stupid today.” Whatever it was. I did this for a while.

He’s like, “Let’s take these negative. How could you change that negative to a positive?” It sounds so basic. He’s like, “Why did you feel stupid today?” “I got a B on my math test. I want As. I only have As. I’ve only had As since ninth grade. I should have an A.” He goes, “Why didn’t you get that B?” “The test was on Monday. Friday, I went home. I had to drive back. I didn’t probably get to study as much.”

He goes, “You said, ‘I’ve been feeling stupid.’ Could you say that you weren’t prepared for this test?” I said, “I could. That’s exactly.” He goes, “Are you stupid?” I said, “It depends on who you talk to but no. I don’t think so.” He goes, “Think or no?” I said, “No, I’m not. I’m 100% not stupid. I wasn’t prepared for the test because I didn’t study for it because I was driving back and forth home to see my mom and dad.” He said, “Instead of saying I feel stupid today, say I was not prepared for this test and that’s why I received this grade. I am going to prepare for my next test and get a better grade.” I started doing this.

I then took this list thing. What I do is I tell everyone the same thing, “Make a list of every single thing in your life.” When you’re at the mat and you’re about to step on, you’re going to have these feelings of anxiety, nerves, or butterflies, whatever you call them. I have a little checklist. Everything on that checklist is my life, school, wrestling, girlfriend, dog, chores, pictures, and TV show. Whatever it is you do in your life, then you go back.

Did I train 100%? Check. Is my relationship with my mom good? I argue with her all the time. You shouldn’t have any negative checkmarks on that checklist when you’re about to slip on the mat. Your life is like a photo mosaic. Up close, there are a bunch of pictures and you can see every picture. You step back and it’s Yoda. You didn’t know that. If you step back and one of your pictures is out, it looks like Yoda but he’s missing an ear. You go back and control that picture.

That checklist is like a metaphorical checklist. Did I train right? Did I eat right? Did I sleep right? Did I handle my stuff and my girlfriend right? Did my brothers get in a fight? Did I get to sleep? Did I eat? Did I watch the moon three times a month? Whatever you need in your checklist to make you, is it on there? Did you do it? If you didn’t, of course, you’re having this crappy feeling right now. It’s not because you’re about to step on this nice padded mat with some rules. That’s not the problem. The problem is what you’re doing in your life every day.

Most people give up what they want for what they want now. They want the most like state champ. What they want now is to have a party and go out. I made this list based on writing these things, negative to positive. I tried to change the negative to positive, which sounds so cliché. You could say, “I feel fat in these clothes. Maybe this shirt is one size too small. I feel fat in these clothes because I’m eating wrong. I’m going to work out a little bit more.” There’s a way to change it so you’re not a Negative Nancy. That checklist is what I do to go through that.

The thing about it is I know everything on that checklist. I’m about to go through it and it’s like, “I did it.” I’m not going to trick myself to have worse nerves. Did you work every day? No. Did you eat right? No. Did you sleep right? No. Apparently, you’re getting your ass handed to you. Breaks off. Come back. That takes you being disciplined and focused each day.

Life is sometimes screwed. If you can be happy, I'm happy. If people like it, that's even better. Click To Tweet

The focus I tell people is to control their behavior so that they can do more right things and not get distracted from the wrong things. If you focus and have discipline, which sports, your parents, and your friends teach you, everything’s on your checklist. At the end of that checklist, by the time you check these things off, the tension is gone and the butterflies are gone.

Ready to go.

“Gabby Reece, it’s time to step on the mat.” You’re like, “Yeah,” as opposed to not having anything.

You’ve got these high schoolers and it’s not only a different time. You’re not grabbing the back of anyone’s collar now. You still get up on your athletes and grill a little bit. You tell their parents, “Stay out because you want to understand what’s happening.” The coaching, you do it at a professional level. You do it with young people that are never going to do anything with the sport. What excites you more? When you watch a young athlete develop, yes, they’re going to improve in wrestling. When you see those types of lessons and how they can transform them as human beings, that’s pretty powerful.

For me, this is the most powerful. When professional athlete wins a competition or learns something, they appreciate the win. They’re like, “Thanks, coach. The coach is the best. He showed me this move.” I feel like when you’re catching kids at a younger age, it’s not the move that matters, it’s the lesson they’re going to learn in life. Whether it’s wrestling, rugby, volleyball, or whatever path they’re on and they’re willing to then focus and dedicate their time to something that’s bigger than themselves, that’s important.

I tell my students and my kids, “If you don’t have a 2.0, you can’t wrestle.” That’s the school rule. I have a different rule. If you come around here and mess around with 3.0 or lower, it’s not, “I’m going to kick them out.” Now you’re on my radar. Why? Your only life is to do a student-athlete and not a fun party guy that likes to barely read and then come wrestle. There’s no place that says, “Hi, I’m an athletic student.” No, you’re a student-athlete.

Let’s say wrestling for me. They come in wrestling and they commit to it. I know they’re going to get better work ethic because if not, you’re going to get your ass handed to you. I know because that’s how I worked. I got my ass handed to me. Winning is fun and you’re not getting your ass handed to and then you can start pouring back into it.

I see these kids start becoming more disciplined outside of wrestling. Wrestling is going to be over for most of these kids in twelfth grade. Wrestling is a vehicle for me to get to them so that what they learn from 9th to 12th grade is going to stay with them for the rest of their life. Will they ever wrestle again? I do not care. When they’re here, whether they win or lose, I want them all winners.

A champion does not always wear a gold medal. You can be a champion on the mat but you can be a piece of crap in life. I always tell them to be a champion on and off the mat so they have to learn both and that is what’s a true champion. It then goes back to the checklist. Did you do your chores? Did you listen to your mom? Did you lie? Were you a good boyfriend? We’re you good son? Were you a good daughter? Did you do schoolwork? Did you help your teacher? All that checklist feeds them into being a champion. How can you lose?

For me, I do what I do because I can. I love to work with these kids because I can. I can do it. Not because the pay isn’t astronomical. I have the ability to do it. I’ve chosen wrestling as my vehicle. You’d see a little jujitsu, MMA, but wrestling is the vehicle for me that I can blast into somebody and I’m not forcing me on them. I’m forcing wrestling on them. I’m the driver of the vehicle that’s going to change their life and I know what it can do for you because I know what it did for me and many others.

If wrestling is something you’re trying to get into, I’m not trying to crash into you and be like, “Gab, you’re going to wrestle. It’s going to change your life.” It’s not going to work. With somebody who’s trying to wrestle, now we’re going to go and I’m not going to let you out. I’m not forcing you to do something you don’t want to do. It’s going to be difficult because wrestling is like winning. Winning doesn’t care about you and neither does wrestling. Wrestling doesn’t care about you. No matter how much you win, you’re still going to be terrible. I like seeing that.

If I have something to give, I’ll give it. The choice between being an athlete and then becoming a coach or going to be a stockbroker like I used to be is a big choice. When I see a kid that needs something and I can help, I’m not going to be like, “I did my eight hours today. I’m gone.” No phone calls at night. I can’t go to see my girlfriend. My kids got a soccer game but I’m going to their house because they’re having a hard time at home. I got to send my daughter off but she’s learning from me. You do it because you can. At the end of the day, I hope I gave more than I took.

I’ve seen you many times and you have a lot of energy. It’s a real thing. Do you ever feel down or tired? I know you’re a human being. What do you do when you’re there? Do you say, “I’m going to chill and be quiet.” Do you go on your horse? What is it for you that refuels you?

I love being with my daughters. I love mountain biking. I love riding my horse. Those are probably the major things. I love to write and I do that at random and different times.

You’ve written a book.

Here and there. I put a bunch of stuff together.

Do you want to share the title of your book?

It’s not about wrestling and it’s called The Rose and the Silver Bell. It’s the longest rhyme Demeter poem ever written.

Everyone finds that out and they’re like, “You wrote a book.” I don’t tell anybody. It’s not a good business model. Every year, I say, “This year I’m going to do just as much for this book as I’ve done for everyone else.” It’s difficult to give to myself when I got stuff to give over here so I’m like, “Next year.”

Maybe this is the year.

It could be the year. For me, in this area that’s small, no matter how much I’ve worked, I’ve already got the product. They’re like, “You got to get it to a publisher. Don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. You need an agent to get it to a publisher. You get to take that either.” It’s like, “Get it to someone important or who’ve done that. You got to find the needle in the haystack.” It’s a big haystack. My thing is to give out the copies and I’ll say, “I’ll follow up with it,” and I never do it because I’m always worried about this kid or that kid or my fighters or whatever. This could be the year. This got to be the year. Each year, I say it. I’m focused on it. All of a sudden, I got 30 more kids I got to deal with. I’m like, “Next year.”

You are wrestling and getting sweaty pretty much every day. Maybe a day a week, you don’t. Are you always going to coach that way in some form or another?

You were saying about what I do for downtime. Sometimes things happen in your life. Everyone’s had bad things happen or traumatic things or you’re sad, the true sad and not feelings. You know how I feel about feelings. Feelings aren’t facts. Your mind has to be stronger than your feelings. Your feelings will keep you in bed and your mind gets you out. I like to pedal to the metal. Some days, I don’t want to do that. I’m hurt. Something happened. I talked about it to my daughter and whatnot.

My responsibility when I walk into the room is I got 30 kids and 30 adults. They’re showing up and they need what I got. That’s why they’re coming to my class. You have a coach, a teacher, a mentor, or whatever. I can’t come in and say, “Guys, I’m little down today. Let’s just take some laps.” That doesn’t matter. The day my ex-wife took my kid when I went to work, I didn’t see my kid for months. I had to go to practice that night and that’s just that. I got good at compartmentalizing.

Growing up poor, you feel embarrassed at different times. My family had no phone and no car. We did have a cellphone and that was a house phone. No money. I’m 98 pounds and I’m 12. I’m trying to maybe get some ladies. I was good on my BMX bike. I used to ride the skate pools and freestyle my bike. I was nervous that people would say, “Let me get your phone number.” I’m like, “Give me yours and I’ll call you.” I have to run up to a grocery store in the payphone. I was embarrassed.

A lot of these things, I could compartmentalize. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. Right now, I could smash my car on the way here. I’m going to walk up here and do this thing. You’re like, “Kenny, where’s your car?” “That crap smashed.” I wouldn’t tell anybody. I compartmentalize. I can compartmentalize like the closet people. It might not look like the closet people in my head though but there are rooms. I’m getting better at cleaning out those closets and making more space.

I told you a number of things that happened. The last year and a half have been working towards that. The energy I have is I love what I do. It’s not just teaching wrestling. It’s about being present for the people that want it. You don’t need wrestling. They want what you have. there’s an energy that feeds and it’s fun. I like being a student too. I’m going to do everything I can. Being mentally and physically challenging is what’s fun. The training is the drug for me and the teaching. Watching people win is a plus. Watching people change, that’s what’s super important. If I could give more than I took when I leave this place, whatever place it is, I know I won.

You do that. Justin, do you want to ask any questions? I know there’s got to be something.

Could you talk about your social media presence for a little bit? You’ve got some of the best Instagram stories and posts. Where does that come from?

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Kenny Johnson – These people come in and they think they’re going to train for the best and just hope. They come in and they’re not willing to do what it takes here. They’ll be exposed and you can watch it every week.

I don’t ever do things more than once. This is what I see. I just say how it is. I say what I’m thinking. It’s just me. It’s how it is. You can either like it or don’t like it. I’ll see something and I’ll take a picture of it. Whatever is going through my mind is wacky. It’s how I look at it. It‘s how I think and how I say it  I don’t change the words.

The AD at MiraCosta, I met him for the first time and he’s a former pro football player. He’s a huge dude. He looks like The Incredibles daddy. He’s massive. He goes, “I finally put a name to the face. I was watching your social media page.” I’m like, “Sorry about that.” He’s like, “I love it. It’s funny.” I say what’s on my mind and I say it in a way that some people could think maybe I didn’t even go to high school. My vocabulary has probably a lot of, “Screw you,” and tacos. That’s how I just say it.

I’m not trying to impress someone. When I’m laughing while when I’m saying my thing, I’m making myself laugh. I’m having a good time. Life is sometimes screwed. If you can be happy, I’m happy. If people like it, that’s even better. I get people who are like, “You’re an idiot.” “Sorry if you think that way. Not me. Do you know what I think I am? You have no idea who I think I am in my mind.” That’s what helps. A lot of times, I’m whining but I’m happy. I’m moving around. That’s how that came to play.

A lot of it started with Kenny Bolt Wrestling. Originally, it was KennyAndBJPenn.com. BJ Penn had BJPenn.com. He had an app. What happened is if he would film on his BJPenn, he will go, “This is BJ Penn.” BJPenn was him. He would film a video and it’ll be on his app. He had the BJ Penn app. We’d be doing whatever. A lot of times, if he posted the picture or the video, there would be 100,000 hits. He got me to post something like, “This is Kenny and BJ Penn,” and it would get 5,000 hits or something. It was a lot less because it’s BJ.

Going through there, what I noticed is the same thing I like. I like wrestling. I don’t want to see this guy do the same wrestling move. For example, I don’t need to see someone shadowbox for them to show me how fast their hands are because everyone’s super fast when no one’s trying to kick you in your head. They show him punching a bag. The bag doesn’t move. It might look cool and sexy to them. What I want to know is, what shoes is he wearing? What beer is that? How come he’s got that big? Where did he get that bag? Is that custom? I started doing stuff, especially food. My diet is getting better.

We have a lot of conversations about Kenny’s diet.

I remember the Krispy Kreme donut cut in half. I got a burger on it with peanut butter and jelly or whatever, something crazy. I got more hits than BJ. They wanted to see the lifestyle. We have fun. We do fun stuff. If we showed only jumping in the pool, people think, “It’s all that?” There are so many other things you could see. “Where’s the ice? What’s that little thing on the back of the ice thing? It’s blue. I don’t know what that is.”

There was something more and it came about that way. It’s authentic. I don’t play anything different than I am. What I say is what’s coming out of my mouth. I might see something now and I’m, “I got to look at that pen over there. I got to look at that guy over there. He’s looking forward.” It’s just that. You’re seeing some of the comedy through my eyes. I love tacos.

Kenny, there could be people in your area if they were fortunate enough to be able to train. The reason I wanted to talk to you was that I don’t meet that many people that are brave enough to be themselves but also with the genuine wattage that you come with every day. What I want you to know is that I know that it’s hard to be that way because it takes a lot of energy. You have the ability to inspire all the people around you because you do bring it every day.

I made a joke earlier about pool training. Pool training is not the easiest thing for you. You are willing to come. when I say, “This is the drill we’re doing,” you do it each time. I want you to know that that’s it. You inspire people and your passion for what you do. I always say that if any athlete had the chance to be coached by you, if they bring 1, you’ll bring 2, and if they bring 2, you’ll bring 4. There are not a lot of people like that. Thank you.

I appreciate it. From being here, it’s been over a year and a half. There have been some other Plinko board plots on life I’ve hit at the same time as this. It won’t be 1, there’ll be 3 or 4 but they’re closely grouped. I’ve taken some slightly different paths with a new wife and you and Laird and the people that come to the watering hole. Every one of them feeds into different energy. The idea of pool training is not easy, no matter what. If it ever got easy, which would never come out of my mouth because I know what’s going to happen after that, I’m going to drown on something harder.

You get drills for that.

You learn how to slow things down and then deal with another piece of the checklist. I’m doing those 100 jumps. I’m piecing through some different things as I’m relaxing. Other times, I’m trying to survive. When you’re done, you can add that into how you can apply it to your life. Saturday’s at the watering hole become a point where I don’t even go to my own daughter’s soccer games anymore. This is my time.

If I didn’t have this time, I can’t be good for her. These things happen at once. I genuinely love to teach and I love to be around people. They don’t have to be like-minded. They can be as powerful as they want and as much wattage as they need or a little bit passionate in their own realm. We can all connect. For the people that are black holes of energy, I don’t need them around me.

We joke that Kenny, Forever Fighters, and certain types of athletes, there are a lot of Yang. We joke that Kenny’s been adding some Yin. It’s also influenced some of the ways you react. I admire that. Share where everyone can find you on Instagram at your gym. Remind us of the title of your book. Thanks for your time.

It’s Kenny Bolt Wrestling.

You have a lot of instructional videos. I want to say that too. You put a lot of content.

You’ll notice that a lot of the videos are once I don’t even film. Other people film them and put them up, which is nice.

They’re out there. Academy is from Germany and all kinds of places.

I’m @BoltWrestling on Instagram. It’s my name, Kenny Johnson, on Facebook for that generation. I don’t have Twitter. My gym is called Black House MMA in Redondo Beach. I have a private one in Gardena. If you hit my Instagram and you need something, I only have a few followers so I’ll be able to see your message. You give me a call or send me a message and we’ll get you linked up.

Lastly, when you come to my house and you put a can of something in the ice tub after training, what is that? It’s ironic.

I haven’t been doing that because I’ve been in various situations. I usually would bring a can of Coke because I love my American black tea. I put the can of Coke into the ice bath. One, it keeps it cold. Two, my motivation for when I’m drowning is I see the red and white. As the tunnels are getting dark when you’re trying to drown, at the end of the tunnel, I know I’m going to have that blast of my American black tea. That’s some of the motivation. Because I’ve been coming here, I’m getting more healthy advice. I’ve been eating a little bit better.

You backed off a little bit.

I had back down because I don’t have all the extra sugar content. Now, what I’ve switched it to is the Laird Hydrate. Laird and I were talking earlier. When I drink that, before I had that hint, I feel like, “It’s fresh.” Now I feel like I can taste every bit of it because I’m not drinking Coke as much.

That’s sweet.

You can live a healthier lifestyle but you can have terrible motivation like tacos. Tacos are good. Next time, I’ll bring one of those. They don’t fit in the water well but Cokes do. I used to bring them all the time.

Thanks for your time. Thanks, everyone.

That wraps it up for this episode. Make sure to follow us on Spotify for free episodes and subscribe to the Gabby Reese show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow me, @GabbyReece, on Instagram and Twitter. Aloha

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About Kenny “Bolt Wrestling” Johnson

Kenny Johnson Headshot

Kenny Johnson is the premier wrestling coach in MMA working with the likes of BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Jose Aldo, Alexander Volkov, Antonio Nogueira, Paul Daley, and martial arts legend, Dan Inosanto. He wrestled at the University of Iowa under the legendary Dan Gable and trained for 7 Olympic Games. Coach Kenny is 1 of only 36 coaches in the world to be certified at a USA Wrestling NECP Gold Level.

 

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