Last year I had the pleasure of having Brandon McCleese, Jay Grooms and Joey Thornsberry of the Kraken Fight Team based out of Kentucky in town for a week to train at the inaugural 2015 Scientific Wrestling Camp with Wade Schalles here in San Diego. While the guys were here I took some time to sit down and chat with them about their Journey into Catch Wrestling, training with the late Billy Robinson and more. I published the first half of the interveiw here. This is part two of that same interview almost a year late it’s still just as relevant now as it was then.
Sam: You guys have been competing since the get go even before meeting Billy Robinson?
Brandon: Exactly. The honesty was really key to us. If I’m going to be teaching guys this stuff and they are going to be doing it and if I don’t know that if it doesn’t work under pressure or when you’re fighting than I’m doing them a disservice. We don’t make everyone in the gym compete but we’ve always tried to be a competitive team. Everyone can have their opinions but we have medals on the wall and no one can take that from us.
Sam: Starting out you guys had a lot of critics?
Brandon: There were a lot of people who were calling me the equivalent of a BJJ Blue Belt with no business being a coach. A lot of people said a lot of nasty things about me, about Billy and about the process of how I learned through Billy. Stuff like it was just a certificate on the wall. But it wasn’t that to us and to all the people who stay in the Scientific Wrestling program it isn’t that to them either. We got the opportunity to work the techniques and grind them down. In the Cage Bryan McDowell has won every fight with only 1 decision. We started training him when he was about 14 or 15 years old. By the time he was a teenager he was leg locking all the adults. He’s a game day player. Me and Jay like to compete a lot and stay honest but coaching takes a lot of time away from that and Bryan is one of the first guys we have to really push forward. Not to say we don’t have other guys as well because we do.
Jay: Bryan Mcdowell just won his 3rd title and has won every belt with a submission. We have another guy named Sebastian Dalton who’s also very capable. He’s not competing right now but he was one of our first guys to go out and put it on the line he’s got grapplers Quest Gold Medals. Bryan McDowell won Naga at the expert level here in teen division. Zach Stacey is coming up we’ve been training since him since he was a young teen he fights completely different from Bryan McDowell but all of our fighters have a different style because we believe in allowing them to become who they want to be. Jay and I will have conversations for hours about how our guys are learning and how we can find ways to teach them so that they will respond to better. I think that’s been a big part of our success as well. We have Gold medals hanging in our gym from the Ohio Grapplers challenge, Grapplers Quest and a couple of Naga Expert Division Belts. We even traveled 6 hours down to Nashville to compete and we have been having a lot of success with stuff Billy taught us. We’ve had guys put Gis (Kimono) on and compete and win as well and we don’t train in the gi at all.
Brandon: We maybe did one practice session with the gi on. That’s something people say can’t be done but the only reason why I knew it could be done is because Billy Robinson said it could be done. He said something to me along the lines that all the moves you can do without the jacket on you can still do with the jacket on. We’ve had several teens winning gi divisions and even a few adults.
Sam: The rules of a specific competition has never been an excuse for you guys?
Jay: The great thing about Catch Wrestling is it’s not a one trick pony art. Our strategy has been to take the fight were they don’t know it and because what we do is Catch Wrestling and Quality Catch Wrestling from Billy Robinson our guys know a lot of different areas of grappling and it’s been super beneficial. Even in MMA a lot of fighters aren’t staying on their backs any more they are trying to stay on top or stand back up and a lot of people are sleeping on the fact that that’s what’s going on. I think a lot of people don’t really understand why wrestling from off your back is seeing a huge decline in MMA there are a few slick guys who will get submissions from there but the thing is 5 mins isn’t a lot time. Especially to get a submission people rest up and they are a new monster for the next round. Learning a Catch Wrestling system that involves fighting to stay off one’s back and always be on top is a huge ace in the hole. I know as time goes on people will get hip to these things but as of right now there’s still a lot of people in the dark on this and I know it’s helped our fight team a lot in the local area. We don’t have the same level of competition as you do out here in California but there are a lot of hard-nosed guys who don’t want to lose and they will fight tooth and nail to win. So I think it’s been really beneficial to have a style that will teach you how to attack someone that’s going to try to stand up on you.
Brandon: Or have a style that teaches you how to start a submission from standing. Techniques like the grovit, the head and arm choke and the double wrist lock you can start setting those up before you ever hit the ground. There’s a lot of guys in MMA now who will grab the double wrist lock from their feet not to sound rude but to be honest having trained with Billy I’ve seen the intricacies of the double wrist lock and what I’m seeing in MMA is these guys are just starting to get the idea but you’re still not yet seeing guys hitting all the correct angles and using their leverage just right yet.
Sam: Now that Billy Robinson has passed away what are you plans going forward?
Jay: After Billy passed in March 2014 I think a lot of people had to reassess what their path would be in grappling and in Catch Wrestling even with Scientific Wrestling. I know I woke up and read about his passing and thought and wondered what was going to happen. A big thing for me is even though I didn’t spend the most extensive time with Billy Robinson and a lot of people spent a lot more time with him than I did I still hold what he taught me very near and dear to me and I want to pass it on to other people. There are things Billy coached and taught me that I can use to help other people. Learning how to learn is a big deal and even though Billy put it over a lot I still think most people don’t get it and don’t understand the importance of learning how to learn. After Billy Robinson passed away in March last year Billy Scott had a seminar in April or May? he had Gene Lydic come up from Atlanta. Gene Lydic is another guy Billy Robinson spent and extensive amount of time coaching at UWFI along with Billy Scott we spent some time with both of them training. It was a really good experience and we were wondering where do we go from here this camp came up with Scientific Wrestling so as a show of good faith in Scientific Wrestling and the Catch Wrestling Community we felt we needed to make this happen. A lot of guys are here that spent time with Billy and it’s important to us to get together with everyone and train. I really wanted to show we are still down for Catch Wrestling and we are down for what Billy taught us and carrying forward with everything we can.
Brandon: As Billy Robinson has passed it’s like when a Rock star passes away and everyone comes out of the woodwork and respects them and says nice things about them. We don’t even have any pros in your gym yet. But we are passing down technique as close as Billy Robinson taught us as we can. We don’t want to be too mouthy about it but just let our achievements speak for us. And hopefully more people will want to learn Billy Robinson Style Catch Wrestling.
Sam: I hope as more people hear about you guys they will come out and train with you. I know you both really care about the people your coaching and are sincere in helping them grow and achieve their goals. Is there anything else you would like to say or mention before we wrap this up?
Brandon: We are right on this cusp were what we’ve been taught can last for ever. You’re going to have hobbyist, you’re going to have athletes and serious competitors or just people who want to be serious students of the art. Most important is that all these people band together more and help each other out and this never has to die. This isn’t 100s of years ago were you would have to do a kata to remember some sort of movement or something we are in a totally different era now I personally think if we pull together and work together on as much of Billy Robinson’s Style of Catch Wrestling we can keep learning and growing we don’t have to go back to the Catch Wrestling Stone age I think that’s what Billy would want.
Jay: Billy really did hand down honed in techniques over hundreds of years. I think there is a lot of stuff Billy’s passed down and it would be a shame for that stuff to pass by the wayside as the Catch Wrestling community tries to look for the next thing to do or the next big guru to follow and forget what he’s already taught us. Also I wanna give a shout out to Josh Barnett. he did a very important podcast and sent a message out to the entire Catch Wrestling community and for him to even consider mentioning our little team all the way out in Kentucky is a huge honor. Josh has been an inspiration for many years and I’ve learned a lot from watching his fights and his DVDs. Beside Sakuraba, Josh Barnett is another big inspiration to me. So I’d like to say thank you to him for that. Also everyone I’ve meet in the Scientific Wrestling community has been really great and always been willing to help out.