Josh: Welcome to the Gym Heroes Podcast. I’m your host Josh Peacock. Today’s show is brought to you by Gymdesk, the easiest gym management software you’ll ever use. Take payments, create marketing automations, track attendance, and much more. To try the software out free, go to No credit card or painful sales call required. Out here today is Alan Marques, better known as Gumby in the jiu jitsu community, and owner of Heroes Martial Arts in San Jose, California. Today Gumby talks about how to keep your business top of mind in your local area by using event marketing and networking. Without further ado, here’s Gumby.

Alan: My name is Alan Marques. I’m better known as Gumby. I’m a third/seem-to-be-fourth degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Been training since 96, starting off and getting all my belts from Health Gracie. Co-founder of On The Mat, which is the first year Brazilian Jiu Jitsu media source way back in 1997. And I found my own school, Heroes Martial Arts in San Jose, California back in 2009. Now we have two locations, maybe more to come.

Josh: Awesome. This is a little off subject, but is your nickname Gumby because you’re tall or how did you get that nickname?

Alan: Because I’m green. No, because I’m flexible.

Josh: You’re flexible. Okay.

Alan: Yeah. There is like a Gumby-like toy and it’s funny. I grew up and I’m old enough that I’m really familiar with the name Gumby. But a lot of new generations have no idea what they’re talking about. Or if you came from another country, I have no idea.

Josh: Yeah, like my uncle, he loved Gumby. So, I know who he is from — I was a 90s kid so maybe he was still around. I seem to remember him being on TV.

Alan: Yeah, he was on TV in the 60s I think or maybe even earlier than that. I mean, I have some Gumby memorability, here’s a keychain with the Gumby on it that people continually give me. Mainly just because of the nickname stuff like that. Although there’s a Monty — [crosstalk]

Josh: Yeah

Alan: Yeah, a Monty Python version of a Gumby which is a lot less flattering. But not a lot of people get that reference.

Josh: Yeah, I don’t remember where I saw him on TV. I think he maybe just appeared in commercials or something because it is a pretty old show. Yeah, my uncle really liked that character. [crosstalk]

Alan: That’s really cool

Josh: That’s really fun. He’s a little older. Awesome. Okay. So, Aaron told me that you’ve done some actually really cool stuff to promote your school before. That’s maybe something that other martial art schools haven’t really considered so much. And I believe he told me that you hosted like an MMA fight weigh-in at your academy or your gym. Is that accurate or?

Alan: There’s been a couple of events that we held at the gym. And largely it’s the proximity that my gym is to some major places. So, I am very close, probably the closest gym to the San Jose arena which has held some major shows where the San Jose Sharks played and stuff like that. And I’m relatively close to, well now Bellator headquarters, but previously Strikeforce headquarters like literally within a mile to from where I’m at, and I’m friends with many of those folks. Their ex-matchmaker Rich Chou’s a good friend of mine.

So, yeah, like largely proximity got them to like — Sometimes they’ve had public events, they want to do weigh-ins, it’s like, hey, can we do it at your gym? So, I have an open UFC workout there at one time. I’ve had some Bellator events there or Bellator kind of weigh-ins and a couple of independent shows that were there too. But it wasn’t something that I sought out other than the fact that I’m out there and available. And I’m really involved in the community and whatnot and it was a beautiful space too that worked itself really well to public gatherings.

Josh: Awesome. So, my only concern with that would be like with really big fights you have a lot of people from out of town, maybe I’m just — Maybe this is not true at all. But were there a lot of people that showed up in your gym that ended up being interested and were local to the area and we’re interested in signing up?

Alan: Directly off of those, a funny story about one of the smaller independent shows that we had had. It was this one called Ascension when Rich was fired from the Strikeforce when the UFC Zuka took him over. So, he can run some independent shows. And he did that. So, we ran the weigh-ins at my gym. And one of the girls that was there for a kickboxing show, or for the kickboxing portion wound up signing up as a jiu jitsu student. And not only she wound up like she met her future husband, who’s also one of my main instructors, that runs one of my gyms. So, I don’t think you can get much more of a great story than that of somebody coming in from that event.

But, hey, we didn’t really do those specifically to attract attention from that particular event. I think a lot of times when people come in for those MMA weigh-ins, I mean, there’s definitely MMA weigh-ins that will never train jiu jitsu or any kind of martial arts, particularly attracted to a big name. We’ve had some big names that have rolled through the gym before too. Whereas in jiu jitsu, the fandom still isn’t that — you’re not going to be a jiu jitsu fan and not train for the most part. That may or may not be true, I hope it’s not true. But I’m pretty sure that’s true for the most part. So, the idea is if you make yourself, like you have to be constantly visible within the community. You want to be known as the jiu jitsu gym, or the martial arts gym because people don’t make distinction with jiu jitsu, the sort of kind of people at large. And it’s just constant visibility on this. And anything you can do that’s low to no cost to yourself.

So, for me hosting the event was really a low to no cost thing for myself in terms of marketing. You want to go ahead and do that and kind of be at the forefront of that. So, the weigh-ins and the MMA events were really cool, but not everybody has Strikeforce a mile away from them, right. Or the UFC is like, the hotel that the fighters stay at is literally within walking distance in my place. So, I have some major connections there. But everybody can think of certain things to get involved with the community and bring them in. I am more or less proud of, like, we’ve done a lot of charity events and stuff like that. So, in terms of putting it out there that if there’s a self-defense concern, or there’s a safety concern. Like, hey, we’re here, we’re a safe spot. I have some feelings about self-defense seminars in general, like the one shot off things. But at least going out there and putting a seed in place of people’s head and giving them some information.

And then we’ve also as a community done some benefits seminars. Some of them, the things that were broad, like we did a big seminar for [inaudible 00:07:58], when they had their first humanitarian crisis [inaudible 00:08:02]. Which was really cool because we brought in a lot of, not only attention to raise a lot of money for the cause, we brought in a lot of jiu jitsu community, a lot of different schools. For our areas, like the first big super seminar. Whereas like, potentially rival academies came together, and they shared the mat. And a few other events like that, I’m trying to think of other things that we’ve done. We’ve opened up our space, our neighborhood as like a street fair. So, we participate in that on a regular basis. We’ve even had musicians and poets and comedians come in that were just looking for a venue space. And like, yeah, use our space. Like, cool, you can use that.

Josh: That’s really interesting. I wouldn’t even have thought of doing something like that.

Alan: But we have such an unusual, at least our first location, our main location has such an unusual area, such an unusual block that we got to do that type of stuff. The advice on that is go out there, be involved in the community, be a good neighbor. I don’t always look for the immediate return on what I get back on that, but the cumulative effect of continually doing that type of stuff at least gets you out in the eye and you never know what the connections you get from that are.

Josh: Yeah. I guess it’s just because I have this marketing background, so I’m like what is the direct return on the event. But you’re really right that there’s an indirect — you’re doing something that’s actually probably going to last longer. It’s a longer gain. Because maybe you don’t get anyone from like a poetry reading at your school, but those people are going to remember, hey, this place let us have this venue so we could do this. And when somebody in their radius is interested in martial arts, or they need martial arts, or they need some sort of fitness related service, they’re going to be like, oh, yeah, dude, I was at this nice facility, Heroes Martial Arts. So, you should check that out and people usually, whatever it is that was put in their head by somebody that recommended it to them, that’s usually where they go. Like they don’t even do any other research.

Alan: Yeah. No, it’s really true. It’s like thinking outside of the box. And if you’re just going after obviously MMA fans would be a great source and they seem like the real potential audience to come in there. But I actually have attracted a number of artists and folks that you never think would have been like, prone to do jiu jitsu or anything like that over the years. But I’m really kind of proud of that. And it’s just constant, like thinking outside of the box, whatever connections I can make with the community I’m going to go ahead and try to make those connections.

Josh: Yeah, for sure. And you get a reputation of supporting the arts, for example, or supporting the local sports scene. So, those are all really great, I guess, connotations have attached to your brand name in the community. You mentioned something that was really interesting, like charity events. How did you set up those charity events? How did you run them and promote them even so that enough people showed up for it to be successful?

Alan: Well, the seminars that we did, and there’s been super seminars before and I’ve participated in them, that you get a bunch of [inaudible 00:11:31] from rival areas to come or a bunch of different studios to come. And in that sense, they go ahead and kind of like people are going to bring their own students and stuff like that. Like, if you involve a couple of schools, obviously, not the entire school is going to come in. But if you involve a bunch of people and they bring their audience and stuff like that, that’ll build you up. And then depending on the cause that you have, that will also bring in an audience that you have too.

So, I mentioned, like the [inaudible 00:12:01] seminar we did, which was pretty significant. A lot of people that went to that, from the instructor’s standpoint, said that because in my area, Northern California, at the time that I threw that, I’ve been involved in this 25 years, jiu jitsu in general. I kinda remember kind of the old gang warfare mentality. It really was a little bit like that. And some of these guys are my best friends right now and we laugh about it, but it was serious business back in the day. And a lot of the generation I met, we try not to have that . We try to be a little more open.

But I think that seminar, like the fact we invited them, it was like, okay, we can put our rivalries aside, we have a good cause on this. So, that we can kind of come together and move to a better cause was a big thing right there. So, there was. So, in that sense, at least the first one we did, because it was such a weird time that we came from was a big thing for the instructors. Now that the first one’s broken, they’re always cool when these ones happen again. There’s other various causes that we’ll occasionally do those for. I don’t think you can do too many of those, like people get a little bit burnt out on that, so to speak, like you do the super seminars, and whatnot. So, the first one was special and the second one, while important, was a little bit less special, and just kind of goes down the road that way.

But sometimes, the cause is like enough to kind of, okay, we got to go ahead and we should do something, and sometimes the cause will attract from other avenues. I can think of one that we did, it was the Philippines typhoon or hurricane. I can’t remember what it’s technically called, but whatever in the Pacific. I think it’s technically a typhoon. There was a large loss of life. Well, here in the Bay Area, there’s a huge Filipino population, and a good percentage of my students are Filipino. So, we threw that and of course, the community, particularly the Filipino community, is grateful enough that a lot of Filipinos showed up that don’t necessarily train. Although they might have had a connection to somebody that did train, like, your cousin, brother, sister, whatever happened to train. So, it’s like, you couldn’t talk them to come in the gym beforehand, just for its own sake, but then they came in for the Filipino seminar that we did.

Josh: Cool. Do you do ones that you do it like once a year, like it’s one of those issues that your school is just about, and then you help out with it or throw it like every year? Because I know that some schools have done that before. They have like an anti-bullying or a hospital or some sort of cause and they help fundraise with a certain event like once a year.

Alan: No, we really haven’t done that. And it’s not to say that there’s not tons of worthy causes out there. In some ways when it comes to scheduling, the focus of the gym is and as much time as I spend thinking about running the gym and marketing stuff like that, it’s still a jiu jitsu gym. So, my priorities tend to be towards training and being on the mat and whatnot. So, if an opportunity presents itself, then I’ll go after it, I’ll work with it and stuff like that. But I don’t have this like, oh, this is the year, this is the thing I’m going to do, this is the time like, you know.

I barely remember when are the major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m actually proud of myself this year, because I actually made an announcement a week before [inaudible 00:15:37] Thanksgiving. It’s like, we’re actually close that night. We might have an open mat during the day. And usually what happens on these holidays, because like, I literally never like Christmas Day is literally the only day that we’re not open. But it’s usually Wednesday before Thanksgiving, somebody asked me if we’re open the next day, and I barely know what day of the week it is at that point. It’s like, oh, it’s Thanksgiving, right? I should do something about that.

Josh: Yeah. I can be the same way with my mind. Oh, no. It’s holiday time. You get stuck– one track mind in on what you’re doing, especially — I had a little taekwondo club several years ago, and you’re just so into the day to day of it all the time, that everything else kind of falls away. But do you have any tips for people that set up a charity event? Anything that comes to mind?

Alan: I think the big thing is, like anything else, talk to a lot of people, invite a lot of people. There’s much about the community as about, and making people feel good and belonging, and feeling that they can make some kind of impact as it is the charity themselves. So, I hate to put it this way, the money raised for like any of these causes is important. But it’s kind of a drop in the bucket compared to anything else. It’s the awareness, and again, the community aspect, and whatnot.

And like I said, invite everybody that you can on that. Invite every single school, give everybody their equal shot. Again, it’s a good thing that kind of is like, there’s something that’s above us at this point. There’s something that we can kind of come together and do and show that we’re able to unite for a better cause and stuff like that. And then if you come in with those kinds of intentions, and if you involve the community, really only good could come out of that. So, I don’t want to say that the charity itself doesn’t matter because it clearly does. You pick something that’s close to your heart and it’s close to everybody on this. But realize it’s as much of a celebration for us as much as it is a charitable cause on that. And like I said, if you go that way, you’ll never go wrong with that.

Josh: Nice. Cool. So, you mentioned about inviting, just talk to as many people as you can, invite them. I mean, for something like that to work, you’ve got to have an extensive network, I imagine. Do you have tips for building a network? I mean, we’ve kind of — you’re close by these big event sort of promotions and stuff like that. But are there any other habits you’ve engaged in as a martial arts school owner, to build that network in your community deeply or wide?

Alan: So, I can answer that in two ways. First of all, going back to the charity seminars and stuff like that, next to some very large martial art schools and some very large and successful jiu jitsu schools. And we could be bitter rivals about this, but I really try not to be. There’s a study with Starbucks putting things on every corner. It’s like you can have one coffee shop on a corner, but actually two coffee shops in the same neighborhood tend to feed off each other and build each other. And I really kind of look at that like, I don’t see these guys as competitors. I really hope, I genuinely hope they all do well. And we might even compete for students in the traditional sense, but I also kind of look at it as we have a different vibe from each other, there’s something that makes each of us different. I hope people wind up in the correct spot to them, like someplace that makes them happy.

So, I’ve also try to maintain those relationships to the best I can with my neighbors and the folks that are around. I’m happy to call most of the competing schools around here friends of mine. And I’m happy to discuss things or give them advice. Or if I see something that comes up that’s bigger that might affect all of us, I’ll try to make contacts with them and put it out that way. So, if there’s a bigger event in that sense, it’s easier to make that phone call if I was like, hey, you guys should come on out and we should kind of support that event. But that’s one of the big things is having that attitude is like the rising tide carries all boats. It doesn’t have to make sense to have one school that’s humongous and a bunch of small schools around. It’s like I want a bunch of humongous schools.

And at any rate, for the size that most jiu jitsu academies are, and I don’t even — [inaudible 00:20:28] population, San Jose is the 10th largest city in the country, believe it or not. There’s a million plus population just within San Jose, not counting how this whole tribe, the city barrier thing works out. I can’t teach a million students. There’s room for a lot of other studios and stuff like that. So, I genuinely want a lot of success for everybody. And I think that’s a big component of… I genuinely want to be successful myself, obviously. But you got to see everybody else succeed on this too. Or at the very least, you have to be involved in that community.

And then there’s the second part of this is the community that is outside of the jiu jitsu community, in the sense that as much as I want to see everybody succeed, I’m still going out there and putting myself out as the jiu jitsu guy in San Jose. And it’s like being involved in your neighborhood, your community, the business community, a bit of local politics, if you were. And it wasn’t initially my intent when I did this, believe me. I just wanted to run the school and just focus on being on the mat and rolling around. But I have gotten involved in various things to the point where as — there’s a San Jose Downtown Association right now. I’m in downtown San Jose, obviously, or at least one of my locations is. And I’m about to take over the presidency of that next year. And it’s a pretty big organization in the sense that I think at least two of the past presidents of that have gone on to be mayor of San Jose. So, I’m pretty heavily involved in the community of San Jose at large in that way, which was kind of like the slow trickle of getting into there.

And again, part of it’s being a good neighbor, that I want to be involved in the community, I want to see San Jose, my city succeed, and I want to do what I can about that. And in terms of influence, it is either time or money. And so as a martial arts, most martial arts since I don’t have the same amount of dollars to throw at things that…I’m in the Silicon Valley. There’s people that have way more money than I have in here. But I can do this with hustle and being out there, putting my face out there, being involved in that. And you can actually get similar influence to the folks that, or the groups, the organizations, or the businesses, whatever, just by being out there and being part of that community, and I think that’s so important especially how the pandemic played out, and obviously, a lot of places were shut down, and a lot of crucial business decisions were coming in. So, you could be — How do I put this? Which was a tough time for all of us, including myself for lots of different reasons, particularly being here in California.

But I really count the fact that I was heavily involved in that community and heavily involved in those areas beforehand, that helped me navigate through what was going on, in the sense that I was already kind of in the forefront, I was already kind of outspoken. Here I am as the martial arts guy, as the small business owner out there, and the one that’s looking to make my community and whatnot better [inaudible 00:23:51] there’s a point where aside from being selfless, there’s a selfish portion on that. It’s like, oh, I need to do this to make sure that things are in a favorable climate to myself. Or at least I have to feel like I have the ability to at least make my voice heard, or at least I have to have the ability that I at least tried to do all this stuff.

Josh: Yeah, self-advocacy which is an important life skill, hopefully that martial artists have learned by the time they become school owners that you do have to speak up for yourself. Because on a certain scale of — I’m reaching for the word but it’s to make sure that you don’t get run over and bullied by the local climate towards businesses and your business in particular. But what you had done there is you also had built this trust with the people in your community and you were a name that was kind of known beforehand and so your voice carried weight.

Alan: Yeah, is the same type of credibility as like you start off as a white belt, you work hard and diligently. But as you go up through the ranks, you get a certain level of authority and trust and whatnot and confidence in your own ability. So, I started off this academy in 2009 as basically a white belt school owner, and — not as a white belt business owner because I’ve had other ones before but yeah, then you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out I guess. But constantly willing to go out and put yourself out, constantly willing to kind of expand your boundaries and grow and talk to people is really important, really important. If you don’t look at the fact that it pays dividends down the road, it’s like when the blankety-blank hits the fan, it’s like, you want to be one of the people that gets called on or people turn to, like they’re looking for input and stuff. [inaudible 00:25:55] put my input in all this time, now let’s see what’s going on.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. Were you systematic in how you built those relationships outside of the jiu jitsu community? You’re going to be on the — you said the President of the Downtown Association?

Alan: Downtown Association, yeah.

Josh: So, were you systematic about how you built those relationships? Or were they more based around certain interests you already had? Or how did you approach that?

Alan: I think it was more on the interest of like initially, when I was asked to be on that board which was some years ago, it was over a parking issue that was in my neighborhood. And realizing like A, there’s different opinions out there. And I better put my opinion out there. And I better make my voice heard because if I don’t make my voice heard on this, I might not like the outcome. And that’s always been kind of — slightly negative tip, but that’s the way I always kind of put it out there. It’s like I want to be one of the voices at the table. So, again, there got to be kind of working into that, like it’s been some years in the working that I’ve been going through and doing this type of stuff for a while. But it was largely kind of that self-advocacy where it came out to. Which stems from the fact that again, even before that self-advocacy and joining any kind of organization like that, there was a real need to like, in just terms of marketing terms and stuff like that, you want to be out there, you want to be a good neighbor, you want to know the folks on this, you want to find the most effective ways to do that.

So, that was always kind of — that was always part of the game plan since day one. I know I had to do that. It’s like I don’t necessarily know what the best way to do something is. I try to figure out what’s the best for me at that particular time and then weigh the pros and cons of how much energy and time and whatnot that I have to put into that. Because obviously, I say all this, but my first priority is still the quality of what goes on on the mat. I don’t do this to be a politician or anything like this. I do this so I can essentially be left alone and be training and be happy that way. Like that’s what my ultimate goal is just to run a good school. It’s just, there’s all these other things that go into having to run that school.

And the networking or like school, like when I say school being in the business of this. All that networking [inaudible 00:28:22] to really important that point, the fact that you’re going to out there like — Again, it goes back to like what I originally said way back at the beginning of this, it’s just like you never know where those are going to pay off when you go out and do stuff. But at the same time, like I said, it was calculated that I do that. It wasn’t calculated that this is the game plan. Like, I can’t sell a seminar course out there, like, this is how I went from here to here. Your situation is going to be different. Like I just knew how to take advantage of the opportunities that were in front of me, which is really a jiu jitsu mindset anyways, right?

Like you know what your ultimate goal is, in some ways, but you don’t know the exact path you’ll take to get there. It’s like you’re trained to assess your situation very well at that point, and choose the option — make the course of action that’s most proven at that time. But at the same time, it’s like, again, never forgetting what you’re trying to do, what your ultimate goal is, and what you’re trying to get to right there. So, you do have to kind of balance that, like you have to be willing to say no to certain things and your time is valuable. Like, I get X amount of hours in a day. It’s the one resource that everybody gets the exact same amount of? So, you just have to be careful about how you craft it and spend it.

Josh: Absolutely. So, I am curious, when you do events, especially ones that are hosted at your facility, they see the logo, they see the facility, if you’re there, you’re wearing your gear, that kind of stuff. Are there other ways that you capitalize on those events like business cards, brochures, anything that maybe it asks for an action from them?

Alan: Like, I’ve found, like in my area, and it’s funny now that I have two schools, they really operate differently in terms of the marketing and what people want. So, the downtown location, San Jose capital of Silicon Valley, like whatever’s around us right there. You know, generally speaking, everybody has an expensive smartphone that comes in there, they want kind of the digital information. You need a short URL or something that’s easy for them to be able to type in. At most, I’ll give you a business card. And then people are like, okay, I can log in and find out everything here. They very rarely want takeaways, or anything like that, like QR codes, which I’m not great at are a little bit more of a thing. But I think just a good old fashioned website, something that people can log on on a mobile phone are a good thing.

I have a second location in Eastside San Jose. And then things that you can take away, put in your hands are much more valuable there. So, Eastside, San Jose is a little bit more old school, a little more traditionally ethnic. There’s a few things going on at Eastside, San Jose. So, most of the folks actually want something to put on their hand. They may or may not have the ability to go [inaudible 00:31:20]. And I’m sure all of them have cell phones with browsers on there too, but they’re not interested. So, you have to have something physical to hand them at that point. And they’ll take it out. I did a mailer campaign in downtown San Jose one time to put things out, I got zero response off of it. It was money not well spent at all. It was terrible.

Whereas I did virtually the same thing with the same idea, the same flyers and stuff like that when I opened up my Eastside location; I had a much better response on that. Unfortunately, my grand opening, it was supposed to be March 2020 at that location. So, you can imagine that grand opening got delayed by quite some time, given the pandemic. But at least the response was better because like I said, in that neighborhood, people needed to have something in their hand, they needed something physical that they can go ahead and show to the front desk over there. So, it was really interesting. It just goes to show, and even in my experience, what happens and what works well in one school doesn’t necessarily work well in the other. You just have to really know your audience and pay attention to this type of stuff.

Josh: So, you do similar stuff like that for your events? Or you don’t like — I’m not sure what the view around that would be, for example, for a charity event. But if you did something like a fun event, I think nobody would mind. But do you have anything available, either a website or a piece of literature when you do a charity event? Or is it mostly just people from the jiu jitsu community that…?

Alan: It’s mostly people from the jiu jitsu community. So, it’d be a little bit funny to advertise in that sense. I mean, everybody’s in there, it’s already sold. [crosstalk]

Josh: I mean, [inaudible 00:33:01] kind of be poaching at that point.

Alan: Yeah, a little bit of that. But it’s my territory right there so it’s not really poaching, even though I have schools that are within a mile or two mile of mine, like we’re definitely [inaudible 00:33:14] So, yeah, the charity events are a little bit different in that sense. But like I said, it’s the constant kind of visibility, and people hear that name, it’s like, oh, I know that [inaudible 00:33:22] because he had this event or we [inaudible 00:33:24] merchandise around here, like I drove by there or whatever. It’s just constant, constant just going out there and doing that and being out there and putting yourself out there that way.

Josh: Cool. Awesome. I think I’m out of questions

Alan: Okay.

Josh: Yeah. I think that was a good one. I think it was a lot of really, really useful advice for how to build your network, and approach events in a way that’s kind of authentic. And based around, for example, with the charity events, definitely based around helping the cause first, in a way that can also help your business. [crosstalk]

Alan: Like I said, it’s that constant thing there. I can tell you, I’ve had some failures on this too. And failures that people wouldn’t have expected on this that you thought would have been able to attract and whatnot, more people. And you learn from those too.

Josh: Yeah, for sure. [crosstalk] Would you mind going into those failures and — [crosstalk]

Alan: Oh, yeah. I was about to tell a story of that. Yeah, not in failure in that sense. But I got to throw the one jiu jitsu event that was sponsored by the IOC, the International Olympic Committee.

Josh: Wow.

Alan: Yeah, which barely anybody showed up for, believe it or not.

Josh: Any theories on why nobody showed up?

Alan: So, the story behind this is aside from like, you know, I’m in a really unusual territory in the sense that, like I mentioned, the high-level MMA that happens to be down the street from me. I also happen to be next to some really high level Judo and like that world too. I’m friends with a lot of guys in that organization. So, the US Open of judo, or the senior nationals, like probably the biggest American event was being thrown literally across the street from me. And at that time, judo is interested or the powers that be in judo were interested in being a little bit more involved in the jiu jitsu world, they were trying to get a little bit more crossover and stuff like that.

And because, again, I’m out there and they knew me and they knew what my experience level was, they asked me if I would run like a jiu jitsu portion to go along with the senior nationals of judo. But because they wanted to be careful, they wanted a distinction on this, I had to spell jiu jitsu J-U-J-I-T-S-U. I couldn’t spell Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in that way. So, as much as I marketed it and said that I was behind it, people didn’t understand it was really a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. I just had to change the name on that. And that name change threw a lot of people off. So, that tournament turned out to be much smaller than it could have, should have been on that case. And it was never more than a — like, it wasn’t something that was expecting — Like, even though it was IOC sanctioned, which is kind of a big deal, I think, it wasn’t something — like it was more of a local tournament. I didn’t think I was going to attract anybody from out of town at that one.

But I was like that was such a cool opportunity if it worked out that I would have — Yeah, I couldn’t turn that one down. So, the turnout was a bit low on that. Although the ultimate — it’s kind of showing the judo community how a jiu jitsu tournament could be run. But ultimately, whether mine was a success or not, I think the ultimate reason why I didn’t go forward with that is San Jose didn’t get the bid to continue doing the senior nationals. So, it moved on someplace else, the people I was involved with lost their involvement with that. And then as the trickle down effect, I didn’t get it. But I thought that was a really cool opportunity. That was just that kind of one, like, if I had ways of doing things differently, there’s definitely ways I would have done things differently on that. But it was a lesson learned in a few cases on that.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, that sounds really similar to knowing your audience that you’re promoting to. Like, same with downtown versus the other location that you have, where the downtown location is, like, very oriented towards, like an easy website. Whereas the other people, they really want something they can hold in their hands. With this, it’s like you spelled it a certain way. And the people just couldn’t get quite past the way it was spelled and they didn’t take the plunge to show up to the tournament.

Alan: Yeah, yeah. It is strange. It just goes to show sometimes the little thing you don’t think is a big deal, turns out to be a big deal.

Josh: Yeah, for sure. Are there any other fun stories like that where you’ve learned a lesson from?

Alan: I’m sure there’s tons of them. I’m trying to think of a specific one off the top of my head right now. That was one that I was kind of sharing. But you do these things and again, you see what your time investment is on this, and your financial investment, if any on there. And then you make the calculation, whether it’s worth it for you to do it and what’s your risk level and if the reward outweighs the risk, then you go ahead and do that. And sometimes you see it and sometimes you fail. But just like anything else, you can’t be afraid of having a failure, or one that doesn’t go according to plan.

It’s like, there’s always kind of that positive thing. It’s like well, I learned something off this, I got a little bit of attention. As long as you try and treat people well, I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways that I’ve had. As long as you treat people well, you’ll always eventually be okay. The second that you do not treat people well, if you go against your own code of ethics on this, you get into this panic situation, you only make things worse. And reputation is everything to us. People will forgive a mistake out of ignorance. They won’t forgive a mistake out of bad ethics. They just won’t.

Josh: Yeah, that’s great to keep in mind. Where can people find you if they want to learn more about you?

Alan: Well, you can come find me on the mats in downtown San Jose, Heroes Martial Arts, with our website being You can also find out a bit more about me up on my original website that was launched in 97, although I haven’t done a whole lot with that recently. There might be a comeback in the brewing with that. But yeah, those are the best ways to find me.

Josh: Awesome. Did you use to have an On The Mat podcast?

Alan: There was an On The Mat podcast, but it was actually run by two guys. I never actually appeared on that particular podcast. I’ve been on, bluntly, a lot of podcasts before I was involved with most of the major jiu jitsu ones at some point or a lot of major jiu jitsu ones at some point to the point I was a multiple time guest on some. Like, ironically enough, the On The Mat podcast, so the one that we label as that, I was never on that one.

Josh: Yeah. That’s funny. Cool. Well, thank you for coming on, man. Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.

Alan: Yeah, thanks for having me. It was my pleasure, Josh.

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