In 2014, Can travelled to the US for the third time to meet up with some of his American BJJ friends. He started in Virginia, a place that has an incredible BJJ community. At the heart of that are Chrissy and Brian Linzy, who together with Andrew Smith co-founded US Grappling.
In this first section of a five part interview, Chrissy and Brian talk about how they got into Brazilian jiu jitsu. The second part will be up next week, while the third and fourth parts can be found on the Martial Arts Illustrated website, here.
CAN: How did you get into jiu jitsu?
CHRISSY LINZY: I guess Brian got into it first, so you should start, then I’ll say what I did.
BRIAN LINZY: We lived in Colorado, then I took a job in Richmond, Virginia. I moved here to Virginia Beach and lived in a hotel for a few months, ahead of Chrissy while she was closing up our business in Colorado. My new job at AT&T mostly involved the management of AT&T hiding us in a room with no windows and pretending we weren’t there, because they were trying to work out what to do with all the non-union people that they had just hired. They felt that putting us on the floor with the union people would have been like throwing us to the lions, which it actually was. They were right.
So for the first week they couldn’t figure out what to do with us and just hid us in this conference room. One of the other new hires, Klint Radwani, was a purple belt at the time and had opened a gym. I think there were maybe eight of us in this group of new hires at AT&T. We sat in a conference room for eight hours a day, staring at each other. On the first day, after having spent my time sitting across from Klint staring at him, he said “What are you doing tonight?”
I said, “I’m going to sit in my hotel room and watch re-runs of Seinfeld.”
He replied, “No. I have a gym: you’ll come to my gym tonight.”
I really had nothing else to do. I’m alone, Chrissy is in Colorado. So I went to the gym that night. It was weird, it was awkward, it was uncomfortable and a little man nearly choked me unconscious with his legs. By the end, I was looking at the schedule and saying “What’s with Sundays? It looks like you’re closed on Sundays. I can only do this six days a week?”
Klint said, “Yeah, but you’ll probably find that’s enough.” So I went Tuesday and Thursday, then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday…Friday…oh wow. [laughs] I was pretty much instantly hooked.
CAN: It wasn’t a matter of seeing the UFC, those usual reasons for starting at that time?
BRIAN LINZY: This was in 2005. By chance, in 1993 when the first UFC happened, I was living with my parents because I was in high school. My brother did come home that weekend and bought the UFC and I watched it with him, so we saw Royce go through everybody. Then I never thought about jiu jitsu again until 2005.
CAN: So when Klint mentioned it, you were aware of what jiu jitsu was?
BRIAN LINZY: Yeah, I connected it with “the thing that Royce did a long time ago.” I had for years before that had it in my head to do some kind of martial art. From going around to different schools wherever we lived, I had decided that kung fu was probably going to be the thing to do. I just never pulled the trigger on it. Then jiu jitsu just kind of appeared in front of me. That was it, I never looked back.
CHRISSY LINZY: After Brian had been to class, he called me and said “I went to this gym and did this weird thing.” I think his first words were “You will never do this.” I have personal space issues, I have germ issues. He said, “People sweat on you: you are going to hate this.”
I came to visit Brian maybe six weeks later and I watched a class. I was like, “Yeah, that’s not for me at all.” [laughs] But the muay thai looked interesting, minimal contact with other people. So when I came, I started with muay thai, not jiu jitsu. After about three or four weeks of muay thai, they let the person holding the pads hit you back. That was not pleasant, I did not care for that. [laughs]
So I waited until it was a Saturday that Brian had to work, then I tried the Saturday jiu jitsu class. I did it intentionally when he wouldn’t be there in case I freaked out, so he wouldn’t have to see that: it could have been really bad. Our muay thai instructor also took jiu jitsu, so I worked with him. That made it a little less terrible, but he just showed me chokes from mount for an hour, so it was still pretty awful. [laughs]
I still did a little bit of muay thai, but only one day a week for another three or four months. It was pretty much all jiu jitsu after that. Just like Brian, I went every day that there was class for a long time, probably until one of us got injured or I had to travel for work.
BRIAN LINZY: It was real awkward for a while, when Chrissy first started training. If I was just standing there at the edge of the mats, when some guy would go with Chrissy and shake hands, they’d wait and look past her at me, until they made eye contact. Then I’d have to give them the nod.
CHRISSY LINZY: Yeah, nobody ever asked me to train. I had to go get my own training partner every day. I was kind of oblivious: I had no idea Brian was basically approving or declining my partners.
BRIAN LINZY: I didn’t decline anybody. [laughs]
CHRISSY LINZY: [laughs] It was always fun, but I had no idea that was happening. It was always out of the corner of their eye, “Is it ok if I train with her?”
CAN: Was that just because you were her husband, or because you’re a big guy?
BRIAN LINZY: I guess a little bit of both.
CHRISSY LINZY: Probably. By the time I got there, he’d only been training three or four months, so people were still finding out what he’s like. To look at him from across the room he’s scary, but after a conversation with him, not so much. [laughs]