Joel Blanton, 6x World Champion, on Mat Time, Mental Training, and Kettlebells

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Photo by Emilio Alex Hernandez

It’s been a while since we’ve done an interview with Joel Blanton. He’s since won even more IBJJF World and Pan Am championships and has made some rather significant changes in his life, one of which was earning his black belt from James Clingerman.

One of the first things we wanted to ask him about was what his preparation looked like while preparing to compete. He told us that it has to do with the habits you build. “It’s not just drilling, it’s how I carry myself. I get to the gym, I change

Photo by Emilio Alex Hernandez
Photo by Emilio Alex Hernandez

clothes… I put tape on my fingers and I even pay attention to how I am in the seating arrangement.”

Joel emphasized that every single little habit and how we focus ourselves mentally while training is what will ultimately lead us to victory in competition. It’s what we do, not just physically, but mentally as well.

“You have to approach it passionately,” he says. “You see guys get hyped up and get their mean face on [before a competition] but that’s a lot of wasted energy… Where do you do your best rolls? You’re doing your best rolling when you’re with your friends, you’re in a familiar atmosphere, and you’re having fun.”

There was even an instance Joel shared in which he discussed smiling and laughing in the middle of a match at Worlds because he’s not so focused on being intense, but is instead focused on relaxing and not wasting movements. “It helps take that harsh edge off… when you smile. It’s having a real joy of where you’re at in the moment.”

On top of just developing good mental habits, Joel also expressed the importance of developing good physical habits. He rolls at least five times per week and also puts in two high-intensity kettlebell work outs every week. We asked about his 10384745_10206531914564431_8758181169688908920_nreasoning behind kettlebell training as opposed to traditional strength training since he used to be heavily involved in power-lifting. He said, “I started with the 10,000 swing workout and it just took off from there… it really pushes your cardio and conditioning and it’s pretty miserable. You gotta try and approach it like an animal, because you’re going to grapple like an animal… but make sure you get started with someone who’s certified. You gotta get good form.”

He went on to explain how his rolling sessions are just as intense as his kettlebell sessions. Each round last for a minimum of seven minutes and there is only 45 seconds of rest in between. He chooses his training partners based on their grappling abilities and their athletic abilities. He makes sure his partners are individuals who will push him and help him improve.

Outside of that, Joel explained the importance of having people outside of Jiu-Jitsu who support your goals. He specifically talked about how the support at home is the most important. “If you have somebody who completely supports you… I think that helps contribute to your success.” He says the opposite is also true that if you don’t have someone who supports you, it will negatively affect your performance as well.

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Photo by Emilio Alex Hernandez

Before we wrapped up, he wanted to express his gratitude to those who support him because they are a major part of what makes him successful. He thanked Hayabusa, and Strych9 for their sponsorships. He also thanked the Tennessee Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, the Indiana Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Ray Casias and James Clingerman for all of their assistance. He also thanked his girlfriend for the major support she gives him on and off the mats.

Be on the lookout for Joel Blanton. He will be continuing his competition schedule and is looking to take his first World and Pan Am championships at black belt this year. We here at Jiu-Jitsu Times wish him nothing but the best in his future in his endeavors.

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