Off the Mat with a Bjj Black Belt: Henry Akins

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This week we feature 3rd degree Rickson Gracie Black Belt Henry Akins who was the head instructor of Rickson’s academy for several years.
Now, Henry conducts seminars all over the globe and is perhaps best known for his concepts of advanced basics and invisible or “Hidden Jiu Jitsu”.
A great read with one of the best instructors in Brazilian jiu-jitsu!

On Hidden Jiu-jitsu “Ask anyone who’s ever experienced it and they will probably tell you they had their Mind Blown by the difference in efficiency or effectiveness.”
Henry Akins

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us how and why you got started in bjj?
What got you addicted to jiu-jitsu?
Who have been the biggest influences on your jiu-jitsu and what did you learn from each of your professors?

Henry Akins: I got started in BJJ because I always loved the martials arts, even as a young child I would sit at home with my brother on the weekends and watch Bruce Lee or Kung Fu theater. When I was a teenager I was living in Oklahoma and wrestling is a huge sport there.
I saw how effective wrestling was as a combat art so at the time I was training in tae kwon do but was also searching for a martial art that was grappling or ground based.
In 1993, just before the first UFC I watched a grainy dubbed VHS taped of Gracie in action and immediately knew I found my calling. In the Fall of 94 I made a trip out to California and found Rickson’s school at the Pico location.
I trained for a week there and was hooked.

I always considered myself pretty tough and athletic and I had never felt so helpless before in my life.
I knew I had to do whatever it took to learn Jiu-Jitsu.
So I moved to California by late spring of 95 to begin my training under Rickson.

My 2 main influences in jiu-jitsu were Luis Heredia and of course Rickson.
Luis had a huge influence on me in my early years teaching me the fundamental understanding and techniques but he moved to Hawaii just around the time I had gotten my brown belt.
Luis was an amazing coach always there to motivate and inspire, he was amazing at bringing the team together and preparing the team for competition.

From Rickson I think I really developed the deep understanding… the essences of jiu-jitsu, the strategy, the concepts of positions, the philosophy and how to think about jiu-jitsu and break down techniques and movement

Jiu-jitsu Times: What is the place of jiu-jitsu in your life?
Are you an active competitor? Own an academy, train recreationally?

Henry Akins: Jiu-Jitsu is my passion and more specifically sharing it with others.
Fortunately for me I’m able to now provide a living for myself sharing my passion with others.

So especially the last 2 years I’ve been traveling and teaching seminars all over the world along with running my gym Dynamix MMA in Los Angeles CA with my partner Antoni Hardonk and our wrestling Instructor Vladimir Matyushenko.
I’m so blessed to be able to surround myself with such amazing martial artists in different fields and learn ideas from them.
It’s also nice they both fought professionally in the UFC so training with them has definitely helped me to remain focused on applying jiu-jitsu as a martial art for self defense and combat.

The past few years I’ve had a few injuries and have been focused more on teaching and helping my students and others but this year I’ve made a commitment to start balancing things out so I can focus on myself and train more.

Jiu-jitsu Times: You are perhaps best known for your Hidden / “Invisible” Jiu-jitsu and teaching the Rickson Gracie style of jiu-jitsu.
What does Hidden / “Invisible” Jiu-jitsu mean and can you give us an example of how you use it?

Henry Akins: I think the term invisible really means the application of a few specific concepts in jiu-jitsu and sometimes it refers to details and adjustments so minute its hard for the UNTRAINED eye to see.
I refer to it as HIDDEN Jiu-Jitsu because once you understand and experience it you can actually see what’s going on… its no longer invisible.

The two main concepts of Hidden Jiu-Jitsu are connection and weight distribution.
Connection allows your movement to effect others immediately when you begin to move… its kind of like taking the slack out of every movement so there is no wasted movement, as soon as you move you get results.
Connection can also be used to describe how to chain things together in your body by engaging certain muscles or creating frames so you can transfer energy or force through your body.

You always hear about using your body to do things in jiu-jitsu instead of say your arms, or grabbing things and connecting them to your body so we are using larger more powerful muscles to do the work.
The second concept is weight distribution and that concept is how to constantly transfer your weight onto your opponent in different positions to make their movements more difficult or impossible.

In many situations weight distribution allows you to constantly apply pressure on your opponent without actually having to use muscle or do “work”.
So it’s a huge benefit in helping you conserve energy while forcing your opponent to work much harder.
The application of both these concepts from positions is very difficult to see with an untrained eye. Many times a position with connection or without will look the exact same or a position with weight distribution or without.

The reason is as a grappling art we are in constant contact with our opponent at different places its whats going on at those places of contact that is “Invisible”.
Movement is usually much easier to see but transfer of weight into a specific spot when there is already contact is very difficult to see… it has to be felt.

As for the slight angles or tiny adjustments, usually movements usally effect leverage and make techniques that sometimes require a bit of strength to feel effortless, even against a resisting opponent … it goes really deep but the effects are profound.
Ask anyone who’s ever experienced it and they will probably tell you they had their Mind Blown by the difference in efficiency or effectiveness.

Henry.Akins

Video: Closed Guard Concepts with Henry Akins

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