Open Guard and The Raspberry Ape – Daniel Strauss

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OG – Hi Daniel thanks for joining us here at Open Guard. We appreciate you taking the time out of your day to have a chat with us and to share you Jiu Jitsu journey with our readers.

RA – It’s my absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

So you have the nick name raspberry ape I have read it’s a pretty cool story could you fill the readers in?

RA –One day on a trip to the local zoo when I was 3 years old my parents lost view of me for a matter of seconds and being the mischievous toddler I was I crawled towards my favourite animal in the zoo, a 230kg lowland gorilla. I managed to get through the lax barriers and tragically fell into the enclosure.

There was mass hysteria and panic. As I lay dazed and confused in the shallow waters of the enclosure the giant silverback slowly approached me, intrigued. The now huge crowd around the gorilla section panicked even more. Worried for my safety a zoo keeper rushed for a gun, he feared the enormous beast would tear me into pieces, but even at my young age, I knew otherwise. It was a gentle giant, he did not wish to cause me harm. But the zoo keeper didn’t know and the hysteria of the crowd grew with every passing second. He lined up his shot, he couldn’t risk a tranquillizer enraging the beast, he had to go for a kill shot.

Just as the keeper began to grip the trigger of his rifle a man screamed from the crowd. “STOP!!” Everyone looked up, the man was eating a packet of raspberries. He launched the packet in to the enclosure. The gorilla saw this and immediately rushed over the other side of the cage to enjoy some sweet raspberries, his favourite treat. This bought the staff enough time and space to lower someone in and save me. The gorilla lived.

This moment stayed with me forever. I still remember it like it was yesterday. A powerful, spiritual experience that would start a lifelong love of all things simian.

When the first interview I did asked me for my nickname the first thing that came into my head was that day; I was, The Raspberry Ape.

OG – What drew you to BJJ and what has kept you there??

RA – As a kid I was always interested in martial arts but didn’t train any when i was very young as many do. From the age of around 12 I started going round different martial arts schools and trying it out. I did a bit of everything; kung fu, JKD, karate, judo. But I never found one that I enjoyed enough to stick with. I started training traditional jiu jitsu at Mill Hill at the age of 14. After doing that for about 6 months one of the instructors left and Nick Brooks (my BJJ coach) took over. He was a traditional jiu jitsu black belt at the time but at already found the light of BJJ so was only training that. After the other instructor left he slowly changed the club into a pure BJJ gym and when i first had a go grappling i immediately fell in love with it.

The thing that kept me so engaged and passionate about BJJ is the creativity and magnitude of the art. As well as the problem solving aspect. It keeps you mentally engaged in a way that no other sports, for me anyway, had done before.

OG – I understand you are a big fan of nogi  What was the main factors that started to move you more towards the nogi side of BJJ and what keeps you there do you change your game much when you are are in the gi ??

RA – It happened more by accident than anything else. I always trained most gi than nogi early in my BJJ career. But I was young and very small and weak when i started BJJ. So I had to rely on movement over trying to hold and control my opponents. These leads to me develop a fast dynamic movement based game that translates much better to nogi than gi. So on the rare occasions that I trained nogi it felt much more natural, i could move and jump around my opponents without them being able to grab on to my gi and slow me down. i started competing and I competed gi and nogi. And it always just seemed that I did a bit better nogi than i did in the gi. As I started to win more stuff nogi I was asked to teach more nogi and fight more nogi comps. And it naturally evolved into my being seen as more of a nogi guy. Which isn’t completely true. Although its true that I haven’t competed in the gi for a long time and I prefer and specialise nogi i do still train in the gi and see the many benefits it has. I will compete in the gi in the future. I just prefer the direction that nogi grappling is heading with a much more submission based and exciting style than a lot (and by no means all) of gi grappling where unfortunately many people are looking to win by the safest means possible which often means an advantage or 2 points and shutting down.

 

OG – Apart from BJJ you do a fair bit of strength training do you work the gym around BJJ or is it hand in hand.in your opinion how much do you think strength and condition off the mats help performance on the mats?

RA –I would say that its hand in a hand to a degree but obviously BJJ is the priority. I lift to be stronger and more conditioned for the sport so it’s always going to have to work around my training but I try and create a schedule that allows the two to work symbiotically.

For me personally I believe that my training off the mats has had a huge impact on not only my performance but my style of jiu jitsu. Everyone is different. I put a very big emphasis on strength training for me personally so it has a big effect on me. I like to be as strong and powerful as I can be. Personally I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t. But some people don’t care for it.

I believe that it is ridiculous to suggest that some form of accessory training outside of the sport itself would not enhance performance. That doesn’t have to be lifting heavy weight necessarily. It could be doing cardio, conditioning, speeds, flexibility, and muscle endurance. It WILL improve your performance on the mats. Anyone who tells you different either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is lying.

 

OG – Anyone who has ever tried BJJ know that it is very cardio intense,  what advice would you give a young guy that wants to get bigger and also train BJJ as far as food and training?

RA – That’s a question that I get a lot. It’s really difficult! if you are a “hard gainer” (someone who struggles to put on weight) it can be hard enough to bulk as it is, let alone throwing 5 hours of cardio a week on top of that. The simple answer is that your calorie intake must go up. Still not putting on weight? Put it up more.  Still nothing? Put it up more. People keep saying to me “I do that and I literally can’t eat anymore and I’m not putting any weight on”. Then I ask them how many calories a day they’re eating and they tell me 3,500 or something. That’s not a high calorie diet. Stop eating like the skinny person you are and start eating like the big fucker you want to be. When I first started putting on weight I was on roughly 6-7 thousand calories a day. I would stay up until 4am eating pasta and soup. People see me and think I was always this big. Then they see pics of me as a skinny kid not that long ago and assume I was just an easy gainer and I don’t struggle to put on weight. They don’t see some of the ridiculous stuff that I had to do to get results.

 

BUT, that’s the simple answer. I’m also not stupid and I understand the restrictions that the majority of the populations have. Eating the amount of food that I’m talking about literally take time. Time that many people simply don’t have. If you’re working a full day job and then training 2-4 times a week and having to now go to the gym and lift 2-3 times a week, where is the time to consume thousands and thousands of calories? And therein lies the problem. Is it easier to put on weight if you cut back your BJJ training? Yes. Do I suggest you do that? No. Well, if you’re trying to get bigger and stronger to BJJ then cutting back your BJJ isn’t going to help you achieve that goal. But if you are really desperate to put on weight than you can swap a session or two a week for lifting or resting (read eating). But you may well find that you lose the weight as soon as you increase your BJJ again.

A lot of the time I’ve used small injuries that limit me from rolling but not from lifting to put on weight. Otherwise the answer is to make small adaptations to your lifestyle and diet to assist in weight gain as best as possible. Snack throughout the day. Never be left without food, always have something close by. Learn about and find calorie dense food. I like nut butters, seeds and shakes. And make sure you’re sleeping well every night. I always get 8 hours sleep. If I’m “bulking” hard (which i haven’t done in many years) then I will increase that to 9-10 hours. But like i said, all these are easier said than done for most people. I do understand that. Just do the best you can! And be patient.

 

OG – So Daniel can you fill the readers in on your three favourite submission and strength exercises   and why they are your favourite?

RA – For my favourite submissions I’m going to give you two for the same reason. And that is the guillotine and the kimura. And the reason I’m picking those two is because I do not consider them submissions, but positions that you can submit from. The transitions and control point that both a guillotine and kimura give you are far wider reaching that just the finish. If you view them as just a sub then you are blind to the many opportunities they open up. Im not saying that they are the only submission position that you can use to transition and control but I believe them to be two of the most versatile. A guillotine give you full control of the neck and head and therefore you’re able to manipulate and control the entire body. Kimura grip give you in my opinion the strong and most complete control of an entire arm which translate in the whole upper body. Since you asked for 3 I will throw the rear naked choke in there as well. For a few reasons; its physically one of the strongest squeezes we can create with our arms, its from the back position which in the hierarchy of grappling positions is at the very top, the choke is believe is more spirit than joint submissions because you cant tough your way out of it, you can allow you arm to break and continue, but with a choke you simply go to sleep, and finally it has the best name in jiu jitsu “the lion killer”.

 

OG – So you have an awesome pod cast the raspberry ape pod cast which I hear is kind of a big deal how did the idea come about and what are some of the best things to come out from doing podcasts and what do you enjoy the most about doing them

Hahahaha, I’m not sure about a big deal but I’m trying! I started the Raspberry Ape Podcast this summer and as of writing this, have 12 episodes out. I got the idea because I started listening to podcast recently when I was travelling for seminar or walking the dog. I listen to high quality podcasts such as Joe Rogan and Tim Ferris. I thought that there is not much in the UK BJJ scene like this. So I set out to create a podcast where I can take to experts not only in BJJ but in all aspects of training such as strength and conditioning, nutrition, etc. So it would be not only an educational recourse for people interested in training but document some of the lesser aspects of the sport in the county and eventually hopefully the world.

That was the thing I wasn’t expecting. But interviewing these great names in UK BJJ I was getting a history of the sport from all these different perspectives. Which I quickly came to realize was a vitally important thing to showcase, especially for those new to the sport and simply have no idea (and no reason that they should) about the history of the art they are doing.

I love doing the interviews. I love BJJ and everything around it and love talking to other people who are passionate about it. I find out things about people, even people I’ve known for many years, that I had no idea about before. I get to see things from other people’s perspectives and it allows me to keep learning and evolving my own ideas and philosophy. I look forward to doing many more. As of right now I have a list of over a hundred people from just the UK that I would like to have on the podcast. And I hope to be able to take it to other countries, learn from experts all over the world and document the history of grappling and BJJ from all these different places. Everyone has a story and I want to help people be able to tell it.

 

OG – Apart from collecting limbs, lifting heavy things and hosting podcasts, what else does the Raspberry Ape like to do in his spare time?

 

RA – Haha, well those things take up a fair amount of time! As well as my own personally training and development I teach grappling 4 days a week out of Mill Hill BJJ in north London. I am the no gi instructor there and the no gi program has only been running from 9 months now. To be honest this is probably my biggest priority at the moment. I love teaching Jiu Jitsu and coming up with ways of improving my students as efficiently and effectively as possible. The progress these people are making in the speed they’re doing it is staggering and I’m honored to pass on my knowledge to them. I’m looking forward to unleashing them on the competition scene soon.

 

In addition to that I also run my own tournament called “Kleos Grappling”. Travel for seminars and to coach many weekends. Commentate on some BJJ and MMA shows. And walk my dog. After that’s all done I don’t have a huge amount of time for much else.

 

OG – Daniel just want to say thank you for the time you have given to Open Guard its much appreciated do you have any parting words you would like to send out at all

RA – I would just like to thank you for having me on and continue doing what you’re doing.
Thanks to everyone for their continued support.

Be nice to people and do Jiu Jitsu.

 

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