The Master and the Apprentice: Ben Kim Interview

Dec 21st, 2011 by dane

It’s a well-established fact that Budo Jake is a bit of a Jiu Jitsu pilgrim. After all, he apparently has a show in which he goes to other gyms and challenges the teachers to death matches (or something) and ambushes black belt competitors after their matches at IBBJF events. It seems a bit paparazzi for my tastes, but I’m neither the “C”, the “E” nor the “O” and I’m not about to get kicked out of my tent in front of Budo HQ (OCCUPY THE BUDO PLANTERS, I AM THE ONE PERCEN-ER, GUY THAT SLEEPS IN THE BUSHES).

Recently, Jake and I took a trip to Nino Schembri’s new gym in Lawndale, CA to congratulate our friend and newly minted black belt, Ben Kim. After training (which was so mind-blowing you should literally be in a seething rage born of jealousy right now) things got a little wild and Jake unleashed his interviewing fury upon the unsuspecting duo. The take away here: Be warned, Jake will interview the crap out of you with little warning or provocation.

I present to you our interview with Ben for your reading pleasure. Look for our interview with Nino Schembri on Thursday.

BJ: Ben Kim, second Nino Schembri black belt. How does that make you feel?

BK: Man, it’s the biggest honor of my life as to date. Man, you should have been here when he gave it to me, it was really emotional. You know, you joke around about when you see other people get it you’re like, “I can see why, but how would I feel?” and I think we were both choked up because we went through a lot in the past almost three years and so he’s the reason I got into Jiu Jitsu and so to get that from him was a dream come true, a dream come true.

BJ: And how many years have you been training now?

BK: I want to say, because I consider nogi Jiu Jitsu in the same family, you just got to learn how to deal with the collars. [I've been training] almost seven years. Three almost four years with the gi and then seven years total with nogi.

BJ: And how did your game change? I mean, we trained together at Gracie Barra, but you’ve become a smashing machine now that you’ve been with Nino. How has your game changed training with Nino?

BK: Gracie Barra, let me first off take my hat off to them, they gave me such a great foundation with the gi. You know, the greatest thing about training there were those morning classes when all the black belts would show up to headquarters and I saw everyone’s high-level game – incredibly high level. And I realized, you know, that I have to get to that level if I want to be at the high level with them. Only, every single person’s game there didn’t fit the body type or I guess the mentality I had with Jiu Jitsu just because I started my nogi (training) watching Nino. So, for me it was like, especially in the beginning, imitating what I think he would do in order to create my game. So, when the opportunity came to actually train with him, really just apprentice under him and watch what he does and then have him explain the things that I saw him do in videos but in person and make me feel it. Man, it tripled my attack because I’d been imitating him for so long and for him to give me every detail of what I was imitating and to fix it and then show me the next position, it just happened so fast. That was really what was so fortunate about it.

BJ: Do you think your game resembles Nino’s game position-for-position?

BK: Nah, I can’t say that just because he still smashes me man! He’s still Nino Schembri! He’s definitely much stronger than me and a lot more flexible than me. I think a lot of the stuff I’ve seen from him for his top game has become my top game. But, I think we go for a different sequence of attacks. Maybe the same attacks but we set them up differently. I can definitely say my game was inspired and was developed by him but it’s not his game. His game is a different level.

BJ: What do you think is one thing that people don’t know about Nino?

BK: I don’t think people know how humble he is, man. If I was him, if I had his ability, man, you joke around about “I don’t like that fighter or that guy because he’s cocky” but they’re cocky because they’re good. But Nino is the top in the world to me and I’ve seen everybody and I know he’s just incredible. His mind, just the way his body works. He don’t see himself like that. He does not see himself like that.  I mean, he’ll train if a class has just been done and only one white belt shows up. You know, it’s easy for him to be like, “Just jump in with the rest of them.” But he’ll warm up with them and take the time and make sure they learn the fundamentals. I mean, that’s a humble guy for what he’s accomplished. I don’t see that from everybody. I don’t think that everybody knows that and if I could reinforce that and if I could give him credit where credit is due. Because, he’s one of the best at Jiu Jitsu ever, and he‘s also one of the nicest guys.

BJ: Nino also has a Chute Boxe background with Muay Thai and I see you have Muay Thai bags here. Are you trying to carry on that tradition?

BK: Yeah, I met him when he had come down with Shogun and watching him do what he did to everybody in that gym and I’m talking about high-level black belts, but from someone much smaller. I saw what Jiu Jitsu really was. I mean, of course, Chute Boxe is really known for its Muay Thai and its Jiu Jitsu, but watching his Jiu Jitsu made me realize, “Oh, you’ve got to have that for the complete package.” I know he brought in some King’s guys, because King’s is Rafael Cordeiro, bringing on that and he tried to do that more and I think in the next year he’s going to try and develop that. For me, I still want to focus on the Jiu Jitsu aspect at  this academy with him [and] let the Muay Thai pro’s teach his next generation of students. But, I’m here to learn. I’m not ready to teach anybody [Muay Thai] yet.

BJ: Any chance we will see you in competition any time in the near future?

BK: Yeah, I’d love to. I mean, the biggest thing about this black belt is that I want to honor him. I think he made a big statement to me by giving me this thing. He trusts me. I think the best thing for me to do is to go out there and trust myself and honor his name and try and show what he’s taught me. So, I’ll do my best.

BJ: Cool, we’ll be waiting to see ya’.

BK: Thanks brother, oh yeah, and one shout out too … I think the only reason I was able to excel so fast, besides training with Nino, is my generation of Jiu Jitsu students gets to watch all the best guys show their techniques because there’s a company like Budo Videos that loves Jiu Jitsu and is willing to … because I’m sure there’s a lot of work to put those DVDs together and get these guys in a room show off their best techniques. Of course, I think Jake does it because he wants to learn, but me watching all those DVDS and all the best guys share their moves you know really helped me excel and I’m very grateful to Budo Videos for that.

BJ: Awesome man, is there anything else you want to say?

BK: Yeah man, God bless. I only got here because of Jesus Christ, no doubt.

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