GTR Archives 2000-2020











Global Training Report



Erik Paulson Interview  

Conducted by Roberto Pedreira

(July 2000

              (Special to Global Training Report)


Roberto:  Erik, what is your martial arts background?

Erik: I began my training in 1974. I completed three years of judo, three  years of classical wing chun, eight years of amateur boxing, three years of aikido and thirteen years of  taekwondo and sport karate.

Roberto: When did you begin your association with Dan Inosanto?

Erik: I moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles in order to train with Guru Dan Inosanto in 1986. I also came to go to college and try to get into the movie business.

Roberto : What movies have you appeared in?

Erik: So far, I've been in  American Ninja 5, Bloodsport 3, The Riot, Fist of the North Star and Battledome.

Roberto: Whatfs it like being an action movie actor?

Erik: The movie industry brutal. It makes vale tudo fighting seem like an afternoon at the beach.

Roberto: What other martial arts training were you doing when you hooked up with Guru Dan? 

Erik: At that time I was currently fighting in full contact karate, boxing, and judo. I also competed in gymnastics.

Roberto: When was your first vale tudo type competition?

Erik: I always used to spar in the vale tudo style before it became popularized by the UFC, however my actual first 'Shooto' match was in 1992.

Roberto: Who were your primary grappling instructors? 

Erik: I studied judo with Osmo Milan, Filipino dumog and traditional ju-jutsu and chin-na with Larry Hartsell and Dan Inosanto. I studied Greco-Roman, freestyle and collegiate wrestling with Rico Chipparelli for two years. I also worked with the Gracie and Machado Brothers (see below).

Roberto: When did you first hear of the Gracie Brothers? What did you hear about them? What was your reaction?

Erik: I first heard of the Gracies in 1986. They openly challenged to fight anyone in the world in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to prove their system was unbeatable. I was a little intimidated in the beginning however I was eager to learn and train with them. Once I got to know the Gracies I found out they were the kindest people I'd ever met.

Roberto: When, where and what study with the Gracies? (In other words, did they have a curriculum that you followed, or did you tell them what you wanted to learn, or what?)

Erik: I began training with the Gracies in 1988 until the present day predominantly in Southern California. I was with Royce and Rorion Gracie for two and a half years, Rickson Gracie for four  years, and the Machados for two and a half years. Royce and Rorion had a standard set of techniques that they taught to every student. It was basic self defense in standup, ground was basic passes, escapes, reversals and ways to dominate and control your opponent. Submissions in the beginning was more of a secondary attack where the main concern was positioning and establishing the base.

Roberto: Did you have the opportunity to roll with any of them? How did you feel about their grappling approach and philosophy compared to the grappling that you had already done? In other words, were they doing the same thing, but better, or did you feel that they had a different concept of what grappling was and should be.

Erik: Yes. Their skill and knowledge on the ground was of the highest level
I'd ever seen or experienced. Their ground positioning, escapes and attacks were of an exceptional level. I think they had a slightly different concept regarding more controlled or dominant guard and mount and more stressed positions compared to other forms of grappling then being practiced..

Roberto:  Were the Gracies emphasizing sport or self-defense when you first met them?

Erik: Royce and Rorionfs training was more towards the self-defense which was what I was interested in at the time. With Rickson and the Machados it was more sport/competition orientated.

Q. Why did you go to the Gracies originally for self-defense? Did you feel there was something missing in your previous karate, taekwondo, judo, kali, etc., training?

Erik.  Yes, I was missing self defense on the ground. Other styles did not really address this very realistically. Like people would say "I do not go to the ground" and assume that because they don't want it to happen, it won't happen. The Gracies changed a lot of people's thinking about this. 

Roberto: What in retrospect is your assessment of the kind of self-defense techniques they taught you?   

Erik: The headlock escapes are great, the submission counters, escapes and positioning and hip movement are all superb.

Roberto: Apparently, Paul Vunak was training with Rorion and Rickson about the same time you did. Did you meet him and did he have a special "streeth oriented approach to jiu-jitsu?

Erik: I trained with Paul at Ricksonfs school. Paul was putting the ground into his game and adding the striking, head butts and elbows and has a great bite flow series, which changes the entire complexion of the ground.

Roberto: Were you ever present at any of the Gracie challenge matches that are on the Gracie in Action videos? Were you yourself ever tempted to participate in one?  

Erik: No, neither of the above. I believe that to go out looking for a fight is the wrong attitude and a major sign of insecurity and discontentment. Of course there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. I'm more into the sporting aspect rather than getting 'geared up' for the ultimate street fight approach. I think that itfs healthier.

Roberto: What rank did you attain in Gracie jiu-jitsu and when? Are you
currently training in this style? 

Erik:  I have held my blue belt for the last seven years. I was ready to test for my purple belt with Rickson but I had to go away and fight for a weekend so the belt was given to someone else. I was told I needed to compete more for their team. I still roll around on the mat with friends who hold a black belt. I've really focused more on wrestling in the last couple of years.

Roberto: Were you fighting professionally before the UFC, or did the success of that event inspire you to become a professional fighter?

Erik: The UFC definitely opened my eyes to vale tudo. Most of the competitors in the UFC were 'rough and tough' but not necessarily technical.

Roberto: Are you still fighting? Any fights coming up?

Erik: At the present time I'm contemplating retirement from my fighting career with the Japanese Shooto Association due to inactivity and several offers having fallen through. I still have the drive and want to fight. I feel my level is stronger and faster than ever. My style of fighting has drastically changed over the last few years and I still think I have a few good years left in me.

Roberto: I understand that Dan Inosanto is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fan and recently earned a black belt from the Machados. Anyone who has hit the mat with the Brazilians knows getting a black belt in their style is quite an accomplishment, for anyone at any age. Have you rolled with him or watched him roll? Your impression? Does he fit jiu-jitsu into the JKD Concepts thing, or does he just accept jiu-jitsu as a separate thing completely.

Erik: Yes, I've rolled around on the mat with Guru Dan on several occasions. Actually, I was the one to give him his first lesson in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He tends to incorporate some groundwork into the Jun Fan class by working different arm lock attacks from every position as a warm-up. He then spars in all different positions on the ground with gloves.

Roberto: Your martial arts background is unusually well-rounded. Have you ever had to use any of it on the street? 

Erik: Yes. I was a bartender and a bouncer for ten years. I would consistently have to break up fights. Face to face I used wing chun for close cover and hit, muay tai and kali for elbows, head butts, knees, kicks and foot stomps, aikido and chin-na for wrist/arm/finger locks, jiu-jitsu for choking and silat and judo for throws, whatever came out at the time; striking, locking or controlling.

Roberto: Most guys seem to think the best style is whatever style they do, and the best techniques are the techniques they do best. Do you have any thoughts on what the best style for effective self defense is, or the best combination of styles, or best techniques, or best training methods?

Erik: Train like an athlete, not like a technique junkie/weekend warrior. Train your physical attributes, your reaction times, speed and Strength and most of all endurance. A good defense is a strong offence. Shoot wrestling combines the best of standup, throws and submissions and a well-rounded type of martial art for a fighter. If you have more time Brazilian jiu-jitsu is great for self-defense, however you need to round it out with some striking. If you have one skill and not the other you only have half of the puzzle.

 Roberto: Do you have a personal philosophy of fighting?

 Erik: Yes, sweat is the lubricant of success. The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war. Develop an indomitable spirit, one that cannot be crushed and have a strong faith in God.

Roberto: Are you still teaching at the Inosanto Academy? What do you teach? Can you describe the curriculum there these days?

Erik: Yes. I teach three classes, twice a week--vale tudo, kickboxing, combat submission and shooto. There is a curriculum that teaches all classes. We have jiu-jitsu twice a week and the academy is open Monday through Saturday.

Roberto: Have you worked with Bas Rutten, Mark Kerr, Pedro Rizzo, or the other guys who are or were training out of the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club, which isnft far from where you train?

Erik: I know Bas. He's a good guy, funny, full of energy. But I havenft trained with him. I have worked with Rico Chipparelli, Frank Trigg, Vladamir, Randy Courture and Dan Henderson, the RAW team Wrestlers. They helped me with my takedowns. I tried to help them with their submissions.

Roberto: Some people believe the vale tudo fad is going to fade away pretty    soon, probably, to become a form of pro-wrestling with mostly worked fights.  What are your thoughts on this subject? How will it impact on your fighting, training, and teaching in the future?

Erik: Vale tudo is the wave of the future. Cross training is the new 'in' thing to do in all martial arts schools. People are getting better as time goes on. The level of fighters has grown, their overall understanding of the game has become universal. The impact that it will have on my fighting will be that my experience will have to pull me through with my conditioning and I'll stay on the cutting edge of whatfs new, training methods and new techniques.

Roberto: Do you have any thoughts on Royce's recent defeat by Sakuraba in Pride? Did Royce do something he shouldn't have or didn't do something he should have, or was Sakuraba just too much for him on that particular night no matter what he could have done?

Erik: I always cheer for Royce when he fights. He and Rorion were my first jiu-jitsu teachers. I always hope that he does well. I didn't see the fight yet so its hard to speculate. The way the fights go today, you need to have decent striking ability both standing and on the ground and good takedown/counter skills to stay on the cutting edge.

Roberto: Do you have any thoughts on how the recent defeats by Royler and Royce will affect the NHB scene in general and Gracie/Machado/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the USA? In other words, is it time for striking to be emphasized rather than ground fighting, for a change?

Erik: I think that Roycefs defeat will set up a fight between Rickson and Sakuraba. The level of the NHB fighters has changed. Cross training is essential and plays a vital role in the success of the fighters of today. If you are only good at one part of the game you only have a piece of the puzzle. The submission is one game and the NHB is another. Just because one is great at one game it doesn't mean that it rolls over to the other!

Roberto: Assuming that the "besth style is a mix of various styles, how would You combine them to produce the "besth style? In other words, is it better to begin with a grappling foundation and then add striking, or the other way around? How do the other styles, like kali and aikido and Greco-Roman fit in. Does it totally depend on the person, or are their any rules that everyone can rely on?  

Erik: I believe that if you are good at one you need to add or at least understand the other in order to learn how to counter that aspect. It's basically kickboxing (modified), wrestling and ground submission fighting. The number one rule is to develop the attributes and for conditioning to train like an athlete.  

Roberto: Any plan to compete in Abu Dhabi in 2001?

Erik: Maybe.

Roberto: You are someone who has been around a long time and knows the inside and outside of the martial arts world. Anything you say would be of interest.

Erik: When I first started fighting professionally in 1992, there weren't many people who wanted to get into the NHB Arena and mix it up. Now everyone and their mother is fighting. People will do a few years of jiu-jitsu or wrestling and suddenly they want to get in and fight. I believe this is the new craze of competition, like tournaments are for wrestlers and games are for baseball players. Itfs the adrenalin rush that makes it the 'new thing to do'.  

Roberto: Anything else youfd like to add?

Erik: I get a kick out of some of these knuckleheads that get on the Internet and write shit on people. These are obviously not the fighters themselves, they are armchair 'Mr. know it all' warriors whose only fight will only ever be on the computer with words or in the dojo - on the mat. Not in any contested event where they might have to put it all on the line. If they were, they'd know that on any given day they could be number one and the next they would lose their ass. Any competitor knows itfs about being humble, respectful and appreciative, not cutting down others to make themselves shine. Never do the talking but be the one who is talked about. if you don't have anything good to say.....shut hole!

Also, Ifd like to say that a lot of the smaller fight card champions have come in to compete more and the pay scale has dropped drastically. There were guys fighting  who aren't used to being paid to fight so they were paid peanuts compared to before. Now the audience participation has grown and the pay scale has started to go back up. Hopefully soon fighters will be paid once more what they are worth and the level of competitors will be stronger. It is by those who have suffered that the world has advanced. It is by suffering that we are far more productive in life!