Off the Mat with a Bjj Black Belt: Tom DeBlass

On Jiu-jitsu Times Off the Mat with a Bjj Black Belt is where we feature a short interview with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts from different academies around the planet.


This week we feature Black Belt Tom DeBlass who runs Ocean County Jiu-Jitsu. Tom is a Brown belt Pan American, National, and No Gi Worlds Champion. He is a Black belt No Gi Worlds Champion, BlackBelt masters 1 Absolute World Champion, 2x ADCC trial Champ, 2x ADCC veteran, and UFC and Bellator veteran.
Tom is a Ricardo Almeida black belt and known as a top bjj coach who trained top competitor Gary Tonon and a frequent contributor to Jiu-jitsu Times.

“Instructors need to train and be kind. They need to be mindful how many people look to them for guidance.”
Tom DeBlass

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us how and why you got started in bjj?

Tom DeBlass: I started jiujitsu because I was always involved with Athletics growing up. Much like other people I saw the UFC and it intrigued me. However, once I started training jiujitsu I fell in love with that before I did MMA.

Jiu-jitsu Times: What got you addicted to jiu-jistu?

Tom DeBlass: What I love about jiujitsu the most, is the irony of presents.
The striving for perfection that we can never quite obtain.
There’s always something new to learn, and it gives me a platform to touch people’s lives.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Who have been the biggest influences on your jiu-jitsu and what did you learn from each of your professors?

Tom DeBlass: Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie have been the biggest influences on my jiujitsu life.
There is too much too write about what they have taught me. Beyond technique they have taught me a lot about what it means to be a man.

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

Tom DeBlass: I run an Academy of 300 students, I’m an active competitor and will compete in the next ADCC.
Have completed at least 5 times a year the last decade. I am teaching 12 seminars over the next six months.
And I’m married with two children. Life is busy for me and some other exciting things may be announced soon.

Jiu-jitsu Times: You have competed in both professional MMA and in international grappling competitions.
How do you adapt your training from gi jiu-jitsu to prepare for MMA?
What is different about jiu-jitsu with the gi and bjj for MMA?

Tom DeBlass: I took the gi off completely before fighting mma. I was always more of a no gi competitor.
It’s very important to realize sport Jiu-Jitsu is not mma. You cannot be lazy in your guard or you will get hammered.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you give some advice for students of jiu-jitsu that worked for you in your training?

Tom DeBlass: My advice is simple. Stay disciplined when your motivation fails.
Don’t get too down on yourself. There will be good days and days you are frustrated. Keep pushing.

Jiu-jitsu Times: What do you tell your students to do in order make the fastest progress in jiu-jitsu?

Tom DeBlass: Keep showing up. Every week.

Jiu-jitsu Times: You are vocal about the importance and responsibility of the role of the black belt instructor in an academy.
What can an instructor do in the academy to be the very best instructor they can be for their students?
What mistakes have you seen instructors make in running a jiu-jitsu program?

Tom DeBlass: Instructors need to train and be kind. They need to be mindful how many people look to them for guidance.
It’s a serious responsibility that must be taken as such.
Furthermore, a real instructor is always learning more to teach their students.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you talk about your philosophy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu – training and life?

Tom DeBlass: My life is jiujitsu, it’s my hobby, it’s my career, it’s where my best friends are.
I really don’t know anything else besides jiujitsu now. It’s all that I am.

Jiu-jitsu Times: What do you try to teach to your students about the role of jiu-jitsu in their lives?

Tom DeBlass: People need to find a way that your Jitsu could fit in their life.
Everyone is not going to be a world champion, but everyone can benefit.
It’s up to the student to realize and find the benefits that can fit in their life.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Are there any exciting projects that you are currently working on?

Tom DeBlass: There are so many things coming up this year for me.
I’m doing an instructional DVD coming out soon, a plethora of seminars including a mini camp in Costa Rica that I’m teaching, and some other things I can’t talk about just yet:)

Video: Jiu Jitsu & Grappling Highlight Reel


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