Teaching at Zenyo
John David Emmett is head instructor at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu in Baltimore, Md. He currently holds the rank of first-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. John began training in martial arts in 1998. He was promoted to black belt by Marcelo Pereira, Nova Uniao, and Scott Oates, Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu, after winning gold in the brown belt medium heavy Masters 4 division at the 2013 IBJJF International Masters World Championships.
John followed up his promotion by winning his first tournament as a black belt. He returned to compete in Master Worlds in 2014 and 2015, where he won silver and bronze, respectively. In addition to jiu jitsu, John also holds a brown belt in judo and wrestled for several years.
A former competitor in running, cycling, mountain biking and cross-country ski racing, John stumbled into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after a friend showed him a pay-per-view of Royce Gracie in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
John’s goal as an instructor is to transform the complex world of jiu jitsu into a unique method of simple concepts and principles that everyone can use.
"In nearly twenty years of martial arts, there are two principles above all others that I try to embody and instill in my students: maximum efficiency and mutual welfare. Jigoro Kano founded Judo on these ideals. Zenyo Jiu Jitsu is based on them."
Marcelo promotes John to black belt after the 2013 Master Worlds Championship.
Marcelo Pereira started training at seven years old. He is a two-time adult world champion and three-time masters champion. He is a fifth degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Zenyo Jiu Jitsu is part of Team Marcelo Pereira Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Searching for Zenyo
I first started teaching jiu jitsu as a purple belt, around 2007.
Over the years, I have had varying levels of success conveying effective information to students. They would do great with the technique portion of class but were then slow to implement their new skills in a live setting while rolling. The good students would be good; the average students would be average, and the slow students would be slow.
I found myself spending more and more time with the slow students trying to bring them up to speed. My good intentions, however, seemed to be having the opposite effect. Both of us were getting frustrated.
Around the same time, I was trying to heal myself from some chronic injuries. I stumbled across the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, one of the first Europeans to receive a black belt in judo. Feldenkrais tore ligaments (in the 1920s) in both knees as a young man. Doctors told him his athletic days were done.
Refusing to give up, he researched everything he could to heal himself. He developed a revolutionary technique which focuses on retraining the nervous system and brain to improve movement and function. His goal was to teach the process of learning. His method was through movement. He called his system Awareness Through Movement.
Feldenkrais eschewed effort, mindless repetition and expert demonstrations, many of the methods of martial arts training. He insisted that all work should be fun and enjoyable. As I studied the Feldenkrais method, I started to use many of his ideas in my teaching. I made sure students attempted all new techniques with total relaxation and control.
I used simple movements to start the class to prepare them for more and more complex movements later on. I demonstrated less. I explained less. I had more fun. And then I stumbled across a way to work that everyone enjoyed.
I was teaching five days a week. Many students trained five and six days a week. I decided to use Friday as a fun day. I called it "Submission Friday." I would show only submissions, linked in a series of different sequences. I explained very little. Some days I would not demonstrate. I would list the techniques, to a look of stunned faces, and then help them work through the sequence for 45 minutes.
I considered the start of that very first class a disaster. Everyone was confused. No one could remember what to do. They were all overwhelmed. The whole sequence contained maybe twenty or more moves! Students were used to being shown one, two or three things at a time.
I was not ready for what followed. By the end of class, they all had it. They were engaged the whole time, teaching themselves. They were having fun, not frustration, during the learning process. They remembered, a day, a week, a month later. And they performed the techniques during live rolling, almost immediately.
One student who had never choked anyone suddenly was tapping people with cross chokes and clock chokes. I was stunned. The students who attended "Submission Friday" improved considerably over the other students. They had fun. I had fun. The frustration disappeared.
The next year, I worked to refine the method more and more. I made series for all positions, not just submissions. I broke the techniques down more and more until I got to the most fundamental move I could see. The moves were just like the method I had been learning from Feldenkrais.
I invite you to learn the fundamentals of movement through jiu jitsu, while having fun at Zenyo Jiu Jitsu in Baltimore.