Beyond Bruce Lee

Photo by Taras garcia

Find out more at Sacramento Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fight Academy, 2300 Sutterville Road, Suite A; (916) 370-5874;

What makes a good fighter? Technique, strength, determination or heart? Or is it in one’s blood? Black belt and owner of Sacramento Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fight Academy Terry Maxwell can teach you how to subdue an opponent once the fight is on the ground—a crucial aspect of mixed martial arts—plus all kinds of other jiujitsu technique. With his new location across the street from Sacramento City College, you can get schooled hitting the books and the mat.

How many people come to your gym saying they’re going to kick ass but end up quitting?

I get guys like that. I can never judge who’s going to stick and who’s not going to stick. Some of the most athletic looking guys have come in and professed how dedicated they are, this is their lives and they knew from the minute they saw it this is what they wanted to do. They came for one or two sessions and never came back.


Recently, I had a guy, 300 pounds, come in and train and threw up all over my mats and left without saying goodbye. I didn’t think I was going to see him again, he didn’t profess to anything, just quiet. But he came back, signed up, has been training every day since. It’s been a few months, and now I think he’s down to 250 pounds. Once they’re humbled, they have two choices: come in to learn this or just not come back.

Is Brazilian jiujitsu useful in the real world?

What you do in the gym prepares you for what happens in the street. Unfortunately, I have had to use jiujitsu a few times, but I do not encourage street fighting at all. I have strict rules against it in my academy, but in the streets there are no rules. So, you have to know survival if you are confronted. You have to know how to get out.

Brute strength or technique?

Technique always wins. A guy who comes to mind is Caio Terra, multiple world champion, competes at maybe 130 [pounds], he can go into the open [weight] division of black belts and do well. He is so technical, so smooth. I heard in an interview that he doesn’t do any strength conditioning at all. He doesn’t believe in it.

Could Bruce Lee hang with today’s best black belt?

(Laughs.) You take Bruce Lee’s skill set he had at that time, and he wouldn’t stand a chance against even a blue belt, probably. That’s not to say he didn’t have the ability to learn. … But there’s no way. Even in mixed martial arts, he wouldn’t be able to beat a C-level fighter. He was working with what he had.

But he was tough.

He was aware of submissions. In Enter the Dragon, he killed Chuck Norris with a guillotine; they make it sound more like a neck break. Also, he did an arm bar in Enter the Dragon. He was aware, definitely ahead of his time.

How did you open your first gym?

I had been teaching at other places, just spreading my time running around town. Sometimes I was traveling 50 miles. I had it in my mind that I was going to do this.

I didn’t have the funds. We really did it on a shoestring budget. It really was a risk for me to take when I opened that academy, but it was calculated and it was worth it to me. It really put me in a hardship for the first year and a half and put my family in a hardship. We struggled, but in the end, it was all worth it. I gained a lot of students, and success only came through that hardship, and it made me appreciate what I have today.

What do you like most about jiujitsu?

Seeing how it has changed my student’s lives. The ones who get it in their blood, it changes everything about them. It really improves their life. It really affects them in every facet, every way, it really cleans them up. I have a few students, I can imagine what road they would have went down had they not found jiujitsu—probably wouldn’t be too pretty. I really didn’t know how I affected lives before I started teaching. That’s the best part.

How has the fighting scene changed over the last 10 years?

More people are aware of what jiujitsu is now because every [Ultimate Fighting Championship] fighter does it. Technically, what has changed is that it doesn’t even look the same from when I began. Guys that are blue belts are throwing moves that didn’t even exist back in the ’90s. The whole game, especially the sporting game, looks completely different.

YouTube is what has changed the game the most. Back in the day we would have to buy video tapes, which was a pain—scrolling through video. Now with YouTube, it’s the click of a button and mere minutes to break down someone’s game. Immediately when people are doing new things, you recognize it and implement it. As an instructor, I’m on YouTube every night, late, studying.