We recently took some time to sit down with one of our sponsored athletes, Joe Denequolo from New Jersey, for a little Q/A. Joe is one of our most active competitors and we want to give our fans the opportunity to get to know some of the faces representing Rolljunkie. Here is how it went down:
RJ: Hi Joe, thanks for taking the time to sit down and do a little Q/A with us. To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you from, and where do you train?
Joe: I am 23 years old, born and raised in Bloomfield, NJ and currently living in Caldwell, NJ. I train at Mark Ramos BJJ in Rochelle Park, NJ and we are an affiliate of Team Edson Carvalho out of Paterson, NJ.
RJ: How long have you been training BJJ and what got you started?
Joe: I started training in January of 2010 at a school in Belleville, NJ. The school was run by one of Edson Carvalho’s black belts, Paul Carnicella. What really got me started was just a strong urge to compete again. I had wrestled for a few years in junior high and high school and ended up leaving the team for mixed reasons. So at the time I had just turned 20 and was a big fan of UFC and always gravitated towards the grapplers like BJ Penn and Matt Hughes. One day a wrestler friend of mine found out about the school and we gave it a try. He left after the second day but I fell in love with it instantly. Just went from there.
RJ: Did you encounter any frustrations when you first started training?
Joe: Yeah there was plenty of frustration early on. The school’s top student became my mentor and wanted to break me in the “old school” way; he didn’t allow me to roll with anyone lower than a blue belt for my first 3 months. So these guys were just wiping the floor with me every day to see if I would stick around. It was very humbling to say the least.
RJ: Can you tell us a little bit about some of your most influential instructors and your current training schedule?
Joe: So my mentor early on that I had mentioned was Louie Weber. When I first met him he had just gotten his purple belt and he was a very active competitor so we immediately bonded. He was very much a smash and pass guy with a very aggressive game. He really educated me about the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle and the history of the sport. As time went on Louie had introduced me to his friend Mark Ramos who, at the time, was a brown belt training at our team’s main school in Paterson. Mark was more decorated in the sport and very well known around the local competition scene. His style was much smoother, very slick technique, fast paced and aggressive. Once I started training in Paterson and learning from Mark we quickly became close friends. He really helped me clean up my technique and also improved my competition mindset. To this day I train with Mark every day at his academy. He is now a black belt, constantly evolving and improving his game to suit the top level competition scene. By doing so it pushes me to improve and grow and learn as much as I can to reach the bar that he keeps setting higher and higher.
RJ: How would you describe your jiu-jitsu game?
Joe: My game is very competition oriented; it can vary from opponent to opponent. With some guys it’s better to be very aggressive coming out of the gate, and with others I can stay more defensive, let them tire themselves out and force their mistake. In either case, once I’m on offense I’m looking to overwhelm them and hunt for submissions from all angles.
RJ: Of some of the more well known BJJ competitors out there, who are some of your favorites?
Joe: My two BJJ idols are Leo Vieira and Kron Gracie. The first HL video I ever saw was for Leo Vieira and his innovative style of offense made him so exciting to watch. I really wanted to mimic his game from the very beginning. Kron is someone I started watching more as a blue belt, and it started with a video about his philosophy on competition and the sport in general. I love that he can attack with pin point submissions from any position and will throw hesitation to the wind when he is looking for the finish. That’s a trait I have really tried to adopt and make my own.
RJ: What do you love most about jiu-jitsu?
Joe: The cliché answer would be “Everything” so I won’t say that! I really love the entire lifestyle as a whole. The idea that I can train every day with great people, learn and drill this endless array of techniques that are available to us, then apply those techniques in competition against someone to see whose technique is better that day and all the while stay in great shape and live a clean and healthy day to day life…how can you beat that?
RJ: We know you compete regularly. Tell us about some of your biggest accomplishments and most recent competitions.
Joe: I’ve accomplished a fair amount on the local scene. I’ve taken gold at tournaments like Long Island Pride, The Good Fight, multiple NAGA championships, Grapplers Quest absolute and division championships, New Jersey State absolute and division championships, and recently competed and won a Submission only Cage Grappling event, plus smaller tournaments around the area as well. I had the pleasure of competing at the Jiu Jitsu World Cup in Brazil back in 2010 and since then I make regular trips to California every year for the Gi and No Gi Worlds, Boston for the Boston Open, and of course New York for the NY Open, No Gi Pans and Abu Dhabi Pro Trials.
RJ: What kind of goals are you looking to achieve for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
Joe: As far as competition goes, I have yet to win an IBJJF championship. Of course I have my eyes set on titles like the World Championship, Pan Ams and ADCC in the future as well. I plan on competing for a very long time so I’ll continue to work as hard as I can to reach all the goals I have set for myself.
RJ: What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in BJJ and looking to compete?
Joe: Be ready and willing to sacrifice.
RJ: There are a lot of BJJ competitors out there looking for sponsors. What advice would you give them for getting sponsored – not just with Rolljunkie but for any BJJ company out there?
Joe: Don’t try to get sponsored just because you want money or free stuff. Look for a company who makes a product that you already enjoy or support. Most companies won’t be immediately willing to just hand you money to compete or travel, they’ll give you gear to train and compete in which is just as good. So you want it to be a company that you could believe in and promote whole-heartedly. They’re putting their logo on you; you’re a part of their team when you step on the mats. So you should want to work that much harder because they are willing to stand behind you.
RJ: Tell us something about yourself that is not related to jiu-jitsu
Joe: I work full time at a bank in a corporate environment; one of those jobs behind a desk for 8 hours a day. I’m currently pursuing my career in law enforcement as well so outside of Jiu Jitsu training I have to keep in shape, whether it is cardio, conditioning, weight training, etc. I try to stay active even in my downtime so recently I got into snowboarding and rock wall climbing. When I finally get to rest I’ll spend time with my family. I have to keep up with the few TV shows I watch religiously like The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy. I started getting into the concert scene a couple years back, hit up some like Shindeown, Seether, Foo Fighters, Linkin Park and most recently the 121212 Sandy Relief concert.
RJ: Any final words or thoughts to jiu-jitsu people out there who may be reading this article?
Joe: I want to thank all of my teammates, my family and Rolljunkie for supporting me and my growth in the sport; I am very appreciative and honored to have such great people around me. I want to say that I absolutely love this sport, it’s the greatest choice I’ve ever made and it’s changed my life in so many positive ways. The endless hours of training and struggle have been worth it for the moments of glory on the mat so I am looking forward to many more years of both.