How Buffalo is your Buffalo? Buffalo Jiu Jitsu and its humble origins from the prospective of team Lake Effect

The history of Jiu Jitsu in Buffalo being discussed might sound something a little like this quote, “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

Training Jiu Jitsu in Buffalo hasn’t always been as easy as it is today. In fact, while the city of Buffalo current hosts at least 5 different academies/gyms offering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, not too long ago, there wasn’t any variety to choose from.


Before we dive further, a quick review of the excellent quote above….
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a sentence that uses correct grammar. It is often used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create confusing, hard-to-understand sentences.

It has been talked about since 1967, when the sentence was used by Dmitri Borgmann in his book Beyond Language.



Professor Michael Katilus started training Jiu Jitsu (approximately) in early 2005. Professor Michael is a born and raised Buffalonian, and proud to have started a business in the town where he went to high school Depew, NY). Fun Fact: Lake Effect Martial Arts held its first class in June of 2016.  Buffalo Jiu Jitsu had at the time (2005) no real brick and mortar location to choose from (the closest was an mma gym in Lockport which is nearly 30 miles away). Professor Jarod Koopman started a year or two before Professor Michael and he was based in Rochester, NY at the time, training with Kyle Saunders, who was at one point the earliest organic black belt in WNY history. Many of the coaches at Lake Effect Martial Arts started in the mid 2000s and were left learning from at best, a videotape or blue belt at the time. A lot of the training back then was meant to compliment the small yet growing scene of MMA fighters. Now it is easier than ever for Jiu Jitsu to sustain itself on its own, or be independent from MMA fight training. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to share the mats with multiple upper belts. It may very well be possible that for Buffalo Jiu Jitsu all together, Lake Effect Martial Arts houses the largest amount of brown belts in the area, and this can be seen at almost any class you should choose.

While many “old school” Buffalo Jiu Jitsu practitioners may become almost cultish in their origins, it is of distinct importance to note, that there were many small pockets of teams assembling and of which, many talents came out of these small pockets. Its possible to become rather prepared at a lower belt rank training with a friend or two in a garage, basement, or renting mat space at a nearby martial arts academy. The difference in skill becomes more nuanced in some areas and more widespread and obvious in other realms as one progresses through the higher ranks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

If training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a long term goal, beyond the ranks of a blue belt, we highly recommend joining an academy so that you can improve at a much faster rate, likely faster than those before you.

Many devoted practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Buffalo have helped pave the way. Some of these practitioners who helped shockingly may still be dormant, retired white belts (a language common to the most devoted and uncommon, almost foreign to a newcomer). Taking risks in a growing scene requires sacrifice beyond the duties of a single person or entity.

How fortunate so many of you have become in starting your Jiu Jitsu journey in Buffalo at an incredibly robust time. While the competition mats for Jiu Jitsu in Buffalo may not always reflect the opportunistic time period, the plethora of class times, academies to choose from and unbelievable variety of instructors to absorb/learn and become educated from has never been stronger.

What we offer better than any Buffalo Jiu Jitsu academy is a deep variety in styles, understanding and a holistic approach to Jiu Jitsu as it can get.

LEMA (Lake Effect Martial Arts) boasts a Professor who began training Jiu Jitsu in 1991 in Brazil, under the legend Professor Roberto Godoi, founder of team G13. Professor Fernando Volpe Mello teaches all Friday 7am classes. Professor Michael Katilus is inarguably the most decorated black belt competitor in Buffalo Jiu Jitsu history, and he teaches all Monday and Wednesday classes at 630pm. Professor Jarod Koopman is easily in the top 3-5 longest running practitioners of the art in not just Buffalo Jiu Jitsu but the Western New York region as a whole, is a decorated defensive tactics instructor, and can be found teaching every Monday and Wednesday at 630am.  This is just a starting point of reference for our incredibly diverse, dedicated, active, able bodied and disciplined coaching staff. Our coaches will roll with you, be accessible to you, not compartmentalize any aspect of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for their liking and most importantly, encourage you to be your very best, on and off the mats. Our coaches have paved the way and paid their dues so that learning is easier for you, and we’ve cycled through what does and doesn’t work through long trying periods of trial and error.

We’ve mentioned 3 black belts above currently teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (from self defense, to gi, to no gi, components of wrestling, components of Judo, and not restricted within one particular ruleset) with a combined time of FIFTY FIVE (55) years of devotion to the practice of Jiu Jitsu. When factoring in teaching (teaching is in of itself another art form) we offer well over FOURTY (40) years covering classes, growing the art and being there for students. For our kids classes, we always have at least a brown belt or above teaching our childrens classes, another LEMA exclusive worth noting.

So what are you waiting for? Fill out the free trial week form  here, today….



Team Lake Effect Martial Arts and 4 of its most active coaches celebrating Jarod Koopmans promotion to black belt in New York City, and Professor Fabio Clementes school, Checkmat NYC, take on December 1st, 2017. Respect your coaches journey, it makes your journey stronger.

Artistic Creativity in Self Defense

How might you make self defense a regular practice in your life???


It’s a Monday night, you just got finished with a long day of work/school, and you’re cringing at the fact you have 4 more days until the weekend. While you are on your way home, there are others who too are leaving work/school, but not to go home.

They enter a school, but not one filled with books and desks. They change out of their clothes into a uniform, made from heavy cotton, tied with a simple belt. They walk up to a large space covered in mats, remove their footwear, then bow before they step forward.

The rest of the world is gone, all of the days previous concerns put aside, for their focus is now on each other. Calculating distance, angles, force, along with a myriad of other variables as they apply one technique after the other to try to take control. Like a painter commands their brush, these students command their bodies to learn new ways of movement, that produce profound effects.

To the outsider this can look like a violent exchange of grappling. There are sometimes bumps, bruises and big throws. You might even see someone being “submitted” with either a joint lock or choke, leading to a simple gesture, a tapping of the hand or foot, signaling “I give up”. After, a variety of emotion is expressed, sometimes frustration at losing a position, even a smile from respect for their opponent. It is a humbling experience for all who try, and remains so even for those at the top.

What can be gained from such an experience is a confidence unlike any other. Practical self defense skills are learned, that can help protect even the smallest of people from a threat. Strength is built, not just of the body, but of the mind as well, to weather the panic that sets in when you are stuck in a position and have to find a way out. Bonds are built and friendships forged through an activity that can be hard to explain and is better to be experienced. Self Defense isn’t always the focal point, but being properly conditioned for combat makes the quest much more earnest than other martial arts.

Artist are made with the ability to inflict harm, but have the choice whether to do so or not. Gentle in their approach, always seeking the path of least harm for all. A true approach for self defense.

It isn’t an easy path to take, but rewards are immeasurable for a gentle artist.


Author: Thomas Brady

6 Reasons why every child should do Martial Arts


Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

1. Confidence through effective self-defense 

The importance of being able to defend themself is the greatest tool a young child can have to raise their confidence. Bullys will never go away but through training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ), we can give children the skills and confidence they need to effectively protect themselves and others. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the focus is not on “flashy” or unrealistic holds but on techniques that are applicable in real life scenarios. Through training BJJ, a child will learn how to effectively neutralize a much larger aggressor by taking them to the ground and effectively controlling them there – all while never throwing a kick or a punch. Striking is also an effective way to defend oneself, but it’s more likely that one will injure themself and their opponent in the process which is not ideal. Enroll your child in BJJ and watch their confidence radiate in all aspects of their life.

2. They learn perseverance, discipline, and respect 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a popular martial art,  will quickly embed the values of perseverance, discipline, and respect in all those that actively practice the art. The more a child trains, the more these values will become instilled in them. They learn discipline and perseverance through training and consistently putting their best effort during class, especially on the days they are tired or having a rough go. Children also learn to persevere through being stuck in uncomfortable positions or having an off day in class where their training partners are getting the better of them. They learn to overcome these challenges and turn into resilient young adults. Children learn respect for their instructors much like their teachers at school and as a result they will better understand the process of education which leads to them becoming more adept in learning. Learning to respect authority figures(instructors, teachers, bosses, etc) is an important skill for children to have as they mature into young adults.

3. Building lifelong healthy habits

With Obesity on the rise and becoming an epidemic in North America, getting children in the habit of exercising while they are young has never been more important. Training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will set good habits at a young age and significantly improve their body awareness, coordination, flexibility, strength, agility, and endurance. They will get in the best shape of their lives while learning life changing skills which will stay with them throughout their lives. Once the child sees the progress they are making, they will be more inclined to start making healthier food choices to further boost their progress.

4. Building social skills 

At Lake Effect Martial Arts, we have kids and adults of all ages with diverse cultural backgrounds. The children will learn to socialize with other kids of different ages and ethnicities at a young age which will greatly help them develop their social skills. Building good social skills will ensure that children will enjoy success in many aspects of their lives(career, relationship, making friends, etc).

5. Staying calm in stressful situations

Losing your cool or temper in life never leads to anything fruitful, in fact we all know what happens when we lose our temper – we instantly regret our actions. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes will challenge children as they will get stuck in uncomfortable holds and positions especially when they are training with more experienced students. Through practice they quickly learn to become comfortable while being physically uncomfortable. There’s nothing like the feeling of being comfortable and relaxed while a heavier opponent is on top of you while patiently waiting for the right moment to escape their hold. This effectively minimizes other challenges in life by comparison and will help children to stay calm during stressful circumstances.

6. Learning from mistakes 

Everyone that trains Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu makes technical errors when they are training(even the most experienced black belts) and BJJ is like human chess. As a result your opponent will often capitalize on your mistakes and use them to defeat you or put you in a vulnerable position. Through trial error and guidance from their instructors, children will learn from their mistakes and quickly improve their skills as a result. What Einstein said correlates directly to BJJ; the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If something is not working then adjustments need to be made. Martial Arts force trial and error and combative arts excel in it. Smiling faces of kids and coaches standing in a circle

If you are located in the Buffalo Area and are interested in enrolling your child (or yourself) in martial arts, come try a full week of free classes at Lake Effect Martial Arts to see why we are right gym for your family. Your child’s first class will be a fundamentals to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lesson with one of our children’s program instructors where they will learn how to fall safely, fundamental movements, and to help them get comfortable in a new environment. Does your child feel too intimidated to try a class? Check out our schedule and come watch one of our classes from our viewing area with your child to see what we are all about. We specialize in teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also have a Judo and Fitness course list to specialize our locations. Contact us today to book your child’s free intro to BJJ lesson and kickstart their 7 day trial, we are located in Depew NY at the Wegmans Plaza, between the former Hobby Lobby and DMV.

Original author Professor Dainis Nguyen from Team DNA BJJ

Do you prefer an MMA school or a Jiu Jitsu Academy?

Having a choice between an MMA oriented school and a Jiu Jitsu Academy leaves one with many decisions to make. Often someone will simply choose the Jiu Jitsu Academy near me, in terms of proximity to their home. Lets expand on how that can be a short sighted approach…

What is the best course of action for a budding artist? A budding fighter? Is it best to develop an expertise in one domain or develop skills everywhere to avoid boredom?  All of this depends primarily on your long term goals. If your short term goals are to take an mma fight or two locally, your best trajectory is outlined by many of those before you….You can have success honing in on a comprehensive art such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The lure in current combative arts is the appeal of a “have everything” fighter. By have everything, we mean, they are well dressed, well conditioned, experienced, gifted with the tongue and what every other “fighter” (according to them) aspires to be. The fighter eats whatever we all wish to consume, and maybe in part to optimize performance, also often to flaunt their status. The fighter takes every boastful opportunity to show the world not just when they are at the top of their division, but when they experience things they feel everyone else needs to know. The distinction remains difficult for many to see, but can be found in a martial artist. Martial Arts were formed as systems or traditions but over time, naturally, gathered more from philosophy. Martial Arts origins date back to before 10,000 BC. Current Martial Arts are dominated by less weapons oriented styles, but more of those derived from combat sports.

And as we are weighing choices for whether or not a fighter or a martial artist is the best course of action for you, have you considered what again you are hoping to gain LONG TERM out of your endeavors? Are you hoping to transfer your skills (consider your skill development with expertise will go beyond the walls of an academy or school) elsewhere in life? To the business roundtable? To your relationship? To your family? What are those skills you are hoping to aquire? Patience? Focus? Discipline? Committment? Bravery?
What has always interested me has been the bushido code. The bushido code can be found here but to summarize, its broken down into eight virtues one can acquire once enlightened. The one that sticks out to me most is the final one titled Character and Self Control. 
An excerpt from the website above “Bushido teaches that men should behave according to an absolute moral standard, one that transcends logic. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. The difference between good and bad and between right and wrong are givens, not arguments subject to discussion or justification, and a man should know the difference. Finally, it is a man’s obligation to teach his children moral standards through the model of his own behavior: The first objective of samurai education was to build up Character. The subtler faculties of prudence, intelligence, and dialectics were less important. Intellectual superiority was esteemed, but a samurai was essentially a man of action. No historian would argue that Hideyoshi personified the Eight Virtues of Bushido throughout his life. Like many great men, deep faults paralleled his towering gifts. Yet by choosing compassion over confrontation, and benevolence over belligerence, he demonstrated ageless qualities of manliness. Today his lessons could not be more timely.”

When choosing a Jiu JItsu academy, or a MMA School, you get to learn the ins and outs of someones character rather quickly. A friend request on social media gives you a decent glimpse. The physical presence and day to day practices of your instructor will be on display and give you the most comprehensive look. Has your Jiu Jitsu academy instructor benefitted from martial arts through the virtue of Character and Self Control? Self Control can be read in a variety of ways. How are they around children? How are they in a tension filled situation? How is their body language? How do they respond to poor food choices? How do they respond when things don’t necessarily go their way? How are they around the opposite sex?

The path to enlightment takes a lifetime, but can be easier through the art of Jiu Jitsu. Find a Jiu Jitsu Academy not only near you, but for you. For your goals. And for your benefit beyond winning a street fight.


Photo above is Coach Jarod Koopman receiving his black belt at Fabio Clemente BJJ/ Team Checkmat NYC after a 14 year dedication to the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


Author Michael Katilus


5 Steps To Finding The Best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy Near You

Step #1: Google the name of your city followed by BJJ for example “Depew BJJ” if you live in the Buffalo area. Take a list of all of the academies that come up. BJJ is short for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu remember.

Step #2: Check out their schedules and make sure that it works with your schedule, there’s no point in signing up if you can’t make any of the classes. There are many academies that offer noon/evening classes 6-7 days per week, the bigger their schedule, the more options you have, and the more likely it is you will be able to make it to class. Check back often, as schedules are subject to change (the more a school grows the more classes they’ll likely offer). Consider too you want to see your head instructor, so find out what classes he/she teaches and see if you can prioritize them as well. Some students really enjoy a more intimate brazilian jiu jitsu instruction/class, so if you find classes that are less populated maybe its the right one for you.

Step #3: Now is the tricky part, where you have to decipher information about each academy to find out which ones stand out and are worth checking out. Here are a few points you should look into, in no particular order:

– A clear and traceable lineage for the head instructor(You should verify this if possible). If they are an IBJJF certified black belt or/and IBJJF certified academy, then they are good as the IBJJF will verify their lineage prior to certifying them.

– Reviews, Reviews, Reviews. Going through reviews will give you valuable third party insight into what the public thinks about each academy which will help you make a decision about which academy would be the best fit for you or/and your children. Facebook, Google, and Yelp are great places to look at reviews.

– Certifications, for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the lead governing body for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu around the world. An instructor who is an IBJJF certified black belt must have their instructor sign off on all of their belts from blue to black belt. Also in the United States you must provide a criminal record check in order to register your academy under the IBJJF. In other words holding a black belt certification under the IBJJF is like having your RMT licence for massage therapy, you know it’s legit.

– Instructor’s background, have they competed before, what have they accomplished? Do a quick google search of their name and you should find their tournament results and certifications they have etc. If you want to be extra thorough, cross examine any accomplishments they claim to have on their website on google. If an instructor has competed in the past, you should be able to find the results as they are almost always posted online. An instructor doesn’t have to be a great competitor to be a good instructor but it’s a big bonus if they have a good competition resume especially if competing is one of your goals. Heres an example of what Professor Michael Katilus did at the 2012 Pans (photo featured), under Purple Belt Masters :

– Competition team, most academies have at least a handful of students that compete. If you are interested in competing, look into the academies’ results in competitions and inquire about their competition team. Look up competition footage/highlight reels/matches of the head instructor and academy’s students on YouTube.

– Especially if you are looking to register your children, you should ask for all of the instructors’ current criminal record checks, many places have this posted at their academies or keep it on file in case people ask. You can email ahead if you feel awkward to inquire in person. An IBJJF certified black belt means they have begun the criminal record background clearance, so thats a big plus.

– Risk free trial, each academy should offer a free trial where you can come in and check it out risk free. Usually it’s a few classes or a week trial. Bonus points if they give you an introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lesson for your first class.

-Pricing, the membership options should be simple and easy to understand. Bonus points if they have the pricing options on their website or for viewing when you walk in to their academy. If they beat around the bush about memberships or ask you to come in first, go elsewhere. If they have a lot of salesmen or sales directors, its a high pressure environment so be careful.