Rolling With Tim Kennedy

Summary: In Which The Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer (An Atheist) Finds Himself In A Foxhole, Does Not Pray But Instead Cries For His Mommy.

Fundamentals class on Tuesdays are our toughest classes. Tuesdays are the day when we play sharp, and fight for inches. And with Tim Kennedy bringing his crew of super athletes, not to mention the three people on our team going to Mundials this year, the second night of the jiu-jitsu workweek has really become an exhausting one.1

Who is Tim Kennedy, you ask me my audience?

Tim Kennedy is one of he top 185-pound mixed martial artists in the world. According to, Tim is ranked 18th.2 Fight Magazine ranks him 19th.3 But please, allow me to briefly opine on this matter – at the risk of speaking ‘out of school,’ as it were. I follow MMA closely. And while I haven’t heard of every single person ahead of him on these unoffical rankings, I think quite a few of them could be decidedly beaten by Mr. Kennedy.4 I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he was more realistically ranked in the top 10 in the world at 185 pounds. I mean that sincerely.

So as I mentioned, for the past three or four Tuesdays, Tim and his crew have stopped by our academy for no-gi training. Our instructor divides the mats in half, and then one half gets quartered. One quarter goes to the clutch of students training for the Mundials. Their training partners (several people of approximately the same weight) run full rounds on our aspiring champions, who are not allowed to receive more than a minute’s rest. The other quarter goes to Tim and his crew, along with some select students from our academy. We work on whatever they like, mostly positional sparring and the like. Then the other half of the academy is left to the other students of our academy who wish to have a hard training session, but are not of the appropriate skill level (or weight class) to train with either of the two quarter sections.

Yesterday, I ended up keeping my gi on and working with the general student population. Last Tuesday, I was sick.5 But two Tuesdays ago, I got thrown in with the no-gi group. It was only a matter of time before I found in the group running rounds of positional sparring on Tim Kennedy himself.

Three minute positional sparring with Tim Kennedy. From his back, he allows me to take a grip across his body and sink in my hooks. And…scene!

First of all, he is gigantic. I’m a lithe, somewhat wimpy 193 pounds; and I swear this man’s dimensions are twice mine. “How the hell can he possibly fight at 185 pounds? For the last tournament, I was coming off vacation at a fat 198 pounds, dehydrated down to 185 pounds, and thought several times I was going to die,” I wondered in that split second after I had situated myself, but before we began actually grappling.

The instant we start, Mr. Kennedy has already created an angle with his back which has left me unable to really lock in a rear-naked choke. I can tell he is taking it easy on me. Using a quick straight kick, he pops my hook off his hip, and turns around on me. Mr. Kennedy is now on top, in a full guard, half-butterfly. He must have escaped in thirty seconds or less, and was not even in a smidgen of danger the entire time.

Before we reset and start again, he asks me to scramble with him for a few seconds after the escape, or until a definite position settles. Alright, no problem. Scrambling seems to be an intuitive thing, an organic thing; and as a consequence, I’m okay at doing it.6 I put the seatbelt on him, hooks in again. I’m struggling with my maximum amount of skill, trying to maintain the back position. Somewhere along the lines, I have crossed my feet. He crosses his feet over mine, aaaand I get submitted. While I have him in back mount. BACKMOUNT.


‘This man’ being me, of course. Not Mr. Kennedy.

He escaped at least six times in the three minutes I had him. Dejected and full of self-loathing, my time had expired. I tried my best.  Sensing, I think, that I had taken our rolls as a failure on my part, he was really encouraging afterward.  I have to say: he’s a really nice guy.  Not really what you would expect from someone who used to make their living killing people and could very well kill you with their bare hands.  Know what I mean?  If I get another chance to roll with him, as I’m sure I will some Tuesday from now, the pleasure will be all mine.  This was, more or less, the entirety of my experience rolling with Tim Kennedy.

Thanks for reading, my audience.


1. For those of you who would say to me “Anyone is a super athlete compared to you, Wanderer,” I, first, acknowledge you are correct…and I raise my defiant middle finger toward the heavens above.

4. Chris Leben, Brian Stann, and Wanderlei Silva (who used to be amazing, but is old now – let’s be honest) are examples of people who could be beaten by Tim. This is just my opinion. I mean them no disrespect. Fuck, I’m a writer. What do I know about valor in battle? They put it on the line in such a way I can scarcely imagine.

5. I had been eating moldy rice for about three days before I noticed my brown rice was a little soft, a little furry, and tinged every so slightly with green. In those three days, I found myself getting progressively more sick. Just got over it Monday. The Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer Eats Mold.

6. I used to be a purely organic player. I had no idea why I did one move, or another. Some moves just “feel” appropriate at time time I execute them. Others do not. It’s hard to explain. And in any case, these past 18 months have been spent changing my approach to jiu-jitsu. I am now 2/3rds organic, 1/3rd algorithmic.

7.  And here is the YouTube video to “Boo this man!” in case anyone wants to see it.


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