Show cover of The Strenuous Life Podcast with Stephan Kesting

The Strenuous Life Podcast with Stephan Kesting

What is it that allows some people to push themselves beyond their limitations? Why can some people survive situations others do not? On this podcast we try to find out the answers. Stephan Kesting, is a lifelong martial artist, BJJ black belt, career firefighter, and outdoorsman. Join us as he talks to fighters, adventurers, competitors, coaches, firefighters, trainers and other people living the strenuous life. Stephan also runs, where he has published many hundreds of martial arts videos, articles and tutorials. His free guide to learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, A Roadmap for BJJ, has been downloaded more than 10,000 times and has become a foundational text for the art.


402 - A BJJ Concept to Help You Through the Tough Times in Life
There are times when it feels like life has you trapped on the bottom of mount against a vastly heavier, more experienced opponent intent on mauling you.  The steps to deal with these two situations are the same.   Pass this on to someone you think it might help, Stephan Kesting P.S.  I made one little mistake in this podcast: Epictetus was a Greek (not Roman) stoic philosopher who lived in Rome for much of his youth serving the Emperor Nero, so he doubtless knew all about suffering.
07:36 4/12/24
401 - Modifying BJJ for Self Defense, with Rachel Honeyman
I really enjoyed talking with Rachel Honeyman about modifying BJJ for self defense, which techniques to focus on and which positions to avoid.  Rachel has trained in BJJ, the Filipino Martial Arts, Muay Thai, and many other martial arts and runs
65:06 3/29/24
400 - How to Use Injuries to Actually Refine and Improve Your Jiu-Jitsu Game
Rob Biernacki is my guest today to talk about how injury and physical limitations have led to some of the fastest technical development of his career and the refinement of entirely new techniques like the Roadhouse Choke.  Since some form of injury is inevitable there are a LOT of takeaways in this episode. We also discuss the concepts of risk vs reward in your choice of techniques, how new techniques and technical refinements get adopted, the risks of the buggy choke, the barbell strategy for allocating your training time, how rule sets drive evolution of the art, and more. Check out the Roadhouse Choke Instructional at And sign up for my free email newsletter at  Good luck with your training Stephan Kesting
42:04 3/13/24
399 - Breathing for Endurance during Sparring in BJJ and Other Martial Arts
Many people completely run out of gas when they're sparring, and often this is because they are inadvertently holding their breath.  In this short podcast I share four very specific ways that I've coached people past this problem and hugely improved their endurance. Please share this episode with someone you think it will help. Cheers, Stephan Kesting P.S. This episode is also available in video form here: P.P.S. If you follow me on social media only then we are all subject to the whims of the algorithms, therefore subscribe to my (entirely free) newsletter so we can stay in touch and I can give you tons of good stuff:  
09:30 3/11/24
398 - Building the Skills to Do Amazing Things, with Matt Pycroft
From war-torn Africa to climbing remote peaks in Greenland with Alex Honnold, Matt Pycroft has built a very impressive career working as a journalist and filmmaker.  In our conversation he goes into detail how he gradually acquired the skills to achieve his goals and the lessons he's learned working with extreme athletes in inhospitable settings all over the globe. Follow Matt on Instagram @mattpycroft and check out his latest film, Arctic Ascent with Alex Honnold, on Disney, Amazon, and National Geographic.
70:19 3/6/24
397 - How to Get Maximum Results in Minimum Time in Jiu-Jitsu
The traditional class structure of doing a warmup, learning a couple of new techniques, and followed by sparring is NOT an efficient way to learn jiu-jitsu.  We can do much better if we use insights from research on coaching and learning. Today's guest is Cal MacDonald, a BJJ black belt and  competitor who has dedicated himself to developing his teaching and coaching skills to the highest possible level.   Cal is a longtime blackbelt under Rob Biernacki at Island Top Team. Rob and his team are at the cutting edge of teaching and training methodologies that make people amazingly good incredibly fast. Cal coached full time at Island Top Team for five years and is also a fierce competitor, having won Gold at NAGA, Pacific Northwest Open, and many other tournaments. He has travelled to top academies for Worlds and ADCC camps, training with top athletes like Yuri Simões, Mason Fowler, and Caio Terra, so he knows what works at the highest levels. His proudest accomplishments are the successes of his students, and he has spent thousands of hours coaching and cornering competitors as they fight their way to the podium. Cal stays abreast of advances in sports science and cognitive science, and blended that with experience and experimentation to create the BJJ Foundations program - more info about that at Good luck with your training, Stephan Kesting
51:42 3/2/24
396 - Longevity in Jiu-Jitsu with Mike "The Old Bastard" Mahaffey
In this episode I talk BJJ longevity, weight training, home gyms and training methods with BJJ old-timer Mike Mahaffey. I think there are a TON of valuable takehome lessons here for anyone who trains jiu-jitsu, and ESPECIALLY the over-40 crowd!  Also check out BJJ Foundations, the brand new Grapplearts instructional that gives you the best jiu-jitsu technique and training method curriculum I've ever seen at Cheers, Stephan Kesting
68:19 2/28/24
395 - The English Roots of Catchwrestling, with Oz Austwick
Did you know that the England had many different wrestling systems including Cornish, Lancashire, Devonshire, Cumberland and Westmoreland wrestling and catchwrestling? In this conversation Oz Austwick and I go into the history of these arts including the influence of Japanese Judo and Jiu-Jitsu on English Wrestling... the great Billy Robinson and his influence on Kazushi Sakuraba... Satoro Sayama and the birth of Shootwrestling... American vs British catchwrestling... the blending of jiu-jitsu with catchwrestling... leglocks and traditional BJJ... and much more. Follow Oz Austwick here: Subscribe to The Strenuous Life Podcast on Youtube here:  
72:20 2/12/24
394 - The Anatomy of a BJJ Training Camp
Rob Biernacki and his competition team are on a tear. Rob recently took gold in masters middleweight the Canadian ADCC Open, silver at the California ADCC Open, and gold in black belt M4 at the IBJJF No Gi Worlds. In this episode we talk about designing an effective training camp, dividing your conditioning and skills training, detaching emotionally from the outcome of the competition, why sharktanking and competition-style rolls are overused, 80/20 analyses of different rule sets, training athletes to think strategically while in matches, the central role of games and drills in his competition training, and strategies that work in ADCC that will lose you the match in IBJJF Check out his latest instructional, BJJ GAMES, at  It features 25 different games and drills Rob uses at his school to get his students ready for competition.
84:46 12/16/23
393 - Historical Bareknuckle Boxing and European Swordfighting, with Oz Austwick
In episode 393 of The Strenuous Life Podcast I talk to Oz Austwick, who has extensively studied armed and unarmed combat systems in Europe. Topics we cover include the origins of boxing in England, historical training and conditioning methods, reconstructing and testing techniques shown in swordfighting manuals, fighting with live blades, the role of wrestling in real swordfighting, and much more.  I think you'll really like this one! Oz Austwick runs the English Martial Arts channel on Youtube and publishes at
61:04 12/8/23
392 - Everest, Alone, In Winter, and Without Oxygen, with Mountaineer Jost Kobusch
Today I pick the brain of the amazing Jost Kobusch is a German mountaineer who spent two seasons on Everest trying to ascend the legendarily difficult West Ridge route and the Hornbein Couloir alone. And did I mention that he wasn't using supplemental oxygen and attempting this in the middle of the brutal Himalayan winter?  We covered a TON of interesting topics, including Why do things the hardest way? His closest call in the mountains The dangers of the Khumbu Icefall Getting hit by an avalanche at Everest Base Camp His preferred diet for performance at high altitude Training for high altitude Dealing with injuries And more I hope you enjoy this!  Share it with a friend if you do! Stephan Kesting P.S. In 2015 Jost was about to climb Everest when an earthquake triggered an avalanche that destroyed Everest Base Camp.  Here's the footage he filmed: P.P.S. At age 21 Jost became the youngest person to solo Ama Dablam, a 6812 meter mountain in the Himalayas.  Here's a documentary about that climb: P.P.P.S. Follow Jost on Instagram @Jostkobusch or get coached by him at
71:19 11/3/23
391 - The Most Important Mental Models in BJJ, with Steve Kwan
Today I'm joined by Steve Kwan, the host and creator of the wildly popular BJJ Mental Models podcast.  We discuss the most important mental models in the art and how they can improve your ability to perform on the mat! Check out for Steve's podcast and for my newest BJJ instructional. And, as always, please send today's episode to someone you think would benefit from it. Thanks, Stephan Kesting
70:56 10/22/23
390 - UFOs, UAPs, and Alien Bodies with Skeptical Investigator Mick West
With eyewitness testimony in the US Congress and purported alien bodies being wheeled into the Mexican Congress, it looks like we're in another UFO craze right now.  It was great to have science writer and sceptical investigator Mick West on the podcast to make sense of this evidence and evaluate what the odds are that aliens truly walk among us.     Check out Mick's current research at, it's my first stop for anything UFO-related.   Check out the video of this conversation on the Strenuous Life Podcast channel on Youtube.   And finally, please share this episode with a friend who might be interested - that's how this podcast grows!   May the force be with you, Stephan Kesting
67:28 9/27/23
389 - How to Train for Strength, Endurance and Jiu-Jitsu Simultaneously, with World Record holder James Pieratt of Wild Hunt Conditioning
I caught up with world record holder James Pieratt shortly after he completed a 500-mile, self-supported mountain run along the Pacific Crest Trail.  But James isn't just an ultrarunner - he's also a serious weightlifter who also trains in jiu-jitsu. In this interview we went deep into how to balance strength, endurance, and skill training, the role of prehabilitation and rehabilitation, the effect of hard training on life expectancy, and what drives someone to these extremes.  Check out James' training programs at or follow him on instagram @wildhuntconditioning.   If you know someone who'd be inspired by this episode please send it to them! Stephan 
74:05 8/14/23
388 - The Ultimate Self Defense Championship with Rokas Leo
The Ultimate Self-Defense Championship was a competition in which six martial arts YouTubers competed against each other in seven self-defense challenges to find out what works, what doesn't and who would become the ultimate self-defense champion.  The organizer of this event was Rokas Leo who trained Aikido for 14 years and eventually realised that that art didn't live up to what to the promises. He made the switch to MMA training and has had several amateur MMA fights since.   My previous interview with Rokas about his evolution from Aikido to MMA: Watch the first season of the Ultimate Self Defense Championship on Youtube for free: Contribute to The Ultimate Self Defense Championship Season 2 here and get early access and extra footage: Find out more about Rokas on his site:      
65:57 8/4/23
387 - The Most Successful Gracie Fighter Of All Time, with Robert Drysdale
Not only is Robert Drysdale a BJJ and ADCC World Champion, he has also conducted extensive research into the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In this interview, he reveals some of what he's discovered, including... 01:54 - The first wave of jiu-jitsu in Brazil - Helio Gracie and Carlos Gracie  04:35 - Exhibition and carnival fighting in Brazil 06:55 - Traditional jiu-jitsu style vs modified judo 12:14 - Training methods of the Gracie Academy in the '30s, 40s and '50s 18:43 - The second wave practitioners 19:47 - Waldemar Santana 22:49 - Carlson Gracie and the Rua Figueiredo Magalhães school 33:19 - How BJJ rule changes changed the sport 42:31 - Rolls Gracie 48:51 - Self-defense and Vale Tudo training 55:28 - Rolls Gracie death 1:00:55 - The Carlson Gracie tragedy 1:13:54 - Carlos Gracie Jr. 1:21:03 - Future rule changes, luta livre, and the sportification of jiu-jitsu 1:35:10 - The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the book You can grab Robert's book, The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which goes into MUCH more detail on these topics at  Note that today's episode was also on my Youtube channel at this link: If you found this episode interesting then a rating or a review to help get the word out would be SUPER appreciated. Thanks, Stephan Kesting
99:10 5/26/23
386 - Seven Reasons Why Carlson Gracie Was The First Modern MMA Fighter
Carlson Gracie fought in 18 Vale Tudo matches, brought jiu-jitsu to the masses, and innovated many of the MMA training practices we now take for granted. He innovated many seemingly radical ideas at the time, like training without the gi, group classes, and being a well rounded fighter. These points come from Robert Drysdale's excellent book, The Rise and Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, available on Amazon at I'll be talking to Robert Drysdale about Carlson Gracie and this era of jiu-jitsu in the very next episode (#387) of The Strenuous Life Podcast, so don't miss it!! Cheers, Stephan Kesting
06:02 5/23/23
385 - Grappling with the Implications of the 46 Million Dollar Lawsuit for Jiu-Jitsu, with Dan Lukeheart, Alex Kask and Stephan Kesting
The jiu-jitsu world was shaken recently when Jack Greener, severely injured in 2018 while sparring at a San Diego gym, was awarded $46,475,112 dollars by a jury. Rener Gracie testified for the plaintiff, and Clark Gracie testified for the defence. In this episode, I get together with Dan Lukeheart (Brea Jiu-Jitsu) and Alex Kask (Barrister and Solicitor) to discuss the specific technique that caused this injury (the 'Leo Viera Backtake'), training methods used in jiu-jitsu, who gets to set industry standards in jiu-jitsu, whether white belts should spar, and how teachers and club owners can protect themselves from being wiped out by similar lawsuits.   More information about this lawsuit is available here... Developments in Martial Arts Practice Liability: Greener v. Del Mar Jiu Jitsu Club Rener Gracie's Deposition Video of the accident Take care of your training partners!! Stephan Kesting
132:18 5/6/23
384 - Neopagan Vegetarian Authoritarian Heavy Metal Nature Lovers with Jesse Bryant
Jesse Bryant is doing his PhD on the politics of nature, and has come across some amazing examples of both far left and far right groups wrapping themselves in the mantle of nature and what is deemed 'natural'.  From the Artaman League to the Wolves of Vinland and Alex Jone's fantasies about moving back to the country sometimes what he's found is hilarious, and sometimes it's terrifying.  I really enjoyed today's homage to the Naturalistic Fallacy and I hope you do too... Check out Jesse's great Tiktok channel where  he goes by @jessecallahanbryant. And check out the latest Grapplearts instructional, Cutting Edge Leglocks, at  It's an amazing deal and will definitely help you tap out a LOT more people!
84:07 3/30/23
383 - Amanda Bruse on Storming the Medals Podium at No Gi Pans
Amanda Bruse took home Gold as a black belt in her weight division at No Gi Pans in 2022, and also a Silver in the open division facing much heavier opponents. She's also done amazingly well at ADCC Trials, No Gi Worlds, and is now competing in Combat Jiu-jitsu as well. It's remarkable that she's only been training for 6 years; clearly, she's doing something right, and in this conversation I try to find out what it is!! Tune in to find out about learning how to train (02:48), her favorite submission competing against bigger opponents in the open division (09:12), how to structure multiple training sessions per day (14:38), strength and conditioning for jiu-jitsu (18:06), balancing training and university studies (28:57), wrestling for no gi jiu-jitsu (35:34), starting a clothing brand (41:01), visualisation for competition (47:11), and her best advice for new people starting jiu-jitsu (53:06). Follow Amanda on Instagram at @amandabruse.bjj. As always, a rating and a review of this podcast is super-appreciated!!!   Thanks so much Stephan Kesting
57:58 2/10/23
382 - On Learning Jiu-Jitsu with 100% Live Training and No Formal Technical Instruction, with Greg Souders
To say that Greg Souders is a huge believer in drilling and gamification is actually an understatement; he believes that BJJ training methods have not kept up with the science of learning, and runs Standard Jiu-Jitsu in Rockville, Maryland without teaching any techniques. And black belt medalist students at the Pan Ams and the World Championships suggest that he's onto something!  I really enjoyed this conversation and did my best to ask the questions you'll be hearing in your own head as you listen to this!  As always, if you enjoyed this episode I would REALLY appreciated a review and a rating on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listened to it! Cheers, Stephan Kesting
71:00 2/1/23
381 - The Battle Against Disinformation and Information Nihilism, with Brooke Binowski
Brooke Binowski is a journalist specialising in debunking disinformation and misinformation.  She has worked for Snopes and is now the managing editor at In this episode we talk about Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, how disinformation campaigns are structured, white supremacists, why the wellness space is so prone to believing conspiracy theories, and how we can know what's actually true and what's not. Follow Brooke on Mastadon, on Twitter (for now) @brooklynmarie, and check out what she's working on at   Finally, check out the video version of the Strenuous Life Podcast on Youtube as well.   Merry Christmas, Stephan Kesting
69:44 12/21/22
380 - What Do You Need to Know to Be a BJJ Blue Belt?
BJJ black belt Elliott Bayev and I discuss the minimum knowledge set required to be a competent blue belt, including... The 8 basic positions in jiu-jitsu A 3 phase strategy for beating a bigger person  The real purpose of the guard The 2 types of submissions The hierarchy of positions How to stay safe in bad positions...and what to do next. The importance of getting high up on your opponent’s body How do throws and takedowns fit into training Competition vs self defense tactics How many techniques do you actually need Why sparring against real resistance makes jiu-jitsu special When to begin sparring in your progression How long does it take to make bluebelt And more! Click here to get the Roadmap for BJJ, my free PDF breakdown of the basic positions and strategies in jiu-jitsu. Elliott runs the Openmat school in Toronto Ontario and also the learning site.  Check out Elliott's Spider Guard Masterclass, and/or his Self Defense Guard, and/or his 30 Second Fight Finishes instructionals. I've personally worked with him on all 3 of these products and I can say without hesitation that they are incredibly detailed and directly applicable to your training. Stephan Kesting      
27:49 11/21/22
379 - A Fascism Checklist, with Professor Daniele Bolleli
In episode 379 of The Strenuous Life Podcast I talk with podcaster, martial artist, and history professor Daniele Bolelli about the characteristics of fascism. This is a loaded topic for both of us, because both of our families lived in fascist states during World War 2 (mine in Germany, his in Italy).  Which is why I almost went with an alternate title, namely A German and an Italian Walk Into a Bar... The terms 'fascism' sure gets thrown around a lot these days. But words have meaning, and so you can't just use it as an insult to describe anything you don't like. S0 what is it? As Daniele explains, there isn't a single definition of fascism; instead it's a checklist and the more items an ideology checks off then the closer they are to fascism.  Here are some of the major items for Daniele... Nostalgia for a mythic past Reliance on an authority figure who will fix everything Nationalism A cult of masculinity and cracking down on anyone who doesn't embody traditional values A hawkish desire for war against internal and external enemies Strong alliances with traditional power structures like industry and religion Anti-intellectualism and a distrust of expertise Conservative values, Subordination of women, anti-abortion, anti-birth control Anti-democratic values Emphasis on law and order Other things we discuss are Giorgia Meloni (the Prime Minister of Italy), economic situations before the rise of fascism, horseshoe theory and the eventual convergence of extreme left and extreme right, and the danger of fascism in the world right now. More Daniele Bolelli... Here are some places you can get more Daniele Bolelli... His History on Fire Podcast (highly recommended) His History on Fire Patreon if you want more content and support good work He's on Instagram @daniele_bolelli More Definitions of Fascism Fascism is a tricky word, and many different people have taken stabs at defining it.  Here are a few of my favorites... I found Jason Stanley's 10 traits of a fascist movement a very useful starting point. Umberto Eco's essay Ur-Fascism, originally published in the New York Review, included a 14 point list of the features of fascism. He identified that, for fascists, the enemy must simultaneously be very weak and very strong, which I found fascinating because I see it so often in the discourse these days. British political scientist Roger Griffin has defined the fascistic core as an ultranationalism focused on the idea of rebirth of a people or a nation (or palingenetic ultranationalism).   As is so often the case, the Wikipedia article on the definitions of fascism is a useful starting point if you want to go deeper into this topic.
72:12 11/6/22
378 - The 5 Most Common BJJ and Judo Injuries and What to Do About Them, with Joshua Arellano, Pt
Joshua Arellano is a physiotherapist with a black belt in Judo and a brown belt in BJJ. He works with combat athletes on rehab, prehab, and injury prevention, and - since injury is the enemy of progress - I was thrilled to pick his brain on the podcast to help everyone have a healthier grappling career!   00:39 - Judo and jiu-jitsu damage on the body 09:37 - The 5 most common injuries that you see in judo and jiu-jitsu 10:43 - Knee injuries 24:51 - Neck injuries 40:42 - Elbow injuries 45:01 - Is Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation outdated? 59:16 - Shoulder Injuries 1:03:33 - Learning to fall 1:05:16 - Small joint injuries 1:11:55 - How to contact Joshua Arellano, Physiotherapist   Related to this topic are the two volumes in the BJJ for Old F***s series.  If you're worried about or working around an injury consider checking out   1) BJJ for Old F***s, the Guard at   and    2) Guard Passing for Old F***s at   Thank you! Stephan Kesting
75:31 10/20/22
377 - John Will, Member of BJJ's 'Dirty Dozen' on Sport vs Self Defense Jiu-Jitsu
John Will trained in Southern California in the late 80's, was one of the first 12 non-Brazilians to get a BJJ black belt, and then went on to create the largest jiu-jitsu association in Australasia.   We talked about how the art has changed, how to be 'centrist' in the sport vs self defense debate, teaching elite military personnel, how to create a curriculum, and much more. I'm sure you'll enjoy this conversation Stephan Kesting P.S. Check out the latest Grapplearts Instructional, Guard Passing for Old F***s, at    
70:48 10/3/22
376 - Mental and Physical Endurance with James 'The Biking Viking' Benson King
James 'The Biking Viking' Benson King is cycling from Alaska at the very top of North America to Argentina at the very bottom of South America.  He's covered thousands of miles, endured injuries, dealt with bears, and gone deep into the reservoirs of his endurance.  In this episode we talk about his mental and physical preparations for the journey of a lifetime. Follow James on instagram @bensonthebikingviking, his youtube channel, and/or his site at
53:01 9/28/22
375 - How Skill, Athleticism and Rank Correlate in BJJ, with Rob Biernacki
00:29 - Is technique enough by itself? 04:47 - Is Jiu-jitsu for everybody? 09:59 - Skill vs athleticism vs rank 22:43 - The resurgence of guard passing  25:34 - Intensity in training and belt promotion 32:43 - Hobbyist vs competitor training. 37:47 - The most effective takedowns for jiu-jitsu 39:12 - Training strengths vs working on weaknesses   BJJ FOR OLD F***S, THE GUARD PASSING GAME   Check out the latest Grapplearts instructional featuring Stephan Kesting and Rob Biernacki here:   Good luck with your training, Stephan
51:14 9/16/22
374 - Adam Shoalt’s Amazing 3,400 km Solo Journey to the Arctic
Explorer Adam Shoalts is fresh off a 3 month, 3,400 km solo trip to the Arctic. It’s an amazing story, and he shares a TON of tips for travelling in the wilderness 00:32 Adam’s 3 month, 3,400 km solo journey to the Arctic 31:20 On Staying Safe in the Wilderness 38:42 On Food and Calories in the Wilderness 50:57 How to Run Whitewater Safely on an Expedition 53:07 Medical Emergencies and Safe Drinking Water 1:05:41 Dealing with Black Flies and Mosquitoes 1:11:57 Dealing with Bears in the Wilderness 1:20:51 Staying Warm in Wet and Cold Weather 1:27:45 Intuitive Navigation vs GPS Navigation 1:34:45 Trip Planning 1:39:10 Dealing with Loneliness on a Solo Trip 1:43:41 Adam’s Books Follow Adam at Instagram @adam_shoalts and check out his website at Please share this episode with a friend or two if you liked it - it's how we grow! And check out the video version of this episode at on the Strenuous Life Podcast channel on Youtube! Cheers, Stephan Kesting
107:42 8/25/22
373 - Alex Jones, Alt Right Hippies with Guns, and More with Derek Beres from Conspirituality
Derek Beres is an author and co-host at the Conspirituality Podcast.  He joined me today to talk about the recent Alex Jones verdict, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theories, conspirituality and his predictions for the future. Check out Conspirituality on every podcast platform, hosted by Derek Beres, Julian Walker and Mathew Remski.  It's amazing! And if you want more of Derek and I check out Cults and Conspiracies in the Yoga, Wellness, and BJJ Communities which was episode 291 of The Strenuous Life Podcast and/or Conspiracy Dojo, episode 106 of Conspirituality. Keep on fighting the good fight my friends! Stephan
66:29 8/12/22

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