Nicholas Albin, or „Chewy“ as most of us know him, is one of every jiujiteiro’s favourite YouTube BJJ instructors. By combining useful tips, interactive and funny explanations, it is no wonder that he is a number one internet reference for a lot of BJJ practitioners.
For that reason, we decided to enjoy a brief interview with Chewy himself and to listen to what he had to say. We are certain that you’ll find his story and tips interesting!
BJJEE: I am not sure how many of our readers know about this, but prior to BJJ you’ve been training wrestling.
Can you remember, why did you start training wrestling, what is it that had led you towards the love of grappling? And how did it ultimately lead to falling in love with BJJ?
Chewy: In high school I lifted weights and played “American” football. I have got to make sure I note that since you’re not from the United States. And towards the end of my first football season, several of the guys started talking about wrestling.
It was funny. Our football team was terrible. We lost every game. That said, I still enjoyed being on the team. And even if we sucked, at least we sucked together. I think many of us seek that group belonging as teenage boys, as we would have had in a more tribal culture.
And I did wrestling because it sounded interesting, I felt drawn to it for some reason. But largely it was because I wanted to continue being a part of the group. I didn’t want to go back to being a “normal kid” in school again.
Also, I was always a strong kid. So the sports gave me a connection to others and an outlet for that strength. And from there I fell in love with grappling.
I remember my first day of wrestling. It was brutal. But I loved it and, aside for the 1 day when my grandmother died, I never missed a single practice.
BJJEE: You are juggling between a lot of things besides your training and coaching time; mainly, your business and, of course, your private life. But you still find time to keep on making progress during training.
Do you have any advice for our readers that have a lot of things on their plate, but that still want to continue progressing at a good rate in BJJ? Is there a time management routine that you follow or some specific „method“ of getting things done that you would like to share?
Chewy: Really, it comes down to focus. Claiming “I don’t have enough time” is just an excuse. And honestly, if you’re not happy with the way your life is structured, you need to work in order to change it.
Here are some of the things that have helped me with being productive on and off the mat:
🡪For BJJ, when I train, I have a technique or a position goal. I’m actively working towards something. If you asked my students right now, they’d tell you I was working on taking the back from as many places as I can.
Having a focused goal on using a technique or position is a helpful way to improve. It keeps you focused on an area and you also get the benefit of seeing tangible results. If a technique did not work last month but now it’s working, you’ve gotten better and you have some form to measure that by.
🡪Get away from your phones. For as much as I am on social media with the businesses and everything, I’m not on there that much. I get on to see what I want to see and get off. A lot of the time during the day my phone is in airplane mode or I put my phone out of my reach so I don’t scroll mindlessly.
🡪Going back to structuring your life. It’s something people don’t really think about much. We think about how we want our training to look, we structure our meals. We think about how we want to arrange our homes, etc. But so few people seem to focus on what they want their day to day life to look like.
If you’re not happy with the way it looks currently… Change it. It won’t happen overnight. But it’s like your training on the mats. Slow incremental steps turn into a big change overtime.
🡪After you figure out what you want things to look like, you should make daily and weekly routines for yourself to follow. Almost like a template for your day to day life.
Whatever is essential to making your life look the way you want (whether this is your BJJ training, weight lifting, personal life, anything), turn it into a daily habit. Make it so that if you miss one of your daily actions, you feel off like you didn’t brush your teeth or something. Having my daily training and life habits has been helpful with keeping me focused even when I’m super busy.
That may seem like self-help nonsense. But it’s like training. If you want to get better at something, focus on that thing. If you want something to happen in your life, your only chance is to focus on making that thing come to fruition.
BJJEE: You’ve become well known through YouTube, because of your advice on training through a coach’s perspective; it is fair to say that you have a lot of experience as a coach.
Therefore, what are some of the qualities that you see in your most successful students that make them as such? Is it their work ethic, some specific mentality they hold or something else that sets them apart from the „pack“?
Chewy: I was talking about this just the other day with one of my guys.
Really, the biggest quality that seems to correlate with my most successful or best students is their ability to be consistent. If they get smashed, they get back up with a smile. They’re in the gym consistently. They just show up.
I mean, everything else is secondary. The biggest thing is showing up.
BJJEE: Likewise, is there a concept or an idea that you always try to transfer onto your students – be it for BJJ or life in general? That you think will make them a better jiujiteiro/person in general?
Chewy: Hmm… I don’t know. Everyone has different challenges or perspectives to be gained through training. So what I would share with the Person A may not be the same thing I would focus on with the Person B.
But to go back to the previous question. Everything I’ve ever done that’s worth anything came about because I was willing to grind. I was willing to pick up my lunch pail and practice my work day in day out. Whether I felt like it or not.
I believe anything worthwhile depends on your willingness to embrace the hardships that lay ahead of you and just keep stepping forward, 1 foot in front of the other.
BJJEE: What is your favourite experience from competitions? Was it a tough match that you were in, a strong victory or something else?
Chewy: I don’t have one specific experience that I cherish over others. But I find that my favorite moments are generally when I had been practicing a new move and I use it in a match. It’s fun to show that the moves work to my students and to test out the new style.
BJJEE: Also, do you have a favourite memory from the mats? Maybe some sort of a funny story that stayed ingrained into your mind, the first time you got a submission, or something else?
Chewy: When I think of favorite moments, it’s so hard to pinpoint one moment that is a cut above the rest. But when I think of the most meaningful moments to me, I think of the men I have promoted to Black Belt. Often, during the promotions, my student will share heartfelt stories about how I’ve impacted him in a positive way and how the gym has brought something good into his life.
That for me is the ultimate because I feel like that at this point, that’s my mission. Winning competitions is nice. But touching someone to their core and making an impact on them in a positive way trumps that any day of the week for me.
BJJEE: On the other side of the equation, what do you think was your biggest hurdle in your BJJ journey? How did you overcome it?
Chewy: Belief in myself. I found myself routinely, at every level, questioning myself. Whether it was a competition, MMA fight or even being a coach. I questioned my ability to be in that position and to be successful.
Luckily, through training and competitions, I’ve learned the value of having faith in yourself and learning to jump into things even if you don’t always feel ready.
But yeah, believing in myself. I’m sure that it’s something most people struggle with on some level. But I think that, because of some of the things that happened when I was younger, it’s even more so the case for me.
BJJEE: Now, to turn our focus a little bit away from BJJ. Are there some past time activities that you wholly enjoy doing while resting from training? What kind of music do you listen to most?
Chewy: Well, I lift weights. I enjoy that. One of my favorite things to do when I don’t have to work or train is to read. I’m rabidly curious about so many things. There are new books arriving at my doorstep every week. I think my girlfriend thinks that I have a problem.
I enjoy camping, hiking and just being in nature when I can.
While resting from training, I’ll do Yoga and I meditate. I really enjoy meditation. As a naturally high energy person it levels me out.
With regards to music… I listen to such a wide range of music it would be hard to land it on one genre. Typically I use music to suit the mood or activity. Classical music for writing and work. Music with a beat for BJJ or striking training. Hard music for heavy lifts. And so on.
BJJEE: Thank you for this interview, Nick. To conclude it with a sort of a different note – if there is one piece of advice that you could give to your younger self, what would it be? Be it in regards to your BJJ path or life experience.
Chewy: Honestly, I wouldn’t want to tell myself anything. To tell my younger self would be to imply that mistakes were made and advice would be given to avoid them.
But my mistakes are the reason why you interviewed me. My mistakes are the reason why people know me through my videos. My mistakes are the reason why I have an amazing gym filled with even more amazing people.
Mistakes on the surface look like ugly rocks. But if you dig into them enough you’ll find gems that can serve you in your path. As much as I might want to have changed something I did, it would have completely altered my path. And I enjoy the road I’m on, so I’d keep things as they are.
Interview by Fedja Malinovic.