John A. Byrne is a Blue belt under Professor Rafael Lovato Jr - earning that in 2016. He was the very first Lovato Blue Belt at P3 Martial Arts. John began his martial arts career later in life formally, but started in High School learning amateur wrestling. Later as an adult his passion for martial arts still burned and he continued studying when he was 33 in Kenpo Karate, as well as studying in Judo. He started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in early 2014 and trains every day.
He is also an active competitor in gi and no-gi as well as coaching 5 days a week in the children's and adult programs well in addition to being a 2nd Degree Black belt in Kenpo Karate under Grand Master Thomas Saviano. He believes teaching has been an avenue to give back to his community and to help mold people in the skills and values he has learned through Martial Arts. As he says, "Teaching allows me to become a better student, and to further increase my own knowledge and help others in their pursuits on and off the mat."
His passion and zeal for teaching is rivaled only during training and competing as he has medaled multiple times and continues to actively train and coach.
Q&A Session Between John A. Byrne and Elite Sports
Question: What will you suggest to the newcomers?
Answer:: Martial Arts to me is a metaphor for life – you cannot and will not get good quickly, even if you train a ton. Be patient, have persistence in training and persevere. Martial Arts will make you better, but it will be the hardest thing you ever do. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kenpo and Judo will test you mentally, physically and spiritually. Stick with it and you will see awesome changes in all 3 of those areas. I can personally attest to this fact.
Question: What does it mean for you to be a fighter?
Answer:: One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Master Renzo Gracie:
People would see a lot of times fighting as an ugly tthing, as a thing that denigrates the human being. In reality, you see fighting on everything… Everything’s fighting. Doesn’t matter what it is. You wake up in the morning, to get out of bed is a fight, believe it. So, fighting is actually the best thing a man can have in his soul.
To me, to be a fighter transcends Martial Arts, it is simply a part of my soul. I struggle to make myself everyday better, even if only 1%, but I hunger and have a drive to be better and to make myself better. I fight to be a better martial artist, and a better man, every day. To be a fighter to me is everything…
Question: What are the essential things for the training?
Answer:: A clear open mind, a brave heart and an indomitable will. In addition, having great equipment and support helps you tremendously. You cannot train at your best with shabby equipment or miserable support.
Question: What separates you from every other fighter in your division?
Answer:: I do not see a big difference in myself and other people. I just know for myself, I train hard, I work hard, and I give my all to be better. I just concern myself with what I need to do, achieve, and hope the rest takes care of itself.
Question: What is the meaning of success in your mind?
Answer:: To me, I feel successful everyday being the best father I can be to my son, the best Coach I can be to my students, to help them on their journey, and for myself that I gave 100% and got just a little bit better that day.
Question: With whom you would like to fight, and why?
Answer:: Me at 16 years of age, just to show him the 43-year-old version of himself could show him the direction to go. I really wish I had started Kenpo, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu back after I graduated High School, but I am a firm believer that we come to things when we are ready.
Question: Is there any difference b/w your common days’ diet and during competition training diet?
Answer:: None. I am a big believer in Intermittent fasting, as well as clean eating. I do enjoy my “Cheat Days” on Saturday though
Question: How does a beginner will prepare for the competition? Any advice for beginners?
Answer:: Best thing I could suggest or give advice to someone new to competing, is train as hard as you can, have no expectations for winning or losing, and enjoy the process. You will be nervous, but as you do it more - it lessens, and it IS a fun experience. You will learn whether you win or lose, so enjoy the experience with your teammates, and most importantly HAVE FUN!
Question: How is it helpful to have the information about your competitor?
Answer:: To me, not so much. I only concern myself with my preparation, and my game plan. I just try to be the best martial artist I can be, and work as hard as I can to attain victory.
Question: Is the martial arts necessary for a common person? How?
Answer:: It is essential. I have learned so much about myself because of Kenpo, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that I would not have learned otherwise. My life has turned around tremendously and I am a much happier, healthier and better man and father because of the martial arts.
Question: Which moment is memorable for you in your past competitions?
Answer:: I remember my first BJJ competition and I was training for about 10 months – I distinctly remembering my takedown sequence and remembering when I shot for that double and he stopped I remember saying – Don’t quit, keep going – and I did. Turned the corner, and had fun.
My last comp I remember feeling accomplished that all that time I’d been working closed guard and overwrap guard was working and I could see progress for myself. I do not get addicted to winning - I get addicted to self-betterment.
Question: How do martial arts help to build a leader?
Answer:: To be a leader, you have to know yourself. Martial Arts is a great catalyst for you to learn about yourself in the best of times, but most importantly, in the worst and hardest times. You see if you are a quitter or if you double-down when hurt, tired or just do not want to. I have grown very much because of martial arts, and try to continue to grow everyday as a lifelong martial artist. I cannot see my life without my school and training every day.
Question: What would be your dream fight?
Answer:: That is difficult – in Striking I think Tom Budgen would be fun. I have a lot of respect for him, with his kickboxing background as well as Silat and being a lifelong martial artist - and his affinity for theatricality. In Grappling I think Shinsuke Nakamura would be awesome as I am a big fan of him or even Sakuraba. Now mind you, I am not saying I would stand a chance at all, but as fans of these 3 men it’d be awesome to compete against them.
Question: How is the road plan necessary for any competition?
Answer:: Ben Franklin once quipped, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – I try to enact that whether I am planning goals in earning a rank in judo, getting ready for a competition or cutting weight. Winging it will not work out. I have tried and my failure was miserable.
Question: Do you have any advice for your competitors?
Answer:: I wish them well, and to be safe and uninjured as training for the rest of our lives is everyone’s goal – at least mine.
Question: How much importance has the sports gear in any competition?
Answer:: When you have the right gear, you don’t notice it at all, but I guarantee when you have crappy ill-fitting or defective gear that’s all you notice. I only use the best gear I can so I know I can focus on what I need to accomplish, not tugging at my gi or spats.
Question: What should we learn from the legends /or from the seniors? Who is your inspiration?
Answer:: I started this understanding in Kenpo, but it has become obvious to me in Judo and BJJ – basics win fights. Basics win and will carry you through anything. Flashy and advanced techniques or strategies can work, are awesome and fun to use, but basics will always be there to carry you. My inspiration is my professor Rafael Lovato, Jr and his Father Rafael Lovato Sr. . It is inspiring to see a Father and son not only bond over martial arts, but to use it as a positive catalyst for life. Using the lessons from the mats to become a better man, and to use that as inspiration for others. I can only hope one day my son Draven,and I, can emulate that in some form.
Question: To whom you would like to compliment for your success?
Answer:: My Head Instructor Eric Forschler, all my Coaches, and Professor Rafael Lovato Jr for Jiu-Jitsu as well as my original Coach Peter Prince. In Judo, Sensei Mike Nevins has been extremely patient and gracious with me for over 7 years in teaching me judo and more importantly teaching me the concepts to be able to apply them in Jiu-Jitsu and striking. In Kenpo, I owe a debt I can never repay to my teacher Grand Master Tom Saviano. He took me into his school over 10 years ago and showed me what being a martial artist was, and could make me into, and taught me continuously for me to get and be better. I am indebted to all my teachers forever. I am the man I am because of them.
Question: Who is your favorite legendary fighter? Why?
Answer:: I am a huge fan Kazishu Sakuraba. I have been since his Pride and New Japan Pro-Wrestling days, but he is fearsome in Jiu-Jitsu , Catch Wrestling and seems in his videos like he has an awesome sense of humor. Professor Lovato is a beast on the mat, is a respectful humble martial artist and has legendary skills to back it up, so is definitely a favourite. I train with him, and he is an awesome teacher and a very humble down to earth man as well. I have the greatest of respect for him.