Travis Stevens is an Olympic silver medalist and an incredibly high-level Judoka who also happens to be a black belt in BJJ under John Danaher, having earned the promotion in just 18 months due to his elite level of Judo experience. He actually went through every belt, spending a matter of just weeks at white belt and around a month at blue belt, before remaining a purple belt for a few months before being promoted. Brown belt is where Stevens spent the majority of his time, staying there for a year and even competing at Copa Podio before receiving his final promotion to black belt.
This might seem fast to some, but Judo and Jiu-Jitsu have been linked since their inception and realistically any Judo Olympian would have a gigantic headstart when it comes to learning BJJ. Stevens recently made an appearance on the Lex Fridman podcast, just like many grapplers have before him including his BJJ coach Danaher, and in it he explained his mentality when it comes to training in BJJ and Judo. This was prompted by Fridman asking him what kind of percentage level of effort he puts into training BJJ:
“It’s hard to put a percentage to it. Because, I’ve never – in my Jiu-Jitsu – I’ve never gone a 100%. Like, I’ve had a conversation with Saulo (Ribeiro) one time when we were talking about Jiu-Jitsu and training. And I was like: ‘Well, if I caught his arm, I’d just break it.’ And Saulo said: ‘What if he tapped?’ And I go: ‘That’s not my responsibility. If he taps, and the ref doesn’t say anything, you just break it. You just keep going. The ref tells me when it’s over.'”
“I go: ‘’d never give you an opportunity to tap, because if I give you an opportunity to tap, then that means that you’ve had an opportunity to think about how to get out (if the submission). To make a decision that you can’t. I’ve clearly operated too slowly.”
“I know how to go 100% in Judo. I know how it’s to train with somebody under the mentality of “I’m gonna do everything I want to do… And you’re going to do nothing you want to do. And you’re going to accept that.”
Below is the relevant clip of Travis Stevens during his appearance on the Lex Fridman Podcast, but the full episode is available to watch here.