Instructors

Meet the team at Connected BJJ
Andy Smedley

Head Black Belt Instructor

Instructors
You can’t hide from the truth on the mat.

Likes: Vacations, spending time with my kids on the weekends, and showing up late for class
Dislikes: People who show up late for class
Favorite guard: Right now, almost any half guard
Favorite submission: North south choke in no-gi. With the gi, I don’t even know the name of my favorite submission! I learned it in Brazil almost 10 years ago, but it works!
Best known for a teaching style that applies wrestling concepts to Jiu Jitsu
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m either with my kids or working/traveling for work.

Jiu Jitsu may be an individual sport, but your training partners are the most important people in the room.

Likes: Besides BJJ?! Most sports especially football and MMA, snowboarding, and travel
Favorite guard: X-guard
Favorite submission: Rear naked choke
Best known for sweeping from the bottom and pressure on top to force submissions
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m hanging out with friends and family and snowboarding in the winter.

Vinny LaSpisa

Head Black Belt Instructor

Instructors
Kevin Carestia

Brown Belt Instructor

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu no-gi grappling
If you have to use strength to get a technique to work, you are doing it wrong.

Likes: Baseball, cycling, and fine dining
Dislikes: Political correctness, excuses, and crumbs
Favorite guard: Lasso guard because there are a ton of sweeps and submissions. It’s also easy to transition to other guards.
Favorite submission: Armbar from crucifix
Best known for: Intense warm ups, lasso guard, leg drags, and filming everyone rolling for YouTube
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m watching the Yankees or keeping up with the latest technology.

I can’t stress enough the importance of visualization.
It allows us to commit the movements to muscle memory.

Likes: Spending time with my little ones (who aren’t so little anymore), cruising around in my Jeep, and ice cream — I like ice cream!
Favorite guard: Quarter guard
Favorite submission: Without question, the paper cutter choke – mainly because of the absolute control the position offers before even making a grip with the attacking hand.
Best known for teaching things in groupings, which lends itself to understanding how someone may react to an initial movement and showing options on how to attack based on that reaction.
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m watching my kids grow in their chosen sports through hard work, dedication, and flat-out fun, and when I have to, I go to work and help people with their mortgages.
One last thing… I can’t stress enough the importance of visualization. Our bodies won’t allow us to be on the mats 24 hours a day, but we can get much needed reps if we visualize a move, a transition, submission or an entire roll over and over. It allows us to commit the movements to muscle memory and identify openings that we may miss when rolling live.

Brian Karwoski

Brown Belt Instructor

Instructors
Steve Marx

Brown Belt Instructor

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy based in Franklin Lakes, NJ Bergen County
I am a devout believer in basic movements in Jiu Jitsu and drilling them until they become automatic.

Likes: An understanding wife, glorious beards, steel clubs and maces, Autism awareness, cycling shorts, A3L Gi’s, and summers off.
Dislikes: Anything that starts with or contains hernia in it, 24 year old’s trying to strangle me, and fall/winter/springs on
Favorite guard: Armed
Favorite submission: Mount
Best known for being a devout believer in basic movements in Jiu Jitsu and drilling them until they become automatic. My philosophy is escape, sweep, and advance at about 70% so I can train tomorrow.
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m trying to keep up on a bike with my 8 year old son or hiding from my 6 year old daughter.
One last thing… I was injured and off the mats for almost half a year when I came across Connected BJJ by accident on a bike ride. After a phone call and one class, Casey took a chance on me and took me in. To say that I am grateful and that it changed my life are understatements.

Martial arts is more than just a physical activity for children. It engages their mind.

Likes: Spending time with my friends and having a nice pick-up game of basketball
Favorite Guard: Open/butterfly
Favorite Submission: Ezekiel choke because of how sneaky you can be with it and all the different places from where you can hit it.
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m at school or hanging out with my friends.

Zack Blomquist

Children’s Jiu Jitsu & Karate Instructor

Instructors
Stefan Klima

Muay Thai Coach

Instructors
Muay Thai is good for the whole body, cardio, and discipline...

Likes: Spending time with my family, riding my Harley, and visiting Thailand every year
Dislikes: Cocky people and lobsters
Favorite Combo: A front left straight jab followed with a right hook and then a right low kick.
When I’m not training Muay Thai, I’m trying to squeeze some time to train BJJ!

Martial arts really is more than just kicking and punching; it impacts every part of your life.

Likes: Food, working out, more food, gaming, even more food – and my dog Winston!
Dislikes: Not having enough food
Favorite Guard: Spider guard
Favorite Submission: Triangle choke
Best known for a fun teaching style, but don’t let the patience meter drop
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m working at the hardware store, working out, eating, or playing games.

Joe Mitchell

Children’s Karate Instructor

Instructors
Steve Braconi

Children’s Jiu Jitsu Instructor

Instructors
As a parent, I have seen firsthand how Jiu Jitsu has instilled both a confidence and a humbleness in my daughters that spills over into their daily activities.

Likes: Time with family, animal rescue, and protein powder
Dislikes: Tardiness and bullies
Favorite Guard: Guard?! What guard? I’m taking your back!
Favorite Submission: Kimura
Best known for Fun Friday classes
When I’m not training Jiu Jitsu, I’m with my family, managing my real estate team, or fitting in time at the gym.

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