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A Busy V&E Transactional Lawyer Finds Time (Very Early) in His Day for Martial Arts

It’s a tremendous stress reliever. No matter how stressful a transaction might be, when somebody is trying to choke you, that deal is the last thing you’re thinking about. You’re focused on thinking through the problems that are directly in front of you.

During work hours, V&E finance partner Guy Gribov can be found at V&E’s Houston offices advising clients on financial transactions. But at 6 a.m. most weekday mornings, a different side of Gribov emerges as he engages in hand-to-hand combat in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training class.

Gribov recently sat down with V&E+ to talk about how he got involved in martial arts, the benefits of practicing Jiu Jitsu, and how the practice of law compares with battling opponents on the mat. Here’s what he had to say.

When and how did you get started taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes?

It was around 2012, I was a second-year associate at the time. I had been interested in watching mixed martial arts while I was in college and law school but never gathered up the motivation or the courage to actually try it.

I was looking for a good way to get a workout. I looked around the city, and this particular gym, Elite MMA, had classes in the morning. I figured the time these classes were offered – 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. – was a time when nobody would be expecting me to answer an email or get on a call.

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

I would describe it as a form of submission wrestling. It’s a form of martial arts based on “grappling.” It involves using joint locks or chokeholds to make your opponent uncomfortable. Essentially, the goal is to get your opponent to submit, usually in the form of verbally submitting or tapping three times on the mat.

It sounds intimidating.

It can be, especially at first. But once you learn the mechanics, the movements, and the various positions, you become more confident in your abilities.

It’s quite incredible to see how training can make a difference. I’ve seen some tremendously large human beings — 300-pound football players who are new to this — get crushed by 160-pound guys who are much more experienced.

Are you naturally athletic?

I’m actually not. I wouldn’t say I’m completely unathletic, but I wasn’t good enough to do anything on a college level. I think one of the greatest things about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is you can be unathletic and not that strong, and you can still progress and succeed.

How far have you personally advanced?

When I went to my very first class, I was annihilated. For the first six months after that, I didn’t feel like I made much progress. But over time, I consistently improved.

Today, I have a purple belt, which is an intermediate ranking. I’m significantly better than anyone who is starting out at the gym and better than some of the regulars, though there are still plenty of people I train with who are much more advanced than I am. It’s not that I have a special talent for it. It’s just that I’ve been doing it longer.

You attend classes four to five times a week at 6 a.m. How hard is it to maintain that kind of discipline?

It used to be quite difficult to do. What I found, like most things, is once you start making it a habit, it becomes easier. You become mentally and physically prepared for it. At this point, I almost feel like something is missing in my day if I haven’t gone to my class.

How do you feel after you’ve finished a training session?

At 7 a.m. when I finish, I’ve already gotten a great workout. I can check it off my list. I go through the rest of the day knowing I’m off to a good start.

What are some of the other benefits you derive from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

It’s a tremendous stress reliever. No matter how stressful a transaction might be, when somebody is trying to choke you, that deal is the last thing you’re thinking about. You’re focused on thinking through the problems that are directly in front of you.

There’s also a real sense of camaraderie. My training partners have all become really good friends. You’re vulnerable at any time, and yet, everybody trusts everyone else to do the right thing and to behave the right way. You build a rapport and a relationship with the group.

V&E Partner Guy Gribov

Are you training with any fellow lawyers or others in related fields?

I wasn’t expecting it, but there are a surprising number of lawyers, financial executives and energy industry folks at my gym.

Some are from companies that have been across the table from V&E in deals, some are clients. It’s an added benefit. Training with your peers helps enhance professional relationships.

Are there any similarities between being a great transactional lawyer and practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Absolutely. One of the best ways to advance in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is by being analytical. You try to figure out what your training partner does well, and the flaws you can potentially exploit.

That kind of analysis and critical thinking obviously helps in law. The more thoughtful you are about what you’re trying to do, the more success you’re likely to have.