Ryan Danz talks about his Jiu-Jitsu Background and the Amazing Race!
The Amazing Race is one of the top grossing international reality game shows in the history of television. For those who have yet to see the show, the mechanics are quite simple: get to the finish line first. Lagging behind could mean an elimination. Sounds easy, right? Not so. The competitors are put on different sets of challenges which can involve doing almost anything!
One of the favored contestants in the Amazing race is the Tandem of Ryan Danz and Abbie Ginsberg. Ryan Danz is a member of Gracie Barra Encinitas. He shares his thoughts about the contest and the race.
Ryan says there was no better preparation for the Amazing Race than his competition training in Jiu-Jitsu. “When I’m next up at a Jiu-Jitsu tournament, my adrenaline starts to run and at that time, I have to check myself. So, I take that step back. I always step back. Coach Franklin told me to always take the first move to help with my nerves. As a white belt, I relied on my strength and power. As a blue belt I learned to use more technique. In The Amazing Race, I had to figure out how to use both. I identified with the tensing up part. I had to calm down and trust my instincts like I do in Jiu-Jitsu. So, I would physically step back and then step forward before challenges, like I do before Jiu-Jitsu matches. At my very first match at the Nationals, my plan was to shoot a double leg, but my opponent pulled guard and closed it. He threw me off my game plan, but I learned to calm down. Just because you have a game plan doesn’t mean it’s going to work. You can’t get locked into doing things one way.
He adds, “You have to keep an open mind. During the race, I had the pressure of $2 million at stake, people watching me on TV, and letting down teammates and others relying on me. It added a lot of pressure. Just like in Jiu-Jitsu, there are people watching you, people reporting on you, and you don’t want to let your teammates or school down. It was just a good comparison for me. I often thought of Professor Nelson and how everyone respects and loves him because of his respectful nature. I just wanted to make sure that I treated everyone during the Race the way he does: he is a sweetheart of a man, but he is a strong, respected and respectful man. I think I was able to do that.”
When we asked him how contests such as these require mental and physical fitness, he explains, “There’s no other way to compete on a race like this without these two things. But in addition, one must have a high emotional quotient as well. I think I was able to be successful on this race at the age of 35 as opposed to 25 yrs old because I have developed tremendously from a character standpoint over the past few years. There are so many instances when frustration and fatigue and setbacks beyond your control play a part in the Race and if you’re not equipped emotionally to handle that turbulence, you will not succeed. Of course when I was preparing for the race I was spending most of my time on the physical and mental components, whether it was rock climbing, kayaking, pilates, yoga, cross fit, or crossword puzzles, sudoku and other brain games. I was fiercely competitive with myself about being as prepared as possible.
On Jiu-Jitsu, and being a devout follower of the art, Ryan is nothing but thankful about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
“Jiu-Jitsu saved my soul because I started it at a time when I was losing my best friend and wife and I needed it to fulfill me,” he says, “It changed my life. Then Abbie came into my life, along with the Amazing Race, and my life changed again. The Amazing Race was more than just a pursuit for money. It was a major life changing moment. The same with Jiu-Jitsu. I want people to know that Jiu-Jitsu is more than just a sport to me. It’s a part of my soul. It’s almost my religion.”
Here are more photos of Ryan Danz in the Amazing Race