BWW Interview: Survival Experts Jhoanna Trias And Mitchell Langon Talk FORGED IN FIRE: KNIFE OR DEATH 2
Survival Experts Jhoanna Trias And Mitchell Langon tell us how they got their start, competing on History's FORGED IN FIRE: KNIFE OR DEATH 2, and give us their top three survival tips.
How did the two of you meet?
Jhoanna Trias: Six years now, Mitchell Langon and I met Sept 1, 2012. I was living in Palo Alto at the time, attending a Continuing Studies Program at Stanford University for a few years. A classmate invited me to a Prepper's Meet for a weekend stay camping out in the Oakland Hills campground.
I was dressed and ready for the meet in my outdoor gear, but found out we had gotten the wrong date, it was the weekend after. So I googled surplus stores in the Bay Area. There was one in Berkeley, where Mitchell happened to work part time, and was there that day. I walked in asking about the best survival gear he had in stock, my size, which is pretty hard to find. Surprisingly, he went in the back and brought out a ton of stuff that actually fit me.
Mitchell explained he was a Navy Vet and Survivalist. He buys, trades, and sells military surplus. He is also a historian, collected military authentic collectibles, teaches outdoor survival, and was classically trained in French Cuisine at the Original California Culinary in San Francisco, after he got out of the military.
I was fascinated by how experienced, knowledgeable he really was, on survival gear, surplus, on many other topics as well, and invited him to the Prepper's meet, to do some instructional videos.
I brought another classmate over to his store about a week later, another military vet, after Mitchell came back from a week long trip in the mountains testing survival gear. I shot hours of video footage of him educating us on military surplus, and survival gear...
I was so impressed by his performance and teachings, I asked him if he was interested in doing tv and film. Also shooting survival, travel, and food videos... We quickly became best of friends. Started a retail business together right away, working trade shows all over the country, and moved to Las Vegas shortly after in 2013 to open a retail store.
Since then we have traveled all over the country, over seas, and both have been on several reality tv shows. Mitchell also does a radio show weekly in the Las Vegas area. The last reality show we both just did is for History Channel called: All New "Forged in Fire: KNIFE OR DEATH" Season 2. I was in Episode 2 that aired Oct. 10th, 2018. It's on Wednesday nights 10pm/9C. Mitchell's episode will air later on this season, episode number and release date is still pending.
The other tv show we did together was in 2015 for Discovery Channel, Reality Survival Series called: "MEN WOMEN WILD". Season 1, we were in all 7 Episodes.
Mitchell Langon: Six years ago Jhoanna walked through the doors of the Military outfitter store I was co-managing. I fell for her in just minutes of seeing her.
When I looked down at Jhoanna's feet, while I was outfitting, and sizing her new tactical clothing, I noticed she was wearing canyoneering shoes, and waterproof aqua socks! I saw hearts in my eyes, I was in love.
I knew then if she went that far, and prepared that much for an outdoor survival weekend, then I knew she's the one I've been waiting for, my dream girl. My very own outdoor Barbie. Helps that she's beautiful too. I was very patient and waited a very long time for her to make the first move. She didn't know it at the time, but I was thinking she was going to be my future wife.
She asked if I wanted to go with her to a Bay Area Preparedness meet up. I said yes of course, and ended up teaching most of the skills at the event. We have been on a one of a kind life adventure every since.
Mitchell, how did you get interested in survival preparedness and why did you choose to pursue it as a career?
My survival career has been ongoing since childhood. It's been an evolving journey throughout my life. My family was very connected to outdoor adventures, and lifelong love of the wilderness. My entire family of career military men, and outdoorsman, pushed me further to seek what's beyond.
My military career only added, and shaped my future, carrying it forward to more exotic travels around the world. I traveled the world in my teens, then at 17 years old, I began my military career. Further traveling the world, and shaping my future in becoming a professional in Survival, Tactical, Preparedness, and Adventure Travel Expert.
My complete love of adventure, wanting to see, and experience this amazing world, still drives my lifestyle.
Jhoanna, how did you get into martial arts and do you think it will help you while competing on History's Forged in Fire: KNIFE OR DEATH?
I got into martial arts when I was 12 years old. I was always very small framed growing up. I got picked on a lot. I was the oldest of 5 kids in my family. I felt being the eldest I needed to build strength, confidence, set an example, educate myself on self defense, to know how to protect myself, and look after my younger siblings. It helped me get experience on how to deal with all kinds of people, made friends that became like family to me. It taught me discipline, awareness, kept me very active, and physically fit.
Having a martial arts background definitely helped me in being able to do History Channel's "Forged in Fire: KNIFE OR DEATH." Without my martial arts experience, I wouldn't have had the confidence, technique, skills, or strength to do so... Especially with my petite body frame, being 5 feet tall, and 95 pounds. I was under my normal weight at the time I competed, and was 90 pounds, from training so hard for this blade competition.
Why did you both decide to compete on Forged in Fire: KNIFE OR DEATH?
Jhoanna: I submitted Mitchell and I for another tv show. Over six months later, we both got an email from different casting directors asking if we were interested in doing the show: History Channel's All New "Forged In Fire: KNIFE OR DEATH" Season 2 instead.
At the time, Mitchell and I split up to do our own thing for a while, we were separated and hadn't spoken for almost six months. So we didn't know we were both doing the show. Until we ran into each other, as he was leaving from just shooting his episode, and I was arriving to do my competition that day.
So by doing this show, it actually connected us again shortly after, in getting back together. We both realized our lives just weren't as fun, productive, or fulfilling without one another. Mitchell and I really do make a great team, especially when traveling, and working together. We do everything together and are hardly apart. Mitchell never really leaves my sight. We both are typically very independent people, and have never been this way with anyone else we have been with in the past.
Again, we are now promoting our new show together we both were in, which makes our relationship stronger then before. We keep finding out that the common interests we both currently have, this time in our lives, is what keeps us getting back together, and our relationship special. As different as we both really are, we realize we have so much in common interests and goals. It makes our relationship fun, and never boring. That's for sure. Lol.
I first didn't take the email from the casting director seriously, about this blade competition, as I get a list of castings daily for many tv and film projects. From submitting tv shows, film projects, commercials, videos... off and on in the past.
I have worked off and on in the entertainment industry since I was 15 years old. In front of the camera as an actress/entertainer, and behind the scenes doing production work, from makeup, special effects, supervised wardrobe, production assistant, writer, associate producer... stylist, image consultant, coaching models, actors, managing, directing video and photography sessions for talent...
I also acted in several movies such as "Constantine" with Keanu Reeves, "Tiger Heart", tv shows: "Power Rangers", "Boy Meets World", "CSI: Las Vegas", "NBC's World's Greatest Magic Part V", "Angels: The Mysterious Messengers" to name just a few. I also have done many commercials and started modeling kids clothes when I was 12 years of age.
I moved to Los Angeles from Northern California when I was 15 years old, to work in the tv and film industry. I have been working in the entertainment industry off and on since. I finally realized after going back to school several times, working other jobs, "there's no other business, like show business".
At first I honestly didn't think my small petite body fame, had a chance in a blade competition such as this, cutting on hard objects such as different kinds, sizes, shapes of wood, five gallon water bottles, hard plastic objects, and 150-300 pounds of ice blocks... Competing with skilled, confident, strong men/women, most seemed like giants compared to me. There were very few women that did enter the competition... From what we saw anyway in the first season that had already aired.
They told us nothing about the second season, and how it was going to be. We only found out what we did, from our own experience we each had on the set. Still after that, we aren't told when our episode airs, until they run the promo commercials about the next episode, around a week before it airs. What we all did find out was, that the course had been changed, from last season. They obviously knew we were all going to study it and train from it. It seems so far every episode that has been aired already in season 2, had something different in the courses.
The thought of turning down any challenge, or competition, without training, and at least trying, I just couldn't let go... I love challenges, challenging myself, especially if most people don't think I can do something. That motivates me even more to do it. I love doing the impossible, shocking, and proving people wrong-mostly myself.
How did you each prepare for the show?
Jhoanna: I first asked two of my main instructors if I went back into training full-time, if they thought I had a chance at doing this blade competition, at my super feather weight class and size. They both said: Yes, you can do this! Why not? With building my strength, and skills... Plus it would be quite entertaining to see someone my size do this kind of competition.
I quickly made a decision to fully commit to do so. I rearranged my priorities, work schedule, and started training two months before I competed. Around four weeks of training total, with three different instructors in those two months.
The first two instructors I have been training with off and on for over 10 years. "Grandmaster Anthony Kleeman" and "Grandmaster Ron Lew" in Filipino "Cacoy Doce Pares" style, with our "Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco "Cacoy" Canete", who passed at age 96: Feb. 5, 2016 in Cebu, Philippines, where he lived and our Filipino Style Martial Arts "Cacoy Doce Pares Headquarters" is located.
I started training in Filipino martial arts almost 20 years ago, off and on as well with "Grandmaster Dong Meyong" aka "Felix Pascua" we all referred to as "Manoy". With the "Pangamot Society" where we trained in Loma Linda, California and Leyte Island, Philippines.
My third instructor who trained me for KNIFE OR DEATH 2 blade competition was instructor: "Ron Kosakowski" owner of "Practical Self Defense Training Center" and "TFW/Traditional Filipino Weapons" in Waterbury, Connecticut.
My instructor "Grandmaster Anthony Kleeman" trained me on the "Filipino Ginunting Sword" that originally came from "Ron Kosakowski's TFW company". So after trying out a pile of blades I owned, since I had hundreds of them, from my own personal collection, and owning a survival retail business. I ended up using the "Filipino Ginunting Sword", that I trained with the most, and also got from Ron Kosakowski/TFW company.
I prepared for the show by training up to four weeks total, two months before I did the blade competition, with these instructors. I had all of us watch last seasons episodes carefully, took notes, asked each instructor what they thought of it all.
Then trained by cutting most of the supplies we saw they used in the last season that I could get a hold of. Such as several 300 pounds of ice blocks, different types of wood shapes, different size water bottles up to 5 gallon containers, hanging chicken, large salmon, rack of ribs, huge brisket... Plus other stuff we added to cut up. Different kinds of fruit and vegetables.
I used weights to build muscle in my arms, and strength in my wrists... Worked on my form and technique cutting, and wailed on stacks and hanging car rubber tires, that swung back and forth, with Filipino Sticks, and my training sword, until I got blisters, and built calluses... I knew I had to train really hard to be able to have a good chance at getting through this competition course.
I trained outside in the heat, in Los Angeles, California when it was in the high 90's up to 100 degrees, and Waterbury, Connecticut when it was very hot and humid outside, and inside without any AC. My whole body from training on cutting all those hard objects, was constantly sore, I could barely move after, and had to get massages at least three times a week.
Mitchell: "Forged in Fire: Knife or Death" is a natural progression for me. I'm a lifelong, knife, and blade man.
I've collected, traded, sold, many blades during my career. I utilize, and instruct, the use of various bladed weapons, knives, and tools, in my Culinary, Survival, Tactical, Military, Preparedness instruction.
Plus I'm a martial artist. I have never boasted, or openly discussed my life long study of various martial arts. It's something I do for myself. I've only recently begun to incorporate my martial arts knowledge in my classes. Since I'm showcasing my skills on television now. I'm no longer able to hide the fact I'm very committed to the study of martial arts.
I honestly didn't prepare much for the show. I took out my blades, and slightly tuned them up. I spent some time to film my audition video. That was it. I prepare in my mind. It's very important for me. Life is a mental, spiritual test for me.
In my personal style, and in my way, I don't train hard before any event or journey. I have been preparing, educating, and training my whole life. If I'm not ready, or prepared right now for anything, then I'll never be.
My whole life is dedicated to being ready to adapt, and overcome. In life, you may not have anytime to train, or prepare for a life changing event. So I go "all in" right at that time. It's just my own style. It may not work for you. But it works for me.
What weapon did you each choose for the competition and why?
Jhoanna: After talking to my instructors about which blade I should use, and looking at piles of blades I owned in my collection. It came down to two Filipino Blades: the "Ginunting" and "War Golok", that I got from "Ron Kosakowski/ TFW Company".
I found that with my style/technique, body frame, weight, strength, and height, I was more successful with the "Filipino Ginunting Sword" versus using the "Filipino War Golok". After hitting harder objects with the "War Golok" such as ice, and a wooden box with staples in it, we found out the "Ginunting" kept it's sharpness better.
Plus I thought the "Filipino Ginunting Sword" is just a beautiful piece, and was just perfect for me. It was one of my favorite pieces, and most comfortable weight, and size for me to use, I thought. It was just heavy enough for me to do some hard cutting, but had to be light enough for me to carry and swing around.
Originally, I wanted to use my "Cold Steel: Special Forces Shovel" that I used in my last reality survival series MEN WOMEN WILD, but they wouldn't approve me using it. I didn't bother to ask why. This was before I watched last season's episodes. I have never seen this show before that. I just picked another blade to use, that was introduced to me by my instructors, trained with it, and they approved it.
Mitchell: The blade I chose is very important, and sentimental to me. It was made for, and presented to me by one of my Grandmaster's in the Philippines. Grandmaster "Dong Meyong" Felix "Manoy" Pascua.
It's the only blade I was originally taught with, in the jungles of Leyte Island, Philippines by Grandmaster "Manoy".
It's not a competition-designed blade. It's from the history, and style used for well over a century on, in the jungles of Leyte Island.
The "Sansibar" shape of this blade is known for its sharpness, speed, and durability in jungle use. These amazing blades are still forged by hand on the Island of Leyte, Philippines. The "Filipino Sansibar Blade" is also known as a deadly, fast, combat killing weapon.
Jhoanna, what is it like to be one of the only females to have competed on the show? Does it add more pressure?
Being one of the only females to have competed on the show in my episode, definitely does add more pressure. But it's nothing new to me. Most of everything I seem to do has more males than females. I grew up with three brothers on a farm. I was quite a tomboy growing up, so it's something I have gotten use to, and expect. But it doesn't take away any pressure; it still adds a lot more to it. Especially when I was younger with less experience.
Being older now at 43 years of age, having more experience, and knowledge, definitely takes a lot more confusion out of everything I do. I have a lot more confidence in knowing exactly what I need to do, in accomplishing anything I want to.
Do have any advice for women wanting to do what you do?
Jhoanna: Do what you want. Don't hesitate. Do what makes you happy. Don't let anyone discourage you in anything you really want to do. Life is too short! Time goes by fast! Don't have any regrets!
When making a decision to do something, make a commitment to do it 110%. Work hard. When you make mistakes, don't look at it as failing. They are all lessons. The more you do, and mistakes you make, the more you learn, and get better at what you do. Learn from it all. Grow from it.
Don't listen to, or keep people around that doubt you, or say you can't do something. Live your own life, not do what other people think you should do. You don't need validation from anyone else. Unless you are seeking professional advice from someone else that you admire, look up to, and want to become more like in that field.
And if you do, make sure you get advice from someone who supports you on what you do, and makes you better at whatever your goals are. Believe in yourself. Have around you who also believes in you, and supports you-especially when it comes to your goals and dreams.
Who did you guys look up to growing up? Who inspired your sense of adventure and interest in survival/wilderness?
Jhoanna: It depended on the day, and where I was in my life. Even though I had a big family, lots of friends, and acquaintances, I was quite a loner, and very independent. Who I looked up to, and inspired me changed often. It can be a person for that moment, or something. Sometimes multiple, or groups of people through out the day. An event, or thought.
From something I read someone wrote, said to me, or quote, a photograph, something someone wrote for tv/film, said in a speech, a song, or I over heard someone saying. Someone else talking about an experience they had, getting sick, an illness being cured, a disability, or a disability they see as a gift. A flower I just picked, an animal, baby, thing. The candy I just ate, or couldn't afford at the time... All the shit that always constantly happens to me. I swore one day I would inspire people by writing a book called: "Shit Happens!"
I learned that people aren't perfect. The same person can inspire, and disappoint me, all at once . I'm far from perfect, or could never be. Even though I strive for perfection every day. I know all my imperfections are just perfect for me, for the moment.
I learned it's like a river that flows. That everything in that river is all the stuff in life there is, and happens. You start off as a piece of clay, at the end, after being tossed around, thrown out, back in, stuck for a bit, dragged, smashed into stuff, other stuff stuck to you, stepped on, eaten, shit back out, broken in pieces... At the end, we all become unique beautiful pieces like shells, and precious stones... from all our tumbles, and pressures in life. I wrote a poem once about it, when I was young. I'll have to find it one day to share it. Even though I was never good at poetry. Lol.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it can also change at different times in our lives. I also learned to understand that I am a very complicated, complex, individual, an enigma-a walking contradiction.
I never saw, or thought, like anyone else around me. I always definitely had a mind of my own. When I looked up to people, it was only to observe them. Then I would run to do my own thing. I was nothing really like my parents, siblings, or anyone else around me. No one really got me. I still don't quite get myself either. I truly feel like I'm an alien, of some sort, here on planet earth on an adventure to learn about human behavior, and the planet earth.
I live like I am going to die tomorrow. So I want to do everything now, as much as I can, before I go. Why I hardly sleep, live a very busy, always on the go lifestyle. Working hard, long hours, studying, traveling, exploring, recording, writing, taking photos/videos... I live a very fast, and spontaneous life.
Mitchell: My role models in my youth were my many uncles, and grandparents-many of them War heroes. My grandmother was very much an outdoor addicted individual. She was born into an early prepper life, during the great depression. She was raised in her youth in the harshest Badlands of South Dakota. My grandparents were the most influential in my life.
My grandfather was a Combat Veteran of three wars, and many conflicts around the world: WW2, Korean War, Vietnam, and many others. His ability to adapt, overcome all odds, very much shaped who I am today. His lifelong love of travel, and adventure is what I continue to live for him every day of my life.
If people knew nothing else, what would you say are the three most important survival tips?
Jhoanna: Learning self defense. Be smart in things you do. Educate yourself.
Mitchell: The "three most important survival skills" for me, are first and foremost, "the mental game." Meaning: Most everything can be overcome by a solid confidence, and ability to overcome fears.
Second, is "knowledge". If you have the skill, take the time, and journey of learning the tasks, you will be prepared, even if you don't have what you need. Because the knowledge will allow you to overcome, find, and utilize, a different way to succeed.
Third in importance, is "pure grit". Many folks on this earth before us, had minimal choice, and almost no hope, in impossible odds. But they still overcame, and moved forward against all odds.
This means women, men, and children. Many impossible true stories of survival came about "out of pure grit"-the attitude of never giving up, finding inner strength, keeping, and never losing hope. It will take you to the ends of this great world, and beyond.
My most important survival tool is my own mind. I've never given up on myself, never lost hope in anything. I'm a "Survivor".
Trailer for The History Channel's Forged in Fire: KNIFE OR DEATH 2: https://aenetworks.app.box.com/s/qdrcwcf7qlyg2f6n2lp9v6wie9btt6iw
IMAGES Courtesy of Jhoanna Trias and Mitchell Langon