Joining the Upstream team has been one of the best decisions for my Jiu Jitsu career as a woman! Through Jiu Jitsu, I have learned to be a stronger, more confident person physically, mentally and emotionally. I credit this largely to the coaches Seph and Nora. They believe in the ability of each of their students and push them to be their best and try their hardest every day. The other students are kind, welcoming and willing to help which helps to cultivate a friendly team atmosphere. No one will ever regret joining this amazing team!
— Lyndsey Kinney, White Belt, High School Educator
Upstream is a real diamond in the rough. I’m not from Richmond and was pretty scared about finding a new school when I moved here. I tried a few places, and often felt suffocated by the pressure. The moment I walked in to Upstream though, I already felt super relaxed and at home. Everyone was nice and welcoming, it didn’t feel like a place where people strived to dominate over each other. Seph, Nora, and Andron are super chill and the techniques we learn weekly build on each other, making them easy to remember. Not to mention an AMAZING women’s class on Saturdays, which I didn’t have at my old gym. The support was overwhelming and I enjoy training there a lot!
— Jessica Quach, Blue Belt, Dental Student
I was lucky enough to train under Seph from my first day of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is a phenomenal instructor and a dedicated coach, and more importantly he runs enjoyable classes. When teaching, it isn’t just his deep understanding of the art that sets him apart, but his ability to translate high level concepts into ‘beginner-speak,’ helping those of us with less time on the mats to reach those ‘aha’ moments more easily. Plus he likes sloths.
— Sean Hoyt, Blue Belt, U.S. Department of State Employee
Thanks to Seph-sensei, I went from terrible at BJJ to slightly less terrible at BJJ. More importantly, his classes are always fun, he describes technical movements in ways that are easy to understand and always with weird metaphors, and he always takes the time to troubleshoot exactly why you are doing everything wrong with impressive patience. A+++++ would train with again. OSS.
— Jamil Hasan, White Belt, Reuters Employee
Seph Smith’s coaching has been one of the biggest factors in my enjoyment of the sport. He is extremely approachable, even for the rank beginner, and regularly goes out of his way to help students with techniques and strategies. Most importantly, he genuinely cares about the success of his students and very generously gives his time and knowledge to those who seek it. Added Bonus: His classes have the best music.
— Mark Hoffman, Blue Belt, Federal Contractor
If a sense of humor is an essential prerequisite of a great teacher, Seph is passable to say the very least. But his first-rate wit is no match for both his passion for developing his students and jiu jitsu. And I say this without even bringing to light his expansive, Phd-level understanding of the alternative hip hop music genre. In fact, if you consider the countless scores of hours Seph has spent mining through YouTube’s most cavernous depths in order to discover and then commit to memory the monologues of YouTube’s most esteemed prison celebrities, you can’t help but wonder how he has become the exceptional jiu jitsu instructor he most certainly is.

If you are interested in learning jiu jitsu—while having an incredible time in the process— there cannot possibly be a better place in the Richmond radius than under tutelage of Ryan Hall black belt Seph Smith.
— Jordan Lipp, White Belt, 2010 NCAA Wrestling Qualifier
Hands down a world-class instructor. I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of beginner and advanced classes under Seph. He has a wealth of jiu jitsu knowledge. He articulates techniques very well where it’s super easy to comprehend. In addition to instruction, he’s extremely approachable and easy-going. Whether you are trying out jiu jitsu for the first time or have some previous experience you will gain having Seph as an instructor. 5 stars!
— Mikey Koren, Blue Belt, Johns Hopkins Wrestler
Undoubtedly there are/will be many reviews touting Seph’s extraordinary skill of making complex concepts understandable, his friendly demeanor and fun teaching style. All of this is true. What is also true is that I am Deaf-Blind. You read that correctly, I can’t see or hear. Seph has worked patiently with me and has given me tools to grow in Jiu Jitsu as well as a a person. He’s managed to help me find new depths of myself that can only be found through perseverance. Thanks to my time learning from Seph, I’ve gained the confidence to push myself farther than I ever thought possible, in all areas of life. If you have any doubts about getting started, rest assured that you found the right place and the right teacher.
— Patrick Pallies, Blue Belt, @deafblindguy