Monday, August 30, 2010

Tournament Mode and "Killer Instinct"

Working up your "killer instinct" for a tournament is another topic that seems to continuously pop up in conversations. Before a match you can often see one competitor or another going through a full UFC photo-op staredown with his opponent before a match. Is this level of aggression necessary, is it a good thing?

After a lot of years of observation and competition in combat sports I have both a somewhat objective view and personal opinion/application (yeah, yeah, just like everybody else, but this is my blog so deal with it :-)).

First the observations. In a nutshell, for tournament mode you definitely need to up your level of ''aggression" and "pressure." BUT working up too much emotion/"killer instinct"/super-aggression is usually detrimental to your game - you forget your game plan/strategy, you try to bully techniques when there are much better options available, you miss opportunities, etc. In other words, all that training you put in just got blown out of the water by all that testosterone.

Going super-aggressive can sometimes compensate for a lack of skill at white and sometimes blue belt level but it starts to taper off quickly. In the case of equal skill levels, I think being super-aggressive makes you wildly inconsistent and being inconsistent rarely gets you all the way through a large bracket. In the cases where you have more skill, going hyper is giving your opponent a gift.

Now the personal opinion/application. For me, I treat a tournament match like a "super" class roll. I'm keeping continual pressure, I'm taking everything I can away from my opponent and not giving back an inch.

Would I jump on something I knew would hurt my opponent (so out of position/balance that he couldn't tap before he broke). Probably not. To me a tournament is just a game (like basketball). It is a test of skill not violence. I'm there to make new friends and have fun.

I realize that not everybody shares this view, and when I think there are more people out to "hurt" me than there are those who want the challenge of a good "game" I'll probably stop competing.

The "killer instinct" only gets kicked on in a life/death situation. My life is not threatened in the least if I lose a tournament match.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quote of the Moment - The Really Great

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. - Mark Twain

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Just Tap Already (part 2)

There has been some recent blogosphere discussion/internet chatter on the art of tapping. I want to clarify my position: TAPPING IS GOOD FOR BOTH BODY AND SOUL.

My first post, Just Tap Already, is all about tapping when a submission is sunk. To do otherwise is to invite injury. Once a mistake has been made (the submission is sunk), there is no return. But there is a "reset button" - the tap. If you make a mistake and you get caught, hit the reset button and start over.

Where people seem to have gotten confused is where I appear to be advocating "fighting a submission." I'm talking about "fighting" BEFORE the submission is sunk - making your training partner work on getting the details correct.  I'm not advocating being a testosterone superfreak and using strength to hold off an armbar or bulling up your neck to avoid the choke.

If you are an upper belt, you are not going to war with the lower belts you are going to bring them with you. Lighten up and let them work the sub but make them get the details - don't pull out your super secret 4 stripe purple belt decoder ring and slip away (hhmmm, did I really just say that? I see a possible future with a lot of purple belts lining up to "teach" me the finer points of tapping). Seriously though, most of the purple and brown belts I've had the opportunity to roll with have been great at this (thanks guys!).

This is in the context of training rolls, we're both trying to learn something, not competitive rolls that might be part of tournament preparation (or your everyday reality if your gym motto is "every roll is a tournament roll"). You have to have a certain level of trust (and control) with your training partner if you are going to work on the details of a submission together during a roll. For the most part the guys I train with bring submissions on slowly always trying to maintain control and being careful of each other. That's the training vibe at my gym. Your gym might have a differnt vibe so you might need a different training outlook to stay safe.

My second post, Don't Believe You're Own Hype, is about the bad things that might happen to you when you think too much in the middle of a roll and hesitate too long before you tap.

Now for some additional tapping theory and practice. If you don't know your training partner well, he is new, or you train at a gym that advocates/allows grabbing a bodypart and cranking things and hoping something sticks, tap early. In fact, tap anywhere you feel a good additional yank by your partner could cause injury. True "cranks" are notoriously low percentage for submissions but very high percentage for serious injury (which is why they are highly restricted in most tournaments).

If your partner has a significant weight advantage, be very aware of where your various appendages are. Tap any time one of those said appendages gets in a position where that weight could fall awkwardly. Even if your partner doesn't outweigh you be careful if your fingers/hands/toes/etc. get tangled in the gi. Tap, get untangled and restart in the same position.

If you have an injury, tap even earlier. Let your training partner know, reach agreement on how hard you are going to go at it and if a position/technique/limb is off limits. Before things even get close to becoming an issue, tap. If your training partner can't reasonably respect the "limits" you put on the roll - DON'T ROLL.

If your gym doesn't have a policy on what is "legal" (such as IBJJF rules by belt) when you roll - expect everything. If you are rolling with a visitor from another school expect everything. If you are rolling with a new guy or a guy who says he hasn't trained in years expect everything. Tap early, tap often, tap like Fred Astaire (that's right, tapping is that classy).

Sunday, August 22, 2010



What you put in your training log and how you go about it might vary considerably over time. I wouldn't expect a white belt's log to look like a purple belt's log.

If you are just starting (<6 months of training) don't make taking notes hard on yourself. Just stick to the very basic ideas - terminology, position and gross movements, and just getting comfortable. Most people who start a training log early on quit because it becomes a chore or they get frustrated because they can't remember the details of a move or even what to call it. Early on in your training just jot down a few of the things you CAN remember when you get home, when you see the move again (and you will) update your notes.

After about 6 months in is a good time to start developing goals and documenting how you are expanding your game, such as working toward two or three moves from each basic position (closed guard, side control, mount, and half-guard) and beginning your understanding of more complicated open guards (Spider, De La Riva, X-guard, etc).  Your log is a great tool to track progress in those areas. You can certainly start setting goals earlier, but you may find that what you thought was high on your goal list moves down a few places as you understand more about Jiu Jitsu (and this will probably continue to happen every few months to a year).

As you progress the scope or your goals, plans, strategies,  and the details of your techniques expands. In your goals you start to add plans and strategies, on your techniques you start pulling out principles, going deeper into the details, and chaining techniques together (flow with the go). You've probably had an "A Game" for awhile, now is the time to think about why it works for you and where you have holes. When you roll work on analyzing your favorite techniques/positions and options (you will find that your "favorites" also change over time). Write down where your training partners stop your progress in the technique or shut your game down. Analyze this info and come up with a few possible solutions to try next time on the mat. Keep the solutions that have the most success and repeat the process.

At some point in your "old age" you will probably get bored with trying to write stuff down and your log will slowly start to fade. Don't get down on yourself if you miss taking notes for a few days, weeks, or even months. Instead of kicking yourself and giving up, break out your old notes for review and see if they "inspire" you to start again. Remember, you're in this for the long haul. I'm pretty hit or miss, but I try to be consistent over time. One thing I do kick myself for is if I don't do it for seminars or working with someone that is visiting (or when I'm visiting) because I may not consistently see these techniques again presented in that way.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't Believe You're Own Hype

After all the "I make them work for the tap" rhetoric in my recent "Just Tap Already" post last week, I felt the need to really represent and make sure I walked the talk this week. "How's that working for you," you might ask? Well, good and bad. I was very aware of making everyone really work for the tap this week and nobody got any freebies (so far so good).

My last roll of the week I'm working with one of our guys who is getting ready for a tournament this next weekend. I'm giving him a lot of pressure and trying to diversify my pass attempts so he gets to work against some things he doesn't see from me all the time. Not my "A game" technique wise, but like I said a lot of pressure. This had me out of position at several points and my training partner definitely tried to take advantage and go for the submission. In true "walk the talk" fashion I defended vigorously and if he didn't get the submission sunk he had a fight on his hands.

Toward the end of our 10 minute roll I once again found myself with an arm out of position in bottom half-guard and he jumped on a americana. Again I defended, he needed to adjust and pull my arm down and into my body just a little bit more. He adjusts and because I'm being very conscious of making him get it "perfect" I take a moment to have this inner dialogue. "Hmmm just a little bit more and he's got it...almost there....yes that's it...are you sure?...what do you mean are you sure, of course I'm sure...ok then you better tap." In a perfect storm of bad timing, just as I'm tapping, he gives it a final crank and there is a really sick squishy popping sound that comes from my elbow and shoulder. Bad, bad, bad.

So what did I learn from this little escapade?
  1. Don't have an inner dialogue with yourself in the middle of fighting a submission, that moment's hesitation can be asking for an injury.
  2. I should go back and read the entire "Just Tap Already Post." Especially the part about JUST TAP ALREADY and "represent" that for awhile.
  3. Remember that there are some "fights" that can be more costly than others: lose a blood-choke fight and you just go to sleep (3-5 minutes to recover), lose an armbar fight and you get a popped elbow (6-8 weeks to recover), lose a kimura/americana shoulder lock fight and you get BJJ game over (loooong to possibly no recovery without surgery).
  4. And finally never-ever-ever believe your own hype.
Fortunately, he let go immediately and I can move my arm but there are several degrees of shoulder rotation that bring a lot of pain. We'll see how it feels after a weekend rest.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I recently lost 2 of my training notebooks. While they were a jumbled mish-mash of technique descriptions, training ideas, strength and conditioning exercises, and random thoughts there were probably some gems in there that will be missed. This loss has given me the opportunity to reexamine what I want to do with a training log and the best way to go about it. I thought I would share some of my thoughts here in a series over the next few weeks, so without further fanfare here is installment 1 of ? on:

It appears to be a generally accepted idea that a training log is "a good thing." If you ask "Why is it a good thing?" you will often get the standard answer of "it will help you track your progress." However, BJJ is not like running or weight lifting where you write down your distance/time or weight/reps and hope to see evidence of continual improvement - farther/faster heavier/more. Other than logging our Strength and Conditioning training in this standard way, a BJJ form of this could be documenting all your rolls and describe what was attempted, what worked, and what got shut down. But there is still more I think. Another aspect of a BJJ training log or notebook is about capturing details on techniques taught in class so you don't forget. Finally, there is the aspect of wanting to journal or chronicle the "adventure" of training.

Hmmm, this gives us a "training log," a "technique notebook," and an "adventure journal." Should these be the same "document" or multiple documents. Do we capture and display the information the same way or are different formats better for each dimension. This is already starting to make my head hurt.

So I say to myself, "Self, my head hurts and I haven't even started" and myself answers back, "Well why don't we start at the beginning, why don't you tell me why you think a training log is a good thing and go from there. And by the way you have ketchup on your shirt." ...


A training log can help you keep motivated if you have a section where you record your goals. Over time you can track your progress against those goals. A detailed log of your training allows you to see the steps that you have taken towards your goal, where you currently stand, and how much further you have to go. Your goals can be multi-leveled and broken down into short and long(er) term. For example, short term - work on technical details of kimuras from multiple positions and try to work at least 3 attempts per rolling session for the next month. Long term - I want to achieve my black belt.

Periodically reviewing your goals is great for both motivation and accountability. Even if you don't specifically state your goals it is motivating to see how far you have come since your days as a naive young white belt.


A training log is very useful in helping to break down a technique. Trying to "grok" everything at once can make things more complicated than they need to be. We have grips, underhooks, kozushi, movements, and a million other details that we are trying to keep up with in training. By carving out a little time to capture some of the main things you are remembering you start to see similarities and principles that your brain will start to automatically organize around. Recognizing those principles leaves more of your brainpower free for the details.

Additionally, as we see techniques for the second, third, and fourth times we have a starting point, a frame, for hanging newly discovered/remembered details on.


When we are frustrated, venting that frustration in a log is probably good for your spirit. You let it out and let it go. But when we consciously document some of the technical details along with our feelings we have a new tool. When we periodically examine our rants and the details of our frustrations we can start to see areas of our game that we really need to work on and take corrective action.


Taking notes allows you to examine what you think are the key points of a technique and express it more clearly. If anybody ever asks you about that technique or you teach/instruct, you will be able to easily offer a clear and detailed explanation of the technique. The other side of this coin is that if you can't produce a clear description of a technique then you have a good set of structured questions to ask your instructor.


A training log is helpful to analyze what training worked and what might not have worked so well.  We can pinpoint potential areas of weakness and possible problems with recovery and injuries. For example, when reviewing your notes on rolling you see that certain positions/submissions bring success and others might not or you recognize that when you were ramping up to 2-a-day practices you were prone to injury (was there a positive trade off?).

There may be more, but that's all I've got for now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lost BJJ Terminology

Slug Trail - The wet sweat-sheen left behind as an opponent drives you across the mat attempting to pass your guard, especially in no-gi.

Quote of the Moment - True to What You Are

In my music, I'm trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it's difficult is because I'm changing all the time. - Charles Mingus

Monday, August 16, 2010

Example Training Log (humor)

Dear Diary...

For my thirtieth birthday this year, my wife (such a sweetheart) signed me up for a fantastic "one week special" offer at the new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school downtown. She knows how much I love the UFC and Joe Rogan always says you have to know Jiu Jitsu to have a good "ground game."

Although I am still in great shape, since after all, I was a high school athlete, I know it is going to be tough. My wife seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started. I called the school and got some basic information from someone called Hoffi who identified himself as a 26 year old assistant instructor. "Hoffi" said to just wear some workout clothes and that they would get me a "kimono" (whatever that is) and to bring a notebook to keep a "training log" to chart my progress and help remember things.

This is going to be so much fun!

My Training Log
Arrived at 6:00 pm. Tough to make it on time from work, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the school to find Hoffi waiting for me. He gave me a tour and showed me the changing rooms. He gave me a "kimono" to change into with a white belt and said he would see me on the mats.

When I come out I see about 10 other guys with white belts, 2 blue belts, and a girl in a pink "kimono" with a purple belt. The people with colored belts all come over and say hello and seem very friendly. The girl, Kyra, is really cute with dark brown hair, dancing eyes, a dazzling white smile, and a cool accent like Hoffi's. Woo Hoo!!

Hoffi started the class with a warm-up. We did a lot of something he called "shrimping" where you lay on the floor and push yourself around with your feet,

some push-ups, sit-ups, and a few other exercises. It took about 10 minutes and I was alarmed that my pulse was so fast, but I attribute it watching Kyra in the line in front of me. I enjoyed watching the skillful way she seemed to do everything. Very inspiring.

Hoffi broke the class into two groups and I was in a group with 2 other apparently new whitebelts. First he showed us how to tie our belts (how could something so simple be so complicated?), then he showed us how to do an armbar from closed guard (my favorite UFC move!) and an "upa" from mount.

Hoffi was encouraging as I did my armbar and upa. The rest of the class Hoffi explained some details of the guard and mount positions.

This is going to be a FANTASTIC week!!

Tonight Hoffi did the basic warm-up but at the end he had us do something called a "burpee" for what seemed like forever. My legs were a little wobbly and I felt light-headed, but I didn't stop. I looked across the circle and Kyra smiled at me making it all worthwhile. I found out "Hoffi" is really Raffi, but (R)s are pronounced (H) in Brazil. How cool is that?

Kyra was in charge of my group tonight and I found out that a purple belt is pretty high up there. I knew Kyra was good! She went over the armbar and upa again using me as her partner (I think she likes me!). It felt a little strange working with a girl and I tried to make sure I didn't hurt her. Then she showed us something called a "technical stand up." Basically, you're sitting down and you just stand up. I don't know what the big deal is, but Kyra said it is very important.

I feel GREAT!! It's a whole new life for me.

The only way I could brush my teeth this morning was by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I think I have a hernia in both pectorals and my abs and back are on fire. I could barely type on my computer at work today. Driving to class tonight was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop. I think I parked on top of a Prius in the school parking lot.

Hoffi was impatient with me during warm-ups, insisting that my screams bothered the rest of the class. His voice was a little too perky when he announced we were going to do some more burpees. I didn't notice it before (maybe it was the accent), but when he scolds, he gets this nasally whine that is VERY annoying.

My chest really hurt and I couldn't stand up straight so Hoffi had me be the bottom person all night. He told me if I kept working I would get in great shape and enjoy life. He said some other sh!t too.

Kyra was waiting for me with her vampire-like teeth exposed as her thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl when I came out to the mat. I got to class on time but I couldn't help being a half an hour late coming out of the locker room, it took me that long to untie my shoes.

Kyra gave me a list of things to warm-up with on my own and of course there were more burpees at the end. When she wasn't looking, I ran and hid in the men's room. She sent one of the blue belts to find me, then, as punishment, used me as her demonstration partner for some sort of choke. At some point I woke up with the entire class snickering at me. Apparently I forgot to tap and had been drooling on the mat for the last ten minutes.

I hate that b@stard Hoffi more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. And that stupid,skinny, anemic little cheerleader wanna-be Kyra too. If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat them with it.

Hoffi wanted me to work some more on armbars. But I can't even move my arms (which I am sure you learned in the sadist Jiu Jitsu school you attended and graduated magna cum laude from, you Nazi b@stard). My training partner flung me off and I landed on some bony guy. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like the big guy in the corner?

Hoffi left a message on my voice mail in his grating, shrilly accent wondering why I did not show up today. Just hearing him made me want to hurl my phone across the room. However, I lacked the strength to even reach the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the *$@#&& Weather Channel.

I'm just thanking GOD that this week is over. I am also praying that next year my wife (the BLACK WIDOW) will just kill me herself instead of trying to get someone else to do it for her!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Tap Already

The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it is still on the list...

There is a time to fight a submission and a time to tap. I will ALWAYS FIGHT to keep an opponent from SECURING a submission and work to get back to someplace safe. If he is not deep enough into my collar for the choke, if he is not controlling the rotation of my arm and using his hips on the armbar, if he is not getting his elbow around to the front of my chin on the rear naked choke - he is going to have to really work those details to get me to tap.

Even if it's someone that is just learning the technique they don't get a free ride. What they get instead is me loosening up a little bit and talking them through the details, even moving their hands/arms or whatever for them if they are not getting it (unless they have their arm over my mouth, then they get a "mrmphhhumphumph"). This gets them used to putting together all the details and gets me used to being uncomfortable and really feeling when a sub comes together.

One of the guys at the gym was laughing the other night because I was working through a rear naked choke with someone. "Man, that choke took 2 or 3 minutes and each time you had him adjust something you turned a little more purple and bug-eyed, ha, ha, ha." That same guy got caught in the newer guy's rear naked choke a couple of nights later and it didn't take 2 or 3 minutes for the new guy to get the tap. Ha, ha, ha back at you brother.

I do this because there is nothing worse than being in a situation where you are playing your "A game" (especially in a tournament) and you think you have something and it is just not working. Think GSP/Dan Hardy. Details matter. In the heat of the moment with adrenaline pumping and fatigue setting in we get sloppier and sloppier. If we don't train all the details when we have the chance we won't stand a chance when we really need it.

BUT once an opponent has it sunk with all the appropriate grips and body dynamics resistance becomes futile and a recipe for injury. Being "too tough to tap" means a short career in the sport.

"Nice" training partners won't want to roll with you or won't treat you seriously because they don't want to really hurt you and your game will stagnate. "Not so nice" training partners will get you injured and you will spend weeks or even months off the mats and your game will stagnate.

Even in the UFC, professional fighters tap rather than go unconscious or get their arm or leg busted up. Why? Because a tight submission fully applied can end a career in less than a second. Being "too tough to tap" may win you some respect among the armchair warriors but it is generally not the smartest part of a game plan.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quote of the Moment - Genius and Incompetence

He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which. - Douglas Adams

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting Wrecked

I got absolutely WRECKED on Monday night.

I was having one of those "off" nights to begin with but started feeling a little bit better during the Fundamentals Class. Moving on to the Advanced Class for the evening we worked on a basic back take from reverse De La Riva which meant a lot of inversion and movement on the back/shoulders - something I really need to work on because I absolutely suck at it.

This really gave me an ego check. The white belt I was drilling with is flipping around upside down with great movement like he has been doing it for years and is some distant cousin to Gumby (you go Austin!), while I felt like a feeble old man who can barely get enough rotation to execute the technique poorly much less nail it.

Then it was time for some rolling.

We work a series of 3 minute rounds with 10 seconds to change partners in between with one person starting in the reverse De La Riva. So this should be a great opportunity to really work the sweep while rolling if you are at least starting in the position. Well a great opportunity unless you're me. I didn't even come close to hitting the sweep once and had a hard time making it resemble anything like a real guard. All of this sucked, but the best was yet to come.

 The final round was 15 minutes starting standing and we were supposed to avoid going to closed guard. I paired up with Ethan, a blue belt who has been visiting with us for a couple of weeks. I fully expected to get beat as Ethan is young, strong, smart, has good wrestling, and a competitive spirit (and is an all around great guy) - but I didn't expect to get absolutely wrecked since Ethan had been training hard for a couple of hours before I even showed up at the gym that night. He's gotta be a little tired right?

I'm sure he was tired but it didn't show as he soundly thumped and submitted me (what 5 times?) over the course of that 15 minutes. My somewhat fever-dream recollection had me get grips to pull open guard, where I wanted to go straight into a tripod sweep, but Ethan came down to one knee in base negating my sweep and promptly passed and tapped me with an armbar. I think in the next series Ethan jumped into closed guard and after some scrambling tapped me again with an inverted armbar. I pulled open guard again and Ethan defended again, I tried to pull him into a triangle but he had his knee in up to his chin so I couldn't get my hips in - got passed and choked from mount this time (I think?).

My broken big toe still won't bend enough to let me shoot so being the creative mastermind that I am, I tried an arm drag into a side clinch - Ethan based well got an underhook on me and sent me up and over for a beautiful throw landing with his shoulder in my ribs. There was a huge whooshing sound as all the air in my body forcefully exploded (or maybe that whooshing was just me sucking all the real Jiu Jitsu out of the gym). After a brief pause to make sure nothing appeared broken we rolled some more and I eventually had to ask Ethan to just take top side control on my opposite side because any pressure onto my ribs on the other side was making me nauseous with the pain (pain I can handle but yakking on the mats is just too much embarrassment). Spent most of those last few minutes under mount fighting off chokes (with very little success).

So all and all a pretty sorry showing. And to add mental deficiencies to my physical deficiencies listed above, I can't wait to do it again!

(note: I thought about using a Thesaurus to find some replacement words for all the times in the above post that I used some form of the word "suck," but I decided not to cloud the clarity and overall brilliance of my suckage :-))

(note: to those that asked, the ribs aren't broken but are bruised pretty good - I'll be on the mat Wed.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Fear in Their Eyes

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. - Frank Herbert (Dune)

At my academy we believe that Jiu Jitsu is for everyone from the hobbyist looking to get fit to the take no prisoners competitor.  For a number of reasons (a great new location, way more mat space, more marketing, more MMA on the tube, etc) we've had a lot of new people come through the gym.  We take them through a Fundamentals Class and work really hard to make them feel welcome and get them excited about Jiu Jitsu.  At the end of class the feedback about their experience is almost always great.

However, trouble sometimes sets in when these same enthusiastic people watch the following Advanced Class. We have a fairly small core group of somewhat intense individuals (which you will find at most gyms/schools). As our guests stay and watch the Advanced Class, especially if we are in tourney prep mode, a look of fear suddenly enters their eyes. You can see the cognitive dissonance flash across their faces - "that last class was so much fun, I feel like I could get fit and learn how to handle myself in a bad situation" vs. "that warm-up would make me barf, are they trying to tear each others arms off, I don't think I could survive being thrown like that."

Now for some the fear acts as a catalyst and they sign up for classes and come in breathing fire.  But for those looking for something more casual the fear often causes them to run for the door.

 It is this second group that concerns me. I think Jiu Jitsu would be like a miracle drug for this group. Everybody is afraid of something: fear of the unknown fear of looking stupid, fear of pain, claustrophobia, fear of suffocation. Many people are afraid of the clinch, that "in your face" aggression. But it is all about how we face our fears that makes the difference.

In Jiu-Jitsu we learn practical physical skills like how to fall (ukemi) and how to deal with discomfort and pain and keep going.  We also learn to grapple with our enemies at close quarters and how to maintain composure under attack and ultimately to use our opponent’s strength against him. But I think one of the greatest things we learn is how to take on our problems close up and that we can survive.

A friend recently told me, “When I started Jiu-Jitsu, I was afraid. It was fear of violence in the outside world that got me started in Jiu Jitsu to learn self-defense. Once I started training I was afraid of the strenuous exercise, the possibility of getting hurt, the submissions, the skill of the higher belts. But I kept coming back. I'm sure it happened in slow stages but it seemed "all of a sudden" when I realized it - I wasn’t afraid anymore.”

(now for the deep surfer dude philosophical point ) I believe that once the question of physical fear is solved, then you can be more open, you are free to be more honest, your ego can take a vacation. When you are no longer afraid you can be strong enough to be gentle and you can live life fully enough to have compassion.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quote of the Moment - Live Fully

“Live life fully while you're here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You're going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don't try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.” - Anthony Robbins

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's Alive!

We've had quite a few new guys come through the academy these past few weeks and I seem to be caught in repeating conversations that go something like this:

New Guy #1 - "Wow, I've been watching tons of videos on the net and I either can't remember anything or can't seem to use what I remember on a real person."

New Guy #2 - "Yeah, and there are all these details you are walking us through that I never even imagined."

New Guy #3 - "My friend and I have been trying to train by ourselves rolling around a couple of times a week and we thought we were pretty good but nothing was working until you started helping us clean it up.  I guess we really do need training partners who know what they are doing."

Really Big New Guy #4 - "mrruummmph (accompanied by massive flailing and squirming), I can't even move, arrrghhhh!" after having a much smaller guy apply a little bit of pressure in side control.

New Guy #5 - "Oh so this technique is all muscle unless he is putting pressure on us here, but if he does it is an easy sweep."

My response - "That's right guys.  BJJ is alive. It requires the right movement, timing, and energy for the magic to happen. That is what you will learn here."

Other martial arts I've trained have been "alive" to varying degrees but the use of spontaneous movement, unpredictable timing, and real energy (resistance/full intent) is built into the very fabric of Jiu Jitsu. This is one of the things I love about it. There is never a question of would it work against a bigger guy - you grab a bigger guy and find out.  Will it work if I go full speed - go full speed and find out.

Of course we start slow as we learn something new and we need to be careful with those with less skill or physical attributes - we don't have to rip each others arms off to see that an armbar works.   In fact, a sign that you are mastering a technique is that you can do it under control at all times.

When we start learning a technique for the first time we go through the gross motions and then start to add details.  This stage is necessary to learn but it is where a lot of martial arts stop. It is not alive yet but it has potential.

Then we start applying a technique against a training partner that starts adding more and more resistance.  It starts to be alive, but it is not fully realized.

At last we start to use it in sparring.  As we first start to work it into our game our training partner (the good ones) might feed us some openings or we may start with positional sparring that lets us work the technique over and over.  Finally, we can use the technique when appropriate as part of our game - It's alive!

For more on the concept of aliveness go here Aliveness 101 Blog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Quote of the Moment - Perspective

"The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be."
— Douglas Adams

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Motivation (part:1)

This is part one of a multi-part examination of what motivates me to keep getting my rear-end kicked day after day in this wonderful game of BJJ.

In the broadest sense, for me are the concepts of challenge, mastery, and making a positive contribution.  Some interesting research is entertainingly summarized in this video:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: The Game of Human Chess

I really like this video as a promo showing the many different dimensions of BJJ.