The Word “Retirement” and its Diminishing Impact in the Fighting and Grappling World

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but there are a bunch of fighters who claim they are retiring, and then…. well, don’t. I could have sworn Gordon Ryan mentioned retirement at one point, but he’s recently competed (and then of course we all heard about the argument and slap afterwards) and I just had to look up how many times Conor McGregor retired, because it was certainly more than once.

So what gives? You could argue that they have a change of heart, I guess. I’m not totally sold on that explanation though: I have to wonder if more grapplers and fighters are “retiring” simply because they want to be more picky about the kinds of matches they engage in. Rather than a true admission to hanging it up and calling it a day, it has become a point of leverage for these competitors- they are technically “retired”, so you need to pay them or offer some sort of extra incentive to get them back on the mat. Obviously that may not be the case for everyone, but it is an interesting thought.

And really, I can’t blame them: whether it’s grappling or MMA, it’s not just the match itself that is taxing, it’s everything else that goes with it: the diet, the extra training and sparring, the supplementary strength and conditioning that goes with it. And if the reward of winning a match is not matching the effort and risk that go into it, then I can totally see why these athletes look for some kind of opportunity to take more control of their careers.

Unfortunately, the other side to this though is that when they claim retirement and then get back to competing, it then weakens the impact of someone else claiming retirement and really meaning it. As I mentioned, Conor McGregor -according to the internet- has “retired” at least twice now. When it comes time for him to truly retire and not come back, which is inevitable, are we going to believe him? I guess time will only tell.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share- have a great weekend!

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Should Jiu Jitsu’s Past Define its Future?

I’ve heard this a couple of times by now, and I imagine you have as well: someone will bring up jiu jitsu’s violent, sometimes thuggish past, along with some variation of ” I’m tired of people pretending that we are following an honorable samurai code or something…”. It’s interesting, because I find usually when people bring up jiu jitsu’s violent past, it’s typically to justify bad behavior in the here and now. It’s sort of like personality tests where someone will justify their (whatever undesirable trait) as a part of that personality classification- whether it’s Myers Briggs Test, Enneagrams, the DISC, Astrology… you name it.

“Oh, I ignored you because I’m an introvert”, “Oh, I don’t follow through with plans because I’m a type 6”, “Oh I robbed that bank because I’m a Capricorn”. You get the idea. Rather than understanding that undesirable trait as a shortcoming they should strive to amend, or at least be conscious of, there is this strange pride in these undesirable behaviors as if it’s an affirmation of their own classification.

I kind of feel the same way about bringing up jiu jitsu’s violent past. Many have pointed out that jiu jitsu practitioners were seen as thugs and bullies, that dojo storming was a thing- there’s even a story where some of the Gracies jumped a catch wrestler after a popular match (if you click on the link the story is in the middle of the page, second to last paragraph in the biography section). There’s no denying that there are some less than noble moments in the history of jiu jitsu.

However, just because something has a particular past doesn’t mean it has to, or even should, pre-define its future. I mean, there’s some evidence that suggest surgical chainsaws were invented for difficult childbirths. And while that procedure has thankfully gone the way of the dinosaur, we still use surgical chainsaws for different, slightly less cringe inducing operations. Yes, jiu jitsu has a rough past in some respects and while we can acknowledge that it does not mean it should dictate our future conduct in, and outside of the art.

Just as the game of jiu jitsu evolves, so can our conduct- we can strive to do better, setting an example that hopefully the next generation will take to heart and continue the upward trend. Will we still be imperfect creatures, making mistakes and poor decisions as we run around this spinning rock in space? Of course, but I believe we also have the capacity to move the needle forward towards those principles of honor, sportsmanship, and other laudable qualities that we strive for.

Just some thoughts for the day- have a great weekend everyone!

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Jiu Jitsu, Lifting, Life: A Little Bit is Better Than Nothing at All

So for a while now I have been making an effort to lift weights around 5am. And for the most part I’m successful in this endeavor…. and occasionally I’m not. While I usually try to head to my local weight lifting/all the cardio things gym to work out, thanks to recent lockdowns I do have a few pieces of equipment in my basement for what I call “creepy basement workouts”. Because my basement is creepy- it’s dusty with an uneven and cracked floor, the walls are pointy rock foundation for the house, the ceiling just the beams to support the first floor along with some random wires, and for some reason there’s an unfinished dirt pit in the back of the basement where I kind of suspect there’s something unsavory buried deep back there: drugs? bootleg liquor? Jimmy Hoffa? I don’t know, and I don’t really want to find out.

Anyway, this morning was a struggle for some reason: even though I went to bed extra early, laid out my clothes the night before, when my alarm went off for some reason I could not get my act together and just get up. I did eventually finally get myself in gear, but I had seriously cut into my workout time. In the past I would have just given up, said “well I’ll try again tomorrow” and that would be that. I did make it down to my basement though, managed to lift a few things and not dwell too much on what could be down there- it was by no means the kind of workout where you feel amazing and accomplished- emerging victorious and feeling like you can take on the world. But it was something: and that’s ok sometimes. Not every day makes it to the highlight reel: in fact, most don’t. Getting something done though provides consistency, and allows you to keep moving forward towards your goals. Sure, it may not be the large strides that you are used to, but doing a little is better than doing nothing at all.

It’s something that we also need to keep in mind with jiu jitsu: as you train, as you drill, as you struggle with positions, there are most certainly days where you are not going to feel your best. In fact, it may actually feel like you are getting worse: that’s ok, it means that you are trying something outside of your comfort zone, that you are developing skills that – if you continue to work on them- will eventually become a part of your skill toolbelt, if you will. Remember that everyone has days where they can’t give 100%, but giving something to ensure consistency is better than giving nothing at all.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share- have a great day everyone!

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Growing in BJJ Sometimes Means Changing Your Mind

Growth and an evolving mindset do happen though: it’s part of what makes us human. You don’t believe the exact same things you did say 8 to 10 years ago: you’ve been presented with facts and other pieces of information that were not available to you before then, and you have taken the time to digest and come up with your own conclusion. Side note, we like to think that our minds will be changed when presented with enough compelling evidence, but more often than not we shy away from the cognitive dissonance and dig our heels in, especially when someone presents information to us in what would be considered a confrontational manner.

I’m not here to say that is wrong: it’s a method of self preservation if you will. If we believed every credible sounding piece of information that blew our way, we would have no opinion at all. We would simultaneously agree and disagree with everything in sight. This is also why I loathe when people want to debate in casual conversation with the intention of “winning” – there’s no such thing, knock it off.

I’m bringing this up because of a post I saw on social media recently:

And I have to say, for a long time I was one of these people: I thought the kettlebell was the end all, be all when it came to building strength (of course as supplementary to jiu jitsu, because duh).

As time has gone on though I have come to appreciate other pieces of equipment in the gym more. I still think kettlebells offer great range of options for exercises with relatively little equipment, can help you with stabilizer muscles especially with certain moves like bottoms up *insert exercise here*. But, I definitely have more respect for other gym equipment than ever before.

How does this relate to jiu jitsu? Well, there are times where you think a certain move is THE BEST in a situation, and it may take some time to come to the conclusion that it’s good, but maybe not “the best”. A certain sweep, a certain way to approach a problem on the mat- as you continue to train and allow yourself to at least consider those possibilities, your mindset and (hopefully) your jiu jitsu game will evolve over time. You may still have some common elements to your game as to when you started, but if you ran side by side comparisons with yourself in the same situation- one when you just started, and the other years and years later, there will be some familiarity, but for the most part you should be able to see a more evolved game- not totally foreign, but different as you are presented with new information and problems to encounter.

All of this really to say, it’s ok sometimes to change your mind, to explore, and to change your mind sometimes when it comes to training in jiu jitsu.

That’s all for now: have a great day everyone!

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Happy Friday! Dog Edition

Happy Friday everyone!

If you follow me on instagram, you may have noticed that a lot of my stories have revolved around dogs- and one dog in particular, our adopted mutt that we named Jimmy. He was found as a stray in Mississippi (which, I thought was Minnesota for a while because I clearly can’t read state abbreviations) that was shipped up to our area through a rescue network.

He’s been getting comfortable with us, and we’ve grown to spoiling him over the past few months- lots of treats and things to chew on, sleeping on all the furniture (and sometimes the humans sitting on them) and trips to play with other dogs at the dog park and doggy daycare… I figured now would be a good of a time as any to share some photos of him with you all. Take a look, enjoy and have a great weekend everyone!

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The Effect of a Gym’s Aesthetic

I was talking with a former teammate about bjj gyms, and we touched on the topic of aesthetic in gyms and how it can potentially appeal to different students/audiences.

Just like the intentional actions and unintentional culture that take place at a gym, the aesthetic of a gym does play a (albeit minor) part in attracting students to an academy. While most of us could not literally care less about how a gym looks- just needs some clear space and a mat or two to roll, for someone just starting out it sets a tone for what to expect. Think about your more traditional weightlifting gyms, let’s say a Planet Fitness and say a powerlifting gym. What kind of gym goer is the planet fitness trying to attract- maybe the newbie or the not consistent gym goer. There are plenty of weight machines, dumbbells that don’t exceed a certain weight (I don’t think – not sure, it’s been a while since I’ve been to a Planet Fitness), there’s a row of Smith Machines in case you would like to use a barbell, and of course a whole slew of cardio machines. It’s a place where they are trying to encourage people new to working out, or are just simply inconsistent with their exercise to come and work out in a clean, shiny facility, and maybe join them for a pizza party or two…. You get the idea. There’s also the whole membership model where it’s priced so low because they want people to join and not actually show up, but that’s a whole different discussion for a different time.

A powerlifting gym or barbell club on the other hand has an entirely different look. While the facilities are of course kept clean, there is a certainly a different look to them. There are definitely less treadmills, that’s for sure. I guess you could say the same thing about crossfit gyms? Not sure, I’ve actually never been in one. The gym knows its audience: it’s someone who is serious about training and has even found the particular nuance they want to focus on. Neither of these gyms are wrong in their approach, they are just potentially appealing to different audiences. Neither will turn away someone in that cross section: a newbie to fitness is welcome to join a barbell club, and a hardcore fitness fanatic may join a planet fitness to get a sweat on. What I’m saying is that the people who put these gyms together (I would hope) would understand that those cross overs are not their key demographics.

It’s the same with jiu jitsu: the people who train all the time will literally train in a basement, or hell, even a parking lot if you throw a couple of mats down. You may have a few adventurous newbies who may want to join you, but they will be more of the exception rather than the rule. If you have a facility that reflects a little more of your traditional gym, then you can probably expect newer students to sign up: it’s more of a format they may be accustomed to, and then you can ease them into the weird back parking lot rolling sessions as they become more addicted to the sport.

It’s something I think a lot of academies owners may consider, but not really think about WHY it needs such consideration. We tend to think of our own experiences, needs and wants, rather than those of another person – just generally, it’s a natural default in life. But, if gym owners want to think about how to bring in new students (or if you want to bring in people who already have experience with jiu jitsu, that’s fine too) then you need to think about the kind of gym THEY might want to train in.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share- have a great day everyone!

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Training BJJ when You’re Tired

A few weeks ago John Danaher posted a long, but interesting take on instagram regarding rolling or sparring when you’re tired: “Tell yourself – I’m exhausted – but I will keep going with a lowered set of expectations.”

Whether it’s drilling or rolling, I think it’s an important mindset to adopt. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, etc. In addition to training yourself to push through when it’s time for competition, it proves to yourself that you are capable of more than you think, and really if you think about it a form of conditioning, if you do this often enough. The human body is an amazing, adaptable organism that loves homeostasis and efficiency. The more stress you add to it (within reason, of course) the more your body will react to that stress and find a way to adapt to regain that homeostasis and level of efficiency, allowing you to operate better when that kind of stress comes around again. What you may consider an awful performance on your end previous times may become slightly better with time: certain drills and training sessions that leave you feeling like you were flattened by a Mack truck after some time may just make you feel like you were hit with a Smart car, or heck, maybe a Vespa.

At some point or another you’re going to be tired: think less of it as an “if” and more of a “when” – and when that time comes, I agree that you should press on, just with lowered expectations.

That’s all for now – have a great day everyone!

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Gym Resolutioners- The Year To Be Kind to Them

I know, I know- it’s that time of year that consistent gym goers hate: when all of the “resolutioners” come in and do…. whatever it is that they are doing, in hopes to meet their New Year’s resolution to go to the gym more.

I’m pretty sure I’m just repeating my self, but my hope is that especially this year, you are a little more compassionate than usual with these resolutioners. One thing I think we can all agree on is that last year was rough, and I’m fully anticipating that we experience a lot more turbulence before we can get to any kind of smooth sailing in 2021. For now gyms (with proper protocols in place) are open in our area: if someone is finally trying to put their health first- and of course can do so as safely as possible- I think rather than rolling our eyes, we should encourage them to keep going. Now more than ever health is vital to our survival: it’s commendable when someone is willing to go out of their comfort zone, put themselves in a vulnerable position and try something new.

So, be encouraging, be kind, stay safe, and have a great day everyone!

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What Will the Covid Vaccine Mean for BJJ Gyms?

Vaccines are starting to be distributed, hooray! I know some people are concerned about exactly what is in the vaccine, but frankly I think about some of the places where yI’ve trained, or competitions I’ve attended where people will walk barefoot into the bathroom… I’m not that worried about something that was created in a sterile, lab environment.

While it may seem like that is the end of the story, you just get your two shots and then you’re done, unfortunately I think it’s going to be a little more complicated than that. I know there is some concern that those who are vaccinated will be more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, which can put more vulnerable students at risk.

While the hope is that everyone is vaccinated by the end of the year, it’s January…. that’s a long time to not allow people to train, especially after the previous 9 months, and ESPECIALLY when there is a part of the population that has been vaccinated. I’m wondering then how gyms and academies will handle this: will they still require social distancing and masks? Will they separate classes based on those who have been vaccinated and those who have not? There are also some people out there who don’t want the vaccination- how are those people handled?

As I’ve mentioned before, there is no simple, easy answer for this. Some academies may go for a more complicated logistical approach, some may continue with social distancing and other pre-vaccine protocols. It’s going to vary for different gyms, and there’s really no “one size fits all” solution. It’s going to take some time and we’re just going to have to feel it out- I would say think about what you are comfortable with, and if that is something different than what your coach or instructor has in mind, tell them and hopefully you guys can work something out.

That’s all for now- have a great day everyone!

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Happy New Year!

Here’s hoping that all the things that need to happen in 2021, do so quickly so we can back to training and a somewhat normal existence.

I hope you all have happy and safe New Year celebrations!

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