Monthly Archives: June 2019

Happy Friday! Sometimes You Compete, Sometimes You Support the Competitors

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Happy Friday everyone!

I pretty frequently go to some of the smaller, more local tournaments to coach my teammates, sometimes to act as their videographer and sometimes just to offer support as a friend and teammate. While I get it, it’s a long day to sit around in a gym, if you can, I would encourage you once in a while to go and support your teammates if you aren’t competing. While it’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t, it’s nice to know sometimes that someone is in the crowd rooting for you.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Reading Your Partner When Rolling in BJJ

There’s a phrase that you all may or may not have heard- it’s called “reading the room”. It refers to having the emotional intelligence to pick up on the body language and reactions of an audience to adjust one’s behavior- whether it’s giving a presentation, telling a joke, or simply having a conversation.

It’s kind of the same when rolling with someone: sometimes you have to “read” your partner to figure out how the two of you can have the most successful/productive roll. Maybe you’re dealing with a timid lower belt- it doesn’t really make sense to go 100%, Mad Max “Thunderdome” style with that person: all you’re going to do is scare the bejeezus out of them and maybe even turn them off from the sport forever. Some may argue that it makes the person tougher and that they will come out of the roll possibly stronger, but you would need to know your partner REAAALLLLY well to proceed with a reasonable amount of confidence that they will rise to the challenge, so to speak.

Sometimes your partner wants to go harder, and if you’re game to do the same, by all means go for it: maybe they’re amped about a tournament’s coming up, or maybe they are just feeling feisty during that session.

And sometimes people are just not totally there, mentally. We all have a ton of things that are going on in our lives off the mat, and as much as we try to clear our minds and stay focused on training, sometimes the real world sneaks in and pulls us off the course, and makes us not feel or perform our best. Or there’s a chronic injury that someone is dealing with and for whatever reason- weather, life, etc- that injury is acting up. Sometimes these are not things we’re inclined to admit of course, and that’s where I feel reading your partner really becomes important.

At the end of the day we of course want to train well and get good rolls in, but we also care about and have respect for our training partners, and I don’t know about everyone, but I think a lot of people would agree that they also want their training partner to feel like they had a decent roll. Sometimes that requires verbal communication- which of course is preferable- but sometimes that also requires an unspoken readjustment in training speed and intensity, so everyone can walk off the mat feeling like they had a decent training session.

So how do you exactly read your partner? Honestly, you’re probably doing it already, you just haven’t noticed. Look at you, doing the thing! You pick up on body language signals, reactions, facial expressions of your partner, and sometimes adjust accordingly.

It can be a tricky balance sometimes, training in a way that you and the other person feels like they got something out of the training, but as you train more often, the more accustomed you should become to making these adjustments which leads to a win for everyone.

So, maybe keep that in mind the next time you’re training, and have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

 

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Diet and BJJ: You Can’t Out-Train Bad Eating Habits

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Jiu jitsu will help you get more healthy- you’re becoming more physically active, you’re probably getting a good sweat in…. especially if you are a white belt and you’re spending most of your time flailing around (sorry, but it’s kind of true)….

But just like the weight that you packed on wasn’t just from the ice cream you were eating, or just the late night pizza, or just the beers that you were drinking, or just the lack of activity that you were engaging in,  and just doing jiu jitsu isn’t going to magically rectify all the damage you’ve done. It will certainly negate some of the damage, but definitely not all of it.

I’m not going to go at length into what you should and shouldn’t be eating: but you should take a long hard look at your dietary habits and whether or not they are helping or hindering you. Do you find that after eating fried food for lunch make you feel sluggish and bloated during training? Maybe cut them out, at least for a while and see how you feel. Have you been eating late night Ben & Jerry’s as a part of your evening routine and you find that your gi is getting a little snug in the middle? Maybe check out HaloTop, or save the ice cream for a once a week treat. Ben & Jerry’s has also rolled out a lower calorie ice cream line, which I know for….reasons.

At the risk of starting to fall down the rabbit hole, I would also suggest that it helps sometimes to set a goal for yourself to give direction when it comes to changing your dietary habits. Also helps you answer the question “why shouldn’t I have that huge slice of chocolate cake” when the time comes. I could be something as immediate as “I have class later tonight and don’t want to feel gross when I roll” or looking to feel healthy for a tournament, or even something more abstract as “hey, I want to feel healthy overall”. Humans by and large seem to have trouble with more abstract concepts at times… so really, we’re sort of going back to the importance of having goals conversation like I talked about before.

While I am talking a lot about abstaining from bad choices, this also obviously applies to a conscious decision in making good choices. Eating veggies for nutrients, enough water or liquids to stay properly hydrated on and off the mats (actually a huge struggle for me too, so you’re definitely not alone on that score), making sure you get the right about of macros for your body and lifestyle goals, all of that is important. It’s just the more common pitfall seems to be eating things that don’t have the right nutritional content to push you towards your goal, rather than not doing the things beneficial to your health.

So, just keep in mind, jiu jitsu can certainly supplement some lifestyle changes, but you simply can’t just out-train a bad diet.

Have a great day everyone!

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BJJ and Motivation

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I think people are (unintentionally) misled sometimes when starting BJJ, that you are always going to want to go to class, you are always going to want to drill something ten thousand times, etc. And if you are one of those people who say that you are one of those people that is perpetually motivated to go to EVERY single class I would say you are either superhuman or possibly lying to yourself, however there are those few outliers/exceptions to the rule that seem to baffle everyone. Rare, but they do exist. This is really more for the 90-99% of the population that occasionally find it hard to motivate themselves to get their butts to class. And really, that’s where discipline comes in.

There are people out there (I can’t recall exactly) who say there is boredom in mastery- and they are right. Motivation is sometimes the spark to light a fire in you, but it’s mere tinder- discipline is the longer burning…stuff…that will keep the fire going and keep you in a forward momentum. It takes discipline to pull yourself together, to get yourself on the mats and still have the focus to drill and train. And there’s a good chance you will be glad after the fact that you went. Or- since we’re human and all- you may not appreciate those sessions in the moment and still trudge home exhausted and unmotivated, but remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.

So, don’t wait for motivation to get you off the couch- you aren’t motivated to brush your teeth, but you understand that you will be pretty miserable (and not very healthy) in the long run if you don’t. Jiu jitsu is much the same thing- at the bare minimum, going on a consistent basis ensures that you don’t regret neglecting that part of your health in the long run. In the best of scenarios, discipline helps carry you through those tough spots in your training, ensuring you are still developing muscle memory that will help you in the long run so you can take full advantage of those times when you are feeling more motivated.

Just some thoughts on the matter- have a great day everyone!

 

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Reaching Out to Missing BJJ Teammates

One of the unusual, but nice things about jiu jitsu is its culture of almost hyper-accountability. You miss a couple of days at your regular treadmill/weights/whatever is popular at the time kind of gym and no one bats an eyelash (usually). Miss a couple of days of jiu jitsu class, particularly when you are a higher rank and I think for most people there’s a good chance that someone’s going to be sending you a text asking if everything’s ok.

And honestly it’s a practice that I engage in, and while shouldn’t be forced on anyone I think in general should be encouraged if they feel inclined to check in on another teammate. We spend a good deal of time aggressively & strategically hugging one another, it’s hard not to have some kind of emotional investment into your teammates’ well being. And as someone who has received those texts and Facebook messages before, frankly it’s nice to know that someone in your life cares enough to note your absence in class or training.

That’s not to say you should demand to know where another person has been while they have been out: that’s not the point. It’s more about showing someone that you care, and less about keeping tabs on them. In the past I’ve sent some messages with genuine concern, saying that I haven’t seen someone and just wanted to make sure everything is ok- or, I picked this up from a friend: when she hasn’t spoken to someone in a while she’ll reference the movie Cool Runnings and just send them this image:

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However you show that you care about your teammates, again I would say still respect their privacy. While a lot of times people are wiling to tell you what’s going on- like “hey just working a bunch of overtime,” or “needed to take care of some things,” or even “tweaked some body part while training and just want to give it some time to rest,”, keep in mind sometimes people are unfortunately dealing with something more serious, and they may not want to tell you why they are missing class, that’s ok, and just offer your support and that you look forward to seeing them on the mats again and and/or if they need something to just reach out (really only offer that if you really do have the bandwidth to help though).

That’s all for now- with so much going on in everyone’s lives, it’s nice now and again to reach out to those missing teammates and let them know that you care.

Have a great day everyone!

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Happy Friday! Flashback Edition

This is sort of out of nowhere, but Marcelo Garcia came to our academy for a seminar forever ago, and I found out recently that he’s only a year older than I am.

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I think at the time I was under the impression that he was much older than me- but we were both babies in this photo! That just blew my mind a little when I found out.

That’s all, really- have a great weekend everyone!

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Larger Women & Training in BJJ: A Tale from Both Sides

I’ve mentioned this before, but I was pretty big when I first started jiu jitsu- I was pretty close (if not over) 200 pounds, which isn’t really a great look for someone who is approximately 5’3 and had very little muscle definition at the time.

When I started jiu jitsu there were a few girls that took some classes- they were definitely smaller than me, and while they meant well, there were a few instances where a thing would happen: they would become frustrated while training with me and would either make some sort of back handed compliment about my size, or there was what I call the huff- unconsciously or consciously letting me know that it wasn’t my technique but rather my size that was causing a problem for whatever they were trying to do. I can’t recall what specifically was taking place at the time, but as Maya Angelou once said, people don’t always remember what you do or say, but rather how you make them feel. And in those instances I felt large and awkward and almost not welcome in the space.

It doesn’t really make sense to a lot of guys, I know- the dream for a lot of dudes is to be as big and muscular as possible (and technical, of course), to be a juggernaut on the mats. For women it’s a bit different however: a lot of larger women are made to feel uncomfortable about the space they take up on the mat. Do I think it’s an intentional act? No, actually- I think for the most part people just do stupid things without any real malicious intent: we’re just not so great at interacting with other humans sometimes (I sort of jokingly say this occasionally, ‘people-ing is hard’).

As someone who has been in that situation, and as someone now who trains with larger women, I am sensitive to that feeling and try to make women of all shapes and sizes feel welcome on the mat. I very specifically remember training with a woman who was a bit taller and heavier than I was, and I asked her why she wasn’t really going for certain techniques. It took her a moment, but she admitted that she was afraid that she was going to hurt me. I basically told her not to worry, that I would be fine, so just go for what she needed to and let’s roll.

And I hope you all do the same: welcome people as they are, and try to make them feel as welcome in the space as possible. As I’ve mentioned before here, jiu jitsu is for every body: tall, short, thin, fat and a wide spectrum of abilities (or lack, thereof). And while this is not always the case, I would hope that your mats are filled with all kinds of body types, filling your academy with variety and a chance to roll with those way different than you. Understand that while someone may be larger than you, that is a great opportunity to work a different kind of game- maybe you won’t be able to work the same kind of sweep in the exact same kind of way that you have been doing to everyone else, and that’s ok- in fact use the training as an opportunity to adjust your game that it can work on someone with a different body type. There’s practically never a reason to not have someone feel welcome on a mat space, especially when it comes to just their body size.

Have a great day everyone!

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Competing in Jiu Jitsu is About More Than Just Medals

Sure, medals are nice, but a focus on simply winning can sometimes end up hurting more than helping.

Black belt Mike Muscemi recently talks about this in an instagram post. It’s kind of a lengthy post, but here’s an edited version of it:

“Something I want to talk about is that I think people put too much emphasis on is winning worlds and a gold medal. This goal is a great as a motivation to work hard and to improve your jiu jitsu, but when it becomes everything to you, you lose a lot more than you gain from winning. When I won my first black belt worlds in 2017 I went into a depression….The next 2 years I would go on to win the black belt worlds again. But now my mindset is completely different. No, I am not competing for a medal, I am competing for myself. The medal is just recognition of the amount of hard work and effort I put into this. An object does not bring you happiness. Just like materialistic people, things don’t bring them happiness. Don’t look for happiness through things!”

Don’t get me wrong, winning a medal in a jiu jitsu tournament is great- it feels immensely gratifying to stand on a podium and be recognized for your hard work, for the time and effort you put into this moment. And that absolutely should be recognized and respected.

But sometimes an obsession with simply winning can lead to unhealthy behaviors on and off the mat. On the mat can lead to a weird mentality of not expanding and trying new things to develop and expand your skills, or during some tournaments it may lead to a lot of stalling and missing opportunities to do some really cool stuff, because at some point an obsession with winning also became a fear of losing- and that fear can really limit you as a jiu jitsu player. Jiu jitsu is about learning, growing, evolving as time goes on. It’s hard to do that if you are stubbornly refusing to allow yourself to be vulnerable and put yourself in places that may not be your “A” game.

Off the mat, there could be a wild imbalance to your life- shirking responsibilities, avoiding relationships that would require you to balance your time off the mat vs on- and while there are no immediate, drastically detrimental consequences (usually) from this behavior, at some point I would think you would look back with at least a small amount of regret at the missed opportunity to develop the other points of your life. Trips that you could have taken, friendships that you let slip away because you were so focused on just training and competing. After some time it all begins to add up.

But, back to the competition bit- also keep in mind that winning a medal more often than not really doesn’t change much. Unless you’re someone that’s depending on a sponsorship, there’s no guarantee that a medal will change much of anything. You won’t suddenly get a new belt, you’ll still have the same responsibilities that you had before the tournament- not too much changes, I’m afraid.

It’s one of the reasons why I don’t typically dwell too long on the performance at a tournament, win or lose. Granted if I win I am excited for that day, and if I lose I try to analyze what went wrong as an opportunity to do better, but I also view tournaments as simply snapshots in my jiu jitsu “adventure”- I appreciate the moment for what it is, and then start looking forward to the next one. I’m not sure if that would work for everyone, but hey, it helps me sleep at night and keeps me on the mat, ready and willing to learn and train more.

So, in short you should absolutely compete: even if you don’t think you’re a competitor you should at least try to step out on the mat and give it a shot at least once (or a few times) before deciding one way or another. But keep in mind there is more to just competing than winning a medal- it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying your best to use your game and skills against someone who is also trying to do the same.

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

 

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Article on Fight 2 Win and Their Focus on Women in BJJ

Hey all, it’s taking me a little longer than anticipated to gather my thoughts for a full post, so in the meantime here’s an article from Jiu Jitsu Times about Fight 2 Win and their focus on featuring women in the sport.

Have a great day!

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The Importance of Having Goals in BJJ

There’s definitely an importance to having goals in BJJ- I don’t know about you, but I tend to have better focus in jiu jitsu when I have a specific goal in mind: I want to work on a specific position, when there’s a tournament that is coming up that I want to prepare for, or even just a minor detail of a technique that I want to work on.

There is so much to jiu jitsu that we need to learn- techniques that branch off of other techniques and counters to those and the list can literally just go on and on. Your coaches or instructors teach you certain techniques sometimes in certain sequences, not because they are solely locked into that particular sequence, but because that is the way they have found to make the most sense to pass that knowledge on to someone else. It also gives order to a class so you’re not individualizing a lesson for every single student – that would be impressive, but wildly inefficient. What the heck does that have to do with having a goal? It’s more that particularly in the beginning a set of goals are sort of created for you, because you are a novice and it’s a pretty tall order, asking someone brand new to set goals for themselves. Goals for a beginner really revolve around things like “survive” and “try to only get tapped 18 times instead of 23 times.” It’s the instructor’s responsibility in a way to think at a higher level for the student, to show them the different techniques that will pull that student out of simply surviving a roll and eventually progress and eventually excel at some degree while training.

After some time however you should start to think about your own goals and the things you want to achieve in the sport/martial art. It gives intention and direction to your training, it can give you focus and remind you to stay the course, even on those days when you just aren’t feeling your best or feeling a bit lost. Jiu jitsu is more of a marathon than a sprint, and if you do not create goals for yourself, its easy to get lost along the way.

So go out there, create some goals or intentions for your training, and have a great day everyone!

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