Category Archives: Training

You Need to Make Mistakes in Jiu Jitsu

I remember- oh gosh, at least a decade ago- I was having an argument with one of my older brothers (I have 2- a step brother much older than me, and a brother that is only about 2 years older). The argument was with the one that is closer in age to me- we were disagreeing about something- I think it had to do with relationships? He and I have gotten into so many arguments over things that it’s hard to keep track. In a different set of circumstances he would have made an excellent lawyer.

I do remember him giving an exasperated sigh at one point and asking why I wouldn’t listen to him, and avoid making a mistake. And my response that it was because it was a mistake that I needed to make. Which is sort of how I feel about jiu jitsu- there are mistakes that you need to make if you are ever going to grow in the sport.

At first glance, the whole thing looks and sounds amazing. Imagine going through life and never making a mistake about anything: on the surface it seems like an amazing super power: you always wake up at the right time, you always do and say the right thing at the right time, you go to jiu jitsu and you perform each technique flawlessly, just as you’ve been instructed.

But have you learned anything in depth? Probably not, because you never needed to explore really why something wasn’t working. Like I mentioned before, humans are amazingly efficient machines, and we focus on inefficiencies when they arise in an effort to correct and streamline. Mistakes are also in a way what make us human: we talk about and laud the super athletes in the sport because they perform certain techniques with a sort of mastery and efficiency that we aspire to, because it is so rare. Certainly not unattainable, but we’re human- we are all bound to make mistakes at some point.

That’s not to say we should all just run around making mistakes, shrugging our shoulders and not learn anything from them (obviously, but sometimes I point out the obvious). The purpose of a mistake is to learn from it, to self correct so we can not only understand why we do something, but also what happens when we don’t. It’s a way of feeling out the boundaries of what we are able, or unable to do in order to get the results we want. Sort of like how toddlers and young children make mistakes all the time, but with like, at least 30% less screaming and cartoons involved- or maybe equal, I don’t know what kind of life you live.

Anyway, the point is don’t be afraid to make mistakes in jiu jitsu, because they are necessary to your growth: just be aware and strive to learn from them.

Have a great day everyone!

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Does BJJ Inspire Grit, or Are People with Grit Inspired by BJJ?

It’s one of those “chicken and the egg” questions- what comes first, the person with grit who walks in and starts jiu jitsu, or is it something that develops in a person as they train, compete in tournaments, and prove their resilience to others, and more importantly themselves.

Ultimately it’s a bit of both, I think. Not everyone with grit does jiu jitsu, but everyone who does jiu jitsu has grit. Even if you don’t think you have it: take for instance the shy person that walks into an academy and signs up for their first class. There are tons of other kinds of activities, etc. that someone could do to meet whatever goal they put before themselves particularly if it’s something like getting healthy or losing weight.

I’ve said before that jiu jitsu is for every body, but not for everybody. It’s a sport/martial art that will push you to grow, will force you to understand what it means to lose and more importantly how to pick yourself back up after that loss and to keep on pushing forward. I think for a lot of people they walk into an academy with that spark of grit, of resilience, which will be fed while the person begins to learn jiu jitsu, begins to train, and really begins to understand sort what they are made of. When we train, when we compete, sometimes are put into terrible situations time and time again, and we all learn that we can survive, or even find a way to get out of that situation. It’s an important lesson that I think everyone should learn at some point, but that’s just my two cents.

That’s all I have for now, folks- have a great day!

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Keenan Cornelius & His Comment on Gym Loyalty

I’m sure most, if not all of you have seen the video clip that Flograppling put online with Keenan Cornelius discussion loyalty to certain bjj academies, how the idea of being a creonte isn’t really a thing, that this is America and that if you are uncomfortable at a gym you have every right to leave.

I think there is a good deal of validity to his statement, to be sure, but there’s just something that keeps me from wholly agreeing with his statement. I think you absolutely have a right to leave an academy if you feel uncomfortable in an academy due to an unhealthy culture. I saw a clip of this interview on social media, but turns out it’s a whole 20 minute interview where he also talks about the dangers of hero worshipping your instructor or higher ranked individuals, which I also agree with. Blind loyalty does not serve anyone in the community- it puts both the student and instructor in a position where abuse can easily happen, as we’ve seen time and time again, unfortunately.

Granted, I know I’m picking at semantics here but I think my issue really stems from the comment that someone can leave an academy if “they don’t let you do things” is an oversimplification and gives me pause. I understand the intent of what was being said: if there are restrictions- say, visiting another gym- for what appear to be reasons more driven by ego than anything else, then maybe it’s time to consider another academy. To just say though “leave if you don’t like what they are telling you to do” I think some people can take the wrong way to mean “anything you hear that you don’t like means you can just leave and go to a new academy”. It sounds very impersonal and transactional- I pay you for goods and services and you oblige by providing me said goods and services, and if I don’t like how said services are provided, I will go somewhere else. The nature of a martial art though is be put in situations that force you outside of your comfort zone- for your benefit, of course- but the nature of being outside of your comfort zone is that you are uncomfortable, which people tend to not enjoy… And on the instructor side of things, when you put in the time and emotional investment to help someone along in their jiu jitsu journey, you can’t help but to feel some kind of way when they decide to go somewhere else, or don’t want to continue to do jiu jitsu anymore: of course you still wish them the best and respect their decision, but it’s also totally normal to still be a little bummed by that decision.

Instead I would argue that going to a gym is more of a partnership- the student enters the academy fully understanding they- regardless of whether they are a novice or expert- are going to be asked to try things that will push them out of their comfort zone, because that is where growth and change happen. The instructor understand they will do their best to impart their knowledge, experience and guidance with the student to help them improve their skill in jiu jitsu. The student, in addition to doing their best to try and at the very least attempt to do the things asked of them, will abide by the etiquette of the academy, and pay their membership fees to help keep the lights on. After being with an academy for long enough, a sense of belonging and camaraderie naturally develops- hell, how many people show loyalty to a barber, a coffee shop, a certain grocery store because that’s the place they prefer to go? It’s just an inevitable part of human nature: we look for places to belong, something that we can call ours. And to Keenan’s point, sometimes those relationships just simply don’t work out, and there comes a time when a student has to evaluate if they want to continue in that relationship with that particular instructor and academy. And much like personal relationships, it’s ok to feel sad about that relationship ending, but there should be mutual respect between both parties as they go on with their lives.

Those are just my thoughts on the matter- I think there were some good points made, but I think there should be some acknowledgement made that yes academies are businesses, but there are (appropriate) relationships that are built and fostered in those four walls and on those mats.

Have a great day everyone!

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Back from a Long Writing Hiatus…

Oh man, it’s been a minute… Coming back and writing is something I’ve thought about often, but just haven’t had the chance due to life and such.

Actually, I’m not being totally honest: there was also someone that was connected to my social media accounts that at the time I couldn’t block or unfollow and didn’t feel comfortable sharing anything with, and so in response I withdrew a lot from social media. Anyway, that person is pretty much no longer in my life, so they are no longer on my social media and I’m slowly coming back around to posting stuff online again. I hate admitting when things are not ok, but it also doesn’t feel honest to not address that part of the whole thing.

Anyway a (somewhat) quick recap of the more interesting things that have happened over the past… goodness, 9 months? Dang….

  • Went to Costa Rica: It’s a beautiful place with some amazing beaches, rainforests and volcanoes: however, a lot of people will tell you that ‘everyone there speaks English’. MOST speak English, but not everyone. I think every time I failed to say something in Spanish, somewhere in the world my old high school Spanish teacher felt a twinge of sadness (…Lo siento?). I would still highly recommend visiting.

 

  •  Training, training, and trained some more.
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And we’re in a new space- with huge windows!

  • Competed in a couple of tournaments: didn’t really do anything amazing at any of them, but that’s just fine. I did the best that I could at the time, and I’m ok with that. I don’t really dwell on “could have, should have, would have” scenarios when it comes to tournaments and instead prefer to look ahead to the next challenge. Made some friends along the way, which is also great fun and something I always enjoy.
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Competed against Emily Kwok! Lovely person to lose to….

  • Co-taught my first seminar! I was asked by Girls in Gis a few months ago to go through a little mini teaching session with another black belt in the area, Jen Russell. I didn’t really teach anything super cool, but everyone seemed to have fun, which is really more of the point.

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So anyway, that’s more or less a quick recap of what’s been happening over the past several months. I’m hoping to get back into a more regular posting schedule- I may even try to redesign the look of this blog (whaaaaaat…). It’s been what, 8 or 9 years, at least? Probably time for a little- er, a lot, rather- sprucing up.

Anyhoo, for anyone who still checks in now and again to read this, let me know what you’ve been up to, and see you later!

 

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Surviving Hard Summer BJJ Training Sessions

It’s super hot and muggy here on the East Coast, and with that sometimes training can feel brutal. It doesn’t help when it’s basically 100 degrees outside, not much cooler inside due to body heat and whatever else- on top of the fact that you are wearing anywhere from 1 1/2 to almost 6 pounds of extra clothing. My general take on these conditions is to try and keep training (because if we all stopped we would have to basically take 3 months off…. inconceivable!) but also listen to your body and make sure to take care of yourself.

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  1. Bring water to class: I imagine there are a couple of academies out there in which there is that one person that doesn’t drink water in between sets. Friend, don’t be a hero, drink some water. Or gatorade- whatever it takes to keep yourself hydrated.
  2. Train with a lower rank: so maybe you’re not feeling great, but not to a point where you need to sit out. This is a perfect time to work with a lower rank- they are still working on trying to figure things out, you need some time to be in a position where you are still working on things, but presumably this will allow you to slow a little bit while you come back around.
  3. Sit out when you need to sit out: You’ve been a brave little toaster up until now, and you are just not feeling well. You’re nauseous, maybe a little dizzy… just sit out. Every jiu jitsu person I know is amazingly stubborn, and it truly becomes a double edged sword: on the one hand its great when you need to “dig deep” and persevere through some bad situations, but it can also become a liability and you can really hurt yourself because you were too stubborn to not stop.

So, those are my main tips for surviving some hard summer training sessions. Hopefully you either take my advice or maybe you’re just one of those people who “love the heat” and can train unfazed in super steamy conditions. If that’s the case, well then good for you: I imagine you lived in either Florida or are secretly a lizard. Hey, I’m not here to judge, just here to provide some tips for others who have trouble with the heat.

Have a great day everyone!

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Article on the Term “Goon” in BJJ

This is a thing? Really?

Grappler’s Planet has an article about a term that I guess is making its way through the BJJ community- “goon” or “gooning” to refer to someone who uses strength rather than technique on the mats.

….So, if it’s a white belt can we call them a Goonie and demand they do the Truffle Shuffle?

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Anyway, my thought on the matter is that you are always going to have someone that uses strength, and more often than not it has something to do with pride: maybe they have previous experience, or think they are in some movie montage where they should be beating everyone with just a few classes and a highlight reel to show how hard they worked…. Or something to that nature.

The key here, as is also stated in the article, is first and foremost not to be a goon, but also to focus on your technique- one of the nice things about jiu jitsu is that skill will inevitably beat strength. This “goon” will eventually realize that and have a fork in the path of their jiu jitsu career, in which they will have to decide what path they choose to follow: continue with strength and attempting to overpower others, or to change their ways and really learn jiu jitsu and the techniques that are offered.

So, check out the article and have a great day everyone!

 

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The Necessity of Imagination in BJJ

Seems like it wouldn’t have a place in jiu jitsu, right? Having an imagination? Believe it or not there really does have a place in jiu jitsu. You have to be able to imagine what your attempting and the most likely reaction to it. It’s the ability to visualize not just what you are doing now, but the most likely sequence of actions that will follow between you and your partner.

It’s ok if you don’t see that progression now, particularly if you’re at a lower belt. That sort of imagination/visualization comes with time and practice: you start to see the opportunities to act on the techniques you imagined yourself performing. But, as I said, it takes time and practice in order to hone that skill.

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

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Science! Jiu Jitsu is Beneficial for Your Brain

As if we needed additional evidence…

IFLScience has an article about how aerobic exercise is not only beneficial for the heart, but for the brain as well.

Take a look at the article and have a great day everyone!

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The Benefits of Failing in BJJ

No one really likes it, or truly wants to admit it, but there are some upsides to failing on both a smaller and larger scale.

Let’s talk about the larger scale first: you spend months preparing for a tournament. You train nonstop for months to step out on the mat and then… You lose.

Frustrating, to be sure: we like to think we will reap the rewards of the effort we put into something, even something as (frankly unpredictable) as a match. But, in addition to a humbling experience, one that exposes your weaknesses and shows you what you need to work on…you know, if you let it.

In a smaller context, failing at executing some technique for example gives you an opportunity to practice your exit strategy- just how you are going to react when things fail. This is an important skill, learning to recover from a failure. Even if you practice a technique a million times, it’s not infallible, and sometimes knowing how to recover from that failure is just as important as learning how to perform the technique itself.

So, remember to tell yourself that it’s ok to fail now and again. It lends itself to opportunity and other learning experiences you otherwise might not have.

Have a great day everyone!

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Explaining vs. Showing: How Do You Best Learn Jiu Jitsu?

So, anyone who has talked to me for longer than 12 seconds knows that I’m a visual person: I think in very visual terms, when I speak or write I like to build an image for my intended audience, and when I learn something, I need to “see” it with my mind’s eye to understand it. It’s one of the nice things about jiu jitsu class: in addition to explaining the technique, more often than not the instructor will go through the motions of the technique, offering the best of both worlds, showing the technique and then providing additional explanation and focus on certain details.

I’m bringing this up because I know there are some blogs out there that go tremendously in depth in their explanation of a technique, and basically provide a how to: and more often than not it’s all Greek to me. Not that I lack the capacity to eventually imagine what the person is trying to explain, or that the person is somehow failing in their explanation- it’s just I can’t “see” what they are trying to explain very easily.

It’s just a learning preference: I imagine there are people out there who love the step by step, written instruction on how to do something. If so, let me know who you are, and what appeals to you about that method: I’m genuinely curious.

Otherwise, have a great day everyone!

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