Category Archives: Training

Friendly Reminder: Cut Your Nails When Training in BJJ

And really in general, but especially make sure to keep them short for the sport. Just mentioning this because while training with someone I received approximately 2 inch cut from someone’s nails while rolling last night.

I spoke with the person after class (it was an honest oversight, it happens) but for anyone else our there who needs a reminder, please cut your nails- both fingers and toes.

Please and thank you.

Have a great day everyone!

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Fighting the Right Fight in Jiu Jitsu

It happens to all of us at some point: in the puzzle/human chess game that we call jiu jitsu, we sometimes find ourselves trying to execute on something that either just isn’t there, or focus on trying to do something that isn’t giving us the desired results.

We struggle, trying to put the wrong pieces of the puzzle together in an attempt to make something work- we try to fight the wrong fight, essentially.

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This can be super clear/obvious at lower ranks: the first example that comes to mind is when someone tries to break closed guard in the beginning. A lot of people have some…interesting ideas about what to do in closed guard. Some of them make sense, some of them, not so much. But it boils down to what they are considering the threat and what they are trying to neutralize.

This becomes less obvious as you advance in rank, because the road to success seems a little more open, and the options leading to a successful sweep or submission are- or at least appear to be- more numerous and potentially viable options. And while of course we should make an attempt and try our best, we should be careful though and not waste all of our energy on trying to stick a round peg into a square hole. Sometimes techniques don’t work because we need to get better at executing them, and sometimes techniques don’t work because we need to get better at understanding the right timing and opportunity for them.

Of course, it’s hard to tell that at first, but over time you should take the occasional second if you are struggling to think “Is this the fight I should be focusing on right now?” the answer can certainly be yes, but once in a while the answer may be no and that’s when it’s time to change strategies. It will take time to understand those situations, but if you are able to catch them, it should lead to more productive training sessions.

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

 

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Interesting Article on The US Women’s Soccer Team and Working with Their Menstrual Cycles

I’m a bit late on sharing this, but here’s an interesting article on the women’s US Soccer Team and how their training was adjusted for the different stages of their menstrual cycle.

I think it’s mainly interesting because if nothing else, it can start to change the conversations that we have about women’s health and training during those different cycles. While many may not need this kind of tailoring, since they don’t depend on their health and athletic abilities to pay the bills and put a roof over their heads, it’s interesting to think that there is a shift in this conversation and something that athletes and coaches talk about- having athletes take proactive steps to minimize any detrimental effects caused by their menstrual cycle.

Just something interesting to share- have a great day everyone!

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Picking and Choosing Your Battles When Rolling in BJJ

When you progress in jiu jitsu, you have to become a little more careful about who you roll with, in particular circumstances such as getting ready for a tournament, getting over and injury, and also just generally when you get older (hey, it happens- and it’s certainly better than the alternative). Side note, all of this is predicated of course on the idea that you have multiple options for people to train with: if there is only one other person to train with, hey, there’s only one person to train with and that’s kind of that. But we’re operating under the assumption that you have a number of training partners that you can choose from when it’s time to roll. It’s great to train with as many bodies as possible, don’t get me wrong, but there are some match ups that may not work in your best interest, and worst case scenario, could end up hurting you.

For most people after training for a long enough period of time, you start to know who those people are. And if you’re not sure, then before the next time you train you should think about who is in class, or will probably typically be in class, and the kinds of sets you have with that person: how do you feel when you roll with them? What kind of intensity do you two typically roll with- are they more chill sorts of rolls, or are they more aggressive and why? Are they pushing the pace, or is there something that makes you roll harder when training with that person? And more importantly, what sort of intensity and positions are you looking for with your upcoming training sessions, and which partners at the gym are a good fit to meet that goal? Are you getting ready for a tournament and so you want to push yourself, or are you getting over a hurt… something or other, and need to take it easy for a couple of days? And more importantly on the injury thing, will rolling with said person put you at risk of re-injury? Say you tweaked your ankle, and you know you have one teammate who LOVES going after footlocks. Do you like rolling with them? Sure! But if rolling with them puts your ankle at risk of injury, then maybe it’s not a good idea to roll with them for a bit.

Some may object to that, saying that you could just tell your partner not to go after that ankle- but friends, after years of training I can tell you with relative certainty that there is about a 60/40 chance they will remember your injury while rolling. What happens more often than not is you will start rolling, they will avoid the injured part of your body, then after some time muscle memory will take over and the chance of them going after that injured part increases substantially, and while your partner may have the best intentions, they will forget about that injury or it will turn into one of those footnotes in the back of their mind until something happens to that injured part of the body, where that reminder will come rushing back to them. They will look at you with wide eyes- and with a hint of panic in them- and will even sometime say “oh shit!” as they realized they are doing something to the body part that they shouldn’t be messing with. Again, while that person may have the best of intentions, sometimes in the heat of the moment they forget what they shouldn’t be doing. Granted, also in that person’s defense if you are that injured then maybe you shouldn’t be training period, but we’re a stubborn breed, jiu jitsu people, so you know there’s that.

Just some food for thought as we all prepare for competitions, some get over injuries, and for some who just need to start to get a little more picky about who they train with when it comes time to roll.

Have a great day everyone!

 

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The Importance of Recovery

It’s a lesson that I seem to have a hard time learning sometimes: that sometimes the best thing that you can do for your body is to simply rest. Maybe its my need to have some company in this camp, but I would like to think that it’s a hard lesson for a lot of us to learn: we want to be stronger, faster, more technical, more…. all the things, essentially, so we work hard to get there. We hear stories of people who seem to be able to train twice a day, and while I think we logically know this can’t be true, we may operate under the assumption that these athletes are practically machines, and operate under the more dangerous idea that we can achieve that same level of training, we just need to push ourselves harder than ever before.

It’s also something that’s perpetuated by fit culture in a way- how many times have we all seen the graphic of some man or woman covered in sweat, with some text about working out to a point that you want to die, and you still keep going?

Yeah, that’s…. that’s not really healthy.

The part that no one wants to talk about with any of these killer workout regimens and the like is that you need to take time to recover. Maybe I’m talking about this now because I was supposed to be at the gym at 5am this morning to lift weights. I’ve been pushing myself a bit harder than normal- lifting heavier weights, adding more cardio sessions, pushing harder in jiu jitsu to help some teammates with upcoming tournaments, etc. Friends, I got up, sat in a chair and stared at the floor like a zombie for a good 5 minutes before taking full assessment of how I was feeling and decided screw it, I’m not going this morning. And that’s ok: not great, but definitely ok. Will I try to make up the lost training day later in the week? Absolutely. But ignoring the signs your body gives you now will create huge problems down the road: of course there’s something to be said about pushing past your limits, trying to do more in an effort to push outside of your comfort zone. You can’t expect to improve it you don’t reach beyond what you think your limits are now and again, but that shouldn’t be a default mode.

Like any piece of machinery, tool or object that you repeatedly use past its capabilities, there is a chance that it will break down more quickly. Thankfully, we are not simply machines and we can recover from the damage we put our bodies through, but especially during the times when we push ourselves the hardest, we need to make sure that we are paying attention to our recovery as well.

Just some thoughts to mull over, or if you have been feeling rundown and need some validation to take it a little easy on yourself today, here you go.

Have a great day everyone!

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BJJ and Your Gym’s Holiday Hours

It’s a little bit of an unusual training schedule this week for people in the US and Canada- Today is Canada Day for our friends up north, and Thursday is Independence Day for the US.

A lot of gyms will probably hold an open mat- I’m curious if anyone’s gym does anything different, like a barbecue in conjunction with an open mat, a different kind of schedule, or if they just close completely…

Anyway, try to make it to class at least a couple of times this week (if you’re not travelling), and have a great day!

 

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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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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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