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.


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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Finding Your Fist in Jiu Jitsu

While on vacation I started to read the book Blink, about the adaptive unconscious and basically what every jiu jitsu person works on mastering: the ability to think and make decisions without bringing the conscious mind and reasoning into play, “Mushin No Shin” as one of our old judo coaches use to say- “mind no mind”.


I’m barely through the first chapter, but the author touches on an interesting concept: apparently in Morse Code there is something known as a “fist”- a voice or particular style to each operator’s execution of code. Of course the first thing I thought of was…. jiu jitsu! (surprise, surprise)

As you go along, you will begin to find your fist, or style to jiu jitsu. Of course when you first learn a technique your coach/instructor will want you to mimic the movement as they have taught it: they want to make sure you are hitting all of the key points in the technique, and to ensure that is happening they are going to insist that you do things in a particular manner and sequence. And you absolutely should- go and create that strong foundation and groundwork for your jiu jitsu. After some time however you will find that you prefer to do things one way rather than another. When given the option to put a foot or hand in place A or place B, you’ll choose place A every time. Or say you’re in a certain position, you’ll pick always pick a certain action and way of doing those things, creating your own style or approach to rolling.

And that’s great! It means that you are really making the sport your own, that you are learning the techniques and approaching them from your own unique perspective. As long as you are hitting the key points in a technique, the world is your oyster and you can perform those moves in a way that works best for your body and brain.

This will take some time and will come naturally, so no need to panic or feel a sense of anxiety of yet something else to learn: at white belt you’re basically a blank slate, and as time goes on through blue you start to get a feel for what you like and don’t like, what feels a little more natural to you, and then from purple belt basically until the day you can’t do jiu jitsu anymore it’s refining those techniques and applying them in your own voice.

So, go out there and keep training, keep learning, and find your own fist in jiu jitsu…just don’t use your actual fists. That’s kind of a no-no in most situations.

Have a great day everyone!

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Happy Friday! Lake Tahoe Edition

Happy Friday everyone!

I’ve been a bit quiet the past couple of days- every 3 to 5 years a good deal of my family comes together for a little family reunion on Lake Tahoe, which is where I have been for the past couple of days.

It’ll be great to get back on the mats, no doubt about it, but in the meantime I’m soaking up the sun and fresh air while I can 🙂


My aunt and I catching some air while tubing on a previous trip 

Anyway, have a great weekend 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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Happy Friday! Aging Face Edition

Happy Friday everyone!

No, I actually did not end up using the aging face app…. thing. Firstly, my phone is getting old and slow and so I’m becoming really picky about what apps I install on it.

And second, I resemble my father so much that I’m pretty sure I know how I’m going to look when I get older- I’ll just be a paler, more feminine version.


Same strong chin and everything. Yay, genetics!

I just hope I will also be in a position when I’m older to adopt 4 dogs as well.


Adding them because well, who doesn’t like dogs? 

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Celebrating the Small Accomplishments

So real talk, I am a slow runner. Like, I’m sure there are a ton of grannies that would leave me in the dust on a race track. And while for the most part that’s fine, I decided at the beginning of this year that I wanted to be able to run an average of under 10 minutes/mile for at least 20 minutes. I figured this was a pretty attainable goal, and there would be additional benefits of improved cardio over an extended period of time.

I’ve gotten close a couple of times, and then due to whatever (illness, vacation, just general lack of consistent training- take your pick, really) I would have to literally slow down and my average would creep back up. Which to be completely honest was kind of discouraging. But, we’re jiu jitsu people- and if there’s one common trait in jiu jitsu people, is that we are stubborn.

So, I’ve been working diligently to Recently I was able to get my average speed under 10 minutes per mile- I hit my goal! And a couple of times as well, which has been exciting! I also recently decided to then increase the goal and see if I could run for at least 25 minutes at the same pace- success!


I take photos of the summary screen to track my progress

This isn’t anything that’s going to wildly change my jiu jitsu: but it’s a small win that should be celebrated.

That match where you finally stop getting stuck in that same position? Stop getting submitted with the same technique over and over? Those are wins- congrats! We all know there’s still a lot more to do and work on, but don’t forget those small wins- small wins will lead to bigger wins, and they are all indicative of progress.

Just offering a gentle reminder 🙂 Have a great day everyone!




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Creating a Psychological Safe Space on the Mats

I think there are some lower ranks who are sometimes afraid to ask for help- I sincerely hope that it’s more of an internal struggle than some sort of impression that they have received from an instructor.

It could be that you are feeling a little awkward because you have SO MANY questions about different techniques and their applications. and ok, that’s fair. There’s only so much time in a day and after class. But say there’s something that stumped you while you were training, I definitely think it’s ok to ask for help at the end of class. I’ve rolled with teammates who ask about something in the middle of rolls before too- if I can give a very short answer I will, but if it takes a little longer to respond, I usually ask if we can wait to talk about it after class.

Admittedly, sometimes I give unsolicited advice at the end of a class- “Hey, I noticed you were doing this- if you do that instead you should be able to successfully do x,y, and z” and even sometimes if I keep catching someone a number of times in the same submission, I’ll tell them a way to defend it or to how to shut it down.

I’m weird, I know, but I also want my training partner to feel like they are getting something out of the roll, and not hitting the same roadblock over and over again.

This kind of touches on the idea of creating a psychological safe space in the gym. The term I’m referring to comes from a book called “Smarter, Faster, Better”


While the book is geared toward someone in a management position, covering how to have a more productive team in the professional world, the underlying principle sort of remains the same. In order for people to learn and for there to be progress, people need to feel that they are in an environment that allows them to ask questions, to come up with a hypothesis and then test it out, and make mistakes without fear of being reprimanded. Ideas and questions naturally lead to more ideas and questions, and the group then moves forward in their knowledge.

Understandably this can be a tricky balance to maintain: on the one hand you want people to ask questions, be curious, test theories. On the other hand you also want lower ranks to focus on and master the basics and preferably stick to the whatever you guys are working on at that moment, but at the same time not stifling curiosity or someone’s desire to learn and experiment. Ultimately, much like dealing with a team atmosphere in a professional setting, a higher needs to not discourage that spirit of curiosity and learning, but instead remind the lower rank of the steps and fundamentals needed to get there.

So for the lower belts, don’t be afraid to ask questions after class, and for the higher ranks, encourage questions and working with lower ranks on certain issues- if the technique is a little off the rails or above that students’ skill set, then go over different, more basic elements that will help them get to that final destination. We are all here to support and help one another as we all grow and evolve through jiu jitsu.

Have a great day everyone!


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Jiu Jitsu Needs You

I think most, if not all of us walk around with a little doubt as to whether or not we are the right “fit” for jiu jitsu. We watch video clips of amazing competitors and their fantastic submissions, we see images of top level competitors on our social media feeds- there is enough content out there to make us second guess if we are actually a right fit for the sport. This can also come up in more direct ways- going over a technique in class that maybe you just don’t feel you are the right fit for in terms of body type. Your arms and legs are too long/short, you’re not flexible enough, so one and so forth.

We know that (for most of us) we need jiu jitsu: it makes us feel good, it engages us, it creates a family and a sense of camaraderie- it pushes us, takes us out of our comfort zone and usually as a result we are the better for it.

But believe it or not, jiu jitsu needs you too. Yes, you. You, with the short little arms and legs. You, the Master 5 heavy weight. You, the white belt that may be 110 pounds after a large meal. Jiu jitsu needs people of different sizes, heights, abilities. And not just because teachers need their mats filled with students sort of need- when you think about it, the inclusion of so many people with so many body types going against one another could be one of the one of the things that promotes evolution in the sport. Someone comes up with a technique that works best for them because as someone with a particular body going against someone else who can or cannot do something, and so they begin to use it, and then it becomes popular among the rest of the community.

I always like to say jiu jitsu is for every body, but not for everybody, and I still definitely believe that. It’s a sport that has more to do with grit, ingenuity, and creative problem solving then being a certain age, height or weight or having a certain range of abilities. And more importantly, it’s a sport/martial art that needs that sort of variety to keep it going, to keep evolving as time goes on. So keep in mind even though you may wonder if you are the right “fit” for the sport, make no mistake- jiu jitsu needs you.

Just some food for thought- have a great day everyone!

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Happy Friday! You Stay Classy, Philadelphia

Happy Friday everyone!

This is too funny not to share and I’m not even sure how to begin to explain just how quintessentially Philadelphian this is-


Best of luck to this guy, I guess.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Adventures of Wearing a FitBit

At the recommendation of a friend, I’ve been wearing a FitBit over the past- oh, 2 to 3 months. It’s been an interesting experience, and I continue to plan to wear one for the foreseeable future…. Or until I forget it somewhere and/or lose it, much like multiple pairs of sunglasses I seem to have lost over the years.

It’s been interesting to see what kind of data it can provide: I’m not exactly worried about how many steps I’m getting, but I do focus on the data provided regarding heart health and sleep patterns. Basically I want to make sure that I’m getting enough sleep, and I’m not about to give myself a heart attack. The no- heart attack thing is reasonably easy to attain, the adequate sleep thing for me is a little trickier.

I’ve been taking the data that its been providing and making little changes here are there to improve my heart health. I’ve also noticed that when I achieve more deep sleep (about 90 minutes as opposed to my usual average of 60) I feel better/more well rested in the morning, so I’ve been trying out some things in an effort to increase my time in a deep sleep cycle.

If you’re thinking about getting one, first and foremost there is absolutely no reason to buy a brand new one (unless you’re really into getting the latest and greatest of stuff). I bought a refurbished Charge 2 for about 50 bucks, and other than a few light scratches on the screen I would say it’s doing just fine.

Also, one of the primary things to think about is what part(s) of your health you want to focus on, because there are a lot of things it can track for you- steps, heart rate (not all fitbits track heart rate, so if you are interested in getting one for this reason just make sure its one that can actually track your heart rate, fyi), sleep patterns, days that you are active, weight, water intake…. the list goes on and on, trust me.

Also, I don’t wear it during jiu jitsu- I know I’ve seen at least one person post the results of their heart rate monitor while training in jiu jitsu, but frankly the idea of wearing something that could hurt me or a teammate makes me uncomfortable, so I don’t do it.

Just wanted to share with you all- anyone else wearing a fitness tracker? What parts of your health have you focused on, and have you done anything with the data? Let me know, otherwise, have a great day everyone!




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