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Inclusion in BJJ: Getting Everyone Involved in Class

While preferably we would like everyone to follow along and do the things we tell them to in class, students sometimes are just physically unable. They are injured, sick, or have some other issue that makes them incapable of participating in class.

It’s tricky, making sure that someone is still able to be engaged and feel included in class. We had a little bit of an accidental genius solution last night: we had a teammate who was unable to take some judo takedowns, and so she became our “photographer” for the night, taking a ton (and I mean, like, A TON) of shots of us tossing each other around- it was a lot of fun and a great way to keep someone involved, without having them do something that they would feel uncomfortable engaging in.

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It’s something that instructors can and should be mindful of when it comes to students who may not be able to participate, and for students who maybe are unable, it may be a good idea to offer a suggestion on what can be done in lieu of a technique. Sometimes your teacher is not entirely sure what you are capable of doing at the time, so it’s helpful to offer an alternative.

Just something I wanted to share with you all: have a great day everyone!

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Drilling vs Training: When to Do Which

It’s been a struggle since the dawn of time- how much time to drill vs how much time for sparring aka rolling.

Ask a newer belt and they will tell you roll, roll, roll: less time drilling and more time sparring. This whole topic was actually spawned from a conversation with a lower belt. It makes sense: you acquire something new, and immediately want to put it to use.

The more advanced you become however, the more you see the value in drilling- you could almost say you took the new thing out of the package, you’ve played around with it a bit, and now you want to mold it better to your habits, body type, other things to make it your “own”, to develop the muscle memory for execution while you are training.

I’ve always said there’s validity to both: you need drilling to improve training, and you can definitely make a case to say you need training in order to know what to work on for better drilling. The two can- and should- go hand in hand if you let them.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t drill just for the sake of drilling and you shouldn’t train just for the sake of training. By combining the two you can push your jiu jitsu forward by drilling techniques you want to hone, and then putting them to the test. Or, conversely you can make note of certain situations you find yourself in while training, and then drilling methods to get out of those positions, or better yet turn those positions into something that is more advantageous for you.

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

 

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Digging a Little Deeper in BJJ

So, fun entry in the Chronicles of Katie Losing Things, I couldn’t find the band to my Whoop fitness tracker (you can take the band off and slip the actual tracking part into an arm band), I looked through the pockets in my bookbag, all around my house, and decided that I must have left it on my desk at work, as sometimes I change the tracking device from my wrist to arm when I’m at work before I make the trek to the gym to train.

Trekked all the way up to New York and back, went back to work and the band wasn’t on my desk like I thought, so I decided to take one last look in my bookbag, but one pocket that I didn’t totally turn inside out…. and it was totally there. Whomp, whomp….

The moral of the story is this: sometimes we think something won’t work, but in digging a little deeper, and operating outside or even in spite of our assumptions can occasionally surprise us. We thought that escape wouldn’t work until we dug a little deeper and surprise! We’re out. That sweep that hasn’t worked before, the choke we were a little too shallow with in the past: sometimes when we dig a bit deeper, there’s a reward waiting for us at the end.

Not to muddy the theme of this post, but just like we talked about learning the fine lines in jiu jitsu previously, there is a fine line between digging deep and insisting on something past the point where you need to just move on. How can you tell the difference? Instructors can give you tips and tricks for certain moves, but ultimately you need to train, experience it first hand and figure it out. And there will be times it will go (potentially hilariously) wrong, but there are times where it really is worth digging deep to find out something works.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Hard Choices on Your BJJ Journey

It seems really easy at first: you sign up for a class, you begin rolling (flailing) around as you try to find your rhythm, and slowly you begin to fall in love with jiu jitsu. And so you spend more time at this sport/art that you begin this sort of love/hate relationships with- you love doing it, you hate how bad you are at it. So you keep going to class, chipping away at it so to speak, still spending some time frustrated but also building friendships, and whether you know it or not, you are actually improving at jiu jitsu.

And occasionally throughout your time in jiu jitsu, there comes pressure not to continue- sometimes internally, but also sometimes you may have someone or a couple of people in your life- who may be well intentioned- but they may want you to stop the sport all together. I can specifically remember talking to my mother over the phone and can still hear her ask “can’t you do something else?” She was speaking from concern, and I think partially from a lack of understanding of not only what the sport entails, but the benefits that come from learning and training. Also, pretty sure I was venting about some jiu jitsu related frustration at the time, and so to someone who really isn’t interested in the sport, that seems like a totally logical response. I don’t agree with it, but I get it.

When it comes to those sorts of moments, that’s when it comes down to a decision that’s made by you and you alone. I think this is when a lot of people have that moment of either listening to others and back off, or they “take a break” that never seems to end, because they take a few months off and before you know it their schedule is filled with another million things that need to be attended to.

Side note, that’s not to say that people don’t have absolutely good and legitimate reasons not to train jiu jitsu: some people have loved ones that need to be taken care of, some have work/family/life responsibilities that simply cannot and should not be ignored. And really, for some people they just don’t find the joy in jiu jitsu anymore. And that’s totally fine: again, jiu jitsu is for every body, but not for everybody.

Ultimately, no matter who says what if you want to continue on your bjj journey, you have to do jiu jitsu for you.  When I have been faced with these kinds of choices in the past, I’ve taken a moment to think about what I wanted, and the two options that were offered- one would be to say yes to others who would not want me to do jiu jitsu-again, not out of malice, but really from a place of concern and lack of understanding. Unfortunately that would also mean probably not living a life in a way that I would have chosen specifically for myself, and in that be unhappy. It’s not the most fulfilling path but can appear to be the easier road to take. Or, I could continue with my choice, which can be harder, requires a little more time defending your choices and actions, and makes those close to you a little uncomfortable as they come around to the idea of your choice and the journey you have decided to embark on, but they will eventually come around to the decision (for the most part). I have frequently chosen the latter, knowing that it is sometimes the harder road to take, but ultimately the more fulfilling one, because while it may not be a decision that others totally understand, it’s one that I have made about my life and a path that I have chosen for myself.

So, for anyone who skipped the past five paragraphs (no worries, totally don’t blame you), the TL;DR version is this: there are going to be times when you have some hard decisions you have to make about whether or not you want to continue in jiu jitsu. This will be a hard decision for others around you, especially if it is one that maybe those close to you don’t truly understand. But, ultimately it is your life and really the main person you need to be accountable to when it comes to this decision is the person that stares back at you in the mirror when you’re alone (we’re not counting the creepy ghost that haunts your bathroom vanity, they don’t get a say in this). Living your life in a way that’s best for you sometimes can be difficult, and comes with some hard decisions, but ultimately is the most rewarding because it is a life that’s chosen and lived on your terms.

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

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Activity Does not Equal Productivity on the Mat

It’s a hard lesson that we learn over time on the mats: activity does not equal productivity on the mats. If that were true, white belts would be beating everyone, all the time. We all know what a white belt match looks like, lots of flailing, exaggerated movements that don’t really lead to anything, the occasional flop over someone or something. Funny to watch sometimes, but not entirely the most productive. Unless the white belt is trying to tire themselves out, which in that case they are overachieving in their efforts.

It’s over time where we start to streamline our movements- we become less “spazzy” on the mats, we stop trying to do all the things and we start to really learn to put intention and purpose behind our movements, and learn to conserve our energy, to look for opportunity and start to learn when its time to work and time to wait. It’s something that we need to learn while drilling as well- simply going through the motions while we drill won’t help us hone our skills.

When we really begin to take this lesson to heart and start to really focus on purposeful, intention filled drilling, we can really hone in on the important actions and see ourselves really progress in the art/sport. We focus while drilling so we can create the muscle memory, so that we may trust our muscle memory as we hunt for opportunities while training or competing. It’s working smarter to get more out of when you have to work harder.

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

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A Reminder for Anyone Struggling with their BJJ Right Now

Saw this on Facebook this morning, and thought I would share it with anyone who needs it this morning:

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Now go out there and be bad at something! And hey, being happily bad at something is better than being good at something you hate, and also sometimes being bad is the start of being good at it, or sneakily becoming better at something else without you realizing it. True story.

Have a great day everyone!

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BJJ and Adaptability in the Real World

I personally believe it’s one of those unintended, but great side effects and skills that you learn through bjj- the ability to adapt to unexpected problems and situations. While we tend to talk about things like looking for opportunities, positions and submissions during rolling, we also learn how to deal with the unexpected- we learn how to not panic when things don’t quite go our way, when things tend to go a bit sideways during a roll. We learn to pull ourselves together, to keep fighting to get back on track and work like hell to get back to a place that we can work with.

And I feel this has some real world application to it: something goes wonky at work, and a lot of people will freeze up, not sure what to do or how to right the ship, so to speak. This is where I feel people who train in jiu jitsu can truly shine (if you have the authority and leeway to do so). We’re used to things going wrong all the time, from that failed sweep attempt, to that super cool submission you thought you were doing, only to have it countered and now you’re working how to get out of it. We’re used to attempts in progress leading to some sticky situations, keeping a cool head, and relying on our creative thinking and grit to get us out of them. Hell, sometimes in training we intentionally put ourselves in bad positions in order to figure out how to get out. While it’s important to work your escape plan, it’s also an important reminder that just because you’re down doesn’t mean that you’re totally out of the game. Again, something I think that is an important lesson that has some potential real world application.

These are lessons that can (and should) be learned at any age. Sure, the earlier you learn this skill the better off you could potentially be, but I think as long as you are open to learning this important lesson it can benefit you at age 6 or 56. The more you are able to weather unexpected changes and hiccups, the more adaptable you become to changing situations the better off you will be: that’s not to say you should be a pushover, but in keeping your cool, there is less of a chance of you potentially over-reacting and possibly making a situation worse than before.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share you with you all- have a great day 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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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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Limiting Beliefs May Be Holding You Back in Jiu Jitsu

 

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There’s a term that’s tossed around my work sometimes- limiting beliefs. We think a certain thing won’t work, or a behavior won’t change. The definition of a limiting belief, according to the internet is “a thought or belief that a person acquires as a result of making an incorrect conclusion about something in life.”

This can plague our everyday lives, and can also effect our jiu jitsu. After one bad session of trying spider guard, we suddenly proclaim that we are terrible half spider guard players and we refuse to work in that position. We mess up a takedown, and suddenly we’re not the kind of jiu jitsu player that does “that” kind of takedown. We’ve all done it at some point, myself certainly included. We have one bad experience and then BAM- we think that we can’t do something, full stop.

While sometimes there are things we really can’t do due to some physical impediment, we shouldn’t let our limiting beliefs keep us from progressing into more fully rounded jiu jitsu players. Obviously, waaaay more easily said than done: humans are remarkably efficient machines, and it takes conscious effort sometimes to do things that we think are inefficient uses of our time: we like doing things we are good at, or have promise of being good at, because it feels like a more productive use of our time- to hone our skills at something we’re already doing well.

My ask really is to still try things that you have a belief that you are not good at- whether it’s a takedown, a sweep, or something else you think you can’t do (without hurting yourself, of course). When you are taking class and that particular technique comes around in the rotation, try to make an effort to clear your mind of the previous bad or less than stellar experiences, and try to start fresh. You never know, there may be something that you didn’t pick up on last time you tried and makes everything substantially easier.

I don’t know about you, but the next logical question for me would be “so how do you know when something is a limiting belief, versus an actual limitation”? Honestly, I’m not sure. I think there is always some validity in trying something, even something you know you aren’t good at- either you will improve, even just a little bit, or worst case scenario you are reminded that we can’t be good at everything, and that there will always be things to work on when it comes to jiu jitsu. But regardless, you should always make an effort to try things, even when you think you are not good at them.

Have a great day everyone!

 

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