Tag Archives: bjj

Teaching in BJJ and Removing Assumptions

Admittedly over the past couple of months I have been mainly teaching classes with more advanced students: we separate our gi classes into people who are super beginner and those who are more advanced and just due to scheduling conflicts I haven’t been able to assist in the beginner class, so the by the time they get to my world they are people who have been doing jiu jitsu for a couple of months, and while they have their struggles, by and large they sort of have a base understanding of certain principles and we build off of those.

I’m teaching that beginner class this week while we have some people out to go compete in Master Worlds, and if nothing else it’s very much a reminder that some of the things you think of as second nature after a while. How for some people not only is elbow escaping (or shrimping as some people call it) not something their body naturally does, but that even sometimes they know their right from left.

It’s a reminder that sometimes you need to stop and make sure that everyone is on the same page. It’s a bit like when you are telling your friend a story, but you never told them who the story was about, you just started using all the pronouns and expected your friend to understand exactly who and what you were talking about….and they just kind of stare at you blankly. Other people, particularly at my job do this to me all the time, actually. That’s when I will stare at the person and say, “I want you to repeat that entire story, but don’t use ANY pronouns. Go.”

Sometimes when we -higher ranks that is- are teaching, we know that people don’t have the same level of teaching, occasionally the erroneous assumption that people will know certain things will creep in without us noticing. Of course a white belt would understand why this guard is important! Of course they would know to turn left instead of right…and so on.

While it’s just human nature and there’s certainly no malice behind it, at the same time teachers need to be aware of those assumptions while on the mat, and do what they can to correct them. While some do have a bit of natural body awareness, more often than not people literally don’t know what they don’t know, with white belts having the biggest blind spot of them all. It’s our responsibility as higher ranks to expand their horizons bit by bit, showing them what’s possible and what’s necessary as they begin to learn the ropes of jiu jitsu. And the more we share that knowledge, really the better we all become: the newer student becomes more well versed in jiu jitsu, and the more experienced student understands the potential struggle that another future student could also have. There are also benefits of being the teacher instead of the student, but that’s for another time.

Have a great day everyone!


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Crying in Jiu Jitsu: Some Do’s and Don’ts

Preferably no one is crying on the mats- we’re all drilling, training, and overall (hopefully) having a good time. But unfortunately that’s not always guaranteed. As much as we try to keep our personal lives and issues on the mat, sometimes they have a way of creeping up on us in unexpected places. One minute you’re rolling with someone, and then for some reason it hits you, like when you’re standing in the ocean and get hit with a wave that you weren’t expecting.

While there are some outliers who have never shed an emotional tear on the mat, by and large if you haven’t cried in jiu jitsu, you probably haven’t been training for long enough. Admittedly, there are also moments when you are crying because of jiu jitsu, usually pain or maybe just feeling extra emotional- or you’re in pain, but if it’s a serious enough injury to make you upset, then that’s a slightly different protocol.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to crying in jiu jitsu:

  1. Don’t: Draw too much attention to the situation, and try to politely excuse yourself from the mat –  This is really the biggest piece of advice that I can give you. Not that I expect anyone to roll on the ground and intentionally draw attention to themselves, but if there’s a big blow up or some outburst of emotion, as an instructor my immediate worry is that someone is hurt physically. If you feel the tears coming on, let your partner know that you need a minute, try to excuse yourself/bow off the mat as calmly as you can manage, and either take a minute in either the locker room, or some other space where you feel safe to let it out.
  2. Do: Let it out, and start to take deep breaths – Listen, it’s ok to cry. I’m not sure how you got to this point: bad break up, a death of a loved one, work making you feel like you are barely treading water…. you’re at a point where there’s a lot going on, and unfortunately everything just came to a head at an inconvenient time and place. Happens literally to everyone at some point in their lives. It sucks, I know, but you’re also human, and sometimes we need a good cry. Remember to start taking nice deep breaths, get your heart rate back down, pull yourself back together.
  3. Don’t: Be ashamed to head back into class – Once you’ve pulled yourself back together, maybe splashed some cold water on your face, straightened out your gi- and don’t feel ashamed rejoining the class. Again, totally sucks, but it’s better to get something out of the class than hiding somewhere for the rest of the time. If your instructor doesn’t know what’s going on, you may also want to give them a heads up, just so they know what’s going on. This is also where I mention protocol gets a little different between emotional distress and a physical problem. If you get hurt in jiu jitsu and you know that it isn’t something long lasting, just really hurt in the moment, then come back to class and keep drilling/training if you can. If you feel like something is injured however, or hurts to the point where the thought of drilling or training again just seems impossible, then just sit to the side: let your instructor know what’s happening and ask if you can sit to the side, or somewhere out of the way.

Those are kind of the major points: it feels awful to cry on the mat, I know, but it’s definitely not the end of the world, promise- you’ll get through that uncomfortable moment and move on.

Have a great day everyone!






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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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Tips for Competing in a BJJ Tournament

While there are a number of people who read this blog and don’t do jiu jitsu, there are some, and maybe a few of them have thought about competing in the near future. This is by no means a complete list, but here are a couple of tips and things to keep in mind if you are thinking about competing:

  1. Get there on time– This is sort of obvious, but take a look at travel times, and take into account the possibility of traffic. I’m not saying get to the tournament 8 hours early, but if you are headed to say NAGA’s Battle at the Beach, which takes place in a New Jersey beach town, maybe add a little time in case you get stuck in beach traffic. You’ll also probably want to warm up beforehand, so I would say show up at minimum an hour or so beforehand.
  2. Make sure you have the right gear– if you’re not sure, see if the tournament has rules on the kind of gi that you can wear, belt, if you need to wear a rashguard reflecting your rank if you’re doing no gi, etc.
  3. Bring some snacks, water, possibly a yoga mat– It’s going to be a long day, so unless you want to roll the dice with the food and drink provided at the venue (which can range anything from a full meal to some hastily made PB&J sandwiches), you’ll probably want to bring your own snacks and drinks.  And if you’re looking to stretch somewhere before competing, it may not be a bad idea to bring a yoga mat so you can plop down somewhere and loosen up.
  4. Warm up– Related to the previous point, you should warm up. Stretch, jog, jump rope, do something to loosen you up before competing.
  5. Make sure you know the rule set– again a gimme, but don’t assume that all tournament organizations run with the same rule set. Some run their matches for different lengths of time, some allow certain submissions that others won’t, and so on.
  6. Keep an eye on the progression of the tournament and check on how they are going to call you to compete–  A lot- not all, but a lot of- tournaments will simply designate one, maybe two tables to a division and then corral the division by the table(s). If that’s the case, keep an ear out for your name, and/or just keep an eye on the general progress of the tournament. There are some tournaments that progress by rank from small sized competitors to larger sized competitors. So, if you’re a smallish blue belt and you’re watching some larger white belts on the mat, start to pay attention because you may be called soon.
  7. Breathe, and have fun!– No matter the outcome, you’re going out there and doing the thing! You’re facing your anxieties and stepping out on the mat. It may feel super stressful leading up to your matches, but afterwords you’ll feel accomplished, and can walk away knowing that you did your best!

Those are some tips for competing that I can think of off the top of my head- hopefully this is helpful to someone out there if they are thinking of competing in the near future.

Have a great day everyone!


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The Dunning Kruger Effect in BJJ


I heard about this recently and I think it fits perfectly with the perceived competency in jiu jitsu. The Dunning-Kruger effect, according to our good friend Wikipedia, “is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability.”

And really, the best story I’ve heard all day: “The identification derived from the cognitive bias evident in the criminal case of McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks while his face was covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink.”

That’s pretty amazing.

There was something one of our old jiu jitsu coaches used to say, that I think sums this up also perfectly- you get really good at a rank, you get promoted to the next rank, and at some point there’s a period of doubt and uncertainty, and it happens each time you continue through the the belt ranks.

Think of it this way: some people start jiu jitsu, and as they progress through their white belt they feel pretty good about themselves and get finally to blue, and then they are back at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak, and not only that, they begin to realize that there is SO MUCH more to learn and perfect. For some, that realization that they have so much more to go can be immensely daunting, and can cause some people to quit.

It’s the commitment to continue to learn even after that realization that will carry you through that dip in confidence and keep you on track in your jiu jitsu journey.

Have a great day everyone!


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Happy Friday! All The Gifs

Happy Friday everyone!

Figured I would go through the collection of gifs I have saved and share them with you all… and relate them to jiu jitsu (because, duh). Anyway, here we go!


Someone submits you with something you haven’t seen before:



Someone has a bad day at work/just in general and starts to try and work out their aggression during training:



When you pull off a fancy(ish) technique while rolling:

final countdown



And of course, bowing out after a particularly hard class/training session:

tenor (7)


That’s what I have for now- have a great weekend 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.


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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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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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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