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BJJ and (Life) Priorities

I would write something about how I’m shocked and appalled that I haven’t posted anything here since March, but admittedly my posting has been pretty sporadic for a while now. I think I mentioned this before, but I switched jobs a while back and the transition, its new responsibilities and workload have just taken a lot of my time, in addition to some larger projects that need my attention (and thankfully have a definitive end). And to be honest, it’s taken a lot of my training time as well, which I’m sure some jiu jitsu person read and then gasped in horror. Sorry, but it’s true.

Which leads me back to the topic of priorities: a few weeks back I had brunch with a teammate, one who also has a job that keeps her pretty busy and mentioned how it’s been a struggle to make it into class on a consistent basis. We then talked about jiu jitsu, and about how attending class has to be one of those things you have to make a priority.

First and foremost, if there’s an important, particularly unique thing that needs to be taken care of in lieu of going to class, take care of that thing: if it’s a big project at work where a lot of people are counting on you, your grandmother’s 100th birthday, whatever it is, do that thing first.

It’s when we let the less important things seem important, that’s when it starts to get tricky. In this case, I would argue it’s less about prioritization and more about a lack of boundary setting – it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race, or a million other things that can keep you off the mat. It’s making sure we understand the difference between those little things that may happen in perpetuity, for those big things that I mentioned previously, and being clear as to the difference between the two.

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

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The Word “Retirement” and its Diminishing Impact in the Fighting and Grappling World

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but there are a bunch of fighters who claim they are retiring, and then…. well, don’t. I could have sworn Gordon Ryan mentioned retirement at one point, but he’s recently competed (and then of course we all heard about the argument and slap afterwards) and I just had to look up how many times Conor McGregor retired, because it was certainly more than once.

So what gives? You could argue that they have a change of heart, I guess. I’m not totally sold on that explanation though: I have to wonder if more grapplers and fighters are “retiring” simply because they want to be more picky about the kinds of matches they engage in. Rather than a true admission to hanging it up and calling it a day, it has become a point of leverage for these competitors- they are technically “retired”, so you need to pay them or offer some sort of extra incentive to get them back on the mat. Obviously that may not be the case for everyone, but it is an interesting thought.

And really, I can’t blame them: whether it’s grappling or MMA, it’s not just the match itself that is taxing, it’s everything else that goes with it: the diet, the extra training and sparring, the supplementary strength and conditioning that goes with it. And if the reward of winning a match is not matching the effort and risk that go into it, then I can totally see why these athletes look for some kind of opportunity to take more control of their careers.

Unfortunately, the other side to this though is that when they claim retirement and then get back to competing, it then weakens the impact of someone else claiming retirement and really meaning it. As I mentioned, Conor McGregor -according to the internet- has “retired” at least twice now. When it comes time for him to truly retire and not come back, which is inevitable, are we going to believe him? I guess time will only tell.

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

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Should Jiu Jitsu’s Past Define its Future?

I’ve heard this a couple of times by now, and I imagine you have as well: someone will bring up jiu jitsu’s violent, sometimes thuggish past, along with some variation of ” I’m tired of people pretending that we are following an honorable samurai code or something…”. It’s interesting, because I find usually when people bring up jiu jitsu’s violent past, it’s typically to justify bad behavior in the here and now. It’s sort of like personality tests where someone will justify their (whatever undesirable trait) as a part of that personality classification- whether it’s Myers Briggs Test, Enneagrams, the DISC, Astrology… you name it.

“Oh, I ignored you because I’m an introvert”, “Oh, I don’t follow through with plans because I’m a type 6”, “Oh I robbed that bank because I’m a Capricorn”. You get the idea. Rather than understanding that undesirable trait as a shortcoming they should strive to amend, or at least be conscious of, there is this strange pride in these undesirable behaviors as if it’s an affirmation of their own classification.

I kind of feel the same way about bringing up jiu jitsu’s violent past. Many have pointed out that jiu jitsu practitioners were seen as thugs and bullies, that dojo storming was a thing- there’s even a story where some of the Gracies jumped a catch wrestler after a popular match (if you click on the link the story is in the middle of the page, second to last paragraph in the biography section). There’s no denying that there are some less than noble moments in the history of jiu jitsu.

However, just because something has a particular past doesn’t mean it has to, or even should, pre-define its future. I mean, there’s some evidence that suggest surgical chainsaws were invented for difficult childbirths. And while that procedure has thankfully gone the way of the dinosaur, we still use surgical chainsaws for different, slightly less cringe inducing operations. Yes, jiu jitsu has a rough past in some respects and while we can acknowledge that it does not mean it should dictate our future conduct in, and outside of the art.

Just as the game of jiu jitsu evolves, so can our conduct- we can strive to do better, setting an example that hopefully the next generation will take to heart and continue the upward trend. Will we still be imperfect creatures, making mistakes and poor decisions as we run around this spinning rock in space? Of course, but I believe we also have the capacity to move the needle forward towards those principles of honor, sportsmanship, and other laudable qualities that we strive for.

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

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Jiu Jitsu, Lifting, Life: A Little Bit is Better Than Nothing at All

So for a while now I have been making an effort to lift weights around 5am. And for the most part I’m successful in this endeavor…. and occasionally I’m not. While I usually try to head to my local weight lifting/all the cardio things gym to work out, thanks to recent lockdowns I do have a few pieces of equipment in my basement for what I call “creepy basement workouts”. Because my basement is creepy- it’s dusty with an uneven and cracked floor, the walls are pointy rock foundation for the house, the ceiling just the beams to support the first floor along with some random wires, and for some reason there’s an unfinished dirt pit in the back of the basement where I kind of suspect there’s something unsavory buried deep back there: drugs? bootleg liquor? Jimmy Hoffa? I don’t know, and I don’t really want to find out.

Anyway, this morning was a struggle for some reason: even though I went to bed extra early, laid out my clothes the night before, when my alarm went off for some reason I could not get my act together and just get up. I did eventually finally get myself in gear, but I had seriously cut into my workout time. In the past I would have just given up, said “well I’ll try again tomorrow” and that would be that. I did make it down to my basement though, managed to lift a few things and not dwell too much on what could be down there- it was by no means the kind of workout where you feel amazing and accomplished- emerging victorious and feeling like you can take on the world. But it was something: and that’s ok sometimes. Not every day makes it to the highlight reel: in fact, most don’t. Getting something done though provides consistency, and allows you to keep moving forward towards your goals. Sure, it may not be the large strides that you are used to, but doing a little is better than doing nothing at all.

It’s something that we also need to keep in mind with jiu jitsu: as you train, as you drill, as you struggle with positions, there are most certainly days where you are not going to feel your best. In fact, it may actually feel like you are getting worse: that’s ok, it means that you are trying something outside of your comfort zone, that you are developing skills that – if you continue to work on them- will eventually become a part of your skill toolbelt, if you will. Remember that everyone has days where they can’t give 100%, but giving something to ensure consistency is better than giving nothing at all.

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

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Training BJJ when You’re Tired

A few weeks ago John Danaher posted a long, but interesting take on instagram regarding rolling or sparring when you’re tired: “Tell yourself – I’m exhausted – but I will keep going with a lowered set of expectations.”

Whether it’s drilling or rolling, I think it’s an important mindset to adopt. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, etc. In addition to training yourself to push through when it’s time for competition, it proves to yourself that you are capable of more than you think, and really if you think about it a form of conditioning, if you do this often enough. The human body is an amazing, adaptable organism that loves homeostasis and efficiency. The more stress you add to it (within reason, of course) the more your body will react to that stress and find a way to adapt to regain that homeostasis and level of efficiency, allowing you to operate better when that kind of stress comes around again. What you may consider an awful performance on your end previous times may become slightly better with time: certain drills and training sessions that leave you feeling like you were flattened by a Mack truck after some time may just make you feel like you were hit with a Smart car, or heck, maybe a Vespa.

At some point or another you’re going to be tired: think less of it as an “if” and more of a “when” – and when that time comes, I agree that you should press on, just with lowered expectations.

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

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When Should You Start Rolling in BJJ

Again, I was looking around at questions people were asking on the internet, and this is one that happened to pop up. It’s a totally valid question: just starting out you may not feel totally at ease rolling when you barely know anything, so some may want to hold off on rolling straight away.

My personal philosophy is you should start early- maybe your second or third class in. By then you should have one or two things in your toolbelt, and at the very least start to get used to the idea of rolling around on the floor with another human. I’m sure there are many conflicting thoughts on this and that’s absolutely fine: the way I see it is that rolling that early in your jiu jitsu journey sort of takes the scariness out of it. My concern about waiting too long to roll is the anxiety that may build due to some expectation that rolling is really going to be a bigger thing than it really is. Just rip the bandaid off, jump headfirst into the cold water and then figure it out from there.

Some academies from what I understand have their white belts wait to roll until they are a few months in, ensuring they have some more tools in their toolbelt before letting them go live. And that’s also totally fine: I will admit one of the drawbacks of having someone train that early is sometimes they freeze because they are in an unfamiliar situation and haven’t been taught how to get out of it, or learned how to take advantage of certain opportunities when they are presented, so I totally get why some instructors may want their white belts to wait on training for a little while.

At the end of the day, I would trust what your instructor advises. If they want you to jump in, just jump in and have fun! There’s no expectation to wow anyone or make the highlight reel: you literally just started. And if they want you to wait a little while you build your fundamental skills, great! More time to practice those basics before putting them to use. More than anything don’t build rolling up into something more than it really is: it’s an opportunity to try some things out, and particularly for a white belt, a chance to practice defending and escaping. No one is expecting any flying inverted submission out of you, just that you will follow the fundamentals and work to defend and escape. Just have fun and do your best.

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

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Getting Back to Jiu Jitsu: It Takes Courage and Grit

I logically understood the courage it took to get back to jiu jitsu after taking some time off, but when we were able to train, I fully appreciated the guts it takes for someone to get back to jiu jitsu.

Almost every time someone comes back from jiu jitsu it’s because they took some time off to focus on their family or career, or (unfortunately) to deal with some sort of injury or other personal issue. After some time the siren song of jiu jitsu gets them back into the gym, which is great. It is a little however like trying to go through a choreographed dance after years of not practicing it: you’ll remember bits and pieces, but you’ll feel clumsy and your timing is off. Still, people still take all of this and make an effort to persevere.

Over the summer gyms were open to some extend and we were able to attend classes, and man it was rough: feeling out of shape for jiu jitsu, clumsy, the frustration of knowing that you understand how to do something, that you used to do it all the time but your body will not cooperate. And that’s hard for a lot of people- we like to be good at things, and we especially hate when we used to be good at something and now we’re not.

We’re back to a full lockdown now for the time being, but when gyms open back up, I have to say it will take a lot of courage and grit for people to come back. We will, it will suck, and then it will get better. Keep this experience in mind the next time someone comes back to jiu jitsu after all of this covid craziness is over: it’s going to suck for them, but it took a lot of courage for them to get back to the gym and it will continue to take some grit for them to keep continuing, and that should be respected.

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

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Not Every BJJ Gym is for Everybody

Recently on social media someone made a comment that they had yet to find a gym where they truly felt welcome. That’s absolutely unfortunate, but it does bring to light something that is not discussed that often: not every academy is going to be a great fit for someone. There are some schools that appeal to a certain crowd because the owner has decided- either consciously or unconsciously- to appeal and attract that certain crowd. And, if we’re being totally honest, there’s a chance that some gyms have a culture that was born out of simply what worked for the gym. Keep in mind, for a lot of people this is a business and their primary source of income: while this by no means excuses any less desirable behaviors, more something to keep in mind if you wonder why there may be a dissonance between what a gym owner or instructor preaches and behaves vs what they allow to transpire. Gym owners should take a good look at not only the qualities and values they intentionally promote in an academy, but also what they allow to “slide” in a gym, because that also plays a huge part of the gym’s culture.

Also, all of that being said, there’s just a chance that a gym is not a fit for someone. Maybe they do not agree with some parts of the culture- while of course there are some non-negotiables when it comes to respect and safety, but take for instance there are some jiu jitsu gyms out there who take a more formal approach to classes, while some take a more casual and relaxed approach. Neither of these academies are wrong (in my opinion), and some students are going to be more drawn to one kind of environment than another.

I know there’s the whole idea that it’s frowned upon to switch gyms: and from a teaching perspective, I do have to say that sometimes it’s hard to watch someone that you spent so much time working with, emotionally investing in their success that it does hurt a little when they decide that they want to train somewhere else. However I also don’t believe in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: if it’s simply not working for you, then it’s not working for you. If you decide to leave your current gym, try to be as professional and courteous about it as possible. It’s kind of like a break up- the more you speak poorly of the other person, the worse you look.

That’s it for now: have a great day everyone!

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Will BJJ Survive Covid?

It’s a valid question: we’ve seen or heard about a lot of schools shutting down due to Covid restrictions, so it’s a concern and fear for a lot of people. Some may see this as a moot point, since vaccines are on their way, but considering the spacing of the vaccines and overall availability, the sport could take a hit over the next few months as cases rise.

We have to keep in mind that this was a martial art and sport that started in garages, and also it’s a sport full of stubborn people. As long as there are at lease two people with a desire to roll on the ground in some fancy thick pajamas, jiu jitsu will survive. At worst in some areas it may need to be paused in some areas, or there could be a shake up in terms of available academies where one can train. This is also a sport though that for some time was practiced in garages. While IBJJF has added a level of legitimacy to academies, that’s really more of a concern for people that want to compete in their tournaments. For a very large portion of the jiu jitsu population, most just want to train without dreams of making it to an IBJJF podium. In that case, a lot of these schools can basically go “underground” while we try to rebuild as the vaccine becomes more available.

lt’s a stressful time to be sure, especially for a lot of small school owners as they are unsure about their future. As a whole though, I think jiu jitsu in general will weather the pandemic and we will be back to trying to choke the living daylights out of one another at some point.

Have a great day everyone!

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Can Jiu Jitsu Get You In Shape?

I was recently looking at a tool that tells you what people are asking about on the internet, and this is one of the questions that came up.

Well, in short yes, but it depends on a couple of things, including what you mean by “in shape” along with some other factors. In the beginning as a spazzy white belt, you will absolutely lose weight and absolutely feel like you are getting healthier: you’ll start to lose some weight, it may become easier to climb a flight of stairs…. Or you’re so tired from your jiu jitsu classes at first you don’t even notice the changes that are taking place. I can tell you personally I’m not even sure I was aware of the changes that were taking place when I first started jiu jitsu: it was ages ago, but I think I was so focused on just getting the basics down that it wasn’t until my instructors said something about my weight loss that I finally got on a scale.

After that, it kind of depends on what you do with that beginner momentum. Do you use that momentum to change your diet, add some supplementary strength training to your routine (to answer another question on the internet, jiu jitsu may help you build a little muscle but if you are really looking to make gains you’re going to have to find them in the weight room, not the jiu jitsu mat).

There are some people who definitely take the healthy route- and jiu jitsu is definitely a great motivator. You will spar with people in better shape, which can motive you to get into better shape- throw a little discipline into the mix and you have a great formula to getting “in shape”- if that for you means better cardio and losing some excess weight, and maybe getting a little more flexible than before.

But, as with most things in life, results will vary based on experience and of course your personal choices. After a while you will become more efficient at your movements in jiu jitsu, along with your body becoming acclimating to your level of activity. Food also plays a somewhat big part in this: we tend to believe that we can train and then repeatedly way over our caloric expenditure, or food that doesn’t give our bodies the nutrients they need, and that can potentially lead to weight gain: it may take some time to catch up to you, but it will eventually.

This isn’t meant to be preachy- if anything I’m trying to emphasize that you have a choice. Can jiu jitsu get you in shape? Yes, particularly in the beginning: jiu jitsu is a great way to start on the path to being healthier in a number of ways, and it’s up to you to decide just how far you want to go on that journey.

Have a great day everyone!

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