Tag Archives: training in bjj

A Difference in Focus: Newer Students vs Seasoned BJJ Students

It’s something I’ve noticed when teaching classes, but also when I taught a seminar. Granted, I’ve said before that my moves were not very flashy: I went over guard breaking, a decidedly not sexy move.

The newer belts wanted to see something dramatic and flashy, something they had never seen before…. and they were pretty unimpressed with my guard breaking instructions (but, they were all also successfully executing said guard breaks during the rolling sessions at the end of the seminar, so I don’t really feel that bad about it).

The higher belts though seemed generally impressed, and almost a little jazzed about something that would be considered mundane, but there were certain nuances or particular phrases that I used to convey the information to everyone. It was an interesting juxtaposition, I would say.

This is a personal theory, but I think when we are newer to the sport we want to see all the cool stuff, the wildly different- possibly because we’ve been drilling all the fundamentals and we want to see something big and spectacularly different than the things we’ve been drilling the past bajillion times over the months and years. You can’t see the nuances, so they don’t really excite you. Totally understandable.

For the higher rank though, the person that has been around the block and then some when it comes to the sport, there’s a respect for those little things. Sure, the big fancy stuff is cool and you’ll try it, but now you know and understand the finer points, and if someone can provide you with some insight to small tweaks in your game, different nuances in your existing technique, then that’s exciting! It’s a way to streamline your technique, or something different without having the reinvent the wheel and relearn a whole bunch of muscle memory.

Neither viewpoint are wrong: it’s all very much in line with the progression in jiu jitsu and really boils down to what you are focusing on in your journey. The newer student craves the big and the bold because they its something they can sink their teeth into, the more advanced student focuses on the tweaks and nuances to improve upon the solid foundation they have already created for themselves and their jiu jitsu game.

It’s just an interesting observations I wanted to share with you all 🙂

Have a great day everyone!

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Teammates and (Emotional) Closeness in BJJ

My teammates and I were recently wondering about this in outside of class: what leads to the emotional closeness that you experience with teammates?

I know I mentioned previously that having a friend is heavily preferred in jiu jitsu, but there’s still the question: what variables are in play to create the environment that promotes friendship among teammates?

First and foremost I would like to think it’s the mutual respect and trust among teammates in what would be considered precarious positions- you’re either making your teammate airborne, or putting their body into a position that could really hurt them. The teammate is in an emotional and physically vulnerable position, and through jiu jitsu, there’s a display of trust and respect by not taking advantage of that vulnerability.

Through jiu jitsu we are literally up in someone’s face, totally invading one another’s personal space- which let’s be real, that’s not something we usually tolerate unless we like and trust someone- and we come out ok from it. Being that close to someone, being in a vulnerable position, and not only that, sometimes failing and looking silly in those vulnerable positions inevitably leads to an emotional closeness that can seem a little strange to people outside of the sport.

During this discussion I also mentioned that while we all come from different experiences and really walks of life, we’re all connected by one common characteristic: grit. We’re all willing to work hard at a sport that takes forever to improve in, we’re willing to do the work, put our noses to the grindstone and continue on our jiu jitsu journey. All of these factors, and others (I’m sure) lead to a closeness that may not always seem to make sense, but has the potential to give us friendships that last a lifetime.

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

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Galentine’s Day Event This Past Weekend!

Yes, I know technically the 13th is actually Galentine’s Day, but we decided to commandeer the following weekend to invite some ladies around the city to stop by our academy, learn a little BJJ/self defense, and enjoy some snacks and drinks afterwards!

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We showed them a little self defense stuff, including a simple hip throw, as well as a taste of some other basics moves to give them a feel for the sport.

We also happened to get some nice slow mo footage of me demonstrating on a teammate:

It was a fantastic team effort, with ladies on our team from blue belt all the way up helping out. All in all I would say it was a pretty great day 🙂

Just wanted to share with you all- have a great day everyone!

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The Side Effects of Intentional Drilling in BJJ

We’ve talked before about drilling to hone your skills, and being intentional with your movement- there’s a fun side effect of drilling that we haven’t really talked about- and that’s becoming familiar with your own idiosyncrasies and ways of moving your body in order to complete the technique.

At first we focus so much on the basis when learning a move, or even learning to drill a technique- we make sure we’re hitting all the key pieces, the milestones that define the technique we are looking to execute, and then we even start to look for ways that we can refine that technique to be faster, more efficient.

But in analysis of our own techniques, sometimes we also pick up the quirky little things we do when performing a move: I noticed last night I do a little hop when doing a specific takedown- it was probably born out of trying to avoid tripping over the other person when they hit the ground, but it’s still just one of those funny little things that you don’t think about until you’ve done that one specific thing over, and over, and over again.

Just one of those funny little things I noticed and thought I would share- are there any funny things you notice when you perform certain techniques? Let me know, otherwise have a great day everyone!

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Jiu Jitsu and Showing Up

Life and particularly jiu jitsu, are really all about showing up.

It sounds silly though, right? Just physically taking your body from one space into another, and (preferably) remaining mentally present really does exponentially increase your chances of advancing in jiu jitsu. A lot of that has to do with what you say vs what you do.

People say they want to do things all the time- they want to quit smoking, get more healthy, lose those last 5 pounds, compete, get their next belt, be held more accountable. But more often than not their actions don’t reflect their words. They eat an entire pizza, don’t up their activity, they skip class, become unresponsive when you try to follow through and hold them accountable to their goals.

By showing up, you’re putting your money where your mouth is. You said that you wanted to get better and you’re doing the work. Showing up means that others can count on you as a training partner, and someone that will share the experience with them. Showing up means that you are putting in an effort, and people respond to that. It’s frustrating to teach someone who mentally didn’t show up, and impossible to teach someone who doesn’t physically show up.

It’s one of those deceptively simple things- how do you get better at jiu jitsu? Show up. How do you improve your technique? Show up. How do you improve your relationships with your teammates and coach?

Show. Up.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule and there are more nuances to some situations, but really the first step to all of it is showing up.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share with you all. Have a great day everyone!

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BJJ Academy Culture: The Intentional and the Incidental

I’ve been reading some business/leadership books recently, and a number of them have been talking about culture. The interesting thing is the emphasis that sometimes culture is something you actively strive for, but culture is also created by simply what is allowed or behavior that is ignored/not addressed and therefore passively allowed.

It reminds me of one of the more unreal moments of one of the first UFC events. Two guys are in the middle of the ring, and one grabs a fistful of the others hair and rips it out. One of the commentators says hesitantly “well, that’s not, not allowed” – I think the next event or soon after they addressed this issue and “no hair pulling” was added to the list of prohibited actions.

Culture in a gym is a bit like that- granted, people aren’t getting their hair pulled left and right- but sometimes we strive for a certain vibe in the academy, make a mindful effort to do this and that. This is a reminder that sometimes we also need to take a look at the things we are allowing in the gym – or letting slide because well, it’s not not allowed.

Some could argue that ultimately it’s the owner of the gym who dictates the culture of the gym, but also keep in mind that culture is not created with just one person. Of course there’s the owner or head instructor, but students- particularly higher belts- also play a part in that culture, and they play a part in setting the example of what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, and what’s not, not allowed within the gym.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share- feel free to comment, otherwise have a great day everyone!

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Does BJJ have an “Inspiration Porn” Problem?

The term certainly catches your attention, right?

Author Andrew Pulrang wrote an article in Forbes about “inspiration porn”- a term used to identify articles, memes and other forms of media that we see regarding people with disabilities that “…share one or more of the following qualities- 1. Sentimentality and/or pity, 2. An uplifting moral message, primarily aimed at non-disabled viewers. 3. Disabled people anonymously objectified, even when they are named.” The article explains that while those in the disabled community understand that the author may mean well, the content can be embarrassing or possibly demoralizing to the subject of the article/meme/whatever.

The article made me think about jiu jitsu, and the memes or social media posts that you occasionally see, with someone who may be blind, or may be missing a limb, and then of course the tag line of something along the lines of how much heart that athlete has. I get it- it’s supposed to emphasize that jiu jitsu is for everyone regardless of size or physical ability, it’s about the heart of that person…. I understand all of that. We also have those in the jiu jitsu community who have certain disabilities that we all look up to- take Jean Jacque Machado, who has a congenital hand defect and is considered one of the greats in the art.

But sometimes those posts of those who are seen as disabled or differently abled end with a tag line that can be summed up as, “what’s your excuse?”. The audience of those kinds of posts is geared toward the able bodied community, and as the Pulrang points out:

“Disabled people are used as stock figures in larger cultural narratives about hard work, gratitude, and other “traditional” values. A disabled person lifting weights or working every day for less than minimum wage is a convenient, (and seemingly apolitical), object lesson for the rest of us to work harder, complain less, and be thankful for what we have.”

So, does jiu jitsu have an inspiration porn problem? It’s a complicated answer that I don’t believe can be answered with a simple yes or no. In short, I think we as a community try to be inclusive- as I always say jiu jitsu is for ever body, but not for everybody- but we could certainly do better in giving a more prominent voice to those who continue on their jiu jitsu journey in a less conventional way. If we are truly serious about how jiu jitsu is for everyone, then we need to do a better job of having those unconventional stories told, and told by those who have experienced them firsthand.

Just some food for thought… Have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Jiu Jitsu Isn’t Always Pretty, and Pretty Jiu Jitsu Isn’t Always Good

Just a thought I was having this morning: I was thinking mainly about movies, if we’re being totally honest. Something can look good, but not necessarily be good in other regards.

When it comes to movies, I’m sure you could come up with a couple of examples of films that in terms of visual styling are amazing, but when you really start to dissect the plot and dialogue, really don’t make any damn sense. The most recent example for me is the movie The Witch: visually really interesting, great shots…. plot looks like a slice of Swiss cheese.

Jiu jitsu has its own issues with that. I’m sure there are some jiu jitsu players out there with some really cool, fancy guards and sweeps…. that really don’t connect to anything, or are really just done for the sake of being done. I like to think of those moves as almost the haute couture of jiu jitsu. I believe someone, somewhere in my life explained haute couture this way: no one in their right mind would (or should) walk out the door in some of the outlandish outfits that walk down the runway, but it’s more you should expect to see those elements in fashion in the coming weeks, months, etc.

Same thing with pretty jiu jitsu: you can take some elements from it any incorporate it into your game, but to take some of these techniques wholesale is the jiu jitsu equivalent of walking into a party looking like a fluffy, 3D Rorshach test.

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…But does it have pockets? 

Visually impressive, not terribly practical.

It’s also important to note that sometimes good jiu jitsu is not necessarily pretty. In fact sometimes basic, unimpressive moves are the most effective. Of course there is beauty in simplicity, and of course we can appreciate when a move is well executed, but sometimes the unimpressive “unpretty” stuff is really the best. It’s the stuff that may not make the highlight reel, but they are relatively simple moves that you can rely on.

So, just to recap- don’t worry if you don’t think your jiu jitsu isn’t pretty, because sometimes the good stuff just isn’t pretty- what’s important is that it works.

Have a great day everyone!

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Don’t Fear the Chaos in BJJ

This is one of those things I think a lot of us know logically, but we don’t know “heart and soul”: it’s not something we understand and utilize on a consistent basis.

We know there’s chaos in jiu jitsu- we know about the scramble, the mess of a pile of limbs and awkward angles that we can sometimes end up in. When it comes to progression sometimes however we hang onto what semblance of order that we can, and sometimes even missing some opportunities in order to maintain that sense of order we are so desperately seeking.

I’m talking about those moments in which we all have, at some point or another, stalled in training. Not because we didn’t want to move forward, but we wanted to ‘get our bearings’ or pull ourselves out of the chaos for a moment to think about our next move.

This is fine and good sometimes, absolutely- what I’m saying is sometimes you need to embrace the chaos, let things get weird sometimes and see where it leads you. It can be sort of uncomfortable, sure, but allowing yourself to ride that wave of chaos can sometimes land you in positions (for better or worse) you may not have otherwise found yourself in, and gives you the opportunity to grow in your jiu jitsu. Of course we would hope that unusual position would be a good one, but let’s not forget there’s validity in putting yourself in a bad position in training: remember, we train hard and face the chaos so we can fight easy come tournament time.

Have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

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The Discomfort of Getting out of Your Comfort Zone, Inside and Outside of BJJ

I know this is one of those “well, duh” kind of statements, but man it’s hard getting out of your comfort zone sometimes.

But man, is it also rewarding- fortunately more often than not.

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It would be dishonest to tell you that’s it’s amazing to step outside of your comfort zone, and to just leave it at that. To be perfectly honest it can be anxiety provoking- your stomach turns into a big old knot, even if it’s something you know you want. Knees weak, palms are sweaty- no vomit on anyone’s sweater though (at least I hope not)… Also, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, sometimes things won’t work out the way you originally planned.

But there are so many good things that can come from stepping outside of your comfort zone: you can “level up”, so to speak, or you can be placed in a completely different path than what you imagined. And even if things don’t work out, you’re at least not hindered by “could of, should of, would of” conversations, wondering what could have been if you had taken that step

This applies in and outside of jiu jitsu- trying for that takedown may not turn out quite as great as you imagined in your head but it’s better to take that risk, to deal with those nerves and accept whatever comes of it with open arms, rather than sitting and wondering how things could have gone if you had opened your game up a little.

This actually reminds me of my dad- love him dearly, but he is someone that it can take some effort to get him outside of his routine and comfort zone. In his own words, “it’s safe inside the box, nothing bad ever happens in the box.” – we were talking about his insistence on buying one exact brand of New Balance sneakers at the time, if anyone was wondering.

And in some ways he’s right, nothing bad happens inside the box…. But there’s really no chance for anything cool to happen either. Or a tremendous amount of growth, while we’re at it: we grow to the confines of the “box”, so to speak. We then have the choice to push outside of that box, that comfort zone, or we stop growing in order to remain within the confines of what is safe and comfortable.

So while it totally sucks, and makes you feel anxious and a little awful sometimes, don’t let that stop you from stepping outside of your comfort zone- you may be surprised at what you will find and you’ll have the opportunity to grow, regardless of the outcome.

Have a great day everyone!

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