Tag Archives: training in bjj

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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Working Smarter to Get the Most Out of Working Hard in BJJ

We’ve all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder”- which totally makes sense. But I have a confession to make: it’s not a phrase that I like all the much, but I’ve never really thought about exactly what made me not a huge fan of the phrase.

It only occurred to me recently it’s the second part of the phrase that I don’t like. This is my own (mildly demented) interpretation to be sure, but there’s the implication that the only reason I’m working as hard as I am is because I haven’t found an easier way: that if I found the more efficient path in completing a task that I would almost be lazy, that I would just kick my heels up and coast if I just worked a little more efficiently. And I dislike that image, immensely. It makes my face contort a little like I just smelled a gi that hasn’t been washed in a week. It’s not a pretty sight.

When it comes to jiu jitsu, we work hard, and by nature I believe most of us (if not all of us) are hard workers: we toil in a sport/art that takes twice the amount of time that it would normally take someone to achieve a black belt, and the mastery to a point can almost be fleeting- there is no end all, be all mastery to jiu jitsu. It’s an ever-evolving sport that you will spend a lot – and I mean A LOT – of time working on for personal fulfillment, and also for some pieces of cotton that are dyed in a variety of colors and little pieces of athletic tape that go around said pieces of cotton.

Instead, I propose this: we work smarter in jiu jitsu so we can get the most out of working hard. There’s no question that we are willing to put in work- we walk onto the mats, day in and day out, committed (most of the time) to give our all and put in the work to hone and refine our jiu jitsu. But, we should also look to be working smarter so we can get more out of that hard work and allow us to move forward to tackle the next part of our game that needs that refinement.

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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Focusing on Small Actions for Big Movements

When we are training, whether we realize it or not, we typically make some assumptions in our training: which is fine, half of the human race’s survival has depended on assumptions and quick decisions. We sometimes assume that we need to create a big action in order to create a big movement- literally and metaphorically. We assume that we need to go crazy overboard and either thrash around on the mat to make someone move the way we want, or we look at allllll the things we need to learn in order to increase our mastery in the art (spoiler alert, there’s no “mastering” jiu jitsu like there’s an end point. There’s really just increasing your mastery as you continue to train- it really only ends when you stop doing it)

But remember that jiu jitsu was not originally intended for big guys who make big movements- sure they do well on the mats, but jiu jitsu is really meant for the smaller individual, and sometimes it’s the smaller movements that will create the chain reaction needed for big movements. Same concept applies to learning jiu jitsu itself: by narrowing down your focus to one small thing, you are giving yourself the chance to really dive deep, fully get a feel for it and use that as the building blocks for other moves and techniques that you dive into and experience. And that small thing then builds to some big movements. Take spider guard for example- starting with a simple sweep from there, and then letting that build into different sweeps, set ups for submissions, or just getting you into a better position to move on to something else. And it all starts with that one small thing, the first link in building a chain that becomes your jiu jitsu.

So if you feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that you have to learn, or you look at the vastness of jiu jitsu techniques and think that you’re never going to be able to learn all this stuff in one lifetime, that’s ok: just focus on one thing, at least for a time. May turn out that through the exploration of that thing you find something that works better- and that’s totally fine. But focusing on something at least gives you a direction to start in, which is better than just sort of glossing over everything and not giving yourself a chance to dive into a technique, position, etc.

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

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Self Conscious in BJJ

Every so often someone will mention something about jiu jitsu- about training or some other secondary element, something that will imply that they are feeling self conscious and are worried about what others are thinking of them. And I can see where they are coming from- humans are pack animals that for the most part strive to get along with one another to be a part of the group, and sometimes we are worried about doing or saying things that will make us stand out from the crowd, particularly if we think it is something wrong or out of place.

I think we feel it the most when we are white belts- we barely know how to tie our belts, we get the names for things wrong all the time, we maybe turn left instead of right: it totally makes sense. The thing that you will eventually learn however is that everyone is so focused on their own journey, problems and struggle, there’s absolutely no reason you should worry about how you are doing. In the beginning everyone particularly feels a bit weird and out of place, and everyone does the occasional stupid thing. Or puts their gi pants on backwards- seriously, if I had a dollar for every time someone put on gi pants backwards, I could buy a bunch of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes… you get the idea.

Instead, appreciate that you have people who are there with you, and you are all on the struggle bus in solidarity. We are all focused on our own issues and struggles, and really our own efforts to feel a part of the group as well. As you progress in ranks you start to feel more at ease- you not only build a camaraderie with your teammates, but you do enough that one or two stupid things don’t stick out in your mind because you’ve done a thousand other things successfully so it doesn’t feel so silly or give you cause to start worrying that maybe you feel silly and out of place.

So, in short don’t sweat it, keep trying your best and realize that we’re all striving to better ourselves- and well, sometimes that means making mistakes and looking a little silly in the process.

Have a great day everyone!

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BJJ and Your Gym’s Holiday Hours

It’s a little bit of an unusual training schedule this week for people in the US and Canada- Today is Canada Day for our friends up north, and Thursday is Independence Day for the US.

A lot of gyms will probably hold an open mat- I’m curious if anyone’s gym does anything different, like a barbecue in conjunction with an open mat, a different kind of schedule, or if they just close completely…

Anyway, try to make it to class at least a couple of times this week (if you’re not travelling), and have a great day!

 

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Finding Your Reason to Do (or Continue) BJJ

There are a ton of different, great reasons to do jiu jitsu- for self defense, for physical health, for mental wellness…. The list really goes on an on, when you think about it. And for some people it starts with some external factor that comes into play- a friend started and wanted you to come along, someone mentioned that you should try it because it’s a great way to get into shape.

When it comes to ensuring longevity in the sport however I am a firm believer in having a reason that involves you, and you alone. Starting because say a friend started is a great way to get someone in the door, but there are going to be times when that simply isn’t reason enough to continue to go. It’s the same thing with a lot of big changes you make in your life: when you finally choose to lose those last 10 pounds, quit smoking, finally do the thing you always said you were going to do. It’s an action that requires a greater amount of commitment in the whole process than some external factor will provide you.

It’s important to take ownership in your decision to do jiu jitsu, because eventually and inevitably it will get hard. While your proficiency in the sport will sky rocket at first, but progress in anything is filled with hills and valleys, and there are times when you will hit one of those low periods and start to wonder if the risk is worth the reward: you are having less than stellar sessions rolling with people, others that you considered yourself equal to are getting promoted before you… again, the list goes on an on. By taking ownership in the whole process, I think personally it makes it a little easier to deal with those rough times, having the understanding that you are having a rough patch in your training, but you chose and it is something you will continue to choose to stick with.

So really think about why you are doing jiu jitsu- what makes you happy about getting on the mats day after day. Once you understand that it makes this whole journey, particularly the rough parts, a little easier to understand and gives you an anchor point to hold onto even when things seem to be going a little sideways.

Just some thoughts- have a great day everyone!

 

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