February 26, 2020 · 10:57 am
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!
February 19, 2020 · 12:06 pm
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!
January 22, 2020 · 10:18 am
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!
December 10, 2019 · 12:45 pm
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!
November 6, 2019 · 10:39 am
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!
October 21, 2019 · 9:38 am
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!
October 9, 2019 · 9:03 am
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!
October 7, 2019 · 10:09 am
So during our competition team training yesterday, we went through kind of an interesting exercise: we put eye masks on (like the kind some people sleep with) and trained our preferred takedowns, some positional training and even did a couple of full sets of training.
First, it was a great lesson in creating muscle memory. During the takedown practice only one of the partners was blindfolded, and my teammate mentioned how creepy it was that I not only executed the technique correctly, but I ended up stepping in just the right way to put myself exactly in the same spot on the mat to start over again, all while blindfolded. I was weirdly proud of that, but more importantly it shows the importance of drilling a move over and over again: you should be able to trust that your body will execute the same movement regardless, so you can use more brain space on looking for opportunities, rather than obsessing over correct execution.
Second, it was a great reminder that you need more than just your sight for jiu jitsu, and there are also definitely times when it’s actually better not to use your sight. Sometimes you need to feel your opponent’s pressure, and not let your eyes trick you into thinking that they are headed in one direction when you can feel they are headed in another.
So, while you don’t have to head onto Amazon right now and order an eye mask (unless you want to- totally not here to judge) it might be beneficial sometimes to close your eyes, or rather intentionally shift your focus from what you see to what you feel- you might be surprised by what you discover.
Just some thoughts to chew on- have a great day everyone!
June 10, 2019 · 6:09 am
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!
June 3, 2019 · 5:44 am
It’s one of those “chicken and the egg” questions- what comes first, the person with grit who walks in and starts jiu jitsu, or is it something that develops in a person as they train, compete in tournaments, and prove their resilience to others, and more importantly themselves.
Ultimately it’s a bit of both, I think. Not everyone with grit does jiu jitsu, but everyone who does jiu jitsu has grit. Even if you don’t think you have it: take for instance the shy person that walks into an academy and signs up for their first class. There are tons of other kinds of activities, etc. that someone could do to meet whatever goal they put before themselves particularly if it’s something like getting healthy or losing weight.
I’ve said before that jiu jitsu is for every body, but not for everybody. It’s a sport/martial art that will push you to grow, will force you to understand what it means to lose and more importantly how to pick yourself back up after that loss and to keep on pushing forward. I think for a lot of people they walk into an academy with that spark of grit, of resilience, which will be fed while the person begins to learn jiu jitsu, begins to train, and really begins to understand sort what they are made of. When we train, when we compete, sometimes are put into terrible situations time and time again, and we all learn that we can survive, or even find a way to get out of that situation. It’s an important lesson that I think everyone should learn at some point, but that’s just my two cents.
That’s all I have for now, folks- have a great day!