Author Archives: Alexandra

Train Like a Kid

As I was teaching our FVGC Advanced kids jiu-jitsu class the other day, I looked around the room as the kids were drilling technique and felt proud! It was a class of 6-12 year olds repping their techniques with beautiful movement and great discipline. They hardly needed any tries to “get it right”. During rolling they stayed controlled and calm, hardly ever relying on size or strength to gain position or get the submission. It occurred to me in that moment that in some ways it was easier to teach this class than the adult white belts, that the adults have a harder time smoothly doing technique and rolling with some flow.

kidsHow is this possible? Here are 3 reasons I came up with:

  1. Kids come in with little to no pre-conceived ideas about BJJ: Usually kids come into class not knowing what jiu-jitsu is or how it should look. So, they come into class and take the instructor’s word for how things should be done and mimic the body movements and style of those that know more than they do. They don’t over-think it; they just DO IT.
  2. They work with adult instructors: The first time our kids roll, it is with an adult that is much larger than they are; perhaps this gives them the idea that their size and strength cannot be relied on all the time. They are forced to use good technique, as an instructor won’t let them get away with anything else!
  3. They keep it fun! Ego is much less of a problem in the kids’ classes. Of course, there is always some healthy competition, but the kids take it to heart when an instructor says, “You are going to have bad days rolling. It is okay. It happens to everyone. Everyone makes mistakes, and that is why you keep coming to class”. Even a child that has a rough practice is over it in about 10 minutes and ready to come back for their next class.

So I guess my advice is….Train like a kid! Come to class like a sponge, ready to absorb; roll with people that are bigger or more experienced than you; and, don’t let your ego get in the way of your training. Open your mind, open your heart, and LOVE JIU-JITSU!

Happy Training!  🙂

 

The C-Word

One of my least favorite words to hear in the gym is the C-word. It is a word that is used too frequently, too loosely, too flippantly. As an instructor, hearing it hurts my ears. That’s right ladies and gents, I don’t want to hear the word “can’t”, or more accurately, the phrase “I can’t”.

There are two ways that I hear it used. The first way is as a substitute for “I won’t”. For example, a student says to me, “I can’t make it to class on Saturday”. Perhaps they are going to a party the night before and will have trouble getting up; perhaps they are going for a weekend trip; perhaps they have chores to do at home. They know that coming on Saturday will help them achieve their goal, whether it is weight loss, strength gains, or winning an upcoming competition, but the reality is that they are putting priority on other things that day. It isn’t that they could not physically be at practice; it is that they won’t put their training goals first.  I am not saying that training should always be #1 in your life; but make sure that before you say “I can’t” that you do in fact have your priorities straight for the long-term.

The other way I hear this phrase uttered is more detrimental: “I can’t do a pushup on my toes, I can’t get this move, I can’t…” NO! NO! NO!

Your mind is powerful. Words are one of the connections between our mind and our physical reality; therefore, words are powerful. Do NOT underestimate the detriment of negative self-talk. If you tell yourself that you cannot do something, why should your mind or body do anything different? If you tell yourself that you will fail before you try, you will. If you fail once and make it a permanent state (ex: You try one pushup on your toes and fail, then say “I’ll can’t. I’ll never be able to do it”), you will not progress.

Whatever you are training for, stay positive. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Train hard.

 

 

Badger Kimonos: These gis are fierce!

One of the most frequent questions I get from students is “What kind of gi should I get?”. There are a ton of different cuts, weights, weaves, styles and prices to choose from, so it seems easy to choose the “wrong kind”.  Since I train and teach 6 days a week, my closet is filled with gis. I have had a number of different brands over the years, but I still have some in my closet that I hate for being to baggy or heavy or for having high-water pants.  Finally, I have found I gi that I love to train in, but is light enough to compete in.

badgergi

Badger Kimonos is relatively young company, but they have already created a great line of gis. They create small batches of limited edition gis that are cleanly designed, light weight and durable. I think the Crush is my favorite gi of all time. Not only are they good to train in, they dry quickly after washing, so you are good to go the next day if necessary.

It looks like they are sold out of their current gis, but it sounds like a new one is in the works. Updates on the new sales are not only on their site, www.badgerkimonos.com, but also on their Facebook Page.

PS They also run a cool deal that you win a FREE GI if you compete and win in your Badger Gi at a BJJ tournament!

The Jiu Jitsu Body

I spend a lot of time at the gym both watching and participating in Jiu jitsu classes here in Appleton. During these times, I hear a lot of discussion regarding body type and jiu jitsu. Even the kids in our BJJ program have realized that body type makes a huge difference. Many times the discussion is more of a complaint than anything…

big-man-small-man1“My legs are too long to fit the hook in”

“I am not strong enough to bump him”

“I am not flexible enough for this move”

“I can’t lock my guard/touch my knees to the floor in mount”

And then, there is the speculation that “That guy has the perfect jiu-jitsu body!”

The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a perfect jiu-jitsu body. Every body type has its advantages. Tall and lean is great for the guard. They may not be big and strong, but small guys can ball up, move fast and fluidly, and take advantage of little spaces. Those that aren’t that naturally flexible tend to take up a strong pressure and passing games.  You must use what nature gave you and work with it! Not every move shown in class is going to be perfect for your game or be your #1 move; we all pick and choose. If you like to watch jiu jitsu videos, it may be a good idea to find someone that shares your body type!

That being said, remember that if you are frustrated with a certain technique or training partner, your body type may not be to blame! You may be missing details, a frame here or a hip movement there, or may need to modify your strategy…it’s probably something that your instructor can help you with!

 

 

 

Intention: Metamoris and the Problem with the BJJ Community

After watching Metamoris II this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community has a problem determining intention.

The Metamoris tournament series was created in part to combat the disturbing growth of jiu jitsu fighters not only winning by points or advantages, but aiming to win in that manner without truly attacking or gaining dominant position. The Metamoris tournament was an attempt to force fighters to move, attack, work diligently for the submission, and not be afraid to get put onto their butt for a moment or two. It seems to be part of the backlash against the 50/50 and other stalling open guard games in the competitive jiu-jitsu community (Yes, this shirt exists). The Metamoris tournament seems to also be an answer the “Self-Defense Jiu jitsu” community, which has criticized IBJJF-style jiu-jitsu for getting away from the so-called true nature and root of BJJ.

Enter Brandon Schaub and Ryron Gracie, representatives of the Gracie Academy and the self-defense BJJ community. In their fights, they both were the less dominant fighters, with Ryron coming to a draw (no submission by Galvao) and Schaub losing (decision, different rules in Metamoris II). And yet, post-fight interviews found them arrogant and declaring their fights

schaub

a success based on what their own objective was, which seems to be simply neutralizing their opponent, rather than controlling and submitting. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with training BJJ strictly for self-defense. But, we also need to remember that self-defense jiu-jitsu does not translate into a tournament format: The objective is to extract yourself from a dangerous situation (and yes, you should run if you can). Self-defense jiu-jitsu is not better than competitive BJJ and vice versa; the INTENTION IS DIFFERENT.

 

In my opinion it is poor sportsmanship and just poor taste to declare victory based on a strategy that isn’t congruent with the rules and objective of the tournament, just like it is in poor taste (and logic) to declare that a competition–driven fighter would not be able to defend themselves or declare that the 50/50 guard is a good way to end a street fight safely. In the end, it seems to be about politics and marketing. Let’s not go down that road. Jiu-jitsu is beautiful; let’s keep it that way.

The Right Frame of Mind: Getting Through Your First Practice

Once upon a time, there was a man who decided he wanted to try to play basketball. He had never played before, but thought it was a cool sport that would be fun and help him get into shape. He imagined himself flying down the court with ease, getting the ball and making the perfect jump shot. It was beautiful. He found a rec league to play with and attended his first practice. It was harder than he imagined; he was out of breath and had trouble handling the ball, let alone making a basket. In fact, the other players left him in the dust. The man decided that basketball wasn’t a good sport for someone like him and quit after one practice.

sad-man-silhouette-on-bench

We see this a lot in our Brazilian jiu-jitsu class here in Appleton. We have a lot of people come in with absolutely no real experience and/or a low fitness level wanting to try the class. Very quickly they realize that the warm-ups alone are tough.Very quickly they realize that they don’t know anything, especially compared to the other people around them. Very quickly they realize the time and work it will take to see even the most basic positions and get their BJJ strength and cardio up.

And this is the crossroads. Will they have patience with themselves and realize that it was everyone’s first day at one time? Will they come back to the next practice and see what else they can learn and start chipping away at getting the basic positions down? Or will they decide that Brazilian jiu jitsu is not a sport that is for someone like them, inexperienced and out of shape?

Jiu jitsu is for everybody! It is for you if you are willing to judge yourself by your own personal progress, rather than in comparison to others. It is for you if you are willing to work hard at it and do your personal best. Michael Jordan didn’t come out of the womb as the best basketball player of all time. He looked as most everyone else the first time he held a basketball. If you come to Brazilian jiu-jitsu thinking you are going to be a superstar on your first day, you are going to be disappointed. But, it is not the sport….it is your frame of mind!

Train Hard!

Go with the Flow: Exercise Ball Cross-Training for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

There are a lot of different ways to cross train.  One tool that has changed my Brazilian jiu-jitsu game is the exercise ball (also called a stability ball). If you have never seen an exercise ball used for Gracie jiu-jitsu, check out this video (sorry for the weird music…the guy knows how to move, but may need some help with his soundtrack choices):

I love the exercise ball for jiu-jitsu because it teaches a lot of different principles.

1)      Balance and flow come from RELAXING the right parts of your body: If you are tense, you will lose your balance. The ball will “sweep” you. You need to relax the majority of your body and make minor adjustments to keep the main balance point. This is also helpful with your jiu-jitsu because it conserves energy and allows you to roll better longer.

2)      A lot of CONTROL comes from your HIPS: You control the ball with your hips. You determine the direction it can roll and the places it will stop. This is a great concept for top positions in BJJ: Your hips create pressures and barriers for your opponent when you are rolling!

3)      Mistakes happen, but you can MITIGATE the consequences if you FLOW: Tensing up and holding onto a bad position or base will get you swept or subbed. If I relax and counterbalance the mistake I may be able to salvage the position, deter my opponent’s game plan, or go to the next best position. I need to flow instead of panic.

Get started! There are a lot of videos out there to give you some ideas of where to start. You can also just start experimenting on your own, even if it is just starting with basic balancing positions (butt, stomach, knees). Have fun!

Combating our Panic: Training for Self-Defense and Competition in Jiu-jitsu

The other day I was teaching beginner Brazilian jiu jitsu in our Appleton school. It is a class in which we have a somewhat wide variety of experience levels, especially when you consider what 3 months of classes does for someone just starting out. So, when it comes to open rolling for the class, I keep a careful eye on all the matches for everyone’s safety and to coach the newbies a little bit. When I looked over I saw one of my 140lb. white belt girls battling with a grown man outweighing her by 60lbs and with at least a year of experience on her. She was on the bottom in side mount and then mount, struggling to escape. The guy she was rolling wasn’t being too rough or a jerk, he was just big and holding decent position. She was fighting, fighting, fighting. All of a sudden, her face changed. I could see the frustration and beginning of tears. She got overwhelmed and lost her will and focus; she made mistakes and was submitted.

jiu-jitsu-mount

It is one thing to get your butt kicked in jiu jitsu, to feel like you fought the good fight, to feel like you were just outclassed by your friend that day … but feeling overwhelmed by someone’s size, strength or experience can steal the heart out of your chest.  THIS IS HUGE! It is an important thing to pay attention to whether you are in Gracie jiu-jitsu for self-defense or competition because being overwhelmed leads to PANIC. When we panic, we lose our heads, lose our focus, lose our strategy, lose our technique, and lose the fight.

How do we combat the panic we may feel during live roll? We can do it the same way we can combat any other fear, whether it is a fear of competing, a fear of heights, a fear of public speaking, etc. We practice! We immerse ourselves in the situation until it is no big deal…We compete once per month, we climb a rock wall on a regular basis, we do a presentation or announcement in front of our peers every week at work. When we are used to being in what we perceive as a bad situation, our brains and bodies kick in and do the work to protect us, just as they have practiced 1,000 times. So, we need to roll live and put ourselves in tight spots on a regular basis so we feel good while we roll in practice, so we stay calm when we compete, so we don’t panic when someone grabs us and we need to seriously defend ourselves on the street.

Happy rolling.

Failure…Not for the weak of forehead

Failure-is-not-falling-down-but-refusing-to-get-upWe’ve all heard the saying or at least some variation of it. It is, of course, true. We all get knocked down, pushed off track, and epically fail at something in our lives at one time or another (or again, and again, and again).

 epic fail

Learning to fail is easier said than done sometimes; and even those that feel like they generally have a good grasp on it still have those moments of weakness where the anger and embarrassment get overwhelming. (I would lie if I said I have never lost my cool on the mat or after a competition). It is especially difficult to keep perspective when you fail at something that you have invested yourself into, whether it is your time, money, dedication, hard work, sweat, blood, tears, etc.

To me, keeping your perspective when you have failed means taking the experiences that you have had and learning from them. Why sweep your failures under the rug? Why forget your mistakes? The greatest learning experiences come when you must face the consequences of your mistakes! Sometimes you know exactly went wrong (I was triangled at a tournament after putting my arm between the legs in sidemount top…never again); sometimes it takes a few hours in the gym to understand really what went wrong and how you would prevent it next time (after burning out and losing my third match on points at the 2012 Pan-Ams, I came home and worked on my composure and the mental side of my game for months).

The trouble that many run into is being able to hang onto failures to improve oneself without obsessing over them, beating themselves down with them, trashing their self-confidence. Part of “getting back up” is striking a balance between learning and self-forgiveness.  Sometimes, you just have to brush it off and start over (below is me, getting Vaporized by my teammate…again). Happy training everyone.

dirtytroyAppleton Jiu Jitsu

Training with Purpose

527422_475408659170436_1201377800_nOnce you have been in BJJ for a while and have a fairly consistent training schedule, sometimes we can fall into “training just to train”. You come into the gym, do warmups at a comfortable pace, practice the technique of the day a few times but are not sure you’ll ever use it, and roll a few matches where you did pretty well (but you can’t really remember what happened).

People train for many different reasons from being a top-level jiu-jitsu fighter, to just having a fun way to get in shape. Whatever your overall reason for training is, it is important to approach each training session with…

PURPOSE

to set as an aim, intention, or goal for oneself.

to intend; design.

to resolve (to do something)

Goals and purpose don’t always have to be big (I am training to be a world champion!). It can be as simple as, “I am going to focus on sweeping from the half-guard today” or “I am going to get a great workout by busting my butt during warmups and always moving during open roll” or “I am going to pull off the technique of the day in open roll”.

Training each day with purpose allows us to continually progress, or at the very least be AWARE of ourselves and our training (which I think is the first step in improving)…and that’s what we are really in the gym for. What are you training for today?