Blog Archives

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 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

FVGC Instructor Spotlight: James Peterson

Image

Okay, who are you and what do you do?

I’m James Peterson and I do whatever the hell I want. Just kidding. I win tournaments. And teach adult and kids Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Team FVGC.

How long have you been training in the martial arts?

I wrestled in high school and a year in college. I have been training BJJ for almost 12 years. I trained MMA for a while, but stopped doing that to concentrate entirely on BJJ coaching and competition.

What do you consider your greatest martial arts accomplishment?

Winning the Pan-Ams twice, once as a blue belt and once as a brown belt. Each one is special for different reasons. Winning as a brown belt was great because it is such a high level belt; but winning at blue belt was awesome too because I submitted all of my opponents.

What were the most important aspects of your preparation for that accomplishment? That is, what were you doing to achieve your goal?

There was a lot of mental training that went into those wins. Even when I was training physically, like doing road work, I would be mentally running through matches in my head. The winning took place far in advance of the actual matches. I was also trying to train with as many high level guys as I could. I took a lot of beatings; a lot of subs. But I had to just take each of those as learning experiences and not look at them as the whole of my game. Oddly, I developed confidence through that adversity that I carried with me to the Pans.

What makes a great martial artist?

Great technique, thoughtfulness, and humility.

Who inspires you?

My family, my coaches and my team.

Any words of advice for people training now?

Always be learning. Learn from your instructors, from books, videos and whatever else you can learn from. If you are really interested in your art, then you should constantly be striving for improvement and trying to advance your skills. Study broadly. I mean, not just the study of your martial art, but other martial arts and other facets of life as well. Also, try to understand your performance moves in cycles. There will be times when it seems like you are not only not improving, but backsliding as well. That is not the case. If you are still learning and taking in information, it just means your body has not caught up to the contents of your brain. You should actually be looking for an upswing in your game in the very near future. Finally, have fun. If you are not having fun, then what’s the point of doing it at all?

A Team is a Family

From its inception, Team FVGC has had a culture of sharing, brainstorming, and experimenting. This culture, although maybe present at other schools, was especially strong with us since our gym was started by white belts. The culture was both a curse and a blessing: Although we had very little guidance for our training and technique, we developed into a strong team whose members took care of each other as friends and as teachers. There was a sense of pulling together and doing our best to improve in a less-than-ideal situation.

Our school has since grown and is now headed by black and purple belts and has just added 5 more to our existing group of blue belts. I believe that the level of technique in the school has never been better. Having the guidance from a strong affiliation and a strong black belt in the school has given people something to strive for, something to model themselves after. However, as we began to grow, I wondered whether the level of camaraderie and teamwork would decrease; whether people would focus solely on themselves and their game; whether the Rank Race would begin.

But, on the contrary, I feel like the strength of our team as only grown to the level of family. There is a sense of our school as a force to be reckoned with, a sense of excitement that people are improving and getting promoted. You still see people coming in to work on technique together; trying to perfect moves from class or for a promotion test. People are being good partners, speaking up when they feel a mistake or cheering their partners on through conditioning workouts. People celebrate the accomplishments of their teammates that happen both inside and outside of the school. The gym has a feeling of optimism and kindness.

As we train, we must never forget it is important that although our leaders and instructors are important, the heart of our school is our team, our students. A strong student body only amplifies the gains from good technical instruction. It does not matter where you come from, how you dress outside the gym, how much money you make. If you come in with the love of jiu-jitsu and your team, you are part of the family; and family can be a beautiful thing.

Adding to the Arsenal

One of the most common questions we hear after showing a technique is “Well, what if the guy does this, or that, or the other?”. It is understandable to be concerned with multiple scenarios from a single position. Live rolling in jiu-jitsu is a game of change, capitalizing on mistakes, and being prepared for whatever your opponent decides to throw at you. It can be overwhelming when you think about it. The number of variables in the game seems to be somewhere near infinity, especially when you first start training. The drive to do well in open roll and tournaments only increases the desire to know everything…right now. The real deal, however, is that it is better to do one technique well than 30 techniques poorly; and, when you add a “what if” to a situation, you are effectively talking about a completely different technique than the one that is being shown by your instructor. My opinion is that patience is the key; master the base technique during practice. (It is said that it takes 10,000 repetitions to master a technique). Once you have properly drilled the base technique, it is much easier to add “what ifs” to your arsenal. Your arsenal will grow steadily and solidly. Remember the base move instead of forgetting 4 “what if” scenarios.