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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.