Culture Is King

by John B. Will


Culture is king. The culture that resides at the heart any academy, organization, business enterprise, will shape, make or break … and even though we may start out with a clear idea of what that culture will look like, understand this – a culture has a shelf life and needs constant attention.


The culture is set and maintained, not from the bottom, but from the top and by the top cadre of students/stakeholders.


The beginners/Introductory class (if you have one – and if you haven’t, you should) is the place where we begin to set the tone. here are some of the CC’s (cultural cornerstones) I like to weave into those classes:


– Pay attention to detail – noticing and appreciating the details is what separates the great from the merely good. This habit can transform our lives in many ways.


– Be the kind of training partner that everyone wants to train with. Everyone has their own back-story, their own particular motivation to begin training; their reasons may not be your reasons – look after your partner emotionally as well as physically.


– Be aware of your personal hygiene; this is a close contact activity. Getting outside of our own heads is fundamental to be able to do well in the world.


– Extract the maximum value from your time on the mat. be on time, if repping a technique, keep repping until you are asked to stop. An extra few reps per session, especially over the long-term can amount to a huge compounding effect in skill-uptake.


– The way to be on the mat, is to imagine that the only people there are you and the instructor. never take a back seat. if you don’t understand something … ask.


In my academy, I also conduct Novice classes (3 months training in the Introductory class is a prerequisite for entry into this class) – and also Intermediate level and Advanced level classes. So here are a few more CC’s that I try to install in the higher level classes:


When initially introduced to a technique, ask the following five questions:


– What does our Right Arm/Hand bring to the technique? – What does our Left Arm/Hand bring to the technique? – What does our Left Leg/Foot bring to the technique? – What does our Left Leg/Foot bring to the technique? – What is the most important Angle/Direction of the technique?


In asking – and answering these five questions, students tend to build a pretty solid understanding of the technique and do so very quickly.


Also, as students progress, they need to learn that we cannot always ‘feel good’ and experience ‘success’ – indeed, a willingness to ‘embrace the suck’ is absolutely necessary if we want to move away from mediocrity and experience life beyond the ordinary.


Finally, for the purposes of this short blurb, beyond Blue Belt (before that we should be focused on an overview and fundamentals) students should begin to identify a preferred ‘game’. In doing this, it’s good to start by developing a three-pronged approach:


A passing style

A guard game

A top finishing game from (side control/mount/knee-ride, north-south, etc)


Hope this is of help to those here who want to build a better mat. – John B. Will of Red Cat Academy



Instead Of Parties And Pep Rallies, It’s The BJJ Podium


by Brooke George


I can remember as a little kid, going to the varsity sporting events at the local high school. I can remember always thinking, “I want that to be me!” I want to be the one on the court that everyone comes to watch or the one in the paper as this weeks “Athlete of the Week”. As a young athlete I dreamed about the pep rallies and the community events I could finally be at. I dreamed about wearing my varsity jacket down the hallway.


Now, as a junior in high school I don’t get any of that and that’s okay. I get something better.


For everything I don’t get, there is something I get instead. Sub in courts for mats, newspapers for Facebook posts, pep rallies for podiums, varsity jackets for gis, and its basically the same thing. Okay, not exactly.


Instead of having pep rallies, I have the pre-tournament classes at the gym. As the tournament date approaches and classes get more intense, you start talking strategy and you talk up the whole weekend of going and staying in the hotel. That alone is enough for me. I don’t need a crowd of people cheering me on to get me pumped up. Just talking about the matches gets my adrenaline going.


As an athlete in any sport you have to have a support system in order to succeed. In Jiu-Jitsu you don’t have the student section in the stands cheering you on or the group of girls you’ve went to school with since you were five; but you have your family, teammates, and coach standing behind you. You have the people that travel hundreds of miles with you just to watch you compete.


That’s a pretty awesome support system.


With Jiu-Jitsu you don’t get a varsity letter, but it’s not just a four year thing. Jiu-Jitsu isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. When you join, you aren’t just joining a team, you’re making a lifestyle change that will stick with you until you die.


Everyone may not know that I have a tournament because I’m wearing the same shirt as all the girls on my team down the halls like they do, but they know because I’m the only one wearing a shirt from my gym and I’m the only one with my hair in cornrows. I get so many comments in the hallways when people see my hair in braids, because that’s when they know it’s go time.


I don’t get the typical high school sports experience, but I wouldn’t trade what I have for anything.



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Be The Person Everyone Wants To Train Jiu-Jitsu With!


We hear the phrase all the time, but what does it actually mean? Conflicting remarks are said when it comes to sparring and rolling, and what one should do and why they should do it. Some people are in favor of going hard and fast, believing that iron sharpens iron, being fed to the lions, etc. Others have a calmer demeanor when it comes to sparring and rolling and say that one should never push their training partner past their physical limit in fear that it might lead to injury.


There are also people who think there is a happy medium where you can train hard while not training so hard that you hurt your training partner. But what do you do when you are much better, or much stronger? Or maybe your partner is better than you but YOU are stronger? Do you go all out? Or the other side of the same coin, do you “go light?” What do you do!? My answer? “You train WITH your Partner not ON Your Partner.”


Let me put it this way: I want to be the person who everyone wants to roll with, who everyone wants to spar with; and so should you! Not the person people cower away from when asked if they want to spar or roll. Or the person everyone is saying “I went with so-and-so yesterday and they completely killed me.” Translation: “I am not looking forward to training with them again but I will to show my true grit.”


Personally, I want to be able to roll with a Heavy Weight 10x Black Belt World Champ and have them say to themselves “that was fun, can’t wait to roll with him again!” while at the same time be able to roll with the smaller, older-than-me non-competitive blue belt or spar with a brand new student and have them say “wow, that was a lot of fun! Let’s go again!” This would mean being able to dial up or dial down my intensity to match my training partner’s physical and technical attributes. If everyone does this, we ALL win! “Train WITH your Partner not ON Your Partner.”


Some people say, “But competitive fighters need to be pushed, so why would they waste their time with some non-competitive student who isn’t as good/strong/big as them?” “Why ‘go light’ when in competition we go as hard as possible?” Opposing opinions will say, “Do you get paid to go hard in the gym? Do you like getting knocked out in training? Then why not save the big blows for when you are actually getting paid!?” For grappling, “Why push your joints to the breaking point just to see if you could get out of the submission rather than tapping? Do you like going to the hospital?!” Sure it would be great to be able to train with people our exact level and size all the time but that is just not how most gyms work.


The truth is, “rank” or “experience” often blinds people into thinking they are better in some way than someone else or someone else is better than them. “This guy just started, there is no way he is going to get the better of me.” In comes our good old friend “The Ego.” People don’t want to admit someone else is better than them or that they “caught” them in a submission/hit them in sparring, especially if they are outranked. “Oh I was going light . . . (or insert endless excuses here).” Well for those of you who are ready to be honest and admit when you get caught even if it is by someone lower ranked or less experienced than you, I’ve got the last excuse you will ever have to use, and it is an honest one. ATTRIBUTES! If you keep in mind the Attribute Equation you will always be honest in your training. What is the Attribute Equation? Easy, acknowledging all of the physical and technical attributes that go into you and your training partner. “Hey listen, I’m a 110 pound female. Most men, if they went 100% against me, have the physical attributes to beat me.” “I’m a 365 pound male. If I used my weight and strength against everyone, people would hate me and I wouldn’t have any training partners.” Let’s take those two examples and pin them against each other but add technical ability into the mix for fun.


Let’s say there is a lightweight female black belt, for example, going against a heavyweight male purple belt or any other variation of such a dichotomy for that matter. Should the heavyweight male go harder in hopes of nullifying the technical abilities of the female black belt? Should they expect the black belt to be able to deal with their weight and strength advantage? Moreover, should the black belt assume that their technique will always get them through tough rolls with people who possess more physical attributes than them? My answer? “Train WITH your Partner not ON Your Partner.”


Be honest with your own physical and technical attributes and have your training partner do the same! I for instance am a 6’1”, 185 pound male. If I go with a 110 pound female, I am going to acknowledge the fact that I can hit harder in sparring and am stronger while rolling. What should I do in this situation? Dial back my physical attributes to the point where the playing field is even and work my technical game, without making it blatantly obvious. Is there a chance I am going to get hit/submitted by doing this? Yes. Is that okay? Yes. If you go 100% and always try to “win” without thinking about your training partner’s specific goals or physical/technical attributes, you will soon find yourself with a very small group of people, maybe even nobody that will want to train with you. Everyone will be hurt or simply avoid you so they don’t get hurt. This is especially true when rank comes into play. This leads us to our final points. I caution you to avoid “Upper Belt Syndrome.” You know, when you think that just because you are an upper belt that a lower belt isn’t going to tap you, or, the other way around. Or, you think that just because they are a higher belt than you that you can go 100% and try and kill them. Regardless of their physical attributes like size, age, etc.


Remember, the belt is often a blinder to people who don’t want to admit the truth when it comes to physical attributes. Treat the 65 year old brown belt the same way you would treat a 65 year old blue belt with the same attributes. Sure they have more knowledge but that doesn’t give you the right to try and kill them, even if they have a higher belt. 97-years-old-blue-beltI’ll leave you with this: be honest with yourself and the training partner you have in front of you. Don’t let the belt/experience level intimidate you into thinking you or your partner is “better.” Don’t ignore the Attribute Equation. Instead, look at the person you have in front of you. Are they smaller than you? Okay then, don’t use all your strength. Are they older than you? Okay, be aware that they might not be as flexible and limber as someone younger. Are they a lot bigger than you? Okay, maybe don’t use all your speed. However, do look forward to the times when technical and physical attributes align. It leads to extremely exciting rolls and sparring sessions! Look forward to training with people who are not in your “division” but also look forward to training with people who are! Lastly, if you find yourself on the other end of the rope and someone is going too fast or too hard, etc., and you are worried about your physical safety you should never, EVER feel embarrassed or think it is not okay to tell them to slow/calm down. Albeit this can feel a little humiliating, especially if you are the upper belt asking the lower belt to chill out. If someone tells YOU to chill out/slow down/go lighter, don’t be offended or think less of them.


Also, don’t think that it means you are the almighty and have just dominated them. There are almost always factors (attributes) at play that you are not recognizing. The “it’s not you, it’s me” line comes to mind. Be respectful in such a situation and dial it back! Some situations may present themselves where you feel it is inappropriate to bring it up to the person during training. If this happens, don’t feel like it is tattling to go to your instructor and tell them that someone needs to dial it back a bit and is going to/did hurt someone. In most cases the instructor will already have an eye on someone like this and will or has already talked to them. It is better to inform the senior instructor of this rather than pouting to yourself or complaining to fellow students or just flat out not wanting to train with that particular person. In my gym everyone trains with everyone, and we all benefit because of it. In the end, educating your training partners will help you and your gym retain ALL training partners which ultimately makes the entire gym better!







A Competitive Jiu-Jitsu Teen’s Perspective On Eating Healthy To Fight Strong


by Brooke George


As a competitive athlete in Jiu-Jitsu, nutrition is important. You have to fuel your body with all it needs to keep up with long classes, fast runs, and intense workouts. Since my Jiu-Jitsu journey started almost a year ago I’ve cleaned up my eating habits in many ways.


I started off by cutting out sweets, things like cookies, cake, and ice cream. From there I cut out junk foods, things like chips and sugar cereal. I wanted to put things into my body that had a purpose and that weren’t just a filler. For most athlete’s those restrictions wouldn’t be a huge deal, but as a junior in high school, food is a very social thing.


Friends want to go out for ice cream runs, grab pizza at lunch, and go to half off’s at 10 PM on Saturday. It also seems they want to do all these things right before a tournament and it gets really hard to say no. You want to hang out with friends, but you don’t want to eat that stuff.


Before my last tournament I cut out pizza and pasta from my diet. I started eating lots of tuna and protein shakes (not together of course) because that’s what felt good when I put it in my body. So of course, right when I started that, all of my friends wanted to have a pizza night.


Luckily for me, the pizza place also had salad.


Living in a small town, restaurants are a popular place to hang out. Sadly, you are supposed to actually buy food for them to let you stay there. A lot of weekends after sporting events or while hanging out, my friends and I will go get appetizers at Applebees. It always gets awkward when everyone is eating and I’m downing my fifth glass of water. Not only is it awkward to sit and watch people eat, but its hard!


I like food just as much as anyone else so its not easy to say no, even when its saying no to foods that aren’t good for me. It’s also tough when you go with friends to get ice cream and have to pass when its your turn to order.


None of that is easy, but its all worth it. The feeling of knowing that you are only putting things into your body that are going to fuel it, is a good feeling. You know that you are taking baby steps to reach your goals. You have to make some sacrifices in order to be successful.



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How To Have The Most Brutal Side Control Ever! Gold!


How To Have The Most Brutal Side Control Ever! Pure Jiu-Jitsu Gold!


If you want to be able to effectively submit your opponent, you need to be able to control them first. It’s frustrating to pass his guard only to lose control after.


In the video below Royce Gracie black belt, Roy Marsh, shows the most brutal side control I’ve seen.




How Many Times Per Week Should I Train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu As A White Belt?


How Many Times Per Week Should I Train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu As A White Belt?


How much you train BJJ will depend on how well you can balance your life, schedule your time, and how well your body holds up to the rigors of training.


Here is a guide to how often you should train per week:


Once – Progress will be slow, you won’t get in shape from BJJ alone, and classes will feel disconnected. This can be OK once you have experience and want to take it easy for a while.


Twice – You will gradually get better, but lessons will still be feel disconnected unless your school follows a good curriculum from week to week.


Three – Three times per week is a sweet spot for most people, giving them a chance to get in a steady rhythm of training while still having days off to rest and manage their normal life.


Four – This is where you start getting serious. You will need to be better disciplined with your rest and diet and managing the rest of your life, but it will be very rewarding for your BJJ.


Five or more – You’re getting serious! You can expect to improve quickly, but you also need to be very careful about overtraining and getting injured. This is what you need to be doing if you want to compete and earn your belts quickly.


If you are young and have no real responsibilities, make everyone else jealous by training as much as you can! Don’t slack in the rest of your life, and go to college and get that big job or whatever your long term goals are, but don’t miss the chance to train a lot while you are young, healthy and carefree!


For the rest of us bitter responsible adults, you’ll need to plan around work and family duties. You may get friction from your spouse if you disappear to the BJJ gym every night, but I’ll leave it to you to sort out your marital disputes.


I recommend beginners aim at 2-3 classes per week until your body can handle it, then try to push up into 3-5.





How Can I Learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Faster?


How Can I Learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Faster?


Train more!


Training more is always the best answer, but here are 10 more tips to help you learn BJJ faster:


1. Keep a journal – Write down what you learned in class. Even if you never read it again, the act of gathering your thoughts and visualizing the move as you put it on paper will help you retain the knowledge.


2. Watch instructionals – The BJJ instructional market is huge now, and these days you can find videos by top instructors teaching almost anything. Pick a technique, position, guard, or gameplan, then go study it. You’ll still need to drill it–watching isn’t the same as doing!


3. Study competition footage – YouTube has hours and hours of high level tournament footage, and more live events are being streamed on-demand. Find a good match and see if you can breakdown the key moves. Many black belts say they learn more from watching matches than from what’s taught in class.


4. Find a BJJ role model – Pick a black belt with a similar body and game to yours, then study their instructionals and tournament footage. You don’t need to reinvent all of grappling–you just need to find what works for you, and odds are someone out there can show you.


5. Compete in a tournament – Win or lose, competing will teach you a lot (maybe even more if you lose!). Your training leading up to the tournament will sharpen your jiu-jitsu as you refine your best moves and cut out what’s unneeded.


6. Create a gameplan – Having a bunch of moves you “know about” is useless if you aren’t any good at them. Laying down what you do–maybe by drawing out a flowchart of positions and techniques–will solidify that knowledge and show you where you’re missing pieces. Then go drill it!


7. Do extra conditioning – A healthier, stronger, faster body is always good for BJJ. How you do it is up to you: lifting weights, swinging kettlebells, jogging, running, bike riding, swimming, yoga, rock climbing–whatever gets you sweating!


8. Team up with a good training partner – Make friends at the gym who will show up early and stay late to put in extra reps and rounds. Having an enthusiastic friend will keep you motivated, and you will push each other to improve.


9. Set goals – Big or small, setting goals will let you channel your energy in the right directions. Go into each class with something you want to improve. But don’t get so obsessed with the goal (like getting a blue belt!) that you stop enjoying the journey!


10. Respect your body – Eat right and get enough sleep. You can’t expect your body to stand up to the stress of training without giving it the nutrition and rest it needs to repair itself.


But really, train more! None of this advice does anything if you aren’t stepping on to the mats!





To Those Who Lose Their First Jiu-Jitsu Competition


To Those Who Lose Their First Jiu-Jitsu Competition


Every Saturday the Jiu-Jitsu competitor sees their timeline loaded with the thrilling victories that occur that day. Rarely do you get a glimpse into the agonizing defeats. We don’t share our ugly photos over Social Media (unless that’s all you can make haha) and we aren’t keen to sharing our defeated moments to the world. We like to present our “best foot” for the most part.


For every match won in BJJ, someone else had to lose that match.


If you were one of the ones who did not win your matches, the world is not over. Not only is it not over but you should feel as if a whole new world has opened for you! You have broken through the initial competition fears and anxieties and have thrown yourself onto the mats for the world to see, either coming home with your shield, or on it. You have done what many in our sport have not done and will never do!


There are many attitudes that you can take moving forward. You can be depressed and down on yourself, or you can take away the memories and the fun time and walk away with a wealth of experience that you would not have had otherwise. The real trick is to not make excuses for yourself. Don’t tell yourself that the only reason that you lost is because the other person cut more weight, was bigger, stronger, better looking, or anything like that. Simply tell yourself that you are going to go back into the gym, talk with your coaches about your mistakes, and build a stronger plan for the next time.


Your second competition will be so much easier for you than the first. The time will come where you feel the thrill of victory and all of the accolades that come along with it so do not stress for now. Simply commit yourself to work harder next time.