BJJ. It’s Like Pizza.

 

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BJJ. It’s Like Pizza.
by Mark Sasser

 

Spending 20 years as a high level athlete in a different sport before picking up Jiu Jitsu (at the age of 45) gave me plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of being competitive, and how to be better at something today than I was yesterday. This completely went out the window when I started BJJ and was being tapped out by practically everyone at my academy. I had little choice but to look for a mentor to help me make sense of this human chess game that we call Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

 

My first private lesson was with one of the team purple belts. He hearkened me back to all of the coaches I’d ever had and how they made my previous sports make sense. Those were American sports though, not the hard-nosed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I was now attempting to learn. I was told that BJJ makes you the hammer sometimes, and the nail other times. I was told that witnessing this personally for yourself can be both shocking, and amusing.

 

Now let’s fast-forward to later that day. I’m suited up in my new Gi and I’m waiting on the mat for my one on one. The first thing I can remember hearing is,

 

“You like pizza, right?”

 

“Well yeah, I like pizza, but what does that have to do with anything that we are doing here?”

 

“Jiu Jitsu is just like pizza. I know you like pizza, so let’s get cooking!”

 

At this point I’m pretty sure my “BJJ pizza chef” has spent a little too much time in a triangle choke. However I wasn’t going to bail until I figured out this BJJ/pizza analogy (because I truly do like pizza). So with a raised eyebrow I gave my signature, “oh yeah”.

 

“BJJ”, he tells me, “is as simple as learning the elements of your favorite pizza. You have your basics which is the crust, defense the sauce, cardio is the cheese; and without all three you are left with something unsavory.” At this point he had my full attention. He rolled into the details of the toppings and how each and every move is just an ingredient. You can pick and choose which ones work to your taste an how much of each you want to put onto your pizza. But, you first had to have all of the ingredients in the fridge, and the crust has to be perfect.

 

Now when I train it’s a thick crust with traditional sauce, heavy cheese with some collar chokes, a mouse trap and an side of arm bars.

 

Just don’t expect delivery in 30 mins or less.

 

 

Rare Helio Gracie Footage!

 

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(Grandmaster Helio Gracie)

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Rare Helio Gracie Footage!

 

Grandmaster Helio Gracie was born October 1, 1913 and passed January 29, 2009. He is credited with being one of the founding fathers of our beloved sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

 

Helio was not physically a large man. His lack of an imposing physical stature caused him to make adaptations to the Jiu Jitsu that he had learned from his older brother Carlos. Eventually his adaptations would allow for the smaller person to be able to defeat the larger person. Before Helio Gracie, “size mattered” in terms of combat sports and self-defense.

 

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This “David and Goliath” theme would be revisited in 1993 when the most unimposing of Helio’s sons Royce, would herald the popularization of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the United States at UFC 1.

 

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(Helio Gracie’s son Royce Gracie fighting at UFC 5)

 

 

Thankfully video camera technology was around to chronicle the rise of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, and thankfully it is all available on YouTube for the world to witness. Much of the footage below is quite rare and would probably have gone largely unseen were it not for this age of video sharing. That being said I hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BJJ White Belt YouTube Starter Kit

 

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BJJ White Belt YouTube Starter Kit

 

You could spend a lifetime training BJJ and at the end of your days you would find yourself to be a student still. There are an infinite amount of subtle and slight nuances to be mastered after you spend many years wrangling with the basic fundamentals. Thankfully the arduous journey, is a fun one indeed.

 

The collective presumption is that the best way to learn Jiu Jitsu, is to join a reputable Jiu Jitsu academy, and to attend the classes there regularly. If this happens to be an impossibility for you, for whatever the reason may be, then video resources would be your next best option. Hopefully circumstances will change for you and you find yourself in a position to train BJJ at a proper gym. If you can find someone to be your training partner until that time comes, (or training dummy!) then you will be that much better off.

 

YouTube has become a valuable resource for novice BJJ players, as well as seasoned vets. Below are a few important videos to help get you successfully started on your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are literally thousands of videos out there to help you on your BJJ journey. Hopefully this series of videos was helpful in getting you acclimated to our beautiful sport!

 

 

How To Tell Your Coach You Want To Train Elsewhere

 

How To Tell Your Coach You Want To Train Elsewhere

by George McGinnis

 

For those unfamiliar with the term “cross training”, it generally means to work with other people and teams outside of your primary school as a means of supplementary training. This could mean that you travel to another school for a day, or that you simply wish to invite someone to train with you. The goal is often to share ideas, roll with new people, and experience new curricula and training styles.

 

The trick is to approach the subject in a way as to not raise a “red flag” with your instructor. When a student takes the appropriate measures in terms of asking their coach if they can train with other people, their request is often well received, and accommodations and compromises usually follow. When the situation is approached in a less than ideal manner, it can set a rocky tone between a student and their trainer for some time to come.

 

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Some examples of going about it poorly may be:

 

– To travel to another location without speaking to your instructor beforehand. This can come across as “shady” or inconsiderate. Some coaches may even take it as disrespect.

 

– To approach the situation with a demeanor of, “I’m going to do what I want regardless”, is not the best way to go. Instructors generally do not respond well to students that are self-serving and “pushy”. Consider approaching it as a “polite request” vs. an “entitled demand”.

 

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Ways to approach it correctly can be:

 

– To put your thoughts together in advance; via notes and solo brain storming. Having your goals, needs and ideas together in advance will show initiative and care for the situation.

 

– To approach your coach at a convenient time. This could be after practice, by a phone call during off hours, towards the end of a private lesson, a moment in private, etc. Most trainers are on auto pilot during school hours (you can trust me on that).

 

– To assure them that your intentions are well intended. Let them know that your happy with their service (should you be), and that it is not a reflection on them. Reiterate that you’re just looking to mix things up on occasion. Disarm their potential concerns of you’re “jumping ship” by explaining that this again, is not your intention.

 

– To allow them a feasible amount of time to process your request, should they need it. Some instructors won’t mind in the slightest, while others may need a little time to mull it over. They may or may not have reluctance due to previous requests that were made in the past.

 

– To put yourself in their shoes. This will at the very least give you the advantage of some additional perspective. It will also allow you to anticipate questions and concerns your coach may have.

 

It is natural for a student to want to spread their wings on occasion. Curiosity is in human nature. It is also understandable for an instructor to have a little apprehension about it in the process, as not every student before you has likely proved forthcoming. This is why good ol’ fashion communication is key! Make your goals and needs known while keeping your instructors position in mind, and the process may be less painful than you think. Good luck!

 

 

Female BJJ Survival Tips

 

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Female BJJ survival Tips
by Livia Gluchowska

 

I’m a purple belt from Melbourne, Australia. Although I am still a relative baby in this sport, and have only been around for 4.5 years, I’ve trained at over 40 academies around the world. From what I gather, one thing is certain… it is not easy being a female in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Especially a small one (I sit at around 53 kgs).

 

The female BJJ population is growing rapidly. I have seen a massive increase of women training and participating in competitions in the past 4 years. What’s even more exciting is the growth of women’s only classes, female-only support groups and open mats. When I first started there was none of that. There were no other ladies at my gym and sometimes no one to talk to about my issues.

 

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Personally, it didn’t affect me too much, as I have been an athlete all my life  – a gymnast for 12 years and a sprint cyclist for 6 years. As a cyclist I was used to being one of the very few ladies competing, being labelled ‘non-feminine’ and racing for no financial reward, whilst my male counterparts were offered up to $10K for the same race.

 

However, Jiu Jitsu can be incredibly rewarding if you can stick through the first 6-12 months. For me, that was the hardest period. Being the physically smaller and weaker sex, it is only now as a purple belt that my technique is starting to work against bigger, but less experienced opponents.

 

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Here are some helpful observations and tips to help you get through the first couple of years:

 

  • Perhaps the most common scenario I come across with other ladies training BJJ, especially in the earlier years, is dealing with tears and my unfortunate ability to turn on the water works at any given time. We all do it. We all hate it. All of us are embarrassed by it. Why? My theory is that (apart from the damn hormones) us girls are very good at taking things personally. This means that if we fail at a sweep, the emotional response is frustration, which can come out as tears. Some of my friends cry as they get choked for no particular reason. Others like to compare themselves to every other female that ever trained and is successful. To make matters worse, as soon as someone asks if you are ok, the result is usually more tears.

 

  • It took me until about 3 years into my BJJ journey to stop crying at training. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen any longer, because it does – usually when I’m exhausted or hungry. I can recognize the triggers now though, and when I do, I pack up and go home and rest instead of pushing my body/mind further.

 

  • I think it is very important to have a good talk with your training partners and coach to let them know why it happens, and see what they can do to help. It can be very hard for someone to understand why you may be having a break-down, let alone how to deal with it at training. In my case, I usually just need 5 minutes alone in the bathroom to compose myself and then I’m ready to train again. Figure out what works for you and keep your coach informed.

 

  • I have also learned (finally) that jiu jitsu is about the execution of skills. It is not meant to be a war at every training session. I am not trying to win at jiu jitsu. I am not “fighting” my team mates. I am attempting to execute a particular skill, and when it doesn’t work, I ask questions, watch videos, problem solve, and then try it again. It is good to fight with heart, but you should try as much as possible to take the emotional component out of training.

 

  • What also helps is not defining yourself as a person, based on your training or competition results. When you lose a fight, that’s all that happens. You just lose a jiu jitsu fight. No one died, life doesn’t change, no one apart from you really cares (because they love you either way) and you get to learn a lot from your mistakes. The same holds true for when you win.

 

  • Stop comparing yourself to other women (or men). It’s easy to look at someone else and think you are far behind schedule. Everyone is different, and everyone learns at different speeds. Not every jiu jitsu practitioner needs to, or wants to win a World Championship. Many would not be able to do so, if they did want to. All of us cannot afford to train every single day, and we do not all possess the same physical and learning abilities. Remember it is your own journey and your only job is to be the best you can be. I think the people you meet, the lessons you learn, and the experiences you have; far outweigh any medals you might collect.

 

  • BJJ is a marathon. You will have good days and terrible days. You will have slumps, plateaus and periods of immense growth. Enjoy it all and know that this is not only normal, but it is crucial to your development.

 

  • Push yourself, but if you really don’t want to train, don’t. Go home and have a glass of wine and eat cake. Be nice to yourself. Then wake up the next day and go back to the gym and enjoy every single minute. It is such a wonderful journey, and a journey so well worth having. Why would you want to rush it?

 

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I hope this article helps you. Thank you for reading!

 

You can follow Livia Gluchowska on Facebook.

Please check out her personal Jiu Jitsu blog as well.

 

 

Chael Sonnen Devoted To The Gi, Advice From Nate Diaz

 

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Chael Sonnen interviewed Nate Diaz for his new talk show recently. At the end of the conversation the two discussed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the gi. Below is the transcript:

 

Chael Sonnen: I am retired, but I’m staying active. I don’t want to gain too much weight. I don’t wanna lose my shape so I’m staying active in the gym. I joined a Gracie Barra gym, Coach Fabiano Scherner, and I’m doing gi Jiu Jitsu on a nightly basis.Every night we go in at 6:30 and we’re doing gi training. Is that good? Is that gonna help me if I close my eyes at night and see myself as an MMA fighter? Am I gonna benefit from the gi? I know you’ve trained a lot in gi. Am I gonna benefit from the gi or is it a totally different sport? Because right now I’m feeling like it’s a different sport.

 

Nate Diaz: Oh it’s completely different, completely different. But I like the gi. I still train in it. I trained gi yesterday. I’ll fight for a little bit of time, but I’m gonna do martial arts, Jiu Jitsu and stuff, forever. You know what I’m saying? I enjoy Jiu Jitsu. One thing that people don’t understand is that in MMA people will call you out and they don’t train in the gi and these things. The fight starts when you run your mouth, right away. It’s like, “I wanna fight this guy.” Well you know what? Be careful for what you wish for. They’re like, “I don’t do the gi.” Then you go out to a club in Vegas, or where ever you’re gonna go, and there’s this fighter talkin’ s–t and calling you out. That’s when you forget that it’s winter time and you’re wearing a jacket and pants (laughs). Now you’ve never trained in a gi right? You might just get thrown down 10x easier with clothes on then without ’em so..

 

Nate Diaz: I dig the whole gi thing. I’m a martial artist. I think that it’s a fun workout as well, since you want to workout and be athletic. But, it is a different type of workout. If I don’t want to burn-out, get tired and overtrain when I’m trying to lose weight or something, I’ll put the gi on. It slows down the motions, let’s you get a little bit of a recovery workout. Not that it’s not hard. It’s hard too, but it’s slower than wrestling. I think it’s a good idea to train in the gi always.

 

Chael Sonnen: Alright well that’s encouraging. You’ve inspired me.

 

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One would think that by the time you were a Purple Belt you would have a solid idea if you were going to benefit from the gi or not. You would also have actualized that BJJ is indeed a different sport. Oh Chael...

 

 

 

Test Your BJJ Political Affiliation! Which are you?

 

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The Republican:

– Believes that BJJ is more for self-defense rather than sport.

– Is more of a pressure passer than a guard player; feels uncomfortable on their back.

– Will only wear a white gi with plenty of corporate patches.

– Is proficient with takedowns.

– Never lends out their athletic tape, thinks everyone should have their own.

– Always wears a rashguard.

 

The Democrat:

– Practices BJJ more for sport, rather than for self-defense.

– Is more of a guard player rather than a passer, comfortable on their back.

– Will wear any color gi, sometimes mixing pant and jacket colors. Patches may have messages intended to provoke others.

– Not so good with takedowns; will generally pull guard and work off of their back.

– Believes that the gym should charge extra to supply water and athletic tape to everyone in class.

– Tend to wear funny rashguards and/or graphic tees under the gi.

 

The Libertarian:

– Practices BJJ simply because they are free to do so.

– Lets the other person choose whether to play guard, or take the top.

– Wears white, black, blue or more particularly; a camouflaged gi. Doesn’t like many patches, if any.

– Will pull guard or go for the takedown; so long as no one forces them to do either.

– Has a solid base of fundamentals, enhanced by YouTube.

– Never wears a rashguard (men).

 

The Anarchist:

– Thinks you should mind your business about why they do Jiu Jitsu.

– Always ends up in crazy positions, broadly forsaking fundamentals.

– Wears outrageously colored gis; namely red and green, and early batch shoyoroll gis.

– Likes to go for judo throws that they have never practiced before.

– Never attempts the techniques that Professor taught in class.

– Creates new techniques; and gives old techniques new names.

 

Which category do you mostly fall under? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, IG, Tumblr, Flickr, Google+, Vine, LinkedIn, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Kik or Tinder! Oops wait. We aren’t on Tinder.

 

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Tony Peranio WBBJJ

 

“An EMS Worker’s Jiu Jitsu Journey” – by Bob Ross

 

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(Photo Courtesy of Bob Ross)

 

“An EMS Worker’s Jiu Jitsu Journey”

by Bob Ross

 

Why oh why did I have to get bitten by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu bug so hard? It’s not as if there’s nothing else to do. I love to fish for crying out loud and I do have friends outside of the gym. Sometimes they try to get me to try my hand at golf and sometimes that doesn’t sound so bad. I hear that’s good exercise too and I’m quite sure the scenery is nicer. But no I politely decline, extend another invitation to come check out a class and go collect my gi.

 

The question in my mind is why? I’m not a world class competitor and I never will be. Even considering the few local tournaments I’ve competed in, my record could only be considered perhaps average, at best. I’m no Gracie by any means. I’m a 37 year old respiratory therapist with stiff shoulders and a questionable right knee. There are times even now as a (I think) well accepted member of my team that I find myself wondering what the hell I’m doing there. Well I’m hoping to answer that question for myself and hopefully I’ll be able to strike a ring of truth with a few of you as well. After all, though we all started at different times in different places for different reasons, we’re all on the same journey now.

 

These days I hardly ever talk about Jiu-Jitsu outside of the gym unless someone else brings it up. Has anyone else noticed the myriad of responses you get when someone finds out you practice BJJ for the first time? It can range anywhere from genuine interest (or feigned interest at least as often) to ridicule, to some dude automatically assuming you consider yourself a badass. That last one is my favorite. It’s actually quite comical to me when people think I consider myself a tough guy. I know you will understand when I tell you there is no more humbling experience than the first time you square up with a guy (or in many cases, worse: a female) half your size and get absolutely taken to school. I think that might actually be the unofficial lesson #1 of BJJ: You are not a badass. Coincidentally, lesson #2 is that you never will be. But if you stick around long enough and suffer through enough maulings, eventually you’ll be able to hold your own to some degree. Not because you got tougher on the outside but because you were tough enough on the inside to go home, nurse the wounds of your bruised ego and still come back to endure it again. And again. And again.

 

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(Photo Courtesy of Bob Ross)

 

I wasn’t athletic in my younger years by the way. Not that it matters, just some background about myself: I’ve never considered myself a jock. As a matter of fact in high school I was the burnout that hated jocks. That’s ok though, were cool now. You’re some tough dudes. I like tough people, sissies have always disgusted me.

 

Pretty early out of high school I became a Paramedic. Emergency Medical Services was a career that at best gave me twice the pain and frustration that it did satisfaction.  Along with that came extensive and continuing education, fierce periods of physical exertion and an intense feeling of camaraderie. Is this starting to sound familiar? Physically and mentally I could no longer handle that job. Not to get overly dramatic but quite literally, I believe it was killing me. Once while I was getting off duty I had a dizzy spell so bad I asked my partner to sit with me while we waited for my blood pressure to come down just so I could walk across the parking lot to my car, much less drive home. Call me weak if you want but the national average of an EMS career is about 5 years. I lasted damn near 15. With the kind of stress that comes with that job comes intense periods of anxiety that sometimes can only be relieved by interacting with others going through similar experiences. With that comes a bond. It’s a bond that can’t possibly be formed with anyone else on earth because no one else will ever get it.

 

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(Photo Courtesy of Bob Ross)

 

In EMS there is a constant struggle. Between disgustingly low pay , incompetent managers, some hopeless coworkers and quite a few patients that really aren’t sick, just refuse to care for  themselves (much less walk their own fat asses down the stairs) eventually you become the picture of the stroke victim you’re expected to save. Throw in a real person, really dying here and there and you can see where this is one of those things that reading about it just isn’t enough. You can never know it until you’ve lived it. That’s where your friends come in. Sometimes you wind up drinking and laughing with a guy you thought you hated just a few hours ago just because of a shared experience and people who should be close to you become outsiders. They just haven’t been there; no one else gets the struggle. That’s a strange place to be: when your loved ones become strangers, not due to any fault of their own but because they can’t even fathom the demons in your head, much less help you cope with them. In short, at one time not all that long ago my head became a very dark and strange place to be.

 

So where does Jiu-Jitsu tie into all this? I can’t do EMS anymore. It’s too much both physically and mentally and the pressure was threatening to break me.  Let me say that I am very fortunate to have moved on to other areas of the medical field and am very thankful to have met some very high caliber people there too. But something’s missing and it has been ever since I traded my medic badge for hospital scrubs. I truly love what I do now and I love the people I do it with but there was a bond in EMS that just isn’t able to be replicated. I intensely missed being accepted by a group of people all from totally different backgrounds yet united by a common goal. Where was the camaraderie? Where was the brother (and sister) hood? What about the strange need to feel the world closing in around you? The feelings of intense pressure and impending doom that I had learned to thrive on? I never expected to miss that aspect of my life but apparently after so many years, it had become my home.

 

Jiu-Jitsu. That’s where Jiu-jitsu comes in for me. EMS fulfilled me in ways I can never fully explain except to those who have had their hands in the same blood that I did; but at the same time it was constantly trying to kill me, to make me another body on the pile. Jiu-Jitsu challenges me in very similar but in much healthier ways. Believe it or not there are quite a few similarities as well. Problem solving in real time for instance. I have to think on my feet (or on my back as the case may be). When I was a new medic and started getting nervous, sometimes I would have to consciously slow my breathing in order to not panic and retain the ability to effectively care for my patient. I have to focus on my breathing now too. Sometimes it’s from exhaustion, sometimes it’s the weight of one of my larger sparring partners “making waffles” as one of them likes to say. Other times it’s the weight of my sensei’s brutal knee on belly pressure. The point is that it’s an absolute necessity for me. Another absolute necessity that crosses lines is the ability to solve problems in real time while the world is seemingly crashing around you. I think one of the primary reasons I love our art so much is the sense of pressure, the feeling that the world is closing fast and you need to keep your head, not panic and decide a way out. Now.  Notice I didn’t say think of a way out. There’s no time for that bullshit when a 260 lb monster is threatening a kimura, you just better move your ass. The same went on the streets: bad scene, blood, lights and the sounds of sirens, diesel engines, incoming helicopters and screaming family members. All the while you have a patient trying to meet their maker. Don’t think. Move. Your movements had better be automatic. What was it Saulo Ribeiro said?  “If you think you are late. If you’re late, you muscle. If you muscle you tire. If you tire, you die.” Or someone else dies… same-same.

 

I’ve found other similarities in Jiu-Jitsu that mirror unwritten rules we had back then in EMS. I’m sure some of these will sound familiar:

 

Look out for each other.

 

Work together and not against each other.

 

Your ego is your enemy; a little humility goes a long way.

 

Always be ready to listen and learn.

 

Be willing to teach but only when the time is right.

 

Speaking of teaching I guess that’s another missing link BJJ has recently filled for me. I loved teaching new medics. As much as I wanted out of EMS at that time, I found sincere satisfaction working with the newbies right up until the end. I don’t mean instructing in a classroom either (I tried instructing CPR classes once. Let’s not talk about how that went, ok?) No, I mean real-world, hands on teaching. That I could actually do effectively. Toward the end of my EMS career it was one of the few things I had left that actually let me not hate being there. It’s funny to me that I never really even realized I missed the teaching aspect of the whole thing until the first time I was asked to run a Jiu-Jitsu class. I can’t claim to be the best to learn from, and by no means do I consider myself anything but a student. However teaching that class made me remember that there had been some things about the job back then that I didn’t completely despise.

 

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(Photo Courtesy of Bob Ross)

 

So that’s where BJJ ties into my life. It fills a void. Or at least that’s how it works in my train-wrecked mind. I’m not a huge guy nor do I consider my ground game to be stellar. I’m in ok shape but I’m not naturally athletic. I have to work hard at it and that’s ok because it’s not about being the swiftest guy on the mat. As a matter of fact it’s not about you at all, cupcake and it never was. At the end of the day it’s just about showing up, if not for yourself then for your partners. That guy struggling to breathe because your knee is digging into his sternum, you’re there for him. Push him harder. The guy working his ass off to catch you in that choke, you’re there for him, dig deeper. Work your ass off and make him earn that tap. Because rule number one is simple: You don’t bail on your partner. Not ever.

 

 

-Bob Ross

“The Four Pillars of a BJJ White Belt” by Mike Bidwell

 

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(Photo Credit: Richard Mossotti)

 

“The Four Pillars of a BJJ White Belt”

by Mike Bidwell

 

Everyone starts at white belt but quickly forgets exactly how that feels.  It’s an amazing time where every class brings new information and what seems like a constant stream of “ah ha” moments.  Along with all the excitement comes endless frustration and confusion.  Why is BJJ so challenging at the beginning levels?  Part of it is that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is just a tough martial art: physically and mentally.  It’s not like other martial arts where you can sort of trick yourself into thinking you are better than you really are.  Here’s a good example:  If two adults take a striking class they will hit pads, throw kicks and punches in the air and maybe even spar with a partner.  (In most cases, people don’t spar 100%.)  Why because of injuries, safety concerns, etc.  But in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you can actually “spar” or grapple at 100%.  Why?  Because the “tap” gives you the “out” when you need it.  In other words, you can grapple your partner at 100% effort and resistance and when you get into “trouble” you can tap and exit the match safely.  If you were doing standup sparring at 100% the only real measurement of absolute success is an actual knock out.  Now of course you can spar 100% and see what happens…but that probably isn’t the safest way to train!  So my point here is that BJJ gives you instant, 100% feedback.  You grapple someone and they catch you in a submission and you tap out.  Immediately you know that you lost.  There’s no question or debate or “what if” scenarios…you lost period!

 

When you are a white belt you will more than likely tap out way more than you will ever tap out others.  For the most part this is as it should be.  If you’ve never wrestled or grappled before your expectation shouldn’t be that you would be good right away.  Nobody is ever good at anything at first.  Have you ever tried snowboarding?  You will spend more time on your ass than a Miyao brother (I actually like them a lot that’s a compliment really).  Snowboarding like BJJ, it is very difficult at first.  Like most things in life, you have to suck at it before you can be pretty good and you have to be pretty good before you are good… and so on it goes.  In order to progress on your journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you will need to build a solid base early on in your training if you are to survive.   In this blog I will cover what I believe are four pillars that are vital to a beginner BJJ student.

 

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(Photo Credit: Richard Mossotti)

 

Pillar I:  Tell your narrative and stay committed to it.

Why are you starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and what do you expect to get out of it?  These are very important questions that will act as your guide and beacon throughout your first year of training.  Your narrative is your story.  What do you want your story to look like?  Sit down with a notebook and write (in the present tense) what you expect to gain from your first year of training.  Start it like this…”Now that I’ve been training BJJ for one year I have lost thirty pounds, got two stripes on my white belt, competed in my first tournament…” This will help you clarify your goals and objectives regarding your training.  Take your time and be as specific and detailed as possible.   Why one year?  You can’t start BJJ thinking that you might quit.  Make a commitment with yourself that no matter what you will stick with it for one year!  This gives you time to create real momentum.  Remember, unless you’re seriously sick or injured, you have to stay committed to your original goal to train for a minimum of one year.

 

Pillar #2:  Have an accountability partner

Not knowing anyone in your BJJ class can be very intimidating and for some people a path to quitting.  Your accountability partner can be anyone who you train with that helps you adhere to your goals… and you do the same for them.  How do you find an accountability partner?  It can be something as simple as recruiting a friend or family member to attend class with or maybe you befriend someone from class. Having someone to share your BJJ excitement with is very important.  It gives you someone to train with outside of class, someone to share rides with and most importantly someone to help you stay committed to your goals.  If you can get your significant other to train with you then kudos!  That alone will prevent future arguments over your “insane addiction” to BJJ!

 

Pillar #3:  Take copious notes

Go and buy a notebook for your BJJ notes.  Bring your notebook to class with you and take notes during class.  By taking notes you will extend your attention span, recall information more effectively later, and allows you to be a more active learner.  If you were taking a college course taught by an important speaker you would take notes right?  BJJ isn’t cheap and you are learning one of the most complicated martial arts on the planet from someone who is an expert…why wouldn’t you take notes?  In addition to taking notes in class it is also important to take notes after randori (live sparring).  Ask yourself two important questions:  What did I do right? And what did I do wrong?  This will help you set goals and benchmarks.  In addition, take specific notes on specific partners.  Your grappling partners are your truest benchmarks.  Write down how you think you did?  What is working and what’s not working?  This will help you mark your progress and record your first year of training.  Which will also be valuable later on in your training when you look back and reflect on your time as a beginner.

 

Pillar #4:  Ask for help!

Remember, your instructors are there to be your guide.  You have to always trust that they have your best interests in mind.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Also don’t be afraid to trust their judgment! You never ask; “when am I getting my next stripe?” Let your instructor be your instructor.  Other than that, your instructors are more than happy to answer your questions.  Of course don’t take advantage of their time. If you have a lot of questions or just need some help with your training, schedule a private lesson.  Private lessons are a great way to get some extra guidance from your teacher.  If you cannot afford private lessons, ask some of the upper belts in your school.  Most decent blue belts can answer most “white belt” questions.  Blue belts are also great because they just spent a great deal of time not too long ago as a white belt.  Take advantage of this excellent resource.

 

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(Photo Credit: Richard Mossotti)

 

Additional Tips:

  • The more you train, the more you’ll get out of it! You can either “dip your toes” or “jump in headfirst”.  BJJ is a very complicated martial art.  You will never “get it” by training once a week.  Make a commitment to train a minimum of 2-3 times per week.  Like the saying goes, the more you put in the more you get out of it!  How deep down the rabbit hole do you want to go?

 

  • If you’re over 40 or coming off an injury etc. Be smart with your training partners.  Don’t grapple with the crazy 20-year old that tries to rip everyone’s head off!  If you’re attending an open mat then pick safe, trusted partners you feel comfortable with.   You’ll quickly figure out who the crazy ones are and who are the safest students.  Don’t be afraid to ask the upper belts to grapple with you (especially brown and black belts).

 

  • Attend Open Mat. Don’t be afraid to attend open mats.  Some of your most valuable lessons will take place in live training.  Plus this is where you will develop and hone your grappling skills, improve your cardio and really experience the most exciting part of BJJ training!

 

Check out this crazy technique video from Mike!

 

Mike Bidwell is a BJJ Black belt by day and aspiring Ninja by night.  Mike is a Black Belt under Ken Kronenberg (Team Tai-Kai / Balance).  Mike competes regularly in the masters divisions and also runs the popular www.BJJAfter40.com website.  In addition, Mike’s 8-year old daughter Valencia runs the www.TheGiProject.com website where she collects and sends new and used gi’s to “at risk” and underprivileged kids throughout the world so they can participate in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.