The 2011 Pan Ams was my first big jiu jitsu tournament and it was one of the best days of my life. To make the experience more authentic my friends and I showed up to the event on Brazilian time, or late. Being a lightweight I was the first of our group to compete and when we got there the feather weights were already underway. The arena was filled with twelve rings of mats all filled with competitors. People shouting, celebrations, crying, the whole world of jiu jitsu was gathered at this spot today. As a blue belt, I had a division with over 120 competitors, meaning it was seven rounds to the finals. It was a huge challenge; this was the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan Am.
As soon I had hurriedly put on my gi the announcer was calling my bracket to the warm up area. Inside this fenced off pen gathered all of the guys in my division; mean mugging each other, aggressively doing burpies, and singing along to gangster rap as it blared from head phones. We were all here to send each other home but were first forced into a tiny area with almost no room to do our intended warm ups. After a rush of claustrophobia I sat on the floor, closed my eyes, and meditated on my affirmations. ‘Everyone else here thinks they’re the good guy, so I’ll be the bad guy. I’m like Darth Vader so I wear my black gi. I’m here to ruin someone’s day. I am the bad draw they didn’t want’. I waited so long I began considering that they must have forgotten to call me when I finally heard my name.
As I weighed in and got my gi checked, I realized that my opponent had a strange ID card from another country. He said a few words of his native tongue to his coach and I knew that ‘lispy, whinny Spanish’ meant I drew a Brazilian in the first round. He wouldn’t be here unless he was good. My heart started pumping. I was across the country in this huge tournament, I didn’t know where my friends were and my coach Comprido was away at the UFC in Las Vegas.
Standing there in the weight ins, I started to run through my mind all the excuses I could use after I lose this match, when in the corner of my eye I saw Andre Galvao, one of my biggest heroes. “Andre” I yelled, “I’m a big fan” he turned around, looked back at and grabbed me by the shoulder. “Yes” was all he said then walked away but it completely hit a reset button on my train of thought. I’m not here to lose this match, I’m here because I love jiu jitsu. They called us to the mat.
In every first match of every tournament I’ve ever done I get hit by what’s called the adrenaline dump. You lose sense of time, your IQ plummets, you have amnesia for much of the experience. All your training at the gym cannot prepare you for when your brain goes out the window and you rely on instinct. About half way through the match I got my bearings together and was no longer so vulnerable. ‘Slow down’ I told myself, ‘breathe, relax your grips’. Once I swept my opponent and got on top I felt him start to panic. This wasn’t supposed to happen to him, but then again he pulled the bad guy in the first round. I used a lot of energy holding him down as he kicked like a wild deer but I eventually passed his guard, winning the match on points. With the first one behind me I returned to the still crowded warm up area with a new comfort and focus. Now it was time to get in the zone.
Right away when the next match started I could feel my opponent nervously shaking. He probably got a buy and this was his first match of the day. As the bad guy, I had to use his jitters to my advantage. I kept my cool but pushed the paced on him, quickly sweeping to the top and passing straight in to an armbar, forcing him to tap.
During the third fight I lost points when I got swept and had to use my reserve flexibility to get out of more trouble. I realized that my opponent was one tough guy. While I hung in there, getting smashed on the bottom, I thought about how I tried hard and I won two fights. I could go home and Comprido wouldn’t be that disappointed, this being my first big tournament. Everyone would realize that guy was just better than me. I thought that till out of nowhere, I heard my friend Bruce from the stands ‘One minute left’. That made me move.
If only it had been two minutes I would have thought it was too long and quit, but I could push in this last minute and make something happen. The next time he tried to step around my legs, I followed him and rolled upside down. My legs landed right how they needed to be to step up triangle choke but it seemed like he didn’t realized or know the danger. I took a deep breath and unwound, cinching a deep triangle choke. Grabbing my ankle, I squeezed and got the submission from the trick move, narrowly avoiding defeat.
In the warm up pen my friends were waiting. They were all excited for how I was doing while I kept it inside. If I won one more match I would be farther in at a big tournament than any of the Americans on our team had gone. ‘One match at a time’ I told them, trying hard to stay cool. While I waited at the mat for my next fight, I saw my next opponent practice wrestling shots, so I started pretending to practice judo throws were he could see. As soon as the match started I showed my bluff and immediately pulled him into a deep half guard, a place a wrestler type like him would feel confused. After a sweep, I snuck to his back and cranked a bow and arrow choke. My friends cheered from their distant seats in the stands. I was now deep in the no-man’s land of the late tournament that was unknown to everyone I knew; that is everyone except for Comprido.
After about an hour break I fought this kid in the quarter finals that had a really similar game to mine. The entire match I felt like I had no control but it was still somehow close. I swept him, he swept me back, he nearly got a couple of submissions on me. My teammates were far from me in stands so there was no one to tell me the score but I knew time was running out. He rolled away as I went passed his guard but I jumped on his back right as the buzzer rang. As the ref lifted my hand I honestly had no idea what the score was. For the first time all day I was tired but there was no time for that as the semi final, and hence the meddling round, was next.
I focused on my affirmations. ‘You are meant to be here. You trained hard for this. You were already one of the best in the room before the day began. And you still are.’ I was already in third place no matter what, but no, I could do this.
The next guy came out strong, stacking me up on my head after I pulled guard. He had a scary look; a white dude with cornrows just seemed intimidating. He pushed me around on the mat for a bit as I scurried upside down in a ball looking for something with no success. As he tried to stack me up again I got the chance to grab his belt. Using my grip on his belt I closed a triangle around his neck without either of his own arms. He tried hard to posture up for a second but quickly tapped. Afterwards, my opponent asked me what that submission was and I told him I honestly did not know, I had never done it before. I had never done any of this before but I had faked my way this far. But I had to focus; I had a chance to take this whole thing. Luckily the submission was quick and I still had a lot of gas left.
In the other semi final that would decide my opponent, there was a Brazilian and a young American. After a little back and forth the American got a nasty armbar, the Brazilian flopped around but would not tap and his arm got bent back. I think I may have even yelled for him to tap before the ref stepped in and saved him from further damage. After the match the American’s coach cheered, it was none other the Saulo Ribiero, the former Michael Jordan of Jiu Jitsu. I had studied Saulo’s book on the plane out to California. So great, he has a hall of famer for a coach. But I knew I was always dangerous. Back to my affirmations before the finals ‘Everyone else here looks like a fool. They wear their gi like it’s a Halloween costume and pajamas. I was reborn on a beach in Brazil in this gi. My gi is still covered in blood, sweat, and amniotic fluid. I was born to wear this gi’. They called us to the mat.
It was one of the quicker fights of my career. Within ten seconds I was flipped in the air onto my back. Twenty seconds later he picked me up, rolled me, and jumped on my back. After staving off a lapel choke, mounted triangle, and an armbar for several breaths I had to tap to a combination of the above. The kid simply out classed me. If I would have faced him in the first round he would have beat me then too. When I realized he still had braces on his teeth, I asked him how old he was, 17. This was his day, and it turns out it was the first of many others for him. This second place was the best I ever got. I shook his hand and slunk off the mat.
I was sitting there on the ground in a daze when Saulo walked up to me. He told me that I fought well and that I had a lot of talent. He knew my name and gave me a lot of respect. He was so humble to even talk to me and I was honored to meet him.
Standing on the second step of the podium, one gets the distinct sense that you are almost literally a stepping stone to the champion. There were 120 people at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day there are 119 losers. They cannot all be stepping stones. They all needed to be here for the sake of the art. If no one but two people came to the World championship there would be a champion decided, but that would be a dull champion. We make sure that Jiu Jitsu stays sharp and that if anyone wants that title, I will make damn sure that they are sharper than me. I may not win every tournament I enter, I may never win a match again but I will keep going out there because I’m no stepping stone, I’m a whet stone.
– Jim Barrett
“BJJ and Your Skin”
by Lauren LaCourse (Blogger, WBBJJ.com)
**DISCLAIMER** This article might gross you out, but I feel like it is important to share my latest BJJ mishap with you.
As white belts, some of us are starting our Jiu Jitsu journey with no prior experience in grappling. Because of that, many of us are unaware of the more obscure hazards that can accompany our new found art. Playing the game of Jiu Jitsu entails that we spar, rolling around on mats, in close proximity to other human beings. I was one of the people who were unaware of some of the more obscure hazards of rolling Jiu Jitsu.
It started a few days ago. I noticed a small cluster of two or three bumps on the underside of my chin. As the day progressed they became itchy. I had become used to breakouts after a hard week of training, so I didn’t think much of it. BUT, the next day a crusty, yellowish scab had formed where the cluster had been.
I had heard that skin diseases like ringworm could be contracted with frequent time spent on the mats. Concerned, I mentioned my recent discovery to one of my fellow coaches. As a high school wrestler, he was aware of the different types of skin diseases that could be spread through grappling, and had a look. After confirming it was not ringworm, he advised me to take some time off and have a doctor look at it; since there are many other types of bacteria and viruses that could be causing the scab.
I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the next day. Naturally, being the curious hypochondriac that I am, I decided to Google the types of skin diseases that commonly affect grapplers. I came across an article that explains the most common wrestling skin diseases. According to the article the biggest offenders were ringworm, herpes simplex, impetigo, and staph/MRSA.
You can probably imagine my horror reading that diseases like herpes can be spread through the close contact required of BJJ and other grappling arts. Herpes?! REALLY?! That entire night was spent without rest, and I tossed and turned over my impending appointment (which felt like it was going to be a death sentence).
The next morning I saw my doctor, explained my extracurricular activities, and showed her my symptoms. She looked over the scab, shrugged her shoulders, and stated that I had contracted “impetigo”. My heart started to race. I felt myself falling into a panic attack. She then lightheartedly explained that impetigo is common (especially when wrestling season begins) and can be easily cured with an antibiotic.
As relief washed over me, I suddenly realized that I could have possibly spread this contagious bacteria to my fellow teammates! Thankfully I had only rolled with my training partner Caitlin that week, so I called and notified her of my recent diagnosis. I also notified my coaches to warn others at the gym that precautions should be taken.
If you are like me, at this point you are probably wondering, “What are some precautions I can take, and what can I do, to avoid contracting a skin disease from grappling?”
First, and foremost: Practice good hygiene. This includes showering before as well as after training. We all carry diseases on our skin. It is important to wash regularly with soap and water, to minimize the amount of bacteria residing there. Showering before training will assist this. It is also a good idea to not trust another person’s hygiene. Showering after practice will help keep you protected from any bacteria transferred to you, from those you train with.
Second: Be vigilant. Research the common skin diseases associated with the grappling arts, and regularly check your body for any abnormalities. If you do see anything amiss, take a break from training until you have had a doctor’s examination. Most importantly, follow your doctor’s orders until the issue is resolved. Being responsible in this way, will help keep you and others from suffering any further complications.
If after reading this, you have become totally grossed out, like I admittedly was. I have some really great news. Almost all of the skin diseases that can be contracted through grappling can be cured with a simple prescription. They are not always as scary as they look. They are not always as gross as you might think (for example; ringworm, isn’t worms). You are not abnormal if you do happen to get one.
The thought of contracting skin diseases should not keep you from practicing BJJ (or other grappling arts). The thought of contracting skin diseases should serve to encourage you to be mindful of your health, and to have body awareness.
Good luck! And keep on rollin’.
This blog post was written by Lauren LaCourse of WBBJJ.com
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: Lauren’s Facebook
“We tap for many reasons”
by Tony Peranio of WBBJJ.com
When you train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every week, you will eventually encounter issues that will affect your performance on the mat.
Life is a winding road that is constantly hurling obstacles our way, and is constantly forcing us to overcome challenges. Sometimes, you will experience “bad days” in the gym because of this. (Note: This article only pertains to people who train regularly. It does not pertain to grapplers who only train on occasion. Grapplers who train train only occasionally will simply take time off during times of adversity. For those of us addicted to BJJ, the thought of time off is quite simply, an impossibility.)
This is not meant to be a blog about excuses. My father always says, “The only good excuse, is no excuse”. Instead this blog is intended to remind all interested parties, that all of us are individuals, with diverse (and oft times complicated) lives.
There are many elements that factor in to each and every one of our submissions, and each and every one of our daily performances. Listed below are a few things that can affect your performance, and cause you to tap; that have nothing to do with the technique being inflicted upon you, and your ability to escape.
You have a demanding job, or school workload, but you still force yourself to make it to BJJ class. Your coach and your teammates have no idea what your day consisted of before you put on your Gi and stepped onto the mats. You might work in a factory moving heavy objects. Perhaps you were up all night long studying for a difficult test for school. Maybe you just worked back-to-back double shifts trying to make rent. You aren’t going to come into the academy wearing these facts upon your sleeve. You are going to put on your best game face and get at it the best way that you know how. Sometimes however, our hearts and our minds are susceptible to the realities of material existence. I say, kudos to you for making it to class, even though you were already exhausted. At least you showed up.
You have a nagging injury but do not want to be told to “sit out”. If you practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or any martial art, you are bound to encounter bumps and bruises on occasion. The BJJ addict comes to class neck sore, fingers sore, shoulders sore, knee popped, hamstring pulled, ankle blown and turf toe’d. We hope that no one notices. We hope hat we aren’t told to sit out, on the godforsaken sidelines. However, we may tap abnormally fast in certain situations, just so we can continue to play the game.
There are tons of problems that you could be having domestically. I have yet to meet the person who was living a perfect life. People have rough marriages, relationships and sometimes family issues. These bad feeling situations exist to help us to grow and to build character; however they may cause us to have the occasional bad day on the mat.
Sometimes I want to give my gym buddy a chance to land a submission. Sometimes, it is as simple as that. It could be a bright, sunny day. The stars could all be aligned in my favor. I could have just gotten a raise at my job, won the lottery, and found the girl of my dreams. That all being said, I try to offer a give-and-take relationship when rolling with my teammates. If I am double the size of my teammate or massively stronger, I will give them a chance. However, you have to be careful not to give too much of a chance, as to offend your teammate.
Sleep. I think for every ten people that I know, ten of them at some point, have had an issue with sleep. Some are insomniacs. Some work two jobs. Some are taking 15 credits per semester in college. Some live in apartments with noisy neighbors. Most of our healing and recuperation is accomplished while we sleep. Our coaches and teammates have no idea how many hours we slept last night. Instead of resting on our laurels, we get up, and come to BJJ class. Granted we may put up a lackluster performance, but at least we showed up to perform. To look at things positively, on days that we do not offer up our best performances, we gave our teammates that much more of a chance at improving their abilities!
Patience. This is not karate. It takes years, not months, to advance your belt color. So basically, what is the rush? Sometimes I just feel like having a good time. Sometimes I like putting myself in crazy positions and “bad” positions just to see what will happen. I will be dead to the world from rolling for an hour, and faced with the option to roll with a bigger advanced belt, or a smaller white belt. I will pick the bigger, advanced guy every time. He will probably smash and beat me, but again, “Who cares?” If you decide to take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you had better be in it for the long haul! So be patient and have fun!
Keep in mind, I am just a simple white belt. These philosophies only seem right to me now, as one who is staring up at the summit of a mighty mountain, and does not wish to get burned out. I will show up regularly to BJJ class. I will show up no matter how great or how lousy I feel. If my performance is not guns blazing, kill ’em all, take no prisoners and let God sort ’em out; just understand that there are many issues, that make up the totality of each and every tap that is forced upon me (and other BJJ addicts like me).
I hope you all enjoyed the read!
– Tony Peranio WBBJJ
“Improving Your Jiu Jitsu”
by Bill Jones (BJJ Black Belt under Pedro Sauer)
One of the most common questions that new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students ask me is, “What can I do to improve, and continue improving?”
At some point we have all asked ourselves these questions. The answers are always the same, “time on the mats.”
What does this actually mean? I have seen people show up 5 days per week, and demonstrate only a small amount of improvement; while others train only 2 days per week, and show markedly greater improvement. It is not so much about how much time you spend on the mat, but rather what you do with your time on the mat.
Rorion Gracie and Bill Jones
At my academy we have two primary BJJ classes; fundamentals and positional mastery. The fundamentals classes teach the curriculum from white, to blue belt. In these classes you will learn all of the basic submissions, positions, and transitions required to gain skill in the art. This is all set up on a rotating curriculum of 25 classes. The material repeats for 25 classes so that each student is sure to have a solid foundation in utilizing the month’s techniques.
To some advanced white belts (and blue belts), attending these classes can seem a bit redundant. I often watch students come into class and simply pass the time, waiting for it to become time to roll. This is probably the biggest mistake those students could possibly make! That drilling time is critical! That drilling time is where you can hone every small detail of your technique!
On countless occasions blue belts have attempted to submit me, and I escape. This is not because my black belt gives me mystical powers. It is because they are not executing the techniques as they should be done. When they ask me how it was that I escaped, I always explain to them the most basic version of the technique. If they can not understand the slow and basic version, they cannot possibly expect to properly execute the move while rolling full speed. So I shore up their missing details (and there are always some details that could be better) and tell them to work on it.
Many times students will watch the instructor demonstrate a technique in class, and then practice it for a few repetitions. After that, they go back to rolling and never train it again! (Facepalm!)
Stop doing that! When someone shows you something to fix what you are doing wrong, train the heck out of it! While you roll for the rest of the night try focusing on just that move. Do your best to get it right. Learn to do it perfectly every time (because most of us only have limited time to train).
These are a couple of reasons why your buddy, that only trains 2 days per week, is kicking your butt!!! They value their limited training time so it becomes easier to focus on a specific goal. They do not aimlessly wander through training like a sailor lost at sea! They are focused.
Here you come, training many days per week, and you waste most of it because you do not come to class with a game plan.
Here are my two solutions for flaws that I see in many of your games. (1) You need to come to the fundamentals classes even though the techniques may seem repetitious for you, and (2) when you are taught a technique (or shown where you can personally improve) you should immediately try to utilize it while sparring live.
Time on the mat, with a purpose!
Have a game plan 100% of the time, even if your game plan is to take it easy that day!
Now go train! See you on the mats!
by Lauren LaCourse (Blogger, WBBJJ.com)
I had an interesting conversation with one of my girlfriends last night. Boys, beware. It may be extremely uncomfortable for you, because I’m about to let out some of my “lady brains”. You are probably going to hear a bit more about the thought processes of the girl you roll with, than perhaps you wanted to know.
But let’s be real, you’ve always been curious…
I have a girlfriend from the gym that I train with, and hang out with, on a regular basis. Her name is Caitlin. Having her in the Combat Program of my academy is literally a breath of fresh air. Why? To put it bluntly, girl sweat is much more tolerable than “eau de garcon”. I love you boys, but it’s just nature.
Caitlin and I have been hanging out frequently, and since we share similar interests (MMA and Jiu Jitsu), we talk about the gym and training a lot. The discussion is usually about what we suck at, how we’re going to get better, and stupid mistakes that we’ve recently made. We also compare our various bumps, bruises and injuries (which we love to flaunt, agreeing, that they make us pretty badass).
Finally someone who understands me!
So the other night we decided, after a tough week of training, to go out for dinner. We met up with a couple of Caitlin’s friends, and began our usual chit chat. Naturally it did not take long before conversation about the gym started up (because when you practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the gym takes over your life!!) and the discussion progressed. Caitlin’s friends were curious as to what it’s like to “roll” with guys, so the conversation migrated to the opposite sex.
Prior to this conversation, I’ve only had to answer these types of questions from my female family members. The amount of information I disclose about the opposite sex with my family, is pale in comparison to the amount I discuss with other girls my age.
Last night was no different. We went deep, and we went dark.
Caitlin and Lauren
I’m not ashamed to admit that rolling with males can sometimes be “interesting”, to say the least. It can sometimes be a tad bit awkward as well. Sometimes you may find yourself in “intimate” positions. There’s sweat, there’s heavy breathing, and there’s something extremely addictive about being able to let the most grisly parts of your nature come loose (and I mean the most grisly).
You would think that wrestling against someone attempting to hurt you, would be anything other than intoxicating. What is surprising however, is the ease at which our bodies are able to translate heightened adrenaline, into heightened curiosity (for lack of a better term).
I remember my first experience with this “curiosity”.
One evening, I was rolling with one of my teammates. I was struggling to better my position while he had been running the match. I managed to find an opportunity to escape from his side control and transition into bottom half guard. He pressed his weight on top of me, and moved his head to the side. I rolled, and he placed his head on the mat to base against my momentum. Now here we were, him on top of me, attempting to control my upper body by pinning my wrists; and the next thing I know, I’m turning my head to expose my neck.
My immediate thought was, “Why are you doing this?!” Then I realized it was a reaction that I’d had before, in a much, MUCH differently intimate situation…uggh. The very next moment my head was turned back, and I bridged to sweep into a different position, all the while cursing myself for having such an unprofessional moment.
But here is the deal guys, it happens. I know it happens for you boys too. Trust me, after my conversation last night, I’m not the only one who’s felt it (pun intended).
Typically I overlook things like this, and keep rolling like nothing had ever happened. After talking with Caitlin and her friends, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced this situation (in terms of the “animalistic” aspect of our sport). After chatting about it, I had found it riotously entertaining (and comforting) knowing that I was not the only one who had experienced such “momentary lapses of reasoning” which seemingly deviate from the professional path.
I’m normal! You are normal! We’re all normal! Yay!
Like I said it’s bound to happen, and through my rolling I’ve discovered a few things.
1) Yes, it’s normal to have these thoughts.
2) Yes, it’s possible to have them about those you are not attracted to (although it can be unsettling).
3) No, it doesn’t happen every time (it’s more rare than frequent).
4) But yes, when it does it’s one hundred percent OK.
As long as you follow a few rules…
A) It’s brief, and you make sure to maintain your professionalism.
B) You do not AT ANY TIME act on these thoughts.
C) You NEVER mention these urges to the person (although you boys unfortunately sometimes can’t hide it; try your best).
D) You ladies understand that sometimes, by the nature of the situation, that certain things can’t be hidden (believe me, the poor guy is already embarrassed as it is).
If you follow these rules, situations like these will easily pass into the realm of “things you can laugh about with your cohorts over a good meal”, and maybe even a few drinks.
Good luck! And keep on rollin’.
This blog post was written by Lauren LaCourse
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: Lauren’s Facebook
First Day of BJJ (from the Japanese Jiu Jitsu Perspective)
by Bill Jones (BJJ Black Belt under Pedro Sauer)
I will never forget my first day of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. It truly changed my life, and the direction my martial arts training would head forever. Before I get to that point, let me give you a little background on me.
In 1985, I started training Tae Kwon Do after seeing the movie, The Karate Kid. The years eventually led me to training Kung Fu as well. In 1993, Royce Gracie rocked the martial arts world when he participated in the first UFC and decimated the competition with little effort. Like many “traditional martial artists” of the day, I dismissed this as some sort of fluke. In my mind, there was no way he could ever do that to me, or anyone that I knew. So I continued on, and even wrote a 10 page essay on why I believed BJJ was an ineffective martial art. Then, in the early 2000’s, I began training traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu. I really enjoyed the grappling aspect, and assumed (as many do) that it was as good, or better, than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Shortly after earning a black belt in the art (in 2002. That’s right, it took me only 2 years to earn), I was deployed to Iraq. While I was away, the owner of the school where I taught, hired a BJJ instructor named Tony Rinaldi to teach classes (I was promised that I could continue teaching when I returned). It was then, that I experienced the most major turning point of my life.
An ancient adage states, “When the student is ready, the master will appear.” For me, this was the day I met Tony Rinaldi. Anyone who has met Tony will chuckle at the idea of me calling him a “master”. He is a fiery, redheaded Italian who walks about the mat with chew in his lip, and a spit cup never out of reach. He yells a lot, and tells crass jokes, often picking on his students and creating an undeniable “locker room” feel. However, his grasp on Jiu Jitsu (and the combat arts in general) is virtually unparalleled. He is able to see, and apply Jiu Jitsu to his entire life, and always strives to do so. It is a rare thing for him to seem unsettled by anything. His martial arts skills are only superseded by his compassion for others. He is a fierce friend; and anyone who has seen him work with children, or the developmentally disabled, always stand in awe of him.
I entered back into my home dojo for the first time in over a year, and a man greeted me as a “long lost friend”. I had never laid eyes on him, and I had never met him, but he immediately accepted me as an equal (he did not treat me as a subordinate or as someone that was in his way). As was customary for me, I wore my traditional Jiu Jitsu black belt in class. He did not so much as bat an eye. He simply said, “Do you want to teach? or do you want me to?” I responded that I had heard that he was good, and that I wanted to take a class with him , “if that was okay”. However, in the back of my mind, my ego was screaming frantically. I honestly thought that I would not learn anything of value. I could not have been more wrong! That day we learned how to pass the half guard and to attack the Americana from side control. For the first time in a long time, I realized what it meant to be, to be a white belt again.
I remember looking at him and saying, “There are so many steps. How can people remember this?” He simply responded, “It takes more steps to walk from your car into the building. You seem to do that just fine. It just takes a little practice.”
Despite being shocked at the good nature of the people in the class, and the intricacies of what we were learning, my ego would not give up quite yet. As we approached the open rolling section of class, I figured I would destroy everyone. After all, I was a black belt in Jiu Jitsu already. Tony had me roll with him first. I took him down, passed his guard and submitted him with the Americana we learned. I told myself that I did that because, “I was better”. But I would soon learn differently.
Next, a smaller guy named John Fleet rolled with me. In what seemed like a blink of an eye he had passed my guard, mounted me, and armbarred me. When I asked him if he could beat Tony, he quickly responded, “Not even close man. That guy destroys me.”
I continued to roll with a few more people with a similar result.
I left shortly thereafter, and fought with my ego the entire night. It boggled my mind that the instructor would just let me win. He allowed me to learn by losing. I was a person with 20 years of martial arts experience. I had 3 black belts, and a ton of specialized training; and I stood no chance against guys that had only been training for a few months. That is when it dawned on me. I experienced a stark epiphany. An epiphany that is very difficult for many to believe, or to accept. I was a white belt. When I got home that evening, I went into my closet and found a brand new white belt, that had came as an accessory to one of my gis (kimonos). I put away my “Jiu Jitsu black belt”, and vowed never again to wear it, until I had earned it in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
When I showed up the next day, Tony took a look at my white belt and said, “You don’t have to do that.” I responded with the only thing that I could think to say, “Yes I do.”
For many reasons I am glad that I made that decision. It was the first real defeat of my ego. Despite having black belts for multiple years; in my mind, I realized that I should always keep the mentality of a white belt.
Today, I make it a habit of seeing how many times I can get submitted in class. I put myself in the worst positions I can think of, and try to work my way out; rinse and repeat. I am constantly trying new moves, or playing in new situations, with different movements.
Master Pedro Sauer says, “Train with a white belt mentality. Learn from every person you meet, no matter what rank. If a student goes to a seminar; see what they have learned, and add it to your Jiu Jitsu.”
To my brothers, sisters and friends who are training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; I echo his sentiments. Never stop being a white belt! I know I that won’t!
Bill Jones Teaching Guard Sweeps
A few months after I began training at Cosens MMA, I was given a wonderful opportunity. They were a booming gym in dire need of help. From early on my life began revolving around the gym. The coaches noticed that I would regularly come in early to watch the kid’s classes before my own classes would start.
Sensing what they thought were “maternal instincts” and a love for children (granted, I’m just assuming here), they approached me and asked if I would be interested in assisting with the kid’s programs. Initially, I was flattered. So I replied with an immediate, “YES!”
But that flattery quickly dissipated upon the quick realization of one key problem…
Children hate me.
It all started when I was about 10 years old. I attended a small school which held classes for grades K-8th. The school was tiny enough that all the students would eat lunch at the same time. After lunch we had regularly scheduled recess and so children ages 5 to 13 would march outside after they finished eating to enjoy 15 minutes of shenanigans before starting the second half of the day’s classes.
On a particularly fateful day in the summer, I decided to practice gymnastics during recess. Mind you, I never actually took any gymnastics classes, but I was an avid fan of the Olympics that year. Having watched a routine on television, I worked up the courage to try my hand at my very first cartwheel.
It seemed simple enough at the time, so I went for it. I got a running head start, placed my hands on the ground, swung my legs into the air, and finished the technique.
I had done it! I had performed my very first cartwheel! I erupted into laughter and celebration, but my cheers of victory were cut short by cries of pain. I turned to look over my shoulder toward the direction of the screams and saw a small, kindergarten boy clasping his hands over his chin as tears streamed down his cheeks. Apparently, I forgot to check my surroundings, and he wound up in close range of my gymnastics; and even closer to my foot.
I had just kicked a kid in the face.
The little boy shot me a gut-wrenching look. Every time I saw him after that, I felt the horrible guilt. This same look I managed to project on every other child that ever looked at me. From then on, I chose to avoid children. On the rare occasion I did interact with them, they usually stared at me awkwardly, ran away, or started crying.
So you can imagine my shock and surprise when my coaches asked me to assist with the children’s programs. Considering I had none of these “maternal instincts” they suspected I had, I found it pretty ironic that they chose me of all people to help. But since I had already replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!” (and they really did need help) there was no turning back.
I showed up the first day, and every day for a month after that, scared s–tless. Having to face not just one, but 10-15 of those accusing faces, was absolutely mortifying. Since the curriculum included jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts, I would be showing kids how to kick each other. It could have been Cartwheel Boy all over again…
I decided that this challenge could be an opportunity to grow, so I stuck it out. I showed up to every class. I acted excited. I pretended to have the energy of a four year-old. I didn’t kick anyone in the face. Eventually my teaching skills blossomed.
I began anticipating class. I would look forward to working with the children. The most amazing thing is, they looked forward to seeing me too! Down the road I suffered short hiatus due to my ribs. Upon my return, I was swarmed by a horde of children with inquiries of where I had been. They were hoping that I would be teaching that day, and showered me with hugs. No more accusing eyes, no more stares or cries. I had hugs.
There is a saying that I have found to be very true, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” However, it is not simply a saying, it is an attitude. People too often forget the influence of their own mind-set. If we think and act positively, positive things will happen. If we think and act negatively, negative things will happen. The same holds true for characteristics and qualities as well. These are basic laws of attraction.
Prior to working with the children’s program, my attitude towards those ferocious miniature humans was pretty pessimistic. In changing my outlook and my actions I was able to become something I doubted I ever could be: a teacher. A children’s teacher to boot!
Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard, actually did some amazing research on the “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude. You can check it out here. She shows that there is an unharnessed amount of power in the effects our body language. She shows that something as small as altering the way you stand, can change not only how people view you, but how you view yourself.
If you find yourself faced with a challenge, an extreme goal, or an obstacle; or any kind of difficultly, try faking the characteristics and mind-set that you wish you had. You may be surprised to find, that you start becoming it.
That is as long as you avoid doing cartwheels in a child’s vicinity, of course.
Me and the kids at the Cosens MMA Christmas Party
This blog post was written by Elle_Renae
Email: Laure[email protected]
Facebook: Lauren’s Facebook
The story of B Neil Brown, one stripe white belt:
B Neil Brown with BJJ legend Royce Gracie
I have been asked to share my story many times, by many people. When WBBJJ asked me if I would like to share it, I knew I had to do something a bit different. First off, thank you for allowing me to share; being asked by you is truly an honor for me.
“I am a grappling amputee, and this is my grappling perspective. This is where I have been, and where I am going.”
I was a wrestler in grade school and in high school. Those are the institutions that made me fall in love with the grappling arts (I graduated high school in 1991). I was never considered the greatest, and I will tell anyone who asks, that I think I was mediocre compared to most of the guys on my small team. I would break bones and blow out knees, but I kept at it until high school was over. I came back for a year or two when I could, to help our coach with the team. Then, all of the sudden, life began catching up with me; and I found myself with work, and a family to attend to.
I had to take a break from wrestling.
I grew up in fairly rural Western Kentucky. I became a father and eventually found a career in the pest control industry. I have earned my credentials as a certified entomologist. I spent a lot of time traveling for my company. On the weekends, I would work part time at the fire department, as a fire fighter and EMT.
Twelve or thirteen years had passed since I was on the mat, when one day I ran into an old friend from high school (a fellow wrestler) and he told me about this awesome grappling sport called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was skeptical because I had gotten old and fat. According to my buddy, that didn’t matter, because his trainer was a guy that loved to train ex-wrestlers.
I gave it a try, and I was hooked.
The first six months or so I trained with Sensei Eric Myers. I dropped thirty pounds, and was tapped out (submitted) more times than I care to remember. It took me the entire six months to get out of the wrestler’s habit of never willingly putting your back to the mat. Yes, I paid the price — but I loved every minute of it. Shortly thereafter, I began hearing about Eric’s new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu trainer (a guy named Royce Gracie, whom I had never heard of) and heard him speak with more pride about the BJJ blue belt he had earned from him, than all his other previous martial art black belts combined.
Work had me on the road, so I trained on and off for the next two years. Eventually I gained an orange belt (about the equivalent of a 4 stripe white belt in BJJ) in the Japanese style of Jiu Jitsu.
The fun finally came to an end when work moved me too far away to train regularly. I would be lucky if I could drop in to hit the mats once every few months. Eventually work would move me even further into South Central Kentucky, and I finally had to give up the mats. It would be in that far away town of Bowling Green, KY, where I would end up nearly losing everything.
In September of 2010 I came down with a sore throat. It wasn’t much of a bother. I was popping cough drops to keep it at bay. Two weeks later, and after several trips to the doctor, I was sick as a dog laying on my couch. I had finally had enough, and I did what any grown man of thirty seven would do. I called my mommy and told her that I was sick, and to come get me so that I could be sick on her couch, not mine.
That call probably saved my life.
My condition worsened. It hurt my throat to swallow. I couldn’t breathe. I could barely move. Doctors kept giving me medications and sending me home, but nothing seemed to help. Around the 30th of September I was told that I staggered into the kitchen where my family was at, sat down in a chair, and whispered “I need help.” I don’t remember that, or anything else, until I awoke from a coma nearly three weeks later.
It turns out my sore throat had actually been a MRSA infection, and had spread to my lungs and blood stream, causing sepsis. I was told that somewhere between the ER and the ICU unit, that I had died and been brought back. My body was sick with infection so an experimental medication was used to try and fight the sickness coursing through my body. The reason being was that I was going to die anyway; so it couldn’t hurt to try.
The medications worked; at the cost of both of my legs, and all the fingers of my left hand. When I awoke from the coma (in incredible pain) my fingers and feet were black and had no feeling in them at all. Once I was stable enough to be transferred, I was sent to Louisville, KY, to one of the best hand surgeons in the nation. It was there (in November of 2010) that I would have both of my legs amputated below the knees, and all, or parts of all, of the fingers on my left hand taken.
It suddenly became time to walk the long road to recovery, and to experience many setbacks. But, by October 2011, I was walking on prosthetic legs; without the aid of walker, crutches, or cane.
I set a lot of goals for myself around that time; things that I wanted to do again that I had been told I would not be able to (riding a two wheeled motorcycle again, putting on my bunker gear, fighting fires, and even getting back on the Jiu Jitsu mat). I was told all of those things might be out of reach for me, but it was my prosthetist (that’s “leg maker” in laymen’s terms) who really lit the BJJ fire under me. You see, the very first day I ever stood up and took steps on my new prosthetic legs, I told my prosthetist that I would be getting back on the mat.
His response was, “Well, I don’t know about that.” That was all it took for me to decide that I would. I hate being told I can’t do something, and my leg guru knew it. To this day, I don’t know if he was being honest with me, or prodding me into trying.
It would end up being April of 2012 before I was able to find my old trainer Eric. We became friends on Facebook, and it was there that I explained my situation and asked him if he would allow me onto his mats. Working with a triple amputee was something he had never done, but he was willing to give it a try.
That first day back in the dojo and on the mats was an emotional one for me. There I was, a freaky looking guy with no legs and no fingers on one hand; crawling around on his hands and knees on the mat. We all wondered how things might go, but we were ready to give it a try. Eric partnered me up with someone to roll with, and told me to try a simple arm bar. It definitely felt awkward, but muscle memory kicked in, and I had my partner tapping.
Eric’s only response was, “You got this, no problem. You can still do it.” And that was it, just like that I was back on the mats.
Transitioning back into training was a bit tough, and it was sometimes hard to find anyone that would roll with me (everyone thought they would hurt me). I was also still recovering from the trauma of losing my legs, so I had a lot of down time where I couldn’t be on the mats.
Another setback was when I was told that my Japanese Jiu Jitsu orange belt, while earned, was of no use to me. Eric’s academy was now under Pedro Sauer’s Gracie system. My orange belt was put away, and I started out fresh again as a BJJ white belt. In retrospect, it was the best thing for me, as I had to learn everything all over again anyway now; sans legs. It did hurt my ego a bit when we would line up at the beginning of class to show respect, and I was again down at the far end of mat, with all the noobs. However, I quickly learned, that egos can heal.
I have accomplished a lot since my illness took my limbs. I have gone back to college after a twenty year break to get my degree in Physical Therapy, so I can help other amputees. I sold my old Suzuki muscle bike, for a more timid (still two wheeled) motorcycle that I ride. I have also done some volunteer work at the fire department. The most important accomplishment of all though, is getting back on the mat, and training my beloved grappling again.
B Neil Brown performing a modified berimbolo
Between prosthetic problems, and plain old amputee problems, it would take me more than a year to get my first stripe; but I got it, and I earned it. No one thinks a thing about slapping hands and having a sparring session with me, and I tap out my partners about as often as I get tapped out. I don’t really keep count, because I always learn more from losing than I do winning, and the worst day on the mats is better than the best day laying in a hospital bed looking down at where your feet once were.
My name is Neil Brown, and I am a triple amputee one-stripe white belt under Brown Belt Eric Myers with Team Pedro Sauer. I trained today, did you?
Thank you B Neil Brown for being one of the earliest fans and friends of WBBJJ! You are a constant inspiration! Best wishes to you in your future endeavors! OSS!
Question from a fan of the page:
“Has anyone ever had the issue of nowhere to train? I’ve put in 6 months of my life so far to this journey and I’m only a white belt but it is something beautiful to me. In my life filled with pain and chaos it’s the only peace I ever find. Sadly in this small town only a handful of us really cherish BJJ, though it’s not enough to pay the bills, so no I have no where even close to here to train. I feel like all my hard work was to just hit a wall. Seeing as I cant afford a car due to paying for my moms bills and for her to go to school and taking care of my daughter..I feel kind of hopeless..had to rant and wonder if someone has been in this position..if so, what do I do? All I can do is drill what I know until I figure something out.”
What do you all think? Leave your answer in the comments section! OSS!