On occasion you’ll hear me throw out the term “mat maturity” during a conversation pertaining to how someone carries themselves on the mats. Though it can represent a range of things to me, it primarily suggests that a practitioner has a fair amount of control over their emotions while rolling (live wrestling). It also suggests that they can “tone it down” for newer ranking students while working with them.
A good example of someone I consider to have a great deal of mat maturity and self control is someone that does not aim to retaliate on the mats after being submitted or put in bad positions. Stepping things up to keep a roll session ‘interesting’ is one thing, but going after someone for validation purposes is another. Retaliation is often a sign of insecurity, as one generally only retaliates on the mats to reiterate their skill set and dominance to others or themselves.
In my opinion, the only time you should be “retaliating,” if you will, in the practice room is if you are a competitor prepping for a competition in your respective field, or an instructor is encouraging you to step it up as a means to push through mental blocks that you may be experiencing when rolling. At the end of the day, our training and journey isn’t just about us as individuals. It is, or at least should be, a cooperative effort for us all to reach our goals through collaboration.
Looking Back At White Belt With The Eyes Of A Black Belt
I wish someone told me all of this when I started. So, if you are new take a few minutes to read this.
As an Instructor and someone that has benefitted greatly from learning Jiu Jitsu I appreciate every time a person decides to train and get on the mat.
When I was new to Jiu Jitsu I made the same mistakes most new students make and the one’s that you will most likely make too. Although your path with be unique to you there are plenty of common experiences that most people have when starting. So, here are a few insights I hope you’ll find helpful.
It is true and your Professor knows it. A common phrase you’ll hear is “Work on the fundamentals and positions before submissions, relax, learn to breathe and work on defense first” and that is because it is a universal Jiu Jitsu truth that will remain unchanged and has been proven to be true for a very long time.
In most cases your Coach has spent a ton of time on the mats and has made every mistake just like every other white belt when they started. Michelangelo probably wasn’t the remarkable artist he became the second he was handed a paintbrush and you can’t expect to be remarkable right away either. Jiu Jitsu is a process and the learning never ends, ever. That is what captivates so many people and keeps the interest so high. Ask any high ranking person.
Take the time to learn the positions and details at a slower paceand then when you add some speed you have much better technique as you progress and you’ll work less and be more efficient with your movement. The sooner you learn that and accept it, you’ll most likely make much faster progress than the person that just wants to go for the submission yet can’t hold anyone in a position.
Jiu Jitsu is about getting submissions, it is not about injuring your training partner. Tap fast and often and you’ll be glad you did. There is no medal given for being the toughest White Belt that refused to tap to anyone and there are too many ways to get injured; the main cause is the EGO.
You cannot expect to beat higher belts in the beginning but if you are a good training partner to them, they will be a good training partner to you. Be the person that people want to train with and most people will go out of their way to help you get better. Probably more than you expect.
If and when you get caught, and you will, say thanks and ask the person to show you what they did. Do NOT be the person that gets angry and takes the lesson of the experience and makes it something it should not be. It is a lesson, treat it like one.
Give yourself a break. The thing about Jiu Jitsu is that you will quickly find out where you need to improve. Not every match or sparring session is a championship. It is ok to get tapped and every single higher belt has tapped countless times. Getting submitted does not define who you are. How you handle it says much more about you.
Getting submitted at your academy is not the same as losing a match or fight. You are supposed to have obstacles and you will learn a great deal about how you deal with something when it doesn’t go your way. It is just Jiu Jitsu, nobody gets a belt without getting submitted just like in life nobody gets out alive.
Have fun, laugh and just keep showing up. Progress is inevitable for those that show up consistently.
Too many people focus on how everything should go right and fail to learn how to overcome doing your best and still not doing well. Hang in there. I guarantee you will see a new person start training at your academy after you have been there for a few months and have an “ah-ha” realization that you are getting better. It is a good feeling, it will come, and you’ll remember it.
Be coachable and do the work. If you have a good Instructor you are going to get feedback and while everyone has their own style of coaching and teaching. Learn to take feedback and try to follow the advice. In the beginning you may not even understand why, if you don’t be sure to ask or speak up, and get back to training. Do not be the person that wants to debate every piece of advice or instruction. Ask questions but don’t be “that person”.
What is hard today will be easier tomorrow. That is one of my favorite Jiu Jitsu truths from Master Sauer and the more time you are on the mats the better you will move, the more poised you will become, the better your techniques will get and everything will seem easier and you will have a much deeper sense of accomplishment and confidence that will have an impact in every part of your life.
Jiu Jitsu will change you for the better. You’ll have a new perspective on how you influence everything. You will be forever grateful that you started. Just ask every Black Belt you meet if it was worth it to them. Enjoy your training, be safe, and I hope to see you sometime on the mats.
Check out the fantastic armbar from mount video that Mark put together for WBBJJ.com below!
If you live in or near Harrisburg, North Carolina or want to visit Mark Cukro’s academy you can get all of the details here!
Are You Afraid To Be On The Bottom While Rolling Jiu Jitsu?
Are you a blue belt in life and your ego is a black belt, and your ego has it’s knee on your belly and he’s controlling you? Or are you the black belt in life and your ego is a blue belt? – Eddie Bravo
In many Jiu Jitsu academies the sparring will start off with both practitioners on their knees. This helps to prevent injuries and gets the roll going faster. This oftentimes leads to unuseful knee fighting battles where two egos struggle with each other to not end up on the bottom.
The two videos below candidly discuss this topic and are significantly useful to white and blue belts.
Why I Started Training Jiu-Jitsu & How That Has Changed
I started training BJJ 2 and a half years ago. My reasons behind training have since changed and evolved as my knowledge and maturity in the art has increased. I began training Jiu-Jitsu because I was interested in Mixed Martial Arts and I had aspirations to compete in the sport. So my cousin and I looked around and found a friend of ours who had a No-Gi submission grappling class every Thursday in his garage. I would rather not give out his name so I will just call this instructor, Tom. Tom had trained Jiu-Jitsu whilst he attended college in Auburn, AL. He was never officially belted but has been around the sport for around 15 years; he knows the basics and had the capacity to teach beginners. Tom was a good man and didn’t even charge for the classes. He taught me my first Americana, and how to escape mount. However, I could only train with Tom for so long before my growth would cease. So after a year of training with Tom it was time for me to search for a new school to train at. After researching schools in the area I found Joshua Cheek, and the I’mmortal Jiu-Jitsu family.
My coach, Cheek, is a purple belt under Jason Keaton a 2nd degree black belt out of Columbus, GA. Cheek has helped me understand myself and transform my stiff uncoordinated movement to a smoother slightly less sloppy version of that. I am nowhere near great but the progress I have seen from myself, both on and off the mats, is something that I am incredibly proud of. I still have a lot to learn though. Not only has Cheek given me a more structured curriculum but also he has given me a deeper understanding of Jiu-Jitsu and a new perspective on training.
I have still not given up my dream of competing in Mixed Martial Arts, but it is not my sole reason for training BJJ now. I am focusing more on my Jiu-Jitsu because I have fallen in love with it. I plan on becoming a BJJ black belt, and no matter how long it takes I have set my sights on improving my understanding of this wonderful art. My intentions went from using Jiu-Jitsu as a tool to accomplish my dream of competing in MMA to me using myself as a tool to become an even greater martial artist.
My point for writing this article is to show newer students of Jiu-Jitsu how your goals might evolve as you mature in your BJJ journey. There is a chance that your goals will never change, and that is not a bad thing at all. It is also not a bad thing if your goals change. It is completely natural and healthy for you to do so. Think about it. When you were a child you most likely had aspirations to be an astronaut or a princess, but later on in life your goals changed. Jiu-Jitsu is the same way, you may start Jiu-Jitsu with the goal of becoming the world’s greatest fighter, or you could have started just with the goal of reaching your blue belt. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these goals, they are both admirable and I encourage you to reach them. No matter what your goals are, now or in the future never forget to train and train respectfully; and always allow the reasons why you train to change, and be not discouraged. Oss…
This article was written for WBBJJ.com by Cason Roberson.
First Jiu Jitsu Tournament Experience (Long Read From A White Belt)
I am a white belt, 2 stripes. Been at this for 6 months. I am 34 years old and train 3 times a week. I have a 3 year old kid and a wife.
I heard there was a submission only tournament coming up soon so I checked the website, saw the weight classes and decided right then I needed to get out of the heavy weight division. I was 232 when I started in March (250 at the beginning of the year) and when I decided to sign up I was 213. WELL that gave me 2.5 weeks to get below 205.
I weighed in at 201. I overshot a little but was NOT in the monster class so that was good. Considering there was a few absolute gigantic human beings in that class, and one from my school who constantly works me.
I show up early, support the one kid of a teammate that was competing and was starting to get nervous. There was a few of the tykes I was glad I didnt have to face. Holy shit they are fearless.
My teammates start in the blues and purples and I am watching feeling scared now. I also now know how easy some of my friends were taking it on me. NOW I have doubts.
The little white belts start getting called and I know then I need to check the brackets posted. I tried sizing up the guys in rules meetings but I am not finding ANYONE my size. Now the fear starts to roll in that I am going to get moved up. Nope. I was right. I was having a hard time because there was just me and one other white at that range that were going for Gi.
Some of my friends are at the brackets and I hear “That’s cantreed right there”. So I turn around and see the guy I am rolling with. He has an inch on me, maybe more. But by the look of him, I have multiple t-shirts older than him. So I introduce myself and tell him it’s my first comp. Find out he is actually younger than MOST of my clothes that I have just thrown out because of weight loss.
Only takes about 15 minutes and its my turn. I remember removing my socks and stepping on the mat. It was squishy. Would really consider it soft compared to the mats at my gym. I get to my place, am informed this would be unlimited time because its for the gold, loser gets silver. I am stoked. I get a medal. It had dawned on me before but now its real. Now I can’t look at him. I kneel down to stretch my knee ligaments out prepared to be in guard for at least a bit before this guy sweeps me or takes me to the deep end of my cardio and drowns me.
I still cant look at him. I am looking at the ground. Hands tap. Heart pounds then stops. I hear my breathing and my coaches and teammates. Arms in elbows tight. The guy looks a bit hesitant. I am freaking out. I haven’t done much stand-up. Hurt my shoulder trying just recently. But I can’t feel it.
SO f–k it… I shoot. I grabbed a leg. Shoulder in, push and boom I am in top half. Top half guard. Something 6 months ago I barely knew what it was. I go for paper cutters. He is trying to gain guard and gets it. I bring my foot up and pin his arm. Wiper back leg out and break guard. I pass to half. I am ok with half. Paper cutter again. He is just letting me get that grip. I feel my heart again. I have got it. We grip fight for a few seconds but this grip is going NO WHERE! Cat 9 hurricane could blow through and it will be just me and this gi. I get light and pick up my hips. He rolls me.
I am devastated. I get guard and try to break posture. The guy leans up… and up… too high. I hip bump him and sweep him back down. He nails half pretty quick. But its almost quarter… I am high on him. So I slip my hand under his head and I hear my professor “I like what you are thinking… do that!” He turns his head away from me and I lock the Ezekiel and push. Took a second or two but he tapped. We hugged. I probably hugged him harder than I should but I wanted to cry. I had accomplished something I was not sure I could do. I did something that seemed crazy away of my abilities.
He tapped. I won. I won gold. I won the weight cut. I won the fear of competition. I won in front of my family. I won.
Then the pain in my forearms set in. The breathing was wrecked. The nightmare of having to do that again jumped in my head. I knew I would have been worthless if I had. I thanked everyone I could see. My coach hugged me for at least a minute. My professor said he was so proud. I felt like a kid. Being that fatherless kid most of my childhood these actions and these words were not doing well for my manly accomplishment because I was breaking.
Podium time. I am standing on top. I kneel down for my medal and it’s really real. I hug the guy next to me, I hug my mother who as embarrassed as I was she showed up I was so happy she did. I hugged my teammate/rolling partner for basically the whole of my bjj training. I hugged the other guys coach.
Then I thought about what I needed to do next. Learn armbars, better sweeps, takedowns, work cardio and forearms apparently. MAYBE stay at this weight just gain some more strength? Either way, compete again. Cause that was such a damn rush. Losing might have taken some of the shine from it, but I am a zero ego kind of guy. I don’t think I would have been to down on myself.
Either way, first comp, first win, first gold medal, won’t be the last of either, and still more firsts to come!
– Thank you S. Reed, a JJ Machado White Belt from Knuckle Up Jax for allowing us to share your story!
Grip Fighting For BJJ White Belts – Part 1 – “Standing Position”
When you first start out in Jiu Jitsu it can be easy to overlook the importance of grip fighting both standing and on the ground. We are so excited to get a sweep or land a submission that the art of grip fighting might seem boring.
As you progress you begin to realize that grips are imperative to have a knowledge of, if you wish to advance further in Jiu Jitsu.
10 Things You Should Have In Your BJJ First Aid Kit
This is a list of items that I keep handy for any injury situations that I might encounter while sparring Jiu Jitsu. Keep in mind that I am not a doctor. Obviously you should always seek the advice of a medical professional!
That being said, these are my 10 must-have BJJ first aid kit items, and why I keep them handy.
1. Athletic tape
– This is one of my most important items to have. Inevitably we are going to jam our fingers, toes, ankles or wrists. Thankfully properly applied athletic tape will keep you rolling while preventing further damage to the injury. Athletic tape can be pricey so it is better to buy multiple rolls at a time. This is a good deal from Amazon.com.
2. Ankle, Knee, Elbow Sleeves + ACE Bandages
– Sometimes we pop our knees, ankles and elbows. Sometimes it is because we move incorrectly and sometimes it is because we forget to tap as white belts. The compression effect of these items is soothing to the damaged joints. Ace bandage comes in handy when you bruise your shins. I always wear my knee sleeves when rolling. I keep the ankle and elbow sleeves handy for when I injure those body parts. This is just my personal preference.
3. Cold Packs
– Cold packs are quintessential for muscle pulls when you are trying to use the RICE method of healing (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Bags of ice can obviously be used but I find that cold packs are far more convenient.
4. Heating Pad
– I find that a heating pad works best for pulled muscles in the neck and back. I sometimes alternate between heating pad and cold packs for therapeutic relief.
5. Syringe (for those 18+ years of age only)
– My doctor allows me to keep two around in case I get a massive cauliflower ear. Use at your own risk though. It is absolutely recommended to go to a doctor to have them drain your ear, period.
6. Antifungal Spray
– Thankfully everyone that I train with is responsible about keeping themselves clean. However I always keep a can of antifungal spray handy just in case some ringworm appears unexpectedly. Sometimes I will give my entire body a quick spray after a shower for good measure.
7. Triple Antibiotic Ointment
– I keep some around for minor cuts. This one is really a no brainer that everyone should have handy whether you do Jiu Jitsu or not.
8. Finger Splints
– Finger jams are fairly common in Jiu Jitsu. I personally have a trigger finger on one of my pinkies and some other jammed fingers as well. My doctor recommended splinting the finger while rolling and while sleeping, and then leaving it off at other times.
9. Kinesio Tape
– This tape is very nice for muscle pulls and tears. Proper application of the tape helps to keep the muscle working properly and it feels great. So far I’ve only had to use this tape once for a shoulder pull and it felt great while rolling.
10. Bandaids and Gauze
– This is another no-brainer that every household should have. Every once in a while we get little scrapes, cuts and dings. Using bandaids and gauze will help keep your new white gi bloodstain free!
What other items do you keep handy that I should add to my list?
I hope you enjoyed the read. Good luck staying healthy and injury free!
5 Videos That Demystify And Explain The BJJ Belt System
“What distinguishes the Brazilian system from others is its extreme INFORMALITY. There is no precise, agreed upon set of rules that determines who is a blue belt, who is a purple belt, and so forth. Part of the reason for this is the complete lack of forms, or kata (pre-arranged, choreographed sets of movements containing the idealised movements of the style in question, typically a collection of kicks, punches, blocks, and the like performed solo), in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu system. Most Martial Arts put a lot of emphasis upon learning these katas, this is often taken to be indicative of progress. One might try to differentiate grades in terms of numbers of moves that a student knows. Such a method is clearly inadequate.
It is often pointed out that a purple belt knows almost as many moves as a black belt – he simply does not perform them as well, or combine them as well, or at the correct time. Also, some fighters do very well with a small collection of moves that they can apply well in any situation – should they be ranked lower that another fighter who knows a lot of moves but applies none of them well? A more objective method is to test fighting skill. If one fighter always defeats another when they grapple, this might be taken as firm evidence that he deserves the higher rank. Yet it is not always so simple. What if he is far heavier and stronger and this is the only reason that he prevails in sparring sessions? What if he is technically inferior? You can see that there are no easy answers to the question of what criteria we can offer for a given belt ranking.
Rather, the extreme informality of the Brazilian style is a direct reflection of the fact that it is impossible to provide clear cut rules as to how people ought to be graded. The most we can do is to provide very general criteria. The individual decision must be left to an experienced instructor who will take a range of criteria into account. For example, the size and strength of the student, depth of technical knowledge, ability to apply it in sparring sessions and competition, how he compares with students of other ranks both inside and outside his school, his ability to teach and so on. In general Brazilian Jiu Jitsu takes a very CONSERVATIVE stance toward promotion. This is a direct reflection of the fact that it is primarily a fighting style. It makes no sense to promote someone to a high rank if they cannot fight well – after all, should a highly ranked fighter be defeated it is a bad reflection on the school. So then, the two principle features of the Brazilian ranking system are its INFORMALITY and its CONSERVATISM.
To really know a given move one needs to learn not just the basic movements, but be able to perform them on an opponent who is resisting as hard as he can. This comes not from a book, but from time spent on the mat in hard training. A true sense of your level of development is had by training and competing with other practitioners and drawing comparisons with your own game.” – John Danaher (as written in Renzo and Royler Gracie’s book “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Theory and Technique”)
BJJ is a mass of concepts, techniques, strategies and positions, but there are some key techniques that are pretty tough to get a hold of (and keep hold of when rolling) when you first start.
1. Don’t roll over.
The first time I rolled after having been doing BJJ for 45 minutes total, I found myself trying to barrel roll to escape a side control or a mount. Almost every time I did, it ended up with me gifting the guy my back. I got rear naked choked time and time again. It took a blue belt I was sparring with to tell me to stop trying to roll out, be more patient, and not to panic. My instinct was to roll away, but after a few classes I’ve stopped myself from doing it and am working on sweeps and escapes instead.
2. Protecting my arms when in someone’s guard.
Another recurring problem I faced (and am still facing), was when I was in someone’s guard I wanted to grab hold of their gi or arms, but my posture was not correct. I was too close to them, so when I grabbed their lapel, I found myself in triangles and armbars often. My instructor saw me doing this and showed me how easy it was to put on a triangle when the person sticks their arm out thoughtlessly when in your guard. I’m now working on keeping better posture while in my opponent’s guard, and being more careful with where I put my arms to try avoid some of those easy triangles and armbars.
3. Going on offense way too early.
You practice a new choke or lock, and want to get to it as soon as you have a barely semi-dominant position. I was going for lapel chokes and armbars when I had barely got halfway through a pass, and couldn’t land them obviously. Even worse, I ended up compromising my defense completely by not thinking about where my weight and limbs were. I’m not there yet, but have been trying to ensure that I worry more about position and control, rather than going full out for a lock or choke and ending up getting tapped needlessly.
4. Push and pulling.
A guy has me in side-control, and to get him off me, I’m pushing him this way and pulling him the other. Two minutes later he still has me in side-control and I’m f-ing exhausted and my grips are half numb. I wasn’t getting anywhere by simply applying force with zero leverage or understanding, but at the time I didn’t know what else to do. I still don’t have a good idea how to get someone off me easily, but I’m learning to wait and think and move, not just push and pull until I can’t breathe.
5. Thinking a tap means I’m good.
The first session, I managed to get someone slightly more experienced to tap with a forced guillotine. It wasn’t clean a clean choke at all. It was not technical and it barely worked. But I took it as a sign that I could push through and force submissions. It worked occasionally, but almost every time I roll, it’s an endless rhythm of me tapping that damn mat. I make sure now (4 classes in) that I remember that pretty much everyone there, weaker or less athletic, can play with me with impunity. It keeps me grounded in a way I think is very important for being accepted to the group.
(Photo courtesy of William Burkhardt of BJJpix.com)
How to Pass a Complicated Guard
by Julius Park
Modern Jiu-Jitsu has been increasing in complexity, especially in the guard work. The latest innovations are focused primarily around lapel grips, which have (temporarily) confounded the BJJ community.
Like anything complicated, we have to “chunk” the material down into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Guard Passing is actually three stages:
Unwinding / Grip Breaking
Clearing the Legs
Securing the Dominant Position
Unwinding / Grip Breaking
Jiu-Jitsu students frequently ask:
How do I pass the ________ Guard?
(a) De La Riva
(b) Reverse De La Riva
(c) Spider Guard
(d) Lasso Guard
(e) Deep Half Guard
(f) Worm Guard
This is a somewhat inaccurate question. What students are actually asking is “How do I break the grips that are on me?“
By grips, I mean feet & legs as well as hands & arms.
Each guard is defined by a particular set of grips and grip sequences. The process of removing your opponent’s grips and getting your grips is what I refer to as unwinding.
The first unwind you ever learned was probably from the top of guard . Your instructor probably told you to remove your opponent’s hand from your collar before starting to open the guard. If you don’t remove the collar grip, you give your opponent more opportunities to attack as well as defend the later stages of guard passing. This same cause and effect relates to other “more advanced” guard positions.
Clearing the Legs
The actual clearing of the legs are the techniques most commonly referred to as guard passing.
Knee Cut Under-Over Double-Under / Stacking Leg Drag Long Step, etc.
But as everyone knows – its probably easier to hold a pissed off cat than an upper belt whose legs you’ve just cleared.
Which brings us to part 3.
Example of Clearing the Legs & Securing Dominant Position
As a Blue Belt, I distinctly remember how hard I thought it was to hold a person down after the pass. They would ALWAYS turtle. I could clear the legs but it was so difficult and energy consuming to hold the person down or to actually get the back.
These are fundamental movements that are used after you’ve cleared the legs, but the individual is still resisting the pass. For the competitors, this is the step when done wrong, you end up with an advantage but not any points.
To do this well, you must train back takes as well as dominant top position transitions such as side-mount, mount, knee-on-belly, etc. Don’t limit yourself by only choosing to take the back or only trying to secure side-mount. You often will not get a choice as to how your opponent reacts once you clear his legs – some will turn in, some will turn out, some will lead with legs, some will lead with arms.
Successful Leg Clearing with Failed Securing Dominant Position
Notice that Guard Passer has to Remove the Collar Grip Before Initiating The Leg Clear
A Video about Securing Dominant Positions via Side Switch
Additional Tips on Guard Passing
Certain guards are responses to particular guard-passing systems. For example, worm guard is primarily a response to a knee-cut or bull-fight passer. You’ll be able to avoid a lot of that guard’s strengths by passing a different way i.e. passing from the knees.
Be able to pass to both sides
Don’t be reactionary unless you are forced to be. You should have the jump on your opponent as the top man since they have to pull into a guard. They should be forced into the 2nd stage of guard pass (defending your leg clearing) rather than you being pulled into stage 1 (unwinding their grips).
Thank you very much for reading! I hope that this article helps you in your Jiu-Jitsu journey!
About Julius Park: I am a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt. I’ve produced BJJ World Champions from Blue Belt up to Brown Belt. My next goal is to get a student to the Black Belt World Champion level and into the UFC. I have an English Bulldog, Ghostface, who has so far resisted all training methods. I teach out of Crazy 88 Mixed Martial Arts gyms in the Baltimore area.