Archive for the ‘Technique Specific Topics’ Category

Butterfly Guard Options.

 

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“Do your practice and all is coming.”
~Pattabhi Jois, originator of Ashtanga Yoga~

I know little yoga, but I try to incorporate its principles and practice into my daily life. It affects me deeply and has offered to me a lens with which to understand the workings of life, just as Jiu Jitsu has. The following is my account of my introduction to yoga through Jiu Jitsu and the benefits of the practice I have become aware of:

In the late 90’s I attended a week-long camp in the Poconos on Gracie Jiu Jitsu. To say the experience was life-altering is a gross understatement and completely insufficient, but there are no words to describe with authentic emotion the profound impact it had on my existence. To describe the environment, I, along with my closest Jiu Jitsu family members, would wake up around 7am each day, have a clean and natural breakfast, go train in a large hangar-like enclosure for a few hours, break for lunch and recreation for two hours at midday, return for three more hours of training, and then nap briefly before dinner and gathering for discussion of Gracie Jiu Jitsu at evening. This is awesome enough, but I must tell you with whom I trained this week. The instruction for this week came from Helio Gracie, Rorian Gracie and Royce Gracie. Ryron and Rener were there but I believe they were around 12 and 13 years old, so they didn’t contribute much that week.

In addition, some other little-known people were present, such as Steve Maxwell and Phil Migliarese. It was Phil Migliarese that stood out to us among many others. Only a purple belt at the time (now one of the highest ranking American black belts in Gracie Jiu Jitsu), Phil’s expression of Jiu Jitsu seemed to embody exactly what the Gracie’s were trying to get through to us. In a word, he was equanimity. He was calm, fluid, patient, and relaxed. At a camp full of tense and muscle-bound martial arts practitioners from all disciplines, this relaxation stood in sharp contrast to many present. His Jiu Jitsu was effortless and beautiful and dangerous.

My best friend, Jared Jessup, rolled with Phil and was visibly shaken afterward. He had trouble describing the experience. We inquired as to “how he got so good,” and Phil, of course, accredited the superior instruction of the Gracies, but his first word was “yoga.” Yoga? Ashtanga Yoga to be more precise. Phil had studied yoga for longer than Jiu Jitsu, and he credited his relaxation and fluidity to his yoga practice. On a week in which we were having relaxation shoved down our throats in the form of flowing as slowly and effortlessly as we could, with no submissions, for hours at a time, and often in complete sensory deprivation, meeting him set us on a path of exploration into yoga.

Once at home, we procured some Bryan Kest instructional yoga tapes (yes, VHS), and incorporated our interpretation of Surya Namaskara into our warmup before our Jiu Jitsu practice. We went through peaks and valleys of the amount of yoga we incorporated into our practice. Some vacillating more than others, and all taking a very organic approach to it. It would be years before we saw the true benefits. But they would arrive. Oh, did they arrive.

This is yoga for me today: Centeredness rather than balance, but balance as well; Pliability rather than flexibility, but flexibility also; Power rather than strength, but strength too; and Equanimity rather than calmness. Calmness is simple.

~ Centeredness is balance internally and externally. Externally, an overall understanding of positioning and how each part of the body
is affected, contributes to centeredness. Internally, getting your physiological inner-workings to cooperate in order to allow your
body to perform your practice is what I mean by centeredness.

~ Pliability is maybe an arbitrary alternative word to illustrate something beyond flexibility, but I want to emphasize something far
beyond the physical application of flexibility. Being pliable insinuates yielding to external forces seeking to damage or influence you
in some uncontrollable way. Yielding to these forces, rather than resisting them is the way to overcome them. Resisting things
bigger and intangible is a certain way to create stress and damage. Allowing them to come, recognizing them for what they are,
and letting them run their course without feeding them benefits you much more. Holding a pose, melting into it, feeling the
vibration and hearing what your body is telling you; this is the path to pliability. Pliability is opening lines of communication
between your body and mind and breath.

~ Power is strength in its purest and most pervasive form. Power is not aggressive or tense; it is intelligent and active. The adage
states that “knowledge is power,” but in yoga, it seems that the corollary is true. Reverse the antimetabole and read it as “power
is knowledge” and you will get closer to the heart of power in yoga. Power comes in yoga in the form of energy properly placed in
the correct areas of the body, evenly distributed, and igniting the body from the foundation up. It comes from alignment,
structure, breathing, and clarity. It is a product of the yoking process.

~ One of my favorite words, equanimity, is perhaps the most immediately helpful benefits of yoga for the Jiu Jitsu practitioner. It is
balance + calmness. As I said before, calmness is simple. Put anyone in a calm situation, take away their problems, lay them down
on a soft surface, give them drugs, and anyone can be calm. A good measure of true calmness, though, is how much balance it
yields. This is something only the individual will be able to discern, and the ability to discern it comes from listening to oneself.
Equanimity is achieved not through the elimination of external stressors and tense situations, but amidst them. In yoga, the next
movement may be uncomfortable or the next inhalation may be difficult, but it is necessary nonetheless. Likewise, in Jiu Jitsu, the
next escape from the difficult position may be seemingly impossible, but it is necessary in order to survive and ultimately prevail.
Equanimity is achieved when the external forces acting upon you fail to thwart your advancement, and cease to deter your
practice. Things are just things. This bad thing happening to me is bad because I have labeled it so. Time spent in self-pity is
always wasted and never helpful. The truest calmness is not in running from the storm, but rather in the eye of it.

This is only what yoga means to me, and how it has benefited me in my life and enhanced my Jiu Jitsu. I am learning. I only wanted to share this with others, to share the beauty of it, in hopes that something I have said may reach someone and possibly help them with their journey, wherever they are headed. The God in me greets the God in you.

Namaste.

Tricks are for Kids….

Reverse, Upside Down, Standing Triangle, WTF?!

Reverse, Upside Down, Standing Triangle, WTF?!

So…you have been training 6 months to a year, you are starting to tap people at your gym/school, that blue belt just arrived, things are going awesome! But it’s just that damn 50/50 stalemate heel hook position that is giving you trouble. You need a new move, some trick to get you out of it, right? You already figured out how to work into that cool standing inverted triangle you saw on the Bellatore Fights the other night. Got a lot of cool tricks, some that work and some that don’t, and you are always on the hunt for more.

Here is a secret for you: Tricks are for kids. Better yet, there are no tricks. I just watched Phil Migliarese on a video, showing a tip for getting out of the 50/50 heelhook position I mentioned. It was a great method, and Phil is a master level instructor. I enjoy doing the same thing he was doing (not placing myself in any way in a category alongside Phil Migliarese), which is taking questions about jiu jitsu and helping with solutions. But here is the thing: people want fixes or tricks to help them out of their sticky situations, and learning these types of tricks can actually be ineffective and obfuscate the bigger picture of how they need to be training.

Oh no, not another one of these damn “Stick to the basics” soapbox speeches! We get it already! Blah, blah, train the basics. I know, I didn’t like to hear it either. Still don’t. I am a trick collector, too – ask anyone who knows me. I am not taking the blanketed route of saying train your basics and nothing else. I think that is the wrong (and boring) thing to say. It is also confusing. What are the basics? Aren’t there basic and advanced versions of the same moves? When do you learn the advanced stuff?

Firstly, what are the basics? Base, posture, position, etc. Whoa, whoa…you can’t throw “etc” in a statement like that! Yes I can. I just did. And the reason I did was because people sometime have to develop certain basic principles in different order. So, ETC! Deal with it! Drill and drill. Apply the basic principles everywhere. Something I preach to noobs is to operate in the familiar positions when you first begin rolling. If this means you get into a strange position that feels as if it may be dominant but you don’t know how to use it, then back off it into a position that you actually know how to work from. Example, if you are lost in half guard, let your opponent put you into the guard if that is where you actually know an escape from. This way you get to work on your techniques rather than having to ad hoc a transition or position.

And as far as those tricks go. By “kids” I mean newbies. Kids are excited by shiny, fancy things, and so are the tiros new to jiu jitsu or any other class. These are the ones wanting to know how to do that thing that guy from that fight the other night did. And to them, it is a trick in the truest sense of the word. It is a case-specific, independent movement to get them out of a certain difficult situation. The problem with noobs learning these tricks, is that they have a limited frame of reference for applying the sound basic principles to them. Tricks are fine if you can pick apart the principles at play within them, that make them work.

This is where the tricks come from; someone uses basic principles to apply a technique that gets them out of an unconventional situation. Dissect the situation, remove the technique from the context, and poof, you have a new trick. Here is the only real problem with tricks: when guys sit around and think up new things that might work, force these half-brained moves into a situation that is impractical or unrealistic, and anything but battlefield-tested. I could sit down and think up exciting new ways to choke someone with my toes, and if they sit still for me I can make them work. Hell, I can make crazy shit work very effectively if someone holds still for me. People do this all the time, and because they can demonstrate it on a cooperative partner, it appears to have as much validity as “real” techniques. Some people make whole careers on doing this shit (George Dillman?!).

My recommendations: you don’t have to be a cynic about everything you see in martial arts (that is my job), but you do have to establish some accredited sources you trust, and still keep a healthy level of skepticism over much of what you see. Half of what you see and none of what you hear is a great maxim for martial arts. Seek out those pure basic principles and use them as a barometer for any new trick you encounter. And train! Nothing filters bullshit better than exposure to the truth, and truth comes through experience.

And just to spice things up, I thought I should give you some examples of things I would consider “tricks” in the negative sense of the word. In other words, these tricks have either so very little basis in reality or are so isolated in their application that they benefit nearly no one. Enjoy, until I get in trouble for posting these and have to remove them:

The Pentagram?! Really?

And this is just hilarious!!!

Just posted this video on YouTube. These are three of my most used chokes from the turtle position. Enjoy, and leave a comment if you like.

Side note: shot this with my iPhone which is why the size is a little weird and the sound is quiet. But you can still see the detail and turn up your speakers.

Here is a cool video with Rodrigo Gracie and Evaldo Lima performing some BJJ self-defense moves and some demo rolling. Actually a rough cut for a commercial for Neutral Grounds BJJ.

Rodrigo has such crisp technique as seen here. Solid is the best word to define his brand of Jiu Jitsu. Always puts on a good seminar, and is just fun to have come down to the school.

I have, over the past few years, been posting technique videos on YouTube. I promise I will get busy on these again soon, but for now, here are some of the previous ones you can find on my Techniques Page