Posts Tagged ‘Fitness’

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Sometimes I want to shout at people, “Do you know how lucky you are?!” This is for several reasons, but as it applies here, about having a place and ability to train.

Not to sound like the curmudgeon old man saying “back in my day…” but really, that’s how I feel sometimes. Having traveled all over the country to train with anyone and everyone I could when first starting BJJ, I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have a huge academy with multiple black belts where Royce Gracie comes to visit! Yet, that is what our students have now at the academy where I and other Jiu-Jitsu brethren teach. Crazy.

But, other days I get it. If you don’t know anything about martial arts, and you hear that there is a black belt on every corner (in Karate or TKD or whathaveyou), you may not see the value. Or you may hear the price tag and think, “but I can join the health club down the road for like $40 a month! Why pay $100 or more for BJJ?” If you teach or even train at an academy that is worth anything at all, you feel my frustration with people for not understanding or appreciating what they have near them. So I will offer some ideas I have heard and come up with on my own over the years to combat ignorance.

First, let me address the price tag. For those who argue that lessons cost too much…compared to what? Seriously? If you haven’t trained, don’t know the benefits, you have no basis of comparison and therefore no grounds on which to argue. Second, look at what you currently spend your money on. If you skip a few fast food trips, cut out the overpriced coffee, get rid of an indulgent unhealthy habit or two, then you will easily come up with the $4 a day it takes to pay for BJJ training. I said $4 a day! Additionally, by cutting out those costly bad habits you doubly improve your health consciousness when you consider that you’ve replaced an unhealthy habit for a healthy lifestyle choice.

Next, the difference between training Jiu-Jitsu and training at McDojo’s Martial Arts Emporium down the road with their 50 black belts. Black belts are not easily acquired in BJJ. You can go into most Karate and Tae Kwon Do schools and sign a contract virtually guaranteeing you a black belt at the end of a length of time. Show up, memorize some forms and terminology, never having to test out your skills in any realistic capacity, you can still get a black belt…when you’re about 12 years old or younger.

I have never taken a test for a single belt or even stripe under Royce Gracie. If he felt like I had improved since last he saw me, he would tell me to put a stripe on my belt. Sometimes this would be a while. I never know when the rank is coming, so I am concerned only with training and improving for the sake of the art and my own benefit. I don’t disagree with those instructors who conduct tests for their students. I even see some value in it. Regardless or testing or not, you are guaranteed that you will have to improve, stay fit and able, and be sure you can make the techniques actually work. This makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (particularly Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) one of the most realistic martial arts out there. I would say the most realistic, but I will concede that there are others possibly. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

What’s more, you may find those saying they are not very concerned with self-defense, that they stay fit and healthy on their own, and that they have other hobbies. That is all well and good. But, my friend, have you even tried Jiu-Jitsu? For so many, it is a lifestyle that makes you want to move and learn and eat well and live better in every conceivable way! Why not try something that has those potential effects? And you may need to remind these people of the idea that, while there may be no good reason in the world to fight, there is every reason in the world to know how to fight! Oh, you have a gun for self-defense you say? You got it on you right now? At every second of every day? Because that is how often I have my Jiu-Jitsu with me.

BJJ may not be for everyone (I believe everyone can benefit from it however), so I don’t go out proselytizing all over the place. But I do speak my mind and share my knowledge and passion where those seeking more information may find me. I hope the aforementioned ideas might help you convince someone to give training a chance too.

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Firstly, this isn’t a religious post, except in the fact that jiu-jitsu is a deeply religious thing for me. Rather, I’m referring to having faith in the training, in the technique, in the realization that all will come when you are ready for it.

The first truly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique I ever learned was a half guard pass. I had virtually no context for it. It had never come up in a fight and I hadn’t realized what it was if it occurred in training prior to learning it. I repped it out and listened to the explanation for it but it wouldn’t be accessible to me for some time.

Finally, probably 2 or more years later I found the exact right scenario and that technique, which I thought I had forgotten by then, came to the surface. I was ready for it! Has this ever happened to you?

This is one of those beautiful jiu-jitsu epiphony, metaphorical moments of clarity, when it all makes sense again. When the roll speaks to you, you understand it to be the truth because it proves its inherent value in the moment perfectly. There are of course other moments in life when the pieces fall into place, but jiu-jitsu is so often times complex and chaotic yet formulaic and precise, that it seems to hold an equation up to the universe and say “See! This is how it works!”

Sorry for the philosophical rant, but that’s the nature of the thing. If you dismiss a move as not useful, either in itself or just for you, you miss out on the possibility that maybe you were simply not ready for it. It happens the other route as well. For example, the white belt who has “mastered” the upa escape and now only relies on the elbow escape because the upa is “too basic.” Or then there is the intermediate student who “needs another sweep” because everyone has caught on to his standard sweeps. It is simply a matter of readiness and appropriateness. So then the statement above could equally say, “If it isn’t happening for you, the situation isn’t appropriate for it.” Same meaning.

The answer, to me, is a matter of having faith that if the technique is trained enough, it will work for you when you are ready. Or that you will reach a moment when the situation is apporpriate and you were able to apply it to the situation. The only missing ingredients then, are a lens for determining if the technique is sound in itself (which comes with time), and the patience to stick it out and develop proficiency and ability with the technique (which takes faith.

Now go train!

career-bjj

You sure you want to take that step? You love BJJ with all your heart. You have found your calling. This is what you were made to do. So how do you do it? How do you make Jiu-Jitsu your career? Should you?

I remember after 15 years of  working part then full-time jobs, going to college, having a family, trying to balance everything and still keep Jiu-Jitsu in my life, reaching that moment of having to take the leap. The leap was making a go at teaching Jiu-Jitsu full-time for a career. I was fortunate to have an understanding and supportive family, a place I was already teaching with an established student base, and a brown belt under Royce Gracie. But even with those accolades and advantages, it was a daunting and intimidating task. I did not own my own academy, I didn’t have a big name in the bjj community as a teacher or competitor, and I was not making nearly enough money through teaching.

I think everyone hits forks in the road in life where you have to take a chance on a path. Many times these paths are a balance of passion and safety. Take the path that seems a little more secure and maybe isn’t the one you desire the most, or follow that compulsion of what speaks to your heart, and risk failure and loss. I chose the latter and that has made all the difference. I could have done it earlier. I could have taken bigger risks. I could have waited and been more secure. But like all decisions, I did it when I was readiest.

Should you? How would you? From what I can see, it boils down to firstly a financial decision; because face it, who doesn’t want to get paid for doing bjj?! That is something I will ask again in a little while. But you have to make a living. The main ways people make money in bjj is through competition and/or teaching. Both are difficult and require equal measures of business acumen and talent for the art.

The Competitor Route

If this is the route you’re taking, be prepared to train hard, train smart, and compete often. Winning is good, but not enough. You have to be recognizable in the competition arena and you have to be in the right tournaments. Nothing wrong with entering small upstart organization tournaments (ethically a great thing to do to support the community), but you need that IBJJF card and to look into getting into the big sanctioned events. Being recognized means a higher potential for acquiring sponsors and established notoriety. This is really just a parlay into the teaching realm eventually anyway, so concentrate on your teaching ability as well and have a good place to work with prospective students.

The Teaching Route

Teaching classes, seminars, and especially private lessons are the key to a sustainable career in bjj. If you think that Marcelo Garcia, Braulio Estima, Buchecha or even Royce Gracie make enough off of sponsorship and fame alone, you are mistaken. Do you have to have your own academy? Not necessarily, but it helps. I am fortunate that, while I am not the owner of my home academy, Three Rivers Martial Arts, I have been there long enough to help it grow from humble beginnings to a large enough school to support multiple instructors. Could I make more money if I started my own school? Absolutely! But I have found ways to do all right where I am, and I love my academy too much to leave.

I have been teaching for a long time and I have found certain elements necessary: knowledge, personality and accreditation. Knowledge is obvious, because bjj isn’t something you can fake. I have seen people strap on a karate black belt with all kinds of degrees on it and lie about their accomplishments in order to dupe students into believing they are something they aren’t. That doesn’t work with bjj. Not to say Karate is bad or that there are not legitimate sources out there, but it can be a little more academicized than can a more performance-based art like bjj. No, you must have the technical know-how and some ability to back it up. I have seen blue belts run successful academies with only a few years training.

If your personality and enthusiasm, ultimately how passionate you are for the art and helping others on their journey, is lacking then forget it. You have no business teaching and need to wait or stick to competing. Don’t do the Jiu-Jitsu community the disservice of trying to support your bjj addiction by making a few bucks teaching. It is empty and shallow, and a waste of everyone’s time. If you truly love the art and want to help others better their lives as you have your with Jiu-Jitsu, then you are on the right path.

 

You need a reputable affiliation. The last name of Gracie is helpful, but there are so many big names and great sources out there that it isn’t necessary. I like to be close to the source, and I am proud to be in the Royce Gracie Network as one of his black belts. But you don’t have to be a black belt to make it work. People can smell your authenticity, knowledge and confidence in what you are teaching easier than you might think, and you better be prepared.

Offering private lessons is a valuable way to go. Figure out what you have to offer, what your time is worth, and what audience you have where you are located and customize your lessons accordingly. People like the ease of scheduling, attention to detail, customized learning pace and undivided attention they receive from private instruction. I personally have paid up to $400 for a single hour of private instruction and can walk away feeling like it was totally worth every penny. I don’t charge quite that much personally, but I still want my students being able to walk away with confidence and certainty in what I have shown them in each and every lesson. Remember, what you acquire too cheaply, you esteem too lightly!

Group classes are a different animal than private. The energy is different. In each there needs to be a palpable sense of enthusiasm, but you are more of a presenter in the group situation. You also have more to pay attention to in a group, because you are responsible not just for the transfer of the information, but also for monitoring the students’ interactions with each other and the pros and cons that come along with this. The environment is everything in the group, even more than the private. If the energy is wrong then all the awesome techniques in the world will not keep your students coming back.

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When Do I Become A Sellout?

This has to be a concern at some point. Even writing this blog I question what I am doing talking about money issues. But at the end of the day I want to help. I believe in Jiu-Jitsu and want to better my sphere of influence by spreading all I can. And if potential readers want to teach and spread the art as well, if their intentions are good, I want to help them also. The hipsters and the uppity groups will always criticize the making of money from things they care about, as if it cheapens the art somehow. It doesn’t degrade the art to make it more accessible, nor does it make you a sellout if someone wants to pay you for your time. This only allows you to focus on Jiu-Jitsu more without having to balance a second or third job.

You have to evaluate your own ethical code and stick to it. If you are only looking to make money and will compromise your integrity then you are a sellout and will ultimately fail…or at least whatever you accomplish will be meaningless and empty. That is the difference between a sellout and someone making a living doing what they love. If you still have concerns then read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”

Always remember, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Keeping to those words of Zig Ziglar, you will succeed if your intentions are true.

Dark Side

Welcome to the Dark Side

So, now that I have possibly motivated you, let me knock you down a few notches. I have struggled, faltered, lost, and hurt on my path to being a Jiu-Jitsu professional. Relationships and friendships have been tested. People will doubt you and misunderstand you. You won’t make everyone happy, and in fact, if you don’t acquire a hater or two along the way you are probably not doing something right. You won’t make real money right away. Be prepared to struggle. And then, when things start going good, be prepared for burnout. I have figured out how to overcome it (a later blog), but I have been hit with it in the past. Training burnout is one thing, but teaching burnout is a wholly different one. At least with training burnout you feel it a little more immediately. With teaching burnout, often you won’t realize it until you see a look of lackluster or disappointment on the face of your student. You have given sub-par enthusiasm or insufficiently conveyed the lesson material and the student is left a little flat feeling. I have no suggestion of how to prevent this other than time and renewed enthusiasm daily.

Ultimately, all anyone can do is offer their experiences and lessons they had to learn, which is what I am doing here. If I came across as telling you what you should do or have to do for success, it was not my intention. I am no celebrity or millionaire, but I have found a way to make my passion into my career, and I think it is a wonderful thing. If there is anything in this that helps you, then that only makes me feel even more successful. That’s how I judge my success, not the money I make but the people I help.

Now GO TRAIN! The most fundamental part of being successful with Jiu-Jitsu is training it!

Very.

That’s my opinion, that solo drilling for bjj is crucial for building fluidity, continuity if movement and creative visualization. I have always put a lot of thought into my solo drills, partly because I, like so many, didn’t always have constant partner access. So I would find core segments and movements within techniques, oftentimes the most difficult moves, and dissect these alone.

I remember Ido Portal saying, to paraphrase, “if you can’t move your own body, what business do you have lifting weights?” This phrase resonated with me, because I encounter so many people that try to impose their will while rolling yet they themselves lack the prerequisite coordination it takes to maintain their own balance during simple movements. Learn about your own body first and how to move it efficiently and this will let you know what you can make happen against an opponent.

Solo drilling works the precision of technical movement even better at times than partner work, because you have no partner to overly depend on. Therefore, you will see all your limitations and inadequacies under the microscope when you solo drill, making it impossible to cheat the movement.

You should be able to tell by this point that I consider solo drilling not simply rote repetition for the sake of exercise, but deliberate, careful, thoughtful movement with purpose. And whether it is standing, shooting or sprawling, turns, rolls, sweep movements, bridging, or some obscure contortion you find yourself constantly encountering, it is all good.

A good friend told me, “your body will do most anything you ask it to…if you ask it nicely.” So get on the mat, visualize the situation, and move continuously, constantly and consciously. Your body, your mind and your jiu-jitsu will thank you for it.

Here are some helpful drills I like for top game and bottom game using a grappling dummy:

Jiu-Jitsu in Fighting

Jiu-Jitsu has been proven to be one of the most, if not the most, effective martial arts in the world. What that means exactly varies depending on the source you’re consulting. Is it about self-defense? Is it about fighting? Is it only a portion or range of a fight or is it comprehensive and complete? To make it easier, first consider that there are essentially three types of fight situations:

1. Non-consensual attacks

2. Consensual street fights

3. Consensual sport fights

The first of these is typically what we think of when we think self-defense in the martial arts community. For example, if someone suddenly grabs you, sneaks up behind you or sucker punches you. These attacks have little or no prior indication that they will take place, and the victim typically wants to escape this situation as quickly as possible.

Second of these types, consensual street fights, are your typically agreed-upon bar fights, playground scuffles, or night at the club gone wrong. There are many similarities in this situation and the first category in regard to the lack of restrictions placed on the participants. The main difference here is that to some degree (typically more on one side than the other) the combatants have entered into the situation of their own volition. One or both persons in this type of fight could have avoided the situation easier than in a blind-sided attack, which is why I refer to this as a consensual street fight.

Thirdly, there exists the sportive element of fighting, which while it serves its place in the evolution and refinement of certain elements of martial arts, is a consensual combat relegated by agreed upon rules. Such rules as weight classes, time limits, point systems and prohibited techniques make this style of combat less realistic than unregulated combat, but it is fighting nonetheless and as such jiu-jitsu is applicable to it.

In each condition, jiu-jitsu has been proven effective through years of trial and implementation, repeatedly producing favorable results. As scientifically proven as possible with conditions as chaotic as a fight, jiu-jitsu has come out on top as a means of self-defense, complete and efficient across the most categories of fight situations. While the adage “there is no art superior all the time, but there is at a particular time,” may still hold true at its core, jiu-jitsu rivals any art in terms of applicability to the basic three common conditions of violence I am referring to in this post.

It can be argued that in MMA, one needs to know other elements of fighting in order to compete on the elite level today, but this wasn’t the case in 1993. Certain other styles are very effective in street fights as well, but typically require the defendant to be physically athletic enough to execute energetic movements. For me, ultimately what makes a martial art is its efficiency, practicality, versatility, and universal applicability. Based on these criteria, jiu-jitsu is king, offering the ability for everyone to defend themselves, improve their bodily awareness and athleticism, cultivate creativity and problem solving ability, and provide psychological and emotional well-being through equanimity.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “Never Leave The Mat.” I say concept because even though my mind has been on this, the phrase didn’t come to fruition until I saw this video recently (come back and read after watching or watch it after reading)

And then it clicked. This is what I’ve been trying to put into words. I’ve touched on it and caught many multifaceted glimpses into the nature of this statement, but that phrase sums it up nicely. Just as Mr. Jepsen embodies this ideal of “never leaving the playground” so have I been proselytizing the notion of never leaving the mat, just without the expression of it in so many words. Simply put, wherever it is that you go to find yourself, never leave that place…at least not principally. Couple this idea with that of self-exploration within your immediate sphere of influence.

This is maybe the inverse of that idea of “Leave It All On The Mat” which is a concept I’m sure you’re familiar with if you have been training jiu-jitsu for any length of time. Typically that idea refers to the notion of putting everything you’ve got into the effort you expend during training, exhausting yourself as if your jiu-jitsu game grows like a fatigued muscle after a hard weightlifting session. Rather, the idea of “Never Leave The Mat” refers to taking the benefit and revelation and the epiphanous moments you experience in that sacred space, performing that sacred activity, with you along the journeys of everyday life.

This is also different than just saying “find your happy place.” My happiest place is with my daughter. However, I have a certain particular role or set of roles that I have to play when I’m with my daughter that may or may not be the best for the rest of my life. But jiu-jitsu to me brings about a clarity and focus and pervasive calmness that translates into other areas of my life including the type of father that I am. My daughter should benefit from my training jiu-jitsu because training makes me patient, compassionate, energized and happy.

I see so many people who train various styles (and depending on where I could even include jiu-jitsu when trained poorly) who walk around with hostility and anger, because they only want to fight or win. Why train if you’re not better for doing so? Or if you’re only finding that sensation of clarity and purpose and beauty when you are on the mat and you’re not able to recreate that off the mat then keep at it. Remember it. Recollect it. Train until you can reach that satori moment, and then train until you can’t forget it.

The idea of Living Jiu-Jitsu pertains mostly to the idea of an organic, ever-evolving, always applicable concept by which we as individuals can grow and benefit.

Helio Gracie modified traditional jiu-jitsu, but more importantly he made it modifiable. Recognizing his physical shortcomings, he changed athletic aspects of the movements, making it something he could do regardless of his limitations. This drawing back to the core essence of the movements and technical properties of jiu-jitsu unearthed defunct brilliance that launched a revolution of martial arts and human movement.

This is what I mean by Living Jiu-Jitsu: this magical, alchemical process of human refinement that people of all backgrounds and abilities can apply to their lives. A true martial artist strives for perfection of the technique, not simply for desire for improved fighting ability, but because of his or her recognition that these techniques translate into all aspects of life. Jiu-Jitsu focuses on efficiency, and the true jiu-jitsu practitioner aims to apply means of technical efficiency to all of life, not so that life will be easier, but that the artist’s life might achieve more discovery and mastery over the beauty and virtue at the heart of a life well-lived.

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