Posts Tagged ‘grappling’

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I found it strange when “No-Gi” became a thing. Not the concept of training without the kimono, which I do at least half of my training time, but the label. I see the necessity, the value and the realism of it. But the moniker, and the way it stuck and the eventual dogma that has become associated with the concept of No-Gi training is just, well…weird.

Here is why I think it is weird to be dogmatic about no-gi training, and by dogmatic I mean the viewpoint of those convinced that training with a gi is somehow less realistic for self-defense purposes. Do these people plan to only fight naked? Because I YouTubed it and I found very few completely naked fights (although there are some bizarre things turned up by a Google search for “Naked Fighting” and I don’t recommend this search).

All joking aside, I understand how this came about of course. The more grip dependent bjj became in sportive and sparring contexts, the more divorced from real fighting it became. I agree that spider guard has extremely limited application to a street fight. But this is the extreme example, and too many folks confuse the part for the whole in regards to usefulness in martial arts training in general. For example, if you think that the patty-cake drills frequently found in Wing Chun, JKD, FMA styles, etc. are direct reflections of how the fight would or should happen, then you understand nothing about violence. Moreover, you missed the point of those drills. Drills like those are like chain wrestling or kata: they are segments of techniques connected with likely transitions, not necessarily linked for practicality but for flow and fluidity to enhance sensitivity, receptiveness to changes in energy, angle recognition and building of attributes useful in an actual fight.

Back to BJJ and No-Gi grappling, I find it especially strange that I don’t hear criticism of wrestling or boxing as “unrealistic” methods of training for fighting. Rarely do I see a comment on a boxing video the way I see on BJJ competition videos such as “This shit will get you killed if you try it in a street fight.” Yet, I don’t think it is even arguable that a bjj competition is more of a “fight” than boxing by far.

And now that I said that and surely pissed off some BJJ haters, let me elaborate: Boxing is extremely useful and valuable for a street fight, in my opinion. My opinion, however, is that the rules of boxing are far more strict than boxing.

Here is a comparison:

What can you NOT do in BJJ competition that you CAN do in boxing? Strike. That’s about it.
Now what can you NOT do in boxing that you CAN do in BJJ competition? Clinch for extended periods of time, throw, sweep, grapple, choke, attack joints for submissions and the list goes on.

Please understand, this is not saying that one is superior to another. This is just to point out the absurdity of comments like the example given above that are ubiquitous on BJJ videos.

Back to my original point, I suggest that training in the gi, with accessibility of grips, is potentially more realistic for self-defense. Understanding how to grab, hold and control someone is very important when not in effective striking ranges, and whether you want or not, most likely the fight will hit a range where striking is not the most effective tool for the job. And while the clothing an attacker has on may not identically match a gi, there will be comparable grip opportunities, that with intelligent training can be modified to fit the occasion. Training with complete restriction against grabbing the clothing can limit this ability.

If you are training for a No-Gi competition or MMA, then of course, don’t become too dependent on gi training. Although, it is arguable that there is still some benefit to training with the gi for some portion of a fight camp for MMA. But that is a subject for another time.

So in summary, unless you are training for No-Gi comp or MMA or specifically for battling nudists, there is a benefit to be had from training with the gi, especially as it pertains to self-defense. And even at the sport level, there are attributes to be gained or polished by wearing the gi. Sport is sport, whether wrestling, boxing, fencing, whatever and one should develop a filter for absorbing what is useful and discarding what is not for varying contexts of fighting.

I have tried having the conversation/debate/argument about Sport and Self-Defense for BJJ, and I have arrived at this: It is all good. Train it all. The sport can enhance the self-defense and vice versa.

Oddly, this isn’t always a popular opinion, because the self-defense purists argue that the sport is a corruption of the original intention of the Gracie family martial art. I totally understand this viewpoint, because if I were to call boxing or wrestling or judo a complete martial art, I would be very sorely mistaken. Sport BJJ is just that though – it is a rule-based and structured sport in which many techniques are adapted and applied in a competitive environment in order to determine who can best apply their art in that setting. I don’t know any serious competitors that think what they are doing is a complete representation of the totality of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

However, there are many sport competitors who neither see the need or value of practicing the more martial aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They are content with training only for sport, and don’t care about the self-defense. This is perfectly OK! If I only want to box, and have no aptitude or interest in grappling or weapons training or whathaveyou, then fine! Let me box. However, if you are like me, you enjoy the entire art and see the value of sport jiu-jitsu in building attributes that enhance your ability to apply all techniques, such as timing, sensitivity, reflexes, athleticism, etc.

So what is the real problem here? It is when one side of the “argument” makes the assumption that the other views their version as the true and only way to train. Competitors thinking the self-defense is impractical or a waste of time are as bad as self-defense practitioners who train in a vacuum and never pressure test their abilities in a competitive environment. Personally, I believe these two myopic groups have the loudest voices (or keyboard strokes) in the debate, which is very unfortunate because it makes it seem as if they are representatives of BJJ…and they are not. These loud voices of opposition and critics of other practitioners should be marginalized and minimized. When we focus too much on the criticism of others, we take the attention off of our own progress.

I will leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Check out this technique that has gotten me out of many a difficult knee-on-belly situation. I hope you like it.

Triumph

There’s always that question, particularly in Jiu-Jitsu, of whether the belt someone is awarded is legitimate. This question isn’t asked the same way in other arts because the criteria are different and in Jiu-Jitsu there is more of a hang up on who can tap who. Is it all about that? If you get that purple belt, should you be able to tap any blue belt? If you are a brown belt and can tap a black belt, do you automatically deserve your black? Does it depend on size or strength combined with technique? Is there a simpler answer?

Technique conquers all. I believe that. But the technique doesn’t guarantee victory. All things being equal, equal technique and experience, the bigger or stronger or faster opponent will typically come out on top. You shouldn’t be expected to best a 250 pound athlete of a purple belt if you are a 150 pound purple belt. So the performance basis of any martial art, Jiu-Jitsu included has a cap on it.

Furthermore, shouldn’t the “art” aspect be considered? The philosophy. The principles behind the technique and the knowledge you gain are benefits of the study and practice that potentially carry on further than even the techniques themselves. Just as in yoga, self-study or self-reflection is a premise of the journey, Jiu-Jitsu likewise should be approached with concern toward the character development of the practitioner. This hits closer to the heart of the questions posed in the beginning.

Here is what I have surmised as one of the most important considerations in progression in Jiu-Jitsu: it’s not a matter of are you better than anyone else, it is whether you are better than the you the you were. Can you tap the yesterday you? The last week or last month you? Do you have a more refined lens or approach to training than the previous you?

Can Buchecha tap Relson Gracie? I’m gonna say most likely. Maybe not, but I’d put my money on Buchecha. So why not give Buchecha the red belt? Let’s pose a different question. Who can teach the most people a deeper understanding and appreciation of Jiu-jitsu? Who can show someone the most versatile of movements for a multitude of situations to the most diverse individuals with varied levels of physical ability? Now my money goes on Relson.

So again, Jiu-Jitsu wins, because it’s not about just a few criteria. A true professor in my estimation, watches students closely and insightfully, considering many aspects of their ability and character. I understand that there are schools and teachers who only award rank based on performance in fights or tournaments. “You got a gold medal? Here’s your next stripe.” “You got a rear naked in your mma fight? Here’s your brown belt.” Sad to see.

I’d rather put a stripe on the belt of the kid who looked the bully in the eye for the first time in his academic life than on the belt of the kid who was already an athlete in five other sports and is now tearing up all the grappling tournaments. That guy who could barely tie his shoes because he was so overweight and now can roll for half an hour – that’s the guy I admire. Again, I admit, I love watching uber talented athletes do miraculous things on the mat or in the ring, but they are not half of the hero as the woman who stopped the sexual assault that was about to happen to her.

So while you have to be able to perform the techniques with understanding and appropriate proficiency, and you should be able to defend yourself easily with these techniques against your physical equal of an opponent, these are but partial criteria in considering ranking qualifications in Jiu-Jitsu. Personal growth and development, and as Grandmaster Helio said, the triumph of human intelligence over brute strength, these all should be considerations in determining rank.

This isn’t always the case. And these are my opinions. And these are my convictions.

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Remember when MMA was called NHB? Vale Tudo? Fighting?

MMA is its own sport now complete with rules, restrictions, minutiae that makes sure the matches are more even and close and entertaining. Gone are the days of style versus style. And that is how it all started. Now, I don’t mean to say that I don’t enjoy watching and following MMA. I think it serves a valuable purpose and has done much to advance the study of martial arts in general. It’s just different now.

I’m a firm believer that in a one on one fight, Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a superior method. I feel that it is also one of or the most valuable arts in self-defense, weapons attacks, multiple attacker situations, and more. But there is less of an arena to test out and prove the efficacy of Jiu-Jitsu against other arts in those situations. But with person versus person, one on one, we now have a venue and it is called mixed martial arts.

What MMA has done most proficiently in its history is twofold. Firstly, it has shown that you absolutely must know the ground aspect of fighting. If you don’t and your opponent does, you will lose 95% of the time. Secondly, in my estimation of things, it has shown the value of knowing multiple arts for various ranges of combat. I only say that this is second because many martial arts have evolved in their particular areas based on the forefathers’ predilection and proficiency at those areas.

Likewise, much of martial arts history has been spread through charisma just as much as performance. The ability of an impressive instructor to convince the masses that he can transfer his abilities (historically based on athleticism) to anyone. Inflating of egos, misdirection of importance of techniques, and watered down instruction became tools of the trade in the martial arts industry. This allowed many arts to thrive because they were easily taught and the practitioners felt impressed.

Then 1993 (much earlier outside the US) changed so much. A skinny Brazilian choked and locked his way to becoming the face of what martial arts was sorely missing. The alarm sounded that the necessity of knowing how to grapple, particularly on the ground, was crucial to surviving a fight efficiently. You could always be big and strong and fast and beat people up, but the maxim of technique over strength finally and truthfully resounded in the form of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Then we stood on the precipice of a new generation forming. We, the experienced martial artists, thought of as experts in our fields, had to look in the mirror and to choose a path. At that moment, you could either move dramatically forward and pretend that you were the exception and you could create other exceptions to the Jiu-Jitsu zeitgeist. Or you could swallow some pride and incorporate this amazing art into your repertoire.

I was one that swallowed my pride, already a black belt in traditional jujitsu, I chose to don a white belt and study the Gracie way. 16 years later I would receive my black belt under Royce Gracie. In that time I’ve found my true niche and developed an understanding of martial arts and fighting. Moreover I’ve found out about myself and life in general, with Jiu-Jitsu being the vehicle of my education.

Of the various routes I take to proselytize about Jiu-Jitsu, speaking of the importance of it in MMA is included. People are losing sight of how necessary understanding about Jiu-Jitsu is in MMA because they see people trying for the knockout and to make the fights more flamboyant in order to get themselves noticed and make big bonuses. Fans or prospective fighters interested in learning more are losing the awareness that, even though there are more standup battles, Jiu-Jitsu is just as important, or even more so, than ever.

So rules, no rules; sport or street; fighting is fighting and Jiu-Jitsu is about the techniques underlying the fight. It is as scientific an approach to something as chaotic as fighting gets and should be appreciated by anyone interested in understanding about fighting, combat, self-defense and physical competition.

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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.

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.

sell-out

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!