22 Off The Mat Habits That Will Improve Your On The Mat Performance

There have been dozens, maybe hundreds of these lists made. Some are short and concise (the top 5 things you need to know…) and some are longer, attempting to encompass more of the jiu jitsu journey. This is one of the latter. I have compiled this list based on my own experiences and feedback from my friends and training partners. When contemplating how long to make this list I settled on 22 in a nod to Mission 22 which is an organization that works to raise awareness concerning U.S. Military Veteran suicides. On average 22 veterans take their own lives every day. For more information about Mission 22 check them out here: Mission 22
1) Track your class attendance. There’s a particular number of classes per week that’s ideal for each student. Tracking your attendance will help you find this number and be consistent in hitting it.
2) Journal your class performance. This can be a simple as a note pad app on your phone where you just jot a line or two about the highlights or a more complex approach like using an Evernote template commenting on every technique, drill, and roll.
3) Create a word document that you review periodically. Some things that could be included in this document: Three “go to” moves/techniques from every position. In order, your three best positions to work from. A week area or two you’re working on.
4) Hydrate. All your bodies functions and processes are more efficient when you are properly hydrated. You will process nutrients more efficiently, clear toxins more efficiently, dissipate heat more efficiently, etc. etc. all these things will improve your performance on the mats. Proper hydration will also aid with appetite control.
5) Sleep. Most adults can function at a high level on 6-7 hours of sleep a day. For an athlete that should be considered the bare minimum. During periods of high intensity training 8 hours or more a day may be required. Most people not getting enough sleep only have themselves to blame….you do not need to watch one more episode of the Walking Dead. Turn off the TV and go to bed.
6) Cook your own meals. Cooking your own meals at home is a great way to make sure you’re eating the right portions, eating the right things, consuming the right amount of calories, etc. It will also save you money…..that you can then spend on more jiu jitsu.
7) Eat clean. No big secret here. Foods that are over cooked, highly processed, loaded with preservatives, or containing a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce are not the ideal base for a healthy diet.
8) Eat the right foods at the right time. What you eat before training, after training, on your days off, etc. matters. Do some research and come up with a plan that fits your training schedule.
9) Supplement. As this is a very personal choice I won’t elaborate much except to say I’ve benefited from smart supplementation as have many of my training partners. If you chose to supplement: do smart research and don’t pay for hype.
10) Yoga. When polling my friends about off the mat activities they do that they feel improve their jiu jitsu performance, yoga was the number one option. Several of my friends advocated for “hot” yoga and some follow a more traditional yoga routine.
11) Stretching. If yoga is not your thing try a 10-minute dynamic stretching routine a few days a week
12) Lift weights. After yoga, this was the number 2 response I got from my friends. Most people I know chose a simple routine based on the fundamental lifts i.e. bench press, dead lift, squats, military press, pull ups, etc. These are compound movements that will build muscle mass and improve core strength.
13) Sprint/HIT training. Short bursts of intense/explosive movements are an excellent way to condition your body for the rigors of high intensity grappling. Most people I know who compete incorporate at least some HIT training in their routines.
14) Distance running. This seems to be the least popular option for off the mat physical activity. There are however some benefits worth considering. If you’re one of the many people who have never run more than a mile or two. Working your way up to a longer distance, maybe 5 miles, will burn fat and improve your cardio conditioning. More importantly it will test your will and prove to yourself that you can do more than you thought you could. It can also help with developing an overall healthy lifestyle.
15) Listen to a podcast. There are literally dozens of podcasts on jiu jitsu or more generally health and fitness. While this may be an off the mat habit that has minimal returns…. It also takes almost no effort. Find a few podcasts you like, subscribe, listen on your way to and from work
16) Watch tutorials/instructional DVD’s. While DVD sets can be quite expensive I know people, who have bought sets and have had their game transformed in as little as 2-3 weeks. If you don’t have the money or time to invest in purchasing and watching full length DVD sets there are many high quality 5-10 minute tutorials on youtube.
17) Watch competition footage. There’s nothing like watching the top athletes at your age/belt level in live action. In this day and age, it is as easy as going to youtube and searching “BJJ blue belt masters” or whatever age/belt/weight you are at.
18) Watch footage of your own training. My wife helps me with this, but if that doesn’t work for you there is almost always someone available that you could hand your phone to and say “can you film my next couple of rolls?”. This is most helpful if you save and date the video files for later review. If you review footage of yourself rolling in Jan, May, and Oct of the same year you should be able to identify some mistakes you’re continuing to make that need to be addressed as well as some areas of improvement.
19) Read something. Reading a little bit everyday will improve the quality of your life no matter what you read. I would suggest biographies of people who have accomplished great things, books on excellence, and motivation.
20) Create a morning routine. Studying the habits of highly successful high functioning individuals I’ve come to find that most of them get up early and follow a routine to get their day started. Here’s what has been working for me: Get my body moving, read something, and clean something. Time depending, I dedicate 15-45 minutes to this. Right after getting out of bed I do some stretches, yoga poses, and maybe some jiu jitsu movements. Next I read a chapter of a book. Then I do 5-10 minutes of house work. That last one really makes the wife happy. It’s amazing how much more productive the rest of my day is when I start with this routine.
21) Have another hobby …. surfing, hackie sack, parkour, etc. Having healthy hobbies is a part of living an overall healthy lifestyle. It will also give you something to do to stay in shape when you are injured or otherwise cannot do jiu jitsu.
22) Mentor another student. It’s common for students who have been doing jiu jitsu for a while to take someone under their wing in the gym—take the next step and take it out of the gym. Get their phone number and/or hook up with them on social media. Text them or message them when you see they’re making progress in the gym and hitting jiu jitsu milestones. Text them or call them if you haven’t seen them in the gym for a few days. Offer them some encouragement now and then and hold them accountable when needed. I saved this for last because not only can it help your jiu jitsu and the jiu jitsu of the student you are mentoring….it could possibly have a much larger impact on the life of the student you are mentoring. You never know when someone may be desperate for a friend or for someone to take a personal interest in their life.
No one is going to take a list like this and incorporate every suggestion into their daily lives. Many people reading this will, in fact already be doing some of these. I’m confident though, especially if you’re new to jiu jitsu, that you can find something on this list that if added to your daily routine will help to improve your jiu jitsu. Good luck and keep on rolling.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Production Now and Production Long Term


Recently while listening to Steven Covey’s audio book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People I was introduced to the concept of P/PC Balance, or Production/Production Capacity balance. The idea is that we need to strike a balance between the amount of energy and focus we put into production right now, and the amount of energy and focus we invest in doing the things it takes to ensure we will continue to see production in the future.
In business, it is necessary to invest in capital improvement, employee compensation, training, surplus inventory, etc. One could shift their focus entirely to production, ignoring the need to reinvest and restock inventory, and for a short period see a dramatic increase in production and profit. This of course, would ultimately lead to the failure of the business.
This concept is applicable to almost any pursuit in life including Jiu-Jitsu. There are things you can focus on to see results right now ie. going to class, attending seminars, participating in tournaments, studying video, etc. and then there are things off the mat outside of the dojo that must be attended to for continued progress in Jiu-Jitsu long term. There must be a balance between these two areas of focus.
Maybe the most important off the mat investments we can make is in the maintenance of our bodies. One does not have to be a health nut or stud athlete to be good a Jiu-Jitsu–but if you do not take care of your body, your pursuit of Jiu-Jitsu will inevitably come to an unfortunate end. Spending additional time and money on quality food and meal preparation will not make you better at Jiu-Jitsu today and spending an extra hour a week stretching/doing yoga will not make you better at Jiu-Jitsu today… but these are the kinds of investments that will allow you to pursue Jiu-Jitsu long term. Also, along these lines, when it comes to training Jiu-Jitsu sometimes less is more. Training 5 plus days a week will most likely result in rapid gains–but for many of us it will also result in over training which leads to nagging ongoing overuse injuries, fatigue, and burnout.
For many people, having your family in your corner is a key element in the long-term pursuit of Jiu-Jitsu. I know that’s true for me. My kids are grown, but I still value and need the support of my wife. I strategically choose which classes I’m going to attend so as not to be taking away too much time from her. I could just go to class whenever I wanted with no regards to her, but it would only take a few weeks before I got the “it’s me or Jiu-Jitsu” ultimatum. It’s easy to jokingly say “I sure will miss her”, but the reality is my Jiu-Jitsu would be, at least temporarily, derailed. So making sure that she gets the time she needs is ultimately an investment in my ability to progress on the mats long term.
I’ve seen young people struggle to balance their pursuit of education and career with their pursuit of Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve known a few who put some things on hold to train Jiu-Jitsu. That might be fine if you’re one of the few people who have a legitimate shot at being a top-level competitor or successful gym owner. But for most of us, Jiu-Jitsu will be a lifelong part time hobby that requires ongoing financial investment. Putting your career or education before Jiu-Jitsu now may put you in a position in 10 years to comfortably afford to travel for tournaments, attend seminars, and take private lessons with high-level instructors.
Each person’s Jiu-Jitsu Journey is different. The off the mat investments that you need to make may be completely different than mine, but the fact remains, you will need to invest in “production capacity” if you want to continue to see “production” or progress.

Read more great articles by Joe Thomas here

The older grappler and injury avoidance

My first exposure to jiu-jitsu came at about 37 years of age, but after 1.5 years of training I moved and took over 5 years off. My current jiu-jitsu journey began when I was 44 and I’m now a few months shy of 50. As I’m often the oldest guy on the mats when training by more than a decade I consider myself to be somewhat of an authority of on the topic of “being an older grappler”.  In all this time training as an older grappler I have managed to avoid catastrophic injury and have limited my minor injuries to ones that have kept me off the mats for a few days at most. While I’m sure that this is due in part to good fortune, I don’t think that luck alone explains it. I have intentionally taken specific steps to help me train consistently and remain injury free. Here are the ones that I think are most significant.

From left to right: Joe Thomas 49, Ruben Gonzalez 53, Fernando San Miguel 47

From left to right: Joe Thomas 49, Ruben Gonzalez 53, Fernando San Miguel 47

I have developed a relationship of trust with my coaches. They know if I am opting out of a drill or a roll it is in an attempt to preserve my body and not because I am lazy or slacking. If I can’t participate in a drill I’ll usually find something else to do e.g. if I can’t do double leg shots the length of the floor because my knees hurt I’ll find a spot to do some crunches or pushups. If I can’t participate in a drill I’ll ask the coach if there is an “old man” variation. Maybe most importantly I always keep my coaches aware of my current physical condition.

I have also developed a relationship with my training partners based on respect and a mutual desire to see each other progress in our jiu-jitsu journeys. I train with some really tough young guys that could send me home battered and beaten after every class but choose not to. We haven’t gotten to this point just by chance. I have worked hard at it. I often times start a roll by asking my training partners what they’ve been working on lately. If they say “spider guard” and then pull guard I will let them get a sleeve grip and stand up and let them get a foot on my bicep. This kind of cooperative training lets them know I am not there to fight, I am there to train. I have found that if I go to class with a genuine desire to see my training partners progress in their journey the sentiment will be returned.

I tap all the time….early and often as the saying goes. Not only do I tap to any and all legitimate submissions, I also tap to anything that might jeopardize my ability to train the next day. Sometimes a new person will try an Americana from inside the guard. While it’s not a legitimate submission, I have bad shoulders, and a strong young aggressive guy can make my shoulder sore for a week. I’m having none of that, I’ll just tap. A choke that’s a neck crank? A gi choke across my face? I’m having none of that either, tap, tap, tap.

joe-thomas-5

Joe Thomas with his coach Fernando Halfield 25 year old BTT black belt.

I don’t hurt myself. I understand the mechanics of a flying arm bar. Sometimes I feel nimble enough I think I could pull one off. I will NEVER attempt a flying arm bar. I don’t try to explode or scramble my way out of submissions that are ¾ sunk in. If they’re that deep sudden and spastic movements are too risky from my point of view. Additionally, I feel any techniques I employee, my training partners should feel free to use as well. So I don’t jump guard or attempt judo throws when training as if I’m on the receiving end of these techniques and they go wrong I could be off the mats.

In conclusion, I know how old I am and I embrace my role as an elder statesman in the gym.  This has as much to do with enjoying the journey as it does with staying injury free. Not trying to keep up with the young guys will help keep you injury free, but it’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re a purple belt getting tapped by blue belts all night long and young phenoms come in the gym and give you a run for your money six months after they start bjj. You have to find your niche and embrace it.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve taken to writing articles/essays/compiled lists…. (whatever you want to call them)… as a way to organize my thoughts and share them with others. I’m not claiming or attempting to present completely new or original ideas – I’m taking known ideas, concepts, principles, and articulating how I’ve incorporated them into my life and training.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

How I progressed at BJJ going to class 6 or 7 times a month

joe-thomas-2I was listening to my favorite podcast (The BjjBrick Podcast) the other day and realized that the host Byron Jabara frequently asks the guests he’s interviewing “what advice would you have for a BJJ practitioner who can only train once or twice a week?” For most of my BJJ career I have had very unorthodox training schedules that severally limited my training opportunities so I thought I would share a few things that have worked for me.
For our purposes here I will focus on a two year period when I worked a 14/14 schedule on a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico offshore oilfield. For 14 days I lived on the ship with no option to get to town and train and for 14 days I would be home. Of course when I was home I had to catch up on yard work, home maintenance, spending time with the beautiful wife, spending time with the kids, etc. so it’s not like I could train every day. My goal was to train 8 times every time but life gets in the way and a rarely met that goal. Yet still I progressed. Here’s what I did and what I would suggest for others.

1. Find a way to continue learning even when you’re off the mats. I used a couple books, a couple DVD sets, and youtube. Youtube is great because it’s free. I tried to spend at least 15 minutes each day “studying” jiu jitsu. A couple of suggestions on this point:
• Ask your coaches and training partners who they would suggest you learn from. You want to make sure you’re using quality sources.
• Study techniques that are right for you based on your experience level, age, and body type. If you’re just starting at 40 years old I would not suggest spending a lot of time studying inverted acrobatic jiu jitsu.
• Be systematic. If you’re off the mats 4 days and watch 2-3 youtube videos a day, don’t study 10 different things. If your school follows a program and you know ½ guard is the topic of the week, maybe stick to that at home. My school didn’t follow a program but I would study one move or position for 3-4 days before moving on.joe-thomas-1

2. Find some time to work on your cardio and fitness. I’ve heard a lot of suggestions and theories on this topic and am not enough of expert to say I have the answer, but here’s what worked for me. I put a timer app on my computer set for 5 minutes of work and 1 minute of rest and would do 3-5 rounds every day. Here’s an example of a circuit I would do with about 4X6 feet of mat space available to me: Shrimping in place, technical stand ups, sit ups (simulating sitting up to kimura or hip bump sweep), push up to knee on belly drill, umpa bridges, and wrestlers sit outs. I would do 10 reps each and continue the cycle until the 5 minute bell rang, rest and repeat. I felt this helped my cardio and conditioning while at the same time keeping my body accustomed to doing jiu jitsu movements for 5 minutes at a time.
 Pro tip: consider combing points 1 and 2 just like you would in class. Watch 15 minutes of instruction, spend 10 minutes stretching and visualizing the techniques you just studied, and then proceed with the circuit training.

3. Minimize the amount of time off the mats. On my 14/14 rotation I always tried to train right before I went to work and as soon as I got home, keeping my time off the mats to about 15 days. When this wasn’t possible and I ended up with 18-20 days off I could tell it took more training sessions to get my timing back – to see opportunities and to capitalize on them. If you train 6 times a month, once every 5 days is probably better than lumping several training sessions in short period of time and then being off the mats for 10 days.
 Pro tip: take advantage of every opportunity you have to train. If you’ve got an extra hour during the week at some point and can catch even just part of an extra class….go train. 20 minutes of drilling or ½ hour of open mat is not as good as a full class, but its way better than nothing.

4. Stay connected socially with your school and training partners. One of the hardest things about being that guy who only trains a few times a month is when you show up for class, see a few guys you don’t know but they seem to know everyone else, and one of them walks up and welcomes you to the class as if you’re the visitor even though you’ve been training at the school for years. Social media makes it easy to connect with your school and training partners. Connect with the school and training partners on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and stay engaged. When you see a fellow student got a stripe, congratulate them and tell them you can’t wait to get to class and have a roll.
I’ll end with a word of encouragement: Whatever the reason is that you can only train once or twice a week (kids in extracurricular activities, working overtime, a toddler at home and a pregnant wife, etc.) it will pass. Maybe you feel like you’re making glacial progress for three years – you’ve worked your tail off and you’re a 4 stripe white belt — then life changes and now you can train a little more. You may at this point set a school record for progressing from 4 stripe white belt to purple and you will be glad that you stuck to your training routine.

Contributed by our friend Joe Thomasjoe-thomas-3

Sharpening the Ax

I’ve always loved this wives tale. I especially like it in its relationship to jiu jitsu. I was reminded of this when The BjjBrick Podcast interviewed Tim Sledd (of Small Ax BJJ Oceanside).lumberjacks

Sharpening the ax

In 1885 there was a champion woodsman in a logging camp in the US Midwest named Olaf. He could fall more trees in any given day than any other tree faller for 500 miles. One day a new woodsman, Sven, showed up and after two weeks it was obvious he was in the running for the title of “best faller” in the camp. So Olaf challenged Sven to a contest: the two men would fall trees on Sunday when the rest of the camp was idle and whoever fell the most trees in 12 hours would be the champion.

The two woodsmen began chopping at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. The men in camp could hear the axes striking the trees and the trees falling. After an hour and a half one ax fell silent—15 minutes later both axes were again heard at work. An hour and a half later, again, one ax fell silent. This continued all day.

At the end of the day Sven had felled 20% more trees than Olaf. Olaf was beside himself: “I heard your ax fall silent for at least 15 minutes almost every hour, how could you have fallen more trees when you stopped to rest so frequently?” Sven responded, “when you heard silence, I was not resting…. I was sharpening my ax”.

Grapplers that come to class and only want to roll and put all their effort into open mat are like Olaf who chopped wood for 12 hours and never sharpened his ax. Practitioners that put an appropriate amount of effort into drilling, positional sparring, and learning new techniques are like Sven, who saw the value in taking time to sharpen his ax.

Thank you to Joe Thomas for sharing this story.

Something You Need to Know About the BJJ Gauntlet

In many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) schools, students occasionally get whipped by belts. This is typically done as a right of passage during a belt promotion, birthday, or some type of celebration. Students line up with their BJJ belts in hand and whip the person who must run the gauntlet. Today I want to bring this dark topic to light.

Belt whipping meme bjj

Hazing students has a negative effect on self-esteem

BJJ brings many positive-life changing benefits to the people that train, none of these benefits are a product of belt whipping. Belt whipping is a form of hazing (illegal in 44 US states). It is seen as a way to prove yourself to be part of a tough group. Many kids and adults are in BJJ programs to learn how to not be the victim of a bully, and build confidence. They may find themselves in a room full of bullies with belts peer pressuring them to do something that they would rather not do. One of two things usually happens in this situation. The student realizes that this is an unhealthy environment and they leave the school. Or the student fails to stand up for themselves and they give in to the peer pressure.

It takes a person of extraordinary confidence to look at the gauntlet and tell the group “No, I am not doing this. I am not going to be whipped, and I am not going to whip anyone else. I am here to learn BJJ; I am not here to take part in hazing.” It takes more courage to stand up to the group and say no to the gauntlet than it does to get whipped by belts.

Some proponents of belt whipping argue that this sport is for people that are tough and can take a beating. I argue that BJJ will make a person tough, after all it is a rough experience being on the mat. BJJ is designed for the smaller, weaker person, not the guy who walks in the door already a tough guy. Instead of building the weaker person up, the sight of this hazing is likely to chase them away. Another argument is that the gauntlet is a tradition in BJJ (dating back to the mid 90’s if that counts as tradition). Tradition is important in martial arts, many traditions have a rich history, the gauntlet does not have a rich history. Much like picking fights on the beach this tradition is best left in the past as BJJ is spread around the world.

Let’s address the legal issue with a little more depth. It does not matter to the law whether the student gives implied consent. Their consent to the hazing is not a defense that a social club can use, it is still illegal. If a student is not physically harmed it will typically be a misdemeanor, but if there is an injury the crime of hazing is a felony in many US states. Whipping marks left by a belt could be considered an injury. Gym owners and coaches should heed this warning. By writing this article I am not trying to get anyone in trouble with the law, I just want to see successful gyms with good business practices. Ask yourself what successful business would post illegal activities on social media?Hazing 6 states

It is time to leave this tradition of hazing in the past. The gauntlet is not helping to build stronger or better students, BJJ does that in spite of the gauntlet.

Things like rolling, or a throw are not hazing – they are part of doing BJJ. If your school is participating in hazing its students I recommend sharing this article with your instructor and respectfully sitting out of the process. I am confident that most instructors are simply unaware that they are breaking the law. Help them out by letting them know.

I look forward to reading your comments.

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Five things every new/visiting student should receive on their first visit to your gym

This is a list submitted by a listener of The BjjBrick Podcast. Hopefully this list will help make your gym more welcoming to visitors, travelers and potential new friends.

Welcome to BJJ

1. Introductions all around. It’s a tradition in most jiu-jitsu gyms, when first stepping onto the mats, to walk the room and greet everyone already on the mats. New comers should be sought out at this time. Make sure to ask their name, give them yours, ask about their previous experience on the mats, what brings them to town, etc.

2. A brief intro to gym etiquette. If they are brand new let them know we don’t wear shoes on the mats and we don’t walk around off the mats (especially to the restroom) in our bare feet. Explain to them the structure of the class so they know what to expect. Let them know if the instructor prefers to be called professor, coach, or by his first name. This type of information can go a long way towards making their first experience at your gym a pleasant one.

3. A good roll. I have visited gyms before and was unable to engage anyone in a decent roll at the full training/free rolling portion of class. The guys wanted to just sit out or roll with their friends. I have also visited schools where I’ve had tremendous experiences and tough rolls. Guess which schools I’m likely to visit again or would join if I moved to that area?

4. New knowledge. If you’re a higher ranked student and you roll with a visiting student of a lower rank, make sure and compliment them on the roll, and maybe make an observation that will help them out. Let them go home feeling like their jiu jitsu is a little bit better on account of their visit to your school.

5. Contact information and an invitation to return. Make sure they know how to contact the gym, find their website for scheduling questions, facebook or other social media accounts. I’m not and expert but I’m pretty sure if you can ensure, that at a minimum, all new/visiting students receive these five things the odds are pretty high that they will also be returning students.

Thank you to Joe Thomas for this list

One of the First Things I Learned in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

It was 2002 and I had started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with John Castillo. John was a purple belt and he opened up a school in the back of a used golf supply shop. One of the first things that John taught me was not a submission or a sweep, it was not even a position. John showed me how to break-fall.

Early BJJ Lesson“You are going get knocked down and thrown as you learn Jiu-Jitsu; you need to learn how to fall safely.” John explained as he taught me how to break-fall.

At the time, I was 22 years old and learning how to fall was not exciting. I wanted to learn how to choke and armbar people who were bigger and stronger than myself. But thankfully I was not running the class, because learning how to fall is important if you want to keep getting up.

Over the course of my Jiu-Jitsu career, I have fallen many times. This early lesson has payed off by keeping me on the mat.

More People Die From The Spoon Than The Knife

  1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can save your life in a fight. There might be a day when circumstances lead you to a place you probably should not be. In this place you might end up dealing with someone who intends to harm you. My friend, if this happens to you BJJ can indeed save your life.spoonorknife bjj

Fortunately the odds of you ending up in a life and death confrontation in this day and age are pretty slim. The odds of you overeating and living an unhealthy lifestyle are statistically pretty good. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States -it is accountable for 23.53% of deaths. If you live in a relatively safe area the odds of you dying from a violent crime are less than 1%.

Here comes the saying from my grandfather Harry Jabara, “More people die from the spoon than the knife”. He meant your poor eating habits are more likely to kill you than an act of violence. People fear the knife, most don’t have any fear of the spoon.

The good news is that BJJ can help defend you from death by the spoon. You might find yourself eating healthier because it effects your ability to train. Even if you don’t change your diet, the cardiovascular output of a BJJ workout will help you keep heart disease at bay.

The benefits of BJJ are many, today I highlighted just two. I hope that this article has helped to keep you motivated with your training.Your-First-Year-Of-BJJ-artwork-1199

If you are new to BJJ or in your first year of training check out this audio book! This audio book will help you avoid many common mistakes during your first year. These mistakes can hold back your progress in this important time.

My Trip To Burma (We Are Not In Kansas Anymore)

A few months ago my wife and I traveled to Burma (also called Myanmar) to spend time with family. Our time in Burma was spent in the city of Yangon. This was the first time that I had ever been to Asia. It was truly an amazing trip that I am excited to share with you.  We met a lot of great people, tried new and interesting foods, a pick pocketing experience, and I even had time for a little Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In general, the people of Burma are very nice and quick to smile.  I was at a large disadvantage with getting to meet strangers because of the language barrier.  I quickly learned a handful of words “hi” and “thank you” being on the top of the list.

Before we departed on our trip I contacted the Yangon BJJ House. I emailed Tammi and the door was opened for a visit. The Yangon BJJ House has a fun group of skilled grapplers. They welcomed me onto their mat like a friend and we were laughing and joking within minutes. This was a great feeling that no matter where in the world you are you can find a BJJ school and feel like you are home. They asked if I would teach the class and I was more than happy to show a couple of techniques and roll with everyone. I got some great mat time in with this group of dedicated grapplers.

Yangon BJJ House

Yangon BJJ House

I had an opportunity to do a BJJ demonstration at a grade school. I jumped on this opportunity. The kids at this school all do Taekwondo every day for exercise. The majority of these kids had never even heard of BJJ, a couple of them said that is was similar to wrestling. My wife and I teamed up to show a few throws, and demonstrate a couple submissions.

Getting Thrown

Getting Thrown

The first throw was so surprising to the kids that some of them screamed and thought that it was fatal! I asked for volunteers to throw me with a (Seoi nage).  Many hands went up and I selected a few kids.

Burma BJJ kids

This is Shane, he performed a great throw.

Now to tell you about my little situation that happened at Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon is a beautiful Pagoda that is visible from all over the city.  We had a wonderful time looking around and learning about this Pagoda.

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

While I was looking around, one of the locals came up to me with a camera in hand and motioned for us to take a picture together (there was a language barrier so no words were spoken). This may seem really odd, because I am not famous.  But in Burma I am a rather large light skinned person, with possibly the biggest nose that these people have ever seen 🙂  This was not the first time that a local person wanted to take a picture of me (more people wanted pictures of my wife and sister-in-law but for their good looks).  Two more of his friends wanted to join the picture and I put my arms around the closet guys.  My brother-in-law joined for the photo bomb behind us.

What happened next was the surprising part.  I felt a thumb trying to needle its way into my back pocket. My pocket has a flap, it was not buttoned but it was down.  He was trying to get past the flap, and I felt this.  I took my arm down from the guy on my right side and grabbed his hand with my hand.  Stopping him from getting my wallet, he was busted! Next I smiled for the camera (the wrong camera) and we took the picture. I was excited to get this photographed. After the picture we separated. His friends (I think knowing that he had failed) wanted to take another picture, they did not realize that he got busted. I smiled and made it clear to them and my group that we are not taking another picture because I don’t want to lose my wallet.

Here is on of my favorite pictures from my trip to Burma. The guy to my left is trying to pick my pocket.

Here is on of my favorite pictures from my trip to Burma. The guy to my left is trying to pick my pocket.

I never felt threatened by this group of men. Nor did I feel the need to react in a more dramatic or violent way. I did not want a problem even if it was not my problem, I did not want to find myself dealing with the local police. I was just happy that I kept my wallet. I was confident that my group could handle a confrontation if one happened, but I was happy to just be on my way.

This was the only time in Burma that we had any problem with security. My brother in law and his wife stayed in Burma for a year and had no problems like this.  After we stayed in Burma for a week we went to Bangkok for a week where I hiked up the tallest building in Thailand and got kicked out by security when I made it all the way to the roof, Great Success! Check that video out here!

We have all had training partners like this. Too big too strong.

Did not roll with him

The Floating Market

The Floating Market

Please no sex in the park

Please no sex in the park

Rolling in Burma

Rolling in Burma