Back to the Basics

My youngest kids are girls that are less than two years apart in age. The
older one was not too interested in driving so delayed taking drivers education
and getting her permit. By the time she did start the process her younger sister
was almost ready as well. This resulted in me doing a lot of driving and teaching
for almost a year straight. Whether they were driving, or I was behind the wheel,
every time we were on the road it was a lesson. I would say “we’re a few blocks
from the Jr. High and it’s 3:00 we should be keeping an eye out for kids, right?” or
“this is the first rain in a few weeks, be aware the roads could be slick” or “can
you see the mirrors on that 18-wheeler in front of us? If not, we’re following too
close” etc. etc. etc. These are all just basic safe driving practices that experienced
drivers follow without thinking about. But after a years’ worth of conscienceless
thinking about and actively discussing these issues I felt like a safer driver.

I’ve been driving for over 30 years with 2 tickets and zero accidents in the
last 20. After all that time of safe driving, if spending some time consciously
focusing on the basic principles of safe driving can make me a better driver, I’m
willing to bet the same logic applies to jiu jitsu? If you spend some time focusing
on the basic principles of good jiu jitsu your techniques will get tighter, you will
become more efficient, your defense will improve….in short, your grappling will
get better.

It’s tempting to make a list of “5 basic principles and concepts…..”, but the
reality is every person will be different. If your top game is weak or not
progressing the fundamentals you choose to focus on will be different than they
would be if your go-to guard game needed some improvement.
Focusing on the basics in general will help your jiu jitsu. Focusing on specific
basics that are directly relevant to your game will help you even more. In my
mind, this is an example of a time that paying your instructor for a private lesson,
will be worth every penny you spend. Tell your instructor you would like to
improve upon the foundation of your game – that you would like to make sure
your jiu jitsu is fundamentally sound and ask him for a private lesson, so you can
roll, and he can assess your game and make suggestions.

In conclusion, no matter how long you have been training jiu jitsu, there is
always value in getting back to the basics. No amount of slick moves and fancy
techniques will ever make up for a game that is not fundamentally sound. It’s
never too late to get back to the basics.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe

Epi 244 Iron Axe Event Fabio Morescalchi and Steve Norwick

This week we have an interview with Fabio Morescalchi and Steve Norwick. Steve and Fabio are running the Twin Cities Invitational. It is an event that benefits the We Defy Foundation and Mission 22. The event will be held June 9, in Bloomington Minnesota.

We talk about:

  • Fabio’s early start to BJJ
  • What BJJ can do for you off the mat
  • Building a community with BJJ
  • Mission 22 and The We Defy Foundation
  • Superfights for the Iron Axe event
  • The meaning of The Iron Axe
  • Some of the benefits of BJJ

Links:

Quote of the week: “When you’re riding, only the race in which you’re riding is important.” Bill Shoemaker

We talked about this book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Article of the week: 5 BJJ Tournament Tips You Must Know

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Properly Responding to Feedback to Get Better At BJJ

It happens all the time on the mats. One person gives the other person a bit of feedback, some information that they can use to help develop their game. If the person receiving the feedback is you I have a couple of things you should consider.

In my example the feedback is coming from a person who is qualified to give you help.

Let’s step on the mat for some nogi. I am working to pass your guard and you have one hand on my neck to help control posture. I tell you this bit of feedback “try moving your hand up a little bit closer to my head”. This grip sounds odd to you. When playing gi you control the posture with a collar grip. Your hand naturally slides a bit further back and to control the neck. In addition you are satisfied with your collar grip conversion to nogi and you do a pretty good job of controlling the posture. This feedback is probably ignored, and you keep on doing what you are doing.

When you get feedback apply it first, then consider if it is good advice. If it was intuitive for you to play your grip on the lower part of the head you would have already been doing it. Often times good feedback will seem counterintuitive. You might find that gripping on the back of the head gives you much more leverage. You are not just pulling the person down from their neck. Your energy is first pulling the head down, then the neck therefore the posture is broken much easier.

The point of this article is not to help you break your opponent’s posture more effectively. I want you to try the feedback you get and then judge its effectiveness.

Thank the person that took the time to give you the feedback. Your development on the mat will be more efficient if you continue to get more feedback and you should do all you can to encourage more. Using the feedback and thanking the person go a long way to helping you be a joy to coach.

Ideas for this article were inspired from the book Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

Epi 243 Black Belt Ultra Heavyweight Joseph Moku Kahawai

This week we have an interview with Black Belt Ultra Heavyweight Joseph Moku Kahawai. Moku is a active competitor and he is happy to cover a wide range of topics from off the mat life to training to compete with the best in the world.

We talk about:

  • His start to BJJ in 2008 at BJ Penn’s school
  • Moving from Hawaii to California
  • Learning takedowns as a black belt
  • Why he was a guard player
  • His training schedule
  • Overcoming difficulties as a child
  • Tips for rolling with smaller teammates
  • Advice for traveling and doing bjj
  • The story of getting his black belt after winning double gold
  • Fighting in ACB

Links:

Quote of the week: “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” Helen Keller

Article of the week: Creating an Environment for Success

Gary shares an off the mat lesson about setting goals Your-First-Year-Of-BJJ-artwork-1199

Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Coaching Tip- Critique vs Correct In BJJ

These two things may seem to be the same, but they are actually significantly different. In this short article you will find out the difference and learn why I am such a fan of one over the other.

Let’s say we are rolling, and I have side control. You are doing a pretty good job to build a frame and you try to escape. Then your arm relaxes a bit and I isolate it and take the armbar. My critique would be that your should keep your arms in a safe position. That is good advice, and I hope you can put it to use next time someone has you in side control and tries to put your arm in danger.

Let’s look at the same scenario and use correction instead of critique. Now where were we? Oh yeah. Your arm relaxes a bit and I isolate it and start to take the armbar. I know you feel something bad is headed your way. Then I say “pause for a second, can you feel your arm is out of position?” You agree. “Let’s rewind and see what happened, to get you to this spot.” It turns out that as you attempting to get your legs in to recover guard your arm became a bit too loose “Let’s do it again but this time as you are working your legs in also pay attention to your arm, especially your left one.”

With the correction you get to try to fix the problem in the moment. You get to feel it working and make adjustments to your game in a more live setting.

If you tell me what mistakes I made after I tap, thanks for the critique. If you have me pause and rewind a few steps to show me my mistakes, thanks for the correction. They are both good learning tools but the correction allows me to practice what you are telling me. The correction allows both my body and mind to experience the practice together, and this greatly helps with long term retention.

Think of giving someone a critique as giving them a tip, and giving someone a correction as giving them a short pertinent lesson.

The words “pause” and “rewind” are becoming some the my best coaching words while I roll.

Ideas for this article were inspired from the book Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better

Byron

Epi 242 BJJ Strength With Laurence Griffiths

This week we have an interview with Black Belt Laurence Griffiths. Laurence is a guy who looks at the fitness research and applies the information to helping you perform better on the mats.

We talk about:

  • Changing from rugby to BJJ
  • Starting BJJ with Roger Gracie
  • His first competition as a white belt
  • Some benefits of strength training for BJJ
  • How you can train off the mat like a world champion
  • How to schedule your off the mat training
  • Using kettlebells for BJJ and some recommended lifts
  • How to improve your grip strength
  • Common mistakes people make when starting a strength and conditioning program

Links:

Quote of the week: “Goal setting is a powerful tool and process for motivating you. When effective goals are set, a giant step towards the life you desire is taken.” K.C. Rowntree

Article of the week: Five tips to be welcomed in almost any gym on Earth!

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Epi 241 3rd Degree Black Belt Diego Gamonal

This episode we have an interview with 3rd degree black belt Diego Gamonal. Diego trains under Professor Ricardo Marques. You will find him training and teaching in San Antonio Texas.

We talk about:

  • His start with BJJ in 1998
  • The culture of Brazilian Top Team
  • His strategy for competing
  • Advice for your first tournament to help you keep it in perspetive
  • Why he likes to have a beginners class
  • How he does belt testing
  • Having a women’s only class
  • The importance of learning how to teach before you get a black belt
  • How to help kids discover BJJ
  • His new DVD The Invisible Armbar

Links:

Tip: Eat better the days you train.

Question: What are some things you can do to slow someone down?

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Epi 240 Playing a Tight or Loose BJJ Game

Do you play a tight BJJ game that limits your opponent, or do you play a loose game that involves many different elements.

We talk about:

  • Define tight and loose games
  • What do we tend to play
  • Who should play loose
  • Who should play tight
  • What is better for learning
  • What is better for performance

Quote of the week: “Music is one of the easiest ways to motivate yourself. Listen to uplifting tracks , and songs about success – and you can’t help but want to work harder” AJ Winters, The Motivation Switch

Article of the week: How Important is Your Jiu Jitsu to Your spouse?

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Creating an Environment for Success

I’ve heard it said before that “environment trumps will”. For those of us who like to credit our success to our own grit, determination and hard work this is not an easy truth to accept. Sure, some of the greatest people have emerged from some pretty bad environments, but those are the exceptions – not the rule.

How can we, as adult jiu jitsu practitioners, use this information to help us get better at jiu jitsu? Well, the good news is that we do have some control over our environment. It’s something that we can improve. Let’s look at a couple of ways our environment off the mat may be hindering our progress and maybe one or two ways our environment at the gym may not be helping us. Then let’s look at how we can turn that around.

If you have a spouse and kids and you cannot get them on board, your home environment will not be ideal for progress and success. It’s a lot to juggle, but somehow you must get them behind you. Getting them involved is a great way to do this. Keeping things “fair” is important—if you’re spending 4-6 hours a week doing something you’re passionate about try to help your family members find things they are passionate about and make sure they have the time to pursue those passions the same as you are pursuing jiu jitsu. Another way to get them behind you is to ensure that they are also reaping the benefits of your journey—jiu jitsu should be helping you become healthier, happier, more confident, and more relaxed. In other words, it should be helping you become a better spouse and parent.

If you leave home early for work, stop for a fast-food mc-something and coffee for breakfast, sit at your desk all day studying spreadsheets only stopping once to have lunch at the food truck on the corner, then rush home for a heavy carb loaded dinner—this will not help you accomplish your jiu jitsu goals. A busy life and stressful work environment is not always easy to overcome. Somethings that might help are: meal prep on the weekends for breakfasts during the week, pack lunches on work days, taking the stairs at work, standing at your desk,

If your friends that you hangout with on the weekends think that belly flop competitions and beer chugging are athletic events, you might be spending time in an environment that is not conducive for success. You probably don’t need to completely abandon recreational activities that include bratwurst, beer, and belly flops…but you probably need to minimize them. The key here is, like they say, balance and moderation.

What’s the environment like at the gym? How can you affect that?

Is there an “I have to win at all costs” environment at your school? Here’s the problem with that: When you adopt that mentality, you find a way to win i.e. get really good at a few moves that seem to be really well suited to you and then only do those moves. Or you may only train with training partners with less skill or lesser attributes which obviously won’t challenge you to the same degree as training with partners who are better than you. If this attitude is prevalent at your school, here’s how you can make a difference. First of all, roll with everyone and tap when you’re caught without trying to spaz out of the submission and don’t make excuses. Secondly, when rolling with training partners you can easily beat, roll in such a way that puts you in bad positions or get’s you caught once in a while, i.e. start from bad positions, work from your week side, try new techniques, etc. For more ideas along these lines check out Six BJJ Training Games, by Byron Jabara. By approaching jiu jitsu this way you will be setting an example that others will eventually follow.

Is there a “me first” mentality where students seem to only be concerned about their own progression? While this seems to be a mindset that would indeed help you get better faster it is, in the jiu jitsu world, actually counterproductive.  There should be a culture of comradery with the mind-set that a rising tide raises all boats. If you are training at a gym where other students, as well as the instructor, are concerned about your progress and are willing to invest in your success then you are training in an environment where you are likely to succeed. The solution here is simple, but not necessarily easy: Model the behavior you hope to see in the rest of your team. Take a round or two every class for a while and make it about your teammate. I’ll often time ask my teammates what they’re working on and then steer the match in that direction.

In conclusion: I’m not a life coach, marriage counselor, nutritionist, or even a jiu jitsu expert so I can’t necessarily tell you the best way to improve your environment. But I can tell you that there’s enough evidence out there to indicate that it would greatly improve your chances of success if this was something you paid some attention to. Maybe pick one area of your life and work each week to make that area just a little better.

 

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

 

Joe

Epi 239 Can BJJ Cause a Stroke?

This week we have an interview with Chris Martin. Chris has a story of training BJJ and unknowingly receiving damage to his neck. This damage would later result in a stroke. This interview helps create awareness of strokes and how to train BJJ safely.

We talk about:

  • How training BJJ caused an injury to his neck that ultimately caused a stroke
  • What happens when someone gets a torn carotid artery
  • How younger people get strokes
  • Some ways to tell if someone is having a stroke
  • FASTER Face, Arms, Stability, Talking, Eyes, React
  • How he trains with a stent in his neck
  • What causes damage to the neck and the arteries
  • The latest news for BJJ4Change

Links:

Quote of the week: “Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.” Dwight Eisenhower

Article of the week: Level up with Positional Sparring

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod