Value this time on the mats kids

The following is a monologue by Billy Crystal from the movie City Slickers and was sent to me from my friend and 60+ year old grappler Andy Dicky. In the movie Mitch (played by Billy Crystal), Phil, and Ed are all experiencing their own mid-life crises and take a two-week vacation at a dude ranch to figure things out. The scene that this monologue is from features Mitch speaking to his son’s middle school class on career day prior to leaving for the dude ranch.

Value this time in your life kids… Because this is the time in your life when you still have choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “what happened to my twenties?”. Your forties, you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin… the music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery…you’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still too loud, but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, and breakfast the night before. You spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering “how come the kids don’t call?”. By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand, but you call mamma. Any questions?

What’s the point of sharing this with you? Is it to make sure we understand that this is as good as it’s going to get? To warn you that from here on your life will get progressively worse with the passage of time? Not at all. But things will definitely be different, and not all those differences will be “good”. Our knees, our backs, our shoulders, our central nervous systems and reflexes, etc. are examples of things that deteriorate with age. This means our experiences on the mats at 45 will not be the same as they were in our 30’s…in our 50’s our experiences on the mats won’t be the same as they were at 45. Our experiences won’t be the same over the years, but they can still be great.

Don’t waste time looking back with regret because you did not start sooner or did not pursue jiu jitsu with the passion that you now wish you would have. Don’t waste time looking down the road and worrying about your physical attributes fading and your body breaking down and the things that you may no longer be able to do. Instead, live in the moment. Enjoy your time on the mats today. Make the most out of each class, each round that you roll, each tournament you enter, each seminar you attend, etc. This moment is the only one that is guaranteed. Value this time on the mats.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe

Here is the clip!

Never Miss an Opportunity to Learn

You can learn something from everyone. That’s a common sentiment on the mats. In theory, it’s great. In practice….sometimes not so much. Even the mellowest colored belt can sometimes struggle when the 4-stripe white belt starts handing out advice or the more advanced student takes them to school on the mats. Let’s look at two distinctly different ways we can learn from our training partners — tactile feedback and verbal feedback or advice.

If you want to be able to learn from anyone via tactile feedback i.e. through rolling, you need to roll with everyone and you will want to experience all aspects of their jiu jitsu including their A-game. If every time you roll with better students you do everything you can to avoid being drawn into their best positions you will miss the opportunity to study up close and personal what it is that makes that particular position part of their A-game. If every time you roll with less experienced training partners you simply crush them you will also miss what they have to offer. In an ideal world you will spend some time being the hammer and some time being the nail. When you are the hammer, you are letting your training partner feel and learn from your A game. When you are the nail, you are learning from theirs.

If you want to learn something from everyone via verbal feedback or advice you must be humble and approachable. If every time someone gives you feedback you allow your ego to interfere and become dismissive or confrontational people will not be likely to continue to try and help you. Sometimes it is helpful to encourage others to give you feedback. This can be asking directly or you can be a little more subtle like just comment on something you were trying to do during the roll i.e. “I was having a heck of a time passing your guard” or “that was a great triangle”. Feedback is often revealed in casual conversations if you’re looking for it.

There are many ways of learning jiu jitsu: In class instruction, seminars, video study, drilling with your favorite training partners, as well as tactile and verbal feedback from your classmates and training partners. Take advantage of them all.

Train hard, train smart, get better.

Joe Thomas

Epi 256 Mistakes we have made in BJJ

We have all made mistakes on and off the mat. We share some of ours so you can possibly learn from our mistakes.

We talk about:

  • Training but doing activities but not actually accomplishing anything
  • What mistakes most people make
  • The mistake of not knowing your “why”
  • Training for the wrong reasons
  • Lacking focus in BJJ
  • Not learning from seminars
  • Training while injured
  • Getting your spouse to train
  • Not recognizing progress
  • Not being welcoming to new people
  • Mistakes we are currently making

Quote of the week: Do not mistake activity as accomplishment” John Wooden

Article of the week: Competing in mid-adulthood: How to train to win after age 35

 

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

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Training Muay Thai for Better BJJ

After a few years of training, gaining a better understanding of jiujitsu has become a main priority in my life. And if you’re like me, you probably incorporate other physical activities or movements in the context of jiujitsu. We run, bike, practice wrestling & judo, or take a yoga class not necessarily to get good at that activity but to improve our jiujitsu: better cardio, improved takedowns, more flexibility. Well heck, some of us even shrimp out of bed or perform a technical stand-up to get up from the ground. The benefits of running, yoga, judo, or wrestling to improve our jiujitsu are obvious. However, it has taken me a few years and a few conversations to realize that Muay Thai is one of the better, if not the best physical activity to compliment jiujitsu.

Joseph Marquez

The most obvious benefits that Muay Thai provides are the physical ones. The strength, conditioning, and flexibility benefits are great, but more importantly is the loose and ballistic movements that balance out grappling’s emphasis on having a tight squeeze. Focusing on the upper body: when we have somebody’s back (literally) we are tightening up and squeezing to prevent escapes in the hopes of eventually submitting the other person. When focusing on the lower body: a good closed guard, triangle, or tight armbar. However, in Muay Thai (or any striking discipline) we want the opposite of tight and constricted muscles. Loose and relaxed muscles allow for quicker, more ballistic and less telegraphed strikes. Focusing on the upper body, the effectiveness of being loose is most evident during a set of burners in which you throw straight jabs and crosses as fast as possible for a minute or so. You have to “let your hands go” because if you tighten up you will struggle to throw quick punches. The same principle applies when focusing on the lower body. Hitting the Thai pads with fluid and powerful kicks require one to loosen hips and legs. After an hour of Muay Thai, I definitely feel the burn, but I also feel great. My muscles and joints from my ankles all the way to my wrists feel loose and relaxed afterwards. The warmups and drills in Muay Thai have effectively “shaken it out” the tightness from grappling. (In a Tim Ferris podcast with Pavel Tsatsouline, Pavel goes into better detail on “shaking it out” as an effective way to help muscles recover.)

There are other benefits that may be subtle at first, but comparing the similarities between grappling and striking in terms of range will help clarify these concepts. Three fundamental concepts learned in the first lessons of striking are range management, footwork, and creating angles of attack. If they are not in range to kick or punch you, they are not in range to trip, grab, take you down, or pull guard. Knowing what will not work in a certain range is just as important as knowing what will work. The distance from your opponent will help determine whether shooting double, single, low single, or not shooting at all is the best option. The footwork fundamentals (proper weight distribution, pivoting, or not crossing your feet)  used to enter and exit striking range are similar and can be applied to enter and exit shooting range. The same can be said about creating and attacking not straight on, but from an angle. A wrestler confirmed this to me by showing me how takedowns from the side are harder and more awkward to defend than takedowns you see coming head on. The concepts  of range, footwork, and angles are heavily emphasized in striking but they are also applicable to BJJ, especially since these fundamentals fluidly combine.

As we move closer into striking range, we also move into hand-fighting/grip-fighting range. As stated above, and because I think it is worth repeating: if you are in range to punch, you are in range to grab. A training partner demonstrated how he was able to repeatedly and easily grab my lapels in order to take me down or trip me from a standing position. He used the concept of boxing combos as way to get grips. In this specific case it was simple two-punch combo a straight jab to rear uppercut combo. He simply replaced the strikes in the combo with a collar grab. The main purpose of initial “jab” (high collar-grab) was to find range and distract. If it was not defended, the grip is taken. Most of the time this was defended and the “uppercut” was thrown to get my collar on the other side. Drilling combos and shadow boxing can be incorporated into BJJ simply by replacing punches with grabs and leg kicks & knees with trips.

There are many other ways that Muay Thai, and other striking arts or activities for that matter, can help improve our jiujitsu. I hope this helps us in our journey and that even more connections between BJJ and other activities will be investigated and shared.

Namaste

Joe Marquez

Too Much Knowledge Can Slow the Learning Process in BJJ

This may seem counterintuitive but stick with me for a bit.

Let’s step off the mats for just a second and look at learning a golf swing. The golf swing can be broken down into many parts. Let’s just look at the setup as outlined here 50 Best Swing Keys. You need to have your legs properly positioned with your feet outside your hips, and your toes pointed outward at a 25 degree angle. Now you need to have your upper left arm on the top of your chest, and your right arm needs to be slightly bent at the elbow. Then you need to have your right shoulder slightly lower than your left, and you need to be holding the shaft perpendicular to the ground.

That is a lot of stuff to do and you have not even started to move yet. The article goes into much more detail about how to properly smack the life out of the ball.

Even if I did have some knowledge of golf (I don’t) taking in a long list of different aspects all at once is a lot to ask of someone wanting a better swing.

The same thing can happen in BJJ if you are coaching to correct every little detail, the learning process can actually slow down. Instead fix one or two main things, and acknowledge one or two things that are done well. When the corrections have been made, build on that by fixing one or two more things.

Teaching too much can make students overwhelmed. Frustrated students are not in the state of mind to learn.

You might think that this coaching advice is mostly geared toward helping new students. I would argue that novice or expert will struggle to make more than one or two corrections at a time.

We can all improve, gaining knowledge needs to be at a rate that is conducive to learning.

Ideas for this article were inspired from the books Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better and Peak secrets for the new science of expertise 

Byron

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 235 Off the mat training to keep you on the mat with Sam Spiegelman

This is an episode of BjjBrick Extra! Joe has an outstanding interview with Sam Spiegelman. Sam has written a bunch of great articles on Breaking Muscle, and is a wealth of knowledge about BJJ and fitness.

We talk about:

  • His start to BJJ after college
  • Transitioning from Judo to BJJ
  • Starting strength and conditioning for BJJ
  • The importance of rest
  • Making an off season for your BJJ
  • The benefits of off the mat training for your BJJ
  • Cutting weight for a tournament
  • Warming up properly
  • Recovering between matches
  • Tips for people new to BJJ
  • Things a blue belt should know
  • Teaching a kids class

Links:

Extra Tip: We give a tip about wrist locks

Extra Question: Help, my instructor is not showing me the things I need to know

We play a joke on Gary and use as many Idioms as we can. He is always able to laugh at a good prank.

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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 219 How Deep is Your Jiu-Jitsu Pool???

This week on the podcast we talk about a way to evaluate your game. Your collection of techniques fall at different skill levels. We look at these five different levels and give advice or depending on what level your technique is. Don’t think of it as all of your BJJ is at one level, think of it as parts of your game are at different levels.

The Depth of your Jiu-Jitsu Pool

  • Level 1- You don’t know how to swim = You don’t train Jiu-JItsu
  • Level 2- Standing in the pool = Becoming aware of the a technique
  • Level 3- Swimming = The BJJ you know
  • Level 4- Swimming in the deep end = Your best moves
  • Level 5- Deep dive = A part of the game that you are one of the best

Quote of the week: “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.” Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Article of the week: How Much Do I Need To Cross Train To Get Better at BJJ?

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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

Expanding your Jiu-Jitsu in a logical manner

I ran across this scenario and subsequent question not long ago: A white belt 6-8 months in has developed a decent closed guard but when his guard gets broken he has no answers to prevent the pass. His question was, “what’s another guard I can add to my game?”. That’s a great question, but a better question might be, “how do I figure this out myself? — how do I determine which positions and techniques to add to my game?”. Most grapplers will find themselves at the point of needing to evolve and expand their game many times during their journey. Sometimes you will adjust your game for competitive reasons, because of injury, or simply to continue moving towards a complete game. If you have a sound methodology for making these kinds of jiu jitsu decisions the process will become more efficient allowing you to progress more quickly. Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself during the process.

Have you explored all the options in the game you’re already playing? I would not try to discourage someone from expanding their game, but before you abandon something that has been successful, but no longer is – it may be worth spending some time trouble shooting. Perhaps with a few simple tweaks, you can get some more mileage out of that position. This may be especially relevant if you are trying to solve a problem for an upcoming tournament. A month before competition is not the best time to be revamping your game.

Does it solve the problem? If your training partners are using standing guard breaks and passes, spending a month studying half guard might not be as effective as spending a month transitioning from a broken closed guard to a single leg x guard, x guard, or de la riva guard.

Does it fit with the game you are already playing? Adding a new element will be easier if it shares some commonality with the game you’re already playing. All jiu jitsu fits….so maybe a better question here is “how will I make this fit into my game?”.

Does it fit with your physical attributes, skill set, and experience level? Every jiu jitsu practitioner has a different body type with different physical attributes and therefor certain positions and techniques will work better for some athletes than others. This definitely should be a consideration when expanding your game.

Is it the next logical step in regard to complexity and difficulty? If the two takedowns that had been working for you no longer are, then getting the fight to the ground would be a problem for you, and adding some additional techniques would make sense. Learning to do flying triangles and flying arm bars could be a possible solution, but you need to have the requisite skills in place first. If you are not already proficient at arm bars and triangles from more traditional positions and during transitions, then doing flying variations is most likely not the next logical step.

What does your coach think? If you have reached a point where you must expand your game to address a weakness, odds are your coach has also noticed you have an issue to address and has some direction for you. You can catch your coach before or after class, or even better, schedule a private lesson with them.

In conclusion: Efficiency is a core concept of jiu jitsu. Efficiency of movement is one of the things that allows smaller, weaker, or older people who have trained to prevail over those who haven’t. Why not apply this same principle when it comes to building your game?

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

More articles by Joe here

Epi 198 Better BJJ Habits For Better BJJ

Your Habits on and off the mat can have a huge and lasting effect on your performance in BJJ. This episode we discuss some habits you might consider to help yourself become a better grappler.

We talk about:

  • The importance of being consistent with your training
  • The habit of eating healthy
  • Taking notes
  • Keeping notes on injuries
  • Having fun on the mats
  • Rolling one more time after class
  • Be an active listener
  • Have something you are working on while rolling
  • Tap to prevent injury
  • Helping your teammates
  • Share the art of jiu-jitsu
  • Mentally warm up before a roll

Quote of the week: “Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” Lou Holtz

Article of the week: Why You’ll Quit Jiu-Jitsu: How to handle these pitfalls!

Garys audio book is called “How to Butter Your Roll, Smooth Jiu-Jitsu”

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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