Visiting another school…. Getting the most out of a drop in

Anyone who has trained jiu jitsu for any length of time has probably had the itch to drop in at another school for a visit. Maybe you just want to meet new people, maybe you want to be exposed to a different training environment, or maybe you are just going to be out of town for an extended period of time and visiting another school will be your only opportunity to train. Whatever the reason, visiting another school can be a great experience. It can also be a little intimidating or overwhelming for some people. Whether you are excited about the opportunity or are a little nervous about it – here are a few tips that may help you get the most out of it.
1. Identify as many schools in the area that may be worth visiting. This will give you the best odds of finding one that will be a good fit for you. It sometimes takes multiple web searches to find all the schools in a given area. Sometimes, some schools will show on a search for “BJJ near…” and other schools in the same area will show for “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu near….”. It is also worth just asking around. If you know other people that do jiu jitsu and live in the area you are looking to visit shoot them a text and ask. Jiu Jitsu forums and message boards can also be helpful.
2. Do some research. You can find out a lot about a school by visiting their website, social media sites, checking reviews, and just asking around. You can get a pretty good idea about a school’s jiu jitsu style and the training environment by checking their website and social media and by asking a few questions on the phone or via email/messaging. This will help you find a school to visit that’s right for you.
3. Call ahead. Some information I try to get on a phone call: A) Is the class I’m interested in appropriate for my skill level and open to drop ins? B) What’s the drop-in fee? C) Are there any uniform requirements? Some gyms prefer white gis. D) Make sure I have the correct address and directions.
4. Go with an open mind. No matter how much research you do and how many questions you ask sometimes you show up at a school and find the class is nothing like what you were expecting. You can still have a positive experience and get a lot out of the class…. but this is unlikely to happen if you are not open to trying something new and doing things a different way.
5. Be humble. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone and most people don’t like a visitor coming in and trying to be king of the mat. Start off slow and loose during sparring. With each round as you get to know the group and they get to know you, you can ratchet it up a notch. I’d rather leave the class feeling like I didn’t do my best jiu jitsu than leave the class feeling like I wouldn’t be welcomed back.
6. Make some connections. Jiu Jitsu is largely about the journey and the friends you make. At a minimum, make a social media connection so you can follow them and keep in touch. If things went well and you felt like things really clicked, exchange contact information. You never know when you’ll be back in the area or when someone from that school might be in your area and you can get together again for some training.
7. Leave the school a good review online. It’s not easy building a team and running a business. Good reviews help. If they treated you well and you were able to get some quality training in, the least you can do is take five minutes to leave them a good review.
One final thought: The visit will be what you make. Some things are out of your control—the size of the school, how accomplished the instructor is, the skill level of the other students on the mat, etc. However, you do have control over your attitude, your effort level, your preparation before the visit, etc. Put as much effort into finding the right school and properly preparing for the class as you do once you get there and you will have an awesome visit.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Drilling: How To Get the Most Out Of It

Drilling is a common method for learning and refining techniques in jiu jitsu. While drilling is not complicated, there are a few concepts and fundamental aspects that once understood, will help you get the most out of it. Here are a few suggestions I would make based on my own experience.

When you are the one drilling the technique:

Ask questions and make sure you’re getting it right. The way you drill a move is the way you will execute it when rolling. Don’t drill bad technique. If you’re confused about a move or sequence, ask your coach for clarification. Ask your training partner for feedback.

Use proper positional fundamentals when setting the move up. If your drilling a back take starting from half guard knee shield position. Make sure your knee shield is strong and you’re using good frames so as not to get flattened out. In live rolling you’ll never pull the move off if you’re constantly smashed and flattened out every time you’re in bottom half guard.

Finish the move. If you are drilling a sweep, don’t settle for just knocking your training partner off his base, follow through until you are in a dominant position. If you’re drilling a pass continue until you’ve secured side control or knee on belly and are setting up the next transition or submission. If finishing the move is not a part of your drilling, you will find yourself constantly in live rolling “almost” getting the sweep or pass.

Experiment and pay attention to detail. Let’s look at the scissor sweep. Will gripping the sleeve at the wrist or elbow work best for you? When gripping the sleeve at the wrist, does a pistol grip, or a pocket grip work best for you? Does it work best for you to have you shin across your partner’s torso parallel to the floor, at a 45-degree angle, or something in between? These are just some of the details of one move that need to be looked at and experimented with. Drilling gives you the best opportunity to do this.

When playing the role of Uke, or, “the one who receives the technique”

Apply the appropriate amount of resistance. The only thing worse than having a training partner simply fall over before you’re even half way through setting up a sweep is when they go into full lockdown “you’ll never sweep me” mode. Initially you should apply enough resistance that your partner must do the technique correctly but no more. As you progress and train with more experience training partners the level of resistance will increase slightly.

Think about your defense and counters. The key here is think about your defense and counters. You are not actually trying to prevent your partner from completing the move or counter them. At a bare minimum, when your training partner drills a sweep or pass, assume the correct defensive posture including frames and hand positions as they complete the move.

Provide some feedback for your training partner. I never presume I’m qualified to tell others (especially those at, or above, my rank) how to do jiu jitsu, but I’m more than comfortable providing simple feedback like “when you gripped behind my elbow I felt like the technique was stronger than when you grabbed my sleeve at the wrist”.

This is not an exhaustive list or a list of the most important…. It’s just a list of things worth considering to help you get more out of drilling.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better. 

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

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

Epi 167 Review of 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

The last episode of 2016 for The BjjBrick Podcast. We take this time to reflect on the news and developments of the last year, and look forward to the next year. We recommend that you do the same.

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We talk about:

  • Successful changes in our diets
  • Gary quitting drinking Mt. Dew
  • Playing a game that requires a heavy gripping
  • Leg locks and Heel hooks
  • Submission only tournaments and matches in 2016
  • Ryan Hall in the UFC
  • Mathematical breakdown of the matches at worlds in 2016
  • Highlighting chokes from the back, armbars, closed guard sweeps
  • Taking the back from passing the guard
  • Evaluations of our BJJ games over the year
  • Why Byron quit doing triangle chokes in February
  • Why Gary has backed off of his wrestling this year
  • Leg drags and leg locks
  • The future of The BjjBrick Podcast
  • Why Byron would want a BJJ match with Timothy Ferriss

Links:

Quote of the week: “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” Cavett Robert

Article of the week: BJJ Grips: Reevaluating Your Goals

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The BjjBrick Wall of Support is being constructed and you can help

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

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Epi 163 Get Better Faster With Two Moves From Each Position

We are excited to talk about this great training method for everyone from white belt to black. This can be a way to quickly help you develop and find the best techniques for your game.twomoves

W e talk about:

  • The advantages of working on two techniques at the same time for each position
  • The mount from top and bottom
  • Side control both top and bottom
  • A tip for escaping side control
  • Attacks and escapes from the back
  • Why rescricting your options can make you better
  • How long you should work on the same techniques
  • Developing your game over the long term
  • Tips on developing a guard
  • Tips on learning guard passes

Quote of the week: “No pain no gain” presented by Rodrigo Pinheiro

Article of the week: How to Train When You Have No Time

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If you are interested in supporting The BjjBrick Podcast find out how here (Now with a $.50 option) 

The BjjBrick Wall of Support is being constructed and you can help

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Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

Mat Tales Episode 10 “K-Fed of MMA”

Gary is also able to demostrate his rap skills at the end of the show.

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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.

Epi 126 Black Belt Shawn Williams Interview

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and RSS link for Andriod

Shawn Willimas is the 5th American to reach the rank of black belt in BJJ. He has been training jiu-jitsu for 20 years. We cover a huge range of interesting topics in this episode.shawn Williams

We talk about:

  • His start with BJJ
  • Being a commentator for live BJJ events
  • The importance of enjoying BJJ
  • Wrestling in BJJ
  • Tips for learning wrestling
  • Why some high level competitors do not tap
  • Rousimar Palhares injuring people
  • His thoughts of Garry Tonon (a friend of Shawn’s) vs Rousimar Palhares
  • Injuries that he has experienced
  • How to coach a match, and why to give technical instruction
  • Coaching during Ronda Rousey vs Holly Holm fight
  • Staying consistent with your BJJ

Links:

Quote of the week: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Miles Kington

Article of the week: What Motivates Me For 6am BJJ Class by Erik BeyerYour-First-Year-Of-BJJ-artwork-1199

Gary also talks about the book he is working on called “Cafeteria Food Fights- Picking The Right Kind of Fruit For The Fruit Salad” If you don’t know who Gallagher is you are missing out my friend, check him in action here.

Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast