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?

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

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

Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler

That quote is generally attributed to theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. When someone as brilliantly intellectual as Albert Einstein says that simplicity is a good thing, I think the idea is worth looking into and that it may be worth considering applying this concept to all aspects of our lives….. including jiu jitsu.

To come to a mutual understanding of what we’re talking about let’s take a look at how this might apply to something simple that almost all of us use almost every day: A car. There are features such as four-wheel steering that have been around for years but are not widely used. Why? There may be many reasons, but I would suspect that it boils down to the fact that it would be a steep learning curve for most drivers, might be prone to failure, would be difficult and costly to repair, etc. – in short, it would be too complicated. On the other hand, in an effort to make cars easier to repair, easier to operate, and cheaper to build you could start removing many of the features that are currently available. If you started removing blinkers, lights, mirrors, all climate control, etc. I think we could all agree that that would be too simple. In either case the driving experience would not be as good as it could be.

Now let’s talk about jiu jitsu. From my perspective, while we practice jiu-jitsu as a sport, it is at its core a martial art that should enable us to defend ourselves in a fight. Even if you don’t completely agree with my assessment of what jiu jitsu should be, I think the idea of evaluating your game to ensure that it is neither too simple nor too complicated can still be of some benefit to you.

Let’s look first at what elements need to be in place in order for jiu jitsu to not be “too simple”. In my mind, there are some things that must be in place for jiu jitsu to be complete and not too simple. This is not about a list of techniques, but more about having a complete system that allows you to defend yourself (or compete) at all ranges of combat.

  • I believe first of all that you should be able to manage distance and control an opponent on your feet. Greco Roman wrestling may be king in the standing clinch, but a jiu jitsu practitioner should at least have a level of proficiency. Takedown drills and sparring that starts on the feet will help with this. You should be able to determine if the fight goes to the ground or not.
  • If your specialty is ground fighting then you should have more than one reliable method of getting a fight to the ground. Pulling guard is one option, but in a fight in a parking lot or at the beach, might not be the place for guard pulling. If you can take the fight to the ground and immediately be in a dominate position, that might be a good thing. You don’t have to become a judo expert or an Olympic caliber wrestler, but having a decent throw or takedown is, in my mind, essential.
  • You should be able to fight from every position at all ranges on the ground. You don’t have to master the De La Riva Guard, x guard, single leg x guard, etc. but you need some tools for dealing with an opponent who has knocked you down and is attempting to stand over you and punch you or pass your guard. You don’t have to be an expert at closed guard, half guard, butterfly guard…. but you need to have some tools to deal with an opponent who is trying to flatten and crush you. You should have offensive options from all top positions as well as bottom positions. You should have defensive answers from all positions as well. Part of your strategy for dealing with every position and all ranges may include means of transitioning to your strong positions. Disengaging from the fight is also a something you may want to ensure you are capable of. Going from side control to knee on belly to standing and disengaging, or breaking your opponent’s guard to standing and backing away, or using the technical stand-up are all good strategies for disengaging from the fight.
  • Your jiu jitsu should not fall apart if punches are introduced. I’ve come to be of the opinion that you don’t necessarily need to train with punches, but you should at least be aware of them. You can be a sports jiu jitsu specialist and still be aware of which techniques you are good at that are designed specifically for the competition mat and which techniques will save your ass in a fight.
  • Ensuring that all of the above elements are incorporated in your jiu jitsu game will ensure that it is not too simple, but how about the other half of this quote? How do we ensure that it is “as simple as possible”, or not too complicated? Are there certain sport techniques such as inverted guards and flying triangles that don’t belong? I don’t think so. All of the techniques that I see currently being practiced on the competition mats are valuable and legitimate jiu jitsu techniques. However, if you are so obsessed with having the flying armbar, flying triangle, and multiple variations of the berimbolo incorporated in your game that you are neglecting some of the core elements of jiu jitsu then perhaps you’ve allowed your jiu jitsu to become too complicated. If you are trying to be the resident expert at every variety of guard that can be played and have become a jack of all trades, but master of none…you might have allowed your jiu jitsu to become too complicated.

In conclusion: your jiu jitsu system should be expansive enough to allow you to work at every range from every position, but limited enough to maintain and manage. I believe a good rule of thumb is a good jiu jitus practitioner be proficient at 2-3 moves from each position or range of combat.

Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Micro Jiu Jitsu

I am not the originator of the phrase or concept of “micro jiu jitsu”, but as I’ve come to understand it, I am a huge proponent. What is micro jiu jitsu as I understand it? In every technique, move, or sequence thereof, there are always one or two small details that everything else hinges upon. Get these details correct and your technique will be unstoppable. Neglect these details and you will either fail all together or be forced to muscle the technique to complete it.

An example of an individual detail that will make or break your chances of succeeding might be the initial cross collar grip when setting up the cross collar choke from closed guard or the scissor sweep. Once you reach for that collar a good opponent will work to break the grip and/or prevent you from improving it. So, developing a method for getting that initial grip deep is crucial. If you use your left hand to pull the collar while sliding your right hand in for the grip, the coordination between your two hands and getting the timing right needs to be refined to the point where it becomes automatic. Once you have the grip, understanding the nuances of the grip (do you curl the wrist? Flare the wrist? Do you grab just the collar or do you grab a handful of extra materiel? etc.), is equally important. Something as simple as this single grip can be explored and improved upon for many years.

A few other examples: If you like the kimura and hip bump sweep then the initial move to dominate and secure your opponent’s arm might be that key detail that everything else hinges on. If you like the armbar from closed guard or the flower sweep (pendulum sweep) then getting your opponent’s elbow across the center line while controlling the arm and moving your hips to create the right angle might be the key detail. I don’t presume to be enough of an expert to identify definitively what the key detail is for every move/technique, but I am sure that each athlete (perhaps with help from a coach or teammate) can identify key details to master based on their favorite go-to moves.

Not only can you improve the rate at which you succeed when executing individual techniques by mastering micro jiu jitsu it can also be the foundation to building your own grappling “system”. I often see people who prefer the cross-collar choke from the guard, knee on belly to kimura from side control, and the armbar from mount. If you like the cross-collar choke from guard, why not also make that your go to move from mount and maybe consider knee on belly to baseball bat choke (similar to a cross collar choke) from side control. You can also use the cross-collar grip from standing for throws or takedowns. That way, you get a little better at one thing (getting that grip and getting it right), and your game gets better from almost every position.

This, to me, is the essence of training “smart”. There’s no way one person can master every technique there is in jiu jitsu…. why not work on the ones that have some basic fundamentals in common and master those fundamentals?

Train hard. Train Smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

More articles by Joe Thomas here

Epi 193 How to Evaluate Your BJJ Game for Better Results

Take a proactive step and evaluate your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game. This can pay off huge in performance and enjoyment. Many people stress working hard and smart. Evaluating your game is a smart move toward future success. After all working really hard on all the wrong things is not an effective use of your blood, sweat, and tears.

We talk about:

  • The difference in being evaluated by your coach and yourself
  • Why evaluate your game
  • Finding your strengths
  • Finding your weaknesses
  • Are your favorite moves actually good for your game?
  • Setting the right goals
  • The dangers of comparing yourself to your teammates
  • A good way to compare yourself to your teammates
  • Evaluate why are you getting injured
  • Is your game deep and narrow or wide and shallow
  • The value of elevating your game

Quote of the week: “Just for today” series of quotes

Article of the week: HOW TO MAKE A SEMINAR RAPIDLY IMPROVE YOUR BJJ

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