BJJ Seminars…. get the most out of them

Attending seminars is a great way to get instruction on specific aspects of the game from athletes and experts who have mastered (or in some cases revolutionized) that specific aspect. It’s also a great opportunity to meet some of the best athletes in our sport, and meet other athletes that are passionate about jiu-jitsu. However, with prices ranging between $40 and $100, you can be left wondering if it’s worth the expense. Here are a few ideas that may help you feel like you’re getting your monies worth.

Do some homework and prep. If you’ve read any of my other musing on jiu-jitsu you’ll know that preparation is a common theme. You will usually have an idea of what’s being covered in the seminar before you go. Get familiar with the basics beforehand. Example: Are you going to a seminar that’s been advertised as featuring submissions set up from spider guard? Make sure you are proficient with the various grips and foot placements utilized from that position. Get comfortable transiting between the various options for grips and foot placement. This will make it much easier to focus on the finer details of the submissions being taught. You can also find out easily what kind of culture follows a particular instructor — which may influence your decision to attend or not attend a particular seminar.

Have reasonable expectations. If your instructor (who I’m sure is a qualified and proficient instructor) cannot revolutionize your game in a two-hour class 2-3 times a week, don’t expect that a slightly better jiu jitsu instructor can do it in a three-hour seminar. If you are attending the seminar to get one on one instruction and coaching from one of the giants of our art…. keep in mind that 100 other people are doing the same. If you can get a few personal tips and maybe a picture with the instructor….be happy with that.

Take notes. 10 minutes after the seminar you will probably not have enough time or be in the right frame of mind to make detailed notes and two days later you will probably have forgotten many details. I would suggest taking notes in two parts. Scribble down as much as you can as the seminar progresses, or as soon as it’s over. Within the next day or two, take those scribbled down notes and re-write them with as many details as you can recall. Another way to capture your immediate thoughts would be to use your voice recorder on your phone and just talk through the seminar on your way home.

Shoot some video if it’s OK with the person running the seminar. Make sure and ask before you shoot video or take pictures. Many jiu jitsu practitioners make their living selling instructional content and don’t want to take the risk of uncontrolled material turning up on the internet. While it’s unlikely that most instructors will let you simple record the entire seminar, some instructors will be open to letting you record portions. Often there’s an “open mat” portion of the seminar and if nothing else you can have someone record you drilling the technique that was taught.

Review and rep the material as soon as possible after the seminar. There are many ways to do this. If you have mat space at home—invite a friend over the next day to share with them what you learned. No mat space at home? Try to get to class early within the next few days and show a friend before class. Even better: if you’re qualified and your instructor is OK with it, ask if you can show the class what you learned. Teaching others is the one of the best ways to really internalize knowledge gained. In conclusion: How much you benefit from attending a seminar, just like any other training opportunity, will depend largely on what you put into it. If I had to condense my thoughts down to as few words as possible to express my ideas about getting the most out of a training opportunity (a seminar, private lesson, camp, etc.), I would say preparation, executions, and follow through.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Positional Sparring: Getting the most out of it

Drilling is a great way to practice new moves and memorize the sequence of movements necessary to complete a technique. However, it can lack the element of “aliveness” necessary to prepare you for executing techniques in a real-life scenario. Whether it be a competition or an actual altercation you will need to be prepared for a much more chaotic environment. Free rolling, or live sparring, most closely resembles real-life scenarios, but the jump from drilling to free rolling can leave a gap—this is where positional sparring can be very helpful.

I’m sure most people reading this are familiar with positional sparring, but just in case there is someone new to jiu jitsu who is not: Positional sparring most commonly starts with two teammates in a static starting position like full guard. The student on top is challenged to pass the guard while the student on bottom is challenged to sweep or submit. Once one student accomplishes their goal they reset back to the starting position.

Here are a few suggestions, based on my own experience that may help you get more out of positional sparring. Keep in mind that these suggestions are in the context of learning and refining technique. There may be other reasons for positional sparring and other strategies may be more suited at those times.

Try the technique that was taught in class. Often positional sparring follows the technique portion of class and will be from the same position. It will be hard to hit the technique (after all your training partner just saw it as well) but the best time to work on a technique is when the instruction is fresh in your mind.

Focus on accomplishing your goal more than preventing the other student from accomplishing theirs. Sure, you’re more likely to be swept when attempting a pass, but that’s how flaws in your technique are revealed. If you’re training with a better grappler you will probably get passed when you open your guard—embrace it, that is the best way to see the flaws in your game.

Always be making progress towards your goals. If your training partner is passing your guard and you catch their foot in “1/4 guard” you may be able to hold them there preventing them from completing the pass—but is this the point of the exercise? Maybe it is if you’re preparing for a tournament—maybe you’ll find yourself there in a match and preventing the pass could mean the win, but you can literally spend most of a positional sparring round stuck in this position. For me, I’d rather concede the pass and re-set so I can work on my game.

Don’t automatically default to your comfort zone. If the positional sparring starting position is butterfly guard — transitioning to x-guard to a sweep, is probably a legitimate strategy. But if x-guard is part of your “A” game and you already have consistent method of getting there from butterfly guard then you are missing out on one of the main benefits of positional sparring which is to become proficient from all positions. Take advantage of this positional sparring session to work on traditional butterfly guard sweeps, arm drag to back take, or something else you can add to your game.

If your school does not include positional sparring as a regular part of class give it try on your own time. You may find it helpful. You may also find positional sparring to be a safe way to train if you are nursing a minor injury—pick a position you feel safe in and work from there.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

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 38 Nick Albin- He May Not Be A Jedi, But He Is Chewy

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesand Stitcher radioKick Albin Chewy

This week we talk to Nick Albin otherwise known as “Chewy”. He teaches and trains BJJ full time and is the head instructor at Derby City Mixed Martial Arts in Louisville, KY. Chewy is a Black Belt under Renato Tavares. He also has a website with lots of great information about BJJ here http://chewjitsu.net/ 

We talk about

  • How your teammates help you shape your game
  • Training with Renato Tavares
  • The idea that you always need to be learning in BJJ
  • Adding new techniques to your game
  • Chewy’s style of BJJ, he moves a lot and pushes the pace
  • How his wrestling effects his BJJ
  • Competing as a wrestler and advantages for BJJ
  • His BJJ Blog chewjitsu.net
  • How he got the name Chewy
  • An article he wrote about chasing the next belt rank
  • Managing expectations at each belt level
  • How shorter time limits could effect grappling matches
  • Using competition video for training
  • Training with injuries
  • Advice for people competing for the first time
  • What he was like as a blue belt
  • Developing your own game plan for BJJ

Quote of the week: “Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” William Faulkner

Article of the week: 10 Reasons you’re still a white belt

Links:

Check out our sponsor Fujisports.com

You Should be A Student, Warrior, and Martial Artist

Martial art philosophy

Everyone has different goals in BJJ or any martial art.  From the fierce competitor to the casual student, everyone wants to get better.  Knowing when and why to be a student, warrior, or martial artist will help you meet your goals.  Being in the correct mindset during class will help you develop at an increased rate.

Student mode– If you are more than a couple of months away from competing you might consider thinking of yourself as more of a student.  When you are a student you are trying new things.  You will not be focusing on your battle tested techniques.  For example: if you are normally a top player, you might decide to pull guard.  This will put you out of your comfort zone.  You will not be as effective during rolling if you are in student mode, but your learning will be at an accelerated rate.  You may not end up completely changing your style, but it will at least help you understand techniques and positions that you don’t normally try.  This is a great time for growth and development.

Warrior mode When you are a month or two away from competing you should be in warrior mode.  You need to tighten up your game; you are doing and drilling the moves you do best. You are working on a game plan and sticking to it; this is not the time to be playing around with some new trick you found online.  When you are in warrior mode and you are rolling, your partners will know what you are trying to do, and you will still be hard to stop.  For example: If your game plan is to get top position, pass and then choke – that is what you should be doing.  Don’t pull guard just because you are too tired to fight for position.  If you end up on the bottom work your “back up plan” or work to get back to your primary game plan.  Don’t get caught playing around with moves you are not good at.  Even if you do not compete you should occasionally put yourself in warrior mode, this will help you develop core techniques.

Martial Artist mode– Find balance in both student and warrior modes.  If you are in student mode all the time you may fail to develop solid moves that you can rely on when you need them.  If you only work from warrior mode you will slow your ability to learn and understand other parts of Jiu-jitsu.  Decide what mode you should be in and put yourself to work. By doing both, you will accelerate your ability and knowledge.

Other articles you might like:

Take the Staff- A short story with a life lesson

One Handed Drill to Improve Your Open Guard

Starting from your knees- The good, the bad, and the worn out gi pants

 

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