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.

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Jiu-Jitsu Bricks by Micah Caputo

When I first got the news that I was cancer free, I thought, “I just beat cancer. I’m a badass.” I strutted around for a bit. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get back to Jiu-Jitsu. Then reality kicked in. I realized that I hadn’t really done anything. In fact all I had done was to make it to my doctor’s appointments on time. That is when it clicked. Through doing my research I had discovered that 50 years ago my cancer was untreatable and would have most likely killed me. I should have known from the start. It wasn’t me that beat cancer. It was the doctors, the schools they went to, the research they had done and the technology they had developed over the last 50 years. It was the government grants that had supported that research and the society that had enabled all of this to take place. Realizing this was a humbling experience. There was nothing innate in me that was just better than everybody else. It was just that I went to the right people at the right time.

Pretty soon I tied this experience into my Jiu-Jitsu experience. How many matches had I been so proud to win at tournaments that were really just the result of me having gone to the right people at the right time? The answer was pretty much all of them. From the strength and conditioning I did with my team mates to the positions I drilled with them. From the submissions my coach taught me to the atmosphere of training he created in the gym. From the training partner who choked me so many times that I couldn’t possibly be choked that way again to the wrestling coach that taught me not only how to wrestle but also how to come into a match mentally prepared. These were the bricks that built my BJJ foundation. I couldn’t build a strong foundation on my own. Every person I trained with added another brick. Bricks can come from almost anywhere. When I had cancer every doctor I saw added some more bricks to help me beat cancer, but on the tough days Jiu-Jitsu gave me the mental brick that allowed me to get through it and get back on the mat.

Micah Caputo has written for and GracieMag. To check out some of his more recent articles go to You can contact him at

Jon “Macarrao” Thomas Seminar Review

Jon “Macarrao” Thomas is a feather weight brown belt from Alliance.  He was 2007 Pan Am blue belt champion, 2009 Pan and Worlds purple belt champion, and 2011 Pan and World brown belt champion.  He closed out the divisions with his teammate Michel Langhi in 2009 and 2011. He gave a BJJ seminar at Fox Fitness November 10, 2012.

Jon came to the open mat before the seminar started.  This was a great opportunity for anyone to roll with him; he is very down to earth and glad to roll with whoever asked.  I was happy to take the opportunity to roll with him and have my game systematically taken apart.

He started the seminar with a short introduction.  After that he told us some of his core BJJ philosophies, and then explained what the seminar was going to be about.

The first half of the seminar he covered re-positioning and how it is a big part of his BJJ.  He stressed getting out of bad spots quickly before the referee even awards points to your opponent.  He had a lot of awesome details on escaping side control and getting your guard back.  The small details he demonstrated have already improved my escapes.

The second half of the seminar Jon focused on spider guard.  Again he showed his favorite techniques, and explained his thoughts on using the spider guard in tournaments.  I really enjoyed his thoughts and details on the omoplata.  I was in the belief that the omoplata was more of a sweep, if done on a competitive opponent.  That is not the case for me any more, I am confident that I will be using the omoplata as a finishing move a lot more often.

Jon finished the seminar with some great advice.  He had some really good thoughts about training hard vs. training smart.  He also talked about isolating positions and positional sparing.  He was happy to share his tips for competing at your best level, and fixing your weaknesses.  Jon also gave us an opportunity to ask him anything.  I really feel that he did not hold back anything and he showed us what has made him successful.

Jon Thomas gives a great seminar!  I am a brown belt and my main training partner for the seminar was a white belt.  We both learned a lot from the seminar.  He not only showed many game changing techniques, but he also explained it in a way that everyone could understand.  His thoughts on re-positioning, and his advice on training smart are the things that really stood out to me the most.  If you get a chance to train with him or go to one of his seminars, I highly recommend it.  I am looking forward to training with him again.

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BJJ Awkward Moment

That awkward moment when you are rolling and you are trying to do what your coach is saying.  Then you realize that he is coaching someone else.

We have all experienced this at some point, usually as beginners.  You are trying your best to use technique and do what your coach says and he is just giving really odd advice.  It is also funny when you are rolling with someone who is experiencing this.  They will start to something totally odd just because that’s what the coach is saying.  Usually it is best to pause and let them know that the advice is being targeted to someone else.

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A tip for people new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

For students new to BJJ, I recommend learning two moves from each position.  This will accelerate your learning curve.  Focus on two submissions from each dominant position, and two escapes from bad positions.  This will guarantee that you will have something to work on no matter what position you are in.  Don’t fall into the trap of learning too many moves from one position and being weak in others.  It is better to just have a couple moves that you are really good at.

What moves should you focus on?  You should be focusing on basic moves. You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run, if you try to run before you are ready you might find it hard to breathe.  If you get your basics down solid from the beginning you will always be working from a strong foundation.  It will be helpful if you pick two moves that work well together.  Ask the more experienced grapplers what two moves would work best for you (If you are having difficulty picking two moves email me and I will be happy to help put “two moves from each position” in the subject line).

Why does this help me learn?  Once you pick your techniques you will have something to work on with focus in each position.  You will do much better if you have specific moves to try, rather than just doing what ever pops into your head.  Focusing your training will give you clear results.

An example- You start from standing and you are looking for an opportunity for either your double leg or your arm drag. After getting the double leg, you start working your two passes.  You switch back and forth a few times from the two passes but eventually you pass to side control.  From side control, you start to work on his shoulder but your opponent is defending it so you try the armbar.  He escapes and ends up in your guard.  You try to do a hip bump sweep but he defends it and you lockup a tight guillotine.

BJJ has a ton of positions!  That is true, BJJ has a lot of positions.  You are not going to learn two positions from each of the many different guards, or each different type of side control quite yet.  Just focus on the basic positions.

This is what I recommend what you focus on- Feel free to print this PDF and write down what you are working on.  Focus on learning two moves from each-  Takedowns, Guard passes, Techniques from guard, Subs from side control, Subs from mount, Subs from back, Escapes from side control, Escapes from mount, Escapes from back.

Once you end up in one of the positions take a moment to remember what you need to be working on and then get to work.  You will be effectively drilling while rolling.

Other articles you might like:

One Handed Drill to Improve Your Open Guard

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

19 general rules to go by for training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

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


Starting from your knees can be good and bad.


The good– Starting from your knees can make training safer.  Many people get injured during takedowns.  You could get thrown hard, land wrong, or land on someone else.  Takedowns in a crowded room are dangerous.  Starting on your knees avoids this danger.  It is hard to get thrown or get hurt during a takedown if you are already on the ground.  Avoiding injuries is the main benefit to starting on your knees.

The bad– BJJ is plagued with people with poor takedowns.  Many students spend countless hours practicing BJJ, only to avoid rolling with takedowns.  Students know that you can learn a move but you need to be able to perform the move on a live opponent before it is one of your good moves.  If you avoid doing takedowns during rolling your takedowns will suffer.  We have all seen professional MMA fighters desperately pulling guard and failing to get their opponent to the ground.  This situation is often a result of years of starting from the knees way too often.

Sadly a lot of gi pants end up dying too young.

The worn out gi pants– Many students spend too long fighting from their knees.  When two students spend time and energy battling for position from their knees they are wasting their time and not developing their BJJ game.  You are very unlikely to find yourself in a competition with both competitors on their knees.  If this happens to you, stand up or pull guard, and get the match started.  I recommend standing up; this competitor has likely neglected the takedown game and they might give you two easy takedown points.  Don’t spend your time trying to learn neat submissions that are designed for two kneeling competitors.

There is a time and a place for starting on your knees, but don’t overlook the importance of takedowns.  Don’t forget there are other ways to start.  You could start with someone on mount or on the back.  Starting from any position is a great way to avoid injuries from takedowns, and can make rolling even more interesting.


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