The Value of All Your Teammates

One of my favorite quotes (it’s actually from an ancient text) is: Iron Sharpens Iron. Those tough battles with your favorite training partners make you a better fighter.

But a leather strap will also sharpen iron. A stone wheel will also sharpen iron. The reality is, many things can sharpen an ax.

Value your lower ranked and less experienced training partners. They too, can sharpen your game.

If you’re an experienced grappler and you’re not getting better when you roll with less experienced people…that’s on you.

Just like you have to learn how to use a leather strap to sharpen an ax; you have to learn how to roll with less experienced training partners so that both their game, and yours, improves.

Joe

How to put your rabbits in a pen

If you’ve stopped by the BJJBrick Facebook page you may know I like to post an inspirational quote a couple times a week. I usually leave a few lines sharing how the quote relates to jiu jitsu from my perspective. Recently I posted the following ancient proverb: “If you chase two rabbits you will catch neither”. I was busy so I didn’t elaborate. Immediately one of our listeners responded “I don’t think this relates to jiu jitsu at all”.

     I don’t think we had a difference of opinion, we were just looking the quote through different lenses. I was considering the technique of the month club students who are always chasing the latest technique that went viral on youtube and has no focus to their training. Our friend was considering grapplers who chase only one move at a time as opposed to creating options. He summed up his thoughts this way “the easiest way to catch a rabbit would be to put 3-4 in a small pen and then go for the easiest one”. When trying to escape one of those rabbits will be slower or make a mistake or freeze and bam there’s the one you catch.

     As it relates to jiu jitsu: what does it actually look like to put 3 or 4 rabbits in a small pen and see which ones easiest to catch? I could start a match on my feet with the idea that “I’m going to take him down and pass guard, or I’m going to pull and submit from closed guard, or I’m going to throw a flying arm bar up”. Those three options might represent “three rabbits”, but that’s not a very small pen. If I pull, secure closed guard, and then look at three options from that position, that’s better. But even from closed guard it’s a pretty big pen. But what if, from closed guard, I sit up and connect to my opponent with my left arm over his left shoulder isolating and dominating his left arm for a kimura set up? Now, I’ve got the kimura available as well as the sit-up/hip bump sweep and a left-handed guillotine. How he reacts will determine which one of those “rabbits” is easiest to catch.

     In conclusion: Thanks Chris. This is a great concept for all grapplers to spend some time thinking about. Having multiple attacks from a single position where you are not required to change a lot of things makes it easy to seamlessly transition from one of those attacks to another. Do this enough and you will eventually get a step ahead succeed with one of those attacks.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better. Happy hunting.

Joe

Ring Bell For Service

In my line of work, I am in and out of businesses configured in the following way: A long and narrow building with offices and reception area taking up a small portion of the square footage at one end of the building with the rest of the building being shop/warehouse space. When you walk into the reception area you can see that there is at least one door that leads to the shop with a sign that says, “employees only”.

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Imagine, if you will, that you walk in and find no one up front as often the front desk employees are also responsible for shipping and receiving, inventory, or some other function in back. How do you create an opportunity for you to conclude your business? Maybe you try to call the business on your cell phone hopping it rings in the back, but you just hear a phone start ringing behind the desk. Maybe you poke your head through the door that says employees only, but you can’t see anybody. Maybe you look for a security camera to wave at…. maybe jump around and holler a bit. Then you see it…. A big sign with a big arrow pointing to button on the wall and the sign says, “ring bell for service”. So, you push the button and you can hear a load bell ringing back in the shop. In seconds multiple people show up to see what the can do for you. You could have pulled any number of shenanigans that would have gotten nowhere, but pushing that button and ringing that bell? That made things happen.

There are many positions in jiu jitsu where a fundamentally sound opponent will give you little to no opportunity to mount offense or to improve your position. What do you do when that happens? You gotta ring that bell. You can spaz out all you want under someone’s mount and make no progress, but once you learn how to do a proper bridge and start to develop a sense of timing you are able to make your opponent do things that will create opportunities for you…just like ringing a bell.

Once you learn how to make your opponent post (either with a hand or foot) or make them reach or expose a limb you can launch an attack or execute an escape. So next time you find yourself “stuck”, take a minute to analyze the situation and find the right button to ring the bell.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better

Joe

Disorder and Chaos

Byron asked me to do the impossible and write a Jiu Jitsu article on this picture. He thought it would be funny to watch me struggle. I will not struggle because I will use the skills that I have acquired from Jiu Jitsu to write this article. Skills such as patience, problem solving, and perseverance are learned in Jiu Jitsu. These skills will not only help you on the mat but off the mat as well.

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Confusion can be defined as disorder, upheaval, chaos or lack of clearness or distinctness. In BJJ, we are trying to control and submit an unwilling or resisting opponent. This is not an easy task unless you outweigh your opponent by a 150 lbs. and have the strength of a wounded cougar. In order to submit your skilled and resisting opponent, you need to lead this person down a path that is undesirable for them. You want to lead them into disorder and chaos. You want to put your opponent in position where you can take advantage of them. Think of a takedown, you may post or push your opponent’s head to get him to move his hand up. As you opponent moves his hand up, this leaves a space for you to attack his legs. You change levels and shoot in for the takedown. You get the takedown. Whoever wrote that sign is trying to confuse the customer seeking service. We will combat this confusion with good old common sense.

Common sense is defined as sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training or the like. You can clearly look at the scenario and realize that there is not a bell where the arrow is pointing. Using a little common sense, you can see there is no bell anywhere. There is a button that probably will send a signal to the person working the front desk that a customer needs service. We also need to use common sense in Jiu Jitsu. Remember we talked about how our opponent is trying to take us down a dark path where he will seek to gain an advantage. Use your common sense to combat it. An example is your opponent has side control and is putting tremendous pressure into you and turning your head away. He also has an under hook. Suddenly, he releases the pressure. He is trying to make you react to his advantage. He wants you to turn into him quickly to relieve the pressure. When you turn into him, he will scoop you up with the underhook, move north south and apply a Kimura. Remember, if it is too easy for you to escape, it is probably for a reason and that reason is a submission or better position by your opponent.

I also think about the basics when I see this sign. In Jiu Jitsu I hear all the time that the basics are the building blocks of Jiu Jitsu. You need that strong foundation to really excel and grown in this sport. People will try to cheat the basics and while it may lead to more submissions in the short run, it will hinder your BJJ development in the long run. Leglocks can be a good example of forgetting the basics. I see many people wanting to learn leg locks from day one without even knowing how to pass a guard. This will hinder your development in the long run. This sign shows me this business forgot about the basics. Instead of having a smiling human greet you, you get an incorrect sign that is very impersonal. I would not want to do business with a company whose basics are lacking. I tried to buy a new cell phone 2 days ago. I could not complete the purchase on that day due to time constraints. The salesman asked me to make an appointment to meet with him the next day. We agreed to meet at 11am the next day. I show up at 11 and he was nowhere to be found. Two other employees were helping other customers and 2 other people besides me were waiting for service. I waited until 11:30 before I left. I was never greeted and the sales person who I made an 11am appointment with never showed up. I will take my business elsewhere.

Life is going to throw confusion, chaos and disorder at us. Life will take us down some crazy paths that may not be ideal. We can use our skills that we have learned in Jiu Jitsu to combat these situations. Commons sense, problem solving, patience and perseverance are just a few things that we will learn on the mat that will help us combat this disorder. As Joe Thomas would say(he is a real friend not like Byron), Train Hard, Train Smart, Get Better my friend.
-Gary

The Optimal State of Arousal

We all know about that one athlete who has the crazy superstition or pre-game ritual. You know, the one that won’t wash their game socks all season, or the one that has to have sauerkraut and hot dogs before every game, or the one who has to run to the center of the field and touch the team logo before every home game. Are these just crazy superstitions and rituals…. or are they something more?

Let’s consider the above paragraph while being reminded of who Ivan Pavlov was and what he contributed to science and psychology. Ivan Pavlov was a scientist who did the bulk of his work in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s winning the Nobel prize in 1904. Ivan Pavlov is probably best known for his work in classical conditioning and in particular a series of experiments he did with dogs. The dogs were conditioned to expect that food was imminently forthcoming with the ringing of the bell. Eventually the dogs would have the normal physical responses to eating (like producing extra saliva) as soon as the bell rang as opposed to shortly after beginning to eat.

As a way of dragging this onto the mats let’s look at one more idea: the optimal state of arousal. This theory as it relates to athletes says that different athletes engaging in different activities will benefit from specific levels of arousal. When speaking of arousal, we are speaking about adrenaline levels, heart rate, intensity of mental focus, etc. If we use American football as an example; a linebacker would most likely benefit more from a higher state of arousal than a quarterback. If a quarterback comes in and he’s too “pumped up” he’ll be jittery in the pocket and inaccurate with his throws. It’s extremely important that he comes into the game in the right state of mind. Every athlete is an individual and the optimal state for one will be different than for another. It’s up to the athlete to find the right state for him or her….and this is where we get back to rituals and superstitions, it’s up to the athlete to find a way to put themselves in the optimal  state of mind.

So, back to those crazy superstitions and rituals that some athletes have: they may not be simply eccentric quirks, maybe they’re part of the process an athlete uses to tell his mind and body that it’s time to perform. When a baseball player goes to bat you will notice his routine – tap the right toe, tap the left toe, adjust each batting glove, take a practice swing, step into the box, and tap on the plate twice….and every time it’s the same self-talk “relax, follow through, and put the ball in play”, or something like that. For each batter it will pretty much be the same every time.

For those of you reading this who compete regularly: How consistent is your “pre-fight” routine? Do you have a standard warm-up that you use? How’s your self-talk before the match? Do you have a ritual/routine for stepping on the mat and beginning the match? Incorporating this into your routine won’t make you a champion overnight, but we’ve all had matches where we just didn’t “have it” and our opponent scored the first points and we never caught up. We’ve also had matches where we were so hyped going into the match and the gas tank was empty 3 minutes in. Wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate these two possibilities? Try incorporating some of these ideas and see if it helps.

 

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

 

More on the optimal state of arousal; grapplearts….the optimal state of arousal

For more information about Classical Conditioning; simply psychology

Byrons ideas about the optimal state of arousal; meet-an-inmate

New Info on the Gi vs No-gi Training Debate

As a student you should be training both gi and no-gi, as a gym owner you should be encouraging students to train both. We can forget about the technical reason to train both. Although I do believe the technical arguments for training both gi and no-gi are strong. I have data from the BJJ training app Marune, and this data reveals some amazing information about students that train both gi and no-gi.

Students that train both gi and no-gi train longer per average session and roll longer per average session. The comparisons draw a stark difference in training time.

This pie graph above shows a break down of the people that are using the Marune app. Most people (using the app) train just with the gi 54.55%. Only 10.52% are exclusively training no-gi. 34.93% of people train both gi and no-gi. These are not people that claim to train one or the other they are actually logging their mat time and choosing gi or no-gi. Someone that has never logged a no-gi session simply gets put in the gi category. If someone has done both they are categorized as gi and no-gi.

Statistically people who only train “no-gi only” spend less time on the mat per training session. People who train both are training about 14 minutes longer than the people training only gi, and almost 27 minutes longer than the strictly no-gi crowd.

Training time discrepancies are shocking, but BIG difference is time rolling. People that train gi and no-gi roll much more time than the people that only train one sport. People training both roll almost 9 minutes more that people training only gi, and 15 minutes more than people training only no-gi.

Why?????

I don’t know but here are some ideas.

  1. It could be that people training both have found a greater passion for training and rolling and get more mat time every time they walk in the door of the gym.
  2. Perhaps the data is affected by shorter classes and gyms that only teach one type of training. It could be that on average a gym that has both gi and no-gi has longer classes.
  3. The times could be effected by the students ability to train and push themselves. If your gym has 2 gi classes a week and 2 no-gi classes a week and you only train on the no-gi days you are probably not in as good as shape as someone training all the classes. This would result in you rolling less at the end of class.
  4. Open mat sessions could be attended predominantly by people that roll both, and this would push the data in their favor.

What to do about this data?

  • If you are a student that only trains one, try training both. You may find yourself training more per training session. You are likely trying to balance a busy schedule with jiu-jitsu. Train when you can regardless of the grappling clothing materials (try not to skip training because it is no-gi night and you like gi).
  • If you are an instructor you should encourage students to train both. It is no secret that students that train more have an accelerated learning rate. Talk about the benefits of training in the other classes and continue to invite them to try the other side of grappling.

Here is a video talk about this data.

Check out the Marune app here

The best defense is….

A GOOD OFFENSE…….

The best defense is a good offense. This is an old adage in sports and is true much of the time on the mats. Let’s look at a few examples of when this is definitely true and at least one time when this might not be the best philosophy.

This is true when you are in a dominant position. In fact you might say, launching a good offense in this scenario can keep you from having to play defense at all. Once you’ve secured a dominant position you need to be active, either looking to advance position or secure a submission. If you are idle it will give your opponent a chance to formulate a game plan, get their frames and grips set up, and execute an escape. On the other hand if you are relentlessly attacking they will be unable to do anything more than defend against your offense.

This is also a good plan in scrambles. While it’s true that coming out of a scramble in the most dominant position possible should be your first goal, an offensive grappler who is always looking to win by submission will find many opportunities in the chaos of scrambles. If you are looking, you can find an arm extended or a neck exposed. If you are always looking for the win by submission you will sometimes see an opportunity to start setting up a choke as you are passing guard or taking your opponents back. You will be finishing the submission before they have a chance to even start setting up their escape or defense.

The best defense is a good offense is often not true when you are in an inferior position. There are always exceptions and some people have a degree of success hitting submissions from unconventional positions. But generally speaking when you are in a position such as bottom mount, bottom side control, or your opponent has your back; your priorities should be defending and escaping. Trying anything other than fundamentally sound escapes from these positions often lead to easy counters from your opponent. Maybe the most classic example is trying to choke your opponent from within his closed guard which almost always leads to being armbarred.

In conclusion: it is almost always the best strategy on the mats to be active and relentlessly attacking. But be aware, sometimes you must defend and advance before launching your offense.

Joe

Welcome to Jiu-Jitsu :)

Awkward is never how I like to feel.  I can remember 15 years ago when I interviewed for my first position with my current employer.  I was feeling confident when I pulled up to the building.  As I entered the building, I was not prepared for the feeling of awkwardness.  I did not know where the receptionist desk was located, and no one would make eye contact with me.  Finally, after what felt like an eternity (mostly likely was 5 seconds) a smiling face greeted me and asked if I was here for the interview.  She walked me to the elevator and even pulled some lint off my suit coat.  She was a big reason I got hired a few days later.  She made me feel comfortable and confident going into my interview.  If she was not working that day, I may have never received the job offer.  I would have gone into my interview feeling awkward and it would have showed during my interview.

This reminds me of what I have seen in Jiu Jitsu.  A prospective student enters a school and would like some information about the classes.  I have seen instances where no one will even acknowledge the prospective student.  This person will feel unwelcome, will not join the school and may never join the Jiu Jitsu revolution.  I have talked to people about this situation and the one thing I hear is the owner or instructor did not do a good job of welcoming the new student.

I would pose the question is it only the instructor or owners job to welcome new students and grow your gym?  I do not think so.  I feel that students of the gym should also be taking a proactive approach to welcome everyone into the gym.  Jiu Jitsu is a team sport and to grow our gym requires a team effort.  Notice how I said “our” gym.  When we join a Jiu Jitsu gym, we should be joining a team, a family, a collective group of individuals that all are striving for the same ends results.  We want to learn and get better at Jiu Jitsu. By having a growing and progressive gym, we will have more opportunities to learn in terms of number of classes and training partners.

So next time you see a new student walk into the gym, why not be the first person to extend a handshake, offer a smile and say welcome to the gym, my name is Gary, what is yours?

Gary

Never Underestimate the Value of The Comfort Zone

It’s often said, “growth takes place outside of your comfort zone”. While that is true, the implication is often that outside your comfort zone is the only place growth happens, and that’s not true at all.

Studies indicate that children do better in school when they come from a stable home, grow up primarily in the same community (as opposed to moving around), have an extended family network, live in a community with a low crime rate, etc. In other words, they flourish where they feel comfortable or safe, e.g. their comfort zones. People who work for companies that are stable and well managed with decent compensation that show appreciation to their employees and offer opportunity for advancement are generally happy and productive at work. Why? In part, because they are working from their comfort zone. Do children and adults also experience growth when the step out of their comfort zones? I think the answer certainly is yes, but in order to step out of their comfort zones, they must have a comfort zone to begin with.

I am proposing that jiu jitsu is probably not unlike other areas in life and that we benefit from having a comfort zone and operating a good deal of the time from there. Finding a home gym where you are comfortable and cultivating a good relationship with your teammates, then developing your “A” game, are a few crucial components to creating your comfort zone. A comfort zone in jiu jitsu would be one where you feel comfortable trying new things and failing. In your comfort zone you can expose your weaknesses and work on solving problems.

Even when you challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone you can do it from within your comfort zone or take your comfort zone with you. Whoa…. Let me try to make sense of that. If you’ve been doing jiu jitsu for a while and have decided, it’s time to step outside your comfort zone and enter a competition you could just sign up for the next competition whether anyone from your team was going or not. It would make more sense though, to sign up for a competition that your school was going to as a team. You would be exposing your self to the rigors of competition intensity training while training with your teammates, you would be going through the weigh in process and finding your brackets and the correct mat with your teammates, you would have your coach or another teammate in your corner, you would have your team with you to support you if you lose and celebrate with you if you win, etc. etc. If you’re going to re-invent your game and try some things that are completely new, wouldn’t it be easier to do that with your favorite teammates in an environment where there was no pressure to be “winning” rounds?

In closing, I wouldn’t suggest that you take the one or the other approach, but that you would seek a healthy balance of both. Cultivate a great training environment that would be your comfort zone and then stretch the limits as needed and as appropriate.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe

The Brotherhood Extends Beyond the Mats

Much is made of the comradery between teammates and the relationships developed on the mats. Have you ever wondered why relationships run deep and the level of trust between training partners is so high?

I would suggest that there are two main reasons:

1) As it relates to jiu jitsu, the truth is always revealed on the mats. If you talk a big game and exaggerate your skill level, you will be exposed as a fraud very quickly. Being completely honest and transparent in one aspect of your life leads to being honest and transparent in other areas so teammates get to know the real you fairly quickly.

2) You are literally putting your physical well-being in the hands of your teammates and they are doing the same with you. When you’ve trusted someone not to break your arm when they’ve had the chance it’s pretty easy to trust them with less crucial things.

I recently was able to benefit from this brotherhood when I needed the old siding on my house removed and replaced with new. One of my training partners Javier San Miguel runs a roofing/home repair company, San Miguel Roofing. San Miguel Roofing is located in Clute Texas which is due south of Houston. I just got done doing some interior work and had a horrible experience with the contractor so for the exterior work I was definitely looking for someone I could trust. My wife cautioned me about hiring a friend out of concern that if things went sideways the friendship would be ruined. I told her I felt I knew Javier pretty well and had good reason to trust him (see paragraph A)

We couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Either Javier, or his father Jose who helps manage the business, was at the job site every day to ensure the work was being done correctly and getting completed on time. I would summarize the outcome this way: Quality work done by professional craftsmen.

Not only has this relationship benefited me, but it has benefited Javier as well in that it was additional work for his business. If you have a teammate who owns, operates, or manages a local business consider giving them your business before you hire someone else. Jiu Jitsu is a community both on and off the mats, and as such, when we have the opportunity to support and/or help one another we should do so.

If you are a BJJ Brick listener and happen to be in the Houston or Brazoria County area and know someone who may be looking for home roofing or home remodel services Javier can be contacted here — San Miguel Roofing or Facebook – San Miguel Roofing

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe