How BJJ Helped Me With Officiating Football

Okay so there have been a couple podcasts talking about and asking about how other sports and BJJ interact. Joe Thomas talked about his fishing experiences, and brought up articles of different activities and their interaction; Gary Hull related a lot to basketball as a player and coach; and Byron Jabara … well… I am surprised how little he knows about sports LOL!

Anyway, I have been officiating youth and high school football for 20-plus years, and part of being an official is being calm under pressure. How in the world does football officiating help me in my BJJ journey? I believe that attribute helped me in my BJJ journey because one of the minute, but important aspects of BJJ I quickly learned, and am STILL learning is how you have to breathe and be calm in uncomfortable situations, and as a white belt, I am in a LOT of uncomfortable situations. To the outsider, this may not mean a whole lot, but when I was placed under the pressure of side control, knee on belly, americana, and various chokes, I quickly learned what pressure is, and no doubt, I panicked at times. However, my years of officiating under pressure kicked in, and while I still had anxiety and panic, I found myself not freaking out, but rather wondering things like, “What the hell?”, “How did he do that?”, “OMG, that is brutal pressure!”, and several more things. The point is, is that I was actually thinking of how to combat the moves, whether I used proper BJJ techniques or not… mostly, I did not use proper technique, and also learned that I better keep my arms close to me, and my elbows closer! Remaining calm enabled me to rationalize the experience the anxiety as a learning experience, rather than frustration, anger, or hopelessness. Not only is important in the short term, as I get smashed in a class or two, but also over the long term, over the span of a week, month, a few months, and more. Note that I have only been practicing BJJ for 11 months. There are factors and excuses that would make people quit BJJ,, and the mental aspect of it appears to be a bigger reason that just being physically beat down is.

So has BJJ helped me with my football officiating? Absolutely! Learning to be calm in BJJ has improved my on field demeanor, because on the mats, I learned about different kinds of pressure and anxiety not necessarily experienced on the football field… or I should hope not! I would never want to find the need to place a coach in a D’arce in order to calm him down while explaining why his team was flagged for a foul! Another thing I learned in BJJ that improved my field demeanor is being humble, and that is a reflection of the quality of the professors I learn from. Sure we all learn confidence, but when you couple that with humility, your mind thinks differently, and you end up rationalizing things differently. In BJJ, it seems like if you are placed in a pressure situation, you have to be calm, remember the of ways to combat that pressure, and rationally decide what to do to relieve that pressure. So on the field, I have to think of a number of ways to deal with the pressure , be it a coach, player, parents, fans, and any play that just happened. Basically, the BJJ mindset in this example forces a way of thinking to be 1) calm, 2) to look at a situation from several angles, and 3) to make the best choice possible to deal with that pressure.

So from the football officiating POV, being calm, humble, and rational is very important when dealing with close & controversial situations and making quick decisions (foul or no foul), then dealing with the fallout with players, fans, and especially coaches. The same can be said from the BJJ POV… being calm, humble, and rational is very important when dealing with close & controversial situations and making quick decisions (sweep, grips, choke, counter), then dealing with the reaction of your opponent’s moves and counters.

Lastly, I also credit BJJ getting my legs, cardio, and flexibility at a much higher level than in years past. I don’t think I have to explain the physical part of this part, LOL! But more so the mental part of my game has improved on both my officiating as well as my BJJ fronts.

Gerald Burgos

“Jiujitsu and Vedanta: Four Yogic Paths to Mastery”

There are many approaches regarding the correct or best way to practice Brazilian Jiujitsu. A high-level coach will state that he/she has the best path, while another who went through a different path will say that her/his is the right one. When we step back and analyze their point of view, we will come to the conclusion that they are all correct. In the same vein a Kimura can be called a double-wrist lock, key-lock, or ude-garami, the various approaches all lead to mastery and eventually to becoming a black belt.

Truth is One, sages call it by various names. This is from the Rig Veda, a Hindu text written over 3,000 years ago stating that as long as a path is seeking the truth, it will eventually lead to enlightenment. Yoga established four paths to enlightenment that all lead to the same truth of self-realization: Bhakti (belief), Jnana (knowledge), Karma (work), and Raja (concentration). According to Vedanta any combination of the paths or any one path by itself is enough. I will attempt to show that the different approaches to attaining mastery of this gentle art are all equally correct.

Bhakti Yoga (Belief):

This is the path that emphasizes devotion, trust, and belief. The person in this path enjoys participating in the more formal and traditional aspects of the art and has complete trust in their teacher. They usually bow in and out of the mats, and look forward going to team events and competing. They embody Titiksha, or patient endurance, meaning bad weather and feeling slightly tired will not deter them from getting to class early. Even when injured, they may still attend class and participate by watching and taking notes.  

The student has complete trust in the knowledge of their coach and attempts everything the instructor says. This allows for direct communication and seamless transfer of knowledge from coach to student. They will learn through a tested process everyone in that lineage went through. Benefitting from those who came before and guidance from their coach mastery is attained.

During a tournament, I had just taken my opponent’s back but was getting reset back in the middle of the mat. My coach Tracey Taylor asked me, “what day it is?” I loudly replied that it was “C-Day”. Everyone around us was confused. However, in our gym “C-Day” was the day we practice back attacks. This trust and direct communication allowed me to re-center and eventually win the match.

Jnana Yoga (Knowledge):

This is the path of knowledge and wisdom. Through logic, reason, and experience one discerns between true and untrue and between permanent and temporary. This practitioner enjoys figuring out the minute details of a technique and strategizing. They enjoy figuring out the most effective techniques based on physical attributes and level of experience. They are open to suggestion but will take it with a grain of salt until they can actually implement it while rolling. 

Learning and growth becomes the priority while training. As such, they enjoy rolling with more experienced teammates and welcome starting in disadvantageous position. They will even play “games” only known to them like only using one hand or only finishing with a certain type of submission just to see what will happen. They put a lot of time and energy to fully grasp one technique. This enables them to transfer what works for one technique and apply it to other techniques as well as situations outside the mat. This practitioner gains mastery of the art by thoroughly understanding principles and concepts.

Another coach of mine, Matt Ricehouse, is one of the most analytical and cerebral practitioners I have ever met. He is able to distill complex techniques into simple concepts. He can tell you minute details of grip-fighting, and we go over those as well, but he just mentions “don’t let them touch your face.” If the opponent can touch your face, that means you’re getting punched or they have control of your collar. Prevent this and you are in good position to grip fight.

Karma Yoga (Work): 

This is unselfish action and practice without seeking or expecting any payment or reward. Often volunteering their own time and resources, they gain enjoyment from helping others. They train for the sake of training and put full effort in all aspects of the class, including the warmups. This practitioner is usually considered a great training partner. They are unselfish with their time: when they see a new person, they welcome them and help them get situated; they offer advice to less experienced practitioners; they sometimes volunteer to come early or stay after class to help sweep and mop the mats. All these are done without asking for or desiring any compensation or special privileges.

With this unselfish nature, almost everybody enjoys training with this person. Being turned down for a roll or not having a training partner is rare, allowing for more rolls and reps in the long-run. A rising tide lifts all boats. By unselfishly focusing on the improvement of their team-mates’ game, they gain mastery by indirectly forcing their own game to evolve and improve. 

This unselfish nature is found in most coaches and instructors who have already mastered the art. They share their knowledge to anyone wanting to learn. They help the community by providing their services, by participating in fundraisers, other unselfish acts. There are many stories of coaches influencing someone troubled or on the path to being criminal into someone who became positive role model and a credit to the community. 

This path ring true with our head coach Mike Rogers. He has unselfishly given so much time and resources to those in need. He’s offered free training, a roof over people’s head, and used his connections to help people get jobs or discounted services. 

Raja Yoga (Concentration):

The highest meditative state of Raja Yoga is called Samadhi. This can be compared to the state of Zen or the “flow state”. When the physical body, breath, mind, and consciousness are perfectly aligned, all distinctions between them disappear revealing the person’s true nature. In order to experience this state the mind must be steady and focused. In order to steady the mind, the breath or pranayama must be steady. In order to steady the breath the physical body must be steadied. All who train are on this path. Every class or open mat is an opportunity to practice controlling our physical bodies, our breath, and mind. Pranayama, breath control, may not be formally taught in most BJJ academies, but we are always reminded to breathe with our movements. 

Although Yogi’s usually meditate by being still, this out-of-body state can also be experienced while rolling: when the grappler does not experience any association with their body nor their mind, but as pure consciousness observing the match. They then return to body after the match or competition is over. They do not remember any details of the match(es) but they are standing on the podium with the gold medal. This art is a moving meditation, which explains why most practitioners exude a calmer, more aware demeanor after a few months of training. With constant practice and concentration, we increase control of our body, breath, mind, and awareness eventually mastering this gentle art.

All are paths equally important, and the path(s) we take are based on our own individual tendencies, environment, and experience. Fortunately, we have the benefit of finding the truth through sparring and competition. As long as we seek truth, we will eventually experience that highest self-realization.

When you get someone who embodies all four paths to highest degree you get someone truly special… you get someone like Rickson Gracie, a true master. In the documentary Choke he demonstrates complete physical and mental control during the lead up the first Pride tournament in 1997 (Raja Yoga). He has unselfishly shared his knowledge to countless students and given so much to our community (Karma Yoga). Throughout his life and even to this day he is improving upon and evolving BJJ techniques and concepts (Jnana Yoga). Following the lead of his family, he still follows the key traditional aspects to the letter, even initially refusing the 9th Degree red belt in 2017. With complete trust in Jiujitsu, he is the living embodiment of this gentle art (Bhakti Yoga). I’ve heard Rickson and many of us in this journey saying “Jiujitsu for life.” We are fortunate that Jiujitsu is great microcosm of life that teaches us to search for the truth not just in this art, but also within ourselves. ~Namaste

Four Paths of Yoga


Rodgrigo Vaghi BJJ

Bluebird Yoga

How’s Your Poker Face?

We’ve all heard that “jiu jitsu is like chess”, but have you ever considered that it’s a lot like poker as well? I spent some time thinking about these two activities today and I see at least five lessons one can learn from playing poker that can be easily applied to jiu jitsu.

  1. You gotta play the hand you’re dealt. Yes, you can discard and draw cards, but you can’t make requests…you have to make the best of the cards in your hand. In jiu jitsu this is true on the macro and micro levels. On the macro level i.e. looking at the journey as a whole – we don’t all have the same physical attributes, we don’t all have the same amount of time to invest, we don’t all have the same training opportunities etc. So, your journey may be a little more difficult and take a little longer, you just have to press forward and play the hand your dealt. On the micro level – every time you go into a competitive roll whether it’s with one of your favorite training partners or whether it’s in a tournament, you each bring different skills to the mats. At that point it’s probably too late to try and revamp your game, you have to use the tools you currently have in your toolbox (or the cards in your hand) in such a manner that will produce the best outcome.
  2. You have to know the rules and understand the objectives. I have a vague memory of a scene on tv of a guy laying down his cards saying “read ‘em and weep” thinking he had a flush, but his cards were a mix of spades and clubs…. yes, they’re all the same color, but that’s not really the goal. While this point has application for those who are training jiu jitsu as a hobby but don’t compete the real value of this point is for the competitor. Don’t lose matches because you didn’t know the rules or intricacies of how points are scored.
  3. Bluffing is a necessary skill to win. When you are bluffing at the poker table you are simply trying to create the illusion that something is true (like you have a great hand) when it may or may not be. Likewise, from guard you may mess with your opponent’s lapel to get him worried about a technique he may not have seen when you have no intention of playing any form of lapel guard. It doesn’t matter so much if you have a decent lapel guard, but it does matter that your opponent believes you do.  
  4. You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. In poker there are times when you say “I’m good with these cards, I’m going to play them” there are other times you just lay em down and fold. There other times when you have to say, “this table is too rich for me” and just walk away. Then there are other times you realize you’re playing with sharks and you better run. The lesson here is you have to learn to read situations on the mat quickly. If you have been doing jiu jitsu for any length of time you should be able to visit a new school for an open mat and almost immediately be able to read each training partner, you roll with. No matter what position you are in – their stance, posture, grips, frames, etc. are all clues that should help you understand what they are bringing to the mat. 
  5. You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table. In the old west, gambling was a cutthroat business and sometimes men bet all they had on a game. Making a show of counting your money was a sure way to get shot in the alley behind the tavern. You won’t get your ass shot but making a show of every victory you have in jiu jitsu is not the best approach to making friends and earning respect in the community. Having friends and respect in the community go a long way towards helping you get better at jiu jitsu. The goal is to have a healthy ego and be humble at all times.

      In conclusion: If you’re going to play the game, you gotta learn to play it right. There may not necessarily be a “right” and “wrong” way to do jiu jitsu, but there are definitely some ways that are better than others to get good at jiu jitsu and win matches. The sooner you figure this out, the better off you’ll be.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.


Josh Myers and his Journey with Cancer

My Journey with cancer all began “officially” on November 9th, 2017.  Of course it had started months prior to that official date, unbeknownst to myself.  

I am a very active person and one of my favorite things to do is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  One night, on September 11th, while training here in Medicine Lodge, I got struck in the cheek. My training partner was attempting to take my back and came around and hit me in the face.  This was an accident, of course and just one of the things that you just expect to happen in a sport like that. Things like that are exactly why we wear mouth guards, after all.  I knew immediately that it had cut my inner cheek, so I did what most MEN would do…. I was going to let it heal naturally.

At this point in my story it is the end of September, and I have been dealing with this cut for a couple weeks.  I finally began talking to my wife about it and she wanted me to get checked out. As fate would have it, I had recently changed jobs and while I had insurance coverage at this point, there had been a snafu and I didn’t have my card, nor was I very sure exactly how good  this new insurance was going to be.  I was busy and it was going to be kind of a pain, so I toughed it out and continued on.  All the while I am still training Jiu Jitsu. My training partners are aware of the injury and began urging me to see the dr aswell.

Toward the end of October, the insurance was a non-issue, things had slowed down a bit, and was READY to go to the doctor to get this thing dealt with.  My first visit was with a doctor at our local hospital who referred me to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist in Wichita. He didn’t think that there was any reason to be concerned, but “better safe than sorry”.  The fact that I was now being referred to a “specialist” made me put it off yet a little longer. Shortly after the first of November, I finally gave in and called the specialist to schedule my appointment. The date for this appointment was set up for November 9th.  To this point CANCER had never been mentioned, thought of, or insinuated.  There was no reason for this to have even crossed my mind at this point.  After all I have never smoked, never chewed, and am a very light drinker. I just didn’t have any of the risk factors associated with cancer.   

The day of my appointment with the Ear Nose and Throat specialist arrived; he had a look in my mouth and then immediately asked if his colleagues could come and get a look too, I began to get a little worried.  At this point I really just wanted this guy to sew my mouth up and let me be on my way. They all left the room and came back to tell me that while they had NO reason to believe that it was cancer, they would like to take a biopsy of it just the same.  Let me just say that the biopsy was just as painful as it sounds.  

I left that appointment thinking one thing….”HOW CAN I HAVE CANCER!?”  It wasn’t official yet but the drive home alone from Wichita was difficult.  My mouth hurt even more than it had been before and the word CANCER was now swirling around in my head.  I made it and I called all of the people that I NEEDED to during that initial drive home from Wichita. My wife was first of course, and then my Mom and Dad.  They all were my rock through this: from day one they had me. But not just my actual family but my Jiu Jitsu family. My training partners held me up in an extremely difficult time. Continued to push me to train when I felt good enough.  They pushed me and kept me positive. Pake McNally is my instructor, and my other main training partner Ryan Cope.   

Of course the results of a biopsy aren’t instant, and even though it was just a few days the wait was agonizing.  I called the next day and the next and the next….I couldn’t stand it. I knew that it was negative – it HAD to be – I just needed to hear it.  

On November 13th at 3:30 in the afternoon I got THE call.  I was at work and so I went to my pickup and took the call.  The doctor then proceeded to explain that the results came back positive for cancer, but that he truly believed that it was a type of cancer that is caused by a strain of HPV.  Getting a positive result for a STD isn’t something that anyone wants typically, but the doctor explained that it would explain why I had cancer, and if it was derived from that it would be much easier to treat, so we hoped for a positive STD test result.  Another round of waiting for results, and of course it would also take a couple days to get them back. Fast forward three more days of waiting and multiple calls to inquire about the status of my test, I finally got THE call – 2.0.  They told me that they had figured out the strain of cancer and it was not derived from a STD, it was in fact: Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which is essentially a strain of skin cancer.

 So it begins in earnest.  The ENT referred me to an oral surgeon in the Wichita area for the following week.  When we arrived to this appointment, he took one look inside my mouth and immediately told me that my options were limited.  He informed me that “it” had attached to the muscle inside my cheek and that “it” was no longer anything that he could remove.  This was getting more complicated because “it” was going to be something that a team of surgeons would be required to take care of.  And not just any team of surgeons: a special team of surgeons – one of only two such teams in the United States that are able to perform this type of surgery. One of these teams being in Kansas City at KU Cancer Center and the other being in Houston.  Logistically, the choice was obvious: we were going to Kansas City.

When we met with the surgeon and his fellow, they explained that they would have to remove the mass and then place a flap of my own grafted skin and tissue over that area within my cheek.  They would take the main tissue graft that would go inside my cheek from my arm, and then place a very thin skin graft from my thigh over the area on my arm and then put the arm in a cast for the duration of the time I would be in the hospital.  They talked about breathing tubes and feeding tubes and recovery time. It all seemed crazy and surreal to me. At this point I had to give in and quit training. As much as I wanted to be there I couldn’t stand the pain.  

After our initial meeting with the surgeon at KU Med in Kansas City and the CT scan, PET scan, and all of the blood draws – they set my date for surgery: December 15.  When the day came I was in a lot of constant pain, eating was quite difficult at that point, and I was SO ready to be DONE.  

Little did I know that I was a VERY long way from being DONE.  The days in the hospital were a blur for me. My amazing wife stayed by me nearly every hour I was there.  I had a feeding tube. I couldn’t speak due to the breathing tube. The experience goes beyond being surreal.  My arm was in a cast and I had NO idea what was underneath it. I found out later that it was slightly more extreme than I had initially imagined.  After 7 days in the hospital I was released to go home on the 22nd of December.  

Just in time for Christmas. 

The trip home from KC to Kiowa was slightly less than desirable and quite nerve-wracking for everyone involved, but we got it done.  At that point I was eating thru a feeding tube every 3 hours and couldn’t do or say a lot. The healing process throughout this whole thing was unbelievable.  I gradually got stronger through the support of my family and friends. Also my amazing community lifted me up in their arms more times than I could count. The outpouring of messages that I got from the BJJ community was insane.  Gyms from all over the state sent donations and most importantly an amazing amount of encouragement.

In the days to follow there were lots of visits from friends and there were a lot of Disney movies watched in our household.  I slept the days away just trying to heal. When the day came that they told me I could finally have food again I was beyond thrilled.  That feeling only lasted so long though. As I started my radiation treatments at the end of January. 5 days per week for 6 weeks – 30 sessions all together.  I just wanted to be back in the gym. Feeling normal and doing the things that would help me feel that way.

I was driven to Wichita by an army of volunteers that I couldn’t even begin to name off of the top of my head.  Some of you are here tonight. I remained strong and fought through the nasty radiation and FINALLY at the end, the side effects really got to me.  

I couldn’t drink water or eat food.  I was back to using a feeding tube which I SWORE would NEVER happen again.  I kept telling myself that once the radiation was over I was finally going to be DONE and could get on with my life… as I keep finding out during this process: that just simply isn’t the case.  

I have come leaps and bounds from where I was 6 months ago.  But I still have a very long way to go. As of my latest appointment with my surgeon I am told that I am cancer free, my mouth is healing well, and that things will be improving but that I should also expect that sometimes things aren’t going to be so good.  

I am back to working full time as a GM technician in Kiowa, and back to training Jiu Jitsu.  I competed in a tournament in April. Yes I actually competed in a competition with guys that had been training for years and are healthy individuals.  It was something I had to do to make myself feel more like me again.  

After this experience rediscovering what NORMAL is has been a difficult endeavor.  I don’t feel like the same person I was a year ago. I know that mentally I’m not the same person, or at least I hope that I’m not.  This journey is one that I never imagined myself to be on. I was and still am beyond thankful for all of the support that I received.  All of the survivors that stepped up and called me to just let me know that I wasn’t alone, I was continually surrounded by a group of people that understood what I was going through.  

My battle is not over… this journey is really only just beginning for me.  I will continue to heal and grow as a person and develop a NEW and hopefully a better – certainly different – normal.  

UPDATE:As of January 2019 I am cancer free.  I am set to get scans every 6 months. I have gone through many many more Drs Appointments.  I have gone through speech therapy. I have been diagnosed with Trismus also known as LockJaw.  This is something that I will battle my entire life. It will effect the way I eat and drink. It will effect the way I talk.  I currently can only open my mouth up a 1/2″ at the very most. Most of the time its closer to 1/4” I stretch daily and struggle but stay positive and keep moving forward.  You can’t let a diagnosis define you. The power of positivity is definitely real. In September of 2018 I competed in a tap out cancer tournament. It was an amazing experience.  The Tap Cancer out Foundation raises money To cure Juvenile cancer. I would urge anyone out there to look into their tournaments. My Next and Last tournament was last June in Wichita Kansas.  I got 3rd place and competed stronger than ever before.  I feel good and Jiu Jitsu is what I believe to be the primary reason for that.  When things are off Jiu Jitsu is there.

Josh Myers

5 Things You Learn as a White Belt Helping Teach the Kids Class

As a salty white belt, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that most of the improvements in my Jiu Jitsu and myself as a person can be traced back to a few months ago when I was asked by my Professor to help with the kids class. At first I was apprehensive, I didn’t know if I was ready for this or if I was good enough. I was NOT, but it turned out okay because soon I realized it was more about learning than teaching. Here are five things I’ve picked up spending time with the kids classes:

1. The Details

       Remember the sweep that coach just showed you but you can’t nail it down, or you complete it but it is so rough that it is unrecognizable compared to the beautifully executed and flawless sweep that was just preformed? That’s normal, and with any technique you will have to drill it for countless hours to nail it down perfectly. Want a shortcut? Teach the move to a couple of kids. You will be forced to look at the technique under a microscope, think about it in a different and more easily explainable way. This, after teaching the same technique countless times and correcting kids as they are drilling will make you remember every little detail, thus improving your understanding of the technique.

2. You Discover How Much Patience You Truly Have

            I can distinctly remember being five years old, tears flying out of my face and screaming like a banshee in karate class and just in general being a “brat”…I am paying for that now. Something you must never lose while working with children (this is applicable outside of BJJ) is your patience. You are forced to be the calm one, and try to handle the kids even at their worst. Just remember that the kids class will end, so be calm and think of a way through it, just like when that guy in class that outweighs you by a metric ton and decides that he is content tapping you with his famous side control. Maintaining your composer will help the kids in the long run, they will trust you and you will have a much easier time with them and in your rolls.

3. There are no Mistakes, Only Lessons

            It can be very easy to criticize yourself, flooding your head with defeat and doubt. This too will change if you begin teaching kids. When children are drilling or rolling you will naturally see some “mistakes” being made (just as with us white belts), you can use that as an opportunity to fix their technique and make it even better. Likewise, when you are rolling and you tap every 10 seconds, you learn not to beat yourself up (Your classmates are doing a good enough job at that) but rather to try and learn from where you fudged up and apply that lesson later on.

4. How to be a Counselor and Better Teammate

       Everyone has had one of those days. Your boss was a real big “Richard” or your significant other has decided not to play nice and you are just considering skipping training all together, but you grab that GI out of your closet, get the gym bag ready, shuffle out of your house and make your way to the Academy. Kids have those days too, whether it be a bully at school or a possible myriad of issues in home life. Over time the children will grow to trust you a respect you (If you have stuck to number 2 on this list) and they may come to you with these issues. It is important to maintain an atmosphere that kids will feel comfortable talking about their issues, just in the same way you can roll and maybe vent to a teammate that is willing to listen; then leave the academy feeling like a load was lifted from your chest.

5. What BJJ is Really About

            For most, BJJ started out as just a fun way to get in shape or meet new people. However if you stick with it you will notice something more. I know for me personally, after my first month helping with the kids class I felt to understand what this Jiu-Jitsu was about. We teach our kids that you do not need super powers, or loads of money to be a hero or help people, but rather you simply need to try your best. Just like Jiu-Jitsu requires you to give your best effort in order to improve, so too does life.

In conclusion: I can’t say you will experience the same benefits from helping in the kids class that I have…. But I’ll go out on a limb and predict that will be an experience from which you will grow both as a martial artist and as a person. If your instructor gives you the opportunity….GO.

By Randall Goodson

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.


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.


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”.

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


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.

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.