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.


Epi 158 The Grappling Referee David Karchmer

This week we bring you an interview with BJJ black belt & referee David Karchmer. Over the last eight years David has officiated more than 3,000 gi and no-gi matches. It is great to share with you this conversation with such an experienced Referee.david-karchmer

We talk about:

  • What got him started as a referee in 2008
  • How some of the rules have changed over the years
  • Video instant replay in BJJ
  • Using digital score boards in BJJ
  • The idea of using a body cam on a referee
  • Evaluating footage from a spectator
  • Trends in BJJ techniques
  • Being a referee with different rules
  • Improving as a referee
  • Having unified rules for BJJ or submission wrestling
  • What referee is in charge of the match
  • Is competitive BJJ being true to the roots of the martial art
  • The idea of a hidden score card
  • What motivated him to become a referee
  • What happens when a referee raises the wrong hand
  • Deciding who wins a tied match
  • How the knowledge and experience of the referee can effect the match
  • How someone can learn to become a referee
  • Why the best referee teams work an hour then take an hour break
  • His thoughts on AJ Agazarm vs Vagner Rocha
  • Outlawing jumping closed guard
  • Keenan Cornelius vs Tarsis Humphreys


Quote of the week: “It annoys me when people who don’t know what they’re talking about boo the referee.” Jonah Lomu

Article of the week: Stop Warming Up, Start Learning Up


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Gary talks about his audio book “Red Card and Red Crotch- How I Got Kicked Out of Professional Sports”

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

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

1)      Be clean– Your gi and anything else you wear should be clean and dry.  You need to have showered recently, and maintain clean hair.  You don’t need to smell great but make sure you don’t stink.  Keep in mind that you will be in close personal contact with other people.

2)      No shoes on the mat– Your school puts a lot of effort in keeping the mats clean.  The bottoms of your shoes are not clean, and any little rocks stuck in your shoes can easily poke holes in the mat.  If you can wear wrestling shoes at your school, only wear them on the mat.  Wrestling shoes worn on the street are no longer wrestling shoes.

3)      Have the right equipment– If you are the only student without a gi you should get one.  It makes a difference to the people you roll with, and it will help you learn moves that you could not learn otherwise.  At most schools it is ok to be gi shopping for a few weeks, but after that you should have one.  If you do not have a gi be courteous and don’t try to do a bunch of gi chokes to your training partner.  Don’t be surprised if they use their gi to choke or control you, after all, you are the one missing the equipment.  If you don’t have a gi, see the 1st time gi buying guide to help you.

4)      Be careful with your training partners– BJJ can be very dangerous.  You need to show your training partners respect and lookout for their safety.  If you are close to tapping someone out slow down, give them time to tap.  Focus on controlling them as the submission is happening and slowly applying pressure, it is their responsibility to tap but you need to give them time.  Be aware of your surroundings, don’t roll into other grapplers, and don’t roll off the mat.  In the event you accidently knee or elbow your training partner quickly apologize and slow down a little bit.

5)      Keep nails short– You don’t want to accidently scratch someone.  If you have a hard time remembering to cut your nails keep a pair of clippers in your gym bag.

6)      Keep your feet clean– Most people bring sandals or flip-flops to the gym.  Don’t walk barefoot anywhere that would get your feet dirty (restroom, outside).  This is just common sense when it comes to keeping the mat clean.

7)      Watch your language– It may be a fight gym with a bunch of tuff guys, but if there are kids around show them and the parents respect and keep the language clean.  

8)      Don’t change in mixed company– Don’t forget you are in public, keep your clothes on unless in a designated area.

9)      Pay attention during the techniques– It is rude to ignore or talk as your instructor is teaching and hope that they will teach the move again.  This is not grade school; if you annoy these people they will be choking you in a little while.  Do not ask the instructor a bunch of “what if” questions, or talk about how the technique is easily defeated. 

10)   Do the technique– After the technique has been shown, DO IT! And don’t stop until the instructor says you are done.  Don’t do the move 3 times and think you have it down, or start looking for flaws in the move.  Moves take a long time to understand, if you only do one move a night you will still learn lots of BJJ. 

11)   Be a positive representative– Don’t put on your school’s shirt and go around being a jerk.  If someone asks you about it, invite them in to see what it is about.  Don’t tell them how much of a stud you are; don’t tell them you will choke them easily.   If they do come to your school, thank them for coming and treat them as if they are your guest.  If they decide to roll, make sure they roll with people who are not going to give them a bad experience.  Be nice to new students, greet them and make an effort to help them feel comfortable.

12)   Don’t leave a mess– Pick up after yourself.  If this is too difficult for you, give the school your mom’s phone number so they can have her come in for you.

13)   Stay home if you are sick– Having someone that is sick on the mats is a great way for a lot of people to get sick.  Your friends will be missing school, work and time on the mat.  Taking a little time off will not hurt you, and your teammates will appreciate you keeping your germs to yourself.

14)   Help your training partners (if you are qualified)- If someone keeps making a mistake tell them.  Don’t keep taking advantage of it and tap them out with the same move over and over.  If you don’t know a good counter, find someone that does, maybe you both will learn something.  The better your training partners get at defending the better you will get at attacking.

15)   Cell phones– If you have a major event that is going to happen tell your instructor you might be getting a call.  Most things can wait; if you really need to be connected then sneak a peek during a water break.

16)   Work hard– You don’t need to be the greatest athlete on the mat, your team will respect you for working hard.  Don’t complain, if you are too tired that’s ok but push yourself. You know your limits.

17)   Be on time– Get to class on time, if it is unavoidable ask your instructor if you can come in a little late.  Do not continually show up just in time to roll, that is like telling your instructor that the techniques they are showing are not worth your time.  Don’t make your instructor stay late, be ready to leave before your instructor is ready to lock up.

18)   Don’t brag about tapping people out– Class is not a competition, and often not even a fair fight. Picture you have been rolling 30 minutes, and a fresh guy comes in and taps you out. He jumps up and celebrates, “yes!” People often roll hard against the advanced students, and take it easy on the newer ones. Don’t make a big deal of tapping someone out who once appeared to be invincible. If you really brag, you will probably pay for it next time you roll with that person.

19)   Be positive– A trick to doing BJJ for a long time is having fun, so enjoy your time on the mat.  Don’t get mad when you get tapped out or seek revenge, just smile and keep on training.  Speak highly of those who deserve it and encourage those who need a little support.


Episode 7- The 12 Commandments of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Carlos Gracie:

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesand Stitcher radio
We break down and discuss the 12 commandments.  We don’t always agree with the commands but they have a great overall message.

1. Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

2. Speak to every one of happiness, health, and prosperity.

3. Give all your friends the feeling that they are valuable.

4. Look at things from a positive point of view and turn positivity into a reality of life.

5 Think only about the best, work only or the best, and always expect the best.

6. Be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are of your own.

7. Forget about past mistakes and concentrate your energy on the victories of tomorrow.

8. Always make those around you happy and keep a pleasant attitude to all those who address you.

9. Apply the largest amount of your time on self-improvement and no time in criticizing others.

10. Be too big to feel unrest, too noble to feel anger, too strong to feel fear, and too happy to tumble in adversity.

11. Hold a positive opinion of yourself and tell it to the world.  Not through words of vanity, but through benevolence.

12. Believe strongly that the world is in your side, if you keep true to what is the best within you.

12 commands of bjj

Quote of the week: “don’t suck” from Jake Fox

Question from Facebook: We talk about drug testing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.



Fox Fitness: Jake Fox joins us again in this episode.

Good times at our Facebook page.

Article of the week: Texas Kids Fight Bullying With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, By Teresa Woodard