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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This week we hope to help you accelerate your BJJ training. Every now and then you have a day on the mat that produces great growth. We talk about days we have had like this and help you to create more of them for yourself.
We talk about:
Is it possible to experience one month of growth in one day
Increasing your training
What to do before class to help you have a great class
Preparing for a seminar
Creating better training days
Having great training partners
Learning from teaching BJJ
Taking a private lesson
How instructors create accelerated learning
Gary doing better vs the kids class
Quote of the week: “You got to go down a lot of wrong roads to find the right one” Bob Parsons co-founder of godaddy
Comment of the week: “One thing jiu-jitsu has taught me for life is, when you are under tons of pressure, always keep in mind to breathe and not panic, cause there is always a window to change your outcome. Learn that no matter how hard the struggle is in that moment, when you see the opportunity present itself, learn from the struggle and enjoy the outcome.” Chris from the BjjBrick private FB group
Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast
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.
This week we have an interview with Eliot Kelly. Eliot is a top ranked grappler and excellent coach. This interview covers a wide range of topics from his accelerated development on the mat to helping students at El Dorado Hills Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Self Defense.
We talk about:
His start in BJJ
How taking a train to BJJ helped him get better
Coaching BJJ and preparing himself to compete
How to learn from a loss
How coaching makes him be a better competitor
How competing makes him a better coach
Dealing with injuries
Getting hurt and coming back to the competition world
This week we talk about the size differences in grapplers. Are you a large person training with smaller grapplers? we have some advice for you to get the most of your mat time. Are you on the smaller end of most grapplers and need a little advice for training and competing with the larger athletes. If so this episode is for you.
We talk about:
Training with bigger teammates
Training with smaller teammates
Keeping things safe
Dealing with frustrations
Techniques good for small or large people
Competing against people of a different size
When the instructor shows a “big person” or “small person” move
Quote of the week: “Do not be misled. You will suffer along the way. You will have failures and set-backs. You will have to learn to overcome these failures. However, it is this process of personal improvement that will transform you as an individual.” Book Master Jiu-Jitsu master life by Paul Kindzia