jiu jitsu mindset

21 04 2011

“You can never stop thinking deeply about jiu jitsu, and you can never stop practicing the basics of you movements because thats what’s going to allow you continue to improve and never stagnate. There is never a reason for you to stop improving. So, as long as you take responsibility for your own training, and you are constantly thinking about it and constantly paying attention to the details, you’re always going to be able to continue moving forward and continue your progression. -Ryan Hall (attacking the back dvd series)

this is a pretty important statement in my opinion. i have a lot of friends and training partners who could really use this type of mindset in jiu jitsu. a bunch of people i have met through my training dont quite understand the importance of taking responsibility for their training. they believe that going to a class or two a week is somehow going to magically make them a lot better than it will. when they leave the gym, they disconnect from jiu jitsu altogether, and dont really think about it until its time to train again. its like they are plugging into the matrix, and when they leave, they unplug and go on about their lives. i can understand this type of thinking to a point, if you are just into jiu jitsu for exercise, and not really into it to become good at it. i cant understand, though, how anyone can expect to be technical and progress through the ranks and become proficient at jiu jitsu. its not possible. jiu jitsu is a lifestyle, your training must follow you through your daily life and be a part of your psyche. you absolutely have to break down techniques in your head, add supplemental training (whether it be visual or physical), and learn to understand the basic fundamentals of techniques, not just the sequence of motions.

your instructor can not do this for you.

this is a task that you must learn to do for yourself. do mental reps and visualize yourself going through the motions keeping close sight of all of the details. you learn the moves in class, you drill the moves in class to get a physical connect to the actions, but it is your job to think about what you have learned outside of class when you have introspective time to concentrate.

there really is no limit to how good you can get at jiu jitsu. the game is constantly progressing, and we are all just beginners. unless you are not training at all, the only thing holding you back from your goals is probably yourself.

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Technical Pressure

4 04 2011

I was chatting with Michelle Welti tonight for a minute while we were drilling stack passes, and I thought it might make an interesting blog entry. The conversation was about heavy pressure. It’s amazing how it’s so incredibly hard to put into words exactly how to be heavy. The biggest thing I took away from my time spent with Big Jay Corbett while he was instructing at Rage was his explanation: “try to envision a six inch diameter circle on your opponent, and then try to fit every ounce of your weight into that circle.” It made sense in my head, but I still had such a tough time making it happen for such a long time. How can I fit all of my weight into one spot? Magically, it seemed, about a year later, I could do it. How did I figure it out? I hadn’t been doing anything different? I thought. But, unknowingly I had!
There comes many points in your BJJ journey where things just… Click. Going from playing a guessing game to learning to play a reactionary game. Waiting until your opponent makes a move, then attempting to counter it. Then, going from a reactionary game to making actions to force the reaction from your opponent. When you realize that playing a reactionary game just doesn’t work against higher level opponents. “If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. If you tire, you die.” -Saulo Ribeiro. Words to live by.
Among these enlightening moments is the one where pressure starts to make sense. All of a sudden, it seems like that impossible 6″ circle is anywhere you want it. The cross face, knee on belly, stack passing… It’s like you have found a way to harness gravity and focus it! A small 150lb man now feels like he weighs 300lbs on top. We have all felt it from the bottom, it’s awesome! And it’s really not all that difficult to do. But what is difficult, is to explain it. It’s something that, unfortunately, has to be learnt through action, not explanation. Sometimes heavy pressure can be achieved through counter pressure, such as with a modified scarf hold. Just a small amount of pull on the opposite arm from your legs while you pick your weight off the floor and drive your ribs into theirs can make a ton of difference. But the biggest part isn’t so much the counter pressure, it’s the simple thing that beginners seem to miss.
It’s the drive.
Not just focusing your weight into that small area, but constantly driving off of your feet to create more force. It doesn’t have to be a lot of pushing, a small amount applied constantly at the right angle is very effective. The closest explanation I can offer is to keep your knees and butt off the ground just an inch, no more, and drive off of your feet and then try to imagine your circle. Technical pressure, as many call it, took me well into blue belt to figure out, and it’s still getting better. It’s something that I have asked about a lot as a white belt, and even though I actually got pretty much the exact explanation I just gave, it still took me a long time to understand. You can see it in videos. You know it’s there, but it takes the smallest little details to make it a reality. Details so tiny that you can’t even see them well enough to make use of them. In fact, this blog was pretty much a waste of time, considering anyone looking for an answer, even if you found it, you wont know it until one day when you didn’t even know you are doing anything different, someone will say to you “Wow! Thats some good pressure!” I’m sure you will get a little smirk on your face as the light bulb turns on.
Until then, keep rolling and one day you will find that little 6″ circle really is possible to achieve.





lazy sundays and teaching…

3 04 2011

the last 2 months or so have been pretty awesome. my workload has been very light and i have been able to get some great supplemental training in. this couldn’t have come at a better time for me, considering my wife is going to go into labor literally any minute now. as awesome as it is going to be to have a new baby boy in the house, its definitely going to grind my BJJ to a halt for at least a few weeks. i have been getting in between 6-7 classes or sparring sessions per week and i feel like my game has improved so much just in recent months. its quite amazing how important mat time and experience really is in BJJ. my “normal” schedule since my wife got pregnant again has been 3 classes per week. taking 2 and teaching 1. i was starting to feel almost like a plateau in my progress until i stepped it up. this week felt like a pinnacle so far for me. friday i had two classes and a crazy intense hour of rolling with a very determined miss michelle welti, followed by a rough saturday morning class. i’m so incredibly sore and tired today, and still i cant stop thinking about BJJ.

unfortunately for my progress, not only is the baby coming, but my current jobsite is going to be finished this week, forcing me to go back to a more structured schedule at work, and no more definite day classes. there will be some here and there, but i wont know it until the day of. now, with that being said, once things smooth out on the homefront, i should at least be able to go back to 3 night classes and saturday class. that will be nice. i really feel like 4 is the magic number, anything less doesn’t cut it. whether it be teaching or taking, that amount of focused mat time seems to work for me. hopefully ill be able to get back into a good schedule quickly, considering a newborn baby requires very little attention. but its not the boy im worried about at this point, its the little girl who is jumping headfirst into her terrible twos!

__________________________

people come up to me all the time and talk to me about teaching, offering condolences for not being able to take enough classes sometimes when our instructor is out. but there is definitely something to be said for teaching a technique. i have had this discussion with my instructor a few times. teaching a move makes you take a look at yourself and ask “how well do i really know this technique?” you have to be able to be comfortable enough with your own knowledge to answer specific questions about different aspects of the technique, like “what if your opponent does ___?” “why isn’t this working for me?” having the understanding to break down a movement and confidence that you know what you are talking about is paramount. whats also important is enthusiasm. when you have a lot of success with something, you really want to pass on that success to your peers as well. you end up learning more about the specific details in a single technique by teaching it to others sometimes than when you learn it yourself. now, im not saying i would just watch something on youtube and show it in class. i will only show things that i have learned and drilled many times myself, and used, with success in live sparring. i also greatly respect my instructors approach and style, and try to keep in time with his teachings. i wouldn’t show something that i know he wouldn’t, it has to be consistent in order to be effective.

Then there is always the debate on when to teach… When I started, I would not have felt comfortable learning from a blue belt. I know many people on forums still feel the same way. I don’t see a problem with it anymore since I have a much better understanding of the belt structure at my school. Other schools seem to reward people with belts due to time spent and how well they do against other white belts, not so much based on how the person has grasped not only the basic fundamentals, but how well they can implement them as they are needed. I think at blue belt you should not only have a firm knowledge of fundamentals, but should also be starting to build a more advanced game. Advanced guard work, guard retention, positions, etc, and also be incorporating them into their game regularly and starting to develop their own “style”. Are you going to play the quick explosive style, the smooth technical style, the aggressive heavy style, etc? I feel that once you have begun this part of the journey, you should have a strong enough basics game that teaching should be easy. For a white belt looking to get some color, I think some of these points should be food for thought. Ask yourself this as well, “if I got my ____belt today, and had to compete at that belt tomorrow, would I be ready?” If you are unsure, consider yourself not ready. Think about the positions that other ____ belts are playing. If you understand them, and know how to deal with them offensively and defensively, and not panic when somebody gets you in x, de la riva, deep half, spider, quarter, or any of the many other guards out there, it might be time. But remember, if your instructor doesn’t believe it, then there’s a good chance it’s not time yet. Keep working, have fun, and don’t stress about some silly belt color.

Remember, jiu jitsu is not a race, it’s a marathon.

i love my lazy sundays off, as exhausted and sore as i am, it gives me lots of time to think about the many things i have learned through the week.

to be continued, im sure…





Inspired

31 03 2011

semi-response to http://michellewelti.blogspot.com/2011/03/hitting-plateau.html

Just watch how Jeff moves in this. This is what inspires me. I found myself somewhere similar, and the videos i will insert here helped me remember my goals. I think once you start to feel this comfortable in your guard, you tend to not have to think twice about advancing in any direction knowing that no matter what, you will never be in danger. Because, if you miss something, you will always have guard. Even if you lose it for a sec, It comes right back… Show me one second in this video where Jeff was in trouble. Try to have fun, be relaxed, flow, and try to let go of the fear of losing. Once you convince yourself you can’t lose, you wont.

This is what I aspire to. This level of technical faith that these guys have. All of Jeff’s rolls in this adcc trials go where he wants them.

break this down from the beginning to the end. it’s all one transition.  I know it’s a lot different in the gi, with the added grips… but I don’t think it really has to be. He comes in there with that silly little mustache and just has fun. Sure, it helps that he is a very formidable black belt, but who are we kidding here. What are we? I know I can only dream of being able to do this against a black belt, why expect to? But to see exactly how I want to be able to think and move some day in action, I get truly inspired.

Marcelo Garcia showing why he is perceived as being on “another level” even by his fellow competitors. His instincts, quickness, and complete connection with Jiu Jitsu is nothing short of amazing. Even as relatively outdated this video is, it still holds true.





competition

29 03 2011

some days i really want to compete…

most days i would rather slam my head in a car door repeatedly.

i’ll be turning 34 and my wife is going to bear my second child in april. i’m in the best physical shape i have ever been in, i’m more confident than ever, and i owe it all to my passion to be the best i can be at brazilian jiu jitsu. but im not getting any younger. i feel my age as every day passes, and i am constantly getting injured, or dealing with past injuries getting aggravated. i never got surgery to get my herniated disc fixed. it hadn’t bothered me in almost a year, and all of a sudden, after a few days of training head and arm chokes with new white belts, it feels almost like it did right after it popped the first time. i feel like nobody believes me about just how painful and irritating it is, not to mention the constant fear of doing it again. my thumb and index finger on my left hand are either numb or on pins and needles all the time when i’m not rolling. and it hurts to sit in any position for longer than a few minutes. my shoulder feels like it is dislocated at times, and it’s all from nerve damage. once i start rolling i don’t notice it, its the rest of the time that it hurts. my knee is finally feeling great again, which is awesome. its hard to not take these things for granted when you are feeling good, and i will certainly try to make an effort to not do so anymore.

i didn’t intend for this post to go in that direction. i’m not feeling sorry for myself. i guess i’m just scared. being the sole provider for my family, i cant afford to miss work, or not be able to perform my work to the best of my abilities. i’m a manual laborer. my work is purely physical. i rarely ever do any paperwork, or anything behind a computer for my job. i have to be able to quickly deliver and install (and sometimes pull wire) audio systems in schools, churches, hospitals, etc. its not the hardest work, and it affords me lots of free time to train and spend time with my family. i love my job. but its just that, my job. in one respect, i was very fortunate that my neck popped the night before i went on vacation, so i didn’t have to miss any work. but, in every other way, it was tragic. i was down in marco island, florida. awesome weather. awesome fishing. 1 hour drive to go to train and meet my idol, marcelo garcia. but i couldn’t do any of it. i sat in the house, or in the hot tub rehabbing my neck on pain killers the whole week. the entire first day of my vacation was spent in the hospital. they gave me 2 cortisone shots in my neck and shoulder and they did nothing. nerve pain can only be relieved when the nerve has ceased to be pinched. i did make it down to marcelo’s school a few times, and on my birthday. but not as planned. i had saved up $600 for a couple privates while i was down there, and my parents helped up buy a nice hd digital camera so my dad could film the privates and classes. i was devastated when i couldn’t take a private, much less even get through an entire class. i did get to sit in and meet marcelo, but nowhere near how i had planned it.

and there i go again, ranting about my stupid neck injury. back on topic. the reason i brought up my job, and my failed trip to meet possibly the best bjj player out there, is just the fact that i am not in any position to get hurt by some over-eager teenager who is trying to assert his alpha-male-ness and prove to somebody that he is awesome. yes, i know i got hurt in class in the first place, and that its not likely that anything would happen specifically in a tournament, but i know for a fact if i get a hold of somebody’s arm they had better tap quick or they will wish they had. i can only assume my opponent has the same intentions, and last time one of the guys cranked on my neck and flared it up again for a few months. maybe one day when i am feeling at least better than 75% i will probably jump in one. i know dave, my instructor and mentor, wants me to. my team-mates want me to. i would rather continue down my current path, honestly. i am having fun, learning a lot, and getting better every day. i’m in jiu jitsu for the personal journey rather than one of fame and glory. i want to be good at jiu jitsu because i love the way it feels, not to get some medals. i wasted more than a few years of my life chasing medals and i finally found something i can do and just be good, not have to try and prove that i can hang with people 15 years younger than me. i’m not worried that i won’t do well. i dont think i would have much problem competing in the gi, im pretty confident in my technique. but the problem is, tournaments are not about who is better at jiu jitsu. its all about who can make a game plan, and stick to it, not who can do it the best. you can get paired up against some guy who has 2 months experience in bjj and 10 years wrestling experience, get taken down and stalled out for 6 minutes on the bottom and lose. after that, what am i? some terrible blue belt who got taken out in the first round of some dumb tourney? or somebody who puts everything he has into not using strength, tries to use technique all the time and rarely ever power through anything, but ended up getting matched up with the earlier mentioned wrestler and lose on a 2 point takedown?

maybe i just have too much pride to put that on the line. maybe i don’t want to lose to somebody who i know i am better than again. maybe i cant stomach being put up against a guy, who, i guess because of his instructors relationship with the promoter, gets a 2x bye and gets his first match against my 3rd? i don’t think that kind of thing is particularly fair, but it doesn’t matter. he got the last laugh. i got a sweep (reversal) that due to the vague nature of the rules i didn’t get points for, and got stalled out for the loss. i cant stand the thought of somebody else smirking at my failure behind back at my loss. maybe its my english nature. so scared of embarrassment that i never take any chances. who knows? i don’t. i’ve always had issues with doing any type of performance in public. i hated competing in skateboarding competitions. i did theater in high school, but i never took the stage. i was always a tech guy. i did a bunch of tae kwon do competitions as a kid, maybe it was that? i had one match in a finals where i was up against some really little kid, like little david ayala’s size. i was probably abby’s size at the time. i clearly beat him on points, but he was so little and cute, he got the nod (and the gold). maybe that was when the mental competition switch went off. i don’t remember doing anything after that. i was crushed. how embarrassing. i lost to a tiny little kid in a fighting match. in all honesty, i won. my mom even made a complaint, and they told her some bs excuse. but again, it didn’t matter. he had the last laugh. i had to go to school having lost to someone half my size. it doesn’t matter after the medals are given out who actually won, or who is better, all that matters is that stupid gold plated piece of metal.

we shall see what the future brings. writing this makes me feel a little better about the thought of competing, but i’m sure that feeling will be gone soon.

until then, i gotta keep training,  getting better, and taking mass amounts of advil until i either heal up, or my liver shuts down.








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