Training BJJ in the new era of COVID…

COVID is here to stay, it’s not going away any time soon.  Most martial arts schools in the US and around the world were closed down for several months and in some places even a year or more!  Once they started to open up again, there was an unspoken question if we as members of the martial arts community wanted to return to train again.  And the answer was definitely a Qualified Yes to getting back out and hitting the mats again.  Lots of people wanted to return right away, but the vaccine wasn’t out yet, and they had elderly or newborn family members at home, or they just weren’t sure how to handle the COVID pandemic regarding grappling training.  Most wanted to do it, but many were a little uneasy.  Now, with vaccination rates getting higher and cases getting generally lower, more people than ever are ready to get back at it.  However, you shouldn’t just go into the first place you see and jump right in.  Do some research first.  After all, this is self-defense training – we NEVER throw caution to the wind! 

Continue reading “Training BJJ in the new era of COVID…”

Keeping it clean… on and off the mats

Everyone likes to come to BJJ happy and healthy and leave the same way!  We do as much as we can to help ensure that happens every day, for every student.  Additionally, it’s also important to be aware about some best practices surrounding some potential skin conditions that may be trying to creep up on you from time to time.  It’s self-defense… at the microscopic level! 😊

Continue reading “Keeping it clean… on and off the mats”

Discipline without anger: Secrets for adulting…

As a martial arts instructor, I often receive praise on the way I work with kids.  “I don’t know how you do it…”, “you have so much patience!” and so on.  The truth is, I’m not an extraordinarily patient person.  To the contrary, as someone who strives to be a ‘high achiever’, patience is a virtue that does not come naturally to me.  However, experience has taught me that if I employ a basic system of structure and discipline with my younger students, that takes most of the stress away from maintaining order when a child is having a difficult day.  Here are a few of the key principles to keep in mind, that can be employed by parents, babysitters… anyone who deals with children on a regular basis. Continue reading “Discipline without anger: Secrets for adulting…”

Tips for White Belts- How to Relax while Rolling

Rolling. Sparring.  Going live.  It’s what a lot of new students look forward to- live action!  But… it’s also what every new student is least prepared for.  Even after months of technique training, when you first begin to spar in BJJ its almost impossible to relax, especially when rolling with a more experienced partner.  Continue reading “Tips for White Belts- How to Relax while Rolling”

Train away from home: No training partner doesn’t mean you can’t practice!

You don’t always have a partner to train with.  It’s a fact of life.  You go on vacation, your buddy stands you up, or you just couldn’t make it to class because of that last minute work meeting…  But when you’re by yourself, the ‘invisible bad guy’ can have a huge impact on how useful your real-life training partners are when they do happen to be around. Continue reading “Train away from home: No training partner doesn’t mean you can’t practice!”

When is the right time to begin training BJJ?

Historically BJJ has been a male-dominated sport, though there are more girls and women training now then ever before.  However, it can still be very intimidating for a female to walk into a BJJ academy to begin training.  While it is true that there’s usually a higher level of intimidation for females beginning BJJ, some of the reasons why both men and women avoid giving it a try are very similar. Continue reading “When is the right time to begin training BJJ?”

The Psychology of Fight Simulation: Honing real world skills in a safe, controlled environment

If you train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for self-defense, especially if you are at a Gracie Certified Training Center, you are going to incorporate Fight Simulation classes into your training.  But what is a Fight Simulation class?  First of all, this doesn’t happen on your first day in a BJJ school (or shouldn’t at least).  It’s often the culmination of the beginner self-defense curriculum where students learn to use the techniques they have learned in all possible combinations to defend themselves against a larger, striking opponent.  Continue reading “The Psychology of Fight Simulation: Honing real world skills in a safe, controlled environment”

Why is Jiu Jitsu so addicting?

For those of us who are already drinking the BJJ Kool-Aid, Jiu Jitsu is A-MA-ZING, and it’s hard to understand why the rest of the planet isn’t already pursuing this awesome, incredibly fulfilling, life-long activity!  The truth is, there’s some science behind why so many people who start doing Jiu Jitsu end up finding it rather addicting.  But before I go into that I should probably say, to be clear, all addictions aren’t necessarily bad- particularly if what you are addicted to makes you a healthier, happier, and more well-balanced human being! 😊

Ok, so to lay the groundwork for WHY Jiu Jitsu is so compelling for many of us, let’s first talk about how the human brain works.  I’m going to steal an idea from Tony Robbins here, which is basically a simple lesson in practical psychology.  After decades of engaging with millions of people all over the world, helping them create life-changing breakthroughs, guiding them toward self-improvement, as well as individually coaching some of the most successful and well-known people on the plant, he’s identified six basic human needs that all people must have in order to be happy and healthy.  Now the ideal amount of each are going to be different from person to person, but to at least some degree, all are required.  You can almost always trace someone’s behavior back to their desire to fulfill one or more of these six needs…  They are Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance, Connection, Growth and Contribution.  He poses that if an activity fulfills two of these needs, you will actively seek it out again.  If an activity fulfills three or more, there is a very high probability that it can become addicting.

So now let’s go through and look at each of these needs and how they might tie into Jiu Jitsu…

Certainty.  If you have a well-structured and tightly run school, students will have a very high degree of certainty about what their learning experience will be like.  Does your school follow the same format for each class?  Is there a structured curriculum that you follow?  Do students have a way to track their progress and identify what they have learned and what they have yet to learn?  If so, then there is a substantial amount of certainty that comes with training Jiu Jitsu at your school.  In many ways it’s very predictable and you know what to expect every time you come in.  Certainty is like the warm safety blanket that gives you the feeling of security and comfort in any environment- be it BJJ, personal relationships, professional careers, etc.  So, at least in my school (and other Gracie Academy CTCs), we can check off Certainty as something you will definitely get when you train BJJ.

Uncertainty.  On the other hand, if you knew everything that was going to happen before it happened, life would be incredibly boring.  We need uncertainty to keep things interesting and our attention focused.  When it comes to training BJJ, there is certainly some uncertainty involved, especially when you are learning a new technique for the first (or second?) time, or if it’s a sparring day.  “Will I be able to do the technique correctly?  Can I escape from this position?  Will I be able to use the new technique he taught us today when rolling?”  There’s also some uncertainty because you are constantly getting new and different training partners, and adding new details to old techniques.  Techniques don’t always work the same on the smallest person in the class as they do the biggest, so outcomes aren’t 100% predictable.  Uncertainty is like salt- too much can ruin the dish, but just the right amount really brings out the flavor!  So, Uncertainty in Jiu Jitsu- Check.

Significance.  People need to feel important, it’s a fact of life.  Some personalities need to feel like they are the most significant person in the room at all times, and some people just need to feel like they are significant to someone.  But everyone needs to feel some level of significance in their lives.  Ever wonder why dogs are called “Man’s best friend?”  You are the center of Fido’s universe- it’s hard not to feel pretty significant when Fido’s around wagging his tail and licking your face.  When it comes to training in a martial art like Jiu Jitsu, so much of the learning comes from cooperation and collaboration between training partners.  In a good training environment, you value your partners above all else, because they are the ones who can help you the most.  You are the ticket to each other’s success.  So, for today at least, they become very significant to your progress, and you are extremely significant to their progress.  This also applies in sparring. If someone is trying to submit you, you better believe they are the most significant thing in your world for the next 10 seconds until you tap or manage to escape! J  Significance, check!

Connection.  Humans are social creatures.  We crave connection- be it in the form of a romantic relationship, with close friendships, or in deep family ties.  We need to have close bonds with other humans because we evolved that way bazillions of years ago.  Connection comes from intimate interactions (not necessarily romantic intimacy, just meaningful personal interactions).  If you have noticed, Jiu Jitsu schools become almost like a large extended family.  The friendships become close and lifelong.  They’re not just training partners- eventually they become brothers and sisters.  This is due to the very personal interactions you’re having with your training partners on a daily basis.  You develop trust and respect with the people that you are training with because you’re putting your safety and well-being in their hands, and they are doing the same for you.  So Jiu Jitsu most definitely provides a very high level of Connection- Check!

Growth.  Among all martial arts, it takes longer to reach Black Belt in BJJ than almost any other.  The Art is incredibly complex and the amount of knowledge to retain is vast.  If you train, you’ve probably heard “it’s not about the belt, it’s the journey that matters”, and that’s 100% true.  With so much to learn, the potential for growth is huge.  Admittedly, you experience technical growth quicker as a white belt because you are starting from scratch, but growth is still a constant if you truly are appreciating the journey.  BJJ teaches us patience, humility, courtesy, and perseverance.  As a result, we continue to grow as individuals and martial artists throughout the entire journey.  So we can put Growth down on our list of Checked off needs as well.

Contribution.  Along with Growth, Contribution is generally more of a long-term need we want to get from our training.  Actually, we can contribute in many ways even as a beginner, but initially the goal is to learn and develop ourselves.  Once technical skills are mastered, we still keep coming back.  So why then do advanced students keep coming to class when they may know more than anybody else there?  It’s because they value the contribution that they can provide to the other students and to the school.  It’s about giving back, and starting the cycle all over again for the new white belts who will one day want to pass along their knowledge to the next generation.  Contributing to something greater than ourselves is something that is hard wired into our psychology as humans, and Jiu Jitsu certainly allows the opportunity to do that, so Contribution is yet another Check.

Six for six ain’t bad!

So it’s kind of easy to see why people get so passionate about Jiu Jitsu.  There are opportunities to fulfill each of the six human needs in just one enjoyable activity!  Especially these days, with busy schedules and so many things competing for our attention, it can be hard to get all of our needs met.  I often describe training as my “therapy” for the week, and it’s a sentiment that I think most other people who train can identify with.  In addition to the emotional benefits, you also reap the physical rewards as well!

You may have tried Jiu Jitsu before and for some reason is just wasn’t enjoyable for you, but that may have been because of the particular academy or environment that you were training in.  I can tell you from experience that all Jiu Jitsu schools and teachers are not the same, so you may just need to find one that works for you.  So if you tried it once and didn’t like it, or you used to train but have fallen away… give it another shot, try another school, and see if you can’t find some 100% Organic All-Natural human based “therapy” for yourself.  You won’t regret it!  And by the way if you’re interested, I know a place that gives you a 10-day risk free trial just to check it out! 😉 /

Confession of a reluctant ‘Juicer’

Working out has never been the hard part of fitness for me.  5 days a week, 7 days a week, weights, cardio, martial arts training- I enjoyed it so it was easy to build positive habits that stuck around.  Diet was always the elusive part…  I kind of figured that I could out-work my diet in the gym, but that’s never the case.  Spoiler alert- abs are made in the kitchen more than the gym…  The biggest problem I encountered was that whenever I would cut weight or try to eat really clean I would get hungry.  Neigh- ‘hangry’.  And that wasn’t fun for anybody involved.  Like when Bruce Banner gets angry and becomes the Hulk, except he wants a pizza and a diet coke.

I’ve tried lots of different things- adjusting levels of carbs and proteins, substituting this kind of carb for that kind, intermittent fasting, but they always seemed to be unsustainable, at least for me, and so faded away over time out of my regular eating habits.

Recently, one of my students suggested the benefits of juicing…   Continue reading “Confession of a reluctant ‘Juicer’”

4 Tips for being an Awesome Training Partner

Jiu Jitsu is fun, training it is fun, and (with a little practice) sparring is really fun.  It’s only natural that you want to share something that you enjoy so much with others, particularly if you are paired up with someone who has much less training experience than you.  You naturally to fall into the microcosm of ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ within your group, and if you are the ‘teacher’ of course you want to help out your partner as much as possible. Continue reading “4 Tips for being an Awesome Training Partner”