Month: January 2009

Thanks Helio Gracie!

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I would just like to say thank you to Helio Gracie. When I first heard of his passing yesterday in class I was shocked. 

He indirectly and directly influenced my life. Although he didn’t ‘create’ Gracie Jiu-jitsu he was right at the cusp and was responsible for it being an art that could truly protect the weak from the strong. As he passed the tradition down to his family, who then proselytized to all of us, I have helped spread BJJ to my nephews and hopefully will one day spread it to my own daughter(s) and/or son(s).

Here  is a video of him at 95. Vibrant and strong well into his nineties. Wow!

Watch Out! Watch Out! —- Continue.

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It happens all the time, yet I still get tickled at what we do.  I was rolling with a tall white belt who was all arms and legs. He stood up in my guard and was applying a choke while he was bending over. I grabbed his right arm with my left hand so he couldn’t pull back and then under-hooked his left leg. I then threw my left leg over his head for the arm-bar.

It felt like we were going in slow motion as he began to fall and I began to hear, “Watch out! Watch out!” I didn’t know what was going on until my rolling partner had fallen on top of our instructor, Smiley, with me holding onto his arm. We both stopped in position and looked at Smiley, who had been talking to some other guys. He just looked over his shoulder, scooted over and said, “Continue.” We then looked at each other, gave a nod and I was able to tap him with the arm-bar.

Other than that I was pretty happy with my performance. After I rolled with Smiley he told me that I am attacking more, which is good.  Earlier in class we practiced a standing defense against a RNC, chokes from the back and a wicked pull down throw while seated. The last technique generates a lot of force if done correctly. I told my training partner that I would actually become afraid if someone pulled me down like that. 

Anyway, I finally made it back. I am sore and stiff and my neck and shoulders are out of whack, but I’ll be good by next week. 

Schedule Up-ended, Interfering with BJJ training

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Scheduled meetings, unexpected meetings and new obligations have drastically interfered with my ability to attend class. I haven’t been to Combat Athletix since last Tuesday. I have, however, been working out at home, even as late as 12 AM. Even though I can’t be there I am still trying to maintain my fitness level. 

I have developed a whole new routine, exhaustion be damned. Each day I have to run (treadmill), perform calisthenics, lift weights, stretch and perform 10 reps each of 3 BJJ techniques. I am alternating lower and upper body weight workouts and going light when needed. I designed it to be relatively quick and to the point similar to a P90x workout. I have been doing it for 5 days and feel pretty good so far. 

When I get the chance to return I want it to be like I never left or want to see improvement. Even though there is nothing like grappling to get better at grappling.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ladder (Bakari from Jiujitsu365)

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While growing up I played and participated in all kind of sports; basketball, football, cross country, baseball, etc. However, my father and brother were heavy into tennis. I learned how to play because I would tag along with them occasionally. They stayed on the courts too long for my tastes though. However, their love and patience for the game translated into many tournament wins, trophies, t-shirts and in my brother’s case, the number one player at his high school and a full scholarship to play tennis.   

One extra special perk of practicing so much and being dominating players in tennis was being ranked number 1 on the Men’s and Teens ladder at the Officer’s Club. I grew up in a military family and the Officer’s Club had a huge swimming pool, tennis and golf courts, etc., before it became standard fare for many neighborhoods. My father and brother held their number 1 rankings for the majority of time we were stationed at Ft. Bragg N.C. after they climbed their way up through the rankings. 

The tennis ladder worked like this. You had about 20 or so people who were on the list which also provided their phone numbers. You could only challenge the person immediately above you and they had to play you within two weeks or they had to forfeit their position. You would call them up and arrange a date to play and the winner would report the results to the coordinator of the board. Every week the new positions would be published on the ladder in a prominent place for all to see. The results also went out on a Ft. Bragg newsletter at the time. So you could gain even more ‘notoriety’. This was a source of pride for my dad and brother and I received a vicarious thrill through their rankings too. Not everyone is trying to go pro with their sport but this made them top dog in their locale. 

I tell this story this to suggest this. What if there was a BJJ Ladder used ‘in-house’ by academies? Now hear me out. I know we try to be selfless in training with our training partners and pals in our BJJ schools. However, if done appropriately I think a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ladder would be a great tool to help motivate BJJ players.

My Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ladder would run like this:

1. Establish a category for each belt rank (so people won’t be afraid to participate). You could even have Children’s, Adult’s, Master’s or Absolute divisions (rank and weight). Players sign up first come, first serve. That will determine the initial rankings (it should eventually even out). Then create a chart listing the rankings and provide a telephone and email address so the person can be contacted (or they can challenge in person). They have two weeks to meet the challenge or they forfeit the rank to the challenger. (The coordinator will have to set the criteria for a legitimate attempt to challenge).

2. A player can only challenge the person immediately above them. This will keep a number 10 player  who’s having a good day from beating a number 2 player who is having a bad day from disrupting all of the other ranks above 10. The other ranks would have a legitimate argument that they would probably not lose to the former number 10.

3. The challenge would be settled by a best of  three  (2 out of 3) submission rounds. The rounds would be three to five minutes long (highest rank chooses) with a 3 minute break in between. You can only win a round by submitting your opponent. If there is no winner after three rounds then the ranks stays the same. I know this favors the one being challenged but that person is the higher rank. Further, it can be settled without judges and points and should prevent too much stalling. To make the challenges safe and to remind participants that it is a friendly bout, I would suggest that the grapplers start from their knees and that the coordinator of the ladder strongly suggest to all participants that the competitions are friendly and safe. The winner of the match notifies the person (or instructor) who is coordinating the ladder.

4. The next step is very important. The new rankings must be posted every week and must be in a prominent position for everyone to see. Perhaps it could be published on the school’s website or newsletter if they have one. 

In my mind this would serve the BJJ and grappling community in so many ways. First, it will offer a chance for grapplers to regularly test their progress without having to wait 2 to 6 months for a tournament. It will make things exciting as people watch the rise and fall of the ranks and people start to follow other people’s development. It will also give participants a chance to “boast” a little to their family and friends of their ranking at their academy. If any one has an experience like mine no one knows anything about my BJJ school unless I tell them. So if you are at the bottom of the rankings no one has to know and your BJJ buddies don’t care because we have all been there and may go back at any moment. 

I also think that it would motivate people to train harder and more often, to become more technical and to start analyzing other people’s games (the people they will challenge) more closely to see how they can beat their style of play. Why? Because they want to be number 1 or would settle for  2 or 3. Further, as there are stakes tied to the outcome of the bout it will help in the mental training required to win matches for upcoming tournaments.

As long as the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ladder is ran and conducted with a spirit of fun and goodwill it should be a fun way to keep things interesting. 

(If anyone decides to try it let me know how it works out. I would be very interested in the results  and remember you heard it from Bakari at JiuJitsu365.)

What Army rank would a BJJ belt equal?

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As a veteran of the armed forces (Army) I sometimes wonder what rank a BJJ belt would equal in terms of knowledge, technique and experience. I have often played around with it in my head and this is what I came up with.

White Belt – No Stripes -Basic Trainee/ 1 Stripe – Private – E1/ 2 Stripes – Private – E2/ 3 Stripes – Private First Class – E3/ 4 Stripes – Specialist or Corporal – E4

As I am a four stripe white belt I am knowledgeable enough to hold down the fort for a limited amount of time, but lack some essential skills that could make it a little dangerous for everyone involved.

Blue Belt – No Stripes – Sergeant/ 1 Stripe – Staff Sergeant – E6/ 2 Stripes -Sergeant First Class- E7/ 3 Stripes – Master Sergeant – E8/ 4 Stripes – Sergeant Major or Master Sergeant/Sergeant Major -E9

I would say that the blue belts that I have been around have (had) the toughness to handle most of the newbies and long time vets in the white belt ranks,  at the least.  They can be trusted to lead the students for extended periods of time. The three and four stripe players have considerable experience to stay the course and can train people for extended periods without any guidance. But at some point they will need further direction so that they and those below them can advance.

Purple Belt – No Stripes to 1 Stripe – 2nd Lt./2 Stripes -1st Lt./3 Stripes – Captain/4 Stripes – Major

In the army most of the Lieutenants are named XOs (share the second in command spot) of a company of about 50 troops. Captains are usually named COs (commanding officer) of about 100 troops. I have noticed a tendency for many purple belts to open their own schools in many cities and they have well trained students who compete well against  students trained in Black and Brown belt schools. They are usually able to exist on their own with casual guidance.

Brown Belt – No Stripes to 2 Stripes – Lt. Col/3  to 4 Stripes – Colonel

Lt. Colonels and Colonels are entrusted with hundreds and sometimes thousands of troops. At this time it is only a matter of time before they receive that revered status of General. Most BJJ practitioners will never reach the brown belt level and there is ‘massive’ respect for those who reach this rank.

Black Belt – No Stripes to 1 Stripe – Brigadier General/ 2 Stripes – Major General/ 3 Stripes – Lt. General/ 4 Stripes – General

Many who hold this rank oversee the total development of our art. They visit schools to provide guidance, lift morale and show their confidence and support in those they mentor. It is always an extremely big deal when they visit an academy. There is often a level of mysticism associated with those who achieve this position or the rank.

These are my thoughts on the subject. I would love to hear someone else’s opinion on the subject.

You can also check out my writings and research at Psychology Today: Communication Central

Mouthguard – The Tap! (click it to make it bigger)

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Judo Man ‘Got’ Judoed

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Yesterday (Tuesday) was my first day back since last Tuesday. My wife and I went on a ‘mini-vacation’ so I didn’t have an opportunity to go to class.  My instructor (Smiley) noticed I hadn’t been there for a week.  I am trying to maintain consistency so I may have to dig a little bit deeper to attend another night class on a different day.

The good thing is that I have been working out everyday so my cardio level was intact. We reviewed a self-defense technique for the headlock, a defense to the mount and an escape from the mount that leads to the heel hook.

When it was time to roll two of my sparring partners, Charlie (blue belt) and Carlos (brown belt) wanted to start standing. They are both smaller than I am, but they are muscular and strong. In my first roll with Charlie we went back and forth with takedown attempts and he finally ended up trying to pull me down into a guillotine. I was able to defend properly but the first roll ended with him achieving a triangle choke. It’s been a while since I got caught with that submission. Charlie is very aggressive (controlled though) so I had to up my intensity level and we ended up in a stalemate the second roll.

I immediately rolled with Carlos (brown belt) next. While jockeying for position and grip fighting he came out of nowhere with a shoulder throw.  It was very well executed and I appreciated the efficiency of it. As I landed I thought to myself, “Wow, that was a nice throw!” I don’t remember if he tapped me, but I do remember him jumping from knee on belly, to mount, to knee on belly pretty much at will.

When it came time to roll with Smiley, who is 6’1 or 2 and 265 lbs, he asked if I wanted to start up or down and I chose down. I am not a big fan of standing up during practice, but I may need to polish up on my Judo skills. Smiley tapped me at will but I did make progress in trying to pass his guard. I almost pulled it off, but almost is an opinion and not a fact.