BJJ Blue Belt

My first taste of Grappling – On the streets (tongue in cheek)

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My first experience with grappling didn’t occur in a BJJ academy in the 2000s. It didn’t even occur in my first Judo class in the 1990s. It happened in 1981 in Tallahassee, FL when I was in the fourth grade. But before I jump right into my first fight with a grappler let me set the scene.

I was a student at Oak Ridge Elementary School and this was back in the days when corporal punishment for students was still considered okay.

My fourth grade teacher was Mr. Walker and my parents requested that I be in his class. I was an honor roll student, but I tended to finish my work quickly and then talked or bothered other students, or at least that is what my teachers claimed. Mr. Walker had a reputation for using a one and a half-inch thick paddle that had been carved and designed for maximum speed and efficiency. He didn’t send kids to the principal. The principal sent kids to him. In his class I was one of his main targets and had to come up to the front of the class quite a few times so he could paddle me, —— in front of everybody.

The reason that I bring this up is because we had a new kid come to our school and he quickly joined the ranks of bullies that roamed the playground during recess. So as you can surmise I was in an unsafe environment. I didn’t feel safe with my teacher, many of the students, and as you will see later on, the principal either.

I also didn’t feel safe because I hated bullies and would usually end up in a conflict with them because I was a little loud and didn’t know how to keep my mouth shut. Well, let me amend that, I was really loud. My eighth grade P.E. teacher told me I was the loudest kid he ever taught. (But he was a bastard so I took his criticism with a grain of salt.)

Getting back to the new kid; he was a short guy and stocky for his age. He also had a mean streak. Within a week he had beat two kids up. But he didn’t just beat kids up. He systematically destroyed them. This wasn’t a bully who picked on others because things weren’t right at home type of bully. This was a guy who had been trained to hand out punishment.

When he fought the two kids on the playground the fights started out as any other normal playground fight. They began with the bully bullying and then the other kid deciding not to back down. They squared up and then that’s when the scene deviated from the standard script. The short bully would dive down and grab both of his victim’s legs and lift them up in the air. (I now know that it was a double leg takedown.) As the surprised kid scrambled to get to his feet the bully punched him square in the forehead. Before the fights could continue a teacher broke them up, both times.

Word got around quickly that the four foot tall new kid was not someone to be toyed with. But that didn’t matter because from the looks of things it looked like he was the dog and we were the chew toys. I don’t remember exactly how much time passed between the attack on the second kid and our altercation, but I remember how our scrap went.

I was playing basketball with my friends Willis and Jason and he sauntered onto the court and demanded to play. He didn’t ask, he demanded. No one said anything so I told him he couldn’t play and to, essentially, ‘kick rocks.’

He came right at me. I threw the basketball down and I don’t know how I did it but I put him in a headlock and ended up with a sleeper hold that I had seen slapped on by wrestlers like Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and the Road Warriors. We collapsed to the ground and I held on tight. I had the bully in full control.

I am going to be honest with you, knowing what I know now, I would have put that fellow 8 or 9 year old to sleep. But since I learned the sleeper hold, which is basically the Rear Naked Choke, from watching television and having my brother slap it on me endlessly on Saturday afternoons, I had one arm loosely around his neck with my hand gripping my other arm’s bicep and the other arm and hand holding onto his head at the top. I didn’t know that I could have slid my hand down the back of his head for the choke.

As I held on the kids around the playground began running in our direction.

“FIGHT!” “FIGHT!”

I began eyeing everyone rushing up and soon there was a substantial crowd gathered around us. I was holding my own against the new schoolyard bully. As I did not know what else to do after getting that hold I just held on for dear life. He couldn’t escape. If only I knew about hooks. As some of the kids began to recognize that he couldn’t get out of my TV inspired death clutch they began to get bored. They didn’t care about my wellbeing so some began to say let him go and start over.

“No,” I shouted!

“Let him go!” “Start over!”

What was wrong with them. This wasn’t a f***g video game, even though they weren’t popular at this point.

But the pressure began to mount. I guess I felt like the refs do in an MMA match or better yet like Cecil “stand-em-up” Peoples because I caved and let him up.

Why did I do that? He jumped up and we circled each other.

Remember what happened to those other kids.

In a millisecond, he grabbed both my legs and lifted me up into the air and I fell on my butt. I scrambled to my feet just like the other kids and he punched me solidly in the forehead.

Oddly, it didn’t hurt but I still wish I knew BJJ technique then. Don’t jump right back up into the punch.

After he socked me in the forehead, out of nowhere there was the teacher who grabbed him by both arms from behind. Where in the hell was she two minutes ago when I had him in my weak, but saving me from danger sleeper hold? Further, who taught him that double-leg? —- I bet he had a good run until the eighth grade.

Anyway, there was no way any of us kids knew how to deal with that. I didn’t even have sense enough to remember his technique to make it my own. It did, however, teach me my first lesson about grappling.

*Oh yeah, by the way, we were dragged to the principal’s office and were both paddled for fighting. The cycle was complete.

Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Grappling 101: How to Avoid being Bullied on the Mat, Psychology of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Grappling Games: BJJ & Submission Wrestlers, Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission Wrestlers, Grappling for Newbies, 20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the Mat, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

Putting in Work! (Summertime Jiu-jitsu)

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I’ve been quietly ‘putting in work’ at my academy. It’s summertime and I don’t teach at the college during the summer, so I’m averaging three times a week. I am really enjoying being able to go as much as I have.

Today, we worked on half guard escapes, sweeps and submissions. It felt like a mini-seminar and I liked the way Prof taught the class. There were not that many black and brown belts today so when the professor left class I ended up being the senior student. I ran rounds and kept an eye out to make sure every one stayed calm.

There was a relative new guy today and so I tried to keep an eye on him. I rolled with him first and asked him to roll at 50 percent. In my roll with him I pulled guard and and he leaned into my chest. I pushed him to the side and put him in a head and arm triangle and he said, “Hey, that’s not 50 percent. You’re strong.” When I pushed him to the side I did it slowly and barely used strength, but I went ahead and let him go. When I say 50 percent I usually mean speed, as I try not to use strength. Yet, I can see how he could see it differently. He stayed calm until I swept him and put him in side control. That’s when he started ‘bucking.’ I had to start using a clamp defense so he wouldn’t hurt me or hurt himself. Finally, I just slowed it down and started to give pointers so he wouldn’t go ballistic from being controlled.

I also had a roll with Jeff. Jeff is about 6’3 or 6’4 and 250 pounds and he is solid. As a White belt he was easy to control, but now that he is a Blue belt controlling him is a chore. I can no longer trade positions with him because when he gets in mount it feels like a truck is on my chest. When I had him in mount, today, he just grabbed me and rolled me over even though I had him grape-vined. Holy Sh@$! I shrimped and made space and then swept him. After that I held him in side control where I could be safe until the buzzer sounded. Whatever!

Everything else was pretty uneventful.

Until next time!

Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission WrestlersGrappling for Newbies20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the MatThe Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

Fitocracy – Joined the Party

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I joined the party. A few months ago, I read Julie Johansen’s blog and she was raving about Fitocracy and I think her lineage to it is through Slideyfoot. Anyway, I requested an invite and they finally got back to me a couple of weeks ago. As my fire had dwindled waiting for the invite, it took me a couple of days to sign up.

Why did I wait????

Fitocracy is awesome. It takes the ridiculous social cues and reward systems that we respond to (fall for) and link them to exercise. In other words, gains that you may not see for days, months or a year are immediately ascribed to your profile as soon as you log your workouts. Of course I am not talking about fat loss, muscle built or an increase in endurance. I am talking about points, rewards, fist bumps, stuff like that. People can also give you props, follow you and comment on your workouts (it’s a social media network too.)

It may sound silly, but the first night when I signed up, I got up and exercised just because I wanted to post to the board. I also have been motivated to exercise even when I was mentally drained. I have even been doing things like walking around my campus and going up and down flights of stairs (while at work) because I want to see those points build and increase my level. (It’s easier to increase in rank than BJJ. Well, that probably goes for anything…cough, cough!)

But anyway, you get my drift.

I joined the Red Bull Challenge yesterday and it starts tomorrow. It is a three week challenge and they will have scoreboards, leaders, ranks and points will be given out. They will also be giving away free trips to CA and prizes. I didn’t join for the prizes or trip (loser talk), I just want to see what I can do for three weeks and see if I can get on that scoreboard and gain a little rank.

Now to be fair, it isn’t all gravy. One guy, who was a leader in some category a week or so ago, exercise routine seemed highly questionable and if I saw him in the street I would ask him about it, but I never will so I won’t get the chance. However, most people seem to be on the up and up for recording their workouts and ultimately it is for your own personal gain. Other than that, I would say it is one of the best motivational tools out there.

Now if they would just create Dietocracy. 🙂

Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission WrestlersGrappling for Newbies20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the MatThe Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

Grinding…

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Friday’s class was a grinder. Warm-up was simple enough; jogging in circles, 50 push ups, 50 sit-ups and 50 hindu squats. But right after that Prof had us do back to back one minute rolls from different positions. There were three of us so we were in continuously.

Two things made today a little rough. One minute rolls give the impression that it won’t last long, but subconsciously I roll faster. We also had a visitor from one our affiliate schools in the city. Anytime there is a skilled visitor there is an unspoken tension even through the pleasantries. Pecking order has to be established even if you don’t want to do it.

I am past the point of getting too winded in class, I generally suffer from muscle fatigue before anything else. I mention this because I felt sloppy today. I am going to continue to up my training to prepare for class.

Peace!

Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission WrestlersGrappling for Newbies20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the MatThe Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills Off the Mat

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Excerpt from 20 Ways to Improve your Grappling Skills Off the Mat It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Smashwords

Intro

We used to train a lot at my house… People used to wake me up at night… Like at midnight, people would come… I would train every time…Caio Terra, Multiple BJJ World Champion, talking about training from home when he had no academy. (Inside BJJ)

Like most people who practice the art of submission wrestling, I try to spend as much time as possible on the mat. And when I’m not on the mat, I think about grappling entirely too much. Yet, sometimes, the only thing I can do is think about grappling because I have other responsibilities clamoring for my attention.

Since I have grappled for nearly a decade, I have had to come up with ways to insure that gaps in training don’t derail my hard earned gains. As a consequence, I have developed numerous strategies. Those strategies are what this book is about. 20 Ways to Improve your Grappling Skills off the Mat will share with you how you can increase your grappling abilities when you can’t make it to class.

It discusses mindsets and approaches and it is designed to help you become a better grappler when no one is looking. The ideas provided in this book will give you an edge when it comes to training. — Following a few of the suggestions will take your game to the next level.

Imagine if you used all of them.

20 Ways also contains quotes from grappling and MMA veterans. It explores:

-How to be 8 steps ahead of your opponent

-The real deal with heavy bags and grappling

-What’s up with grappling dummies?

-Ways to use visualization that are never discussed

-Why solo drills matter

-How a few simple words can change your game

-How Claude van Damme can improve your grappling

-Why maps are important in submission wrestling

-How being a bookworm is good for grapplers

-How you can improve without lifting a muscle; and

-Ideas that will revolutionize your game and make you a tapping machine

Thanks for purchasing this book and I hope you enjoy.

Bakari Akil II, Ph.D./Jiu-Jitsu365

Heavy Bag

You only have two options, you win or you lose. Why not just win.Daniel Cormier-Olympic Wrestler

I would argue that when most people pull up YouTube, looking for a grappling clip, it is not to learn how to achieve or maintain dominant positions. They are looking for ways to tap chumps out. Admittedly, it’s not a bad idea. If you grapple for more than a few months, you quickly realize how difficult it is to make your partner submit when he’s learning the same things you are. Springing a surprise wristlock you learned from your favorite online guru makes training that much easier.

However, most grappling techniques offered online begin with the instructor ordering the uke (one being demonstrated against) to take a certain position on the mat. Then the uke jumps down like he’s expecting a Scooby snack in return. Yet, when is the last time you were able to tell your grappling partner to lie on his back so you could assume side control during a live roll?

Dominant positions have to be earned. Then they have to be maintained. Now, there are many ways that you can practice catching people in submissions and we will explore them in this book. But let’s start off by covering how you can use the heavy bag to improve your ability to dominate positions and improve your overall grappling ability.

Design

Using the heavy bag is the blue-collar way of learning how to hand out beat-downs. It doesn’t do everything you want it to do, but it can get the job done. Its design is simple, sturdy and it can take a beating. They are also large enough to give you the feeling of dealing with a person and heavy enough where you have to exert yourself when working out with one. The length of heavy bags allow you to practice a wide range of moves and its bulk lets you apply pressure that even your training buddies wouldn’t allow.

Cost

They are also relatively cheap, especially in relation to the many years of use you can extract from one. I paid $65 for my 60 lb. bag and have owned it for 8 years. You can also purchase one cheaply from a second hand store like Play it Again Sports or from a yard sale. Now if you’re really cheap, you can learn how to make a heavy bag by watching a YouTube clip of some weird guy creating one in his mom’s basement.

No matter how you obtain one, your investment will pay off each time you can’t make it to class due to work or other commitments, yet you still have enough energy to drill at home. (Or, in my case, when I lived in the middle of nowhere and had to use my bag as a training buddy for a few months.)

Basics

Whether boxing or grappling, the heavy bag can help you review the basics. Just like in boxing where you can practice jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts and combinations, the heavy bag will allow you to practice the rudiments of grappling. Side control, mount, North-South and Knee-on-belly are all fair game on a heavy bag. You can also practice applying pressure to the chest and the proper spacing of your legs when trying to hold an opponent down. You will never, ever find a drilling partner who will allow you to work on your positioning as much as a heavy bag. If you do, money will be involved.

You can also work on transitioning from one position to the next. For instance, transferring from side control to the mount, mount to side control and side control to North-South. The bag can help you develop the speed and timing required to jump from side control to Knee-on-belly and from Knee-on-belly on the right to Knee-on-belly to the left. Drilling these basic positions will give you the ability to ride opponents. I have to admit, I feel like a bull-rider when I am controlling a ‘spazzy’ new guy and a pimp when I’m jumping from position to position on an experienced guy. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from asking, “Where is my money?” That skill doesn’t come from attending class once or twice a week. It’s from my heavy bag training.

Advanced

You can also practice more advanced positional drills on the bag as well as work a little technique. For instance I cemented my ability to capture…

End of Excerpt

Thanks for reading! If this caught your attention you can purchase 20 Ways to Improve your Grappling Skills Off the Mat at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

This book can be read on your computer, tablet or cell phone using your Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble free apps. You can also read it on the computer using Smashwords or Lulu.

Check out my grappling books on Amazon: Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission WrestlersGrappling for Newbies20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the MatThe Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.

Times Up – Back to Academia

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Check out my books, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling  and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

The new semester begins next Monday. All week I have been attending college wide, departmental and discipline related meetings and preparing my curriculum for my students. My BJJ lifestyle of the summer has already been affected.

Yes, I am ready to teach and head back to the classroom but I will miss my Summer of BJJ. This time I really stuck to my statements and attended, on average, three classes per week. (I initially tried going five times a week but hurt my back on the fourth day of the first week and decided maybe three times a week would be best.) I learned many things over the summer but I think the most important thing I learned was to stop holding back.

I don’t mean being a ‘douche’ to my fellow grappling buddies when rolling by being over-aggressive. What I mean is that I learned that I need to use my skills and make my opponents actually work to achieve a position or submission and not just give it to them. I had a tendency to be a back and forth player. After I dominated a position for a while I would let my rolling buddy back into the game and let them work. A lot of this would be to my detriment when I faced equal or higher level players. I realized that most, if not all, did not have the same mindset (and no one told me they should) and I always paid for my approach.

After a particularly bad day this summer where I played this game and ‘got’ crushed I decided to bring it, yeah I said bring it, to every class. I started using my A game and stopped working my B and C games because I wasn’t getting any better at them. I decided to work off of my strengths and become well rounded in my weaknesses when the moments presented themselves (as they always do). After about a week of this I had an eye-opening conversation. A white belt who had a little experience under his belt told me that my game had really changed as of late. He told me he was “unable to stop” me and then he said these words,

“where we had almost been equal before.”

I was flabbergasted. He’s a nice guy and meant no harm by his words but to me it was a shot in the gut. I thought when I was rolling with people and I let them work their games or didn’t always submit them that they knew I was doing it on purpose. I didn’t think they thought I was just not really all that tough (not saying he said that). I thought about all the times I had tried to be fair and ended up fighting for my life in a roll because of it. I realized that a lot of people thought I was really putting my all into it so they put their all in it.

My wife had been saying for a couple of years that people don’t know I am going easy on them, but I figured they had to know. I stood corrected.

As a result I stopped playing that game. If I have the tap I take it. If I have the position I keep it. I am not malicious but I am on a mission.

As my epiphany gained strength I realized that upper belts who doggedly pursue submissions are upper belts because they doggedly go after submissions. They maintain positions and they pursue the taps until they get them. They don’t give up positions to make their partners feel better.

My game has improved as a result and I have improved as a grappler. I still have a lot of balancing to do but I believe I am on the right path.