Mental Revelations of the Progressing Grappler Continue



    This essay is a follow up on “Mental Revelations of The Progressing Grappler.” I am pleased to announce that the initial list was not exhaustive (though I never purported it to be), and even as I have continued to progress, my eyes are continually being opened to new features and aspects of grappling. My prayer is that you are exposed to this revelation at an earlier stage in your training than I was and therefore are able to tailor your training to make your grappling as sharp as it can be.

Nature and Existence of “Scrambles”:

A scramble is a period of time within a match/roll where movement is opened up, neither participant has full control, and the apparent pace of the match quickens noticeably.   Continue reading

Chapter 1 of Small Axe Jiu Jitsu

For those who have taken the time to read my pedagogy and philosophy link, you will recognize the following as the first chapter of that section. I was reviewing it and found it to be withstanding the tests of time. I hope you enjoy and are furthered by it!
“Why boasteth thyself, o evil men? Playing smart but then not being clever. I say you’re working inequity to achieve vanity. But the goodness of Jah Jah idureth for iver. So if you are the Big Tree, we are the small axe, sharp and ready.”
-Small Axe by Bob Marley and The Wailers
I have come to find that in Jiu-Jitsu, it is easy to believe that the color of your uniform, the patch on the back, or the brand of your rash guard will make you feared by opponents. Also, with the adaptation of techniques, students often desire to know the latest and greatest techniques, even if they have not mastered the core fundamental techniques. I came to know this because I was guilty of it.
I too, have been guilty of belt envy. This is the admiration, aspiration, and all consuming desire to obtain the next piece of colored cloth to cover my waist. One must be cautious not to let his or her vanity consume the practice of jiu jitsu! If one becomes too focused on belt color, then failure is close. Professor Caique has a poster in his academy that says, “A black belt is a white belt who never quit.” I had heard this before, but at a time in my life when I was thinking that blue belt was my final resting place, I saw this poster, thought about what Caique was saying by having it up in his academy (a place where there are few posters, flare, or pictures). It sunk in. I was not going to quit. Neither are you!
Forget about the belts. They will come faster and in due time if you are focused more on learning than on progressing. Throwing away vanity is difficult in a materialistic society, but in the practice of Jiu-Jitsu, it is necessary.
Next, it is of dire importance that my students understand that the core fundamentals I have chosen have been instilled in me as the basis for developing a personal Jiu-Jitsu that is effective and practical. It is more important that you be able to escape a mount, submit an opponent from cross-side, pass the guard, or perform an effective sweep, than it is to have the latest and greatest brand of gi or rash guard. I want my students confident that they can enter a competition, defend a real life attack, or at a minimum teach a technique wearing the simplest of outfits. Patches, medals, brands, and other material attractions mean nothing in this martial art/sport and that is why I love it! It is you and me, and our skills, not our money and good looks that will determine who is going to end victorious.
The belt promotion process is a long haul. It will feel nearly like a lifetime. Part of that purpose is to determine loyalty, not only to an instructor, but to the martial art. There will be flavors of the day that will tempt you away from BJJ. Belts come easier in other art forms, so those gratified by cloth will leave for other styles. BJJ requires extreme time and emotional commitment. It is often said that a blue belt is at an experiential equivalent to a black belt in many of the traditional martial arts (hereinafter TMA). I want this to be true of my Small Axe Jiu-Jiteiro. Blue belts better be able to run a class, bring up white belts, and understand the philosophy of BJJ thoroughly.
Summary: If you are worrying about the next belt promotion, you are wasting energy that could be used on improving. To restate my ladder metaphor again; progressing through BJJ is like climbing the ladder to a high dive. The steps upward are narrow and defined (i.e. you are progressing to the next belt level with your peer group and the measurement is more or less uniform). However, once you plunge into the pool of Black Belt, there are no narrow steps, just a deep pool in which one must learn to swim, tread, sink, or float (i.e. the black belt level encompasses a broad spectrum of ability). Thus, worrying about the time it takes it go from white to blue, or blue to purple will seem very insignificant and will seem like wasted energy when you reach black belt and are finding your place in the pool.
I hope this chapter spurs thought.

Training Ruts and Dealing with Losses

(2008 Small Axe Hoosier Open Competitors with their Hardware)
Small Axe Jiu Jitsu is all about the “positive vibrations!” I try to keep classes light-hearted and make sure that students are encouraged to have fun, recognize their strengths, address their weaknesses, and encourage others. I begin by saying that because the topic of discussion here is kind of a downer BUT if one is aware of training ruts and if one realizes that losses are opportunities, then one can minimize suffering and maximize the positive. I have gone through many training ruts, varying in length, but to date each has ended.

Training Ruts:
If you are not from the midwest, then the term ‘rut’ might be foreign to you. A rut is a low, trench-like path that out is difficult to escape. Often, when one is traveling in a rut, it feels as though the rut is controlling the direction of your progress. (e.g. if a 4-wheeler is going through a field and his tire gets stuck in a rut caused by a tractor, it can make steering difficult.)
Training Ruts are periods of perceived stagnation in your progression or development in jiu jitsu. They are often indicated by inability to perform basic techniques with the same ease on lesser classmates, decreased successfullness of defenses, mental blocks, frustration, and physical exhaustion.

Causes of training ruts:

My guess to the causes of training ruts is based solely on my experiences with them. Here is my list of causes of training ruts:
1. Your strategy has become apparent. (Your classmates are picking up on your cues of movement, your tells of attack, and therefore they are employing alternative strategies)
2. You have drank the ‘flashy koolaid‘! (Someone or something has convinced you that there is an easy way to do this… as such you are trying an ‘easy way’ and it isn’t working)
3. You are over-training. (Jiu jitsu training occurs in class, after class, and every moment of the day you think about it. Make sure to take some healthy time away… you have the rest of your life to have fun with this)
4. Your classmates have hit the curve. (I have come to realize that there are interesting curves in jiu jitsu knowledge… they tend to indicate readiness for belt promotion. Take for example a student on whom you could hit a basic hip switch method to mount time in and time out, but now anytime you make any attempt to mount you are re-guarded, or worse reversed… that white belt is hitting the curve of linking the techniques to their practical purpose. Or, let’s say you training with a blue belt who has always been good at armbar from the guard, but this time he sweeps you with arm-inside sweep and immediately is setting up s-mount armlocks… that blue belt is chaining moves together in productive sequences. That does not happen overnight, but once the switch is flipped, the upward curve is sharp.

List of ways to get out of the rut:

1. Identify why you are in a rut. The reason leads to the solution
2. If it is mental or physical exhaustion… take a very brief break. Enjoy a night away from class.
3. If is because you are drinking magic potion ‘easy-way’ crap… quit! Focus on the fundamentals… they work.
4. If it is because your strategy has become apparent… determine how they are defending or countering and prepare your attack to their defense or counter… work to stay steps ahead of them.
5. If it is because your classmates have hit a curve… be patient if you are training right your curve will come. Refocus your attention on the core basics and making sure you are sharp there too.
I hope these suggestions help with dealing with training ruts.

Dealing with losing!

I have only heard of one guy who claims to have never lost a competitive BJJ match… Rickson Gracie. Putting him aside, all others have lost. It comes with the nature of the game. There are so many variables that any confluence of a few in the direction opposite of your favor is likely to result in a loss. Here is the vid of my latest loss (as of 6/14/08):

One of the keys regarding losing is making the experience positive. What happened? Were you out-classed, surprised, caught dumb in the moment, under conditioned, or did you lose due to a bad ref call? Regardless of the answer to these, there are lessons to be learned that will better your training and performance in the future. Use a loss to do the following:

1. Evaluate your strategy. (Are you over doing it or under doing it. A flying gogo plata might theoretically be cool, but I have yet to see it as a viable strategy)
2. Identify your weaknesses. Nothing is better than failing to pass the guard to tell you that part of your game needs work. Likewise, if you got caught twice in an armbar from the guard evaluate why and address that mistake.
3. Use a loss as a call to train harder and smarter for the next tournament. If you did no win, the event was ‘no joke’.

4. Make sure competition is fun for you. If competition ceases to be fun… stop. Remember that for the most of us, BJJ is a hobby, despite the passion we feel for it. Wanting to excel is admirable, but few who despise what they are doing ever excel.
Training Ruts and Losing are natural parts of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Patience and relaxation are integral parts of a successful bjj strategy, use losses and ruts as opportunities to practice patience. Feel free to ask me how to work through your unique and individual situation. That is what I am your instructor/coach for… to help make you the best you can be.