Friday, December 19, 2014

Jiu-jitsu and the moth

When the tree matches the moth's coloration, the moth performs as expected. Remove the tree or change its color, and suddenly the moth becomes exposed to the realities of life.

We can learn a lot from nature. It is honest, balanced, and does not care about your station in life.

Jiu-jitsu to me is the same. When you get on the mats, you cannot lie or buy your way in or out of anything.

Upon doing some wiki surfing one night, I came across the peppered moth. In the years preceding the Industrial Revolution, the lightly colored peppered moth flourished. During, the moths of that color began to die out and the dark ones began to flourish. Why? Because the environment changed. The trees and lichens that were once light, either died out or were covered with soot. Leaving the lightly colored moths exposed to predators.

In many jiu-jitsu schools, coaches teach on a technique by technique basis. They essentially create a group of students who not only mimic whatever the coach shows, but become dependent on the coach to always be there to answer their questions. Learning slows because posture must be discovered within a multitude of techniques and students must amass an Encyclopedias worth of counters and setups. Coaches who teach this way are destined to create:

1. Higher belts who have no understanding of why jiu-jitsu works
2. An environment where only the athletes flourish
3. Future coaches who teach the same way, creating a never-ending cycle

What a very unreliable "trait" to pass down.

There is a reason why at my school we focus on the fundamentals. What this means is posture, the order that these postures arise naturally, and the most important thing WHY they work. The difference is that since students know the why, they can learn to survive anywhere. This allows for faster development, and less spoon feeding from your coach.

There is nothing magical about jiu-jitsu as it is based on physics, geometry, and the human anatomy. Just like there is nothing magical about space travel, radios and televisions, or electricity. These things can be simply understood, just by figuring out how they work. Animals that mimic their environments, do not truly understand it. However, they have no choice. As humans, we can change the way we think about jiu-jitsu (life) by being more intelligent and deliberate in our practice (living). Don't be a mimic. Learn the why to ensure you survive in all environments.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ask A Champ: Amanda Loewen

Age: 27
Belt: Black
Weight class: Light Weight
Length of training time: A little over 5 years
From: Fresno, CA
Nicknames: none
Affiliation: Straight Blast Gym International (Portland, Oregon) 
MMA Record: 2-0
Sponsors: I've got a couple Gi's from Fenom 

Major Titles: 

IBJJF World Lightweight Brown Belt Silver Medalist 
IBJJF Boston Open Lightweight Brown Belt Champion
IBJJF Boston Open Absolute Brown Belt Champion

IBJJF Las Vegas Open Absolute Champion 
IBJJF Las Vegas Open Lightweight Bronze Medalist
IBJJF Pan-American Lightweight Purple Belt Silver Medalist 

Grapplers Quest Advanced No-Gi Champion 

At what age did you start training jiu-jitsu? 

23 I think. 

Initially, how did your friends and family react to you training? Do they support you? 

My family knew I was doing some type of wrestling, but wasn't quit sure what kind of sport I was actually doing at the time. My family has always been incredibly supportive of anything I've ever tried. Safe to say its worked out so far. My boyfriend at the time was not so stoked on me even going to 24 hour fitness, let alone wrestling on the mat with a bunch of random dudes. That didn't last long, as I fell head over heels for jiu-jitsu. 

What were some of the initial highs and lows you had when you first started training? 

I liked the feeling of getting in better shape, figuring out the puzzle that is jiu-jitsu. I was and still am always excited to step on the mat and take classes and roll. The lows I had were connected to the feeling of wanting immediate success and results. In the beginning I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and get good really fast. Or more so fighting the frustration of not understanding something quickly enough. I realize now that there is no time line, you just show up and enjoy what you're doing. This learning is for a lifetime, you shouldn't just want the next belt and then start slowing down. 

How did you manage to find Straight Blast Gym – Portland?

Well, I worked around the corner at the 'Wet Spot Tropical Fish Store' for almost three years. Everyday at lunch I would walk past the gym on my way to Trader Joe's and watch what they were doing through the giant roll up door. I thought it was karate and figured I needed to get in better shape, so 'karate' it would be. Thank God it wasn't karate, but Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. First person I talked to was a guy named Chris Stearns (who would later go on to be one of my head competition coaches and friends) He was friendly and said that we needed more women at the gym and I should come and check it out. Thats exactly what I did. I took my first class, got arm barred a lot, and immediately signed up afterwards. 

How has the SBG philosophy helped develop your game?

Since I've never trained anywhere else, I couldn't imagine not being SBG. Our coaching philosophy is something special that I don't think a lot of other gyms ever get to experience. We have aliveness. We have equality; as in I can teach not only women’s classes, kids classes, but co-ed classes. Many other women, black belt women from other gyms can only teach women and children's classes. I think that's ridiculous. We also have a time for introduction, isolation and integration periods in our classes and instruction. With these things I feel it has boosted my learning ability and helped break down the game to its finest. 

How has jiu-jitsu changed you as a person?

I think the biggest thing it has helped me change, or rather continuing to change, is how I take my losses. I was THE biggest loser. I can make excuses as to why, but that's all they are, excuses. Losing is losing. What I found out is that my coaches don't 'expect' me to win, I think they expect me to do my best, to leave everything out there on the mat. I am my hardest critic, and I'm learning to be a little softer on myself. I have to remember that there is always going to be someone out there that can beat me. Everyone can be beaten. 

What do you feel is your strongest position and favorite submission? What have you struggled with?

I'm still sorting out all those things. I love playing guard, but I currently love passing even more. My favorite submission is the step over arm bar from cross sides top. I've struggled with it all, and will continue to struggle, learn and roll through it. 

Now that competition season has died down a bit, what are you working on in the gym?

I'm working on a more effective guard game, trying to attack more rather then being so complacent. There's a lot of positions and postures on my to-do list that I'm trying to get sorted. Every time I see something new, I want to try it right away. Adding it to my game is another story, that takes time and patience. 

When did you first compete? Were you the type that won at every belt level or do you sometimes cringe at the thought of your older competitions?

My first competition was at a Sub League in Oregon, I won second out of a decent sized group of women. We were all lumped into one weight category. The only reason I lost was because I couldn't submit a giant women, it was awesome. I think I won a fair amount at white and blue, it became harder and harder as I advanced to other belts due to lack of competition in the Northwest. It became a big reality check when I went to compete at the World Championships. I thought I was the one that worked really hard and trained all the time. Nope. There are others that do the same. I haven't watched too many of my old videos, but when I do I slap myself in the face. 

A lot of people say that schools matter when it comes to competing. Do you think that it matters what school you attend, and why?  

I am SBG, my school matters to me because my coaches matter to me. They are my family. No offer anyone could ever give me would be better than what I have with this team. 

You have adhered to a lot of positive lifestyle choices, vegan-ism and straight edge to be specific. Why did you choose to live this way and how has it helped your training?

These choices are incredibly important to me. I grew up in the California hardcore scene and inevitably chose the Vegan Straight Edge lifestyle. I am, not because my friends were per say, but  because of the living situation I had to deal with growing up, and knew I NEVER wanted to make those same mistakes or hurt my friends and family the way my dad did. I don't smoke, I don't drink, and I don't do drugs. Now with that being said, 99% of the people I associate with do the opposite which is fine. I'm not here to judge, I don't preach about it. Deep down inside I'll always be that 16 year old kid with a lions pride. Vegan-ism on the other hand is strictly because I love animals, health reasons are lower on the totem pole. However in recent days I found out I was a Type 1 Diabetic due to a auto immune disorder. So being vegan has played an even bigger role in my life than I thought it would have (along with doing Jiu-Jitsu) 

What is your take on drilling and sparring? Do you believe that in order to be an elite level athlete you have to drill 3x a day?

I do both, I love to roll but understand I need to evaluate certain positions by drilling, and then adding honest resistance to see if it actually works. If all your doing is one movement with no resistance, theres no authenticity. I take what I can get, due to my booked teaching schedule. Sometimes I can only roll, and other times I can only take classes. The beautiful thing about SBG is that there's always a bit of drilling/rolling during classes so I can achieve both where I'm at. 

Were you an athlete growing up?

“Athlete” is pushing it. I played soccer from first  to eighth grade. My dad was the coach and pushed me really hard. I think I got MVP once out of those years. I did track for a while (mile relay runs, high jump, and long jump) The thing I loved most was riding my horse, and biking around the neighborhood. 

Do you think it is imperative for anyone serious about training BJJ to compete?

Absolutely not. People join the gym for different reasons, I believe that if they never compete once, that's totally fine. Though if someone does want to compete, we will support them 100% to make sure they have success. There are different aspects to Jiu-Jitsu, competing is just one of them. 

What do you feel is the most important attribute to take with you into competition?

Patience, and timing. 

Most people who train Jiu-Jitsu are huge nerds, but don’t like to admit it. How much of a BJJ nerd are you? Do you think about it obsessively?
I honestly think about it all the time. That may mean I'm thinking about imaginary matches I've never had before, or positions I want to work on. Or thinking about “what if I do this..” I wake up thinking about it, and go to bed thinking about it. It consumes me. 

What made you compete in the first place? 

Chris Stearns inspired me to compete. He would get me so pumped for a competition. 

How much of a priority is it in your life?

It's currently very important, I'm trying to create a resume that people will notice. I want to be able to do this a long time. I may not be able to compete forever but I know I can teach. Most people want a “big” name to bring to their gym. I'm trying to create that big name. They will know who I am whether it takes a year or ten years. I'm not going anywhere. 

How has teaching full-time helped your jiu-jitsu?

All I teach is fundamentals, therefore I do more fundamental jiu-jitsu. I'm not concerned with teaching my game (whatever that is) or the 70 different ways you can sweep someone from guard. Here at SBG we teach posture, pressure and possibilities. When people watch my matches I want them so say “wow, look at that posture.” 

What match has been the most significant in your career?

I'm not sure. When I lost my finals match at worlds I was heart broken. I made excuses as to why I lost like, “she was taking steroids”, “she was stalling”, and so on. So what if she did, or what if she was. Welcome to sport jiu-jitsu. I realize now that if I want to play that game I need to be the best. That match helped me open my eyes a bit. 

Which ones did you learn the most from?

I learn from my losses the most because those are the ones I remember. Wins are excellent, but I think we find we typically don't look back as to what we could have done better off of those matches. 

What advice would you give to women wanting to train BJJ? 

If you're going to do it, do it. You are going to face challenges. You are going to feel frustrated. You are going to be in a lot of really terrible positions for a really long time. Thats okay. Learn how to problem solve. Learn how to stay patient and focused. Train at a gym where you can succeed. Your coach should be supportive. Choose your rolls, and learn how to say 'no'. You don't have to roll with everyone. Don't avoid other women because your the only one at your gym and you’re afraid to lose. 

What can they do to improve their chances of making it to black belt?

Show up, train as consistently as you can. Don't get belt hungry, if thats the only thing your focused on you won't ever get there. Just enjoy the process, it’s forever. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Wherever SBG and bjj takes me that's where I'll be. 

I heard you were in a band, tell us a little about that.

Once upon a time, a long time ago I was in a hardcore band in California. It was awesome. 

What do you do for fun besides train?

I love riding my bike. Hanging out with my dogs. Reading fantasy books and watching crime shows. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Mind reader, because then I would know when people are actually being honest. 

Top 5 places in the world you would like to teach a seminar (vacation)?
Germany    South Africa
Finland       Sweden 

To keep up with the latest on Amanda, follow her Facebook page here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to get better at the GAME of BJJ

Jiu-jitsu is a game full of sore losers. Unlike many other games, it actually allows it. This to me is a major flaw in BJJ, and one reason I try to stifle those sort of behaviors in my school from the jump. Because quite frankly, it creates bad players.

I know you may be wondering, what I mean by that. Well I will be glad to tell you.

Jiu-jitsu, in the short-term, rewards attributes. When someone does not know how to get out of a particular problem with technique, they can revert to what they know they do have; which usually is strength, speed, power, youth, or flexibility. In other games, if someone makes a series of good moves, you can't "gnar" your way out of it. You have to accept it, and how you respond later down the road will be the difference between success and failure.

I believe this is why games are easier to play and master in a very short amount of time, you get instant feedback. You know that you suck, until you don't.

What is interesting about BJJ is that you can go years playing an attribute heavy game, without knowing that in reality you aren't very good. You can go years collecting moves, creating a tit for tat Youtube based game, until one day those things just stop working. This is probably because neither of those are rooted in the fundamentals.

Imagine playing a board game, without reading the rules........

This is why I like to focus on the rules of the game. The things that make BJJ work. Overall, I feel like this not only makes you a better player faster, it also preserves your interest and well-being. Allowing you to roll with little energy, minimizing wear and tear on your body, and making it so you want to get up the next day and train.

Sure you can skate by training 2-3x a day and rolling hard most of it, but how long will that last?

So how do we get better, you might ask? I have a few things in mind.

1) Focus on good posture. Posture is just the way your body is oriented compared to your opponents. This means that there is good and bad posture. Every position has a good place to be, and figuring that out is the equivalent to knowing basic strategies in games such as chess, Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.

2) Think about maintaining your body and your training partners. Sometimes we get so caught up in winning that we don't think about the wear and tear we are putting on our bodies and our team mates. We elevate the intensity and flail about when caught in something leading to accidents, and my next point, a missed opportunity to learn.

3) Allow yourself to lose. The gym is just a classroom. The only thing you are there to do is learn. You are not training to be a Spartan soldier or a gladiator. Nothing is on the line, except maybe your pride if you think about it that way. Allowing yourself to lose only makes it easier for you to see where you are weak.

4) Stay consistent. Rolling consistently with the aforementioned tips and mindset, will mean you will get it faster than everyone else who is training the wrong way or less consistently. This gives you more opportunities to fail, which means you are able to make better adjustments. Note: failing just to fail is never optimal, always improve after every failure.

5) Ask questions. I remember playing a game called Pandemic at this nerdy game place. There was a guy there whose sole job was to sit next to you and tell you exactly how to play. That was so ridiculously helpful...I wish there was someone like that at the gym. Oh wait, there is. They are called a coach. Asking questions enables you to fix your mistakes faster than you would have on your own. It is the difference between two months of figuring out a problem or two minutes.

Why am I bringing this up? I was having a conversation with myself earlier today about what allows people to get better than others. My response was they do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing...consciously or unconsciously, it doesn't really matter. Ever watched a smaller person that was technically better, get whooped up on by a larger person? Happens all the time, and you can almost always assume (in the right school) that smaller person will advance quicker. Reasoning: they are doing the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing...because they don't have a choice.

When this kind of thinking becomes the norm in a BJJ school, it lifts the skill level of everyone, and the environment becomes positive and ego-free. However, all it takes is a few knuckleheads to mess it up.

My dad used to tell me, "a hard head, makes a soft behind." The same goes for learning BJJ. If you train the wrong way, it could lead to a much longer and harder journey. Jiu-jitsu is not about fighting, it is about fun, longevity, and simplicity. Just like a classic board game.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Good posture provides comfort

One thing that I believe gets us all in trouble when we train BJJ is the belief that we must be attacking at all times in order to be "doing something". That mentality causes us to overlook all the yummy and delicious aspects of BJJ, and focus more on the fancy setups and sweeps that I like to call Youtube Chic.

Don't get me wrong, after you master the fundamentals (good luck with that) you can spend all the time you like scouring the web looking for options.

But what is a fundamental? A fundamental, according to my coach Matt Thornton, is:

1. Something every BJJ player needs to know.
2. Something everyone will do in essentially the same way.
3. It's something everyone who plays BJJ will need to do viscerally while rolling in order to play the game well.

To help me remember this I broke them down into 3 V's: vital, visceral, and viable.

One thing that I have begun to realize lately is that according to SBG's P-Method...the one thing that stands out as a fundamental is posture. There is a lot of debate about the existence of fundamentals and advanced techniques in BJJ, with majority of people believing there is no such thing. Well they are wrong, as posture is clearly a fundamental.

This explains why a lot of people have terrible posture, because they learn it within a series of techniques, rather than giving it separate thought. 

As I mature in BJJ, I start to realize that in order to be a great black belt, I must be comfortable in every position. From guard to turtle to back mount. What most people think when I say this is that I need to have a move or trick from every position, but that is far from what I mean. In fact, I think that is a horrible way to approach the game and it is usually the basis of most BJJ school's curriculum. Sad.

One definition of comfort is described as a state of ease and satisfaction free of pain and anxiety. I teach my white belt students to always get to a position of comfort. Over time as I instill posture in their mind, eventually every position becomes comfortable (once this happens, you are able to explore your options because you now understand what your opponent wants). We can immediately see when someone is not in their comfort zone, it usually involves a look of confusion, flailing, and/or heavy breathing. I am convinced this is caused by a lack of knowledge of the correct posture to either be in or get to when stuck somewhere.

Posture is everything, without it there is nothing. If you find yourself stuck in a rut, it is not the time to add lapel guard, a sneaky choke, or a rolling back take to your game. There is always something in your posture you can focus on.  That is all I have been thinking about lately as there is nothing ambiguous about posture...either it is right or it is wrong.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pressure in BJJ

A lot of people think about pressure in BJJ as weight applied to your opponent while in a top position. Of course, this is exactly how I thought about pressure too when I first started training and it isn't wrong, just too simple. During rolling I would hear sideline coaches say "good position, now pressure"...drop your hips, shoulder in his jaw the whole nine. However, as my game evolved I started to notice that pressure meant a ton of things (no pun intended). Even more than my current interpretation.

Lately I have been using the car analogy to explain pressure to a few new folk at my school. Maybe I am completely missing the point, but it makes total sense to me and how I apply pressure in my everyday game.

To me pressure in conjunction with good posture, is the energy applied to your opponent in order to make him react the way you want him to. I think of pressure in 3 different ways: the car chase, the roadblock, and my favorite the dropped piano (lol). These three pressures IMPBO, seem to alleviate the issues I come across when rolling with an unwilling opponent. Sometimes you have to move, sometimes you have to block, and sometimes you just gotta crush.

The car chase is the type of pressure that forces your opponent to make rash decisions. For example, constant hip movement and thoughtful transitioning in cross sides top. In the beginning your opponent may be able to keep up with your movement, but eventually he will make a mistake. The car chase basically means always keeping your opponent on the run...until he eventually falls off a cliff or something.

The roadblock is the type of pressure that makes your opponent feel as if you are taking every available option away from him. Imagine driving the way you normally go home and the road being blocked, how inconvenient right? So you think, and take the second route but that to is closed. Frustrated now huh? Ok, well what about Jackson St...nope. I feel this pressure a lot when I am trying to escape and it feels as if I have nowhere to go, and absolutely no leverage. The person isn't necessarily moving or applying a lot of weight they are just blocking my options.

The dropped piano is the type of pressure where you just can't move out of a position due to well...pressure. This is just someone who knows how to really spread you on the mat like butter on toast. You may be able to swing your legs, wiggle your arms, even upa...but you ain't going nowhere.

I like to think that everyone uses these pressures in their game and to me it is all based on pace. The car chase is obviously the fastest, with roadblock in the middle, and dropped piano the slowest. Of course, these pressures consist of many different elements from blocking out the hip in side control, hip movement during passing or guard work, to proper head control in the harness when regaining back control.

Figuring out when and where to apply certain pressures to your opponent is key to gaining control and getting the fight where you want it.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Loop Method

Ever since I started teaching fundamentals a few months ago, I have been obsessed with ways to help newer students learn better, in a much more efficient manner. In order for me to accomplish this, I first needed to observe and learn what was inhibiting new students from "getting it.”

Essentially, I had to monitor the students in my classes, and discern certain things. After paying some attention, it dawned on me that all new students responded to attacks in the same way...horribly. When I think about when I first started jiu-jitsu, I remember a few things...I sucked, for one, but I also fought too much rather than use technique that I did know. I was always kicking someone in the nose, exposing my arm, slapping someone in the face, kneeing people in the junk...all kinds of white belt nonsense.

Now, it occurred to me that there may be a way to teach someone to use proper technique, suppressing the fight or flight response as much as possible. I call it the Loop Method. Now, I don't profess to have invented this, but I did come up with the idea independently.

In short, the Loop Method takes a series of techniques that flow together naturally and loops them together in a logical sequence. Basically, if someone was to pass my guard, I would >frame>escape>turtle up>sit back to guard. For a beginner, I think this is an awesome method to use while rolling because it completely smashes the "I don't know what to do" logic (if you have been training for 2 or more months, you know something). It allows the student to use what he or she knows, and motivates them to constantly attempt (drill) those positions over and over.

Be mindful this will not work the first time, and you will get mounted, submitted, and squashed...but eventually after trial and error you will become proficient at your first loop. After attaining a proficient status, you can add more loops or variations into your current loop to explore new movements or positions from there.

I have always wondered why someone who has been training for two or so months only does two things: attempt to submit opponents far better than them or fight for dear life (to the point where they injure their opponent or look like a flailing idiot). Use technique, and if you don't know something...ask. In the meantime, see if the loop method works for you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Are the doors closed?

Sometimes when I am training with someone, I like to imagine that we are in a room with an endless amount of doors and I want to make them stay in that room.

Well, how do I expect to do that if there are that many doors? I have to close them all before he runs out.

Sounds complicated, I know, but this is how I think about jiu-jitsu – as an endless series of sweeps, reversals, attacks, pins, transitions, and movement, until someone finally gets trapped and tapped.

This is what I love about the game, though...the better you get, the quicker you realize exactly what door your opponent is going to take – you can either be preemptive get there before him, or even allow him to go through only to find himself in another room where all the doors are closed. Roger Gracie's mount, anyone?

One thing we have to do when we roll is make sure that as we transition, we close the doors behind us. I call this "clearing." When you clear, you make sure your opponent no longer has any chance to return to that same position. This keeps you in control of all options, and eventually helps to lead your opponent right where you want him. Imagine if a soldier in a war didn't clear a building before going to the next, and his buddies behind him, thinking it was safe to follow, were ambushed....a little serious, but you get the point.

As I said earlier, jiu-jitsu is an endless series of moves...but we have to remember we are engaging with a live opponent, and he has plans of his own. When you close the doors you not only trap your opponent, but you also make sure he doesn't trap you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pong and Jits

When do you know that you are getting better at jiu-jitsu? Not many of us just starting BJJ know that answer.

I have been training for about 3 yrs and the answer came to me while playing ping pong one afternoon 2 weeks ago.

As I was walking around the Green Lake Table Tennis Center, I could immediately tell the difference between the white belts, purple belts, and black belts of ping pong. The difference was in movement.

You see, the people who were newer to the game required a lot more movement than those who were more experienced. More paddle movement, more arm, more side steps, and even more The more experienced players, for the most part, just stood in one spot and only moved when they absolutely needed too...which seemed to be never.

They were far more efficient.

Our progression in jiu-jitsu is directly correlated to our movement. White belts travel great distances to get from pass to submission, often times wasting valuable energy and time. This usually at some point causes their opponent to capitalize. My experience playing a 60 year-old man in ping pong left me tired, sweaty, and feeling like I was just crossed over by Allen Iverson, meanwhile he just stood there capitalizing on every volley until he scored.

We must learn to pair our movements down to only what is needed. Jiu-jitsu operates off the credo "maximum benefit, minimal effort" and in order to fully understand jiu-jitsu you have to abide by this. I often hear the excuse "I don't know what to do," but even in our infancy in this sport, we have at least five techniques we can put together to form the basis of our movement.

Minimize your movement, and learn jiu-jitsu.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Comparing in BJJ

Often times in BJJ we get to the point where we start daydreaming of the day when we can train all day and become world class. Then the kid wakes up from his nap, your paper for that English class you're taking needs to be edited, the wife wants you to get dinner started, and your boss just paged you because Philip called in sick. Life just slapped you in the face.

This is the biggest reason why you should keep reasonable goals in BJJ and never compare yourself to others. Not only do we all operate at a different speed mentally/intellectually/physically, we all have different responsibilities that certainly have priority over jiu-jitsu. If you train once a day because you have to work a job, and take care of your family, why on Earth are you comparing yourself to someone who trains full-time and does BJJ professionally?? That's right, professionally! If you can't train 2-3x a day, then you should not compare your skill set to someone who does. If you have been training 2 yrs, and someone has been training 10 (and is a World Champion because of it), you shouldn't compare yourself to them.

I have seen countless people mope around thinking they suck because they are comparing themselves to professional athletes. Maybe its because jiu-jitsu isn't commercially popular, or on national television every Sunday that the average Joe Hobbyist (twice a week guy) thinks he can compare himself to Marcelo Garcia. Make it easy on yourself, train to learn and enjoy the art. If you have to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to the other balding 30-something guy with 3 kids.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Who Am I?

Oscar Wilde once said, "Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken!" As simplistic as this phrase may be, it is the perfect summation for how we as individuals should treat our jiu jitsu. Yet, the thing most of us don't realize is you can't be yourself if you don't know yourself, and accept who you are and who you aren't. Often time in jiu-jitsu, especially when we are first starting out, we aspire to be exactly like someone...usually someone in our gym. For me, it was my first instructor, I looked at his game as the be all end all, thought he was the cream of the crop and I did all I could to emulate that game for 6 months or so. It was easy to follow someone else's path, alls I had to do was just take notes and copy. Despite my own physical attributes and gifts, I did this sort of Sylar (Heroes reference) style stealing for about two years, slowly taking on the games of all the people I looked up to whether they were world champions or just students like me. End story for now.

As the aforementioned adage states, everyone else IS already taken. Look around in your jiu-jitsu academy...not at the white or the blues, but at the purps, browns, and blacks! Most of the time you will notice each of them has a very distinct game they use, that is nothing like anyone else's game in the gym. Reason being? Jiu-Jitsu is a sport where you are free to express your individuality and use the attributes that the good Lord blessed you with no matter if you have one leg or 6 toes. The amazing thing about jiu-jitsu, is that there is something for everyone...from the athlete to the pipsqueak.

For those that disagree with me think about this, the most important reason of being yourself on the mats, is that you never compare yourself to others. This is an issue I have dealt with in the past and I know it haunts others. If you're constantly striving to be someone else in jiu-jitsu, despite knowing their situation or will never be happy with your own game. For example, as a father, and a student I realize that it is going to take me a little longer to reach technical proficiency than others. I watch a lot of competition footage, and pay attention to a lot of the big names and sometimes I let my head get to me.

"Why can't I take the back like that?"
"Why can't my spider guard be that crispy?"
"I wish I could put my leg behind my head!"
"How come I don't have 18 patches on my gi?"

For me, this is a slippery slope to tread, and is why it is important that we know ourselves when we come into the training environment. Sometimes your little legs just won't reach the crook of someone's elbows...and maybe that back injury you had back in college, keeps you from being a Miyao triplet. When you look at others with big ol' googly eyes, not only could you harm your progression, you may even start to chase after goals you never wanted and forget why you even started training in the first place. Speaking from my experience, being something you aren't outside of the academy is always about fitting in, maybe that is the case in jiu jitsu too. But I believe, in our weird world of beating the hell out of each other...mimicking others is a way of not getting the snot kicked out of you due to incompetence. As beginners we must accept that our role as the nail, as much as it sucks, is necessary and that one day after a long and arduous journey of finding ourselves, we will become the hammer. Doing what someone else is doing only saves the ass-whippings for later, lol (Don't forget the time it took them to figure their game out and develop it). Lay down your own BJJ footprint. Thanks for reading!