New Champion

New Champion: Huge congratulations to new welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. He dethroned the great Robbie Lawler in the weight division that has the most sentimental appeal to myself and so many fans. It has been a year of dramatic change in MMA. Robbie Lawler has been a very impressive champion indeed, but Mr Woodley showed patience and plan to wait for his title shot and when the chance came, he did what champions do - take a small opportunity and make the most of it - a spectacular KO on a man who seemed impervious to blows in championship fights. This was always going to be a clash between fight ending explosiveness in the early rounds versus incredible sustenance over five rounds. As so often happens, the quick starter inflicted damage from which no recovery was possible and he took a well deserved and spectacular victory.

Rainy Sunday afternoon

Rainy Sunday afternoon: Grey day in Manhattan - perfect for a day of technical training with the squad. Georges St-Pierre and the team go over details and concepts at a pace that allows for skill progression and helps to avoid athlete burn out, a common problem for people competing many times a year. Ethan Crelinsten shows great work ethic by coming in for training the day after winning the 135 pound division of Finishers Sub Only event, where he used a combination of leg locks and back control to take first place. Tomorrow the weekly cycle of training begins anew with different intensity level and emphasis.

Size difference

Size difference: The essential quality of jiu jitsu is to be able to control greater size and aggression with less. In the gym we are expected to spar with whoever you match up with in class, which often entails people larger than yourself. Some, like Garry Tonon, make it a feature of their competitive career also. His standout performances against big men like Marcus Almeida Buchecha, Roberto Cyborg Abreu, Vinny Magalhaes, Rousimar Palhares and here, Ralek Gracie, provide inspiration and live up to the ideals of jiu jitsu. Matches of this kind force us to emphasize different aspects of body and limb positioning, along with tactical considerations, in order to cope with the weight disadvantage. While it would be simply dishonest to claim that size and strength are not very important in determining the outcome of bouts ( there is a reason why there are weight/age/sex divisions in combat sports), it is nonetheless remarkable how training and tactics can allow a smaller person to perform very well against much larger people in what often become thrilling underdog matches.

Ups and downs

Ups and downs: This photo was taken prior to Chris Weidman's first fight with Anderson Silva. After battling past all the other contenders for a title shot, Mr Weidman suffered a catastrophic injury to his shoulder in a training accident. I still remember getting the gut wrenching news from him via phone - it seemed his dream of a UFC title fight against the greatest middleweight of all time was gone. Soon after, Mr Weidman went through major reconstructive surgery. Shortly after the surgery, my good friend Doug Pelinkovic and I went to see him bring what money we had, food and talk to help. Soon after this he would experience terrible loss again, losing his house to Hurricane Sandy. To anyone in that room that night, it would seem impossible that this man would soon come back in the best shape of his life with near perfect preparation and decisively defeat Mr Silva to attain his dream. Looking at this photo now I remember the doubts and fears we all felt that night and marvel at the the outcome brought about by dedication to a program, a dream and unshakeable self belief. There will always be ups and downs in our lives. In those dark times it is crucial to keep your dreams alive by setting realistic goals in a program toward first recovery, then regaining your former level, and then moving forward to new levels. An odd twist to this photo is that Mr Pelinkovic would shortly afterwards suffer a terrible accident that required multiple reconstructive surgeries. I was already suffering from severe hip problems that ultimately required hip replacement surgery- so everyone in the photo went through problems requiring major surgery. As each man went through problems, he found inspiration and assistance in the actions and achievements of the other two in ways that helped him return to his place in the sport. This kind of mutual support is a crucial addition to the goal setting mentioned earlier. One of the few certainties that life offers us is fluctuation in fortune. Creating the needed conditions to create good times out of the darkness of bad times is critical to your longevity in the sport and indeed, life in general.

Professional cornering

Professional cornering: Here is an interesting photo. It was taken less than a second before the submission victory of Garry Tonon over Ralek Gracie at Metamoris 7. Mr Tonon has secured ushiro ashi garami and is faking a figure four toe hold to create a reaction to enter a kneebar variation. The trap has been set and all that remains is to shift his left arm to Mr Gracie's leg - in half a second he will do so and victory will be his. Garry knows this, I know it and so does Gordon Ryan. We have all seen and done the move a thousand times - the only ones who don't know what is about to happen are Mr Gracie himself and the audience members you see behind us. Yet if you look at myself and Mr Ryan you will see no emotion on our faces - though we know already that victory is at hand. There is no sense of jubilation, though we know victory is certain. So often I see cornermen, even in high level events, who essentially function as cheer leaders rather than cornermen. The central idea of a corner man is to offer advice that leads to performance improvement. Yet I usually see behavior that does nothing to improve performance. All too often the advice is so general as to be useless. Get out of there!" Does not help an athlete escape a pin. Advice must be specific and purposeful rather than general or emotional. I believe there are a few exceptions where certain kinds of emotional cornering can have value

Teaching atmosphere

Teaching atmosphere: Visiting students are often quite surprised by the informal and relaxed teaching style we use. I am blessed to have highly motivated students which allows me to teach in this way. The high standards quickly create an atmosphere where the lazy and unmotivated either quickly reform themselves or seek calmer waters. I always teach to the best people in the room. I find this has a way of lifting everyone's level regardless of belt rank and pulls the best out of everyone. Though some students may initially struggle with this, I have grown to have great faith in people's ability to adapt and improve according to the level of the room as a whole. In a short time, they rise in level and make the needed improvements to keep up. A key role is played by the senior students, who often provide inspiration and informal help. Less advanced students can easily observe that the more successful ones have good learning habits - they pay close attention to instruction, spar in an experimental rather than win at all costs manner, and place equal emphasis upon offense and defense in training. Here Eddie Cummings shows his typical attention level in a mixed gi and no gi class. Even when the technique shown (a standing throw utilizing the gi) does not apply to his immediate situation (upcoming EBI 7 no gi tournament) he is actively looking for general principles that might apply to his game, thus improving himself whilst providing an excellent example to others.

MMA and Jiu Jitsu

MMA and Jiu Jitsu: The link between the two always fascinates me and reflections upon one often illuminate aspects of the other in unexpected ways. Here some of the MMA standouts at RGA, Rafael Natal, Nieman Gracie, Felipe Nover, Joao Zeferino and friends relax after another tough early Monday morning workout. So strange to think of NYC on a typical Monday morning, millions of people going to office jobs, getting children to school, wondering whether they should add an extra sugar in their coffee or not - whilst these young men practice strangling each other, breaking each other's limbs and getting into position to strike each other - such are the different directions we all choose in life!! In the end, they are all jobs, and like all jobs, those performed with passion, attention to detail, and expertise gained over time - in an area that you believe enriches your life in some way, will be done best, regardless of what form of work one chooses.

Teaching every aspect of the game

Teaching every aspect of the game: Here is an interesting shot of myself and Gordon Ryan cornering Garry Tonon during his victorious match with Ralek Gracie from a week ago. I don't just teach my students how to grapple. I teach them how to create a complete system of support for an athlete or a team mate through every aspect of preparation and match. Cornering is a skill like any other. I believe there are ways of doing it which can increase by some degree the odds of an athlete winning a match. I knew that I would not be available to corner Garry Tonon at Fight2Win Pro 8 the following week, so I had Gordon Ryan at my side at Metamoris 7 to learn and practice cornering for Fight2Win Pro 8 in seven days time. He did a superb job - helping take his team mate through to another leg lock victory. Metamoris 7 was thus an interesting evening for me as I coached two men in two completely different roles simultaneously - Garry Tonon as an athlete and Gordon Ryan as a corner man/coach. I am happy to say both men passed their respective tests with excellent grades

Back in action

Back in action: Garry Tonon celebrates another submission win via heel hook over the very talented champion and coach, Dustin Akbari. The match was made more interesting by the fact that Mr Akbari had narrowly defeated Mr Tonon when Mr Tonon was a brown belt. The rematch offered a chance to gauge Mr Tonon's skill development since that time and the progressive nature of our training system. The match featured some excellent throws by Mr Akbari and half guard sweeps from Mr Tonon. In the end however, the game is always about control leading to submission and in this direction, Mr Tonon showed an interesting use of a scorpion (lockdown " to 10th planet fans) to generate kuzushi (off balancing) into a submission hold - one of his favorite heel hook variations. Here he celebrates with the victors belt for Fight To Win

Counting down the days

Counting down the days: The strain shows on the face of Eddie Cummings during the final workout before his fine victory at EBI 7. These are hard times for the athlete, with a mass of concerns centered around weight loss, strategy, countering the effects of performance anxiety and a host of other factors. Dealing with this is a huge part of the final outcome. As a coach I have to keep my athletes minds occupied in constructive, rather than destructive directions. Isolation and inactivity can be fatal here. Yet at the same time, I have to be sensitive to the individual psychology of the man entering the arena. Mr Cummings is rather like myself and needs his time alone balanced with attention. Here he ruminates after a grueling last day. In a few more days his taunt look would be replaced by a broad smile of victory under the lights at the big show, thousands of miles away from the sparse and claustrophobic basement in which all our preparation is done. @jeffreyschu