An inspiring story

An inspiring story: Last night was the first EBI event for women - a milestone for professional women's grappling. There were some outstanding athletes representing their various teams, including world champions. When the smoke cleared it was eighteen year old Erin Blanchfield who won the EBI belt. She is relatively unknown in grappling circles, I thought it would be a good idea to talk a little about her and her achievement, as I believe there is much to inspire and educate us all as we train and try to make progress. Ms Blanchfield trains at an RGA affiliate run by Karl Pravec @silverfoxbjj a black belt from my sensei, Renzo Gracie. She got her purple belt there around six months ago. When she heard about the female EBI event, she began coming into the city to train alongside the squad, doing the very same drills, conceptual training and sparring that our athletes do to prepare for these events. Now bear in mind, she lives one and half hours away from NYC and still came in all that way most days a week, in addition to her night training at Siver Fox academy - it shows the dedication this young woman approached this great test. She was a great student, very quiet and respectful. She would wordlessly perform all the drills and complete every training assignment. Within a short time she showed incredible improvement and was submitting partners that previously overwhelmed her. In her final week of training she submitted two partners I had never seen her submit before. On the big night she showed the same kind of quiet, determined, well directed and technically sound jiu jitsu that she showed us in the training room all summer and went on to go further than all the more highly ranked and more well known opponents to take the belt! She submitted two 10th Planet athletes who specialize in this kind of event, and beat in over time two other athletes to win. It is a great lesson in how a determined self starter with motivation and a plan can overcome the odds and get to their cherished goal. What a remarkable performance by Ms Blanchfield- not just on Sunday night, but all summer, as she quietly and professionally laid the groundwork for her success at the big show!


Making progress

Making progress: This weekend, talented apprentice(kohai), Jason Rau competed in a local submission event, Rise Submission Invitational at 170 pounds with EBI rules. Mr Rau is a student of one of my mentors, Matt Serra. He came just a short time ago to begin training in our method and has made great progress. This weekend he won every match by heel hook submission to take first place and impress the crowd. He is a fine example of someone who already had a certain skill set, and adding to it in new directions to create positive change in his jiu jitsu. So often I hear people say that some part of jiu jitsu is not for them, or that they have their way of doing things and they are not interested in some other part. Mr Rau is a fine example of what is possible when you add new skills to an already developed game. It's never too late. Even if you never actually end up favoring those skills, you will at the very least have a much better idea of how to defend if someone should use them against you. In addition you will learn new ways of using and moving the body that will help you in other aspects of the sport. Here, Mr Rau begins a nice heel hook sequence out of his opponents offense, but a quick counterattack creates opportunities for his own offense through to the win.


New York always has a surprise in store

New York always has a surprise in store: So here I am in a shockingly empty JFK departure lounge, doing some writing and reading and plotting to burn the three hour delay in my plane departure, when alongside me sits a fellow I have not seen in thirty years! And that was on TV! When I was in college in New Zealand, I was an avid weight lifter and many of my gym partners were part of the small Pro Wrestling circuit in New Zealand. They took their inspiration from American pro wrestling, especially the WWE (I believe it was WWF in those days) one of their favorites was a bad guy character called Virgil, who was the sinister accomplice of Ted Dibiase, the Million dollar man. Their schtick was money money money (you hear that Gordon Ryan?). Money rules all. Here I am sitting in JFK and out of nowhere Virgil sits next to me (I know, no one under the age of thirty five knows who he was but there have to be some old cronies out there that remember ). It turns out he is a huge UFC fan and loves Anderson Silva - I have to explain that I coached Chris Weidman to defeat Mr Silva - oops! He is a great character and apparently doing very well. It's making me think about the links between pro wrestling and MMA. Sometimes the link can be destructive, but sometimes it works well - look at Sakuraba. Chael Sonnen masterfully used pro wrestling antics to build a great career. Ha ha!! NYC is crazy - you never know who you will run into, even on a boring wait in an empty airport lounge!


Travel

Travel: I am well known for my incompetence in many areas, none more so than travel. My poor students will attest to my miserable record of missed flights, missed connections, lost luggage - pretty much every error possible in an airport/plane. #airportloser Every time I head out to JFK airport, there is some freak car accident, thunderstorm, flash flood, anything that will prevent easy passage to the airport. #theghostofameliaearhearthauntsme Tonight I made my way to the airport - preparing for leg lock seminar in Pittsburgh tomorrow. I decide that this time it will be different - this time I will be in time. Of course Friday night in summer time NYC, everyone leaves for the Hamptons, so traffic out of the city is terrible. I wisely decided to leave early to beat traffic. As soon as I leave, I get a text that my flight has been delayed two hours. when we get to the highway, there is NO traffic at all. In twenty five years in NYC I have never seen this. When I get to JFK, the line at security is usually massive - tonight, barely a person there and I Get through in less than two minutes. Usually my metal hip replacement sets off the alarms and I have to get frisked and explain how someone my age has a metal hip - tonight they just waved me through. Just as I got through I get another text saying my flight is delayed another hour! Ha ha! The one time in my life I don't need to be on time and I get to JFK in record time! #godhatesme Hope I don't fall asleep in the seminar tomorrow! It's going to be a long night!! #airtravelismynemesis looking for adventure in a very quiet and boring Friday night JFK


Grappling and geography

Grappling and geography: One of the great pleasures of spending a long time in the sport of grappling is the opportunity to see various styles of grappling from around the world. My sport is jiu jitsu, in particular the Brazilian style derived from the work of the Gracie family. Living in NYC and having students who compete globally, we often get a look at others styles Of grappling from around the world, and the what we see is often incredibly impressive. Whether it be Judo players from Japan and Korea, Sambo athletes from Russia, Senagalese wrestlers from Africa, Mongolian hybrid grapplers (somewhere between Judo and wrestling) and many others, they each carry a distinctive style has has tremendously impressive strong points, from which a jiu jitsu stylist can learn and improve. One geographical area in particular has long impressed me with its incredible depth of grappling talent, out of all proportion to its population numbers - the Caucasus regions. This area, separating Europe and Asia, running from Black Sea to Caspian Sea, encompassing whole countries, such as parts of Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, along with republics/federal regions such as Dagestan, Ossetia, Chechnya and others, has produced an unbelievable number of world class wrestlers that have produced incredible results in Olympic and World championships competition. The sheer number of all time greats coming out of this area clearly points to the fact that whatever training systems these fellows have in operation, it is clearly one of the absolute highest quality. The wrestlers from these regions often appear to have a distinct style and approach and like jiu jitsu athletes, pride themselves on the refinement and quality of their technique above all else. I always get the feeling that if they put their attention to jiu jitsu, they would excel at it in a short time. The NYC area has a big Russian population and so often we get wrestlers from the Caucasus stop by and they always impress with their smooth and subtle style. Here, Rustam Chsiev, combining wrestling with submissions, impresses the crowd at an EBI event, where he got all the way to the finals against Gordon Ryan.


Spreading the word

Spreading the word: I always love teaching some of the key elements of our approach to jiu jitsu in a new environment. It's a great chance for me to focus on the fundamental parts of our game that myself and my full time students tend to take for granted when we work with each other, but which are not obvious at all to the uninitiated. Any chance to re-visit the foundations of jiu jitsu, whether it be jiu jitsu in general, or our approach to it, is a healthy thing for a student. IN ANY GIVEN SKILL BASED ENTERPRISE, MASTERY OF THE FUNDAMENTALS WILL DETERMINE HOW FAR AND HOW FAST YOU PROGRESS THROUGH THE HIGHER LEVELS. This Saturday in Pittsburgh I shall get a chance to teach some of the core features of our leg locking game to a new group. Though I currently have some severe physical limitations, most of the essential features of my system can be demonstrated. Here, I work with GarryTonon @garrytonon and Nicky Ryan @nickyryanbjj in Singapore at Evolve gym, covering intricacies of grip and positioning to a curious audience - and a very stoic drill partner! (Uke)


Confidence

People constantly warn against the dangers of over confidence; but in all honesty I tell you this - for every match lost by over confidence, a hundred are lost due to excessive timidity.


Two kinds of strength - two approaches to combat

Two kinds of strength - two approaches to combat: This weekend welterweight champion Tyron Woodley takes on jiu jitsu master, Demian Maia in what will be a fascinating contrast not only in fighting style, but body type. It is rare these days to see such diametrically opposed approaches to fighting. Mr Woodley is one of the most explosive fighters ever seen in the octagon - just a single blow from his right hand is fully capable of ending a fight at any time in a match against anyone in the division. His body is perfectly disposed to create explosive power, and accordingly he has created a fighting style based around that. Mr Maia on the other hand, almost completely lacks explosive power, but excels in isometric tension and static strength. If he secures a controlling grip and position, he is capable of holding it indefinitely all the way through to a finish against anyone in the division. Their modus operandi is so different, yet equally deadly. One gets the impression that if either man can assert their mode of strength under their conditions, they shall win easily - but who will be able to do so? That's what makes this such a fascinating battle. Normally in modern MMA, the two athletes have fairly similar, well rounded skills, which usually results in very even matches - but here the contrast is so extreme it would seem whoever can get their strength in place first will win comfortably. Behind this fascinating match up there is a valuable lesson for us all - the correlation of fighting style with body type. Our body is the medium through which we must express our skills; as such it is critical that we choose wisely our techniques, strategy and style. The better our choices in this regard, the easier the task of maximizing our effectiveness in combat. It is wonderful to see even at this level, the many possible means to combat effectiveness offer such divergent approaches equal opportunity to championship glory. This match posits the critical questions we must always ask ourselves - WHAT ARE MY PERSONAL STRENGTHS AND WHAT AM I DOING TO MAXIMIZE THEIR VALUE IN TRAINING AND COMPETITION?


Reunion

Reunion: When Georges St- Pierre was getting ready to fight Jon Fitch, he kept telling me about this incredible Karate fighter, Steven Wonderboy" Thompson @wonderboymma he had brought into the camp for sparring. He came back for the Carlos Condit camp and I was shocked at how effectively he used movement


Perfect performance!

Perfect performance! The great Roger Gracie took on Marcus Almeida "buchecha" in a rematch today in what was essentially a battle for the title of greatest of all time. Their first bout had been a titanic struggle to a draw. Few were aware however, that Mr Gracie had fought in the immediate aftermath of a severe staph infection. This time he came in healthy and despite a long lay off from competition, put on a characteristic display of classical jiu jitsu perfection to shut down a very powerful and dangerous opponent, and, as he has done throughout his career, make it all look easy and simple. He went back to a theme exhibited so often in his matches, strong gripping sequences in the standing position to shut out his opponents standing attacks, then dragging his opponent to his guard and coming up from bottom to his opponents back in such a calm and relaxed manner that it always seems to make his opponents look like beginners - except that it is the second best jiu jitsu athlete in the world. From there, the usual inevitability of the finish and the seeming impossibility of escape for the opponent. Fittingly it was a last show for Mr Gracie. There is simply nothing more he can do in the sport, and, like all great performers, he saved the best until last.