On the road again

On the road again: Heading to Reno Nevada out of JFK to teach a seminar at the school of long time friend and RGA colleague Max McGarr. It will be a crazy weekend for travel over Labor weekend Great week of training for the junior squad members- they are doing such a fine job working towards their aspirations - that’s what it all about for all of us. When you have a free moment this weekend, take the time to set some goals, some short term, some medium term and some long term. Then ask yourself what will be required to make them happen. Even a small amount of time spent this way can have a vast impact on your future development- remember it not just about how hard you work - the world is full of people who worked extremely hard but achieved little. It’s about the marriage of hard work and intelligent planning that give DIRECTION to the work. Give it a try this weekend. Wishing you all the best! See you in Nevada!

On the road again

On the road again: Back at JFK airport, headed to London for Polaris grappling featuring Oliver Taza, Jake Shields and Garry Tonon taking on tough opponents on the other side of the Atlantic. Note to all - NEVER allow Garry Tonon to book your airline tickets - EVER - I have been booked into a four hour wait at exciting Manchester airport before connecting to London #ihopedillonbreaksyourlegandstranglesyougarrytonon. It's been a while since we were in Old Blighty (England) - looking forward to seeing everyone. The squad has been training hard and looking to show our brand of grappling to our English fans. Ironically as I leave NYC we have some classic grey London weather! Hopefully it's sunny NYC summer weather in Londongetting ready to take off now - see you in England!

Coach the big picture first

Coach the big picture first: The growth and development of any given technique in our repertoire follows the same pattern as the growth and development of our physical bodies. A technique starts off weak and vulnerable, unable to survive on its own. Then it grows into early development where it begins to mature into early adulthood. Finally it enters into a mature phase where it can not only survive on its own, but work with others, improve itself and rise to prominence. When first coaching a move to a student - I always begin with the big picture. What is the general nature of the move? What are it good and bad points? What are the main things to focus upon? What are the broad movements required for its execution? Sketch the outline first - THE DETAILS CAN ALWAYS COME LATER. Just get them moving in the general directions they need. Just as an artist begins with a sketch and only then brings in the complexity of colors fill the canvas and create a masterpiece over time, so too, The martial artist must begin with the rough outline of the move and over time ADD DETAILS AS A PAINTER ADDS COLOR TO COMPLETE A PICTURE. In all technique development , start with general movement and over time refine it with precise movement. Don’t be obsessed with precision at the start - that will come later. Here I work with talented youth athletes Liam Zeh and Trinity Pun on back system details - they already have excellent performance with the general movements so the process of refinement now begins...

Attacking the back - surrounding and immobilizing the head

Attacking the back - surrounding and immobilizing the head: There are many effective ways to control and attack from the back, but one of the most important if your goal is strangulation is that of forming an effective circle of wedges around your opponents neck that inhibits head movement and positions you to strangle at a moments notice. The fundamental desiderata in these cases is to ALWAYS MAINTAIN YOUR HEAD ON ONE SIDE OF YOUR OPPONENTS HEAD AND YOUR STRANGLE ARM ON THE OTHER. This essential configuration must be locked in place by your CONTROL HAND which goes under your opponent’s armpit to either snare his wrist/hand or lock up with your strangle hand. The combination of tight head position on one side, strangle arm on the other, all locked in place by the control hand makes for a superbly controlling position from where escape is difficult, you are just inches away from a devastating strangle at any moment and from where it is easy to add additional lower body control by hooking your legs into your opponent’s hips or even locking a tight body triangle around his waist. Practicing this fundamental head and arm positioning as the basis of your back control leading to strangles will soon pay dividends in your submissions game.

I am very pleased to announce my participation in another super seminar alongside the great Ben Askren - @onechampionship MMA champion and wrestling icon and Olympian. I will cover jiu jitsu aspects focusing on the squad approach to leg locking and back attacks, whilst Mr Askren covers wrestling applications to grappling and MMA. It will be held October 6 in Schenectady New York. As always, looking forward to showing our approach to jiu jitsu to a new audience!

The stunning power of jiu jitsu upon the uninitiated

The stunning power of jiu jitsu upon the uninitiated: In our daily training we work with people who are well initiated with the skills of jiu jitsu. As a result, almost every move we attempt is quickly and deftly countered. This makes it an endless struggle for improvement and innovation if we are to prevail in the training room. Sometimes we forget what it is like to use jiu jitsu on someone who has little or no experience of the kingly art. When it happens, it’s often a surprise just how easy it is to use the techniques and tactics of jiu jitsu to completely and easily overwhelm naive opposition - so much so that jiu jitsu appears like some super power that renders even strong men helpless. I always smile when I think of my own early days in the sport when I would flop around hopelessly while men half my size would easily trap me in holds that i had no idea where even happening, let alone how to escape them These expert versus neophyte displays are instructive to both - to the neophyte they teach what is possible with time and training and give a sense of belief in what they will one day be capable of. To the expert they are a pleasant reminder of just how effective the basic moves and concepts of the sport really (despite our everyday frustrations in the dojo) and a humbling reminder of where we began and what we would eventually devolve back into if we ceased training. Here, my student Claude Levy instructs members of a special anti poaching unit in Africa some jiu jitsu - they use it often, even though they usually use their firearms to deal with opponents armed with semi automatic weapons and hunting rifles, during the arrest and restraining elements of their work they like to use jiu jitsu. Here, Mr Levy runs them through takedown to back control and demonstrates to an amused audience what we all felt on day one of our jiu jitsu careers! Do you remember your first experience of jiu jitsu? What were your thoughts after sparring with a more experienced teacher/opponent?

Looking forward to Singapore super seminar with @evolvemma in early November! The squad always trains at Evolve when we are in Singapore so it’s a pleasure to teach there. Hope to see you there!

A force for good

A force for good: I am always enthralled by stories of jiu jitsu being used as a force for good in our world. One of my favorite stories comes from my dear student Claude Levy. He is a remarkable example of a student who has a very busy and demanding career (he is a very successful metals trader) yet who always finds time to work hard on his jiu jitsu skills. Mr Levy is also a lifetime practitioner of Muay Thai and Karate - a formidable combination with jiu jitsu. Raised in Africa, Mr Levy often returns home where he charitably trains an African anti poaching force who protect Africa’s big game animals from the constant threat of poachers. These brave men often get into running gun battles with the poachers. Of course most of their training is centered around firearms, but they have found jiu jitsu to be an ideal method of restraining and physically controlling perpetrators in the field during capture and arrest. Mr Levy teaches them whenever he can and the team loves it! Here you can see a security team going out on armed patrol in the magnificent African veldt at sundown. Next is Mr Levy coaching our back attack system (note the nice arm trap to facilitate strangle that you see the squad perform so often!) Here are some of the incredible elephants they protect on this particular area of operations along with basic ground grappling training and team photo) It makes my heart swell with pride to see a student take our teachings and for no reward help those who themselves do good in the world protecting these great and majestic endangered animals from wanton destruction. I am always gratified to see jiu jitsu grow, but to see it grow in ways so beneficial to good people in need as an act of friendship brings a special joy in our sport and its growth.

Strangling with your legs

Strangling with your legs: A strange thing about the back attack system that I teach my students is that the most well known component of it - the strait jacket - was so successful in competition that audiences rarely got to see the other components of the system. As a result most people have a rather limited view of the back system as just a series of hand/arm traps leading to rear naked strangles. In fact, there are four auxiliary systems designed to assist whenever the main strait jacket system fails. One of the most important is the rear triangle - ushiro sankaku- which enables you to use the impressive power of the legs to strangle opponents. This immediately gets you around one the more common problems associated with rear strangles - the difficulty of penetrating under the chin/jaw. The very nature of triangle strangles, using the shoulder to assist the strangle does not require that you get under the jaw to be effective. In addition it offers a multitude of back up attacks if the initial strangle is defended. All of my students excel in this technique as it is a big part of our training. Here, Gordon Ryan and Craig Jones practice their ushiro sankaku finishes. Their long legs make front triangles one of their favorite techniques- both of them excel at it - but the rear triangle is very effective even for short legged athletes due to more favorable angles and positioning.

A sense of progress

A sense of progress: I always tell my students - if happiness is what you seek - stay away from jiu jitsu!! Of course it’s a joke, but like most jokes, there is truth in it. Jiu jitsu can be a path to endless frustrations, perplexities, doubts, physical pains etc. Ask any jiu jitsu gym owner what his biggest problem with students is and you will always get the same answer - retention. I find the biggest reason why jiu jitsu has such a high attrition rate comes down to the mind set of the student. Anything good in life will be hard work - jiu jitsu is no exception. It’s easy to get frustrated at the amount of time and effort it takes to improve. This is compounded by the fact that AS YOU IMPROVE, SO DO ALL YOUR CLASSMATES. So you rarely get a sense of getting better than them. If we think in terms of gaining happiness in jiu jitsu through competition with others, you will be doomed to misery and frustration as you all progress at roughly the same rate. The resultant frustration often makes people quit. A much healthier approach is to constantly look for GROWTH as the source of happiness in the study of jiu jitsu rather than competitive progress. A growth centered mindset does not ask how we do against our classmates - BUT AGAINST AN EARLIER VERSION OF OURSELVES. Once you internalize the quest for progress happiness is much more attainable. A little reflection reveals that in most cases (unless you are suffering from serious injury) we know a lot more, and can satisfactorily perform a great many more moves and have a deeper sense of tactics etc now than we did say a year ago. Structure your training around this mindset. Constantly set small goals for yourself to accomplish that are concerned with acquiring a new technique, improving an old one, or combining techniques together in new ways. The worst feeling in jiu jitsu and in life is that of STAGNATION. Focus your mind and training on incremental progress against yourself rather than others and the feelings of frustration and stagnation that are the most likely to make you stop training are much less likely to occur.