Bright lights

Bright lights: One of the biggest issues athletes have is translating the skills they develop in the gym to the big stage. On the face of it, it should not be an issue. The lights, noise and crowd don’t change things physically. No matter where or when the stage, a triangle is still a triangle, an arm bar an arm bar. What changes is our mental state. We feel MORE IS AT STAKE when a crowd is watching. We all have a sense of pride and the thought of failure in front of a crowd stings. Athletes aren’t afraid of pain, suffering and in many cases, even injury. WHAT THEY FEAR IS FAILURE. When we are fearful of consequences we naturally tend to restrict our actions to only those moves and tactics we have the most confidence in. This has an immediate negative effect on our game as you now will only employ a much smaller set of moves than you usually do - it’s as though you just lost half of your game. In addition, fear will make you second guess yourself whenever opportunity arises. Where normally you would jump without hesitation upon an opportunity, now you hang back. By the time you act, the opportunity has passed. Thirdly, fear and anxiety will manifest itself physically as higher than usual muscular tension. This will result in quicker fatigue than usual, breathing problems and slower, clumsier movement. You will be aware of this as it is happening and it will compound the feelings of fear and anxiety and create a worsening cycle where performance degenerates even faster. Avoiding this fall off from gym performance to stage performance is a big part of contest preparation. Obviously it’s a huge topic, and arguably the topic about which there is the least agreement as to what the solution is. One day I would like to talk about it at length. In general my approach is always to de-emphasize the difference between gym and stage. To remind the athlete that most of the differences, lights, noise, crowd etc are illusory insofar as they make no physical difference upon performance and that any negative change in performance is almost entirely the result of our own mental states rather than the event itself.

Australian tour

Australian tour: After teaching the Singapore super seminar @evolvemma November 5-10 and cornering Garry Tonon for his third fight at @onechampionship MMA, I will go to see family and friends in Australia - hopefully avoiding local wildlife. I am delighted to be able to join my old friend and Aussie Jiu Jitsu icon John Donahue in Melbourne on November 11 Sunday at 2-5pm @johndonehuejj for back system and Nemesis MMA @acsamelbourne Monday night for leg system. Then it’s off to Sydney to see my dear Mom (Mum) and then teach a super seminar at @kmasalievski KMA martial arts - they have just announced another session as the first two day session was sold out - check with them to get in the next session if you missed out or feel like extra In between I shall join old friends at @vt1martialarts with Liam Resnekov and do what I can for local Jiu Jitsu scene. Can’t wait to see you all and catch up with Australia’s incredible growth in Jiu Jitsu! In the meantime I will get The squad ready and practice crocodile wrestling, snake catching, shark nose punching and kangaroo kick counters to ensure my safety while there See you all soon! PS One day I’m going to have the time to get to New Zealand I promise!

Stay composed - think it through

Stay composed - think it through: I always emphasize the idea of problem solving in Jiu Jitsu. The whole sport is essential a battle between your ability to create problems for your opponent whilst solving the problems he or she creates for you and do so a faster rate than they can so that ultimately you create a problem that they cannot solve in the time available. As with any act of problem solving - ANXIETY AND EMOTION DON’T HELP YOU GET TO SOLUTIONS, in fact they usually interfere with that. Jiu Jitsu requires that you do all your problem solving under great stress - no matter what the stress level - YOU MUST CONDITION YOURSELF TO MAINTAIN THE CALM DEMEANOR REQUIRED FOR PROBLEM SOLVING ACTIVITY. It starts in the gym. If you cannot recall what happened during sparring, if you can’t control your breathing, if you feel emotional during the sparring - these are all signs that a calmer physical and mental state is required. Getting there takes time and training. When someone has you in a tight strangle or joint lock it’s natural to feel anxiety, but I assure you that freaking out want get you out of trouble. Only a rational and effective plan of action will - and to arrive at that it helps to be calm enough to figure it out. Here, Ethan Crelinsten is in a scary looking situation with Georges St- Pierre attacking his legs, but his expression is the same as if he were reaching for a cup of tea. As much as Jiu Jitsu conditions the body to move and act in certain ways, it also must condition the mind to act and behave in certain ways if an athlete is to reach their potential

Angle and level

Angle and level: In almost all combat sports there is a need to gain some sort of advantage prior to attack. Two of the best forms of advantage are ANGLE and LEVEL. Attacking from front on almost always gets you strongly countered, but if you can create angle and change levels in some way, you will often be able to successfully press home an attack. Normally level change refers to the act of LOWERING ones level, but if you are flat on your back in some form of supine guard position this is not possible - you are on the floor already. In these cases the level change goes in reverse - your hips RISE UP FROM THE FLOOR. When this is combined with angle - magic starts to happen and submission breakthroughs start happening much more often. Look at Nick Ryan getting both angle and level advantage as he works for upper body submissions from closed guard. The combination of the two creates tremendous wedging effects around the head and shoulders that makes it very difficult indeed for an opponent to pull free. Train yourself to constantly look for angle and level advantage wherever you are - whenever you attain them you will be considerably more dangerous to your opponents

Getting ready

Getting ready: Garry Tonon is preparing for his third MMA bout for @onechampionship in Singapore November 9 against talented Korean MMA fighter Sung Jong Lee. Mr Tonon has been training hard in his new sport - so much new ground to cover but it’s a fascinating journey! Though there is much that is new, the core principles of unarmed combat are always the same - it’s just a matter of training new skills to express them differently in a new context. Always so much going on as everyone prepares for their upcoming matches in grappling, but MMA has a different flavor and asks more from the athlete in terms of breadth of skill. Looking forward to this final week of hard training in NYC and then back to Asia!

The multiplicity principle

The multiplicity principle: An extremely important general principle of Jiu Jitsu is the multiplicity principle. It is seen in many different areas of the sport. The essential idea is this - FOR ANY GIVEN MOVE THERE WILL BE MANY LINES OF RESISTANCE SO IT IS EXTREMELY VALUABLE TO HAVE MULTIPLE VARIATIONS OF THAT MOVE TO BYPASS THAT RESISTANCE WITHOUT ABANDONING THE MOVE AS A WHOLE. The more variations you possess of your favorite moves and positions, the better you will be able to overcome the resistance your opponent offers. Here, Garry Tonon shows his usual masterful back control. Note how he makes use of many variations of leg position as he works the back position. If you limit yourself to one or two back positions it will be easy for experienced opponents to escape. When you can seamlessly switch from one leg configuration to another in response to resistance - using a multiplicity of rear mount leg variations to follow your opponents back you will be able to stay in good position long enough to get the submission breakthrough you seek. For all your favorite moves and positions - research the many subtle variations and configurations so that you can change the character of the move/position, but maintain the same position/move overall.

Getting ready for Australia! Immediately after Garry Tonon’s fight in Singapore @onechampionship and my super seminar at @evolvemma I will head to Australia to see my family and catch with the Australian Jiu Jitsu scene I will probably go first to Melbourne and teach (tentatively) November 11 Sunday afternoon at John Donahue’s school (Back attacks) and then a different topic at Nemesis MMA on Monday evening November 12. After than I will head to Sydney for a big two day seminar for KMA martial arts @KMA salievski on Saturday and Sunday teaching back attacks and leg attacks. Apparently the initial seminar at KMA completely sold out so we will run a second one day seminar on Sunday afternoon for those who could not get tickets for the initial offering - contact KMA for details. In addition I will be teaching friends at @vt1martialarts in Sydney with Liam Resnekov. It will be great to see old friends in Australia- it’s amazing how far Aussie grappling has come since last time I was there - hope I can help it go even further!

Here is a great clip of outstanding grappling and MMA athlete Erin Blanchfield in training at RGA. Ms Blanchfield first started coming to train with the squad in the blue basement from Silver Fox academy in New Jersey and wanted to prepare for an EBI grappling show. She was just eighteen at the time and entered EBI 12 female flyweights as an unknown among several world champions. She stunned everyone by winning the event - the youngest ever to do so. Her primary interest however, is MMA where she is unbeaten and signed with Invicta. On November 16 she fights again. Here she is going through her MMA training and grappling training in NYC. It’s amazing to see her work ethic in operation every day. She comes all the way from New Jersey to toil in two sports every day. Keep up with this amazing young woman as she climbs to the top @blanchfield_mma and exhibits daily the purposeful action that over time produces champions and makes dreams reality. Video by @kahl_one

Georges St-Pierre/Chris Weidman and bottom position

Georges St-Pierre/Chris Weidman and bottom position: Two of the most impressive athletes I ever had the honor of working with were Georges St-Pierre and Chris Weidman. Both were UFC champions and both were outstanding wrestlers capable of taking down anyone in the basement very easily and yet, every time they came to train, THEY ALMOST ALWAYS PULLED GUARD AND WORKED FROM BOTTOM POSITION. Why? They KNOW they can take down anyone here and recognize that the value of a Jiu Jitsu room is its Jiu Jitsu skill - so they work exclusively in that domain and thus maximize the value of the session to their development. So often I see a Jiu Jitsu athlete training with a wrestler and just pull guard straight away. Doing so means you miss a fine opportunity to work your standing grappling/takedown skills. Of course there may be times you have to pull guard, perhaps for safety reasons in a crowded training room, or because you have a match coming up soon and you want to mimic your plan for the match etc But under normal conditions use your partners for what they are best at to maximize your development. Mr St- Pierre and Mr Weidman did it for years and both became fine Jiu Jitsu practitioners as a result. Of course they could have played a negative game and just avoided going down to the floor but they did not - THEY IMMERSED THEMSELVES IN THE SPORT THEY WISHED TO LEARN EVEN THOUGH INITIALLY IT PUT THEM AT A DISADVANTAGE. They did not care about that - only about their long term development- and in time, both became great champions. Follow their example - immerse yourself in the new skills of a different grappling style and let your skills grow by letting your concern about winning or losing go.

The single greatest attribute that a coach can build in a student is SELF RELIANCE. You can have a great team behind you, the best coaches, legions of fans, sponsors , whatever you care to name - but at the end of the day the athlete walks on to the stage ALONE. He will be tested alone and his ability to trust in himself, develop himself, motivate himself and assess himself will be what determines success or failure on the big stage.