Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Advice for your first grappling tournament

If you have never been to a grappling tournament, your first one will make you pretty nervous. Here is some advice that will help you perform better during you first tournament.

1) Practice take downs as much as possible. Most BJJ classes don't work much on takedowns because they often lead to injuries and it takes a lot of space. In tournaments they are key for success.

2) Learn and practice guard escapes and guard passes and drill them. One of the most common moves by white belts in tournament is jumping guard. Be ready for it. If you stager your legs when they go for it then they won't be able to get their legs around you and will fall on their butt. While they are in shock, step past their guard and take side mount or mount.

3) Only use simple, basic moves. The complex fancy moves you were taught last week is probably not your strongest move, only use move you know well and have practiced often.

4) You don't get any bonus for submitting your opponent. Try to get a few points from positional advantage and stall. Once you have gotten mount, it doesn't take much energy to hold a person down for the rest of the match. It is much less risky to hold your opponent in mount than it is to go for a submission. Failed submissions often lead to opponents escaping, even scoring points by mounting you or passing your guard. The one advantage of submitting a person early is that you don't tire yourself out. If you are able to get a low risk submission (like a collar choke), go for it but only if it is low risk.

5) Develop good endurance. Tournaments are unbelievably tiring, especially no-gi. Practice rolling hard so simulate what it will be like. Often you will have 4 or more matches in a tournament.

6) Try to be the heaviest person in your weight category. If you are in the middle of a weight category you should either put on weight (muscle preferably) so you are at the high end of your weight bracket or lose or cut weight so you in the next lower weight bracket.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What to look for in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school?

One of the most important decisions you can make when training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is what school to train at. I will discuss some of the most important factors to look at when picking which school you will learn at. I highly recommend attending a few classes at a school before you sign up, especially if there is a length contract.

1) What are the students like at the school?

If almost everyone is a white belt, this is a red flag. Why aren’t there any higher belts? Does everyone leave before they get promoted because the instructor isn’t very good? A lack of higher belts can really hurt you because there will be fewer people that can help teach you techniques and you won’t have more skilled students to roll with. I find that I learn the most when rolling with blue and purple belts.
What are the other students like physically? Are most of the other students much smaller or much larger than you? Are most of the students older or younger than you? You will probably want to train at a school that has several people of similar size to you with people both smaller and larger. It is good to roll with a diverse set of students to allow you to develop a well-rounded game. If you are always rolling with people who are much larger than you it will be difficult to learn how to do submissions. If you are always rolling with people who are much smaller than you then you won’t get as much experience on the bottom.

2) How does the instructor teach?

It is important to make sure that you are able to learn from the instructor, does the instructor’s teaching style work for you?

3) What are the goals of the gym?

You will want to make sure the goals of the gym and your goals align. If everyone else is competing in tournaments and you are doing BJJ for recreational enjoyment then rolling with the other student might be too intense. On the flip side, if you want to compete and no one else in you gym does, it will be tough for you to get the high intensity rolling sessions you need to prepare for tournaments.

4) How often does the gym have classes?

I have seen a wide range in the frequency of classes at gyms. Some schools only train twice a week while others have 10 or more classes a week. Make sure that you feel that your school has enough classes to meet your training goals. Keep in mind that after you start training you will probably want to train more than you initially think you want to train. BJJ is addictive like that.

5) Does the gym train in Gi, No-Gi or both?

I recommend finding a gym that trains in both Gi and No-Gi. Check out my entry about Gi vs No-Gi BJJ.

6) How large is the gym? How many students show up per class?

Make sure that there are enough students showing up so that you will have plenty of student to roll with. You will also want to make sure classes are not too crowded either. If there is not enough matt space for everyone to roll at the same time, you will lose precious training time.

7) Is the gym a 10th Planet BJJ school?

Many people do not like the style of 10th planet. These schools typically teach a limited subset of BJJ. Carefully research 10th planet and their style of BJJ before you sign up to train at one of their gyms. I will leave it up to you to decide if their system is right for you.

My ideal school has at least 50% higher belt, and a diverse set of students, most of which weigh more than 160 pounds. It should offer classes every day and should have several students interested in competing. The school should offer training in both Gi and No-Gi.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Training: Gi vs No-Gi

Whether to training Gi or No-Gi is an age old debate, both having advantages and disadvantages.

Training in a gi is the traditional way of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It is a significantly more technical way of training because it is slower and has a much larger number of moves that are available. It is often recommended that newer students train gi first so they can focus on technique first. Grappling in a gi is also safer because it covers your entire body which helps to prevent spreading infections.The arguments for no-gi is that you don't rely on gi grips. Since it is harder to hold onto an opponent it is much faster pace and forces students to develop quick reflexes. Many people also choose to study no-gi submission grappling because they are interested in MMA and fighters do not wear gis. No-gi proponent make the argument that no-gi is more realistic for self defense because people do not wear a gi on the street. Gi proponents make the argument that everyone wears clothing which can be used similarly to a gi.

I think it is important to spend time training in both a gi and no-gi, but personally I find rolling in a gi more enjoyable. I like having more options and I think the gi techniques are more interesting than no-gi. In the end, you should train the way you enjoy and for me that means spending most of my time training in a gi.

Friday, March 9, 2012

No Excuses

I came across this video of a one armed MMA fighter the other day. If he can compete and succeed with such a huge disadvantage, what excuse do you have?

If this video doesn't motivate you to try harder then I don't know what will. This man has used his potential to the max, it really makes me think of what I am capable.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Martial Arts can help you lose weight

Today I am going to talk about weight loss, after all it made it on my list of top 10 reasons to do jiu jitsu. I have heard about story after story after story about people who have lost a lot of weight doing martial arts. I think there are 3 main reasons it helps you to lose weight an keep it off:

1) Martial Arts is exercise which helps you burn calories.

2) Martial Arts are fun which often means you will continue to be active even after you reach your goal.

3) Martial Arts teaches people discipline which helps them stick to the diet they are following and keep eating healthy even after they reach their goal.

I have been doing BJJ for 3 months now and following the paleo diet. So far I have lost 27 pounds, making this the most successful diet I have ever had. I plan to lose another 5 pounds before I hit the body fat percentage I want (roughly 7%). I look so much better than when I started, I have abs showing and everything. Once I reach my goal I will post before and after photos. When I have more time I will do a detailed (probably several part series) entry about paleo diet and losing weight.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fitocracy: A way to track BJJ training and network

Today I was reading a blog entry at jiujitsu365 about a new website called Fitocracy. It is a training log mixed with a competition mixed with social networking. You log your workouts and get points based on the different exercises. There are contests, quests, accomplishments and leader boards to compare yourself to other people. Since I am a competitive person, I can see myself really getting into this. If you need motivation to get in shape or lose some weight then this is the perfect site for you. Fitocracy also has groups so you can socialize with other people with similar interests.

If you sign up, I highly recommend changing your email settings because they are pretty spammy at first. Right now the website is in beta testing and is only available by invite. If you are interested in getting an invite, post a comment on this post, then email me at and tell me why you deserve an invite. I have limited invites so I am not going to just post it here.

So... you do jiu jitsu

I was going to do a post about the differences between training Gi and No-Gi today but this video was too hilarious not to post.

So... you do jiu jitsu
by: sevensixtwo

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Flow Jiu Jitsu

Today I will take some time to discuss the jiu jitsu gym I train at. Flow Jiu Jitsu is run by Ken Primola who was a D1 wrestler and letterman in college. He later found jiu jitsu in 1999 and eventually opened his own gym approximately 4 years ago.

I really enjoy training a flow jiu jitsu for many reasons. Ken's classes are no nonsense. We don't waste valuable time warming up and doing fitness exercises during class. We start, Ken teaches, Ken gives a chance to ask questions, we roll then we leave. I have all the time in the world to get in physical shape during the rest of the week. I don't want waste any of the hour long class doing something I can do on my own. Why should we waste time warming up and stretching during class when we should have shown up early and done this on our own. Ken always sticks around after class and will answer questions or let the students get more rolling time in.

Flow jiu jitsu has a great group of students with a wide diversity. There are small guys, big guys, new guys, and experienced guys. I feel as though I have the perfect mix of students for my development. Some guys are way better than me that teach me new moves and techniques and gives me great practice defending myself from attacks. Other guys are smaller and newer than me which gives me the opportunity to work on attacking and doing more complicated submission attempts that I can't get on bigger, more experienced students. Not only is Flow Jiu Jitsu a great learning environment, but the people are extremely friendly as well. If you live in Delaware in the Wilmington area, I highly recommend stopping by and giving Flow a try.

Also, check out Ken's website. He has some great DVDs and gear for sale.

It is time for me to start training more

When I first started with jiu jitsu I was training 3 times a week. My biggest issue with training more was that my elbows would kill me at the end of rolling because from the top I would try to overpower the legs of the person I was rolling with. I am pretty strong and at the time I weighed over 200 so I had some success but it was a pretty stupid idea in terms of efficiency. Since then I have learned to fight peoples legs with my body weight instead of my arms so I no longer have problems with my arms.

Once that was solved I began training 4 to 5 times a week. I developed a problem with my knee because I was always standing the the person in guard would bend my knee in funny directions. I now wear knee braces and have learned to stay as close to the ground as possible to avoid the possibility of hurting my knee.

Since I have fixed my problems and seem to be able to roll without injuring myself anymore I think I can increase my training to 8 times a week. I will need to start going to a second gym because my gym only has 5 days of instruction a week and I would like as much instruction as possible. I need to learn technique so I don't need to rely on overpowering my opponent. I am trying to be prepared for the IBJJF New York Open, so I need all the training I can get so I have a chance to with the tournament.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Strikeforce Ronda Rousey vs Miesha Tate

I don't frequently watch women's MMA but the Rousey vs Tate match last night was pretty impressive. I think it will help a lot to move women's MMA forward and gain popularity. They built up a lot of tension before the fight with trash talking and the head-butt stunt during the weigh in. Both competitors had good striking and grappling. Miesha Tate got Rousey's back at one point while Rousey got several attempts at armbars, finally ending the fight with an armbar.

It was clear that Tate did not have much respect for Rousey and didn't think that Rousey deserved an attempt at the title with only 4 wins under her belt. Because of Tate's ego and disrespect of Rousey, Tate tried to resist the final armbar for around 20 to 30 seconds. After the fight doctors rushed onto the matts to look at her arm because she stupidly tried to resist when she shouldn't have. What is the result? She still lost and now she won't be able to train for a few months. Don't let your ego get in the way of tapping when you should or you will end up getting hurt and missing out of training like Miesha Tate.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weight Distribution

Over the past couple of days I have become more aware of my position when I am grappling and how my weight is distributed. I hadn't realized how important it was until just recently, the higher belts are probably laughing at me right now. Now when I roll actively think about what direction the person's stance/position is strong and what direction it is weak and choose the direction he is weak in.

I used to just try to do the move I wanted to do and overpower the other person's resistance. It can work especially because I am pretty strong for my size, but it isn't the smart way to roll. Instead now I go for a move, then if someone tries to resist I look for the weakness he creates by resisting the move and I change to attacking his weakness.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dizzy Leg Takedown

In No-Gi tournaments takedowns are very import, especially at the novice/beginner level. The single leg takedown and double leg takedown are two of the most common types of take down. I have a creative idea for increasing the odds of a successful takedown. It might only work once per tournament before people catch on but I think it can work.

I was practicing circling last night while I was waiting for others to show up to our wrestling class. When the other guy showed up we started practicing circling together. After 40 seconds or so of circling we stopped abruptly which caused us both to get dizzy. I had been practicing circling before he got there so I was significantly less dizzy than he was since I was used to it. In a tournament you could circle for 30 to 40 seconds then stop, give him a second or two for the dizziness to set in then shoot for the single leg takedown while his balance is off. It is important for you to practice getting dizzy for a few minutes before you try this so you are prepared. I will give the dizzy leg takedown a try during my next tournament and see if it works.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What you can expect during your first grappling tournament

It is perfectly natural to get nervous before your first tournament since you don't know what to expect. Knowing what to expect will help you be better prepared and ease your tension. Read this post about what to expect during your first bjj competition then read my other post with advice for winning your first bjj toutnament. Most larger tournaments will let you weigh in the night before. If you aren't sure you will make weight and need to cut water weight, I recommend weighing in the night before. Naga is one of the larger tournaments and they have events all across the United States. Their scales are usually calibrated so that you are 2+ pounds lighter than you actually are.

Day of the tournament it will be very crowded in the gymnasium and very loud. Since men out number women by a large margin you can actually expect to have lines for the men's bathroom and not the women's bathroom. Children's divisions are usually first, followed by the women's divisions with men last. Tournaments are always running late so expect to wait around for a while. Typically you will start 2+ hours after the time advertised on the schedule. You need to pay attention and listen for your division to be called. It can be very difficult to hear so I recommend checking with the organizers frequently to see if it is your turn. Bring small snacks to keep your energy up. You can't really have a large meal because you don't know when your match will be but you could be waiting a long time until you start.

When you get on the mat you will need to take off your shoes. When you go to the bathroom you will need to put shoes or flip flops on so that you don't track bacteria from the bathroom onto the mat. Be sure to warm up and stretch a few minutes before you start so you are loose. Remember to breath and don't panic. If possible breath in through your noes, it is more efficient and slows your breathing.

Naga and Grapplers Quest and notorious for running late. The Good Fight is a smaller tournament that has a money back guarantee if they are running too late, so it could be a good alternative.

Video of first No-Gi Jiu Jitsu Tournament

Video of first Gi Jiu Jitsu Tournament


For the past two days I have felt a little bummed because I got tapped more often than I usually do. I felt pretty frustrated because I have been trying very hard and I train 4 to 5 times a week which is more often then almost everyone in the gym (except Ken my instructor of course). I felt like I was losing progress. My first thought was maybe I'm not doing as well because I lost 24 pounds and I am easier to throw around.

Now I realize it doesn't matter why I was getting tapped more. I remembered that after class both days I asked Ken what I did wrong and he taught me how to improve my game in those specific areas. When I win I don't ask him how I can do those moves better so I don't learn as much. Winning gives me an immediate feeling of accomplishment but that doesn't last but the lessons I learned from losing will help me next time. Now that I think of it, yesterday Ken showed me the proper way to get out from under side control to half guard and today I used it twice. I guess it is already working.