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Sam
18 April 2010 @ 01:46 pm
Lately a lot of people have been advertising invisible Jiu Jitsu. And after thinking about it a lot, and speaking to people like Henry Akins, I think invisible Jiu Jitsu is just forgotten Jiu Jitsu. It's all the little details that our instructors teach us, that we just forget over time. Which is natural. Whether you write it down, rep it a bunch, we can only retain so much.

A way to get a grip, a way to grab the collar, a way to control their hips. And as people get their black belts, they all put their own spin, their own unique twists on Jiu Jitsu.

It's like taking the Mona Lisa, and then a really great artist, hand copies it. Then another great artist, hand copies that. And after a while, it may still look good because it's made by good hands, but maybe it doesn't look so much like the Mona Lisa anymore. Or maybe it looks like her, unless you look close. This is what probably happened to a lot of martial arts.

Our ability to retain the basic principles and details will determine our ability to master the invisible. It's invisible because we are doing the shit the other person forgot right? Or their instructor forgot to teach for that matter.
 
 
 
Sam
15 April 2010 @ 06:46 pm
If it were a video game, and you are creating a character, you can put a certain amount of points into their skills or into their physicals. You could have a magician who would be highly skilled, or a barbarian who is very physical. Or a knight who is somewhere in between.

BJJ is the same way. You can come from the mindset where technique rules over all. Or someone who thinks physicality rules. Someone who relies purely on his physicality will think if they have an off night, they are just out of shape, they just aren't in the zone, they aren't strong enough, etc. When it could be their technique is what's failing them. On the other side a technician who is having an off night may think they have to learn a new technique or fix a perfectly fine technique, when in actuality it was their body that failed them not their skill.

Both have a lot to learn from each other. You need a proper blend of both.
 
 
 
Sam
12 April 2010 @ 11:48 pm


I haven't competed in competition in over a year due to injuries and even now I debate if I should keep competing. I am undecided as of this point... I did compete this past Pan Ams at Purple. These are things I need to work on. From my own mistakes and embarrassment I will use it as a lesson to grow from. The guy I lost to though was really nice and a respectful competitor and was happy to see he did well and made it to the finals for Purple Masters. He eventually lost to another Paragon guy.

14 sec - Did not sprawl.
15 sec - Grabbed a decent guillotine but did not jump guard and did not fall to the guillotine side, did not pop left leg free to trap him.
32 sec - Should have controlled the underhook or grabbed a grip around his waist to take his back before he rolled to guard after my sweep attempt.
34 sec - Should have immediately low passed to the right side.
42 sec - Should have stuffed him to half guard.
49 sec - Did not switch to a grip on his pant leg, weak grip on his collar. Reason I could not flatten him out to get my points.
54 sec - Did not use my head to push his shoulder flat.
1:05 - Friend tells me to turn his head and I don't.
2:24 - Tried a no gi grip stack pass instead of gripping his collar or lapels.
2:41 - Was too high. Coach screaming at me to keep my shoulder heavy but leaning too forward on the guy, head and shoulder out of position.
3:04 - Coach tells me to go to my right and I should have but felt uncomfortable with my right side passes.
3:29 - Elbow too flared out, did not have a good gi grip. Allowed him to take kimura. Went for the pass instead of defending or posting.
3:48 - Extend my arm hoping that he would fall on his side on a loose armbar attempt as I pass to the right side but get caught in a kimura armbar instead. Should have broken his grip and reset. Instead of trying to roll, should have squared up with him.

After the match you can see my reaction to the risk I took to try to get up on points, extending my own arm, thinking he would fall for a bait and pass. I know I could have done better, but during the match I made a lot of poor choices and executed poorly.

Important lesson though is I know what I need to work on. Passes, especially gi specific passes. Too many of my passes are geared towards no gi. Also passing specifically to the right. Also using my leg lock game with my passing. Finishing all guillotines.
 
 
 
Sam
31 March 2010 @ 03:43 pm
Sometimes you are in a position and in your mind you can see yourself doing something but when you try it, it just doesn't work. It's because of friction. The friction of their body against yours. The friction of your gi against theirs. How someone creates and controls the friction becomes a huge advantage. Both people put the same amount of weight on you but that invisible part is the friction one person creates.
 
 
 
Sam
29 March 2010 @ 09:29 am
I have never addressed this but I will now. The academy I train at, Hollywood Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is no longer affiliated with Shawn Williams but now instead with Paragon Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (though our name remains the same).

Now training one way and now completely changing to another way in the past 2 months has been...as I just mentioned a change. From emotions to training methods to even how I play my game have all had to adjust. It's a transition period for my martial arts career, one in which I believe will make me a better player. At the same time currently I don't feel quite as sharp as I would like to be, so many thoughts and choices and now hesitation when I roll. So many new tools and toys to play with, trying to incorporate it into my game hasn't always been successful in my sparring. New training partners to get used to, people training harder, my own limits being pushed, even guys I used to easily beat have gotten better. Because I am so analytical it always takes me time to fine tune and adjust.

Then there are the holes in my game, the ones I never saw as well as I do now. Things I thought I should be working on in the past look like giant exposed pot holes. I was too used to being lazy in my guard. Instead of sitting up I would just fall back and rely on my leg work to find me an advantage. Instead of taking opportunities to put them on my back, I would just sit on the bottom because I didn't want to tire myself out by trying to wrestle with them and beat them to the top. My leg position makes it too easy to sweep me. Things in the past I would just accept and play my game around it. Instead of playing my game around it now, I am attacking it head on and trying to fill those holes up and play in those areas I'm not used to playing in. Now I am getting caught, by everyone. Something that didn't used to happen before. Sometimes I would go for a month or more without ever getting tapped. Now I probably get tapped every other roll. Now I realize I am truly learning. The more I tap the more I learn.
 
 
 
Sam
23 March 2010 @ 04:28 pm
Since Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a Brazilian art, let's talk about the Brazilian educational system. Their most well known educator and educational theorist and philosopher is a guy named Paulo Freire. I am no expert by any means as you can get advanced degrees on his work. But I know a little, just enough to get my mind thinking.

He believes a flaw exists in education and learning, something which he calls the banking method of teaching. That we the students are empty vessels to be filled by the educators. We have no critical analysis, no self reflection, no consciousness. We are shaped by whatever gets filled into our empty coin slots of a mind. There is also then a dichotomy between teacher and student, authority and subject.

He thinks there are two ways to learn, unconscious practical knowledge and self reflective knowledge. To make it simple the way we learn now is passive learning, we know info and can regurgitate it but we have no idea how to apply it. As many new college graduates realized they know a lot of stuff but no way to apply it. We always call these people "book smart" because they seem to be an encyclopedia of knowledge but of little practical use. So the difference lies in passive learning, just storing information, or active learning, owning information. He questions knowledge and doesn't believe you know anything unless you know why that information is important, thought about it, and can apply it in some way.

This also happens in BJJ or a lot of martial arts. We are considered an empty vessel to be filled by our instructor. With no discussion, no self reflection, no dialogue. Whatever our instructor tells us or shows us becomes a belief but it never becomes knowledge. Knowledge is shaped by discussion and critical self reflection and dialogue.

So we learn this move, then that move, and whatever our instructor tells us is right. No wonder it seems like in BJJ there is some sort of destiny where some people get it, and some people never get it...no matter how long they train. If BJJ is based on math and physics and logic, then it should be something every last human being should be able to grasp. But there is a high turnover rate especially at blue belt of people who quit because they never got it. Even people who get their ranks out of commitment, even though "they never get it."

There is even a problem with the whole teacher and student dichotomy. It's not a good organic environment to truly shape knowledge if there is someone in charge of it, who dictates if something is correct or not, and if they are the master of all that you learn. Freire believes there should be Teacher/Student and Student/Teacher. Meaning the teacher is always still a student who is willing to learn and the student is also a teacher who is willing to share discoveries.

Sometimes in training, when the class is over and there are a lot of good guys, just training, talking, sharing ideas, this is the hot bed of life in Jiu Jitsu. When your game will grow like a living organism. It won't be stuffed and stifled down by rules or waiting to ask questions or just sitting there and letting the teacher show you want he wants, not what you need. No wonder Robert Drysdale says sparring is more important than drilling. He may not realized it but during that time is when things bend, move, get reshaped and shaped. Knowledge is created. Not all the time but when the environment is right.

Some people feel this kind of learning has no structure. Well most active learning doesn't seem to have a structure because it is so organic but it definitely does. Don't mistake, teacher talks, you listen, with structure.

Even drilling a move incessantly is a form of passive learning. A mistake some people will make is, to think just because you drill a lot you are technical and have a grasp of Jiu Jitsu. It is just taking what the teacher showed you, and doing what he just showed you without the teacher being there. Basically an autonomous empty vessel who will now refill his mind slot with the teacher's information on his own...ad nauseam.

The structure to active learning is, identity, purpose, method. Identify what is being taught, what is the purpose of it, what is the best way to apply it. For instance I am training with someone and he is almost passing my guard. I must identify what he is doing, low pass! What is the purpose of this move? To pass my guard. What will be my method to retain my guard?

If we compete like we train, and in training we are just automatons who do the teacher's bidding, we will definitely have a hard time. Now if in your training you learned to identify, calculate purpose, figure out a method to change this threat, then you will also do this while sparring or competing.

Question what you think is truly "being technical" or a "good teacher" or a "good student." Then throw out the idea of student and teacher and being technical.

BJJ SHOULD BE LIKE A LAB, NOT A CLASSROOM.

Challenge everything you think you know and you believe. Then make the correct adjustments to your training.
 
 
 
Sam
19 March 2010 @ 11:02 am
I have a new training partner, it's actually someone from my past. Karen Darabedyan who I used to train with at Gokors when we were both coming up. Actually some real badasses were there at the time, excluding myself because I am far from a bad ass. Karo was there and he went on to make a name in the UFC, Manny now in the WEC, Neil Melanson who is now the grappling coach of Extreme Couture, Karen who branched off to MMA. I took a different path all together, I went on a Jiu Jitsu path and moved away from my MMA, kickboxing experience.

Then somehow all things come around because I got back in touch with Karen and next thing I know we are rolling around again like the old days. Except he got a lot better...as did I. There are things I notice about his game and hopefully he will become one of those MMA fighters who is good at it all. I think the best examples are BJ Penn and GSP. They can do it all, and at a high level.
 
 
 
Sam
16 March 2010 @ 10:30 am
Past week or more, the arthritis in my neck has flared up again and I have been in incredible pain. It's hard to sleep. During this time away from hard training is when I start breaking down Jiu Jitsu mentally and look at my own habits as well as the habits of others and try to develop as a fighter so when I do come back, instead of suffering from rust, I come back with a new set of skills.

What I have been thinking about is growth and development as a BJJ fighter. I look at some of the guys I train with, have trained with, will train with. I know their habits and tendencies so I sometimes use them as my guinea pigs to see learning curves and growth and how that works, just through observation. A lot of the guys who are really good, I can see them plateau when they keep doing the same moves, or keep creating the same themes in their BJJ game. Themes and moves I am already used to, which makes it less and less important for me to train with them in my own development. Whatever problems they pose, even if they got better at them, even if I have problems with it still, at the end of the day are still the same problems I've already been given by them. Problems I've seen that I have either already worked out or already in the process of working out.

No one likes losing and to say you can train with no ego is like saying you can train without breathing. Though of course I don't always want to be getting beat up or losing all the time...I do want to be posed with new problems, complex problems, things I've never considered.

So when I see good guys no longer imposing new questions to their opponents, then I see a problem in their growth.

I first contradicted my own premise by looking at 2 of the greatest BJJ fighters, Roger Gracie and Marcello Garcia. Then after further inspection my original hypothesis actually seems to hold true. These 2 guys seemingly finish ever opponent the same way, what about their development? They always impose the same problems...but like all sports, our memory is very short.

Marcello mastered the top game first through his judo background, as fighters got better, he mastered the closed guard, when they got savvy to that, butterfly, then x-guard. From armdrag to rear naked chokes to heel hooks from the x, to guillotines, to takedowns and passes, etc etc etc. There are definitely thematic growth here as a fighter. He could literally come out with a new instructional every 2 years. Even though he has a string of losses, he is widely considered the best because of his ability to constantly grow.

Roger Gracie is the same way. As someone who was impossible to submit, he became a great finisher. He had a great closed guard to triangle or armbar. Then later he was taking everyone's back. Now he likes to mount and finish. He still works on his judo.


His problems seem to last longer than others but that does not deny he is still growing. Remember his scissor sweep from closed guard or his half guard sweep from bottom? He doesn't use those much anymore because he has developed other areas of his game now.

Even Rickson had runs where he finished everyone in his closed guard, to everyone from the back, to the now famous, Rickson by armbar from mount. 

Even if I am getting my ass kicked by a black belt; my mentality as a fighter like any good fighter is, this guy is within my reach. I will catch up. And if all the problems they are posing are the ones you already know, then their only reason for beating you is because they are better at answering your problems then you are at answering theirs. Which will still get you properly thrashed BUT there is light at the end of that tunnel. It's why eventually you will yourself become a black belt when you start catching up to them. It's why there are black belts and world class black belts, because most black belts have a hard time in developing after black belt. They have that judo mentality of learn a few moves and master them. World class black belts will always give you problems, then new problems, and never let you pose any of your own problems. I've heard countless stories of Rickson spending countless days and hours creating and developing new ways or refine old ways of doing something. That is why Rickson is Rickson...
 
 
 
Sam
10 March 2010 @ 05:06 pm
People like to compare BJJ to Chess or any other strategy game. Actually BJJ is more often compared to strategy games than it is any other physical sport. There is definitely a strategic and mental aspect. But there is no strategy game like BJJ, and any comparison will never do BJJ justice as it is the most unique strategy game that I know of.

Let me compare it to first Chess.
  • Chess is turn based - BJJ is not turned based, actually I can take all your turns in BJJ if I am good enough.
  • Chess is a perfect knowledge game where you know where you see his pieces and he sees yours - BJJ depending on the players, neither players can see anything, both players can see everything, only one player can see everything and the other can't see anything, or any combination therein.
  • Chess allows both players to start exactly the same with the same pieces - In BJJ one player can have all Queens, or one player can have only one piece. Even the arrangements can be different. One new player can have all his pieces in the wrong order, whereas an experienced BJJ player can have it ready to checkmate.
  • Chess, each game is unique and starts all over again fresh with the pieces replaced - BJJ is cumulative, the more you play, the more pieces and tools you have the next time.
  • Chess has a opening play, middle game, end game - BJJ also has an opening, middle, and end game. Grips, positions, finishes. But in BJJ you can start out in the end game, or middle game, or restart at any time to the opening play, or end it all with one move.

This is not only true for BJJ vs Chess but really for any turned based strategy game like Go or Poker or Risk.

BJJ vs RTS (Real Time Strategy)
  • RTS is not turned based and neither is BJJ.
  • RTS allows both players to start with same resources - BJJ allows players to start out with resource disparities.
  • RTS allows each game to be a new game - BJJ is cumulative, more games I play more resources I start out with.
  • RTS both players cannot see what the other player sees, they have to scout - BJJ one player can start out with full knowledge of everything you can do.
  • RTS allows people to have the same kinds of units and is very balanced - BJJ is not balanced and can be very lopsided towards one player.

In RTS and Chess and other strategy games, you can theoretically have a prodigy. In BJJ we use the term prodigy loosely but no one ever really is in the truest term. No one can train a few times and accidentally beat a world champion. Even people who get black belts in 3-4 years, they train 3-4 times a day religiously and accumulate more mat hours than people who train 10 years. So its not like a Bobby Fisher or a Josh Waitskin who sees a Chess game, plays a few times in the park, and then starts to beat adults. In BJJ a child cannot beat an adult very easily. Sometimes you will find people who have a natural instinct or intuition for a certain strategy game, it just makes sense. This is less true for BJJ where by design all your intuitions and instincts are wrong, because all my submissions and moves are based on you doing what you would naturally do. Extend your arms to push me off leads to an armbar. I sit on your chest so you give me your back to try and get up, leads to a choke. All the instinct you have innately or were conditioned with are wrong and will be used against you. Prodigies? No way. Hard workers? Yes.

They all have rules, but BJJ only has rules in a tournament. The actual art itself has many variables as you can be creative. A Rook works the same way for everyone in Chess, whereas in BJJ you can use a move differently based on the player. There are an infinite types of games that can be played in all of these games, but in BJJ, each move can have an infinite amount of variables, whereas in other games that piece or unit can only move or work in the way that was established when the game was programmed or created. In BJJ you are the rule maker, the programmer, the designer. Every day the whole thing changes each time people roll.

The mental side is close to this game, but the physical side can be compared to any tough sport. And the psychology now changes when you risk and factor in your general well being is at stake. You can then make a fair comparison to rock climbing or surfing, but you are not manipulating nature in BJJ, you are manipulating another human being who has the ability to manipulate you in a rational manner...

What is true of all strategy games are, you cannot think so many moves ahead. You try to out think your opponent or think too many moves ahead or predict that you think he thinks, and after a while you just have gibberish. You have to always play with the tools in hand at the current moment the best you can. Do what you can when you can the best you can. It's about being there in the moment, in the zone with no distractions.

The similarities are there, especially the one where to be world class you need thousands of hours of practice. But BJJ is a totally different animal that is unfair, confusing, physical, goes fast, and ever evolving. At the end of the day a Queen is a Queen in Chess but in BJJ a totally different move can be created. BJJ in a sense is like the Universe. Its ever growing, ever changing, unfair, strong, cruel, hard to predict but at the same time in perfect balance and harmony.

The best part about BJJ is that, unlike other strategy games it is not always about diminishing returns. In an RTS if your units or supply line or economy gets hurt early on it is impossible to win unless there is a major failure on your opponents part, which is relying on something out of your control. Same with strategy board games, more pieces you lose harder it is to win. In BJJ though no matter how bad of a position you are in, you can still manage to survive and win. In other games a game can be decided from the opening play, but in BJJ you never know what will happen with absolute certainty until it actually happens, there is always a chance for the underdog or the person who is down to win. That is why BJJ was created, to give the little man a fighting chance. His struggle may not be for not.

I live life like I play BJJ. That everything I thought I knew was wrong, and is always wrong and is in a process of being proven wrong and corrected. That all I really know is from trial and error and even then it may be wrong. I will forever be a student and in my pursuit of excellence will I make my biggest gains. You can't have just one master or teacher in life because you will miss so much, too many variables. You need a wide array of perspectives to guide you in your journey.

*As you may have noticed, this blog keeps getting updated and gets bigger and bigger. Key concepts always have room for development, which is the sign of its vitality. Just like my own ideas on BJJ and life keep growing and evolving and developing.