Have you ever been shown a technique in class, that you drill and try in rolling that does not seem to work. Do you then question why this is happening or give up on the technique? There is an old saying about “there are no such things as stupid questions” and no where is this more true than in jiu jitsu. Asking questions in BJJ is important, part of your training.
There will obviously be times when you don’t understand a technique your coach is showing you in class, and you will need him to explain more. But more importantly, there will be times when after that class, you are trying the technique but the outcome is not what was shown. At this point it is easy to say “this doesn’t work for me” and either forget about it after class or possibly stop playing the technique. In reality you should be asking “why is this not working for me?” Then after you have asked yourself this initial question, look to ask someone else. Many jiu jitsu techniques can be broken down in to a smaller number of parts. If you miss out one or more of these parts it can affect the ability of the technique in working. But this does not mean you should give up on the technique.
So who should you ask? The obvious initial answer is your coach. The person who probably taught you the technique in the first place. If you are going to ask your coach don’t do it during class. If your coach is trying to teach a different technique during class, it could be considered a little insulting asking them about something else. However at the end of class you could legitimatley ask if they have 5 minutes to help you with something that has been causing you problems.
You may struggle to get a chance to ask your coach or you may feel uncomfortable asking them, whatever the reason is the other alternative is obviously one of the other higher grades. What would be useful here is considering who you are going to ask. There may be a guy who is a specialist at the particular technique you have been struggling with. Another alternative would be someone who is near your size and weight. If you are a 5 feet 6 inch Rooster weight, asking the 6 feet 6 inch Heavy Weight may not be the best option. I am not saying you won’t get a good response. But you might end up with is a version of the technique that works for the big guys. The same would apply the other way too. Asking the belt that is near your size, will give you a chance of an answer that is more likely to work for you.
One last thing to consider before you give up on a technique, is who you are trying it on. If you are trying it against a higher grade or someone bigger than you, then you may be setting your expectations a little high. You won’t know the technique well enough to make it effective on these people. So before you convince yourself this technique is going in the trash, try it against someone who is roughly your size but with a lower level of experience. They won’t have a technical or physical answer to it, giving you a better opportunity to measure what you know of the technique and guide the focus of your questioning.
Keep drilling these techniques, they become one of your specialist techniques. If not you will still have a good understanding of it and it will be something in your arsenal to focus on later in your jiu jitsu journey. At the very worst if someone tries playing it on you, it will give you an idea of something to answer then with.
One of the traps that I have found recently is slipping into counter grappling. What I mean is when you start a roll or a competition match and you allow your opponent to play their game or their favourite technique. This leaves you in a position of defending against their specialist stuff, which is always going to leave you playing catch up. Counter grappling in bjj is not a great place to be. You are the two or three moves behind your opponent and they’re playing their game towards their favourite finish. This has made me think about what I should be doing to make sure that I don’t end up just defending against my partner’s bjj.
The first thing is to consider what you want to play. What are the techniques that I want to use, starting from the takedown all the way through. Sometimes it will be the ones I feel comfortable with, others will be the ones I am trying out. But I need to make that decision. Straight from the start I need to know what I want to play. If I am starting standing, focus on an A and B take down. I will push A but if it really isn’t working I do need a B to fall back to, so I can retain control. If I am starting from the ground I need to be aware that my partner may prefer playing off his back and I may be walking into his favourite position. So if I am going to go into a guard what is my favourite way of passing or what would affect his guard game the most. Maybe try passing to the opposite side you normally do?
The next thing is keeping focused whilst I am rolling. It is really easy to accept the position you are in, without working out of it to where you want to be. This doesn’t mean thrashing around to escape. But knowing where you want to be and working your way to that, not just accepting the position and just working defence. If you want to get back on top, because that’s where you prefer to play form. That should be what you work towards. If you love playing in closed guard work towards that. Whether it is a top or bottom position retain control of yourself and work towards that. By doing this you are retaining control of the fight and forcing your partner to deal with what you are working towards.
Remember you are allowed to reset. So many times I have found myself in a position that is not good for me and I have tried to carrying fighting from it. Instead of acknowledging that it is a bad place and getting the hell out of there. Maybe your partner has your legs pinned and is moving round for the pass. So you try and defend the pass. What would have been better would be scooting back, getting your legs free and starting from neutral. Or maybe you have walked into an open guard for a knee slide pass. But your partner has super fast grips and hooks and your balance is compromised. Don’t try and fight your way forward from this poor position, break the grips and work your way out and start again and again if you need to.
As a beginner I am not saying I do this all the time, unfortunately I still get caught up in the heat of the moment and lose my focus. But knowing what I should be doing is half way there. The other half is remembering under pressure, which only comes with training.
We often hear the phrase Jiu-Jitsu Changed my life or Jiu-Jitsu Saved my life. We often agree and support these phrases blindly without ever really looking at the vast ways the art really does impact us. While Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t necessarily become every practitioners “Job” and not every practitioner opens their own Jiu-Jitsu gear line it still does change us in many ways. I want to talk about the top three ways I have seen Jiu-Jitsu change people’s attitudes, perceptions and all around way they live their life. This is not to say that there are other impacts but rather this is just going to be based on my own personal experiences within the Jiu-Jitsu Community.
First I want to start with something very basic that is impacted by Jiu-Jitsu, Health&Diet. As many new white belt come in they quickly realize that the huge Double Cheeseburger they just ate isn’t getting them anywhere. Jiu-Jitsu often makes people re-evaluate their diet because poor eating habits lead to fast gas-outs and an overall worse performance. While many people begin to eat healthier the exercise itself also helps us shed fat and reduce our risk for many diseases. As you can clearly see Jiu-Jitsu in general leads to an increased health as a generality in more ways than one.
P.S.S (Problem Solving Skills)
Second I want to dive into a more complex subject which is more of a life skill we learn. Jiu-Jitsu is all about problem solving. From the beginning we are put in tough situations and are forced to learn how to defend and counter. Then we come in the next day and have a whole new set of challenging positions to deal with. Although this is very abstract I believe this skill is normally also carried into our day to day life as well. We become more patient dealing with hard situations and more comfortable expressing ourselves and working with others. I can say from personal experience that since beginning my Journey I am a lot more comfortable dealing with adversities and staying true to who I am and what I believe.
Lastly I want to talk about a related topic, but is just a little more abstract and deeper in meaning. The last and most valuable way Jiu Jitsu Has impacted my own life is in dealing with fear. Many people go through life denying their own fears and never living up to their true potential. We deal with fear in more than one way in Jiu Jitsu from fear of never becoming worthy of the belt we hold to fear in competition. I want to focus on the competition aspect for now. In any gym I would say about 10-20% of the members actively compete in tournaments. Why is this number so low though? Ask anyone who chooses not to compete and they will give you a laundry list of reasons they don’t compete from I am too old to I can’t train enough to I don’t want to get injured to I only practice for self-defense. While these reasons and more can be very legitimate for many they are most certainly not true for 80% of the population. The real reason most people choose not to compete is they allow fear to control them. They are simply afraid they won’t perform well or they will lose. I want to focus on the population that doesn’t allow fear to control them. We learn to face our fears through competition we accept our wins as well as our loses and we come back no matter what. There are many ways competitors deal with their fear, but my point is simple ; we choose to face them. I believe that yet again this skill is transferred to other areas of our life. We no longer let fear dictate what we decide to do. We take chances in our activities and our life. We go for what we want and know that it may or may not work, but we try. In the words of one of my favorite speakers (Greg Plitt) “Fear can either create you or destroy you”.
As I have shown Jiu-Jitsu Truly does change many aspects of our life’s. To name a few we become healthier, we develop better problem solving skills and we learn to deal with fear. So Jiu-Jitsu truly can Change our life. –Kris Reid
If you’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for a while you may have started developing your “game” either conciously or sub consciously. You maybe struggling with what with techniques to add to your game or just have no idea where to start. Developing this “game” is a special because the “game” is specific to you. You are effectively building up your own arsenal. With this in mind here are 5 things to consider when building your game.
1. Does it work for you?
Just because a technique looks cool, does not mean it will work the same way for you. Flexibility, size (height and weight) and athleticism are all factors that should be considered beforechoosing each part of your “game”. When choosing the components of your game” you need to consider the physicality of what you want to do. As a super heavyweight beginner could you really hit a berimbolo under the pressure of rolling, or is there a simpler move that would achieve the same end?
2. Building a chain link by link.
Building your game is going to be done through trial and error. Some techniques will fit perfect while others won’t. However your game must have a focus behind it. You need to be able to chain each of your techniques together. This will need you to threaten your opponent with multiple attacks that can flow between each other. By having this flowing combination of attacks, your chances of hitting one of the attacks increases substantially, as your opponent will struggle to defend a chain of attacks. It you just focus on one single attack if your opponent recognizes it then you’re stuck or worse.
3. Be comfortable in your game.
The beginning stages of creating a “game” start with the mastery of just a few movement staying focused and not trying to add too much in is the key. As you start to drill your game techniques you’ll start to find comfort in these positions. Building this comfort is the key part of the building and evolution process. Implementing effective techniques is the basis of building your game, if they are effective you will trust and believe in them. Remember this is something that you will fall back on under the pressure of competition or even in your academy. So comfort is important.
4. Don’t forget the defense.
Chaining together attacks is going to be a big part of building your game. But don’t forget putting some escapes and defences in there. Unless you are a prodigy there will be times when it doesn’t go your way. Have some good strong escapes in there, so you are also comfortable in the bad positions. But more importantly, so you can get out of there and straight back into your game. Make these escapes another link in your chain.
5. Perseverance is the key.
Once you have worked the suitable techniques and drilled them so you are comfortable with them, you need to make sure they work in rolling. One thing to remember here is that to begin with it may not work for you, as an opponent is not the same as a drilling partner. This does not mean that you go back to the drawing board. Figure out what wasn’t working, because chances are you will come up against the same issue with other people. Persevering and working on the techniques in your game will really building your confidence in your game. So you can achieve your target no matter what gets thrown in your way.
Building your game will take time and is not something you can decide on and implement in totality straight away. Making it all work and building it up will take time. But once you have developed your game this is not the end. Consider it your foundation, on which you will continue to build and extend. As you change your will add more and more links into the chain of your game.
One of the most important things when you start training bjj, is to make sure that you stay as injury free as possible. It is a contact sport so there is always that potential. But, their are precautions you can take to lower your chances of sustaining an injury. Here are 5 ways to stay injury free whilst training bjj:
Make sure you warm up.
It is important to ensure that your body is ready for what you are about to it through when you start a class. If you are a younger learner you may be able to get away with a shorter warm up. But in reality your muscles and joints need easing into the intense movements you are going to but them through. Making sure you warm up helps avoid those easy to avoid injuries. Pulled and torn muscles can take a while to heal and have a big impact on not only your training, but also your day to day life. If you are one of those people that don’t really like traditional warm ups, try doing some light drilling before starting class. It will help wake your muscles up, increase blood flow and improve your technique.
Choose your opponents wisely.
This is a very important choice when you are rolling in the club. The people who you choose to roll with needs to reflect how you are feeling that day. If you have had a bad day at work and your focus is a little off, you are probably better rolling with a higher belt. This may seem counter intuitive, but they are not going to do anything dangerous. Plus their control of you will keep you safe. Way better than the 200lbs white belt that has just starting rolling. There may be days when you could handle that guy, but you need to be aware of how you are feeling for your own safety.
Stay in control.
With this I mean stay in control of yourself. It is too easy to get caught up and break a toe or a finger, I know it has happened to me. If you have something caught in the gi let your partner know. If your toes or fingers are getting bent, tap re adjust to get them out of danger and restart. This is training and you want to be back tomorrow. So be sensible and look after your fingers and toes.
If you are drilling stay focussed on what you are doing. If your mind wanders or you are looking across the mat watching someone else, then you might get caught be surprise. It’s the surprise that causes the injury. This also applies to throwing something else into the drill too. If your coach has showed you a drill or ABC, don’t throw D in without letting your partner know. Once again it’s the surprise that can cause the injury.
Off the mat
Every Brazilian jiu jitsu athlete needs to devote some time to corrective exercise and strength training:
- Keeping your muscles strong helps protect your joints. Having strong muscles keeps your joints moving correctly any good S&S Coach will confirm that.
- If your muscles are stiff they are not going to work properly and will injure easily. Get a massage or use a foam roller or anything to get rid of those knots.
- If something doesn’t feel right for a while, giving it a little longer isn’t going to help. See a professional with any persistent niggles. Yes it will cost money, but far less now than when the injury actually happens.
These are just a few tips to help you avoid injuries. Your goal is to train for years and enjoy your training, but to do this you have to be smart. Taking a few necessary steps to avoid future injuries by assessing your lifestyle and training will help you to stay on the mats for a long time to come.
I am fortunate that I have been able to attend quite a number of great seminars. Besides meeting some great jiu jitsu practioners, I have learned some great ideas for improving my game. I think seminars are a great opportunity to be shown different perspectives on techniques, but also giving you an insight into jiu jitsu. I have come up with 5 tips on how to get the most out of a BJJ seminar:
Respect the host gym.
I have attended seminars at my own club and a number of other clubs. It goes without saying always respect the host gym. Introduce yourself to the host coach and any training partners you work with. Be especially respectful of the mat, so make sure you wear shoes to the toilet and don’t step on the mat in your shoes. No one likes that!
Take a notebook and pen
There are two perspectives on using a notebook at a seminar. One thought is that whilst you are taking notes you can be missing out out on some of the instruction. It is a valid point, I however think that taking notes during the seminar can be helpful remembering the instruction afterwards. Trying to remember some techniques without having notes can be tough. Even if you just write a few lines, it will help jog your memory later.
Some seminars might not like you taking photos or videos during the instruction. It might be better for you than taking notes, but some guys don’t like it so check before you do it. Once again its a respect thing. However at the end of the seminar, getting a picture with the guest instructor or the host and your training partner is great fun. Plus it’s a great way to make your friends jealous on Facebook.
During the instruction part of the seminar, ask questions. Just like in a normal class, if you’re not getting it don’t be afraid to ask. I have never come across one seminar instructor who wasn’t more than willing to help me understand. Usually the seminar instructor will have a questions and answers time at the end of the seminar. This is a really good time to get some great insights, so don’t be embarrassed to ask a question.
Don’t forget to thank the seminar instructor and the host
Once again this is another good way of showing respect. Hosting a seminar is a lot of work and takes a lot of organizing and time. So thanking the host shows your appreciation of the work they have put in. With the seminar instructor they will always appreciate gratitude for the time and effort they have just shared with you.
With most seminars you will probably not remember everything, or maybe you may not want to use everything you are shown. But if you can come away with a few key things you will have your money’s worth. You will have been the recipient of some top instruction, got some world class techniques to add to your game and plus had a great day out.
Nearly every BJJ class begins very similar, although some of the warm ups change, they generally are very similar. First, we bow in, and next, we run. Running can take many different forms and use many different exercises. Afterwards, most gyms usually have a light stretch. The stretch in my opinion is the most important part of the warm up. We all know stretching is good for us but many opt out of the stretch for various reasons. This is a big mistake. Whether before a class, open mat or competition stretching is a must.
The first thing stretching can do to help you is increase your blood circulation. This in return lets your body deliver nutrients and blood to your muscles quicker and making injury less likely. Because your blood is already blowing well before beginning to train you are also less likely to be sore as your muscles are being fueled during even the beginning of your training session.
Another great benefit to stretching for BJJ Athletes is the increase in flexibility. When we begin to do certain stretches we begin to see our own limits on where our body can go. However as you stretch your muscle tissue is literally pulled apart and becomes longer allowing for greater flexibility. As we have all seen flexibility can be just as dangerous as any other advantage. Imagine for much easier it would be to recover guard, play inverted or berimbolo with much more flexible limbs.
The third area I think stretching helps the most in is pain relief. We have all shown up to class feeling tired, beat and very ,very sore. Some of us have has serious injuries to our limbs or back and feel this pain daily. When we stretch our muscles we are literally breaking them down in a similar way to resistance training. This strengthens the muscles and also warms them up which can relieve current pain and prevent future pain and injuries.
These three areas are the pillars of why I will always start my train with a light stretch when I’m sore or about to train hard. If we can continue to prevent soreness, injury, increase flexibility and relive pain through proper stretching we can continue to further our self in our own BJJ journey. I have always believed it’s important to do the things that will benefit us in the long run and not just here and now. So lets stretch and stay on the mats until we are old and grey with smiles on our faces. – Peace Kris Reid
Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to be able to train full time. We have day jobs and families that we have to put energy and effort into. This can make it hard to maintain consistency with your training. This, then has a knock on effect with improvements in your jiu jitsu, making it harder for you to push yourself to train. I have struggled with motivation myself, so I have come up with 5 ways to stay motivated to keep training. Hopefully one or two of these will keep you getting on those mats regularly and seeing improvements.
1. Set yourself a short term goal or rule – This is one that I use myself. I set myself the rule that for 28 days I would train 4 times a week. I thought this was a reasonable amount. Having a short term achievable target like this, can be a great motivator for you. For me, it also meant I would schedule my days of rest around when I knew I was going to have a hard day at work. Once I achieved the 28 days I felt good about hitting my goal, plus I had found a way that I knew worked to ensure consistency in my training.
2. Stay positive throughout the day – It is really easy to start telling yourself that due to whatever you are going through you are not going to make training. Whether it was an urgent job that needed doing, or someone annoying you at work. Stay focussed and positive that you will get on the mats. If you get the job done in time, you get to go training and your boss is impressed with how way you handle urgent work. It’s a win win situation. If someone annoys you, don’t let them also take away your fun time.
3. Go to training straight from work – This may not be an option for some people, who may have to do this. But going to the gym via home can be really hard work. It is so easy to be tempted by the home comforts and family that will quickly sap your motivation. Going straight to the gym will keep you focused and ready.
4. Change perspective – Sometimes you can tell yourself that you have to go training. This can almost take away the fun aspect of your training. Your training always needs to be fun, even the hardest of sessions. You want to go training to meet friends and have fun. So, if you think you must or have to go training, rethink this and tell yourself you want to go. The gym is where you want to be.
5. Get a training buddy – This is a standard one. Having someone that you are going to meet at or take to training is a good motivator to get there. I have a friend that I give a lift to and I really don’t like letting him down, so it makes me turn up if I have to take him too. Meeting someone to do some pre class drilling can also be a good motivator and give you a chance to improve more too.
Consistency is a big aspect in bjj, because it is necessary to ensure improvements and promotions. The key to this is getting your motivation right and the consistency will follow for sure. I hope these ideas will inspire you make it down to your academy more.
In Jiu Jitsu or any belted martial art system, we often give much more respect to the higher belted and older students simply because we believe that you need to earn respect in an academy. However, we should also give our respect to the new students and especially the white belt. Yes, I just said especially the white belts. The white belts are so important to any academy that most people don’t even realize what the white belts do for the academy.
White belts are truly the core of any gym. Normally, there are more white belts than blue and many more whites than purple, brown and black. This naturally attracts new visitors and walk ins as the classes seem bigger and new students can have faith that they are not alone.
White belts also help the academy grow by word of mouth. Think about it by the time you reach blue or purple most everyone in your life already knows you train. You have told them and even tried to convince them to join. By this point, anyone who you could have recruited has either chose not to or has already joined. However, white belts bring with them a completely new set of friends and family that may also show interest in joining. A white belt is much more likely to bring a new friend than say a student that has already been training for six years.
One last reason we owe so much to new students is their physical place in the gym. White belts are often the people we get to sharpen our attacks on and practice new set ups and sweeps. Their place as the gym dummy doll is what makes Jiu Jitsu work. Without new partners, we would not be able to practice our moves the same way we can now.
As you by now realize…the white belts are the core of Jiu Jitsu…they grow Jiu Jitsu, and they also allow ourselves to become better. So, go out today shake a white belts hand and say thank you!
We all love training BJJ, even though it is a close contact sport. The biggest issue, because of the close contact training partners we have with each other, is that this can allow skin infections to occur. Skin infections are not a regular occurrence by any means, but they can happen, and a few tips to protect yourself can help you reduce the chance of you being exposed to the true cost of bad BJJ hygiene.
Staph and ringworm are probably the two most common infections that yon will hear about in the gym, so these are the ones I’m going to focus on.
Ringworm unlike the name suggests is no an actual worm, but a skin fungus that is really contagious and spreads from contact. You do not have to have had direct contact with someone who is contagious. If someone has ringworm and places the infected area on the mats, or another training surface that you come in contact with, you run the risk of infection. Ringworm will usually develope into a red circular area that itches and begins to lose hair, which if gone untreated will continue to grow in diameter. If you did not already realize, you cannot train with Ringworm! It is really contagious and easily passed on. If you notice a spot on your skin and are not sure if it is ringworm, always ask your instructor! Ringworm, however, can be treated with either an anti fungal cream, tablets or a shampoo.
Staph infections can potentially be more serious than ringworm. The staph virus can live on your skin without you even being aware of it. It only becomes a problem when the bacteria gets into a break or cut in the skin. That is another reason why breaks in your skin should be kept covered. Depending how deep it goes, the impact of the infection will vary. Ultimately you will be either looking at a skin or soft tissue infection such as impetigo or cellulitis. These are serious and can be painful, but not as serious if the bacteria manages to become invasive. Then, it has the potential to become septicaemia (blood poisoning), septic arthritis (joint infection) or endocarditis (infection of the lining of the heart)
So yes, these are potentially nasty, life threatening infections to catch.
Besides the actual medical issues that are caused by these infections, there are the day to day issues, too. You will lose training time and potentially money for the lost training fees. It could also effect your family, too. You will have to be careful when holding or hugging partner or children. Along with a lot of linen washing. Plus, if it is a serious enough staph type infection, it could also affect your ability to work!
The steps for preventing these infections are incredibly simple:
1. Shower. I know this sounds like common sense, but showering as soon as you finish practice as possible is the key. Do not go get something to eat, sit on the couch, or go shopping until you’ve had a chance to wash.
2. No open cuts! Even if it is a simple scratch, you need to cover them up. Imagine if someone started to bleed and you had an open wound. Even if you need to use duct tape (which I have done) cover it over completely during training and use disinfectant to clean the wound after practice.
3. Make sure you ‘’body wash’’ is antibacterial. Save the sweet smelling ones for when you want to smell good. After training stick to one that will protect you from infection. There are many of these that include ingredients like tea tree oil, or citrus oils if you don’t like the idea of chemicals.
4. Clean your uniform after each use. The bacteria and fungus can still feed and grow on your dirty training gear, so get it cleaned as soon as possible. If you wash your kit at a low temperature you may also want to consider an antibacterial detergent too.
5. Don’t be selfish and ignore any signs of infection. With staph, ringworm and any other mat nasties they can quickly spread to the entire class if you are not careful. If you notice something and you never had it before, ask your instructor! Getting things checked out as soon as possible will get you back into training as fast as possible. Prevention is always the best option.
Bad BJJ hygiene can easily lead to an infections and the consequences that go with them can be extremely serious. Keep clean, show respect to your tream and keep training.