Another BJJ Pet Peeve

Today I want to talk about one of the things that bug me in BJJ. In this case, it is the guy who is so afraid to lose, that he spends all of his energy on holding on for dear life.

You know the type. The guy who hugs your neck with a death grip so you can’t posture up to begin passing his guard. Or the guy who clamps on to you inside your guard with no attempt at passing, just trying to not get swept or submitted.

Listen to a piece of advice from an old and broken, but experienced, BJJ practitioner. Unless you are a super athlete like Michael Jordan who is magic with any physical action you do, or someone who is able to train on the mat 8 hours a day, 7 days a week; what causes growth in your performance is LOSING! Nothing on Earth shows you the path to improvement or how to overcome your mistakes by actually experiencing failure. Every session on the mat should provide you with the clues you need to get better. You only get that by opening up and trying something. You might fail at it, but that is fine. Remember why you failed, and try to fix it.

There is no magic moment where a perfect move will suddenly appear, unless YOU have made it appear.

I have seen a lot of guys on the mat. The bottom line with those everyday guys (not the super athlete or the guy who is able to do nothing but train, but those of us who have to deal with the real world) who improve is that they ALL experienced failure, but kept plugging away and kept trying stuff that failed. That other guy who never opens himself up? Yeah, he gets to say “oh, so-and-so didn’t tap me” but he also never figures out why he is a blue belt after 4 years.

Don’t be that way. Ditch the ego, try to accomplish a positive goal on the mat, and have a light heart. BJJ is fun. Let it be so.

A Pet Peeve of mine involving BJJ

Okay, so here is something that ticks me off involving BJJ.

Why does everyone who watches one UFC think he knows everything about BJJ? Or, why does anyone who has seen a BJJ DVD, or taken a seminar, or surfs the ‘net, thinks they have seen and experienced EVERYTHING there is in BJJ, and can make absolute pronouncements?

Let me tell you, I have been doing BJJ for a while now, and I have been fortunate to have constant contact with a world class coach, as well as have had the good fortune of training in a number of gyms with other great coaches. I also have the good fortune to have a couple of close friends who are as experienced whose brains I get to pick. And with all that, I am still learning new aspects of BJJ. There are so many things I “knew” as a blue belt that I know now was wrong. Just last night, I learned a variation on a Brabo choke that explained why I was only having about a 30% percent success rate with Brabos. Even great players like my coach Megaton, or Royler Gracie never says “this is the fact about this”. They, with all their knowledge and experience will say this is what they think, but never make it dogma.

And yet, keyboard warriors seem to have no problem saying the opposite “This is the way it is, no ifs, ands, or buts”.

Interesting contrast in perspectives to me.

The Backbone of a Striking Arsenal

In my view, the jab and cross should be the backbone of a functional striking arsenal. Actually, it’s not just my view; it’s the view of a lot of extremely knowledgeable people like  Paul Sharp, Greg Jackson, Adam Singer, etc. These two strikes are high-percentage, robust moves that work under high stress.

So why isn’t it used more often and successfully by non-professionals? Well, there are three factors.

1) Poor Instruction – For some reason, finding proper instruction of how to properly throw these two punches is harder than finding a caring politician in Washington DC. The basic structure of both punches is very simple, but there are a ton of tiny details that are usually over looked. When an instructor who doesn’t know these details teaches it to someone else, that someone might then become a coach and starts a vicious cycle of ignorance. Early in my Martial Arts journey, I was shown how to do these moves more times then I care to think about. Almost everyone who was not an experienced boxer got it wrong and screwed me up. Do some research to make sure you are learning it correctly. A key to knowing if your coach has a clue is if he talks about the balance component, how important it is, and how to incorporate it into your performance.

2) Poor Performance – Even when the instruction has been good, it doesn’t always ensure success. A problem I see many times as a coach is even when people “know” the material, there is often a dichotomy between mind and body and the person doesn’t even realize that they are not doing what they think they are doing. They are positive they are doing all the steps correctly even when they are far off. This is where a coach needs to be creative in order to get the idea across. Also, sometimes just video-ing yourself then watching it, will do wonders for that physical understanding.

3) Poor Spatial Relationship – This is a big one. Even when the instruction is good and the mechanical performance is solid, the technique fails because the person does not understand the proper distance needed between the two opponents. Time after time I watch people be so close that they T-Rex their own arms, or be so far away that they lose balance as they desperately try to reach the target. It is an ongoing learning process that can only be understood through sparring, ideally under the eye of a coach who knows what to look for.

Hopefully, this gives some people some food for thought, as well as some guidelines.

Managing Training Time

Trying to fit in training time might be the most difficult part of training. Unless you are a professional athlete, independently wealthy, or young and without ties, it is tough to manage all the things you need to do while going about your life with family, work, and social obligations. Add in a multi-disciplinary approach (S&C;, BJJ, striking, clinch, MUC/awareness, handgun, carbine, knife, stick, etc…) and the problem expands exponentially.

I am not good at doing things like this on the fly. It is too easy for me to find myself occupied with other matters, and suddenly realize I have run out of time for training.  For myself, I need to be more organized and focused.

What I do is use a large desk calender from a office supply store and I write, in advance, what my workouts will be on what day for the next 1-2 weeks. Sounds simple, but I have found most people don’t really plan that way. They “know” what they are needing to do, but forget to plan around the things that pop up in everyday life.

For example, it’s easy to say you will go to MMA class M-W-Sat, but what if you have a business dinner meeting that you forgot about on Wednesday? How do you compensate? Do you try to push back the schedule? Do you just miss the class? Or do you try to squeeze in multiple workouts on the same day (say the MMA class and a heavy strength session)?

IMO, it’s easier to do this ahead of time. If I can see my schedule for two weeks out, I can plan around business commitments, holidays, kid’s doctor appointments, etc. If there is a conflict, I can work around it ahead of time, rather than scramble and stress out, or beat myself up for missing a workout.

I like a having a plan. It helps me to focus on the training itself, and not about the when.