Archive for March, 2010

Loved this quote and picture…

March 24, 2010

I deleted most of this post, but couldn’t part with the following quote and picture!:

 “If fame were based on kindness instead of popularity, on understanding and not on worldwide attention, you would be the biggest celebrity on earth.  And to my heart, you already are.”  ~Anonymous







What I learned from ‘Boom Boom’

March 19, 2010

I looked for an older, wiser guide in the martial arts and life handed me one at my day job.  My good friend and long time mail room cohort is working his last day today before retiring.  Here are a few of the life lessons he taught me:

1. Go out of your way to help others, but be sure to look good while you do it!

2. Act like you know what is going on, while claiming you don’t have a clue.

3. Take care of the ladies, if you want to ensure survival.

4. Share yourself, but be modest.

5. Don’t take humility seriously.

6. Foldgers over Starbucks, buy a BMW with the money you’ll save over the course of year.

7. Multi-task.  Never let work get in the way of telling bad jokes.

8. Refrain from profanity; unless telling a bad joke.

9. The delightful high of stomaching a donut isn’t worth the low of having it bottom out in the pit of your stomach.

10. Waylon and Willie made fine, fine music together:

Congratulations and enjoy Gary!  Love, Jeff


Reflections on a 13 year milestone part 4: Parting thought

March 14, 2010
Even at the highest level of competitive skill, say Olympic wrestling or the BJJ Mundials, one competitor is going to lose position, get taken down, pinned, submitted, and lose.  In the grand scheme of things, even the icons of a given sport are only able to stay at the top of their game for a few years.  While idea of invulnerability is fun in a romantic sense, athletically it’s a pretty fragile illusion.

The cool thing though, artistically, the answer is constant regardless of the season one might find themselves in.  Whether a world-class athlete in their prime, or a freshly promoted hobbyist like myself, the ecstasy of discovery rolls at the feet of those who revel in the silent doing of their chosen craft.  


Lance Mountain (old school!) at Philly's FDR park




Transendence through yoga or martial arts?

March 13, 2010

I read a review of a yoga product recently where users apparently claimed the routine “turns off the voices in their heads.”

Apparently it ‘turns off’ critical thoughts along with everything else. =)

The problem here is making ‘presence’ something occurring outside oneself as a result of a given activity.

Being stuck in the past, or a future worry are still a creative acts in the moment.


Reflections on a 13 year milestone, part 3: Favorite memories

March 10, 2010

1) Wrestling with each of my instructors for the first time.  Out of honor of those relationships both past and present, here are their respective web-sites listed  in no particular order:,,,, and

2) Grappling 2 individuals who were primarily responsible for my development of defense at late purple and brown, on black belt promotion weekend; whom I hadn’t grappled with 2 years previously.

3) Seeing a training partner battle through a potential career ending back injury and continue an active career in the UFC; as well seeing him fight for the title at one point.

4) Seeing Royce in UFC 2 (in some ways this should be no. 1 as it exposed me to BJJ for the first time).

5) The grand opening of my primary and current coaches own BJJ school.

6) Meeting my first BJJ black belt and watching him teach and roll in person.

7) Puking out of nervousness before a submission wrestling match at a casino in Idaho (I won pretty quickly with an armlock from the guard).

8. Becoming an official ‘BJJ guy’ (promotion to blue belt in 1998).

9) Teaching my first BJJ class in late 1997 or early 1998.

10) Meeting and participating in semi-privates with Royler Gracie.

Reflections on a 13 year milestone, part 2: Belts

March 7, 2010

My favorite way to use belts as a teaching tool is breaking down belt ranks as skill-sets in the following fashion (I first heard these analogies from Chris Haueter in 1997):

White belt- Survival, or as Chris liked to say:

‘Learning to dog paddle enough to keep from drowning.’

In other words, able to hold posture well enough to not get submitted every 30 seconds.

Blue belt- Escapes from primary positions (mount, side control, etc.).

Purple belt- Guard development, specifically open guard.

Brown belt- Guard passing, and preventing escapes (top game).

Black belt- Submissions.

Here were my specific experiences and epiphanies:

White belt (1996-1998):  Survival was definitely huge, learning not get submitted by my instructor in 30 seconds or less.  I also began to see how combinations worked based on an opponents reaction.

Blue belt (1998-2002):  I actually quit BJJ for a period of six months, and had a pretty serious lag (training once every couple of weeks) working swing shift for nine months.  Before the lag and time off, my primary focus was centered on the climbing armlock and triangle from the guard, as well as guard recovery.  When I returned I got into half and butterfly guards.

Purple belt (2002-2006):  Continued work on half and butterfly guards.  One of my training partners really started dedicating a lot of time to training, and I began to see the link between hard work and progression.  My lack of dedication to cardio was notorious, so my biggest leap here was probably doing supplemental conditioning classes and continuing to train after I was tired and wanted to go home. =)  Last but not least, I started consciously trying to remove muscle from my game; understanding that just because I got a tap, sweep, or improved position didn’t mean that I was necessarily doing jiu-jitsu.

Brown belt (2006-2010):  My turtle position and defense got more developed, as some of the skilled guys began blowing through my guard.  I also started to develop a top game when working with the guys who weren’t quite as experienced.  The next phase had me spending a few years in between schools where I did privates with my coach a couple of times a month.  Although I wasn’t physically on the mat as much I feel this time was pretty crucial because I got know myself a lot better in terms of personal strengths and weaknesses. 

Black belt (2010-     ):  3 months ago I started isolating back attacks to improve my submissions.  It’s the first time I’ve stuck to a top position and submission (chokes) for any length of time.  It has taken some serious discipline, as more than a few times I’ve gone through hour-long sessions and gotten like one choke.  Also, I’m starting to focus on getting and breaking inital grips during guard attacks and passing.  I’ve found that if I let any of the very talented local grapplers get their initial grip, I’m starting out halfway into their trap.

Reflections on a 13 year milestone, part 1: Favorite black belt analogy

March 6, 2010

My intention for this blog is to focus on thoughts and ideas as opposed to people or personalities, so without mentioning names I was awarded the rank of black belt today by the first BJJ black belt I met and trained with.

First off, I think the blessing of MMA brought to the U.S. through the Gracie family is it moved the martial arts into an athletic, reality based paradigm.

So staying true to the above idea, I feel my first responsibility in quantifying what a BJJ black belt means to a lay person is to make an analogy that is both athletic and accessible.

The comparison I draw on is a ‘black belt’ in BJJ equals about the same amount of technical skill base required to wrestle at a collegiate level. 

And just like college you have a continuum of skill within black belt ranging from multiple time all-americans and national champions to individuals who may only post 1 or 2 wins in a season. 

While on the outside it may look like the  athlete who racks up a lot of numbers in the loss column is weak, one has to keep in mind they were probably a state champion and/or best wrestler in high school.

Also, out of respect for the intensity that college athletics demand I often re-emphasize that I’m talking in terms of technique, not the talent, athleticism, and work ethic needed to succeed at a collegiate level.

Best practicer?

March 5, 2010


A family friend works for a guy I trained BJJ with for years.  My family friend told me the former training partner recently took some time to fill him in on all the people he’d ‘slaughtered’ with his BJJ. 

While yes this guy did slaughter his fair share people and was very skilled, I was a bit embarrassed to tell my friend that this guy had never competed, and all the ‘slaughtering’ took place in practice. 

I further explained that the martial arts often attract people who either don’t have a lot of experience in competitive athletics, or were not skilled enough in a previous respective sport to compete at a high level.

Hobbyists who don’t compete for example (I fall into this category), would be enough of an oddity in the Iowa wrestling room filled with multiple-time high school state champions.  The environment is consistently too intense, focused, and results oriented for these athletes to put any mental stock into what happens during individual practices.