Archive for August, 2011

Jiu-Jitsu, Music, and Movies

August 31, 2011

I was asked a question yesterday along the lines of comparing my BJJ to a style of music.

My first response is that to this day I’m style trying to master the fundamentals.  I’m starting to get a grasp on a few things, but haven’t for example even begun to explore the idea of drilling.  What’s being done in BJJ is light years behind the type of drilling they do for Oregon football, where things are timed and getting down to a science. 

Back the music thing, BJJ to me is about getting the most music out of the fewest notes.  While there might be some bursts here and there, great BJJ is short, precise, and compact.  You shouldn’t be flailing all over that mat like Carlton Banks.  This shows me you have no idea what you’re trying to achieve.  2 people shouldn’t need more than a 10X10 foot space.  This translates best to a great blues guitarist whose time between notes is as crucial to music as the sound. 

Another good example are the Clint Eastwood movies where he takes 110 minutes of a 2 hour film to develop a relationship.  It’s a slow and masterful work, no wasted film. 

It’s something I strive for, but will never achieve, mastery being endless.


“Never mistake activity for acheivement.”  ~John Wooden



Another way of looking at basic vs. advanced

August 29, 2011

All ‘advanced’ technique is built on fundamental mechanics. 

So, quality-wise, it’s not a question of ‘basic versus advanced.’

If you want to do an exotic or advanced position well, the best way to learn it is investing 40 hours on the intricacies of elbow/shrimp escaping from mount.

If this seems like too simple of a technique to spend that much time on, how come Roger Gracie cross-chokes everyone from there? 

An interesting phenomenon is the more time you spend studying something, the more detail you find.  Things become much more complex, which is to say simple in a way you didn’t previously comprehend.

Article: ‘Positive fantasies’ have negative effect

August 27, 2011

From the Oregonian Living section by way of Washington Post-Bloomberg:

It’s a mantra for leadership coaches and self-help gurus:  Picture yourself achieving your goals, and you’ll have a better chance of reaching them.  But, doing so could make it harder to reach your target.

Studies over the years have shown that people who engage in ‘positive fantasies,’ or idealized images of future outcomes, are less likely to achieve them.  And a new study by researchers at New York University’s Motivation Lab takes a stab at why:  Imagining these successful outcomes saps our energy from doing the hard work it takes to get there.

In four studies, researchers looked at the effect on systolic blood pressure by a variety of ‘positive fantasies,’ from students who imagined winning an essay contest to women who visualized themselves looking good in high heels. (Yes, really.)

Each imagining of success resulted in lower systolic blood pressure.  In other words:  When the visualization increased, people’s energy decreased.

This is not to say positive reinforcement is bad.  People must be reminded that a goal is possible.  And idealized images do have a time and place.  As the researchers note, if relaxation is a goal, positive images can help you lower the energy your exerting and potentially perform better.

Video: My two coaches rolling after seminar

August 23, 2011

Outside of looking for favorite movie scenes you can tell I spend a lot of time on youtube, as this video has been up for over a year and I didn’t see it until today. 

On a side note I’m in the background rolling from :30 to 3:30 or so.

Eric says his goal with Chris first and foremost is to try to get into every position possible, as Chris comes up from Cali only every so often.  Wise chops for a punk!



Bonus footage of some of Eric’s violin work, accompanied by Rick Fernandez on guitar and Dan-O on gong:





More on fishing and principles

August 21, 2011

As stated in frozen food two posts below, there’s a big difference between demonstrating catching trout and teaching the principles of fishing.

I wanted to add that understanding principles of fishing doesn’t automatically make you an expert ocean salmon fisherman either.

What a principle based approach does offer are frameworks for asking the right questions.  ‘Right’ in this context meaning questions that get you to the heart of  the essentials effectively. 

This is where the journey to mastery starts, because if you don’t have a grasp on core essentials you’re most likely spinning wheels:


A field of study

August 17, 2011

My coach and I were talking today about a very good brown belt he’s currently given privates to.

Having known this brown belt many years prior I was curious as to what his strengths and weaknesses were.  Eric replied that he knew a lot already, so the main focus has been shifting his approach to thinking about BJJ as a whole.

In other words, what’s the big picture?  What’s the essence of a position?  What are the core principles, and mechanics that make things work?

What really got me thinking further, was Eric mentioning how much time a student can waste by not training intentionally…

The realization that mugged is that essentially BJJ is a field of study just like Language, Math, and Science…

This may seem like common sense, but the truth is a lot of time we focus on getting the one-up on our peers, promotions, who tapped who, tournament outcomes, who has the best academy, best coach, and other prom dress related subject matter.

All those things are fine up to a point, but none of them have to do with effective, thoughtful, and progressive study.

I told my buddy Garrett today that I expect 20 hours of research to find that one tiny, basic detail that makes a world of difference, often sifting through the same footage over and over.  This is the caddyshack par for the course.


Leverage and fishing

August 16, 2011

Reading what a friend had written yesterday about what he’d learned so far from cross-side bottom made me think of the teaching some one how to fish metaphor…

Teaching a position without explaining the leverage of it and how it’s created is akin to showing some one your set up for trout fishing without explaining you might need a different pole, bait, strategy, and attitude for salmon fishing.

Leverage is the entire point of Jiu-Jitsu.  Effective BJJ positions exist when the structure makes good use of leverage. 

It’s not about some isolated scenario you do your best to mimic. 

Trying to learn Jiu-Jitsu this way, you might as well be fishing with a hook and reel in the frozen food section




August 15, 2011

I feel like this term is thrown around way too much in BJJ.

With college football season approaching I’m reminded those coaches regularly put in 80 hour work weeks. 

Workaholic or not, that’s just to stay competitive. 

Even world-class work doesn’t guarantee results, but it’s a starting point.

You have to put in the time.



August 13, 2011

Really, I think one of the only questions that matters is:

Are you willing to give up something you think you know for a simpler idea?

A realization I had that caused the deletion of virtually half my previous posts was, ego doesn’t have to do so much with ego, but entertaining a flawed thought process.

A very easy thing to do.

No harm, no foul:


Competition vs. Foundation

August 12, 2011

Talking about teaching philosophy with a friend over the past year, it seems somewhere along the line he interpreted my approach as non-competitive.

The truth is I want very proficient, technical BJJ practitioners, with a focus on long-term effectiveness.

What I’m not concerned with, is how well a student with 1-2 years of experience matches up with other relative beginners.

A beginner for example, who has spent the bulk of his time mastering entries for the d’arce choke is probably going to work a student who’s spent the same amount of time learning basic escapes, positions, transitions, and submissions.

The thing is, this d’arce by definition is a trick because it doesn’t have any supportive depth.  It’s like dry rot covered with fancy paint.

On the other hand, if you plug-in a d’arce choke to a solid, basic game built over time, you have the beginnings of what could be a masterpiece.

The same goes for sparring too.  If early on, I spend the bulk of time teaching you how to drill and isolate properly instead of full-blown sparring, you’re probably going to get run over by heavily sparred students with equal mat time because you have less experience transitioning. 

The problem is, those transitions are likely attribute based. 

The point of good drilling is to go slow and be technical enough to prevent holes from happening.  The slower you go, the less chance you’ll have to go back and fix things later.