Archive for March, 2012

Anatomy of a hole, and improving positions

March 31, 2012

Thought it might be kosher to mark out a distinction between breakdowns in mechanics or approach versus giving a student something new to work on.

Entering a lesson to learn something unfamiliar for example, is night and day different from looking to fine-tune something you already have some competence with.

Hence, I encourage research and drilling before lessons in hopes of encouraging questions with built-in substance.

In addition, more often than not I find a person’s approach to a position, and sometimes Jiu-Jitsu as a whole, needs fine tuning.

I can show you the most technical, subtle pass I know, but it’s going to do little good Jiu-Jitsu wise if you try to shove it down some one’s throat.  Context is everything.

A good general rule is spending 80% of the time looking for, and fixing holes, and 20% on new material.  Convert that straw house into brick before going geodesic!


Hole detection

March 30, 2012

Do you guys/gals have anyone who points out your weaknesses on a regular basis (at least once every 2-3x you train)?

Sparring is supposed to help with this to a degree, but success in sparring without an outside educated perspective often reinforces bad habits instead of uncovering them. 

You never see a world-class athlete for instance, training without coach(es) monitoring every aspect and detail, as these athletes can’t afford wasted time and movement.



Assume not only plans within plans, but holes.


Hallmark of a good question…

March 29, 2012

The more my understanding of BJJ has grown I realize how multi-dimensional and layered it is.

In other words, good BJJ isn’t about any one thing in isolation.  Rather, it requires a number of ideas working together to create a sum greater than its parts.

In terms of teaching for example, I thought the idea of Principles was ‘it’ a few years back.  Now I see Principle based thinking as a partial answer at best.

To relate this concept to questions, there are two general types:

Questions that seek definitive answers, effectively absolving one from further thinking, and questions that serve as stepping-stones for continued exploration.

Answers sought from overly simplistic approaches don’t matter much because I’m asking questions that serve little if any function.

Assume plans within plans.

Substance and success co-creation

March 28, 2012

Over time I’ve realized 99% of a students BJJ success is on them.

To illustrate, the 1% I bring is chocolate milk mix, while they provide the glass, milk, spoon, and take the initiative of pouring the mix in, stirring, and testing for taste before chugging it down.

Making the 1% I supply a highly potent, quality product is no joke, but without proper context I’m absolving the budding BJJer of any intellectual responsibility and work.


What to pay attention to more than your instructor…

March 25, 2012

What you think about what your coach says or does determines success way more than anything they say or do.

Referring to the Guide example below, the most my coach can give me are elegant examples of how to know the mountain.

Interpreting this information my own way and putting it to use is the start, so what is he pointing at?

This is why I focus so much on reason.  The position, move, posture, or principle is inconsequential unless it’s taken in the context of metaphor.

What is the supporting thought process?

Why for example is the positioning strong, what individual elements make it strong, and how does it fit into BJJ philosophy as a whole?

Unfortunately, people often disregard things out of an arbritary sense of personal preference or instructor reference, missing the idea that the whole point is investigation.



Making every moment count

March 24, 2012

The idea behind having a plan is providing space to hit the mat running.

No wasted time and effort.

I read somewhere once that Dan Gable got absolutely wired before EVERY session.

While it’s probably not realistic to think we can match that level of intensity tomorrow if we’re not three-quarters of the way there already, we can make small adjustments to every Jiu-Jitsu related thing we do for increased focus and efficiency.

One adjustment I’ve made is not doing specific research unless I’m going to drill that position later that day.  Otherwise, it’s likely going in one ear and out the other, with me thinking I’m getting something done when I’m really not.

Heck, even if I’m watching competition footage, it’s probably wise to have a notepad out.

It’s business time, make it count like G$’s idol, Alex P. Keaton:


10 years/10,000 hours, and what’s unsaid…

March 22, 2012

The generally accepted psychological rule is it takes approximately 10,000 hours/10 years to master a given discipline.

What’s often unsaid is these 10,000 hours have to be thoughtful hours.

In other words, you need to understand the overall context surrounding each hour, have objectives, and a sound strategy for meeting those objectives.

And the above doesn’t include the reviewing, experimenting, and refining for increased effectiveness.

For illustrations sake, I recently transferred information from an old to new notebook, squeezing 70 pages onto 7 of the new notebook.  This indicated it takes me roughly 10 steps backwards/sideways for 1 step forward.

Call it distant gratification.

Is it any wonder I’m not in a rush to just give that information away to some one who casually asks?

Scaling the mountain

March 21, 2012

This mountaineering metaphor has slowly been developing, and I’m such an analogy freak I’ll probably do some reading on the subject…

…for now, let’s say BJJ is about learning to scale, navigate, and explore a vast mountain probably impossible to cover every inch of.

A BJJ instructor here represents a guide, and as mentioned in the post below, he or she is there to give you ideas on how to most effectively and safely explore this mountain. 

It’s up to you to take that information and leverage it to its fullest potential.

Again, referring to the post below, I mention these things in light of the tendency to over or under-emphasize the role of our coach(es), as well as the role of student.

Consistent learning hinges on thoughtful and intelligent study, and respecting the guide, the mountain, and yourself starts with a desire for increased understanding of the relevance of each every step along the path.



Peeping Toms and training floor creepiness

March 19, 2012

The thought of scrapping a practice plan to watch a visiting ‘big name’ wrestle my coach is embarrassment personified, yet this is exactly what I saw in two videos I watched today.



Using Dan Gable for an example, before hip replacement surgery he practiced with his entire Iowa roster (including the big boys), and would guess anyone and everyone who came through town.  No big deal, other than an opportunity for a good session and change of pace.

I can only imagine him thinking people stopping their workouts to watch him workout was weird behavior, possibly irritating him to the point of anger.

I look to my coach for ideas, and provided he stays injury free, I could care less about his sparring.  That’s just so far off the radar from focusing on what I can do to get better it’s creepy.

Hero-worship when you could be having a Jiu-Jitsu life through getting something done makes you worse at best, and desperate at worst.



The mat can be tree or temple.   Leave the binoculars at home and pick up a purpose on the floor.

Be your own grappler!


Thinking too hard

March 18, 2012


One of my coaches favorite saying is along the lines of ‘thinking too hard,’ or ‘too much.’

So, what exactly does this mean?

My interpretation is he’s talking about quality of thought.

For instance, an objective (provided it’s clear) isn’t much good if it takes you away from fundamental principles, contains a lot of elements outside you’re control, or doesn’t relate to day-to-day action.

A good guide is the more relaxed you are, the more lucid, and long-term your thinking is likely to be. 

Real-world ‘deepness’ is rooted in the common sense we pass by in our rush to bigger and better things. 

Practicality isn’t sexy.

Clear thinking is inseparable from doing, and grounded in concise and measurable movement.

It’s nice to have an elaborate vision, but show me what you’ve drilled the past week, and what your plan is for this week first.



Better still, is a consistent daily schedule to plug that vision into.