Book Excerpt – Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Hagakure - The Book of the Samurai“One should be careful and not say things that are likely to cause trouble at the time. When some difficulty arises in this world, people get excited, and before one knows it the matter is on everyone’s lips. This is useless. If worse comes to worst, you may become the subject of gossip, or at least you will have made enemies by saying something unnecessary and will have created ill will. It is said that at such a time it is better to stay at home and think of poetry”Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.

I was re-reading Hagakure last night, and this passage struck me as being especially relevant for the times that we live in. I was thinking that with the internet being such an integrated part of our lives, and with social media consuming most of the attention on the internet, it is easy to become lost in the  negativity that is so prevalent online.

Of course this applies to “real life” as well. Gossip around work, family disagreements, neighborly conflict, all these scenarios can easily consume one’s thoughts and dictate one’s mood.

It is interesting to me that many older texts written by philosophers in regard to how to live as a martial artist tend to put a premium on distancing yourself from conflict. It might be that training in violence removes the veneer of glamour that most of us associate with fighting. With this enlightenment comes an understanding that the best way to win a conflict is to avoid it all together.

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What is the BJJ Lifestyle?

bjj shakaYou often hear people in jiu jitsu talk about living the BJJ lifestyle. But have you ever wondered what it means to live this way? Many of the pictures and articles online bring forth images of surfing in the morning, rolling all day and eating acai bowls for every meal.  That sounds great, but clearly not tenable for the majority of us working stiffs.

When I think of what it means to live the jiu jitsu lifestyle the first thing that comes to mind is the “mindset” that you develop once you start training. Prior to starting jiu jitsu if you’ve never trained martial arts before, or even if you haven’t been doing much physical activity at all, you may have spent the majority of your free time chasing temporary distractions from your day-to-day grind. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of people are stuck in a cycle of working, eating, and finding some way to be passively entertained before heading to bed on a daily basis. I was certainly that guy. But when you start doing jiu jitsu, there is a shift in this mindset.

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Teaching Kids Jiu Jitsu

I’ve been assisting with the kids jiu jitsu classes at my academy for about a year now. It’s something that I really enjoy, and has been rewarding for me. It has also been rewarding for my son who is one of the kids in the class. He seems to like it when I’m in there helping the instructors show technique to the other kids. I’m really less of an instructor and more of a glorified grappling dummy for the instructors to demo on, but it’s still a role I really enjoy.

When I first started helping out with the kids jiu jitsu classes I had a lot of questions. I needed to learn the proper balance between helping the kids learn discipline, and making class fun. I’ve taught kids music classes in the past, so I know how important it is to make learning fun. Kids learn best that way, as we all do. But allow them to have too much fun and the whole class can get away from you. Before you know it their energy level skyrockets, and it gets difficult to focus them again.

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Dean Lister Straight Ankle Lock

Dean Lister Ankle LockI’ve been having a lot of trouble finishing the straight ankle lock lately. And by “lately” I mean “always”. I actually go for this submission pretty often, but I end up exposing my ankle in the process and getting tapped out myself. It feels like people who can sink this ankle lock are able to add a ton of pressure to my ankle, while when I try it seems like I can exert all my strength and barely affect my partner. In this video Dean Lister goes over the details of the ankle lock, and one thing he pointed out is that you need to get your partners foot high under your armpit to get the most torque. I think this may be something I’m not doing. I certainly hadn’t thought about it while rolling. Next time I’m on the mats I’m going to give this ankle lock a shot with these details in mind.

Jiu Jitsu Belt Ranking System

Earning rank in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is perhaps harder to do than in any other martial art.  It’s no secret that jiu jitsu black belts are considered to be among the toughest members of the fighting community, having put in thousands of hours over the years to obtain the rank. What’s not always as clear, however, is what criteria needs to be met to be considered a black belt, or any of the other ranks in jiu jitsu. That’s because there’s no clear cut system of moves defined per belt level like in other martial arts. Jiu jitsu has no katas, and most schools don’t do belt tests, it’s left to the discretion of the instructor.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s belt ranking system used to be differentiated from Judo in that BJJ belts originally consisted of only 3: white, light blue for instructors and dark blue for head instructors. According to Professor Pedro Valente, the belt system of Judo was adopted by Elcio Leal Binda when he created the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation in 1967. What’s unclear to me though is how that evolved into the current jiu jitsu belt system, as the judo belts are different than Brazilian jiu jitsu belts today. It sounds like the idea of different belts differentiating fighting skill may have been adapted from judo, but the actual colors/degrees of the belts were specific to jiu jitsu. If I find out for sure I’ll update this post.

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The First 10 Months of Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu White BeltNOTE: The text below was written in a journal I found recently. I’m nearly 4 years into training Jiu Jitsu at this point, but I enjoyed re-reading this journal entry from when I first started. I thought I’d share it in case others might relate to the same experiences that I went through.

I started Jiu Jitsu in May of 2015 at Hurricane Jiu Jitsu in Cleveland. It has been 10 months since I began and I have grown a lot in that time. When I first started I could barely make it through the warm up without being totally out of breath. Running in a circle around the mats, hopping, side-stepping, most of the time I could only think “I’m too old to be doing this”. After the exhausting 10 minutes or so of warm-up the lesson would begin and I would be silently grateful for the chance to rest for a few minutes while the instructor showed the first technique of the class. I remember those early lessons when I would try to grasp what was being taught, while simultaneously trying to grasp for air.  

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Rubber Guard from Side Control – Marcelo Garcia

So here’s something you don’t see everyday, rubber guard from side control leading to a submission, for the guy that’s in side control.

We see in this video that Marcelo Garcia gets the sweep, passes quarter guard and starts to settle into side control when the guy in the blue shirt quickly attains rubber guard from bottom side control, and proceeds to sweep and choke with basically an inverted triangle. It looks like you need a certain level of flexibility and comfort with being stacked on the bottom to pull this off. Gonna have to try this in class this week.

The Value of Private Lessons

Yesterday I had a private lesson with my instructor John Lawrence. This is the 3rd or 4th private I’ve had with various instructors at the school where I train, Hurricane Jiu Jitsu, and each one of these lessons has led to epiphanies regarding my practice. I pretty much get tunnel vision when I’m rolling, so it’s hard for me to see what areas of my game I need to fix. I find it super helpful to have someone else guide me through my plateaus. In past privates I was fixated on developing my guard, both closed and open, so that I could feel more comfortable attempting submissions and knowing that I could recover back into guard from a failed submission attempt. I pretty much went into private lessons with the intention to sharpen my closed guard. This time around we did things a little differently. I still had specific questions about how to increase my attack percentage from closed guard, but my instructor suggested that we roll a bit at the beginning of the lesson so he could analyze how I moved and make suggestions from there.

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Jorge Pereira Seminar

Jorge Pereira SeminarYesterday I attended a seminar with Jorge Pereira at GriffonRawl MMA Academy. Jorge Pereira is a coral belt under Rickson Gracie, is the subject of the TV Series “Rio Heroes” and has a long history fighting in Vale Tudo. During the seminar he told stories of how he would fight sometimes three times a day while surfing, and discussed the importance of honor in jiu jitsu. Pereira believes that when training you should find the school/person you want to train under and stick with them, as opposed to the way some fighters (in MMA in particular) move from coach to coach if they think a new coach offers something different than the current one. He also mentioned that he’s bringing back Vale Tudo in a new promotion company with a very limited ruleset so the fights are as realistic as possible. I can’t find any links related to this but I’m going to keep an eye out for it, from what Pereira said the limited ruleset should lead to some exciting fights.

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Gracie Breakdown 4 Part Survival Seminar Series

I’ve been watching these videos today and getting a lot out of them. Ryron and Rener Gracie go in depth into concepts about defense, escapes, control and submission. What I like about these videos is they talk about jiu jitsu concepts rather than just demoing moves. Moves are great, but I find that I learn best when I can see the bigger picture through a concept based approach. There’s a lot to unpack in these videos, and I’m just getting into them so I can’t speak much about them yet, but wanted to share them here in case others would find them valuable as well.

Defend:

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