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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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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The 80/20 Principle for Jiu Jitsu

80 20 PrincipleI recently finished reading “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less” by Richard Koch, and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I can apply that principle to my daily routine. In the book Koch posits that the 80/20 principle (first put forth by Vilfredo Pareto to describe the distribution of wealth in society) can actually be applied across many different domains in life. Essentially the maxim indicates that 80% of value is produced by 20% of the effort you put in. What this boils down to is that apparently we all tend to waste a lot of time on minutiae of detail but could achieve more by paying attention to the correct pieces of detail, and end up with more free time as a bonus.

As time management is one of my greatest challenges (I’m sure I’m not alone in this), I’m very interested in finding out if the 80/20 principle properly applied can bring me more free time. If I think about how this applies to jiu jitsu I can break it down by determining what techniques or principles would lead to the greatest results, in the quickest amount of time.

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Henry Akins Seminar – Columbus OH – Side Control Escapes

Henry AkinsYesterday I attended my third seminar with Henry Akins, this one being at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Columbus Ohio,  and it was just as mind blowing as all the rest have been. If you’ve never been to a seminar with Henry Akins you need to put it on your to-do list, asap. Every time I’ve attended his seminars I’ve come away with concepts that immediately improved the efficiency of my jiu jitsu. I always find myself thinking “I can’t believe I haven’t thought of doing it this way before” when he shows a detail, because the simplicity and efficiency of the movement that he teaches makes it seem like the move was always intended to be done this particular way. Ask anybody that attends these seminars and they will tell you the same. There are many “Eureka!” moments.

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Fighting Off The Wall

Brick WallLast night at class we spent most of the evening working on stand-up self defense tactics. In jiu jitsu we tend to spend most of our time fighting on the ground, either off our backs or with our weight distributed on our partner. Anytime I work on stand-up I’m reminded of how different the strength and cardio requirements are. It gets even harder when you’re standing up and pinned against the wall. And harder still when you get taken down, pinned against the wall, with your partners full weight on you and your trying to stand back up.

We started the class with out typical warm-up of hip escapes, and then quickly transitioned into pummeling drills. These drills switched to pummeling “sparring”. After warm-up we started our wall work. One person would stand with their back against the wall, the other would stand in front of them, with double underhooks and attempt to keep them pinned there. The person on the wall had the job of getting at least one underhook, and spinning their partner so that they were against the wall. Back and forth we went with that drill.
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The Carnivore Diet Experiment – Update Day 7

T-Bone SteakWell, I made it through 6 days of eating (mostly) only meat.  I had one cheat about 3 days in, I ate some oatmeal with honey and banana in the afternoon because I was going to have a long session of jiu jitsu training later that evening, and wanted to make sure I had energy to roll.  I had another cheat last night, when my family wanted to go out for pizza. Man, I love pizza. That pizza was delicious. The best pizza of my life.

So here I am on day 7, reflecting on the past weeks experiment. One thing I learned a few days in is that I grossly under prepared for the amount of food I was going to need for the week. The meat I bought on Sunday was gone by Tuesday. So back to the store I went, several times. Part of this week-long trial run on the carnivore diet was to learn how to get by day to day in regards to meal prep. I’ve learned that the way I am currently approaching meal prep is EXPENSIVE. I’ve blown my grocery budget for the week, I’m on day 7, and I’m out of meat again. Clearly I need to learn some cost cutting moves if this is to be sustainable over the long haul. I’ve joined a Facebook carnivore group, and have asked questions about how to budget for a carnivore diet, and the general consensus is to eat more ground beef (less steak if money is a concern, after all ground beef is ground steak), and to do some shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club, where meat can be bought in bulk. As for now I’m going to have take a break from a pure carnivore diet, simply because I don’t want to go spend any more money on meat, I’ll just eat what the rest of my family is eating for the remainder of the week.

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Knee Shield Woes

I recently attended an open mat where all the blue belts had really great open guards. It was extremely frustrating (in the best possible way) to try to pass their guard. The usual pressure passing that I do just didn’t seem to work. They were able to handle the pressure well with their legs, and if I was able to beat their legs, then as I swung around to try to get to side control their far leg somehow made it’s way between me and their torso and I was stuck in open guard again.

I talked to a few people after the open mat to see what their strategy was, and they all said they had played a similar guard, essentially using a knee shield and variations to control me. Being only a blue belt myself I hadn’t really seen the knee shield used to such great effect, but as I understood it the school they belonged to focused heavily on guard all through the white belt curriculum. That was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I had also been focusing on guard heavily for the past year, but to see how effective a good guard game could be so early in a jiujiteiro’s development really solidified my thought that a well developed guard can lead to a more confident offensive game.

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The Carnivore Diet Experiment

Carnivore DietThe carnivore diet has been flooding my social media feed as of late. Everyone from Joe Rogan to Jordan Peterson, Shawn Baker and a pantheon of athletes are all trying the diet hoping to gain energy, reduce inflammation and improve athletic performance. I had a very good friend of mine who attempted to get me to try the carnivore diet a few years back, but at the time I wasn’t ready to take the leap. He talked about how the switch to eating just meat helped him heal up some gut issues he was having, and as an added benefit he also dropped a significant amount of weight. His story was compelling but I just wasn’t ready to give up all the food that I enjoyed. But as I got further along in my jiu jitsu practice I started to realize that I needed to make some lifestyle changes if I was going to have the energy to roll as often as I wanted to roll. I started by changing my sleeping habits, I became more strict about when I went to bed. I also changed what I ate, and when I ate. Intermittent fasting (along with bullet proof coffee) helped me to have more energy and also helped fix some gut issues I was having. I also became a lot stricter about the quality of my food, really focusing  on eating more meat, vegetables and less low quality carbs. All of these changes greatly improved my jiu jitsu.

I have been following Dr. Shawn Baker’s twitter feed for a while, at the recommendation of my friend. Dr. Baker has been exploring the carnivore diet for some time, with amazing results. He is an athlete in his 50’s, who holds many strength records, including 1st place Texas Strongest Man, and 5th place USA Strongest Man. He attributes his athletic prowess to the carnivore diet. This piqued my interest. I’m still trying to dial in my nutrition, and suffering from exhaustion more often than I think I should, and if this diet helped Dr. Baker with his athletic goals, maybe it can help me with mine.  One thing I’ve been interested in seeing is his lab work, to see if eating only meat has had any negative effect on his cholesterol or reveal any other potential issues. It’s one thing to see a boost in athletic performance, but if it comes at the cost of causing harm in other aspects of your health then it’s not worth it. Dr. Baker was a guest on Robb Wolf’s podcast, in which they discussed his lab results, and they look pretty good. This has given me the confidence to try this diet myself.

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How to Fold Your Jiu Jitsu Gi for Travel

Jiu Jitsu GiI’m traveling this week on vacation, down in Florida visiting family and friends. Though the week will be spent mostly poolside with a drink in hand, my daughter lives here and trains Jiu Jitsu locally, so I will be spending some time on the mats, working off my gluttony and catching up with her while bonding in the gentle art.

I didn’t want to fly here and be dependent on the school I was visiting to loan me a Gi for training. I wanted to bring my own, it fits better anyways. I tend to travel light, so I wasn’t too concerned with being able to fit my Gi into a travel bag, but I still researched the best way to fold a Gi. My usual method of balling up the pants and jacket and shoving it into a bag tends to take up a lot of space. I wanted to be able to get it to the smallest size possible so I wouldn’t run out of any room in my duffel bag.

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