What are Jiu Jitsu “Boyd Belts”?

Boyd BeltsThe term “Boyd Belts” in BJJ refers to a philosophy of training that Rener Gracie came up with in regards to rolling with people of different ages and weight classes. After having a conversation with black belt John Boyd, Rener realized that he had to come up with a way to describe what it’s like to roll with people of different ages and weight. Boyd had been having trouble grappling with a blue belt that was 20 years younger, and 60 pounds heavier than him. Boyd, feeling like he should have been able to submit the blue belt,spoke to Rener about it, and Rener came up with this concept that he later coined the “Boyd Belts”

Who was John Boyd? Boyd was a jiu jitsu practitioner and teacher at the Gracie Academy in California. He studied under Rorion Gracie, and received his black belt 11 years after he began. Boyd started training in his 40’s, and when Helio Gracie saw Boyd training he was impressed to see someone of his age on the mats. Helio offered to teach him a private lesson which Boyd videotaped and you can see below:

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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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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 80/20 Principle for Jiu Jitsu – Review

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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The Utility of Visiting Open Mats

This past weekend I went and visited an open mat at a new school that recently opened in my area. The new school’s owner was a friend and old training partner of one of the guys I regularly train with, and we thought it would be fun to check it out and to show some support for a new local school. Since this was the first week that this school was open we didn’t expect to see too many people, but luckily some guys from other gyms also decided to show up to see the new place. This turned out to be a friendly open mat with a variety of jiu jitsu practitioners from various schools in the area.

I don’t often hit open mats at other schools, so I don’t get a lot of chances to roll with people outside of the circle of athletes that I train with. But at this open mat there were people from at least 3 different schools, and when I rolled with some of these practitioners I got to experience different styles of rolling than I’m used to. The first thing I noticed was how contrasting most of the guys I rolled with were in terms of aggression, which was a little lighter than where I normally train. Our school is a highly competition oriented school, and though we have a tight knit group, all willing to help each other grow, the rolling style tends to be aggressive, with a lot of speed and smashing. At this open mat, however, most of the guys I rolled with had a smooth and fluid style that seemed to be more centered on waiting for you to make a mistake rather than trying to force you into making a mistake. Rolling against this more fluid style was a strange transition, in that I wasn’t sure how to counter some of their moves (or even effectively pass their guard) since the level of resistance I’m used  to wasn’t there. I had new puzzles to solve, and that made things challenging and a lot of fun.

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Ego is the Enemy of Progress

Jiu Jitsu is hard. This is what our instructor told us during belt promotion last night. It’s why we train so often. As he stated, “the hardest part of my day is training, after training everything else is easy”.  That’s the truth.  On days that I have class I will typically try to get to bed early the night before, consume the right amount of calories, at the correct times, take the right supplements, and generally psyche myself up before class to prepare for the grueling workout. And ego makes all of this harder.

I generally think of myself as someone who doesn’t let his ego get in the way of things. But I had a revelation this past week… I was getting more stressed about class than I needed to be, simply because I was concerned about losing matches to lower belts.

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Jiu-Jitsu as Meditation

One of the main skills I’m trying to acquire in my life is the ability to disengage from the endless internal chatter that my mind perpetually generates. This chatter tends to be a non-stop feedback loop of repeated ideas which at best revolve around mundane day to day tasks that need to be completed and at worst focus on any negative thoughts I may have about myself, others or situations. That inner critic can be crippling, and the more I can dissociate with it, the more clear minded and emotionally centered I tend to get.

I do practice meditation, though I haven’t been practicing it for long, and certainly not as consistently as I probably should be. It helps, quite a bit, but I often find myself slipping into “auto-mode”, where hours can go by without me really being in control of my own thoughts. Gurdjieff talked about waking up from this robotic existence by continuously focusing your attention on a small body part (such as your right hand pinky). Doing so forced your brain into the moment, and practicing doing this was supposed to cultivate the same mind-state that meditation does.

What I’ve discovered is that Jiu-Jitsu has the same affect on me.

In Jiu-Jitsu our class is typically divided into 3 sections: warm-up, instruction, and sparring. After a long day at work I’m usually wanting to go home and lay down. The last thing I want to do is get entangled in a difficult workout. But I always force myself to go. At first during the warm-up the thoughts that usually come up in my mind are along the lines of: “I’m tired, too tired to be doing something so difficult”, “I had a really rough day at work, I should be home trying to enjoy myself”, or “I should really be spending my evenings trying pursue the new career that I want”.

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The 7-5-3 Code

753CodeThe 7-5-3 Code is a philosophy developed by the Valente Brothers in the tradition of providing warriors with values by which to live their lives. It is largely inspired by the samurai principles of Bushido, the code of moral principles observed by ancient Japanese warriors. Bushido (literally: “the way of the warrior”) was originated to  temper the everyday violence of the samurai’s training and vocation with a moral code of conduct by which they could conduct themselves. The samurai developed this code to keep themselves from straying too far from a righteous path.

As practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we face humility every time we step on the mats, and this tends to help ground us in our daily lives. Still, studying a code of conduct can further cement within us the principles of right living.

The 7-5-3 Code is broken into 3 sections: The 7 Virtues of a Warrior, The 5 Keys to Health, and The 3 States of Mind.

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