4 Fighting Styles Every Fighter Should Know

“Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” – Robert E. Howard

“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Most of us will never be put in a situation to have to defend ourselves in our adult life. Fights are typically relegated to the school yard, or the college bar, but at a certain point life changes and the appeal of throwing fists in polite society loses it’s luster.

Still, this doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of knowing how to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and those who can’t defend themselves. The chances of needing to get into a physical altercation are generally pretty slim, but it’s better to be a “warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war”.

Learning how to fight is a great way to boost confidence. Knowing you can throw a punch, and take a punch if necessary, can take the anxiety out of any adversarial exchange. There’s evidence that people who know how to fight tend to avoid confrontation just on the basis that they know they don’t need to prove themselves.

There’s also evidence that the more confidence you exude, the less likely you are to be a target of violent crime. Most criminals commit crimes of opportunity. They want the most return on their efforts with the least amount of resistance and risk . How you carry yourself could very well make the difference when a criminal is looking for their next mark.

With the plethora of fighting styles available to learn, which ones should you choose to dive into? There are traditional martial arts such as Karate and Kung Fu, grappling styles, striking styles, and subdivisions in each.

Here are the four fighting styles I think are the most important and effective. Each of these fighting styles has proven themselves to be invaluable in mixed martial arts events. Their effectiveness has been battle tested by their practitioners through countless hours of sparring and refinement.

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Why Women Should Train Jiu Jitsu

At our Jiu Jitsu academy we have a women’s program that was started a couple of years ago. It was created as a way to help women overcome the discomfort of training in a co-ed environment. One of the instructor’s at our academy is a female, and she thought it would be worth experimenting with a women’s-only program to see if there would be any interest in getting more women to train jiu jitsu. And there certainly was. That part of the school is now thriving. You can read about it here: Girls-in-Gis: The Power of Healing.

I’ve heard from a few women that have trained jiu jitsu that there is an initial discomfort to get over in training with guys. There’s the obvious gender difference that is a barrier for some women to get past, but there’s also the size difference. It’s physically demanding to train when you’re first starting jiu jitsu, and if you’re a woman starting out who has to train with guys much larger than them then I could see how it could be difficult to do the moves, at least in the beginning. Jiu jitsu was designed so that a smaller, weaker person can overcome someone larger and stronger, but when you’re first learning the techniques you don’t know how to apply the proper leverage yet, so you’re not going to be defeating size and strength from day one.

There are many reasons why women may feel uncomfortable training jiu jitsu with guys, I’m not a woman so I won’t claim to know truly what it feels like but a quick web search shows many articles that address this topic. The organization “Girls in Gis” was created to help women train together in a friendly environment. They host events all around the United States through their ambassador program and we are very fortunate to have a Girls in Gis event at our school. Girls in Gis also has a scholarship program to help offset the costs associated with learning jiu jitsu.  If you check out the testimonials on their site you’ll see that Girls in Gis have had a positive influence on many women’s jiu jitsu journey.

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Book Excerpt – Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai – Sharpen Your Blade

Hagakure - The Book of the SamuraiAnother excerpt from Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai that struck me as especially relevant:

A certain person said the following.

There are two kinds of dispositions, inward and outward,
and a person who is lacking in one or the other is worthless.
It is, for example, like the blade of a sword, which one should
sharpen well and then put in its scabbard, periodically taking
it out and knitting one’s eyebrows as in an attack, wiping the
blade, and then placing it in its scabbard again.

If a person has his sword out all the time, he is habitually
swinging a naked blade; people will not approach him and he
will have no allies.

If a sword is always sheathed, it will become rusty, the blade
will dull, and people will think as much of its owner.

Sharpen your blades my friends!

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 (check out Rorion’s book on the Gracie Diet), 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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