Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Man In The Arena...

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Losing To Win...

One of the most intriguing concepts I have learned over my study of jiu jitsu is the idea of losing to win.

When starting jiu jitsu lessons I used and depended on my natural attributes to ease the ego blow of being smashed daily. Its never fun to lose over and over again so it is very natural for people to overemphasize strength and athleticism while learning the sport. My first 3 years of jiu jitsu training, I exclusively tried to smash everyone I trained with and avoided any dangerous positions. I would as soon die than let someone sweep and pass my guard. I would panic in any dangerous positions and my defensive skills were far behind my offensive assault. Regardless I still competed well and won many tournaments but I could tell my potential had been reached.
I came to a cross roads in my training when I decided to break down all my weaknesses and focus on the mental side of the game. I used to hate being on bottom in side control where I felt claustrophobic and weak. My new goal was to force myself to deal with this apparent fear and force my self to deal with it. From this mindset I realized how bad my submission and pinning escapes just were. My game sank to new lows and I became very depressed with my training to the point where I wanted to quit.
As bad as things were I started to relax and focus on exactly what was happening to me in those bad positions. I was able to gain valuable insight into the deeper realms of the sport and my game flourished like never before. I was in tune mentally with everything I did on the mat and feel I learned at an incredible rate.

The key to growth I believe in this sport is a selfish training mindset. You can’t worry about what other people think of your training sessions or how you perform. The focus must be on your specific training goals and your long-term goals. In order to develop flawless technique you must turn off your ego and any other natural attribute that can hinder its growth.
Hope this has been helpful and good luck with your training.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Basics are the key to success in any endeavor and jiu jitsu is no exception!
With thousands of techniques out there its hard to know which ones to incorporate into your game. More is not better in this game, a strong foundation in basic skills is key to advancing in our sport. So what then should you work on first??
THE GUARD! The guard position is what uniquely separated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from the likes of Judo and the other grappling arts. A clean understanding of the guard position should be the first skill developed in BJJ. From your back it is possible to submit or sweep an opponent. The key concepts of this position are the following: breaking posture, learning the "attacking zone concept", armlock, triangle, cross choke, omaplata, and basic reversals.

In the same umbrella idea the bottom game is essential to know. This means you must understand the concepts of the half guard, all the pin and basic submission escapes, dealing with getting out of the mount and escaping the hooks. Once you have learned these basic skills it is possible to train freely without getting stuck and being confused.
The top game is much easier conceptually and can be learned second. The most important aspect of top control is breaking and passing the guard!! You must learn proper posture, how to stand up, how to open the guard, how to pass around the legs, and how to pin your opponent in cross side. From cross side the skills required are the following: basic movement and control, transitioning to the mount and attacking the back control, and basic submission skills.
After learning the basic concepts of the sport it is then possible to start adding content to your training. From a strong fundamental base it is then helpful to start focusing on positional strategy and more advanced submission skills. Here is also a good time to start developing your own style. For example different body types perform different techniques with varying effectiveness. If you would like to know what type of game is best for your body type give me a shout about a 1-1 lesson or chat to me or one of the Purple or Blue belts in class. Private instruction and game plan development Ive always believed is a good investment in your developement!! Good luck guys.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Aggressive Guard

Something that bothers me about jiu jitsu is the "lazy guard".

When playing the bottom game in BJJ there must be a sense of urgency. Too many times have I watched skilled jiu jitsu players practically falling asleep in their guards. The goal in jiu jitsu is to finish your opponent and advance in position.

Playing bohemian music and flopping around the mat are not going to prepare anyone for a combat situation. A classic pitfall to this type of training is becoming too wrapped up in technique and losing grit and toughness. I’m not saying avoid working on technique and become a spaz by any means. The goal is to be aggressive and attack non-stop. Work on your physical abilities while engaged in training not just your strategy.

The goal is to reach a level where everything is improving. As you advance in BJJ the following should also improve; stamina, strength, flexibility, skill, strategy, balance, toughness, heart, determination, etc! Don’t be one of those guys that gas out and quit the moment the training becomes challenging.

If you have any questions about this topic ask me and I’ll explain it in more detail. This is an important topic and one of particular annoyance to me so work on it!

Thursday, 14 October 2010


The core concept we are going to discuss is attacking fundamentals in the Jiu Jitsu game. Learning the sport of Jiu Jitsu and wrestling one often focuses on drilling the moves and learning the transitions. It’s critical to know the move inside out. The fundamentals of good offense in Jiu Jitsu is knowing when to execute a move, and then how to perform the technique. The second part involves good instruction and a willing drilling partner. Once you are able to perform the technique with speed and precision you are ready to learn the timing.

What I’m going to convey to you guys is the idea that every technique has an ideal timing. Lets use the guard position as our first example of offensive timing. While attacking inside your closed guard, there is a timing I call the “attacking zone,” it’s when your training partner is posturing up. This is the ideal time for an attack. Anyone with six months or more time training BJJ will understand the fundamental attacks. Knowing this, if I attack an armlock while my opponent is ready he can easily perform the counter. However, if I attack the move while he is focusing his attention on gaining posture I will have a much higher finishing percentage. If I attack the same move while my partner is in full posture or fully broken down he can defend much easier. A good set up is to break your partner down several times making him think only about the posture game. Then, surprise him with a submission attempt as he regains his posture. One of the ways more skilled jiu jitsu players win is by predicting their opponent’s next move. When you are able to start predicting your training partners moves, you will seem much faster and in turn finish more attacks.

Using the same concept will help your all around Jiu Jitsu game. Another example of attacking during the transition is the takedown game. The best time to attack your training partners hips is on his recovery. For instance, your partner attacks a double leg takedown but fails to finish. At this stage of his recovery, while your opponent is getting back to his feet is the most crucial time for a counter attack. In the takedown game, you will notice your opponent defending his hips well prior to his shot. After the initial sprawl there will be a moment of space ideal for an attack. It is essential that you learn these moments for fundamental attack timing. Also, when your training partner is switching his grips during grip fighting is an important transition to attack from. The same grip timing is also available in guard passing where you want to attack as your opponent switches grips. Every move in Jiu Jitsu has a fundamental timing where the move is most likely to succeed. Your goal as a student is to not only learn the techniques and drill them until proficient, but to also understand the appropriate timing of the move. I hope this has helped you guys out let me know if you have any questions.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

First Year Of Training

There are many challenges to face the first year of Jiu Jitsu training. It’s important during this time period to keep a healthy prospective on what is important and what is not.

First of all, this is a long-term sport that takes hundreds of hours of practice to become proficient. It’s not realistic to expect to be finishing people on a regular basis until the appropriate amount of work has been devoted. The most important thing to focus on one’s first year is drilling moves and conditioning.

When your actively training you will be on the defensive most of the time as more experienced practitioners will be several steps ahead. Do not compete against fellow students in class this is not a tournament.
Everyone should be working on their own game plan and focus on themselves and not who is tapping who and so forth. The easiest way to stunt your progression in Jiu Jitsu is to close off your game. What I mean by this is you have to play open and try new moves to learn and progress. If you become competitive in training you will only use moves you feel comfortable with. Improving in Jiu Jitsu is all about taking chances and opening up during practice. In a tournament is the time to be competitive and care about winning and losing period!

The most effective strategy to get good in Jiu Jitsu is consistency and patience. When you learn moves in class drill them before and after the class and work on them during training. Jiu Jitsu is like life as the hard lessons come far before the rewards.

Good luck and stay positive!


"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training".

Friday, 11 June 2010

Black Belt Blues...

Ive been reading BJ Penn's book "The Belt is Just an Accessory" and was reading his background in Jiu-jitsu and accomplishments and came to the section on how long it took him to get his black belt, even thogh I already knew the answer part of me was still kind of expecting to hear something different, especially in light of the fact it's taken me almost 14 arduous years.
I knew it was about 4 years but was hoping he'd now confess and go, "well it was actually 6 years" or something like that. My ego could have accepted that. Of course he's good and everything, but it still takes most people around 10 years to get their black belt, and no one should do it faster!
But there it was "A little over three-and-half years." I wasnt ready to read that, 4 years felt a bit cheeky but 3.5!!!
So mentally I started to argue, it's not possible and coming up with reasons for him getting it so quick.
However, Ive seen and then after reading that rewatched him winning the 2000 Worlds beating some really excellent Black Belts along the way-but 3.5 years compared to my 14!
I tried hard to rationalise it but that number kept bugging me.
Id worked hard and made a lot of sacrafices, dedicating a huge part of my life to jiu-jitsu...

But, the more I thought about it, the more I remembered that it didnt seem like work during those 14 years. The amount of enjoyment I had training just cant be measured in years-Ive had a lifetime of enjoyment on my journey to black belt.

I thought about the progress and the suffering, the sweeps and submissions (often felt like just me tapping all the time). I thought about all the trips that I took, from Rio to London to Sunderland, back home again to Durban and back to the Uk.

The friends Ive made, Ivan and I rolling in the back yard, training with Stix at the scout hall and in his garage, Abdul (one of the most naturally talented people Ive ever known), Chris, Ketha and I beating each other up at Westville Health and Raquet, Deano and I sweating buckets at Berea gym on crappy little aerobics mats, rolling with Dr.(let me just show you this move quick)Armbruster in his driveway on his chip foam mats, the paper thin mats at Shuriken back in Brickfield Rd, Aaron and Trev training at Spartan on cold snowy days and running around the front of his shop when we had no-where to train, back to Shuriken to meet my second family and the best training partners Ive ever known Darell and Big Lenin, the Gym at Game City where our class began to really grow-Andre-my toes are like this because of karate, Ross-chicks dig it (apparently), Johno Spradbury, Clint-'Ill fight any car guard you put in front of me', Quint-one of the best people I know, Ryan and buddy,my brothers Cass, Ebie and Salim Badat, big P, Ash 'I like Candy' then too my garage with Heavy D (Damon), Imraan, York, Bad Boy Bronson and Russle Gracie, Padawan Dave Hellestoe joined our family, X-Fit at Greyville where we had more space for a while than we knew what to do with...

The more I thought about it the more I realised that the journey has been way more rewarding than a mere belt ever could be, and I wouldnt trade the last 14 years of blood, sweat and tears for anything.

Then I started to feel sorry for poor BJ and feel bad about what he missed out on by being so good :-)
Seriously though what BJ did prove though is how amazing Jiu-jitsu is that someone can, with intelligence and dedication pick up the art relatively late in life (BJ was 17 when he started and lived/s in Hilo-out of the way) and be really competitive in the sport no matter what their circumstances.

The point of this loooong ramble however is this-it doesnt matter what belt you are or how fast you progress as long as you enjoy the ride, and I can safely say I have.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Thursday Inspiration...

"The mind of the warrior,in the end, becomes nothing more than seeing things as they truly are.
And then, realizing the beauty, in that simplicity."