Sunday, 25 December 2011


Monday, 5 December 2011

the mind is the best weapon

I was talking to one of the guys in class the other day telling him I want him to focus more on finishing his opponents in class.
I believe Jiu-Jitsu is as much mental as it is physical.
I try emphasize this in my classes.
I think if you lack a focus in your training you will only go so far. And conditioning your mind is as important as your body.
He responded with something very interesting. He told me that he thinks he has issues with the finish because when he gets close he lets go. He explained that he has a mental block that hits him right before he goes for the finish. He continued saying that he feels if he sets his mind to finish and misses it he will experience a blow to his psyche.

This reminds me of some students that hold up the wall. When some students get tired they sit against the wall. Many times they complain about being out of shape. And I respond by reminding them the best way to stay out of shape is to stay on the wall.

It is the same with the mind. If you allow mental blocks to control the finish, you will rarely get there. But if you break through them you will strengthen your abilities beyond expectation.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run!

Rubber Guard, 50/50, flying toe lock from upside down guard! There seems to be no limit in sight for the evolution of ground fighting. This barrage of slick submissions and crazy guard passes recently entering the fast growing scene of MMA has created a revolution of excitement. One might even call it a step towards Martial Arts fanaticism! The enthusiasm surrounding this surge has created a new approach to training and fighting. But like anything in life, you must learn to crawl before you can run!

I have cornered lots of MMA fights, from small shows to bigger national events, and there seems to be a consistent theme when it comes to a fighters approach to ground fighting. There seems to be no order in which a fighter approaches his ground fighting education.

It is structure that ensures a fighter is efficient in every aspect of the fight. Without structure our world would crash. If I wake up, get in my car and drive to the gym I expect the stop-lights to work. When the light is red I stop. That ensures there are no accidents. And when the light is green I go, that ensures I get where I am going. That aspect of everyday life is fundamental. I don’t have to think about it because it is structured. And with structure comes reflexive action. Green means go, I don’t have to think about it.

When Anderson Silva enters the pocket (striking distance) he sees a green light, hence he strikes. When Randy Couture sees a potential takedown opportunity, he sees a green light and shoots. The best fighters have a game plan for every possible crazy, face-smashing, arm wrenching situation, and that is part of what makes them champions.

The same goes for your ground approach. Without structure you have a universe of techniques that are not linked together. That is like trying to carry on a conversation by only knowing every other word in a sentence. That leads to hesitation. In MMA that indecision could mean waking up with a crazed-fighter celebrating over you!

The ground is the most position-oriented of the fighting situations. You could be passing guard and then get swept to mount with your opponent on top of you punching your face into the mat. The ground is a rapid-firing-monster that needs a game plan to control. And there is no better way to calm that storm then drilling proper fundamentals.

That doesn’t mean working an escape for five minutes and calling it a day. Just ask yourself how many times you have jabbed the punching bag in training. There seems to be a tendency for fighters to spend hour after hour developing their striking. But when it comes to drilling an escape from the mounted position the same enthusiasm is just not there.

So when a fighter approaches ground fighting it is best to master the fundamentals in a flowing manner. Getting wrapped up in the ever-exciting innovations has its time and place. Rubber Guard is not going to help you when your arm is about to get ripped off. Mastering the 50/50 position does nothing when an opponent is mounted on top of you. And the flying toe lock from upside down guard… just doesn’t exist! If your goal is to be great then there are proper steps. And those steps may seem tedious, but only if you ignore the long term benefits that drilling proper fundamentals will give you on your way to becoming a competent ground fighter!

Monday, 21 November 2011

A lot of MMA fans in SA may not know who Dean Strydom was, and if they had to see his record may dismiss it and not think much of it. And honestly, there's nothing about it that really stands out. He was a really good fighter who beat some other good fighters of his era, and he put on some wonderful fights in that time. Even getting a win against one of South Africas top MMA fighters, Chris Bright, when they were both just starting out.

But there was so much more to Dean Strydom than that, and I'm afraid that's what history will miss.
I was working as a Personal Trainer at the old Westville Health and Racquet while completing my studies, 1995/1996, and my brother Ivan, Abdul Hassan and Chris Kistan used to get together and train in the aerobics hall by pushing aerobics mats together to grapple on. We had only just started out in BJJ and I think our enthusiasm for Jiu-jitsu was through the roof (as it still is - Abdul is still a threat on the MMA circuit in SA) and I met Dean who at the time was the Ops Manager for the gym.
He was already a provincial and national level competitor in boxing, karate and tennis. He had injured his knee in a motorcycle injury which had put an end to his tennis carreer and as a result had started weight training to rehab his knee.
In true Dean fashion the bug bit and he started bodybuilding and was soon a provincial and eventual National level bodybuilder.
He was a natural athlete and seemed to excell at anything he put his mind to.
He was still boxing a little and often used to watch with interest when we rolled or trained and was soon joining us on the mat.
His knee was still an issue and often gave him problems as it hadnt yet regained full stability, and I remember him quite badly spraining it one day grappling with my brother. Never one to let it get him down he was there on the mats when he could training around his knee, which was usually braced and still giving everyone a hard time and being an absoulute monster on the mat.
He was one of the strongest and fittest people (next to D. Moodley anyway) that Ive ever trained with and was always in shape.
Throughout his life Deano faced personal challenges - others called them his demons - but I hope he's remembered for all the good things and there were a lot...
All the peoples lives he touched and changed as a personal trainer, an incredible training partner-always available when I needed someone to train with no matter what his personal circumstances were, a loving and doting father, an absolute beast on the mat- I remember no one, NO ONE, black belts included passing his guard on one of our trips to Brasil while doing guard passing for over an hour, Dean losing a toe while training takedowns with Big Lenin at Game City Gym and us hustling him upstairs to the Doc's, he was back on the mat a few weeks later, post-surgery ready to give us a hard time, his infectious laughter, his incredible support and enthusiasm everytime I or someone on our team fought, his support of NOVAGEN after I moved to the UK, providing the guys with a place to train.
Dean needs to be remembered for all the good things he was and I hope he's found the peace he seemed to often struggle to find in life,
I look forward to sharing a joke and hearing his laugh again on the other side, but for now, we will miss you bro.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Rest In Peace Bro... 11/07/2011

You were a warrior fighting for your soul
Taken from this world below
We who are left
Need to remember how it used to be
In the light of day it's easy to see
Now it's nighttime
You had to leave
water's always rushing and we keep trying to swim against the stream
And it seems, like your not moving the many water's gushing you gasp for air
Almost drowning ears ringing, once upon a time we were singing
Life trying to make us forget we got a job to do
we can't be moved
Descended to the pit
What's this feeling can't get rid of it
Soul sick
Can't seem to shake it
When one retires at night weeping, joy will come in the morning
Like an ancient memory
Remember how it used to be
Close our eyes and breath in
That's the scent of freedom
Ringing across the sea
One day will wake up from this sleep and we'll stop dreaming,

Rest in peace bro...
Youll be missed

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Recovery cont...

2 Glasses of Water Upon Waking
This is a very simple, yet effective approach to recovering faster.
You will never be
able to perform at your best if you aren't properly hydrated. By
the time you wake
in the morning it has been hours and hours since your body last got
Two glasses upon waking will rehydrate the muscles and cells.
It will help flush toxins as well.
It will keep the muscles strong and capable of increased work loads.
Do this for a week, and you will be amazed at how much better your
recover and perform!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Recovery Ideas pt 1

Recovery is one of the most misunderstood factors in
the development of combat athlete.

The type of person that generally engages in these sports
is usually driven, hard-working, and willing to endure whatever
is necessary to win.

This frequently leads to overtraining by those that take
the 'more is better' approach.
After you have figured out how much stimulus your body can
take without breaking down, you can then think about speeding
up the recovery process between workouts, both practice and

Post-Training Recovery Drink
This drink is the number one area of importance when setting the
stage for recovering between practices and workouts.
Your recovery drink must be consumed within 20 minutes of your
training completion. It is during this time that your nutrients
will be
transported right to the muscle cells. This helps replenish your
glycogen that was used to fuel your anaerobic workout. Your drink
be 16 oz. of chocolate milk, 12 oz. grape juice with a scoop of
whey protein
powder, or 16 oz. of Powerade with 1 scoop of whey protein and 5 grams
The important thing is the protein to carbohydrate ratio. You want
keep a ratio in the area of 1:2 or 1:3
This will give the correct ratio for consumption of nutrients with
storage to fat cells.
The other consideration is that a 180lb. athlete needs roughly
of carbs from the drink. Keep this in mind and keep the ratios the

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Congratulations Fred!!!

““The spirit of a warrior is not geared to indulging and complaining, nor is it geared to winning or losing. The spirit of a warrior is geared only to struggle, and every struggle is a warrior’s last battle on earth. Thus the outcome matters very little to him. In his last battle on earth a warrior lets his spirit flow free and clear.””
Carlos Castaneda

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Well done bro

"A good friend is my nearest relation."

Monday, 3 October 2011

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”
Franklin D. Roosevet

Thursday, 22 September 2011

God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
Author: C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don't
If you like to win but think you can't
It's almost a cinch you won't

If you think you are outclassed, you are
You've got to think high to rise
You've got to be sure of yourself
Before you can win a prize

If you think you'll lose, you are lost
For out in the world we find
That success begins
With a fellow's will
It's all in the state of mind

Life's battle's don't always go to the
Stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the man who THINKS he can.
- Vince Lombardi

Often our attitudes are a result of the people we surround ourselves with. If you notice that the people around you don't have an attitude of a champion, share this with them and help them see that, perhaps, their thoughts need to change.

Monday, 5 September 2011


The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home ... or a school. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we do have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our ATTITUDES.

~ Chuck Swindoll

Friday, 26 August 2011

Advice On Passing the Guard

Playing guard and passing the guard seem to make up a huge part of sparring in Jiu-jitsu. If you consider that any time you arent either controlling someone from or escaping from a dominant position , such as mount, back or side position, you are essentially either playing or passing some form of guard.

Passing the guard can definately be difficult task against guys who have good guard reposition skilss but especially against guys who are very skilled in certain types of guard i.e. a great spider guard or butterfly guard.
A friend and training partner and I where chatting about it after class recently and he said he was having a little difficulty passing a certain type of guard against guys who were really proficient at it.

I had faced a similar problem a while back and found especially against guys from purple belt and up who were starting to develope their own personal styles and were becoming incredibly good at a certain guard, I found if they pulled me into it I was battling to pass and the more I fought my way out I played staright into a sweep and wound up on my back.
So I started searching for answers, I started trying to learn as many passes as I could, but then found that it still wasnt the answer as there were so many different types of guards being developed all the time it was very difficult to know one for every type of guard and it's variations, spider, de la riva, reverse de la riva, inverted, butterfly, x-guard...
Not to mention that guys who were good at these types of guard had a huge advantage in that they were investing in a lot of time becoming proficient in ONE aspect of their game while I was trying to split my time up divising an answer to everyones games.

I chatted to my coach Luiz about it and he gave me some great advice which defiantely helped me.
He said, when it comes to passing your opponents best guards, your goal should be to prevent him from putting you there!
If you let him get his grips and and set it his position in too far, youre in for a tough time.
You dont have to solve a problem if you prevent it from materializing.

The best way to prepare for these different games is prevention. He told me when I then asked , 'yes but, what if the guy manages to get a grip here and pulls me into position and does this or that...?' 'well, if you let it get that far, youre in trouble as youre in his game and you deserve to get swept or caught.'

I remember reading an article about Fabio Gurgel training with Rickson Gracie at the time when Marcelo Garcia's X-guard was exploding onto the competition scene and apparently all Rickson asked Fabio about the position was how would he attempt to achieve the x-guard and control it, not about how he felt it should be played or passed.

It is definately important to have techniques to deal with different types of guard, especially those you face frequently but also try to impose your game plan-get where you want to be with control and learn to understand the different aspects of blocking your opponents various games and you will rarely have to deal with it.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Visit From Seymour Yang

We were visited by Seymour Yang, last night, who was in Bournemouth on holiday. He stopped by to train with us at our Wednesday night Gi class.

A really nice guy with a very good game. It was great to train with and chat with someone who is so passionate about Jiu-jitsu and works really hard and does such a great job promoting the art through his articles and website (

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


Some interesting points from Lloyd Irvin:

■There is no winning or losing when rolling at the club, but only there, everywhere else (including in life) you’re either winning or losing.

■The higher the level, the more important the mental game becomes.

■“If the school wants to be a high level competition school, they have to ban excuse making, they have to ban letting their students make excuses, they have to ban sitting out rounds during sparring, they have to ban asking for water when live sparring is happening (you take water breaks when the instructor says so), you have to ban all of the BS happening on the floor in your school.”

Lloyd Irvin says in the interview “when it’s all said and done the only thing that matters is the results.”

The most important reminder came in the answer to the question: “If you could only pick one thing that an individual could start today that would improve their Jiu-Jitsu what would it be?”

His answer: drilling. He may mean something specific, but in general, drilling is key and includes:

1.Drilling with perfect technique (which often means slow but steady) against a non-resisting opponent.
2.Positional training against a resisting opponent
3.Flow drills: flowing through positions in order to explore variations and possibilities

You need to get off the computer, hit the mats and start drilling RIGHT NOW. To get a move down pat you need a minimum of 2,500 reps, but if you want to perfect it you must hit 10,000. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

Look, if you truly want to be a master you must realize that repetition is the key that opens an endless amount possibilities—This is not just for grappling, the concept can be applied to any goal you have a burning desire to conquer.

Monday, 8 August 2011


The level of our success is limited only by our imagination.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Jiu-Jitsu that I created was designed to give the weak ones a chance to face the heavy and strong.
The primary objective of Jiu-Jitsu is to protect the indivisual, the older man, the weak, the child, the lady and the young woman from being dominanted and hurt by some bum because they don't have the physical attributes to defend themselves. Like i never had.
- Helio Gracie

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Midweek Motivation

People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That's why we recommend it daily. ~ Zig Ziglar

'Get knocked down 6 times, get up 7!' Samurai saying.

Competition can be a double edged sword sometimes. Im a big believer that it can be a very positive means for growth as a martial artist and a person IF viewed in the correct light.
It can definately help us to improve by pressure testing not only our technical ability but ALSO our 'self' control (our ability to control our emotions and thoughts leading up to, during and especially after a fight or competition.)
Losing is an important part of our growth and we need to view it as such, and we should never measure our self worth based on a result, wether in a competition or anything else.

Jerry Lynch, Ph.D.,once said that when you believe and think “I can,” you activate your motivation, commitment, confidence, concentration and excitement, all of which relate directly to achievement. On the other hand, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right in both cases.”

Dr. Lynch also says that the path to personal excellence is cluttered with obstacles. It is my own personal conviction that you can’t develop your full potential without encountering serious obstacles along the way.

Dr. Lynch says that you can’t stretch your limits without encountering some rough moments. You need to understand that failure and losses are acceptable learning experiences that can help improve your performance. This is true in every part of life, whether it involves athletics, academic achievement, business or personal success.

It’s true that airplanes and kites rise fastest when they fly into the wind. Individuals grow stronger physically, mentally and spiritually when they are “tested” with resistance or opposition. Think about it and I’ll see you at the top!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Gi...Why Bother?

I recommend training with the gi firstly because it forces you to learn some of the essential techniques to escape from different holds and attacks. The gi really tightens things up and makes it much more difficult to muscle out of things or slip & slide your way out of a hold.

You will also notice that using the gi gives you many more options to grip onto your partner. Consequently you can slow the pace down more than you could without using a gi. Having to slow the pace of a practice roll down forces you to practice your technique. Since we are here to improve our health & fitness while learning effective techniques, it only makes sense to force yourself to learn the technique.

Also from a practical/self-defence stand-point, getting used to training with and against someone wearing a gi (essentialy a long sleeve top/jacket and trousers), especially if you live somewhere where it gets cold in Autumn and Winter, is very practical, as you arent very likely (at least I hope not) to be attacked by a guy wearing a speedo or just shorts.

I would like people who train at our school to learn both styles, gi and no-gi, and feel comfortable doing both. I feel they should understand the benefits of both styles and not feel like one is better than the other. Having said all that, if you have no interest in training with the gi then don't. The important thing is that you are having fun and enjoying the workouts!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

I remember as a kid going to Karate class and before stepping onto the dojo floor, kicking off my flip-flops under a big sign that said leave your ego and shoes here.
It didnt mean much to me then, fast forward to when I taught from home, for a while between gyms in Durban, SA, we trained out of my garage and I had a sign there similar to the one in this article. It was an attempt at using humor to remind people to take their shoes off before stepping onto the mat.
For sure hygiene is a huge part of it, we roll around on those matts and would rather not have skin contact with whatever has collected on the sole of your shoe, but I still often think back to the sign at my old Karate class.

Learning to leave your ego off the mat affetcs you greatly in your jiu-jitsu life. There are two critical points that I feel it probably does more so (at least from my experience) and that is at white belt and then again at black belt.
A major reason Ive experienced with students quitting early on in Jiu-jitsu, in my opinion is ego. You have to be prepared to tap to training partners who are smaller, weaker, older than you or who you may feel are just plain inferior to you.
We have to learn to put our ego to rest.
Stay open to learning, and keep in mind how often we derive more from defeat than victory.
Just get out there having fun, enjoy your time on the mat, and not try to rip it up or impress anyone. Just roll for the fun of rolling, treat your training partners with the same amount of respect you'd like to be treated with. You will improve if you train hard and are consistent, but leave that ego off the mat.

Now imagine if everyone carried that attitude with them off the mat with them into their day to day lives.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

"If today you have nothing to be happy about, thank God for the potential of tomorrow."

Rickson Gracie

Monday, 11 July 2011

Training While Injured

Injuries are something that every athlete is afraid of, yet at somepoint must deal with. Grappling training involves a lot of twisting, falling and bending, so there tend to be a fair share of back and neck injuries. Jammed fingers and toes as well as knee, hip, elbow and shoulder injuries are fairly common too.
As a martial artist it can be difficult to avoid injuries. My main concern is how to treat, rehab (then prehab) and accomodate the injury/ies while continuing with my training routine.
Two of your best friends when training should be ice and tape.

By properly taping an injured finger, ankle or knee you can often prevent yourself from reinjuring an area while still continuing to train.

Even if Im injured I believe it's still important to train.

Some people prefer to rest completely but I believe by staying active (spend time drilling techniques that dont aggrevate the injury instead of rolling-we can all use more time drilling and getting our reps in-sometimes an injury is a way of forcing you to get on it) you can maintain and maby improve your conditioning and continue to work on and even improve certain ares of your game.

Staying active also allows you to get blood flowing into the injured area to help speed up the healing process.

If you approach it properly you can continue to train and heal up faster than if you just rested completely.
But you must be smart-pay attention to the little injuries before they become big problems and look after them, and train around them if necessary.

Remember to use that ice (how many of us go 'yeah ill ice it when I get home' and actually do?), massage, foam rollers or a rubber ball (check out if you havent already for some awesome flexibility and mobility advice) for tight spots.

If something is really bad I might consider using an anti-inflammatory like voltarol, gel always being a better option than the tabs as it isnt as harsh on your stomach, but I prefer to stay as natural as possible.

Ive had quite a few injuries in my training career but attribute being able to avoid them to my flexibilty and stretching and mobility routine.

It's very unusual that I have to completley stop training due to an injury, I try to have an easy joint mobility session every morning and always make sure I have a good warm up before training. I try to start my training slowly and progress up to speed as my training continues and have a good stretch at the end of the day.

I try to really focus and look after myself well (especially as I get older) and use a rubber ball and thera-cane for deep tissue massage, which although painfull definately helps relieve pain and stiffness in the muscles and tissues.

Many times you wont feel an injury at the time but only later at bedtime or first thing in the morning when you get up, but these I find are relievd with either stretching at night or some joint mobility work in the morning to ease off the tightness and get some blood into the area.

Sometimes you may have an injury that affects your movement completely (although you could probably still swim :-) ), such as a very bad back or neck injury or a rib fracture that affects your movement, then what?

As I joked, find a pool and do some gentle swimming or go for long easy walks, but also use the time to keep your mind sharp. Get to class when you can and watch the training and motivate your friends and team mates, work on your training notes and game-plan (if you havent jotted one down yet and still have holes in your game -it's time to get out a note pad and a pen and do some self-evaluation!) watch some competition footage- I recon you can learn a lot by watching competition footage, sometimes more so than just instyructionals, watch high level competitors pull off the stuff we try in class, but at a world championship level and make it look easy.

Also read, get a subscription to Gracie Mag or BJJ Style magazine or one of the many great instructional books available now such as Saulo's Jiu-Jitsu University.

Stay healthy and happy, both of which jiu-jitsu can help you with, so go train.


Friday, 1 July 2011

“In Jiu Jitsu, your yearly age does not account for anything when it comes to your technical ability. Your age is marked by the hours you spend on the mat.”

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Have you ever rolled with someone and it sounded like they were hyperventilating, or even better have you ever rolled and felt like you were hyperventilating. This is something that I see very often while I am grappling and I see it watching others grapple. People always end up breathing as fast as they move. If their movements are really fast and explosive they are breathing a mile a minute. This is what causes them to gas extremely quickly and also makes them feel claustrophobic while they are on the bottom trying to escape.

For me on the other hand, my breathes are always much slower then my movements and I try to keep them as controlled as possible. This obviously comes with practice, but it is something that is extremely important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Breathing correctly and at a good pace is one of the most important aspects that will help you to stay relaxed during high intensity situations. Faster breathing leads to panic and stress, while slow controlled breathing induces calmness and focus.

The thing is that not many people realize is that it is possible to breathe at a controlled pace even while you are moving very fast. For example while I am rolling at a regular pace I will stay relaxed and breathe normally, then there may be a moment where I have to explode or resist and I will give some quick bursts of my breathes and then after I have completed the movement which is usually quick I will take a deep breathe through my nose and let it out slowly through either my nose or my mouth so once again I can gain my composure. Others will keep there breathes fast after moving explosively and will not be able to focus as well as they should.

It is extremely hard at first to breathe at a slow controlled pace while you are moving quickly but it is very possible and extremely worth practicing. If you become able to do this you will be able to last much longer during you matches and you will feel less tired when the match is over. It will also enable you to keep a clear mind while you are in action. No matter how fast you grapple try to control your breathing, even if you feel it hinders your performance in the beginning. You will benefit in the long run.

Breathing correctly is not only important in grappling but it is important in life in general. It helps you to relieve stress and relax. It helps you to stay focused on your goals at hand and keep a clear mind to what it is you want to achieve. Everyone can breathe but not everyone breathes in ways beneficial to them.

I practice breathing wherever I am, and in many situations. If I feel a little anxious I will breath deeply through my nose focusing on pushing my stomach out so I am breathing with my diaphragm and not with my lungs and I will hold it for 4 seconds, then I will release my breathe for another 4 seconds out of my nose while I drop my shoulders and relax my body. That exercise is one of the easiest and most effective stress relievers any one can do.

Some things you should focus on when it comes to breathing while training:

-Never hold your breathe. It will only lead to panic.

-Every 5 to 10 seconds check in on your breathing and see if you are breathing fast or are you breathing in a controlled manner.

-If you feel like your getting gassed check in with your breathing if that may be the cause.

-Try to focus on breathing more and less on smashing your opponent, I recon you will see a difference.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Competition Advice

“When you watch a lion hunt, he sits in the shade and rests. He watches the zebras go by, and he doesn’t get excited or angry. But when one of the zebra comes too close, he is quick and aggressive making his kill. It’s not emotional, but it’s aggressive, it’s final. When you compete, you don’t look across the mat and see another lion—you see a zebra.”

Friday, 17 June 2011

Conditioning for BJJ Revisited

My good friend, and one of my long time SA based training partners, Andre', kindly agreed to do an article on incorporating kettlebells for conditioning for BJJ. With the huge number of routines and exercises it can be difficult to know where to start and what to focus on.
This is the place to start and revisit often.
p.s. If youre in Durban and want some great kettlebell or conditioning instruction give him a shout.

A conditioning programme can always assist one in your martial art training. The kettlebell offers good value for one's effort.

Pavel Tsatsouline in his superb book Enter The Kettlebell prescribes the programme minimum for people that are starting kettlebell lifting. Programme min is two basic lifts, the Get Up, a pressing exercise and the swing, a pulling exercise, which are done two or three times a week. These exercises are done for time using an interval timer or clock.

The routine would be as follows:

Joint Mobility warm up
5 min get ups
12 min swings

The beauty of this programme is that not only is it forgiving on the demands made on your body, especially if you are training hard at your BJJ but it is also very easy to modify according to ones needs. If you add another two lifts, the snatch and the clean and press you can compile a programme where you can increase or decrease the intensity of the practice sessions.

A routine one can use is the method of doing a light, med and heavy training session during a weekly cycle. It would be as follows;

Monday (light) practice good technique and dont worry about amount of reps done
Joint mobility warm up
5 min get up's - 16 kg bell
12 min snatches - 16 kg bell

Wednesday (med) medium intensity trying to do a few more reps each time
Joint mobility warm up
6 min get up's - 16 kg bell
14 min swings - 20 kg bell

Friday (heavy) Full tilt boogie go for it and push yourself
Joint mobility warm up
Clean and press 5 ladders/4 rungs - 20/24 kg bell
14 min swings - 24/32 kg bell

For the swings i like to start off with 100 two handed swings in a marathon like way and then after a brief rest rep short sprint type bursts of one handed and hand to hand swings.
The snatches can be done using the VO2 max protocol or just for reps.
If the exercises are too easy the bells are not heavy enough. If your form especially your alignment goes the bells are too heavy.
Try to structure the programme on your heavy day so you get between 24 to 48 hours rest before your next practice session.
Doing basic exercises does not mean one is a beginner and as in BJJ it is always good to revisit the basics.


Monday, 13 June 2011

Belts pt 2

Also worth noting is that belts are and aren’t important, at the end of the day it’s a piece of fabric that keeps your jacket closed and as Royce Gracie said it only covers an inch or two of you’re a$$, the rest you have to cover yourself.
Saying that however they are also important as they allow for practitioners to be matched up for training and competition purposes of similar level, as the belt gives a rough indicator of skill and experience level. They also are important as they serve as recognition for your effort, a pat on the back to say good job after all the sweat and hard work you put into the art.
They should never be used as leverage, i.e. weight a bracket by keeping good guys at a lower level to dominate competitions or as a reward/punishment for “perceived” loyalty.

A final word on the belt: Caring for your belt is easy. It keeps the Gi closed and you looking sharp. Just don't wash it (bad luck) and please tie your belt at all times. If you decide to wash your dirty belt, keep in mind that all your dreams, sweat, and hard work will be washed down the drain along with the funk.  You need to wear your belt until it falls off. Or until your instructor, puts a new one around your waist.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ranking system awards a practitioner different colored belts to signify increasing levels of technical knowledge and practical skill. While the system’s structure shares its origins with the Judo ranking system and the origins of all colored belts, it now contains many of its own unique aspects and themes. Some of these differences are relatively minor, such as the division between youth and adult belts and the stripe/degree system. Others are quite distinct and have become synonymous with the art, such as a marked informality in promotional criteria, including as a focus on a competitive demonstration of skill, and a conservative approach to promotion in general.

In 1907, Kanō Jigorō, the founder of Judo and the individual who would later dispatch Mitsuyo Maeda on the trip to Brazil that resulted in the development of BJJ, introduced the first use of belts (obi) and gi (judogi) within the art of Judo, replacing the practice of training in formal kimonos.

At the time however, Kanō implemented only the use of white and black belts, with white representing the beginner, as a color of purity and simplicity, and black being the opposite, representing one who is filled up with knowledge.Mikonosuke Kawaishi is believed by many to have been the first to introduce additional colored belts. He originated this practice in 1935 when he began teaching Judo in Paris, France. Kawaishi felt that structured system of colored belts would provide the western student with visible rewards to show progress, increasing motivation and retention.

Kawaishi's adoption of colored belts came only 10 years after Carlos Gracie opened his academy in Brazil. Since then, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and many other martial arts have adopted the use of colored belts as a way to denote a student's increasing progress.

There have been few published guidelines or standards that determine when a practitioner is ready for promotion, with the criterion generally determined on an individual instructor and/or academy basis. Even the IBJJF, while maintaining an extensive graduation system that takes into account time-in-grade and membership standing, makes no mention of specific performance or skill requirements. When instructors or academies do comment on the criteria needed to achieve the next belt, the most widely accepted measures are:

The amount of technical and conceptual knowledge a practitioner can demonstrate, and;
Performance in grappling (randori) within the academy and/or competition.
Technical and conceptual knowledge is judged by the number of techniques a student can perform, and the level of skill with which they are performed in live grappling. This allows for smaller and older practitioners to be recognized for their knowledge though they may not be the strongest fighters in the school. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a distinctly individual sport, and practitioners are encouraged to adapt the techniques to make them work for their body type, strategic preferences, and level of athleticism. The ultimate criterion for promotion is the ability to execute the techniques successfully, rather than strict stylistic compliance.

Informal versus formalized testingAs noted above, the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu historically has had an informal approach to belt promotions, with one or more instructors subjectively agreeing that a given student is ready for the next rank. In recent years however, some academies have moved toward a more systematic, formalized testing approach. This is especially true for the lower ranks, where the decision to promote is arguably the least contentious.

One of the first instructors to publicly publish some of this formalized testing criterion was Roy Harris, who has formalized promotion tests, up to and including black belt. Formal testing is now becoming common-place in many Gracie Academies as well as organizations such as Alliance. Some Gracie systems have even introduced formalized on-line testing that allows you to become proficient in the art without stepping into the dojo. Formalized tests are generally based around the same elements as a normal promotion, that is, technical/conceptual knowledge and the ability to apply those techniques against a resisting opponent. Some tests however, take other aspects into account, such as a student's personal character or a basic knowledge regarding the history of the art.

Formalized testing may also contain conditions more familiar to traditional martial arts, such as testing fees and a required amount of pre-testing private lessons with the instructor.

Students are generally encouraged to compete, as it can play an important and oftentimes accelerating role in a practitioner's growth and overall speed of promotion. Competition allows an instructor to gauge a student's abilities while grappling with a fully resisting opponent, and it is not uncommon for a promotion to follow shortly after a good competition performance. In most academies it is not an essential prerequisite for promotion, but there are exceptions to this and in a minority of schools, competing is not only endorsed but required.

A blue belt with three stripes.In addition to the belt system, many academies award "stripes" as a form of intra-belt recognition of progress and skill. The cumulative amount of stripes earned serves as a rough indication of a practitioners skill level relative to others within the same belt rank (i.e. a blue-belt level practitioner with four stripes would be more adept than a blue-belt practitioner with one, but not a purple belt with one.)

Stripes can be as formal as small pieces of cloth sown onto the sleeve of the belt, or as informal as pieces of electrical tape applied to the same general area. Although the exact application (such as the amount of stripes allowed for each belt) varies from school to school, the IBJJF sets out a general system where 4 stripes can be added before the student should be considered for promotion to the next belt.

Stripes are only used for ranks prior to black belt, after black belt is achieved, the markings are known as "degrees" and are only formally awarded (with time-in-grade being as significant a factor as skill level). Unlike the belt system, stripes are not used in every academy and, where they are used, they may not always be applied consistently.

One long-standing tradition practiced in many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools immediately following a promotion, is a custom known as "running the gauntlet" ("passar no corredor" in Portuguese).

BJJ mild variation of the gauntlet can come in many forms, but generally follows two basic patterns:

The newly-promoted student is hit on their back with belts—once by each of their fellow practitioners—as they walk or run past;
The newly-promoted student thrown by his instructors, and sometimes also by each of the students with equal or higher grade in the academy.
In recent years some have criticized the practice, citing philosophical and even legal reasons, and it is no longer part of some prominent academies. Advocates for the custom argue that "running the gauntlet" serves as a method of team building and reinforces camaraderie between classmates.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Saturday Training!

Looking forward to training this Saturday when some of the guys from Sutton are coming down to train here in Bournemouth!

Phoenix MMA
725 Wimborne Road,

See you on the mat!

Tuesday Night No-gi Class at Phoenix MMA

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Play Jiu-jitsu

Why do we say play jiu-jitsu when talking about training?

Think back to your childhood and to years dominated by playtime, when there seemed to be endless hours to fill and the only objective was to be captivated in the moment,

to have fun.

Playtime was also productive however, even if as kids we didnt realise it. Activities like soccer, playing tag, marbles, blocks and playing games were all exercises in resourcefulness, decision making, strategy, design, planning, creativity and risk taking.

In play we did not avoid facing obstacles, we looked for them! By voluntarily challenging ourselves. We eagerly tacled seemingly insurmountable odds- height, size, speed, lack of money- to make our dreams a reality.

Using our imagination we climbed Mt.Everest, fought the biggest bad guys, surfed huge waves, were champions, doctors, ran our own businesses. We voluntarily tested ourselves and accepted failure as part of play. We ran, fell and wiped out but got straight up and ran again. When we lost a game we simply started a new one.

I think theres a lot we can learn from and apply when we watch our kids play.

Now go play jiu-jitsu.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Training Assignments


Here's a Monday training assignment for
you I picked up, I want you to pick one sweep
and one choke from positions that
you get to the most and only
use those 2 moves for the next
week, if you like it I want you to
push it out for 2 weeks.

So your assignment right now is
to write down what your one
sweep will be and what your one
choke will be.

Then think about the positions that
you need to get to for the move and
which of your teammates you're
able to attain these positions on.

Then make sure that you get to
work with them, you can also ask
your instructor if you can get
paired up with them because you
want to work on a specific technique
set and they are the best partner for

That's it. And let
me know how the week went.

Have fun.


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Politics seem to be a big part of Jiu-jitsu (unfortunately). It's odd as well that no matter how hard you try to avoid it, some-how it always rears it's head. Ive been fortunate to train with a lot of great instructors and been exposed to my share of ego and bull-shido politics.
Without this becoming a soap-box moment, what I feel has helped keep me training is TRYING to achieve the following:

Train hard and be ego-free. Guys should be able to come through the gym without worrying about some numbnuts running their mouth on the interweb about who tapped who.

For some reason, the martial arts sometimes tend to breed an atmosphere where people get really weird and almost deify their instructors. They will say, “You’re not doing this technique exactly how so-and-so said to.” It stops being about training, growth, and fun and it becomes an unhealthy cult of personality.

No environment like that can be a healthy one. I admire guys like Roger Gracie, Braulio Estima, Saulo Ribiero, Rafael Lovato,Nicolas Gregoriades, etc. who get out there and compete in front of their students. They have plenty of titles and name recognition to sit on the sidelines if they were so inclined, but that’s not the way they do things.

The big key is to avoid isolating yourself from others who can challenge you. So often, instructors develop the attitude that they have to be infallible or unbeatable in order to maintain the respect of their students (which i think they fear affects their bank account). Not only is that psychologically unhealthy and unrealistic, all it does is kill you in the long run. Everyone around you is developing daily. You may be an instructor for a few hours a day, but you are a student for your whole life. We should try and act like it.

In the end it’s just about the training, with the ultimate goal of enjoying your training and trying to get better every day.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?"
Lance Armstrong

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


A really common problem in martial arts training is to assume that everybody else practices that same martial art. Let me explain what I mean by that... Boxers spend 99.9% of their time learning how to fight other boxers. Wrestlers train to attack with, and defend against, wrestling techniques. And Wing Chun kung fu practitioners mostly spar - you guessed it - with other Wing Chun practitioners. If your goal is to compete then training this way makes a certain amount of sense. There's not much point for a pro-boxer to use valuable training time honing his ability to sprawl against a double leg takedown, or defend a Muay Thai knee strike. But what about self defense? Nobody's obliged to stay within a certain set of parameters on the street, and completely ignoring certain common scenarios in training could lead to a very bad outcome in a real life self defense situation! Let's take a look at just one example of how this applies in BJJ: consider the garden variety schoolyard headlock. This is a super common low-tech attack. Youll even see this move happening repeatedly in less experienced grappling matches, amateur MMA events and even people with Judo and certain wrestling back-grounds will use the position to control and strike or as a throw and control position. This weekends UFC Fight Night saw Anthony Johnson controlling and trying to neck crank Dan Hardy with a headlock on the ground. (see picture at top of this post.) The head is a great big prize on the top of the body. When fists start flying, the temptation to grab ahold of it and start feeding punches to the other guy's face can be almost irresistible for some people. As a grappling position, the headlock has pretty much been discarded from the BJJ repertoire. Most jiu-jitsu teachers feel that clamping a headlock down on someone exposes your own back too much. I was lucky that my start in BJJ was basic basic basic old school Gracie Jiu-jitsu heavy with the original self defense program. I remember at the time thinking wow, this stuff is great and so practical! But then with time I started getting more and more into "grappling" and started negelecting this aspect of Jiu-jitsu. A lot of the clubs Ive been trained at, all really great Jiu-jitsu (or should that be grappling?) clubs never even touch on the self-defense programme anymore as everyone focuses on grappling tournaments against other Jiu-jitsu ("sport grapplers") and learning the latest slick 1/2 guard sweep or spider guard arm wrap with collar into roll over sweep for 2 points. Im not sure many people will ever face the threat of having to face a drunken attacker or home intruder who will attack them with their latest spider guard technique! Im not saying dont continue to learn and add to your positions. Definately stay abreast with new developements in the art to add to your game-plan or at least to know how to defend against it in a grappling match or competition but dont negelct the basics of which I believe the self-defense programme is a very important part. The techniques are definately not outdated-If Dan Hardy knew some of the head-lock counters in addition to his rubber guard attempts it may have helped. The self-defense programme isnt outdated 1925 technique, as the fights on Saturday 26th March, 2011, showed. The danger is that if you don't encounter a certain position on the mats then you're not going to get very much experience at defending against that position. So even if you don't use the headlock as an attack yourself, you still need to know how to defend against it.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Aside from staying home and drinking tap water out of a washable glass, the best way to be “green” while on the go is choosing your water bottle wisely. From the lowly single-use-only bottle you can buy at your local gas station to the stainless steel and aluminum options, making the right choice is important in maintaining both your health and the health of the environment!
petbottles How To Choose A Safe Reusable Water Bottle.

The worst kind of bottle is the kind that you only use once – the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle that you find in grocery stores, gas stations, etc, that is used for water, soda and juice. This kind of plastic has been proven to leach DEHP (Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) after repeated use and is a probable carcinogen. They can also harbor bacterial growth inside any cracks and crevices inside the bottle, which cannot be too good for your health either!

Next to the regular old plastic bottles we see everywhere, probably the most common would be your typical bottle as seen here. These plastic bottles, commonly used by exercise buffs and campers, are made out of thermoplastic polymers that usually goes by the name polycarbonate. However, it’s not just water bottles that are made out of polycarbonate; CD’s, iPods, sunglasses, and computer shells are also made of the material. Thankfully though, we don’t normally chew on CD’s or computers because polycarbonates have been proven to leach BPA, a synthetic hormone that can mimic estrogen and cause prostate cancer. Even scarier is the fact that most baby bottles are made out of polycarbonate, and when you heat up milk in them to feed your baby, the BPA could be leaching in at an even higher rate than normal. Not good at all, if you ask me!

A much better option than either of the above two would be an aluminum bottle. A big manufacturer of aluminum water bottles is Sigg (which you can get at Reusable Bags, where we got ours), which claims to make environmentally friendly products. While their older liner was questionable, the new liners are the BPA free EcoCare ones.

The best way to get your daily dose of water on the go, in my opinion, is a stainless steel reusable container. Kleen Kanteen is a large manufacturer of these type of bottles, and you can get them from Reusable Bags. They are made entirely out of stainless steel, which does not leach, is difficult to break or crack, and does not easily stain or interact with whatever product you are consuming. The water always tastes good out of it (at least ours does, and it is Los Angeles tap water!) and it keeps it reasonably cold for a little while when we go hiking or out in the sun. They don’t recommend using them for hot beverages, which is understandable – that’s what a thermos is for.

Ideally, the best way to drink water on the go would be an aluminum or stainless steel water bottle, as they seem to exhibit the least amount of health concerns out of all the choices. Add in the fact that they can be used over and over again with no degradation and do not need to be recycled each time you use one, they really are the “green” choice. And since upwards of 40% of bottled water is actually just tap water in disguise, buying it seems like not only a health risk due to the plastic leaching possibilities, but also a wallet risk due to wasting money on something you already have at home!

Friday, 11 February 2011

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Grip Fighting!

Grip fighting is one of the most under looked aspects of Brazilian jiu jitsu.

The grips on the gi can give one opponent a huge advantage not only on the feet, but the ground as well. Its well known that grip fighting is important for judo throws but the same control can be used on the ground as well.

One of the key concepts in wrestling/Judo/or jiu jitsu is hip control. Controlling your opponent’s grips will give him a hard time getting inside and being able to dominate your hips. In addition to this defensive advantage, your opponent being dominated by your grips will not be able to prevent you from attacking his hips.

This is especially relevant when dealing with the guard. When playing the guard position open or closed one needs dominate grips. If you’re able to control your opponent’s sleeves and arms and maintain inside control he will have a very hard time passing. Also, by controlling my partner’s body I can then set up all my sweeps and submission attacks. One of the most critical areas for this is the seated guard. It is in this guard that you must control grips or your opponent will quickly pass. A good grip in this situation is a deep lapel grip and a same side sleeve grip.

If on the other hand you’re passing your training partners guard it is also critical to have dominate grips. A good example of dominant control for the passing man is a lapel grip and an inside the knee pant grip on the opposite leg. This grip combination on the inside allows one to pin an opponent’s leg to the mat and set up the knee through the middle pass or the bull-fighting pass. Even if the pass attempt fails this grip combo places the passing man in a dominant position safe from most sweeps and submissions.

If you take the time to work on little overlooked areas like grip fighting, you will see drastic improvements in your jiu jitsu game.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


The focus of this article will be to explore the many uses of the half guard position and why it’s so critical to know.

The key idea with the half guard position is to think of it as a transition position. The half guard is the key link between the closed and open guard, side control, mount, the back, and even the turtle and front headlock position. Thinking of it as a key link means that if your half guard is weak, then ones transitions between all these fundamental positions will also be weak.

This is especially true when it comes to the fundamental escapes. For instance, when one escapes the mount position the first step leads to the half guard, from there one typically looks to attack or transition further to the full guard. Now, if one has a weak understanding of the half guard the escape would be halted right then and there, and the attacking opponent would move back to the dominate mount position. The same would also be true of the side control position, the back, the turtle, and the front headlock position.

The half guard position has also been a staple for the smaller fighter with shorter legs. For some BJJ players with short powerful legs, the closed guard has been an important aspect of their bottom game. Not that small legs are a disadvantage to the bottom man, but for someone having difficulty keeping their legs locked in the full guard, locking only one leg seems to be much easier. There is one note of caution in regards to the half guard position. Do not sit and wait in this position! It is very easy for the bottom man to lock on to the leg of his opponent and rest. This is a terrible habit to get in and is not what the half guard is designed for. Like every position on the bottom it is important to keep moving and attack always on your back, don’t be lazy in the guard! The take home message being devote considerable time to the half guard position, as it will greatly enhance your bottom game.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

An interesting read and some advice for 2011!

This was an article I came across recently that I felt had some great advice for facing the new year, all the best for 2011, thanks for reading and TRAIN HARD!

Undefeated, having won by submission in all his eleven official MMA matches, Rickson Gracie is victorious as an icon living a life of dedication to Jiu-Jitsu. But even the samurai, who exhudes confidence and seems to be unbreakable, nurses wounds slow in healing.

In an interview with Brazilian, Ragga magazine, the Gracie comments on the loss that turned his world upside down. Never before has Rickson spoken so candidly about the death of his son Rockson, found dead in a New York hotel in December 2000. This is how he replied to the question “What’s the worst beating you’ve ever taken?”

“Without a doubt, the loss of my son, ten years ago,” he admits.

“I feel that his passing represented a lot, because I managed to deal with this loss. Nothing is more significant than losing someone you truly love. When you talk about a loss, you may think of strength, perseverance, praying, the belief that there will be a tomorrow, all these factors, when a friend perhaps comes over and puts his arm on your shoulder. All these opinions are relevant, but the truth is that I came to the conclusion that none of that matters. When you lose something truly profound, you have to sit, cry, and accept that you’ve hit rock bottom,” he vents.

“Deep down, you see a reason to shoot yourself in the head, to stop doing the right thing, to stop being a happy person. You may want to fools yourself, thinking “it’s bad, but I can take it,” and that’s the kind of lack of honesty that will never cure the wound. I hit rock bottom and decided, deep down, whether I would come back to the surface or not,” he adds.

The Gracie took many years in coming to terms with the tragedy, and changed the course of his life and the way he leads it. Part of his plan was to return to Brazil. Other foundations were family, the gentle art, and learning, even if through suffering.

“I went through the healing process with my family. For practically three years I was focused on recuperating this energy and seeking some reason for me to be happy again. And that reason is my three beautiful kids, my family, Jiu-Jitsu. To put the issue to rest in my head, I spent a long time looking for a bright side to this loss, something I could take away from this tragedy as an advantage. After much meditation, withdrawing to the woods, without feeling any desire to surf, play, train, I reached the conclusion that there was an advantage, a positive side. Up until that moment, I had never really valued time, I always thought I controlled my time, that I could put off talking to my son until tomorrow, that I could put off that trip or class until later, that time was just a question of reworking my agenda. I put off doing a lot of things thinking I’d be able to do them later. With my son’s departure, I understood that there is no tomorrow. We have to do everything as though there were no tomorrow.

And again Rickson affirms that he is retired, he will not fight again. Indeed, the black belt hasn’t fought since Rockson’s death.