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