“I will miss you too Pooh. I will miss you very, very much.” – the final words of Christopher Robin in Winnie-The-Pooh
Hard decisions are never easy, they wouldn’t be called hard if they were. It is therefore with some sadness that I write this post.
Recently there has been some debate online regarding belt ranking, specifically the coral belt that is awarded to 7th degree black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
It started with a BJJ black belt who was awarded his coral belt by his students.
It escalated into the leaders of two pretty big associations publicly squabbling over the requirements to achieve coral belt.
Last night I discovered that a legend in the BJJ community was awarded his coral belt by his son, from the sounds of it due to relations with his senior family members, and the recent passing of his father, meaning no one else would have been able to award him that belt. I’ll be honest in that I’m not too sure of this myself.
What I do know is that after all of this, I feel like burning my belt.
I’ve worked hard to achieve the rank I wear today. In the grand scheme of things, the belt means nothing more than time and experience on the mat. But I’ve put that time in and, I believe, earned the rank I wear. It’s taken me 10 years what some would do in 6 or 8, but its my journey and I’ll walk it as slow as I want to.
That being said, my lineage is one of many, there are many groups and associations within BJJ, each with its own rules and guidelines. One such group is the IBJJF, which has certain guidelines regarding belt promotion. There are others, like Gracie Academy/Gracie University, from which my rank originates, that have their own guidelines. Some choose to follow the IBJJF, some don’t. Each one has it’s own specific requirement for achieving and awarding rank.
What has bothered me about all of this is that when this kind of mud slinging starts happening online, all it does is break down the BJJ community, not build it up. If there are no strict guidelines on how to award rank that everyone who does BJJ must follow, then how can anyone comment on anyone else being awarded a rank? If we don’t all have to follow one set of guidelines, how can we comment on what constitutes a black belt, or any other belt, from another school or association?
Some time ago I made a pact with myself that unless a situation effects me specifically I will not comment on it online. This week I broke that pact because all of it annoyed me. I won’t be doing that again.
Some days I wish everyone (and I mean f***ing EVERYONE) in the BJJ community would just stop commenting on everyone else’s rank, way of doing things, whether someone deserves a rank or not and just focus on the thing I try to focus on every time I get onto the mats, working hard to be a small degree better than I was the last time.
Congratulations to Dino Calitz, Tian Visser and Jonathan Bossenger on their promotions today at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town belt ceremony.
Dino and Tian were awarded 2nd and 1st stripe on their blue belts respectively and Jonathan was awarded his brown belt.
Special thanks also to everyone at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town and our head instructor, James Smart.
Thanks to our ‘jiu jitsu journalist’ Dino Calitz, we have all the fights from the advanced division at Alpha 7 this weekend.
One often finds that with jiu jitsu (as with most things in life) being able to determine personal progress is difficult. Mostly this is because you are living through that progress. So you can’t really compare yourself today from where you were say a year (or more) ago. This is made even more difficult when you have the same training partners, as you are improving each day along with them.
One way that you can compare yourself is to look at old competition footage and examine the differences. I recently competed in a local no gi competition and, thanks to one of my regular training partners who always records these things, I now have the ability to compare myself this year to myself when I competed in the same event two years ago.
(Note, due to illness I didn’t compete last year which is a pity as I would have like to seen the year on year progress.)
Here is the video from 2015
Here is the video from this year
Some things that I notice almost immediately
- I’ve developed a bit more of an ‘aggressive’ game. I don’t know if aggressive is the right word, but I definitely take a more active approach to both defence and attack now than what I used to. While I still train a patient approach during my training I’d like to think that in competition I am more focused on Keeping it Real vs Keeping in Playful.
- I react better and with more focus. Watching the 2015 video there are some places where I know now I would do things differently. Early on in the 2015 match I allow my opponent to take side mount, something that I would definitely not do today.
- My movement now has more purpose. Also, during the stand up phase of the fight I am more focused on keeping good posture.
There are also still areas where I can improve.
- I need to work my take downs. I still rely on my opponent to shoot for a take down and then defend and control from there.
- I need to improve my open guard foot lock defence. I’m mostly sure that the only reason I didn’t get foot locked is because I was able to use my size to my advantage in defence. I’m not 100% sure that if my opponent was bigger or stronger I’d have defended as well.
It’s quite fun to be able to visually compare yourself to your past self. My current motto for jiu jitsu is that I don’t want to be better than anyone else, I just want to continue to be better than what I was yesterday. Being able to review my jiu jitsu from 2 years ago and today at least gives me hope that there is progress.
Saturday 15 April 2017
2017 marks my 10th year training in the art of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve never been a ‘full time’ practitioner, training 5 days (or more) a week. With work, family and various other responsibilities I’ve managed on average over the last 9 years to train for 2 – 3 days a week. A rough calculation puts me at around 900 hours of mat time.
As I move closed to 1000 hours, I’ve started to realise two things. Firstly, that I still rely too much on my size and weight. Secondly, that my status as the ‘most senior’ (whatever that means) rank at my current training facility (my own Gracie Garage), means that I do not get pushed past my comfort zones enough.
This needs to change.
Therefore, as of this week, if I am rolling at my Gracie Garage, I invite you to roll me with in what I like to call ‘Purple Belt Shark Tank’. The rules are quite simple
- I must never be allowed to rest. No breaks between rolls, no time to put my gi in place or retie my belt. If a submission happens (either yours or mine) start over straight away from where ever we are. If the timer goes off, do not stop. Keep going until someone comes to take over from you. I want to be smashed.
- If you want to roll with me, just do it. If I am rolling with someone and you want in, take over from them, in whatever form that takes. If it means that I am on top of someone and you want take my back, take it. If you want a specific position. Stop me, put me there, take it and go.
- Whenever we start a roll, you get to choose where we start. If back mount is your favourite, take it. If you are a side mount person, it is yours.
- You are allowed to be a little impolite. During a jiu jisu sparring session it is a common courtesy to ‘slap & bump’ as a handshake. However this will give me time to rest. I will not take offence if you just start attacking me with no handshake.
- My safe phrase ‘I’m broken’. This is the phrase I will use to indicate that I need a short break. Please respect it.
I look forward to seeing you on the mat!
In 2017 Infinitus Jiu Jitsu plans to visit our local Headquarters, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town at least once a month. Thanks to the administration and scheduling skills of Leon Visser, we have a calendar mapped out for the year ahead.
(Last Monday of the month) – 30 Jan @ 19:15 [Master Cycle]
(Middle of the month) – 18 Feb @ 10:00 [Gracie Combatives] & @ 11:00 [Open Mat]
(First Thursday of the month) – 2 Mar @18:15 [90 minute roll]
(Last Monday of the month) – 24 Apr @ 19:15 [Master Cycle]
(Middle of the month) – 20 May @ 10:00 [Gracie Combatives] & 11:00 [Open Mat]
(First Thursday of the month) – 1 Jun @ 18:15 [90 minute roll]
(Last Monday of the month) – 31 Jul @ 19:15 [Master Cycle]
(Middle of the month) – 19 Aug @ 10:00 [Gracie Combatives] & @ 11:00 [Open Mat]
(First Thursday of the month) – 7 Sep @18:15 [90 minute roll]
(Last Monday of the month) – 30 Oct @ 19:15 [Master Cycle]
(Middle of the month) – 18 Nov @ 10:00 [Gracie Combatives] & 11:00[Open Mat]
(First Thursday of the month) – 7 Dec @18:15 [90 minute roll]
I will never stop learning.
I won’t just learn the techniques that are taught to me, I will actively seek out useful techniques to share with the group.
I know there’s no such thing as being the best, there is always someone better than me.
I will build a solid understanding of jiu jitsu through my training partners, for they are my most important teachers.
I will never pass up an opportunity to help someone learn a technique, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.
I am more motivated by self improvement than my next rank, and I know that jiu jitsu is one of the most powerful martial arts of our generation.
I will share my knowledge as much as possible.
Jiu jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting in my time on the mats.
Given time, there is no technique that I can’t learn.
Jason Gregoriades is currently one of the finest no-gi grapplers in Cape Town (if not South Africa). After taken some time off from jiu jitsu, he blasted onto the no-gi competition scene in recent years, winning both the Alpha and Unanimous tournaments against some tough competitors. In preparation for his no-gi seminar at Infinitus Jiu Jitsu on the 25th of June, I caught up with Jason to share his journey.
Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
For those who don’t know you or your jiu jitsu story, how did you get involved in jiu jitsu?
I initially started training at a submission-grappling/pankration style club with my older brother Nicholas. He used to work with a guy who did MMA (at least some form thereof) who told him about this grappling club and so my brother decided to check it out. I was the younger brother who simply got invited along when he went to go watch the first class.
9 years ago, when I started looking into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there was only one school in Cape Town under the Gracie-Barra South Africa name, at the time run by a certain Jason Gregoriades. Tell us what it was like being the only BJJ school back then?
I’m not sure if I can take credit for being the very first BJJ club back then. There may have been a number of smaller groups or clubs operating of which I wasn’t aware. The BJJ /grappling scene was quite different then to what it is now. There’s a far greater natural following of the sport at this time.
You now run the Maximillian Grappling Academy in Claremont. How is what you are training/teaching now different from your GB days?
Well firstly, as I’m sure most people are aware, I only train no-gi now. The club is also much smaller at the moment given that it is relatively new, but this means that the group of guys have managed to develop a very tight-knit camaraderie. Further, a large degree of my focus is spent on training the students and less on training for myself.
There seems to be a gap between you closing down GB and opening Maximillian, where you don’t appear to have belonged to any jiu jitsu or grappling club. If you don’t mind me asking, were you still training jiu jitsu during this time, or had you decided to take a break?
For the first couple of years I did practically zero training. After that I would do some sporadic training just meeting with a couple of friends or dropping into a particular academy, but it was very irregular.
2015 was an amazing year for you, competition wise. You pretty much reaffirmed your position as one of the best no-gi grapplers in Cape Town, by winning both the Unanimous and Alpha grappling events. Tell us about your decision to enter these events and your experiences in both.
Thanks. Admittedly I was quite nervous stepping back into the competitive scene, it had been so long since I’d competed. Another major element was that I felt really under prepared to compete, given my full-time job, focus on the students and having to grow the academy. I know this might sound cliche, but it was only by God’s grace that I can say I managed to win those two competitions.
Having watched a few of the videos from Unanimous and Alpha, if you don’t mind me saying so, you have what some might call a very ‘classic’ game. One could even say ‘basic’, in that you don’t employ any of the so called modern jiu jitsu moves like berimbolos etc. You are very much like Roger Gracie, employing the simplest of moves in such perfect execution that they are successful. It’s very gratifying to watch. Tell us about your ‘style’ and why you think it is so effective.
Thanks! Yes, I think one could classify my preferred style as straight-forward, and quite basic. I’ve always found the simple, non-flashy techniques and concepts to be the most successful and powerful. I also found that when chasing after ‘techniques of the month’, it could often result in the developing of bad habits and missing the far more important overall concepts.
Maximillian Academy is primarily a grappling (or no-gi) academy. However I also know that you have a black belt in BJJ. Would you call yourself a grappler or a jiu jitsu practioner, and why?
I’d definitely call myself a grappler. I far, far prefer submission-grappling to BJJ . I find it to be more natural and I prefer the fast scrambles which are common. I would get frustrated with the innumerable and (in my opinion) unrealistic uses of the lapels. It’s far more enjoyable for me to focus merely on the mechanics of the body and not worry about the additional dynamic of the gi.
As a top level competitor, who also has a day job and a life outside of grappling, what is your training routine like?
At the moment my training routine is focused primarily around the students. Meaning that I’ll partake in the sparring (and often conditioning) aspects of our group classes which we do three times a week. Occasionally I might manage an extra session where it’s just me rolling with someone.
In your opinion, what is the one key factor (if there is such a thing) to success in competition?
A massive factor in competition (perhaps the biggest I’d say) is heart. You can have a guy who’s far more technical, but heart goes a long, long way. The simple grit and ‘inner-disposition’ of a grappler (or any competitor) is vital to competition.
What is your opinion on the ‘street’ vs ‘sport’ debate that often comes up in jiu jitsu circles?
I think the answer to the question is, ‘Why do you train?’ If it’s for competition, then great, focus on the sport side. If it’s for self-defense purposes then go after that.
What do you like the most about BJJ/grappling?
I particularly enjoy the scramble. I love the accelerated pace of the scramble, which I find also becomes a technical, emotional and physical battle as both guys are vying to the best of their abilities for the ultimate position whilst rolling, turning and moving at a fast pace. I love the fact that it’s also a bit more dynamic than the classic positions which makes it fun and exciting.
If you had to convince someone as to why they should train BJJ or grappling, what argument would you use?
After you get through the initial rough patch of learning the basics, it’s really fun.
What is your favourite technique and why?
Probably a straight armbar from mount. When it’s applied tightly, there is so much power available to the submission. It’s just so satisfying.
Finally, do you have any last words for our readers?
Yeah, we train in Claremont on Mondays and Wednesdays (19:30 to 21:00) and Saturdays (12:00 to 14:00), come on down! 😉
Thanks Jason, we’ll definitely take you up on that offer sometime.
Jason will be presenting a no-gi seminar at Infinitus Jiu Jitsu on Saturday the 25th of June. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from one of the best. The cost is R200 per person and spots are limited, so book now.