Personal Evolution of Jiu Jitsu

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition.

One of the biggest debates of the last year in jiu jitsu circles has been the street vs sport debate.

I am not going to go into it in too much detail. Basically it boils down to the ‘old guard’ of jiu jitsu practitioners bemoaning the sportification of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the ‘new school’ defending their belief that competition jiu jitsu is just as effective in a self defence scenario. There are strong arguments for both sides and this platform is not really the place to discuss either.

At Infinitus Jiu Jitsu we train for both self defence and competitions. There are various grappling events happening this year and as I haven’t really written anything about the topic of competition and I thought now might be a good idea to do so.

Whether or not you train purely for self defence, competition jiu jitsu has a lot of benefits for the average student.

It gets you fit.

A lot of people who train jiu jitsu do it for two main reasons. One is for self defence but the other is to get fit(ter). Now, even though jiu jitsu should not require you to be fit to train in the first place, the mere fact that you are doing something physical for an hour will increase your fitness levels over time.

However, if you want to really see boosts in your fitness levels and weight loss, train for sport jiu jitsu matches. Sport jiu jitsu requires you to push yourself to your limits for all 6 minutes of your match. Try pushing yourself to your limit during a few 6 minute rolling sessions and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Learn to trust your techniques.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my first competitions was to trust the techniques I knew. I remember one fight where I did not trust my triangle finish. My setup was good, but I hesitated in completing the choke. My opponent used my hesitation to bust out and pass my guard, leading to my loss. I learned that day that if I have a good triangle setup and simply trusted the rest of the technique, I would finish with a triangle every time.

Testing your jiu jitsu against a strange opponent

One of the downsides of only training at your club/gym/academy is that at some point you will get used to how your fellow students train. For some this takes longer than others, but each of us has a ‘game’ and unless we are actively pushing that ‘game’ to test it’s limits it becomes predictable. By competitng you get to experience other jiu jitsu practitioners ‘games’ and learn how they apply their jiu jitsu.

After the last Mother City Open Ryan came to me and said the following ‘I was not prepared for the aggresion that I faced’. This is so true, unless you compete you may never experience that level of aggression because you are not fighting someone else who is bent on defeating you.


In closing, while I will never force a student to train with a competition mind set or compete in any competition, if approached the right way competition can have valuable advantages to the self defence student.

Get the most out of an open mat

In a few weeks we will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary with an open mat sparring session. If all goes well we will have all available students (and some visitors) sharing the mat and testing their jiu jitsu against each other.

However, if you have never sparred before (or a little) or you only do jiu jitsu for self defence but you don’t want to miss out on a training session, the idea of an open mat can be a daunting one.

Here are some tips to get the best out of an open mat session.

1) You do jiu jitsu for self defence and you only have a few classes under your belt.

Great, go an find other students like yourself (you know who they are) and spend as much time as you want reviewing your techniques. This is a great opportunity to drill the techniques you already know or ask someone about a new technique they have previously learned.  Think about the reflex drills we often do at the end of a class, string some techniques together and practice the drills. Pair up with a more experienced student or your instructor and see if you can learn some new details that increase your proficiency in your already learned techniques.

This is also great advice for women who want to drill their self defence techniques.

2) You only have a few sparring classes experience

Take it easy. An open mat can be tiring if you spend all your energy in your first roll. Work on conservation of energy. Remember that it’s OK to tap, especially against experienced opponents. Use the time to see how to defend against common attacks and where the openings are. Ask questions. If someone does something cool let them show you how they did it and then ask them if you can try it on them. Seasoned jiu jitsu practitioners love sharing their cool tricks.

3) You are have been rolling for years.

Your job is very important. Besides having a huge amount of time to roll and (hopefully) new partners to roll with at some point you may partner up with someone mentioned above. Take this time to share your knowledge with others, or help them drill techniques, even if they may seem ‘boring’ to you. Remember that the foundation of a good practitioner is mastery of the basics, so reviewing the beginner techniques will only improve your game. Feel free to show off a cool new technique or two you have learned. People love to learn new, cool stuff!

If everyone respects the various levels of experience they may come across on the night and acts accordingly, not only does an open mat become a place to have run and roll but also a place where lessons can still be learned and your jiu jitsu can grow.

See you on the mat.

What I learned from the Metamoris Pro Invitational

1) Take out the points and give a longer time limit and you will see some great submission finishes.

2) Keeping it too playful can go too far and put you in a really bad position.

3) Even the boogeyman can be defeated by good technique

3) Arm bars can be escaped from but only when you are in a competition/rolling environment. Faster hip pressure and that arm snaps.

4) Sometimes even World Champions can be sore losers.

5) If Rener Gracie was so badly injured that he could no longer practice jiu jitsu, he definitely has a career in sports/jiu jitsu/MMA commentary.

6) Next time, I’ll wake up early and watch the replays, not the live stream (the time delay between the US and SA is just too much).

All in all a great jiu-jitsu tournament, I am starting to look forward to the next one.

KeepItReal vs KeepItPlayful

Very recently, Ryron Gracie, head instructor of Gracie Academy has started being promoting something he has called the KeepItPlayful Movement.

In essence, the ideals of the KeepItPlayful movement are aimed at teaching students of the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu to never allow egos to dominate their sparring/training. By keeping it playful during a sparring session, one’s aim is never to dominate your opponent with the goal of submissions only. Instead you and your opponent allow each other to experiment with jiu jitsu, or as Ryron calls it, to ‘play’ jiu jitsu. In this manner both of you learn something new about yourselves/your opponent/the techniques, while at  the same time you are able to train with a vast majority of opponents, without running out of steam or injuring yourself.

This is a mindset that I have been in agreement with for some time now and anyone who has read this blog will attest to that. In all my sparring sessions my goal is to keep it as relaxed as possible, so that I can learn more about my jiu jitsu and the jiu jitsu of my opponent.

However it is important to remember that sometimes when keeping it playful you can often forget that you also need to keep it real, a sentiment that both Ryron and his brother Rener Gracie have installed in many jiu jitsu students who have watched their videos or participated in a seminar or class with either of them.

Keeping it real shifts the focus of jiu jitsu to the self defence applicability of the techniques and ensures that you are also spending some of your training time in honing your self defence skills. Does this technique ensure that I am preventing a knock out punch? Can I maintain this position against a larger, stronger opponent? Would this work if my life depended on it?

In my humble opinion both mindsets are valid in the right circumstance. I think it is great the Ryron is promoting the KeepItPlayful Movement.

However we should never forget the importance of KeepingItReal. In my/an ideal world, Rener would be promoting the KeepItReal movement in parallel to Ryron’s KeepItPlayful movement, reminding us all of both sides of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu coin…


The ‘don’t tap me’ philosophy and why it hinders your progress.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to cross train with members of various other local jiu-jitsu schools.

It has been quite an interesting experience training with students of other styles and understanding their fighting mindset. It allows me to broaden my jiu-jitsu by trying out my techniques on someone who would not react in the same manner as a fellow student at my school. I’ve learned so much more about myself than about the various people whom I have sparred with.

The one thing that I have seen a lot is what I like to call the ‘don’t tap me’  philosophy. In basic terms this is where someone who is in danger of getting into a submittable situation uses their speed/strength advantage to power out of a bad situation instead of relying on technique. Its great for them as it means they don’t loose by being submitted. But they don’t learn anything in the process.

Lets go a little deeper.

Lets say you are stronger than your current opponents and every time someone sets up a twisting arm control you use your strength to power out of the control. You dont want to be in twisting arm control, because you know it probably means an arm bar, so you feel good. You have successfully defended the arm bar attack. The next time your opponent sets up twisting arm control you power out again. Life is good. Every time you use strength to power out of the twisting arm control you are saving yourself from being arm barred.

But what if one day your opponent is bigger, heavier or stronger than you. What if he is more skilled and can negate your power move simply by using his better technique. Now you cannot power out of the twisting arm control. Suddenly you are in an arm lock threat position you have never been in before. You cannot use your strength and you have no defence to the next step, the inevitable arm bar.

Now, had you decided somewhere in the past to allow someone to get twisting arm control, you would have experienced what it was like to be there. You could have determined what your defence options are. Maybe they went for the arm bar and you spent some time in that position and learned some way to defend the arm bar. Or maybe they got the arm bar but you saw an openinng you could have used and promised yourself to you would try that next time. Or maybe you just learned a better way to get an arm bar.

Everytime you get into a ‘bad’ position, a submission threat, under top mount, under side mount, you are learning how to defend, escape or use those techniques. Every time you learn how to defend or escape or use those techniques you add another tool to your toolbox.Everytime you add a tool, you have more tools to unleash on your future opponents, giving you the edge every time.

The ‘don’t tap me’ philosophy may mean you don’t loose on the mat, but how it affects what you learn (or don’t learn) about jiu-jitsu and about yourself is worth more than any submission you might give away.

Helio Gracie fight philosophy backed up by science


(by James Smart, co owner and head instructor at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town)

In the Jiu Jitsu world, we know about the changes that Helio Gracie made to Japanese Ju Jitsu. By using leverage he made it more useable by a smaller weaker person and he incorporated live sparring. Some also know that he had a strategy of not losing the fight.  Helio figured that if he did not lose the fight, then in by default his opponent in his attempt to beat Helio would defeat himself, either through exhaustion or through making a mistake.  Others may know that Helios’ sense of preparation or planning for the fight gave him and his family an edge. At the stage of creating these philosophies some 80 years ago, what Helio could not have known, is that in years to follow science and research would prove  that his strategies where sound.

I will now attempt to break down each element of Helio’s strategy and thinking, to show how it makes 100% sense scientifically.

Changes to Japanese Ju Jitsu

Having done Japanese Ju Jitsu for many years, when I started Gracie Jiu Jitsu I found the difference to be subtle but significant. In Japanese Ju Jitsu there are many small joint lock and locks that require great accuracy of finger and thumb placement to be able to make them effective, in Gracie Jiu Jitsu this finite manipulation was excluded. The joint locks are on larger body parts i.e. the elbow, knee, shoulder and use much larger body parts to do the lock i.e. the whole arm, two hands etc. Another marked difference I found was that in Japanese Ju Jitsu, a very lager number of techniques had to be “set up” with a series of other movements and to “soften your opponent”. In Gracie Jiu Jitsu this did not seem so necessary.

So how does this apply to being able to fight more effectively and to science?

In a fight situation it is well known that the fighter’s heart rate goes up and you become stressed. How stressed will be talked about later, but your stress levels will affect many psychological and physiological abilities. At just 115 Beats Per Minute (BPM) your Fine Motor Skills deteriorate, at only 145 BPM your Complex Motor Skills deteriorate. What does that leave you with…………..Gross Motor Skills!

Now might be a good time for me to clarify what the different Motor Skills are that are relevant to this article.

Fine Motor Skills – Skills that are performed by small muscle groups, such as hands and fingers and frequently involve hand-eye coordination. In a fight situation a fine motor skill would include an action requiring hand-eye coordination such as catching someone’s moving hand in a wrist lock.

Gross Motor Skill – These are movements that generally involve large muscle groups or large movements. In fight, a gross motor skill, would include pushing, pulling or two handed gripping.

Complex Motor Skill – Complex Motor Skills are skills which involve hand-eye coordination, timing or tracking and have multiple technique components. An example of a Complex Motor Skill in a fight would be a Double Leg takedown.

So how does all of this relate to Gracie Jiu Jitsu – Gracie Jiu Jitsu in general, is made up of Gross Motor Skills. An Arm Bar, a Body Fold Takedown are all largely Gross Motor Skill techniques. Whether by Genius or by instinct, Helio Gracie when creating Gracie Jiu Jitsu, must have realised that the fine motor skills required for many martial arts to work, were simply too hard to do in a real fight. Yes, there are some Complex Motor Skill techniques in Gracie Jiu Jitsu, and to be able to solve all problems there has to be, but as for Fine Motor Skill, I can’t think of any.

If you take into account that Jogging is considered a 60 to 65% of maximum heart rate activity (with no stress) which means your heart rate will be somewhere around 130 t 140 BPM. In fight, you would have already lost or seriously diminished your ability to use fine and complex motor functions. I added “with no stress” in there because stress does play a part that I will explain. So, consciously or subconsciously, I can see that Helio thought, (maybe not using these terms) it is guaranteed in an attack situation that my heart will elevate, it’s almost guaranteed that it will be above 115BPM. So in a fight, if all I have will have at best is gross and complex motor skill, it makes sense for me to only train techniques that include complex and gross motor skills!


The next of Helios strategies, that I believe came more from Judo than Ju Jitsu (but please don’t shoot me if I’m wrong) was Sparring or what today we commonly call Rolling. During a fight our cognitive ability (think, prioritize, understand, plan, remember, and solve problems) deteriorates at about 175 BPM. Only using gross motor skills will combat this deterioration to a degree due to the fact that they do not require so much cognitive ability to bring into operation. However, many skills and even more situations do require a cognitive process. The question then is, if we know our stress and heart rates are going to rise. How can we make the cognitive process easier? In many martial arts we are taught a technique and then we drill it 20 times, 50 times, 100 times, often depending on how dedicated you are as a student. The problem is that in most cases, the drilling of a single technique does not teach us when that technique should be applied in a real environment. This means that, when the day comes that the fighter is “in fight” has a heart rate of 175BPM and sees an attack, the process of selecting the correct technique is very slow due to the fact that it is the first time the brain has had to process that information and make that selection.

Helio incorporated Sparring into the learning process, and in fact in more recent years, Reflex Development and Fight Simulation has also been included in the training process by Ryron and Rener. How does this benefit the student? In sparring and even more so in Reflex development and Fight Sim, we are not only practising the techniques, but we are incorporating them into a cognitive learning process. Our brain is processing the information, recognising the problem, building pathways for that program to be recalled quickly and solving new problems all in a relatively comfortable environment. In fact, studies have show (known as the Inverted-U Hypothesis) that between 115BPM and 145BPM cognitive processing is working at its’ best. So by doing a Fight Simulation and not accelerating the heart rate too high, we are able to optimize that learning process and give the brain and the body the reflexes to respond quickly when being attacked.

Not Losing

In Helios strategy of not losing he had 2 tactics. Firstly, it was to not make a mistake, to allow the opponent to do all the trying to win and eventually for the attacker to make a mistake. The second tactic was about being comfortable no matter where he was. Helio was comfortable underneath the mount on anyone. He had been under the mount on some of the best fighters of his day and not lost. If he was comfortable under Ricksons mount, then how could he not be comfortable under anyone’s.

Both of these strategies link into the same effect. Helio by being comfortable underneath was able to stay calm, keep his heart rate and stress levels at a level where he could use his Gross Motor Skills, Complex Motor Skills and Cognitive processing at its’ most effective. Conversely, his opponent by being on top, unable to beat Helio and not comfortable underneath, resulted in frustration which would send his heart rate through the roof. The fighter would be losing his Fine Motor Skills (which many martial arts rely on) deteriorating his Complex Motor Skill and have diminished Cognitive processing, resulting in a mistake, leaving the Calm and relaxed Helio to finish the fight.

We have all felt these effects when sparring normally in two ways. Firstly when we roll with someone we think we should be able to beat, we then try harder, stressing more and putting pressure on ourselves to be the victor. As a consequence, our brain freezes and we end up not being able to beat that person. Secondly, when we roll with someone we think can beat us. We get mounted, are not comfortable, get stressed, try to escape when we shouldn’t, make a dumb mistake that we would not normally do (this dumb mistake is the result of extreme stress and called Hyper Vigilance) and get tapped out.


Preparation can be seen in two main ways in Gracie Jiu Jitsu both ways giving the same very important result. Firstly we see that Helio prepared for a fight by having a plan. He knew he was not going to exchange punches, he knew he was going to close the distance, take his opponent to the ground, maintain and or improve his position and then submit his opponent. Having a clear plan gave Helio confidence, it decreased his stress before and during the fight. Stress level has a direct affect on the heart rate, the greater the stress the more elevated the heart rate. Reducing this had the effect of reducing his heart rate and as we now know, this resulted in him being able to perform better in the fight.

Preparation also has another benefit, in Fight Simulation classes we prepare by exposing ourselves to a simulated stress of our opponent trying to hit us. More recently we have included some “stress drills”. Both having our opponent trying to hit us and the stress drills has one main effect. It changes our perception of firstly that we can protect our self against the punches and secondly we become comfortable with how exhausted we will feel in a full on fight.

When someone learns to swim they learn in the shallow end of a swimming pool. Once they can swim in the shallow end they move to the deep end of that same swimming pool. Nothing has really changed in the swimming part, the only thing that has changed is that the student knows they can’t touch the bottom. However, the students stress levels will elevate because there perception of the associated danger of not being able to touch the bottom is greater. Once the student can swim in the deep end confidently they may well move to the Ocean. What happens to their stress level? It goes up again, simply due to the associated danger of the open ocean. Now if the student goes back to the deep end of the swimming pool, they have significantly less stress, simply because the perception of the danger has changed.

Fight Simulation and planning has the same effect of swimming in the Ocean, it changes our perception of the associated danger, decreases our stress level, decreases our heart rate and in turn makes us more able to use our Complex and Gross Motor Skills and our Cognitive processes.

Bringing it all together

Helio was not only ahead of his time with regards to the development of Gracie Jiu Jitsu Techniques, but also with his mindset. Somehow, Helio may have figured out that his ability to learn to defend himself in the shortest possible space of time, revolved around not only leverage, but a number of other key elements. He majored on techniques that used Gross Motor Skills. He created training methods that keep stress levels low enough to use cognitive abilities and strategies to speed up cognitive processing. Helio  kept the heart rate low enough to be able to use Complex Motor Skills and finally, he developed methods to change his perception of the of danger he was in.

This information was collated and transferred into a Gracie Jiu Jitsu context by James Smart. The main source of information and scientific studies was Bruce K. Siddle excellent book – Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge.

2010 and beyond…

2009 was a great jiu jitsu year for me. I attended two awesome black belt seminars, one by Ryron Gracie himself, the other by South African black belt Nicolas Gregoriades. I was tested for (and was awarded at the beginning of this year with) my blue belt and I have trained with some great jiu jitsu people from around the world.

2010 will hopefully bring me towards a greater understanding of myself and my jiu jitsu. I know I still have a lot to learn but I can start seeing the top of the mountain. It might be far away, but from down here the view up there looks awesome.

To start off the year I had planned to post something (again) along the lines of the jiu jitsu mindset. Fortunately for you (and me) the great Ryron Gracie beat me to it. He has written a great article about Ultimate Endurance, which as far as I am concerned completely captures the essence of what Rener referred to in his fightworks podcast as the “Gracie Jiu Jitsu philosophy”.

So read the article and take some time to think about your jiu jitsu and whether you are training for Ultimate Endurance.

Jiu Jitsu Mindset – the 200 principle

James has started posting some of his thoughts about the mindset required to train effectively in jiu jitsu. You can read them on the Academy’s Facebook page.

I chatted to James about taking these mindset moments and expanding to give us a better understanding of the mindset and how to acheive it. To do this I thought about where I struggle with the acheiving the right mindset and asked him a few questions accordingly.

Mindset Moment 1, the 200 principle – the 200 principle says that when you learn a technique, whether it’s an escape, submission, makes no difference, it takes 200 attempts. Some will be successful, some not and some nearly, before you manage to get it right every time.

To make this easier start with easy opponents and as you get it right work to the harder ones. This way every time I get submitted when I’m trying a new escape I can count another one off towards the 200.”

Q: When I spar I find that I spend more time trying to defend attacks that being able to perform a technique, so it takes me ages to reach my 200. How can I spar more effectively to achieve this ?

A: Firstly, I think you should look at defending as practicing your technique. I know sometimes it seems like you are just running, try to use technique. The other thing is to remember that in Jiu Jitsu there is a food chain. So you should try and choose the techniques you want to practice based on your sparring partner. i.e and to use something Rener wrote recently – if you are rolling with someone who is better then you, practice your defence. If they are the same level and weight, practice your A game and if they are not as good as you practice your attacks. If you are better than
your opponent, you should also enable them to try their attacks though. This way you will get to practice your defence on someone who is not quite as sharp on their attack. This helps you build the skills in an easier way.

If Gary and I are working on a new technique we don’t go straight off and try it on our best students. We try it on our newest students first and the better we get at it the better the student we try it on.

Q: I don’t have the opportunity to drill techniques besides when I come to class, are their any suggestions you have to practice techniques without a partner at home ?

A: For sure, two ways. One (and you may want to do this in private) if I am going to practice my Upa Escape. Find some floor space, and just go through the steps as if you had a partner. Obviously this will not work on some techniques, but the repetition works great for others. Second is to just
visualise it. They showed some years ago that visualisation can work nearly as well as physical practice. The clearer you can visualise it the better the effect. Gary and I used to go into the Gracie Academy and just drill either on our own or together. One day we were just drilling quietly on our
own and noticed Helio stood in the doorway. No idea how long he had been there but it was a cool experience. Who knows what can happen when you just drill stuff 🙂

Q: Often when I am sparring I can’t think of what technique to do in a given situation and I get submitted. What can I do differently so I can learn from the position/submission?

A: Hmmm I’m not sure you have to do anything differently, in my experience it’s as simple as mat time. Most of the time you probably do know the escape or defence it’s just that you can’t think of it quick enough to be able to defend. Why? Because your opponent is ahead of you on the curve. His action started before your reaction. Does this mean you will always get submitted?? No, it just means that until you can recognise the indicator for his action earlier, you will. But don’t take that as being bad, it’s just what it is. I hear people say to Gary and I “but you knew what I was going to do before I did it” it’s not that we are mind readers……promise! It’s just that we have been submitted so many times or been in that position so many times, that we can recognise the initiation of your movement as you do it and therefore get ahead of the curve. So roll more, get tapped more and look at each time you get tapped as not another loss but as another one of the count down until you can, not get tapped by that move with that set up again.

Q: I don’t want to get submitted when I spar, as this obviously shows that I am bad at Jiu-Jitsu, so I am going to do everything I can not to be submitted. Is this the right way to train?

A: I understand your desire to not get submitted, it makes sense. If I am rolling surely I am there to win so how can it be good to be submitted? This is a common mindset.

In short, if you want to progress you have to get submitted. Let me ask a couple of questions back.

1, Does being submitted show that you are bad a Jiu Jitsu, or does it show you were trying something new and just didn’t get it quite right?

2, If you never get into positions where there is a chance you could get submitted, how will ever get to really test your defence?

If you never test your defence you will never learn and then in street or tourney if you get in to a bad place you will not be able to get out. The time to get submitted is when you are training with your buddies in the academy not in the street!

The funny things is, the techniques we seem to get submitted by most in the really stages are the ones when never get submitted by later. I used to get caught by one guy at the Gracie Academy all the time by Kimura from side mount, it was his move and he got everyone with it, and when I say all the time I mean ALL the time. Then after about the millionth time (I exaggerate), I got the defence down and he nor anyone else caught me with the same set up and submission again.

If i could travel the world, rolling with all the guys who had specialities until i could defend it, then move to the next I would. Braulio for his Triangles, Ryron for his armbars, Rener for his foot locks, Roger for his chokes from topmount, Marcelo for his rear naked chokes etc etc. Imagine after all that and being able to defend all of their best moves, how good I would be a Jiu Jitsu!

Now, getting submitted doesn’t mean just lie there and let someone choke you out. What it does mean, is get underneath, try your defence, if you get caught try again, if you defend it leave it a little closer to the finalisation next time and try again. Get caught….good! It means you found a hole in your defence. Try again. Here’s a thing, Gary and I get tapped by some of our beginner students, Why? Is it because they are so amazing they can tap us. No, it’s because we leave defending the submission sooooo late to test ourselves that sometimes we get caught. It’s fine…..try again 🙂

Learning to relax

Something I have always struggled with is this concept of learning to relax while sparring. It is always easy to relax and practice a technique slowly in class, your training partner is usually as focused on the learning of the technique as you are, so you can take your time and make sure you have mastered each part of it. There’s also time to ask an instructor to take a look at how you are performing the technique and get his feedback on where you are going wrong (note: if your instructor is not able to spend a little time on helping you with this, time to find another place to train).

When it comes time to spar however, that all seems to go out of the window. The body seems to take over from the mind and all the technique you just learned flys out of the window as you do everything in your power not to be submitted.

For me its something that I have to decide up front. Am I going to be all macho and try and destroy everyone I roll with or am I going to let the opponent dictate the pace and react to him. If I make up my mind before I even step onto the mat, I usually find that it is easier to keep relaxed and focus on the opponent and find the gaps to perform the techniques.

In reality this is harder than it looks, as some part of me still wants to submit everyone that I roll with. I think for this reason I must seek out the higher belts and those with more skill than me. This way I already know that I will not be in a position to submit and I am forced to relax and take my time.

Granted it means I’m going to get my ass handed to me every time, but hey, jiu jitsu isn’t about the points, well, not to me anyway!