Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Training Full Time

My instructor has fallen sick, so no BJJ today or yesterday. I decided to once again try to break in my Vibrams, which is putting my calves in a ton of pain! I totally see how the vibrams change the way you run though, and the trails around my house aren't too gravelly so I can run with no pain on my feet. I'm hoping that I won't need to go back to traditional running shoes now.

On Sunday, I found out that one of my teammates had just moved to Camp Springs, Maryland to train full time under Lloyd Irvin. For those who don't know, Lloyd Irvin runs one of the most successful Jiu Jitsu teams in America. He has garnered some controversy amongst BJJ traditionalists, as Lloyd gained his black belt relatively quickly, and has produced some to black belt rather fast as well. Some of his more famous students are JT Torres, Mike Fowler, and Tracy Goodell. Tracy went from blue to brown in only one year. Lloyd was a businessmen before he entered the Jiu Jitsu world, and therefore has the money to give students a living stipend so they can train full time.

I think a lot of people at some point have wondered what it would be like to train full time. I certainly have wondered what it'd be like. And while BJJ is a lot of fun, I could see doing it full time as being somewhat stressful. I don't know if Lloyd provides his students with health insurance, but there are bound to be injuries training full time and it's risky to put all your eggs in one basket like that and then get injured. There is the risk of burnout like there is in any other sport. I've been doing some form of martial arts since I was 8 and have yet to burn out, but it is something to keep in mind. There are few people other than Lloyd who have really made BJJ into a full on career. After competing for many years, I imagine most black belts aspire to run their own academies. Running an academy is quite an endeavor, and I can only imagine how tough it is to keep the costs of a gym afloat, pay the instructors, and have some left for the owner. I think this is why many black belts hold seminars and charge anywhere from 60-150 per person.

On an emotional level, would I train full time? I'm 22 and currently unemployed- of course that sounds awesome! But from a levelheaded perspective, someone like me essentially becoming a professional athlete and then trying to piggyback off of it into a career is a bit far fetched. Plus I have this degree I'd like to use someday, plus eventually get a masters.

I can only imagine what my parents' reaction would be if I told them my college degree was going out the window to jiu jitsu!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dustin Denes Seminar

Today I had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Dustin Denes. Dustin is a 3rd degree black belt with quite a slew of accomplishments, including submitting Marcelo Garcia in a BJJ competition, a 12-4-3 MMA record, helping start American Top Team, and training for a period of time in Brazil under the Nogueira brothers. There's more information about him on his website http://www.dustindenes.com

I got out of my internship at 5:30pm (I'm still looking for a full time job- read: paid) and (fighting jersey shore traffic and the rain) raced over to the seminar, which was held at BJJ Shore Academy. BJJ Shore Academy is run by Bill Scott, a first degree black belt under Pablo Popovitch. As soon as I entered the gym, a woman greeted me, showed me the locker rooms, and took my ticket verification for the seminar. Bill immediately introduced himself, and all the other students were very friendly. I am pretty sure I was the only person who did not train there, which made it all the more awesome that everyone was so welcoming. I was also one of the lower ranking students; most of the others were purple or brown belts with one other blue belt who had 2 stripes.

Dustin immediately got into drilling. We went over three things during the seminar

- basic triangle setup
- transition from the armbar to the triangle
- omoplata

Even though this was a three hour seminar, these three items took up the entire time. It looks very basic, but Dustin showed some ways of setting up the triangle and omoplata that I had never seen before. I was drilling with one purple belt who bases him game off of the triangle and he said he felt lost! I liked spending such a long time drilling each one. Dustin is very big on details, and went around to each pair and gave a great deal of attention and instruction. He is very intense, which I've found is a teaching style I really like. He balances it out with a sense of humor. For example, whenever he sees someone who doesn't have their grips, he tells them "What are you doing? Waiting to sign autographs? Holding your hand out for a margarita?" He calls his drills "chop certified" and "battle tested", meaning that he has used them consistently in competition and that they are high percentage moves. I like having these basic moves broken down so that I can understand how they really work and how to execute them in different situations. I'm not sure if I'll ever base my game off of the triangle, but I'll certainly be more gutsy in going for it.

It's hard to explain why I enjoyed the seminar so much. When you have someone as enthusiastic and caring as Dustin teaching, it's hard to not like what you're learning. He talked to everyone during the seminar, and spoke to me for a little asking where I had trained, etc. I also like Dustin's mindset of always working hard and always practicing to improve. I think that most teachers emphasize this, but it's very evident that Dustin really lives what he preaches. To him, there are no "tricks" or shortcuts in jiu jitsu; it's just a matter of drilling, repetition, and understanding.

Additionally, BJJ Shore Academy seems like a great place to train. The students, Bill and the other black belt (forget his name) were extremely welcoming, and invited me to come back whenever I wanted to. They seem to have seminars somewhat frequently, and mentioned past guests like Pablo Popovitch and Vagner Rocha. They knew my current instructor's name (Jason Scully), and spoke highly of him. If I lived in that area, I would definitely train there. You can find out more about BJJ Shore Academy at http://www.bjjshoreacademy.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In the Absence of Mat Time

I still have some nagging injuries from Grapplers Quest on Saturday. I think it might be a good idea to take the next few days off. I had 3 hours of class last night, and my injuries definitely flared up.

However, I think this is a good opportunity for me to formulate a game plan. I need to write out my strengths, weaknesses, and my "go to" moves in every situation. I think I'm going to sit down with my coach and go over it as well, as he is big on game plans and has done an EXCELLENT job of pointing out my own weaknesses.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What is Jiu Jitsu? (courtesy of Lapel Choke)

I found this on Lapel Choke's Facebook page and thought I'd repost it. It's in regards to how difficult it is to explain Jiu Jitsu and the subsequent addiction.

It's hard explaining Jiu Jitsu to people. They never want to look past the choking and joint locking. They instantly imagine it's some super macho wrestling thing where guys beat each other up and snap towels in the locker room. There's no proper way to verbalize things like pushing yourself past physical and mental limits, when you're about to break and you dig deeper than you ever have to come out the other side victorious...or at least wiser for the experience.

There's no comparing the camaraderie, the respect, the fun, the learning, the grace and the art, the ups and downs. And as much as we love it and want to share it with them, they will never know unless they step on the mats themselves.

To all my brothers and sisters, arm draggers, joint lockers, ankle snatchers, and throat hunters, you know exactly what I'm talking about, and for that you'll always have my respect.

See you on the mats.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

First Blue Belt Tournament

Today I had my first blue belt tournament. This was by far the most difficult tournament I've competed in. As I've previously stated, there is a bigger range of blue belts in terms of experience compared to white belts, which makes it that much more challenging.

I barely squeaked out a win in my first gi match. She was in my guard most of the time, and I won on advantages through submission attempts. My legs were DEAD after that match. I had to sit down, drink some water and recover. I've never felt that tired after a match before, and I think it definitely played into the my next match, but I don't think it was the reason I lost. My second match I lost via Americana and lost my third place match on points. When nogi came around, I won my first match in a very back and forth exchange. After 6 minutes, the score was 10-10 with one advantage for each of us. They added 3 minutes on the clock and we went again. The girl who I was going against had a very obnoxious coach, who at one point told my opponent "don't worry, you can let her take your back!" Well, I did exactly that and won by rear naked choke! My next and final nogi match was against the same girl who beat me by Americana in gi. This time she won on points. So that means I didn't place in gi but won 2nd in nogi. I found out that the girl who got the Americana on me and won first in nogi trains at Lloyd Irvin's main school in Camp Springs and is only 15! Perhaps another one of Lloyd's prodigies? (not because she beat me, but because she is 15 and going against blue belts who I am almost certain outweighed her!)

One thing that surprised me was that I was not nearly as upset as I was when I lost at Pan Ams. I don't know if it's maturity in competition or just understanding that there are more experienced blue belts than me (I've only been a blue belt for a month), but it was nice to not get too worked up and sad over a loss. Additionally, my coach pointed out (and I recognized) some aspects of my game I need to work on. I feel as though I don't really have a gameplan when I compete, and I think that's important to figure out. My coach has asked me what I like to play, and quite honestly I often work with what happens. I think it's important to be aggressive and set the tone for the match so they are at your mercy and you can execute your strengths.

Overall, I think this was a very important learning experience for me. I'm excited to work on the weaker aspects of my game and figure out a gameplan. But my elbow is in pain from that Americana (which is strange because I am very flexible) and I rolled over my big toe! So I think a few days off are in order.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


One of my biggest pet peeves is laziness. I don't mean getting up late on the weekend or pressing the snooze button a couple of times. I have two definitions of laziness. One is when there is a distinct lack of motivation in someone that prevents them from improving their lives. The second is when someone has someone else do something they know they can do, but just don't feel like doing it.

The first reason is one of the reasons I choose to do BJJ and remain an active person. I think it's very easy to fall into the trap of coming home from school/work, sitting in front of the TV, eating dinner and/or having a beer, and then going to sleep. Believe me, there are some days I came back from class/school/interning and all I wanted was a nap! (which I totally did when I was injured) :p But I've found that some of my best training days are those days when I felt tired and did not feel like going to train. Part of that is probably because when you're tired, you really don't feel like doing something and thus often have low expectations.

But (especially in jiu jitsu), there is also a drive to not only remain active, but to improve. It's hard to measure improvement when you go to the gym outside of the way you look in the mirror. There are only so many ways to perfect your squats or dead lifts in terms of technique and weight. But in BJJ, you improve (in my opinion) in every class. Whether it's the repetition of drills, or working to pull off the same move on different people, you're improving your jiu jitsu.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jack of all trades, master of none

I don't think there's really much I can say about training at this point. I have Grapplers Quest in a week, and I feel as prepared as I can be. However, I've been watching more MMA lately and have noticed a couple of things.

Ever since the end of middle school, I've watched MMA. As I've previously written, I began with a karate/kickboxing background, so I was first training in striking/standup martial arts. I remember watching my first few MMA matches online and I was intrigued at how MMA fighters blended striking and grappling styles.

However, this was back in 2004, and MMA had not (and probably still hasn't) fully developed. I feel that people who now watch MMA are forgetting that MMA in and of itself is not a style. MMA is not A martial art; it's Mixed Martial ARTS. This means that it's a blend of styles, and different fighters typically base their strategy around the style they are best in. For example, Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck built their style around wrestling, while guys like Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva built their styles around striking. I feel as though people are losing appreciation for the individual martial arts that go into MMA. People get bored and boo whenever a fight hits the ground. They ignore the sweeps, passes and setups that most BJJers/grapplers will often see. I don't care if someone doesn't know what's going on, but if you're going to watch MMA I think you should at least do some research on what the heck you're watching!

Because of this blending, I see many MMA fighters become a jacks of all trades but masters of none. Many are okay at each style, and sometimes it's sloppily thrown together. I hate seeing a fight hit the ground while the person on top stalls to retain top control. There are so many basic sweeps, setups, submissions, and even takedowns that many MMA fighters seem to not go for, even at the highest levels. Striking often becomes a series of haymakers with little appropriate timing or precision. I'm not saying all MMA fighters are like this, but there's an increasing amount that are.