Thursday, January 31, 2013

Deez Ribs

Nursing this rib injury ... On Prof Rodrigo's advice I came in to the academy to workout a little on my own tonight to see if I would be good to go for tomorrow's double (teaching the Dawn Patrol class at 6:30 am and the Masters/Over 40 class at 6:00 pm).  And while I don't have full mobility side-to-side, and can't take any pressure of any significance on my left side, I am good to go.

I think the timing will actually work out alright.  I'm headed for London in a week and won't be back until the middle of February.  That should be plenty of time to heal up and be ready to wade back into the water when I return.  Between now and departure time, I'm going to be pounding the Cissus - and I'm still convinced that the supplement played a major role in helping me recover from a far more significant shoulder injury back in the spring of 2008.

Some general conditioning work tonight, picking up the pace after about an hour to sync with the timing of the specific session being taught on the main mat.  Some double legs, some seoinages, some running and side shuffling, and a lot of technical lifts and hipscapes.  Nowhere near 100%, of course, but on the bright side of 50% for sure.

Looking to work on self-defense for both the early birds and the night owls.  I'm absolute on that.  We'll work the guillotine counter from the curriculum and probably the hip throw haymaker counter.  Then to the mat for the armbar from mount, north-south armbar from side control, and kimura option from the north-south armbar from side control.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Spring Training Comes Early to San Diego

Magid Hage v. Clark Gracie

Magid Hage v. Zak Maxwell

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Masters - at GB Seattle

I'm really enjoying our "Masters" Over 40 class that Professor Rodrigo has been developing over the past few weeks.  We've got a class on Friday nights at both the Bellevue and Seattle locations (Professor Doug and, I think, Professor Carlos, have been running the Bellevue/Eastside session).

One of the things that we've really been focusing on is self-defense.  We managed to train three different self-defense techniques last night: countering a punch, a kick, and a "grab."  I'll defer to Professor's preferences, but I think there's real gold in building the Masters class around self-defense.

We also did some work on escapes, specifically side control escapes and reguarding.  The nice thing is that we continue to work with the curriculum (these escapes are part of Week 11).  But I've been using Prof's variations and adaptations to suit the specific needs of our folks.

All in all, a lot of learning about how to teach jiu-jitsu most effectively.  I'm having a great time and if you're in the area and over 40 (or even close to it), consider stopping by some Friday evening for some great, efficient  training with your fellow grown-ups.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"When a Week of Rain is a Year"

One of my favorite lines from Roethke is a great way to describe being off the mats for even a short period of time.

My latest challenge have been these meio-pesado blue belts.  What they've been exposing is the downside of my relatively static half-guard game.  My initial reaction had been to try and develop a more dynamic half guard, moving more toward a deep half game, for example.  But I'm having second thoughts, for most of the obvious reasons.

There was a line in a recent retrospective on Terere that caught me.  It suggested that Terere felt claustrophobic when playing from the bottom.  And because of this, he focused on having an exceptional top game.

This reminded me that one of the more important things for a black belt to do is to carve out his or her jiu-jitsu out of the whole stone.  You are what you is, to steal a line from Zappa, and you're better off figuring out how to make that work rather than wasting your time wondering what life would be like if you were someone else with someone else's game.

Everyone is different.  There's a lot of jiu-jitsu out there.  Some of it, arguably most of it, is ultimately there just to keep you from being ignorant.  The rest, on the other hand, is all yours - if you'll have it.

There were a "few tricks with a knife I used to do" - to continue my lyrical larceny - when it comes to having the kind of game that will accentuate my positives.  2013 will be largely about trying bring that back.

162.4 on the mat post-train.  Another back-loaded training week with four sessions scheduled between tonight and Saturday, including the Masters class Friday night.  I'm looking forward to being lighter.

Rocambole Sweep

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January: Mid-month Update

My first goal for the New Year in general and January in specific was to pass the ICP by the 15th.  With that behind me, the other major goal for January was to try and get a sense of what kind of training schedule I can count on reliably.

This is all the more important now with the Friday evening, over-40, "Masters Class" I'll be teaching every other week or so.

One tricky thing will be to keep my week from starting out strong and then fading.  Prof Rodrigo used to talk about a MTWF schedule being optimal for training.  But because I can't count on getting to train on Fridays (there could easily be a scenario like last Friday when I taught the morning class and didn't teach or train for the Masters class), the danger is that I would go four days without putting in some serious matwork (Thursday through Sunday).

Swapping out the Wednesday for Thursday helps - and I think training Thursday night and training/teaching Friday morning will be good over the long-term.  But it still presents the possibility of going three days in a row without rigorous training.

This means that I'm going to have to make Thursday a real blow out session - making sure I spar at least three times and probably some HICT training afterward.  This way I don't have to rely on Fridays being a strong session from a training perspective.  I can probably get to the academy every other Saturday, which will also help a lot.

Another possibility is sneaking in for a nooner on Friday, i.e., just the Live Training session, to make up for whatever I don't/can't get Thursday or Saturday.  Not something I can count on every week, but something that might be available more often than I think.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My ICP 4 Essay

I've edited the essay somewhat.  But this is what I provided Gracie Barra in all relevant respects as my essay for the Instructor's Certification Program 4.

I don't say some of what I had planned to say (and it seems this week like everybody from Rener Gracie to Ryan Hall is busy saying it anyway).  I wanted to keep my words to Gracie Barra as pure as possible, as focused on what matters is possible - maybe even as beautiful as possible.  So consider this essay, if you will, the "A" side to a single whose "B" side is more howl than harmony.


So how do we build a jiu-jitu for everyone, a jiu-jitsu that will itself be endlessly reshaped by every man, woman, kid, fighter, over-40 adult who trains jiu-jitsu?  When I think about what I have learned through the ICP course, there are three elements that come to mind.

(Organization) guidance/support/creation

Jiu-jitsu is bigger than any one organization.  But the enormous task of bringing jiu-jitsu to everyone is something only an organization can do.

And only a certain type of organization can do it.  On the one hand, the organization needs to be strong.  It needs a clear, coherent structure and technical authority to ensure that the jiu-jitsu being shared with the world is of consistent high-quality and most useful for the most people.  At the same time, people are diverse, and any effort to bring jiu-jitsu to everyone must be both innovative enough and flexible enough to accommodate the variety of people who will be training it.

This means the organization must be as comfortable teaching single moms as it is training professional fighters.  The organization must have a plan for teaching kids and their parents, knowing that the learning styles and needs of kids and parents are very different.  Even better, the organization tasked with bringing jiu-jitsu to everyone should have a track record of doing this: building large and growing kids programs, developing championship caliber competitive sport fighters, regularly providing recreational jiu-jitsu practitioners with a key component in building a healthy, active lifestyle.

Lastly, the organization itself must be capable of growing as jiu-jitsu grows.  Whether this means building schools in new places and unique locations, or keeping up with the latest innovations in technique, the organization needs to be able to take advantage of new opportunities as well as new knowledge that can improve our ability to learn, teach, and share the best of what jiu-jitsu has to offer.  This includes taking advantage of new technologies such as social media and apps that make it possible to reach far more people far more intimately than ever before.

(Individual) responsibility/discipline/belonging

Training in jiu-jitsu can help instill a sense of responsibility.  First and most importantly, it is a responsibility to oneself.  To take the initial challenge to begin training, and to keep up a schedule of training at least twice a week requires a person to make a commitment first to themselves, often in addition to all the other important obligations and commitments in their lives, such as family, school and/or work.

As the student becomes more and more a part of the school - establishing a routine, learning their teammates and training partner's names, listening to the always-available advice from brand-new blue belts - a sense of belonging develops.  This is my place, the student begins to think.  This is where I go to be what I want to be.

As instructors, we can encourage this in a number of ways.  The first is by being happy, energetic and excited that our students have decided to devote their time to the school.  Often people come to the academy hoping to be “taken away” from the concerns of daily life for a little while.  As instructors, our enthusiasm can help them tremendously in this

It is also helpful to let students talk about their jiu-jitsu.  For those of us who have been training for many years, it can be easy to slip into “lecture mode.”  When we are off the mats talking with students, we should let them tell us what they are thinking about training, about the techniques they are trying to learn, what’s working and what’s not.   We can learn a lot more from our students this way while instilling in them a sense of the academy as a place where what they think about their training actually matters.

One last way we can encourage this sense of belonging is by maintaining a clean and inviting school.  A school that is well-maintained says something about the instructors and students who train there, and having a school where the mats are clean and there is no clutter and the lights are nice and bright is a school that new student’s will be especially proud to belong to.

Even more, it is a place that a student will want to show to friends and family.  And, who knows?  There may be an aspiring jiu-jitsu practitioner among them!

 (The Practice of the Art) self-defense/self-confidence/self-expression

For the vast majority of people, self-defense is the reason why they choose to begin their jiu-jitsu journey.  Whether it is the ability to defend oneself against an unknown assailant on the street or a well-known professional fighter in the ring or cage, people choose jiu-jitsu because they believe it is an effective way for them to keep themselves safe against adversity.

In my opinion, everything else in jiu-jitsu flows from this.  How we conduct our classes, how we show, explain and practice technique, how we set up and run a Live Training session …  Even how we conduct ourselves in the world, trying to make better, more rational, saner and safer choices for ourselves and our families is connected with this philosophy of balance.

This is where the self-confidence comes from, not just the sense of being able to protect against antagonists, but also in the sense of being able to protect oneself from non-human antagonists, the sort of challenges that we all face in life.  We learn from jiu-jitsu the importance of not allowing bad situations to get worse whenever possible, and how even in the worse situations, keeping calm and looking for small, incremental progress is often the best way to make things better.

Jiu-jitsu also provides a tremendous opportunity for self-expression, often for those who have a hard time expressing themselves in other environments such as school.  The shy kid in math class can put on the gi and transform himself or herself into someone else entirely.  The boy or girl can even become their own role model once he or she decides to apply the same discipline that has paved the way for success on the mat in jiu-jitsu class back into his or her work at school and life at home.  There is a saying that even the smallest housecat sees the King of the Jungle when looking into a mirror.  Jiu-jitsu can be that mirror for many of us.

(Conclusion) always learning/making it happen/new global is local

I have learned a great deal as a black belt instructor participating in the instructor’s certification program – far more than I expected to learn when I began taking the course.  Especially in the areas of business development and management, I feel as if I am only a white belt.

But much of what I have learned through this course was very familiar.  This is because I have sought out many opportunities to learn more and more about the Gracie Barra mission of jiu-jitsu for everyone – including participating at the recent fall meeting here in Seattle with Professor Almeida.  Whether I ever run my own Gracie Barra school or not, I know I will be a better professor of jiu-jitsu for having participated in all of these opportunities to learn.

Last, I must offer thanks to my professor, Rodrigo Lopes, who very early on saw the wisdom in the jiu-jitsu for everyone approach and began adopting the curriculum and sharing it with his students years ago.  And while the changes were not popular with everyone, our schools are growing like never before with kids, women, competitors, Over 40 … you name it.   Professor Rodrigo is making jiu-jitsu for everyone happen here in Washington State and I am thrilled to be even a small part of this project.

"Nor do the wind the sun or the rain"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tuff E Nuff?

One of my New Year's resolutions for 2013 is not to complain about my on the mat performance unless my four-week moving average of training frequency is 3.5 or better.  This is a A-/B+ minimum standard, which I can accept.  Any time my training frequency drops below this level, there is no sense in being self-critical save to say simply, "I'm not training enough."

And given my current four-week moving average of 2.75, all I have to say about tonight's effort on the tatame is: I'm not training enough.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Just turned in my essay for the Instructor Certification Program and, if all goes well, I should be receiving my ICP4 certificate in a few days.

Redoubling my efforts to finish this course on time has helped repair the hole burned into my jiu-jitsu soul back near the beginning of the month. There's more work to do. But focusing on what Prof Almeida referred to as "the new global" has been a nice compliment to my "Marcelo Garcia rule" (a rule that helped wean me off MMA message boards years ago).

I'll post the essay later. I decided to go the less toxic route, choosing to remember what's great about jiu-jitsu rather than lament. At the end of the day, I can't help but wonder if turning away is the most appropriate response. Save my energy for the fights I can win, the people I can help, the differences I can make.

A great time last Friday night for GB Seattle's first "Over 40" class. Although I'm leery about being out of the house for two Fridays in a row, I'm very much looking forward to the next chance I get to teach the class. That said, I'll get some of my teaching jones satisfied with the early bird class Friday morning.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Positive Jiu-Jitsu Space? Priceless

Another nice night on the mat.  I still weigh a ton, and can feel it every time I try and move to keep up with some of our young guns.  But there are few things in life right now that compare with the joy of a good night on the mats.  Coach Ed said it best after we finished a sparring round after class: "I wish I could live here."

Wednesday was tripod sweep and taking the back from closed guard.  Tonight, we worked the scissors sweep and the scissor sweep transition to the armbar.  Five black belts on the mat helping the class.  Awesome.

To do for me: work on deep half defense, lose some #(*%&@ weight, finish the ICP4 course by Saturday and start the technique essay.

Really appreciated being in a good jiu-jitsu space.  If I let my mind wander, I end up in the "desert of the real" to steal a phrase, so I'm trying to keep busy, stay occupied and, quite frankly, avoid Facebook and anywhere else I'm likely to encounter news that makes me want to move to Mercury.

163.4 on the scale post train.  That's not so good.  On the other side of things, I'm teaching the am class at 6:30 tomorrow and the new "Over 40" class at 6 pm tomorrow evening.  It will be a long day, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't incredibly excited to have this kind of responsibility.

I really want to make sure I take advantage of the incredible training partners I've got right now.  The golden age of training (May-October 2012) may have ended, but there's still plenty of prospecting to do on those night and nooners I am able to return to the tatame.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Finding the Art in Martial Arts

Socrates, via Plato, is alleged to have asserted that the only true antidote to misanthropy was art.  As someone who often suffers from the former, I'm looking forward to testing the potency of the latter - in martial terms - as cure.

A good day on the mat.  Getting quality training time is a bit of a hustle these days.  But I'm hoping that will be less the case as I get more and more used to the flexibilities of my current Brotberuf.  It's always nice to get to work with white belts and blue belts, and the opportunity to lead the class in an instruction (tripod sweep) was much appreciated.

Struggling to make the ICP deadline next week.  I've still got a few courses to take, and I'll probably work on the essay over the weekend.  I will write the required technique essay.  But recent events have encouraged me to send an additional essay, one that touches on many of the themes that the much-maligned Gracie Barra curriculum and philosophy emphasize and, perhaps, too many in our jiu-jitsu family forget.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Forward: 2013

Heading into the new year, the biggest challenge will be adjusting to a lighter training frequency.

If there are any advantages to being unemployed (and there are a few), then one of them is the ability to amp up the training frequency to new PRs (personal records).  I set new monthly training records last year in July, August, September, and October; it is no coincidence that those were the final four-months of my six-month sojourn as a member of capitalism's Reserve Army.

Lighter frequency will also be the order of the day for side control.  Ideally, I'll be making few, more worth-reading posts, mini-essays and observations on a week's worth of training and teaching jiu-jitsu.  I think that will be easier for me to commit to and, in the end, more valuable for those who stop by.

Right now, I'm thinking mostly weekend posts, Saturday early evening after the last training of the week is done.  Stay tuned.

My immediate goal is to finish up the ICP4 certification process, which has been extended to January 15.  I've already completed a number of the modules, and have plenty of time to finish them off before the deadline.  I'm still divided on whether or not to go through the hassle of trying to get a class videoed.  Writing an essay would be an easier route, for sure.