Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Visual Representation of One Aspect of Belt Ranking

This is one way of understanding my developmental progress thorugh the jiu-jitsu belts. Let me know what you think.

White belt: Not sure what’s going on but ready to learn. This would look something like this.

Blue belt: Getting to understand what’s going on, but definitely realizes and acknowledges that this is a really difficult sport and there is a lot of pain to the body and the ego. Big highs and big lows. There are times when I felt I was getting progressively worse week after week after week. This is the time when I felt the most beat up physically and mentally. Partially because I WAS getting beaten up and partially because as you progress, you (and your ego) eventually learn to feel it less.Visually, it would look like this.

If you can make it past this, then the time periods where you feel you’re getting progressively worse get smaller.

Purple belt: Understands the pain and learns to ignore and/or avoid it and realized that the times of frustration won’t last too long. Recovery is faster.This wave would look like this.

Brown belt: Small bumps, but a good solid foundation and direction, so no big ups and downs. More just stretched out time with small ups and downs.

Black belt: Enough of a strong foundation that it becomes experimental, incremental, and minute. It also becomes playful, hence the small curly cues.

*The circle represents a magnified view!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

More Language

Sometimes I hear beginners say that they can’t do any of the moves they learn on anyone during sparring. Sure they can do them during drills but not with someone actually resisting and fighting back! So, in going back to the analogy of language, you can learn a foreign language in a classroom and have “conversations” with your teacher. But to really start to understand the language you have to go out and interact with someone speaking back to you (like visiting the native country of the language)…but then you realize that the people don’t respond “the way they are supposed to” so you’re not sure what they are saying or what you are supposed to say next. It is the same as rolling in jiu jitsu…when you’re trying to do a move and your partner isn’t responding the same way as in the drill, they aren’t letting you do your move! So, in the same way, it’s really about mat time or in the analogy, spending time in the native country! It's walking out into a foreign country only knowing a few word and phrases from the audio tape lesson you listened to on the plane. In both cases, the more you practice with real live partners and learn how to work with unpredictable responses, the more you learn how to react to different situations. In language, as in jiu-jitsu, you learn to automatically and appropriately respond. Only practice will help you to learn more and better responses for more and more situations.

Friday, December 22, 2006


My first teacher at Jean Jacques’ academy was Silverado. I think his analogy for learning jiu-jitsu made a lot of sense for me, even though this jiu-jitsu thing didn’t really make much sense to me at all at the time. And it didn’t for quite some time. I had no idea what I was really getting myself into but for some reason, I just kept going back to class…not sure why or where I was going, not knowing how much of my would jiu-jitsu would grow to occupy. So, his analogy is that in beginning to learn jiu-jitsu, you are learning the basic moves or the letters. Then you learn how to put the moves together and you make words. Then you understand words so then you start to put words together and make sentences, then paragraphs, then chapters, books, etc. This analogy that Silverado used still makes sense to me. It’s learning the language of jiu-jitsu.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Every year around this time, we always hear how we should not take our friends, loved ones and relatives for granted and every year I try to keep that in mind. What's different about this year is that it's not something I'm trying to keep in my mind but something I'm experiencing in life as I am away from my home and family to be overseas with other family and loved ones. As so many changes happen in the matter of less than a many life changes...marriages, deaths, the celebration of the most celebrated birth, the start of a new year...reuniting with so many so long ago, last seen relatives. Add to that a strange city, strange culture as well as a good amount of jetlag and what a concotion that becomes!
Technology...brings us from being so far away to so close to so far again. Technology reduces the size of the world, yet when you're just trying to make a flight reservation change by international long distance on a cell phone with a phone card and the call gets dropped having already consumed half the card's value...then you're scared to call again because if you get dropped again, you will have used up the whole card you just bought for nothing and it's too late to go out and buy another one...then the world becomes large again. But then you get chatting online and you're right back at home again.
Have a wonderful holiday season.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Hard Sport v.1.0

Jiu-Jitsu is a hard sport. I don't care if you do it "seriously" or "casually", either way, it's a tough sport. It sucks because you get beat up all the time. It's also really fun because you get to beat other people up too! (and I use the term "beat up" metaphorically as it relates to grappling...even though sometimes it IS literal). But the really cool thing is that you can tap, stop and start again! It's like a video game with quarters lasting as long as your partners (or you) last! When I tap or tap someone, it's like, "cool"...okay...slap hands and go again and try to get past the level you got to last time before you got killed! It's like hitting the credit button...only it's endless because it's already been automatically withdrawn from your bank account for the month LOL!!!
So back on topic...jiu-jitsu comes with a lot of injuries. No matter how you slice it (see food reference there?), you're going to get injured. Yes...YOU ARE GOING TO GET INJURED. It doesn't matter how careful you are, it happens. Now, you can learn and get smarter and reduce the amount and severity of the injuries. Let's look at one way. There's the old saying "position before submission"...which means that you have to have a good position before you can attempt a submission. So, once you are in your submission position, your opponent will most likely try to defend your submission attempt. So, what do you do (this is assuming that your opponent is getting out)? You can keep insisting on the submission as he escapes, gets to a dominant position and puts you in an inferior one. Now you have no submission and no position (or more accurately, a bad position). Another option is to maintain the position and let go of the submission. You still maintain your dominant position and have the opportunity to set up another submission attempt.
Now...really back to the intended topic, sometimes injuries are not because you got caught in a submission and didn't tap in time. Sometimes the person that gets injured is the one going for the submission. In this case, you can avoid injury by simply letting go of the submission. I remember someone once told me he had a triangle on a much bigger partner and then the partner busted out and up with all his might. His triangled knee tore apart! OUCHH!!!! Now, the guy getting triangled could have done any other number of escapes and not caused any harm to his partner (now, "good training partners"...that's for another day's post). It this case, the safest thing would probably have been to let go of the triangle and just continued rolling.

Everyone gets focused when they train.
Tunnel vision happens and sometimes the ego grows mighty.
Train hard and train smart.
As you train your body, train your mind and tame your ego.
Your body will thank you.


Why does it take so much time and effort to get "in" shape and so little time and effort to fall "out" of shape? Grrrrr.....

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Win-Loss Records

Lately I've run into a lot of people that seem to be keeping track of these numbers and I think it's really putting way too much importance on the the wrong thing and in fact, it's holding back their progress in jiu-jitsu. Win-Loss records may be okay for team sports or something like boxing or MMA where you have consistent weight classes and specific categories (like a professional record versus an amateur record, heavyweight, welterweight, lightweight, etc.). In jiu-jitsu (and I mean both BJJ and Submission Grappling), there are different levels...belt colors or experience levels. There are different weight classes in BJJ and Sub Grappling and even different weight classes from tournament to tournament. There are also somewhat random "professional" weight divisions like (for women) over and under 132 or 140 and (for men) over and under 160 or 180 but it's always different. So in these cases you're actually comparing apples and oranges.
Let's say you win a match at your weight and experience level. How does that compare to losing in an over 160 Professional division where you were 175 and the guy you lost to was 220? How can those be equally compared?
If it's about winning, then why not stay a white belt forever and be the best white belt on earth? (I know, some of you will say that you wish you could be a white belt forever...)
When you get promoted, it generally puts you at (or closer) to the bottom of the next higher level. So you just went from the top of one level to the bottom of the next. So, let's say you've been a blue belt for 6 months and you lose to someone who's been a blue belt for 2 or 3 years and is about to get his purple. Is that loss worse than winning against a brand new white belt? Would you rather just keep beating up all the white belts because you don't want to lose to a blue belt?
If you really want to improve your game, the biggest improvements come from competing and losing. Of course I'm not saying to go out and try to lose. For God's sakes, no one WANTS to lose, but it happens. The good news is that this is where you have the opportunity to learn the most. If you have ever wondered what part of your game you should be working on or what the weakest part of your game is (these would generally be the same thing) I suggest you enter a tournament. A loss will tell you EXACTLY what you need to improve. A win will tell you that what you are doing, for now, is working and you're on the right track.
Competitions are a testing ground. It is not about your win/loss numbers.
Everybody has lost. All of the greatest competitors have lost. And all losses are not equal...except in that they are all valuable and so much can be learned from each one.

As I always say and will say again and again...just work on getting better at jiu-jitsu. Just try to keep improving. The rest will come.

Monday, December 4, 2006

CHOCOLATE Fruit Cake...

My mom just sent me a CHOCOLATE fruit cake. All I have to say is that if they had been doing fruitcake properly with chocolate this whole time, it would have been a whole different ball game. No fruitcake jokes, no playing "hot potato fruitcake", no fruitcake re-gifting (year after year after year!!!)...people would have been killing for fruitcake like it was a newly released video game system!!! Chocolate Fruitcake 360! Mmmmmmm..... ;) Thanks, Mom!


Last night there was a news magazine show on tv that had a story about a young woman pianist. I wish I could tell you more about her but I was doing something else and thought it was getting Tivo'd and I'd go back and get the details later. Unfortunately, it didn't get recorded. I spent some time searching for the story on the web, but didn't get too far. So, from what I saw, apparently she is one of the big up and coming classical pianists...but she's supercontroversial because she has a "secret" life. It's a secret life in which she plays classical pieces and improvises in the style of the composers. She will actually go off and "jam" instead of just playing the piece as they were written. This is something that is very common in Jazz (which she also plays) as well as most other musical styles. Musicians do it all the time, but not the classical musicians. It also used to be done back in the day when the classical composers were actually alive and composing...but somehow improvisation got phased out of the "classical" world. It occurred to me that the classical music world was similar to that of traditional martial arts that do things such as forms and katas...once based in practice for real, actual physical combat but eventually became choreographed routines. "Competition" became scoring how perfectly the forms could be executed. Part of the beauty of martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling is the very idea that it IS improvisation. You learn techniques. You drill them over and over. You practice until your body knows how to move in the correct and desired way...but when it's time to roll or spar, it's all about improv! Sometimes a great roll is like when you see a musician with his eyes closed and the music has taken's not about how he plays each's not about his technique with his instrument...he has become absorbed and lost in the music, lost in the instrument, lost in the moment.

My First Post

Ohmygod....and I'm supposed to be some sort of "computer person"....ARGGGHHHH!!!!!! This simple little "blogging" thing has taken me a ridiculous amount of hours to get going. I tried doing it through my domain provider (who said that pre-schoolers could do it...apparently they're the same people that made "child-proof caps") but their crappy program wouldn't display any of the templates properly...not that I would use any of them anyways. I finally decided to just use the "blogspot" site. So, I tried to post it to my domain FTP site, but that was another couple of wasted now here I am doing the "EASY" one. Easy for a pre-schooler, for sure...but not for me. Makes me feel old! So, 3AM and here it is. We'll see how this goes ;-)