Thursday, January 25, 2007


Belts are an indication of a person's progress forward in a specific art like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
What does it mean and why does everyone want a black belt?
Is a black belt the end of the line? Do you quit after you get your black belt?
BJ Penn talks about black belts at different levels...white belt black belt black belt, etc. Not everyone that gets a black belt is Jacare or Marcelo Garcia...they are the top level of black belts in the world. There are many black belts in the world...not all of them are at the top of the game of BJJ. How could they be? Many are normal guys that have families, jobs, lives out of BJJ. It is not their whole life or livelihood. They don't compete. They go to the academy and train hard. They go home. When someone receives a black belt, it can be an indication of many things in the same way that belt promotions of other colors come for different reasons. Every student is on his or her own path with different abilities, body type, physical attributes, mental attributes and aptitude level. Each person has a particular set of circumstances that affect what their jiu-jitsu is and will become. It it not always a good idea to compare yourself to others in your class...although I think it's pretty much impossible not to from what I've seen and experienced. I suppose it's natural to try and measure yourself and the most obvious measuring stick is the other people in class.
Sometimes I hear "I'm a blue belt (just as an example), and I tap all the blues and most of the purples so I should be purple!". Well, maybe so...but perhaps you are a 23 year old athletic ex-collegiate jock and everyone else is "middle aged" (I don't actually know what that means. Did you know that 50 is the new 30??? Okay, that's for another day's post). Or perhaps your techniques aren't very, uh...technical and you use a lot of strength and energy to force them. Or perhaps you go balls out for the first few minutes and then you're gassed and have nothing left in haven't learned about rest. recovery and relaxation while fighting. Or you have a plan A and when that doesn't work and you end up in a bad position, you aren't able to recover. Maybe you have great offense and no defense. Maybe your character as a person hasn't developed and you're not setting a good example and helping out the newer guys or teaching the lower level guys. Maybe maybe maybe...... There are so many aspects to the game.
MAYBE your belt color has nothing to do with YOUR assessment of your game but only with that of your instructor's assessment. :D
Maybe you just focus on improving each day and the rest will take care of jiu-jitsu...the same as in life.
Have fun. Train hard. Train smart. And laugh.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Coming Back

Taking time off from training happens to everyone. Life happens. Injuries, family, work, sickness, travel, burnout, etc...all make us occasionally have to take some time off from training. Even if it's just a couple of weeks, it's hard to come back. When you're training regularly, you don't always notice your improvement. You don't notice how your body has become conditioned to training; to the increased pressure on your body, the pain, the strain and the cardio to go multiple rounds or many minutes. When do you notice how far you have progressed? When you try to come back from time off!!! That's when! That's when you are reminded of the first time you feel the pain of sitting down on the couch and when you try to get up, your body doesn't want to cooperate. You wince at the tired exhaustion your muscles are feeling. You feel the pain in so many parts of your body that you never felt while you were training earlier. You didn't feel it while you were having fun on the mat! But now you are suffering the consequences. It's like what happens when you forget your anniversary. Your body is the neglected, spiteful and resentful partner that must punish you for your mis-deed! You must now suffer for your neglect. It reminds us where we once were...of happier times...when we didn't feel this way. Sometimes it makes me feel old but then I try to reassure myself that it's a normal response by the body for the stress that it was just put through. But the body remembers...the body forgives...the body very quickly acclimates to the (re)new(ed) stresses that you are putting it through. After a few classes, you're back picking up where you left off...your mind and your body in tune once again...a well oiled machine cruising down the road of training.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Work Your Weakness

How do you improve your BJJ/grappling? Practice, practice, practice. Okay...but it's not just practice, it's also WHAT you practice. So, in trying to improve your game, take an objective look at your jiujitsu and try to identify what the weakest part of your game is. A really good way to identify this is competition. Competing with a stranger who doesn't know anything about what you do will highlight your weak points. So, now your goal is to improve this area. Maybe it's sweeping, maybe opening the closed guard, maybe getting out of being side controlled...whatever it your goal is to work on this as often as possible in training. When you are rolling, especially with someone of a lower belt and/or lower skill level, let yourself get into your worst position. You don't need to tell your partner what you are doing. Now practice using your techniques from that position. Ask different people you roll with, especially higher level guys, what they do in that position. You are working to improve that part of your game. Keep working on it...maybe you make it a goal to work on sweeping for the next two months. Now, you won't be doing it all the time because there are always going to be times where you don't have control over the positions you get. Just keep on working on your weakest position and then you will eventually notice that you have an even weaker have now built up the weakest part of your game so that it is no longer the weakest part of your game! And now you have a new weakest part of your game! Congratulations!!! Some people are reluctant to put themselves in vulnerable or weak positions. Okay, this is TRAINING. How will the weak parts of your game improve if you don't practice them and make them stronger? It can be scary putting yourself in these weak positions because you take a greater risk of "losing" or getting tapped. This is TRAINING.
So, after you have done this, take a good look at your game and identify your new weak area. Work on your new weak area for the next couple of months. Continue training and repeating this process and watch your game improve.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Efficiency and Rest

As you progress in BJJ/Grappling, you will find that what you are learning is more about details. You will learn to become more efficient with your movements. You will expend less energy in accomplishing the same thing or even more. You become more efficient in your movements. You will learn to rest for very brief moments to help you recover. You will learn when to explode and when to rest...and not get gassd out. Why do some guys roll hard for 2 minutes and then they are done? Why can't they make it through even one round of sparring? How does someone roll for one or two hours straight? Is it conditioning? Is it technique? Are they super athletes? Part of it is learning how to rest. It's relaxing while you're fighting. Now, a new guy coming into a BJJ academy may find that upon first hearing this, it sounds rather crazy.'s fighting, right? So, how do you fight and rest or relax? That makes no sense! But slowly you will learn to relax. It takes time, but it comes. Sometimes guys with a background in standup fighting get especially tight and anxious being on the ground. I'll tell them to think about when they are fighting in their comfort zone of the standup world and how they have learned to relax and fight. Then they understand that it's the same thing. Learn to relax. It's about efficiency and rest.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Big John McCarthy gets Black Belt!!!!!

Big John McCarthy was awarded his Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tonight. John is the first Black Belt at Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Academy presented by the BJMUTA Council of Black Belts including Mike Ortiz, Lou Salseda, Todd White and Felicia Oh.



Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Secret to Getting Better at BJJ/Grappling

What strength and conditioning exercises should I do to get better at BJJ?
What kind of kettlebell workout should I do to get better at BJJ/grappling?

These types of questions seem to be coming up a lot lately. So, here we go. what I'm about to share with you is one of the only secrets of BJJ ;)

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*Please feel free to send donations and help sponsor my training for the ADCC World Championships. E-mail me @ Thank you ;)

The only way to get better at BJJ/grappling is by doing BJJ/grappling!!!!!
BJJ is about teaching your body how to move in certain ways and respond to different situations. The only way to teach your body how to do this automatically is to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. This is commonly referred to as "mat time". You learn techniques and then you drill them. Then you try to do them against resisting opponents. After many hours of practice, many failures and many successes...what were once "techniques" learned in class start to become "your" automatic responses by your body. You are training muscle memory. You learn that grappling is about body movements. You learn to incorporate your own personal physical attributes (whether it be speed, explosiveness, agility, flexibility, etc. or lack of these...) into the techniques to give you your own personal fighting style which is part of the beauty of jiu-jitsu. It can be tailored for each individual's strengths and weaknesses.
Just getting stronger won't help you get any better at BJJ/grappling. It won't help you learn how to move your hips, where to put your knee, where to place your hand, one inch this way or half an inch that way, adjust the pressure of your hip, turn your head slightly to the left, base more on your right side, put pressure with your right shoulder, shimmee your shoulders forward, wiggle wiggle, base here, base this way a bit more, etc. and then there's the whole other issue of timing. Strength may help you survive in the short term. You might be able to muscle out of bad positions or force submissions. But how do you do a proper escape? How do you do a proper submission? In the long run, if you have not learned proper techniques you will only have the strength you started with. If you're a big guy and regularly dominate everyone at your academy, what happens when you have to face someone your own size? And what if he HAS learned the techniques? If you learn technique and then use strength on top of that, then you will have a combination that is difficult to beat. Strength is easy and can always be added after you develop a good foundation of techniques. Technique comes first and takes time, patience, frustration and lots and lots of practice.
Going back to the origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu...Helio Gracie himself had a frail body.
Don't misunderstand because yes, strength and conditioning do play a role in BJJ/Grappling, but one has to have the proper technical foundation to build upon.
Making you stronger will not make you better at BJJ/Grappling.
Making you better at BJJ/Grappling will make you better at BJJ/Grappling.
After you have developed a strong foundation and as you get better at BJJ/Grappling, strength and conditioning will help your BJJ/Grappling be even better, especially if you compete. If all it took was strength, then powerlifters would all be BJJ/Grappling World Champions!