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Wednesday 16 July 2014

Ok, so I haven't been posting... but I'm not done with blogging and I'm not dead either!

Basically, every time my laptop has been on for the last few months I have been researching foam, tarpaulin, wood, banners, signs, and a huge number of other things which I will need to open my own academy :)

So there still won't be very regular posts for a bit, but once the new place is up and running I will be posting as much as possible and also plan on starting to put out some video content as well.

In the meantime, I will get a review I meant to do a long time ago written up, so maybe three posts in a week! (although 2 in a day is cheating, especially as this one is so short)

I love competition, but it isn't all that jiu-jitsu has to offer

I've posted quite a few times about competitions from various perspectives, but I think a lot of people get too hung up on all training being solely about competition (and sometimes even specifically IBJJF rules). I look at jiu-jitsu as much more...

It includes sporting competition for sure... gi and nogi grappling competitions under various rulesets... but also MMA & vale tudo. The most important thing about jiu-jitsu is that it gets tested. Doing that in training is one thing, but doing it in competition helps you develop in different ways. Testing yourself in whatever form of competition you want to is definitely something I think everyone should do.

Beyond competition, it's also a martial art which should give people skills they can use in a real life fight... physical and mental skills. Training jiu-jitsu gives you techniques and the ability to perform them on fully resisting opponents, that's always the case. But it should be teaching you to do that in a tough environment, there should always be lots of high intensity sparring. That level of intensity also improves mental toughness... you get used to dealing with being in terrible positions, unable to move with tons of pressure on you. Toughness is another aspect which effects a fight... along with technique, strength, size, cardio, flexibility etc.

Then it's also a hobby (activity?? hobby doesn't seem to do it justice) or even a way of life as some people describe it. The vast majority of jiu-jitsu you do is going to be in training, so really your only things to consider when rolling are to not get injured and not to injure anyone else... it doesn't matter if you leg reap someone in training, just don't smash your leg into it and twist your partner's knee. It doesn't matter if you grip inside the trouser leg either, or use a wrist lock on a white belt. Just do your best to not hurt people.

So yeah, competition is a massive part of jiu-jitsu, but I see competition as a place to test your jiu-jitsu skills not solely the aim of training. Now, if some people want to train just for competition, that's cool with me too, but I think they're missing out.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Random bits about the British Open

First off, it was a great competition. A huge number of competitors and ran on schedule. Maybe it's going to need to be bigger next year... more mats... more days??? Awesome to see how much UK BJJ is growing.

There are loads of people competing now, and the standard is going up so quickly. It's amazing to start to see lots of purple belt divisions where people are having 4-5 fights to win, and loads of brown and black categories with 2-3 fights to win. Can't wait until the current crop of purple belts are all black belts, will be fun to watch :) There is also a big rise in the number of competitors who are really serious about their jiu-jitsu training at lower levels... white and blue belt divisions are really tough to win.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing students winning in competition. Especially seeing them submitting people and dominating fights. It makes me able to be confident that I am doing the right thing when I am teaching.

I reffed a little kid who had been allowed to go up an age category as otherwise he had nobody to fight. He was giving up a lot of strength, the fight was basically a child (nervous and at his first comp) against a 15 yr old who was basically a young juvenile. The little kid got smashed around and the fight finished 17-0 but at no point did the older kid get close to a submission, and he was really trying hard for it. That little kid had amazing defence, t-rex arms like a champion. He didn't show any emotion during the fight either, really tough. Just shows what jiu-jitsu can do for people, especially kids.

It's amazing how many act like idiots at comps... and those people probably do it the rest of the time too. I didn't see it but heard people were kicking off because they got DQ'd for not making weight, what did they expect would happen? There are weight classes and to fight in them you must be within the weight class, pretty simple stuff. Also, it's sad to see a lot of black belts who think the rules don't apply to them, walking across a matted warm up area in shoes, not wearing shoes when walking off the mats... really bad to see.

I love going to competitions. The whole experience is great and I do even enjoy reffing so it's all good... I get to see friends I have known through jiu-jitsu since I started, I see my students smashing people up, I see lots of entertaining jiu-jitsu and I get to compete myself... all amazing. Give competing a go if you haven't already, you might just love it :)

Monday 19 May 2014

British Open 2014

This weekend was the British Open, the biggest competition in the country and considered to be the most prestigious to win. My team, the Chris Rees Academy, took a big team of around 30 fighters up to fight and although I was confident that many would have success, I never expected the results we got.

As a team we took an unbelievable TWENTY ONE medals!! Eight of those were gold and one of my students took double gold at purple belt, then got promoted to brown belt on the podium by Braulio Estima. An amazing day for him, congratulations to the man-gorilla Wayne Samways.

The weekend was a long one for me as I was up at 5.45am to drive 3 hours to Birmingham on Saturday and then reffed for the whole day (a couple of short breaks). I started off reffing kids in the morning and the standard of some of their jiu-jitsu was amazing, great to see the future of UK jiu-jitsu being developed. As a referee for kids there is a responsibility to protect them from getting slammed and injured from submissions. This means I have to position myself behind any kid who gets lifted off the ground and make sure that submissions can't be cranked beyond the point they will cause injuries as well as stopping the fight if the submission is fully locked in. I had only reffed kids a little bit before but wow, those responsibilities add so much more stress on to reffing!! It also makes it pretty tiring, having to drop down to knees and then get back up again all the time... my legs were tired by the end of the day. It's also pretty crazy that many coaches didn't seem to realise that the ref will stop a kids fight when a submission gets locked on, I could hear a lot of "he didn't tap" type complaints. Read the rules.

After the kids I then reffed some adult divisions. Yet again I was amazed at the number of competitors and coaches who don't know basic rules/point scoring. People asking why no points were given for a bridge out of mount, why didn't they get points for a takedown where they ended up on the bottom, not knowing what the verbal commands meant (there are only three... now four under new rules) and more. I also heard a lot of competitors didn't make the weight because they didn't realise the weigh in was with the gi on, or thought there was an allowance. Really amazes me every time that people make such basic errors.

So after the whole day reffing I then drove 3 hours home again, hoping to get a good night's sleep before I fought on the Sunday. That didn't happen too well as my son has chickenpox so I ended up being woken up every half hour... grim. At least I wasn't driving up the next day.

So on Sunday I had a lie in until 8am then jumped in the car of a CRA student and headed back to Birmingham. All the travelling was definitely worth it as after falling short with silver last year in the brown belt division, this year I managed to become British Open champion at black belt, beating two tough opponents. My first fight went as well as I could hope; I pulled guard, swept quickly... started passing and he turtled allowing me to land an inverted triangle and then from there finish with a hamstring stretch/kneebar. The final was an ultra tough opponent, 1st degree black belt from Checkmat. I pulled guard and attacked with a collar choke, triangle, a few wrist locks, omoplata, toehold... all defended and none really coming that close. He escaped the omoplata and almost passed but I turtled, he attacked the back but I defended and managed to come up to the top and start passing. I almost got it a few times but he managed to recover guard, and then with the scores at 1-1 on advantages and about 30 seconds left I passed to half guard to put me 2-1 up on advantages. He attacked with some strong sweep attempts which I was able to prevent but then caught me in the halfguard kneebar aka the dogbar. It was tight but there was only 10 seconds left so I rode it out and was happy that no advantage was given for it. Only two fights but I felt like I'd had about ten, so was insanely happy to pick up the gold.

This was my first competition at black belt so to get that result was unbelievable. Having missed the English Open due to knee surgery, I hadn't competed for a year so thought I would suffer with adrenaline but it was actually the most relaxed I'd ever felt in competition. I came off the mat after the first fight feeling totally fine and ready to go again. Not quite so good after the second fight, but I guess that happens if you go the full time against a really tough opponent.

Looking forward, I guess it could be seen that I have put pressure on myself to continue to perform at the same level but my attitude towards competition has always been to just jump in and test myself. I never really train specifically for competitions, never change my diet or anything... I train all the time so I just look at competition as a chance to test my jiu-jitsu against others. I don't think that is going to change for me in the future.

Massive thanks to my instructors since I started jiu-jitsu over 9 years ago, Braulio Estima and Chris Rees. They have given me the skills and perspective on jiu-jitsu to get to this point. Thanks to my awesome sponsors Faixa Rua and Roll Supreme for the continued support. Thanks to all my students who always try to destroy me every time we roll and never let me rest. Finally, and most importantly, thanks to my awesome wife who always supports me in everything I do and convinced me to compete when I was ready to stay home with my son, I love you x

Tuesday 29 April 2014

I don't teach submissions very often

It's a strange thing, because all my students are good at getting submissions... but most of my lessons I just teach something about control or passing, sweeping, defending, fundamentals of a position etc. Then in the odd class I will throw a submission on the end.

My thinking is that if position before submission is so important, why ignore that when teaching? If people can get to dominant positions easily, they'll quickly be able to learn how to submit people easily whether you show a new technique every lesson or not. There are lots of movements and positions and transitions in jiu-jitsu, but there aren't that many different ways to submit someone... there are lots of variations, but not many fundamentally different ways mechanically. There are definitely lots of minor details which will make a difference to whether you finish a submission or not, but in the overall scheme of things, knowing the minor details of a sweep or pass is always gonna be more useful and more likely to help more students overall. Everyone body shape and size can use butterfly guard well, every one can use pressure passing... but not everyone will benefit from another triangle lesson... nor arm-triangle lesson. Everybody ends up in half guard, no matter shape, size or game, but not everybody ends up going inverted to a toe-hold (although all that stuff is effective and does have it's place :) ).

Actually, submissions are probably the easiest thing to learn from instructional videos. If you can get regularly get dominant position on training partners you can easily practice stuff you've seen in a video. It's much harder to learn how to control and move in a certain position from just watching a video and not having instant correction from an instructor.

My instructor, Chris Rees, taught me the same way... he used to show me how submissions worked by wrecking me with them all the time haha. The vast majority of my wins in competition are by quick submission.

Friday 11 April 2014

Thoughts on Metamoris 3

Well, first up I absolutely loved the show... pretty much every fight was interesting to watch and the fighters all went for it with lots of aggressive attacking. So specific fights...

Zak Maxwell vs. Sean Roberts
Thought Maxwell looked awesome. His style is pretty much what I try to do, solid ultra tight basics... slow and steady progress to a dominant position. Sean Roberts flexibility is ridiculous, what a guard to try to pass. Loved the fight.

Gui Mends vs. Samir Chantre
As expected, an easy submission for Gui. I thought this was the most pointless fight on the card but it was still great to watch.

Dean Lister vs. Babalu
I was hugely impressed with Babalu, not only being able to defend against everything Lister offered but also attacking flat out whenever he got the chance. For two big guys and a 20 minute fight the pace was amazing. Probably my favourite fight of the night.

Keenan Cornelius vs. Kevin Casey
So Casey was in for Magalhaes. I thought Keenan would get the submission much quicker than he did so fair do's to Casey, he showed he definitely has great jiu-jitsu. A pretty boring fight at times, but then it can't be easy to do much but defend against a guard like Keenan's.

Rafael Mendes vs. Clark Gracie
I was very surprised that this turned out to be the worst fight of the night. Nothing but repeated failed attempts to take the back from berimbolo. I have seen people criticising Clark for just defending, but what else was he meant to do when Rafa is attacking with his best guard attack? I just wish Rafa had chosen to go to the top and tried to pass rather than falling to his guard again every time... or at least tried something other than berimbolo.

Royler Gracie vs. Eddie Bravo
So surely it's gonna be hard for a 48 and 43 year old to keep up the level of action which had been seen in the rest of the fights? That's what I thought, but man these two gave an awesome performance. An amazing ending to a great event!
It's easy to be critical of people in fights, and I've seen many people doing just that, so all I'll say is that I was surprised it seemed Royler hadn't really studied Bravo's game and just stuck to the same plan of attack even after being repeatedly swept with the same thing.

Wow, I really enjoyed this event and I hope Metamoris goes from strength to strength. It was a bit sad to see that loads of people were getting free streams of it, it's one of a very small number of options for professional competitors to get paid to fight. Support the event!!

I've read an unbelievable amount of nonsense written about Gracie/Bravo... people saying Eddie Bravo "won" it. No, it was a draw... the only way to win was to submit and he didn't do that. Obviously he had the better of the match, but it was a draw. Then I read people saying how Bravo was sick after and was totally gassed but Royler was ok, so if they'd kept fighting... NO, it was a 20min fight, they knew that going in. Being tired after is a good thing cos it means Eddie had gone as hard as he could over the distance. There's no point having anything in reserve. "Eddie would have won on points"... but there were no points, this is meaningless... they weren't fighting with points in mind. Man, it was a great fight and people should just be happy with that. Unreal showing from a 43 and 48 year old, congratulations to them!!

A point above ties in with my only big criticism... the commentators talking about "under IBJJF" rules all the time. What other sport does this?? Commentate on how things would work under a different ruleset? I found it really annoying and off-putting. They should just stick to describing the techniques being used/tried, talk about how an attack or counter worked etc

Regardless, I'll definitely be buying the next event :)

Sunday 6 April 2014

The mental aspect of a jiu-jitsu fight

This is a subject which I have been discussing with my students a lot recently, due to a lot of recent competitions. I think it can be almost as important as the physical side of things, but is often neglected by people as it's something they just don't think about.

Now I'm not talking about mental preparation for fights. I know some people spend a lot of time on that but I find it quite difficult to understand. I never step on the mat without thinking I am going to win and have never felt doubts about my own ability before a competition. What I am talking about is the mental ebb and flow during a fight. So many times I have seen students win fights, or lose very close fights (or even fights they have overall dominated) and they come off the mat with the feeling that they performed poorly or almost lost when in reality they won easily.

Why does this happen? First, I think adrenaline is a big factor, it numbs the mind and means that memories of a fight can be very foggy... I have had fights which I couldn't remember until watching a video! There is also a natural tendency for most people to be critical/negative of themselves and, lastly, people often only think about the last thing which happened during a fight.

What does this mean? Well, there are two fights going on during a match... the physical fight and the mental fight, and they are both vitally important. I have seen people winning fights easily who then make one mistake and suddenly panic, causing them to lose the fight. Or people who have been getting smashed but are so strong mentally they never give up and manage to win by submission.

So how does this all relate to aspects of a fight? The easiest way to explain is looking at the situations this stuff most often applies...

1. If you're in a bad spot and you escape then realise you are winning the fight at that point. Ok, you might be losing on points, but the ebb and flow of the fight is going in your favour, so when you get back to a good or neutral position don't stop, keep moving forward, it's the best time to attack. Your opponent has just lost a strong position and could be disheartened. The same for escaping a submission attempt... it may have been their best attack, they might have been sure they would submit you and now you've escaped... attack!

2. The opposite of the first point; you had a strong position and your opponent escaped. Relax, you got ahead of them once so can do it again. Don't freak out and do something silly, just control the position they have escaped to and go back to attacking.

3. You get reversed from side control. This is a classic that I've seen totally change a fight. Not only were you in a good position which your opponent has escaped, they've put you straight into a bad position. You need to stay calm, if you freak out and desperately try to escape you may end up in an even worse position or get submitted. This is another reason to learn the rules and points system... side control reversal, or being put in side control from top turtle doesn't score your opponent anything. In these circumstances you need to be strong enough mentally to relax, defend and take your time, your chance to escape will come.

4. The fight starts and you end up exactly where you didn't want to be... they took you down, or they pulled guard first. So what? You can panic or you can back yourself to win the fight. Stuff goes wrong in a fight and you have to be ready for it.

There are obviously other ways that show how mental strength during a fight is important, but from my experience they are the most common. Just like learning techniques I believe you can learn methods to improve your mental game. First of, as mentioned earlier, learn the rules and points system back to front... if you know exactly what is happening in a fight it makes it much easier to cope with adverse situations. Also, try to have someone coaching you from the sidelines they can help you by telling you the points and time. Think more deeply about what is happening when you're training, don't just live totally in the moment. Try to think about the overall round and what is happening at each point; you might have been getting smashed for 4 minutes but if you then get the upper hand... go, go, go, push forward hard and work to get the submission or enough points to turn it around. If you're winning the fight at a specific point, whatever came before doesn't matter.

Fight hard, be strong mentally and never give up no matter what has happened!!