Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Could a blue belt beat a brown belt?

Just using the blue and brown as examples as it could be any belts really but the shocking answer is YES, it can happen.

Even taking away age, weight, strength, chi force, no gi etc it can still happen and I'm not talking about the higher grade trying something new or taking it easy or whatever, I'm talking about both guys going as hard as they can at that specific time.

As I am a nerd, please see the chart below;

The blue column indicates the % potential of that belt, the brown belt can operate at 90% maximum whereas the blue can operate at 70% maximum, figures just used to illustrate point.

The red indicates the actual performance level during their roll.

The brown belt is not having one of their better days and is performing around 55% whereas the blue belt is having a great day and is operating around 65%, almost their maximum level.

In conclusion, if you are having a bad day and your partner is having a good day, you are probably going to 'lose' (if there is such a thing as losing but that's for another blog post) so don't be too hard on yourself, accept it, come back again tomorrow and carry on.

Henry Ford, pioneering car manufacturer said "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again"

That's Jiu Jitsu baby!


Thursday, 17 May 2012

How To Make Friends And Influence People

Believe me when I say that I am not trying to prove superiority of one ‘style’ over another in yet another tale from my critically acclaimed “Old Man Rambling” series so if it comes over that way, I apologise. Different people do different martial arts for different reasons and I respect that; within our group we have practitioners of a multitude of styles, I love that fact and think it is healthy. Ok, disclaimer out of the way, onto the story.

I believe Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was maybe onto something when he stated “Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened”

This was definitely the case when my ‘mixed’ martial arts training was questioned by the chief instructor of the Taekwondo (TKD) group back in the late 90’s. I was already blending my TKD, Hapkido, Judo and Jiu Jitsu with a little Muay Thai, Luta Livre and wrestling being inspired by Ruas Vale Tudo after training with Marco Ruas a few times.

I had gone training with the intention of joining in the TKD class as was the case on those Saturday afternoons before I had any life obstacles, sorry I mean family :0) but once I got there I didn’t want to do the usual training, I was getting bored with it to be honest, so found an empty room at the sports centre and started working out on my own.

10 minutes in and the TKD instructor walked into the room, I greeted him as is the tradition but he walked straight by me and started pulling some mats onto the floor. He then said he wanted to spar to see what all the fuss was about with this ‘new’ type of modern martial arts.

I mistakenly thought that he was genuinely interested in doing some extra curricular training to round out his 25 years of TKD so was glad to share the meager knowledge I had.

As we started sparring, I flicked out a couple of little kicks and open hand strikes a la Royce Gracie circa UFC1 before he launched a kick at me that made me re-evaluate his motivation for doing this. Damn, he wanted to prove a point, maybe he didn’t want to think that he had spent 20+ years training something that was less than the ultimate fighting style and was going to beat me like one of those step-children with a particular hair colour that is neither blond nor brunette.

Ok, game on. I faked a slap, slipped in to clinch, simple body lock and hook put him onto his back and I took full mount. He thrashed around a little and I managed to lightly slap him a little whilst maintaining my mount on this bucking bronco, isolating an arm then sitting back for an armlock. He was stuck so I let go, stood up, pulled him back up and was going to explain what I had done when he just said “again”

We went again, he went harder this time but the same outcome.


Ok, time to make my point. As he threw a strike, I level changed shot a ‘baiana’ straight to side control, took his back and started to tighten my ‘mata leao’. I held it a little longer than usual then let go and stood up.

He stood up a little groggily then walked straight out without a word, never mentioned it again and went back to teaching his class.

Sad really that something had been proved conclusively but he chose to ignore. When I started TKD I got smashed so had to learn it. Then I went to Judo and got smashed so I had to learn it. Then I started Jiu Jitsu and got smashed so I had to learn it. See where I’m going with this?

I don’t think there are bad styles, everything has something to offer, and maybe not even bad practitioners of those styles, maybe just bad attitudes towards other styles.

So in conclusion, I refer once again to Sir Winston “the truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is”.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Process > Result

As I said in a previous life or possibly just a blog post;
"Don’t solely focus on the results, focus on the process too. I completely understand that everyone wants to win but in a tournament only 1 person can win therefore I don’t want the other guys going away feeling as though they lost because if you compete you don’t ever really lose. You may not get the "W" but you get something more precious than that".

Here's a personal example.

Back in my Taekwondo days (obviously I'm the little dude in the red protector in the photo) I turned up at a local TKD tournament and went to get weighed in. Believe it or not in those days I was light so got off the scales after reaching my massive 63kg feeling damn good.

I had really trained for this; TKD everyday, extra cardio, some weight training, extra stretching, everything just perfect.

As I crash out to rest and get some calories imbibed, someone comes over to me and says "hey well done, you've got gold" I assured them they were mistaken but they said there was no one else my weight so I got a default gold.

According to Homer J Simpson, the best 2 words in the English language are de-fault but not in my world, it sucks.

Off I trot to find the organiser and was told there is no one in my weight group or the one above so I would potentially only be able to go in -78kg which they did not want as they thought it dangerous (they have no absolute division in TKD as far as I know).

I threw a fit and said I was an adult, had trained, take full responsibility blah blah blah so to shut me up they put me in that weight group. Fast forward to the final as there is little me playing the playing the part of David versus Goliath who they said made 78kg but standing at 6' 8" was a little doubtful.

Anyway, as it was before the golden Youtube era where everything makes it online I thought "what the hell, what's the worse thing that could happen"

The match started and I buzzed around him like having a wasp in the car, I was real fast in those days and dragged him into playing my fast game instead of his big game. We threw some shots with me landing the better ones (I thought) and he gassed so bad that he dropped to his knees and had to get St John's to administer some oxygen. I am sitting there pretty damn smug that I slayed the monster when the ref called us to the middle to restart.

I protested that the match should be over but had to fight on (fighting officials is something you get used to if you are not a franchise). In my head I had done enough and finished the round with a cool back kick that landed solid.

What the picture above doesn't show is that 5 seconds later the referee declared the big guy the winner which drew some derision from the crowd but that's (martial arts) life.

The moral of the story? I'm glad you asked.

I could have taken the default gold and sat at home admiring it but knowing deep down inside that it wasn't for fighting, it was for dieting whereas my hard fought silver from a hard weight group and a dubious decision was much more rewarding.

Don't focus on the result, focus on the journey.

Another lesson from this? Sure, I'm full of wisdom.

A couple of weeks later, nobody remembered or cared. If you are worried that people will all talk about you for not winning, don't worry, you're really not that interesting :0)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Submission Only Competitions

Big congrats to Danny Mitchell and Adam Simpson on winning brown belt and purple belt divisions respectively at Absolute Submission Championships on Sunday, Adam even claimed the fastest submission for a 37 second triangle which is awesome work.

There had been some concern that extended time limits and submission only would drag the tournament on too long but quite the opposite happened. Out of all the divisions only 1 match went to time. Compare that to how many matches went to time at Manchester Open.

Are we competing with the wrong mind set?

Are people too happy to sit on points and run the clock out for the W?

I guess this all comes down to your motivation for competing, JJ Machado always looked for the sub and at times would lose on points because of it whereas other guys will happily get an advantage and stall out a win. There is no right or wrong way to compete to win so it is all down to personal choice.

A couple of years ago an invite dropped through my letter box to compete in a submission only tournament in Derby (I competed in Derby but never got to Abu Dhabi) and as I had never done a submission only tournament before I decided to enter.

I trained my ass off just trying to submit everyone as quick as possible in training and felt pretty good. Even though to start with I was getting great positions but trying to sub someone who is purely defensive is still tough to do.

We got to the event and had the rules meeting where they decided to NOT do submission only but a regular tournament with points and advantages etc. I was pretty gutted until I realised that the change in rules would not effect me and I would just go all out to submit everyone or die trying. (Well, maybe not die but lose which is nearly as bad).

First match I was a little reluctant to charge straight in but danced around a little then got the takedown, pass and sub. Maybe this mindset would get me through after all.

Next match an even quicker sub by omaplata arm bar.
Semi final match even quicker sub by triangle to arm bar.
Final was even quicker sub by footlock in 22 seconds.

If I had not had the submission only mindset, I maybe wouldn't have had such success, I would have played more conservatively and accepted a win on points rather than pushing the action.

Ask yourself, is submission only the rules of the tournament or the mental attitude you have towards competing? 


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Pressure And The New Belt part deux

Trust your coaches judgement, if they say you are a particular grade then that's it, you are. We do this all the time so we know!

One of my old 'Traditional' Jiu Jitsu coaches would say "Would you pass your driving test then argue with the examiner that you aren't ready to drive?"

One of my old training partners Varqa was training his butt off, competing and improving at such an alarming rate I was going to charge him double to train.

Although he hadn't been a blue belt that long I recognised that he needed to go to purple to continue challenging him so we went over to Manchester when SBGi head honcho Matt Thornton was there who was doing our belt promotions at the time. He saw Varqa and awarded him a straight purple. I hadn't told Varqa he was going to get graded otherwise he would have been horrified and wouldn't have gone.

So a few days later I am explaining to him that he deserves to be at that level and when he mentally catches up with his physicality he would make even more massive improvements. I then told him I had organised a purple belt super-fight for him against Gracie Barra Newcastle head instructor Dave Eliot actually in Newcastle so I could prove to him that he was indeed a purple belt and could handle fighting a local hero in his home town. Dave was a really good competitor, tough as nails and really skilled too.

I started training harder with Varqa knowing Dave would attack him constantly with arm bars and triangles from guard so I replicated that over and over. Varqa got so good in that dynamic that the last time I rolled with him prior to the match it took me 45 minutes to triangle him and still remains to this day one of my favourite rolls. One of those times where we are both in the zone and time doesn't exist.

Fast forward to Newcastle and the superfight, Dave pulled guard and attacked just the way we practiced, Varqa remained calm, remembered the drills and stayed safe starting to work to pass guard. As they were looking to go out of bounds the ref stopped them, brought them back into the middle and let Dave have a full triangle position for the re-start, this was a little naughty as he didn't have that before the re-start.

If anyone disputes this, I still have the video somewhere!!

Anyway I just told Varqa to stay calm, escape and pass which he did. He settled into side control as time elapsed and he won 3-0.

What does this prove?

Whatever you may be feeling inside, your coach knows best.

What is your part in this process? Roll, experiment, tap, experiment some more, tap some more.

Just keep doing what you are doing, ignore the colour around your waist, after all that is your coach's job so don't worry about it.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pressure And The New Belt

Jiu Jitsu is a simple process stripped of the typical BS of the "traditional" arts (for now); you train long and hard, you improve, you get a new belt then repeat the process until you are a black belt. Simple, right? Or is it?

You have heard the phrase 'invisible' Jiu Jitsu for pressures etc of the techniques that you do subconsciously but they are other 'invisible' elements of Jiu Jitsu that aren't as helpful.

I understood how the belt system worked but no one told me with each new belt comes more responsibility, a bigger target on your back and worse of all, pressure. At a time when you should be giving yourself a huge pat on the back for improving to the point that it is recognised by your instructor instead you are about to hit a downward spiral if you are not careful.

If you let any negative thoughts in then you will start to question in your own mind whether you are ready to be promoted, you will put extra pressure on yourselves to perform which can actually hinder your performance and worst of all, you will stop enjoying Jiu Jitsu.

So let us put a stop to this right now before it gets a hook. If we use the same thought processes that we used in the previous Competition Nerves And Anxiety blog post we can win and continue training relatively uninterrupted.

I will use myself as the example, use my thoughts for the analysis and show you that if I can beat it, anyone can.

The background is that we travelled to the USA in June 2009 and as always had gi and trusty brown belt packed with me to take advantage of the infamous Garage sessions when we stayed over with the Haueters.

I taught a class on the Thursday night and ended sparring with a really strong brown belt, he attempted a triangle but didn't quite have it in right but pulled down on my head so hard I felt my neck pull, not wanting to risk injury because of ego I tapped and called it a day.

The next day we went over to San Pedro for the open session at Harbor Kickboxing where Chris was teaching. Had an awesome session and towards the end I was paired with Justin, a big brown belt. He pulled guard, reached over my shoulder and pulled my gi right up exposing my back then the next thing was a massive WHACK where Haueter had hit me with my new belt. He threw the black belt to me then put me to train with Tony Pacenski who kicked my ass but showed me how he kicked it too.

We finished training then went to Redondo Beach Cafe where the promotion started to hit home. I was being congratulated on a job well done but already I was starting to question in my own mind if it was too soon.

Ok, fast forward to the part where I have the thoughts and deal with them;

"It's too soon, I'm not ready yet" - other than being disrespectful to my coach by questioning his judgement, I don't think you feel ready to be a black belt. I started training do-it-yourself BJJ in 1994 after watching UFC2 then expanded to take in seminars and started to put it all together. I met Haueter in 1997 and really got into training. By 2009 i had been involved in BJJ for 15 years, was it too soon to be promoted?

"I got tapped by a brown belt the night before" - the guy was good and just because I got tapped doesn't mean anything just I got caught in something and couldn't get out.

"But I got promoted and he didn't" - just because he tapped me doesn't make him a black belt and just because I got tapped doesn't mean I am not a black belt. He is a black belt now by the way.

"As soon as I got my black belt I then got tapped by a black belt" - I can't believe now I seriously thought this. The guy was a very good black belt already and I had been a black belt about 5 minutes. Just because I got promoted to black belt doesn't mean I am any better than I was 5 minutes ago as a brown belt!! You have to understand that the belt is totally insignificant at this point, a certain belt does not bring magic powers.

"I'm feeling more pressure than I was before" - Good, that shows that you are taking Jiu Jitsu seriously, nobody wants a belt that doesn't fit. You just have to work through it and not let it affect you. Thursday I was a brown belt, Friday I was a black belt, a lot more pressure but little improvement if any, it's only 1 day difference.

No matter what belt you are it is still ok to tap. Higher grades will sometimes tap to lower grades just not too often. If a higher grade taps to a lower grade then great, it means you were trying something and it didn't work and you got caught. If it happened every session then it would a problem but sometimes you will get caught.

If you are a new blue and get tapped by a white belt, no big deal, just get on with it. Please do not let it affect you to the point you end up quitting. I have seen it so many times and believe the highest mortality rate is BJJ is at blue belt. It is your first taste of pressure, some handle it, some don't. Stay the course.

Every grade has it's own trials and tribulations, even the black belts feel pressure, possibly even more than the other belts but remember always, a black belt is just a white belt that didn't quit.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Competition Nerves And Anxiety

If I had a £ for every time I spoke to someone about this I would have...well, more than I have now but is a serious topic that can kill even the most well trained athlete.

When I first started martial arts, Taekwondo actually, I started competing right off the bat. The last thing I had competed at was whilst at school I was in the chess team, I was told that chess and fighting are very similar but I quickly worked out only mentally, no one tried to kick me, punch me or choke me out playing chess, as much as they might have wanted to.

I am not by nature a fighter, have no aggression and have no 'natural' talent if there is such a thing (read The Talent Code) so to start to compete in a full contact martial art was daunting. I did the first competition and lost by 1 point so of course I wanted to try again.

The first time is great, not knowing what to expect or fear, all the excitement but the second time I was so nervous. The voice in my head telling me I was going to die or at least fail miserably and everyone would think I was no good.

The damned voice in my head wouldn't leave me alone so I figured that the more I competed the easier it would be to ignore. I set myself a target of 50 matches spanning a bunch of different martial arts, some striking only, some grappling only and some combining both then I would be cured.

50 matches came and went and I wasn't cured at all so the nerd in me rose to the surface and decided to research the whole nerves thing.

I enrolled at Park Lane College in Leeds to take a qualification that was called Peak Performance, that entailed exercise, nutrition and more importantly sports psychology. I aced the qualification and started to get more of an appreciation of the mental aspect of training.

My next 10 matches after that were a little easier, I was putting into practise the things I had learnt. I spent a load of cash and tons of effort continuing to study and research the way the mind can affect your performance. I went through all the questions and scenarios that I felt had affected me before and compiled feeling and action tables to offset any anxieties I had.

The following is an excerpt of my findings and subsequent practises;

"The guy looks way bigger than me" - I am a short-arse anyway, it's not like I haven't faced bigger people than me (in fact the only guy shorter than me I faced in competition looked like Harry Potter and things didn't end well for me that match)

"The guy looks way stronger than me" - can't be any stronger than some of the guys at our gym, I spar with Ryan and Karl etc, this guy is nothing compared to them

"The guy has got massive arms" - good job it's not a body building competition then

"Look at the guys belt, it's all faded and raggy" - obviously not his from new, it's a hand-me-down

"I've won 2 matches all ready so if I lose this one it doesn't matter I've still won more than I've lost" - don't believe it, I came here to win not start making excuses for if I don't

"It's really noisy, the crowd are really on his side" - good job I'm not fighting the crowd as well then besides it's just white noise, it doesn't mean anything

"The guy looks really good, he just won 3 matches to get to the final" - so did I, dumb ass

And so on..................

I took every opportunity I could to visualise my performing under pressure and winning, right from the start of the match to the point where the ref holds up my hand, this proved to be so effective that I once lost a match by referee's decision (because I was playing 1/2 guard and the opponent was therefore on top) and couldn't believe it, I had visualised winning the entire tournament but was now relegated into fighting for 3rd place, gutted I believe the word is.

I took this lesson, one of the most valuable I have learnt, the result is not the important part it is the process. I had entered the tournament with very little nervous feeling (I don't believe it ever truly 100% leaves you but that's good) and performed to the best of my ability.

What I do now when faced with a stressful situation and I hear the voice, I imagine it is a little guy stood on my shoulder whispering in my ear so just give him the brush off Usher-style. Literally pretend to brush the guy off my shoulder which stops me and makes me focus.

Remember, whatever you are feeling, the other guy will be feeling it just the same.

Final tip I got from listening to an interview with Chris Moriarty "just smile, when you smile the body can not differentiate between whether you are really happy or not so it assumes you are and makes you relax. Plus the opponent will see you smiling when he is nervous and either think you are supremely confident or totally unhinged, either way you get into his head"

Really hope this helps you as much as it helps me.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

White Belt Only Interclub

To be held on 27th May 2012

At Allegiance MMA gym in Batley

Weigh in and drugs testing from 11:00am, ready to start shortly after. Weigh in will be with gi.

Competitors will be assumed to have adequate insurance and will need to sign a waiver on the day to say they are voluntarily taking part in a combat sport where there is a risk of injury. Don't worry this is just SOP.

Please display the best sportsmanship and respect your opponent, the officials and yourself.

You must wear a gi and belt, gum shield is ok but no groin guard, no bulky knee pads and no footwear. Competitors may wear a rash guard/t-shirt under their gi as long as it is plain and contains no hard materials that could cause damage to themselves or their opponents.

No footwear to be worn on the mat at any time but footwear must be worn off the mats especially for toilet breaks and the like.

We will be following IBJJF rules (download here) although common sense will prevail. For example, if you are attempting a technique that is not allowed , a knee reap maybe, then you will not be instantly DQ’ed but will be stopped and explained what you are doing wrong.

We will be using IBJJF weight categories but again common sense will prevail. For example if you are 71kg you may end up fighting in the under 70kg if the numbers allow it. Say, there are only 2 entries in the under 70kg but 9 in the under 76kg then if someone weighed in at 71kg they may be dropped a weight group. 1kg over won’t make much difference but being 5kg under could. I hope this makes sense and you are in agreement.

Depending on numbers this may run as a tournament or may just be single matches, either way we will give you as many matches as practicable as experience is key.

Don’t solely focus on the results, focus on the process too. I completely understand that everyone wants to win but in a tournament only 1 person can win therefore I don’t want the other guys going away feeling as though they lost because if you compete you don’t ever really lose. You may not get the "W" but you get something more precious than that.

Winning a tournament is basically saying you were the best that day, the following day the results could be way different. If you lose don’t get too down and if you win don’t rip off your gi top, waving an imaginary sword about and run around going crazy.

Please be professional and respectful to everyone, if you feel you have a genuine complaint then please ask your coach to speak to us.

I would like as many people as possible to support this as it is a great evaluation tool for us, helps us keep the standard high and make sure that everyone is on the same page.

This is a great opportunity to compete in a friendly yet competitive environment that will be the fairest competition you ever do, doesn’t matter what club you are from, you will all be treated equally. Don’t expect that when you start to do open competitions though.

Saying this we have kept the entry cost down to £5 just to cover expenses.

Give 100%, learn from the experience and enjoy. If you would like to enter, speak to your coach and either you or your coach email me at with your:
Weight with gi.
Length of time training.
Any competitive experience you may have.
Any specific medical conditions we should know about.

Pre-register with me and pay on the day.

Hope to see you all there.