The Book of Lists And Decision Trees

I’m a compulsive list-maker. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of things going on. Maybe it’s because all my concussions make my brain the consistency of vichyssoise. Or maybe it’s just an effective organizational strategy.

Because jiu-jitsu is so vast, the techniques I use today bear little resemblance to the techniques I used 6 months ago. Sometimes, that’s good (hey, I’m learning new stuff!); sometimes, that’s bad (hey, I’ve stopped using the stuff that works in favor of other stuff that’s doesn’t work yet!). Regardless, in a long game like learning jiu-jitsu, list-making can be an effective learning tool. I’d like to talk a little bit about what I try to do, and how it helps me learn.

I’m going to be writing about two related tactics. Making lists of techniques to study and work on in training helps show you where your strengths and weaknesses currently are. And making flowcharts of “If X happens, I can do Y or Z” can help you figure out your game plan for rolling in competitions.

These are two distinct issues. That super-fancy new sweep from Tornado guard may be cool as hell, but you might want to wait before throwing it into the “A” game bucket. The techniques you want to do most in training aren’t necessarily the ones you want to break out at a big tournament. Once you’re in that big tournament, though, you want a decision tree that supports the transitions you want to make.

Let’s talk about basic list-making for training first, since that’s way simpler. I keep a notebook with a few techniques I’m working on from every position. I use Evernote, which is free software that lets you add links to photos, videos and other instructionals. That way I can keep the whole works on my phone and laptop, so if I’m curious what details I’m missing on that new guard pass, I can check it out quickly.

This is what the interface looks like: as you can see, in addition to the notes I write, I can keep notes from class and from seminars I attend, videos of techniques I want to study and other research. You can search by keyword and tag, too, which is useful. (Click to expand the picture)

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 12.24.25 PM

The specific way you actually make a list or flowchart is peripheral, though. We all learn in different ways, and some of us will get more from books than they will from videos, or vice versa. I just think it’s valuable to spend time thinking about these topics, however you do it. The more mental energy you spend on technical matters, the more likely you are to improve. For me, the mere process of making lists reminds me of things I used to do that worked, but that I don’t do any more for whatever reason, and keeps fresh in my mind the new stuff that I’m working on, but am not good at yet.

The lists help me figure out what techniques I know, what I’m comfortable with and what I need to improve. The flowcharts help me organize all these components into a game plan. To illustrate how this works, I made this sample flowchart. We start and end with the orange circles, and the items along the way give us options along the lines of “If he does this, I can do this or this.”

So, for example, we start in the center, standing. If he’s a normal human, I usually shoot and try to take him down. If he’s a very good judo guy or a skillful wrestling guy, I probably pull guard. Then you follow the chart from there.

It’s like choose your own adventure, but with real-life consequences! You’ll want to click on it for the big version in order to really see it.

Print

You’ll note this is an oversimplified version. In this magical flowchart world, we never get swept or get our guard passed. Optimism! (But also, the submission defenses, escapes and guard recovery techniques you use are subjects for a whole other flowchart).

And yes, I should probably have lines between Side Control and Neon Belly and Mount (and, for that matter, between Side Control and Back), because of various transitions. This is more of a “here’s how I would do this,” with some jokes thrown in, than an actual game plan.  Although it does have some elements of my actual game plan in there — you’re welcome, opponents!

The point isn’t to have a rigid structure that tells you exactly what to do in every situation. The point is, if you think a lot about your options from different positions, you’re more likely to smoothly flow toward those options than if you haven’t thought much about them before. Don’t think that just because the flowchart says you’re going for one of these three things from a position locks you into it.

Does anyone else do something like this? If so (whether you do it in a similar or different manner to how I do it), how does it work for you?

Tournament Wrap: NC State Championships

My first tournament of the year — and the first one that counts toward my charity project — was this past Saturday.

More than 300 people entered US Grappling‘s NC State Championships this weekend. It was one of the biggest tournaments I’ve seen in North Carolina, if not the biggest. It was a very cool environment to be a part of: people drove down from West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C. to compete.

I had several great matches against very tough competitors. There are some seriously skillful individuals in my divisions.

Before I get to the results — hey, I’ve got to keep some semblance of suspense, even though everyone reading this was probably at the tournament except my mom — I want to say two things: first, I’m grateful for the two people so far who have agreed to match my donations to charity based on the number of competition matches I win this year. With their help, every win this year is worth $25 to charity. I was stoked to cost myself and my friends some money.

Second, this weekend made me think about the process by which we improve at jiu-jitsu. Primarily, my instructors and training partners are the people that help me get better on a day-to-day basis, and I owe them a lot. But in competing against good BJJ players that I don’t roll with on the daily, I notice different details about the techniques I use, and the techniques others use against me. Those competition matches always teach me a ton about what strides I’ve taken and what else I need to work on. So thanks, guys.

As for results: Out of of the four divisions I entered, I came away with two gold medals and one silver. I won gold in both men’s and 30+ no-gi at my weight, took second in the 30+ gi, and didn’t place in the men’s gi. I lost in the first round to the same dude I faced in the 30+ gi finals, a really tough and technical guy.

883101_10151306985668483_1603926034_o

Yes, I’m rocking my Green Gi patch and rocking my Cageside Fight Co. gi. Shillin’ like a villain.

My teammates also performed righteously, when US Grappling posts the final results, I’ll share a complete list of their medals. Just don’t want to leave anybody out, and we had a ton of entrants.

I had entered all the absolute divisions as well: was looking forward to getting a bunch of extra matches in. Unfortunately, I have a nagging knee problem that I tweaked in my last match at weight.

Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious — but it still wouldn’t have been the smartest thing to play guard against dudes over 200 pounds with a gimpy knee, so I bowed out to roll another day. I love doing absolute, but I do enough dumb and fun things that I didn’t feel like adding to the list.

How’d it go for charity? Here are the numbers:

CHARITY PROJECT STATISTICS
Matches Won: 4
Total Won For The Year: 4
Money Raised For Charity: $100
Total Raised So Far: $100

REWARDS UNLOCKED
Custom Photoshops: 2
Private Lessons: 1

CHARITY VOTES (the standings for the second charity I’ll give to):
George Pendergrass Foundation: 5
Carolina Basset Hound Rescue: 5
Reporters Without Borders: 3
RAINN: 2
Wounded Warrior Project: 2

Remember, voting is still open: I’m donating to the Women’s Debate Institute already, but will donate to another charity chose by people who vote as well. Right now, leading the charge are two local charities, the anti-cancer George Pendergrass Foundation and Carolina Basset Hound Rescue.

There are still a ton of cool rewards you can win, including a bottle of the rarest and best beer in the world, Westvleteren 12. Check out all the ways you can get involved and help.

Thanks as always for reading! Big fun this weekend. Next stop: Submission Only Greensboro.

For My JiuJitsuVersary, I’m Giving Presents

Two years ago today, I stumbled into Triangle Jiu-Jitsu Academy. (That’s right: Valentine’s Day is my Jiu-Jitsu-Versary). I put on my old karate gi, learned the upa escape, got painfully choked a few times and got hooked immediately.

For my anniversary of doing jiu-jitsu, I’ve decided to give out some presents.

The Cliff’s Notes: I like fun. I like Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I like raising money for worthy causes. You can help me with all three – and get yourself some cool prizes while you’re at it.

I want to challenge myself for a good cause this yearFor every tournament match I win in 2013, I have decided to donate $10 to the Women’s Debate Institute and to another charity. That’s the first place you come in: what should the second charity be? There’s voting, and prizes, and good times.

For the full details, I have a page rightchere that explains the whole thing. It has a FAQ section, but if you have any questions, you can always ask me in the comments.

The upshot: BJJ has been an immensely positive force in my life and the lives of my friends. I’m really grateful for the chance to train, and I wanted to use that as a tool to help out some great causes. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

And, as Kurt Osiander would say: now go train.

[Charity Candidates] [How You Can Help] [What Can I Win?] [How Do I Win?] [FAQ]

A Part of Something

Reading this very good post by Rob Pendergrass got me thinking about why I got started training — and why I continue to train BJJ. Rob is a black belt under Gustavo Machado. He and his twin brother Guy run Pendergrass Academy in Wake Forest, and his take on things is well worth reading.

Personally, I’ve always thought that the self-defense vs. sport jiu-jitsu division was a largely false and artificial one. To me, jiu-jitsu is a complete system, and if you want to really learn it, you have to train both.

People start training for different reasons. Once we start training, we also develop different emphases given the lives we lead: some people love competing at tournaments; some people have jobs that put a premium on self-defense; some people are just looking for a good workout.

All these people keep training, despite the fact that they’re looking for different things. Why is this?

I have two answers. The first is that jiu-jitsu can deliver all of those things, and deliver them at the same time. Many of us wish we had unlimited time to train, because if we did, we could improve at all of the different aspects of the art simultaneously. The reality is we don’t. But no matter what your main focus is, training the right way lays a powerful foundation for future growth. Getting the basics down just highlights how much more there is to learn, too, so it stays interesting.

The second answer is a little broader, but it might even be more important. When you train, you’re a part of something.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a relatively young art. In many ways, this is a gift. You can see the direct progression from the founders and innovators, down to your instructor, and from there on down to you.

I got to thinking about lineage, and as a quick gift for my instructor, I made a visual representation of his. I liked how it looked, so I made one for me and for a couple of teammates:

TJJLineageLegacyJeff

Looking at these images, it hit me: what keeps me coming back is that I’m a part of something. Looking back at the mighty shoulders on which I stand really drove that home, that jiu-jitsu isn’t just an art, but a privilege. When you train jiu-jitsu, you’re not just getting a series of benefits, you’re taking on the responsibility of representing those that came before you, and representing them well.

I like competing at tournaments, and being successful, but that’s not enough for me. I like learning self-defense, but that isn’t enough for me either. I want to be a part of something.

And I am, and so are you.

 

Good News: My Finger Hurts

Jiu-jitsu really changes your standards for what constitutes an injury. If you can train, you’re not really injured.

On the other hand — literally — I nicked myself up in what seemed like the most innocuous way yesterday. Doing some drills with the gi, I jammed my index finger. Overnight it swelled up, and now I can only close my hand to about 50 percent of a fist.

Luckily, tonight is no-gi night, so I don’t have to worry about grips. On the down side, I have to wait until Friday to really try this:

Hopefully my finger will still hurt by then.

Please vote for my awesome dog

I’m going to try to have very few off-topic posts here, but this is one of them. My best pal Russell the Hound is in a contest for Top Dog of the Triangle. It’s a voting thing run by the Independent Weekly. Russell had a big lead, but the opposition got organized and now we’re only ahead by about a few votes.

 Please help! I wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t such a close race, and it weren’t so oddly important to me to make Russell the official mascot of the Indy’s “Best Of” issue.
RussellSantaVote
Would you mind helping out? It only takes a second, and doesn’t require registration. If you’re willing, you can:
1. VOTE! You can vote here. ( http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/who-should-be-our-top-dog-model/Poll )
2. VOTE TOMORROW! The contest ends at midnight tomorrow, and you can vote once every 24 hours.
2. SHARE THE LINK AND ASK OTHERS TO VOTE! This would be going above and beyond, but I’d sure appreciate it if you’d tweet it, post to Facebook, whatever. It only takes a second.
I made a bunch of silly photoshops to encourage people to vote for Russell. Here is one.
berimboloforrussell
Yeah, this is why I subscribe to the Mendes Bros. site — to make Photoshops like this.
Seriously, Russ is a great dog, and he’s been my best buddy for 10 years. You don’t need to register or anything to vote. Would you mind? I thank you, and the hound thanks you.
voteforrussell

What does belt rank mean?

To tell you how I feel about belt rank progression, I have to tell you about the one tattoo I’ve ever seriously considered getting. I also have to tell you something about Greek language.

If you’re still with me, oh how I love you. I promise it’ll be quick and painless.

We get our English word synecdoche from a Greek word, συνεκδοχή, that means “simultaneous understanding.” The word is used as a figure of speech or a metaphor.

You know how sometimes people say “50 head” meaning “a herd of 50 cattle,” or “three hands” meaning “three sailors”? Those are examples. A synecdoche is where the thing-in-itself (like a sailor) has the same meaning as something that represents that thing (like a hand). We understand that those two meanings exist simultaneously.

After the Mundials this past year, I started think about getting a tattoo of the Greek letters. The ink would be a reminder that, in life, we should consider both the thing-in-itself and what the thing represents. Also, Greek letters look pretty boss. That was a secondary consideration.

Why did the Mundials get me thinking about this? Because a jiu-jitsu belt is a synecdoche.

Before I got promoted, I spent a lot of time thinking about my next belt. It’ll be so rewarding, I thought, to be able to tie that around my waist every class.

But at the end of the day, it’s a piece of colored cloth. There’s that famous Royce Gracie quote that a belt only covers two inches of your ass, and the rest of it you have to cover on your own. It’s true.

As hard as we work for those promotions, a belt is just a thing, an object. It’s what that object represents that matters.

Discipline. Commitment. Loyalty. The respect you’ve earned from people that you respect (your instructors, your training partners). It might sound corny, but that’s what I think about when I think about promotions: a shared journey that, if done the right way, has spectacular rewards. The new addition to your wardrobe is lovely, but is it really anything compared to what the belt actually represents?

People do think about and talk about belt rank. It’s natural. When jiu-jitsu is a big part of your life, and BJJ people are a significant portion of your social circle, it’s only normal that you would talk about progression with your friends. And I do think that belts serve a purpose: they can be markers along the way of a long, long journey. My instructor is fond of pointing out that there are only five belts in BJJ, and everyone starts with one of them: promotions don’t happen often.

Sometimes, I hear folks get frustrated because they didn’t get a stripe from their instructor, or were passed over for promotion during the head of their school’s last visit. We all know people who have gotten frustrated about matters like these. Frankly, most of us have been those people at one time or another.

If you want a belt that’s a rank up from where you are, I’m sure you can find someone to give it to you. But what would that mean? You’d have the thing itself. You wouldn’t have what it represents. It wouldn’t be a synecdoche.

Training the right way — and doing so with patience and humility — allows you to have both the thing-in-itself and what the thing represents. I don’t want to cheat myself out of having both, and neither, I suspect, do you.

Letting Ego Go

When I did debate in high school, a bunch of us went to watch our best debater — a senior — compete in a final round. We were sophomores, and we watched our best guy deliver a terrific speech to win top honors. Afterward, still suffused with the glow of sweet victory, I told a teammate: “You know, I want to be that good someday.”

This particular teammate never thought much of me, so that may be why she gave me a look of scorn. It may also be that such a declaration came off as arrogant, or implausible, or some combination of all of these. Whatever it was, it was clear that she didn’t think my goal was happening, and she wanted me to know it.

Fine, I thought inside. Out loud, I said: “No, I changed my mind. I want to be better. And I’m going to be.”

***

I admit it: I’m a competitive person. I will further admit that this type of competitiveness is rooted in ego, and that this is not always my most charming trait. At 38, I certainly hope that I’m more mature about expressing these feelings than I was as a sophomore in high school. But that base impulse — You think I can’t do that? Well, we’ll you’re wrong, and I’ll prove it — remains the same.

Ego can be a mixed blessing at best — in life and in jiu-jitsu training. If your instructor is anything like mine, he or she has probably has probably told you over and over that ego is your enemy.

There are good reasons for this. Especially with something like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, where improvement is such a long-term process, conquering your ego is something you simply have to do. Humility is worth cultivating for its own sake. It also has instrumental value: being humble also allows you to be open to what your instructors — and training partners — have to teach you, in word and deed. There are lot of reasons for this, but my favorite is this: if you don’t believe you’re making mistakes, you can’t learn.

Humility is also a recipe for being much happier in life. I fundamentally believe this. As beneficial as competition can be for us, physically and mentally, an all-consuming focus on it isn’t charming. It can also undermine your long-term progress. I’ve seen a lot of people with impressive physical attributes start to rely on their strength or speed to win matches and perform well in rolls, since that’s easier at first than learning technique.

Let me make an uncomfortable admission, though. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a tiny kernel of ego still continues to drive my training. I like getting medals. I don’t like big, strong, new guys coming into the gym and calling me out, assuming they can beat on the little old guy. I like it when they get a nasty surprise.

This isn’t a part of my personality I’m particularly happy with, but I can acknowledge that it will always be a part of me. And contrary to what the great Annie Savoy said, the world can be a better place with a little self-awareness. Knowing our own tendencies can be the best way to moderate them.

Ultimately, I think that moderation is the lesson here: you don’t want to let your ego run you, but you don’t want to completely abandon it, either. You can’t run an engine on a spark alone, but sometimes you need a spark to get started.

***

Since I’m sure everyone is anxious to know how my debate career turned out, I’ll return that to close this out. (Spoiler alert: it’s actually a pretty good parable for what I’m trying to say in the post.)

Debaters work really hard. I worked as hard as two of them. I kind of had a chip on my shoulder anyway, but I used doubters — real and imagined — to motivate me. Tournaments were most every weekend, and I lived for them.

The work paid off, such as it was: for a few years I was pretty hard to beat at debate. Then, as suddenly as I started obsessing over winning debates, I found myself burning out. I was exhausted all the time and had stopped enjoying something that had been the center of my life.

I had a lot of success, and I had a lot of fun, but I don’t think I had as much of either in the long run as I might have. Tough to admit, but true.

We’re all capable of making mistakes. One of my goals in training jiu-jitsu is to fix the mistakes in approach I made during debate. Ego is a tough opponent, but it can be defeated, too, and the more I defeat it, the happier I am.

What To Get Your Grappler This Holiday Season

If you’re reading this, you probably love a grappler, are a grappler, or both. To you, whatever your station, we say: thanks for the love, but what we really want is presents.

In all seriousness, I sometimes hear those who have grapplers in their lives complain that it’s a struggle to shop for a BJJ player, judoka or wrestler. It’s tough to separate the good gifts from the bad, because it’s tough to navigate the arcane world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for those who don’t train. I’m sympathetic. My girlfriend likes to knit, and if I tried to buy her some yarn I’m sure I’d get the pursed-lip “at least he tried” smile.

Nobody wants to get effort points for gifts. We want to get great stuff for the people we love!

What follows is a guide of 10 types of item you might consider getting your grappler, complete with suggestions of quality stuff and ideas for how to tease out information about what they want. If you don’t want to end up buying your grappler a TapouT hoodie or George Dillman’s advanced pressure points for grapplers (and believe me, you don’t), read on!

I’ve put this together in a truly altruistic manner, with no expectation of anyone getting me any of these. Ahem.

***

1. Instructional DVDs: This is probably the safest option. I’m a voracious consumer of DVDs, and it’s always exciting to see high-level people teaching you how to do their techniques. Some of my recent favorites are Caio Terra’s Modern Jiu-Jitsu and Ryan Hall’s new Arm Triangles set. Next on my list: Lucas Lepri’s guard passing. Actually, maybe I should get Ryan Hall’s triangles set so I can stop getting triangled in tournaments.

For ease of gift-buying, just check the DVD shelf and you can tell what your grappler has — and what s/he needs next.

Related:

2. Membership to An Online Site: These days a lot of amazing instructors have membership-driven websites where they post video instruction. This is a great option that allows your grappler to learn with only an Internet connection, and without the hassle of using Handbrake to rip their DVDs. Marcelo Garcia has perhaps the most comprehensive site, and is highly recommended: the great Rafael Lovato Jr. has a new guard passing website that looks outstanding.And I’m just about to re-up my subscription to the Mendes Brothers site. Unless, you know, anybody wants to hook me up for Christmas …

Also, it’s simple to see what your grappler subscribes to: just click those links and see if s/he is logged in at those sites.

3. A Private Lesson: This is a little trickier to figure out, but believe me, it would be worth the effort. I’ll bet your grappler has a dream “to train with” list. Why not pay for a private lesson with that person? It’ll be easy to drag out of them: just ask them “If you could train with anyone, who would it be?” Then listen to them drone on about jiu-jitsu for 20 minutes without stopping. You know they’re going to do so anyway, so you might as well get information out of it.

It doesn’t have to be a big name instructor to be a great gift, though.  Privates are a really effective way for your grappler to work on what they want to work on, with personalized attention from their instructor or another great local person. I’ve been very lucky to get private lessons from terrific local brown and black belts, and every time, I get that incremental improvement that puts a spring in a grappler’s step. Or guard. Or something.

Anyway, if your grappler’s dream private instructor lives too far away, get them talking about who the best local instructors are. Then contact one of those and pay ’em in advance for a private. A gift certificate for a private with a local instructor would make my eyes light up, and I’m sure the same is true of your grappler.

4. A Great Gi: Warning: the degree of difficulty might be high on this one. For many grapplers, the gi is of great personal importance. After all, we spend hundreds of hours in these things. Personal tastes vary widely on style and fit of a gi — all A1s and A2s are not created equal. I can wear anywhere from A1 to a small A3 myself. Hence, it’s best if your grappler has already been babbling about this awesome gi they’d love to have.

If they haven’t, here are some ideas for multiple categories:

Budget: The Cageside Genesis is $85, and is seriously the most comfortable gi I own. It’s my everyday training gi, and if you’re looking for a utilitarian model with a classic clean white aesthetic, look no further.

Classy: I love my Moya White Sand gi. It’s the right blend of distinctive and understated, in my view. You can’t mistake it for anything else but it isn’t going to burn out anybody’s retinas, either.

Flashy: Scramble’s The Wave looks classic on the outside, but the internal rashguard is a piece of art. High-end, but beautiful.

Designed Specifically For Female Grapplers: My training partner loves her Fenom gis. They look great and they’re both soft and durable. Affordable, too. For a flashier model that supports a good cause, the Shoyoroll Her Honor just came out today and supports breast cancer research.

Future: Tell ’em you’ll buy a Green Gi when those come out. Then take them out for some hempseed tempeh.

Remember, be sure to check the size chart, or better yet call the manufacturer to make sure the size you buy will fit.

5. Grappling Gear: I just talked about how fashion choices can be personal, but people also love to represent their sport and their gym. Does your grappler need a hoodie? How about a shirt? Cageside MMA has great selection and the best prices around along with awesome customer service. I get 90% of my stuff there, and I’ve never been disappointed. If they need training gear like gloves or rashguards or fight shorts, you can get those at Cageside, too.

But my favorite thing I’ve bought this past year is the black gi backpack. It’s simple, functional, looks great, and  — unlike many gear bags — I can take it to other places without standing out. Plus, BJJ folks can always use a new bag. Gym sandals are always good, and can be inexpensive. Or how about a belt rank keychain as a stocking stuffer?

Also, I have to say that I love my Scramble grappling tights. I get made fun of for them sometimes, but I’ve had my sense of shame surgically removed, so it works out. Plus, mat burns suck, and this helps you avoid them. If your grappler is an exhibitionist or fan of Shinya Aoki, you could always get ’em the rainbow spats, too.

6. Soap. No, I am not a fancy lad or a member of the Flopping Dandies BJJ fight team. (In fact, an ex of mine once ended things by telling me “I want to make you more of a metrosexual.” True story.) Just because I don’t spend a lot of time in Lush, though, doesn’t mean I want to smell like my car gi all the time. I’ve used Athletic Body Care and liked it, although the scent had to grow on me a little. A friend of mine swears by Super Body Care, too. Get your grappler some of this stuff, bar or body wash, and don’t worry about your grappler being nicknamed “Malcheiroso.”

Of course, you might set yourself up for the offended “Are you getting me this because you think I’m smelly?” face. You’re on you’re own navigating that one: I’m just handling the commerce here.

7. Entry to a Tournament: Grappling tournaments are fun, exciting, productive for learning, and memorable. They are also expensive. If your grappler likes to compete, surprise him or her with an entry to a tournament. I’ll bet there is a US Grappling tournament near you. Depending on your location, travel situation and your grappler’s interest level, you could also get them an entry to an IBJJF tournament.

They’ll either weep with joy or give you the mortified “what have you gotten me into?” look. The former is satisfying: the latter is priceless.

8. Grappling Artwork: One of my friends and training partners got me a very cool John Smalls print, and it’s now in a place of prominence in my living room. I also really like Seymour Yang, known more commonly as Meerkatsu. If you’re not totally stoked on your grappler hanging their autographed white belt up for decoration (and yeah, I’m guilty of that), be proactive and get some wall-hangage of your own.

9. GrAPPling: Sorry, I reached for that one.

If your grappler has a smartphone, there are some terrific apps out now. Dave Camarillo has a good iPhone app that’s composed primarily of video. Felipe Costa has a free BJJ referee app that will help the competitors out there (as well as some paid technique apps as well). If you’re intrigued by Caio Terra’s Modern Jiu-Jitsu, those apps are available now too.

Maybe buy an app as a stocking stuffer, or download a bunch and then sync them as a Christmas morning surprise.

10. Donate to a great charity in their name. Yeah, this isn’t grappling-specific, but charities can always use a boost, and you can tell your grappler that his/her karmic power will be amplified nine-thousand-fold by the gesture.

Besides, there are some BJJ-related charities that do great work, like the George Pendergrass Foundation and Tap Cancer Out, both of whom raise money for cancer research. If you donate to Pendergrass, maybe you could even work a deal with Guy and Rob for a private or two in exchange. Double your pleasure! That was not intended to be a “twin” joke, but it just worked out that way.

There you have it: 10 ideas to get you started on gifts for your grappler. Thanks for reading — and I hope your grappler thanks you as well. Got other ideas? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

The Morning After

The morning after a loss is an interesting thing. This weekend, my teammates and I traveled the IBJJF No-Gi Pans. Even though I lost my first match, I felt OK about my performance: my opponent was very skilled, and it wasn’t what I screwed up so much as what he did well that decided the match.

I had chances to win, and I do feel like if I’d made some different choices during the match that I could have — but that just means I need to improve my technique. Nobody likes to lose (at least, nobody that wants to win as badly as I do), but sometimes you do your best and the other guy is better. It happens to just about everybody.

This was my mindframe for the whole day yesterday. Had a blast rooting on my teammates (one of whom won double gold), meeting people and finally eating a meal without thinking about what was in it. I just kind of let myself enjoy the rest of the experience.

Image

Today, I’m a little more reflective and analytical. My subconscious mind must have been processing the match in detail for the past 20 hours, because now all I can think about it what I have to work on. How could I have finished that submission? Why was I hesitant to go for the sweep when I had it? Is it time for me to change my strategy and stop playing so much closed guard?

More or less, I’m really anxious to get back to training and work on all of that stuff. It’ll be nice to get back in the gi, too.

One great thing about jiu-jitsu tournaments is getting to meet all the best in the world — and occasionally getting an amazing story out of it. While I was competing, my teammate Harold had his shoulder pop out of joint during a match. The EMT was struggling with the injury.

Suddenly, over the barrier jumps none other than Renzo Gracie himself.

You may have heard about Renzo’s exploits combating muggers. Well, he’s even better at putting a shoulder back in than he is at fighting crime — and he’s pretty good at Twitter, too.

“I learned how to pull them out, so I learned how to put them back in.”

That’s right, Renzo jumps the barrier, puts Harold’s shoulder back in place, and heads back to his seat like nothing ever happened.

If I hadn’t met and talked with Renzo, I might not believe he is real. The guy is truly a larger-than-life figure, and it was an honor to meet him.

Next year, our team might just have to pop Harold’s shoulder out again — it seems like that’s Renzo’s equivalent of the Bat-signal.