Quickly: Roy Marsh is a good friend of mine, a great guy and a tremendous teacher of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. He has graciously offered to teach a seminar at the gym I attend to benefit two great charities. It’s a $20 minimum donation, which makes it possibly the best value seminar of all time.
If you have trained with Roy, you know how good he is. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself. Come learn great stuff and help out great causes.
I have a new rashguard design I want to show you. First, though, let me ask you two questions: how do you feel about bullies? And have you seen Mary Poppins?
Yes, these questions are related, and they’re also related to the new rashie I’m finishing up. It’s a tribute to Edith Garrud, the Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu, and by extension the group of British suffragists she trained to fight around the turn of the last century.
Back before women had the vote, the British government really pulled out all the stops to crush the suffragist movement. There were police beatings, brutal force-feedings of hunger strikers, and more grisly behaviors. Yes, the Edwardian era British crown was fully down with cracking the skulls of prominent women’s suffrage activists like Emmeline Pankhurst.
The British newspaper punch published a cartoon paying homage to Garrud in 1910, dubbing her “The Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu.” I used this cartoon to create a composite image as the basis of a new rashie.
This is the front:
This is the back:
Here’s the draft of how the whole works is going to look. This is a rough version, but the body of the rashie is going to mimic old-time newsprint.
When I was a kid, I watched Mary Poppins. Maybe you did, too. Maybe you remember this song, which name-checks the aforementioned Emmeline Pankhurst:
But what got me thinking about Mary Poppins is the song’s refrain: “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us. And they’ll sing in grateful chorus: ‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!”
Those daughters’ daughters? That’s our generation. About 100 years ago, a bunch of tiny, fearless fighters stood up for themselves. That’s worth remembering and yes, adoring. We take the right to vote for granted today, but half the population has it because some extraordinary people put their asses on the line a few generation ago.
But Tony Wolf cautions against romanticised images of suffragettes throwing officers around. “The bodyguard had some remarkable tactical victories using decoys and disguises,” he says. “But the grim reality is that they were heavily outnumbered by the police and were often injured.”
This premise is true but the conclusion is flawed. They were always outnumbered, and many of these women (Garrud included) wore layers of carboard under their dresses to cushion truncheon blows from police. They were smaller, fewer in number, and hopelessly outgunned in terms of weaponry and resources. That’s undeniable.
But they fought. They were right, and they knew it, and so they fought anyway, often knowing they were going to take beatings. Doesn’t that make them even fiercer and more courageous than if they won every fight? I certainly think so.
Edith Garrud lived to be 99, and kicked enough ass for 99 lifetimes of that length. Well done, Sister Suffragette.
A couple of long posts planned: Mundial recap plus a historical post I’m excited about. But Toro just released a shirt I made, which is a bit of a regional in-joke, but if you’re from the south and like biscuits, maybe you think it’s funny.
I don’t talk about goals a lot on the blog, for a variety of reasons. Thinking about them? That’s a different matter.
Your mental approach matters a great deal in terms of how you perform, and one of greatest flaws has always been overthinking things. When you get trapped in your own head — especially mine — it’s not the best recipe for going out and doing what you’ve trained to do.
We all have coping mechanisms, and one of mine is list-making. I think about a series of tasks I have to complete in order to put myself in the best position to succeed. That’s really all you can ask of yourself. If you put a good process in place, you’ll most likely get the best result you could have.
The lists also help me focus on the single specific task at hand. I fly out Tuesday to compete in the Mundials on Thursday. There are 84 guys in my division. If you let yourself think about all those potential matches, you’ll go crazy (at least I would).
So that’s the goal. $30. In the event that I reach that goal, I’ll try to give out another $30. But I shouldn’t and can’t and won’t think beyond the first check I’ll write (or really, PayPal transfer — who writes checks?).
It helps that in my position, I have different goals than someone else might. I turn 40 this October. I love to train and compete, so that’s what I do. I don’t have grander ambitions to set the competition world on fire at the upper belt levels. This is what I do for fun, and I think I perform best when I’m just out there having a blast.
I can’t tell you exactly how I’ll feel when I step out onto the mat, but I’ll tell you what I hope I feel: joy. Gratefulness that I have the opportunity to practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu at all. The sense of relief that I finally get to have some fun after weeks of hard training.
That, and I hope I feel a little poorer. We’ll see!
Have you ever apologized after a loss? If so, stop it.
I’m not talking about the extreme situations here where you do something foolish that causes a loss — failing to prepare properly, or making a huge mistake ignoring your coach’s advice during the match. If you do those things, go ahead and say you’re sorry.
That’s not usually what happens, though. Most often we lose because we had a tough matchup, or because we’re learning and growing and ran into a situation where we didn’t know the right thing to do.
Mostly, I’m talking to myself here: I used to apologize when I got knocked out of tournaments. I used to feel like I’d let my teammates, coach and training partners down if I lost.
This is very different from my perspective now. I have begun think of tournament competitions as just an extension of training: instead of training with the people I roll with everyday, I’m putting myself in a different situation with an opponent whose techniques are unknown. This is an extremely valuable training experience, since you aren’t going to know if your opponent wrestled, did judo or anything else.
Changing this viewpoint took me a long time. The impulse to say “sorry” is understandable: your instructor and training partners put a ton of energy, sweat and bodily risk into helping you prepare. You want to run strong for them.
But I came to realize that it misses the point: it misses the process, the journey. It misses what makes you proud about your gym and teammates. When I sat down and thought about what makes me proud of my instructor and teammates, competitive success barely made the list.
I’m proud of the way we support each other. I’m proud of the way nobody lets anybody else quit during a hard workout. I’m proud of my friends’ competitive achievements, yes, but I’m just as impressed by the grinders that show up and train every day even though they haven’t had tournament success — maybe even more so. I’m proud that, like any family, we sometimes bicker but we get over it and keep helping each other get better.
What’s a medal compared to that? What’s a great day at a tournament — even the best day — compared to years of that shared experience?
A loss might end a tournament for you. It might sting. It should sting: if you’re preparing right, you’ve put a ton of effort into the experience. That tiny part of your jiu-jitsu journey might end in that painful fashion.
But a loss won’t stop your gym, and a loss won’t stop you. The journey goes on. The effort you put into training, the work you put in and the sacrifices you made don’t go away. They’re the ingredients that have made you improve, at jiu-jitsu and at life.
The process is the big picture. Think of a tournament as just part of training, a necessary but impermanent part of your permanent, day-to-day practice.
So go out there and win every match if you can. But if you lose, you don’t owe me, or your teammates — or anyone — an apology. You don’t owe anyone anything but, where applicable: “thanks for helping me out: see you in the gym tomorrow.”
If you’ve trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu for any appreciable amount of time, you’ve had injuries.
Personally, I consider myself one of the more fortunate. Sure, I’ve had the occasional malady, but I have been lucky to avoid a major injury that would require surgery. Besides the pain and expense — as much it galls me to admit this — I don’t want to take the time off from training that a major injury would require.
One of the first pieces of advice I try to tell the new guys who go too hard is that injury is the real enemy: if you want to get better at jiu-jitsu, staying on the mats is job one. Especially for a guy who weighs 138, turns 40 this year and trains regularly, I’ve been very lucky.
That’s what I keep telling myself this month. Leading up to the New York Open, I had a nagging foot injury that I trained through. At the tournament, I re-injured it during my finals match. Now, every time it gets manipulated in the wrong way — even gently — it becomes debilitating.
But there’s the Catch-22: you can’t train without risking injury, but part of the reason you want to avoid injury is so you can keep training, especially with a tournament (like, say, the Mundials) coming up. Where is the line between being tough and being stupid?
The answer I’ve come to is that you must evaluate two factors: risk of re-injury and reward of training. When you’re nicked up, which is how I’d classify my current injury, you can still train some things. For example, one of my training partners hurt his knee and spent his healing time working half-guard. You also must evaluate your ability to protect yourself while drilling and rolling, and figure out whether you’re taking too great a chance on setting yourself back.
Naturally, figuring this out depends on the severity of an injury. I’ve had back injuries that were simple stiffness and would loosen up once I got moving, and back injuries that I’d have had to be a lunatic to train through.
Given my various experiences with being nicked up, I’ve often been surprised at how easy some injuries are to train with and how hard others are. I do a lot with gi grips, for example, but finger and hand injuries are relatively simple to train with. You can wrap ’em up and hide the injured hand. (In fact, at least one person reading this has choked me using only one hand).
The opposite end of the spectrum: rib injuries. I’ve had two ribs pop out. You use your core for everything, in jiu-jitsu and in life. One of my rib injuries was extremely painful and fairly debilitating. The other one didn’t hurt much. But then I tried to sit up and couldn’t. This foot injury has shown me — again, stupid as it sounds — just how much you use your foot, both in guard and on top. It’s harder to hide than you’d think.
After musing on which of my little bumps and bruises were hardest to train with, I made this graphic rating the injuries on a scale of 0 (a cakewalk) to 10 (sweet merciful crap, maybe we’ll stay in bed and watch videos).
This is just my own experience and is not meant to be taken very seriously. The only medical advice I feel comfortable giving is “you should eat right and train jiu-jitsu.”
There shouldn’t be many surprises here. The big muscles and joints are always big problems. I also always think it’s worth noting that if you have an infection, that’s a 10 and you should stay home, period: I raise an eyebrow at how many folks don’t get this.
One notable rating, and this might be a function of the severity of the injury: I personally found it easier to train with a messed-up knee than with a messed-up foot. Obviously, my knee injury wasn’t a major thing, but I was able to change up the things I was doing fairly effectively to protect the knee.
With the foot? Can’t be on top, you’ve got to stand on it. Can’t really keep the guard closed, and with open guard, you either have to step on hips and biceps (ouch!) or try to hide that foot by putting it further away from your opponent — which means you need to shrimp off of it (also ouch).
We all have strengths and weaknesses. In terms of the old remedy of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, my ICE game is tight, and the rest I have a problem with. (See what I did there?)
The old saying goes, “If you wake up one morning after training and nothing hurts, you died.” My hope is we all start to prove that saying wrong. Happy and healthy training to all of you.
I wanted to write this post before the tournament this past weekend.
It’s easy to be grateful when things go well. Besides, good decision-making is about putting a good process into place, not about results: if you make quality choices, quality results follow. If you’ve done all you can to prepare well, that’s really all you can hope for, so it’s appropriate to thank the folks that have helped you prepare no matter how the event itself goes.
The best laid plans go astray, though, especially where travel and making weight and living up to other responsibilities goes. So while I meant to make this post Friday, I’m making it now, and I can gratefully report that the IBJJF New York Spring Open went as well as I had hoped it would.
I took double gold, both in my light feather weight class and in Absolute. I competed in Master 2 blue belt, and got two really good, tough matches in. I don’t really talk about my goals a lot, for a variety of reasons, but I’d always wanted to win an IBJJF absolute gold. The closest I’d come was bronze at the NoGi pans last year, and I thought that might be as close as I’d ever get.
But I trained so, so hard for this tournament. Really tried to do everything as correctly as I possibly could. It took a lot of discipline, and I’d be proud of the way I trained even if I hadn’t gotten the results I wanted. You can’t control how your matches go, but you can control how you prepare, and I prepared harder and smarter than ever before.
No one does anything like this alone. There are a lot of people that I need to thank, and my Facebook friends have already put up with an enormous amount of jiujitsu, so I’m thanking them all here.
First and foremost I have to thank my coach Seth Shamp, who is black belt under Royce Gracie. Seth’s the best instructor a guy could ask for: technical, a gifted teacher and passionately devoted to his students. Best of all, Seth believes 100% in you. I think I could’ve been facing Cobrinha in finals and Seth would’ve said something like: “OK, Jeff. This guy’s truly great. A legend of the art. But I think you can do some things with him! We can do this! Here’s the plan.” That kind of support you can’t put a price on.
I also want to especially thank two other Royce Gracie black belts, Jake Whitfield from TJJ Goldsboro and Roy Marsh from Sandhills Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Jake and Roy live and breathe Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and each has taught me so much in the past few years, either directly (through instruction) or indirectly (through beating my ass while training). Along with Seth these guys make up my Holy Trinity of BJJ instruction.
Just a couple of more important people to thank: I want to be sure to thank Boomer from Cageside MMA and Toro BJJ. Besides making great products and letting me design really fun BJJ gear, Boomer does a lot — behind the scenes and not — to help local fighters, BJJ practitioners and human beings generally. I can’t say enough good things about the gear he produces. I could say even more good things about him personally.
Finally, I’ve thanked Eric Uresk already multiple times, but for the first time I’ve been working with a nutritionist, and let me tell you — it makes an incredible difference. Eric’s a genius, and his WellFit program works. If you’re interested in taking nutrition seriously, let you know and I’ll put you in touch.
I am definitely leaving some people out that deserve thanking, but this is already long. I’ll have to leave it here and thank the rest of you in person. Rest assured, though, even if this is a one-time post, I’m grateful to all of you, all the time. So thanks.
Just a quick post since I’m swamped training for the New York Open: the rashguard I made for Toro is up on BJJHQ tonight at 11! I know some people wanted one and missed out last time. It sold out fast last time, so try to get yours early this time!
Today, Royler Gracie headlines the third Metamoris Pro jiu-jitsu invitational in a high-profile match. Although I’ve never taken a seminar from or trained with Royler, I will be cheering hard for him today.
Because his opponent, Eddie Bravo, can be a controversial figure, this matchup has been polarizing. But when you look back on what Royler Gracie has accomplished during his storied career, this much is clear: it isn’t necessary to say anything negative about an opponent when there is so much positive to say about Royler.
Royler was the first truly dominant featherweight. During a run of dominance from 1996-1999, Royler won gold at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships (Mundials) for four straight years. At the time, this was a record. Who did he beat in the finals? Only guys like Shaolin, Leo Vieira and Draculino.
All told, Royler Gracie has nine black belt gold medals from Mundials, ADCC and the Pans. Nine! In 1999, he took gold at the worlds ADCC and the Pans in the same year.
I’m listing mostly sport jiu-jitsu achievements, but Royler also made his mark elsewhere. Royler has 11 professional MMA fights. He is also a renowned teacher, developing a next generation of jiu-jitsu talent as leader of Gracie Humaita.
What we’ve just discussed is a complete body of work, a legacy that encompasses all aspects of the martial arts: training, competing in multiple formats and rulesets, doing the open weight divisions, fighting, teaching. That’s a legacy worthy of great respect.
Royler Gracie turns 50 next year. He looks like he’s in his early 30s, so sometimes people forget or misjudge that. As someone who turns 40 this year, I also appreciate his willingness to put it on the line when he really has nothing to prove to anyone.
Here’s the crux of it: for the same reasons I am rooting for Royler, I ultimately do not think it matters what happens today. No one can take nine gold medals from the most prestigious tournaments away from him. A body of work is completed over a lifetime, and for years, Royler has created a resume that few can even approach.
No matter what happens today, Royler Gracie is one of the absolute greatest of all time. I will be rooting for him to add another win to his resume at Metamoris.
Since I was six years old, I’ve been doing yoga in one form or another. Over the past three years, though, my jiu-jitsu training has relegated my yoga practice to an occasional enterprise.
This isn’t abnormal for me. My yoga practice has always run in cycles. Thankfully, over the past few months I’ve been able to work more yoga into the routine, usually two or three times a week. That’s one class of hatha yoga and one or two classes of Bikram yoga — the kind you practice in an artificially hot room.
Both have real benefits. And I’m not the only one who thinks so! From Rickson Gracie to Sebastian Broche‘s Yoga For BJJ project, the old school and the new seem to concur that yoga helps with your training and your life. Nick Gregoriades of the Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood, a Roger Gracie black belt, says that he finds yoga to be “by far the most effective” additional training method.
Let me drop 10 things yoga does for your jiu-jitsu, some of which are meant to be taken more seriously than others.
1. Flexibility. This is the most obvious one. Yoga is always going to improve your ability to bend, which has a wide array of benefits. And Bikram Yoga’s 100-plus degree room ensures you’ll be warm when you begin.
To be honest, though, I find jiu-jitsu improves my flexibility for yoga just as much as the converse. The positions we find ourselves in while training are different than yoga postures, so I think these two activities are self-supporting.
2. Injury Prevention. Injury is the enemy. Although Dalton from Road House once astutely observed that “pain don’t hurt,” an injury does keep you off the mat, which is way worse than feeling pain. As a smaller person, I’ve been squashed in numerous different positions. Without the strength and flexibility I’ve built through years of yoga, instead of discomfort several of those positions would have caused time off from jiu-jitsu. Staying on one mat helps you stay on the other.
3. Healthy Habits. Making healthy choices creates a positive feedback loop. If you eat poorly, you feel badly, and you don’t train. If you don’t train, you feel badly, and avoid training. One of the benefits of jiu-jitsu is also a benefit of yoga: it encourages that positive feedback loop. We all know we should drink more water, for example. But get up for a Bikram yoga class, and that will come into stark relief. You’ll drink that water, you’ll feel better, and you’ll have more fun training jiu-jitsu later. Lather, rinse, repeat.
4. Balance. True, the best way to get good at something is to do a lot of it. I’m a huge believer in training jiu-jitsu to get good at jiu-jitsu. But so much of jiu-jitsu is about getting on top and staying there that balance shouldn’t be understated. So many yoga postures provide the balance and strength that help you avoid sweeps. The Bikram balancing series is challenging even for seasoned athletes, and I’m sure it has helped me dance out of De La Riva sweeps more than once.
5. The Ego Check. Again, this is something that jiu-jitsu is also wonderful for. We’ve all seen the young, dieseled up MMA fighter come into a jiu-jitsu gym and get submitted by the lady, the old guy, and the small guy. There is always something humbling in training.
But yoga comes with a different type of ego control. Even when I’m in my best shape, there are grandmothers who can do postures better than I can, who can hold poses longer and somehow maintain serenity while I’m dying. This keeps you mindful and humble.
It’s here that I want to quote Sebastian Broche: “The more Yoga and BJJ you practice, the more you will realize that the essence in the two is the same, and everything you learn in Yoga can be immediately applied on the mat.” It’s true!
6. Laundry. I’m the sweaty guy in the gym anyway. I bring two towels to Bikram yoga classes and when class is done, they’re both soaked. Working hard for 90 minutes in a 110 degree room makes you thirsty for a reason, and all the water has to have gone somewhere.
This leads to the World’s Toughest Laundry. I might not be able to tap you, but my laundry can beat up your laundry, or at least asphyxiate it. At least you can say to your romantic partner when they sniff your car with derision, “no, I didn’t leave a stinky gi in the car this time.”
7. Great Early Morning Training. I do 6 a.m. drilling twice a week. I am deeply grateful for the training partners I have who get up with me, because most gyms don’t have pre-work classes. Many yoga studios do, however, and it’s a tremendous way to start the day. That’s in no small part because of …
8. Mental Strength. There’s a lot to this particular intangible. Personally, I don’t find it hard to find motivation when I’m training jiu-jitsu. Someone is trying to choke me and bend my limbs the wrong way: that’s incentive enough. Yoga presents different mental challenges: the ability to stay focused, to stay calm, and to focus precisely on one’s breath. And you don’t have anyone else challenging you, so you have to find your own fortitude.
When I did a seminar with the great Rickson Gracie, he said learning breath techniques was the second-most important thing he ever did (after jiu-jitsu itself). So there you go.
9. Weight Loss. I’m not a big believer in “weight loss” in and of itself. I think we should eat healthy, train hard, and however many pounds our healthy body is, that’s just fine. But in reality, especially here in America, many peoples’ fitness goals include weight loss. Yoga is a relatively low-impact way for people carrying extra pounds to get to their goals in a steady, healthy fashion.
Also, you may have noticed: jiu-jitsu competitions have weight classes. Do absolute, but if you need to get into a particular weight class, also do yoga.
10. [Something Different]. I mean “something different” in two senses here: yoga is something different to diversify your training, but I also expect you will find benefits to yoga that are different than the items on this list. Like jiu-jitsu, there are numerous benefits to the practice that vary from person to person. What I’ve listed are the reasons I have: your list may (and should) include something different.
Yoga means union. If you’re looking to unite your jiu-jitsu training with another system, yoga might be for you.