PODCAST: How Romance Novels are Like MMA

How are writing and fighting related? Jeff and Betsy talk with two romance novelists who have written a three-book series set in the world of MMA. We talk about how stereotyping fighters (and fans) is misleading, what Ultimate Fighter contestant inspired one of the protagonists (the answer will surprise you, striking vs. grappling and why neither writers nor fighters want to leave it up to the judges.

Making a Training Plan For Jiujitsu at Purple Belt and up

Your job at white and blue belt is to learn, reinforce and try to master the fundamentals. Every gym defines what those fundamentals are slightly differently, but however your gym’s fundamentals curriculum is structured, your time at white and blue belt has to end with you knowing it inside and out.

In August, I wrote about how to make an improvement plan while you’re a white or blue belt. A lot of the off-the-mat tactics for improvement — visualization, yoga, meditation — remain the same, and are never going to be bad for you. Those practices are all things I still do as often as I can. As you advance in the belt ranks, though, you can expand your knowledge and skillset — both because you’re going to be able to assimilate more information, and because more techniques become legal in competition.

This doesn’t mean you abandon the basics. Quite the opposite. Refining my understanding of the fundamentals is something I expect to do for the rest of my life. Yet as your knowledge expands, the more you realize how much there is to know.

That’s why structuring your training becomes more important at high blue belt, purple belt and thereabouts. It’s the most efficient way to know what you know, and conversely what you don’t know. Evaluating your knowledge base helps determine your drilling and learning priorities. Of course you should keep coming to class, including the fundamentals class. Extra drilling and focused training during rolling are great ways to get faster, better results in addition to class.

Here are three strategies I’ve used in order to try to improve as much as I can every day, every week and every year.  Continue reading

Nominate Now! It’s the First Annual Dirty White Belt Awards

We’re giving year-end awards at the end of 2017, and we want your help with nominations. These are open nominations for each of the award categories. Our intent is to honor deserving grapplers throughout the region — and to remember some of the best moments of the year gone by.

Eligibility: The geographic range of eligibility is from the DC metro area down to the southern tip of South Carolina. That means any person or academy in DC, Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina is eligible. (If we get a ton of great entries we may break the awards out by state, but we’ll see — it’s year one!). Here are the award categories, with a brief description for each.


1. Jiujiteiro of the year 

2. Jiujiteira of the year

Among the best practitioners you know, who really shined this year? Competition is a big piece of this, but shouldn’t be all of it. Who made great strides, won honors, and rocked the house with consistency during 2017? Who is a shining example generally, but had a particularly great year?

3. Tournament coach of the year
4. Self defense instructor of the year 

There are a lot of great instructors and academies, so we want to give two distinct awards to recognize folks that focus on the competition side as well as the self defense aspects of jiujitsu. Can you vote for the same person for both? Sure thing, pal: we’ve always said the distinction between self defense and sport is largely artificial. (It’s also possible that we give these awards broken out by state.)

5. Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year
Who motivates you? Who did something truly great this year that can’t be measured in medals or belts or trophies? Who is a great representative for the art that you can point to and say “yeah, that’s who you can be if you train”? This answer to one or more of these questions might be your Most Inspirational Athlete of the year.

6. Match of the year (men)
7. Match of the year (women)
What match tore the house down in terms of exciting action and competitive thrills? What match featured expert technique? Bonus points if both competitors were local, but nominate your favorite match. And definitely send us a video or a link to a video if it exists.

How do you nominate? There are three ways:

1. Send an email to cagesidewhup@gmail.com.
2. Make a post on Facebook and tag Dirty White Belt radio so you’re sure we see it. Or …
3. Nominate someone IN PERSON at Toro Cup 8, Oct. 14 at Cageside Fight Co. in Durham. We’ll have a nomination box for you!

Nominations will stay open until Dec. 1, 2017. Nominate early, nominate often!

Goal at brown belt: tap more 

On the day before my wedding, we had a special open mat where a host of jiujitsu friends converged to train during my last full day as a single guy.

It was already a tremendous experience — twelve rolls for me! Five black belts! — even before my instructor surprised me with my brown belt.



I want to thank everybody who reached out with congratulations, either for the marriage or the belt or both. Toward the end of the honeymoon, during the long travel day back to Durham from Belize, I started to think about goals for the next year or two.

(Okay, you got me: I was really thinking about this long before the flight back, as Betsy and I were plotting the invention of Double Reverse Secret Octopus Guard on the beach).

Although I certainly still have competition goals, those aren’t really the terms I’m thinking in right now. I’ll analyze those in earnest in December. My main aim has always been to have good, solid fundamental jiujitsu over the long term. The rest will come as long as I keep my eye on that.

My main goal at brown belt is to tap more. Well, kind of. Let me explain what I mean.

To maximize your potential, you have to both enhance the skills you’re good at and shore up your weaknesses. Ideally you do these at the same time, but you’re naturally going to focus more on certain aspects at different stages of the journey. At purple belt, most of what I was working on related directly to positional advancement and control — escapes from bad spots, sweeps to get on top, guard passing and maintaining dominant positions. You can see how this would fit in with the long-term goals.

The jiujitsu teachers I respect most are those that  keep learning and are nearly impossible to submit. One thing I’ve learned: they don’t get that way by locking people down in side control.

At the wedding open mat, I noticed several of the black belts who don’t get to train with each other very often consciously putting themselves in another black belt’s best spots. If a guy had a dangerous guard, they’d eagerly play there. A guy has a good footlock game? Let’s play legs with him. Someone is known for their omoplata? Let’s start there and see what happens.

Does this mean you’re going to tap more than you would normally? Sure. But it also means you’re getting insights that you wouldn’t get if, say, you got to a spot where you knew you were safe, or if the only person you ever let get to omoplata was a new blue belt.

Seeing these guys that I admire, and whose skills are much greater than my own, roll in this manner really inspired me to put myself in more dangerous spots. Jiujitsu is about survival, and there’s tremendous power in learning about where are the danger points are. In order to know those points you have to explore them. Maybe you saw Garry Tonon’s recent quote about tapping several times a round on average? There are many reasons he’s so good, but I have a feeling that’s one of them. You don’t escape a Kron Gracie armbar without getting putting yourself in danger of being armbarred consistently.

At brown belt my A-game is fairly well defined. I know the techniques and move sets that make sense to me. To get to the next level — and have that rock-solid fundamental jiujitsu over the long term — it’s time to spend hours on the mat exploring my weaknesses and fixing those holes, and learning more about other folks’ strengths so I can add those insights.

So yeah, one goal over the next year is to tap a lot more. I have other goals, too, believe me, but those are for future posts.

Goal-setting has been a huge help for me. I constantly try to set and evaluate short- and long-term goals. Do you have tactics for goal-setting? What are they?