BJJ Depot Blog
Most jiu-jitsu fans with even a remote interest in MMA have watched the the Demian Maia vs Gunnar Nelson fight by now. It was a clinic on effective use of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in a mixed martial arts setting. If you haven't seen it yet - or even if you have - then do yourself the service of setting aside 15 minutes to watch MMA grappling at its finest. In fact, book off the next half hour and watch it twice. While you're witnessing Maia's masterful display, keep a few things in mind:
Single-leg variations up the yin-yang: Demian went head inside, head outside, dropstep backwards, foot sweep, to the back...
Casual confidence: Maia ended up on the bottom numerous times and showed absolutely no concern about it. His stand-ups and sweeps looked effortless.
Half guard: From the bottom, Demian neutralized Gunnar's striking, made very effective use of the underhook, and transitioned beautifully from half guard to single leg, where he'd work for a dominant top position.
Phenomenal back control: Body triangles, tripods, transitions to mount, general leadblanketness.
Gunnar's jiu-jitsu is strong: He's a successful international competitor and was promoted to BJJ black belt by Renzo Gracie in 2009.
BJJ Depot writer Jeff Chan is a purple belt under Professor Adam Ryan at Checkmat Vancouver. Off the mats, he can be found skateboarding, shooting bows, wandering through the rainforest, or writing for The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex.
We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. In the end, the slow tortoise triumphs over the speedy hare. We’ve also all had our parents tell us “slow and steady, wins the race.” Do these same words of wisdom ring true when it comes to your BJJ training?
I bring this up because I have seen, time and time again, new students full of piss and vinegar, burning themselves out after 6 months to a year of training. How can this happen? Young men in the prime of their lives, doing something that they absolutely love, quitting before they even obtain their blue belt?
It happens because people treat training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu like a sprint instead of a marathon. They see some early results (the learning curve during the first few months of training is exponential), then decide that rather than training 3 days per week, they will amp it up to 4, then 5, and maybe even 6. If Andre Galvao and the rest of the gang at Atos can train 8 times per week, why can’t I?
This is great, if your body is able to recover very quickly, but the truth of the matter is that, unless you are using illegal substances, or simply a freak of nature, most people don’t recover in 24 hours from a hard training session. Your body will break down, especially if you are incorporating a lot of hard rolling or drilling into your workouts. You very likely need 48 hours of rest in between sessions, and sometimes even more to avoid overtraining.
When you train BJJ every day, or a couple times per day, your body does not have time to recuperate. Inevitably, either injuries or nasty viruses such colds and flus have an opportunity to creep in as your body can’t fight them off. Another problem with overtraining in BJJ is severe dehydration, which can also lead to a host of other issues.
The worst thing that you can do is burn out early and quit BJJ altogether as this entirely defeats the purpose of BJJ as a lifestyle. I’m not saying that you can’t train 6 days per week and obtain your black belt in 5 years, but this is really not what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is all about. Take your time, and enjoy the amazing journey. Train steadily and hard 3 days per week for 10-15 years and you will get there, AND your body will thank you for it :) Remember, it's a marathon, NOT a sprint to the finish line.
I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar this weekend put on by BJJ legend 5th degree black belt Megaton Dias. For those who aren't familiar with him, his claim to fame is that he is the only active competitor to have competed at every single IBJJF World Championships since it's inception in 1996. He has enough medals to fill a warehouse, and still competes (and wins regularly) at 46 years of age.
Megaton explained how he felt that drilling, which is being heralded as the key to the success by many of today's top athletes (Andre Galvao, and the Mendes Brothers to name a few), wasn't all that important in his opinion.
Self-admittedly, Megaton is about as "old-school" as they come. He explained how he feels that rolling a minimum 2-3 times per week is more important than drilling a technique 100 times per day. He likes to learn a technique, practice it a few times, then try to use it while sparring. He likes to feel the way his opponent reacts to the technique in a live environment. This is how he trains, and how he teaches, and it's tough to argue with the success that he and his students have had over the years.
It's no secret that Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu came from Japanese Judo, and for those that train Judo, you know how practitioners do thousands of uchikomi on a regular basis, drilling the same technique over and over again.
You could argue that BJJ has a greater library of techniques, and it's more difficult to isolate specific moves, but this is not really based in fact as both arts have thousands of variations. Anyone, even a white belt, can become a black belt in certain techniques if they drill and use them in sparring enough.
So, who is right when it comes to drilling? Old school BJJ, or new school? Or is it a combination of both required to be a champion in today's ultra-competitive BJJ environment?
If you're a BC resident with the summer goal of sharpening your Brazilian jiu-jitsu, then you're in luck. World jiu-jitsu champions of all sizes, shapes, and genders will be teaching an assortment of BJJ seminars in British Columbia in August 2014. So without further ado, in chronological order starting this weekend:
Having just recently returned from my 3rd trip to the land where it all started (that being Brazil), I am always being asked by my Canadian friends and training partners what exactly the training is like over there? What cool techniques did you learn? How is it different training in Brazil vs. Canada?
First off, in this day and age of wifi and constant internet access from every device in the home, there really are no more “secret” techniques out there. It’s not like back in the mid to late 90’s when guys were flying down to Rio, training with the Gracies, and brining back a suitcase full of killer moves that no one else knew. Anyone can find just about anything on Youtube these days, and if not on Youtube, the myriad of top-notch instructional DVD’s available for sale can certainly fill in the blanks.
Ok, in that case, what’s the point of flying down to Brazil to train? Would it not be easier to simply watch the techniques on YouTube and drill them in the confines and comforts of your own academy?
1. The devil is in the details
My opinion is “not exactly.” You won’t really learn too many new techniques training in Brazil if you’re already at, say, a purple belt level. What you WILL learn is more detail added to the techniques that you already know. As an example, perhaps you are a 180 degree armbar, love this technique (which I personally do), and use it all the time. Maybe you know 7 key details that make this technique work well for you. I find that when I train in Brazil, I generally add a few extra details to each technique. Using the 180 armbar example, I learned a new detail this trip that will make the same exact technique 10-20% better for me. To me, that’s far more valuable than learning the next berimbolo that I may or may not use anyways.
2. Let it flow
The second, and perhaps most important thing that I learn each and every time I train in Brazil (other than I am really not nearly as good as I think I am), is that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the Art Suave (gentle art).
As North Americans, we typically tend to try and out-muscle our opponents. This is a very general statement, but largely true. Generally, most new BJJ practitioners have spent time in the gym lifting weights, or perhaps wrestling in high school; both of which stress strength and explosiveness. Strength and explosiveness can certainly win you matches to a point, but if you watch the best BJJ players in the world, they use very little of either. They tend to let their jiu-jitsu flow, using their opponent’s strength against them. Watch Rafa Mendes or Marcelo Garcia and see how much strength they use. They don’t, it’s all about their timing.
I have been told back home that I have a smooth, flowing game, yet when I am training in Brazil, nearly every single high-level person I have trained with tells me that I am too tense. The feedback I receive is that I use too much strength, and am too stiff and rigid. “Stay loose, stay relaxed.”
This is without a doubt the biggest difference between BJJ in Brazil and North America. Whereas my game is considered loose and gentle back home, it sits at the opposite end of the spectrum in Brazil. At home, people view rolling as a fight, and this immediately creates tension. In Brazil, it’s more of a game, more fun, more relaxed, and more about timing your techniques. People aren’t trying to take your head off, but would rather toy around with you like a cat with a ball of yarn.
A great example of this was when I was training at Gold Fighter’s Club on Rua Jardim Botanico in Rio last week. I was in my opponent’s half guard, and he swept me with the most basic of sweeps; the hip bump sweep. I haven’t been swept with a hip-bump sweep for years…probably 4 or 5 at least. And yet, I tensed up for a brief moment, leaned the wrong way, and BAM, my opponent sensed the tension and he timed the sweep perfectly, right into full mount.
Lesson learned…relax, let it flow, and have fun!
It might seem odd that anyone would actually ask this question, but the truth of the matter is, people do just this all the time.
BJJ is a little different than most martial arts in that we use white tape to denote our rank. We wear this tape like a badge of honor, and gasp in horror if it falls off during training. Why, oh why then, would we want to put our belt through the washing machine and risk having all of our precious tape fall off? Simply put, to clean it!
Cotton Jiu-jitsu belts can carry a lot of bacteria, particularly after we rub them along the mat for two hours, the same mat that people use to wipe their sweaty face and dirty feet on. This can lead to ring worm or even staph infections, which can turn deadly if left untreated. Most BJJ studios are perfect incubators for bacteria due to their hot, moist conditions.
There is also the commonly held belief out there that washing your belt will make your “magic” disappear. I can tell one thing for sure. If you don’t, you will lose much more than your “magic”. You will lose all your training partners as well.
You should realistically wash your belt as often as you wash your gi or rashguard, which should be every single time you train. The fact of the matter is that most people simply don’t do this, and infections can spread like wildwire within BJJ clubs.
If your tape falls off when you wash your belt, then replace it with new tape. Not a big deal, takes 5 minutes at most.
If you train 6 days a week and don’t have time to wash your belt and wait for it to dry, then buy a few belts to rotate through. I know a good place where you can get them for around $20 :)
By Chris Stepchuk
Josh Mancuso is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who teaches at BJJ Revolution in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and has a growing collection of free online instructional videos. Most of the videos are no-gi - which may or may not be related to Louisiana's molasses-like humidity - but they'll work just fine if you're wearing a kimono. I like Josh's videos because: a) his instructional style is clear, b) he puts some unique spins on common techniques, and c) his Southern inflection reminds me of my trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
BJJ Depot was proud to help send three of our sponsored fighters—Kabir Bath, Jason Gagnon, and Scott Boudreau—to the IBJJF's 2014 Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships at the University of California, Irvine. All three performed well, and Scott returned to his Budo Mixed Martial Arts club with the Master 2 Purple Lightweight gold medal.
Not every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student enjoys competition, but anyone who trains in BJJ would benefit from the experience. Need some inspiration? The following collection of articles and interviews with international competitors has something to offer everyone from the first-timer to the scarred veteran.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a male-dominated sport, but a growing number of women are making their mark, and just like with the guys, a small proportion of them are also good jiu-jitsu writers. Having a few ladies who kick ass on the mats while sharing their experiences and insights online is hugely valuable to the BJJ community because they provide a perspective into our sport that men don't (or can't) have. Below are four of my favourites:
Artechoke Media's Marshall Carper has teamed up with veteran BJJ blogger Aesopian (aka Matt Kirtley) on a project that by all appearances is breaking new ground in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructional scene. Crucifixes (crucifi?) and reverse omoplatas explained through a combination of words, videos, and animated gifs is a winning combination.
In January 2014, Marshall Carper released his free online BJJ instructional ebook: 3D Jiu-Jitsu: An Introduction to Thinking Conceptually, which demonstrates Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques and concepts using an innovative mix of written instruction and animated gifs. Anyone who's gone to the gym, put on a kimono, and tried to learn a new technique while reaching over every few seconds to rewind a video clip will appreciate the awesomeness of technique gifs that repeat until you're damn well finished with them. 3D Jiu-Jitsu's collection of armbar, armdrag, and single leg techniques is relatively fundamental, but basics win fights and there's enough detail here that almost any grappler (gi or no-gi) will find something that will—at the very least—fine-tune their game. Did I mention that it's free?
The bigger story here is that 3D Jiu-Jitsu laid the foundation for the upcoming Artechoke/Aesopian collaboration that promises to explore Matt Kirtley's twisted world of crucifixes and reverse omoplatas through text, video, and the aforementioned animated gifs. Both of these characters have contributed a lot of quality material to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community over the years and have barely asked for a penny... until now. Anyone who wants to help get this product on the market is encouraged to contribute to Aesopian's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructional indiegogo campaign. A $30USD investment will help them finish the project and will guarantee you a copy of the finished crucifix/reverse omoplata instructional when it's ready. For those wanting to spend more or less, a variety of options and rewards are available.
Marshall Carper's past BJJ Depot appearance: "Armdrags and taking the back with Artechoke Media"