Sunday, February 26, 2006

Responses vs. Reactions

Yesterday I rolled no-gi for the first time in a while. No-gi classes are on the weekend; time my wife, Tania, and I take care of home and baby stuff, so I usually do not get to attend these classes. But yesterday I made it to no-gi class by making a strategic time trade with Tania. Matrimonial grappling!

Being on unfamiliar ground; rolling without the benefit of grabbing onto an opponent's gi, I found the no-gi situation initially frustrating. The moves and fundamentals were the same as gi training, but more difficult and less forgiving when going on the offense. And a little easier on defense accept for dealing with the high skill level of some of my teammates.

That brings me to some thoughts from this class; in any situation you either "react" or "respond".


When I am put in a new, unfamiliar, or position or situation I have trouble dealing with; I react. My reaction comes from an unconscious awareness of a situation that must be dealt with quickly. Untrained reactions, like mine as a white belt, are usually clumsy and defensive. Or sometimes my reaction could be, "hey, look at what I got" and then leads to a successful offensive movement. But reactions are simply unplanned.
Responses are far better than reactions when learning. A response implies an awareness to a situation before it happens and as it is happening. Responses are a result of repetition of training a specific move over and over until it can be understood and applied properly when the situation allows. A response means you know what is going on from start to finish.
As a white belt, most of my rolling is reaction based and the reactions are most times incorrect. But every once and a while, thanks to my training and repetition, I get to respond. Setting up and being aware of properly applying an Upa from the bottom of a mount, triangle from a broken closed guard, and various sweeps are currently my automatic "responses" to situations. I add more and more responses every time I train and every roll I fight.

The more responses I have in my arsenal, the better fighter I will become. And the only way to assemble more and improve responses is to train more. So I guess Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all about ingraining proper and automatic responses to various situations and building the physical tools to make them happen. But in the future, I suspect, my responses will be so automatic and correct in application, they will simply become reactions again...


Friday, February 24, 2006

Treating Friction Blisters

When I first started training, my feet would constantly get friction blisters from the training mats (Judo tatami at my club). If I trained no-gi, my knees and sometimes elbows would also get scarred up. Painful? Sometimes, but more of a stinging sensation. Annoying? Certainly, because the wounds would not heal before the next class 2 days later.

At first I tried band-aids which would fall off once I started sweating. Then I tried covering the scares with hockey tape and tough it out. It helped a little, but pulling hockey tape off a fresh blister scar was not very pleasant. Then I found this great stuff called New-Skin.

New-Skin is a Liquid Antiseptic Bandage that you litterally paint on your blister, cut, or scar. After I came home from class and threw my kimono in the wash, I would jump in the shower. If you have a friction blister, you feel it in the shower. The pain continues as you get out and dry yourself off. That is the perfect time to paint on the New-Skin Antiseptic Liquid Bandage. If you feel a stinging, paint where you feel it. Sometimes applying the New-Skin can sting nicely, but after a few seconds, the pain is gone.

New-Skin comes in two types; a spray and a liquid type. I recommed picking up the paint brush or liquid kind because you can more accurately paint the stuff on instead of spraying it all over the place. You can also apply more as needed more easily with the liquid type.

New-Skin will generally keep the scar contained until it heals. It will not fall off in training, as it becomes stuck on just like real skin; although like plastic. Sometimes, after a class, you may need to re-apply the stuff. But the stuff is awesome and works great... Certainly worth picking up incase you get a little burnt in class.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Discovery Gracie Documentary

Thought I would lighten things up a bit. This is a pretty quick and fun Discovery Channel documentary on the origins of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Brazil, and the Gracie family.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

The three main reactions to any stressful situation; fight, flight, or freeze.

Tonight I fell victim to the "flight/freeze" reaction not once, but twice. And guess what, I think this trap is a pretty common thing to white belts in two basic situations. The side effect is not so bad in the short term, but if "flight/freeze" becomes a habit, the result could be a devastating loss of growth potential in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

In a controlled and safe environment, although stressful, I will define the "flight/freeze" reaction in rolling as "going into a defensive shell". There can be movement, shifting of positions, and appearance of going for submissions. But it is basically a full on defensive mindset.

The two specific situations that caused my "flight/freeze" reaction tonight were a) Fear of Getting Tapped, and b) Lack of Energy.

A) Fear of Getting Tapped

No one likes getting tapped. And there are many reasons for this, but mine tonight seemed pretty stupid in hind sight. Here is why. When I roll with senior belts, I sometimes feel pretty good when I do not get submitted in a match. In my mind I think; "Hey! Look at me! I am a bad ass BJJ tough guy white belt that did not get tapped!" Well, those are not my exact thoughts, but you get the point.

If I do not get tapped in one class, I want to keep the trend going and avoid getting tapped at all costs. In an earlier article, I wrote that 80% to 90% of my "game" when fighting senior belts is focused on defense. That is alright because, guess what; 80% to 90% of the senior belts game is devoted to offense. But here is the flaw in my fight logic. If I spend too much of my time focused on defense, I assume the roll of "victim" even before the match begins. I have lost even before I have started.

Even greater than falling into the "victim" mentality is the loss of learning opportunity. A good senior belt will work with you and help your game. And Professor Schilling has helped shape an awesome team with great senior belts who "check their egos at the door". So to avoid the white belt "flight/freeze" mentality when rolling with senior belts and get the true benefits of fighting; take more offensive risks, ignore the belt color, and deal with the situations in the fight as they come.

B) Lack of Energy

The second time I had the "flight/freeze" reaction was when I ran out of gas. This "defensive posture" was less a mental choice and more physical. My arms would not do what I wanted them to. My hip movement felt sluggish. My legs were slow. My reaction was to just hold on. I was able to get in some sweeps and hold dominant positions, but I could not get the finish... I did not want the finish... ?

The reason I could not get the finishes was because my focus was not there. At least if my focus was there, my body memory would have at least made the attempt in its exhausted state. But my defensive habit from my earlier "do not get tapped" mindset kicked my ass. The two "flight/freeze" reactions were connected. My loss; mentally and physically.

To fix this "Lack of Energy" "flight/freeze" situation I will do more cardiovascular exercise, increase my offensive mind set, and just keep training.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze. We get to develop our specific reactions to this stressful stuff before these reactions are thrust upon us in a tournament or even in a real situation. Why sabotage this great opportunity because of a chip on our shoulder?


P.S. Thanks Tommy.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

1987 Gracie / Judo Video

This video is from 1987 and shows some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Judo. To put this footage into perspective, it is 19 years old, Royler Gracie was only a first degree black belt, it was 6 years before UFC, I was 11 years old, and the video is older than some of my team mates.

WKF Provincial Tourn. 2006

World Kobudo Federation Provincial Sport Jiu-Jitsu and Grappling Tounament Results January 29th 2006
Scott Schilling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Team

Eric Nguyen

1st - Sport Jiu Jitsu Light Weight Beginner
1st - Grappling Light Weight Intermediate

Sam Osman

3rd - Sport Jiu Jitsu Heavy Weight Black Belt
1st - Grappling Heavy Weight Intermediate

Jason Katzmann

1st - Sport Jiu Jitsu Medium Weight Blue/Brown
2nd - Grappling Heavy Weight Intermediate

Jordan MacDonald

1st - Sport Jiu Jitsu Blue/Brown Heavy Weight
1st - Grappling Orange/Green Heavy Weight

Tom Dragicevic

4th - Sport Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Medium Weight
1st - Grappling Medium Weight Advanced

Tim Scott

1st - Sport Jiu Jitsu Medium Weight Black Belt
2nd - Grappling Medium Weight Advanced

Only 6 Scott Schilling BJJ Team members competed they all doubled placed, both in Sport Jiu Jitsu and Grappling. 6 guys 12 trophys.

Omar Salvosa Tournament 2006

Omar Salvosa Ascension BJJ Tournament Results 2-12-06
Scott Schilling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Team

Jonathan Lee

1st Place Intermediate 140lb NO GI
1st Place Intermediate 140lb GI

Sam Osman

1st Place Beginner 225lb NO GI
1st Place Beginner 225lb GI

Jordan MacDonald

1st Place Beginner 225+ NO GI
2nd Place Beginner 225+ GI

Had Funs & Good Experiences : Tim Scott, Eric Nguyen, Mike MacAuthur and John Etkin

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ryan & Renzo Gracie Roll Video

This is training roll between Ryan Gracie and Renzo Gracie. It looks aggressive, but thier faces are calm, cool, and collected.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

BJJ Fighting to Win or Learn?

At then end of each class, in the rolling portion of class, I get two really great kinds of learning. The part where I roll with the seniors of the class. And the part where I roll with other of similar or less skill. These two types of competition lead me to have to two dramatically different mind sets and focuses for the training.

Fighting Senior Fighters

When rolling with the senior belts, we are blessed in our class to have some really great fighters on the Scott Schilling BJJ Team, I spend 80% to 90% of my time focused on defense of position and submission avoidance. The rest of my time is spent looking for opportunities for dominant position or getting a submission of my own.

All the time, however, I am trying to store snippets of what my senior opponent is trying to do, where they are going, why they are doing what they are doing, and what was cool or slick for future reference. I admit my retention is not as good as it was 10 years ago, but I still pick things up. This learning helps me in subsequent matches with the seniors.

A few things I have learned from fighting seniors;

  • Fighting a new senior belt can be intimidating the first time out. Relaxing helps. But I find that if I set the only expectation to be one of learning, I can fight as hard as I can with a calm mind which leads to personal victory in the match. Avoid fear because it will get you every time.

  • The more you fight a same senior, the better the rapport, and the more free you become to try new things. A good senior will help you develop as they kick your ass!

  • Never let Tommy get a hold of your lapel or collar. Ever.

Fighting Same Rank or Junior Fighters

When rolling with same rank or juniors, my focus depends on the situation. As a white belt beginner on the verge of becoming an intermediate, I must to fight other white belts with different skills who bring different backgrounds to the mat with them such as Karate, Wrestling, Boxing, or none at all. This diversity and lack of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skill and knowledge leads to some interesting situations and dynamics.

After the initial feeling out period, I quickly get a feel for how I am going to fight in the match. Most of the same rank match ups are a game of dominant position where my focus is 50/50 defense offense. I have most fun in these situations and learn a great deal. I find that this kind of match is as close to Chess as the mat game can get, for me at least.

As for fighting with beginners, the game is completely different. Most beginners, very green, cannot defend very well and it is easy to set up submissions. I find this a great opportunity to try what I have learned step by step without too much opposition. After a submission or two, I focus on position; getting and keeping. I will also sometimes ease up on a position enough to just allow an escape. Then I try to re-capture position. This allows us to both learn.

A few things I have learned from fighting same rank and juniors;
  • The techniques taught work. If I relax and focus on step by stepping the technique, it usually leads to the desired result.

  • A strong beginner will most often focus too much on power and strength. If I relax and protect my positioning, they will make strategic mistakes leading to an easy submission. The triangle, for example, comes easy when a beginner is in my guard, stands up, and tries to hold me down with their hands. They will also most likely run out of gas after two minutes or so leaving 3 or 4 minutes to work with ease.

  • The best matches happen when my opponent and I are both relaxed and try to work on technique without going 200% on strength and power.

  • Keeping it light and having fun allows the best learning to happen.

So, in my limited experience as a white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the best experience from rolling happens when I focus on learning and working with my opponent rather than focusing solely on winning. Submissions happen on both sides, but if everyone on the team works together, we all get better.

If I fight to learn, I win.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rickson & Royler Gracie Demo

This is the Rickson Gracie and Royler Gracie Pride Demonstration from Japan. My favourite technique from the demo was the first Rickson sparring takedown and submission. That was smooooothhhhh.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Endurance VS. Strength Training

I have a one year old son, a wife, and a business to run so sometimes my time is limited to workout outside the time I schedule for classes. I have one hour to work out, what do I focus on? What is more important, endurance (running, elliptical, swimming, etc.) or strength (lifting, pulling, pushing, etc.)?

For me the answer, at this point in my training, is endurance and cardiovascular. Why? In class, as a white belt who is just learning techniques, I rely on strength to bluntly and clumsily try to apply submissions and get dominant positions. I do not have the skill yet to cleanly apply the moves I am learning. I have some idea on how to apply the moves, but I am like an old rusty bucket, I plug one hole, but there are four or five others leaking water.

So because I use so much strength when rolling in class and practicing moves, I get a pretty good strength workout. And I am working the muscles that require the most usage, because they are the ones active when fighting. Class provides most of the strength training I need to improve in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

So why spend most of my free workout time on endurance? Without endurance I lose most of my strength, my technique becomes even more clumsy, I cannot think as quickly, and I lose the benefit of applying my knowledge in all class rolls. If my basic endurance and cardiovascular can be sustained longer, I get more quality training time in class. And improve more rapidly.

That is why, other than constantly stretching, I focus most of my free workout time on my endurance training, especially when my time is limited. I will get most of the essential strength training in my regular classes until I become a more skilled fighter and rely less on strength and more on technique to impose my will on the mat.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Marcelo Garcia Highlight Video

Marcelo Garcia gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "I got your back". Awesome fighter.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Review: The Essential Guard

I try to get my hands on as much quality information as possible to help me progress in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I have taken a look at many books but I am most impressed by the releases of Kid Peligro. Why? Because he consistently presents complex information in an easy to understand way.

As a white belt, I need to be spoon fed specifics, re-visit basic fundamentals, and need to have the information delivered clearly with caveats to watch for. In his latest book, Kid Peligro with Rodrigo Medeiros (student of recently deceased Master Carlson Gracie Sr.) share valuable insights on The Essential Guard.

The book is broken down into four sections; Introduction, Essential Guard Techniques, Closed Guard Techniques, and Open Guard Techniques. Each section is laid out very cleanly and the narratives are detailed and concise making it easy to remember the ideas presented.

One thing I found really valuable was the "do not do this" pictures showing common mistakes. And this has already helped me with a common mistake I make when applying the triangle from guard. Before I used to grab for my foot on the first leg and pull my leg into position which worked by put pressure on my ankle. The book corrected this by recommending I grab the base of my shin to get a better leg pull, remove pressure on my joint, and leaves room for the second leg to get deeper on my lock. If you have trouble understanding what I just wrote, buy the book and check out page 129. One picture did this and this book has hundreds of them!

The book also has a section on drills to improve strength and flexibility as they relate to the guard. I like to do some weight training and stretching on off class days and am always looking for new drills to keep my workouts fresh. So it was worth picking up the book just for the new drills to add to my workouts.

The Essential Guard has 231 pages of valuable content. I know that it will take me years to work on everything presented in this book, so this is definitely one of my top two favorite books on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu... well... until Kid releases his next one.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Ronaldo Jacare Highlight Video

This Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter, Ronaldo Jacare, is awesome. In one match, it looks like he broke his arm in an arm bar, pulls his arm out of the lock, tucks it in his belt, and continues to fight!


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Private Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Lesson

Today I had my first private Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lesson with Professor Schilling. I can not express how valuable this hour was. We first had a discussion about my training and experience. This talk time was a great opportunity to share some feedback, ask questions, and discuss the upcoming lesson.

We then did a quick review of the curriculum with a review of the first stripe elements (I am currently a first stripe white belt). This first stripe review was good because we do not always have time re-visit every technique in class. So the brush up was nice.

We then took out the second stripe curriculum which formed the basis of the lesson. We started with stand up self defenses which were a good warm up. We then moved on to the other elements; I will not discuss them all as there are too many to list. The constant feedback, corrections, and attention to detail by Professor was extremely valuable.

It only makes sense to have a private lesson every month or two. There is a lot of information offered in every class, but it is essential to focus on belt level curriculum and/or personal deficiencies to improve in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is simply not enough time to get this essential info or feedback in class. Private lessons are a valuable resource to take advantage of for personal development in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Carlson Gracie Sr. 1932 - 2006

A champion. A teacher. A leader. A defender of a family name. A family that would alter the face of a millenia of martial arts evolution. An inspiration. A life lived which would impact thousands and thousands in a most positive way. A hero.

Thank you Master Gracie.


Extra Learning and Visualization

There is only so much that can be covered in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class. Generally, in our class, we learn 3 or 4 variations to a position, defense, offense, or progressive situation. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are a lot of details to be learned in order to improve. And, in the beginning, a very limited time in which to pick up complex techniques.

I remember my first three months in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu spent in a daze of confusion. A lot of material was being thrown to me and my retention was around less than 10% of what I was being shown. I think the reason I was slow to pick up a lot of the material is because I had never had to use it. It was like learning another language; if you did not use it, you forget it.

But now I find myself in the position where I must constantly apply my knowledge. My retention has increased because the alternative is a higher frequency of getting my butt kicked.

A shift has recently occurred in my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu learning. In the very beginning there was too much to take in because I did not understand the application of my knowledge. But now I am seeking out new information from all over the place.

I remember the first time I was strangled by the triangle and the panic I felt as the darkness came heavy. I went home and visited to see if there was a way to get out of this strangulation. There was and I spent a great deal of time visualizing how I would apply the avoidance and escape. And when it was tried on me in my next class, I escaped not just once but three times.

There is no substitute for expert instruction or time applying knowledge on the mat. But I have found that in order to improve in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I need to spend time off the mat reading about, watching, and visualizing techniques, positions, and situations. When I am back on the mat, all that mental practice pays off.