3 02 2010

I believe there are three general mindsets when training jiu jitsu, win/win, win/lose, and lose/win. Which mindset is the best? Ultimately that depends on you because everybody’s path in jiu jitsu unique. The following is my explanations of different mindsets and my opinions on what I see to be the best way to progress your game in jiu jitsu.

Rolling with a win/lose mindset is what I see the most of in jiu jitsu enthusiasts that I have come across. Win/lose is apart of our society.  It is a paradigm that has been ingrained in all of us since we were little. The win/lose concept is simply put; I win you lose. This type of mindset is one that is great for competition because that’s what happens; someone wins and someone loses. This is a natural part of life, just like living and dying. In terms of jiu jitsu though I think this mindset is the one that is used too often. For example jiu jitsu enthusiasts roll and train together and try to beat each other to gain recognition from their professor or instructor. (A very basic and primitive example I know but still you can’t deny it exists) No one wants to let their professor down so they try their best to beat their training partner. In this case winning or progressing is done at the expense of your training partner. If you are a guy that keeps a tally of who you have tapped or have tapped to then you my friend are definitely rolling with a win/lose mindset. (When training does it matter really who taps who?) I don’t have a problem with this type of training I just believe that there is a time and place. (Meaning when preparing for a competition) Everyone’s Jiu Jitsu path is an interdependent reality. Meaning the results you want (black belt, world champion) depend on the cooperation between you and your training partners. How much knowledge can truly be gained by trying to defeat your training partners all the time?  Also training with a win/lose mindset often times are where most of your injuries occur. Now before I move on I want to make it clear that I believe that this type of training is a must. Not just in order to be prepared to compete but also to learn. I know for fact that it is important to lose. You have to know what it felt like to be submitted or dominated. Hence also teaching you how to not let that happen again. It is much harder though to remember to learn while losing. It takes maturation within oneself in order for to gain the most out of your training with a  win/lose mentality.

Rolling with win/win is a frame of mind that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all rolling scenarios. Win/win means that tapping or submitting, dominating or being submissive are mutually beneficial and satisfying. Now I’m not saying let someone dominate you or let someone tap you, no. I am saying flow with your partner. Begin to develop sensitivity that otherwise would not develop. Don’t fight things to the death. For example if you catch your partner in an armbar and he defends; instead of trying with all your might to finish him transition to the next option. Rolling like this requires a certain amount of fluidity. Try to be like water. In a win/win roll there should be an ebb and flow to your roll having many different positions and transitions. If a submission occurs it should be one in which you fall into or pull off with ease. With a win/win roll both training partners feel good about their training/ progression and look forward to future rolls. This type of training I would call cooperative training.  It is leaving behind the concepts of strong or weak, greater than or lesser than, win or lose. Cooperative rolling is based on a principle that there is plenty for everybody. Success or progression in jiu jitsu is not achieved at someone else’s expense. Cooperative training like this is a very difficult thing to achieve because of the win/lose paradigm that is in all of us. Maybe you could call it pride or whatever but it is there. For everyone’s ultimate progression in jiu jitsu I believe the win/win mindset to be the most efficient way for developing your game as a jiu jitsu player. This statement is supported by the belief that everyone’s jiu jitsu path is an interdependent reality depending on the ability of you and your training partners to have cooperative rolls. If yours and my development in jiu jitsu depend on each other; than to me two winning partners is better than one winner and one loser.

Rolling with a lose/win frame of mind is usually how I try to roll 50% of the time with most of my students. (STUDENTS) I try to lose a little so that my students can win in: positions, transitions or even submissions. This way they can experience some sort of success in their technique. Hence hopefully begin to progress and gain confidence in their jiu jitsu game. I think that good instructors all do this to a certain extent. Now the amount that I do this is different with each student because they are individuals with individual strength and weakness.  Sometimes the student really needs me to put it on them. Other times I need not to be so overbearing and let some techniques such as sweeps or passes just happen instead of controlling every aspect of the roll. There are two major benefits to rolling with a lose/win frame of mind. One, that my students feel confidence and begin to become efficient in their jiu jitsu movements. Second, is that I begin to slowly understand better the intricacies of jiu jitsu because I am being dominated. It helps me look at things from a totally different angle. This way when I compete, I am ready because I have been in positions like this before. Lose/win is not just for instructors though. I feel that rolling like this is also the responsibility of every upper level belt when rolling with a lower belt or a newbie. Try to explore!! Don’t just dominate because you can, lose a little. In the midst of being dominated or the many different positions that occur begin to become aware of how it feels. Probe for weakness that maybe you wouldn’t have seen or felt before. Start to prepare yourself for those types of situations in the future.

So now that I have kind of laid out what I think are the three main mindsets in a dojo or training center let me share my hypothesis for how to create a win/win environment between you and your training partners. We have already established that creating a win/win mindset is very very difficult. I believe that if you are rolling with someone that has your same level of experience or is someone who is very competitive when rolling with you, then start to implement the lose/win mindset. Don’t just give him a submission. Heck No!  By all means defend the submission but maybe you shouldn’t try to fight the pass with all your might, or let a sweep happen; see where their techniques take you. If you lose a little you and your partner can both win and progress. Ultimately in the end the competitiveness in your rolls will decrease. Then a learning environment that was not previously there between the two of you would be present, because you both will gradually have migrated to a win/win frame of mind. Now this is a very hard thing to do because the win/lose paradigm is very deeply ingrained in our society. So letting it go sometimes can be a very difficult thing.

In conclusion I want to make sure that I state that the win/lose mindset or competition training has to be there. This is a reality that if you want to train in jiu jitsu or mma you cannot get away from. But I think that you must also find a way to implement a win/win mindset in your dojo or training because competing isn’t everything. Growing, learning, and progressing in your jiu jitsu game should be your ultimate goal. Winning competitions will just be a product from having a good balance between win/win and win/lose.


Power in the Mundane

24 01 2010

Think back with me to your first day of Jiu Jitsu class. For me I walked into the gym/ dojo and there were a couple of guys stretching and talking while they waited for class to start. In came the instructor and he said alright guys get to shrimping. I remember being like what the heck is shrimping. The instructor proceeded to explain to me that it was a basic and fundamental movement in Jiu Jitsu. I tried it… Let me tell you I felt so stupid and awkward, I mean how was this ever going to help me fight someone?

After shrimping we did some other movements on the floor; sidewinder, inchworms, shoulder walks just to name a few. To be honest I was pretty tired after going through all these floor movements but I still didn’t see how what we just spent 30 minutes doing was supposed to help me fight someone. I mean I could barely do them when it was just myself. I did not put much faith in being able to perform these movements with someone’s weight on me.

Next the instructor began to show a technique. He used the movements that we had spent 30 minutes doing prior to technique to help explain and link the movements of the technique together. I have to say that doing the movements not only deepened my understanding of the technique but I felt more confident than I expected trying to learn the technique.

Overall when I left I feel that I remembered more the movements that we did on the mat rather than the technique. I think this is because of the amount of muscle memory that I built during the class in reference to those floor movements. Now of course there were small precious details that made the technique a technique but the bulk of everything was the movement!

I believe that in training everyone should strive to make their movements as effective as possible. Each day basic fundamental movements should be perfected. This is the foundation that techniques will be built upon. You might not catch all the techniques that the instructor is trying to teach but if you keep working on building a solid foundation (meaning your movements) techniques will begin to come naturally. The more solid your jiu jitsu foundation the easier it will be to insert the teachings and techniques that your instructor is showing you on a day to day basis. Below are some sample movements that we practice at ohana jiu jitsu.

Being good at jiu jitsu is not about knowing 100’s of techniques but rather on building a solid fundamental foundation based on movement. So even though I know it can be boring and mundane, working your jiu jitsu movement drills is the way to go…

GrandMaster Carlos Gracie

12 01 2010

Pretty much every person that i know of that is into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has heard of Helio Gracie. I mean he is the father of us all. He is the man that creatively took an already existing style and expanded on it. Helio took Jiu Jitsu and formed the basis for what jiu jitsu is today. Helio gets a lot of well deserved credit for the progress that jiu jitsu has made over the last 100 years but i think that we overlook someone extremely important in the development of jiu jitsu… Helio’s Professor: Carlos Gracie!

I just finished reading this month’s Graciemag and it highlighted grandmaster Carlos Gracie. Carlos Gracie was born september 14th, 1902. He was the first Gracie to be taught judo/ jiu jitsu from Otavio Mitsuyo Maeda a japanese emigrant to brazil who was then a 4th dan kodokan judoka. Carlos then passed the teachings on to his brothers Oswaldo, Gastao jr., Jorge and Helio. In 1925, carlos opened their first academy in brazil, marking the beginning of the art of brazilian jiu jitsu. When thinking of the father of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the majority of everyone points to Helio and i think this is  deservedly  so but i believe that in studying the principles of Carlos we can gain insight into creating a training environment conducive for generating the creative ingenuity responsible for the jiu jitsu revolution over the last 100 years. Lets take a look at my interpretation of ten principles relating to jiu jitsu that carlos lived by…

1) Thinking Big: “Think big and your achievements will grow. Think small and you’ll fall straight to the ground.” When new students arrive at my school i always try to encourage them to compete in a major tournament like the Pan Ams or the World Championships. Now i am a big believer that there are competitors and then there are leisure jiu jitsu players, but in the beginning i want my beginner students to set a goal, a big goal. In training for a major competition not only do you learn to establish a good fundamental base but you get to see the big time black belts compete like roger gracie and xande riberio, braulio estima, andre galvao, and etc. This gives them something to shoot for. Now when they come back (win or lose) there is a major improvement in their game just because the bar for their achievements has been lifted. They saw what was out there and were excited to get there!

2.) Investing Long Term: This is an important principle to get across to the american jiu jitsu community. We live in a society to where we put to great a value on how fast something can be performed or created. We live in a time scarce society. When you embark on your jiu jitsu journey (a journey of self discovery) to not put an expectation on how long it will take you to accomplish belts or championships. This type of thinking i believe is directly opposed to grandmaster carlos’s principle. Jiu Jitsu is for life and everyone’s journey is different. So with that in mind, invest in the long term. I promise you your investment will not return void. It will pay you back in ways you could have never imagined.

3.) Think Outside the Box: When rolling always explore new possibilities. Don’t get lockdown into just one type of game. Try to look at jiu jitsu from different angles, open yourself to unseen options. It is very common for a jiu jitsu player to build a game and then only operate within that game. You want to be a well rounded jiu jitsu player. Having good skills from your back and your top game, but thinking outside the box i believe is more relevant in the  transitions rather than the  positions.  Always explore new and exciting ways to get into positions whether they be on the top or the bottom. Dont be afraid to allow this type of thinking to bleed over into your everyday life. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with your outlook on life.

4.) The Family as a Reference: Carlos believed that everyone that came and continued their jiu jitsu journey with them became family. i really like this idea because then your training partners become your brothers. Training becomes a way to build relationships that will last forever. it also builds an envirionment where learning can be cultivated and healthy competition or cooperative training brings out the best in all of us.

5.) Their is NO Success Without Health: One of the fundamentals in Stephen Covey’s “the seven habits of highly effective people” is no matter how busy you are, set aside time for exercise and taking care of your health, otherwise you won’t have vigor to fulfill your other priorities in earnest. Jiu Jitsu is a great form of exercise but it is also a great form of emotional release.

6.) Family Run Business: Carlos believed in the traditional way of the samurai which is to pass down the art of jiu jitsu from generation to generation. I think that because of this principle you have a family tree represented in every gym. Everyone that has ever been to a legit jiu jitsu gym can trace the lineage of their jiu jitsu to someone.

7.) University of the MAT: i believe that carlos wanted to set up his jiu jitsu academies like a place for scholars of jiu jitsu to come and discuss or debate techniques and such. i also believe that at the university of the MAT every single person from white belt all the way to black belt is a teacher and a student at the same time. i truly believe that you can learn something from every single person that is in the gym at any given moment. Always stay humble and open to what people have to say. Who knows maybe your next jiu jitsu breakthrough could be in an off handed comment by a white belt. You never know

8.) Speaking in Second Person: This part to me is a little weird but apparently grandmaster Carlos wanted to escape the standard discourse. He always challenged his students to find their own voice and continue to be creative. Now im not saying go and start speaking in second person but i do agree don’t just be like everyone else. Look for ways to be creative and if you want to challenge your mind then do it even in your daily conversations. Totally up to you

9.) Leading Without Oppressing: The capacity to attract dedicated, talented and intelligent people, as well as to make way for them to develop their full potential and gain credit for it. I think as instructors this is one of the hardest things to do. think of Carlos here is younger brother Helio who is smaller and not very strong bending and changing the jiu jitsu that carlos was teaching to better suit his body and needs. Now he could have shot down every idea that his brother ever came up with but instead he nurtured his creativity and imagination hence evolving jiu jitsu into the basis for what it is now. This i believe, is what a true jiu jitsu instructor’s main goal should be. Teach the fundamentals and then allow for self exploration and adaptation of the old, leading to new concepts and new fundamentals.

10.) Consistency: Maybe the most important principle in life. i believe that consistency parallels success. Becoming the best jiu jitsu player that you can does not require genius intellegince (although it might help), Super athleticism, insane strength, or crazy flexibility. No it only requires that you show up and prepare yourself everyday to strive to learn more about yourself everytime your on the mat. do this and you will accomplish your goals i promise.

(all the above principles came from grandmaster carlos gracie. i just gave you my interpretation of what he was trying to say)


6 08 2009

         Of all the positions, techniques, and submissions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the “guard” has created the greatest amounts of variations and terminology.  There are many different types of guards: closed guard, open guard, spider guard, half guard, butterfly guard, de la riva guard, just to name a few. I have had students ask me before which of all the guards is the best, the most dominant. My answer to this is situational as is most everything else in Jiu Jitsu.

            closed guard                 x guard                     spider guard                     DE LA RIVA GUARD     

           First, I believe it is important to recognize that there is no superior method of guard, and that all guards are not equally effective for every situation or environment. Keep in mind some guards work best with a gi, some work best with or without the gi, and whether or not striking is allowed. So my answer to this question is it’s different for everyone. Each of us will have strong positions and weak positions. It is the same with the guard, some guards will be stronger naturally for you and others won’t. Ultimately the type of guard you kill with will depend on many things including: physical attributes, athletic ability, competive environment (mma or bjj), style of your instructor, and your own maturation in Jiu Jitsu.

 half guard           butterfly guard                 open guard                    z guard  

           My advice is to grab a training partner get on the mat and roll, roll, roll, and roll some more. Venture out of your comfortable positions and guards. Expand your horizons, experiment as much as you can.  Such is the evolution of JIU JITSU

Flow With The Go

19 05 2009

It is certainly common knowledge that the main objective of every fight (whether it be rolling, sparring or competing in a tournament) is to bring your opponent to submission in one form or another. I agree completely with the idea of submission being a goal but disagree that it should be the focus of the fighter.

To elaborate I will use the analogy of a road trip. Compare the road trip to a fight with things like take downs, escapes, transitions, etc all being a part of the journey and the finishes or submissions being the final destination. Naturally everyone plans out the road trip using the shortest possible route to get to the final destination. However, as we can all agree to (from our own personal experiences), things come up during the course of the trip that forces us to deviate from the plan. Things like construction, traffic, road blocks, detours, etc are all things that can keep you from accomplishing your original goal following a certain route and in some cases, cause you to have to completely alter your original route in order to still make it to your destination.

I call this the difference between ‘going with the flow’ and ‘flowing with the go.’ “Going with the flow” is the more passive approach, for example sitting in the back seat of the car in the previous illustration and just not caring when you get to your destination. “Flowing with the go” on the other hand is the more aggressive approach that diligently seeks other alternatives and never stops working until the desired destination is reached. In fighting, a ‘flowing with the go’ mentality (which by the way should always be the focus of the fighter) works to dictate the pace of the fight, constantly staying one step ahead of the opponent, with the goal of submission more of a distant goal and the drive to stay aggressive the primary focus. Fighters that possess the ‘going with the flow’ mentality find themselves always reacting to other fighters that have the ‘flowing with the go’ mentality. The primary focus of a ‘go with the flow’ fighter is the submission, not giving any focus whatsoever to staying diligent and always being one step ahead, the primary focus of the ‘flow with the go’ fighter is ensuring that through diligence and resounding perseverance he is never just reacting but always working around obstacles and problems with the understanding that he will still get to that final destination.

A message to my fighters here in Texas: I urge you to work to sharpen your focus with the ‘flowing with the go’ mentality. Try not to approach the fight with one path to the final destination and all your energy focused on that single path. Try not to be passive and allow your opponent to control the fight. If you find yourself being positionally dominated over and over again, then there is good reason to believe you are stuck on a ‘going with the flow’ mentality, sitting in the back seat of the car and constantly asking “are we there yet” rather than working to find alternative routes to get to that destination. Make it a point to ‘flow with the go’ and try to be more ‘aggressive’ (not in terms of strength but rather in terms of mentality) in your fights and rolls.

Eye of the Storm

8 05 2009

When it comes to fighting, the prevailing thought of the majority is that they are experts. Every guy out there at some point or the other has uttered the words “I can beat that guy up!” I am aware of this truth because I too was once in the majority, watching UFC on TV and thinking to myself “It’s just a fight, I can get in there and never loose or get knocked out, I would fight until the very end and would rather die than loose.” I personally believe that locked in this testosterone fantasy island is the secret behind why the UFC is such a hit. I was slapped by the harsh hand of reality when I had my first fight….

After months of deliberating I finally decided to enroll in an MMA school with the primary goal of getting my first fight as soon as possible. I was under the erroneous impression that it would neither take too long or be too hard. Being an athlete who played college basketball, I knew I was already in great shape and believed I was fairly strong (mostly judging from the amount of weight I could put up on a bench press). I got into a great school that worked with me to accomplish my goal and my first fight was scheduled three months from the day I signed up in Waco, Texas. What was even more exciting for me was the fact that my fight was the main event!! For the sake of brevity let me get to the point: I was so hyped up for my cage fight (which is 5x more intense than training in a gym amongst familiar faces) that after the first minute and a half of my fight I was literally exhausted. My tiredness and the overall lack of experience had me breathing through my mouth, making me much more prone to getting knocked out… and I did in fact get knocked out! 😦  It was an experience I would rather not re-live. When I finally recovered from the entire experience I took time out to analyze my fight. My first realization was that my biggest mistake was that I wasn’t relaxed at all. With that knowledge in tow I approached my next fight a month later with a completely different mentality – I decided to relax. I showed up for my fight and went to the back and got some rest. The result? The opposite – I won the fight.

When it comes to fighting it is important to position yourself in the eye of the storm – where it is always calm. When you roll, if you don’t stay calm or just rely on strength and explosion the results will be either total exhaustion or finding yourself in a joint ripping submission … or even worse knocked out!

This topic is bringing to mind two students of mine Will and Chuck who rolled yesterday night.  Will is fairly new and Chuck has been at the school for at least 5 months.  The roll began with Will attacking very explosively and succeeding in gaining some ground against chuck…  He had chuck in a pretty bad spot and without solidifying his position he went immediately for the finish. (see picture) 

ohana bjj 006will trying to choke chuck out

Because Will exhausted so much energy trying to finish Chuck without ever establishing solid position, he got tired and really never reached his goal of submission. Chuck on the other hand remained calm the entire time, sticking to defensive principles while working his escape calmly. Eventually Chuck got out and reversed Will and then, displaying his experience, solidified his position and moved in for the finish. The obvious key here is that through it all, Chuck remained in the eye of the storm, calmly working his way to the finish and coming out with the win. (see picture)

ohana bjj 009

Fighting can very easily be likened to physical chess. It is imperative to stay calm and maintain a clear mind to process the situation properly otherwise it can end in the twinkle of an eye. So always work on finding the eye of your storm, keep your thoughts clear and find strength in being calm.

jason yerrington


5 05 2009

The last two weeks at Ohanabjj we have been focusing on working from the half guard.  This position is one where you are lying on your back or side with one of your opponent’s legs between your own. In the last 10 years an increasing number of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and submission grappling matches feature one fighter aggressively trying to sweep or submit their opponent from the half guard position, which was basically unheard of previously.
                                                                                                            chuck playing half guard on mark                            
The half guard may be hot now, but it had a humble beginning. Initially the half guard was just one step short of having your guard fully passed: your only real options were thought to be regaining full guard or to hanging on and stalling. In fact this position was often referred to as being caught in the “half mount”, a term which is much less common today.

A major player in reconfiguring the half guard into an offensive position was Roberto “Gordo” Correa, a jiu-jitsu black belt from Brazil. After a knee injury he found that regular guard work was too difficult and painful, and he started experimenting with the half guard instead. He discovered that by getting on his side, fighting for grips, and connecting a series of sweeps he could keep his opponents on the run. Significant competition victories soon followed for him.
                                                                                                    Gabe taking arts back from half guard                        
It wasn’t very long until other grapplers realized that “Gordo” might be onto something, and a whole new game was born. Many other sweeps, submission setups and positional variations were developed, both in Brazil and elsewhere. Some specialists are so confident in their game that in competition they will jump into half guard rather than full guard. Modern half guard techniques are even occasionally seen in MMA competition, but this is still relatively rare.

This new role for an old position, and the development of counters to this new role, is fascinating. It’s all part of the evolution occurring on the mats of the world every day. 

(much of this post about half guard came from stephan kesling)
jason yerrington