Saturday, January 29, 2011


I pinched this off of Dutch Assassin BJJ blog.

At Careca's academy, my first real jiu-jitsu memory was that I was not one of the talented students. Careca confirmed this to me, and oddly enough, I beamed with pride. How strange to be happy about a lack of natural skill? For me, this elation stemmed from my strong performances, both in class and at my first few tournaments. When I had to work three times as hard as my classmates to learn something, I knew I was not the wunderkind. When I saw new students excel where I struggled, I understood that my time in jiu-jitsu would be all about determination.

Nowhere was this more obvious than when examining my relationship with Chuck, one of my closest friends at Careca's. He was so flexible and fast (and flexibility is a talent), but he did not train like me. He didn't need to. What took me days of training to learn took him only minutes. However, as time went on, he drifted into drug use and focused less on training and more on his own talent. He knew that he could always "just pick things up." As a result of our two diverging attitudes, I started to win even more championships, while his performance plateaued. The reason is simple, I slept, trained, ate well, focused, resisted partying, and excelled.

Talent can help so much in the beginning, but you cannot reach the top without hard work.

You always hear, "This guy is so talented..." but then some average guy beats him. I know this because I was that average guy, and I worked hard to beat talent.

This was written by Andre Galvao, who is one of the top BJJ competitors in the world.

Jiu-Jitsu Mindset

Its been a little while since I have posted anything and I thought that this area of my game is lacking somewhat at the moment so I'd add some content.  I know I'm not alone here but I have been sort of in a blind patch not really knowing how to address it.  The penny sort of dropped for me last Thursday night when Coach JD took the class again for some excellent half guard work.  Sitting around towards the end having a bit of a debrief as to what we got out of the lesson and once again pointing out to me that I am still playing to defensively, I realized that I have been looking for whats not there instead of what is there!  By this I mean looking for a submission, sweep, pass, etc then going back to being defensive when it's not there instead of looking for a reaction to then allow me to apply the above.

How do I now get into this mindset?  I've identified the problem so how do I overcome it?  How do I get my thought process to tune in?  I googled it and found some pretty good stuff out there.  The following is from

The Winning Jiu-Jitsu Mindset

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, trying to come up with a good way to write about developing a winning Jiu-Jitsu mindset. I keep coming back to thinking about this from a military or law enforcement stand point. I know I touch on this in small segments during class, delving out maxims or ways to think about your attacks and defenses, but I’ve always wondered if there was a way to mold all of these aphorisms together.

This is not intended to be a guide or all inclusive list of strategies for winning. These are simply some of the things I think about and have passed on to my students to help them build their winning mindset.

We’ve all heard Rickson Gracie’s analogy about how Jiu-Jitsu is like a chess match. When I start a match, my opponent and I have equal options. My goal is to whittle away my opponent’s options until he has none. In other words, obtain a check mate.

You must insist on what you want: Whether it’s a guard pass or a defense or an attack, you have to insist on getting it. As hard as your opponent insists on getting what he wants, you must insist even more on getting what you’re after.

You have to win: There is no second place on the battle field. There is no time out or referee to call foul when you’re losing the fight. If you’re not winning, there isn’t anyone who is going to come in a take over the fight for you. You have to dig deep and persevere. Of course this sounds harsh in light of the fact we’re not trying to do bodily harm to our fellow human beings, but put into perspective, this makes sense.

Never accept a bad position: When your opponent is fighting to pass your guard and finally begins to squeak past, don’t accept it. Continue to defend as long as he continues to attempt the pass. This goes hand in hand with insisting on what you want. Your opponent certainly is, so you should also.

Have empathy: It is the capacity to recognize or understand another's state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or to in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself. It is important to note that empathy does not necessarily imply compassion. You know what it’s like to be defending a nasty choke or any submission attempt. It sucks! You know what it’s like to be dominated while your opponent has you mounted. You need to remember how that feels when you’re attacking and dominating as well. Don’t be too quick to give up the arm lock or choke. Don’t be too hasty in backing off of an attack. As soon as you do, your opponent is feeling relieved and will start thinking about his next attack. You know how thankful you are when your opponent gives up on his submission attempt. Don’t afford him the same kindness.

Make your opponent pay for trying to make you hurt: One of my favorite Fedor quotes goes something like this.

When I'm dominating my opponent, and I can see they're in pain, I ease up on them so they can see I don't really want to hurt them. But sometimes they take advantage of my kindness and try to come back and hurt me, so I have to make them pay for their mistake.

If they try to triangle choke you, it is your duty to defend in a manner that will make them think twice about ever trying to submit you in that way again. Remember, they are trying their best to dominate and submit you, so you shouldn’t feel bad. Besides, you don’t have to worry about really hurting them. If they’re feeling too much pain, they can always tap out.

Make your opponent pay for his mistakes: If he stands up in your guard and gives you a foot, take it! If he gets sloppy with his guard, take advantage of it and pass. If he tries to buck you off of the mount and extends an arm (or two) submit it.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew: In other words, sometimes you can’t get from point “A” to point “D” in one movement. Sometimes you have to take smaller steps to make sure you’re covering all of your bases.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast: Don’t try to go too fast, too soon in training. Even when you think you know the movement. Forcing yourself to do the movement or technique faster often times creates a negative result. Always start slow and the speed will come naturally. Going full throttle after ten reps because you think you have the move down will not make you better. Maybe after you’ve down a few thousand reps, you might be ready.

Let your body do what your brain is telling it to do: This is an interesting one. Often times you’re in one of those positions where you know what you need to do next, but you can’t seem to get your body to go that way. You might feel like you’re too exhausted or don’t quite have the right leverage. Sometimes you just need to listen to your brain and do it. Even when you think you can’t muster the strength or leverage, you just need to move. In my mind, I tell myself, “move forward.” That’s not to say I’m literally wanting to move my body in a forward direction. I’m simply telling myself to take the next step.

Don’t hesitate: This applies to many areas, but let’s focus on submissions. Sometimes you may have a limb isolated, but don’t feel like you’re quite in the absolute best position to execute the submission. You hesitate for a moment and your opponent wiggles free. Now you’re back to square one. Don’t hesitate. It’s not a perfect world. The dynamics of a grappling match rarely afford you with pristine positioning, so you must take what you have. I can’t tell you how many times my opponent told me afterward that I had the submission ready to go, but didn’t take it. I hesitated and he protected himself. I believe the tendency to hesitate comes from the feeling that one doesn’t want to jeopardize a dominate position with a failed submission attempt. The result is that we play it too safe. Now I’m not saying you should take unnecessary risks or recklessly go for a submission when it’s not practical.

Get on and get off the mat: One of the most profound bits of advice is when Shihan talks about what you need to do in a bout. He says; don’t spend too much time on the mat. Get on the mat, do what you need to do to win the fight, and then get off the mat. Stay focused and get the job done quickly. If you mess around on the mat too much, you’ll start to get tired and you won’t be as effective.

Take the path of least resistance: When you come up against a brick wall, don’t try to move it. Go around it. There are many paths; you just have the find the best one. Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with moving your opponent, but rather moving yourself.

The bait and switch: you must become a master of deception. Make your opponent think you’re going for one thing, when in fact you’re going for something else. It may be nothing more than a distraction to divert your opponent’s attention away from your true target. Or you may be implementing the standard “double attack.” You may have an armlock hooked up and ready to go. While your opponent is focused on defending this submission, you maneuver his other arm into position for a submission.

Lead the charge: Attack immediately. This is especially valid when you’re going against a more experienced opponent. You may have only a few seconds to go for the attack, but you must begin the sequence. As long as you are attacking, your opponent is defending. The simple math here is that you are dictating the fight. You must maintain the charge as it were in order to maintain control of the fight. As soon as you’re not doing this, your opponent is attacking, forcing you to react to his movements. Do not allow your opponent to lead the charge. This is also valid in other situations. If you have your opponent in your closed guard, and you do nothing, your opponent will begin working towards passing. If he is successful in opening your guard, he will most likely pass. Conversely, if you’re leading the charge and opening your guard at your discretion, you’re forcing your opponent to react to you.

Attack after the attack: This is a solid bit of advice from one of my students, Ryan, who also coaches high school wrestling. For example, when you take someone down, both you and your opponent often have this thought for a second or two…to take a break. "Oh, I got taken down so I need to regroup." After you take someone down, that is the best time to capitalize on that. Take them down, then immediately pass their guard. To take this a step further, after you pass your opponent’s guard, go for a submission right away. Too often I see someone pass an opponent’s guard to side-control. The top person is trying like heck to control the guy on the bottom, but the bottom fighter just won’t settle into a position that allows you to start working on a submission. Start working on the submission! This may very well be the key to controlling him. He is now forced to defend and is not thinking so much about escaping your side-control.

This next one I learned from some Systema training I did awhile back. It’s not as much a mindset, but rather something I try to do in a fight whenever I can.

Rearrange your opponent’s spine: In other words, put your opponent’s body in the worst possible position. Whenever you can maneuver your opponent’s body into a position so as to twist his spine into an unnatural position, this greatly reduces, if not eliminates, his ability to move and/or develop power. Now I’m not talking about trying to break someone’s back or neck. Eddie Bravo has been doing the Twister for years and his victim’s have survived. A good way to put this into perspective is when you have someone in side-control and they begin to turn into you. When you hook your arm under their head and straighten them back out, you can place them flat on their back or continue controlling their head back even farther. In this way the spine is “rearranged” so that your opponent loses his power. Similarly, when you turn your opponent’s head away from you, this works on his spine.

In many respects, this is a difficult subject to write about. Most or all of these will make perfect since to some, and not so much to others. It’s really all about perspective. A newer student may not have the experience or perspective to make sense out of some of the strategies. The more experienced students will have a better shot at it. The masters of the game might look at this as an incomplete montage of disconnected thoughts. Whatever the case, these are just my thoughts on the subject and I’m certain I’ve not included every aspect or strategy.