BJJ / Grappling Discussion: Is Your Jiu Jitsu Pure?

A discussion about “Pure Jiu Jitsu” was brought to my attention yesterday. I must admit that the discussion itself didn’t really teach me anything I didn’t already know but it made me think.

The central question raised was: What defines Pure Jiu Jitsu? This situation is not unique if you look at many traditional martial arts. A family member(s) (usually the eldest son or brother or even most senior student) ends up "inheriting" responsibility for the art and feels, in a lot of cases, rightly passionate about preserving what they learnt and inherited. You see this in Karate (Wadokai v wado ryu or even ITF Taekowndo vs the WTF version), Jujutsu (Iwama ryu v Aikikai) and even weapon arts (family-based ryu or schools vs curriculums by the Budokai. I'm not agreeing with it, I'm just saying that it's a natural thing.

If I was to create a system (of any kind) and spent a very long time teaching the ins and outs of it to someone (especially blood related), then they will see my passion for it and may develop a feeling that they need to preserve it after my death, rather than open it up and develop/expand it. That is human. This is not even to mention the perceived financial advantageous of a monopoly!

On the other hand, you will often have a group of people who are more passionate about the art itself and how it can enrich people's lives. They respect what those who created it/discovered it/formulated it did but are more excited by the prospects that the future holds and they realise that for the art/system to thrive and expand, it needs to evolve and stay up-to-date. They form committees and they created federations and they bring in democratic regulations. That too is human and of course welcome.

Which way to go then? Well the beauty of it is that it's up to the instructor, as long as he or she is honest, it all adds to the art and by being honest, I mean honest in all your communication with your students and the public. If you focus on preserving techniques that were meant to deal with a set of circumstances (be it sword attacks, BJJ competition or Vale Tudo) and you tell everyone that that’s your focus then great. If they like it, who’s to stop them/you.

The original question (What defines Pure Jiu Jitsu?) is really just a trap. A trap of attachment and measurement. “Pure” simply implies that something/everything else is “impure” which we have come to feel is something negative, turning the question into, in essence, marketing. The word is not the thing. If you want to know the thing, go roll. Don’t power your way thru, leave your ego outside and flow with the go and you will experience the thing and no one will be able to take it away from you or make it “impure”, whatever the hell that means.

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BJJ / Grappling Tips: Training When Ill...

A week ago, I thought I was falling ill with something. I felt at worst in my throat on Friday and am on the re-bound now. But it all got me thinking.

Grapplers are obsessed with training that it is not uncommon to see individuals putting in long workouts the day before a competition or when they are ill.

I believe the reason is that athletes fear losing the benefits of long periods of training by taking time off, no matter how brief. Professional athletes from all sports go through periods where they train more or less intensely but the recreational, part-time grappler always feel that if he misses one session then the next time he hits the mat he will be light years behind. The fact of the matter is if you have been training regularly for a year or so then a brief break (*) from exercise because of illness will result in minimal, if any, performance set backs!

Do you want more good news, the (*) period mentioned here is further extended if you, instead of going cold turkey, reduce your sessions to a lower frequency. So if you used to train 2-3 times a week and went thru a period where you could only do 1 session per week, the universe will not stop revolving!

Should I or Shouldn't I?
The main questions you need to ask yourself are:

BJJ / Grappling tips: Stop Wasting Time in Jiujitsu!

Do you want to stop wasting time while training jiujitsu? Spring Clean your life!

An old saying goes: You don’t measure water with a sieve! In other words, in order to know how much time you will need to get something done, you have to manage where your time is disappearing.

We grow attached to clutter. It’s a simple as that. Garfield the cat says in one his cartoons: Food a funny thing, because the moment you are full it turns from temptation to garbage. The same goes for objects. The moment we attach a value to them, we practically hand them an unquestioned invite to clutter our lives (and steal our valuable time).

An excellent example is the £2.99 I paid for one of the best Judo books ever published: The Secrets of Judo: Text for Instructors and Students: Test for Instructors and Students. It's where I learnt all my top game pressure principles. I got it at the local used-book store. Whoever owned prior to me had not attached any further value to it and was happy to part with it (or perhaps they loved it but it was time for it to make its journey to me!)

Here is something that I recommend you do at least once and preferable 2ce a year. I call it the Spiritual Spring Clean:
  • Take a hard look at everything you own (and I mean everything!)
  • Within 2 seconds place it in one of the following three piles:
  1. Keep for a specific (near-future: upcoming 6-months) purpose
  2. Give to someone specific
  3. Throw away in the bin
(PS. These piles are listed in increasing order of size!)

Uncluttering your life will have a trickle down effect on your mental state and help you re-focus your training.

Remember the Pareto rule? 20% of what you own will provide 80% you need (and 80% of your issues are born out of 20% of your activities!)

While you chew on that, watch professor Ryan Young's analysis of what's fundamental in jiujitsu and what's advanced. This may help you "spring clean" your arsenal of jiujitsu techniques.



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BJJ / Grappling Tips: Writing a training diary

I used to love my training journal. It was a helpful component of my training bag. Let me explain.

I said Helpful: I love BJJ grappling and, coming from a managerial background, I thrived on analysing old data and using that knowledge to plan future action plans ...etc. I actually still have my old journals from when I first started BJJ and look in them every now and again. You can't analyse what you haven't captured and that was my way of capturing.

I also said It was: I stopped using the journal as I felt that they served their purpose for me. I no longer go to training to get "better". I go because I love it. Of course, even those who are not chasing improvement can still use the training journal. I have just switched to other mediums like this blog and my social media accounts.

Judo & BJJ in central London

Tokei Martial Arts is my judo spiritual home here in London. I occasionally nip into the Budokwai, the world's oldest martial arts dojo outside Japan, but my home is Tokei.

Recently, after much badgering, I convinced my friend and fellow jiujitsu black belt Mr Simon Tutton to get back into judo which had practiced a lot a few years back and thoroghly enjoyed. He soon became a regular face at Tokei Martial Arts and is progressing through the ranks within judo at a great rate.

What's more, when the interest was made known that Tokei Martial Arts students would like to learn jiujitsu, Simon was quickly nominated both due to being an experienced teacher (you can catch him teaching jiujitsu twice a week at New School BJJ down in Battersea) but also a very nice and caring instructor who looks after his students.

Someone didn't get the gi-colour memo!

Is BJJ the same as MMA? What about if you train Thai boxing on the side?

Do you still practice karate? Which out of Jiujitsu, judo and karate is your favourite martial art? What’s the best martial art out there? What’s next for you?

These are the questions I get the most often when people hear that I’ve earned black belts in three different martial arts (karate, judo and Jiujitsu) and I’ve noticed, over the years, that my answers have evolved. 
Every art I’ve trained to any length* has had an element of exchange, aka partner drills / kumite / randori / rolling / sparring. Granted, some arts focused on that more than others but even the year or so I trained in tai chi chuan, an art made famous by its solo practice, had something called “pushing hands” which necessitated having a partner / opponent.  

Outside the above mentioned (1) exchange of techniques with a partner, martial arts also have exercises that (2) strengthen the body and / or improve your control over it (callisthenics, lifting weights, stretching, coordination drills...etc), (3) solo forms of drilling the techniques (shadow boxing / wrestling, forms aka kata in Japanese arts) and (4) equipment practice (striking / wrestling bags, makiwara, elastic bands, dummies  ...etc) and, again, the extent to which these avenues of exercise are emphasised varied greatly from style to style but also from instructor to instructor. I know for instance that some styles of karate lay a huge emphasis on making the body strong using traditional implements (weighted jars, iron rings, isometric contractions...) while more modern styles emphasise explosive delivery of techniques fostered through the use of elastic rubber bands and plyometrics. Different courses for different horses. 

My two major challenges were always that: 

1. I like all forms of exercise 
2. There are only 24 hours a day and I’m only a part time martial artist.