Author Archives: HappyGrappler

Get your dose of Warrior Mana!

Hey everyone – I know I’m long overdue for a post.

As we speak (err, as I type), I have a long post drafted to detail my last competition.  Oh the victory!  And, the defeat.  Another defeat.  And, yes, a third defeat.  And did I mention a dislocated shoulder?  Yeah, it was that kind of tourney.

But in the mean time, please check out my fellow teammate’s blog – WarriorMana.  (warriormana.wordpress.com).  You won’t be disappointed…

Take care of each other.  Cheers!


Stick to your day job…

Try as I might, WordPress site development / administration keeps getting the best of me.

I loaded some photos under the appropriately-named menu item.  But once you arrive, you are visually assaulted with a boring, linear string of random pictures.  No organization whatsoever.

It’s the same feeling I get when I submit someone, only my technique was crap and I know it.  It’s there, but I’m not proud of it.

So, dear reader, instead of a neatly-organized gallery of photographic jiu jitsu awesomeness…you get this (for now).

Until I figure it out, take care of each other.

Cheers!


“Some days the bear eats you…

…and some days you eat it.”

I first heard that quote from James Earl Jones in the movie “Gardens of Stone”. In the movie, Private Willow’s wit helps his unit pass a major inspection. He ate the bear.

Well, last night, the bear ate me. And by bear, I mean everyone I rolled with.

Here’s a short list of my pitiful excuses: still-sprained left index finger, sore right elbow, bruised/sore left ankle (when did that happen??).

(Note to all you youngsters out there, this is what it feels like to be an over-40 blue belt. Everything hurts. All the time.  So enjoy your superhero powers and wolverine-like healing ability.)

So gripping Stephan’s collar was not fun. Sitting in Terry’s guard, not fun. Getting arm-bar’d by Jeb…TOTALLY NOT FUN.

So I left the mats feeling humble and, well, old.

Which is the beauty of training jiu Jitsu, right? One day, you have great rolls and you feel like things are clicking. The next day, you get smashed and humbled. I wonder if I’ll experience the same years down the road when I’m a brown or black belt?

So let’s tape up all those ouchies, and get back to training. That Brabo Choke isn’t going to learn itself….

In the mean time, take care of each other. Cheers!


Stripes and progress

A week ago, our head jiu jitsu instructor, Emil Takeuchi, honored me with a third stripe on my blue belt. It was evident to me that night (and the first few training sessions afterwards) that this additional stripe wasn’t about what meager improvements I’ve made over the last six months, but rather all that is out there to learn on my jiu jitsu journey…both on and off the mats.

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Here’s to all my Jiu Jitsu brothers and sisters out there working hard to improve, regardless of belt color.  OSS!

More posts soon.  Until then, take care of each other!


Nicolas Gredoriades, Inspiration, and Training Goals for 2015

I’ve been contemplating the nature of my blog for the last few weeks.  As the title says, I’m ‘sharing my thoughts about jiu jitsu and krav maga’…but to what end?  Is this a training log?  A blog about philosophy?  A place to highlight promotions and pictures of injury?  It’s high time I get organized, and with a little inspiration from a BJJ black belt,  teacher, and podcaster – I’m ready to do just that.

If you’ve never heard of Nicolas Gregoriades (aka Nic Gabriel), you need to fire up your Mac or iPad or iPhone (Wait, you’re still using a PC/windows product?  Sorry, we can’t be friends.) and research this inspiring and interesting man.  He was the first jiu jitsu player to earn a black belt from Roger Gracie.  He’s a prolific podcaster.  He is dedicated to understanding himself and the very nature of people, relationships, and how we interact with one another.  I first learned about Nic as he co-hosted a brilliant podcast titled ‘London Real’, which covered a host of topics…jiu jitsu being a dominant topic in their work.  But rather than discuss technique, they discussed how this beautiful sport is much more than that. It really is a lifestyle. I recently found his new podcast endeavor, ‘The Journey Podcast’, which is phenomenal!

Just so you don’t think he’s simply a philosopher of jiu jitsu, you need to also research his book, ‘The Black Belt Blueprint’. I read through the entire book in a few sleepless nights, and am now more carefully pouring over the material.  Nic is also the founder of The Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood…a global training resource. (Hint: More on this in my next blog post).

Ok…back to the inspiration part.  Between Nic’s words in various podcast sessions, and his blueprint book, I was inspired to get organized with my jiu jitsu, with this blog, and in setting clear goals to focus my actions.  A tall order to be sure.  The first step is to take a hard, honest look at what I want to accomplish over the next 6-12-18 months regarding my jiu jitsu training.

For the rest of this post, I’m going to goal setting.  But first, what is the current state of affairs?  I’m a two-stripe blue belt under Professor Ivan Rios and Coach Emil Takeuchi in the Carlson Gracie Jr. system.  I’m so proud to be part of the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Team KNMOVA.  We are incredibly lucky to have Professor Rios lead our school. He is a great teacher who spends each minute of his instruction on the mats. No matter if you are a seasoned brown belt, or a day-two white belt, Professor is on the mats rolling with you (and likely choking you with a smile on his face). I love his philosophy on jiu jitsu: it’s first a self-defense system, then is is a wonderful sport. And instead of teaching crazy flying armbars and tornado sweeps, he sticks to the basics. Coach Emil Takeuchi provides most of our day-to-day instruction, and helps professor coach us during competition. Emil is a fantastic teacher, super passionate about jiu jitsu and the lifestyle, and is first and last on the mats making sure each student gets the most out of training. Plus, if you roll with him, its just a matter of time before he takes your back and applies a choke.  (At least he’s kind enough to offer to film it, so you can see where you went wrong!)

So under these two great jiu jitsu teachers, my next big goal is to earn my purple belt.  Let’s break this down into smaller goals.

Immediate goal (now): Make MOST of the training sessions. To improve my jiu jitsu, I need to train every chance I can. That means when my body is still on West Coast time from business travel, and it’s 9am East Coast and time for Saturday morning class…I need to get my lazy butt out of bed to train. Sure, I won’t make 100% of them, but I need to train at every opportunity.

Short-term goal (0-3 mos): Incorporate additional training 2x’s a week. I recognize that to improve my athleticism, I need to incorporate other activities to supplement my training. I enjoy working with kettlebells, but haven’t been consistent.  That’s a start.  Additionally, I found a few yoga-for-jiu jitsu videos to improve my flexibility and endurance. (Note: YouTube Lesley Fightmaster and Jiu Jitsu….she has a great 40min session dedicated to jiu jitsu with Prof. Flavio Almeida).

Intermediate goal #1 (3-9 mos): Get to 220lbs and compete in the fall Copa Nova tournament. Right now I’m hovering between 230-235. If I’m consistently hitting my immediate and short-term goals, I should be able to make 220 with relative ease. This isn’t an arbitrary number. This is the dividing line between weight classes in my age group. Last tourney, I came in at 229, not paying attention to the fact that my age group was 220 and UP. So my matches were with guys MUCH heavier than me. One was about 275, another about 260…and it just got worse. I don’t get any training time under guys that heavy, and it was a big problem for me. Getting to 220 would allow me to fight guys at my weight or a bit lighter.

Intermediate goal #2 (9-12 mos): Earn some stripes! This is simple – I need to continue to improve MY jiu jitsu game. One thing I’m battling lately is getting pulled into my opponent’s game.  This is especially evident if I’m rolling with guys who are 10 years younger and way more athletic.  I try to beat them at their own game, and it NEVER works.  Their game is not my game. And I need to stick to doing my jiu jitsu.

Long(er) term goal (12-18 mos): Purple belt. And as I say that, I admit that it’s not about the belt. Sure, I’m in this for the long haul. I’ll never be a world class competitor…but I can strive to be a world-class teacher! So I want to continue progressing so I can do my part in passing this sport and lifestyle to others. That involves eventually getting purple belt, brown belt, and black belt. It will take a while, yes. But that’s the beauty of this lifestyle….you don’t simply strive for a belt…you strive for the lifestyle.

So there you have it.  My inspiration to get organized, and set clear goals in my training.  I will talk more about Nicolas Gregoriades and his jiu jitsu training tool, as well as how I plan to better organize my blog, in my next post.

Until then, take care of each other. Cheers!


Creativity at 35,000ft

It has been an awfully long time since I’ve written anything for this blog. An awfully long time since I’ve written anything, for that matter. Life is hard, as you know, and when times are hard, sometimes the most enjoyable things fall to the wayside.

I’m sitting on an airplane right now, somewhere over Colorado or New Mexico or anytown USA – I’m not really sure. Because I travel a lot, I was fortunate to get an upgrade to first class. So I’m looking out at this impossibly blue sky over a bed of pristine clouds…listening to Dave Matthews Band in my Bose noise canceling headphones (borrowed from a dear friend – yes, the airplane did disappear when I flipped the switch)…and I’m sipping on a second (or third?) smallish glass of no-name red wine. Yes, this is how the other half travels I presume. And as I look out of the window thinking of writing, and creativity, and doing the things you love…my mind goes to Jiu Jitsu.

Yesterday morning we had a wonderful hour-long training session. Several of our teammates are preparing for a tournament next weekend, so the intensity has increased ever so slightly. Truth be told, we are a ‘rolling’ gym. Yes, we drill. But in a 90 minute class, we drill for maybe 30-40 minutes…then we set the round timer and roll for as many 5 minute rounds as we can until 9:15pm. And I leave sweaty, sometimes battered, and always high on endorphins that keep me up until way past midnight.

Sorry – back to the story.

So we start with some flow rolling. Now, I’m not great at flow rolling…but I get the point and do my best to be a good flow roll partner. But yesterday morning, I realize that I have my regular training partner in my guard…and I’m waiting. For what?? I don’t know. You see, my creativity was non-existent. And I’m not sure if it was because of my work, or maybe because I didn’t drink any coffee before training. But I just sat there. And for a moment, I was really bummed about that.

To me, Jiu Jitsu is a mental and emotional tunnel of sorts. You enter the gym – you exit the gym. In between, there are different sights, sounds, and always a great flurry of activity around you. The round timer goes off…it’s just you and your partner. You obey the rules of the road. And most importantly, you simply and blissfully exist – free of the burden of the world outside the tunnel. It’s a place where you cannot worry about your worries. Work. Money. The hedges in the front yard that need trimming. Gotta pick up a gallon of milk. Nope, none of that in the tunnel. You just drive. The radio of life seems to blend into a soft white noise.

And in those moments, which are SO rare in life, your brain focuses on the matter at hand. Your opponent and teammate reaching for that cross-collar choke. Maintaining a good grip for open guard. Squeeze your knees together for that armbar. In these blissful moments your mind can just ‘be’. And that’s when you tap into this special place inside that is so hard to achieve in everyday life.

I work in a place that does not appreciate creativity. And during the last few weeks, which were particularly challenging, I think my brain seized like an old Volkswagen engine. And that was apparent during Saturday’s training session. Sure, I got with the program. I managed to have a few decent rolls. But the point is this: I sometimes let the stress of life sap my creativity, and it becomes evident (like all strengths and weaknesses) on the mats as I train in this this perfect sport and self-defense art called Jiu Jitsu.

As a closing note, I was reading an article from Carlos Gracie Jr., titled, ‘Benefits of Jiu Jitsu for Working Professionals’. Buried in the text was a great quote from my favorite Podcaster, UFC Commentator, BJJ black belt, and seemingly really cool guy (I don’t know him personally, but I’d love to hang out and have a beer with him!), Joe Rogan:

“Jiu-Jitsu is incredibly difficult to get good at. To be successful, one has to become a mentally strong individual. It also helps develop humility, a trait many argue is lacking in todays society. I think Joe Rogan said it best, “When you get good at something as difficult as Jiu-Jitsu, it makes everything in your life better.”

Indeed – everything in life is better with Jiu Jitsu. Confidence earned from hard work on the mats. Humility gained from rolling with lions and lionesses every training session.

Ok, one final closing note. A few weekends ago, I stopped by Starbucks for a mid-day pickmeup. As I doctored up my Grande Pike, in walks one of my teammates who has been battling an injury and hasn’t been to the gym in a month or two. And as we were catching up with the crowd walking by us, it was clear that this camaraderie existed between us that can only be forged because we beat each other up several times….because we both gave/give our fair share of sweat and a little blood to the mats.

And that feeling made me happy.

Don’t let life sap your creativity! Go out there and do what you love. For me…I can’t wait to get back home and go train.

Take care of each other! Cheers.

PS – I just picked up a few batch of Onnit T-Plus and some Earth Grown Nutrients. I’ll post an update on supplements soon!


Searching for Kron Gracie

I’m sure you’ve seen the 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer.  In this film, young chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin struggles to mature between two chess disciplines: rigid tactician under Master chess professor played by Ben Kingsley, or free-flowing playfulness and risk-taking under the mentorship of park-chess player played by Laurence Fishburne.  Sure, there are other minor plot lines, but in the end, that’s what it is all about – young Josh Waitzkin learning HIS chess game.

Several weeks ago, on a sleepless night, I was going down the YouTube rabbit hole.  You know the one – you search for “practical ways to fix a leaky faucet”, and you find yourself 20 minutes later watching videos of people falling off bicycles.  Well, on this particular night, I found a video of Kron Gracie.  As a long-time fan of mixed martial arts, of course I knew of legend Rickson Gracie, and how his son, Kron, has the potential for equal greatness as his father.  Now for those who read my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida…I have his RVCA tshirt and everything!  I’m constantly amazed at Buchecha’s athleticism, speed, and tenacity when on the mat.  

But the more I watched, the more Kron’s philosophy resonated with me.

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Kron Gracie (Image found at InsideBJJ.com)

Every day I put on the gi, I’m learning.  Every day I put on the gi, I feel like there’s something I can do better.

I’m not going to break down Kron Gracie in this post; I don’t know him personally…what I know comes from what I’ve read.  Feel free to go down your own Kron Gracie YouTube rabbit hole.  But I will talk about how learning about Kron helps improve MY game.  

In the end, I’ve chosen two Kron Gracie philosophies to work on…just two humble goals…to focus my 2014 BJJ training.

Master the basics.  One thing I’ve read over and over about Kron is that he does not have a complex BJJ game.  Somewhere I read that he uses ‘white belt techniques with black belt mastery’.  And from what I’ve seen, it’s true!  He’s not beating guys with fancy tornado sweeps or flying armbars.  No, he constantly improves his position using basic techniques, and then applies the right submission at the right time with blinding accuracy.  What’s interesting about this philosophy is that I’m just now maturing to the point where I see how my most basic techniques can be improved.  A better grip.  A better position for my hips.  A slight adjustment in my balance that is the difference between a struggled or smooth guard pass.  Mastery is in the details, and I always hear Professor Rios in my head, “Ok, you guys got it…now let’s go over some of the details”.

Master your breathing.  Just like Rickson, Kron has mastered the art of breathing.  You definitely need to YouTube that.  While I’ll likely never have that level of control over my breathing and diaphragm, I can certainly strive to improve my breathing when rolling.  Kron mentioned this in one of the videos while talking to a guy who was very explosive (paraphrase), “Sure, you can do that for 3 minutes…then you need to step back and sip some water and catch your breath.  But can you do that for an hour?  No.  You need to breath so you can roll for an hour…”  Again, I’m just now getting to the point where I am super-aware of my breathing.  Some training sessions I can feel the flow – my breathing is great and I feel like I can roll forever (which in reality, is like 15 minutes).  But other sessions, when I bring ego and emotion and little focus onto the mats, I’m gassed within a few minutes.  I’m using too much strength.  My technique is sloppy.  My mind is not present.  I’m not breathing.

42 is just around the corner for me.  I am comfortable with the realization that I will never have Kron Gracie’s BJJ skills.  But as I go through this journey, I can certainly continue to improve my fitness and athleticism.  I can work to master the very basics.  I can work on my breathing so I can roll longer.  

In BJJ, just like in life, I need to constantly improve on the basics.  And I need to breathe.

As a closing note, interestingly enough, Josh Waitzkin is an avid BJJ player, and is a black belt under Marcelo Garcia.  It seems that calling BJJ ‘chess with one’s body‘ is not that far off for Waitzkin.

Take care of each other.  Cheers!

 


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