Category Archives: BJJ

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!


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!


What’s your favorite color? Mine: BLUE!

Just a quick post this morning to share the great news.  Last night was promotion night at Iron Dog Jiu Jitsu here in Northern Virginia.

Congratulations to all of my teammates & friends who received stripes and belt promotions!!  Along with several stripes bestowed, Professor promoted Terry, Joe, Roy, and me to blue belt; Zach to purple belt; and Emil to brown belt w/ red bar.   After promotions and pictures, we had a great 40+ mins of rolling … just to make sure those new belts didn’t stay clean and sweat-free for long!

Promotion!

Promotion!

Me with Professor Rios after belt promotion.

Me and Professor Rios.  After seeing this picture, I realize I need some patches on my gi…let the sponsorship begin!

A fantastic night!

On a personal note – last night was a big deal for me.  Since joining Krav Maga Northern Virginia in January 2012, I have worked harder than any other time in my life.  Prior to 2012, the most difficult physical challenge I faced was the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007.  That was hard, no doubt about it.  But after that, it was year-after-year of watching UFC while slamming back Guinness and stuffing fried-whatever into my face.  [Note: if you do this long enough, you’ll eventually reach 255lbs…I do not recommend it.]

Aside from losing 30 lbs and being stronger physically (although I still have many improvements to make), the greatest benefit of these last two years is becoming mentally stronger.  Even though BJJ is practiced in a safe/structured environment, it’s still a FIGHT.  You have to use both brawn AND brain to work your way out of a bad position or submission attempt.  There’s still a mental toughness required to keep rolling when you’re completely exhausted.  There’s a mindset needed when you know you are entering a match with someone significantly better than you…getting tapped…then getting up and diving right back in [not head-first, mind you…or Zach will guillotine-choke you until you blow snot bubbles].

Anyway – BJJ has neatly woven itself into my life, and I’m not looking back.  I may not be a black belt until I’m 55…and while that’s my goal, it’s certainly not the most important aspect of this journey.  It’s really about camaraderie.  It’s about hard work and dedication.  It’s about discipline.  It’s about pushing yourself and those you train with really hard…

All those things you learn about when you’re young, but somehow forget as you sit at your desk choosing fonts for your next PowerPoint presentation to the boss.

Hi – I’m Kris, and I’m the newest and happiest BJJ blue belt on planet Earth.

Take care of each other.  Cheers!


Weak side, foam rollers, and Jason Statham

Scrolling through my BlogRoll, I came upon a particularly relevant post yesterday from Nick Albin – aka Chewy.  Chewy is the author of the blog “Chewjitsu”, and is an instructor at Derby City MMA in Louisville, KY.  Chewy’s blog is a wealth of information – so stop reading this for a few minutes and go ‘follow’ his blog.  I’ll wait.

Back?  Ok, good.

What really caught my eye is a concept that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time…the concept of having a weak side.  This is something I know I have for many techniques, as well as some muscle memory.  For some techniques I feel ambidextrous: americana, rear naked choke, sleeve choke, triangle choke.  When rolling, these techniques come naturally on either side (yes, they are easy, I know).  For others, I definitely have a stronger side.  This is blatant when I’m passing guard.  I ALWAYS go clockwise around my partner/opponent.  I say ‘stronger’ because if passing in the clockwise direction doesn’t pan out, I can quickly shift to a counter-clockwise motion.  But the clockwise pass, especially if I have control of my opponents legs/gi pants, is definitely stronger.  Finally, there are some techniques that I can execute to one side, but it feels completely wrong in the other direction.  I find myself thinking during a roll, “Wait, I know this….but why does it feel so strange??  Oh yeah…I’m used to the other side.”

So reading Chewy’s blog just reiterated to me that during drills, I need to be conscientious about working both sides.  Another great suggestion he had was to favor one’s weak side when rolling with someone less skilled.  (“Hi, this is your first class?  Fantastic!  Today, I’ll be using my weak side…”   HA!)

I also took note of Chewy’s (and many others) suggestion of using a foam roller to work out sore muscles – this works especially well on my back.  And I’m quite proud of myself in this regard!  Instead of dropping $30, $40, $60 on a fancy-pants foam roller found in the yoga sections of sports stores, I bought a $3 two-foot section of PVC pipe from the depot and wrapped it in a towel with some heavy duty tape.  Sure, it’s ugly.  But it definitely gets the job done for just a few bucks, and the PVC is unlikely to wear out after years of use.

Finally on my mind today is Celebrities who practice BJJ.  I recently read an article about Jason Statham, who has been practicing BJJ for about 12 years, is a purple belt under Renzo Gracie, and talks about the positive aspects of martial arts in general (he also likes BJJ because he’s not getting smashed in the face…which is, for Hollywood, the money maker.).  I love Statham movies – they are always so action packed, he’s ridiculously action-movie-cool, and while many things are far fetched…it’s always good fun.  So that got me interested in learning of other celebs who train BJJ.  Google, can you help me out?

  • Ed O’Neil – Black belt, 20 yrs training under Rorion Gracie.
  • Michael Clarke Duncan – Purple belt, trained at the Gracie Academy.
  • Sean Patrick Flannery – Black belt under one of Renzo Gracie’s professors.  Opened Hollywood Jiu Jitsu several years ago. If you haven’t seen The Boondock Saints, well, I can’t help you.
  • Rikki Rockett – Drummer from the band Poison…Black belt under Renato Magno.
  • Ashton Kutcher – Blue belt who trains regularly.
  • Joe Rogan – Black belt under Jean Jacques Machado, and a black belt under Eddie Bravo in 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu (no-gi style)
  • Paul Walker – Brown belt under Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller.  Sadly, I learned last night that Paul Walker died last night in a car accident.  How sad – he was only 40!
  • Chuck Norris – Black belt under Machado family.
  • Naomi Watts – trains regularly.
  • Nicholas Cage – trains regularly.

I’m sure there are many others…this was just what popped up during my internet search.

Ok, that’s all for this morning.  If you see me, please remind me to work my weak side!

And in the mean time, let’s take care of each other.  Cheers.


Ki Ken Tai Ichi and hurt fingers

Before I found Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I studied Kendo – The Way of the Sword.

In all honesty, I was never any good at it.  At 6’5″, and an 80″ reach in UFC fighter’s parlance, I had awesome reach when fully extended for a men strike…but I was always much bigger and SLOWER than my opponents.  But regardless of my skill level, Kendo taught me a great deal about martial arts.

Me after Kendo training

Me after a Kendo training session.

First, Kendo taught me the essence of breathing during combat.  When I first started training Kendo, I would be winded within 5 minutes of warmup.  By the end of training, I would be a sweaty mess in need of gatorade, and sometimes an automatic external defibrillator.  But one instructor in particular continued to drill into my head – “Kris, you gotta breath when doing keiko (practice).”  This is one thing that transitioned with me when I started Krav Maga…and then BJJ.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I knew exactly how to breath when drilling knees in the carry position, and BJJ took breathing to a whole new level.  But the essence of  breathing while in combat stuck with me.  And now, after nearly two years of BJJ training, I get it.

Second, and more importantly, Kendo taught me the concept of Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi.  Broken down into their parts: (1) ki-energy, or spirit; (2) ken-the sword; (3) tai-one’s body.  Ichi is “1”…meaning all three must be present in the same moment.  So ki-ken-kai-ichi is when your warrior spirit, the cut of your sword, and the proper position of your body must all be present to culminate in a proper and valid sword strike.

So how does my limited Kendo experience relate to BJJ?  Well…first, you have to breath.  Obviously, if you roll while continuously grunting or straining, you won’t survive for long.  Breath!! But what about ki-ken-tai-ichi?

Ki (spirit).  We all sometimes bring ego into our jiu jitsu.  You have a bad day, you’re frustrated, you’re trying to impress someone.  What better for a lowly white belt like me to tap one of our blue belts with a choke?  Ahh…that would make up for my boss giving me crap about that late suspense, right?  Wrong.  When rolling, one of my goals is to rid myself of ego.  The new guy just tapped me?  Great.  I learned that I can’t be lazy and leave my arms hanging all over the place.

Ken (sword).  We don’t carry a sword, but we have a technique, which is our weapon.  Sometimes I find an arm or a neck exposed, and I’ll jump on it.  But once I get it…wait, is it monkey grip or human grip?  Do I grab my bicep or his lapel?  Do I trap the arm before securing my legs, or secure my legs before trapping the arm?  You see…I need to take time to learn the technique so I can execute properly and without hesitation when the opportunity presents itself.

Tai (body).  “Posture up, Kris……POSTURE UP!”  (even though Professor is yelling it, I sometimes don’t hear….then I get guillotine’d).  When I first started BJJ, I was all about the submission.  Either I was trying one, or I was defending one – even though I knew how to do neither.  But as I settled down, I now know it’s about position.  Position before submission, right?  So now I’m focusing on improving my position.  Keith tells me all the time when we roll…”constantly look to improve your position”.  If the arm or neck is out there AND I’m in the proper position – then I’ll attempt the submission.  And for goodness sake, Kris, POSTURE UP!

Ichi (1).  All of these things need to be working in unison for good BJJ.

However – ki ken tai ichi won’t help me with hurt fingers!  Lately, all of my finger joints, and a few toes, have been really achy.  Once I’m warmed up and rolling, the aches go away somewhat…but my left hand is still not quite right from the broken finger last year.  My left hand grips suck – and worse that I’m a lefty…that should be my strong hand!  To that end – does anyone have suggestions on what I can do?  All you BJJ, Judo, and Muay Thai masters out there – where’s the special concoction of oils and herbs and octopus mucus that I can rub on my hands to make the ache disappear?  If you come across anything, please let me know.  🙂

Finally – a word on T+, my favorite Superman watermelon drink.  I know I told everyone that I’d re-do my testosterone levels after I finished the last order.  But alas, I’m very busy and a little lazy, and I failed you.  But, I just started a new 30-day supply (on day 4 actually), and I promise to get my T-levels rechecked, and post both my pre-T+ and post-T+ numbers.  That way, my subjective “this stuff makes me feel super energized, and I recover from training much faster” will be accompanied by the more objective “t-levels were XXX, and now are YYY“.  But…subjectively, I can tell you: the stuff makes me feel super energized, and I recover from hard training sessions much faster.

Until next time, keep your ki-ken-tai-ichi in harmony.

And take care of each other.  Cheers!


Long Hiatus, Copa NOVA Tourney, and Getting Smashed!

And the hiatus is over!  It’s been so long since my last post that I almost feel the need to re-introduce myself.

Me: Hi, I’m Kris, and I’m a BJJ-a-holic.

Internet Audience: Hiiiii Kris.

So it’s been a crazy past several weeks.  I went on a whirlwind of business travel which kept me off the mats for nearly three weeks.  And just my luck…my first day back, one of my training partners rolled awkwardly on my hand and my pinky finger got smashed.  Really?  My first day back?  Well, luckily, I’m sponsored by Mueller Athletic Tape (ok, I’m not…but I go through a LOT of it).  What’s worse, we were only two weeks away from Copa NOVA 2013 BJJ Championship here in Northern Virginia.  More about that later.

Pinky Finger

Day one back on the mats.  Poor finger…why is it always the left hand? (I’m left-handed)

I also found that during those weeks of travel, I definitely lost some of my fitness.  Yes, I was a little lazy and didn’t get my butt down to the gym at the hotel.  That’s all my fault.  The first training session back was miserable.  After rolling with a few teammates, Professor and I rolled; he tapped me in maybe 12 seconds?  I was pathetic…I barely put up a fight.  As I rolled from underneath him, feeling like a piece of chum after a shark gnawed on it a bit, he simply said, “Kris, you are out of shape.”  Then he grabbed my lapel and pulled me underwater again.  Nothing like a simple, honest statement to refocus one’s training efforts, eh?  The next few classes were better.  I got some of my wind back; some of the rust was knocked off.

And then before I knew it, it was Copa NOVA 2013.  Tape up that finger, you great big whiney-baby, and get ready to compete!

There’s always an interesting decision to make with these tournaments.  Perhaps you more seasoned grapplers can suggest a good approach.  You see, at 41 yrs old, I’m definitely in the Masters category (30+).  And in the masters category, heavyweight is 200+.  I sit at 225.  Now, in the Men’s Category (under 30), there’s a heavyweight category (200-224), and a super heavyweight category (225+).  So if I cut 6 lbs, I could fight as one of the heavier guys in a group of athletic 20-somethings.  Or, I fight guys my age (if you call a spry 31 yr old ‘my age’), but risk fighting anyone from 200lbs to a 400lb sumo-wrestler.  This year, I chose poorly.  I fought in the Masters bracket, and ended up being the lightest of the group by at least 25 lbs.

My first gi match went perfectly.  I executed a (sloppy) takedown, and landed in a loose half-guard.  I quickly moved to side control.  I tried  knee-on-belly, but because I failed to get off my other knee, I didn’t get any points for it.  Either way, I was able to slide over into mount fairly easily, and hooked my legs to pressure him.  I was able to attempt an americana, but he had crazy flexible shoulders, and truth be told, my technique was probably a bit sloppy.   Come on Kris – paint the floor with his knuckles!  Oh well.  I abandoned the attempt and started looking for something else.  Professor was coaching me along the way, and I heard him yell ‘sleeve choke’!  Ahh, that’s right – the Chuck Special from my gym.  So I was able to work the sleeve choke, adjust here and there, and he finally tapped.  What a great feeling!

After that, it went downhill a bit.  My next opponent was a lot stronger than me (and maybe 40 lbs heavier), and ended up in side control.  I was never in any jeopardy of being submitted…and the ref actually reset us for stalling on his part.  However, he was able to get me back to side control, and squished me for the remaining time.  I lost by a few points on his gaining and retaining side control position.  My third gi match was a blur.  I lost by a few points, but as I remember it, it was a lot of back and forth the entire match.  Needless to say, I was exhausted…and I had only rolled for about 13 minutes total!

My fourth and final match was no-gi.  I fought a guy shorter, but much heavier than me.  And man, he was SWEATY (= very slippery).  He also got me in side control after I executed the worse takedown attempt in the history of BJJ.  He also just laid on top of me.  At one point, he tried an americana from my half-guard, and while he was in horrible position, I thought I could sweep him as he focused on my arm.  No dice.  About 4 minutes into the 5 minute match, I swept him and landed in his guard.  I broke it, and there was a bit of a scramble.  I was, for a brief moment, almost able to take his back.  I’m usually pretty good at that, because my long legs allow me to wrap my leg around to sink a heel into the hip (coupled with a seat-belt hold), which keeps my opponent from turning during the transition.  And my mind went into afterburner, because he was beating me by like 300 points, and a rear naked choke to end the match in my favor would have been SWEET.  But alas, he was able to weasel his body around and turn into me.  The match ended.  I was 4-matches exhausted.  And I got a second-place medal for Masters Heavyweight No-Gi.

Second Place, No-Gi

Second Place, No-Gi, Masters Heavyweight Div

Six of us from the gym competed, and everyone did such a great job.  I’m so proud to be part of this BJJ team!  It felt great to have several guys from the gym come out to support us.  And of course, Professor was on edge of the mats coaching us (loudly) for every single match.

So as I bring this to a close – this year’s Copa NOVA showed me a few things that I need to focus on over the next few months of training.  (1) I need to incorporate more ‘non-training-day’ training into my weekly routine. Running…push-ups and sit-ups…weights.  That will help when I need to hip escape from underneath a 280lb guy.  (2) I need to work on side-control escape.  I never had issue with this, but for some reason, I have had a horrible time lately.

So while I work on that, I’m going to get re-acquainted with all the awesome blogs I follow.  Be prepared for comments!

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


View from the bottom…

There’s a wonderful book (and movie) titled “Gardens of Stone“.  I read this book in college as a young Air Force ROTC cadet, and have since re-read it a handful of times.  In one scene, the senior sergeant tells the young private after a particularly rough barracks inspection, “Some days you eat the bear…some days the bear eats you.”

Last night felt like the bear ate me.  Why?  Because I can’t seem to learn how to drink enough water and properly fuel my body before training.  It was hot, I couldn’t get ahead of my thirst, and my gi felt like a wet blanket suffocating around me.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still a fantastic class.  But in the case of last night, I spent way too much time on the bottom, getting eaten by the bear.

We drilled a few basic armbar, kimura, triangle drills after warmups, and then worked on kimura set-up/transition to guillotine.  This was difficult for me, as I constantly felt that my gi sleeve, and my partners lapel, was getting in the way of me setting up the choke.  Looking back, I think the majority of the times I’m able to get the guillotine choke is either from a scramble, or my partner dives in for a takedown.  In either case, the angle is different than setting up kimura from guard, then wrapping your arm around the head for the guillotine.  By adding a simple stack, my partner (Eric) was able to nullify my technique.  Oh well, more work needed there.  Then we drilled double-leg guard pass.  We did this on Saturday in no-gi, but last night was refining the technique in gi.

A fellow blogger, Sarah, author of Trainwrecking, (great blog, you can check her out here), posted some pictures of her rolling.  I thought that was a great idea, so today’s blog will capture some of the good, the bad, and the ugly of last night’s open rolling.

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World’s laziest armbar setup!

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On the bottom, where I spent a lot of time last night.

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Nate, who has unlimited energy, and is as strong as an ox.

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On bottom, again…

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Opened my guard and sat up for kimura, but felt a sweep was available.

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Both arms in, or both arms out. If not – triangle. The only thing I could do was stack Nate, and try to use my superior weight (ha!) to pass into side control.

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Working hard. From the bottom. Again…

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Instructor calls time. Class is over. I’m exhausted. (Meanwhile, Nate is thinking what club he is hitting later that evening.)

Thank you to Eric, Nate, Andrew (?), and others for rolling.

All in all – a good class.  Jon (from JonJitsu, another fantastic blog here) reminded me several weeks ago that once you get 4 stripes on your white belt, and blue may be in the future, you start getting harder on yourself when you make beginner (read: white belt) mistakes.  When, in fact, you ARE a white belt.  So when I get caught in an armbar (like last night), or a few other submissions, or spend 30 mins on my back (like last night), I need to remind myself that I will continue making beginner mistakes, and that I need to learn from them to improve my game.

And for goodness sakes, man, drink some water, will ya?  Stop gassing early because you’re not properly hydrated.

Take care of each other.  Cheers!

PS – Yes, there were other pictures of me from last night: ones of me snotting, bleeding, throwing a temper tantrum before curling up in the fetal position and sobbing uncontrollably….but I omitted those.  It’s MY blog, and I can tell the story any way I want!


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