My All-Time Favorite BJJ Instructionals (a quick review)

Believe you me, I have expertise in this area due to my obsessive behavior when it comes to knowledge.  I went through a phase where I was buying a new Jiu Jitsu book or DVD instructional every week.  I couldn’t wait for a new one to show up on the shelf at Barnes and Noble so I could be the first to snatch it up.

It took me years to realize that this isn’t the best way, for me at least, to improve.  Instead, I usually just filled my head with technical options, advanced moves, or trick plays, which rarely if ever worked against a skilled opponent. So I went on a binge and sold or gave away most of what I had acquired over many years and many dollars.  What was left after the dust cleared were only my top, all-time, most useful, informative, and proven instructionals I came across so far in my journey.  Here they are:

Books:

#4 Andre Galvao’s Drill To Win

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This book is a fantastic resource for daily drills and concepts.  What I like best is that in doing the exercises you also gain insight into the specific details that allow a technique to work.  A must have.

#3 The Essential Guard

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What can I say, thanks to Kid Peligro (I love that name), my guard improved by leaps and bounds.  I like how they break down each position and show close ups on the details.  This book helped me most because of the concepts explained, not just the actual moves.  Does your guard suck? Buy this!

#2 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

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My first ever Jiu Jitsu Instructional, thank God.  This isn’t a bunch of random techniques thrown together, it’s the (pardon the expression) meat and potatoes of the art itself.  Renzo and Royler explore the foundations of BJJ while also showing how they can apply to street self defense, the original purpose of it all.  Get this before you explore the tricky stuff.

#1 Jiu Jitsu University

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Saulo is one of my heroes.  I knew I had to get this book the minute I saw how it was laid out.  He begins with only defense and doesn’t even touch submissions until the back few pages.  My game shot up tenfold after the first chapter alone.  The only downfall is that you can’t hear Saulo’s accent while learning from him out of a book.

DVD’s:

#4 Cesar Gracie

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Cesar strikes fear in me with his hard-ass teaching demeanor.  I love it!  Watching these DVD’s early on in my Jiu Jitsu journey helped me understand the aggressive nature of combat.  It got me ready for so many things including how to pressure the opponent from all positions.  This DVD set will bring out your inner badass.

#3 Demian Maia’s The Science Of Jiu Jitsu

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This DVD is worth its price just for the Triangle chapter alone.  I started landing tri’s with ease after learning from him.  The name says it all, the SCIENCE is what you will learn.  This means using your mind instead of brute force to make your Jiu Jitsu experience much more pleasurable while making your opponent miserable.

#2 Saulo (again!)

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Jiu Jitsu Revolution is another must-have set.  I like how close he is with Rickson and Royler and since we’ll probably never get a Rickson instructional I feel it’s the closest thing to it.  Saulo shows both his humorous and his badass side in these DVDs.  I personally like the half guard section the best but I get better with each time I explore any of these gems.

#1 Gracie Combatives

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Rener is probably the best teacher I’ve ever had in the virtual world.  He has a certain demeanor that exudes excellence, confidence, knowledge, and humility.  The reason this is number one is because everything you learn in this series WORKS!  I urge you to go to their online academy and try the free sample on how to secure the mount.  You’ll see your game tighten faster than a Rickson Armbar.  -Mike Geronsin

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1000 Armbars, 1000 Triangles, 1000 RNC’s……

Rickson-Gracie-jiu-jitsu<–Rickson approves of this post.

I’ve been reaping the rewards of repetition ever since I bought my grappling dummy.  Who else would let me slap on 1000 full speed armbars on them and not complain one time about how bad my gi reeks?  Why am I so obsessive about repping the most fundamental moves in Jiu Jitsu?  It comes down to depth just as the old saying goes: “I fear not the man who practiced 1000 kicks but I fear the man who practiced 1 kick 1000 times.”

It may seem boring at first but the best realizations are usually the reward for such diligent efforts.  For example, I may do an armbar the same way for the first 500 times but then around the 531’s rep I may notice a minor detail that can change the effectiveness of the entire move.  This happened when I repped my triangle choke a few months ago.  I realized that instead of using both legs to grab onto someone I really just needed one while the other securely held the person’s posture down.  Huge difference!!! And the bonus is that while you’re getting better with the details, your body is getting stronger and developing muscle memory.

Think Small for Big Results!

Before each roll I ask the instructor to show me a perfect move.  Last month it was the Cross Pass.  It’s mind-blowing how little I actually knew about one of the most fundamental passes in the game.  I failed to secure the details which left me failing to execute the move to it’s highest effectiveness.  Now when I rep the move I’m consciously asking myself questions.  Questions such as: Where should my right hand be?  Should I move it while I’m place my knee on the ground?  Where should my knee land? Is it possible for him to escape during the actual pass? How am I ending up at the end? Etc Etc..

You wouldn’t believe what this can do for your game.  I’ll elaborate on details throughout this blog but for now I’m too excited to be typing.  So I’m off to rep for now, see ya!

I Quit Coffee, This can’t be any worse

Sure I dabble when it comes to health. This doesn’t mean that I go all in and all out though, I try to take what is beneficial out of each experiment.
I happened across an MMA fight by the former great football player Herschel Walker. This guy, although a total genetic freak and perhaps a bit mentally unstable at times, is a very inspiring human. He claims to do thousands of sit ups and push ups each day, eats only one meal, sleeps only 4 hours a night, and at age 49 still competes at a high level in one of the hardest sports around, Mixed Martial Arts.
The Walker Youtube video brought me to more MMA videos one being about the diets of Jake Shields and Nick Diaz, both possess incredible cardio and fighting stamina. Turns out they’re both vegetarians. I then found a documentary on Netflix called Vegucated. That was my final push away from the the consumption of flesh, for now at least.
I figure, why not give it a month and see how I feel, so today it begins. A big salad for breakfast and then just Pro Bars for the rest of my daily meals. I can handle that.
I’m not looking to get big or to win MMA matches, I’m just looking to optimize my body’s energy by feeding it a new fuel, one free of meaty goodness. I’ll let you know how it affects my jiu jitsu performance as well as my overall health and mood in the next few weeks. 🙂

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Rolling Only One Day Per Week

Perhaps it’s my age, hectic schedule, other passions in life (mainly guitar), or just plain laziness that limit my rolling sessions to around once a week. Either way, I’m truly reaping the benefits of “not killing my body” by keeping a relaxed yet steady jiu jitsu schedule.
My typical routine is to train jiu jitsu 7 nights a week however most of that is drilling reps on my grappling dummy, learning how to improve my technique, or doing body exercises, including yoga, in order to stay sharp. Rolling constitutes only one, sometimes two, of those days. I realize live rolling is the ultimate measure of my progress but if I rolled everyday I feel my body would have no chance to rebound from the hell it has to endure. I see it how I see lifting weights. You wouldn’t go all out doing bench presses every single day. Instead you alternate allowing your body time to heal which in the end makes it stronger.
Keep in mind that I’m not a competitive jiu jitsu student. I’m here for the long run and so slow and steady is the road I choose. It may be different for younger, stronger, hungrier, players but not me. I for one need at least two days to heal this high ankle sprain and sore wrist. Just in time for my Wednesday technique class! I love this routine.

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YOGA Is The Answer!

yoga4dudes-interview-noemie-lagier-20060428000253289-000^^^This outta get me a few more hits!

This post will be short and sweet, DO YOGA IN BETWEEN GRAPPLING DAYS.  I stumbled onto P90X yoga years ago and I honestly believe it’s why I’ve remained so healthy on the mats.  It’s easy to want to just rest on your days off but doing at least 15 minutes will work miracles for those little aches and pains, um…and getting old ailments.  I always say, “A flexible spine is the secret to feeling young therefore yoga is my fountain of youth.”  Okay I don’t always say that.  Give it a go and let me know..what happens.

Improving My Game 300%

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If there was a graph charting my jiu jitsu improvement, I’d have to say the biggest gains occurred  when I adapted a new training philosophy.  MASTER ONE MOVE AND ONE COUNTER FOR EACH POSITION.  And that’s all you do for months.  Here’s an example.  I remember not knowing what to do once I got mount on someone.  In fact, I had too much information going through my head.  Not only did I own every BJJ DVD and book in existence (I’m only half exaggerating) but I also had all the lessons I learned in class bouncing around my thick skull.  This resulted in mass confusion.  Think of it like a funnel.  A funnel can only allow so much to pass through and you actually do more harm than good when you overflow the poor thing.  So I decided to take a step back, back to basics (that old cliche).

I practiced on a punching bag at the time by laying it down in my living room to simulate an opponent.  I took mount and thought, “What is one solid move I can do every time I get here?”  Ah! Collar choke.  So I rep’ed the collar choke from the mount all week.  When I got to class and tried it, it turned out everyone naturally knew how to defend it.  This didn’t stop me, I still went for it over and over again and was only successful a few times.  I did have a revelation though.  Turns out that in order to defend the choke most people lifted their arms slightly in an X shape leaving just enough room to scoot my knees up and isolate them.  This led me to practice the cross choke/high mount combo and I’d go back and fourth between the two.  Before long I was either getting the choke or getting an armbar as a result of isolating their arm in high mount.

I did the same with all the other positions and it allowed my body to go into autopilot instead of paralysis.  Try it and see..The answer is in the depths of the details.

Wrist Locked, Heel Hooked, Battered and Bruised (Rolling Review)

astaire<—I was tapping like Fred freakin’ Astaire.

Here’s the breakdown:

My first partner and I rolled for the first 1/2 hour.  My stamina held strong and I was on the offense most of the time.  I passed his guard without too much trouble but he did threaten armbars and triangles quite a bit.  I just really had to posture up quickly to avoid them.  My mount drills have paid off.  He was unable to free himself and when I threatened a cross choke he gave me his arm for the armbar.

I was very proud of one move in particular.  I had him in my guard and I was trying for a triangle but he kept his arms in tight, so I swept him to one side hoping he would post, he did.  I threw up the triangle and got the tap.

Then I faced the instructor.  Yikes.

First thing, I was in his guard (he’s known for his guard) and he immediately went for an armbar.  I pulled out and thought I was safe until he wrenched down on my wrist for a killer wrist lock.  Normally I wouldn’t tap to that but this was intense.  So intense that I heard a small pop, or was it a crack?  I tapped! Being a guitar player I tested it out to make sure my livelihood wasn’t in jeopardy.  Seemed alright.  This was followed by 2 heel hooks and an armbar.  I was able to ball up and escape a few holds but he just stood on top of me like I was a Swiss Ball or something.  Very demoralizing.  I took one very important lesson out of that roll: when threatened with a heel hook, do all you can to keep your foot on the ground.  I will always remember that.  Till next time, oh better check my wrist again…..still okay.  They may look dainty but are pretty strong.

Never Do This! (Mounted Triangle Warning)

Image<—— Rough way to lose

I was mounted on the instructor and he kindly allowed me (or maybe I surprised him) to lift his head and toss my leg behind it for an attempted mounted triangle.  You see I was all jazzed up after watching my Demian Maia instructional DVD and I wanted to just give it a shot.  I figure four’ed my legs and was feeling pretty good about myself when he quickly sat up and forced me off to the side.  While this happened we both (and most of the class) heard a loud pop come from the direction of my ankle.  He instantly froze and asked if I was okay.  Honestly, it didn’t hurt a bit at the time.  I usually crack my knuckles and sometimes crack my ankles and neck as well so I figured that’s all it was.  I stood up and walked just fine to prove I was alright.  

It wasn’t until my drive home that the right side of my right leg began to ache every time I hit the brakes.  Turns out I pulled a few things and needed 2 weeks off to heal.  What was my mistake?  I’ll try to break it down in detail.

Let’s say you’re mounted and you use your left hand to lift the opponents head while you toss your right leg under and around it.  This means your right knee is now bent and pointing to the right while your right foot is now to the left of his head.  From here on out your ankle is in danger should he decide to push you off toward that foot.  I watched Roger Gracie do his mounted triangle and he allowed no chance of this happening to him.  He immediately leaned toward his right side (knee pointing side) and waited for the opponent to rise up until he secured the figure four and finished the triangle.  I not only lean to the right, I put my right hand to the mat to ensure my balance is in the safe direction.  It was a rough way to learn a lesson but sometimes that’s how I roll.  Get it?  Roll, like.. never mind..

New Definition of ‘Going Easy’ When Rolling

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I just have to face the truth, I’m not good enough to ‘go easy’ at least in the way I used to define it.

How I used to define ‘going easy’: Relaxing every muscle before engaging, breathing slow, moving slow and smooth, not resisting much when getting guard passed, methodically going for submissions IF they came to me.

Result?  Years of being a wet noodle on the mat

Improvement rate: moderate to slow

Now definition of ‘going easy’: Not muscling or spazzing in order to achieve a good position or submission therefore being a safe training partner.

That’s it.  No more relaxing every muscle but instead I’m keeping them firm and in ready position.  My breathing can change from slow to quick in order to refuel my system in each situation.  I allow myself to move quickly as long as it’s also safe and accurate.  Resisting the hell out of guard pass attempts for now until my technique improves.  And finally I’m pushing the pace and going on the offense much more often.  It’s amazing how many more submission become available when you have your partner ‘on the run.’  I guess I should have listened to Rickson when he said, “Relax but don’t be a ragdoll on the mat.”