Wrestling An Empty Jacket

So here’s a concept that always sounded good but never quite took hold in my Jiu Jitsu game. It’s phrased in many ways but means essentially the same thing. You may have heard “flow with the go,” “be like water,” etc. and perhaps you even tried to incorporate that mindset into your game, I know I did with very little success. It seemed like the more I tried to “be like water” the more my opponent became the “overly large” kid doing the cannon ball. Yesterday something clicked and surprisingly it proved to be beneficial almost instantly. I remembered an old Judo saying where they elude to the concept of making your opponent feel as though they were wrestling an empty jacket when they faced you. How would that feel? Well first off the empty jacket wouldn’t resist all your power. It would bend, fold, and flow along with whatever your intentions happen to be. So I applied it against my first opponent in open gym who happened to be the instructor for the day. What better way to test something new than on someone way better than you right? Hehe. We started on knees and he pushed and pulled at me but I yielded to his every move. He came forward and I fell back but in a safe open guard position. He passed and tried securing a choke as I turtled up which almost caused me to snap out of my new state of mind but I stayed the course. I eventually rolled out and got him in my closed guard which lasted a good minute or so. It wasn’t until I attempted a sweep that he got out and eventually caught me in a footlock. I felt I could fight it since I had his collar but I conceded the tap, after all I wasn’t concerned about tapping, I just wanted to stay in my new zone.

After our roll he gave me a few tips and said there were many good things going on with my defense and even my submission attempts. The best compliment though was when he said he was trying hard to break my guard but noticed I stayed calm the entire time which was odd. I didn’t tell him about my experiment but thought to myself how things could have been much different had I fought and fought against his escape attempts instead of melting my moves around his actions. On a side note, I woke up the next day and felt about 1/4 of the soreness I usually feel. This alone was worth the change.

We have review class coming up next Sunday (four 20-minute matches to determine our rank) and though it may be bad timing, I’m going to apply this new mindset immediately and from here on out. I don’t care so much about tapping if the opponent manages to get something on me, but I’m done defeating MYSELF with the tension and the rigidity of my own movements. I’m going to be doing a lot more study with this and I’ll keep you updated on anymore breakthroughs I may have. Until then, stay calm and Do The Jiu!



Zen Rolling

I was pondering what makes Jiu Jitsu so difficult and something came to me in a flash: Jiu Jitsu isn’t hard, I’m making it hard. I’m sure I’ve read that statement before but for once it actually made perfect sense. Kind of like the day I realized how easy Yoga could be once I let go of excess tension within each pose and kept a watch on my breathing. I then noticed this tension in other areas of my life such as: when I played guitar onstage all the way down to when I was doing dishes. It was hard to notice though sort of like how you don’t notice the sound of the refrigerator until it stops and suddenly there’s silence in the house. You don’t always notice there’s tension in your body until you learn to let it go. For example, try lifting your arm without thinking about it. Pretty easy right? Now flex your whole arm while you lift it. This is what my Jiu jitsu is like.

I don’t know about everyone else but I really dread the idea of being tested. I know personally i’d rather just roll for fun and learn in the process; but at my school you must do what are called review matches in order to confirm or advance your rank. These are killers. Twenty minute matches, like in Metamoris, and upwards of four of them practically back-to-back. Speaking of back, last review class I hurt my back during the very first match (was caught in a bow and arrow choke for an extended time) but kept on through the rest resulting in about two weeks of hellacious pain. Anyhow you get the picture.

I realize now that because I put so much importance on these matches my body turns up the underlying static of tension and I tend to perform far below my ability. Add to that the fact that I waste enormous amounts of energy fighting my way out of submissions and you’ve got one ragged kid at the end of the day.

My plan is to consciously let go of all fear of loss and to just see it as a personal summation of my current skills. If I tap I tap. I’m even going to tap more and fight out of tight subs less. I mean I shouldn’t be flailing about after my opponent has already sunk in a choke. I should tap, learn from it, and move on. I should also let my technique do most of the work and if I fail it means my technique needs work, not added exertion.

It occurred to me that if I can’t defeat my opponent without remaining calm, then I’m simply doing it wrong and I’m libel to gas out in a real situation when it matters the most. Here’s to a new mind set when training. Hopefully a more “zen” mind set.



Woke up the other day and found out I am now a BJJ blue belt. Unofficial until next month when I do a review class but none the less an awesome feeling. It happened overnight (well not really) due to the new Rickson association standards. Our school follows its own belt system since it offers a cross training curriculum (stand up and ground fighting) so in that I’m currently a Red 2 but that now equals BJJ blue. Our blue equals BJJ purple, and black is now BJJ brown. Confused?

I’ve been working much more on positional drilling and so far I see it really paying off in passing and defending the guard. I have a new mentality where I now think, “You’re NOT passing my guard,” as opposed to my old mindset which was, “Please, please don’t pass my guard.” Believe it or not, this helps. It keeps me from giving up too quickly when I feel my opponent gaining the upper hand. Try it.

My defensive skills are sharper and I can tell my training partners are at least working harder to submit me. I’m okay with my progress since I am now seeing results and I can tell where it’s going. Here’s the path: I learn to survive which eventually leads to escapes. Escapes lead to escaping into better positions. Better positions equals controlled offense. Controlled offense equals submissions. This is my gameplan, heavily borrowed from Roger Gracie’s concepts, and I’m going to follow it and see where I end up. I’ll keep track of my progress leading up to my review match, which is in Sept, and let you know what I’m currently working on. See ya!