“Breathe. Just Breathe.” – Jedi Master Luke Skywalker
This is probably one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in martial arts so let’s just start with a bit of science to help us talk about it sensibly.
First – I don’t care what your mum, Kron Gracie or the yoga instructor with the pretty eyes told you it is physically impossible to further oxygenate your body. Blood oxygen levels typically sit at 95 to 100% and your breath can only affect this minimally. Breathing is more about maintaining the balance between oxygen being taken into your body and the carbon dioxide being expelled.
Most people assume that low levels of oxygen trigger the urge to inhale. Instead, it is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream that brings on the desire to breathe. Everyone has a certain level of carbon dioxide in their blood; it is a product of normal oxygen metabolism. However, unlike blood oxygen levels, carbon dioxide concentration is controlled by the frequency and intensity of breathing.
As a result, the feeling of being “out of breath” is less about you needing to take more oxygen in and is more about needing to get more carbon dioxide out.
When you exercise your body will begin to breath harder and faster in an effort to maintain the balance between the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, inefficient breathing patterns where the exhale is cut short – and attempts to “take a deep breath in” – undermine this process leading to a situation where an otherwise fit athlete fatigues and potentially even panics.
One of the easier ways to overcome this issue is to adopt and develop specific breathing techniques while you train. While the following strategies are described with the Jiu Jitsu practitioner in mind the concepts and principles are easily adaptable.
Exhale and Centre
This breathing technique is by far the simplest and can be integrated into your training immediately with surprisingly effective results.
You ready for it?
Take a deep breath out.
Anytime that you catch yourself feeling tired, stressed or panicky focus on making a long exhalation before resuming. This has the dual benefit of bringing your breathing under control in a way which directly addresses the imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system and re-centring yourself in the moment.
While this method is easy to implement, and can be used in conjunction with the other methods listed in this article, it unfortunately treats the symptoms of inefficient breathing rather than addressing the cause. It is also a massive signal to your opponent that you were just feeling tired, stressed or panicky.
Most commonly exemplified by the Gracie family this method involves taking a normal inhalation followed by two or three short, sharp exhalations while contracting your diaphragm.
“Tss… Tss… Tss” – Rickson Gracie
The main benefit of this approach is the unchanging nature of the breathing pattern itself – you don’t speed up when you get excited or stressed and you won’t unconsciously start holding your breath during tense moments.
The downside is that I’ve found that this style of breathing initially takes a fair degree concentration so it’s difficult for someone who is not already very technically competent to implement.
Match your Breath to the Extension and Flexion of the Hips
When you breath in the air pressure in your lungs increases and exerts force against the anterior of your spine which results in a more rigid torso and when your breath out this same pressure decreases allowing for a more relaxed and pliable torso.
As Roger Gracie Blackbelt, Nic Gregoriades, notes “In Jiu Jitsu the movements which require the most strength -like bridging under mount – are usually those which involve hip extension and a rigid torso and those which require the greatest relaxation -like getting stacked during a guard pass – are those where your hips and spine go into flexion. If we match our breathing to these motions we can increase our strength or relaxation in the most efficient way possible.” (edited for brevity)
Anytime the distance between your shoulders and your toes decreases breath out.
Anytime the distance between your shoulders and your toes increases you should breath in.
Practice this during your warm up, any kind of solo work and eventually during drilling with a partner and in will become an ingrained part of your movement patterns.
It’s also worth considering that your mental state and your breath are inexorably linked. Some simple breathing exercises can have a profound effect on your state of mind and improve the quality of your Jiu Jitsu practice if you make them a part of your regular routine.
You have to let it all go. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind. ” – Morpheus
Solo Breathing Drills
Never ever, ever perform any kind of breath control practice in or near a body of water. Seriously – this is an easy and depressingly common way to die. Performing them while standing on a ladder or leaning over a display of knives is also highly discouraged.
To practice either kneel or sit cross legged on the floor with your palms on your knees and a straight back. Do not perform bellows breathing sitting in a chair as this breathing exercise is the one most likely to cause you to faint if you over do it.
Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice Bellows Breathing you can increase your time by five seconds or so until you reach a full minute.
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. Relax your throat. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue.
Exhale completely through your mouth allowing your throat to make a light whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that with this breathing technique, you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation.
“If the mind is the kite then the breath is the string.” – I can’t remember
Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
Hold your breath out while counting slowly to four. Again, try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes.
Correct the technique of higher ranked, more experienced people than yourself.
They love it and will view you with respect and awe.
Never wash your rash guard or gi.
Just keep it in your car or balled up in your bag. If someone complains they clearly don’t understand the #bjjlifestyle.
Don’t pay any attention to what is being taught.
If you haven’t seen it before it’s definitely bullshit. If you have seen it before you already know it and it’s not worth your attention.
When your partner is practicing a new technique counter it every time to show them they are doing it wrong.
This way they will know that you are definitely better than them and they will appreciate the constructive feedback.
Always roll like you’re in the final of the Mundials.
If you’re not practicing winning, you’re practicing losing.
Just hug your partner and perform a 300 second isometric squeeze. If you don’t attempt to do jiu jitsu you can’t fail at doing jiu jitsu.
About to lose? Start coaching or fake an injury.
You haven’t really been submitted if you stopped trying.
Either don’t trim your nails or trim them right before class to ensure that they are razor sharp.
If your training partner has to leave the mat to make sure they don’t bleed out from the thousands of cuts you just inflicted that stills counts as victory.
Always brag about the submissions you got in training to other class members.
Re-live your favourites with anyone nearby. Your past submissions are like MASH reruns – no one ever gets sick of them.
If you compete in a tournament and lose be sure that everyone understands that the problem wasn’t your poor work ethic, your low level of fitness or your complete lack of technique – it that you (select all that are appropriate):
Haven’t slept well all week
Didn’t eat before the match
Ate too much before the match
Had a BYE the first round
Had an opponent who had a BYE the first round
Lost to the guy who won the division
Were robbed by the ref
Had an injury
Lost to a sandbagger
Faced an opponent who was on steroids
Didn’t have enough time
Got DQ’d for some bullshit
Lost by a bullshit advantage
Faced an opponent who just stalled
Were tired from traveling
Just remember that you don’t need to do better; you just need to convince yourself – and everybody else – that you already have.*
Explain how if this was a no gi match you totally would have won.
Explain how if this was a gi match you totally would have won.
Explain how if this was an MMA match you totally would have won.
Exclusively go for techniques you are not allowed to do.
Neck cranks, finger locks and nipple cripples should be your go to moves. BJJ is a martial art for the street and you refuse to water down its effectiveness.
Ask for advice from your coaches and training partners about a problem you are having. Explain to them how it’s not actually a problem and why you are not going to follow that advice.
That way they will know that even your problems are actually successes they don’t understand.
Beat the hell out of new guys.
This will show them the power of BJJ and guarantee they come back.
If you are tired wait until you are losing to stop.
You shouldn’t give your training partner a false sense of success by letting them tap you just because you are tired from all the winning you have been doing. Instead stop rolling and the moment you end up in an inferior position you can’t easily escape from and explain that you are not unfit – you’re just recovering from a max deadlift attempt and the three different Crossfit WODS you considered doing earlier that day.
If your training partner let’s go to make sure that you don’t get hurt then the submission wasn’t really on. If you get hurt then they are being way too reckless and there’s no way they could have got you if you had been going as hard as they were.
Always use extra force and power when rolling with anyone smaller and weaker than you.
They will appreciate the respect you show them by not holding back and be encouraged to get better. Whenever you roll someone bigger or better than yourself complain that they are too rough.
Before rolling explain you have an injury and want to go light.
After they agree roll lightly for ten seconds before surprising them by attacking with 100% speed and power. This will definitely impress anyone watching.
*credit to a Josh Hinger rant for inspiring this one.
See to it that you temper yourself with one thousand days of practice, and refine yourself with ten thousand days of training.
– Miyamoto Musashi
Your sport or art should obviously be the primary component of these six practices. The key here is to understand that your athletic practice is the most important aspect of all your training. If you are interested in being a legitimate athlete then focus is genuinely required.
To quote coach extraordinaire, Dan John, “The goal is to keep the goal, the goal.”
If you have an element of your training or lifestyle that is interfering with your ability to train or perform your sport or art you have to decide what your focus is going to be.
You should be training or performing in your athletic practice 4 to 6 days a week.
Strength and Power Practice
The poor implementation of a strength and power practice is by far the largest and most common impediment in an athletes development.
Too many people consider the barbell a test of mettle rather than as a tool of training.
The goal of this practice is to become strong and powerful for the kind of athlete that you are and not in some kind of general or absolute sense. This means that roller derby skaters need to be strong compared to other skaters but not necessarily when compared to powerlifters or gymnasts.
The bottom line is that what you do in this practice should support – not hamper – what you do on the mat, field, track or ring.
Ideally your strength and power practice should be overseen by a knowledgeable and experienced strength coach. If a personal coach is not an option for you I recommend researching Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program or Pavel Tsatsouline’s Power to the People program.
You should be implementing your strength and power practice 2 to 5 days a week.
People often act like proper nutrition is some kind of complicated black magic or quantum level science but unless you have a severe or rare metabolic disease nutrition can be boiled down to two simple rules.
1. Eat like a fucking adult.
2. Don’t kid yourself.
If you can do this you are already out performing 90% of the population.
Eat like a fucking adult.
Eat real food.
Real food doesn’t come out of a can, or a box or a bag. Real food goes off.
No one over the age of 12 really thinks that nutri grain is ironman food or that diet coke is a healthy choice.
Eat vegetables for health.
Eat meat for strength.
Eat carbs for recovery.
Don’t kid yourself.
You know that pizza and beer aren’t getting you closer to your goals.
And the problem is not that you should *never* consume pizza and beer. The problem is that you pretend that because you ordered a gluten free base and low carb beer that you are somehow still eating well when what you actually did was fuck up a perfectly good meal.
Repeated movement patterns take a toll and the more specific and intense your athletic practice the more specific and intense stress is placed upon your body.
If longevity in your sport and maintaining a pain free day to day life are among your goals (and they should be) then these issues should be addressed by maintaining a movement practice as a part of your schedule.
Stretch what is too tight, open what is too closed and stabilise what is too loose. This can be as simple as going through a mobility routine – like DeFranco’s Agile 8 – three or four times a week or beginning a full blown yoga practice.
A meditation practice is an incredibly powerful tool for improving all areas of your life especially your athletic performance.
We’ve all had those experiences of getting into the “zone” or hitting our “flow”. Matches or performances where time seems to slow down and our ability to think, move and react seems limitless. We recognise the advantage of this state but hardly anyone actually trains to deliberately enter into it.
As athletes we are obsessed with training our bodies but so few of us put the effort in to train our minds.
The “zone” is really nothing more than consistent mindfulness. The ability to remain in and focus on the present moment without distraction.
Regular meditative practices cause actual structural changes in the brain. Just ten minutes a day can improve your will power and decision making capabilities; increase your focus and decrease your stress.
Ten minutes a day, everyday.
Developing a meditation practice doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll end up sitting in the lotus position, wearing flowers and talking in the breathy, hushed tones of someone who just finished a three day yoga instructor course.
Your lifestyle practice is primarily about making sure you stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. By necessity training environments tend to be fairly insular and it’s easy to fall into the pattern of eat, sleep, train, repeat. While this makes for some neat tee shirts the reality is that it’s an expressway to injury and burnout.
The specifics of a happy and healthy lifestyle are unique to each person but there are few general principles that will always apply.
Get enough good quality sleep.
Have interests outside your athletic practice.
Spend time with people.
Spend time by yourself.
Spend time simply playing.
1. Learn the broad strokes.
When you begin learning a new technique it’s easy to get lost in a virtual sea of detail and nuance. At this stage of the learning process don’t worry about these smaller details but instead focus on breaking the technique down into three to five key steps.
These key steps are your points of emphasis.
When you are practicing the technique be sure to pause at each of these points and really “lock” the step into place. Tighten up the step as much as possible making sure that each of your limbs, including your head, is where it is meant to be.
Which brings us to the next step…
2. Learn precisely where your legs, arms and head should be for each of these steps.
Whether we are cleaning our teeth, flicking a lightswitch or chopping onions the point of contact to our task is typically our hands. As such, whenever we interact with the world we tend to think about it in terms of what we are doing with our hands.
Complex tasks though – like nearly every technique found in Jiu Jitsu – are full body affairs.
It is especially important to train yourself to be specifically aware of the positioning of each of your legs and head. The positioning of your legs greatly influences your ability to use your hips and the position of your head reveals the alignment of your spine. Correct positioning of the hips and alignment of the spine maximises your ability to apply force while minimising effort.
3. Drill the technique against resistance.
Once you can move through the technique reasonably accurately and smoothly introduce some resistance to your repetitions. This doesn’t mean that you should jump straight to trying to execute the technique in full on rolling – you need to find a way of adding progressive resistance while performing specific repetitions.
There are many ways of doing this but there are two which are particularly effective and easy to do. The first is simply to have your partner start applying a very light amount of resistance and every time you successfully perform the technique apply more resistance on the next repetition. If they escape or defend the technique for a significant amount of time then they apply less resistance on the next repetition. The second is for your partner to start applying resistance at a particular stage of the technique; Start at the last step and, as you successfully finish the technique, work back towards the first step.
4. Add details.
Working the technique against some resistance should have provided you with some questions; Is there a particular stage or way in which you fail to finish the technique? Are you struggling to finish the technique against people of a particular size or rank?
Provided that you are still correctly executing each major step of the technique getting these questions answered – usually by asking someone more knowledgeable than yourself or through trial and error – will let you know which of the many smaller details to focus on.
5. Start trying the technique against progressively better and larger opponents in free rolling.
Start with small white belts and work towards successfully executing the technique on large black belts. Whenever you encounter a recurring problem go back to steps three and four.
If you can get to the point where you can successfully and regularly pull off the technique against brown and black belts while rolling you are very, very good at it.
But we’re talking about mastery.
Mastering a technique is something beyond very, very good. Mastery implies a level of understanding that exceeds technical detail and nuance.
6. Alter your perspective.
Looking at a technique the same way as everybody else is a sure fire way to limit potential – both yours and that of the technique itself.
Be aware of the typical patterns your mind falls into and try to break out through conscious effort.
Working on a sweep? Try thinking about how you would approach it as a throw or takedown.
A submission? Practice it like you would a position.
If you are genuinely on the road to mastery then by this stage odds are good that there is something you do in the execution of this technique that is different from how it is typically performed. Whether it is a new entry, a change of angle or a grip placed in a new location there is something that improves either the effectiveness of the efficiency of the technique and it’s now a case of recognising and defining what you do that is different and why.
The mark of a master is simplicity. The ability to take everything learnt over the previous seven steps and boil it down to three to five key points denotes genuine knowledge and understanding. This is the same as step one but with the key difference of the experience of the months and years you have spent studying, practicing and training.
These key points might be different from the ones you started with in step one or they might be the same but with a different emphasis.
A while back I republished a new and updated version of the popular article “The Best Supplements for General Health” where I focussed on discussing which supplements were useful in building a foundation of good overall health. They were simple vitamins, minerals and fats that help with immunity, energy levels and general well being.
This time around I want to look at some supplements that will help you get the most out of your training without breaking any laws or taking any undue health risks – nothing here will land you in jail or the hospital if you use them as described.
As always – It is important to note that I am not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to be one on the internet. If you are pregnant, have a chronic condition or are taking medication, you should consult a physician before commencing any supplementation regime.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branch Chain Amino Acids are made up Valine, Leucine and Iso-Leucine and can help promote muscle protein synthesis, increase muscle growth, regulate blood sugar levels and prevent muscle catabolism.
BCAAs are also an excellent way of managing appetite during weight cuts as your liver can convert 8g – 12g of BCAAs into just enough blood glucose to alleviate cravings without slowing fat loss.
Some people also experience a reduction in fatigue while supplementing with BCAAs but the jury is still out on whether this is a placebo or a genuine physiological effect. At the time of writing most journals and text books refer to this as a reduction in “perceived fatigue”.
While research does seem to indicate that Leucine is the most beneficial of the three, clinical trials have found no advantage to either isolating or increasing the ratio of the acid in the supplement so you are probably best off consuming a balanced ratio.
A dose of 10g to 30g depending on your size and activity levels is pretty standard. Branch Chain Amino Acids are best consumed before or during training and quantities larger than 10g should be split into two or three doses for maximum effect.
Creatine helps regenerate a molecule called Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) which is what your body uses for energy in practically every physical process from muscle contraction to cellular regeneration. Basically, whenever an ATP molecule is ‘used’ it loses a phosphate becoming Adenosine Di-Phosphate (ADP) which cannot be used as a fuel source unless it is converted back into ATP. This is where Creatine comes to the rescue – by donating its phosphate group to the ADP, Creatine reforms it back into ATP refilling your body’s energy stores. Supplementing your body’s own Creatine allows this process to go on for longer that it would otherwise enabling you to train longer and harder.
Also, as Creatine itself is also a fuel source for short duration, high intensity anaerobic activities (like weightlifting and sprinting) supplementation can result in performance increases.
If potential weight gain is not a concern for you I would recommend taking 5g in the morning before any training and 5g in the evening before you go to sleep. If you participate in a sport where weight has to be factored into the equation just take the 5g in the morning.
At this dose Creatine must be taken daily for two to four weeks before it is likely that you will see the full benefit. You can speed up this process by starting with a loading phase where you ingest 20g daily for five days before dialling back to the recommended daily dose of 10g but this can cause gastro intestinal distress in some people.
Finally, I would recommend cycling off Creatine for one week every six weeks or so and for one full month every year. Supplementing Creatine will increase your body’s natural stores for a short period but after a while your body will get used to receiving this extra Creatine and down regulate its own production as a result. Regularly cycling off Creatine for short periods of time will help mitigate this effect.
These days more and more people are over fed but under nourished and the thing missing from the majority of athletes’ diets is sufficient protein. While bodybuilding magazines tend to recommend a daily protein intake somewhere in the vicinity of 2.5g per kilo of bodyweight, studies and experience indicate somewhere between 1.2g and 1.7g is probably sufficient unless your goal is to put on substantial amounts of mass.
While it’s nearly always better to get your protein from whole foods like meat and eggs the sheer convenience of a protein shake makes it an easy way to ensure you are consuming sufficient protein.
There are a couple of important things to look out for when purchasing protein powder. First, when you are drinking a protein shake you want to be taking in protein and not a bunch of sugar so try to find a brand that has at least 22g of protein and less than 5g of carbohydrate per 30g serving.
Secondly there is the type of protein to consider. While there are a bunch of different types, blends and brands they generally fall into one of three categories.
Whey Protein Isolate or Whey Protein Concentrate: Whey protein is a fast acting protein whose rapid absorption causes the blood’s amino acid levels to rise extremely quickly making it an ideal post training supplement. While there are differences between Isolate and Concentrate if you follow the above recommendation regarding purity they are basically minimised to the point of non-existence.
Casein: Casein protein is slow acting and its effects long lasting making it better suited to being a meal replacement than for post training recovery. During periods of training where significant mass gain is the goal a Casein protein shake before bed can aid in muscle growth and recovery.
Plant Based: These are best used if you have a dairy intolerance and cannot make use of either of the above options. While there are many, many, many types of plant based protein powders I would recommend finding a blend of rice and pea; it has a fairly neutral taste and two combined covers the shortfall found in just taking either one individually.
There you have it. No magic or secret pills with guarantees of “XtremE” gains in a shockingly short amount of time just three simple supplements which, if used correctly, should help you train a little harder, recover a little faster and perform a little better.
So you’ve got yourself a grappler – congratulations, you’ve just started a relationship that is equal parts rewarding, mystifying and washing training clothes. Having a grappler of your own can be a challenging experience introducing you to new cultures, foods, smells and doctor’s waiting rooms. Knowing how to properly care for your grappler – cause they sure as hell aren’t going to care for themselves – is a key part of having a happy and healthy relationship.
The following guide should help you through those first tricky weeks.
The grooming needs of a grappler vary greatly. The short haired breeds need little more than a reminder to bath regularly but the longer haired breeds, and the breeds that depend upon their plumage to attract a mate, could require various oils, gels, clips and ties as well as your direct assistance to achieve the desired look.
Regardless of the type of grappler you own there two must have items: Nail clippers, which should be used weekly, and Anti bacterial soap, which should be used daily.
Grapplers are social animals that don’t cope well if they become isolated from others of their own kind. Failure to properly socialise your grappler can lead to them becoming listless, confused, pain free and likely to start exhibiting inappropriate behaviour towards non grapplers usually prefaced by the phrase “hey, come here…. I want to try something”.
Depending on the age and breed you will need to socialise your grappler anywhere between twice a week to twice a day.
Determining the appropriate level of medical care for your grappler can often be confusing. Typically a grappler will either be visibly maimed while insisting that nothing is wrong and that they will definitely be going to training tonight or exhibit no signs of distress whatsoever but constantly regale you with predictions of their impending death before saying that they will definitely be going to training tonight.
That said, a medical cabinet that is well stocked with the following items should take care of most situations.
- Ice packs
- Tiger balm
- Compression sleeves
- More tape
Communicating with your grappler can be tricky at first but a few simple tips will see you conversing in no time.
1. Begin all conversations by saying “ok guys”.
2. Pronounce all “r”s like “h”. All of them. Even when saying words that aren’t Brazilian Portuguese.
3. Instead of using full stops to end your sentences start saying “Porra” instead.
4. Finally you can indicate approval, disagreement, indifference or the need to pass wind by extending your thumb and pinky finger like you’re about to answer the gadget phone and shaking your hand around.
Occasionally your grappler may attempt to talk to you about grappling. Now it’s not actually necessary to understand what your grappler is saying – let’s face it, how could you? – but appearing to listen to their incoherent ramblings can be a bonding experience. To participate all you need to do is insert one of these handy phrases whenever your grappler has to pause to draw breath:
“That guy just muscles everything. No technique at all.”
“The knee reaping rule is stupid.”
“They really need to learn some takedowns.”
“Rickson is the best.”
In some sad cases your grappler may begin responding to all questions, statements, gestures and light operettas with the sound “oos”. If your grappler starts demonstrating this tendency it needs to cracked down upon immediately – I suggest a rolled copy of the script of Hamilton to the nose for each infraction – as the only options for long term abusers is to be put down or enrolled in a karate club.
When feeding your grappler it’s important to understand that their diet consists primarily of fads, poorly backed up popular science and what Rick from the gym told them.
You also need to realise that your grappler is never the right weight. Depending on various factors – how their last training session went, how close they are to competition, the phase of the moon – your grappler will either be desperately trying to strip fat or pack on muscle but, regardless of which, self sabotaging their efforts the entire time.
Acai also plays a prominent role for some reason. Don’t ask.
The Kimura Trap leads to an excellent series of transitions and submissions. It has been popularised by David Avellan and frequently utilised by such names as Andre Galvao, Keenan Cornelius, Andris Brunovskis and Dominick Cruz.
It is also an example of one of the most difficult positional concepts to understand in Jiu Jitsu: A Position of Transition.
Positions of Transition are positions where control is not exerted in a traditional pinning or riding fashion.
Pins are dominant positions in which control is exerted by restricting and controlling the opponent’s movement and Rides are dominant positions where control is exerted despite the opponent’s movement.
A Position of Transition’s primary method of control is the gateways it creates to other positions or submissions. However, unlike pins and rides, the ability to remain in these positions is comparatively limited and these gateways are created almost exclusively through the opponent’s choices.
In this example it is easy to see how the attacker’s options are essentially dictated by the choices of the defender and it is equally easy to see how the attacker has little means to force any particular choice upon the defender.
Why is any of this important?
Well, despite being easily entered into from a variety of situations and allowing a series of extremely powerful actions, Positions of Transition are comparatively under utilised. And they are not uncommon – Kimura Trap, Harness, Two on One and Seatbelt are all Positions of Transition if used correctly.
Secondly, realise that due to their action/reaction type nature, Positions of Transition take significantly more drilling than more conventional positions to make use if their full potential.
Training in a martial art can be one of the most rewarding and positive experiences you can have in your life providing benefits to you physically, mentally and emotionally. That said, getting started can be daunting and for a lot of people just walking through the doors of an academy for the first time is incredibly intimidating.
While taking a deep breath and simply turning up for a class will generally work out for the best there are still a few things you can do to ensure your early experiences lay the foundation for a rewarding martial arts adventure.
Before You Go to Your First Class
Do your research.
Not all BJJ academies are the same; some focus on sport jiu jitsu, some on MMA, some on self defence and others will cover the full spectrum of the martial art. There will also be significant differences in the gym cultures which is what will really determine whether or not you continue training.
We live in an age of information so it’s easy to check out the Facebook page, business reviews and website of anywhere you are considering training. If you are uncertain how to do this click —>here<—
Go to the website.
So you’ve found a place that looks good. Now go back to the website and actually read it.
Read the class descriptions, view the timetable, check out the cost and find out whether or not there is a free trial. You should also see if there are starting requirements as some places will have specific beginners courses or insist that you do a number of one on one sessions before jumping into the group class.
Email or call the academy.
It’s always a good idea to actually check in with the academy before you turn up; There may be a special event or some other unusual circumstance that would make it a less than ideal time for your first session.
Turn up about ten minutes early.
If you turn up this early then, depending on how the academy in question is organised, the coach will either be busy or not there yet. Just give yourself enough time to find the place, introduce yourself and fill out a small amount of paperwork.
During Your First Class
Expect some culture shock.
Every martial art has its own culture, traditions and social expectations and they can seem totally unfathomable to a new student. To add to the confusion no two academies are exactly alike even within the same style. Jiu Jitsu, which is generally considered to be comparatively informal when it comes to martial arts, will still have a number of rules of etiquette including, but not limited to:
You might be expected to line up in rank order at the beginning and end of class
You might be expected to bow whenever you walk on or off the mat
You might be expected to refer to the instructor as “Professor”
You might be expected to slap hands and/or bump fists with your training partner
You might be expected to line up and shake everyone’s hand after training
You might be expected to say “Oos” way too often and in ways that make no grammatical sense
Or you might not.
Hopefully the coach or a senior student will explain to you ahead of time what’s going to happen and what is expected but there’s no guarantee so be prepared to just roll with whatever happens – people will understand that you are new and learning “how things are done”.
So to recap:
If you haven’t done a martial art before then there are many things that are going to seem unusual to you.
If you have done a martial art before then there are many things that are going to seem unusual to you.
Expect to feel unfit.
Unless you are transitioning from another kind of grappling art, expect to feel very unfit during your first few sessions of BJJ. Even if you run marathons and crossfit every day a typical BJJ training session will get you very tired. It’s not that jiu jitsu is unusually demanding, it’s that the physical demands of any martial art tend to be very specific and this, combined with your lack of knowledge on how and when to relax, will quickly wear you out. The plus side is that this feeling is short lived. A couple of weeks of regular attendance and you’ll feel like you’re back at your base level of fitness.
Expect to be terrible.
Martial arts are complicated and it can take many years of training to become highly skilled, but for some reason a decent number of people seem to assume that they know what they’re doing before even completing their first lesson.
Realise that you are a danger to yourself and others.
If you are doing any kind of full contact martial art, such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the potential for minor and major injuries is present and, as a beginner, you won’t yet know how to take care of yourself.
This means that your training partner is doing all the work to make sure that neither one of you gets hurt. So rather than fighting as hard as you can “to win”, realise that your partner is fighting to keep you safe. Keep it light and remember that you are here to learn. This will have the added benefit that your higher ranked partner is less likely to decide that simply crushing you is the easier option.
If you come with a friend expect the coach to split you up.
There is no surer path to injury than having two beginners train with one another.
After Your First Class
Expect to be sore in ways you haven’t experienced before.
You’ve just used your body in ways it’s never been used before so expect a few new muscle aches to crop up the next day. After a few more classes your body will adapt and these new aches and pains will cease to occur. This would be exactly the same if you had just lifted weights for the first time or spent an hour trying to learn how to play squash despite never having picked up a racquet before.
If you did some kind of sparring then you’ve probably picked up a few bumps and bruises too. Like the aches, these are largely the result of experiencing something new – in this case significantly more body contact than you were previously used to – and these will also diminish as you begin training more regularly.
You will have questions. Many, many questions.
If your question starts with “What if” then please just stow that sucker in the back of your brain/write it down on a piece of paper and set it on fire. Understand that generally these kind of questions are answered with time and training and that the answer is frequently “It’s a fight, try not to let them do that”.
Other questions though – questions about the gym, the gear, the training, the coaches and the art itself – should be asked without hesitation. Common questions include
How do memberships work?
What kind of training gear do I need and where do I get it?
How do I tie my belt?
How do I care for my hair while training?
How hard should I go in sparring?
The Next Few Weeks
Start with two or three classes per week.
I know you’re excited and want to get as much out of this new experience as you can but you really need to ease into it. I’ve seen a number of people get started with BJJ and immediately jump into six classes a week and less than a month later they miss a class and I never see them again. Those who become long term students of the art start off with two or three classes per week and might, over time, build to more frequent training.
Expect to be corrected.
When you start training in any martial art there are two very common scenarios. Scenario one is that you feel like you are doing the technique or drill correctly but you are still being consistently corrected. Scenario two is that you feel like you are too uncoordinated to do the technique or drill correctly but you are still being consistently corrected. Neither scenario is correct.
You are not doing the movement correctly but you don’t know it yet because you are untrained.
You are not doing the movement correctly but you are not uncoordinated, you are untrained.
Accept the correction, continue training and never forget that, despite what movies and your mother tell you, it is statistically very unlikely that you are either amazing talented or particularly inept. You are paying a coach to teach you when you show up, help you when you want it and correct you when you need it.