Archive for December, 2011

A question for myself is, “How can I maintain my Jiu Jitsu lifestyle?”  since classes don’t restart until January 2, 2012.

Maintaining a healthy diet is part of the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle.  Every morning, I drink a Gracie diet smoothie made with an apple and  a banana.  For lunch,  I have  a bowl of soup, preferably made with a minimum of  five vegetables.

Jiu Jitsu lifestyle is staying physically fit. So, I do thirty push ups a day and twenty sit ups.

How do I keep the Jiu Jitsu mind sharp? I review my fundamental notes. Professor Gui gave good advice to execute the moves in your mind as read them, which is a transferring from the conscious mind into the sub conscious mind.

New Years is around the corner. I am preparing a Jiu Jitsu resolution list.  Do you wish to make an attainable Jiu Jitsu new year’s resolution?   If so, would you consider sharing some of your ideas?

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During the last two plays of my high school American football game in 1987, the coach put me in the game, as a tight end and not as a linebacker which was the position that I usually played.   It felt right. As the game played, I clearly realized that I was better suited for a position other than linebacker.  I always knew deep down that I was playing the wrong position, but I didn’t advocate for myself.  From the first day to the last two plays, I was always full of tremendous self-doubt, lacked concentration, full of negativity, had poor self-confidence, and suffered because of an inability to let go of mistakes. I always felt like  a stranger on the team.  Mental toughness, I sadly admit, was something I didn’t possess.

I had a much better time when I practiced Judo as a kid and when I was on my high school wrestling team. Then I enjoyed the grueling practices, had great coaching,  didn’t feel like a stranger there.   I liked the matches and when I won, I felt like I had won a million dollars. I had a mental toughness that I lost when I played football.

So, what is mental toughness?  It is being able to overcome a problem, a bad situation, an attacker, a competitor, or a competition, by staying positive and focused through the challenge. It is an ability to bounce back from an injury, emotional trauma, and change.  It is the ability to go through training and keep coming back.  The good news is that mental toughness isn’t something your born with, it is something you can develop via a process. The process is removing the negative thinking and putting positive thoughts in its place.

Here are some suggestions to help improve mental toughness for Jiu Jitsu practice and for your life:

Try and not view sparring as a competition. There isn’t a winner, nor a loser. Analyze what occurred after the match and try to make yourself better for the next session.

When things go wrong on the mat or in life, instead of complaining, try to find a solution and focus on it.

Before going to bed, rehearse previous lessons in your mind.

Listen to music before class. Music helps improves attitude.

Try to give 100% dedication to whatever you’re doing. Don’t hold back. Go all out.

Never take yourself totally serious.

Visualization. This is how you should visualize yourself.   Relaxed under pressure. Focused. Not wasting time on unimportant aspects.  Thick skinned, meaning, able to rebound from errors, bad habits, and failures. Be able to handle last-minute self doubts and negative thinking. Confident. Positive attitude, I can show them.

Thank God everyday. Try to do something good, for others.

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December 23, 2011, was the last morning fundamental class of 2011.  During the class, Professor Pedro talked about fight strategy.  Professor Pedro brought up an example of boxers and power.  You never see a middle weight champion boxer challenge a heavyweight champion boxer.  Why?  It would not be an interesting fight because an average heavyweight boxer could easily defeat the best middle weight champion boxer due to the strength of the punches.    It would be a bad strategy for a small to middle size person to get in a boxing match with a heavy sized person.  So, what do you do?  Distance  control.   Stay out of range.  Pizon.  Wait for the clinch. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about the slow fight.

Most of this week, I was at Disneyworld with my family.  I tried to put Jiu Jitsu aside for a few days.  I could literally talk about Jiu Jitsu all the time. I noticed that I could be a bit fanatical about it.  I planned to relax and start the new year with a renewed commitment to the study.

My weekly blue belt program will be one sparring class, one throwing class, and two fundamental classes.  I asked Professor Jimmy what we blue belts should be working on as far as training, and he said ” Just reflex.   Beyond purple up to black, it will be reflex and timing.”  I was expecting him to say you need to work on escapes, kimoras, chokes etc.  Just reflex.

I asked brown belt, Chris, if he had any tips for blue belts.  Note, Chris had made it into the third round of the last Helio Gracie Challenge Event, at Valente Brother’s Headquarters, on October 1, 2011.  The Helio Gracie Challenge is an annual event held in honor of Helio Gracie’s birthday on October 1.   Chris didn’t have any advise.  He said,  ” The blue belt is really like you tried out for the team and you made it.”

Headquarters will reopen on January 2, 2012.

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What is the best defense in a bar brawl ???  That question comes up a lot during Jiu Jitsu practice.  As a Jiu Jitsu student, you adapt to the situation.  Generally,  I know that I don’t want to take it to the ground. Bars are known to have broken glass on the floor.  If your on the ground, someone could throw a chair on you or you could be kicked in a group attack.  In my opinion, the best defense is not being there.

June of 1987 , Greg S., a friend from high school,  and I went to Ocean City, Maryland.  It was a tradition for recent High School graduates from Baltimore and the surrounding  area. Ocean City, Maryland,  is a small run down family vacation town on the Atlantic Ocean with a sandy beach.   Near the O.C. boardwalk, there was a night club with a dance floor, which allowed 18 year olds into the establishment, but were not permitted to drink. We happily paid to get in and had to wear yellow wrist bands.   Meeting women was on our minds.   Note, we had a couple of beers on the beach before we entered.  To be honest, I don’t recall drinking or how much but it definitely wasn’t an unreasonable amount.

As we were entering the bar, I believe we were being watched.  It was about to get very ugly.  The place was dark.    As we were scoping out the dance floor for women,  a ring of guys formed around Greg.  Greg was in the center and another guy facing him.  The guy next to me said, ” Stay out of this and you won’t get hurt.”  Greg is a big guy and he could hold his own so I didn’t immediately object.  Thirty seconds later, the man who told me to stay out of the fight,  sucker punched Greg in the face.   Just as his hand recoiled, I noticed that he was wearing brass knuckles. Brass knuckle is a small metal weapon; worn over the knuckles on the back of the hand.  Greg was stunned and stumbling.   To make things worse, as Greg stumbled, the attacker in front of him struck him.  There was no time to get help.  I didn’t remember seeing a bouncer at the front door.   I had to act.  Right or wrong, I forcefully grabbed the back shoulder shirt of the guy with the brass knuckles and the other guy  on my other side by his shirt shoulder.  I charged forward while dragging the two guys by the shoulder into Greg and the other guy.  In a second, we were all laying on the floor in a pile and I was on top.  My hope in collapsing the ring was to create chaos so that Greg could escape.  This is when the whole situation gets really unclear.  I don’t know what happened to Greg S. after that point.

My next memory is jumping to my feet after the pile up.  When I got to my feet, there was a guy in front of me with his hands up with clinched fists.   I quickly looked around.   I didn’t see Greg.  I jabbed the guy hard in the jaw.  He returned with a hook.   I immediately felt a cut under my eye.  The cut on my face was from the attacker’s jagged ring.  Blood ran down my face.  I don’t have memory of the events after that.  Perhaps there was another attacker, out of view, that choked me out? I believe I was knocked or choked unconscious at this time.

Next memory, I saw K. Hopkins, she graduated with me and Greg,  standing with her boyfriend in front of us.  Her boy friend was manic, wide-eyed, breathing heavy, and holding a broken tennis racket.  It was weird.    Her boy friend said that he thought he saw the attackers leave the bar.  I don’t know if he came to our aid or after I broke the fight ring, the fight evolved into a brawl.    After that, I remember the sun had risen.  A cop was making a report.  We started making our way to the exit.  Someone yelled, ” Let them go, they had nothing to do with this.”

Next memory, I was in Greg’s car.   Greg was in bad shape.  One of his eyes had a broken blood vessel.  He kept repeating the same sentence over and over. He had a concussion. I wanted to go to the emergency room but he insisted on going home, so I drove him home in his car.

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This week I learned a new Japanese word, Kuzushi, from Professor Gui.  Kuzushi means to unbalance. This has everything to do with getting a good throw.  We as Jiu Jitsu students should learn about Kuzushi.    A throw doesn’t seem like much; especially, if it is done on a mat or soft ground; however, if done on concrete, it could cause a lot of damage, or even kill an attacker.

How does one execute Kuzushi?  Experts say there is more than two ways, but I only know of two, dragging them off-center balance or pushing.   So, if your practicing Jiu Jitsu, a throw, you have to work on getting your opponent off-balance before executing the throw.  In the meantime, I found some articles on Kuzushi which I haven’t fully read yet.  If you want me to follow-up, let me know.

I learned that The Open Double Collar Grab is really a defense against a headbutt attack.  In the United States, we don’t attack like that.   I was told they do a lot of headbutt attacks in Brazil and the UK.   As soon as the headbutt is successful, it is usually followed by a knock out hook. This week, a Jiu Jitsu student, a police officer, by the name of Peter, taught me the importance of the prayer hands shooting up with the hip motion on the Open Double Collar Grab.  The prayer hands are ultra important to stop the headbutt from striking your face.   Peter said that his friend was an expert in this move and that it could take down anyone if they weren’t prepared.

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To be honest, as a white belt, I found the first few months going into Valente’s Brothers Jiu Jitsu studios difficult.  I felt uneasy.  There seemed to be a lot of tough fighters ready to roll.  Once I got to know some of the students, it became a lot easier.  I noticed the higher belts are very willing to answer any question you have or help you improve since everyone there was once a white belt.   So, as a blue belt, I see the higher level students as mentors.

As a white belt, you don’t communicate well with your class partner.   I walked away from many classes worried I may have broken something.  I was relieved to find out it was a minor bruise. With each injury, I would analyze how it happened and what I could do to prevent it which was better communication and awareness of myself limitations.   As a blue belt, I communicate much better.   I tap immediately. I almost never get injured in a fundamentals class.

As a white belt, I didn’t have a stretch routine; thus, I was more open to injuries. As a blue belt, I immediately do 20 push up and 20 situps to get the blood flowing. Then, I stretch all my joints. When I don’t stretch, I get there late, I find that I get injured more often. It is important to get there early.

As a white belt, it was hard to learn the fundamentals, which is around 100 moves or more and a lot of small details. As a white belt, there is a  lack of fluidity in execution.  As a blue belt, the fundamental lessons are becoming more fluid.

As a white belt, you’re not ready to use your  Jiu Jitsu skills in the real world.  The results would not be good.  As a blue belt, you know that you can hold your own in a conflict, but it may not be pretty.

As a white belt, I was afraid to fall.  As a blue belt, I make it a point to practice how to land from a throw by being loose and confident.   I wouldn’t recommend any throwing classes until your professor tests your falling ability and gives you a nod of approval.

As a white belt, I was strictly a student.  As a blue belt, I am still a student, but now I am able to give tips to white belts and blue belts.

Jiu Jitsu is a way of life.

Please feel free to write a comment or add any experience you had.

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JIU JITSU Noun \jü-ˈjit-(ˌ)sü\

: an art of weaponless fighting employing holds, throws, and paralyzing blows to subdue or disable an opponent.

Variants of JUJITSU

ju·jit·su also ju·jut·su or jiu·jit·su

Origin of JUJITSU

Japanese jūjutsu, from jū weakness, gentleness + jutsu art, skill
First Known Use: 1875

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When I was a kid, I learned of Judo’s flaws for self-defense from personal experience. I had studied Judo for a few years under Norm Miller in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1979, I placed third in the Mid West Judo tournament in Chicago. A few months after, I had a fight with the neighborhood bully. The bully had some knowledge of boxing and wrestling. I was 10 years old and the bully was almost 13 years old. During the fight, the bully repeatedly punched me in the face. In Judo, you’re not taught to guard the face because there are no strikes in competition. Also, I didn’t throw a single punch. I didn’t know how. I was able to grab the bullies hands, he was only wearing a t-shirt and not a judo uniform, and I tried a throw which failed. It all ended when the bully struck me on the nose, the blood started flowing. It was over.

Judo is a sport. The object is to completely throw your opponent in the air. You can win by submission or a 30 second pin. It is true a good throw can cause a lot of damage; however, I wasn’t able to throw the bully. I had trouble just grappling since he wasn’t wearing a Judo uniform. In Judo, you aren’t taught to protect your face from strikes. Also, in Judo, you’re not taught to strike.

Combat Jiu Jitsu, the one I am learning, is far better for self-defense. In Combat Jiu Jitsu, you are taught the following which Judo does not teach: 1) use of hands for blocking punches 2) strikes with fore arms, slaps, palm, and elbow 3) The Pizon, a side kick 4) how to fight a opponent that is wearing a t-shirt or no shirt at all, and 5) how to safely clinch. As far as my knowledge, the above five are not a part of the sport of Judo

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Last night, I received my Jiu Jitsu Blue Belt.  First and foremost, all the praise and glory goes to God.  From the human side, it was an honor to be in the presence of Dr. Pedro Valente, 9th level red belt, and Royce Grace, jiu jitsu legend, Gui Valente, Pedro Valente, Jaquim Valente, and Jimmy. It was a special night. It was the perfect way to start the new blue belt journey.

Leaving white belt behind, I have personal gain.  Now, I can do twenty  push ups and twenty situps immediately.  Before I started, I couldn’t do three.  In eight months, I lost 12 pounds but not from exercise.  I started eating home-made soups with five fresh or frozen  organic vegetables and miso paste.  I would blend it in an industrial sized blender.  I was stiff, still a little bit now , but my flexibility is returning.  I feel like I have slowed down the aging process.  I am less aggressive. I am much more willing to talk.  I really don’t like violence.

I will give you all my game plan for my blue belt training in a few days.  My blog will be like a living diary in how Jiu Jitsu influence my daily life.

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