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You can’t duck The Suck

As I scan the mats on yet another Monday, I see a random accumulation of people who have all come together to sweat on each other, attempt to strangle one another and in general try to wrap their heads around the ever-continuing enigma that is Grappling.

Fresh faced beginners trying to coerce their bodies into executing correct details, seasoned vets maintaining and extending their understanding, even the ghostly apparitions of long since retired blue belts on occasion (no one is certain whether their ghosts haunt the mats or if they are actually there). We come in with the hopes of sweating out the weekend’s booze, nursing that kiwi summer sun burn back from the brink of melanoma, or for the one training of the month to punch down on the newbies to get your rocks off, before escaping without any tough rolls (you know who you are). Whoever it may be, there is no way to duck the suck. Another day on the mats, another day embracing the suck.

‘The Suck’ is not a term used by the jaded or PTSD-ridden grappler, but one I was introduced to by Raf Esparza. ‘The Suck’ is about eating that shit sandwich, day in and out, gritting your teeth & bearing the grind despite the filth you find yourself wading through to get to anywhere remotely worthwhile.

You can’t duck it, you can’t hide from it. If you want to be successful then welcome to The Suck.  Continue reading “You can’t duck The Suck”

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Tread softly, carry a big stick

Regardless of whether you consider yourself a violent person or not, we cannot avoid the fact that the world is populated by those who would wish to do harm to others.

The concept of violence and how we react to it is inherently woven into our martial arts practice. When presented with no other option but to react, what do we do when violence is presented to us?

One thing I have learnt from my own practice is to tread softly, but carry a big stick.

Continue reading “Tread softly, carry a big stick”

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The seductive nature of Guard

The Guard makes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu distinct from all other grappling disciplines. Providing one with the ability to control distance and disrupt their opponent’s base, the guard is crucial for self defense, sport and combat. The ability to reverse roles from attack to defense- change positions from bottom to top- is a cornerstone in making the art as effective as it is.

However, with the rise of sporting formats such as the IBJJF, ‘playing guard’ has become incentivized by points systems that rewards this just as equally as takedowns, which are perceived to be too much effort or risk by many sports practitioners.

It can be seductive to play guard. There are a few objections to the argument for playing guard that we seriously need to consider if we wish to see BJJ continue being considered as an effective martial art.

Continue reading “The seductive nature of Guard”

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Field Testing your Technique

There is an importance that cannot be over-emphasized when it comes to testing your technique under pressure. Whether this is in MMA, on the competition mat or when visiting other gyms, the fact remains that demanding training conditions are crucial to developing good technique & sound training habits.

What you are able to do under pressure is what you are truly proficient at. 

I want to explore the idea of “field testing technique” today, alongside some misconceptions about developing a ‘game’ and ‘nutella technique’.

Continue reading “Field Testing your Technique”

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Ways to protect your walled garden

For many, the mats are a place where we can come not only to train, but step outside of busy routines, demanding jobs or responsibilities to find some sanctuary.

Some train for self defense, some for general fitness and some to compete. Whatever the reason, our training space in a place that becomes a “walled garden”, a space where we can be comfortable pursuing our goals and support others in achieving theirs.

Not everyone comes onto the mats understanding this; depending on their own experience with martial arts, not having had it communicated or otherwise. One skill we have to learn on our journey is how to protect our “walled garden” in those times when our mat sanctuary is not being ‘hespected’. Let’s explore a few ways to do this.
Continue reading “Ways to protect your walled garden”

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Trust the process.

As many of us start another week in the office, workshop or professional sphere; Bill Murray’s experience in Groundhog Day seems to underpin the routine. We drink our coffee, bracing for the impact of reality. The grass starts looking greener everywhere except on our own patch.

We’re impatient things. Even with goals in place, it’s hard to keep our nose to the grind stone when even the aroma of  gratification and progress is absent.

All the good shit we want will take time. As we clamor our way through the seething- and at times impenetrable- mass of humanity towards our desired ends, it’s only natural to question the means by which we decided to travel. We have to understand that the process requires trust. Study the paths, travel the best one you can, for as long as you can. 

Continue reading “Trust the process.”

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Going All In

Despite the hand you’re dealt, sometimes you have to go all in to see what unfolds.

It’s daunting knowing you’ve given something you’re all because there are no excuses when the outcome transpires. For some, that’s too much.

I’m not criticizing; I can empathize because I’ve done it myself. I’ve been afraid to put all my chips down because it could mean losing it all. But if you don’t risk it all, how do you plan on ever winning it all?

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Musashi speaks

The best way I’ve heard Musashi’s writing described was by a translator of his work: Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings)

He paralleled Musashi’s writing style to the katana, the very tool that brought the man such renown as a martial artist. Strong, cutting, wielded precisely and with awareness of purpose.

On the first- and even second- reading of the work, much of his nuance went over my head as I grappled with the larger concepts he was exploring. Only later did I come to understand and appreciate the artistry  in Musashi’s ability to convey these vast concepts in such manageable and calculated measures on the page.

Book report vibes aside, no other book I have read has made a larger impact on my life. Many more than just myself consider his work essential reading for any aspiring martial artist. Continue reading “Musashi speaks”

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Objective Based training

When you step on the mats, do you have a objective for your training session?

Simply turning up and going through the motions will do nothing to help you improve, our brains are wired to work towards objectives.

It’s not about aiming to tap x or ‘beat’ y; you can’t ‘win’ a gold medal for tapping your training partners. I’m talking about setting yourself a specific objective for training each session.

Are you drilling a specific setup or technique? Are you working your passing? Are you working on your guard? All of these are specific objectives you can take into a session. Focusing on any of these things (and executing them correctly) will help to fast track your improvement and hone your skills. Continue reading “Objective Based training”