A Delicate Balance

As I compete in the Masters divisions on a National and International level, I notice there is two common attributes I see in my fellow competitors. In my division, it is not uncommon to have opponents who are profiled on BJJ Heros, or are third, fourth or fifth degree Black Belts, so we are talking about highly skilled and experienced competitors. The attributes I see are aggression and patience. These may seem diametrically opposed, but are used in an effective strategy.

Firstly, aggression means they are always attacking early, and looking to remain the aggressor throughout the fight. This puts the opponent on the defence and playing the aggressors game and not their own.

Secondly, the patience relates to once they have a strong or dominant position, they don’t rush to capitalise on it, but instead maintain the position and wait for the right opportunity.

This is a balance I struggle with. I my last completion at the Pan Ams I had a reasonably good top position, but was struggling to maintain it. There was a bit of a scramble, and we ended up in a neutral position, me with double underhooks and my opponent holding my belt, preventing me from moving him much at all. I was pushing to improve my position, not being patient enough, and got swept. I recovered full guard and attacked a number of submissions and sweeps, but my opponent battened down the hatches and wouldn’t be moved. He was penalised for stalling, but this didn’t affect the outcome of the match and he won 2-0. In retrospect being more patient, and continue to try and work to a Baja pass would have been the better option, although I was wary of getting triangled transitioning to this. Alternatively, getting to my feet or a top position, rather than recovering guard would have probably been strategically better, possibly resulting in an advantage at most.

I made sure to try and catch the semi-finals and final of my division. The final was pure strategy. The final was 2 penalties to 3, with a score of 2-0. Other than takedown attempts, it was nearly all patience.

White belt fury!!!

Tonights little packet of pain:

20kg kettle bell snatch 50, 40,30 20,10 alternating arms
pushups 10,20,30,40,50
skips x 200

skip, kettlebells then push-ups

this took about 15 minutes

Finished with a freezing cold shower

one liter of cold water

salmon and fresh salad


Gut instinct!!

The last ten days after arriving home post holidays have been busy work wise. Squeezed in quite a few tactical training sessions regardless. Nothing worse than a few days without training. I never try to take set days off from training. I tend to use a work day that is just too crazy and have that as a day off. Not too scientific, but very practical. I always plan for at least one 36hr period between training sessions through the week. Normally that day off is not so much a rest day, as more of a busy work day! So although I may not train physically such as weights or cardio, what I do is focus on another aspect of training. This is normally training in the form of how I eat through the day. As a rule, I can predict I won’t make training (though I always carry BJJ and workout kit in the car!!) so I have a scoop of coconut oil and a coffee. The rest of the day then becomes my fasting day, where I will then not eat until 10pm that night. It’s not strictly fasting, but it’s usually at least 16hrs – 24hrs. My days are busy with lots of walking and thinking, and interestingly I become sharper as the day goes on. On occasion if I happen to make training, it never affects my training quality, it usually improves it. Mind you, I really enjoy dinner!! Dinner will then consist of something small like a slab of salmon and salad. I sleep great with a whack of protein on-board, and feel light the next morning. So for me, the fasting is not about weight or dieting, it’s about control over eating and releasing myself psychologically from the instinct to eat three times a day with snacks in between. Once I realised that this was not required, it freed up plenty of thinking and working time. I don’t worry about stopping for meal, and I don’t worry about what there is to eat. It’s a real psychological boost, and a great weapon to have in your BJJ quiver. A great example is if you’re competing and you don’t have time to stop, or access to the food you like, you know you can just power on regardless. You will have done this many times and already psychologically built in the mental strength patterns required to focus on what’s needed. The concept of ‘intermittent fasting’ if googled, has plenty written about it by people who sound like they know what they are on about, so I won’t bore you here. Look it up, try it if you like and see if it fits in to what you need. It’s cheap, easy to do and if you are not enjoying it, grab a donut and shake off the pain!!!

The pain train – get aboard

Missed this morning lifting heavy so:

today’s session : the fiddy

50 clean and press on 50kg barbell
50 backsquats on 50kg barbell
50 shrugs onto the toes on 50kg barbell
50 KB swings on 20kg
50 situps
50 pushups
50 airsquats

its not for time, i just mentally try to do as many reps as possible. If i rest, i take 5 breaths only and start again. I do not rest between exercises. Enjoy.

Fuel up!!

Focusing on fitness and not the fuel your using really doesn’t make any sense. There is no way you would expect a jet plane to run on the cheapest ‘any old fuel’, especially if you were on it!! The crazy thing though with the human body is that it will run on anything. Now just running is different to performing that’s for sure, and when you’re spending hours on the mat honing your skills the last thing you want to be doing is not performing. Now there are thousands of ways of eating and every second book / blog / magazine / training partner will give you some advice. Well, I’ve trialled many things and have a good working knowledge of physiology and biochemistry. I’ve seen trends come and go, people eating and not eating, and plenty of stars espousing this and that. Well, here are my top six starter thoughts just for you to think about
1. Eat mostly things not wrapped in plastic or has been sitting on the shelf for a long time. So much stuff is now is wrapped in plastic and can last for a long time in you cupboard. Having fresh food is likely going to have less preservatives in them.
2. No meal is the most important meal of the day. It does not matter when you eat. Read, experiment and work out whats right for you, your lifestyle and training needs. The most important thing is to fuel yourself for the right amount of energy required at the right time, and make sure your sleep is not affected. Remember that three meals a day is the based on the industrial working day not on your requirements.
3. Start by eating a little less. On average people will unintentionally put on about 200-500g a year after the age of 30. This doesn’t sound like much but all, but can add up. This alters your metabolism to basically restructure itself to that weight. The human body hates losing weight as it makes no real sense to an organism that really doesn’t know where its next meal is coming from. Eating a little less can be done through a variety of ways from reducing portion size, skipping meals and intermittent fasting. One simple way is cut out snack food. Its not necessary. Don’t but it, and don’t have it in your house. If its not in your house you will be less reluctant to go out and but it!! Fasting is a great way to reduce dietary intake and there is plenty of literature around. I eat one a day once a week, and have done for a while. I drink coffee and water after breakfast, and don’t eat again till the next morning. My weight hasn’t changed at all, and I still train 1-3 time on that day still.
4. Water and black tea/coffee should make up your daily fluid intake. Sports drinks and even fruit juices are sugar water. There is no value at all in them. You can add a small amount of salt to water and make your own isotonic drink. Isotonic means the drink has the same electrolyte balance as your body fluid. Its quite impossible though as your body regulates its electrolyte balance, shifting between the various theoretical fluid filled compartments as required. Volume is the next thought? There is again no right volume. Most volumes of fluids to be consumed are based thirst, urine output and who knows what. The body will regulate how much fluid you need. For example the Masai Warriors can drink once in the morning and work all day, and be still standing come night time. Masai warrior kidneys are just kidneys and all they have done is conditioned themselves both mentally and physically to drinking that volume. I no drink about 750mls on waking, then 1-2 coffees a day. I rarely drink when training even when its very hot. At night I drink nothing. After training I drink a coconut water, only because I like the taste.
5. Enjoy your food. People speak of days off their food and eating regimes, so that they can eat whatever they want. This has never worked for me. I have found that once eating well as a lifestyle will by habit force you to make better choices and then not crave foods that have no place in your eating pattern. In saying this, I don’t get bent out of shape if someone pulls out the Doritos or pizza. I will pretty much eat anything and not be worried. This is because I pretty much eat well just about all the time. In the same principle that one visit to the gym a month doesn’t improve your fitness, the occasional poor food choice wont destroy you. It’s a mindset that allows you to know the food your eating is just for fun. I have found the stricter you become with weight and diet, the more your intrinsic levels of stress will increase. This more than likely has an effect on your metabolism and weight, far out-weighting that of the occasional dietary indiscretion.
We will explore eating and diet but remember, eat for your plan and what works for you. Steer clear of fancy things and superfoods as they will make no real difference in the long term. Don’t get ripped off buying expensive gimmicks. And most of all, enjoy your food with great company!!!

Training on holidays

Training on holidays
Yep, BJJ practitioners usually make poor holiday partners if your family is just into the ‘relax’ style of holiday. However, my wife knows now that if there is not a gym/sports-activity/beach with waves then the holiday will be a nightmare. So gratefully this holiday is all about sport, there is a gym and there is a mountain with snow. So firstly you need to think what you need to achieve with your training on holidays. For me, especially in a sporting holiday, then it’s all about warming up early in the day, focusing on vulnerable body areas and some short explosive strength combos.
My first stretch is stepping high and ducking under. This pretends there is a piece of wire strung about hip height on your right hand. You step up over the wire to the right and duck back under it to the left. I do about 20 of these and then repeat on the other side. I finish this off with 30-50 push-ups. Fortunately there is a rowing machine here. Again I just am focused on warming and stretching so I do five sets of 1 minute, 10 seconds hard and 50 seconds easy. This 5 minutes is ideal. Its enough to really stretch out all the main muscle groups and get them warm and ignited! Again I focus on the deep stretch forward and the long pull back in the slow period, and speed in the 10seconds. If there is no rower, I tend to use air squats and push-ups with 50 seconds air squats and 10 seconds pushups. In the gym here they have plenty of fixed machines of which I tend not to ever use. They are too focused on individual muscle groups, and for me are not very ‘bang for buck’ as far as training. I never use these in normal training anyway because of this!! Fortunately there are dumbells here to about 30kg. I use these like a kettle bell and just do single arm snatches, single armed cleans and thrusters. I do a few sets to prepare for the exercise and then hit out about three sets of each, with about 5-6 reps. I keep all this to a minimum as far as volume. The last thig you need is injury!! Finally I stretch my back. Here I have a roman chair, so I can do back extensions. If there is no roman chair I use planks and supermans on the floor. I can punch out this session in about 15-20 minutes and be back ready for breakfast as the team are still getting ready. As always my session is not the ‘be all or end all’ fabulous session, but I think no matter what you do:
1. Be safe and reduce volume and weight to prevent injury
2. Focus on the exercises that warm and stretch the bodyparts you are stressing
3. Keep it short

The ultimate training guide – part 1

There are many people who say they have the ultimate training techniques. In all, there is no one method of training. You really have to think about what your after from your training and work around it. Of course, training is sometimes limited by where you live and your access to coaching and equipment. I have made up some great routines with minimal equipment in some bizarre places, on barges in the middle of the ocean, jungle camps and inside deep diving chambers. I really think the best mode of training is whatever you happen to be doing. Almost everything improves you to an extent, but the real secret is you choosing what works best for you based on what you like, and what your sport requires. Over the years I have tried all sorts of regimes and equipment that was supposed to be better than the last.
However, here are my top five exercises.
1. The strict chin-up. Yes, no doubt the exercise that is the great leveller. You can either do them or not.
2. Squats. The squat rack is normally empty. For good reason too as these bad boys are the mainstay of my training. Strength is not just in the legs, but also deep core.
3. Deadlifts. Absolute must. Plenty of combos for this one and easy to do with massive strength gains.
4. Kettle-bells. Little packets of pain. Multiple uses with great core results. These are a must for anyone keen on BJJ
5. Spin class / RPM. This is maximal aerobic / strength work where you can smash yourself into the next life and really find your level of pain.
So over the coming weeks I will tease out the best parts for me of these wicked ways to train. My focus is on a high power to weight ratio and short endurance of 1-2hrs with maximal strength.Again, my tips will likely make no great difference, but might offer a few different options. So if you are just starting out, just watch some youtubes, or find someone on you mat to help you out. See you on the mats!!

Going Keto… Again

Getting back into a ketogenic diet in preparation for the Pan Ams in March, I’m working on taking the lessons learned from previous episodes to try and accelerate the process as much as possible.

One thing I’m doing differently is cutting right back on milk. I knew it was insulinogenic, but didn’t think at the volume I consume it would be much of an issue.

“Milk has a higher proportion of insulin calories compared to cheese. Butter and cream have a lower insulin load and proportion of insulinogenic calories.”


food ND % insulinogenic net carbs/100g insulin load  (g/100g) calories/100g
butter 0.09 0% 0 1 734
cream 0.08 5% 4 5 431
goat milk -0.05 40% 4 7 69
full cream milk -0.10 44% 5 7 65
low fat milk -0.12 58% 5 7 50
human milk -0.14 43% 7 8 71
reduced fat milk -0.13 59% 5 8 51

Another thing I am particularly aware of is the diuretic effect and the loss of electrolytes:

“When carbohydrate intake is restricted, 2 metabolic processes occur, both of which simultaneously reduce total body water content. The first process is mobilization of glycogen stores in liver and muscle. Each gram of glycogen is mobilized with approximately 2 g of water. The liver stores approximately 100 g of glycogen and muscle has 400 g of glycogen. Mobilization glycogen stores result in a weight loss of approximately 1 kg. Patients notice this change as a reduction in symptoms of “bloating” and are very pleased with the effect. The second process is generation of ketone bodies from catabolism of dietary and endogenous fat. Ketone bodies are filtered by the kidney as nonreabsorbable anions. Their presence in renal lumenal fluids increase distal sodium delivery to the lumen, and therefore increase renal sodium and water loss.”

“One group of investigators provided supplements containing 3–5 g sodium/d and 2–3 g potassium/d and found that circulatory competence during submaximal exercise was sustained. These supplements also allowed the subjects to achieve nitrogen balance, which had not been achieved in studies that did not use supplements.”

So that reinforces a focus on hydration, and also considerations for supplementing electrolytes, or at least salt.

On the topic of supplements, I have been using a ketogenic supplement of beta-hydroxybutrate in the form of KetoCaNa (trying the Strawberry Lemonade flavor for a change), but had also ordered some Perfect Keto Base (in the Chocolate Sea Salt flavour), which turns out is easy to drink, at least for beta-hydroxybutrate.

I had also tried some EAS Myoplex Ketogenic Powder Packets (in the Strawberry Banana flavour) as a meal replacement, but found these unpleasant to consume.

So the end result? After six days I hit 3.3 mmol/L of blood ketones, well in the range of 1.5+ for nutritional ketosis.

Shoulder injury

Shoulder injury is one of those real bug bears of any athlete, and especially in BJJ. An injured shoulder, even minor really can put you out for some time. Many of us even stop training on minor injuries as we know that they can be the first warning sign of badness to come. Anyway, today we will cover assessing injury, train and treat, medication and when to see the doctor.

Sometimes shoulder injuries are really obvious with immediate pain after an event like an over extended shoulder lock ect. This type of injury we wont really cover as they are a no brainer and should be seen asap by your doc. The injuries Im talking about are those ones that sneak up on you the next morning after a session, or that become progressively worse over time.

A good way to work out where this injury is originating from is by extending your arms all the way backwards, forwards and over your head. You can also hold your arms out to the side and roll your palms up and down. There are occasions rarely, that you cant pinpoint the pain, or feel it in the actual shoulder. This can occasionaly be known as ‘referred pain’ and usually comes from your neck and into your brachial plexus http://geekymedics.com/brachial-plexus/

Once you happy the pain is likely not too serious, its time for physiotherapy and medication. Two of my favorite first up treatments are ball throwing and open handed swimming. Usually with a cricket ball I will play catch with a willing assisatant. Kids are great as they never get bored!! throw from as many angles as you can, underhand, overhand, sideways, soft and medium. Try not to overhand throw hard. Try this for 30 – 45 mins a day. Add to this swimming with fins on and open handed swimming. You can still maintain fitness and add to shoulder strength at extension with minimal loading. Do short sessions with all strokes except butterfly.

Add to this some simple analgesia such as non steroidal anti-inflammatorys such as diclofenac or ibuprofen. Check of course these are medictions your not allergic too, or cant take for other reasons.


We use these not just so your not in pain, but to improve range of movement, increase training volume and reduce inflammation. You can use these with panadol as directed on the packets.

Try doing this and still rolling, but of course you must inform your partner that you have an injury. And of course, tap or call stop if in pain!! If it remains sore, have a week off the mats. If you return and the pain is not improving pop into your doctor and discuss with them what you have done already. Physios are also a great port of call.

Practice makes perfect…or does it?

What a great day back on the mats. Spent some time rolling  with Jamie, one of my mentors, competitor and friend . Certainly no quater given.  A man who lives by the adage that you will be tested each and every time you step on the mat.

Spent not a great deal of time on the mats this year. Sadly life interrupted my BJJ. Though I was told early on in my journey that a day a week for life beats a bunch of days a week for a short time. BJJ has always been my refuge from the world. A place om the mats with people I trust and admire. I live for the roll, I have no favorite positions, submissions or competitors. I dont care for win, loose or draw. I feel safe from intentional injury and I know my friends will push me with their best. I am submitted often but never  feel like I have lost. I admire my warrior friends and their courage to get on the mat, day after day. Sweating and bleeding in the pursuit of a higher goal. I look forward to a year of more time on the mat.

The ramblings of three BJJ black belts on the wrong side of forty