All posts by Jamie

Fighting Maxims

maxim [mak-sim]
1. an expression of a general truth or principle.
2. a principle or rule of conduct.

I wanted to compile a list of the maxims I have learnt over the years. Simple expressions that hold a lot of truth.

  • Position before submission.
  • Train hard, fight easy.
  • It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
  • Winners don’t quit, and quitters don’t win.
  • Hard work beats talent, when talent refuses to work hard.
  • When they pull, you push. When they push, you pull.
  • You can and will be tested, evertime you get on the mats.
  • You don’t earn the belt, you become the belt.
  • Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.

If you have any good ones, drop them in the comments.

World Masters – Get Ready!

With myself and a number of The Arena team heading to the World Masters in Las Vegas on September 25/26 I thought I would pass on the items that I think need to be considered and addressed early on.

1. IBJJF Registration

IBJJF registration can take some time to complete, and at one stage it required AFBJJ registration as a pre-requisite. It may not be required for all belts, but you may want to consider it any way.

2. Competition Registration

As soon as the competition is announced you should register for your division, without delay. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, these competitions do reach capacity and sell out, causing registration to be closed early. Secondly, within the rules under section 5.2 of the General Competition Guidelines:

“5.2 Each academy has the right to register two athletes in each weight/belt/age/gender division”

So even if the event is not sold out, you may not be able to register if these two spots are taken. Something to remember when Zenith has in the region of 150 clubs competing under the Zenith registration.

3. Planning Travel

Las Vegas has an altitude of around 2,500 feet, which combined with the dry air, jet lag and training intensely twice a day can take some getting used to. It typically takes me a week to adjust to before I start to feel like I’m training when I’m at home. Also, for the first time the competition will be held in Las Vegas, not Los Angeles which is closer to sea level. Ideally you would want a minimum of two weeks of training in Vegas before the competition, but if that doesn’t fit in your schedule, try to make it more than a week.

4. Gis

If you are training twice a day, you will need a minimum of three gis. Two of these should be patched and competition legal. You will only have a minimal amount of time to change if there is a problem with your go, or otherwise be disqualified:

“6.3.2  When an athlete’s gi is rendered unusable and he/she is unable to exchange it for a new one within a period of time stipulated by the referee.”

You may want to have your two competition gis be royal blue and white, which is a requirement for black belts.

“8.1.4 In the adult black belt divisions (mens and women’s), the event’s organizers may demand that athletes have two gis of different colors (one royal blue and the other white), in order to distinguish between the two athletes in a match.”

I would suggest purchasing your gis closer to the competition so you have time to patch them and wear them in, but they are unlikely to shrink significantly from numerous washes.

5. Weight Division

Start thinking about the weight division you want to compete in. Lighter is generally faster, but heavier is generally stronger. Whatever division you choose, try to be at or near that weight as far in advance as possible. You don’t want to spend months training a particular game, and then change major physical properties and find your skills don’t apply or adapt to these changes quickly.


When I was going to compete recently, there were a number of things not in my favour:

  • My first fight was against a longer term black belt with a strong reputation.
  • I had a former coach and key training partner as my second fight in the draw, while they had a bye in the first round. They are a strong, aggressive fighter with significantly more submissions on me than I had on them, and I had none on them in competition, whereas they had some on me.
  • I had an ultrasound that showed I had ruptured my bicep, and only had 5% of the bicep tendon remaining, two days before flying out to compete.
  • My nearest and dearest didn’t want me to compete in the fear that I would be further injure my bicep.
  • I was moved to a younger age division, as there were no competitors at my age.
  • I weighed in 4 kg under weight for the division.

As it turned out, I got a good result. It is too easy to look at the outcome and subscribe to a simple win/loss mentality. “I won, so it doesn’t matter so much how I won, but that I won”. Conversely, “I lost so it doesn’t matter how much effort I put in, or how hard I battled, but it’s a loss and it was all for nothing”.

Regardless of the outcome, I believe it is important to face the adversity rather than shrink from it. Any of these things could have been enough to dissuade me from competing. Unconsciously we are always looking for an easy path, an excuse for why we can’t do something. “I want to go to training, but I had a hard day at work”. “I don’t have the energy to get off the couch”. I find the days I feel least like training, can be the most rewarding. The adversity can be all the things in your life demanding your time and attention, before having the time and energy for training.

Adversity sharpens your character. As steel sharpens steel, the stronger the adversity, the stronger your resolve must be, the stronger your character will become.

I don’t suggest you necessarily welcome adversity, but when it appears, know that it is a war of attrition. Will you outlast adversity, or will adversity outlast you?

It’s Only Natural

It was quite some experience, being a part of the Telethon Adventurers Rollin’ for a Reason with the Arena crew. 24 hours of Jiu-jitsu. Getting ready to leave for the venue, the feeling was a little excited, but also a little nervous.

The experience really underwent a transformation as the time went on. The pace was high, particularly initially, practically a competition pace. There was a level of nervousness before each fight, as there is with competition.

But after a while, in the wee small hours when only the core crew was on, it changed. The perception of time was warped, hours turned into weeks. Fighting began to feel natural, to feel normal. The immersion of the same activity over and over, the non-thinking because you have been awake for 20 hours and you are getting beyond conscious thought.

It was a similar when I was competing recently. In the training leading up to the event I had been using a regime of high intensity, low duration, short rest periods of alternating rolling and circuit. When it came to the actual fights, it seemed familiar and easy. I wasn’t getting caught up in a game I wasn’t familiar with, and a ten minute rest period for the final was a holiday compared to the 45 seconds between rounds in training.

Flow. This is Jiu-jitsu at it’s best.

Unfortunately it is not easily achieved. We come onto the mat with expectations, with a game plan, we try to focus on an area, we invoke conscious thought to solve the problems we are presented with.

Strategic, not Tactical

I was recently coaching a friend and training partner while they were competing, and what struck me was the difference in the coaching styles.

The general coaching style seems to be tactical. Yelling about going for a specific technique, which both fighters can hear. Yelling at the referee about points not allocated, real or imaginary. Yelling watch out for the whatever technique, again that both fighters can hear.

My approach is different. The person in the fight has a fair idea of what theire opponent is up to. They can feel their movement, their intention. They probably know something you don’t from the sidelines, such as I could go for the sweep but my hand is trapped, which you can’t see. I try to give the fighter information they don’t have, things like:

  • How many minutes left in the round
  • How many points they are up or down
  • When they achieve a scoring position to wait for their points
  • To let them know when they have been given their points
  • If it doesn’t look like they are going to be allocated points for the position, to move on with their game
  • If the referee starts a 20 second countdown for stalling, to let them know they have to move

It means I’m not endlessly shouting. Just letting them know the time and score every minute or two, and letting them know when there is an opportunity to get points.

If you are a lower belt, maybe reconsider shouting tactical advice at a black belt match, and respect the time and skills it took to become a black belt.

Guiding Principals

I have refereed literally hundreds of matches. I have attended multiple Referee Clinics held be the West Australian Federation of Brazilian  Jiu-jitsu. I have been certified by the Australian Federation of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as a referee. I have attended day long rules seminars with Alvaro Mansor, the Rules Director of the International Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Federation. Every time before I referee, I re-read the rules, all 44 pages of them.

People complain about referees. They complain about referees who make mistakes. The complain about referees who don’t give advantages or points where they would have. They complain about things that aren’t even a part of the rules… “Where are my side control points?” “Why didn’t I get sweep points?”, when it was actually a turnover.

Should you care to read the rules,  you would see there are some guiding principals in there, that give you direction as to what you need to do to win.

3.2 Matches should unfold as a progression of positions of technical control that ultimately result in a submission hold. Therefore athletes who voluntarily relinquish a position, in order to again score points using the same position for which points have already been awarded, shall not be awarded points upon achieving the position anew.

6.4 Serious Fouls

6.4.4 When an athlete on the ground evades combat by sliding his/herself outside the match area.

6.4.5 When an athlete on the ground stands to escape combat and does not return to combat on the ground.

6.4.6 When an athlete breaks the grip of the opponent pulling guard and does not return to combat on the ground.

6.4.21 When an athlete runs around the match area and does not engage in the combat.

6.5.1 Lack of combativeness (stalling) is defined by one athlete clearly not pursuing positional progression in a match and also when an athlete impedes his/her opponent from carrying out said progression.

 From this you can take the following principals:

  1. Matches should unfold as a progression of positions of technical control.
  2. A match should  ultimately result in a submission hold.
  3. Not engaging in the fight is punishable within the rules.

So you may complain about a referees decision, or of the advantages or points you didn’t get, but the referee is merely providing a result because you failed to achieve the required objective.

If you didn’t win by submission, you didn’t win. You merely ran out of time, and forced the decision on the referee.

Long Hard Road

I think that it’s at purple belt I noticed the increase in the level of competition. If you think about the people who make purple belt, they have probably been training in the region of 5 to 7 years. Anyone with less dedication is already gone. “Blue Belt Attrition” has taken those who have spent years to attain a level of skill, but then move on to other activities or commitments.

When I first started competing at brown belt, I wasn’t having great results. I think I lost my first six fights. Sometimes by as little as a referees decision at the Pan Ams, sometimes by being submitted in short order in a local competition. The pinnacle of my brown belt career was getting to the final of Pan Pacific Championships. I didn’t win that day, but it felt like it was reward for effort.

Step forward to my black belt career thus far. A lot of losses on the board, I’m guessing six or seven. No wins. I’m training regularly, and always looking to improve. The results can be disheartening, but to stop trying is to admit defeat. It reminds me  of a line in The Arena slogan:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt
“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

This past weekend I competed at the Pan Pacific Championships again, this time as a black belt. If I won my first fight, I would then go on to fight a former coach, who is now a key training partner. He has significantly more submissions against me, than I do against him. He also has prior wins against me in competition, whereas I have none against him.

I won my first fight with two advantages, so I was pitted against him in the next bracket. The small advantage I had over the other fights, was I knew his game, as he knew mine. It turned out it was my day. He made a slight mistake, which I was able to capitalise on, and get the submission. I went on to win the final with another submission.

That was two years since I first got my black belt. Two years to my first win in competition as a black belt. I’m proud of my achievement, but the lesson is not about overnight success. The lesson is about persistence, about dedication, about continually working to improve, and the results that will come from that.

Welcome to the long hard road…

Macronutrient Evolution

Fuel. What do you need to power you to your best performance, particularly for competition?

I started off thinking the carb loading of endurance events had something to recommend it. After all, if you can run a marathon, why shouldn’t that be good fuels for a few rounds of fighting? After seeing Tim Ferriss post on the Slow Carb Diet, and subsequently publish The Four Hour Body, I started to see that a diet high in carbs probably wasn’t going to be the best thing to make weight.

So then I was more focused on protein and low carb vegetables, like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower etc) and lefty greens, salads and such.

From there I started to hear about gluconeogenesis, from Ben Greenfield’s podcast, and also from the book Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore. Basically if you eat too much protein, it gets turned into carbohydrate. Back to the same problem.

Now I’m working on a ketogenic diet. Eating about as much fat as possible, and minimising carbohydrate. A smoothie I make involves a can of coconut cream and an avocado. I have a blood glucose monitor, to regularly check the impact of the meals I eat. I’m also looking to get a device to measure breath ketones. A ketogenic diet also helps with intermittent fasting, sometimes inadvertently, because I’m not overly hungry.

For further reading check out Ketogenic Diets and Physical Performance by Stephen D Phinney.

The Right Jigsaw Piece

When I started BJJ, it was strictly “Old School”. Closed guard, side control, cross lapel choke, rear naked choke, armbars, knee ride (knee on belly). Your standard Roger Gracie repertoire. Half-guard wasn’t even a thing. You didn’t need to decide what to learn, because it was a pretty limited standard set of techniques. No Berimbolo. No  worm guard. No Gracie University. No MG In Action.

This was about the time Google was incorporated as a company. It was six years until YouTube would exist, and eight years before Google would buy them. It’s a different story now. Search you tube today for “BJJ” and you get “About 1,030,000 results”.  Search Google for “BJJ Tutorials” and you get “About 397,000 results”.

So where to start learning? And where to start expanding your game?

If you are starting out, a fundamentals program is a must. You need solid basics. Check out Rodger Gracie winning world titles with the techniques taught in these classes.

What about if you are an old hand? You have the basics down, you can Berimbolo, you even know what worm guard is. How do you drink from the fire hose? The way I do it, is to focus. I find someone who has a style or a game that works with my game. I try to focus on a specific area and practice that. If they have a series of ten 40 minute tutorials, I’m more likely to watch one of the tutorials ten times, than watch all ten tutorials once. Then it’s practice and problem solving. Work through it, find the problems, where it doesn’t work, then review again. Repeat ad infinitum.

On the Topic of Fingers

As we are on the topic of fingers, an Avulsion Fracture occurs when the ligament tears out the fragment of bone that it attaches to. The little grey lump near the second knuckle is the fragment of bone that the tendon has torn out.

Avulsion Fracture


Caused by an over under pass from half guard, and the opponent turned to their knees. Splinting and therapy for about eight weeks to recovery. Still a couple of degrees range of movement missing, but it works well otherwise.