All posts by Taff

SA (Situational Awareness), personal safety, planning, paranoia and the mine field of socially acceptable conflict preparedness Part 2…

Condition Yellow: Relaxed Awareness

So yellow, should be our general day to day level of awareness, in this condition we are being cognisant of what is going on around us, we are relaxed and alerts we are always aware and prepared to escalate to Orange as required.

It is the state that we have accepted that a threat may exist somewhere, but we aren’t sure where, we have no specific point of focus, but we are alert and aware to any possibility, we are ready but not actively preparing, we are in our passive mode.

As we proceed through the day we pay attention to the oncoming person,we see the group of people conversing in a tight group at the petrol station, we are aware of the man in the carpark as we walk to our car. We see the late model Holden, sitting at the side of the road, with a man in the driver’s seat…. You get the idea

But most of all some of our awareness is dedicated outwards, not focused entirely on our internal thoughts, problems, stresses, distractions… some may be, but we retain a modicum of awareness externally, we are making mental notes and we recongise and accept that something sinister may happen today, but we don’t know what it is.

Condition Orange: Focused Awareness

So, if Yellow is our passive SA, the transition to Orange is an active ping.

We have encountered something that has triggered our attention, we have decided that some threat warrants further focus and our SA narrows. While we still want to maintain peripheral awareness, we have identified a potential threat, we now have a specific point of focus…

For example, we are in a bottle shop and a man in one of the aisles slips his hands into his pockets…. We have noticed this and focus more on this man and his actions… we have just switched from yellow to orange. Or as we leave the shopping centre walking towards our car we notice a man leaning on a street light close to our vehicle, possibly in a positing where we will have to walk in close proximity to him, same, yellow to orange.

This transition doesn’t have to be a person, as we walk down a street on a dark night we notice an alleyway running off to the right up ahead, we move further to the left to afford better angular view down the alley and allow more distance between us and the mouth… condition orange, our focus is now directed at something that deserves more attention.

Determining the intent.

It is Orange where we will start to take some evasive action to determine the intent of our potential threat. We cross the road to see what they do, we move to a different location in the bar and observe. If driving we make an unscheduled turn, or possible turn without indicating, all of which are to observe the reaction.

No reaction, they continue on their merry way, orange back to yellow… some response that further heightens our suspicion… possible orange to red.

Contingencies and our trigger

It is also Orange that we expose our mental trigger and commence to make contingency plans. Thinks of it like one of those switches with the red flip guard on them, as we commence our evasive maneuvers, or our intent tests, we are also flipping the guard off the switch, but in this case the switch is our kinetic trigger the point where we act, swiftly, with determination and without hesitation.

We are also formulating tactical contingencies, “If he does x , then I can do Y”. I have these tactical options open to me, the battlespace affords me these opportunities, I can use that furniture as a barrier, I can use that improvised weapon, I have those escape routes, etc.

If we never end up flipping the switch or engaging the trigger, because the threat dissipates, you then deescalate to yellow.

Remember, most predators want to have the element of surprise.

Your being aware of them and them realising that suddenly makes you a harder target and they may seek easier prey.

Part 3, condition Red….

SA (Situational Awareness), personal safety, planning, paranoia and the mine field of socially acceptable conflict preparedness

I’m going off topic today and sliding into another field, I am going to provide some diatribe on an exceptionally important skill, an attribute that people should improve, an ability whose importance is ever increasing and one that for the most part is severely lacking.. that of Situational Awareness, or SA form here on in.

SA is simply the knowledge and understanding we have of what is going on around us in relation to the circumstances and surroundings (our situation), and the application of this knowledge to the level of focus we have and our perception of this situation or fact (awareness) with the potential for generating an appropriate plan.

A bit long winded but in essence being ‘switched on’ to our surroundings.

For those that have ready Grossman, you will be familiar with the concept of sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.

I am not going to go into this concept here but briefly the majority of todays society and the sheep… those that plod along in daily life, living in blissful ignorance of what is going on around them and the potential threats that exist.

Then we have the wolves, that element of society that have embraced the predator’s mindset to achieve their goals, they don’t play by the rules that we count on to keep us safe, they don’t adhere to the general concepts of ethics and therefore seem more ruthless by our standards… One of the most dangerous things we can do if dealing with the wolves is to apply our social filter, our personal code or the societal rulebook, to these encounters… sorry digressions…

Finally we have the sheepdogs, now the most obvious sheepdogs are those in society that have made the conscious decision and sacrifice to defend the sheep, the Solider, sailors, Police Officers etc. those how allow “People to sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf” to quote Mr. Orwell.

These Sheepdogs have combined their training, ethics and mental toughness to create a combat mindset, they are aware of the importance of SA and practice it daily as an aspect of their employment.

They generally have the ability to scale their focus and attention up and down depending on the perceived level of threat, as a result of enhance SA and this is where we are going with this blog… sorry it took a while to get there…

Now I think that anyone willing to “the right thing” is a sheepdog and what we are doing here is describing how we develop our SA and apply it.

Unfortunately, the sheep don’t see SA as something necessary and what we perceive on a daily basis can be regarded by some, as being paranoid or being on edge, but that’s ok, they can afford this lack of focus because others in society have it, so we accept our role, smile and move on.

The system we are going to discuss is the colour code system.
There is much speculation about where this originated, but in essence we have 4 levels of awareness and each corresponds to a colour. Each colour in turn triggers the level of focus, planning and preparation we apply to the situation.

The coulours are:

WHITE: blissful ignorance, unaware, switched off, powered down…

YELLOW: Relaxed Alertness, chilled but aware, switched on

Orange: Focused Alertness, aware and ready, more switched on!

RED: Action ready, here we go! bring it on…

So as I move through my day, week etc., my condition changes, based on what I perceive through my SA. There is little outward sign, nothing dramatic, but I am constantly analyzing my surroundings and adjusting.

Factors that get applied are everything from the location, to the time of day, if you are travelling it changes, if you are with family it can change, the factors are endless and something for you to think about as home work.

Condition White: Blissful Ignorance.

The next time you’re out, have a good look at the people around you. What are they doing and what do they notice?

Do they notice you paying attention to them?

What you’ll begin to see is that most people are completely oblivious to their surroundings.

This is Condition White.

Whether they are sitting at a cafe engrossed in a book or walking along texting, or headphones on, their attention is drawn somewhere else and they have no idea of their situation… and have very little awareness, hence no SA!

In essence they are VULNERABLE and for the most part, what is a major factor that any predator uses in target selection? Vulnerability… it works in our society, animal kingdom, military planning, professional fighting… everyone looks for their opponent vulnerability. Couple this with the fact that in real life situation, the predator doesn’t want the target to know they are the target and that makes them even more vulnerable… imagine playing a game and you don’t know you were someone’s opponent in the first place?? Make it harder to win … of course!

So condition white is zero SA and to be avoided… even when relaxing at home you should still be aware, to a degree, of sights and sounds… I love watching my dog sleep, snoring away, paws in the air… but his ears are still moving and I know that a distant footstep on the gravel, a change in the ambient noise and he is awake… so even here, in his sleep, he stays away from Condition White.

Generally we cant do that when we sleep. Unless we have been trained, or have spent time is environments that force this habit we sleep in condition White, and I wouldn’t espouse anything different (other than get a Milionis ) I am just illustrating WHITE before we move on.

Part 2, Condition Yellow…..

Playing The Long Game

When you step onto those mats for the first time, I think very few realise just how long the road ahead is. Or just how much of an emotional roller coaster the journey will be. I have found as people progress, the tendency is to be come very short sighted regarding their development, sometimes at the expense of our training.

At 10 years + for the Black Belt, that is a lot of hours on the mat and it doesn’t all go our way. We train well and we train poorly (always embracing the good days, yet perpetually beating ourselves up on the bad). Life gets in the way, family commitments, passion waxes and wanes and then the is the dreaded demon… injury.

As one who has been plagued by injury for my entire training career and one that has been told by medical professionals on more than one occasion that I will not train again, I have developed a somewhat stoic perspective.

As I type this I have my hand in a thermo cast for another 3 weeks and then may face surgery. I have been off for 8 months with shoulder reconstructions and have had countless training injuries. But at the end of the day in a life long pursuit, 8 weeks off is a drop in the bucket.

Yes, you will lose some timing, not skill, generally, and if you do it comes back quickly and some degradation is un-avoidable in time off. SO we can see this as an obstacle and stress and fret while we are off the mat, inevitable try to come back too soon and re-injure. Or we see it as an opportunity to research, watch and try to find other aspects we can look to improve. We can continue our presence at the gym, supporting our community and enjoying the support of the crew, or we can take the easy option of removing ourselves from the temptation and stay home.

It seems that most BJJ practitioners are fairly hard on themselves when it come to that time off and the feeing is that if we aren’t back as soon as possible, then we are deteriorating, which creates increased anxiety and the feeling that we need to train harder, which in turn, induces that tendency to re-injure and so commences the downward spiral….

Another and more sinister reason for pressuring ourselves is Ego… yes there is that word in relationship to BJJ again… but here I am suggesting that people will return to training too soon, or put unrealistic expectations on themselves and their improvement, just because they don’t want to their place in the hierarchy change.

We must be realistic about what is keeping us off the mat, really analyse how that makes us feel and honestly deal with it as objectively as possible. There are always others around us that have been through it and they are there to console and advise, assist and counsel, so use them to good effect.

Nobody like taking time off, or seeing their improvement slow, or sometime deteriorate. But we have to take the good times with the bad, the progression with some regression and the inevitable fact that life will get in the way of training. Treat this as another challenge, another guard to pass and the true test is how we deal with this obstacle… do we let is slow us to the point of quitting, or do we smile, persevere and try to see an opportunity to challenge ourselves and improve in a different manner.

Training Etiquette

Firstly let me appologise for the lack of content, just Christmas and the silly season getting in the way. I have an idea of the next few blogs that I would like to post, the main idea behind my content will be more along the personal protection vein and my thoughts on the integration of BJJ. But before I start down that track I just wanted to post one about etiquette in the gym and on the mats.

As most older BJJ exponents, I came from a traditional MA background, with boxing and Muay Thai thrown in. Judo, Aikido, Kung Fu etc. and one of the issues I had was the cultural assimilation with these styles. Not that I have and issue with the cultures, but for a westerner who has never bowed to anyone, it was a little strange to bow to my coach, training partner, friend… but we all did it, because that was appropriate, in the same way as eating whale sashimi while sitting in a Tokyo sushi restaurant, with the founder of Kudo, but that is another story!! This was the same with learning the names of techniques in the parent language, counting etc.

When I started BJJ I found the informal manner in which the classes were run very refreshing, the relaxed atmosphere was a nice change, the respect was still there, but it was more subtle, more intrinsic. There was no need to call your coach Sifu, Sensei or Master, but this lack of a grandiose title, did not detract from his [the coach] position at all, nor the respect he was afforded. I think we rely more on the maturity of the people involved and the actions of the coach to generate that respect, rather than forcing it on the students by mandatory actions. I want to be clear that I am not denigrating these traditions and in no way am I judging them, I am just voicing my personal opinion on the matter, to each, their own.

This being said, there is etiquette on the mats and I just thought I’d take this opportunity to refresh and/ or educate on a few points:

So, in no particular order……..

Hygiene: this is my main reason for no shoes on the mat, just practical and doesn’t really have anything to do with tradition, but think about where the soles of those shoes have been….

Finger and toe nails, stay on top of them, keep them trimmed up, there is nothing more frustrating than having to miss a roll because of a cat scratch.

Clean gi/ no gi… wash them after every session, no exceptions, smell=bacteria=infections…

Clean person… shower/ deodorant, just be thoughtful. If someone has poor personal hygiene habits bring it to the attentions of one of the coaches and we will chat with them.

Makeup (Ladies… usually) don’t wear any, it’s a bugger to get out of a gi and at the end of the day that is no different than dirt (from a gi washing perspective), just train and look pretty afterwards.

Respect: while not demanding bows or titles, we do have a few perks that time on the mat earns….

Coaches/ higher belts…. It shows respect to address them as coach (insert first name here) or just coach. Only on the mats and most definitely only at the gym ☺

When rolling be aware of who is around you and give way to higher belts on the mat. They have earned the right.

Don’t refuse a roll if asked by a higher belt. This is your opportunity to learn from them. If you have an injury or some other legitimate reason, explain it. If you just don’t like being tapped, put your ego away and get on with it. I suggest you look deep inside for the answer to this one.

Don’t boast, gloat, or happy dance if you dominate of catch your opponent, particularly a higher belt. You never know what is going on, he/she may be trying a particular escape or defence. By all means have that happy dance in your head, but it shows great disrespect to show that joy in front of others and generally there will be consequences…..

I feel strongly about the above point and in order to grow, we all need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to our training partners. If we can’t do this we stifle and this is never good. More on this in another blog I feel.

Other things, bring water and a towel. Clean up your stuff when you leave, because we won’t… we aren’t your washing lady and we retain the right to throw dirty, smelly training gear in the bin, as opposed to letting it fester!

Have you own first aid kit… scissors, strapping tape, nail clippers, dressings and antiseptic..

Chat to your partner when you are training, but when the coach is instructing, be respectful, quiet and listen.

If you have to leave the mats, let the instructor know. They will know to come looking for you if you don’t come back. By the same token if you rock up late, get ready and wait at the edge of the mats until invited by the instructor.

Have your belt tied, and be ready to start on the clock when doing rounds.

When you have finished your class, and another class is in progress, keep your voice down, as the instructor is trying to teach. Inside voices, or go outside to chat.

Be attentive with good posture, sitting or standing. No lounging on the mats.

I’m sure to have missed some, but we will get those as we go. At the end of the day, the goal is to make everyone’s training as enjoyable as possible and the mutual respect that goes with this wonderful art is a big part of that, so lets keep it tight and enjoy our time on the mats.

BJJ training and self defence…. (part 2)

I think when people discount BJJ as a formidable self defence style, they are speaking from either an;

a) un-educated perspective, i.e. basing their opinion on watching sport BJJ or even MMA, where, the exponent is focussed completely on 1 opponent, fighting with a strict rule set and a referee…….With some slight changes to training focus and style and BJJ practitioner can be made able to, at least be cognisant of dealing with multiple attackers…. again, more on that later

b) a biased perspective, this tends to be the TMA (Traditional Martial Arts) styles, a lot of which are struggling to cope with the emerging interest and success of BJJ. They forget that BJJ is based on TMA styles, just trained in a modern and progressive environment and not tainted by public popularity, which tends to water the styles down to appeal to the masses (not that modifying a style to appeal to a more general demographic is a bad thing).

Take any popular martial art of today, look at it 15-20 years ago, or before there was state or national funding available and I think you will see a different beast.

or c)Ego, my favourite, when you watch a 90 kg rugby player get submitted by a 70kg lady, or a TMA Black Belt submitted by a 15 year old BJJ Green Belt. This reason produces some serious soul searching and from here people either discount the occurrence as some trickery, or start training in earnest.

As a white belt (bearing in mind it took me over 4 years to get my blue…) I had the opportunity to train with a 2nd Dan in a TMA (a style that claimed a strong ground component) and after several hours of beating each other up, he was left a bit bewildered by my success ( I had been doing BJJ for about 12 months at that point).

Several weeks later we had the opportunity to train again, but this time he declined with no explanation. I was disappointed as I always enjoy training with other skilled Martial Artists and this guy had some great throws….. As it eventuated, we had the opportunity to discuss his reluctance over a beer soon after and it turned out that following our initial sparring sessions he had gone back to his Sensei seeking some guidance, he was perplexed that a white belt had been more than competitive with a 2nd Dan… “How can this be so Sensei?”

He was instructed not to train with BJJ practitioners any more, as they play a sport and do not train in lethal techniques, Sensei then further explained that training in a sport makes for a sporting mindset and will detract from the true ability in the TMA that this guy practiced!!! I question how many “lethal techniques” Sensei has ever delivered in his life. I find it annoying when the closed mindedness of coaches/ teachers/ Sensei/Sifu results in their students being disadvantaged.

But then why did the fundamental techniques I had been taught at that point work so well?? after all I probably had an arsenal of 2 or 3 effective takedowns, a working knowledge of the basic positions and a few submissions from each.

Because we trained every day with controlled full resistance, every technique I used worked because I had used it with a training partner who was trying to stop me almost as hard as he could. I had been tapped with these techniques a 100 times and again they worked. They were not taught by a 15 year old Black Belt, that had never been in a confrontation. They were not taught via Kata, or touch sparring or forms, they were drilled on the mat, in a realistic environment with realistic pressure and resistance, resulting in realistic results!

I digress, but this is a topic that we will return to in the future, BJJ is an evolution of TMA and that is evident in so many of the techniques. The techniques have been made subject to a more contemporary setting and in short their effectiveness in a self defence situation will mirror the original intent of the club and coaches.

If you train with a competition orientated club that will base everything on points and educate you on the finer points of “stalling to glory” then don’t be surprised if some of the application lets you down in a real world confrontational situation.

On the other hand, a club that prides itself on practical application, a club that has some sort of proven pedigree will probably deliver a more pragmatic approach to training.

It will always be easier to take “real world” BJJ and apply it competition that to try and take a good competition club and teach them self defence.

As they say a competition Black Belt is 1 punch away from a being a Brown Belt, another from Purple, another from Blue and 1 more from a white belt, unless he trains under structured but real fighting pressures how can he be expected to apply his skills in a foreign environment.

Next pressure points, biting, groin and the eye gouge!

BJJ training and self defence… (part 1)

There has always been a lot of discussion about BJJ and it’s effectiveness as self defence style. In one corner we have the die hard grapplers who sware that every fight will end up on the ground, with them executing the perfect submission with grace, poise and style, before walking nonchalantly away from the downed opponent, who then, realizing the error of his ways, proceeds to dedicate his martial arts and self defence training to BJJ due to it’s proven superiority….

On the other hand we have the nay sayers who swear that BJJ is purely a competition style and any decent pressure point, dim mak, woo shoo finger hold, board breaking strike, excellent Kata etc. will disable the grappler prior to any effective take down, control or submission attempt.

The other main argument against grappling styles is that of the multiple opponents. The general scenario portrayed is that while you hold a fantastic mount on the attacker, his co-offender (assuming they are the bad guys) manages to execute a flying snap kick you to the head, before they both proceed to beat upon your skull…

From the outset of these ramblings I want to make the distinction between Competition BJJ training and the practical self-defence oriented BJJ training. This is a distinction that has to be made as more and more gyms are getting away from what the original intention of the Gracie family, which was BJJ as a fighting and self defence style. Now more and more academies are focussing more on points training and competition effectiveness… Why? The answer is simple, contemporary competition success equates to recognition, which to some, is the sole aim of their training.

I recently had a prominent Australian BJJ Black Belt tell me that un-equivocally, the most important thing to him, in any aspect of his students or personal training, was the team standings at the end of a competition. Is this what allows a club to claim to be The Best BJJ or TMA (traditional martial art) club in a town/ state? Does this philosophy carry over to the kids as well? If so, how does this bode for the future of the sporting side of BJJ. Also what affect does this have on the confidence of the students, are they aware of the limitations of the techniques they are being taught?

I make a point of getting all of our junior competitors together before a comp and make it clear that with out a doubt the most important thing to our coaches is to see them get in there compete, have fun and come away un-hurt. There is plenty of time for competitive pressure later, but I am aware that not all agree and you see time and time again, the loud, fat, obnoxious father, in his Tapout T-shirt, fuelling his failing ego through his adolescent son, who has made the commitment to train and compete…. sore subject, that we might come back to another time!

Would a more telling indication of training ethic and effectiveness of a club, or the style in it’s fundamental form, be the 20 year old on holiday in Bali who goes to the aid of an elderly man being assaulted by 3 drunken louts. The person in question managed to strike 1, take a second down and control the third, allowing the man to make his getaway. The point here is not the courage…. or stupidity… of the saviour, but the fact that his training had given him the confidence and knowledge to feel that he could deal with the situation… more on the actual story later.

The man going to the victims aid did not pull guard, nor execute a deep-half guard sweep.. no 50/50 either! What did he to? A Basic striking combination, a high, heavy, dumping double leg and then cage and close, body fold and strike from mount, with good aware ness of the position of the other assailants and did not dwell in positions for longer than needed.

So have a look at what you are being taught, speak with your coach, ask questions, but most of all, be honest and know your limitations…..

Part 2 to follow….

Pre Telethon jitters :)

As I sit here on the morning before a team of intrepid grapplers attempt to roll for 24 hrs non stop, I start to ponder why I have those little butterflys flying formation in my stomach… Why should I feel nervous about stepping on the mats with friends, to do what we love and train, for the most worthy of causes, raising money for children’s cancer research.

What makes it more retarded is I have combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have over 250 skydives, I have 250 hrs as a pilot, I am an former Police diver, I have climbed mountains, chased crooks and been shot at….. so why the hell should this make me nervous?

The answer is, I have no idea, but this is a common occurrence. So many times, probably the majority at our gym, I look at the mats and think “oh, shit, there is no easy partner on there, this is going to hurt (body and ego ;)” and I relax, smile and step on anyway.

This confrontation of your fears… fear of failing, fear of being found wanting, fear of your weaknesses being show, fear of injury, fear of letting yourself down, fear of letting your peers down is a key part to learning. But if you look at pastimes that reveal these weaknesses I think you would find their attrition rate is very high, especially those that lay the blame for underperformance on you alone!

People don’t like to find out that the vision of themselves, the one they have created in their head, is fallible, and it does fail and will be found wanting if truly tested ….

So we have 2 main choices when faced with this dilemma… we convince ourselves that we are as good as we think and the test was some how flawed…. That the activity would be achievable if we really wanted to do it, or that it is mere trickery.

Or we take the hard road, suck it up and accept that failure is part of improvement…. After all, there is no triumph without failure and the things that are the hardest to attain, mean the most!

We used to have t-shirt that said “Tough times don’t last, tough men do!” (sorry ladies, it wasn’t meant to be gender specific…) This phrase starts to encompass this concept and has been the source of motivation to me on countless occasions, but that is another blog .

Reading this back, I can see how it may seem a bit melodramatic to someone that doesn’t take part in an activity that plays these emotional games and also there will be people that have taken the easy path with regards to these introspective choices who probably scoff. I’m not judging and to each their own, as long as we are all truly happy with the choices we make in the times of challenge, because regret sucks!

But for me jumping from a perfectly serviceable plane and stepping on the mats with a bunch of sharks are 2 things that give me great satisfaction because I know most people won’t do it…. They would come up with excuses for themselves that they don’t need to do it, could if they wanted to, aren’t really interested, have to go to the bathroom, don’t have the right equipment, have an old footy injury, can’t find the time etc, etc, etc….

In the end, I think you gain far more by being honest with yourself, identify your strengths and weaknesses, improve those you can and recognize those you can’t, it will make your training much more rewarding….. and now… Telethon.. good luck guys ☺

part 2…

Part 1

I few years ago I had quite a bad run with injuries, I had 4 full shoulder reconstructions in the space of 3 years… yes, 4 (slap tears x 4, bicep tendon x 2, a completely ruptured pec major, rotator cuffs, AC joints… all fun stuff).

On one occasion, after being in sling for 6 weeks, I decided to have a ‘play’ after having the sling off for only 2 weeks. I promptly pulled 6 anchors out of my newly repaired right shoulder (thanks Simon 😉 and was back under the surgeons knife, and in a sling for another 8 weeks this time. Incidentally it was after this operation that I was told, for the second time in my life, that I should stop BJJ and find another hobby…. HOBBY, pfft whatever, my reply was “just chop it off and I’ll just train with my left (and you think I jest 😉

I’m not ashamed to admit I had a little cry… but what it did force me to do was focus on the fact that the 6 months I had off the mat were an opportunity to take my learning in another direction. It forced me to genuinely realize that this is a lifelong pursuit for me and in a lifetime, 6 months is nothing, a drop in the bucket, an opportunity to alter my perception and direction in the way I train..

But in these times of trial, what kept me coming to the gym, what kept me motivated and positive was the support of my family and the close knit community that I was a part of. The lifestyle and the people. Just being on the mat, sitting and watching, talking and maintaining my connection was massive to me. It made me feel that every time I came down to my church I was closer to training and I think this is where people go wrong.

To ensure our training longevity, was have to lean on the people that are there to support us. As I get older the sense of community at the gym becomes more and more important to me and we are fortunate enough to share a fantastic medium for this…. And ‘ping’ the light bulb goes on and I realize that this is Budo, true Budo… the lifestyle you live and the path you walk when practicing a martial art.

It is nothing new, it is, in fact, centuries old… but it is elusive. I have trained in a martial art for most of my life, but now, at 43, I am feeling this for the first time and to all of you that are playing a part, I thank you, even if you are not aware….

14 years and I am just figuring this out… told you I was a slow learner!

If it was easy, everyone would do it…… part 1.

So this past weekend, while Jamie was submitting his way to Black Belt Pan Pacific glory, I was luck enough to spend 3 fortunate hours on the mat with with some fantastic friends and training partners at a seminar by Julio Cesar Pereira (thanks again to Fabio Nunez for the opportunity).

For those that don’t know Julio, he is a 6th degree BB, who has been training since 1974. The opportunity to learn from someone with that sort of understanding and experience was fantastic, the techniques were great, but hidden amongst these were the nuances that only come with time, a slight change to a grip, a modification on an angle, a slight rotation and ‘ping’ there goes the light bulb!

I could wax lyrical about the seminar and its contents, but what I wanted to discuss was the point that was mentioned in the previous post by Jamie regarding Blue Belt attrition.

People often discuss the emotional roller coaster that is BJJ and it has been touched upon in previous posts. There are many attempts at explaining why people leave BJJ at various stages and a question I was keen to pose to Julio was, does this phenomenon of a slump at Blue Belt exist everywhere and the answer was yes.

So why do people have just spent somewhere between 2-4 years… (almost 5 in my case, but I’m a slow learner) obtaining their blue belt and within 6 months of wrapping that first solid recognition of BJJ progress around their waist they have stopped training.

While this phenomenon does exist at other belts, it seems more pronounced at blue belt. More white belts stop of course, but, that is inevitable as they are still trying to find something, that may not be BJJ. Purples, browns, yep, they stop too, but not as many as blues, ratio wise.

So, why?

I think there are numerous reasons which I am not going to go into at length now. But for some, they have genuinely achieved enough, some are scared by the responsibility that comes with that belt and the next step, some are discouraged by how long the road is… so how do you stop this.

Everyone has to answer this for them self, but I think the focus has to be on the journey, not the destination.

It is about enjoying every step, even the ones backwards, taking each moment for what it is, each roll, each technique, each open mat. At the end of the day strapping that BB around your waist is a massive achievement, but it is just another step. If you focus on each belt, then I think you are setting yourself up for “false crests” as you realize the next section of the trail is steeper still.

When you realize that you are committing to this lifestyle, that it is a road with no destination, a journey that never ends, it makes more sense.

You will never win, you will never complete this game and you will never cross the finish line. It, the journey and the reward and the satisfaction this brings is always there. This lack of immediate gratification isn’t for everyone and the required perseverance goes against so much of what modern society espouses.

I defy anyone to say they have attained mastery in BJJ (is that why BJJ black belts are called professor, while other martial arts call their BB’s masters?), so we have to relax and enjoy the ride.

A bit deep I know and maybe I am trying to hard to explain it, but this isn’t a right or wrong, yes or no, concept. It is how I feel and if this helps in understanding what you feel, then I am happy .

To be continued….. Part 2

The Gentle Art……eventually

When posed with the challenge of imparting some of the wisdom that the years of training have provided me, the first hurdle I faced was realizing that I, in fact, do have the experience to have wisdom to impart… a concept I still struggle with at times.

Pondering this…again, over a glass of red and a bit of a barbeque, the solution presented itself… just tell a story and say what you think. Now I consider myself a reasonably clever person and as such this revelation should not have been so hard to realize, but one of the things that BJJ has taught me is that so many times, common sense, isn’t… and the obvious, isn’t…. also, anything you say before the word ‘but’ doesn’t count, think about it, but that is for another time…..

Anyway back to the title for this post… I find it hugely ironic that the gentle art, for soooo long, isn’t. It takes years to have the ability to express yourself in the physical medium of kinetic chess in a gentle manner.

And I think now, for the first time, I have ever contemplated the attributes that make up the elusive Jackalope, that is, the perfect training partner….

Knowledge, ability, control, fitness, experience, confidence…… trust… I could address each of these individually, but I won’t, my goal here is to stimulate thought, self analysis and introspection, so that bit is up to you, the reader.

Most of us know it, or have felt it, perhaps just a glimpse, even if we didn’t realize it, but you roll for what feels like hours, you are relaxed and in the zone, the full repertoire of sweeps, transitions and movements on display, training with speed and intensity, to exhaustion….. and no one got hurt, sometimes not even a bruise.

Compared to allowing a white belt into your guard and the inevitable pin point bruises that pockmark your legs and inner arm from the grip of death. Woe betide you if we are starting from the bottom and he/ she is in side control, because the barrage of elbows and knees that follow will be furious and that is in the simple transition to north south…….. I exaggerate… sort of 😉

And why is this, is it because they think they can win (the white belt), are they that intent on their first elusive BB scalp.

Are they scared? Interesting, as far more BB’s get hurt by white belts than, whites by Black’s.

Do they lack the traits listed above, not enough mat time to have the body awareness and control?

I don’t have the answer, as I feel it is different for each person, but at the end of the day, I am far more likely to relax, share and play with an opponent, when I can see that they are genuinely trying to learn how to be good partner and not just a good practitioner.

I could go on and on about this, but at the end of the day, we can’t drink from this holy chalice alone, we need those that can help us, push us and learn with us, but that care about the manner in which they do it, those that have the presence of being to think “no, today is his day, not mine, how can I make this roll better for my partner?”

Until next time ☺