Category Archives: Jiu-Jitsu

Extremity in Moderation

Having gone through a number of training camps in the lead up to competition I have had the opportunity to refine my approach. Previously I had never concerned myself too much with the amount of volume I was doing, and if the opportunity came up to train I would generally take it regardless of readiness or recovery. I remember years ago doing 3x one hour intense sessions back to back every Friday, which not so surprisingly left me somewhat wrecked. If there was a high intensity Strength & Conditioning class on at night, I would do it even though I would have a high intensity Jiu Jitsu class scheduled for the next morning. When training at Drysdale Jiu Jitsu for a camp, I would do both the two hours sessions every day that I could.

I think this approach left me in a depleted state, which is not a problem unless it is chronic. I felt that when I was supposed to be putting in my best effort at an intensive Jiu Jitsu class, too many times I would be going through the motions, but would not be putting the intensity and intent into the session I needed to get results.

I have had this conversation with Simon many times around the default medium position. When trying to have a light session, you feel like you are not working hard enough so ramp it up and it becomes a medium session. If you haven’t had sufficient recovery, or the session is too long, you can’t put the work into your session at a high enough intensity and it also becomes a medium session.

What’s so bad about medium sessions? I think that in order for you to change through adaption to stimulus (training) that you need to be approaching the limits of your capability and capacity. When this happens you will undergo physiological adaption, that will improve you over time. If you are always going medium, around 60-80% of capability, there is no stimulus to adapt.

What I have done differently this time is:

  • Reduce any non-Jiu Jitsu training to minimum
  • Any non-Jiu Jitsu activities are either recovery or intensity
  • At least half of the Jiu Jitsu sessions are high intensity sessions of an hour or less

Non-Jiu Jitsu training has included deadlift, but only a total of 10x 1RM lifts once per week. Since the beginning of the year I have increased my deadlift by 20kg with almost no cost to recovery. I have also been swimming once per week, but in keeping with intensity, the strokes per breath start at five and only goes up from there, definitely into the range for physiological adaption. Swimming also provides a form of active recovery as you spend a good proportion of the time stretching with no load on your body. Yoga has also performed a role in recovery, with one session a week of Yin yoga, which is basically holding stretch positions for a number of minutes.

For the nine weeks leading up to the departure to the US we had a Day Class on Sunday that was always an hour or less, but the intensity was kept high. A typical class would be:

  • Sweep for sweep, pass for pass, and takedown for takedown in 2 minute blocks.
  • 4x five minute rounds counting points and discussing the points at the end of the round.
  • 10x pole position drill where the head of the line would call the position, one side of the line would choose top or bottom, and the other side had to make up points in the minute round, 20 seconds to rotate positions and hit the next round.
  • 10 minutes of first points, winner stays in. Challenger has 1 minute to score first or submit to get in, rotating in increasing belt order.

A significant portion of the inspiration for the above program came from the six weeks spent with Ashley Williams at the gym earlier in the year. The format of the class was kept consistent for the nine weeks, to reduce the cognitive load of understanding the parameters of the drill. It may not have been as interesting as mixing up the program each week, but allowed people to put in their best intensive effort, rather than having any confusion around the objective of the exercise.

I have been tracking my recovery with an Oura Ring, which is good at tracking sleep and recovery but not so adept at tracking activity. A coupled of times I can see when I have made a mistake with training load and it takes days to recover from as below. You can see the increase in resting heart rate, and the decrease in the readiness score below, from a two and half hour training session.

At the same time I have been losing 10+% of my body weight to compete as a lightweight. I had done this previously in 2017 for the Pan Ams, but it was more of a last minute effort after losing significant weight during the camp. This time I have been losing weight consistently, and will be spending the last eight weeks before the competition very close to my competition weight, allowing me to be comfortable and apply any necessary adaptions to my game. It also allows me to be fully fuelled on the day I compete, rather than being depleted.

Having arrived in Las Vegas for the training camp, I have had the best first day on the mats yet. Not feeling fatigued with the altitude, dry air, heat and jet lag, and feeling like I was putting in a pretty typical performance for myself, as opposed to other times when I have felt wrecked after the first lap of jogging around the mats.

The theme of Extremity in Moderation has persisted into the camp, whereas previously I would have done all of the available sessions (2x ~2 hour typically intense sessions), I’m now sticking to one session per day, and putting full intensity into that session. Previously I would have felt wrecked, and like I was going through the motions without putting in my best performance, until I was forced to take a break (more of an Extremity in Extremity approach). Now I feel like I have put in my best effort, or as close to it as possible by the time I walk off the mats.

How will this pay off? That is yet to be determined, but I feel that I’m in the best state possible, and expect to put in my best possible performance.

The Three R’s

Not Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic, but the cues I think of when coaching.


Jiu Jitsu students generally have a significantly different mindset from say wrestlers. Whereas wrestlers may be shown a technique and drill it thousands of times, Jiu Jistu students commonly have a mindset of, I’ve done it three times I now know that technique, what’s next?

That’s why I like to have the repetition, either within a class where we are building from a base position and repeating those steps to get to later techniques and positions, or across classes where there is a review of what we have done in a previous class to help embed the technique in long term memory and to help develop the muscle memory of the technique.


Again this is about helping to develop the long term memory, and also to help students realise the details in the technique that they had forgotten or skipped over. Typically when we are running a theme across multiple classes I will:

  • Ask if anyone remembers what we did last time, if not I’ll prompt them with the technique or theme;
  • Once someone recalls a technique, I’ll have them demonstrate it with a partner;
  • If they have hit all of the points, I’ll have them demonstrate it a second time
  • If there are any missing points I’ll either have them walk through it again and emphasise the missing points, pausing and discussing it at the appropriate time in the technique, or demonstrate the technique myself if there is something specific I want to show;
  • I’ll then have the class do a couple of repetitions of the technique to develop muscle memory;
  • Work through the remaining techniques, having a different person show each technique, and then the class briefly practice; and
  • I’ll show any techniques that nobody had remembered and have the class briefly practice.

Another strategy I will use for recall is at the end of the class or seminar is to either to have individual students briefly demonstrate one of techniques until we have covered them all, or if time is short to question the students in the lineup when we finish about which technique we did during the session to at least make them think about and recall the techniques.


This may seem similar to repetition and recall, but it’s not related to the specific technique. Reinforcement could be exercises in the warm up that replicate movements in the technique, it could be related techniques that connect to the specific technique, allowing greater opportunities to deploy the specific technique. It could be drills that use elements of the technique to reinforce the muscle memory.

Another method to aid reinforcement is to focus strength and conditioning sessions to build strength and skill on complementary areas, for example the core strength required to sit up when an opponent stands in closed guard, or the conditioning to be able keep pressure on you opponent that compliments the technique you are trying to apply.

Ankle Injuries


© Sinew Therapeutics

Ankle injuries are common and generally will heal in time with very simple measures. Most injuries are inversion injuries where you roll your ankle towards the outside of your foot. These are common in BJJ and can and do happen commonly. Usually, if you can walk it’s a good sign (even if it’s a brave hobble out the door!!) but is not perfect at picking out those ankles that are fractured. An ankle that’s feels really unstable is a bad sign, as is one with severe pain that is not settling. Swelling, bruising and moderate pain are sadly normal.

The most commonly injured ligaments are the posterior and anterior talo-fibular and calcaneo-fibular ligaments. These ligaments are the tough fibrous tissues that hold bones in the correct anatomical position.



Sprains are graded and either a grade 1,2 or 3.

  • Grade 1: Slight stretching and microscopic tearing of the ligament, some tenderness and swelling
  • Grade 2: Partial ligament tear, moderate tenderness, swelling and looseness
  • Grade 3: Complete tear, severe swelling, pain and looseness

Grade 1 and 2, especially for athletes, should be seen by a physio or a good GP or sports doctor. Although this does not change how long it will take to heal, it’s important to rule out further injury and make sure the treatment plan is sports specific. In the immediate time frame, motion, ice, compression and elevate are important. Gentle motion is just initially flexing and extending the foot. How ice and cold on injuries is poorly understood and the evidence suggests it likely make little difference, but is better than heat. It is suggested that compression for athletes should be lace up ankle brace supports but there is no hard evidence on, what to use, how long to use it or how tight to make it.
Regardless, early return to functional activity is the goal. Early motion and accelerated rehabilitation is the goal to a more rapid return to sport. It is really important to strengthen the lateral ligaments to avoid further injury. I have done this over the years by using a mini-tramp or normal trampoline. I started just rolling from my toes to my heels supporting myself with my good foot. Eventually, I increased my strength to bouncing on my injured ankle. It took a few months but I have rarely had an ankle injury since.

© iHealthSpot, Inc.

Grade 3
This is a complex treatment plan and is well organised in the following PDF:
Usually, surgery can be avoided but care should be taken to be followed up by a skilled physio or doctor.

Different functional treatment strategies for acute lateral ankle ligament injuries in adults.
Kerkhoffs GM, Struijs PA, Marti RK, Assendelft WJ, Blankevoort L, van Dijk CN Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002; (3):CD002938.

Orthopaedic ankle information

Accelerated Rehabilitation

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!!