All posts by Jamie

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.

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.

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.

Keto Boosted

I have tested all sorts of things in the persuit of improving my Jiu Jitsu. Whether it’s exercise, diet, or tracking performance, I try to test these things for myself, so I know what works for me.

I have gone months on a strict Ketogenic diet, and managed to get my blood ketones up to 3.5 mmol/L, well into the nutritional ketosis range.

There are product coming on the market that claim to boost blood ketones, even if you are not on a strict Ketogenic diet. One I like the look of is KetoSports KetoCaNa. I purchase some, and once it arrived, I wanted to test how effective the claims were, so I broke out my Precision Xtra to measure blood ketones. The Ketone Test Strips are pretty pricey at about $5 per strip.

I have been eating a diet that is not strictly ketogenic, but has more fat than the average diet. A couple of hours after my last meal, I took a base reading, had one recommended dose of KetoCaNa, then took a reading at one hour, and again at two hours. During that time I was just sitting in my office working, with no physical exertion.

What were the results:

  • Base: 0.3 mmol/L
  • 1 hour: 1.3 mmol/L
  • 2 hour: 0.8 mmol/L

So it looks like it made a significant difference. The next step is to try it prior to training and see the impact it has on performance, if any. I’m planning to test it a number of times before coming to any conclusion.

The other product I have pre-ordered is EAS Myoplex Ketogenic Powder which looks like it might be an easy option to hit all the Keto macro-nutrients.

Some good Keto resources:

The Belt Is Not the Progression

It seems that as people come to Jiu Jitsu, it is common to focus first on getting stripes and then on getting to the next belt. People become frustrated, and feel they are being held back if they are not progressing at a rate to their satisfaction.

I remember early on in my Jiu Jitsu career, getting a new belt carried  so much weight and gravity, that there was no rush to get to the next belt, in fact it was quite the opposite. There were two blue belts in the state, that I was aware of, so to be graded as a blue belt back then seemed to carry the weight of being graded as a black belt today.

Your progress on the mat is not dictated by the belt you wear. If anything, the belt is retrospective to the achievement you have already made. Ever day you get on the mat, you are making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it some times. Even if you feel you are going backwards, if you are on the mat, then you are working through this difficult stage, and you will get to a stage where you feel and see the progress you have made.

To me progress in Jiu Jitsu feels like an undulating line on a gradual incline. Over a short period of time, it may feel like there is little or no progress, or even that you have gone backwards. If you look at the line over a longer period of time there is significant progression. I feel my game goes through stages of flux, where I start to add something to my game, it can feel like there are a lot of disconnected components, but as I start to assimilate these new skills, connections build between all of these components and they “gel” into a strongly connected cohesive game, which relates to the rise and fall of the undulating line.

So worry not, about the belt you wear. Worry less about the belt other students wear. This is your journey, it will happen at your pace, dependent on your skills, aptitude, dedication and available time to be on the mat. Concern yourself only with consistency and enjoying your time on the mats. These things will bring you progression, and in good time, the significant weight of a new belt to wear and represent.

Cohesive Coaching

While speaking to the coaching team the other day, I had to formalise my ideas on how working with other coaches should be done, to show respect and cohesion between different coaches with different styles and experience.

Having coached with the other black belts on this blog, we have an informal system of working together that works well for us. This is my view on the process and etiquette.


First and foremost, one coach is responsible for the class. It is their class, and what they say goes. When it comes to the plan for the class, they will set this. If there is remuneration involved, this is the coach being paid for the class. They are the lead on everything in this class, including the responsibility for everyone’s safety.

Note that this may not necessarily be the highest graded coach in Jiu Jitsu, but even if it is a blue belt running a class with black belt students, it is still their class to run and control as they see fit, and they accord the associated respect.

On the same note, if a coach is rostered on to teach a class, the class is theirs to teach, and it should not be taken over by a higher graded coach who happens to be there, unless the rostered coach wants them to.


If the coach running the class has the time and inclination in the class, they may invite others to share their own ideas on a position, or a solution to the problem at hand.  They may not do this if they have time constraints, or have a particular path they are building to, and don’t want to be distracted on a tangent. Note that they are inviting this input, not having someone in the class saying “That’s wrong”, or “That’s not how I do it”, or detailing technique without prompting.

A prime example of collaboration is a workshop style class with multiple coaches. There will be a theme and one coach will lead the class, but typically at the conclusion of each technique, they may invite others to contribute their variations on the technique, or alternate solutions to the problem at hand.


A typical example of delegation, is having a small number of students in the class without a basic skill, and the lead coach may delegate another coach to take them aside to teach them the skill independent of the other students, so as to not hold the students with the skill back.

In the case of delegation, the lead coach has given the task to another coach so they can fully focus on the other students. If the lead coach has the trust in the other coach to delegate the task to the coach, they should allow them to teach their own way, and not to manage the other coaches process of teaching.

Uninvited Input

Some times when I’m in a class run by the other coaches, and there is a point or technique that I think is particularly relevant, but the coach is not inviting input, I will wait until a quiet period when the class is working on technique, and then quietly put my idea to the lead coach. If they reject my idea, then it is not for me to push to have it accepted, it is up to me to accept their decision and let them run their class in their own manner. Conversely, I have also been asked to mention the point or to demonstrate the technique at the next opportunity.


If I see another coach doing something I think needs correction or feedback, I would typically wait until after the class to go through in detail what I thought the issues were and discuss it with the coach. The exception to this, would be if what I saw was unsafe for the participants, in this case I would work to address the issue immediately.

One exception I can think of to this is coaching the coach. When students start their coaching career, they need feedback to grow and improve as a coach. The junior coach should have a plan for the class that we would discuss in advance, then we would typically talk through particular corrections or feedback in a quiet period, or after the class.

Welcome to Struggletown

“This is not an easy sport”.

That was a favourite saying of a former coach of mine. I can’t say I disagree with him. We’re not standing 7 feet 9.25 inches from a dart board with a pint in hand. We’re here getting our ego checked, and facing failure every time we get on the mat. That’s very confronting.

As I have said many times before “Every time you get on the mat, you can and will be tested”.  It doesn’t matter how practiced, how skilled, how long you have been training, you can and will get caught, sometimes by training partners you’re not supposed to lose to. A friend of mine who is a brown belt, was visiting a club and was having the last roll with a white belt, the only pair still rolling while everyone looked on. The white belt caught a submission and the brown belt tapped. It wasn’t supposed to go down that way, but that is how it goes some time.

Everyone has their struggles with Jiu Jitsu. Not necessarily the same issues. Not necessarily all the time.

It’s not just a case of getting caught when you’re not supposed to. Maybe you have a lot of things in your life, demanding you attention. Work, family, other activities and commitments. You can’t train twice a day, every day, as a world champion or a teenager living at home might be able to do. You might be struggling just to make it on the mat twice a week.

Maybe your frustrated with not getting the results you want, or progressing as fast as you would like. Or maybe you are injured, and can’t train with the level and focus you desire. It could be that your general fitness isn’t where it needs to be, and that makes everything harder.

Perhaps you have a fear. A fear of failure, a fear of losing, a fear of getting injured, or a fear of other people thinking you don’t deserve your grade. Maybe you training partners are younger, faster or stronger, and you find it hard to even believe you could ever achieve victory over them.

As Chris Haueter says in ROLL: Jiu-Jitsu in SoCal “It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left”. This is a war of attrition. Just making it on the mat one more day is an achievement.

Enjoy the good times, when it all comes together, and you can do no wrong. Equally you need to weather the tough times, to be able to make it to the next patch of sunshine. These tough times are where your ego will get checked and your character will be built. These are the only rewards you can count on in Jiu Jitsu, not stripes, not belts, not gold medals.

This is not an easy sport.

The struggle is real.

You are not alone.

Welcome to Struggletown.


A question I often get is “What can I do to improve my Jiu Jitsu?”. The question usually comes from someone looking for some previously unknown path to success. Sure, I swim and do Yoga for recovery, and I deadlift and squat for strength, but these are not the answer. The somewhat less than magic answer is more Jiu Jitsu. Not kettle bells, not Cross Fit, not gymnastics, not Yabusame. Jiu Jitsu. These other things will help your general physical preparation, but we’re talking Jiu Jitsu here.

For the extra curricular activities I do, it is never at the expense of time spent on the mat. If I am heading into over-reaching/over-training territory, then I’ll drop the other activities first, followed by the more intense Jiu Jitsu sessions if I’m still not recovering.

But what do you get from more Jiu Jitsu? As I have said many times before, you have to be a very special case to keep turning up consistently and not get better. Not better immediately, not immediate success, but one day you’ll realise you have achieved a goal you previously thought beyond you.


How do you get better just with more time? You face the same problem more times. You subconsciously start to internalise the things that work, even a little, when you face the problem multiple times. You get the opportunity to visit that problem with multiple different opponents, all with their own specific attributes. Bigger/smaller, faster/slower, heavier/lighter, stronger/weaker, you get to adjust your response to each of these unique situations consolidating your technique to work in more situations.

You will also almost certainly be exposed to more training partners, and this is key to getting variation and inspiration into your game. When your partner does that unexpected thing, and you don’t even know where you went wrong, but are now doing your best impersonation of a pretzel, that’s a new problem for you to solve. What was it? How do I do it? How do I defend or counter it?


And by stronger, I don’t mean bench double your body weight strong. I mean Jiu Jitsu strong. All the muscles you need will be continually worked, improving the attributes needed for Jiu Jitsu. As you progress in Jiu Jitsu, I believe you move from generating power through individual limbs, and move to generating power with your whole body. It is this core strength that allows you to attack your opponents arm, not with your arm, but to attack your opponents arm with the strength of all the major muscle groups in your body. In addition, all the stabiliser muscles will also strengthen with more time on the mat, improving your control and ability to escape.


When you have been training more, it feels like you are faster, and being faster can be the difference between being on the bottom and being on the top.

Earlier this year, due to a change in circumstances where I took on more responsibility at the gym, I started training Jiu Jitsu 6-8 times a week. I regularly track a number of parameters including Central Nervous System score, reaction time, resting heart rate, weight and sleep using an iPhone app. From the graph of reaction times, you can see the trend line and the obvious decrease in reaction time.


This one came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only do you feel faster, but you are faster.

So what increases reaction time? Alcohol, is one thing, so easy on the booze.

Final Thoughts

There is an interesting article here on the Sport Science of BJJ:

“Accounting for a whopping 70% of BJJ ability is technique.”

To hijack the quote from Henk Kraaijenhof, Olympic track coach:

“Do as little as needed, not as much as possible. Except when it comes to Jiu Jitsu, do as much as possible.”

Go Train! More!

Competition Day

Getting ready for competition is a process. Early on, it’s about building your fitness and endurance, and about working on your skills to develop your game. When competition day rolls around, the work should be done and there are more immediate things to focus on. You should have been tapering your workload, so that by the time you get on the mats, you are rearing to go and not burnt out from running at redline.

As soon as the brackets come out, check the times and mats for your matches, so you are there in plenty of time. Mentally, I like to prepare myself to expect to face the strongest competitor in the division. If I get them, I’m prepared, if I don’t then I think I have the mental edge over my opponent.

Expect that there will be no good quality food available at the venue, and take along something to snack on that you can eat and still comfortably compete, bananas are always a favourite. Some people like to drink honey to give them energy, but high sugar levels may exacerbate dehydration by stimulating less water absorption.

You also need two sets of competition legal attire. If you have to change your gi for any reason, you will only get a couple of minutes, so you need it on hand, and not running around trying to borrow gear and face disqualification.

6.2.3 Technical Fouls

“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.”

Also take along a hoodie to keep warm, your favourite music (and headphones), and footwear for when you are not on the mat.

8.2 Hygiene

8.2.4 “Athletes should use footwear up to the match area and wherever their use is permitted.”

The main thing in the hours before your fight is to remain calm. Getting too hyped too early leads to being exhausted before you even step on the mat.

Check your weight on the test scales as soon as you get to the venue if you are close to the weight limit. If possible, also check on the official scales as sometimes these will be different, but this is generally not allowed.

When the time is coming for your division, start to get prepared. Go to the toilet, and have a team mate listed for your division. Start to warm up, listen to your favourite music that motivates you, and mentally start to ramp up. I like to break a sweat before my first match, so I’m not trying to get up to speed while someone tries to choke me.

When your division is called, go and get marshalled straight away. This gives you time to change anything if you need to, and otherwise allows you to settle in and get focused while you wait in the bullpen.

A lot of times, the first thirty seconds of a match will be the most intense. Try to avoid being overwhelmed, and know that the pace will soon settle. You should not be concerned with saving energy for future matches. The time is now, give it your all. My coach Robert Drysdale says that if you lose, you should be crawling off the mats because you gave it your all, and that your opponent should never go on to win the next round because you made them work so hard in your fight.

If you win, rehydrate, recover and get ready for the next round.

If you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Review footage to see mistakes that can be corrected, and ask advice from your coach.

Regardless of the result, you should celebrate taking on the challenge and putting yourself out there. There are plenty that didn’t.