Saturday, November 8th, 2014

5 secrets of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that I learned on my way to earning a BJJ Black Belt

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Submission Grappling, Nogi, Wrestling, however you want to refer to it, I have been doing it since 2002 almost everyday, usually twice a day, 5-6 days a week.  I honestly have no idea how many hours I have logged on the mat teaching, training, coaching,…or simply just being a fan of grappling and fighting.  In 2010 I was awarded with my BJJ Black Belt under 4th degree Black Belt professor Juliano Prado of Brazilian Top Team Oragne County. —Looking back at the journey, things changed often–training partners, gyms, techniques, ability, etc.  Below are 5 of the biggest secrets in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that are not usually taught in a lesson plan.

1. There is no ZEN with the belt

I don’t know why people think someone who has a ‘Black Belt’ in Martial Arts somehow is suppose to have his life together more than others.  It’s funny to me, because it’s almost like students expect their martial arts instructor to also be at ‘Zen’ with the Universe.  Internal Peace, positive energy, like they are some sort of Buddha or something.  The truth is…just because they teach you BJJ doesn’t mean they are a good guy, or even have their life together.  I have met many shady characters through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, many of which went on to not only win Black Belts, but travel the world because of their athletic ability.  I would never describe someone as ‘A Good Guy’, simply because they were good at their job.  Imagine getting divorced and having a lawyer who really ‘stuck it to the Ex’—I wouldn’t run into him at the mall, and tell all of my friends and family ‘He’s such a good guy’–simply because he shafted my Ex in the  The crazy thing is, People will tell me all the time that so, and so, famous fighter, was ‘Such a nice guy’ because he signed an autograph for my kids after his last fight.  PEOPLE…THAT IS THEIR JOB.  There are instructors who are far from being a perfect example of being at ‘Zen’ with the world, some of them are even good at their ‘Job’ of teaching BJJ.  Throughout all of my time in BJJ, I have known guys who are in jail for serious crimes, cheated on their wives, or are hiding any of a million other skeletons in the closet. The Black Belt doesn’t make them any more moral, despite what people would lead you to believe.

2. The oldest lie in BJJ is that Size Doesn’t Matter

How many times have you heard someone say ‘The cool thing about BJJ is that size doesn’t matter’, or even better’ BJJ was built for the little guy’!?.  While it is true, the techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu use weight and leverage with timing and critical thinking to make it possible for the smaller weaker fighter to win the fight, the reality of it is everyone has seen an Armbar in 2014.  With the UFC throwing an event on TV every weekend, white belts today are not like white belts from 1993.  Most people who walk into the dojo nowadays are at least ‘familiar’ with techniques even if they have never trained.  Once skills is equal, other factors start to play into the equation like speed, strength, athleticism, etc.  Sometimes someone with superior technique can win having less cardio.  Sometimes someone not as technical can win by being a more explosive athlete.  The more you are able to improve in all those categories the better you are going to be in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

3. Friends and Money don’t mix

Notorious B.I.G. first taught me this one back when I was a kid, lol, but this is one of the life lessons you have to learn for yourself.  As a general rule, I don’t like to trade ‘Free training’ to one of my students for a ‘service’ or ‘product’.  I would much rather pay my way, as I expect them to pay theirs.  I have known many friends who have used students to build websites, make gym repairs, fix cars, etc.  The problems always start when someone fails to live up to their end of the deal.  Maybe the website that was suppose to be built in 1 month, takes 6 months and is never really complete once it gets launched.  I can think of about another million examples where the ‘value’ of training seems to be lost once it has been ‘traded’ for.

Contracts, Audits, Inventory, etc.  I learned this one the hard way while working in Asia at a gym I was suppose to be partnered at.  While I was able to make a settlement, the situation was never really resolved properly, and the main reason for this was my ‘handshake deal’ amongst ‘two buddies’ wasn’t the type of protection I needed in court, and I should have been professional enough to get things contractually agreed upon.

In terms of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, If I can help it, I don’t borrow money from the Dojo or its members, I don’t trade my skills, ability, and techniques for favors, and I try to have clear written understandings of work agreements and responsibilities.

4. People need BJJ for different reasons which gives them different goals from the training session

I can honestly say I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a different time.  You came to the gym and everyone there tried to mash on you as much as possible.  Everyday it was like a shark tank of beasts waiting to bit into your leg, or rip your arm off.  It’s funny when I tell people what it was like training when I first started.  We would have a room of 10-15 guys all wanting to beat each others brains in to prove they were the toughest in the gym.  Lots of people came in the front doors, but not many stayed.  In fact, the gym had so few ‘fighters’ paying bills, that it eventually closed, and all the ‘fighters’ went back to working security at the local club on the weekends.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has many benefits.  You can improve your fitness and health, rehab from injury, meet new friends interested in similar activities, etc. Some people can not deal with the intensity of a competition style class.  There are students that want to leave the gym feeling good about themselves, and ripping their knee off from a heel hook, or cross facing them for the choke might get you the ‘TAP’–but it might also push them out the doors of the gym before they ever realize the benefits of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  As an instructor, it is important for me to realize what the individual students goals are, a 45 year old lawyer who is a 2 stripe blue belt training twice a week, might not have the same training goals as a 22 year old brown belt who took 2nd in the worlds, and that is okay.  Not everyone training in BJJ is going to stick around if you throw them into the shark tank to see if they sink or swim.

5. Not everyone in BJJ is humble and without an ego.

I can not tell you how many times I have heard ‘BJJ is an EGO killer’.  yea, it is.  I can not tell you how many times I’ve had some ‘tough guy’ walk into the gym off the street and tell me how he is undefeated in street fights, and isn’t worried about the ground game, only to come in and try his free class, and get submitted 20 times only to disappear and never return.  The idea is the ones that stick around in BJJ will start to understand that there is always someone better than them, always someone who can teach them something, and so their is no ego in BJJ.  That’s a great idea in theory…but I’m sure anyone who has been training awhile knows that guy who is an absolute monster on the mats…and knows it.  He walks into the class and expects everyone to say hello to him first, he brushes off peoples questions, or makes jokes that are condescending to the less experienced training partners.

I have seen some of the best friendships a person could ever ask for destroyed because of ego.  A student leaves to pursue other goals, an Instructor gets upset about a rival patch on a Gi, a higher belt refusing to tap to a lower built when caught.  The older I get, the more I appreciate a true martial artist, Verses the ‘Fighter’.  Just like in life, those with big ego’s will eventually have it deflated, and BJJ has a long history of people who fell far down the stairs when life finally decided it was time to teach them humility.

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