Friday, October 2, 2009

Rio de Janeiro to Host 2016 Olympics!

On October 2nd, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark the International Olympic Committe voted for Brazil to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

What makes this great for the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that typically the host country can have influence on whether or not a demonstration sport will be held as an event at the games. I'm no expert on the Olympics or how a sport goes about becoming an Olympic event. I've just been reading this Wikipedia page. Technically, since 1992 demonstration sports have not been allowed. But, China was allowed to hold a wushu tournament at the recent Beijing Olympics. Also, with the removal of baseball and softball from the Summer Olympic program I think that BJJ stands a great chance at being showcased at the 2016 Summer Games.

For more info go here.

(Thanks, Adam, for the heads up!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Short Film with Saulo Ribeiro

Rick Ellis (a student of Roy Dean) made a short clip featuring a training session with Saulo Ribeiro and Roy Dean. (Ironically, Roy Dean made a little light fun of me a year ago when one of his former students moved to Iowa, took a free class at my academy, and wrote back to Roy about his experiences with me. Actually, Roy didn't make fun of me. He just made a light hearted comment about how hilarious the letter was and supplied the message board for the comment to be posted on the internet. The comment is still available here. It makes me laugh everytime I read it!)

The clip reminded me of how philosophical Saulo is about Jiu-Jitsu and how pursuing the art of Jiu-Jitsu is so much more to him/us than just learning a martial art or fighting style. Jiu-Jitsu is meant to change your life and make you a better person. Jiu-Jitsu brings out your true self.

I remember Saulo saying to us in class: "When I roll with person, then I will know the true them. Who they really are. You can not lie when you are rolling. You can not hide who you truly are."

What he meant by that is, just because the other person may be better than you means nothing. Saulo is a multi-time World Champion. The odds of somebody beating him are slim. So, it's not about whether his opponent can beat him or not during a roll session. It's how they handle themselves when faced with personal adversity. It is good to have a more skilled person push you and to test your resolve and skills. You must, under even the most extreme circumstances keep your cool. Stay calm and go about executing your game plan as best as you know how. If you lose, you lose. So what? Tap out and fight again. Never quit fighting and challenging yourself to improve. This is the core of this philosophy.

What he also meant by this philosophy was that there are a great many people who think they are tougher than they really are. If you talk or act tough, that means nothing. Let us roll and see how tough you really are. And by seeing how tough you are, it doesn't imply that if you lose you are not tough. That just means you lack some skills or made a mistake. What is more important is how you handle the process of losing. Do you realize the situation is lost and just give up? Or do fight to the bitter end in an attempt to survive? Once you lose is your resolve broken, or do your rebound back and give it your all for another match? Do you time and time again go into a match against an opponent that is much more skilled and still keep trying to win, or do you mentally quit before the match has begun?

I have personally seen Saulo and Xande roll against "tough guys" in the academy and make short work of them. The tough guys would realize in about 10 seconds of the match that they were outclassed. From then on their will was broken. Match after match, submission after submission. They would lose all hope and faith in themselves. Having been dominated in BJJ, they would scarcely ever return to the academy to participate in a class. They came in as tough guys, they left as little boys. They unfortunately took it too personal and forgot to leave their egos at the door.

Thanks to Rick Ellis for making this short film. I look to seeing more videos from him.


Friday, September 11, 2009

The Death Throes of Boxing

Boxing promoter legend Bob Arum takes aim at his competition - the UFC. Fanhouse's Ariel Helwani interviews Bob about Boxing, and then the subject of the UFC comes up at about the 3:55 mark. So just fast forward to that and sit back and laugh at the things that come out of Bob's mouth.

Video courtesy of Ariel Helwani

Monday, July 6, 2009

Steve Maxwell & Xande Training & Rolling

Steve Maxwell is a Saulo Ribeiro Affiliate in Philadelphia, PA. He runs Maxercise and is the guru of grappling fitness, strength and conditioning. Check out his YouTube page to see more of his videos:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holy Hell, Batman. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu on Cable!

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Targets the Masses with a Nation Wide TV Commercial

I have just finished watching one of the few television commercials that has ever left me feeling stunned, shocked, and initially completely confused. Basically, I am confused. Let me explain:
It's late, and I'm up shooting out emails and the television is on for some background noise. Dane Cook is doing his stand up routine on Comedy Central, but I’m not really paying attention. On comes a commercial the likes of which I have never seen. It is fast paced with a hoarse voiced commentator rattling off selling points. I look at the TV and I see old footage from the "Gracie In Action" videos on my TV while graphics of magazine covers about the Gracie family virtually stack up on screen. The announcer gruffly says, "The Gracie family has spent over 80 years developing the most effective system of self defense the World has ever known!" To see the commercial for yourself, go to .)
During the commercial, Rorion appears and says a thing or two about how he created the UFC to test Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ) against the World. Later in the commercial, Rener Gracie (who is kind of like the Shamwow guy of the Gracie family; ie, the “Gracie Juice Bag” video ) and his brother Ryron are also on my TV talking about GJJ. They list all of the military and U.S. Government agencies that use “Gracie Combatives.”
The announcer says that, "The “Gracie Combatives” Course is based on the 36 most effective techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu." It is then stated that the viewer/purchaser of said DVDs will be able to quickly learn and master what's on the DVDs from within their own home. What it boils down to is they are trying to sell “Gracie Combatives” to the general public as a means of personal and family protection. At this point in the commercial, I almost turned the channel. I found it hard to continue watching, but I did nonetheless.
Throughout the commercial are choreographed scenes of simulated street fights utilizing GJJ in a parking structure, in a sandy deserted lot, on a grassy lawn (no footage of a pony tailed Rickson fighting on the beach, though). Of course, there is the "infomercial" staple of having bona-fide testimonials from once “out of shape” and “weak” people who have since become empowered and healthy due to “Gracie Combatives”. Did they get this way from the DVDs? I don’t think so. My cynical side tells me that these are most likely testimonials from people training at the Gracie Academy, not in their homes using the DVDs exclusively. I could be wrong, though.

The commercial directs you to their website . They will let you preview all 13 of their DVDs for one month for only $9.95 (followed by 3 monthly payments of $39.95 (not stated in the commercial)), or you can buy all 13 DVDs up front for only $119.85.
Returning to my confusion and uneasy feelings about this commercial; part of the allure to BJJ, for me, is that it is not a sport that many people are familiar with or participating in. It’s not an over hyped sport or martial art. It is a very real style with very real effectiveness. There are not watered down BJJ academies in every strip mall full of kids running around in black belts. My point being that it’s not your typical martial art. And seeing the Gracie’s television commercial elicited a gut reaction out of me envisioning just those same fears, and perhaps more. But my fears were a bit premature and irrational.
I am former military, but my tour was over before the Army switched to using “Gracie Combatives.” However, while I was in the Army and stationed in Hawaii I was enrolled at Relson Gracie's academy. Now that I am running my own academy in Iowa (under Saulo Ribeiro) I get current and former military coming through my doors that have been taught “Gracie Combatives” while in Basic Training/Boot Camp or at their units. These students have a head start over the typical new student, but it is evident that they typically don’t get the same amount of time to train as does an academy student. Personally, I think I can only remember one technique taught to me when I was in the military. The “Gracie Combatives” are obviously an abbreviated form of GJJ/BJJ. From the military’s point of view, they have to have a hand to hand combat program that can be taught to the lowest common denominator in the shortest amount of time. Perhaps that is why these “Gracie Comabatives” DVDs are the perfect video set to mass market to the general public.
We knew that this was bound to happen sooner or later, and the more I thought about it the more I realized that this GJJ commercial was probably good for all of BJJ in both small towns and big cities. This commercial shows that GJJ/ BJJ have potential to reach far and wide. This commercial would not have been made without some marketing research that showed there is a demand for such a product. If so, then somebody near you (that has probably seen the commercial) may purchase it and realize they need to join a BJJ academy or club to actually train what's on the DVDs. That's good for you, the academy owner or academy student. You get more bodies in your school to roll with, and the owner gets more tuition to pay those bills.

As the CBJJ and the IBJJF move closer to the goal of making BJJ an Olympic sport, and as America gets more BJJ black belts starting their own academies, the competition for students will amp up in the coming years. Commercials such as this could determine all of our fates in this sport. Like it, love it or hate it, in the end this Gracie commercial is a good thing for BJJ in the long run.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cool Training Song

I was listening to Pandora Internet Radio while I was working today, and this cool song came on that I had never heard before. It was called "Way of Life" by Dead Prez. Paying attention to the lyrics I get the impression the song is about Jeet Kune Do or some other martial art. But, they mention grappling in there some where, so it works for me. It's a pretty cool song that you can find on the internet.

When I searched Youtube and Myspace I couldn't find an offical video. But, I did find a video that a high school wrestler made for his Media class, and... it's pretty cool! Check it out: or below:

I'm always looking for cool songs to make new training CDs. If you have any suggestions for good songs to train to, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Break Falling is B.S.

About two years ago I started training in Judo. As I am in the medical research/genetics field, I tend to seek out and absorb any type of research reports that revolve around martial arts training. I simply log on to the medical research literature database and search for terms like "Judo", " Martial Arts", "MMA", "Jiu-Jitsu", etc. To make a long story short, there are TONS of manuscripts in the medical literature about Tai-Chi and Judo. Very little about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai and MMA. Most of the Tai-Chi manuscripts center around how it benefits old people. Most of the MMA manuscripts talk about concussions and the lethality of the sport (which is a moot point as no one has died as a result of the activities of the sport).

When it comes to the Judo focused manuscripts in the medical literature there is much emphasis on the diet and cutting weight, comparing Olympic level atheletes to average atheletes, the effects of outside stressors on competition, the color of the uniform on competition results, etc. But, there are a couple of manuscripts that study the actual benefits of proper breakfalling techniques. That is to say, how important is it to break your fall when thrown or falling by landing a certain way and slapping the mat with your hand or hands, in order to "distribute the shock/impact of the throw" and not seriously hurt yourself. I am sorry, that due to my haste to write this post, I am unable to furnish you all with the actual references to these papers. Perhaps in the very near future I will edit this post and provide you with the references and/or actually post links to the PDFs of the papers.

What it all boils down to is that there was a published medical manuscript that came to the conclusion that teaching old people at a nursing home to fall with Judo breakfalling techniques did not curtail the number of injuries incurred during falling incidents of the residents. There are some more recent manuscripts that say that the number of "hip injuries" are reduced by the elderly when they have been taught Judo breakfalling techniques. But, the study did not elaborate on what other injuries might have been incurred by the elderly in the study.

Furthermore, if you watch high level Judo competitions you will almost never see a competitor breakfall properly. Why? Because the thrown competitor is trying to make him/herself not land in a position that will give their opponent a scoring point or ippon. The thrown opponent with brace the mat with their arm, or voluntarily land on their head, etc; anything that keeps them from landing on their back. Sometimes by bracing with their arm to prevent a throw, their arm breaks or hyperextends. Bottom line: watch or compete in a local Judo competition and you will see that not even local Judo black belts break fall properly when thrown or falling. High level judokas know how to fall propery, they just choose not to inorder to win their match.

What does this all mean? Bottom line, breakfalling is bullshit. Sure it helps in some ways. It helps to learn how to flow with the throw. It helps to provide psycho-comfort to the thrown opponent that "it's okay to be thrown, if you land a certain way." Without convincing students that breakfalling will "save" them, I doubt Judo and BJJ would have as many followers as it does today. Some people might just "puss out", when it comes to the grappling arts.

What does all of this have to do with this post? Well, just tonight, I slipped and fell in my kitchen. How did this happen? Well, I put some ice cubes in a cheap tupperware dish and let my puppies chase it around my kitchen. The ice cubes made a rattling noise in the dish, they chased it around the kitchen and tried to get the ice cubes. Unbeknownst to me, the puppies had punctured the dish and the ice cubes had melted to leak water all over my kitchen floor. Walking in to the kitchen in my flip flops I slipped, my feet kicked out in front of me and I fell straight on my ass and lower back.

Did I breakfall properly? No, I did not. One second I am stepping on to the tiled floor in my kitchen, the next mili-second later I am on my ass. Breakfalling didn't even cross my mind in the 1/100th of a second it took me to go from happy-go-lucky with my pups to flat on my ass in my kitchen.

How did I land? I landed by reaching backwards with my hands and hitting the floor ass first as my palms hit the floor. My arms were straight and my elbows were nearly locked out. Can you think of a worse position to land in? After I landed I realized nothing was broken, and I was thankful that I kept my chin tucked to my chest and nothing but my pride was bruised; even though nobody but the dogs saw it happen - I confessed it to my girlfriend out of the sake of comedic value. I think it's funny to make fun of myself.

So here's the skinny on this post. If you are an average Judo Black Belt, or an above average BJJ player, when you fall in real life - out of the blue; the odds of you properly breakfalling are slim to none. Now, if you are on the mat or in competition, you may be more ready for it. Breakfalling may even help you get through a training session where you get tossed around a 100 times or more. But, when you slip and fall off the mat your training will most likely not kick in and save you. But don't worry, the science is in your favor, unless you are over 65. Proper Judo breakfalling techniques do not mitigate falling injuries during Judo competions (in the young/middle aged) or everyday life (middle aged/elderly).

After the fall, come up with a cool "manly" excuse to explain your concussion and broken wrist. I suggest that when asked, you tell people that a rabid Jackal charged you and you were forced to break it's neck by suplexing and pile driving it to death. Hence the bruises on your ass.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

R.I.P. Grandmaster Helio Gracie

The Gracie family just released that Helio Gracie died Thursday morning on his ranch in Brazil. According to the family, his last words were, "I created a flag from the sport’s dignity. I oversee the name of my family with affection and nerves of blood." He was 95 years old.