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Friday, 11 April 2014

Thoughts on Metamoris 3

Well, first up I absolutely loved the show... pretty much every fight was interesting to watch and the fighters all went for it with lots of aggressive attacking. So specific fights...

Zak Maxwell vs. Sean Roberts
Thought Maxwell looked awesome. His style is pretty much what I try to do, solid ultra tight basics... slow and steady progress to a dominant position. Sean Roberts flexibility is ridiculous, what a guard to try to pass. Loved the fight.

Gui Mends vs. Samir Chantre
As expected, an easy submission for Gui. I thought this was the most pointless fight on the card but it was still great to watch.

Dean Lister vs. Babalu
I was hugely impressed with Babalu, not only being able to defend against everything Lister offered but also attacking flat out whenever he got the chance. For two big guys and a 20 minute fight the pace was amazing. Probably my favourite fight of the night.

Keenan Cornelius vs. Kevin Casey
So Casey was in for Magalhaes. I thought Keenan would get the submission much quicker than he did so fair do's to Casey, he showed he definitely has great jiu-jitsu. A pretty boring fight at times, but then it can't be easy to do much but defend against a guard like Keenan's.

Rafael Mendes vs. Clark Gracie
I was very surprised that this turned out to be the worst fight of the night. Nothing but repeated failed attempts to take the back from berimbolo. I have seen people criticising Clark for just defending, but what else was he meant to do when Rafa is attacking with his best guard attack? I just wish Rafa had chosen to go to the top and tried to pass rather than falling to his guard again every time... or at least tried something other than berimbolo.

Royler Gracie vs. Eddie Bravo
So surely it's gonna be hard for a 48 and 43 year old to keep up the level of action which had been seen in the rest of the fights? That's what I thought, but man these two gave an awesome performance. An amazing ending to a great event!
It's easy to be critical of people in fights, and I've seen many people doing just that, so all I'll say is that I was surprised it seemed Royler hadn't really studied Bravo's game and just stuck to the same plan of attack even after being repeatedly swept with the same thing.

Wow, I really enjoyed this event and I hope Metamoris goes from strength to strength. It was a bit sad to see that loads of people were getting free streams of it, it's one of a very small number of options for professional competitors to get paid to fight. Support the event!!

I've read an unbelievable amount of nonsense written about Gracie/Bravo... people saying Eddie Bravo "won" it. No, it was a draw... the only way to win was to submit and he didn't do that. Obviously he had the better of the match, but it was a draw. Then I read people saying how Bravo was sick after and was totally gassed but Royler was ok, so if they'd kept fighting... NO, it was a 20min fight, they knew that going in. Being tired after is a good thing cos it means Eddie had gone as hard as he could over the distance. There's no point having anything in reserve. "Eddie would have won on points"... but there were no points, this is meaningless... they weren't fighting with points in mind. Man, it was a great fight and people should just be happy with that. Unreal showing from a 43 and 48 year old, congratulations to them!!

A point above ties in with my only big criticism... the commentators talking about "under IBJJF" rules all the time. What other sport does this?? Commentate on how things would work under a different ruleset? I found it really annoying and off-putting. They should just stick to describing the techniques being used/tried, talk about how an attack or counter worked etc

Regardless, I'll definitely be buying the next event :)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The mental aspect of a jiu-jitsu fight

This is a subject which I have been discussing with my students a lot recently, due to a lot of recent competitions. I think it can be almost as important as the physical side of things, but is often neglected by people as it's something they just don't think about.

Now I'm not talking about mental preparation for fights. I know some people spend a lot of time on that but I find it quite difficult to understand. I never step on the mat without thinking I am going to win and have never felt doubts about my own ability before a competition. What I am talking about is the mental ebb and flow during a fight. So many times I have seen students win fights, or lose very close fights (or even fights they have overall dominated) and they come off the mat with the feeling that they performed poorly or almost lost when in reality they won easily.

Why does this happen? First, I think adrenaline is a big factor, it numbs the mind and means that memories of a fight can be very foggy... I have had fights which I couldn't remember until watching a video! There is also a natural tendency for most people to be critical/negative of themselves and, lastly, people often only think about the last thing which happened during a fight.

What does this mean? Well, there are two fights going on during a match... the physical fight and the mental fight, and they are both vitally important. I have seen people winning fights easily who then make one mistake and suddenly panic, causing them to lose the fight. Or people who have been getting smashed but are so strong mentally they never give up and manage to win by submission.

So how does this all relate to aspects of a fight? The easiest way to explain is looking at the situations this stuff most often applies...

1. If you're in a bad spot and you escape then realise you are winning the fight at that point. Ok, you might be losing on points, but the ebb and flow of the fight is going in your favour, so when you get back to a good or neutral position don't stop, keep moving forward, it's the best time to attack. Your opponent has just lost a strong position and could be disheartened. The same for escaping a submission attempt... it may have been their best attack, they might have been sure they would submit you and now you've escaped... attack!

2. The opposite of the first point; you had a strong position and your opponent escaped. Relax, you got ahead of them once so can do it again. Don't freak out and do something silly, just control the position they have escaped to and go back to attacking.

3. You get reversed from side control. This is a classic that I've seen totally change a fight. Not only were you in a good position which your opponent has escaped, they've put you straight into a bad position. You need to stay calm, if you freak out and desperately try to escape you may end up in an even worse position or get submitted. This is another reason to learn the rules and points system... side control reversal, or being put in side control from top turtle doesn't score your opponent anything. In these circumstances you need to be strong enough mentally to relax, defend and take your time, your chance to escape will come.

4. The fight starts and you end up exactly where you didn't want to be... they took you down, or they pulled guard first. So what? You can panic or you can back yourself to win the fight. Stuff goes wrong in a fight and you have to be ready for it.

There are obviously other ways that show how mental strength during a fight is important, but from my experience they are the most common. Just like learning techniques I believe you can learn methods to improve your mental game. First of, as mentioned earlier, learn the rules and points system back to front... if you know exactly what is happening in a fight it makes it much easier to cope with adverse situations. Also, try to have someone coaching you from the sidelines they can help you by telling you the points and time. Think more deeply about what is happening when you're training, don't just live totally in the moment. Try to think about the overall round and what is happening at each point; you might have been getting smashed for 4 minutes but if you then get the upper hand... go, go, go, push forward hard and work to get the submission or enough points to turn it around. If you're winning the fight at a specific point, whatever came before doesn't matter.

Fight hard, be strong mentally and never give up no matter what has happened!!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Metamoris 3

The third submission only all-star fight card is on tomorrow and I love watching grappling matches of any sort... although the problem with this one is it starts at midnight so I doubt I'll much if any of it live.

My thoughts on the fights...

Zak Maxwell vs. Sean Roberts
From memory Maxwell has the better results overall but it's a tough one to call under Metamoris rules really.

Gui Mendes vs. Samir Chantre
A three time world champion vs. a guy around the same size who hasn't won anything really major. Mendes submission.

Dean Lister vs. Babalu
Tough to know what sort of size/shape Babalu is... his MMA career went off quickly after he'd spent a long time as a top contender. Can't see Babalu tapping Lister and he'll have a tough time not getting caught in something.

Keenan Cornelius vs. Vinny Magalhaes
Really tough fight to call. Keenan has showed he can mix with the top level of black belts but Magalhaes is an ADCC champion and could be much bigger. Maybe Keenan catches a tired Magalhaes late in the fight.

Rafael Mendes vs. Clark Gracie
Clark is good but Mendes is a different class. I don't think the weight difference will matter, both Mendes brothers get submissions.

Royler Gracie vs. Eddie Bravo
The sort of fight that has been discussed so much I don't care. Pretty much impossible to call, when was the last time either fought? I think the most likely options are either Royler wins quickly or it's a pretty boring match.

Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut

Ok, that's a bit drastic, but it's basically true when you're starting jiu-jitsu. As far as learning goes, try to speak as little as possible about technique and listen to every single thing your instructor says and watch every tiny detail of their movement.

The biggest issue around talking a lot is people who ask "what if" questions. It's understandable to want to know as much as possible straight away but it's impossible, you can't learn every variation of every option in every position straight away. If you don't understand something, or can't do a movement properly, ask your instructor... but if you immediately want to know every "but what if they do this?" then you'll slow down your learning. Trust your instructor (well, pick a good one then trust them!) to teach you well.

Much rarer, but I've also encountered people who have to talk a lot to act like they understand more than they do... and it never works anyway. Don't try to impress instructors by explaining how well you understand something just listen to what everyone more experienced says and remember it all.

As you get more experienced you'll learn to be able to ask better questions :)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Techniques vs. Tactics

Jiu-jitsu is a complicated sport with a lot of techniques, and although being technically good is the key to good jiu-jitsu, it's just as important to know what techniques to use against a specific opponent and also when to use them. You have to be tactically aware as well as technically proficient.

Being tactically aware is basically the same thing as having a game plan. A simple example is that if your opponent is very good on top, you want to put them on the bottom, and vice-versa, for the best chance of success. Then within each position you have to understand what are the best options for you to use. If you are fighting a much larger opponent then closed guard and triangles are probably not going to be the best idea, keeping distance and keeping the weight off you by using feet on hips or butterfly guard should work out better. Then on the opposite end, closed guard will be strong against a much smaller opponent who will struggle to put enough pressure on to open it. If your opponent is big and strong, use movement and speed... if your opponent is small and agile, use pressure and tight control.

Outside of that general aspect of tactics, you also have to consider each position you end up in. If you have a really good guard pass but your opponent is positioned in a way to easily defend it, you should try something different. If you try to force a technique to work in a bad position you will probably come off worse. Thinking tactically means you also have to bail out of things at times... you might be halfway through a sweep, but if completing it means you will end up in a triangle it's time to give it up and accept you may fail on the sweep.

Another part of the tactical aspect is trying to pick up on things your opponent does during a fight. If you've tried your favourite submission attack twice and they've defended the same way twice, you can pretty much guarantee they'll do the same thing again... so be ready for it and plan your follow up attack accordingly. Similarly, whatever attack your opponent used in a position before, they will probably try the same, or something like it again. People will tend to go for the same techniques again and again as jiu-jitsu becomes an instinctual thing when you are fighting hard... so try to take advantage of this.

Competition also has a further angle on the whole tactical thing. You might have an awesome open guard, but if you are winning on points, have 1 minute of a match left and have 3, 4 or more potential matches to win gold... why open your guard? At that point you just need to try closed guard attacks, give yourself the easy win. Or a more extreme situation, maybe you are winning on points but are under your opponent's mount... you might know plenty of techniques to escape, but in this situation it's more tactically sound to just defend. If you escape you give your opponent a chance to score more points and while escaping there is much more chance of being submitted.

So, try to think on two levels all the time; what you need to do technically and what you need to do tactically. When you're in the heat of the moment you will react naturally, but by considering these things throughout your training you will make good tactical decisions naturally.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Who should teach jiu-jitsu?

As with any subject, there are a broad range of people teaching jiu-jitsu and it's often discussed who should teach and what qualifies them to do so. Well, you know the deal, here's my thoughts...

It should go without saying that to teach somebody should have approval from their instructor. This ensures their instructor believes them to be capable of doing so and also legitimises the teaching as being part of their lineage. It also means that the instructor should still be training as a student and continuing their own training.

The most obvious question about teaching qualification is what belt level someone should be. Except for in certain circumstances (no higher level guys teaching in the area) there is no need for white or blue belts to be teaching (and if they are teaching, they should have regular contact with a black belt instructor). Yes, they might be excellent teachers but they will not have enough technical knowledge. An experienced purple belt and any brown/black belt should definitely have the required technical knowledge, but this is still no guarantee of teaching ability. The environment someone is teaching in also matters here; a black belt can certainly run a large academy themselves... a brown or purple might be able to, and they could definitely run a smaller affiliate. Lower level belts are also much better placed to be teaching if they are doing it at an academy run by a black belt.

Judging teaching skills is a tricky thing to do. People learn in different ways and someone might be good at teaching one sort of person but not another. There is also always a human factor, as an instructor you don't just show jiu-jitsu techniques but also have to deal with the various personalities and attitudes of students. You have to make sure the class as a whole works well; people actually drilling, avoiding subdivision into groups/cliques and various other things. Some people are definitely bad teachers; they don't plan lessons at all, they don't have a clear idea of what to teach, they don't teach connected techniques, they favour certain students... and many other potential problems.

I think the best way to learn to teach jiu-jitsu is to learn from someone good at teaching it. People shouldn't just decide to start teaching, they should spend time studying a good instructor teaching classes and ask them questions about how and why they do things. The perfect scenario for someone to start teaching is that they train with their instructor until black belt and then open an affiliate academy, but there will definitely be times when people start teaching sooner (in a country without much jiu-jitsu). The worst option for someone to start teaching is the desperate-to-be-an-instructor types who leave their instructor at white or blue belt and start their own club. These people will use any type of excuse for it... they want to have a "different philosophy" within their club or they "see themselves more as an instructor than a student", maybe they see it as a fast track method to get a promotion via a long-distance affiliate relationship or they are just the sort who rate themselves much higher than their actual skill level. The worst of them will develop their "own style" and wear a black belt... whatever it is, they are idiots.

There are no official qualifications to teach jiu-jitsu, so it's always going to be the case that anyone can go out and set up an academy, but there will also always be people willing to tell others they shouldn't be teaching... and I'm one of them, haha.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Interview on a friend's blog

A friend and old student of mine interviewed me for his blog. You can find it HERE :-)