The “Master” I Want To Be

dirKbG9i9Things get better with time.
Things evolve.
It seems that is sometimes overlooked in Martial Arts.

To hear students talk about their teachers,
you would think devolution is taking place…
as if they have no chance of being better than their teachers.

But if Martial Arts are constantly evolving,
aren’t Martial Artists evolving, as well?
I think so.
I think the future of Martial Arts is more important than the past
which means I think the students are more important than the teachers.

It is the Master to be, not the Master that was or the Master that is that is the focus.

My teachers are my roots.
I am the trunk.
But my students are the branches.

They are what comes next.
It is my job to get them as good if not better than me
faster than it took me to get as good as I am.

If they want to teach,
It is my job to get them as good if not better than me
faster than it took me to get as good as I am.

If they want to start a school,
It is my job to help them get there
faster than it took me to get there.

The teacher who does these things for his (or her) students
I believe to be the true “Masters”
and the kind of “Master” I want to be.

Choke Principles, Not Choke Techniques

1000x1000On a recent podcast, I heard Rickson talk about his new “federation” of sorts. He stated that it was for the white and new blue belts.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in this.
At the rank of purple and above,
there is often a commensurate level of indoctrination.

I was witness to this recently with one of my drilling partners.
He was talking of the necessity of beginners the correct technique in applying a submission.
I, of course, disagreed.

Here is my argument:
I think students need to learn what makes a submission work:
not how to work a particular submission.

In order to make a “blood” (not “air”) choke work,
the carotids need to be sufficiently compressed.

Now, I may show a myriad of examples including:
-Triangle / Reverse Triangle
-Arm Triangle(s)
-Rear Naked Choke

I may even show finer points of these submissions as most teachers do but I also encourage students to use any parts of their body to accomplish the goal of the submission. Here’s why:

If we spend all of time focusing on improving particular techniques, or trying to achieve certain submissions, we miss out on the opportunity to apply less orthodox, even spontaneous submissions.

And what often works in Martial Arts is what our opponent doesn’t see coming. There are so many ways to compress your opponents’ carotids…how many do you use? How many could you?

Eddie & Rickson

eddie-bravo_rickson-gracie-600x330I am an Eddie Bravo fan.
I am a Rickson Gracie fan.

It was pretty cool when they got together here:

and here:

While I am fan of both, I am a follower of neither. For all their differences (and there are many), there is a similarity in their approach to BJJ. I think that similarity can be summarized as: they believe in stopping their opponent from moving. While this isn’t pervasive in their practice of BJJ, it is part of their philosophy. They are interested in keeping their opponent in a position.

Keeping an opponent in a position I believe to be a vestige from Judo and Wrestling. In sports where pins are one of the goals, keeping an opponent from moving makes a lot of sense. But how much sense does it make to focus on keeping your opponent from moving in a sport where it isn’t required and against larger opponents (especially without the Gi) may be impossible.

Martial Arts work but not because the little guy can stop the big guy from moving. I believe Martial Arts work because the little guy can learn to use the big guy’s movement against the big guy. I believe this to be the spirit, the impetus, and the effectiveness of all Martial Arts, thus “Movement” Martial Arts.

Reinvention, Expansion, Adapatation, and Extinction

BJ Penn Belts
There comes a time in every athlete’s life where change becomes a necessity.

When Pete Sampras was a Junior’s Tennis Player, he decided he wanted to win Wimbledon. He believed that in order to do so, he needed to reinvent himself. He adopted a “serve and volley” and “chip and charge” style game. And so he abandoned his two handed backhand and endured many losses as he was developing a new stroke and a new game.

In the twilight of his career, he expanded his game from a slicing and half volley style backhand to now include a flat and topspin backhand. Some would attribute a few of his last majors to the inclusion of these shots. Reinvention and expansion helped Sampras to positively adapt to tennis.

As a very amateur athlete, there was time when my game required reinvention. I saw how wrestlers dominated in No Gi, in MMA, and were only slightly diminished by the Gi. I then saw the Gi as a straightjacket for progress and abandoned it in an effort to address and resolve the dilemma that wrestlers pose to the BJJ player.

Over time, I have had to both contract and expand my reportoire in response to this challenge. I stay the course because I believe that principally Jiu-Jitsu, and the purest Martial Arts have an answer to the eldest of Martial Arts. While I need further expansion, I feel no need for reinvention. I don’t think a BJJ player has to become a wrestler to beat a wrestler.

The BJ Penn I saw in Penn Edgar 3 was a reinvention…a reinvention that didn’t work. That’s OK. While I hate watching someone do something that doesn’t work, I hate watching someone repeat something that doesn’t work. I think BJ has been guilty of that in times past.

The mat, the ring, and life offer us the same problem that BJ faced. To remain extant, we will need to reinvent, expand or contract in order to positively adapt. If we can’t, we’ll become extinct. If BJ Penn’s losses and ultimate retirement, he reminded us how to live.


I am a fan of history.
Martial Arts history, especially.
And I would like to share with you a little of your history…
the little known history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is misleading in its name.
Its lineage isn’t directly from Jiu-Jitsu or jujitsu.
There is an intermediate step missing.

Kano-> Maeda -> Carlos Gracie -> Helio Gracie

Kano (who studied jujitsu) was the father of Judo.
Maeda was a specialist within Judo.
He did “Kosen” Judo.

Kosen was a change in rules which allowed for “guard pulling.”
This allowed for a specialization in Judo.
This specialization focused on the ground and ground techniques, “newaza.”
Newaza included pinning holds (osaekomi-waza),
joint locks (kansetsu-waza) and chokeholds (shime-waza).

So what is the big difference between Kosen Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Is it that the BJJ of the Helio Gracie day is so different than that of Kosen Judo? Doubtful. What is it you see in Judo of today that you don’t see in BJJ? Pins.

It seems BJJ is a further specialization of Judo.
Judo -> Kosen Judo -> BJJ

That’s your history. You’re living the present. But what’s the future of the Martial Arts? Who knows? You may further specialize a Martial Art or further integrate them.

Know your roots, but be a branch (and allow your students to be one, too).

Jujitsu -> Judo -> Kosen Judo -> BJJ -> You

Posted in BJJ

When You Cannot Train…

There will be times you simply cannot train.
It may be because of injury, work, commitments at home, or vacation.
Just because you may not be able to formally train,
doesn’t mean you cannot make progress.
Progress can be made…both physically and mentally.

Physical Progression
Just because you may not have the 1.5 to 2.5 hrs per session to train doesn’t mean you cannot train Jiu-Jitsu. You may not be able to train all of jiu-jitsu, but you can train some of it. Jiu-Jitsu is made up of fundamental movements including shrimping, bridging, leg threading, “four corner-ing,” etc. Can you do any of those movements? Wouldn’t training these movements, especially those that feel good, help you when you go back to training? Progress can be made.

Are you still going to gym when you cannot train? Why not perform the movements that you haven’t been performing in BJJ? It could help restore Ranges of Motion. More ROM can mean a better, healthier body. Progress can be made.

Mental Progression
I’m sure there were parts of your game that were “holes” when you were training. Why not take an inventory then make use of YouTube and find tentative solutions to these problems…then mentally rehearse it. When the mind goes first, the body follows easier. Progress can be made.

So the next time you cannot train, remember you can progress. You can progress physically. You can progress mentally. When you cannot train, progress can be made.

Response on DRILL TO FEEL

I love making a sale but what I love more than that is making a difference.

Check out this feedback:
I freaking love DRILL TO FEEL. It is a game changer – literally. Now I’m really conscious of where my opponents momentum is and just going with them, instead of against them. I’m starting to get a lot more questions like, “Wow! You mind showing me that sweep you keep pulling off?” And I tell them, “It’s not really a technique, it’s feel.” When you have feel, you start to see BJJ a lot differently.
–Michael Torres,
Carlos Machado Purple Belt

Are you ready to “Feel” your way to success,
then sign up for DRILL TO FEEL!


Posted in BJJ


230749096_900_pic_2The Worm Guard…
yet another Gi only grappling innovation.
A specialization of a specialization.

Despite my lack of practice in the Gi,
I’m not a Gi hater.
It’s a specialization
and specialization is the hallmark of evolution.

Just as organisms have diverged from each other
over long periods of time and formed new species,
the Martial Arts has splintered and specialized
over and over again.

I like this recent Gi Specialization,
because it means that there will be an opportunity for No Gi specialization,
and MMA Grappling specialization.

If BJJ is a complete system
and effective as a means of self defense
and in the cage, as well,
then it must further specialize, too.

It must move beyond:
-front kick
-close the distance to clinch
inside trip
-pass guard
-take mount
-arm bar or rear naked choke

It must provide an answer
for the superior defensive wrestler
who thwarts inferior takedowns.

It must provide an answer for the striker
with better offense than the grappler has defense
so that the grappler cannot close the distance to the clinch.

Gi players, by all means,
continue to specialize using the
skirt, lapels, and belt.

But No Gi grapplers, diverge from the Gi practice.
Only without the Gi can we make Jiu-Jitsu what it once was:
the dominant Martial Art in the cage…and beyond.

Strategy, Tactics, & Techniques

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 8.13.14 AM

When I was guest teaching recently,
an old student of mine asked me,
“What would you do in this situation?”

To which I replied,
“I would take him off base.”

“Yeah, but’s that a strategy. What’s the technique?”

That’s a good question.
If we’re going to limit ourselves to
this triad of metaphors to describe Jiu-Jitsu,
here is how I would do it.

Strategy: Keep Your Opponent Off Base
It’s nigh impossible your opponent to mount an effective defense or offense if he is off base. Every single movement you make should take your opponent off base.

Tactic(s): Go With (But Stop)
How you keep your opponent off base is by going in the direction he (or she) is going. As you go with your opponent, stop a part of his/her body from going that direction. That will improve your position, over and over again, until there is no position but submission.

Technique: Feel
Many would think that the tactic of going with but stopping spawns thousands of techniques. It does…but they are all contextual applications of the tactic and dependent upon the prime technique: feel. We must be able to feel which way our opponent is going in order to improve our position, go with him, and take him off base.

And feel, like any technique can be drilled. While techniques are limited to the context they are applicable in, feel is applicable in all contexts and, as such, must be drilled in the minimum number of contexts. We can only implement our tactics if we can feel. We can only accomplish our strategy if we can feel, so feel!

Posted in BJJ


“Kaizen (改善), Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the best”, refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement…”

The Japanese Arts and Philosophies pervade the American experience of the Martial Arts. At some point, I expect Kaizen to make its way into the Martial Arts as it has in many American businesses. The Martial Art I expect to see it in the most is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I can’t roll with a group of Blue or Purple Belts without one of them telling me they are stuck on a plateau, meaning, they aren’t improving. I remember when I was approaching this Martial Art more traditionally, I too, would find myself on a plateau. The question is, how can we continually improve in the Martial Arts? Where is the Kaizen?

With my background, I can’t help but think of it in terms of anatomy and physiology. the functional unit of the body is the sensorimotor loop. It has to do with how we feel (not just emotionally) and how we move. I believe sensorimotion to be the key to Kaizen in the Martial Arts.

Success within the Martial Arts is largely predicated upon how well someone moves and how well someone perceives (seeing, feeling, etc). So if you find yourself on a plateau, ask yourself – is this a problem in how I’m moving my body, how I’m perceiving my opponent’s movement, or both? Once you have the answer to that, it’s time to Drill it. Questioning and Drilling is the way out of a Plateau…and a way to Kaizen.