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

Strategy, Tactics, & Techniques

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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.

The Path of the Ronin

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“Seek not a Master…
Seek what the Masters sought.”

–Matsuo Basho (adapted)

Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,
hasn’t shed all of its Japanese sensibility.
It may be one of the vestiges of the Samurai.

When it comes to Jiu-Jitsu
(or at least my brand of it),
I am not a Samurai.

I have had many teachers.
Each training partner,
each opponent has been my teacher
but I do not have ONE teacher.

I have to admit that I am very envious of those people
who find their teacher
their teacher that they can remain with
for their life as a Martial Artist.
They are modern day Samurai
and their teachers are Lords.

I am not a Samurai.
I am a Ronin…without 46 brothers.
I would love to find a “Lord”
to make me a “Samurai”…
but that isn’t the thing I’d love to find the most.

I’d love to find
(and I think I have)
a path that makes me into a teacher
where there is far less need for any more Ronin
and a new class of Samurai emerges
a new Bushido
where what works trumps any tradition.

I think Eddie Bravo has done a lot of the leg work on this…
but I think there is a distance still yet to be traveled
by other Ronin.

Posted in BJJ


scramble-logoHave you heard the term, “Scramble?”
Better yet, have you heard a definition for it?

There is a Zen saying,
“Music is the space between the notes.”

I think in much the same way,
a Scramble is the space between BJJ (or wrestling)

Whenever there is a lot of movement going on in a match
and the players are moving outside of standard positions in BJJ,
we consider them to be in a Scramble.

That isn’t exactly how I would define a scramble, though.
The kind of submission grappling that I endorse
has to do with maintaining intentional contact (focusing on contact, not pressure or how hard one contacts) with one’s opponent.

I believe each time intentional contact is lost, we are in a scramble
and we have to wrestle
instead of using our Jiu-Jitsu.

While I don’t like this phrase,
I’m going to use it:
If you’re “Scrambling,” you’re doing it wrong.

Even if you are escaping a bad position
and you’re going to win the scramble…
I still think you’re doing it wrong.

The principles I teach of go with your opponent
but stop a part of his body
are espousing that intentional contact.

No matter how unorthodox a position you may find yourself in,
the answer lies in the principles…
and not in the Scramble.

Confessions of a (BJJ) Nerd

5422dad8b44a21a05f7e41c4ae147c08I’m an avowed, unapologetic, unathletic, autistic nerd.
Last night, I had a very serious talk with my seven year old stepson
about my favorite incarnation of Batman
and what I think would be a better interpretation of the Dark Knight.
I enjoyed the hell out of it. Maybe more than he did.
Like I said, Nerd of Nerds, lifetime commission in the Nerd Corps.

I don’t think it’s any accident that I’m also a Martial Artist.
I’ve come into contact with a quite a few of “us” throughout my years in the Dojo,
most recently in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

If you’re a member of the BJJ Nerd Corps
-you may be the owner of every Victory Belt book
-have watched over 50 DVDs (sets, even)
-spend hours a week on YouTube watching matches and instructionals
-come early stay and stay late for class

If you’ve ascended to the upper echelon,
you know stats on the most successful and unsuccessful techniques
from the major tournaments.

Our kind likes BJJ.
It may be our first time being athletic,
our first time getting acceptance
for our physical acumen,
first time being defined by something more brawn than brain.

We do alright in BJJ,
maybe even better than we thought we’d do,
but we’re not at the top levels.
There is always a level above the Nerds,
the same level that’s forever been above us:
The Athletes (The Apex Athlete being the Wrestler)

They may wear the same rank as us
but they outclass us in skill
(rarely in anything else).
We can slow them down
maybe keep them from passing our guard
or keep from getting tapped
but we hardly ever positionally dominate
or even better, tap them.

We likely have anatomical disadvantages
and sensory processing issues
that hinder our athletic abilities.

We cannot meet
-their speed with our speed
-their strength with our strength
-their endurance with our endurance
So what can we do?

There’s good news.
We don’t have to become them
in order to beat them.

The promise of Martial Arts is that
you can be smaller, weaker, and slower and you can still win.
In other words, you can be the lesser athlete and still win.
If anything, that’s what Royce Gracie showed in UFC.

Yes, we do have to become better athletes
but we what we really need to become
is better Martial Artists.

Let the athletes focus on more athleticism,
let’s focus on Martial Arts,
let’s focus on more skill.

The height of Martial Arts skill
is not in applying force to an opponent,
the height is in redirecting our opponent’s force…
using our opponent’s attack against them.

But we need feel,
we need sensitivity
to exploit our opponent’s attacks.

Unfortunately, Feel isn’t really taught in our Dojos.
It’s purported as a mythic attainment that comes only through
the accrual of years on the Mat.
Years of warming-up, stretching, 3-5 techniques per class
(most of which we never use), rolling 3-5 rounds, and conditioning….
Isn’t there a faster way?
Oh, yes.

Feel doesn’t take years to develop.
Feel is a trainable skill.
Feel is the only hope for the Nerd.

As your fellow nerd,
I offer you Drill to Feel.

Drill To Feel is the first step
in developing the game to beat
all other games.

But many won’t listen…
especially the Meatheads
(who have a little less meat in the head, right (at least, metaphorically)?.
Only nerds have the prescience to be an early adopter.
But Nerds are less easily swayed,
more naturally skeptical.
Not interested in herding sheep-le.

If this is the first you’re reading of this
and need more info,
sign up for the newsletter to get instant access
to Five Free Videos on
The Fundamentals of Grappling
(in the upper right hand corner)
which outline how simple
BJJ (and all of grappling) actually is.

If what you see resonates with you,
Brother (or Sister) Nerd,
then pick up Drill to Feel.
Devour it (cognitively),
apply it (actively)
and you’ll feel (somatically and affectively)
so much better
because your (grappling) “feel” will be so much better!