Monday, 24 November 2008


Last weekend's session at the Academy was productive because I got opportunity to work on some skills that I haven't had a lot of opportunity to practice since I've been training i.e. keeping someone in my guard and attacking with triangles and armbars, which I've not been able to do either, in order to work on my movement whilst rolling. I didn't try to cinch them in because I was drilling with what seemed to be a beginner White Belt female.

The Instructor had us work on escaping armlocks and triangle attacks in No Gi and Gi Jiu-Jitsu. I was able to roll with a more experienced White Belt and was able to secure two armlocks from near enough the same position, which seems to be how I am catching them more often than not these days.

This Saturday just gone I woke up later than I'd liked and wandered down for the Gi class. An athletic warm up session was given followed by a fun exercise. A visiting Black Belt decided to join the class and mostly trained with the Instructor and the Purple Belts present. I got to drill the technique the Instructor was showing with another White Belt.

My brother had mentioned this White Belt before as being someone who was a bit rough with him and preferred to use strength more than any other attribute. Through the technique drilling he was fine but during the part of the session where we get assigned a position to work from and objective to achieve. I was on bottom for 5 minutes. I think I frustrated him because I was not giving him my arm for the armbar and made it difficult for him to do it - basically, I was escaping before I gave him chance to control me and lock the technique in - and whilst he was ontop of me, mounted, he put his clenched fist into my throat and basically put (as BJ Penn says) all his might into making it uncomfortable so that I couldn't breathe.

I've done that once to my brother when we first started BJJ in 2006 which my Instructor said was okay but I got the feeling you don't do it to training partners because it's beyond acceptable so I haven't done it since and it took me aback when he was doing it.

I got to roll with a Purple Belt after the class was finished, and he was kind enough to show some moves that I could do to try to ensure it doesn't happen again.

I asked two of the guys who train at the Academy and they basically said "He's like that".

I was later explaining to one of them that one of the chief Instructors had been telling me that technique and strength go hand in hand - if you focus on doing a technique and you can't land it because you're not putting in enough strength, then you need to fit it to your body and your capabilities - instead of assuming that pure technique will land it 100% every time.

When the White Belt came into the changing rooms, he caught the end of the conversation about technique and strength, he was saying that one shouldn't use strength because it's not as good as technique, and how using all strength set him back in his development.

I had to stop myself from saying something because I didn't think putting your fist into someone's throat to make them uncomfortable by not being able to breathe easily was very technical nor something you do to someone who you train with.

Sunday, 2 November 2008


This week's training has been productive. Hard but productive. Either I've lost one pound since I've been training (which I find hard to believe) or I've lost a stone (which seems to be more believeable). My Instructor thinks that with continuous hard training and some other exercise that I can lose much more than one stone.

Whilst I was rolling with one of the Blue Belts, I was able to escape submission attempts using the technical escapes, remaining calm and breathing properly.

That might not be huge to other people, but it's significant for me because it means that I am getting back to how I used to roll, except with the added advantage of having more varied sparring partners who all have different games, different strengths and different skill levels at Jiu-jitsu.

At the end of Thursday's session we lined up, shaking each other's hands and thanking each other for their participation in the class. I'd grappled limitedly with the Brown Belt who I've mentioned previously. I thought I did okay, I still got submitted each time we grappled. He made a positive comment about my efforts during class. At the end of the class, there was a comment about how much better I was moving and grappling, but I can't remember who said it.

Saturday's class was the first class I've had with our Instructor. He has been visiting many different places in the world for the past three-four weeks, winning medals, teaching seminars and such. There were some positives out of the class. The class focused on takedowns and guard drills which was needed but confirmed a few things for me:- a) I am not good at taking the back when I'm in position to do so, b) I need to improve on keeping my guard and c) I need to work on submissions off my back. My Instructor said that I should try to be on top all the time. I can see the sense in it, it's just I feel out of ideas when I have mounted someone unless they try to sweep or roll me over then I know (sort of) what to do; I feel I have a lot more ideas and options in side mount. I think I'll explore other options next week or ask someone to show me some moves from the mount.

All in all- not bad.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


Training has been going well. Instead of focusing on mastering the application of techniques in sparring, I have been using my time sparring to remain calm and relaxed, so as to not perform the way that beginners are reputedly accused of.

At my last session, this past Saturday, instead of going through techniques, skill specific drills, etc. because a competition is coming up, the Instructor made us compete in a friendly tournament.

I was matched up with a grappler who I believe to have some Judo experience, and definitely know him to have more Jiu-jitsu experience in the Gi as he has a stripe on his White Belt. He was taller and stronger than me. Fighting for grips was very tough because of his strength, I felt like I could not get the grips I wanted, and he was very aggressive and fast paced. I was eventually taken down and my opponent implemented his game.

I found it impossible to regain guard or do much more than attempt to grab his arm and roll him (in the manner that the Gracie's teach to all prospective students to illustrate how effective Jiu-jitsu is) and grab onto his collar. I hasten to add that my grabbing of his collar wasn't to choke him - I haven't been taught how to do that yet - but merely to keep control of some part of his Gi.

It felt like a very long time, whilst he was on me, pressing his weight down, being very competitive and agressive; I eventually swept him after what felt like a million attempts and the futility of competing almost set in. Whilst in his guard, he attempted to either go for the armbar or the triangle, but I like to think that I have some defence to these moves, so after escaping the attempt, I was on top in side-control and started to work on the submission moves I know from side-control. Admittedly - I only practice the americana and a rolling armlock from side-control. I couldn't get the americana the first time or the second. I am used to grapplers putting everything into holding position, so much so as doing dirty tricks, and I think I used one myself. I put my forearm into my opponent's throat and put pressure on him. I also tried to do the Carlson Gracie choke where you use your Gi, thread it under their neck, then pull it and use their elbow to pressure their throat.

I can't remember if I went for a rolling armbar or if I got swept. I think it was the armbar, although as I say I don't know, but I ended up holding his arm between my legs, facing downwards, trying to get an armlock from underneath. I felt him about to roll out of it, so I grabbed his Gi pants, and as he rolled I went with him and worked on finishing the armbar. I felt a rapid movement from his hands against my leg, which I thought was a tap, and I let go because I didn't want to cause an injury by, essentially, Frank Mir'ing his arm. He stated he didn't tap but the Instructor and Referee said that in the interests of safety the decision was going to me because if we had reset from the exact same position - I could have forced the tap or done damage.

I was unbelievably elated, not that I had won, but that it was over and that I could now start to breathe. I thanked my opponent, received congratulations for the armlock and I reflect on it and think I did good. Even though I was on the bottom for a large percentage of the fight, when I was on top, I made it count. I suppose I learned that from my brother. Through rolling with him, I know that if I am on top, I have to make sure that it counts if I want to finish a guy.

I reflect upon something one of the Brown Belt said in response to a question I had. I said, "I feel like I'm always being reactive instead of proactive. Is there anything you can suggest to do that will change that?"; what I had wanted was some moves that could at least make me think I was doing more than defending against the Purple and Browns. He said "Well, you've diagnosed your own problem, be more active... To be honest, you really shouldn't be here because you haven't completed the Foundation program, so you're going to find it hard." His candid approach was appreciated, and there are reasons why I don't do the Foundation program (specifically, it conflicts with lectures every other week, and I don't want to pay £60 to have 1 hour 30 mins grappling every week when I can have 3 hours grappling a week) but I think - if I had gone to the Foundation classes - would I have ever been tested like that and been able to overcome it?

Monday, 29 September 2008


I had no prior plans on Tuesday so instead of staying at home playing on the X-Box 360 I decided to travel to Gracie Barra Birmingham for the first time. I wanted to take up the Basic and Advanced No Gi Class, however I didn't arrive until after the class had started, so I just did the Advanced Gi Class to get back into the swing of things.

I reasoned that I would need a Gi if I wanted to practice Jiu-jitsu in the long term, for many reasons, so after trying on both an A3 and an A4 Gi to see what would be an appropriate choice, and a brief chat between Romulo, Norby and myself, I bought an A3 Blue BJJ Gi.

Former multiple time Jiu Jitsu World Champion Romulo Barral took the class. My fitness isn't what it used to be, so I felt disappointed that I wasn't able to completely the warm up properly, or that I couldn't just participate fully as I am used to.

We began with takedown drilling, then he showed a reverse armlock technique from the bottom, which was a good one, which we then drilled but I wasn't able to grasp all the steps right away; we then started to do a drill where one guy was on their back with the intention of keeping their opponent in their guard, and their opponents intention was to pass the guard.

I wasn't surprised that my guard retention was awful and my ability to stop people from passing was worse, however I probably got the worst of it when my first partner was a guy listed as the No Gi Instructor on the Academy's website. During these drills I was surprised that I was able to escape some positions i.e. an armlock, but I think it was mostly a combination of partners going light and me just doing the right stuff at the right time. I tapped once at the end of the session because I was caught in a head and arm triangle choke and, I am not sure how to escape it, so rather than struggle to escape, I tapped my partner.

I got to test out the Gi at Thursday's Foundation class. The class begin with snaking drills, which I have no problem in saying I am horrific at. I'm out of practice and even when I was doing them regularly I was never very good at them. I just need to practice them and when I've got it right, keep doing it exactly. The class then moved to doing drills which involved breaking one's fall when going to the mat.

There was then instruction on how to take the back from the mount, hold it and how to just relax and go with the flow. I asked a total 'n00b' question that I knew the answer to re: crossing one's legs when securing the back mount. I know that if you do it, you leave yourself open to embarassing leglocks. However I saw that there were some students who might not know it, so asked the question, that they might understand what not to do. Then the class was shown the rear naked choke.

I don't think my partner was used to doing the techniques as I think he was struggling to keep up with doing the techniques because he would have to have a rest period after he had taken my back, worked a choke and then it became my time to do the same. It's fine, though, we all have to start somewhere and it's not going to hurt me if I am patient and considerate of my training partners. I wasn't sure if I was doing the technique right, but I couldn't realistically check because my partner seemed to have a sensitive neck; either that, or I put it on a bit too tight the first time and it hurt his windpipe, which meant that when I would go for it, I wouldn't get it all the way on and he would tap.

Beyond that there was a lot of introducing myself to people who were already familiar with my brother, who also trains there; some of the guys then took opportunities to say "Look who's back", wait for them to say "Hello" and then tell them "It's not who you think it is". It was quite amusing to see Braulio (and others') reaction when I said "I'm not my brother".

I can't train next week because I need to be conservative with money however as soon as I get the Student Loan that I've requested, the first item on the agenda is to sort out a month by month contract which will allow me to train twice a week at Foundation Classes, in order to give me the skills that I will need in the Basic and Advanced Gi Classes, and then pick classes to attend during the week that I can regularly commit to, in order to help increase my proficiency as a grappler, jitsuka and person who doesn't want to be attacked in the streets.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


I got accepted into my first choice for Law School.

I will be studying Law and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Birmingham.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


"As Master Carlos always taught us, if you want to truly know someone, pay attention to them as they fight. When one is engaged in struggle or combat, they cannot hide their true personality." -- Professor Marcio Feitosa

When I first read this quote a few months ago, I thought that it was insightful and profound; when I read it again more recently, I applied it introspectively to my own personality. Of the few occasions that I can remember either being in a fight or some kind of situation where I was being attacked, I have noticed that my response has been characterised by a trend of acquiescence to an attacker's whim, that is to say taking the easy road, (e.g. "If I let them punch me and get their aggression out, then they'll stop") or fear of the unknown if resistance is given (e.g. "If I fight back, who knows what will happen? will their friends attack me? will they put me in hospital?") or fear of the unknown if resistance is given in a negative way (e.g. "If I hit them, will this affect me legally? will I be able to stop myself?"). This truly bothers me because I think that had I gone down fighting I would now be able to look at myself and go "You've never backed down from anyone and you've never been hesitant about defending yourself" but instead I look at myself and go "You didn't even fight back. Not once. When you were a child being hit by men, you didn't fight back" and that's what bothers me. Perhaps they were the right choices at the time but I'm not sure whether they are looking back at them.

I've been embarassed, I've been made to look over my shoulder whenever I'm not inside my own home, I've been paranoid about people who have had no malicious intent towards me, I've been made to feel like the safest place I can be is at home and I can't help but think by adopting these attitudes I am admitting defeat and saying that my attacker won and has won for nearly 10 years of my life. I don't want to be that person anymore.

Sunday, 6 April 2008


In an earlier post, I asked myself, what University should I go to?

Assuming that I can get the grades, I want to go to Birmingham City University, which means I will be going to Gracie Barra Birmingham.

Saturday, 5 April 2008


By learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I am attempting to counteract the effects of traumatic series of events in my past, develop my ability to conduct a successful self defence and provide an outlet for spirituality that I recognise is present in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

This isn't about competing or being awarded a Blue Belt, a Purple Belt, a Brown Belt or a Black Belt. This about self improvement, self mastery and discipline through hard work.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Individual v Team

In order to determine to what extent it is acceptable for a Jitsuka to train at multiple schools, the example of the Judoka, the individuality of the sport, school rivalries, the focus on being a team sport and instructors shall be discussed.

In Judo Judoka often teach their most efficient moves to visiting Judoka from other Judo clubs and encourage their club members to train anywhere and everywhere. This has to be because Judo as a sport is about the individual. The individual represents themselves and their School and/or Nation, in that order, therefore when the overall level of competition is at a high level, other Judoka have to acclimatise to that standard, which only furthers the sport. This suggests that to a minor extent it is acceptable for a Jitsuka to regularly train at multiple schools.

It can be said that Jiu-Jitsu is an individual sport. A Jitsuka develops at their own pace, their technique improves after they work hard to improve it; they start putting it all together on the mats because they want to become a better Jitsuka. A Jitsuka’s team can only help them so much, it very much has to be an individual effort because, at the end of the day, when it comes down to who is on the mat, it’s either the Jitsuka himself or his team mate and if its themselves they can only be helped so far. This illustrates that it is acceptable for a Jitsuka to regularly train at multiple schools.

It has been expressed that it is unfair to restrict a Jitsuka where they can or cannot train because a Jiu-Jitsu School has already set up a School in their area and has a policy that Jitsuka must train at their academy and their academy alone. It can be said that it is not fair to restrict a Jitsuka’s development solely because of geography. This much the author agrees with. The following is a hypothetical: as a Jitsuka, my local Jiu-Jitsu School is Alliance BJJ because it is 5 minutes bus ride away, I am finding it hard to develop a style for my Jiu-Jitsu that suits my body and flexibility; however if I travel for 35 minutes more, I can go to Gracie Barra, who will provide me with techniques and instruction that are more suited to me and my body’s capability as a Jitsuka. It surely is more correct to train with a team that will support and enhance your progression rather than a team that by virtue of location is closer to the Jitsuka. This highlights that it is acceptable for a Jitsuka to regularly train at multiple schools.

There are schools of thought that suggest that when a Jitsuka chooses a school to train at, they are making a decision to train exclusively at that school, and that school alone. By training with that school, one might argue that a Jitsuka perhaps singles them out from training with other school, especially any who may have a rivalry with your local school. Under that scenario - the only option available to a Jitsuka is to train at the school that they first trained at, buy into the school rivalry idea and build a fierce loyalty to their school. No longer would Jiu-Jitsu solely be about the purity of the technique; the purity of the technique would be felt to be enhanced, even sweeter, if it could be performed on a rival school member. This suggests that to a minor extent it is not acceptable for a Jitsuka to regularly train at multiple schools.

There is another school of thought that suggests that Jiu-Jitsu is a team sport. Jitsuka train together, learn together, roll together and they fight together as a team. Were one to make parallel’s between Jiu-Jitsu and its Samurai history; it is especially important for a Jitsuka to know that their Team, who represent a Samurai’s Clan, will be there to back them up and will go to war with them. It is suggested that when one competes for a Jiu-Jitsu School, it is then that they make a decision as to which School they fight for, as they make a decision as to who they will go to war with. Such a bond as this is hard to turn your back on, making it difficult for a Jitsuka to acceptably and regularly train at multiple different schools. This suggests that it is not acceptable for a Jitsuka to regularly train at multiple schools.

The final school of thought relates to Jiu-Jitsu Instructors. When a Jitsuka chooses a School to attend, they form a relationship with their Instructor. Effectively it becomes a contract between the two individuals – the Jitsuka subconsciously says, “I will support you and your school; I will represent your name and your school if you teach me to become better at Jiu-Jitsu” and the Instructor subconsciously replies, “I will teach you all I know provided that you support the school, represent the school, yourself and myself in a way that we can be proud of”. This becomes an unspoken agreement between Jitsuka and Instructor that illustrates that both parties have a vested interest in the development and prosperity of the other. After all, aside from the economic reasons for paying for Jiu-Jitsu classes, if your Instructor could not afford to rent the space for you to train, you would not have any Jiu-Jitsu classes, therefore it’s in your interests to ensure that they are able to do the things that you may not see. A second point related to Instructors is that when an Instructor becomes invested in your development, whether that is because they have awarded you a stripe, a Belt or you fight for their team, they are now placing time and energy into making you the best that you can be. To turn your back on that and effectively say “Thanks but this other Instructor is as good as you, so I want to train with them as well” is like a slap in the face to your Instructor. That is why at a certain point e.g. competing for their team, accepting a stripe or accepting a belt, it is not acceptable to regularly train at multiple schools.

In conclusion, the decision to train at multiple schools is an individual one. There is no right or wrong answer. You may improve as a Jitsuka quicker if you treat Jiu-Jitsu as an individual sport. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as you and your Instructor(s) are aware of what is going on. If you want to dedicate yourself to one Instructor and one School, there is nothing wrong with that either. Jiu-Jitsu regardless of what point of view you take on this is an individual journey; you can have help along the way, you can go it alone; you can seek instruction from multiple instructors, you can choose one instructor that you stick with; it is your choice.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Start: 18 Stone; 252 lbs; 114 kgs

End: 12.5 Stone; 175 lbs; 79.4 kgs