Kaizen · Training

Mind. Blown.

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There was something that my coaches and fellow practitioners spoke about when I first started doing jiu-jitsu – they spoke about the fact that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would blow my mind.

At first I had no idea what they meant. How could a sport do that? You don’t really hear about hockey players having their mind blown by some new tackling move.

Then it happened to me. I think it’s the moment where all the principal based teaching at Kaizen started to come together and began to open up a myriad of possibilities as to what I could do with my jiu-jitsu. I started to see moves and opportunities everywhere, and now at least 4 out of 5 times I step onto the mats at Kaizen something new is revealed to me; some new technique or possibility that hadn’t thought of before.

demo

I was discussing this with Ze the other day, and also about the difficulty of conveying what this phenomenon is, and just how it happens. People who don’t do BJJ sometimes struggle to comprehend what I’m talking about. I think it comes from the fact that the instructors are just so involved with what they’re teaching. Not a day goes by when I don’t see Michael sitting in the lounge watching some jiu-jitsu video, or on the mats testing out some new theory or other. Each of the instructors is devoted to understanding the academic and scholastic approaches to their art, not just to being able to execute a move in a monkey see, monkey do kind of way. Not only this, but it also comes from the way that the principals are explained to the students, so that once the principal is understood, lots of different opportunities are available.

Ze described it well once, but I’d like to expand on his analogy. Imagine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a corridor with a million and more doors. What Kaizen Academy does is hand you the master key, and show you how to adapt it, so you can open up hundreds of thousands of doors in one fell swoop as long as you understand how it works. This is in comparison to some other teaching techniques which would see you crafting the key to each door individually. This is what I mean when I say my mind is blown. It’ll be because the move I’ve just witnessed and understood has allowed me to open another hundred thousand doors.

Hope that made sense…

Until next time,

B

x

 With thanks to Laura Jenney Photography for the image.

Competition · Training

In Preparation: North West Open

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It’s BJJ 24/7’s North West Open this Sunday and Kaizen Academy is taking its biggest team yet. We’re taking fourteen athletes, and we’re entered into nineteen different divisions across the weights and experience levels. I’m very excited to see what the team can achieve because I think everyone has been working extremely hard to prepare for this competition. Everyone has been working on their games and developing the different aspects that they favour or that they’re best at.

As for myself I picked myself up after BJJ 24/7 Liverpool and looked at where things went a bit belly up. I’m feeling confident about Sunday and I’m very excited. The division I’m in, the white <56.5, is the biggest division I’ve ever been in. It’s still small compared to some of the guys divisions, but there’s six in the gi division and the same in no-gi. It should be good and I see all of this as a learning experience. I love going with a large team, Liverpool was very fun (stressful, but fun), and the most exciting thing is that in this competition Kaizen is fielding a team including five girls! We’ve always had a large contingent of girls training on the mats (now on and off to over a dozen), but five is the most we’ve ever taken to competition.

Considering that the gym only turned one this week, that we’re taking fourteen to a regional competition speaks volumes about how far we’ve come. Most of the people who are entering have been training consistently for less than a year, and their confidence has burgeoned to want to compete.

I’m not going to say how many medals I think we can bring home, but I think we’re going to do well and that everyone will do themselves proud. Just stepping up to the mats is freaking awesome.

I’ve been working hard both on the mats and in the weights room this month. I’ve been trying to eat more (doesn’t seem to reflect in my weight though!!), and I hope that it will pay off. This is going to be my last competition this year (I think) so I’m super excited about heading along. Now I’m going to focus my attention and see what happens on Sunday with the support of a fantastic team.

Until next time,

B

xx

 

Kaizen · Training

Training Tuesday: Fasten Your Seatbelts

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So, it’s been a little while since I did one of these, so I thought I better get back into the habit. This week we’re looking at back control and specifically the seatbelt grip.

In BJJ the back is clearly the one of the most dominant positions. It’s worth four points under IBJJF rules. That it is a dominant position is especially true for smaller practitioners like me. If I manage to attain side control on someone, if they’re much bigger than me, whether they’re skilled or not, they can probably just sit up or bench press me off. I only weigh 52kg. For an 80kg+ guy, lifting me off them is not a particularly difficult issue. Yet, if I’m on their back, clearly the bench press is useless. Muscles are no use when somebody is clinging to your back like a monkey.

I’ve been told by all my instructors that I should seek the back at every opportunity, rather than anything where strength and weight could be a factor. So (just for the purpose of this blog), say that you’ve got to the back – what do you do once you’re there? And how do you stay there?

The key principal is to keep your hips in line with the other persons hips. All their escapes come from them manoeuvring out to the side, down or up, so that their hips are no longer in line with the person attacking the back. In doing this it makes it a lot easier to escape the position and to negate any submission attempts. So for the attacker to be able to progress to a submission, it’s important that their position is maintained long enough to be able to see it through.

One of the key ways of doing this is by maintaining the seatbelt grip.

So called the seatbelt because you’re effectively strapping yourself to your opponent like a seatbelt, one arm under theirs and one arm round their neck to meet in the middle. An over-under hug from the back if you like. Key point to the seatbelt is that your choking hand should be on the bottom of the grip to hide it from the defenders attempts to pull it down. Another key point is that your grip should be high with your elbows squeezing together. Clearly you can’t actually make your elbows meet ’cause your opponents body is in the way, but the tighter they are, the tougher it is to break the grip.

A lot of people say that the key to back control is the hooks on the legs, and yeah sure this is very important to complete control, but it is not impossible to stay on someone’s back without hooks, as long as the seatbelt is maintained. We have a drill that we do at Kaizen sometimes where upon getting the seatbelt grip the attacker tries to stay on the opponents back without the hooks. It’s surprising just how effective this is if the grip is tight and correct, and you follow your opponents hips with your own (manoeuvring your opponent to make the most of a back take is a whole ‘nother post).

The seatbelt grip isn’t everything, clearly, but it was amazing how much easier it became for me to stay on someone’s back once I’d figured out how to use it alongside the principal of hip alignment. Sometimes I still fall off if I lose my grip, or am too hasty attempting a submission, but my back control taking has certainly become a lot stronger since making minuscule adjustments to the way I fastened my seatbelt.

Until next time…

B

 

Training

In Pursuit Of Progress

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Sometimes it’s quite difficult to know how you’re progressing in BJJ. Okay, so we have stripes and belts, given at the instructors discretion, that allow us to know where they think we are. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to keep track of how much your game has improved, or how working on different things has been paying off.

And then, the other day, something happened which meant I was able to see exactly how much I’d improved in the space of a year. A video popped up in my Facebook memories, showing me rolling with Cosima a year ago. I posted it to my Girl On A Mission Facebook page, so you can go check it out!

Anyway, as I was watching that it showed me just how many changes I’d made, and how much better I’d become. Quite frankly it was a bit cringey to watch that, but I guess we’ve all got to start somewhere, and I clearly wasn’t going to be amazing at it before I started training five times a week with Michael Wood at Kaizen.

In terms of the content of the video, it’s clear that I had very little idea about principals (something which provides the core basis for teaching at Kaizen Academy). I’m giving away underhooks for free, I’m being swept all over the place and my positional recognition is nowhere near what it is today. The being swept is fairly understandable, I had no idea that was a bad thing (!), and didn’t know anything about the rules or points system (IBJJF system). Now I’m fairly up on the rules, and enjoy figuring out the best ways to maximise those points.

What I didn’t know then is not really important. The point of this is to prove that even when it feels like you’ve not progressed, in reality you’ve made leaps and bounds. On a day to day basis it’s difficult to see where the improvements have been made, but this video from a year ago makes it as plain as day. If I had a roll with myself from a year ago, I would kick my ass up and down the mats. It would make for a rather strange experience though!!

The appearance of that video just gave a chance for a moment of reflection and “oh yeah” realisation, as to what my jiu-jitsu was like a year ago. I’ll be fascinated to see how much my game improves in the next year…

Until next time,

B

x

Training

Just Lift The Bar First

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I’ve been aware ever since I started BJJ that an integral part of it was going to be strength and conditioning. Yes, doing all of the technique classes and rolling is the main part of the game, but s+c can supplement and support what you’re doing on the mat.

Since I started BJJ “properly” (and here I’m talking about when I started doing classes consistently, more than once a week, and taking a serious interest in technique based learning), so therefore a year this October (when Kaizen Academy opened), I have lost roughly 12kg in body weight. Some of this was due to a prolonged illness, some of it was because of the sport and working out 5-7 days a week. What does this have to do with strength and conditioning? Well it’s the fact that I’m right at the bottom of my weight class, and I’m not very strong. I’ve gotten better in recent months, but whilst you can see a slight muscle line on my arms/back/shoulders if you look very closely, it’s not where I want to be at in terms of muscle definition, and it’s not enough.

So, I decided to start dedicated some time to actually going to the weights room and putting in the effort there. I’ve only done a couple of sessions so far, and my body is screaming at me in dislike, but hopefully the work will pay off. When I was talking to our in-gym guru (Robyn) about this he said that there were three basic movements you need to do for most sports – unless there’s a specialist muscle group you’re working – and that is a squat of some sort, a lift (i.e. a deadlift) and a push (i.e. a benchpress). The problem is, however, is that when I used to go the gym before I lost all that weight, I could squat 25kg, benchpress 30kg and deadlift about 50kg, at my best. It’s still not huge, and for some people those weights would be absolutely puny, but for me it was okay.

Now, however, having lost about ¼ of my body mass, I’ve had to drop even further down the scale. I’m now squatting 15kg, benching 20kg, and deadlifting 30kg. So I’ve had to take it down in all three of the major areas. For bench press, for now, all I’m doing is lifting the bar. I don’t even bother putting any weights on the end. Yes, I was a little bit gutted (and a little bit embarrassed) at using so little weight, but I figured that at least I was trying. In a couple of weeks, if I can pull of my sets and reps well at this weight, I’ll move up a little bit.

Everybody’s got to (re)start somewhere though, right?

The other thing I was concerned about when starting all this up again was making sure that I got my technique right. I was a little scared about deadlifting because I’d heard so many horror stories about lasting back injuries if you messed up the technique. So, in that vein, I got someone (Cosima + Kayleigh) to watch my form and correct/advise me. Hopefully this means that I can now deadlift safely without fear of doing myself any damage.

I do actually like lifting weights, and I can’t wait to see all the “newbie gains” that the guys at the gym keep saying I’ll get. I don’t want to put on too much weight (a couple of kilos would be grand), but I don’t think that’s something I’ll worry about just yet. Right now, my goals are to get strong, a bit more muscle, and to make myself more injury-proof, which is yet another benefit of strength and conditioning. I don’t want to do too much of it, because I find that my body gets stressed out at me if I do, but I’m aiming to do two sessions a week, on top of the BJJ that I already train.

How much strength and conditioning do you do? What exercises do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

B

x

Kaizen · Training

10 Things You Should Do As A White Belt

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  1. Learn which part of your game that you love and work at it to make it super strong – Hopefully you’ll have a coach who will help you recognise which bit of your game you might be strongest at (at this moment in time), and help you work on it so it becomes your go-to attack, defence or guard. 
  2. Visit another gym – Having a comfortable and awesome home gym is great, but going to another gym for a session or two gives you a totally different vibe, and might help you see something from a different perspective. 
  3. Roll with a black belt – It’s fun. You think “oooh I’ve got something…” and then it’s all of the NOPE 0.0001 seconds later. 
  4. Compete – I know competition isn’t for everyone, but I think everyone should try at least once to decide they don’t like it. Even if it’s just a little inter club friendly. It’s like the food your mum used to try and get you to eat when you were little… if you didn’t try it, how did you know? 
  5. Branch out from your comfort zone – If you normally train in the gi, try no-gi, or vice versa. It’s amazing the different possibilities with both.
  6. Don’t underestimate yourself – Plateaus are all part of the game. Even the best black belts in the world have had moments where they felt frustrated or stuck, but the thing is is that they didn’t give up and they figured out a way to solve their problem. 
  7. Be delighted in the small things – Okay, so you might not be winning gold at every competition, or sweeping that 100kg guy all over the mat, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. I like to look for the little things in my game to see where I’m improving. If I can sweep someone I couldn’t last week, or the guy who normally subs me in 10 seconds has to work for a minute to do so this time… that’s all improvement. You’re not going get amazing overnight, especially not at this sport!
  8. Find your Jiu-Jitsu familythis one is pretty self explanatory. I found mine, and they’re the best bunch of people I could ever ask to train with. 
  9. Learn something flashyone of my personal favourite stories is when I was grappling, before I’d really started looking at any of the nuances of BJJ, was that I asked Michael (my coach) how to do a flying armbar. He told me that there was no point learning that until I’d learnt the basics. Since then I’ve worked on my guard game, sweeps, passing etc. A few months ago, I finally learnt a flying armbar. So that’s my flashy shit ticked off. Not sure I’ll ever be able to pull it off in comp though! 
  10. Don’t give upIf you’re getting beaten all the time, then it won’t be that way forever, new people will come in, or you’ll get better and start beating some of the old hands. Equally you won’t be a white belt forever, so enjoy it. This is the time when you’ve got the most chance to explore, with the least expected of you. Enjoy it. 

 

 

Until next time,

B