My dear readers! This should catch you up on the BJJ journey over the last few months as I haven’t posted anything in the vein in a few months. So, here we go!
I’ve never wrestled beyond being thrown around by my buddies in the backyard when I was a kid or pretending I was a WWE wrestler (back in the day WWF). I’ve known some wrestlers, but never experienced tying up and learning the hard business of wrestling. Our team is blessed with some guys that wrestled in High School and took it fairly seriously. That being said, wrestling is pretty big here in Idaho and it’s been evident in observing the tournaments we’ve been a part of, more specifically in the NoGi divisions. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that if you chucked a rock at any BJJ school here, the odds of hitting a former wrestler are pretty good.
About seven weeks ago, Coach began offering a NoGi class again plus a class for learning wrestling specific techniques.
This has been an education in endurance.
I should’ve taken wrestling in High School. Hell, I should’ve sought out BJJ, Wrestling and Judo.
Similar to NoGi, there are some things in wrestling that are directly transferable to Gi, specifically the take downs and defending them, as well as techniques like the “sit-out”. So far I’ve been working on my ability to sprawl, tie-up, shoot a solid single or double leg take down, and perform a sit-out. I’m not the best at these things, however, in just the small amount of time I’ve dedicated to learning, my confidence level on my feet has increased dramatically. My classmates who have more wrestling skills sets have also noticed my shots are getting better.
Adding this training has also allowed me to see things from a different angle when deploying my game in a roll. For example(I use this not to brag, but rather as an illustration of how small additions to training can help open your eyes to things you might not have seen before or considered), at a recent open mat, my team mate and I started from standing and I adopted the wrestling position that my Coach had been showing me and went to tie up. My plan was to tie up, angle to my left slightly and go for a single leg takedown or ankle pick and move to side control or knee on belly from there. As I went to tie up, my partner attempted a guard pull. This made it possible to grasp the foot being raised into an almost modified ankle pick and I was able to quickly move past his guard and begin implementing my game. It wasn’t the smoothest, most badass move, but it was there and I was able to see it easier due to the small amount of training I’ve added in.
Things like that are beginning to click for me and I’m enjoying the process.
The work I am putting in learning takedowns for wrestling, the constant up and down, up and down, is some serious cardio work in and of itself and I can see why wrestlers are strong, lean and cut. That work alone is worth it for me as I can immediately translate the endurance I am getting to the Gi, but as illustrated above, there are a lot of things that can open up when one “cross-trains” (for lack of a better term).
Our team has just under three weeks to go before the next tournament we are participating in and I’m eager to see how we do this time around. So between everything I’m learning in the “trifecta” of Gi, NoGi and Wrestling, there are a few areas of my game that I’ve been really focusing on for this tournament and I’m confident, curious and a bit excited on seeing the results of implementing what I’ve been learning and improving on. Regardless, win or learn, I’ll be able to see how well I can implement this stuff under pressure and what changes I need to make going forward.
We’ve recently added some more newcomers to the team and I’ve been reaping the benefits of helping them with the basics and walking them through the techniques being taught in class. This has such a great impact – something I believe I’ve mentioned before – in helping retain the knowledge better as I am explaining and walking the new white belt through it. Important to any good school it also helps the team retain more training partners because the newcomer has someone to help them out and doesn’t drop the mic and leave.
Remember your first couple months?
Like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant or being thrown in the deep end of a pool without being able to swim, right? All that information overwhelming you?
Remember your first rolls as a white belt?
Like a bull in a china shop, right? Just crashing around, using all strength and trying to implement the ONE technique you learned and simultaneously trying a move that you saw on YouTube, Instagram or the latest UFC fight with absolutely no context?
Remember how your more experienced partner would tell you to calm down and when you wouldn’t, they’d look at you like an adorable toddler and then proceed to humble you into being calm when all they want to do is help?
My recent experience with one of our new white belts has been a great education for me, not just in helping with techniques and getting it down for my own knowledge base, but also in the rolls. I hadn’t thought of how much white belts “spaz-out” in awhile. It’s been a good reminder of where I (where we all) started. Even though I began my journey as a white belt almost a year and a half ago, it’s easy to forget those first steps. Working with this newcomer has been a great stress inoculator, too, during rolls.
I’ve already written about the benefits of being under pressure here and here; I believe that voluntarily putting yourself into those situations makes you better. Rolling with a brand new white belt reminds me of tournament-like conditions, it’s a little chaotic and your opponent (in this case the white belt you are trying to work with) is going all strength and all speed, going way too fast and basically just being a brand new white belt. It has offered me the opportunity to calm and detached as I put myself in positions that could be bad and seek to work out of it. While the newcomer thinks that having you inverted and folded in half gives him the advantage, you are calm, aware of where you are in space and are looking for where he is off-balance or where a sweep could be implemented, etc.
It’s also given me the opportunity to focus on using more leverage and technique over strength and find that delicate harmony between the three (btw I’m of the camp that believes all three are needed). It is also a great combatant against the negative aspects of the Ego, you know, that side that will feel embarrassed if the newcomer tapped you or you couldn’t make something work? It’s a chance, just like any roll, to test drive and experiment; to shake down your game.
Professor Robson Moura visited us again in May as our gym hosted a RMNU only seminar. The seminar held a ton of information all surrounding a sequence from the butterfly guard, it was good to be able to take away some good information as working versions of the open guard has been something I’ve taken to since my last tournament. We had more RMNU teammates from California join us this time and it was good to reconnect with a few I’d met before and to connect with a few that I hadn’t. Obviously, a good way teammates connect is through the training and the rolls. I had some great experiences rolling with some blues and purples from our California team. I did miss my chance to roll with Prof. Moura during our open mat – note to self – act, don’t wait. Silver lining though was again watching him work with different belts and skill levels and seeing how he adapts and deploys his game with each of them.
It’s weird, typing this next part, but since being promoted to an RMNU Green Belt, I’ve received my first, second and third stripes! The blue mile marker is just down the road, on the horizon. One rep at a time, one drill at a time, one roll at a time – it’s getting closer.
A certain teammate of mine received his second stripe on the same night I received mine. He joined the 208 crew shortly after I did and we just clicked the first couple interactions we’ve had. Having “grown up” together has proved to be a mutually beneficial relationship on the mats. We’ll notice changes in each other’s game, he’ll modify and improve his game, then I will, and vice versa. One week he’s dominating the majority of our rolls, the next week I am, you get the idea.
If you aren’t already, on top of helping the newcomers and younger ranks, I encourage you to actively seek out those who are better than you and learn from them constantly. While I do believe every single person who bows on the mat brings something of value to learn, there are about ten teammates that I particularly love working with and rolling with including my “roll-mate”. Coincidentally, as I think about it, the majority of them I’ve known the longest on my journey at 208 so I think there is something to that. However, they add so much value to my journey and I hope I am returning the favor.
You might be comfortable with your roll-mate, but that blue, purple or brown belt across the mat… chances are highly in your favor that they will bring value to your journey and you’ll be able to give something of value back to them, too.
I said all of that to say this: Find and nurture the relationships at your gym. There is so much value there for your journey.
Until next time.
**Hey there! First, I want to express my thanks to you for reading this post. If you find value in what I’m writing or you know someone who would, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share this post far and wide. Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat or even E-mail, if you’d like to share it, feel free! While you are at it leave a comment or two, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thanks again!**