Training without a gym: Feynman technique for BJJ

How you train off the mats can be just as important as how you train on the mats. In addition to my note taking routine, I also do the following exercise when doing a monthly review or just looking to add new things to my game.

The Feynman technique

Named after Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, this technique has four simple steps:

  1. Get a sheet of paper and write the concept you’re trying to understand at the top.
  2. Explain the concept as if you were trying to teach it to someone who has never heard it before.
  3. When you get stuck, or find that your answers are lacking detail, go back to your source material for the answer.

(Credit: Ultralearning by Scott Young)

I’ve found that the Feynman technique can be easily applied to BJJ. For example, here is how I’ve used it when learning a new guard.

Continue reading

Training without a gym: Introduction and contents

As I write this, Covid-19 has brought the world to all but a standstill. For those in the BJJ community, it has brought fear and frustration as gyms have closed and training as we used to know it has ceased for what will be an uncertain amount of time.

What can you do if you can’t train? If you can’t go to the gym, or if you don’t have a partner? This series of posts proposes some alternatives and supplements to popular advice circulating on the internet.

While this series has stemmed from the current situation, there will be more added with the intent that all of these posts may be found useful whenever you find yourself unable to go the gym to train.

Training without a gym contents:

    • Feynman technique for BJJ – An overview of how to adapt a learning technique developed by Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman to deepen your BJJ understanding and focus your study
    • 6 degrees – An application of the six degrees of separation idea to BJJ
    • How to study BJJ videos – An in-depth article that provides a framework for deliberate study of BJJ video resources
    • Pre-mortem – An application of the risk management strategy to BJJ; explores a light version (ex. reviewing just-learned technique) and in-depth version (ex. competition preparation)

 

The best part of your gym (The Importance of You, Again)

“We want this place to be the best part of your day.” It was the smile on my professor’s face that made me believe he was speaking from his heart.

*

Last week, the world lost one of my coworkers: a hard-working, pup-loving young man whose life had been cut short just when we started to know the best of him.

It was one of the hardest days I’ve ever had at my job.

We were allowed to leave early and I eventually did late in the afternoon, bright-eyed and dazed. At home, the only thing I could do was sit on the couch and stare at the wall.

A notification on my phone broke through the darkness. It was my reminder for BJJ class.

My body moved on autopilot. Somehow, I had made it to the gym. But it wasn’t until I was walking back home that I realized I’d been able to do normal things for a while – and not think about his passing.

I remember pausing in the middle of the sidewalk, overwhelmed with gratitude.

‘How lucky am I,’ I had thought to myself while staring up at the moon with watery eyes, ‘To have a place to go to in a time like this.’

*
Continue reading

Picking a BJJ gym: A step-by-step guide to choosing a new (or your first) BJJ school

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

(This is a long post! Feel free to use the contents below to navigate to the bits most relevant to you.)

Method
Step 1: Identify parameters and grading criteria
Steps 2 & 3: Attend class and Compare against ideal
Steps 4 & 5: Trial Period and Final Decision
Worksheet

Choosing a new BJJ gym is one of the most daunting tasks in a person’s BJJ career. Some are lucky to start BJJ with a gym that was either recommended to them or in their area, and basically never leave.  Others have to go through this song and dance multiple times, either because of things outside of the gym (ex. moving to another city) or unfortunate incidents at that gym (ex. scandal, drama).

In any case, this post is intended to help you choose a BJJ gym that’s right for you, whether it be your first one ever or switching to a new one.  Note that this is not intended to tell you which gym to choose – but rather, to share a framework that you can adapt to your own needs to make what can be a very stressful decision into a more logical process.

Continue reading

Welcome

Welcome to Rolling with the Big Boys, a blog by a small BJJ girl in a big BJJ world.

There are a lot of different things here, from technique discussions to narrative essays, gear reviews to learning Japanese, so feel free to wander around.

Some recommendations to start you off:

Note taking in BJJ – Moving beyond passive record keeping

0715181330

Some of my BJJ notebooks from the past few years

For most people, note taking in BJJ is a list of techniques and drills that were covered that day, or subs and passes performed successfully while rolling.

 

Note taking in this way is a logical way to start, especially if you’re brand new to BJJ. Not only does the act of writing help with knowledge retainment, it’s also a good way to keep yourself accountable and make sure you come to class regularly, which is arguably the most important element of progressing at all.

 

Passive to Proactive

 

However, I think note taking becomes more useful after you have a bunch of notes already accumulated. My recommendation is twofold – first, set aside time at a regular cadence (ex. every weekend, end of month) to sift through these records and find patterns in your performance.

Continue reading

Weekly Video – Technique Analysis: Sickle Sweep

Lately I’ve been finding myself trying the sickle sweep but was finding it very awkward. When I reviewed Emily Kwok’s video, however, it became clear that the biggest problems were understanding which leg I was attacking and adjusting my hips to that leg.

(Note that she goes into a variation and drills after 1:43 but I won’t be talking about those in this post)

The part that I wanted to point out is 1:35 because it gives a good angle of how you have to focus on one leg.  It’s very clear at 1:35 that Emily is attacking her partner’s right leg (left from the viewer’s point of view) – most of her body is on that side, and actually, she’s almost outside of her partner’s leg.

In addition, she’s almost completely on her right side, so that her hips are facing the leg that she’s attacking.

Why is the direction of her hips so important?

Because that’s where her power comes from. Particularly for this sweep (and perhaps the argument can be extended to all sweeps), Emily needs to have both mobility, since she’s moving each of her legs in opposite directions, and power, which comes from driving up with her hips – which is what allows her to come up so smoothly as well.

It’s a very subtle thing, but I’m finding it to be a concept that keeps popping up. So again main takeaway: focus on one leg, then aim your hips in that direction.

Hope that helps!  Try it out the next time you train :)

Fenom Kimonos Gi Review: When it’s time to upgrade your gi game to a womens gi that fits (and isn’t pink)

One of my training partners graciously gifted me her old Fenom Crystal Weave and I have been wearing it nearly every practice.  Though I still love my Fuji All Around gi, I’ve become a big fan of Fenom.  

I had always been a bit wary of gis that were marketed for women as they seemed to be the same as the mens gi, only pink.  But when I put on the Fenom Crystal Weave, I felt a marked difference in fit and comfort.  Plus, it helps that it’s in black, so I get to feel a little badass :)

Fenom Crystal Weave Gi Review

According to Fenom’s blog, the Crystal Weave is their most popular gi.  And for good reason – it’s a lightweight gi that’s strong yet soft, keeping you comfortable and fast.  

Durable and lightweight

I’ve rolled in gis made of a variety of weaves, but the Crystal Weave definitely has a unique softness that doesn’t compromise its durability.  It’s gentle on the skin, which means you’ll never have to worry about gi burns but also infinitely durable, so you also don’t have to worry about it falling apart after just two training sessions.  Case in point – I was given this gi after it had been used for 2 years; I’m now 3 months into using it twice a week and it has no hint of damage. 

Phenomenal fit

The slim tailoring of the shoulders and torso provides a wonderful fit without being bulky.  The pants were definitely cut with the female form in mind, giving room for certain assets without adding length, allowing you full range of movement without worrying about tripping over your own pants (which I may or may not have done while wearing other gis…)

Mix and match

And probably the most unique about Fenom Kimonos is that you can shop gi tops and pants separately, so you can have the combination that’s right for you.

Here’s their size chart from the Crystal Weave:

  • A0 4’10” – 5’1” 85-115 lbs
  • A1 5’2” – 5’5” 115-130 lbs
  • A1 Curvy 5’3” – 5’5” up to 155 lbs
  • A1 Tall 5’6”- 5’9” 115-130 lbs
  • A2 5’6” – 5’9” 130-165 lbs
  • A2 Tall 5’9” – 5’11” 140-160 lbs
  • A2 Curvy 5’6” – 5’9” up to 180 lbs
  • A3 5’10” – 6’1” 165-190 lbs
  • A4 5’6″ – 5’9″ 190-220 lbs

(For tips on getting a gi that fits, check out my post: Tips for buying a womens BJJ gi as a small player

More details:

  • Single Piece 550 grams Crystal Weave Top
  • 100% Cotton Rip Stop Pants with Flat Drawstring
  • Embroidered logos

 

So there you have it!  I’ll try to do more product reviews like this in the future – if you have a certain product you’d like me to take a look at, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.