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The Best Starter BJJ Gi

Buying Your First BJJ Gi

So you want to start BJJ.  Or maybe you’ve already been training no-gi grappling and you want to start practicing in the gi.

You do a simple Google search and suddenly realize, holy crap, there are a ton of gis to choose from.  Single weave, pearl weave, honey-comb — Are we buying bedsheets? Cereal?!  — not to mention the prices.

With some gis clocking it at an insane $500, all sorts of doubts start to crop up.  “Is it really worth it to buy a gi? What if I decide I only want to practice gi once a week?  What if I decide BJJ isn’t for me altogether?”  After all, you don’t want to invest a couple hundred bucks on a pile of useless fabric.

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3 Best Youtube Channels for Small BJJ Practitioners

There are a ton of instructional videos you can find online, but I wanted to share the 3 channels that I regularly turn to when I have a problem. As a small BJJ player, there are some things that simply don’t work when you’re up against a larger opponent. So here are 3 channels that can help you change that:

How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent

Stephen Kesting at Grapplearts has an amazing amount of videos that are not only amusing (Zombies + BJJ?!) but also extremely informative (what-aplata?). But it was his series with Emily Kwok, “How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent,” that really started to change how I approached BJJ.  They also offer free excerpts from the DVD series on Youtube such as the one below.

ConnectionRio

I have to admit, at first I thought ConnectionRio was gonna be full of promo vids for training in Brazil, but after I started looking through their instructional videos, I started watching those promo vids too. What I really like about their instructionals is that they’re short and to the point, and repeat the technique many times at the beginning from several different angles, which is perfect for when you’ve already watched the video and just want to refresh your memory. The triangle tweak below is one of my favorites:

BJJ Scout

So technically neither BJJ Scout nor ConnectionRio above are centered around small BJJ practitioners, but you simply cannot ignore BJJ Scout’s breakdowns — even Sara McMann acknowledged BJJ Scout’s analyses (part 1, part 2) prior to her fight with Ronda Rousey in this article. Watching BJJ Scout’s videos has been a complete game changer for me.  I challenge you to watch their videos and not learn something new.  Their latest video on “funk rolling” below.

Runner’s up

BJJ Hacks produces beautiful videos that go into the minds of some of the most renowned BJJ practitioners — BJJ videos made by BJJ lovers, for BJJ lovers.

Jiu Jitsu Priest houses a ton of videos from competitions around the world, focusing mostly on Japan and Asia. There are also highlights videos that provide commentary on some of the best fights from that particular competition cycle though you have to know Japanese to fully appreciate them.

Post your favorite channels/videos in the comments!

 

The best escapes in BJJ

Yin-yang
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Aggression and BJJ

Been a bit busy lately as I’m currently in between competitions and been thinking about what direction I’d like to take this blog. As I’ve spoken with more people about BJJ, I’ve noticed that those most dedicated to learning BJJ, not simply for winning competitions or promoting, talk less about particular techniques and more about the inner workings of BJJ. These people also tend to have the chillest personalities, a stark contrast to how aggressive BJJ seems to be, especially noticeable in newcomers and white belts.

In general, aggression is taken as an inseparable part of BJJ. I think part of what causes this aggression is how we’re taught BJJ. We learn the positions – mount, guard, side control, etc. – and the escapes and attacks from those positions. We drill each technique with a partner then learn how to bait and fine tune our timing during sparring sessions. The thing is, we roll how we drill. So if we drill just the positions, we roll focus only on the positions.

The key, however, is not just to master the positions, but to master the transitions as well…

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BJJ-J: Learning Japanese Through BJJ — 胸を借りる

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Learning Japanese Through BJJ

胸を借りる

While preparing for a competition, one of my coworkers said the above phrase to me in Japanese (むねをかりる, mune o kariru).  The literal translation is “to borrow one’s chest” – which had me confused to say the least.

The phrase apparently originates from sumo and is said to a superior for having “the honor of training with them.” Further research revealed that it’s only said by a person of lower ranking to one of higher ranking, (後輩) kouhai to (先輩) sempai, and never the other way around.  It’s also used in baseball (野球, yakyuu) and other sports.

To me, I think this phrase is quite appropriate in BJJ.  After all, every BJJ practitioner knows that you can’t learn BJJ by yourself.  We must always “borrow someone’s chest” in order to train.

Let’s look closer at the words in this phrase.  Usually  (むね, mune) is translated as “chest,” a physical source of power and pressure. But 胸 can also refer to one’s “heart” and “feelings.”

In this way, 胸 refers to both the physical and spiritual aspects of a person — those things that makes a person a person and not some piece of driftwood or any old inflatable training dummy.  Your partner, whether they be kouhai or sempai, are physical beings and emotional beings, capable of great strength but also with the capability of becoming injured; full of passion and feelings just like you.

The most important part of this phrase, however, is the verb 借りる. It is usually translated as “to borrow,” which is a very different way of looking at sparring.

Despite what we may say to others, there’s always a part of us that is comparing ourselves to our partners. Often times, we fall into the trap of using our partners for our own ends, as goal posts for our own journey.

This phrase suggests a drastic alternative from this way of thinking. Instead of trying to pit your will, or your “chest” against your partner, this phrase instead recommends borrowing – using that other person’s “chest” with the intention of returning it.

Think of your gym as a library and each person you roll with a book in that library.  In a good library, books are taken care of when they are checked out for a roll and rotate around to as many people as possible.

Because what’s unique about this BJJ library is that each book changes every time they are checked out and read, or rolled with. Ever reread a favorite book from childhood and discovered even more things to love about it since growing up?  That’s the same thing that happens with each book, each person, as they learn more about BJJ.

This brings us back to how you learn BJJ.  We’re on the mats to beat our chests to try and scare off our partners, nor are we trying to beat and crush our partners’ chests as we train. We are borrowing from each other, learning from each other, expanding the library that is BJJ.

Meditation and visualization in BJJ

Meditating in nature

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Berimbolo for your brain

My father used to quote Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to me when I was young and I find myself going back to that text whenever I’m facing difficulty.  Though BJJ is called “the gentle art,” more often than not BJJ feels like a war and I can’t think of a more apt text than “The Art of War.”

In particular, I turn towards the section where Sun Tzu summarizes with the saying, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” I’ve found meditation and visualization to be the best tools to apply this concept to BJJ.

Know yourself: Meditate

Meditation has a ton of benefits for BJJ players and non-BJJ players alike. One of the biggest benefits is being able to understand your self, your body, and your game.  It’s a time where you can critically assess yourself, from your body’s capabilities, to how you’ve been employing techniques. A great place to start is by asking yourself these 10 questions from Inner BJJ.

During this assessment, it’s a great time to review techniques. While meditating, you can go over techniques with as much detail as you can, paying particular attention to how you can adapt the technique to your body.  By focusing on details, it will also help you create goals based on improving technique, not just being able to submit someone.

Lastly, review previous rolls you have had with teammates or in competition and try to understand why there was success or failure. For me, I’ve become aware that there have been many times where it wasn’t my partner’s larger size that caused me to fail, but my own lack of technique and initiative.

Know your enemy: Visualize

Here’s where things get interesting.  Though you can’t necessarily know your “enemy” completely, visualization can help you to understand patterns in people’s reactions and outcomes of certain movements.

It’s easiest to begin by first visualizing sparring against yourself.  Start small: Visualize grabbing your mirror’s lapel.  How do you usually react?  In your mind, explore different actions and reactions (if you grab the lapel and pull, what happens?), then explore the possibilities of each new situation, like submissions or sweeps. It’s a great mental exercise to combine with technique review as well.

Then if you really want a mental workout, start with a successful submission and work backwards. We’re all told to master one technique, so starting from that technique, try to figure out how to get there, keeping in mind the psychology involved. For instance, if you want to go for an armbar, you have to bait something else first.

Add meditation and visualization to your toolbox and you’ll start to recognize patterns and moments of opportunity much quicker and make your BJJ game even more interesting!

6 things to do when you can’t train BJJ

We all get pulled away from the mats at some point, sometimes through things like injury or sickness, other times by that all-too-demanding thing called life.  While it can be beneficial to take some time off every now and then, being forced not to train can be  aggravating.

For example, I fell seriously ill late last month and the whole ordeal has knocked off more than 3 weeks of training – and I have a competition scheduled next week.  As my energy started to come back, it was a real fight to keep myself from jumping prematurely into training and triggering a relapse.  I actually went to class earlier last week, but the next day I was hampered with lethargy and a runny nose – the equivalent of my body issuing a red flag warning.

Forced rest is boring at best, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve settled on 6 things to do when you can’t get on the mats – and I am willing to bet that you aren’t doing the last one. Continue reading

BJJ-J: Learning Japanese Through BJJ — Basics

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Learning Japanese Through BJJ

One of the more interesting reasons why I like training at MY Team Okinawa is that the classes are taught in both English and Japanese due to the unique diversity of the gym.  It’s a great situation for both beginners and advanced language learners.  Beginners of both Japanese and English are able to learn and use simple phrases in real context because the same words are used all the time (ex. grab the sleeve, push the leg, etc.) and advanced learners are able to converse with native speakers in a low-key, completely no pressure environment.

So let’s start with the basics! Covered in this post are body parts, parts of the gi, and basic directional words and verbs.

*This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but rather an introduction to the most commonly used Japanese words in BJJ. If you would like to see something added to this list (or notice a mistake!), please feel free to write it in the comments.

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Womens BJJ competition

Why should women learn BJJ?

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Why not?

There are a ton of sites that list various reasons why women should learn BJJ. I’ve listed some of my favorites at the bottom of this post because they’re a great reference for any woman interested in starting BJJ classes.

There are also another ton of posts that list why women actually learn BJJ. Subtly different but equally important, these unique stories of women who have become loyal supporters and high-level practitioners serve as motivation and encouragement for other women in BJJ.

But as great as these posts are, it’s always bothered me that they are always titled with some variation of the question, “Why should women learn BJJ?”

It seems like a valid question but what it’s always sounded like to me is a response to an unspoken, and thus supposedly understood, stance that women shouldn’t learn BJJ.

And that, my friends, is BS.

It shouldn’t matter why anyone decides to learn BJJ. That reason is your own and no one has the right to question it. What matters most is how you learn BJJ.

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