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Jiu-Jitsu and the Beauty of Failure

December 26, 2010 3 comments

The Beauty of Failure:
About two weeks ago I was training with a white belt who had a very hard time accepting defeat (being tapped out) during sparring. After being submitted by me,  he would curse and slap the mat in anger.  While I’m not a fan of this type of display (and let him know that), I can certainly relate to the frustration students face during their first few years of training Jiu-Jitsu. What’s hard for new students to see is that each time they are caught in a submission, each time they are swept, each time their guards are passed, each time they are stuck on bottom being crushed by their opponent……essentially each time they are “failing”, they are one step closer to being a better Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.  Let me explain:

The other day I was training with one of my teammates who just received his blue belt. He’s bigger and stronger than me and for the short time he’s practiced Jiu-Jitsu he’s making great progress.  After we sparred he told me he couldn’t believe how helpless he felt when I had the mount position and asked how I was able to make myself so heavy and keep such a strong base. I quickly responded by telling him that the reason my mount is at the level it is today is because I’ve “failed” at maintaining it so many times! At the time I didn’t realize that each time I gained mount and my opponent rolled me over or recovered guard, my body was slowly gaining the sensibility and muscle memory to negate losing the position in the future. Eventually I was holding mount for longer periods of time which led to more confidence to hunt for submissions without as much fear of losing it. Ironically, one of the positions I felt so weak with is  now one that I can say is one of my stronger positions….all because I “failed” at it so many times.

Less Ego=Quicker Learning
The male ego is a very fragile thing and it’s a huge hinderance to excelling quickly in Jiu-Jitsu. A lot of tough, athletic guys who aren’t used to being dominated come into Jiu-Jitsu class and get a rude awakening. There are generally two ways these guys react when they get dominated by an opponent: one way is to curse and slap the mat…like my white belt friend.  The other way is to step back and ask what he did wrong so that he can prevent making the same mistakes in the future…like my blue belt friend. Which of these guys do you think is going to excel faster?

By no means do I recommend you come into the gym and be a pussy cat, but the sooner you realize that you are going to spend a lot of time being humbled in Jiu-Jitsu the better.  There is a reason that it takes an average of 10 years to get a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and that’s one of the most beautiful things about this art….there are no short cuts!

Conclusion
The road to excelling in Jiu-Jitsu will be paved with many failures. To be successful, you need to treat every failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. This applies not only to Jiu-Jitsu but life in generall!

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently” -Henry Ford

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Christmas Trees and Triangles

December 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Upside down Christmas trees?

 

Last night my wife and I were driving by a house in our neighborhood and noticed something a little odd. There, proudly displayed in their large bay window was a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Why was this odd you may be asking? Well, for starters it was hanging upside down from the ceiling! When it comes to Christmas I’m old school, no fake trees in my home and certainly no trees hanging upside down from my ceiling. No one told me that this was becoming a trend and hopefully it goes away soon but that’s not the point of this post.

After I had time to process this odd new way of Christmas decorating, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite submissions….the Triangle Choke! Since I don’t yet have a video camera to record my own technique videos (hint, hint, Santa!) I thought you may enjoy a great clip of my friend Roy Dean of the Roy Dean Academy in Bend, Oregon. This clip comes from his instructional DVD titled Blue Belt Requirements….a must own for practitioners of any skill level.

One of the best tips I’ve ever received on finishing triangle chokes was to think of attacking the back of the neck with your calf. Too many guys waste all of their energy trying to finish triangle chokes when their calf is across their opponents shoulder-blade at an angle. You’ll notice that Roy explains that the calf should be perpendicular to the back of the neck.

The second most important tip I’ve received on finishing triangle chokes is how to clear the arm against a resisting opponent. It’s very frustrating when a guy is hunkered down keeping his elbow towards the outside of your hip and negating your choking pressure. When this happens to you, bridge up high off of the mat, this will take away his ability to use his weight and gravity to pin his arm down. Next, get a grip on the opponents elbow and sleeve and pull his arm across your waist. Once this is accomplished you can use your abdominal and hip flexor muscles to pull your opponent back down and get your angle to finish the choke.

I hope this helps your triangle finish percentage like it did mine. Thanks for reading. Oh, and no offfense if you have an upside down Christmas tree at home!

Ryno