Learning to relax while grappling and competing is one of the most difficult skills for beginners to learn. Renzo Gracie summed it up when asked about Rolles Gracie’s recent UFC 106 loss,
“It was embarrassing. I can tell you he wasn’t in that bad of shape. Fact is the nerves drained him of his energy. His stand up and ground work looked bad, nothing at all like he was doing in training leading up to the fight and it was if he couldn’t hear what I was telling him. I think the pressure he put on himself overwhelmed him. He’ll learn and be back.”
Rolles’ bout was a clear example of a skilled opponent losing due to fatigue. He is a great competitor and no doubt will be back with a vengeance, but we can all learn a fundamental lesson from him; even at the highest levels nerves and anxiety can sap your strength and cloud your mind.
One of the most common mistakes I see beginners make is what I think of as the entire body clench. No matter what position they are working from their entire body is clenched and working. If they are on the bottom, they are using every muscle possible to push you off. If they are on top, again every muscle is working for the hold down. It is exhausting. Even the fit grappler will quickly fatigue.
A key trait of high level competitors is the ability to relax; to use the minimal force and energy necessary to complete each move.
The following tips will help you get in the habit of relaxing while rolling:
1. Only clench muscles that are in use. Muscles that are not in use should be relaxed and resting. The easiest way to explain this concept is actually from teaching someone how to strike. You can try it. Imagine an opponent in front of you. Clench each hand into a tight fist and throw 10 consecutive punches into the air in front of you aiming at your opponents face. At the end of your power flurry note the strain you feel in your hands, wrists, and forearms; none of these muscles are helping you punch. Now try the exercise again without clenching fists. Allow your hands to partially curl naturally and only clench in the split second before your fist is meant to land. Not only will you use much less energy, your arms wont get as tired. Now imagine applying this exercise to your entire body.
Try this exercise: Run your mind across every major muscle group in your body starting with your legs and moving up your body to your core, chest, arms, neck, back and finally your face. Order your muscles to relax. Breathe. Relax. Breathe. You will be surprised at how much this single exercise will immediately improve your performance.
2. Slow down. Breathe. Think about your next move instead of just reacting. In the Special Operations community a common philosophy is often voiced, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Try to execute each move perfectly. Think about the motion you are going to make and execute as smoothly as possible. At first, it will be difficult to slow down. Your every instinct is to fight as fast as you can to escape and maybe if given an opportunity to attack. Slowing down will give you a chance to apply tip 1 and relax every muscle except the muscles involved in your current movement. Increasing the fluidity of your movements will naturally increase your speed without adding fatigue.
3. Drill moves from positions until they are automatic. Once after rolling with Royce, I asked him what he did in a particular position and he couldn’t tell me. Certain positions for him are on auto-pilot. When you repeat a movement your body learns to maximize the efficiency of the movement until you don’t have to think about it any more. It is sort of like when you first start to learn how to drive. The first few times, you are concentrating on keeping the car in the middle of the lane and completely focused on steering, gas and the breaks. But after a few years, you barely think about those things anymore. Your subconscious mind takes over and accomplishes the task without your having to think about them. Jiu-Jitsu can be like this for you.
As a starting point try to repeat every move you know from each position 100 or more times. Find a partner and shoot for a hundred reps as a warm up or cool down. Repetition will increase your fluidity. Your body will learn the motions and it will decrease the amount of energy you consume executing. If you doubt this one, go on YouTube.com and watch some Abu Dhabi matches. Take note of how smoothly the competitors are executing their moves. Not only are these guys incredibly fit, but they are fantastically smooth and efficient in their movements.
4. Practice minimalist Jiu-Jitsu. Narrow the number of moves you are going to use from every position. Avoid adding a new move for 3-4 months. By narrowing your focus you will actually greatly improve your efficiency and fluidity. Continue to apply tip 3 to this core set of moves and you will quickly reap the benefits of an improved game.
5. Visualize in your off mat time. Pick a position you are working to improve and visualize how you will execute your move. How will your opponent react? How will you move? How will you breathe? What muscles are involved? Relax. Breathe. Focus. Repeat. Don’t underestimate the power of this exercise. I took an involuntary hiatus from Jiu-Jitsu for nearly a year while fighting in Iraq and I had nothing but time to think about different positions. I read books, studied positions, and visualized myself fighting nearly every day. I was extremely surprised at how much I retained when I finally got back on the mats. My time was not wasted and I actually improved in some areas without even practicing. Hopefully you won’t have to take any time off and can use visualization to help you to extend your practice time.
Well there you have it, five simple tools to help you get to the next level.
Relax. Breathe. Focus. Repeat.
Marc Stevens Winning his Superfight
James Friar winning 1st place Blue Belt
Congrats to all Tai Kai and Jiu Jitsu Nation students that competed at the 2010 NAGA Mohegan Sun Grappling Championships
1) Marc Stevens won his superfight 8-0 totally dominating his opponent
2) Bill Garrett for taking 1st Place Blue Belt and 3rd Place NO GI Advanced
3) James Friar for taking 1st place Blue Belt and 2nd place NO Gi Advanced losing in the finals to Renzo Gracie Black Belt and TUF veteran Dan Simmler
Most people are overweight and out of shape. Going to the gym is not an option for many, since the training is unsupervised. Motivation is really needed when you are with a group of people and have a common purpose to what you want to achieve.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA are really good martial arts to work out to. Since the current craze of the UFC, MMA has been a very popular sport among people who are interested in fighting. While you are learning the martial arts, you will be burning a tremendous amount of calories per hour. Most people really don’t believe it till they experience it firsthand. Imagine if you are using every muscle in your body to attack and defend against your opponent. In most sports, you will only use 1 body segment at a time. For instance, in lifting weight, you would be only using your arms or legs. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you will be using all of your body to control your opponent against any moves, and this what gets the whole body involved.
In MMA, you are learning to strike, kick, and clinch. Most of the calories are burned when you are clinching your opponent since you have to involve your whole body. This is why you rarely, ir never, see any mixed martial artist that is out of shape. Most have to use so many calories to involve themselves in the sparring session.
Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will help you get fit, as well as, learn great self-defense. In this art, you are using every muscle in your body, and with that in mind, you can burn up to 800 calories per hour. More than any workout at any gym.
This art requires one to learn to defend the guard, pass the guard, and learning submissions. Submissions only comes when one understands the control one should have over their opponent. It is essential to stabilize the other opponent before applying the submission, otherwise the opponent will escape and you will have to start again.
Also, one has to be careful since there are so many moves with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One can get confused, and pay attention to the basics which will carry them through to the next level. Many of the successful MMA fighters in the world started in Jiu Jitsu, and use that as their core martial art.
Learning the martial art is something special, and something that everyone should look into. Take care in evaluating an academy, and pick your programs wisely. Most schools are not supervised well, and you have to look at how they treat their students, their peers, and how they clean their school.
Look at the programs and start with something that is basic. Diving into an advanced program will only make you quit early and you will never give yourself a chance to participate in the martial arts.
Finding an instructor is also important, and paramount in furthering your skill in the world of the martial arts.
These flow charts were put out by Rickson Gracie in the early 1990’s. Obviously certain positions and submissions have evolved, but they contain the basics of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and how the positions flow from one to the other. I remember seeing this in the 90’s. I just happen to find them again. Anyway its worth taking a look at
Watch Phil Migliarese do a little Yoga!
This is Sport Specific Yoga for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed Martail Arts (MMA) by Phil Migliarese. the Owner of Balance Studios in Philadelphia, PA. Get the DVD for the link above.
Tai Kai Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu now has seven Black Belts. Scott Schultz(1st Degree), Phil Migliarese(Balance Studios, 3rd Degree), Ken Kronenberg(1st Degree) , Dennis Sugrue, Len Sonia, Jordan Damon, Steve Overend, and Dan Covel. 7 Brazilian Jiu JItsu Black Belts under one roof Tai Kai has come a long way.
Phil Migliarese ties the Belts of the new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belts at Tai Kai Jiu Jitsu
Nice Documentary on the effectiveness of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I really enjoyed seeing the Grandchildren at the end playing Jiu Jitsu.
Meet Bill Gallawoy. 61 years old and a new student at Tai Kai Jiu Jitsu. He had 20 minutes of training Jiu-Jitsu today. He is awesome. Imagine what you can do in 20 minutes.