Aug 232010

Our friend, Meerkatsu, over in the UK has this crazy-ass idea.  Since BJJ is all about the flair, and people who train in BJJ are obviously intelligent, creative people with questionable taste, why not have a contest in which everyone submits their own crazy-ass designs?  The best part is that the winner will actually get a gi in their design courtesy of Tatami Fightwear.

So far, over 100 entries have been received and more are coming all the time.  So, if you haven’t already done so, check out how to enter, which couldn’t be easier.  Download, print, or otherwise modify the template, and send your entry to Seymour (seymouryang at gmail dot com).  For inspiration, check out the Design Your Own Crazy-Ass Gi Facebook group (and join it), and have fun.  The crazier, the better.

I like to write and I’m actually pretty fair with my hands, but when you get me near a computer for art stuff, I’m very bad.  With that said, below are my three submissions:


The inspiration for this one is pretty clear.  Bavarian Jiu Jitsu in the house.

The Villian’s Gi:

This one’s pretty simple.  Black, because someone has to be the bad guy.  Target on the back because there’s always someone gunning for you.

The Butcher’s Gi:

I just thought it would be cool to have a gi inspired by the butcher’s diagrams, where you see the different cuts of meat.  The thought of rolling with “Bacon” written in block letters on my stomach and “Fatback” on my back just makes me smile.

Have fun and I’ll look forward to seeing all of your designs online.

 Posted by at 8:33 am
Jul 142010

I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to head out to my wife’s 20th High School reunion.  Woohoo!  I love my wife, and I’m looking forward to a roadtrip with her, but at the same time, I don’t know any of her friends from high school.  We’ll see how this goes.  

Good luck to all of the Lotus Club jitsuka competing this weekend.  You’re all an inspiration and I wish I were able to be there to cheer you on!

In other news, I’m finishing up a gi review that I hope to post soon, so stay tuned for that.  I’m also anxiously awaiting a Tatami Zero G gi that I ordered from the UK.  I’m pretty excited to see this one.  If it’s as good as I’ve heard, it’s a terrific deal, even accounting for shipping from the Uk.  In the meantime, go check out Meerkatsu’s AWESOME gi reviews. He reviewed the Zero G, but I’ll post one in American…  dude’s all centimeters this and kilograms that.  Who uses those funky measurements anyway? 

What’s that?  Most of the world?  Oh…  well… 

Have a great weekend all.  I expect a full report when I come back.

 Posted by at 9:47 pm
Jul 062010

A great article posted on How to Get More Women into Grappling.

Very interesting and insightful, and also leads me to believe that I’m on the right track.  Once again, it’s a revelation to me that women as a group draw clear distinctions between men and women on the mat.   I honestly, truly never saw that… and I’m not sure what to think about it now.  Got some mulling over to do.

 Posted by at 11:15 am
Jul 052010

Two things to throw out to the group.  The first is a concern and the second is a genuine point of confusion.

A couple days ago, I posted about how chasing rank can cause problems.  Actually, the gist of the article was that worrying about rank at all can really be problematic.  Well, yesterday, I ran into a  guy who used to train with us.  I’m not sure what kind of terms he left under, but he’s a nice guy, so while I’m pretty sure the school he trains at isn’t very popular round our parts, I’d doubt this particular kid burned any bridges. 

He’s been training for about three years and is a blue belt, which isn’t at all surprising to me.  We talked a little, and I asked him about his angry ear that looks like a purple potsticker.  He seemed pleased that I noticed.  At some point, he mentioned really wanting his purple belt.  He’s a young kid… I’d put him in his early 20’s, although he may not even be that old, so I wasn’t really all that surprised.  It’s human nature, after all.  What really gave me pause, though, is that he equated purple belt with opening his own school.  I genuinely don’t get it.  In BJJ, it’s not… uncommon for a purple belt to run a school, but it’s becoming increasingly less so as more black belts exist.  This was a situation that arose out of necessity, where at one time a purple belt or even an experienced blue were quite literally the only guys around competent to teach. 

I wouldn’t want to do it.  So, when he seriously suggested that he really wanted his purple belt because it specifically (in his mind) equated to being able to legitimately “do [his] own thing,” I had to work hard to keep the shock off my face.  What makes this even scarier is that HIS instructor is a purple belt who has been training for about 4 years total. 

There is a depth of knowledge that a school owner needs to have in order to run a good school. Regardless of how skilled at purple belt the instructor is, he is a purple belt.  There are just things he or she won’t know… and what’s scary is that he or she might not even know it.  So, what happens when a purple belt trains another guy up to purple belt (whether graded by a black belt who visits once or twice a year, or not) that lack of depth compounds. 

Now, as a disclaimer, I haven’t rolled with any of these guys in a long time.  They may completely rock.  But I just don’t know.  My spidey sense is tingling.

Okay, the next one has to do with women in BJJ, and this might get me flamed.  But before I go on, I want to be clear that I’m really just asking for clarification.  I have a genuine respect and admiration for the women who train in BJJ.  But that leads to the question:  Do women want to be treated like training partners or treated like female training partners?

What I mean by that question is, I’ve always found it pretty easy to ignore gender and roll with women just like I would any other training partner.  What that means to me is that I adjust my game and intensity as much as I can so that it’s appropriate for my partner.  I roll with new guys (“guys” in the generic, non-gender specific way)  differently than I roll with experienced guys.   I roll with heavier guys differently than I roll with lighter guys.  And everything in between.  So, a tough blue belt who is lighter than me is simply that, regardless of gender. 

Up until now, I’ve been under two impressions.  First, that this is appropriate in that lighter guys don’t gain technique if they’re not given opportunities to work technique.  Second, that this is appreciated and even desirable for women because they’re not there to be girl jiu-jitiero… they’re just there to be jiu-jitiero. 

I’m beginning to think I have it all wrong, so I’m looking for some help.  Georgette’s posts got things started.  But it’s Leslie’s post on the discussions had at a girl’s grappling mini camp that really threw me for a loop.  I can understand women’s classes and the like.  I get that.  But this post has me baffled.  At one point, Leslie wrote, “Val also mentioned that it sometimes might actually be good for the guys to see that what they’re doing is reducing you to tears, especially if you already have the reputation as a “tough chick,” because if what they’re doing is too much for you, then it’s too much. Maybe nothing else will get through to them.”

I genuinely don’t know how to react to this.  What are you trying to convey by crying?  What needs to get through to them?  After reading that, I immediately thought about how bad I’d feel if I ever made a girl cry on the mat.  Then I began wondering if I had and just don’t know it because they cried in the bathroom.  Then I thought, “would a dude ever cry?”  And THAT led me to wonder, “What the hell is going on here?”  My brain is broken.  What’s too much?  If it’s too much for you, why wouldn’t it be too much for a little dude, too?  Or the other way, if it’s not too much for a little guy, why is it too much for women? 

The biggest question in my mind is what do you guys (and this time, “guys” actually means women) want?  Is it important to remember that you’re women?  Or would you rather be a training partner first? 

So, no conclusions here.  I’m asking for help.  I want to get it.  I’m not challenging you guys on this.  I’m just trying to understand, because I just don’t.

 Posted by at 10:54 pm
Jul 012010

Georgette’s recent posts have really got me thinking again. Ranks and promotions. Skill, anxiety and self doubt. Goals and expectations, too. I’ve written probably 5 or 6 comments on her blog that I haven’t submitted. I write them out, then think about them, then delete them, and not because I don’t have a reaction or thought on the subjects. Rather, I have almost too many, and they’re a little jumbled up. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes to try and organize them.

First, if you haven’t read these two articles over on Georgette’s blog, along with the comments, do that now. I’ll wait.

What we’re learning here isn’t easy to do. It’s hard. It’s hard physically. It’s hard mentally, and it’s hard emotionally. I’m not as gifted athletically as some. I’m older, and less fit than others. And some people just get it. Bingo and Josh, two guys I mention frequently, recently got their brown belts. They’ve been training only a little longer than I have if you look only at a calendar. But if you consider the amount of time they’ve put on the mats, there’s really no comparison. After rolling with them sometimes, it’s pretty easy to get down on yourself.

I mentioned in the comments section on Georgette’s blog that I sometimes sit there on the mat thinking through the entire match. What’s often frustrating is that I believe I did things correctly. I just got out techniqued (if that makes sense). It wasn’t that I did anything really wrong. I just didn’t do things… I don’t know… right enough.  Strategic and tactical domination.  So, I sit there on the mat for a moment, shaking my head at every transition. Then I’ll look up and Bing’s smiling and saying, “What’s up? Thanks for the roll. You did good.” Really? Cause from my seat, things didn’t go so well.

But that’s when I’m right there… nice and close to it. After some time and distance, I try to take something away from my rolls with Bing, and it goes along with something he said.

Lesson 1: While we all train together, our journey is ours alone.

My path to blue belt was my own, as is my journey to purple, brown and black belt. They are mine alone. I hope they’re ones I can complete. I can drive myself crazy worrying about why I was given my 4th stripe or my blue belt when so and so is so much better, or because x and y white belts catch me all the time. I can give myself ulcers wonderying why I’m not a purple belt yet when I dominate so and so who is a 3 stripe purple belt (not that this has ever happened… but it could!). I can waste energy worrying about where I am relative to my peers, but that’s all it is: a waste of energy. My path is my own.

Without going into any details, I’ve seen how destructive placing too much importance on belts and ranking can be. It leads to insecurity, an unnecessary amount of angst and eventually causes friends to alienate each other (to put it nicely).

Lesson 2: The person least competent to judge my own progress is me.

Or in other words, “Shut up and train.” 

I have an idea in my head of what I expect from a blue belt, purple belt and brown belt. I also know what I think of as Black Belt level BJJ. I have opinions and I think that they’re usually pretty close to on target. I’m seldom surprised by a promotion at my school. But the person least able to give a rational, objective analysis of my progress in BJJ is me. Ultimately, any significant time I spend thinking in abstract terms about where I “fit in” on the BJJ scale is completely wasted.

I was very unsure of myself after receiving my blue belt. I was adrift for at least a couple of months (probably longer). I didn’t know where I fit in. I was constantly second guessing myself, rolled timidly and was a little embarrassed to put on the belt. It took a while, but I really began progressing again once I understood this lesson.

Lesson 3: We can try deceiving ourselves, but it doesn’t really work.

I can’t control what other people think. If I want to roll light or sit out a round, I can’t worry about what someone else might think. A few days ago I wrote about the archetypes that exist in a gym. I mentioned that most of those stereotypes are funny because they’re familiar. We can all think of people that fit these types at least in part. Most of them are also negative. So… chances are some of us represent a negative archetype to other people in the school.

Since posting that, I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter. I mean, we should all strive to be a positive influence, but I can’t ultimately manage someone else’s internal dialogue. If I choose to sit out, I have no control over whether someone else decides that I’m lazy. If I’m injured and want to roll light, I can’t control whether someone else thinks I’m milking it.

But, and this is the big one, I should be honest with myself. If I sit out a round because I’m feeling lazy, I shouldn’t try to convince myself otherwise.

Another example of this came up ust a couple days ago.  I rolled with Rhino, a 4 stripe white belt. I didn’t do very well. He passed my guard to side control, moved to mount and maintained very solid, positional control. Rhino deserves his nickname. He’s a big guy, very strong and athletic. It would be very easy to just write the match off and feel better because he’s bigger and stronger. But he’s also very technical and his game is tight. He didn’t outmuscle me. He outgrappled me. In order for this to be productive training, I have to acknowledge that first. Only then can I begin to break it down and look for successes and areas to improve.  

As a quick aside, writing it off as just his strength and/or size diminishes his own accomplishments.  I hate it when someone begins making excuses for a loss or poor performance because it undermines someone else’s accomplishments.  I really try to give credit where due, and being honest with myself is integral to this. 

Lesson 4: Learn from mistakes, but focus on successes.

Very early on in writing this blog, I made a conscious decision to try and focus on what I did right more than what I did wrong. I don’t try to pretend that I don’t make mistakes. Not at all. What I’m talking about is acknowledging the mistake in an effort to avoid making it again, but really zeroing in on what I did well.

There’s a lot of support for the idea in learning that spending any significant time discussing mistakes can actually lead to repitition of that mistake. For example, I’ve been in situations where something goes poorly and a meeting is called so that we can all debrief on what went wrong. These are excruciating meetings in which we are expected to painstakingly relive every mistake we made. From a training perspective, this can include spending undue time discussing the wrong way to do things: Don’t do this… avoid this… this is wrong…. this is bad.

It’s much better to focus on the right way to do things. All of the time spent reinforcing the wrong way could be spent reinforcing the right way, instead.

Lesson 5: This is fun. Jiu Jitsu is fun.

It’s easy to forget that sometimes. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Reading the posts lately on the blogosphere, I truly believe that we all need to cut ourselves some slack.

In conclusion, I’ll just add that these are, once again, only my own thoughts. I’ve got four stripes on my blue belt. At some point I, like everyone else, will get my purple belt. I have no idea whether that will be tomorrow, 6 months or 6 years from now, but it’s bound to happen if I keep training. I LOVE where I’m at right now as an experienced blue belt because I’ve been around long enough that I know what I’m doing, but there’s no expectation of perfection. I truly don’t feel that I’m ready for a purple belt. Of course, as I’ve said, I’m incompetent to judge myself. So, I will instead not worry about it. It will come when it does. And when it does, I’ll start that chapter of my journey to black belt.

 Posted by at 3:30 pm
Jun 222010

charleebluebelt First thing’s first, congratulations to Charlee on her blue belt.  She’s been training off and on for about 3 years, but has really kicked it into high gear lately and it shows.

And check out this video that Matt Hickney put together for Rick.  Very cool:

BJJ training is moving right along.  I’ve been training regularly again for a while, and that’s been terrific.  Being physically able to go to class three or four times in a week is a downright luxury for me.  My back is feeling pretty good, in no small part thanks to Dr. Sean’s attention.  My cardio is getting better every class.  I’m getting my butt kicked all over the place, but that’s okay by me.

I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s a period of time after every… episode with my back where I just don’t trust it.  Have you guys all read the article that’s floated around periodically about the archetypes found in a gym?   If not, take a few minutes to read them.  It’s hilarious!

But at the same time, if you’re like me, you read those and think to yourself, "Okay… damn.  I did that once.  Crap.  I’ve done that, too."   We all have a blind spot.  One of the hardest things to do is see ourselves as we’re seen by others.  While BJJ is pretty hard on the ego, I don’t think anyone would like to see any of those negative stereotypes applied to themselves.  And yet, they’re funny because we DO know those people.  Now, I don’t know about you, but to me this suggests that there are a lot of us who embody, at least in part, these negative stereotypes, but don’t know it… don’t see it in our actions.

While I don’t spend too much time worrying about how I’m viewed, I think we would all like to be respected and well liked in our circles.  More importantly, these archetypes highlight more than some common personalities.  They highlight a lot of common excuses that we make.  So, when I’m sparring, I spend a lot of time assessing my back and how I feel.  Every time someone asks me how I am, I consider whether I want to tell them the truth, which is usually that it hurts to some degree or another, or to gloss it over.  I’m concerned about developing a reputation for being the perpetually injured guy.  I don’t want to be that guy.

Does anyone else struggle with a chronic injury or limitation in your training?  I’m not talking about something that heals.  I’m talking about nagging, persistent pain or limitation.  A bad back? Pinched nerve?  Maybe some kind of persistent joint issues or hip problems… the sort of thing that you don’t really ever come back from. 

How do you handle it?  Or if you know someone or train with someone, does their persistent limitation affect your view of them?

 Posted by at 6:33 pm
Jun 122010

Today was the Grand Opening of Foster BJJ’s new space.  We’ve been training there for almost 2 weeks now, and it is so nice.  Lots of mat space.  Givanildo Santana (pictured with me below) was in town this week, and he taught a few techniques at a free seminar.


Rodrigo Lopes and several other Gracie Barra black belts were there, along with many of their students.  The place was packed.


Honestly, though, the big news was the promotion of five guys at the school.  I had a feeling that there were going to be some big promotions today.  It’s just the sort of day for such things.  I called the first three, too (and even the order).  It started with Jeff Bourgeois, getting his brown belt, followed by Bing and then Josh.  All three of these guys are awesome jiu-jitieros.  They work tirelessly to improve their games and are awesome teachers and teammates.


After this, Coach promoted his first two black belts.  Bill and Todd.  I just can’t get over how big this school is getting.  When I started, James had one brown belt, I think two purple belts and a handful of blue belts.


Here’s a picture with Bill, Giva, Coach, Todd, Bingo, Jeff and Josh.  Congratulations, guys.

Giva showed us some really cool stuff.  The one technique that really interested me was a gi choke from turtle.  Shown below.

I played around with this during open mat, along with the other tips and techniques he showed us, and I’m excited to incorporate them into my game.

This is a picture of me and James.  I’m the one on the left, if you can’t tell.  Actually, I’m the one in the cool “Lock and Roll” tee from Scramble.  Thanks, Matt. I got a lot of compliments on it today.


I got to talk to a lot of people from the other schools in the area, but I didn’t get a chance to roll with anyone.  It’s funny how things work out… I would look around and everyone was pretty much matched up.  But I did get to roll with some cool people… just cool people I roll with at school anyways!

 Posted by at 6:17 pm
May 012010

While I’m still struggling to find time to write much, I’m beginning to train more consistently. I’m envious of those of you who can get in to train so regularly! Lately, I’ve been averaging three classes per week. I’m looking forward to continuing at least that. I know that when I get in three or four times per week, I feel good and get a real sense of progress. Less then that and I’m just coasting along. It’s hard to focus on your B game when you’re only training once each week.

In Bing’s class on Monday, he showed one of my favorite reversals, a gator roll type reversal when someone’s about to pass your half guard. This technique has been one of my favorites for years. It’s one of those techniques that’s been around so long that a lot of guys have forgotten about it. This reversal isn’t a sweep, in that it doesn’t technically begin in guard, so the one downside of this technique is that in a tournament you shouldn’t get sweep points for it.

Basically, I go to this move when someone is threatening to pass my half guard. It works particularly well if they’re controlling my bottom leg with their lead arm. So, let’s say I’m on my right side and “bad guy” is pinning my right leg down with his left hand. The trick is to sell the pass. First thing to do is control that lead arm. I want to make sure that he doesn’t have any base or control my head. So, I’ll control the sleeve or the wrist and make sure that he doesn’t get that arm out. Usually, this isn’t a problem as he’s actively working to pin my leg, so he’s happy to keep his arm right there for me.

As he comes around, I’ll hip back and use my monkey feet to hook his leg, giving him some trouble coming around. I don’t want him to think that I’m really going to let him pass. The idea is to really get him thinking about driving his weight forward. When I’m ready to reverse him, I’m going to let him get around my leg, push his head down toward my waist with my left hand, making sure I’ve still got control of his lead arm with my right. This is so that I can sit up and reach around to grab his belt (or if I can’t get his belt I use the natural grip along the ribs/lats area). Then, as he moves to side control, I’ll turn almost to where I’m giving him north/south. At the same time, I drive that arm I’ve been controlling underneath him, bridge up and roll to get the reversal. It makes sense if you do it.

If I keep that arm, I’ll often come up in a position to work for the kimura from the top, or if I can’t get that, I can sit back to an armbar.

This is one of those techniques that really works on everyone. While nothing is 100%, I’ve caught big guys and small with this and it’s saved my ass more than once when someone double my weight is passing my guard like a freight train.

Technique yesterday was a slick guard pass.

Sparring was good. I got a lot of matches in with a variety of skill levels and sizes. I’m still working to really open up my guard when possible, and working the deep half guard when I can. Oh, on that note, I did get caught by Owen. I was working to get to deep half guard and ended up getting caught in a guillotine. Can you say “gaping hole in my technique?” I thought you could!

At the end of class, coach added some stripes. Thad got his first stripe on his brown belt, I got a fourth stripe on my blue and Trevin and Bing are now three stripe purple belts.

Oh, almost forgot. Looking forward to Sunday Morning! Foster BJJ is moving into a new space next month and renovations are underway. A lot of the guys are meeting up to clean, paint, demolish (hopefully) and help make the transition a smooth one. Can’t wait to see the new space in person. In the meantime, here’s Coach Foster giving a tour on YouTube:

 Posted by at 9:32 am