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  • Things I've Learned While Studying Jiu Jitsu: Lesson 1

    1. Size really does matter…Sorta… I don’t like starting off with this but we’d better get it out of the way first; One of the top benefits of BJJ most people tout is it’s ability to minimize size differences, going on at length about how great BJJ is for the smaller practitioner. On paper this is true, but anyone under 130 lbs or so can testify that climbing up the ranks in Jiu Jitsu is tougher when the average weight of their training partners is 170 lbs+. Technique and experience are undeniable equalizers, but at the end of the day a 209 lb body has an advantage over a 112 lb body. That said, another size- related lesson I’ve learned is that women and men both come in all sizes in the ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 2: You're Gonna Suck - For a Long Time

    On some level most people begin almost any skill- based venture with at least a basic understanding that they will suck really bad at it at first. Jiu jitsu is no different in that respect, except that you will in all likelihood do poorly for way longer than you expected. That doesn’t mean you won’t have tons of fun in the process of becoming great, but don’t let the realty of inevitable ignorance spoil one of the greatest journeys you’ll ever take in your life. As a wise man once said, “Sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something”. – Jake the Dog. Acquiring any nuanced skill set of course will be long and difficult, but many people underestimate the process ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 3: Ego Isn't Your Bro - There's No Shame on Tapping

    Tapping is a fact of life in Jiu Jitsu. You will tap. You have to tap to learn. You will tap to someone better or quicker or more clever than you right up until the day you hang up your coral belt. You’ll tap to folks that you consider less talented than you. Eventually you’ll even give up a tap to the noobs here and there to help them learn. There’s no shame in tapping. Never. I can’t say this enough and any more firmly; There is no shame in tapping! Now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about why we don’t tap. There are two primary reasons why someone doesn’t tap: Ego and inexperience. There’s different levels of ego on the mats, so for the purpose of this discussion, I’m not ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 4: Gym Hygiene is Really Important and Rarely Taught

    I have gone to the bathroom in bare feet, and returned on the mats to roll. There. I’ve said it. I didn’t do it because I’m committed to being the grossest, most inconsiderate person I can manage to be, but because no one told me it was gross. It never occurred to me. I figured it out through the silent stink-eye fellow grapplers were giving me and through BJJ memes. I mean, it makes perfect sense…but I didn’t know. That was a little bit embarrassing for me, and I’d like try to spare you some shame by handing down some lessons on gym hygiene I’ve learned over the years. The first is the most obvious ‘wear-the-shoes-provided-to-the-toilet’ rule. Most gyms will provide a pair or two of flip ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 5: Belt Blues - The Struggle is Real

    Most of you have heard of the ‘Blue Belt Blues’, a phenomenon many people will experience soon after getting their blue belt in which they begin to think they don’t deserve their new rank. The new blue belt might question their skill level, lose confidence in themself and often, quit Jiu Jitsu alltogether. Conservatively, for every blue belt that stays on the mats to purple, 2 have quit. Granted, life can also steer someone towards giving up on BJJ, but feelings of inadequacy can play a big role in why a blue belt leaves. The fact of the matter is that at every level you will question yourself. Every belt level experiences the blues, not just blue belts. How badly and for how long depends ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 6: The White Belt Spazz

    You’re sitting there on the edge of the mats, mouth guard at the ready, eying potential rolls. To your left a tiny, shy voice breaks in: “Hey, uh, you, uh, you wanna roll?” It’s a new guy, eight weeks into training, looking meek. “For sure!” you say. He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet, but he’s only about 160lbs, won’t be too bad, right? Let him work, you’ll work on your defenses. You slap, bump…and suddenly he grabs your wrist and throws his body into yours in his best attempt at a guard pass. You’re struggling to control him while you eat knees and elbows to the face, chest and shins, fending off every ounce of strength and exertion he can muster. This guy is going H.A.M on you like ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 7: How to be Cool and Avoid Making People Feel Awkward

    This isn’t quite so much about being cool as it is minimizing any awkwardness we might inadvertently cause. I don’t really know how to be cool, so to say I can pass that skill on to you would be a wild and spurious claim on my part. That said, I’ve sat back and watched, sometimes cringed, while people come, go and stay at the gym. Some people know what they’re doing in a team setting and others need some help. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym is home to all walks of life. Men, women, gay, straight, married, single, young, old and so on. Sometimes it’s tough to navigate all the corners of a heterogeneous team sport. This barely-cool blogger is coming to the rescue! I’ve laid out a loose dos and ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 8: Gear, Gis, and Endless Laundry!

    I’ve never in my life ever had to do so much laundry than I have since starting BJJ. If I wanted to do this much laundry, I’d have kids. At least twice a week is darn unreasonable in my opinion, but I also think having 9 gis, 25 rashguards and a pair of spats for every rashguard is a little excessive too, so whaddaya gonna do? I’ve been the primary laundry-doer in a domestic arrangement and I still think I do more laundry as a single person training Jiu Jitsu than I ever did while trying to keep clean clothes on the backs of two grown adults. My heart to BJJ students with a bunch of kids, or worse, those who have a bunch of kids training. That must be a nightmare of a laundry day! But, as ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 9: Top 6 Non-Jiu Jitsu Things You Need To Learn When You Start Jiu Jitsu

    Often we see articles outlining the top things we must learn when we start studying BJJ, like the Triumvirate of Tap (triangle, armbar, omoplata), RNC, how to break guard and how to regain your own guard. But what about the OTHER stuff, the things you weren’t prepared for, the little lessons out of left field that really test our character? Here’s my list of things that have no obvious link to BJJ, but you’re gonna need them if you’re going to survive. 1 Humility.
    Yeah, we hear this a lot, eh? “Stay humble”, “Ego isn’t your amigo” and so on. It’s absolutely true! Tapping sucks, tapping all day long sucks more, and knowing you’re going to show up to class and tap to someone better than ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 10: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Body Image

    I like to think as a woman in Jiu Jitsu, I’ve got a pretty positive body image. I feel strong, I rarely think I’m fat or anything like that, I generally like my body and in part I attribute that to Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu helped me not only change my body, but also change the way I think about my body as well. I’m not going to sit here and say BJJ made me into a hot and skinny woman or something silly like that. Jiu Jitsu has taught me both how to take care of my body as well as how to really value my body. Like many teenage girls, I often hated my body growing up. I’ve got big calves, a propensity to general thickness and I was made fun of a bit in school. I felt like I was fat and ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 11: Mat Snobs, and How to Shut Them Down

    What the heck is a Mat Snob, you ask? A Mat Snob is a mercifully rare creature who, for whatever reason, thinks their jits/academy/style/entire being is better than most other folks. They only roll with certain people, they often skip drills with their nose in the air, or drill something entirely different and they’re about as huggable as Joffrey Baratheon on the throne once they earn their blue belt. The Mat Snob isn’t always a snob on the mats, either. This is the person you hear stirring up forums with crap like “Gi is real BJJ, No Gi is catch wrestling/you have to train in the Gi”, they can go on at length about how superior their academy is while throwing shade all over you for your ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 12: The Blue Belt Blues Part 2 - Promotions Don't Give You New Powers, Sadly

    I spent most of my white belt surviving underneath heavier rolling partners, doing a lot of tapping and only catching a tap of my own here and there. The closer I got to blue, I started getting this notion that after I earned my blue, I’d be better at jiu jitsu. I certainly didn’t think there was some secret magic jiu jitsu juju embedded in my new belt, but I did think that maybe I’d start to “get it” better with the new shift in the way I saw myself (no longer a rookie) on the mats. I was mistaken. I’m still getting my rear handed to me daily by people I’d rather not admit are tapping or drawing with me. My stretchy blue rashguard, the cape of the Blue Belt Super Hero, has failed me. Or ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 13: You Shall Not Pass, Goon!

    I’ve heard of a small handful of goons who were blue belt or higher, but the goon on the mats is pretty much a white belt phenomenon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why, either; goons get sorted out pretty quick. Either they’re straightened out by an observant higher belt, they quit all together because they tapped a few too many times or they eventually realize that “winning the training” as Hannette Staack puts it, isn’t the point, and they chill out. I’m a bit on the small side (although in my head I’m a 270lb brick wall with arms and legs), so avoiding a goon is in my best interest more often than not. I’ll still roll with a known goon, but generally it doesn’t serve ....

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  • Things I've Learned Studying Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 14: The Three Principles of Passion

    What’s the one thing that virtually all highly skilled and very successful athletes have in common? It’s true that dedication, work ethic, resilience etc are all essential qualities, but I think underlying all of those is one singular attribute; passion. It isn’t enough that you train hard, become skilled and apply those skills to win. You have to miss the mats when you’re away from them, you have to LOVE what you’re doing. The greats like Marcelo Garcia treat their Jiu Jitsu like it were a high-maintenance lover, who will not be satisfied with anything less than their full attention when they’re together. Jiu Jitsu will build you up and break your heart, but it’ll always be there, giving ....

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