Making Sense of Jiu Jitsu

What do think would be going in the mind of a beginner Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) student when they are told to get on their back or knees?  The question is, when I first ever tried BJJ, why would I want to do that?  It does not make much sense to most people, especially to curious standup fighters, to start on the ground.  The truth is Jiu Jitsu has a combative aspect to the art which does not start on the ground.  The combative aspect is the missing link in Jiu Jitsu, most probably due to the art being popularised as a sport.  Jiu Jitsu without combatives is no different to getting somebody to read a book from half way and then expect them to know the whole story.

Jiu Jitsu Combatives are not the techniques you expect to find in Self Defence competition where techniques at  these tournaments are usually unrealistic, choreographed and quite often ridiculous; I have never seen or heard anybody do handstands or cartwheels during a fight but I guess if that impresses some of the judges then they are on the right track (doesn’t say much for the judges though).

Whilst my school has always concentrated on the combative aspects of Karate and Jiu Jitsu, the Jiu Jitsu Combatives have been around for a very long time which have been developed by Jiu Jitsu experts over many decades.  Not all schools choose to practice or have the knowledge or are even aware of these combatives.

I get nothing but incredible responses when I set aside time teaching the combatives to Jiu Jitsu students, including karate students because these techniques are relevant to them as well. The combatives, to a new student, gives foresight of the journey they are about to embark on.  The story will then start to make sense.

Protect your Daughters!

It’s time to let everybody know the truth about females in the martial arts.  There are very important underlying reasons why our daughters need and must continue to train the martial arts in today’s society.  Society is becoming so complex and demanding which is causing a change in attitude and tolerance amongst people. 

Unlike males, females are more likely to get attacked by someone they know or are associated with.  Males who attack females are usually cowards and will not attack a male if there is a chance of getting hurt.  Domestics, where partners turn to violence, are very common which can result in very serious situations.  

Any martial art can help a female in time of trouble with the correct training. In the type of situation a female might find herself in, kicking and punching may not always be the best solution because she is more likely to deal with bullies (usually male) just like kids come across at school.  Jiu  Jitsu deals with bullies whether at school or at work which is extremely useful for females in a bad relationship etc.  It is about having to deal with people who are physically stronger and people in close range situations where the kicking and punching might become difficult. That is why our Karate training involves a lot of Jiu Jitsu picking up the shortfall.

Jiu Jitsu training gives confidence to females because they learn to be able to face and handle stronger persons whilst still getting their fitness workout.  I have come across many experienced young Jiu Jitsu girls and guys who I believe can easily handle an adult.  Just look at the expression of the girl in the pic.  Although funny, the facial expression is a true representation of some of these Jiu Jitsu girls when they want to get serious.

Remember ‘daddy’ will not always be around to protect their kids (including daughters).  There is not one parent, I know, who is not concerned their kids being able to protect themselves, however, their are parents who will give up when a child wants to QUIT!  All it takes is one incident to hurt that young lady for the rest of her life or even sustain serious psychological or physical injury.  A child cannot see the consequences whereas a parent can.  Many kids may not know it now but they will be thankful in time of need, especially, when all grown up.  What a beautiful gift to a child!

‘Just Saying’

There’s an increasing interest in practical application in martial arts today because people want to see a purpose and value in what they are learning.  This shift in focus is the result of a large influence by Jiu Jitsu, MMA and Reality Based Training.

The question is how do we know what we are learning or teaching is relevant to us?   It makes no sense to practice disarming a person in possession of a sword or an AK47 because of the extreme unlikelihood of anything like that is ever going to happen in our world.  However, to an Afghan soldier this sort of training would be very vital.  So the humble martial arts instructor has to be aware what's relevant and useful and that can difficult if they do not have the experience or access to resources. 

My focus has been practical application since the mid ‘80s when I first started training the Filipino Martial  Arts; that was a big shift from the traditional Karate which I was already doing for well over a decade.  It was relevant to my working environment such as working the doors in Sydney night clubs and solo law enforcement and there were times of having to take immediate action (off duty) on rat bags who broke the law right then and there – rapists, car thieves, drunks, thieves, dangerous drivers, serious assaults.  Talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time (Bruce Willis, eat your heart out – no script, no special effects).  What do you tell your wife at 5am when you were supposed to be in bed 5 hours earlier.  With only a pair of shorts, runners and some worked up courage, five people arrested.  The media thrived on the story for months.   

Nothing wrong with being a martial artist and not having such life experiences but please don’t flex your muscles and tattoos, flash your belt and market yourself to convince the world you are invincible.  I bet, in one real situation, a lot of these 'wanna be's’ would turn to water and jump on Facebook to call for help. 

I've always told tournament promoters I am the wrong person to judge self defence events.  How do you score someone who defends against 3 attackers with baseball bat, sword and bikie chain and then finishing it all off with a handstand at a World MMA event?   

Techniques taught at schools should be relevant and effective.  This will only happen if the Instructor has an inquisitive mind by making use of the plentiful resources out there; flashy belts and Dans are not going to help anyone.

The ‘Ordinary Guy’

Martial artists are disciplined and structured fighters but, in a situation, emotions can inhibit their performance.  This is because emotions and  fighting don’t mix very well.  We've heard it many times over ‘keeping a cool head’ is the best advice in a situation.  This is demonstrated by well trained police officers, doormen etc who keep their cool and will do a much better job in comparison with the ‘ordinary guy’.  

Police officers, and the like, generally are able to keep their emotions under control because what they do is not personal.  They get involved in a situation because it's their job to do so unllike the ordinary guy who may get involved in a heated situation with emotions flaring up.  The more personal, the more emotional, the more difficult to perform. 

How does one keep a cool head?  Ask the the experts; these are the people you want to talk to or learn from.  Keeping calm is not only better for performance but when the Cops turn up, the first thing they do, is will want to talk to the person who is most composed when trying to figure out what has happened or who is the culprit.  If they don't like you, you are already behind the '8' ball so you need to remain calm.

Relaxing is not so easy for the ordinary guy because they are not acclimatised to confrontations but just be aware the less emotional you are, the less likely you are to say something stupid and do the wrong thing.

PS: Happy Birthday to Soke Richard Norton

The Missing Link

Overall, martial arts schools are good at what they do and produce some pretty good athletes.  On face value, the martial arts predominantly are about self defence and very few martial artists will question if what they are learning is ever going to help them out on the street.  That question in today's climate seldom arises because there are many other great reasons for taking up the martial arts.  But that question still remains and many fear to answer, ‘Can I defend myself?'  Especially those who may be dependent on it because of their occupation or the environment they spend most of their time in.

The truth is every martial art can be effective and useful but a street situation could turn out to be disastrous because of an important missing link in training.  Very few schools are not aware of the real life drama that takes place before the fight even begins.  Students are trained to respond to the Instructor/Referee's signal before commencing their 'fight'; they are warmed up and ready, and know what they are getting into, with rules to protect them.  In a real situation there is a lead up to the fight which sparks off high emotional acitivity resulting in the inexperienced freaking out. This causes not being able to think clearly or respond accordingly. 

There are plenty of available resources which provide the missing link such as Reality Based Training (RBT) which aims to acclimatise students to the threats and trains them to read the precursors and use the most effective and simple moves in stressful situations. This is a big subject and a lot of training is required if people want to be ready for that ‘fight or flight’ situation.  It is really up to the Instructors or individuals to do a bit of research if they want to get somewhere with this, otherwise, be prepared to accept defeat and don't kid themselves or their students.

Happy New Year

Pay to be Uncomfortable

Who does that?  Answer: many.  Discomfort, I mean, removing our minds and bodies from their comfort  zones so as to be able to handle the inevitable adversaries when they occur.  People are starting to realise this more and more and that is why they are spending so much money to removes themselves from the norms to get that mental and physical stimulation this ‘discomfort’ provides.  You only have to look at how many people pay top dollar for Bootcamp and Crossfit just to experience extreme discomfort.  Those who want to stay well away from this are quite welcomed and they don’t have to do anything but the statistics are heavily leaning the other way, more so, with Generations Y & Z.

Over the many years martial arts training has been providing that stimulation.   Sometimes it is difficult for people to distinguish between discomfort and injury giving them the wrong idea.  It is an education process for everybody and it may take some time to understand the benefits of it all.  As technology advances life gets more ‘comfortable’ (although busier) and we spend more of our time in a chair or car, and use the lift instead of the stairs.  This is not the best thing for the body.  We have to regularly jolt it to provide the stimulation for a chemical balance within the body. 

In Karate we experience discomfort during sparring but this pain is only relative to what you are used to.  It is much the same in Brazlian Jiu Jitsu – being crushed or choked.  Some people misconstrue discomfort for inury and they might 'freak out' and that is why they need to acclimatise themselves with this discomfort. 

I remember the whole subject of martial arts, in much earlier years, was about how effective they would be in the street but conversations have changed, over the years, to discussion about the phsyical and mental challenging aspects.  I was saying the other day that I don't feel like I've had a good session if I don't have  a good wrestle (BJJ).  I want to go home with that feeling of experiencing that discomfort and challenge just like boxers and the likes with sparring.

I guess then it must be true what they say – NO PAIN, NO GAIN.

Don’t be a ‘Wuss’

A little bit of pain, a little bit of stress and a little bit of disappointment in one’s life is not going to hurt anyone, especially kids.  In the martial arts it’s all part of the education process and that’s an important part of growing up if we want kids to become resilient to a bit of pain or emotion.  A concern factor is the younger generations.  See what happens if you take the iphone off them.  How are they supposed to overcome fear if this is all it takes to freak them out?

Whilst there are so many new laws that protect children, there are many parents, with all good  intentions, who overprotect children to the point where these kids will hardly experience disappointment is or even know how to deal with it.  This is demonstrated by parents who overreact when they see their children take a fall or even a hard hit during their training.  Imagine how these kids may feel seeing their parents react that way; it shows lack of confidence in their children. This is where the martial arts can take up the slack by giving the youngsters the opportunity to experience challenges, disappointment and learning not to give up, but the parents have to acknowledge that.

Every kid and grown-up needs to become resilient in some way if they want to be able to handle the pressures of life.  What better way to learn this by brushing off a hard hit or handling 150kg on their chest (jiu jitsu).  It’s not about not letting it happen, it’s about how you handle it when it does happen.

Once upon a time, people took up martial arts to protect themselves by beating up the other guy before he beats them.  Today, it’s a lot more complicated; we need to beat bullying, harassment, stress and health issues, and learn to fit in society with the right people.  PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA, DON’T BECOME WUSSES.

Are You Through Playing Games?

Young students and junior grades can be forgiven if they get bored and want a little excitement to boost their enthusiasm during training.  Hence, the little ‘bells and whistles’ instructors have to use to keep the momentum going.  However, there comes a time when these toys should be put aside and students no  longer have the need for the instructor to entertain them.

The brown belt (or 2 years into training) is usually when the student starts getting serious.  It is the stage when the student has outgrown their desire for toys and games and takes on a different attitude towards their training.  Can you imagine how an adult would feel if you give them a toy to play with?  It would be treating them like a child.  I am sure any student with a mature attitude does not want that and prefers to be treated seriously. 

The cycle of life is raising and nurturing children until they are mature enough to look after themselves.  Students are raised and nurtured in the much same way by martial arts instructors who will always be there to guide them.  Anybody wearing a brown belt should start thinking about what will it take to make them better, not what will it take to make things better.  Game over!

No Brainers

Just recently one of my Black Belt students saw a couple of ‘meatheads’ in the carpark who were so pumped up they were carrying on as if they had just won a fight in the UFC.  My student asked them if they were expecting some sort of trouble.  They said, “Nah mate, we just finished MMA.  We’re all pumped up”. 

 MMA (mixed martial arts) is a great sport and there are quite a few good instructors with a lot of experience who can teach it but, with the growing popularity of MMA, they have to compete with bogus instructors who have zero qualifications. 

MMA has also shown to be a calling card for idiots.  The glamour of wearing shorts, rashies and tattoos and not having to worry about belts and respect for instructors would be too much to resist.  Perfect for the 'no brainers' who want a quick fix for their ego and wanting to scare people with their tatoos and deep sound of their voices. 

MMA is the 'in thing' now for a number of reasons.  First, it is more of a reality based martial art.  Its application to real-life confrontations is noticeable.  Secondly, MMA students don’t have to worry about belts and honourific titles making it a much more egalitarian sport.  Third, the training wear and equipment is a lot more fashionable; no need to worry about gi’s or tying belts.  However, there is a strong argument the traditional arts are important in shaping effective and ethical martial artists. MMA Instructors with traditional martial arts backgrounds and values are the sort of people the industry needs to survive. 

The MMA scene gives opportunity to unqualified instructors to jump into the martial arts industry without having to worry about answering questions about how long have they been training for, who taught them, what do they know and if they have anything to show for?  I am sure there will be no shortage of 'no brainers' to keep them going.

Be Your Own Master

Be your own Master and don’t tell the whole world about it.  Talking about the martial arts than actually doing is not going to earn anyone the Master title if that is what they are aspiring to.  There are instructors who call themselves Master and actually believe they have earned the right to use that title without putting in the time, effort and attain the accomplished skill level.  What makes it worse is when they declare the title themselves instead by the right people who believe they are worthy of it.  Unfortunately, the Master title is not an official title so it is misused and abused by the few who are often seeking recognition and acceptance.

Masters of ‘back yard’ origin will inform people they have been in the martial arts for an extraordinary number of years.  These years include the very time they may have tried out a boxing lesson at the PCYC and it will only be years later they actually start any formal training.  There are others who include football and basketball training as part of their total years of training in the martial arts (now that’s funny).  Others conceal the 10 year break they’ve between sessions.

This type of Master has issues.  They demand respect and treat people as servants.  A real Master is nothing like that and does not even like being called a Master, the other one does.  It takes a lifetime to master the martial arts but even longer to be a Master.  Clearly, some people can live with George Costanza’s famous quote (Seinfeld) “it’s not a lie if you believe it”.

There is only one way for these persons who can justifiably use the word Master but I will leave that to people’s imagination.