Nov 28

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Teaching Experiment II

Recently, I taught a class at Evolve Academy. I had a simple vision. I wanted to create a focused lesson that reinforced the technique in different ways.

What we’re going to do here is go back and try to highlight what was good and bad about that approach.

Class Structure

  • Free Form Drilling – 10 minutes
  • Technical Instruction and Practice – 25 minutes
  • Situational Rolling – 25 Minutes

Free Form Drilling

The warm up for the class was just drilling. There were no conditions set on it. They just grabbed partners and worked on whatever they wanted back and forth.

There is a reason that I do that in this particular class. The main one is that at least a good five minutes after class starts there will still be students trickling in. One factor behind that is that there is another class right before this one, but there is a parking lot that separates the two classes.

They could all do better on rushing over though.

Anyway, there’s clear benefit to drilling but in this case it didn’t help reinforce the lesson. That is something that can be addressed.

Technical Instruction and Practice

There was one technique taught. It was split up into two parts. In addition, there was also a drill shown. It focused on maintaining the dominant position that the technique required.

The first part of the technical instruction focused on establishing the grip and details about applying pressure. Then the second part was all about execution and finishing.

Situational Rolling

Let’s set the stage.

There was a set position, and we were doing one minute rounds with 15 seconds in between for resets. Also the initial form of rotation was top-bottom-out.

Basically, someone would come in on top. Then they would have another round on bottom. Then they would be out.

The key advantage of this format is that there were many opportunities to work the technique against resistance.


In hindsight, I think it would have been a good idea to show the drill first and use that as the warmup. Then progress from there.

Overall though, it was a good class structure that really focused on teaching a small subset of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Nov 22

How to Hit a Sneaky Triangle Choke from Half Guard

Some time ago, I put a little informal technical lesson on video and shared it only with those who have signed up for the BJJ Canvas Newsletter. Generally, I prefer to do that over posting technique, but I’m making an exception here.

Half Guard Triangle Entry

The technique is a transition from half guard into the triangle. I’ve used quite a bit, and it has definitely surprised people.

Let’s start off with highlighting some of the details.

  • That first movement is all about shooting your hip down. It forces your opponent to straighten their leg and also puts you in a more offensive position. It’s not only easier to hook the leg but it’s also easier to transition to deep half there.
  • Once you hook the leg and come up to your knees, the simple and effective kneetap sweep is generally there. But there are times, when you can’t get it. Maybe your opponent is driving into you or their far leg is based out. In those situations, this triangle is a great tool. Once you decide to go for it though, your underhook has to go up to their collar and you want to shoot your outside leg as high as possible onto their back.
  • The higher your leg is on their back, the more of your weight that they will have to carry. It will make it harder for them to move, while also making it easier for you to move your other leg.


One of the best times to hit this is when your opponent drives into you after you come up to your knees with the underhook. If you time it right, they’ll actually just fall into the triangle. Then you can put them in that fundamental offensive loop of triangle<>armbar<>omoplata.

You don’t need that reaction to hit the triangle, but it makes it easier.


I picked up the triangle entry piece from Caio Terra’s 111 Half Guard Set. The only thing I changed was the initial entry. That little hip movement is very useful, and if you take nothing else away from this, I think that that will help you a lot in half guard.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Nov 16

How Dare You Associate Emoticons with Training

How Dare You Associate Emoticons with Training

I don’t like using emoticons.

It’s simply because it doesn’t feel natural. The reason that it doesn’t feel natural is because I haven’t done it enough.

It’s quite the little paradox. Something isn’t done because it doesn’t feel right, but it doesn’t feel right because it isn’t done.

The same kind of dynamic can be found in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

The Learning Experience

If you train, you’ve probably experienced that moment when you try a new technique and it just feels wrong. Everything’s not coming together right away, and you can’t quite figure it out.

It’s quite possible that you weren’t paying attention. There might have been some vital detail that you missed. But there’s another possibility as well.

It could be that you just weren’t used to the movement because it was such a departure from anything you’ve ever done.

It’s that last possibility that we’re going to focus on. Just for the hell of it, we’ll include emoticons in the discussion too.

The Dreaded Association

Look back at the reason that I gave for not using emoticons. In that situation, there are two options. I can either choose to continue not using them or I can start using them.

If I chose the second option, there would eventually come a point where using emoticons would be natural for me. On the other hand, if I chose the first option, everything would remain the same.

Now I’m cool with that when it comes to emoticons, but in BJJ, who wants to be stagnant?

The same dynamic is in play in both situations. You have the option to avoid technique that don’tt click for you right away. Or you can work on it, work on it, work on it until you figure out how to make it work for you.

The difference lies in the difficulty of getting over the hump.

The Challenge

If anyone made a choice to start using emoticons, it probably wouldn’t take that long before they would start using them without thinking about it. The same is not often true in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

It takes more time. It takes more effort. It takes more focus.

When you strip all of that way though, it still comes down to the same point. How willing are you to accept discomfort? Because if you stick in there long enough, you will become comfortable.

Then it will become natural, and you will become great.

Nov 13

What Would You Do If You No One Could Stop You

The Power Of Challenging Goals

Source: MSN

Take a moment to think about just one thing that you can do now that you never imagined yourself capable of years ago. I’m sure that you can probably think of at least one. It’s even quite probable that you can think of far more than that.

The point of that exercise was to highlight how difficult it is to accurately perceive what our limits are. Just because something seems impossible now doesn’t mean that it will be in the future.

That’s where challenging goals come into the picture.

They are goals that require you to expand your ability in order to achieve success. It doesn’t even matter what the goal is, All that matters is that it is difficult enough that success will require that you change for the better.

I’ll give you a quick example.

Sometime ago, I decided to challenge myself. The goal was to compete at the No-Gi Pan at a lower weight. It worked out to be a good challenging goal because it had certain components.

There was a firm deadline because I had to make weight before competing. Also the definition of the success and failure was clear and unambiguous.

I succeeded in that goal, but if I had failed, it still would have been beneficial. It was my first time cutting weight. The lessons I learned from the process were invaluable.

Also the mere fact that I was willing to take that risk and take it that far shows me that I can do it again.

It simply goes to show that challenging goals that motivate you to act in the present can take you further than you ever thought.

What You Can Do

For Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, some of the best challenging goals are physical in nature. For example, increasing your range of motion in certain muscles or mastering specific techniques or movements.

Those are two quick examples, but if you notice, they have a common link. Success or failure with those two goals are entirely within your control.

You control whether you succeed or fail, and you’ll reap benefit from the effort you put towards success.

Even with challenging goals that you can’t entirely control like winning tournaments or belt promotions, the effort is the most important thing. The effort you put in day in and day out are improving you in ways that you may not realize.

Remember that.

Nov 11

Teaching Self-Defense in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Take a moment and think about how Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is taught. There is generally a logical progression. You start off with drilling technique with no resistance then you drill it with varying amounts of resistance.

One of the best examples of that last step is rolling.  When you roll, you go against people with different skill levels and different body types. Each of them offers you unique challenges and levels of resistance.

That is how skill is developed.

Things are a little different when it comes to self-defense. The essential piece of training against resistance is often taken out. It makes it seem that there are two different arts within Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

There’s the sport and then there is self-defense.

Does it have to be that way?

Think about that question. Also reflect on how much the sport of BJJ has grown and evolved over the years. What’s to say that the same innovation can’t be brought to self-defense?

Japanese Jiu-jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Let’s switch gears a little. What is the main difference between JJJ and BJJ?

Yes, yes I know that JJJ is kind of a wild child. They seem to teach aspects of everything like throws, striking, small joint locks, etc. It’s like throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

Still at a very fundamental level, there’s a clear link between the two arts. They both fell from the same tree. A lot of the techniques are the same. There is a difference though. It’s mainly in how they are taught.

I’ve seen this first hand. There’s a Japanese Jiu-jitsu club that I’ve visited many times over the years. I’ve been able to mirror my progress against some of guys that train there because of that.

Also it’s given me some perspective on the differences in teaching methods. What I noticed is that the progress there has been slow. It’s not because the guys are untalented or the teachers are bad.

It’s simply because the methods used weren’t the best for preparing students to perform against resistance.

Improving Self Defense

Right now, I’m in the position where I will have to teach more self-defense at Evolve. The goal, of course, is to help as many people as possible develop skills that are useful to them.

I don’t believe that it’s enough to just drill technique with no resistance though. It doesn’t matter if the focus on self-defense or not. All that matters is the progression of learning.

For the sport, I’ll give a quick illustration.

There’s a beginner class at Evolve. In the class, rolling isn’t a part of the class structure. Now, there are students who only come to that class, and they’ve been doing it from some time.

Over time, I have been able to see a clear difference between the students who roll and the ones that don’t. It’s not a question of who has been training the most. All that matters is how they train.

So when it comes to self-defense, resistance has to be incorporated in the training.

One way that I think it can be done well is to just take it out of the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu curriculum altogether. Instead, a MMA class should be created with a focus on self-defense.

Take what’s useful for self-defense from BJJ. Include useful techniques from other arts, then train it all in probable situations.

Oh, and please don’t forget the resistance.

[important]Both of the videos above delve into similar topics. Check them out.[/important]

Nov 05

Another Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Thought Experiment

Another Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Thought Experiment

Imagine this.

There are two entirely different individuals. One is extremely athletic with significant experience in sports. The other is out of shape and has never played in any sports seriously before.

Now take both of those individuals and introduce them to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu at the same time and at the same gym. Inspire in them a passion for the art and watch how they grow.

Let’s say that 6 months passed. Which one of those individuals would mostly likely progress the most? There is an obvious assumption to make. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter so much.

Now a local tournament is coming up, and their gym is really beating the drum trying to build up interest. So both decide to sign up, and they significantly increase the amount of time and effort they devote to training.

More time passes. The tournament is quickly approaching. They’re both improving even at times when it isn’t quite so apparent.

Then finally the day arrives.

It’s finally time to put it all to the test. They go out there, revved up, and they both……… get smashed, utterly and completely.

It’s a demoralizing event. No one likes losing. It hurts, especially when you know that you put forth every effort to succeed.

Both of these individuals suffer the same crushing defeat. There is one thing that is different between them though. It’s how they choose to respond.

The Different Responses

The Athlete chooses to rationalize the lost. They focus on factors that were outside of their control like the time that their opponent has been training. They choose not to analyze themselves to discover specific areas that they can improve in their skillset and mindset.

The Average Joe chooses to learn from the lost. They focus on factors that they can directly influence to improve their performance in the future. They spend time thinking about how they can shape their training in the future to fix the issues that they noticed in their match.

Things to Note

In this thought experiment, it is assumed that all factors are equal except the starting points of each individual and how they chose to respond to failure. Also there is no causal relationship between what each individual is classified as and the response they chose.

The roles and responses could have easily been reversed.

[important]After this event, a year passes. Which individual will have likely improved the most in that period of time? The Athlete or the Average Joe? Why? [/important]

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