As a coach I want my students to be better than me, to have information I didn’t have as early as possible. Some things I will leave up to preference, whereas other things I will very clear about my expectations for a particular move, position or behavior. My only goal is to make my students better in and out of the gym. If you feel like I’m being harsh or too meticulous, know that it is not malicious. I have done this for twenty years and if I can do nothing else with my life, I can make you a proficient if not stellar grappler. You just have to care, care about the small stuff. If I tell you it’s wrong or not to do something, it’s probably because I know you’re not good enough to bend the rules. World class grapplers do things all the time that coaches tell their white belts not to. The difference is that they’ve messed that stuff up so many times, they have made bending the rules efficient and effective for them. The small stuff matters at every level and emphasizing that early on will pay dividends.
Take care of your training partners and take care of yourself. We beat our bodies up all the time, and sometimes it catches up with us. If you want to train, but your body isn’t up for murder, death, kill you should be able to. We all know that people are notorious for saying I’m injured and going 100%, don’t be that guy, but also don’t be the guy that doesn’t respect other people’s injuries. There’s a lot of trust that you place in your training partners and your training partners place in you, breaking that trust tends to end badly. Err on the side of caution when approaching a training partner who says they are injured, and listen to your body when it’s not working the way it should. We are all trying to wake up tomorrow in one piece.
I did a kids version, so I’ll do an adult version.
The basic criteria of receiving your first stripe through me is being able to defend yourself from someone who is brand new. Not to beat them, but to keep them from being successfully offensive against you.
Blue belt criteria- have systems of attack from top and bottom and proficient escapes from non-dominant positions
Purple belt criteria- fundamental understanding of attacking and defending submissions on the arms, legs, and neck. stellar positional maintenance both top and bottom
Brown belt criteria- varied and thorough knowledge of attacking and defending in the core positions of grappling, multiple efficient systems of attack from all control positions. Dead to rights sweeps and submissions
Black belt criteria- Be a good and knowledgeable grappler, represent yourself and Chuva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu well
We have a kids stripe test coming up and so I thought I would lay out what I’m looking for when I hand out stripes and belts for kids.
If your child receives a stripe or a belt through me it is my expectation that your child meet these criteria to the level of their rank. In the most basic terms, your child must know what I am asking them to do, execute it properly, work diligently, and behave at the level they wish to be promoted to in order to receive rank.
A major part of success in fighting is controlling the distance. I need to be in a range where I can effectively attack and my opponent can not. That does not necessarily mean I need to be far away. Especially in a grappling context, if I can not touch my adversary I cannot control them. One of the things I see, especially in no gi, is abandoning grips. whether we have a gi or not, sound fundamental Jiu Jitsu begins with four points of contact. If we loose our points of contact, we no longer have control. If we no longer have control, we are behind. As Saulo Ribeiro says “if you’re late you muscle, if you muscle, you get tired, if you get tired you die”. It may not be that severe, however being in control of the distance in any combat situation will make your life easier.
If you can stick out grappling for a long time, I firmly believe you can do just about anything. Whether it’s judo, wrestling, BJJ or something else, going through that struggle and persevering carries across all other facets of existence. I can not think of another athletic endeavor that is both so physically and psychologically challenging. Grappling sports require incredibly fast critical thinking and processing skills while at same time being physically arduous. If nothing else your ability to acquire new skills dramatically improves as a grappler. The way you solve problems changes. How you see the world changes. In order for that change to occur, you have to get through the hard. That’s where the populace is lost in what we do. The sacrifice required to shift the dynamic of your life through grappling is often too great. The real benefits come when you’ve made it through multiple plateaus in training, and still show up. When you have your first real injury (one you can’t just tape up or put a brace over) and you still come back to the mats. Whatever you have to get through in life grappling can help you navigate it as long as you don’t give up on grappling.
Seek the hard rolls, and don’t shy away from losing. We all want to win, we all want to have a good time in training, but that’s not necessarily how you get better. For those that train with me regularly, it may seem that all I do is beat you up, and that I never tap. Neither is true. I tap less because I am better prepared to correct mistakes I make because I’ve been messing up for 20 years. I consistently work on the same techniques across all of my students, or the same technique with a specific student to find the holes, and regularly do not achieve exactly what I am attempting. Trial and error + humility is the best way to improve your grappling. In a combat sport error and humility usually means taking a beating.
Getting into grappling is a commitment, more than I think people realize. Casually doing jiu jitsu doesn’t really exist, because you can’t become proficient at it training once a week, and it’s hard to justify the cost if you do. It’s time, it’s money, it’s energy, and it’s difficult both physically and psychologically. There’s hardly any immediate gratification, and even being mediocre at it takes the same amount of time as an advanced college degree. There’s a special breed of person that sticks with it, with a special kind of damage and trauma. This is not well-adjusted behavior, but it’s great for those that need it. It’s a refuge for myself and so many people I know, and it’s the place where I feel most comfortable. I recommend training to everyone, but it’s not for everyone no matter how much we say it is. If you get into grappling, know that your life is going to be different, and even if we sometimes call ourselves hobbyists, this is not a hobby. It’s a relationship, an occupation, and endeavor, a journey, and many other things, but it’s not going to sit in the corner of your house like needlepoint.
We just had a tournament over the weekend and walked away with three gold medals over two athletes competing for our academy. There were a lot of good takeaways from this weekend. I was glad that our athletes fought the entire match and consistently stayed on the attack. There was only one match where that did not end up going in our favor, and the things that didn’t go well from that match are easy to change. Things to work on going forward are being mindful/not rushing and precision in our positions and attacks. Many of the points we gave up probably could’ve been avoided, which means some of those matches could’ve been easier. I’m happy with the results of the weekend and now we get back to work for the next one.
Nothing about grappling is really easy, but I think one of the biggest deterrents is that it’s painful. Unfortunately, there’s not a way around that. Doing jiu jitsu long term requires a high threshold for pain. Every black belt I know has a story of rolling in a cast or a splint, competing with torn or missing ligaments, or doing something stupid so they could get back on the mat. It is an incredibly steep learning curve for an incredibly physical activity. We all know it hurts, we just don’t care, and that’s probably the only attitude to have if you want to be a proficient grappler.