Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Small guy

    Believe me, you'd be scared, too.  These dudes are big.

Being a small BJJ practitioner offers its own set of challenges and frustrations.  And by small, I am talking about guys 64 kg and under.  I always find it hilarious when I hear guys say, “I'm just 165 pounds.  I'm too small”.  I”m not discriminating in this entry, though.  I think my outlook applies to all BJJ players big and small.

When I first started BJJ I was pretty fit (or I thought I was), but was even smaller than I am now.  I weighed about 58-59 kilos soaking wet.  Almost everyone at the gym outweighed me by at least 20 pounds (10  kilos), and I would get absolutely smashed by everyone in class.   There were even a couple times during the first few months that I thought about quitting, because I was constantly on the receiving end of an ass whipping.  Usually, by other new guys or beginners who didn′t give a damn about taking it easy on me or trying to spare my feelings.  I remember during my third or fourth class back in the States, one guy submitted me, and then announced to the class, “I just got my first submission”.

As I started progressing, I found myself making excuses when I was paired up with someone bigger than me (my level or lower) who would give me a hard time or run through me.  “He's too big”.  I would tell myself.  “He is just using his strength.  If I was bigger, he wouldn't have handed me my ass.  It's  not fair”.

I think this mentality plagues a lot of BJJ practitioners (especially at the beginner and intermediate level) regardless of size.  It's only natural, though.  We are told that BJJ was created for the small guy to beat the big guy, and then we get frustrated when things don't necessarily go our way.

Not to worry though.  I have  have cracked the answer to this problem, and for $9.99 and a subscription to my website I will let give you the secret to this puzzling riddle.

Just kidding.  Ready?  Here is the thing you have to do to handle larger guys in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu....STOP WORRYING ABOUT SIZE!  

Really, that's it.  Plain and simple.  Stop worrying about how much you weigh, stop asking other guys how much they weigh, and most importantly don't be scared to roll with those big guys even if they smash the hell out of you.  Stop being a bitc....wait, we are keeping this thing positive.

I think one of the most important things that helped me progress from blue to purple (besides mat time) was rolling with everyone:  big, small, tall, short, fat, ugly, ripped, skinny, smelly-you name it.

My focus on my size was having a negative mental and physical effect on my jiu jitsu and holding me back.  It's only when I started forgetting how big people were, that my BJJ really started to grow.

Now, I am not telling you that I never think about size.  Quite the opposite actually.  Hey, I'm only human.  Naturally, the thought enters my mind from time to time. 

I like to use a method that I learned from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind  by Shunryu Suzuki.  In the book, Suzuki talks about not trying to block out negative thoughts.  He says if a bad thought or a stream of bad thoughts enter your mind, do not try to stop them.  He says to let them naturally enter your mind, flow through you, and exit.   He said that there is really no such thing as a negative or positive thought, and that it is not healthy to purposefully try and omit certain thought patterns from your brain.

I'm no Zen Buddhist master, but what I took away from this is that it is perfectly natural to worry about how big someone is and our own shortcomings as well, however I can choose to obsess and focus on that  or spend my time improving my BJJ and not worry  about things I have no power to change (my size and the size of others).  

I don't agree with everything Caio Terra says, but he said something really terrific one time at  a seminar of his that I attended.  Someone asked him,,“How do you deal with big guys”?  Caio said something like, “When I roll with a big guy, I don't worry about his size.  Regardless of his rank, I just think, okay this guy is a really big white belt that is trying to get me, but he is not going to, because he is just a white belt”.

Here are a couple of things that help me:

1.  Lift weights-I am only about 63 kilos, but I am extremely strong for my size.  Very rarely do I ever feel like I am being out muscled.  I don't care what anyone says, strength training definitely helps my BJJ.  I'm not saying that you can't be good without strength training, but it sure is a heck of a lot easier when you are strong.  I also don't adhere to the philosophy that you shouldn't use strength when rolling  (that's a whole other discussion though).

2.  Be realistic, honest, and methodical-Some sweeps and submissions just aren't going to be as easy when the weight differential starts to hit thirty five to forty pounds and up.  Don't get discouraged.  Ultimately, if your sweep or sub isn't working, then it's more than likely something is wrong with your technique.  It's a hard truth to swallow, but be honest with yourself and try not to make excuses.  Also, don't forget that different skill levels, body types, and styles will require you to change and adapt your game accordingly.  Figure out what kind of game works for different people.

3.  Roll with everyone-I already mentioned this.

4.  Work on your cardio-This has always been my achilles heel, and I train regularly (I actually find cardio to be the hardest aspect of BJJ).  If you have time, work some extra cardio outside of class.  The hardest thing I find about rolling with bigger,  experienced guys is keeping myself from gassing out (no matter how relaxed I keep my breathing and my body) and not becoming too tired.  Being able to match their pace back and give it right back to them is important and makes a huge difference.

5.  Learn leg locks-You knew that was coming.

                                                     Me                                      Big guys

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Love Leg Locks (Choke) loves Satoru Kitaoka

Korean Special Forces X 동천백산 (Dong Cheon Baek San)

    My instructors Chae-In-muk and Sung Hee-yong training the Korean Special Forces here in Busan

My instructor has been hired by the Korean government to create a new self defense system for the military.  He told me that the style that he is creating incorporates elements of BJJ, boxing, Kung-fu, kickboxing, and wrestling.  He called it something like “military mixed martial arts” and then made a kicking motion toward my crotch.

For those unfamiliar with the Korean armed forces, all males here in Korea  must serve a mandatory military service of two years.  Most guys dread having to do this since they are basically cut off from the world for two years (usually stationed somewhere in the boondocks), very rarely get to see their family and friends, and don't get paid much.

Actually, one of my gym buddies went to serve his two years right after receiving his blue belt.  He's finished his military service, but I have only seen him at the gym about two times since he's been back (almost a year now).  It's a damn shame, too, because he was one hell of a grappler and a great training partner who happened to be the same size as me.

                                        Have you seen this man?  MIA (missing in action), my bud Jae-sun

Monday, August 20, 2012

Team MAD

After more than three years my lazy butt finally made it out to Team MAD to train, and let me tell you it was a pleasure.  When I got there I was surprised at how small the gym was.  On T.V. it always looked a lot bigger.

                                            Entrance to the gym

There happened to be a television film crew at the gym when I got there doing an interview with the owner and Kang Kyung-ho who just signed with the UFC.

I said hi and gave the owner the vitamin drinks and bananas I had brought and got changed.  The instructor today was Jo “Crazy” Nam-jin, a terrific MMA fighter (bantamweight) who defeated Shinichi “BJ” Kojima back in March at SHOOTO-3rd Round in Japan.

Jo-nam was a very friendly and competent instructor, and made sure everyone understood the techniques he was teaching.  We learned one take down defense, one take down, and two submissions (I learned a really cool triangle from back mount that I had never seen before) then it was time to spar.

Dear readers, this was the hottest gym I have ever trained at!  I was so sweaty that it was an ordeal just trying to sit up.  I was told that there will be an air conditioner installed tomorrow and thank god.  I definitely have a new found respect for bikini oil wrestlers.

I talked to the owner for a bit, and he said Dong-hyun Kim is doing fine.  I asked Jo Nam-jin if the guillotine “BJ” had on him was choking him at all, and he said, “no”.  The T.V. crew had me say a short monologue to the camera, so maybe I will be on T.V.  It was kind of funny, and I got to practice my rudimentary Korean.  It was a good training session even though I almost died from heat exhaustion.

                                                   Master Yang (owner of Team MAD)

                                  Kang Kyung-ho (Road FC bantamweight champion/new UFC fighter)

Jo Nam-jin and I

Saturday, August 11, 2012

DREAM gloves

Before dream went under, I was fortunate enough to able to go and see two live events, DREAM 14 (white cage) and DREAM 17.  Besides Ebay, I have only seen DREAM gloves for sale at two places:  at DREAM events (for 20,000 Yen) and on YAHOO! Japan Auction. 

    Aoki's signature directly above the right glove (you can barely see it though). 

First, DREAM gloves should come in a plastic box (all the ones I have seen do) that looks like this:
 The first thing I noticed was how huge the padding in the middle of the glove was (about an inch thick).

The gloves are made of leather and are not shiny at all.  All the stitching on the gloves are blue and the foam around the thumb holes is blue as well.  The DREAM logo is laminated on the glove.

The tag on the inside of both gloves says, “Made in Japan”.

My gloves are large.  All the gloves for sale at the DREAM merchandise booth were large.  The pairs I have seen for sale on Ebay, Yahoo! Japan Auction, and on sale on random forums have also always been large as well.
                               Merchandise booth at DREAM 14

One of things that sticks out in my mind the most about DREAM was how quiet the audience was.  You could hear a pin drop in the stadium.  Any submission attempt or sweep was accompanied by golf claps.  I got to meet Kawajiri, Aoki, and Takaya.  I saw Omigawa with some babe at one of the snack stands.  He was wearing giant asshole sunglasses inside the building and eating some junk food.  I shook his hand.   I also tried to buy Sakuraba's mask off some yuppie who caught it, but unfortunately I didn't succeed.  The last time I went to Japan I splurged and got seats about ten rows behind the ring (hey, sometimes you have to treat yourself).  Everything was so close!  Here are some pics:

                               DREAM 17 Hansen v.s. Kawajiri

                               DREAM 14 “Wicky” after he KO'd  Tokoro

                               DREAM 17 Imanari (I heard he is good at those footlock things)

   Saitama Super Arena-Actual real, live Japanese people...amazing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

동천백산 유술회 Grand Opening Ceremony

Yesterday, was the official grand opening of our new gym.


    From left to right:  Park Jun-young, Kim Young-soo, Sung Hee-yong, Chae In-muk

Kim Young-soo (owner of First Gym) was promoted to black belt!  I have only met him a few times, but he has always been very nice to me.  In fact, one time when he was visiting I asked him where I could purchase a First Gym rashguard that he was wearing.  He then proceeded to promptly take his off and give it to me.

동천뱈산 유술회  East Heaven White Mountain Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

민구 (Mind C)

I want to thank Min-goo for creating my header for me.  He is a nice guy, a great artist, and a wonderful teammate.  Here is some of his artwork.  And if you were wondering, to my knowledge he does not take mushrooms...

Failing body

My body is slowly falling apart.  I tore my MCL two months ago, and my left shoulder has been screwed up for over six months now (I am going to the doctor next week to find out what is wrong).  Saturday, I went in to train and after, I started to do my strength training exercises, and now I can't do any pull ups.  I  do pull ups with twenty five kilos (fifty five pounds), but now I can't even do one  properly without any weight.  My right arm is weak for some reason, and my body is pulling to one side.  What is really weird is that my arm doesn't hurt at all.  I could only train once last week, so I have no idea what is going on.  All this stuff is mentally and physically taxing to say the least.

Perhaps though, I found what can cure my ailments:

I found this ginseng lying around the gym tonight.  I never saw ginseng root before I came to Korea, and it is really beautiful.  Korea is actually famous for its ginseng, and it is widely considered the best in the world (so I have heard).  I practically know nothing about ginseng, but I have heard that some of it can get pretty expensive and cost thousands of dollars.


My instructor told me this particular ginseng is resting in soju.  If you are not familiar with soju, it is the time honored,  national  beverage of the country that originates from the majestic heart mountains of Korea...actually it is more like drinking gasoline.  No wait, gasoline might be better for you.  

My instructor saw me taking pictures and tried to give it to me, but I couldn't bring myself to take it.  He told me you wait about five or six years and then open it up and drink it.  Too cool.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New gym/Old gym

                               Old gym in Daeyeon-dong

When I first arrived in Korea,  I had about a year's experience training grappling.  I had trained for a few months in America, and I had spent the previous year training at a small club in France.  In France, my instructor was a blue belt and the rest of the club consisted of white belts.  When we would go to competitions or seminars around France I would always be amazed when I would catch a glimpse of a blue belt or gasp....a purple belt!

I still remember my first day training BJJ in Korea.  I am a pretty shy person, so it was pretty nerve racking for me to have to join a new gym, make friends, and try to fit in.  I also missed my old club in France and my instructor and teammates there.  I remember being shocked at seeing so many blue belts in one place.  I even got to roll with purple belts and brown belts for the first time.  Back then, there were only two or three black belts in Korea (one of my instructors Park Jun-young, but I had not met him yet, and John Frankl and Lee Hee Sung in Seoul).

                               Me as a white belt (top row third from left)

Back in France, I had the most experience out of everyone in the club, beside my instructor.  I was used to being one of the top guy in class.  I remember thinking naively that I was close to blue belt level.

Well, I got my ass kicked by everyone, white on up.  I remember, one of my friends ( a white belt, too) triangle choking me over and over again for five minutes and one of the purple belts using me as a surf board.  I was pretty much used as a grappling dummy by everybody in class.   I realized that I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to improve.  Everyone was pretty nice, though.  There was only one other foreigner besides me training at our gym at that time, too.  

I have a lot of good memories at that gym.  I got promoted to blue there and put a lot of time in on the mat.  It wasn't the biggest, most fancy, or nicest gym.  It was in a small basement with no central air (so it was hot and humid as hell in the summer and freezing cold in the winter), but I felt like I had the best training partners and instructors in the world.

                               Marco Barbosa (seminar) teaching ze' ankle lock

                               “Kid” Yamamoto (visiting our gym) with Mr. Chang-yoo (장유씨)

It has been interesting to see all the different gym dynamics that have taken place over the years.  I have seen two of my instructors and one of my teammates promoted to black belt.  I've witnessed talented guys who I never thought would quit drop out.  I've gone from white to purple and have had the chance to watch my teammates grow as well.

I went in on Saturday to find both the upstairs and downstairs to our new gym pretty much all completed, except for the installation of the air conditioner.  Here are some pictures.
                               Upstairs gym

                               Downstairs gym

                               Weight area

                               So long...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

“Ball” BJJ

The best techniques are the ones that you can apply in many different situations.  X-guard is cool, but I’m not going to transition to X-guard when I have someone in full guard or when I have someone’s back.

The most important techniques I look upon more as theories instead of actual moves that take  you from step A to step B.  I think a lot of times people (myself included) tend to place too much emphasis on the sequence of steps in a technique instead of focusing on the concept and mechanics behind how or why the technique actually works.  We expend a lot of energy trying to force a move or the steps that make up a certain technique when it really isn't there and then we get frustrated when we can't execute it properly.    

Over the years, I have also noticed that the most important techniques I have learned are always the most simple.  I’m always amazed when I ask my instructor a question about something I have been having trouble with in training and he replies with, “Oh, just move your leg to the left” or “Place your hand here next time”.

One of the most important things my instructor has taught me is the theory of “Ball“ jiu-jitsu.  All this means is that my opponent and I are like two balls.  If we run into each other, we will just bounce off one another.  However, if I can break my opponent's ball (flatten out his torso or legs) and keep my ball, I will be able to advance.  If my opponent breaks my ball first he will advance.  If we are both unable to break each other's ball, then most likely nothing will happen.    

I am always thinking about staying in a ball; my body is bent at the waist, legs tucked close to my body, lower legs folded.  My back is always arched, with my arms close to my sides making sure to not fully extend my arms (unless the situation calls for it).

It may sound easy, but it's not.  You have to actually condition your body to naturally form to this position when you are rolling.  I've spent a lot of time walking back and forth crouched, sometimes with a belt placed on my pelvis to make sure I am bent over enough and doing it correctly.  If you are not used to this, after about two minutes your body starts to ache and you want to quit.

To break my opponent's ball I am always thinking about controlling his upper body or lower body and then stopping his hips from moving; another simple concept that is vital.

I can apply this theory everywhere:  guard, guard passing, half guard, back, DLR,  X-guard, etc.  It may sound silly, but the moment I really started to understand the theory behind the word “ball” my BJJ  improved ten fold.