Training with the black belts in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi

Training with the black belts in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi

If you read my last post, then you probably know that I’m back in NYC. After spending 5 months in Abu Dhabi, having a great time, meeting some cool people (like Lucio Linhares), and having some awesome training, it was time to come home. I’m really grateful for all of the jiu-jitsu practitioners who welcomed me with open arms (and armbars, triangles, and rear-naked chokes), and to the black belts who taught me so much. My jiu-jitsu has improved greatly because of their willingness to take the time and help me out during our rolls. I had a great experience in my training, which was both enlightening, and humbling.

That being said, I do have this to say about jiu-jitsu in Abu Dhabi – it’s focused too much on competition. I commend what the sheikhs are trying to do there, and understand that they’re trying to spread jiu-jitsu to that part of the world – and quite frankly, I think it’s awesome that the princes and rulers like jiu-jitsu – but building all of the jiu-jitsu around competition is too extreme. While I was there, I had white belts and blue belts training with me like their life depended on it. Forget about rolling as if they were in a competition match, some of them were training as if they were in a UFC fight.

The learning focus is also on competition, meaning lower belts learn moves they think will help them win competitions, and they still don’t know the basics, and have trouble executing things like the knee-elbow escape in a live training round. These are some of the dangers of having the entire focus of jiu-jitsu on competition. Don’t even get me started about the obsession with points.

What the Emirates need now to continue to grow jiu-jitsu are actual jiu-jitsu schools. For example, the place that I trained wasn’t exactly a jiu-jitsu school. The black belts who are in the country have a space inside of a sports center, where they put down mats and they train every night. Then they set up classes for the lower belts, and two black belts volunteered to teach the class. They weren’t even getting paid. I can’t thank them enough for teaching us just for the sake of teaching us. The sharing of knowledge is a fundamental principle of any martial art.

Several formal schools and dojos have started popping up, such as the Nogueira school in Dubai, and are beginning to teach self-defense jiu-jitsu, and more traditional Gracie jiu-jitsu, and I think as more of these dojos open, the jiu-jitsu of the Emirates will start to shift out of the extreme, and won’t be focused entirely on competition jiu-jitsu.

There is nothing wrong with jiu-jitsu competitions in and of themselves – I’ve done a few myself, and I’m not saying don’t compete (I’m merely echoing the calls of Helio Gracie), but as we see, competition jiu-jitsu is separating from traditional jiu-jitsu. It’s becoming something else – it is becoming a sport. And what that means, is that it’s slowly becoming less and less of a martial art. You have short, timed rounds, which means competitors increasingly have to rely on strength and speed to win, and you have a points system that gives merit to positions considered lower on the spectrum in traditional jiu-jitsu. None of these principles align with the principles jiu-jitsu that was created with. As far as competitions go, they should be to have fun, to have the opportunity to roll with jiu-jitsu practitioners from around the world, and to bring the people of the gentle art closer together.

Oss! See you on the mat.

Helio Gracie on Competition Jiu-Jitsu

Helio Gracie on Competition Jiu-Jitsu


Snow can’t stop me from training. But the dojo having no morning classes can. Trekked all the way over to the school to find that out. I was a little disappointed. 


I’ve been occupied the past few months moving back to Brooklyn. An update will be coming soon. See you all on the mat! Oss!

Having sleeping problems? The Peruvian Necktie might help

Having sleeping problems? The Peruvian Necktie might help.

Unless you are a brown or black belt, or constantly train with a lot of brown or black belts, then chances are you aren’t exposed to that many submissions. Until you reach the higher belts, almost everyone uses the same basic submissions – armbars, triangles, Kimuras & Americanas, some variety or collar chokes, RNCs (rear naked chokes) & guillotines, and the occasional leg lock. There are hundreds of submissions in jiu-jitsu, and each of those has numerous variations, leading to thousands of possibilities. It’s impossible to know them all, let alone use them all.  To mix things up, I decided to compile a list of submissions we don’t see everyday. Since there are so many, I whittled the list down to ten uncommon, wicked awesome submissions. If you want some submissions you don’t see everyday, and maybe even add some new tools to your arsenal, you’re in the right place. Without further ado:

10) Anaconda & D’Arce (Brabo) Chokes

Yes, these are two different chokes. They’re essentially inverted arm triangle variations, and very effective when your opponent is in the turtle position. They are similar, but an Anaconda is a reverse D’Arce and vice-versa. (Think triangle, and reverse triangle, where you switch the legs. Not inverted triangle.) Here’s a nice video from Stephan Kesting demonstrating both, and explaining the difference between the two.

9) The Clock Choke

The clock choke is another effective weapon when your partner is turtled up, and they’re not letting you back mount them. It’s almost like a baseball choke from turtle position. Here’s Rafael Mendes teaching it in his beautiful academy.

8) Banana Split & Electric Chair

I could really go for some ice cream right now. These two moves are a bit different from each other, but both attack the groin area – let’s see ol’ Rubber Legs get outta this one with his flexibility. I like the electric chair position because there’s a submission as well as a sweep you can hit. It’s a 2-for-1 special.

7) Peruvian Necktie

This one’s good if you’ve got your opponent in turtle, but he’s grabbing on to one of your legs. It’s similar to the Brabo or Anaconda, but you sit through to guard in this one, and create some serious leverage.

6) Spinning Inverted Amrbar

The armbar from the 2013 world jiu-jitsu expo

The armbar from the 2013 world jiu-jitsu expo

Spinning. Inverting. Armbar. I know I said submissions you don’t see everyday, but it doesn’t get much cooler than this. Truthfully, the only reason it’s on the list is because Keenan Cornelius used it at the BJJ Expo to submit Lucas Leite in that photo finish. Here’s Keenan himself showing us how to do it.

5) Gogoplata

Make all the go go gadget jokes you want, this technique is no joke. It’s sneaky, and even if you mess it up, the omoplata is waiting for you like a pre-wrapped birthday present. Here’s Nick Diaz demonstrating it on his brother Nate.

And here’s him using it in a a fight against Takanori Gomi.

4) The Twister

This submission is categorized as a spinal lock. That’s about as uncommon as they come. Here’s Ryron and Rener Gracie breaking it down.

And here’s the fight they were breaking down.

3) Barata Plata

The unofficial move of Rafael Freitas. I heard he doesn’t even like to call it that. This is a great omoplata variation attack from mount, taught by Barata himself.

2) The Asylum

True to its name, this submission is nuts. There’s a lot going on in this technique, and I’m not even sure what to compare it to. What it boils down to is a collar choke of some sort, but if you use this, your opponent won’t know what choked him.

1) Unknown

That’s Marcelo Garcia for you. This move is so sick, people don’t even know what to call it. At least, I don’t, and I’ve scoured the internet trying to identify it. Here, Marcelo is rolling with Bellator MMA welterweight champ Ben Askren (who recently left Bellator. Joining UFC soon?). If you don’t know about Ben, he’s a wrestler with moves like you’ve never seen. His wrestling style is rather unorthodox, and interesting to watch. At 6:35 in this video, Marcelo uses a submission which can best be described as “a full nelson using your legs.” I actually used a variation of this after I saw it and it worked. I went for a double under pass and somehow got my legs around my partner’s arms similar to Marcelo, then stacked my partner up onto his shoulders and squeezed my legs together. The person who posted the video calls the move a “Behind-the-back bonanza choke.” While it seems a fitting name, and is rather humorous, I don’t think that’s correct.

(If anyone knows the name of this submission, let us know in the comments!)

So what do you think? Are there submissions out there even more wild or uncommon? What are your top ten? Leave ’em in the comments section below.

Oss! See you on the mat.

Hey you. Yeah, you! I know what you’re thinking. “Jiu-jitsu looks really cool, but I’m not sure it’s for me.” I guarantee that jiu-jitsu is for you. How do I know? Because jiu-jitsu is for everyone! Don’t believe me?

Are you a small/skinny guy that needs a confidence boost? Learn jiu-jitsu.

Are you a women who needs to be able to defend herself? Learn jiu-jitsu.

Are you a bit older, and want to look like you did in your prime? Learn jiu-jitsu.

Have kids? They need to learn jiu-jitsu.

Are you a teenager who wants to learn a martial art? Do jiu-jitsu. (Have parents that don’t like “fighting?” Tell them you’ll learn discipline… Parent’s love discipline)

Are you a musclebound, six foot tall badass who thinks he doesn’t need to learn jiu-jitsu? You definitely need to learn jiu-jitsu.

Are you old? I’m talking almost a century old, creaking bones old.  Learn jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone.

Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone.

So, who shouldn’t learn jiu-jitsu? ….. I got nothing.

Wait a minute. Serial killers. Serial killers should not learn jiu-jitsu.

As you can see jiu-jitsu is for everyone. It’s a martial art designed to work for everyone, not just the big and strong. Anyone can learn how to defend themselves in a real life situation with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Unfortunately there’s no magic death touch/psychic chi blast (which apparently doesn’t work on BJJ students anyway), but somehow I think you’ll manage. So if you’ve been thinking about starting, but are unsure, here’s 10 reasons to take the leap:

10) Discipline. Probably a cliche when it comes to martial arts, but if you can be disciplined about your training, this will carry over to other aspects of your life. Judging from the rampant levels of procrastination, I’m sure we could all use a little more of this in our lives.

9) Positive environment. A jiu-jitsu dojo is almost certainly the most positive environment you’ll ever be in. It’s filled with people constantly trying to improve their jiu-jitsu, to improve themselves, which doesn’t leave much time to judge others. With all the negativity we experience throughout the day, such an uplifting place is a welcome relief, an oasis if you will.

8) You need to get in shape. If you need to get in shape, few things will actually work your entire body like a jiu-jitsu class. The warmup alone will leave you gasping for air. Actually, it’s not uncommon for newcomers to drop out midway through their first class. Do not let this deter you. This is almost like a badge of honor. As long as you keep trying, you’ll be in great shape before you know it. Heck, I know a guy who lost 70 pounds in around 3 months.

7) Lack of confidence. So you’re not that confident in yourself? Jiu-jitsu builds your self esteem in a way that few things can. When you first start, almost all of the concepts are completely foreign to you. As you continue to train over time, you become more familiar and more comfortable with all of the techniques, and your understanding grows. As your jiu-jitsu grows, your confidence in your jiu-jitsu grows with it, and this translates to higher self-esteem even outside of the dojo.

6) You’re stressin’ out. You’re really stressed out, and you need someway to get rid of it? Exercise comes highly recommended in terms of stress relief, and jiu-jitsu takes that to the next level. Whereas other forms of exercise only focus on a few areas, jiu-jitsu utilizes every part of your body, leaving you cool as a cucumber when you’re done.

5) Interpersonal relationships. You’re not a people person. I get it. Guess what, jiu-jitsu makes you a great people person. When you’re in a place where everyone is helping each other out, and you can be yourself, you start learning how to interact with people better. First you start to be really social with the people on the mat, then you realize your social skills are better no matter where you are.

4) Follow through. Something my professor always talked about is the idea of following through with something. A lot of people have the issue of not finishing what they’ve started. Jiu-jitsu teaches us to follow through. When you’re training, if you’re trying to submit someone, it might take you four or five tries to get the submission. If you gave up after your first try, you’d never succeed. Jiu-jitsu teaches us to persevere, to follow through.

3) Good habits. Jiu-jitsu often forces us to create not only good habits, but healthy habits. You’ll start waking up early, going to bed early, eating healthy, doing even more exercise outside of jiu-jitsu, reading more. Heck, you might even quit smoking. Don’t believe jiu-jitsu can do all that? Start training and tell me how those Big Macs are working out for you.

2) Setting and achieving goals. When you start jiu-jitsu, you should be making a goal, and that goal is to achieve your black belt. But jiu-jitsu doesn’t make you create a ridiculously long term goal. No one ever sticks with those – unless you break it up into smaller goals. When you focus on achieving each belt, goals that last only 1-2 years, or even focus on learning a new move, goals that last a few days, or your personal fitness goals, it’s easy to see how jiu-jitsu teaches us to set goals and achieve them.

1) Self defense. The best reason to learn jiu-jitsu is for self defense. It was created for that purpose, to level the playing field, so that smaller and weaker people could handle themselves against bigger and stronger opponents. Some people think they’ll never be in a situation where they’ll need to defend themselves. Why take that risk? I’m not talking about a bar room brawl, I’m talking about someone mugging you at knife point while you’re alone in the middle of the night. Or some drunk guy is getting a little too loud and a little too close on the train. Unfortunately, if you hit him, you’ll be the one in trouble with the law. This is why jiu-jitsu is so versatile – it gives you a middle ground. It gives you tools to neutralize a threat that doesn’t have to end with you punching someone in the face, or breaking someone’s arm. These options are there if you need them, but you have alternatives.

The best way to find out if you’ll like it is simply to go into a school and watch a class. Better yet, ask if you can take a class or introductory lesson. Many schools offer these for free so you can try it out. What you learn from jiu-jitsu can be implemented in so many other areas of your life, I think everyone should learn it.

Oss! See you on the mat.

So you’re training has been going great. You’ve developed a style and a good rhythm while you’re rolling. You’ve been nailing your favorite submission a lot, and haven’t been getting tapped out too much. But then it hits you – your jiu-jitsu doesn’t seem to be growing. Yeah, all that stuff is great, but you realize you’re doing the same thing over and over again, every time you roll. Essentially, your game has stopped evolving. A lot of people refer to this as “hitting a plateau.” It’s perfectly normal. Training has it’s ups and downs, just like anything else, and there are also periods in between where it seems as if your learning curve has diminished.

One of the ways this happens is when you decide to develop a style. Let’s say you decide to have a guard game. Well, every time you roll, you’re going to pull guard, and work from there. You’re also going to try the same two or three submissions from there. Before you know it, you’ve got an incredible guard, and you can hit armbars, triangles, and omoplatas from the guard on almost anyone. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, and that’s a great way to train. The best way to get good at something in jiu-jitsu, is to just do it over and over again, keep trying it, until it works.

What happens is, once we develop wha we were working on, such as our guard, we then tell ourselves, “I have a guard game.” What this means is, we convince ourselves that we have a certain style of jiu-jitsu. Even after we have a really good guard, if we continue to work solely on our guard, the other areas of our game will suffer. Having a certain style is great for competition, you obviously want to do whatever it is you’re best at, but you also want to be well rounded. Don’t get hung up training the same things over and over again, for too long a period. Eventually, your training partners can anticipate your every move. This is how plateaus begin. Our jiu-jitsu stops evolving because we don’t let it. We focus on developing a style, and we don’t let all aspects of our jiu-jitsu grow. Here’s a list of ten ways to escape a jiu-jitsu plateau:

1) If you’ve been working on a certain position or submission for a few months, switch things up. Start working on something new.

2) Choose one of your favorite submissions, then ask a training partner, an instructor, or even look on youtube for some variations. There are tons of ways to do any submission, and I doubt you know them all. This is a good way to mix things up.

3) Pick a submission that you have trouble escaping from, grab a partner, and drill two or three different escapes from that submission.

4) Pick the position that you struggle the most in, and every time you roll, start in that position. Yes, every time.

5) Think of a submission that you’ve never used before, then try and use it at least once every time you train.

6) Find a new way to pass the guard. Guard passing is easily one of the most important things in all of jiu-jitsu, and something most people struggle with. Because of that, we all have one or two “go to” passes. Pick a new pass, and only use that one until you have it mastered. Having new tools to pass the guard is one of the best ways to catapult your training.

7) Chain Drills. A lot of people have never even done one of these. There are tons of chain drills you can find online, and they’re a great way to practice transitions, set ups, reversals, timing… basically they’re a one stop shop. Chain drills are easily the most versatile drills, and are a great way to kick start your training. If you’ve done these before, try out some new ones, or do them more often.

8) Drill the basics. Yep, no matter what belt you are. Chances are, if you’re struggling in your training, your basics can use a little work. Oh yes, working on your elbow knee escapes never end.

9) When you learn a new move, actually try and implement it while you’re rolling. Yes, it’s probably not going to work, but perseverance is key. Keep trying it during live training until it works consistently.

10) Eat healthier, drink more water, and get more sleep. Yes, I know, but this had to be on the list. Sometimes, being in a plateau with your training is because of a bad diet, dehydration, or a lack of sleep. A lot of times, it’s because of over-training, but I know how much jiu-jitsokas hate taking time off from training, which means the only other option is to sleep more, eat better, and drink tons of water. Maybe your training isn’t in a plateau, your body is.

The best way to get out of a plateau is to mix things up with your training.

Oss! See you on the mat.

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