Sunday, March 25, 2012

Always Watching

The instructors see everything.  One of the more subtle characteristics I've noticed about training in BJJ is how in-tune instructors are with the school.  This applies on a broader level in terms of  general vibe with the finger on the pulse of the team as a whole and on a specific level of each individual person training at that school.  It is a unique aspect of training that I've come to appreciate very much.  They push you harder when you're doing well and pick you up and dust you off when you are struggling.

Even when you don't think they are watching, they are.  And even if they don't directly see something, they will inevitably hear about it or it see it themselves soon enough. I liken it to a poker playing picking up every tell and action that's displayed at the table and acting accordingly.  I recall two distinct examples where I've experienced this first hand. 

Last summer, I was going through an intense period of training.  My momentum was good and I was hoping to get back into competition mode soon.  As such, my results began to show during live training and I was able to catch some guys that I had been having trouble with previously.  One guy in particular had been giving me a rough time ever since I started training with him and this day, and after I found myself on the successful end of one of our rolls, I looked up to see Jojo, on the other side of the mats looking directly at me.  He gave me an intent and acknowledging nod.  It was a quick moment that spoke very loudly to me.  He was aware of my struggles against this one particular teammate and immediately recognized the success I had just experienced.  He took me aside later and encouraged me to keep up the good work.  Similarly, I've often seen Jojo specifically fine tune other people's games, showing them moves that will fit well in their repertoire.  Jojo will often take time out of his personal schedule to work individually with students when he feels they need some one-on-one instruction.

I had the incredible good fortune to train with Bruno Tostes during my time in Albany several years ago. My game advanced incredibly during my time in Albany, but there was one day were things were just not going right.  I was getting caught by moves I felt I could have easily avoided and I felt I was not rolling to the best of my abilities.  My frustration must have shown because immediately after one of my rolls, Bruno asked me to roll with him.  One thing I've noticed about great instructors like Jojo and Bruno is that they know exactly when and how to roll with their students - whether to work with him to build certain parts of his technique, work him hard to develop his cardio or aggression, (or to spank them to bring them down a few pegs :) ).  In this case, Bruno rolled with me to regain my confidence.  He rolled with me in a way that allowed me to go for certain moves and remind myself that, in spite of my frustrations, it's not as if my technique went out the window.  Furthermore, after class he thanked me for rolling with him, remarking that we had a good flow in our roll and that my technique felt smooth.  HE thanked ME! I'm not going to lie, it was really, really awesome to hear and it was what I needed to hear at exactly the right time and he encouraged me to keep it up. 

I could go on with more examples like this that I have experienced over the years.  I would be very interested in hearing about some of your experiences like this.  So, please do share!!

Thank you for stopping by and happy training!


Thursday, March 1, 2012


Jojo does a great job in bringing in other high level black belts to train at our academy.  One of the frequent presences at our school is none other than JT "Spiderman" Torres, a world class BJJ player and my top bet to be the next prodigy in MMA should he ever go that route.  He always brings a new change of pace and technique for us and classes are always a little fuller after Jojo announces he will be coming by.

One JT story that has stuck with me was one experienced by my friend and teammate, Christian "Ninjaa" Gonzalez.  Christian is a fierce competitor who is as strong for his size as he is technical.  At the same time, he is also a martial artist.  One time he was rolling with JT and out of respect and deference to him, Ninjaa was not going full out against him.  JT immediately realized what Christian was doing and stopped the roll immediately and told him:


"When you roll with me...destroy me! Give it everything you've got, I know you got this!" JT was telling Christian not to hesitate in his roll.  In spite of his rank and credentials he needed to go after JT 100% as if he were fighting for his life.  Not rolling 100% would only be a detriment to him in the long run.  After hearing those words, just like that, it was on! Christian rolled with a new intensity against JT for the rest of their roll, much to JT's satisfaction.

More importantly, JT's advice stuck with Christian ever since.  Christian has always been one of the faster learners at the school in his own right but I believe that JT's words that night really helped his game a lot.  Christian himself has said that, "rolling with him struck a confidence in me to give it my all and not give up.  And its been carried with me since."

I have to be 100% honest: this is probably one of the biggest problems in my game.  As I've said before, I tend to get intimidated by higher ranking belts when I roll with them and it causes my game to lockup big time.  It's almost as if I feel like I'm "supposed" to lose and I freeze up.  By the time I finally react and start moving, my opponent is already halfway there to crushing me.  I'll have a similar experience if someone is bigger and/or stronger than me.  As easy as it may be to pick up a new move on a given day, it's been a lot tougher for me to adjust the mental aspects of my game, especially this part.  Thanks to Jojo and the rest of my team, I think that I have improved this over the past few months but I certainly have a long way to go!

As always, thanks for reading and good luck to everyone in their upcoming competitions!