Sunday, January 24, 2016

How Not to Waste Your Time in BJJ

My Guest Blog writer is David Close who Holds 6 different black belts Including a BJJ Black Belt Under Rafael Rosendo Dos Santos from Alliance.-Keith Owen 

One of the things that annoy higher ranks the most is when we get asked the following:  “What are things I need to work on?”  

Now the question itself is not what is annoying, it is what normally transpires.  I cannot count the amount of times say, before a tournament, where people ask about what they should work on.  Especially if they want to know what to work on to improve on their last tournament performance.   

You then give them an honest breakdown of key things that they may need to work on to better their game overall and especially if they wish to compete.  They thank you and talk about the need to work hard, etc. etc.  And then they do next to nothing in regards to what you went over with them.  

Now I understand that we all have busy lives and schedules that may not allow a ton of flexibility.  But one of the most frustrating things you will encounter as a teacher is when you try to help out students and then they decide to pretty much ignore the conversation.   

Again jiu-jitsu is a long journey and I am all for people traveling this journey at their own pace.  It is one of the beautiful things as the art will work with you if you allow it.  However, there comes a point where as an instructor patience starts to wear a bit thin.

Now this does not mean that as higher ranks we don’t want to help you.  Far from it, we want to help you achieve whatever goals you want.  However, it does baffle us when you want our time to help you personally but then essentially our words go on deaf ears.  Now if you don’t want to take the advice, again that is fine.   

Maybe it’s more work than you want to put in or you don’t have time to employ whatever strategies we have given you, I can dig that as such is life.  However, if you are not getting the results you want (be it in the academy or especially if you are competing in a tournament) then PLEASE no whining about it.  

When you are not getting the results you are wanting, you have to EARN the right to complain about it.  You earn it by being able to realistically say you have done everything you possibly could have to achieve the results but just came up short.  In reality most of us in all facets of life do a lot of complaining but if we are honest, we haven’t earned the right to complain.   

So the next time you want to ask a black belt on what you need to do to improve, please do the courtesy of at least trying to put the advice into action.  Heck we are more than willing normally to work with you on it.  Nobody likes to feel as if their advice is being ignored when it has been sought out after all.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Castle Theory: Building Defenses From Your Back.

My guest blogger is none other then my four stripe brown belt Todd Richards.  Todd's guard is really good so this makes an appropriate topic for him to blog about!- Keith Owen 
One thing I struggled with when I started Jiu-Jitsu was being defensive from my back. As a former wrestler, being on my back with an aggressive opponent was something I was not particularly comfortable with. I struggled with this all the way through white and blue belt!

While I had a good closed guard, my open guard, against an aggressive opponent was not good.   When my opponent did pass I was also not good at recovering guard.  I finally decided that this was something I needed to focus on.  I knew that the thought process I was using was not effective because it had not worked in the past!

Most of the people who know me know I am a big pretty big nerd.  I have a huge interest in castles and medieval style warfare. I decided that I needed to construct my defenses just like a castle. A castle has layered defenses in order to protect the king.

Building my “Castle Of Defense” started from the ground up.  I decided that my head and my neck would be THE KING of the castle because they were the most vulnerable and the least able to defend themselves on their own. It is pretty hard to stop a choke by just moving your neck around.

The next thing I needed were soldiers to protect my king. The idea I had for SOLDIERS was my arms because, while they are great at defending my head and neck, they are also vulnerable if they got into a bad position.  So my arms (soldiers) constructed my first layer of defense while on my back.  

The next layer was my hips and turning onto my side. I labeled these as the INTERIOR DOORS of the castle because while they can slow down an opponent they cannot directly stop someone from attacking my neck (the King).  The movement of your hips also works well with the arms (soldiers) to create “frames” and keep the enemy at a distance.

Next I needed INTERIOR WALLS for my castle and these would be my legs and inner thighs because they are used for pushing people back and keeping them out, creating space against an opponent and then attacking them through sweeps and submissions. This is most prevalent in the form of the half guard. These three layers, the soldiers, interior doors and interior walls work in concert as “defensive layers” preventing an opponent from getting to my neck (the king) or passing guard. The next layers are more offensive.

The best defense is a great offense.  The next two layers work more as attacking layers to keep an opponent away and to gain an advantage. The EXTERIOR WALLS of my castle are my shins and my ankles, specifically as hooks. These are used for elevating my opponent or for moving them in conjunction with my soldiers (my arms) throughout the castle working with grips and pushing to control and attack my opponent. This layer also works well for controlling the distance and redirecting an opponent, keeping them off balance so I can counter attack.

The last layer is THE MOAT to my castle.  This would consist of the soles of my feet to push and move my opponent while I attack my opponent.  It is difficult to attack at such a long range, however it is also difficult for my opponent to attack me.

The last piece of my castle is my closed guard. This is THE COURTYARD to my castle. The closed guard is inside the moat and the outer wall layers of my defenses.  It is close to my inner wall layer but the closed guard is also different because it is a better place to attack. The courtyard of a castle can be riddled with different traps making it dangerous place for an opponent.

By combining these layers and being able to transition between them is essential. None of the layers work by themselves.  They work in tandem, to form a solid castle of defense, to stop an opponent and allow you to defend; then attack an opponent. This strategy might seem weird but it has worked well for me!

Long Live the King! 

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Monday, December 28, 2015

How to Retain Your Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

My guest blogger is my friend and Pedro Sauer Black Belt Bill Jones. Bill is a military combat veteran and has been training martial arts for over 30 years. He knows what he speaks of....

-Keith Owen

Jiu-Jitsu is the most technical martial art I’ve ever experienced. There is literally an option (usually multiple options) for every way the body moves. Learning, understanding, and retaining those options is important to getting good and an absolute necessity if you want to earn Black Belt. This leads to one of the most commonly asked questions I receive.

“What should I be doing to retain all this information?”
Often, the answer is something along the lines of, “Get to class.” That, however, isn’t a very fair answer. Certainly, the more often you’re exposed to techniques, the more likely you are to retain them. There are other options! Here’s a list 5 great ways to retain the information you’re learning in classes!

1. Take 5: After classes, my members are always geared up and ready to start rolling during open mat. That’s awesome. However, if you just spent ½ hour to an hour learning new moves, it’s unlikely that you got many repetitions in. Take an extra 5 minutes AFTER each and every class to go through every technique you’ve learned that week. Be sure you’re still remembering every step and every detail. Do this before you roll, while it’s still fresh on your mind. Trust me, you won’t miss that 5 minutes of rolling and the benefits are immeasurable in terms of retention.

2. Take Notes: I’ve never been a good note taker. It’s just not my jam. But I’ve seen and worked with those who are. Right after you read this go create 5 Files; standing, guard, side control, mount, back mount. Feel free to create sub-folders for things like half guard and technical mount ect. Take meticulous notes in class. Highlight details you feel you may forget. When you get home, type out those notes and maybe even draw pictures if you’re a good artist. Slide them into your folders for quick reference later.

3. Be Present: Ok, this may sound like “come to class” but it’s not quite the same. What I’m saying is when you are in class, be focused only on what’s going on in class. Let go of your work stress, don’t get drawn into side conversations, and listen to understand, not to respond. Just allow the class to completely consume you for an hour and you’ll be absolutely amazed at how well you remember it.

4. Video is your friend: Even if your instructor doesn’t let you video them doing the move, learn it and video it after every class. Similar to taking notes, you can store them on a hard drive that’s well organized. Reference it later as needed. 

5. Be there even when you’re not there: This is my biggest secret. Even when I’m not in class, I’m thinking about what we did in class. That evening as I lay down, I try to remember every detail; my body even moves a little as I do. When I wake up, I do the same. Now those techniques get locked in. This is the method I use to remember the stuff that’s most important to me. I drill it in my mind over and over. Because I’ve trained for so long now, my body just follows. 

BONUS: Don’t try to figure out how to beat the move right away. Pedro Sauer refers to that as “Anti Jiu-Jitsu.” It’s one of the worst things you can do and it’s 100% the most common mistake people make. I show them a move and they immediately ask, “How do I defeat that?” If you take the time to understand the move, the answer on how to defeat it efficiently will appear as your understanding increases. NO ANTI JIU JITSU!

Now, I’m sure a pedagogy expert can rattle off 20 or 30 more methods. But this last little piece of advice might be the most important yet. Allow yourself to forget things from time to time. Quite often, your instructor will be showing you stuff that your body is just not ready to accept. When that happens, let it wash away like a leaf being washed from the shore. 

The crazy thing is, more often than not, those tid-bits we allow to drift away will find their way back to us as soon as our minds and bodies are ready for them.

Bill  Jones is the owner and Head Instructor of Top Level Martial Arts in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. Find him on the web at 
You can find videos of Bill Jones teaching at 

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why We Should Compete!

I want to introduce my friend and continuous writer for the Jiu-Jitsu Times Emil Fischer as a guest contributor on my, "From The Ground Up" blog.  Emil is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro. Emil was gracious enough to share his thoughts on why YOU should compete! Enjoy!

-Keith  Owen

When we first get started with jiu jitsu, we begin to hear about all of these different competitions that take place all the time.  There are many different organizations out there, many different rule sets, and it can all be extremely daunting.  Any seasoned competitor will tell you: compete as often as you can.

One common excuse I hear from people for why they don’t compete is that they are not interested in competition.  My response to that kind of person is: why are you doing jiu jitsu? 

Chances are at least part of why you do jiu jitsu is to be able to know how to fight/defend yourself.  It’s too taxing an art to learn for giggles, so chances are there are motives in there that can be benefitted by competition. 

Competition exposes us to people who are not concerned about our well-being but are rather interested in winning that gold medal.  If you are training jiu jitsu to be able to learn how to fight or defend yourself, this gives you the very best possible exposure short of going ahead and doing MMA.  If you actively compete in jiu jitsu, you will have a level of experience that a casual non-competing practitioner cannot have.

It also offers us stress inoculation.  The first time you compete, you’ll be a nervous wreck, but the more you compete, the better you’ll be at handling that stress.  For this reason, I try to compete as often as I can, which to me translates to once a month because I live in a region that doesn’t have as many competitions as many others do. 

This stress inoculation compounds upon itself, each time you compete you get a little bit calmer.  There are some competitors who show up to competitions and are completely calm, chances are these people have competed a lot either in jiu jitsu or in some other sport.  Competition numbs stress.

Another aspect of competition that makes it a powerful tool is that of loss.  If you compete often there’s a high probability that you WILL lose and each loss if analyzed from an unemotional perspective can show you parts of your game that you need to improve upon.  This is important as, on the long run, we need to expand our view of our own game.

Every time you compete, you will learn something new about yourself, and you will expose yourself to stressors that we just don’t experience in the quiet comfort of our academies and gyms.  The reasons to compete are endless, and the reasons not to compete are often superficial.  Make experiencing competition a priority and your jiu jitsu game will prosper from it.  

Emil Fischer is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear, The Original Amy Joy Donuts, Gladiator Soap and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and

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