Monday, July 30, 2018

What I would tell "White Belt Me" if I could go back in time.

When I was coming up through the ranks I made a lot of mistakes that I wish I could take back.  The past is the past I know BUT if only I had a time machine I would go back and set myself straight about a few things.  Here is what I would say.

 1. Always think about injury before going to class.  I would tell myself that I need to keep injury in the back of my mind so that I can take every precaution not to get hurt.  It seemed like every time I was injured it was because I didn’t expect it to come.  Now days it is in the fore-front of my mind when I train and it always serves me well.  I am very rarely injured anymore because I’m always watching out for it. "Remember Injury is your Enemy."

2. Be on the Bottom as much as you can.  I always tell my students that the “Lucky guy is on the Bottom.” I wish I could have told myself that back then and since I’m a big guy I wouldn’t have been on top so much.  My bottom game would have been sooo much better sooner!

3. Tap More- I wish I had realized that white belt was the time to tap out instead of at the higher levels.  I would have definitely would have increased my failure rate so that my technique would have gotten better quicker.  I would have also asked my partner what he got me with, so he could explain it to me better and I probably wouldn’t have been hurt as much too.

I hope that my past will equal your future as a beginner. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fundamentals for the Win!

This weeks blog is by Thales Blaso Black Belt, Mike Velotta.

-Keith Owen 

I was sitting here thinking about all the amazing things I’ve learned over the last 20 years. I have to admit that some things have not lasted in my memory as well as others have; some things were not as effective for me, or my body type or my style, and fell by the wayside. In learning and evolving your own technique and style, you are constantly making little tweaks here and there, constantly changing your level of understanding of the original technique until you can make it flow seamlessly into your own personal form.

I have noticed, however, a sad trend in many of the Jiu Jitsu schools that have cropped up over the last decade and a half. I see a lot of BJJ Academy’s that let the current flavor of the month technique dictate the curriculum that is being taught. I get it that some things are very trendy and come around in cycles. I get that some things really revolutionize the sport of Jiu Jitsu. I don’t have an issue with that. The issue that I have comes from the quality and depth of the training that people are getting now, or better phrased, that people are NOT getting.

Three years ago I started teaching at my local BJJ academy. I love teaching and training my students. And I am honored when there are high level guys that keep coming back to train. It shows that the “always be a student” mentality still exists. One guy in particular stood out, because he was a First Degree Black Belt. 

What stood out was the fact that at the end of almost every class he would say something like “Wow, I’ve never seen that technique before,” or “Hey, I’ve never seen anyone teach that technique like that, your details are really great…” Being complimented wasn’t the problem, it was the fact that when he was complimenting me, it was usually after I had taught a Fundamental technique. It was usually something as simple as how to maintain posture, or how to break your opponent down in your guard using your legs, or how to use your feet as if they were hands while playing open guard, things that every student should be learning as a White and Blue belt in Jiu -Jitsu. And before you suggest it, No, he wasn’t one of these infamous “Fake Black Belts” in recent YouTube videos. He was a legit Black Belt under a legit lineage.

I had the distinct privilege recently to go over to London and train at the Roger Gracie Academy. While there, I met and learned from Roger’s father, Mauricio Gomes. The conversation we had while on the mats revolved around this very issue. Are the technique’s that we learned 10-20 years ago old and outdated? Or should they still be considered the fundamentals that we build our entire base of jiu jitsu knowledge on? In my opinion, you can’t build a stable house without solid Foundations.

Mike Velotta started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 1998 under Chris Brennen and Roger Brooking at Next Generation MMA. Mike joined the United States Army in 1999 and was stationed in Germany for a few years where he continued his Jiu Jitsu and Judo training under Dave Celise. When Mike returned to the U.S. he moved several more times, and trained under several prestigious BJJ instructors such as Mauricio “Tinguinha” Mariano of TBJJ, Tony Smith of Lotus Club (Renton), and Finnie McMahon of McMahon BJJ (a Renzo Gracie affiliate). Mike has also trained under the 10thPlanet Jiu Jitsu system and attended many seminars given by Eddie Bravo. It is Mike’s passion to have a well-rounded style which encompasses many of the fundamentals of grappling. Mike received his Black Belt under Thales Blaso on March 14, 2015. Mike has competed in Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, and Submission Grappling tournaments since early 2001 and continues to compete to this day.
On November 18th, Mike and his two top instructors opened the doors to Foundations BJJ Academy, in Madison Wisconsin.
2014 US Grappling Submission Only: Chicago – 3rd place Brown Belt Division
2012 Fight to Win: Colorado State Championships – 2nd place No-Gi Advanced Division
2012 Fight to Win: Colorado Open – 3rd place Men’s No-Gi Advanced Division
2011 US Grappling Submission Only: Greensboro NC – 2nd place Men’s 30+ No-Gi Advanced
2009 US Grappling Dominion Championships 3 – 2nd place 30+ Men’s Advanced Division
2008 US Grappling Grapple-Mania: NC – 1st place 30+ Men’s Advanced Division
2002 Ultimate Grappling Challenge 3: – 2nd place Open European Championships
2001 Ultimate Grappling Challenge 2: 1st place Men’s Advanced No-Gi Division

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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