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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Monday, November 16, 2015

Michael Jen and "The Science of Submission"

I want to take a moment and endorse a BJJ book that I recently read that really blew my doors off!  It’s a book that was recently published by BJJ black belt Michael Jen  and his co-author Geoffrey Gluckman  called “The Science of Submission,” A Principle-Based Approach to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Starting out I want to say that this book is not for everyone.  If you are a musclebound BJJ hack that hasn’t thought more than five minutes about proper technique in Jiu-Jitsu then you will probably want to skip this book.  This book is definitely for the BJJ intellectual who is in search of perfect technique in their game and a deeper understanding of how the body works.  It can be a heavy read at times but for a guy like me who wants to understand everything about Jiu-Jitsu it is a must read book on how to improve your game.  

Michael Jen has been, at least in my mind, has been around forever.  He is a 4th degree black belt under Joe Moreira, a black belt in Judo and is also an expert in Muscle Balance & Function (MBF), in other words a pretty knowledgeable dude on the subject he writes about.  

He disappeared from the Jiu-Jitsu spotlight for a few years but now he is back and with mental and philosophical force.  I feel that with the publishing of this book he has done Jiu-Jitsu a great service.  I only wish more people would publish books like this.   

Well done Michael Jen, Well Done!

You can buy the book here

I have also included an interview he did with Stephan Kesting here.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

What to do with Fake BJJ Black Belts.

I once had a fake BJJ black belt start up a school in my town.  He literally took my marketing as his own and then started to wreck my reputation around town for no reason.  He invited a high level black belt to his school (very famous) and the high level black belt took him on as an affiliate!

The worst thing he did was promote unsuspecting white belt students to blue belts.  He was finally outed by the internet community. How do you think his students felt?  Hurt? Betrayed? Are they really blue belts? How would you feel?

The amazing part is this guy had a long history of doing these sorts of things before this.  His girlfriend called me, out of the blue, crying one day.  She finally saw through all the lies and was distraught.  We had a heartfelt two hour talk about all the bull he told her, including the story that he was a legit bjj black belt and he told her that for a time he had played "the Stig" on Top Gear!  Can you believe that?  He has probably moved on and is misrepresenting himself right now in some other industry. I'd bet on it.  

What's worse is he also convinced another guy to put a black belt on and tell everyone this fake instructor promoted him to black even though the fake instructor had no stripes.  This new guy had the balls to pretend he was actually a  black belt at tournaments until one of my purple belts tapped him out at a super match we set up.   It then became abundantly clear that he was in no way a black belt.  The mats don't lie.

People who pretend to be something they are not are sociopaths and compulsive liars. This is why I'm unapologetic about my words and have no sympathy for these guys. It amazes me that so many people on social media don't think the fake black belts should be humiliated for lying.  These people simply go through life "feeling" and not "thinking."   These naive people appear to lack critical thinking skills and just want to reflexively hug these wolves because these guys have problems.  It's always, "You shouldn't humiliate him like that," until it happens to them then the huggers get a real dose of reality and the anger and hurt that follows. It's called being victimized.   

The hugger's words humiliate the true victims in this story, the white belts who he promoted to blue and the high level black belt he conned into affiliation with. Fake black belts are no different then the two escaped convicts from the New York prison in personality traits, they lie and manipulate to get what they want and sometimes wreck lives.   They just haven't killed anyone..or have they?  Who knows the truth.  You can never get to it.

To end, I would like to say it took me 13 years of very hard work and dedication to earn my BJJ black belt.  I'll be damned if I'm going allow someone to get it in 30 seconds!  Public humiliation is not too great a punishment in my eyes.  People need to know as to be on the look out for these charlatans!

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jiu-Jitsu Wants You to Quit.

I am thoroughly convinced that Jiu-Jitsu wants you to quit. I often tell this to students at the end of my seminars.  Many of them sit and nod their heads in agreement at knowing that feeling.  If this weren’t true then why do so many people quit either at the beginning or somewhere in the midst of their Jiu-Jitsu journey?
If Jiu-Jitsu were really an actual person I think that it would try to make a student prove that they deserve to be in Jiu-Jitsu on a continual basis.  It would take pleasure in beating that student’s ego down until he or she fundamentally changed as a person or quit Jiu-Jitsu to do some other activity.  Being squashed on the bottom of a brown belts side control as a white or blue belt is a feeling that very few people can handle let alone enjoy.  They know full well that it’s practically impossible to escape and soon, very soon they are going to get submitted for the 9th time in that 8 minute training match.  They are then supposed to come back the next night with an attitude of “boy, getting my ass kicked sure is a lot of fun?” 

 It’s no wonder that after numerous nights of the same old result a little excuse like being tired and watching tv or a big excuse like hanging out with the spouse and kids comes along and takes hold and the practitioner decides not to come to class.  They act like they deserve the night off from Jiu-Jitsu.   Another excuse happens the next day and so on and so forth. Then after a few weeks of not showing up the excuse of, “Well I need to get into better shape before I come back to class starts to take hold.”  See, it wants you to quit.  Jiu-Jitsu only wants the worthy ones.  The ones who want to get better no matter the hardship.

Ok Jiu-jitsu is not a person and it really doesn’t want you to quit, in fact it doesn’t even really care if you stick or not so that leaves only one person responsible for your quitting,  You.  Are you in or out?  What is your commitment level?  Is your goal really black belt?  If it is, be prepared for a long tough haul.  It’s part of life and you need to accept it and be prepared for it no matter how you feel at this moment.    

Times will not always be easy; you need to admit that to yourself.    You will have tough times that you will find yourself ill prepared for, that you were not expecting.   You will need to harden yourself to these trying times.  Can you deal with the pain?  Can you deal with loss? Can you deal with the injuries? Can you handle the doubt?  Can you deal with the time it takes to get a black belt?  Can you deal with the personalities? Jiu-Jitsu reveals who you are as person and sometimes you won’t like what you see.

This is a direct result of your character and who you are as a person.  Don’t rely on your instructor to motivate you.  Don’t dwell on the fact that maybe right at this moment training isn’t as fun as it once was, because at some time or another it won’t be as fun as it was when you first started.    Remember showing up is 90% of getting a black belt.  It’s the battle that is so easily lost.  Will you be a casualty?  Don’t let Jiu-Jitsu tap you out. 

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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Reason I "Disavowed" A Student's Blue Belt.

I recently made a post on my Facebook page about “disavowing” a former student’s belt. This post, in my mind, was really a cautionary tale for my students and my affiliates so that they would know that while I’m a nice guy I’m no push over and won’t tolerate dishonesty.  It was subsequently picked up by White Belt BJJ (with my permission) and the post went viral.  

To say it has been a popular post is an understatement.  They told me that their site crashed for a while and that the post got over a million hits! For those of you who haven’t read my post here it is from my Facebook page:

“I disavowed someone’s belt today.

I awarded someone a blue belt last year and they showed a COMPLETE lack of integrity AND dishonesty in some dealings with another person. I don't think it's right to take a belt away because people truly earn the belts I present them BUT I can certainly disown and disavow them.

If anyone asks me about this person in the future I will say "I no longer sanction their belt because of " A Lack of Honesty and Integrity."

Please Please don't think I'm trying to hold myself up as some kind of poster child for perfection in all things ethical. BUT I'm trying to make a good faith effort to be a better person and only surround myself with people in my life, school and affiliation who are trying too as well.

What this person did was inexcusable and I'm not putting up with it. Let that be a lesson to everyone who is my student or affiliate.”

As you can see I made no reference to a person, area or gender, I simply talked about an action and I thought that was going to be the end of  that.  I also never took anyone’s belt.  I simply “disavowed” it. They can be a blue belt but I don’t recognize it.  This person can simply go on their way. 

The person who I was speaking of decided to come forward and let themselves be known including the school this student now goes to.  The new instructor decided to become vocal as well.  I was thinking, “Wow, why do they care so much that I am saying this, they aren't known?” Well as you will find out in a minute… I found out why they cared so much. 

I am going to say right now that I will in no way use the ex -student’s name nor the new “instructor’s” name or anyone associated in this.  If you want to find out then all you have to do is look around.  I never wanted to bring names out in the open nor do I want to really hammer this instructor by name out of respect for his association.  They are good people and don’t need to be brought into this by me.

Writing this blog post is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Writing this offends me to no end.  I enjoy talking about ideas and not about people and that’s why I hate doing this so much.   I will however say that I am going to defend myself and my actions from all the online attacks and I will pull no punches.  Everything I’m speaking here is the truth and I have witnesses and documentation to back it up.  I will limit my opinions as much as I can and present the facts as I have proof.

My affiliate had a young woman who began training at another school late last year, while simultaneously training and working as a “karma” exchange student with my affiliate. This student was actively involved with my affiliates front end operations and was privy to private business information.

As time went on she spent less time training at my affiliate’s school but was still working with them, and talking with their students.   After giving her notice to leave the karma program to "go traveling" with her boyfriend, she stopped training completely. She told my affiliate that she would return sometime after her travels. My affiliate was contacting her at this point and hereafter asking where she was and why she hadn't returned to class…because he cared. 

This student would continuously make excuses but said she would be in soon.  One day my affiliate sees a post on Facebook that this female student is now getting her second stripe on her white belt at this other school.  The only problem is that she is a blue belt at my affiliate’s school!  She never came clean that she was getting ranked at another school and what’s more she is starting over.

My affiliate sent her a private message addressing the disappointment over finding out this news, and he c.c’d me.  Now let me start out by saying that I have given out somewhere between twenty to thirty blue belts to women.  My blue belt test is very challenging.  It’s 30 to 45 minutes of intense cardio, followed by the student showing 88 Jiu-Jitsu moves and ending by grappling for a half hour to forty five minutes. Its purpose is to give the student a feeling that they can handle anything they put their mind too.  A sense of pride that they “earned” that belt and that no one “gave” it to them.   I have failed numerous people on my blue belt tests and I probably will again.

This girl did outstandingly well on the test.  I was very impressed with her performance, she passed with flying colors, and I was proud.  She set a great example for all the ladies. It was a complete and utter shock that this young lady would not only change schools but disregard her blue belt that she rightfully “earned”! 

I was a hurt over this and let her know in no uncertain terms that I was disappointed.  Not as much for me but for her and my affiliate.  This begs the question…This new instructor’s school has such “high standards” that they make her start back at white belt?  What? Who does that? She isn’t even good enough to have 4 stripes?  Right there I began to think some brainwashing was taking place.  I could not figure it out.  I found out the real reason and I will tell you later.

I immediately told her that I was not going to go along with this and that I was “disavowing” her belt.  I know I used the word “disavow” but I’m not the world’s most elegant man and it was the only word I could think of at the time. “Disassociate” might be a better word.   I never took away her belt, she is the one who did that and I wasn’t going to stand behind this action and let this other instructor make her start over.  

I truly didn’t think she cared too much anyway about what I thought or she wouldn’t have done it.  She would get her blue belt from this new instructor anyway. Right? Who cares what I think?  I also was disappointed on her lack of transparency on how she handled changing schools. It really bothered me.  It’s no problem to change schools just be up front and tell the instructor. Let me repeat that, “Be upfront and tell the instructor.”

The female student would later tell my affiliate that she doesn’t have to say anything when she quits and this is merely a business transaction and she can spend her money where ever she likes.  

 I bring this up only because for the bjj students reading this I would like you to walk up to your current instructor and look him or her straight in the eye and say, “Professor, ya…um….you know these belts your giving me?...Well I’m just going to let you know that when I find a better deal from some other instructor I’m outta here! I just don’t know when that’s going to be.  Don’t count on my loyalty. This thing that we are doing is nothing but a business transaction and really I’m going to take my money elsewhere when I see fit.”  See what they say about that. 

If you’re an instructor then simply go in front of your class and say…”Look everyone..this class that you’re having right now..ya well this is only a business transaction for me..ya see I’m going to give belts to the highest bidder so the more money you pay me the sooner you can get belted. See how the students react. 

Ok, so there you have it.  That is the extent of why I originally did what I did.  As a former cop I was suspicious that there was more to her decision but I just wasn’t privy to it.  I made my decision and I felt fine about it.   I posted it in a very vague way so that no person would be identified and that was that.  Or so I thought.

Then she decides to identify herself, or should I say her instructor makes a post naming the female student.  I was shocked and horrified!  This girl is young and while I “disavowed” “A” belt, I in no way wanted to subject “her” to public humiliation.  Her current instructor decided to do that job instead.  I immediately wrote him a Facebook message.

“(instructors name), I know this is going to sound like an odd request but can I ask you to take (female students) name off of your post?  I know you don’t agree with what I wrote nor am I under the illusion that you might like me but we don’t need to publicly parade her name out.

I’m in the public eye all the time I can handle all the name calling but you don’t need to put a student through that. There was no way I was going to publicly name her I just don’t think that’s right. I was merely highlighting an action and not a person. If I would have known that this whole thing was going to blow up on the internet and that YOU were going to publicly name her I STILL WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING I just wouldn’t have published it to Facebook.

She is your student now and I hope she is more loyal and ethical to you. I think as an instructor you can have YOUR NAME out there “taking me on” if you like….but you certainly have an opportunity to shield your students from the unnecessary abuse of troll nation. I really hope you take these words into consideration.”

I got no response nor was her name taken down.  Her name is out there for all to see, like he wanted to make her look like a victim and me this totally mean guy.  What am I going to do?

The next day I get a message from a student who trains with this young lady.  It turns out that this young lady (the one I disavowed) has been secretly dating the head instructor of this new school.  Yes the very one who made her give up her blue belt and outed her on the internet.  The very one who sits and openly criticizes me for doing something wrong.   

She got tangled with this guy back in October of last year and this student tells me that over time, on the down low, she started talking badly about my affiliate (while she was in the Karma Program) and how my affiliate’s school now suddenly “sucks.” All throughout this time she was working AT my affiliate’s school at the front desk. This person who sent me the email counseled her to go tell my affiliate and be honest and upfront.  She wouldn’t do it.   

Do you see a conflict of interest here? Do you see a lack of professionalism here on his part dating my affiliate’s student (or I guess his student) and not letting it be known?  I know I do.   Finding this out literally blew me away.  It made so much sense to me then as to why this young girl would simply toss away her blue belt.

After my amazement wore off anger set in.  Why didn’t she just tell my affiliate that she was in love and dating this instructor?  My affiliate would have approved.  You can’t stop love.  She would have been more than welcome back anytime. This whole mess would never have had to happen. But there was an ethics problem.

I think after a million hits the fire online got a bit intense for them because out of nowhere this instructor messages me again:

“Hi Keith, I appreciate you reaching out, I have a proposition. I will remove my entire post if you do the same. We could replace it with a post saying you will reinstate her blue belt, and I will ask her to wear it at our club, that we are choosing to rise above politics and hasty actions. And that (female student) is welcome to train at (your affiliate’s school) again and be around the friends she has made there. What do you think?

This post floored me as well.  Why do you care that I re-instate her blue belt? You’re the one who was giving it to her now?….oh ya..cause you’re secretly dating her and in my opinion you don’t want that known or the fact you really hate my affiliate.  This, in my opinion, is the real reason for the goofy email. To make the unexpected heat go away and to make me look like I just gave in and did the wrong thing.

So here is my reply…Which I must say I should have waited on.  I want to reiterate that I am not the most eloquent man and my wording gets me into trouble sometimes.  You might ask if I regret my choice of words and under the circumstances….a little but it's the way I feel, I’m just fuming…. Here is my reply.

“How about this....You give me and (my affiliate) a complete written apology on Facebook about your totally unethical and dishonest behavior. Before you publish it you can send it to us for editing and don’t forget anything (you know what you did). 

(This student) will get nothing from me and she is no longer welcome at (my student’s academy). .I know you know why …you unethical worthless cur so get to writing. This will be your only shot at redeeming yourself.  What do you think? "

I know I know…not appropriate but this reply would see the light of day most likely so I might as well let you know it upfront.   As I re-read it I would simply like to think of it as a cross between Wyatt Earp in Tombstone yelling at Ike Clanton from down the train tracks after he gave him the spur and William Wallace in Brave heart giving his own unique terms to the English General when the nobles are trying to negotiate. “We’ll I’d say that’s a little less cordial then he is used to.”   

I should have handled it better, I know, It's really me being rude and I'm sorry for that. No excuse. That’s what anger does. 

I never threatened him nor did I tell him I knew of him secretly “seeing” his student.  I gave him the option to come clean and admit to his shenanigans.  He chose not to.  I will assume that he will say that they weren't hiding anything and their dating was out in the open.  It wasn't out in the open at my affiliate's school I will tell you that. In fact it was actively being hidden there as the undermining was going on.  If he denies it then I hope his student's never see him "suddenly dating her later." 

I have tried to keep my opinions to a minimum and let documented fact lead the way. You can be the judge as to what you are reading. Many of my detractors will focus on certain snippets to try to paint me as the bad guy in all this.  I am in no way sorry for my original face book post.  As an instructor it is in my discretion to do those things, just like it's in his to make people start back at white.    

Again, I won’t be taking her blue belt away but I’m going to go on “disavowing” it.  I feel it comes down to being truthful on their part. This whole thing would never have happened if these people would have quit trying to hide things and just told the truth.

To sum this up the only reasons I’m writing this post is because I’m explaining my motives as to why I don’t recognize her belt, because of actions they took, also to protect my affiliate’s reputation and to highlight why I think integrity is important in BJJ...

And it is.

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