Friday, March 27, 2020

2002: Roger Gracie v. Demian Maia

Two of my favorite jiu-jitsu artists going head-to-head!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

What to Do When You Can't Do Anything

The irony of being forced off the mat one week after announcing my triumphant return is not lost on me.

Credit to Bernardo Faria and John Danaher for putting this out there for those of us who will be seriously sidelined for the next few weeks - at least.

“If you can get strong in these three areas: body movement skills, strength and conditioning, and increasing your knowledge, you’re gonna find that when it’s time to come back you do very, very well on the mats, You’ll find there’s no drop off whatsoever. In fact, you may actually do better in some regards because you’re moving better, your physical body is as good as it ever was, and you know things you didn’t know before. And because you’ve got better movement skills, you can embody that knowledge into skill in a much faster rate than you could previously.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

"... And baby, you better believe it!"

A lot to like about my first time back on the mat in more than a month. The off-mat cardio and TONS of jiu-jitsu film study (BJJ Scout's analysis of Demian Maia's and Murilo Santana's passing game) deserve a lot of credit for making tonight feel like such a successful return in terms of my performance during Live Training with a pair of tough purple belt partners.

The other thing to like is the reception from the students. It's subtler - and more direct at the same time. Most importantly, it's appreciated. And it's a big reason why I keep coming back to help and train week after week, month after month, year after year.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ten Years Gone

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Rumble Readiness

When Will I Know I'm Ready to Compete?

Why You Need to Compete If You're Unconfident

Is It A Waste of Money to Compete in BJJ and Lose? (My $1500 Failure)

Four Tips to Deal with BJJ Tournament Anxiety

What is a Good Mindset for BJJ Competition?

Why Your First BJJ Tournament is Not About Winning

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

All of Me

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Eight Years a Black Belt

I celebrated my eighth year as a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last week. Actually "celebrated" is a bit rich. My training has been on a rocky road since the final day of August when I sprained my MCL during a Saturday roll. 

In some ways, it was the expected outcome after a year of outperformance - both at work and at the gym, if not as much on the mat as I'd like. It's no wonder I caught my first flu in decades in early July and the longest head cold I've ever had throughout the month of September. The 4-5x/week weightlifting for much of 2019 and the relentless dieting - yeah, an injury was pretty much what the doctor ordered.

Looking back on my log, what a fucking autumn. I didn't train at all in September or October (admittedly there were two business trips and a vacation during that stretch, as well). All things considered, not a big deal and not a bad way to recover from the August 31 injury. I came back and trained on the 7th of November and had a great session - including some stand-up. Unfortunately, I let myself get paired up too heavy the following Tuesday and ended up tweaking my knee again. I trained Thursday - or tried to - but it just wasn't working.

So the current plan is to stay off the mat for the month of December, and then slowly work my way back into training in January. I'm popping Curcumin and Cissus like they are Tic Tacs. I'm going to work on losing some weight, ideally getting down to 145 before heading to the desert for a week after Christmas. For strength training, I'm doing 10x3 for December and will probably run something like that for the five weeks leading up to my trip to Berlin in early February. The goal right now is to get leaner and stronger for longer.

Another goal is to really put in some dedicated time helping some of our newest blue belts make their way. A couple of guys I've worked with quite a bit this year - a year when the only class I've actually taught was a kid's class - and I'll admit that their appreciation of my effort to help is one of the things that keeps me coming to class when I'm not at my best - which has been more often than I'd like this year.

This late in the year it's strange to think about how 2019 unfolded - how different it turned out to be from 2018, and how clear it was early on that this would be a different kind of year. I'm kind of glad to see it go, in a few ways, and looking forward to better things in 2020.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Operation Blueberry

mission impossible GIF

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

My Own Private Danaher

"Every student begins the game with a certain set of attributes. Some are blessed with flexibility, strength, fitness, intelligence, determination etc, etc. Possession of these determines the speed and ease with which you acquire the skills of Jiu-Jitsu.

Remember, though, that some attributes can negate others. So for example, very gifted athletes often lack staying power, just because most things come easily to them. When they find themselves being repeatedly defeated by smaller, weaker training partners, they drift away. In the end, the speed with which you acquire skills is not important, just that you get there in the end.

So I theorize that the most important attribute in Jiu-Jitsu is staying power. You must train consistently for a long time and your game will develop in accordance with your natural attributes.”

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Going High / Going Low

Joel Jamieson makes an interesting point in an old article of his I stumbled across this weekend: High Low Training & MMA:
"Whether you’re a veteran of the sport trying to prolong your career or just training for fun and fitness, if you value your performance as well as your health, your goal should always be to maximize your skill development while minimizing the amount of stress and damage done to your body along the way. Anyone can go into the gym everyday out and train their guts out, but the real key to achieving your goals is to find a way to train smarter rather than harder."
Jamieson says that too many combat sports athletes spend too much time in the middle zone of conditioning: too hard to easily recover from, too light to force new adaptations in strength, explosiveness, or endurance. He suggests instead splitting the training week into two max effort days, three light days, and two days off.

One thing that stands out compared to how I've been training all year is that I have four or even six max effort days a week (including the time I did 4 day a week BB training earlier this year). Even the schedule I'm looking at for the rest of this year: two days of jiu-jitsu and two days of strength training, gives me four days on intensive work.

My guess is that Jamieson would encourage me to do my strength work on my jiu-jitsu days, ideally, I suspect, in the early morning, to give me the chance to recover ahead of jiu-jitsu training that evening. To say that's something I'd never considered is an understatement. But as I recover from my second bout of ill health since July, I'm wondering if it might be worth it to make a change.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Off Season Goals - Recovery/Rebound Training and Tempo Intervals

One of my goals in the off-season is to increase strength and conditioning. After spending much of 2019 adding muscle via hypertrophy programs like Christian Thibaudeau's 20 Weeks to Hollywood Muscle and his Best Damn High Volume Workout for Naturals, I'm close to the body comp I want. Now the goal is to train this new muscle, and trim another inch off the waistline to get in the neighborhood of 140.

Reviewing some of my favorite conditioning resources, I've been spending some time researching Joel Jamieson's Tempo Intervals. He uses them primarily as a recovery tool. They consist of 5-10 rounds of 10-12 seconds of work (at an RPE of about 7) followed by 60 seconds of active rest.

There are a lot of different things you can do for the work sessions: running, rowing, Prowler pushing, stationary cycling, jumping rope, etc. What's interesting is that he says that for combat athletes, bag or pad work is great for the work sessions, but feels that "it’s not very easy to do this type of interval using grappling drills unfortunately."

I disagree - and wonder if Joel is just not as familiar with the ground game as he is with standup striking (his background is as a strength coach, despite is more recent work as a S&C guy for former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson). Especially given that you only do the work for 10-12 seconds.

A few examples that I've tried include: hipscapes (as work or active rest), technical lifts, double leg entries, reverse pivot entries, wrestling sitouts ...

Right now I'm trying to figure out where best to place these workouts. Joel suggests 1-2 a week. If I end up doing strength training on Monday and Friday, and jiu-jitsu training on Tuesday and Thursday, (and the occasional Saturday), then Sunday looks like a good place to put at least one of them. Maybe Thursday morning the other. That would give me a full day off on Wednesday and the opportunity to rev my system back up before returning to the mats Thursday night.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Alignment

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Danaher & Askren on Jiu-Jitsu Training Styles

John Danaher and Ben Askren talk about the differences between training for jiu-jitsu and training for wrestling and how the former can benefit from adopting aspects of the latter.
"It's my personal belief that jiu-jitsu sees enormous technical change year-by-year. Every year there are new techniques coming in, there's fascinating, new stuff coming in all the time. But jiu-jitsu almost never sees innovation in training methodology. You see massive innovations in technique. Zero innovations in training. And that's got to change. If jiu-jitsu is going to mature as a sport, that's got to change."
--Danaher on building a jiu-jitsu program in the image of amateur wrestling.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

O Minotinho

With the 2017-2018 season just ended a little while ago, I'll have to post some updates on what training has been like this year.

My workout log is now at the T-Nation forums, for folks who like to follow that sort of thing. I'm big into weightlifting these days, both in and of itself as well as a supplement to my jiu-jitsu training. I'm learning a lot - in addition to trying to get a little bit bigger, and a lot stronger.

Burien Top Team Training Log: Making the Minotaur

I'm following a seasonal approach to weight training right now. From now until late December, I am in Autumn or Hypertrophy phase. Emphasis here is on getting bigger and stronger (in that order, more or less). At a maximum, I don't want to get above the IBJJF lightweight no-gi max of 162 (about 12-15 pounds more than my current weight). But I'm not trying to be a "walk around featherweight" any more.

The program I'm following is one I've done before: Boring But Big #2 by Jim Wendler. I'm weight training 4x/week for three weeks, then taking the fourth week off as a deload (and also because I've got to travel for work).

Here's the short version on my thinking. There's no point in getting significantly smaller - and staying that way - if I'm not competing (and maybe not even if I were). The guys I train with at the gym who are my toughest partners are (almost) all above 150 - most above 160. And every now and then, especially when I'm teaching, I end up matched with a 185+ pound white or blue belt.

I've got no problem dialing it down on the strength side when training with smaller folks. But for longevity's sake, being as big and strong as I can be while staying within "cutting range" of 148 (the IBJJF featherweight no-gi limit) should be a much a better plan going forward.

I'm estimating that means a top side weight max of 162. That's no target. But if I like the strength and body composition changes, I'll allow myself to gain up to that point.

See you on the mat and in the gym!

Image By Marsyas - Own work, CC BY 2.5,

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

From Lo to Santana

I've been spending the past several months taking my guard passing cues from Leandro Lo, whose attacks against the DLR remain invaluable to me. But the more I train and try to implement his approach, the more I realize that his approach to guard passing is a little too dynamic for my game at this point.

It's a little similar to my recent realization that, when it comes to sitting guard, strategies of both Rodolfo Viera (a heavyweight) and Otavio Sousa (a middleweight) suit me better than the strategy of someone like Cobrinha, who shares my weight class (featherweight, 149 lbs or less) and uses a lot of arm drags and scrambles. Again, the issue is dynamism and the level of aggressiveness required to secure the pass.

I should point out, ironically, that tonight's lesson was a version of Cobrinha's attack: a near-side arm drag from sitting guard. So maybe the Pena Approach to sitting guard is not yet dead to me.

In any event, while I'll continue to use some of Lo's innovations against the DLR - particularly the post/knee slide and pin/backstep strategies - I need something with more control, more precision, and more pressure when it comes to guard passing broadly speaking.

That pretty much leaves one particular set of skills and at least one particularly skillful practitioner.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Personal Record Week in the Weight Room

I've been lifting weights seriously again since the beginning of the year, following the 5/3/1 program. I've finally made it through a few cycles and, with another business trip and break from heavy lifting coming up, thought this would be a good time to chase a few personal records.

Here's where I stand with a bodyweight average of about 148. BF approx 12-14%.


Bench Press



My goal is still to get to a combined total of 1080 pounds.  Ideally, that means another 40 pounds in my squat, another 35 pounds to my bench, just a handful of pounds to my OHP, and a relatively daunting additional 125 pounds to my deadlift. For this year, I'd like to cut those in half with a goal of getting to 1080 by Christmas 2019.

*Technically speaking, this wasn't a 1RM test. Rather it was the final Joker set during the third week of Cycle 4. So my deadlift PR is probably at least a few pounds heavier. Unfortunately, I won't do another PR test until the fall at the earliest.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Tripping the Lighter, Less Mentally Traumatic

There are a few transfers from my weight training practice to my jiu-jitsu practice. This essay from strength training coach Christian Thibaudeau, which talks about training protocols based on neurological type, is one of them
Type 3 are the most anxious neurotype. For that reason, they don’t like novelty/variation and do better when they follow a static routine or a precise plan. Weight lifting creates more anxiety and stress than for the other neurotypes. Anxiety is simply an excessive neuronal activity, so the last thing you want to do with a Type 3 is to increase neuronal activity even more. In fact, they need to reduce it to train properly. Type 3 also tend to be “tighter/less mobile” because of their anxiety (anxiety increases muscle tightness, especially in the flexor muscles). 
What they need
Type 3 should focus on the parasympathetic nervous system when preparing for a workout. They actually need to reduce neuronal activity. For them, mobility work and self myofascial release (even flow work) are very effective pre-workout, as they decrease anxiety and improve mobility, which are the two main problems for a Type 3. Type 3 also have an increased perception of pain, so self-myofascial release and mobility work will also help in that regard. One last thing they can benefit from is adding “rehearsal work”: a lighter and less mentally traumatic version of the main lift of the session. For example, doing some slow goblet squats before back squats.
I've been getting in some drilling over the past few weeks with a few blue belt training partners (thanks Jesus and Peter!). This has been a great way to deal with the fact that I only train twice a week and that there is little "mid-range" work. I help teach (or teach) and I train full speed, with little in between.

This reinforces something I realized after another Tuesday night of lackluster training. When Tuesday rolls around, I've been off the mat for four days. There is no flow, no rhythm, and my performance is typically subpar. By Thursday, with a little recent jiu-jitsu under my belt, I'm usually in much better form.

I think the trick is to add more "mobility work" and "rehearsal work" as Christian Thibaudeau calls it, in the form of flow rolling Tuesdays before class. "A "lighter and less mentally traumatic version" a few hours beforehand might help me transition more readily into Tuesday evening's live training.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Profesor Carlos Sievert Dominates at SUG 7

Skip to 5:25:00 for Professor Carlos' match against Straight Blast Gym's John Diggins

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Back from Travels, Back on the Grind

Maybe I'll switch to weekly updates. We'll see. I'm tracking my weight training over at T-Nation, and I'm not sure of the value of tracking my jiu-jitsu classes - though I can think of a few different ways to do it that might be more worthwhile for all involved.

I've been back on the mat and in the gym for about four and a half weeks. Because of work travel, I was off the mat for three weeks, and away from heavy lifting for two. I only missed a week of cardio.

Right now, my cardio is OK. I've backed off doing four sessions of 30-minute LSD treadmill walking after two weeks and have bumped up the pre- and post-jiujitsu conditioning. The pre-training workout is a 9-minute matwork routine (three rounds of 10 sets of 8 reps of different grappling solo drills) and the post-training workout is a 15-minute mashup of HICT and Tempo intervals (five rounds of hipscapes, ab wheel rollouts, hip thrusts, jump squats, tempo pushups).

My heavy lifting is actually going kinda great. I squatted 235 for a triple on Monday, the heaviest squat I've ever done. Today I benched 170 for a triple, which I also think is the heaviest bench press I've ever done. Add to this the fact that I'm doing this on a fat loss diet that has me at my lightest weight since I moved to Seattle in 1999, and you've got one happy prick.

Jiujitsu is another story. Although my four-week attendance average is back up to 2.0 (nothing impressive, but the best I've been able to do since moving to Kent in the fall of 2016 and doubling the travel time between home and the academy), I am not feeling it at all. It's one thing to be fighting to stay ahead. It's quite another to be fighting to keep up. Without putting too fine a point on it, if I can't figure out a way to perform better on the mat, I'm not convinced I'll keep trying.

My last strategy is going to be adding a training day on Sunday. Currently, all I do is help teach (or teach) and Live Train. I never practice and it's starting to show. It's always 100% or nada. And that's not conducive to betterment at all.

So I'm going to spend the next few months getting in some flow training on Sundays and see if that helps patch the hole in this bucket.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Duck Season A: Cycle 3

150 x 3
170 x 3
190 x 7

Joker (supersetted w/DB rows 20 x 8 3)
200 x 3
210 x 3
220 x 3

150 x 8 x 3


LSD treadmill
9.0 cal/min for 30 minutes

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Training Day: Thursday

See Training Day: Tuesday for Today's Lesson


16 minutes Live Training


Upper body/Lower body stretches

Duck Season A: Cycle 3

60 x 3
70 x 3
80 x 7

Joker (supersetted w/DB hammer curls 20 x 8 3)
85 x 3
90 x 3
95 x 3

60 x 8 x 3


LSD treadmill
8.70 cal/min for 30 minutes

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Training Day: Tuesday

Pummeling drill / Pummel to Ankle Pick / Pummel to Ankle Pick to Half Guard Pass with Crossface and Kickback / Pummul to Ankle Pick to Half Guard Pass with Crossface and Kickback to Breadcutter Choke / Pummel to Ankle Pick to Half Guard Pass with Crossface and Kickback to Lapel Katagatame from Knee on Belly


32 minutes Live Training


Upper body/Lower body stretches

Rabbit Season B: Cycle 3

Bench (supersetted w/DB rows 20 x 8 x 3)
95 x 3
110 x 3
135 x 7

140 x 3
145 x 3
150 x 3

95 x 8 x 3


LSD treadmill
8.80 cal/min for 30 minutes

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rabbit Season A: Cycle 3

Squat (supersetted w/DB hammer curls 20 x 8 x 3)
135 x 3
155 x 3
175 x 7

185 x 3
195 x 3
205 x 3

135 x 8 x 3


LSD treadmill
8.86 cal/min for 30 minutes

Friday, March 16, 2018

Duck Season A: Cycle 3

55 x 5
65 x 5
75 x 9

Joker (supersetted w/ DB hammer curls 25 x 8 x 3)
80 x 5
85 x 5
90 x 5

55 x 8 x 3

140 x 5
165 x 5
185 x 9

195 x 5
205 x 5
215 x 5

140 x 8 x 3

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Training Day: Thursday

See Training Day: Tuesday for Today's Lesson 


25+ minutes Live Training 


Upper body/Lower body stretches

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Congratulations to Professor Carlos Sievert!

Master 1 Heavyweight Division IBJJF 2018 Pan Am Champion