Training: The Refinement Continuum

To illustrate post below in a different way, there is continuum of training that ranges from spaz to refined.

The spaz comes to the gym with little or no plan, usually ending up sparring, as that’s where all the drama is:


By contrast, the refined practitioner has a definite plan, with plans to implement that plan. They’re then likely to record results so they can evaluate for effectiveness as well as observe long and short term patterns:



To the spaz, the refined practitioner seems like a boring robot with no spontaneity.

The refined practitioner on the other hand understands the spaz hops from distraction to distraction, and will continue to do so until he understands great Jiu-Jitsu starts with a smart approach.  This requires slowing down, which as usually the case is both the answer and the solution.



Mindsets: Love vs. Excitement

While our moods fluctuate and flow like the weather, loving something is taking the time, energy, and care to be deliberate, conscious, and scientific about things.  Yeah we’re not always going to be perfect, but the point is intention and honesty.

Excitement on the other hand is essentially the feeling we get when we see a nice pair of legs walk by.  Yes, it feels meaningful in the moment *lol*, but it’s more knee jerk reaction than anything else (hence the term ‘jerk’ for people who perpetually live in this state of mind):


Don’t get it twisted and show your trainin’ some love!







Mindsets: Passive vs. Active Focus

Wanted to point out that there’s a massive difference between survival based ‘if not careful here I’m going to get choked the out’ during sparring, and consciously trying to improve something specific through concentrated effort.

Sparring awareness really doesn’t require much because if we don’t pay attention our arm is going to get ripped off.  In some ways this primal context is the same thing as paying the most attractive dancer in a strip club for a lap dance and patting yourself on the back for how ‘aware’ you were during song’s duration:

Back to topic, working the trap and roll/umpa escape until it’s basically unstoppable against white through black belt is what we’re looking for when it comes to ‘practice.’

Coming full circle, sparring is going to be a part of this journey to the degree we’re intentional about it, spending considerable amounts of time focusing and re-focusing.

Such attention to detail usually occurs at a snails pace which is why we rarely encounter some one who can easily trap and roll us from mount with a position as boring as the umpa.

Mindsets: Reverse Mindfulness

Am looking more and more at actions that produce results, versus behaviors that may feel great but yield little in the way of substance…

…which brings us to the concept of ‘reverse mindfulness’ which means being present in the things we do away from practice instead of having our minds half on Jiu-Jitsu and half on whatever else is in front of us, be it a day job, loved one, or other creative pursuit.

The preceding half-attended activity is probably ‘the’ prime of example of thinking we’re helping our Jiu-Jitsu when really we’re in space cadet mode.  Again, this is totally fine, human even.  The point is recognizing it for what it is instead of confusing it for practice.

Also, it should be noted that this is different from having inspiration strike and stopping to jot ideas down before returning to what we’re doing; although in my experience this can usually wait as well, as great solutions we’ve been looking for don’t tend to go anywhere.

So yeah, it’s basically about being truthful and intentional with our energy.  If we’re going to spoil a diet with ice cream the worst crime in the world would be not enjoying it!

ice cream face

Play-full = Mind-full.

Mindsets: Discipline vs. Awareness

I’m of the belief that if something takes a lot of discipline, by definition it isn’t sustainable.

In contrast, when you’re at the right level of awareness things are easy because there’s moderate to zero internal struggle.

Would also add that while most times acquiring complex skill-sets like Jiu-Jitsu or getting itpn good cardio shape is 85-90% awareness driven, knowledge is often the final piece that puts everything into place.  It’s the ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’ concept.

Back to ‘raising’ awareness, that’s a mysterious and largely individual thing, but at the end of the day it amounts to getting quiet and learning to respect our common sense over outside advice that’s usually externally oriented and misses the heart of the matter:  Us. =)

Compare the above with beating yourself up to get more disciplined and focused.  It’s intended to be positive, but Gonzo:



The Year of Practice & Book Recommendation

Guess I’m drawn to the idea of ‘themes’ more than goals as last year was all about ‘routine.’

So it’s somewhat ironic that after being ‘direction-less’ theme-wise first six weeks of 2016, have finally settled on ‘practice.’

Conversely, this was probably a natural progression, as ‘practice’ is the nuts and bolts content of each session within a larger routine.  It could even be argued that ‘a’ practice isn’t really practice unless it sits within the context of a larger routine.

How this journey started was buying the book ‘First, Learn To Practice,’ by Thomas Heany:

As suspected halfway into the book, after years of going through technique a few times before sparring, and later even focusing on individual positions for 6-12 months (workshopping), my fine ‘practice’ skills leave something to be desired. =)

One thing Heany writes about extensively is dealing with distraction.  This was a great eye-opener because it helped me appreciate how natural distraction is.  In some respects distraction is how the mind/brain works via association, and something we should expect and strategize for rather than be hard on ourselves about.

Imagine I’ll be posting on this topic extensively, but highly recommend this source first:



Mindsets: Being Good vs. Good Practice

Being ‘good’ (or ‘bad’ for that matter) at Jiu-Jitsu is a story while ‘good practice’ consists of the actions we take to improve specific aspects of our Jiu-Jitsu.

Storytelling is wonderful and at its best brings people together through common points of interest and experience, in addition to inspiring wonder and creativity.

For the martial artist though, good practice is the clay we’ll eventually mold our Jiu-Jitsu from and of primary concern.  In this context stories are largely unimportant as they don’t serve what will make us fly:

Children running down a sand dune
Children running down a sand dune — Image by © Sven Hagolani/Corbis






Evolution & The Art Of Practice

Having been in on Jiu-Jitsu in Oregon (USA) pretty much since it’s grass roots, have always had an information and/or time advantages on people.

Unfortunately this led me to believing my Jiu-Jitsu understanding was better than it actually was, as most of what I did for the first twelve years or so of training was bombard people with techniques and angles they weren’t familiar with or skilled at defending yet.

Part of the above wasn’t my fault, as it’s very natural to compare how well you’re ‘doing’ by how you compete with your peers, but as we’ll get to later, this isn’t the most scientific means of evaluation!

Moving on, technically, things began shifting after taking private lessons from Eric Hemphill (  Not having reference points for most of Eric’s game I had to start breaking things down mechanically to understand why and how positions worked the way they did instead of just copying some one I felt had better ‘answers’ than me.

Would say those privates constituted my shift from beginner to intermediate with this intermediate stage eventually giving rise to me creating some of my own solutions based on an understanding of principles and mechanics.

Where I’m at in 2016 is now having some idea of what a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner is trying to achieve aesthetically, is the sneaking suspicion that I don’t know how to practice very well!

In practice, everything we do should have a point, with the ‘doing’ evaluated for effectiveness.  Otherwise it’s not really practice, it’s a continuation of what’s comfortable and familiar.

So yeah, that’s the new game.  Not just looking at the objective, but how effectively we’re achieving that objective and refining things accordingly.

In terms of the preceding autobiography, even if you’re a white belt you can start breaking things down structurally and study principles.  You don’t have to wait twelve years!  Seek out instructors who teach principles, study human anatomy, and pay attention to how things feel while rolling and drilling.  It was all there in front of me the whole time, was just oblivious to it. =)