Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood – Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and Techniques

Andrew Raynor Dover

Andy Raynor Dover

Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood – Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and TechniquesCutting Weight for Jiu Jitsu Competitions: The Ultimate GuideTypes of Grappling Martial Arts6 Concepts for Effective Guard-Passing in Jiu JitsuBJJ and Back PainThe Importance of Footwork in Jiu JitsuFamily Jiu-JitsuThe Rules of BJJ & Grappling CompetitionsUsing the Kimura to Sweep, Control and SubmitFinding Your Flow in Jiu JitsuBJJ Travel Guide Part 1: Top 10 Jiu Jitsu Vacation Cities

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Cutting Weight for Jiu Jitsu Competitions: The Ultimate Guide

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The weight-cutting jiu jitsu fighter must navigate a unique set of challenges compared to other combat sport athletes. Unfortunately most of us rely on guesswork and pseudo-science to try to hit our target weight on comp day.  BJJ Black Belt, Accredited Sports Dietitian and PhD student Reid Reale explains the best way make weight safely and effectively. […]

The post Cutting Weight for Jiu Jitsu Competitions: The Ultimate Guide appeared first on Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood – Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and Techniques.

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The weight-cutting jiu jitsu fighter must navigate a unique set of challenges compared to other combat sport athletes. Unfortunately most of us rely on guesswork and pseudo-science to try to hit our target weight on comp day. 

BJJ Black Belt, Accredited Sports Dietitian and PhD student Reid Reale explains the best way make weight safely and effectively.

Can and Should You Cut Weight for BJJ Competitions?

Combat sports and cutting weight go hand in hand, and the concept of ‘gaming the system’ (dropping weight in order to fight smaller opponents) has likely existed ever since weight divisions have existed. However like many long standing practices which are based in tradition, often people don’t have a good understanding of what they are doing, how they are doing it, or even why they are doing it.

Put simply, cutting weight is practiced in order to attempt to gain a weight/size/strength/power/leverage advantage over another competitor in a weight category sport. This is usually achieved through a combination of long term weight loss and short term weight loss before weigh-in followed by rehydration, recovery and weight gain post weigh-in.

Given that the vast majority of jiu jitsu competitions have athletes weigh-in anywhere from 15-60 minutes before you step on the mat, it is hard to gain lost weight following weigh-in, thus one is unlikely to be able to ‘game the system’ to gain a weight advantage. However this does not mean that the concept of cutting weight does not apply to jiu jitsu. We can still maximise our physique traits and ensure we do our best to optimise strength/power/leverage at a given weight. At bare minimum, you should aim to weigh-in at the upper end of your weight division range. Weighing 87kg in the 85-91kg division and fighting against athletes who may be cutting from 94kg several days before the competition is not providing you every possible advantage.

To best explain the following concepts, I think it’s useful to set up some definitions.

First of all, weight or body mass (BM) encompasses everything we are made of and makes up the mass which registers as weight when we step on the scales. This includes fat mass, and lean mass. Lean mass encompasses all which is non-fat mass, i.e. bone, muscle, organs, fluid, gut contents etc. Obviously some of this mass is more easily altered and becomes the target of weight loss interventions. Once fully grown, intentionally altering bone and organ mass becomes difficult (if not impossible) and dangerous!

This leaves muscle, fat, fluid and gut contents. While many people describe weight loss to meet a body weight target in general as ‘cutting weight’ it is useful to separate acute versus chronic weight loss. Chronic weight loss (occurring over weeks to months) includes that which is lost from fat stores and even muscle mass (although generally muscle loss is not the goal, and unless you are currently training like a body builder and about to stop this style of training, or coming off a cycle of steroids, is actually harder than most people think). Acute weight loss (occurring over hours to days) is what we will term ‘cutting weight’ for the purposes of this article and is derived from losses in body water and also gut content, see table 1 below.

Table 1. Body composition management

Long term weight management
(weeks to months)
Short term weight management
(hours to days)
Body fat Body water
Muscle mass Gut content

I will now address key areas which are important to understand for the jiu-jitsu athlete when it comes to reducing body weight to make a specific weight division.

For everything you need to know about Nutrition for elite BJJ performance, check out Reid’s complete guide.

Chronic Weight Loss / Long Term Body Mass Management

In order to optimise our power/strength to weight ratio, we simply must maximise the amount of muscle mass and minimise the amount of fat mass we possess at a given weight. If we do not want to drop a weight division then we will need to increase muscle mass concurrent to body fat loss. This is quite difficult thus generally it is more efficient to prioritise one over the other at any particular time.

The topic of how to best achieve this and whether it is better to prioritise muscle gain or fat loss first could (and has) filled many books by itself. However given the fact this is an article about cutting weight, I will leave the discussion of building muscle for another day and assume the goal is to drop a weight division, thus what we really want to do is maintain muscle mass while dropping body fat.

Body fat in a simple sense is stored energy. I.e. whenever we supply our body with more fuel than is needed we store it in our fuel tank (body fat) for later use. Therefore in order to reduce body fat, we need to create a demand on the body to utilise this stored energy. In other words we need to expend more energy than we are consuming thus creating an energy deficit. It really is that simple (almost).

When: energy intake > energy expenditure = fat gain occurs

When: energy intake < energy expenditure = fat loss occurs

The question then is, “how do I decrease my energy intake / increase my energy expenditure”. I’m glad you asked. All the food we consume is made of macronutrients; protein, carbohydrate and fat – all which are metabolised to provide a certain amount of energy. In addition, alcohol can also be used for energy. Energy is measured in either kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ). Note, 1kcal = approx. 4.2kj.

Table 2. Macronutrient energy provision

  Protein Carbohydrate Fat Alcohol
Energy per gram 4kcal / 16kj 4kcal / 16kj 9kcal / 37kj 7kcal / 29kj

Therefore, in order to decrease our energy intake, we need to be strategic in selecting foods which will enable us to achieve an energy deficit, while still providing enough nutrients to support good health, fuel our training and promote recovery, yet leave us feeling satisfied.

Protein is an important nutrient required to maintain muscle, support immunity, recover from workouts and for many other processes. However it’s not the case that more is better, and although total protein intake is important, the distribution across the day is very important also. So, rather than consuming large feedings of protein at one or two meals, getting 4-6 small to moderate serves throughout the day (timed so intake occurs after training especially) is a more efficient way to consume it. In terms of total intake, for 1.5-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is plenty, and if you want to eat a little more ‘just to be safe’ 2g/kg is definitely enough. Following the body building lead of eating 2g per pound is most certainly overkill, will not lead to more muscle and will take the place of other needed nutrients thus make it hard to perform at your best while achieving an energy deficit required for fat loss.

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Carbohydrate is crucial for high intensity exercise, and is 100% necessary if you want to be able to be explosive on the mat and be able to generate power and strong movements repeatedly throughout a match. Despite what you’ve heard or read on bro-blogs, severely restricting carbohydrate is not conducive to optimal performance, particularly high-intensity performance. Just do a little reading (of evidenced based research) into exercise physiology, substrate (fuel) utilisation and anaerobic glycolysis, and you will quickly learn how fat simply cannot be broken down and metabolised fast enough or in the quantities required to fuel the sorts of efforts required for hard competition training. There is a place for reducing carbohydrate when attempting to lose body fat, however a reduction in carbohydrate should occur on rest days and away from key training sessions. Think moderate, not eliminate.

Given the need for protein and carbohydrate as just explained, this leaves reducing our fat intake in order create the energy deficit required for fat loss. While fat is required for good health, hormone production and other functions, most people eat far more than necessary and if ‘somethings got to give’ in terms of reducing intake to reduce body fat, then it makes sense for it to be fat. Now I’m not saying you should remove every last gram of fat from your diet, but by limiting; added oils, fatty/oily spreads and dips, high fat diary, animal fats found on meats, desserts, cakes, junk food and fried foods etc. you can start to get your energy intake down while still consuming adequate protein for recovery and carbohydrate for fuel.

In addition to moderating carbohydrate, consuming just the right amount of protein and limiting excessive fat intake, it makes sense to increase the intake of nutrient dense/ low energy foods in order to promote fullness, stave off hunger and give yourself something to chew on! I’m talking about fruits and in particular vegetables here. In one and a half tablespoons of butter there are 150kcal of energy, which is the same amount as 1 cup of cooked rice, or ½ kg of non-starch vegetables! (Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans etc.).

Athletes should understand that fat loss is a slow process which requires consistent effort over a long period of time. So, it is important to construct your diet in a way which you can stick to and allows some freedom and enjoyment. Therefore, be flexible and mix up your protein sources and carbohydrate selections. The difference between most lean proteins is minimal and 100g of lean beef can be interchanged with 100g of lean pork, fish, 2 eggs, 150g of no fat Greek yoghurt etc.). When it comes to carbohydrate, it’s all about the quantity; 2 slices of regular sized bread is the same as 1 regular sized wrap, 1 cup of cooked pasta/rice or ¾ cup of almost any cereal. Also, utilise herbs, spices, vinegar, lemon juice and other low calorie flavourings to keep food interesting.

Lastly, when attempting to create an energy deficit, we can attack the other side of the equation, energy expenditure. Any and all types of movement require energy, and the key factor is the total amount of work which is done. Expending more energy doesn’t have to be tiresome, in fact adding in 3-5 x 45 minute walks per week will significantly aid in fat loss given a consistent energy intake. Of course it makes sense to prioritise some sort of jiu jitsu specific exercise (add in an extra 1 or 2 grappling sessions per week, arrive to class 30 min early, stay 30 minutes after class, introduce a conditioning circuit twice per week etc.), but it doesn’t have to be. Simply taking the stairs at work, playing at the park with the kids, taking the dog for a walk – all helps here!

Acute Weight Loss

In addition to reducing body fat to get our weight down, there are several methods available which can be used to manipulate weight in the short term.

Combat sport athletes who participate in sports which use a day before weigh-in or even a weigh-in several hours before competition, can “afford” to practically starve themselves, drop water weight and then refuel and rehydrate post weigh-in. While not eating or drinking for days, and then sitting in a sauna for hours will be effective in reducing body weight to a large degree in a relatively short amount of time, there are some disastrous health and performance effects associated with these practices.

Dehydration can lead to decreased strength/power output, reduced aerobic/anaerobic capacity, impaired heat tolerance and reaction time, and affect cognitive and mental performance. The effects worsen with the degree of dehydration and are also affected by the method of dehydration. Mild dehydration (0-2% BM) is unlikely to affect jiu jitsu relevant performance; whereas 2-3%BM dehydration begins to affect heat tolerance and some cognitive measures and further dehydration starts to affect critical physical qualities for performance in high intensity exercise.This leads many jiu jitsu athletes to think one of two things;
1.  “I shouldn’t bother cutting weight at all and apart from reducing my body fat there is little to be done to further reduce weight, and whatever my weight is one week from the competition is the weight I must compete at”

or

2. “The benefit of fighting in a lighter weight division will outweigh the negative effects of dehydration and semi-starvation, so I will still cut weight like an MMA fighter and just suffer the consequences and try my luck”.

There is in fact, a third option; a strategic intake of particular foods  in order to reduce stomach contents (thereby achieving similar weight loss as fasting) while still providing needed energy and carbohydrate, and a calculated restriction in fluid intake combined with mild fluid loss.

A fully hydrated athlete currently consuming a high fibre diet can easily lose 2-3% of their body weight in 2-3 days without affecting performance relevant to jiu jitsu. Simply reducing the total volume/weight of food consumed (or fasting) will empty the stomach and achieve a weight loss to some degree, however prevents optimal fueling.

Instead, a smarter option is to select low fiber foods 24-48 hours before weigh-in which will minimize undigested food in the gut, while allowing pre competition fueling. This can be done by selecting low fiber cereals (e.g. corn flakes, coco puffs, Rice Crispies), white breads, pureed fruit and liquid meal replacements while avoiding vegetables, whole fruits, nuts, seeds and other high fiber foods.

An athlete regularly consuming a high fiber diet may lose 1-1.5% of the body weight in 2 days following a low fiber diet without affecting performance. In addition to reducing undigested food stuff, by removing fiber from the diet the total weight of daily food intake is significantly reduced, so even 12-24 will provide some weight loss as ‘less weight is being added to the system’.

Athletes should experiment with how long it takes to achieve maximum weight loss using a low fiber diet, but generally any more than 3 days is not necessary, and 2 days seems to be the ‘sweet spot’. During this time of reduced food volume one can increase fat intake as a means to provide energy dense food and also help with hunger as fat tends to be satiating, furthermore, at this stage we are not trying to induce an energy deficit, rather we want to provide adequate energy in order support health and performance and peak for competition, instead of arriving to the weigh-in starved of energy.

This dietary practice of low fiber, low weight yet adequate energy and lower body mass (BM) in the days before weigh-in is effectively  ‘free weight loss’ and really is a no brainer when it comes to cutting weight. Weight loss in addition to this will need to be derived from fluid losses.

Avoiding excessive salt intake in the days before weigh-in can help with minimizing fluid retention. Drinking less fluid than normal in the 24 hours before weigh-in will further decrease weight and should be used in preference to increased sweating, as the physiological consequences are much less. Reducing fluid intake from a ‘normal’ amount (e.g. 30-40ml per kg / 2.25 – 3 liters for a 75kg athlete) to half this (15ml per kg) will provide a weight loss of approximately 1% BM.

If after following a low fiber diet and decreased fluid intake, further weight loss is required, an athlete will need to use sweating techniques. Rather than sitting in a sauna or resorting to a hot bath/shower, which promote fluid loss from plasma and potentially intracellular sources, exercising as a means to sweat better preserves plasma volume and tends to promote fluid losses from extracellular spaces and is much less compromising for performance.

Furthermore, exercise as a means to drop 1-1.5% BM in fluid can be used a warm up prior to competition, which is definitely a good idea and one that many athletes actually ironically skip on competition day. So why not ‘kill two birds with one stone’, put on a pair of track pants and a hoody, do some star jumps and push-ups, before busting out 30 minutes of hip escapes and drilling as a way to make sure you’re on weight and warm up your body, get your joints moving and ‘prime’ your muscles and nervous system pre-fight.

Eating on Comp Day, Pre Weigh-In & Post Weigh-In

For athletes weighing in the day prior to a fight (e.g. MMA fighters, judoka etc.), and even for amateur boxers who have 3+ hours following weigh-in, it is common to not eat prior to weigh-in (in order to keep weight down), knowing that there will be time to refuel after you step off the scales. For jiu jitsu competitions, this is not recommended, and any benefit you gain from cutting weight may be negated by poor performance due to lack of energy as a consequence of not eating anything prior to fighting, or suboptimal nutrition post weigh-in.

To give yourself every possible chance of optimising your physique and physiology while making weight, you should consume low fibre, energy dense low weight foods the morning /day of weigh-in. Put simply; every gram of food or fluid you put in your mouth will show up as a gram on the scales. In this sense (providing you are not severely dehydrated) it is preferable to consume food than to drink fluid. A mild degree of dehydration will not affect jiu jitsu performance, yet coming in under fuelled will not lead to optimal performance. For example, if you wake up 200g underweight, then you have 200g to ‘play with’. You can get a surprising amount of energy from this much food.

For breakfast choosing a low weight, low fibre, high energy, high carbohydrate meal may look something like this; 4 slices of white bread with 2 tablespoon of peanut butter and 2 tablespoon of honey (160g, 600 kcal, 80 grams carbohydrate). If you are 500g underweight then consuming the same meal + a coffee with a teaspoon of sugar or two (300mls / 300g) will work. In fact, even if you wake up on weight, or even over weight, it still makes to get some energy and sweat off what is required. The point is – you have to get some energy in. Even chocolate or candy is a good idea, with a 50g chocolate bar providing 300kcal of energy and 30g carbohydrate, and 50g of jelly beans providing 190 kcal and 47g carbohydrate.

A reasonable aim for a pre competition meal is approximately 1g (or more) of carbohydrate per kg of body weight, 3-4 hours prior to fighting. When we are talking about making the weight this close, it is easy to see how certain foods provide better ‘value’ or more energy per weight than others. Something like a high water fruit, i.e. watermelon (which is normally a great food outside of the proximity weigh-in) provides only 30kcal and 8g of carbohydrate for 100g of fruit, meaning an 80kg athlete would need to consume 1kg of watermelon in order to hit the 1g/kg carbohydrate recommendation.

In addition to the pre-fight meal, topping up fuel stores and providing some extra blood sugar closer to competition is a good idea also, however stomach comfort is increasingly important at this time so food selections should be light, low fat, low fibre ‘sugary’ selections (candy, chocolate, dry crackers, dried fruit, sports drinks if weight allows (or if its post weigh-in), white bread with honey/jam etc.). If you know that you are the type of fighter who cannot stomach food close to a fight then don’t.

Caffeine is another commonly used and useful aide however should be trialled ahead of time, as often too much caffeine, or caffeine for someone who is not familiar with it can lead to nervousness, anxiety and poorer performance. Of course if your caffeine of choice is in liquid form and you are consuming this pre weigh-in, the weight of the drink needs to be factored into the pre-weigh in plan (short black anyone?). The general consensus on optimal caffeine dose is 3-5mg per kg of body weight approximately 60 minutes before exercise.

Following weigh-in, there is generally minimal time to recover from weight cutting strategies, and if you have followed the guidelines presented here there is little need to. If however you have lost more than 2% BM in fluid it is a good idea to replace some of this if possible. If you only have 15 minutes post weigh-in then trying to guzzle 1 litre of fluid will result in more gastrointestinal distress then any benefit of the rehydration will provide. In this case the decision to drink should be based on what is comfortable and what ‘feels right’ (perhaps even drinking less to be safe), don’t force it.

If you estimate you have 45+ minutes however and have dropped 2%BM in fluid, then downing a 500-750mL of an electrolyte solution is a good option for a number of reasons; 1- staying beneath that critical 2% BM dehydration threshold will optimise performance, 2- you want to get the fluid in you a reasonable time before stepping on the mat, 3- gastric emptying (the rate at which fluid leaves the stomach) is increased with greater gastric volume (up to about 900mL), 3- electrolytes (namely sodium) will promote greater fluid absorption and retention than plan water. So rather than spreading the fluid intake out over the hour, which will mean you are drinking close to your match and each mouthful will take longer to leave the stomach and be absorbed, you are ‘front ending’ the intake, pushing it out the stomach into the intestine, and finishing the absorption earlier before your match.

Of course match times and gut comfort is often the most unpredictable part of the whole competition experience, and if you feel like consuming fluid will be disastrous for whatever reason, then don’t do it. For those athletes, who simply cannot stomach any food or fluids in the hours prior to a match, there are options. Recent research has demonstrated that a simple ‘mouth rinse’ of a carbohydrate (sugar) solution (sports drink like Gatorade etc.) even without swallowing has the potential to improve performance in a variety of events. Swilling the drink around the mouth for approximately 10 seconds and spitting it out effects receptors in the oral cavity, activating regions or responses in the central nervous system which may increase corticomotor activity and/or reduce the perception of effort during exercise. Thus this is a low risk strategy which has the potential to assist the jiu jitsu athlete.

Determining Which Weight Division is Possible

Identifying what is actually possible in terms of a realistic amount of weight loss / what an ideal weight category is can be difficult. In order to accurately calculate this, we need to know several things about our current body composition;

  1.  What is my current weight?
  2. How much lean mass and how much fat mass am I carrying?
  3. How much lean / fat mass loss is possible?
  4. How much weight can I ‘cut’ in the hours/days before weigh-in?

In answer to these questions:

1. Your current weight should be assessed in a fully hydrated state and at a time when you are not actively trying to lose weight and are consuming a ‘regular’ diet, containing adequate fibre (20+ g per day) and energy. The time to weigh yourself is the first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything and after emptying your bladder and bowels. This is the best way to standardise measurement, assess your current state and track changes. In fact, even when standardising weight measurement in this way, body weight will still fluctuate day to day due to fluid and gut contents. Therefore, to get a good picture of your current weight, collect measurements 3 days in a row and average the measurement.

2. This is generally the tricky part. While tracking skin-folds using callipers, measuring waist, chest, arm and leg girths and monitoring weight can indicate if you are losing or gaining fat/lean mass they cannot quantify the amount of fat or lean mass.

The best and most convenient way to assess this is to locate somewhere which provides DXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scanning services. DXA scanners were originally designed to measure bone density to assess osteoporosis etc. so are located in hospitals, radiology and other medical centres. However with the increasing use and popularity to assess body composition in the general population and athletes, DXA scanning services are popping up everywhere and often a service provider will solely scan people to assess body composition. Rates are now quite competitive. Google ‘commercial DXA scan’ to see if there is one in your area.

One crucial consideration when getting a scan done, is despite what the technician/sales person may tell you, you MUST have the scan done rested and fasted. This means no training, no eating, and no drinking (not even water) the morning of the scan. There is very clear research which demonstrates all of these effects the readings. Therefore you will have to get the scan done in the morning. Once you get the scan done, you will get a report/print out which tells you precisely how much fat mass, bone mass and lean mass you have in grams.

3. Providing you know how much fat mass/lean mass you are carrying, you can fairly accurately predict how much you could lose. There is limited research to support this, but from working with elite athletes, other top sports dieticians and having conducted and viewed hundreds of DXA scans, it seems realistic minimum body fat percentages for most males is 8-10%, and perhaps 14-16% for women. I have definitely seen men with body fat percentages of 4-6% and women with 10-12%, but these are by far the exception and not the rule. So if you are a male, currently 75kg, 15% body fat (11.25kg fat, 63.75kg lean mass) and you were able to get to about 9% body fat with consistent effort. Assuming you lost no lean mass, this means you would weigh approximately 70kg (63.75kg lean mass, 6.25 fat mass).

Fat loss is generally slow, so you shouldn’t plan for any more than 0.5kg per week if you are maintaining muscle mass. In regards to losing muscle mass, this is definitely possible although usually not preferable. In terms of maintaining muscle mass, it’s crucial to; intake sufficient protein, lose weight gradually (don’t starve yourself too hard), and engage in some sort of strength/resistance training. Therefore avoiding/ decreasing strength training, inducing a larger energy deficit and decreasing protein intake will all promote the loss of muscle mass. If you cannot quantify how much lean / fat mass you have, then it is hard to predict exactly what is possible in terms of possible fat loss, and this really leaves the only option of ‘start dropping body fat and see where you end up’. Not exactly scientific, but this is what athletes have done for decades.

If you have access to an ISAK trained anthropometrist to measure your skin-folds, then a rough rule is that a sum of 7 skin-folds in the low 30s for men and the low 40s for women is quite lean with likely little fat loss possible (or at least it becomes increasingly harder) beyond this point in most people.

4. We previously discussed that a fully hydrate athlete with a gut full of fibre can lose about 3% of their body weight in the 3 days before weigh-in, so using the example above, the 70kg athlete (previously 75kg) could lose 2.1kg, meaning they could easily make 68kg. Depending on exactly how much gut content they have to lose and the potential to sweat more they could lose an additional 1-2kg, however I wouldn’t guarantee this will be easy or not effect performance.

Conclusion

Summing up everything which has been described here, athletes need to:

  • Understand the difference between long term and short term weight loss
  • Understand how much they can get away with before performance is affected
  • Practice weight making techniques ahead of important competitions
  • Practice competition nutrition/fuelling strategies at training sessions
  • Have a plan for their pre-weigh in / post weigh-in nutrition strategies
  • Educate themselves with reputable, evidenced based resources
  • Take advice from university educated nutrition professionals (dietitians / sports nutritionists)
  • Continually plan, practice, review and refine nutrition practices

The tables below summarise how nutrient intakes (table 3.) and example food selections (table 4.) should vary depending on what ‘nutrition phase’ they are working on.  

Table 3. Nutrient recommendation for various nutrition phases

  Weight maintenance Optimal training diet Chronic weight loss Fat loss Acute weight loss Cutting weight 2-3 days pre-comp Comp day
Carbohydrate Moderate to high Moderate to low Moderate Moderate to high
Protein Moderate Moderate to high Moderate Moderate to low
Fat Moderate Low Moderate to high Low
Fibre Moderate to high High Low Low
Food volume/weight Moderate to high High Low Low
Fluid Drink with all meals/snacks + actively replacing sweat losses Drink with all meals/snacks + actively replacing sweat losses Limit 24-36 hours pre weigh-in if needed Limit before weigh-in if needed, aim to maintain weight following weigh-in (sports drinks preferred)
Sodium (salt) Moderate, higher if sweat losses are large Moderate, higher if sweat losses are large Low pre weigh-in if fluid losses needed Low before weigh-in if sweat loss required, high after weigh-in

Table 4. Example food choices for various nutrition phases (exact needs will differ based on individual circumstances)

  Weight maintenance Optimal training diet Chronic weight loss Fat loss Acute weight loss Cutting weight 2-3 days pre-comp Comp day
Breakfast 2 cup cereal with milk, yoghurt, fruit 1 cup high fibre cereal with skim milk, 1 tub low fat Greek yoghurt 3 slice white bread + butter, 3 whole eggs 4 slice white bread, 2 tablespoon peanut butter, 2 table spoon honey
Lunch 2 sandwiches with meat salad + avocado 2 sandwiches with meat salad 2 sandwiches with meat, butter 2 sandwiches with lunch meat, mayonnaise
Snacks 2 hand full nuts
2 tubs yoghurt

2 pieces of fruit

2 tubs low fat Greek yoghurt
1 pieces of fruit
Low fibre protein bar
Cheese and crackers
Jelly beans
Crackers

Banana

Sports drink / bars

Dinner 100 g meat, 2 cup rice, 2 cup vegetable 100g lean meat, 1 cup rice, 3 cup vegetable 100g steak w/ fat, 1 cup white rice Pizza and ice cream after the competition!

 

For further, reputable evidence-based sports nutrition information, readers are directed to Reid’s Combat Sports Nutrition Site.

 

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Types of Grappling Martial Arts

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  This excerpt from Daniele Bolelli’s book ‘On the Warrior’s Path’ describes the different styles of grappling martial arts.   Grappling systems are those Combat Sports that focus on throws and takedowns, and/or on ground-fighting (which depending on the system includes pins and/or chokes and/or leverages.) Examples of these arts are Kodokan Judo, Sumo, Brazilian […]

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This excerpt from Daniele Bolelli’s book ‘On the Warrior’s Path’ describes the different styles of grappling martial arts.

Grappling systems are those Combat Sports that focus on throws and takedowns, and/or on ground-fighting (which depending on the system includes pins and/or chokes and/or leverages.) Examples of these arts are Kodokan Judo, Sumo, Brazilian Jujitsu, Chinese Shuai Chiao, Russsian Sambo, and the Western systems of Greco- Roman and Freestyle Wrestling. In addition to these systems, there are many forms of ethnic wrestling (from Mongolia to Africa, just about every country in the world has some form of wrestling) and eclectic systems based on some of the most popular grappling arts outlined above.

The differences between these arts have to do with the rules they abide by. The most important difference is whether a system is exclusively dedicated to takedowns and throws but does not include ground-fighting (like Sumo, Shuai Chiao, and Mongolian Wrestling), or it employs both (like Judo, Brazilian Jujitsu, Sambo, and Western Wrestling.) In the first group, the winner is the athlete who can execute a perfect throw while maintaining his/her own balance. In the second group, depending on the system, one may win because of a perfect throw, because of pinning the opponent to the floor, or because of a submission (choke or leverage) on the ground.

Another important difference has to do with the amount of clothing worn by the athletes in competition (since clothing can be grabbed to make throws easier, the kind of throws employed change depending on the uniform worn.) Here is a breakdown of the main characteristics of the major grappling styles:

Judo:

Judo players wear a heavy jacket called a gi which is grabbed to execute the throws and facilitate submissions on the ground. Most of the throws are hip throws, hand throws, sweeps, and sacrifice throws (those throws in which one willingly goes to the ground in order to take down the opponent). Judo discourages grabbing the opponent’s legs (a common technique in Freestyle Wrestling) to execute a throw. On the ground, Judo players aim at pinning the opponent with his back on the floor, or choking him in a variety of ways, or apply- ing a leverage (the only leverages allowed are against the elbow joint). (Kano 1986, Takagaki 1957)

Sumo:

Sumo players rely on takedowns and throws. Pushing the opponent out of the circle delimitating the ring or taking him to the ground are the ways to achieve victory. Hardly any clothing is worn during the matches and no leverages or chokes are allowed.

Brazilian Jujitsu:

This recent form of Jujitsu (created in the twentieth century) specializes in ground-fighting. Fighters wear a Judo gi. Matches begin standing up but quickly a takedown (usually a simpler, less flashy kind than those seen in Judo) takes the match to the ground where chokes and leverages are applied. Legal leverages are those against almost any joint other than the fingers.

‘How I got my BJJ Black Belt in 4 Years.’ – Read the Black Belt Blueprint by Nic Gregoriades.

Shuai Chiao:

Shuai Chiao fighters wear a light jacket (much lighter than in Judo.) For this reason, since they lack enough cloth to pull as much as Judo players do, they have to come closer to each other. Shuai Jiao does not include ground-fighting, but focuses exclusively on powerful throws and takedowns which often involve joint-locking (Liang 1997, Weng 1984).

Sambo:

Sambo is an eclectic system combining Judo, Greco- Roman, and Freestyle Wrestling with ethnic forms of Russian Wrestling. Players wear a light jacket, and rely on throws as well as on ground-fighting. On the ground, chokes are not allowed but leverages against most joints (including ankle and knee) are (Anderson & B 1999).

Western Wrestling:

Western wrestlers wear light uniforms that cannot be easily grabbed to execute throws. For this reason, western wrestling favors either grabbing the legs to score a takedown or powerful body lifts resulting in a throw. On the ground, Wrestlers aim at pinning the opponent but cannot apply chokes or joint-locks. The main difference between Greco- Roman and Freestyle Wrestling is that Greco-Roman does not allow attacking the opponent’s legs or using one’s own legs to execute a throw whereas Freestyle does.

Submission Grappling:

Submission Grappling is very similar to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but players do not wear a jacket or gi for training or competition. Another notable difference is that most submission grappling rulesets allow the application of most of the more dangerous submission attacks (like certain leg-locks and neck-cranks) which are illegal in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Advantages of Grappling Arts

Among the good aspects of grappling systems from the point of view of realistic fighting is the fact that in reality it is very hard to keep an opponent at the distance required for the striking range, and clinching often follows the initial blows. For this reason, grappling systems offer the invaluable advantage of making one comfortable being at close quarters with an opponent.

Ground-fighting, in particular, is an excellent form of training since contrary to stand-up fighting – where even if they are not trained, most people have some instinctive notions of what to do – it is entirely learned. For this reason as well as for the fact that often one may end up on the ground whether he/she wants it or not, a person with a little knowledge of ground-fighting is far ahead of one who does not know anything about it.

Disadvantages of Grappling Arts

The disadvantage of specializing too much in ground-fighting is that ending up on the ground is suicidal in a situation where one has to face multiple opponents, since while one is busy fighting one opponent his still- standing friends can stomp on his/her head.

The throwing component of grappling systems is possibly the most important part one needs to master for the sake of realistic fighting. In fact, since the vast majority of fights end up in the clinch- ing range, if one is able to execute a throw, the chances of success sharply increase because taking a hard fall on concrete can knock out even the toughest opponents. Furthermore, in a situation with multiple opponents, one can incapacitate an opponent by throwing him hard and immediately move on to the next person or run.

Another one of the problems inherent in grappling training, as far as realistic fighting goes, is that some of the rules teach bad habits that would be very dangerous to follow in a real situation. For example, when Judo players and Western wrestlers turn face down while on the ground in order to avoid being pinned with their back against the floor, they are effectively exposing their head and neck to the opponent. Of course, this would be the worse thing to do in a real situation.

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6 Concepts for Effective Guard-Passing in Jiu Jitsu

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  I consider passing the guard to be one of the most difficult of all aspects of Brazilian jiu jitsu, but also one of the most rewarding. Because we spend so much mat-time fighting from this position, it makes sense to place an emphasis on improving our ability from it. Internalising any of these principles on […]

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photo credit: Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine

I consider passing the guard to be one of the most difficult of all aspects of Brazilian jiu jitsu, but also one of the most rewarding. Because we spend so much mat-time fighting from this position, it makes sense to place an emphasis on improving our ability from it.

Internalising any of these principles on its own will make a difference to your top game. Choose one and work on it for a couple of weeks. Once you’ve mastered it, move onto the next one. Once you have them all in your toolbox and start to combine them effectively you’ll be a nightmare for even the best guard-players.

1. Keep Your Centre of Gravity Low

The distance of your centre of gravity (located a couple of inches below your navel) to the mat is directly proportionate to how likely you are to be swept when you’re in your opponent’s guard. Every successful sweep requires that the top player’s centre of gravity be elevated.

There will be times when you need to have your hips high during the pass (standing to pass, spearing your opponent with your shoulder etc.), during which you should always be aware of sweep attempts. Many sweeps can be completely nullified simply by dropping your hips (and hence your centre of gravity) to the mat. Generally, your goal should be to get your hips as close to the mat as possible as soon as possible.

2. ‘Climb the Ladder’

Think of your opponent’s body as a ladder, with his feet being the bottom rung. His knees, pelvis, and shoulders represent the other rungs. Your objective is to continually be working your way higher up the ladder and to never go back down. Once you pass a rung, you never go back to it.

Taking into account the ‘disrupt the feet’ concept mentioned above, the most important rung to get over are the feet. Here’s a video in which I explain this concept in more detail:

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3. Disrupt the Feet

This is something I started to understand and implement into my game just recently and it’s made a huge difference. 80 percent Your opponent’s guard is simply the hooks created by his feet and ankles. His knees and thighs are secondary. These hooks are the first and most difficult ‘rungs on the ladder’ to pass and are usually what keep you in whichever kind guard variant you’re trapped in. Just as a thought experiment – think how easy it would be to pass the guard of someone with no feet. Or take a training partner and ask him to stop you from passing his guard without using his feet.

We can use this to maximum effect by pre-emptively manipulating and controlling the guard player’s feet and not allowing him to engage these hooks. Now, whenever someone starts trying to use an open guard on me, the first thing I do is grab one or both of his feet and bend it downwards out of the hook shape. Not only does the stop him from controlling you with his feet, it also weakens his whole lower-body and makes the subsequent steps in any chosen pass easier to perform.

The first step of the ‘Ankle-Isolation’ pass described in the video further down the page is a good example of this principle at work.

4. Shut the Hips Down

Your opponent’s ability to elevate and camber his hips with bridging and shrimping type movements are large factors in his attempts to create openings and leverage for submissions and sweeps. While his hands and arms do play a minor role (specifically, they can be used to manipulate the head and threaten chokes), they are not really a major concern.

If you can stop his hips from moving, you can cripple his guard to a large extent and make the pathway to mount or side-mount easier. For your reference, the pass described in the video later in this article uses this concept very effectively.

5. Isolate a Leg

Dealing with one of your opponent’s legs is literally twice as easy as dealing with both of them. One of the first steps in the majority of the passes I teach is to choose a side you want to pass to and isolate the leg on that side.

Another way of thinking about this: Try to always have one of your opponent’s legs between both of yours. You don’t want both of his legs around yours, or both inside yours.

Again,  pass detailed in the video later in the article is a great example of this principle in action.

6. Choose ‘Speed’ or ‘Tightness’

Guard passes can be broadly categorised into two different classes: ‘Speed’ and ‘Tightness’.

Speed passes use and are reliant on high levels of athleticism and attributes like quickness and agility. They usually employ rapid direction changes and or acrobatics to accomplish the passage. They often require less energy than tightness-based passes but they are also usually lower-percentage, and I’ve found that they don’t work that well against higher-level opposition. Examples of this type are the cartwheel pass and the torreando pass.

Tightness passes are much more methodical and usually have more technical steps. They often require a large amount of upper-body and grip strength and rely on the above-mentioned  ‘shutting the hips down’ and ‘climb the ladder’ concepts.

Here’s an example of a pass that uses tightness as opposed to speed:

When passing the guard, you need to choose one or the other. If one type doesn’t work against a particular player it’s very likely that the other will. I’ve had quite a bit of success with this. When I encounter a tricky open-guard specialist with very dynamic hips and feel that my speed-based passes are ineffective, I immediately change to a tightness-based pass and use it to shut him down.

7. Don’t Forget Submissions

Although I don’t suggest you build your guard-passing strategy around submissions, I also feel that it’s not wise to disregard them entirely.

From within the closed guard, using certain submission attacks can force a reaction and get the opponent to uncross his ankles and allow you to begin your pass. The two subs I’ve had some success doing this with are the thrusting choke (‘potato smasher’) and the Ezekiel choke.

Lower-body submissions can also be great options against open-guard players. Fighters like the legendary Victor Estima have developed very powerful attacks like the Estima-lock, which can devastating even expert guard players when used properly. Just keep in mind that attempting a foot or leg-lock invariably gives up the top position and can give your opponent opportunities to counter with similar attacks. Make sure you have a contingency plan and that your scrambling ability is good.

Have any other concepts that have helped you with guard passing? Let me know in the comments below.

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BJJ and Back Pain

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This article by jiu jitsu brown belt and medical doctor, Marc Barton, gives helpful tips for those suffering from back pain induced by BJJ training.     Back pain is an extremely common problem for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Rarely a class goes by without someone I know complaining of it to some extent. Jiu Jitsu […]

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This article by jiu jitsu brown belt and medical doctor, Marc Barton, gives helpful tips for those suffering from back pain induced by BJJ training.


Back pain is an extremely common problem for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Rarely a class goes by without someone I know complaining of it to some extent. Jiu Jitsu is a tough activity on the body generally and tends to put a lot of stress on the lower back. Trying to escape certain positions, such as the mount, requires a strong lower back, and getting stacked puts a great deal of tension through the muscles and ligaments attached to the lumbar spine. For this reason it’s hardly surprising that back problems are so common for us.

Its not just Jiu Jitsu practitioners that experience back problems though, and approximately 8 out of 10 people experience it at some point in their lives. The main difference is that as a group of people we tend to try to continue training despite the pain and often just ‘get on with it’. This itself may not be a bad thing at all and I strongly believe that it is not necessary for the vast majority of Jiu Jitsu practitioners to stop training because of back issues.

The most common type of back pain is ‘nonspecific’ or ‘mechanical’ back pain. It is called nonspecific back pain because it is not due to any specific or underlying disease. It is not fully understood what causes this type of pain but most medical practitioners feel it is due to a sprain of the muscles or ligaments attached to the lumbar spine. Other possible causes include problems with the vertebral facet joints or intervertebral discs. This type of pain, for the most part, is not considered dangerous or worrying, but this is little consolation for those of us that suffer with it.

It is very important to distinguish this nonspecific back pain from the more serious, but rarer, nerve root pain that occurs in around 1 in 20 cases of back pain. In these cases the nerve coming out from the spinal cord is irritated or pressed on. It is this type of pain that causes sciatica, as the pain is felt along the course of the nerve. Nerve root pain is potentially much more serious as it can cause permanent damage to the affected nerve. For this reason it is very important to get your back pain assessed by a medical practitioner, such as your GP or a qualified physiotherapist, at the outset and before you go on to use any of the techniques advised in this article.

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My own personal journey with back pain started about 4 years ago. Around that time I transitioned from being a recreational Jiu Jitsu practitioner, training a couple of times a week, to someone who was training much more frequently. A couple of years ago I left my day job and became a full time instructor. I now am teaching or training almost every day and often multiple times a day. Back pain has become a part of my everyday life. Getting out of bed in the morning has became an endeavour in itself and putting on my socks easily became one of life’s pleasures that I realised I had taken for granted. I have visited numerous physiotherapists and osteopaths over the past couple of years and my back is now greatly improved. I would like to share some of my favourite and most trusted coping methods with you.

Here are my top five tips for combating back pain as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner:

  1. Adapt your game

I learnt this strategy from one of my instructors Steve Finan, who is a black belt under the legendary Mauricio Gomes. Despite being in his early 50s Steve is one of the very toughest guys I regularly roll with. I believe his longevity and ability to roll so hard in his 50s is due to the intelligence with which he approaches training. He has also experienced back problems and has very cleverly adapted his game to overcome this. He has helped me to adapt my own game, so that I now avoid movements and positions which put my lower back under stress. An example of this is the classic side control escape. I used to explosively bridge up and shrimp to the side before threading my shin across and regaining guard. I have now adapted this so that I slowly bridge my hips but explosively drop downwards. The net effect is the same but without the associated strain on the lower back. I have similarly adapted escapes from mount and other positions and this has helped me to combat back pain a great deal.

  1. Strengthen your core

One of the keys to a healthy back is a strong core. Jiu Jitsu in general, but particularly the various guard positions, tends to strengthen the abdominal muscles, but lower back strengthening is often neglected by Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Having a strong core can help to combat the pain caused by strain to the ligaments and muscles around the lumbar spine and can also help to heal the commonest types of back pain. The Swiss ball is a very helpful piece of equipment for this and Rener Gracie describes how he uses it to strengthen his core is this excellent video tutorial.

  1. Take up Yoga

Yoga may have been the single biggest factor for me learning to control and combat my own lower back problems. Hamstring and lumbar spine flexibility is extremely important in maintaining a healthy back and can also help to reduce tension, stiffness and soreness. There are many very helpful Yoga poses for lower back pain but these are my own personal favourites:

Child’s pose – this is a fantastic restorative Yoga pose and is very effective at lengthening the spine. 

Downward-facing Dog – this is the classic Yoga pose, it opens the shoulders and lengthens the thoracic and lumbar spine as well as stretching out the hamstrings. 

Upward-Facing Dog – this pose stretches the abdominal muscles and helps to opens up the intervertebral disc spaces.

Twisted Tiger – this pose was taught to me by my friend Chill Winston Yoga instructor Marvin Reid. It twists the torso and is excellent at stretching out the muscles and relieving tension on either side of the back in turn. It requires you to lie over a bolster but is well worth the investment.

  1. Go swimming

Swimming is my go to exercise when I am really struggling. It is low impact and puts almost no strain on the back at all. It is an excellent form of active stretching and also helps to build a strong core. When swimming you are supported by the water and it releases much of the pressure that is transmitted through the spine when standing upright. I find backstroke and front crawl particularly helpful. Swimming also releases endorphins, which are natural painkillers, and following a swim my back always feels better. If your back injury is particularly severe or the pain unmanageable, try just wading in the water or doing low impact exercises in the pool initially, before gradually progressing on to swimming.

  1. Seek help!

It is very important not to ‘go it alone’. Seeking help from a qualified medical practitioner may prevent you causing further damage or missing a more serious cause for the pain. Several times over the past few years a trip to the physiotherapist has helped salvage the situation and get me back on the mats quickly.

I still have bad days and my back is definitely not as good as it used to be, but I now have more good days than bad and I’m still in the game and training and teaching regularly. I hope that if you are suffering with lower back problems that some of these strategies, that have help me so much, will also help you to combat your back pain and keep training.

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The Importance of Footwork in Jiu Jitsu

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  One of the least talked about aspects of Jiu-Jitsu techniques is foot positioning. Grips, movement, and basic leverage make up the majority of what an instructor shows in a technique. This leaves foot positioning as side note that not few instructors ever address. I was at seminar recently where the instructor was talking about […]

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One of the least talked about aspects of Jiu-Jitsu techniques is foot positioning. Grips, movement, and basic leverage make up the majority of what an instructor shows in a technique. This leaves foot positioning as side note that not few instructors ever address.

I was at seminar recently where the instructor was talking about the importance of a certain foot position to which a white belt said “I don’t even know what to do with my hands yet”.

Because this basic concept is rarely taught, application of leverage beginning at the feet can be left to the student to figure out on their own.

Early learning of the proper concepts behind controlling weight and power through the positioning of your feet can quickly improve your jiu-jitsu skills. In this article I will address three different foot positioning concepts. By experimenting with these concepts you can improve your top game base, passing pressure, and side control stability.

Before we dive in to these concepts I must be completely up front, these are not my concepts or terminology. I picked them up over the years from the man whose nickname is simply “Professor”, 8th degree Coral Belt Pedro Sauer. He is the only instructor I have seen consistently emphasize the importance that proper foot positioning makes in the generation of leverage. Thank you Professor!

‘How I got my BJJ Black Belt in 4 Years.’ – Read the Black Belt Blueprint by Nic Gregoriades.

Ballerina Feet

I have seen this concept become a major factor in many of student’s tournament success. I have witnessed people struggle to gain traction with their guard while the student using this technique is able to maintain perfect base and posture. Often this forces their opponent to open their guard and initiates the beginning of the pass.

Here we see Bobby inside Rob’s closed guard. Bobby has his feet placed in Ballerina Feet position. This allows him to sink his hips straight to the floor which places his body weight in a low and solid position. This makes it extremely difficult for Rob to break Bobby’s posture with his legs or to grab the gi lapel and pull him down.

What are Ballerina Feet? This is you sitting with toes pointed and the top of your feet flat on the mat. This allows the practitioner to sink their hips and drop their weight straight down to the floor. Because the weight of the hips is sinking down the student is no longer leaning forward. This make it much harder for the guard player to pull the practitioner down and begin closed guard attacks. As the guard player struggles they well either open their guard for you or exhaust themselves so you can easily break the closed guard.

Active Toes

When a movement requires you to place pressure or smash your opponent a flat foot won’t cut it. Active Toes are used in these situations. Active Toes are when you are driving with your toes planted and your knees off of the mat. By doing this you are able to bring forward driving pressure, create more mobility, and optimize your weight.

An example of an active toes movement is the smash pass or stack pass. In this movement you are up on your toes, and leaning forward. While on your toes you now have the mobility to walk around your opponent’s legs while maintaining pressure. Not being on your toes and having your knees on the ground is a common mistake for beginners. Whether its having top side control, passing, or stacking out of an arm bar getting off of your knees and on your toes is essential.

Bobby attempts a stack pass. Note how he is driving off of his toes, with his heels up, and knees off of the mat. This creates an extreme amount of pressure on Rob.

Frog Feet

This is the least taught and understood foot positioning concept. Frog Feet is when you point your feet out wards with the inside of the foot touching the mat. This foot positioning places your hips at an outward angle. The benefits of Frog Feet are twofold.

One this allows you to spread your weight over a large area making you more difficult to lift up and move around. Two this allows you to maintain a steady plain of balance when lifted. Your hips are forced outward which allows you to maintain level. This makes you harder to sweep as you tend to land back down in the flat Frog Feet position.

Examples of when you could use Frog Feet would be inside the butterfly guard. For your opponent to sweep you with the butterfly guard sweep they will try to turn your hips so you land your back. With Frog Feet even while being lifted your hips maintain level and are harder to turn over. Another example is from the top of side control when an opponent tries to roll you over the top of them. Frog Feet keeps your weight spread over the greatest space possible making you hard to lift.

Bobby has the side mount with the Frog Feet position. Rob is preparing to escape by grabbing Bobby’s belt and rolling him across his body. The Frog Feet position will keep Bobby’s hips wide and level while distributing his body weight over the widest area. This will make it extremely difficult to escape using the technique.

Explore these concepts and see where they become useful. Nearly every technique has an appropriate way to use the feet. This is especially true in the top position where efficient base, pressure, and mobility are all by products of efficient foot positioning. Try and find more techniques for how to position and use the feet to increase your efficiency. Now go train!

Thanks to Chris Bumgarner from First State Jiu Jitsu in Delaware for the this contributing this article.


Working towards your blue belt? The BJJ Building Blocks course by Roger Gracie Black Belt Nicolas Gregroriades will accelerate your progress

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Family Jiu-Jitsu

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As a parent of 3 kids (ages 11,7 and 4) it can often be tricky to find something that we all enjoy doing together. The eldest is on the cusp of thinking he’s pretty grown up (most days), and the youngest has only just started school. One boy, 2 girls, and again you can run […]

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As a parent of 3 kids (ages 11,7 and 4) it can often be tricky to find something that we all enjoy doing together. The eldest is on the cusp of thinking he’s pretty grown up (most days), and the youngest has only just started school. One boy, 2 girls, and again you can run into problems with activities that they can all happily engage in.

My Own Journey

3 years ago my husband started a jiu jitsu class for the eldest one. As the terms went on, the younger 2 were pleading for classes for themselves too, and so the academy grew. And fast-forward a little further, rather than feeling left out, I decided that ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, so I took the plunge and did a beginner’s course. At 39, it felt very crazy to be entering into such a physical sport, and I can’t deny I was a little hesitant at being in quite such close proximity to complete strangers!

‘How I got my BJJ Black Belt in 4 Years.’ – Read the Black Belt Blueprint by Nic Gregoriades.

I honestly thought that I’d just survive the 8 week course, and say to my husband something along the lines of ‘I’ve given it a go, but it’s not really my thing..’ and go back to life as usual. Surprisingly (to me), I was hooked. There were days when I didn’t really feel like going training, but after each session I would come back feeling relaxed, stress-free and happier. Exercise is well known to help lift our mood, and in many ways jiu jitsu has become my source of meditation. When you’re pushing your physical limits to their maximum, there’s very little room for complicated thoughts, and my mind becomes incredibly peaceful. Plus there’s the bonus of endorphin release, and the amazing camaraderie that happens on the mats.

Trust is Important

There are very few sports where you have to really trust the person you train with. There’s little room for egos – this is not a sport you can brag about being amazing at – the mats have a very levelling effect. At just over 5′ it might seem an intimidating environment to launch yourself into, but I’ve never felt anything other than safe whilst training, and have only the greatest respect for my training partners, who usually let me go fairly flat out, whilst taking care not to squash me!

We have mats at home, and put them out in the garden in the summer months. The kids love playing around on them and watching them try out their new moves on each other is fantastic.

Being mum to an 11-year-old boy has its bittersweet moments. There are days when I feel he needs me less and less, and it can be difficult to ‘let go’. Having a sport where he actually asks to train with me is incredibly special and I feel that it’s provided a bond at a time when those invisible strings of childhood can become a little lost.

New Skills

They’ve learned a new set of skills too; not just the physical ones. They are now an integral part of the kids academy and help set up the mats, hand out stickers at the end of class, and know to be extra gentle if there’s a new kid that joins. Of course it doesn’t have to be jiu jitsu – any sport that the whole family can do together is going to having a uniting effect and very positive results. But I think there’s something very special about this sport that is known as physical chess, as it stretches you both mentally and physically. And, for us, the family that does jiu jitsu together, is a happier, more united family!


Clare Barton is a white belt in jiu jitsu and author of In the Zen Garden

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The Rules of BJJ & Grappling Competitions

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  Exploiting the System? Competing is a large part of most people’s jiu jitsu journeys. I’ve never been the kind of grappler who tried to exploit the rules to his advantage. I always fight to submit. Looking back on my competitive career, I realise that this was a mistake. On more than a few occasions I lost […]

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Exploiting the System?

Competing is a large part of most people’s jiu jitsu journeys. I’ve never been the kind of grappler who tried to exploit the rules to his advantage. I always fight to submit. Looking back on my competitive career, I realise that this was a mistake. On more than a few occasions I lost to savvy players who exploited the rules to beat me.

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A couple of years ago I attended an IBJJF rules course as a requirement for my 2nd degree black belt certificate. Even after over a decade of training and competing, I was astounded by how much I didn’t know. From then on I made an effort to understand this aspect of jiu-jitsu.

The Rules are Complex

During the course and my studies of the rulesets of the major competitions I realised that the rules of grappling and bjj are complex and that in order to maximise your potential as a competitor, it’s vital that you know and understand them properly.

In this video I teamed up with David Aguzzi from Grappling Industries to provide a comprehensive break-down of the rules for those wishing to compete.

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Using the Kimura to Sweep, Control and Submit

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  When I first learned the Kimura, over 15 years ago, it was as a simple jiu jitsu submission from the closed-guard. As my journey into the art has progressed and my understanding increased, I have found it fascinating to discover that there is really so much more to this powerful hold. This attack might just be the […]

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When I first learned the Kimura, over 15 years ago, it was as a simple jiu jitsu submission from the closed-guard.

As my journey into the art has progressed and my understanding increased, I have found it fascinating to discover that there is really so much more to this powerful hold.

This attack might just be the jiu jitsu move with more names than any other. It’s also known as the ‘chicken-wing’, ‘reverse key-lock’ and ‘gyaku ude-garami’ – I’m sure there’s even a few more that I’m missing.

The ‘Kimura’ reference comes from the judoka Masahiko Kimura, who employed the it to defeat legendary Helio Gracie in a match in 1950’s.

Multi-Position Attack

A great thing about it is that can also be used from almost any position. I’ve seen it used successfully from mount, guard, side-mount, half-guard, north south and others.

I have a couple of friends and training partners who are absolute masters at this – they’re able to latch onto me with the hammer-lock from almost any position – guard, half-guard, side-mount, mount, the back – even underneath side-mount!

Once it’s engaged I know I’m in deep water. Not only am I’m constantly in danger of the sub, but most of the time it’s almost impossible to gain any leverage as are able to control and manipulate my whole body with it

‘How I got my BJJ Black Belt in 4 Years.’ – Read the Black Belt Blueprint by Nic Gregoriades.

Versatile

Not only can it be used to submit an opponent, but it also has applications as both a sweep and a control method. I’ve pieced together an example of each of these into this video sequence.

It features a really cool sweep from half-guard called ‘the toilet-bowl’ (yes seriously!) that I’ve been having a bunch of success with lately. One of my black belt students also won the European No-Gi Championships using it a couple of years back

PS – one detail about the sweep that  I didn’t know at the time I made the video is that as you push your opponent’s arm up into his body to roll him over, you need to ‘run’ your legs away from him – almost as if you were intentionally trying to put yourself at the bottom of the North-South position. This stops him from using a tricky step-over armbar counter that can turn the bottom player really quickly.

Bonus Kimura Secret: Tightness!

It was when I finally understood this that the move became much more than just a submission for me. I started to realise just how good it was for control too.

Before I even started jiu jitsu I used to train boxing quite a lot. My coach always used to tell me ‘With a great jab you can rule the world’. Now I say to my jiu jitsu students ‘With a great Kimura you can control the whole match.’

When you engage your figure-four hold properly by using the tip in the video below, you can pretty much do what you want you want to your opponent.

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Finding Your Flow in Jiu Jitsu

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What is ‘Flow’ in a Jiu Jitsu Context? Flow: To move continuously in a current or stream. The phrase ‘flow rolling’ often gets a bad rap in the grappling world. You know the feeling you go to slap and bump hands and your partner says, “You mind if we just flow?” You’re probably thinking, “Flow? […]

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What is ‘Flow’ in a Jiu Jitsu Context?

Flow: To move continuously in a current or stream.

The phrase ‘flow rolling’ often gets a bad rap in the grappling world. You know the feeling you go to slap and bump hands and your partner says, “You mind if we just flow?” You’re probably thinking, “Flow? What the hell! I want to fight!” People in the Jiu-Jitsu community often think of flow rolling as something less than live rolling. Some might even think that you only “flow roll” when you’re injured, broken, old, or weak. For me flow means something very different.

I think of grappling as having several different levels. It’s similar to a dimmer switch versus a light switch. With a light switch, you flip the switch and you have light. With a dimmer switch you can make small gradual movements in either direction. For me good Jiu-Jitsu is like that dimmer switch. Rolling isn’t all or nothing.

Want to catch more submissions, get fewer injuries and have more fun on the mat? Check out Mike’s highly-acclaimed video, Flow Jitsu.

The kill or be killed mentality mostly leads to broken bodies and a short Jiu-Jitsu journey. The goal is to stay on the mats and you’re going to still want to do this when you’re in your 40’s and 50’s and older! But what I’m talking about isn’t really even about going lighter or not trying to tap each other. It goes much deeper. It’s also not about making flow separate from live rolling. In fact, it’s the opposite. For me it’s about finding the flow within the “live” roll.

If you’ve been training for some time you may have had this experience:

You’re rolling with good partner and you have an exchange of techniques that happen almost perfectly in synch… and it’s as if your bodies are moving own their own accord…the timing, the rhythm, everything is perfect and you feel like you are watching it happen as it’s happening.

For me that’s the flow.

In the west we don’t really have a word to describe this experience. In Japanese martial arts this state of mind is called ‘mushin’, or ‘no mind’. This is a state of mind where the actor and the act become one. A simple example of this in everyday life is riding a bike. Navigating a bike requires a complex set of movements: balance, timing and mental alertness to name a few. Most people begin riding a bike very early in life. It’s becomes a rite of passage for most kids. As an adult the idea of riding a bike requires very little mental or physical effort. Yes, it may be tiring, but the task alone isn’t difficult. You’ve mastered this skill to a certain degree. How did you attain “mastery”? Mostly through repetitive action. You’ve done it so many times that your body and mind have reached a sense of unity and the act requires little or no mental effort.

The master has failed more time than the beginner has even tried. – Albert Einstein

Empty Mind

The ‘Mu’ in ‘mushin’ means, “empty mind” as in a state of oneness, unity, free of fear, distractions and ego. I’ve heard high level martial artists reaching a state which they would describe as “getting lost in the movements”. Not lost in the sense of failing, but a sense of unity around the movements. I believe the “lost” feeling is a feeling of losing one’s old self, habits, and restricted thought patterns. When we let go of the “I”, the ego state, there is no separation just oneness. So how do we reach the “flow” where the ripples have become still and the reflection in the water seeks only clarity? I believe that by practicing precise, accurate movements you begin to “shave off the imperfections” that slow rhythm and timing.

I like to use cyclical flow drills as a tool for practicing and perfecting movements and transitions. Think of a cyclical flow drill as a series of reoccurring movements that repeat themselves. They can be done with little or no resistance. The idea isn’t for this to be a “live roll” but to develop accuracy and precision around your movements. These can be done alone or with a partner. They aren’t intended to replace live rolls but to enhance them by developing more accurate, perfectly timed movements that become second nature.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. – Bruce lee

When your movements become more accurate they require less mental strain. This allows for room for more freedom and clarity when you’re rolling. Instead of thinking about what you’re doing, you are just ‘doing’. Remember, cyclical flow drills are a supplement to your normal randori training (never replacing it) but with the intent to strengthen your live rolls.

I’ve also found that it takes the right kind of partner to find a good flow. Beginners for example are great reminder of what that choppy, physical, unpredictable energy feels like. Whereas more seasoned students can relax and be more precise and technical with their movements which allows for more of an opportunity to flow. I’ve also found that adding the element of music to your rolls will help get you into a better state of mind. According to a 2013 study, “People listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness.”* Adding music to your rolls will help you stay relaxed and allow you to find a rhythm to your movements while creating a sense of cohesion and connectedness with your partners.

One theory suggests that, “Music contributes to social cohesion and thereby increases the effectiveness of group action…music may provide means to reduce social stress and temper aggression in others. The idea that music may function as a social cement has many proponents.” (Source)

Tips for developing ‘Flow’

  • Practice cyclical flow drills – Use these drills to help you develop more precise, accurate movements and transitions.
  • “Dark” rolling (eyes closed) – When you grapple with your eyes closed you narrow your focus to your immediate needs. So instead of being distracted by all of the external stimuli when you grapple with your eyes open, you develop laser point focus on your partner. In addition, you are forced to move slower and with better precision which improves your technique.
  • ‘Catch and Release’ flow rolling – This is a great way to move your body in and out of submissions. You want to use as little strength as possible and rely almost exclusively on technique. The goal is to exchange techniques with your partner using continuous movement with no breaks in the rhythm.
  • Music – Playing music in the background will help you feel a sense of rhythm and timing. I like music that has a good beat but doesn’t move too fast or too aggressively. The goal is to stay relaxed, not become overly stimulated. Find music that speaks to you!
  • The “right” partner – It’s important to find a partner who moves well. Also, find someone you roll with all the time who is familiar with the way you move. If they are choppy, resistant or in a deep egoic state it will be difficult to flow.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth”

BJJ Flow Examples

Example of a basic Cyclical Flow (solo / partner):

Example of a long Cyclical Flow (solo / partner):

Example of an advanced Cyclical Flow (partner):


This was a guest post by Mike Bidwell, author of the excellent site, BJJ After 40.

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BJJ Travel Guide Part 1: Top 10 Jiu Jitsu Vacation Cities

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As recently as 10 years ago, elite-level jiu jitsu instruction used to be hard to find outside capitals, but now established academies and pedigreed black belts can be found in most medium-sized metropoles. Here’s a list of our top 10 cities in which to combine your next vacation with some good rolling.

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is rapidly becoming the global martial art.

Add to this airfares being at their lowest in years and there’s never been a better time to be a BJJ Globetrotter.

In this first part of our BJJ Travel Guide I’ve listed, in no particular order, what I consider to be the best jiu jitsu cities at the moment.

1. San Diego, USA

The unofficial epicentre of the jiu jitsu revolution, San Diego has taken over from Rio as the place where you go to find the bleeding-edge of the art.

With a near-perfect climate and perhaps the best ratio of high-level academies to population-size outside Brazil, this is the destination for many looking to immerse themselves in the jiu jitsu lifestyle.

This is an ‘outdoors’ city, so there is a wealth of activities that compliment jiu jitsu, including surfing and rock-climbing.

Best For: Weather, outdoor sports enthusiasts

Budget: Moderate

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Clark Gracie Academy, Studio 540

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

No list like this would be complete without Rio.  Brazil is the home of the modern game and it’s most famous city hosts some of the oldest and most iconic academies. If jiu jitsu were a religion, this would be its holy land.

Not a bad place to relax after training…

With absolutely stunning beaches, fantastic night-life, and the chance to be taught by living legends, the only major downside is the high-level of crime. This is one of the very few cities I’ve visited where I haven’t felt completely safe. Be alert and you’ll be fine.

Check out Connection Rio to plan your trip.

PS if you’re interested in drinking Ayahuasca, Rio is a good springboard to several amazon retreats.

Best For: The jiu jitsu ‘pilgrimage’, BJJ nerds / history buffs

Budget: Moderate

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: De la Riva, Gracie Barra

3. New York, USA

Almost as international as London and even more fast paced, New York is home to some of the best academies on the planet. It’s no wonder many of the world’s top grapplers are choosing to base themselves out of the Big Apple or prepare for competitions there.

Classes at the big schools are usually massive, so you’ll have a wide variety of sparring partners at all belt levels.

You literally cannot get bored in New York, there’s so much to see that you’ll always have something to do between training sessions.

Best For: High-energy individuals, sparring

Budget: Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Clockwork Jiu JItsu, Marcelo Garcia Academy

Want to catch more submissions, get fewer injuries and have more fun on the mat? Check out Mike Bidwell’s highly-acclaimed video, Flow Jitsu.

4. London, UK

The UK jiu jitsu scene is booming, and London is at its heart.

At many of the large academies you can test your skills against players from literally every corner of the globe. As it’s closer to Europe, there is also a much stronger judo influence than in comparably-sized US cities, which gives the style here a unique flavor.

Because it’s a global hub, it’s the perfect ‘2nd city’ to stop off at on your way to or from a jiu jitsu vacation.

Keep in mind that the weather is absolutely toilet for most of the year – try to go in summer or late spring. When the sun does shine in London you won’t find anywhere better.

Best for: Culture, onward travel

Budget: Very Expensive

BJJ Level: Very Good

Recommended Academies: Roger Gracie HQ, Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood London

5. Cape Town, South Africa

(Note – I’m biased because this is my home town!)

If you’ve already done Rio and want something fresh yet similar, Cape Town is ideal.

It has unmatched natural beauty including some of the best beaches in the world. Keep in mind that summer in Cape Town begins in November and lasts until February. During the summer months especially, there’s world-class kite surfing competitions, wind sailing, surfing, diving with Great White Sharks, hiking, bungee diving, and more.

With the recent collapse of the South African currency, it’s also become much more affordable.

The level of BJJ is not what you’d find in a major US or European city, but it’s growing fast and the locals are generally a tough roll, regardless of belt level.

Best For: Nature Lovers, extreme sports enthusiasts

Budget: Inexpensive – Moderate

Overall BJJ Level: Average

Recommended Academies: Renzo Gracie Cape Town, Maximilian Academy (No-Gi Only)

6. Tokyo, Japan

Years ago, before I’d ever been to Asia, a judo-black belt said to me ‘people who train will always be drawn to Japan – it’s the spiritual home of the martial arts.’

Japanese culture embodies the philosophy of jiu jitsu in so many unique aspects. Regardless of whatever anybody tries to tell you, this is where jiu jitsu really comes from – you can literally feel it.

No matter where you’re from, Tokyo will impress.

Tokyo will blow your mind – as a martial artist you owe it to yourself to see the home of jiu judo at the Kodokan.

The Japanese jiu-jitsu players are usually lighter and very technical, which makes it the perfect place for smaller players to get good rolls in.

Best For: Lighter sparring partners, culture-shock, food-lovers

Budget: Moderate – Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Very Good

Recommended Academies: Carpe Diem, Axis

7. Los Angeles, USA

Besides being the home of the World Championships (in Long Beach), LA also has dozens of quality academies and many of the same draws as San Diego (climate, beaches) but at a faster pace.

The place gets a bad rap for being shallow but it’s been my experience that the people are interesting and there is a rich and varied culture. Say what you will about LA, but it tends to draw some very high level competitors, and one of the best bjj instructors I’ve ever met has a gym there (Tim Peterson at Robot Jiu Jitsu).

You’ll also find some of the best yoga classes in the world in LA.

Best For: Culture-shock, high-level, instructors, large availability of sparring partners

Budget: Moderate – Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Robot Jiu Jitsu, 10th Planet HQ

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

Sure, it’s not the cheapest place in the world, but Copenhagen is a beautiful city that is extremely safe and easy to travel around – no need to rent a car to get to training!

Scandinavia is producing some of the toughest jiu jitsu fighters in Europe and you can find many of them here – for exceptionally tough training head over to Arte Suave, a mainstay club of the Checkmat competition team.

Or if that’s not your vibe BJJ Globetrotters has its ‘headquarters’ here so there’s at least gym full of people who have caught the bug as well as visitors from all over to swap stories and armbars.

Best For: Competitors

Budget: Very Expensive

Overall BJJ Level: Elite

Recommended Academies: Arte Suave, CSA.dk

9. Melbourne, Australia

Although it has fewer academies than it’s bigger brother Sydney, Melbourne has a much more relaxed vibe.

Australians are generally relaxed and friendly and I’ve never felt more welcome than when visiting new dojos there.

I also found that the general level of instruction is excellent, with a lot of progressive training methods utilised during classes.

Strangely, Melbourne also has the best coffee shops I’ve ever been to – after tasting some of their stuff you’ll never be happy with Starbucks again.

Best For: Making new friends

Budget: Very Expensive

BJJ Level: Very Good

Recommended Academies: Absolute MMA, Australian Elite Team

10. Phuket, Thailand

The large amount of quality MMA training centres springing up in the area has made Phuket the jiu jitsu capital of southeast Asia.

Thailand also has a rich martial arts tradition, and this means it’s the perfect choice for those looking to cross train in other functional martial arts, Muay Thai in particular.

There’s a huge party-scene in Phuket, and as a result it can get overly-crowded with drunk, sun-burned tourists.

PS – Once you’re tired of the scene in Phuket, it’s worth it to visit Chiang Mai. It’s in northern Thailand (think jungle instead of beach), but it’s also a personal favourite and has some fresh jiu jitsu academies. You can find more information on BJJ gyms in Thailand at Jiu Jitsu Asia

Best For: Cross-training, value for money, party/social scene

Budget: Inexpensive

BJJ Level: Good (No Gi Very Good)

Recommended Academies: Tiger Muay Thai, Phuket Top Team


Know a great BJJ city that’s been left off the list? Tell us about it in the comment section below:

The post BJJ Travel Guide Part 1: Top 10 Jiu Jitsu Vacation Cities appeared first on Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood – Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and Techniques.

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Andrew Raynor Dover

Andy Raynor Dover

Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood – Grappling & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Videos and Techniques

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