Brazilian Jiu-jitsu questions from white belts.
The following questions are from white belts at my gym. If you have any of these questions yourself I hope the post is helpful.
1. How do you learn a move or submission you’ve been obsessing over well enough so that you can use it during rolling?
Drill it! Maybe you learned it from an instructor at your gym or maybe it’s something you saw on the internet. Wherever you picked up the technique, if it’s something you want to really get the hang of, drill it. Especially in the beginning, new moves have a certain uncomfortable unwieldy quality. You feel awkward and slow to execute. To remove that, you need to drill. Start the drilling off as slow technique drilling where you focus on hitting everything spot on. Then as you feel better, speed up the drilling and eventually have your partner offer some light resistance. Some “sloppiness” is ok once you speed it up but keep it within reason. The idea is to remove the thinking involved. You want to be able to initiate the move without having to think when you’re rolling.
2. How do I not get so hung up on getting a colored belt or stripe?
Many BJJ practitioners get caught up, fixating on their belt or stripes. Don’t! Don’t chase belts or promotions. In most BJJ gyms you’re going to wait between 1.5-3 years between belts (depending on your training). That’s just too long of a goal to keep you motivated during the rough times where you get a little down on yourself. I did a post on this subject previously here. http://chewjitsu.net/2013/08/17/10-years-in-bjj-and-10-lessons-ive-learned-part-2/
3. How do I break plateaus or periods where I’m not getting better?
Hitting a standstill, or at least what feels like a stand still, with your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is unavoidable. We all hit snags along the way. Often times they aren’t as bad as you might think. Many times you’re just comparing yourself to your peers who are learning similar material and rolling with the same partners, and likewise, making their own progress. So with everyone progressing it’s hard to realize that you’re improving.
If you are hitting a true plateau. They’re pretty easy to deal with. Most commonly you’ve gotten slightly complacent or continued to find yourself doing the same moves and techniques in the same positions. Without any change to help spark improvement you’re going to end up in a slow grind.
The solution? Find some new moves, techniques or positions and throw them into the mix. If the moves are in a new position or are completely foreign to you. Then expect to spend time drilling first. After the techniques are drilled to at least a basic level of comfort, start implementing them into your rolling. You’ll probably screw up a bunch and get out positioned or submitted along the way, but the scrambles and failures will help spark new improvements in your game. Gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet right?
4. How to stay focused on yourself rather than fall in the trap of worrying about others and their progress?
It happens to all of us at some point. We get fixated on how others around us are doing. Maybe someone is making faster improvements than us or maybe they were promoted before us. Whatever it is, it’s important not to fixate on others if it bothers you. The best way to deal with this is to simply start by realizing that you’re worried about someone else’s game rather than your own in an individual sport. Just like wrestling, we all exist on a team but in the end we are individuals. We roll as individuals and we compete as individuals. When you stop and think about how silly it is to be focused on others, its easy to stop thinking about it.
To keep your mind focused try setting goals for yourself. It might be a tournament, losing weight or hitting 3 armbars during the rolling portion of class. Just ask yourself what you’d like to get out of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and then work towards that. If you’re unsure how to get there, talk to your instructor.
5. What are the best moves to focus on as a white belt / newcomer?
6. How long should I wait before I compete?
Whenever you feel comfortable enough to get out there and give it a try. I honestly think the sooner the better. Many people who take on Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and have never wrestled or competed before build tournaments into something that they aren’t. They wait and wait. . . and wait for the perfect opportunity that never comes. I remember one of my guys that waited till he was a high-ranking blue belt before competing. After his matches he said, “I really wish I wouldn’t have waited so damn long to compete.” Remember, competitions are tough but it’s just rolling with people you don’t know in front of people.
7. Why do we start from the knees during rolling?
In my gym we start on the knees during some of the classes for a few reasons. One is to control space. I don’t have enough mat space to house 40 BJJ practitioners doing full rolls from the feet. Two is injuries. Early on I am trying to protect BJJ players from their spazzy selves. Keeping new students grounded helps ease them into the process early on and prevents injuries. In the meantime we can use wrestling and take down classes to teach them the basics of take downs and fundamental techniques like break falling and being in a proper stance. At my gym we do plenty of full rolling from the feet and take down work. In addition we do lots of situational rolling where we might start inside the guard or whatever position we are working on. That said, I do like having people start on the knees from time to time (especially when they are newer) to get them use to pulling someone into the guard or dealing with the scrambling that can happen when people are going for position. I know some people say that starting on the knees is useless and builds bad habits. But I think as long as you are learning how to perform take down and supplementing wrestling and/or judo into the training, it’ll be fine.
8. You’re a black belt and have had your own struggles. How have you dealt with your own trials in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
For me, once I started training, quitting was never an option. Just like all of us I had setbacks. Injuries, job and family intervening. . .girlfriends. But I always kept training. Unfortunately I have a hard time relating with people who take on BJJ as just another thing to do. For me it was life changing. But a few things that have helped when things were tough is this.
- Ask yourself, “Do I want to be good at BJJ?” If the answer is yes, be prepared to train for a looooong time.
- I give myself reminders. When I was a blue belt I wore a purple sweat band on my ankle to remind me that I needed to train hard to get my purple belt. As a brown belt I wrote, “you suck, get in the gym!”, as the greeting on my phone after I lost a match in a tournament. The greeting which would stare back at me every time I glanced at my phone helped me from being lazy.
- Blocks along the road are going to come. When I was younger and something got in the way I would get really depressed, eat bad and sulk. Now I’ve grown to expect them and when they come I look for a way around them. Likewise you should expect them and be prepared to work around them. They may come in the form of injuries, jobs or something completely unexpected, but they are going to come. Try to work around them instead of having long layoffs. Consistency is important for BJJ.
- Enjoy the time spent with your training partners and get to know them. The closer you are to them the better off you’ll be.
- One of the most helpful things for me early on was my buddy Chris. We trained together and lived together. We would go to the gym, train and come home and drill on mats I bought for our room. Likewise, get a gym buddy or buddies. Build a relationship with someone in the gym where you can call them up to drill and train during open mats or use each other for support.
- Drilling can of boring. I think of it like eating your broccoli. It’s good for you but you kind of want something else to eat. Drilling is good for your game but it’s always more fun to roll. I know much of my early success came from drilling. I would drill sequences over and over again and they became easier and easier to hit during rolling and competitions.
Just don’t quit. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a weird thing. It works for everyone but no one’s path is the same. There isn’t a clear-cut route to success. There are things that you can do to improve. But everyone progresses differently. Just don’t quit. “Black belts are simply white belts that never gave up.” I know that quote gets overused a bit but it’s the truth. When I was a white belt I never thought I’d be a blue belt and a purple belt was absolutely out of the question. I eventually ended up receiving my black belt after 8 years. Do the same. Focus on the day-to-day. Enjoy the training, the health benefits and time spent with your buddies. Soak up as much knowledge as you can. Go compete. Immerse yourself in BJJ, don’t let quitting be an option.
Thanks for reading
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Louisville, KY Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Louisville has grown and changed so much over the last decade. 11 years ago I started training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Louisville, Kentucky and our training sessions used to take place in the corner of a traditional style weight lifting gym. We had to roll the mats out every night and pack them up after every session when we were done to make room for other classes. This still wasn’t as bad as the strange looks we received from the soccer moms walking on the treadmills. Now, I am fortunate enough to teach and train out of a 9000+ sq ft facility that is devoted solely to the combat style martial arts. I learned originally from a part time purple belt instructor. My students have the benefit of studying under a full time Black Belt.
This weekend’s competition was a clear example of how much the martial art has advanced in the region. This weekend my students took part in the Bluegrass Open which is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournament that is held in Louisville, and if I am correct, was the first Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournament in the city. They did an awesome job. We won a ton of medals. I honestly haven’t even tallied them all up yet. I work incredibly hard to provide my students with the best Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training available, as do my assistant instructors. Likewise, my students push themselves in the gym and it definitely showed during their matches. All of our competitors performed very well and I was especially happy with some of our newcomers to the competition scene. Some of them had only been training for a few months and were able to take home medals for their efforts, that’s always a positive note.
Along with our gym there were several gyms that showed up in numbers this weekend. Again, it was great to see such a large number of skilled competitors going after the win. It’s such a drastic change from 10 years ago when I took part in my first Bluegrass Open. Back then there was a 3 man purple belt division and a handful of blue belts. Now, there were full divisions from brown belt down to white belt. That’s awesome!
I am sort of jealous of all the opportunities that my students have now. I wish I would have had them back when I started. With professional coaches and instruction as well as facilities devoted to developing martial artists and competitors, there really hasn’t ever been a better time to start training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Louisville.
If you live in Louisville and you or your family are interested in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.Give us a call. 502-937-8797. Men, women and children are all welcome!
One of the most frustrating situations to experience in the gym comes after a long layoff. You come back to the gym and your timing is off, physical conditioning is down and your lifts are at pathetic new lows. Even worse, some of the people that you used to outshine have crept up and in some cases, surpassed you. You know who you were before the layoff and you still feel the same but your body isn’t cooperating. That first day back can sometimes make you want to just hang it up completely. The good news is that if you are able to deal with this initial rough start back, you’ll more than likely get back to where you were before and in most cases exceed that previous level.
Layoffs come about for various reasons. Most commonly because of injuries but sometimes work, family and new love can be the culprits. Whatever the reason, a long layoff makes coming back to the gym difficult. Below I’ve listed some of the reasons that might cause a layoff and some suggestions on how to deal with them based on my personal experiences.
- When a complete layoff cannot be avoided
First off, sometimes a layoff is unavoidable. Maybe your injury is severe and inhibits your ability to work anything in the gym. Perhaps reasons relating to family or work prevent you from making it to the gym. When time away from the gym is forced I have a few pieces of advice.
- Lower your expectation when you return – Once we progress to a certain level in our training we begin to set expectations for ourselves. In the weight room we become accustomed to putting up certain numbers. On the mat we get used to submitting certain people or being able to go for a certain number of rounds. When you come back after a layoff you need to throw those expectations out the window. After time away from the gym your lifts are going to be down, your physical conditioning is going to be shot and your timing on the mat will be way off. If you come back into the gym expecting yourself to be where you were, you’re going to run headfirst into reality and become frustrated. Instead of coming back with high expectations, just be happy you’re back in the gym. Also keep in mind that you’re not going to be where you once were. This will help prevent you from getting your hopes up. The reassuring news is that your body has a memory and you’ll regain lost ground quickly. Also, it doesn’t hurt to bear in mind that everyone who has pursued athletics for any length of time has experienced a layoff. Even the champions.
- Keep your diet in check – Diets seem to slide when people aren’t training. They lose the motivation brought on by training. But this is precisely the time when someone’s diet needs to hold. When our activity level drops we won’t be able to make up for all the extra calories, and there’s nothing worse than being sidelined and watching your body fat climb. In addition, maintaining a good diet and healthy body will help you get back on your feet faster when you return to the gym.
The worst reason you might be forced to take a layoff from the gym comes from injuries. Depending on the severity of the injury you might not even be able to go about your day normally. I’ve experienced plenty of injuries, some minor and some that left me couch-ridden and unable to walk. Below are a few things that I’ve done to avoid a complete layoff when injured. This has made it easier to deal with the time off and made easier when I returned.
- Just come in the gym – Even if you’re injured and are unable to train, come in the gym and hang out. Most of us are good friends with our training partners and seeing them is uplifting. I know that after having back to back injuries earlier this year and feeling really depressed. One of the few things that made me feel better was coming into the gym and just seeing everyone. Even before I became a full time BJJ instructor, when I was injured I would still come in and say hey to everyone. I would help my instructor run the timer, coach lower belts or hang out. Maybe I’m weird, but for me, just being on the mat and in the gym helps deal with the depression of being on the shelf because of an injury.
- Work around it – If you have an injury chances are, most of your body remains in good working order. If this is the case then work around your injuries. Earlier this year when I had knee surgery I had to lay off my legs. So, I focused on my upper body for lifting. For BJJ, I would lie down flat (taking my legs out of the mix) and let my training partners start in dominant positions. From there I would focus on keeping my arms and upper body in good position and slowing down submissions. While it wasn’t the most fun thing in the world, it definitely beat sitting around doing nothing, and truth be told, it made my submission defense better.
One of the most common and frustrating reasons (for me as a coach) that I see students drop off for a time comes from new relationships. A guy/girl meets another guy/girl and during the early infatuation stage of the relationship my student will drop all of their previous hobbies and activities to spend time with the person. Eventually after this initial stage of the relationship wears off they make their way back into the gym. Their training is off and they don’t feel like they used to, which is frustrating. Even worse though, is that this new man/woman finds it odd that they are training all the time. When my student explains that they always trained a lot, they forget that they haven’t really trained since the new relationship started. From here the best case scenario is that the two work it out and they continue to see one another. The worst case is that the new love leaves and my student is now left both with no boyfriend/girlfriend and they are out of shape.
- Don’t set unhealthy precedents – Avoid this sort of scenario by continuing to train and focus on yourself even when you began dating an awesome new person. Make time for them but don’t give into the temptation brought on by the rush of a new relationship to exchange your entire life for more time with this person. You will only create problems down the road and set unhealthy expectations for the future.
So remember, layoffs are inevitable for different reasons. Avoid them when you can and work around them if possible. When you are forced away from the gym, just remember that it will get better and that you will be back soon enough.
Thanks for reading!
One of the most frequently asked questions from people interested in training at Derby City concerns the difference between Derby City Mixed Martial Arts and a traditional weight lifting gym. These people are primarily interested in the health and fitness benefits of training. They have tried traditional fitness clubs in the past and want to know how our gym will help them get what they want.
There are numerous differences but I will focus on the 2 that I think are the most important regarding someone reaching their fitness goals and sticking with training. Because consistency is one of the most important aspects of training no matter the gym, maybe the most important.
- Professional Instruction – When you go to a traditional gym you’re dropped into the middle of a gym with no real instruction. There are personal trainers but you have to pay extra for this. If you stick it out and maybe befriend an experienced lifter to get pointers you might make some headway. But most people honestly have no idea how to train properly to reach their goals. They either take workouts from magazines or online and they lack the guidance of a good coach and most often they fall short of their aims. At Derby City MMA and CrossFit West Louisville we have professional instructors in all of our classes. Whether you want to lift weights, learn to box, wrestle, take up Brazilian Jiu-jitsu or jump into kickboxing you’ll be guided from the beginning. You’ll have a coach guiding you step by step in order for you to learn the proper techniques. They can actively correct mistakes you make and they can keep you on the right path for your personal goals. Whether this is fitness, competition or otherwise
- Community – When you go into a traditional gym you’ll notice everyone is typically separated and alone. You’ll see an occasional group of 2-3 people lifting and maybe a little conversation somewhere, but for the most part everyone is compartmentalized. Walk into our gym and you’ll notice anywhere from 5-20+ people gathered around talking. All of the classes at our gym are group classes. This is helpful because being surrounded by people doing the same thing (trying to improve) is motivating. You are guaranteed training partners and a side benefit is that you get to know these people and build friendships. All my best friends are people from the gym. Being able to see your friends in the gym and knowing that they are expecting you is a strong motivator. Try not showing up to the gym after receiving a, “you training tonight?” text. I think this strong positive community atmosphere is something our gym has that many types of gyms lack. I feel like the gym is a big family rather than just an impersonal fitness club.
Again, there are numerous benefits to taking part in a gym like ours, but these are the 2 biggest reasons (I personally believe) that we end up having members for years and years. You’re learning something step by step, improving your fitness and becoming a part of a greater community, something bigger than yourself.
If you’re interested in trying a class at Derby City Mixed Martial Arts or West Louisville CrossFit, give us a call at (502)418-5523, or sign up to try a free class on our website.
Meal prep in under an hour
- -2lbs Grass fed beef
- -16 oz frozen peas
- -2 16oz bags chopped onions and bell peppers (these are faster than chopping up bell peppers)
- -Half cup of quinoa (color is your choice)
- -1 cup chopped zucchini (leftovers from cooking out)
- -1 cup chopped yellow squash (leftovers from cooking out)
- -8 sweet potatoes
(not pictured seasonings)
- -Mrs Dash fiesta lime seasoning
- -Black pepper
- -Pink salt
So last Sunday when I was getting ready to prepare meals for the week I was a little strapped for time. I ended up using some frozen veggies and left overs I had to speed up the process. All in all the meal prep after bagging up my meals took me 53 minutes. If you have a hard time preparing meals for the week because of time then you should definitely keep reading. You might not want to eat the same food but hopefully you can use the ideas from the blog to eat healthy during the week and save money.
- Preheat the oven to 425 (this will cook the potatoes a bit faster)
- Place ground beef on large pan. Chop up and move beef around with spatula. Season to taste.
- Place frozen peppers, squash and zucchini into another pan and turn to medium heat. Also add half cup of quinoa. The quinoa will soak up the excess water from the frozen veggies. Season to taste. Remove from heat once the quinoa is soft.
- Once the oven has reached its temperature. Place the sweet potatoes inside and let them bake. ( I rinse and chop the ends off mine)
- After beef is brown mix in peas and turn off heat.
- Remove sweet potatoes from oven (this is what takes the most time)
After you have all the food cooked place equal portions into tupperware or baggies. This ended up making 8 meals for me. This allows 1 meal right after AM training and 1 meal several hours before PM training. Again this may not be the exact foods you enjoy but these worked well for me this week. My biggest concern when cooking food for the week is to provide nutrients without slowing me down. Typically if I eat out or certain foods I get really lethargic during the middle of the day which isn’t really an option for me. I can eat the meals I made this week and train a half an hour later with no issues. My biggest concern is to eat well throughout the day and have tons of energy for the hours of training and teaching I have to do. If your life style is a little more sedentary you may want to eat fewer carbohydrates. Otherwise, give it a try and see how it works for you and most importantly how your body feels.
3 commonly asked gi questions
I get asked 3 questions in particular regarding the gi by new students or by members who do something else at the gym (Crossfit, Boxing, Kickboxing) and want to take advantage of the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training at Derby City. Below I list the 3 most commonly asked question gi questions I personally get in the gym. If you have any of these questions then I hope this post helps!
So here is a short FAQ about GI related questions.
Question: Do I need a Gi to start training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
Answer: No, you do not. We have no-gi classes that students are welcome to attend on Wednesday and Friday which are BJJ without wearing the kimono. If those days don’t work for you, just come into the regular gi classes and try it out. If you do a few classes and like it we can help you with a gi.
Question: When I decide to buy a gi, are there any restrictions on colors that I am allowed to wear?
Answer: No. Our gym has no restriction gi colors for our students. Although some competitions will have restrictions on what gi colors are allowed, so I often recommend a white or blue for a first gi.
Question: When buying a gi. Are there any particular brands or types I should buy?
Answer: Picking a gi can be a tough thing. There are soooo many choices. But really at the end of the day many of them are very similar and as a newcomer to BJJ you probably won’t notice much of a difference between them. BJJ is an art form to me and in a way is an expression of self. So sticking with this idea, find the gi that fits your style best. Find the gi that you like and makes you want to come to the gym and train.
A few choices. . .
In the gym: We have your basic white and blue gis at an affordable rate. We can take orders for our Derby City BJJ Kimono done by Da Firma. Lastly, we have a wholesale account with Keiko Raca which has a lot of great looking gi and no-gi gear.
Online: There are so many online options but I will direct you to just a couple.
www.BJJhq.com is a cool website that sells affordable grappling gear. Each day there is a special deal which has one item for sale at a great price. The deal changes every day.
www.budovideos.com has a large inventory and tons of choices.
If you’re reading this and you’re a current member interested in BJJ training, then I hope to see you on the mats regardless of a gi or not.
If you’re reading this and you’re not a member but are interested in training BJJ at Derby City. Give us a call at 502-937-8797 and you can try a free trial class today.
A really common question I get, probably the most common, is where I got my nickname. Most people who meet me ask if it was because I was really strong, or maybe I was exceptionally hairy or maybe it was some sort of Star Wars reference. To all these I have to say “No.”
Before there was this guy
There was this guy
That’s right. I used to be a super chubby kid with a definite lacking in athletic ability. Then I started wrestling. I truly believe that wrestling was one of the things that changed my life for the better. Wrestling gave me the inner confidence to allow me to be, well, me. Wrestling also allowed me to see the consequences when hard work and gritty determination are used to achieve a goal. My wrestling coach used to say, “you’re the masters of your own destiny,” when talking about working hard and going after what you want. That motto from wrestling really stuck with me. I guess most impactful though, is that wrestling led me to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
The reason I bring up wrestling is because I had a great nickname from wrestling, which considering this blog is about my nickname, seemed like a fun thing to throw in to the mix. My wrestling nickname was, wait for it, Tugboat. Yeah, Tugboat. After my first wrestling match when I was still a hefty teenager I wheezed so badly that it made an almost horn like sound. My coach got a kick out of it and it stuck. Just like Chewy, Tugboat became my alternate name for that particular sport rather than just an occasional nickname. When they would call my name over the speaker system at tournaments it was always “Tugboat Albin.” I’m not sure what is wrong with my given name of Nicholas or even the shorter version of Nick.
On to Chewy
So, then there is this guy named Mike Colley
When I first started BJJ during my senior year of high school he was a green belt (a solid white belt). One day we were rolling and I did something. I can’t really remember what it was but it was something a spazzy white belt would do. Just to give you an idea of what I was like at that time. I would come into the gym hopped on pre workout like supplements and I would roll accordingly. Armed with a wrestling base, an overly competitive streak and too much caffeine, I was the textbook definition of a spazzy white belt. Right after I did whatever it was that I did. Mike said in a fit of justified irritation, something to the effect of “you big dumb wookie.” He would then periodically refer to me as Chewbacca which replaced “dumb ass.” But I feel like that’s how you know you’re IN with a group of close knit guys, when they start messing with you. At this time Mike was like the verbally abusive big brother I never needed. Eventually the nickname just sort of stuck and has since become my Jiu-jitsu namesake. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m not entirely sure many people in the gym and BJJ community would even know my real name.
So there you have it. That’s where I got the nickname, from being an ultra spaz on the mat. I’ve grown to love it, although it is a little weird that I’m a 29 year old man who is called Chewy instead of his real name of Nick about 90% of the day. The other 10% being divided up in no orderly fashion amongst Chew, Chewster, Chew Chew, Mr. Chewy, Chewbert, Big Chew and Nick. I like to think of it as kind of like a super hero. They have their regular name for the public and then once they’ve donned their costume they become Superman, Batman or whatever. Only mine is just sort of reverse. Oh and I don’t have super powers . . . stupid.
So, thanks Mike, without you I would just be a black belt with an ordinary name.
Over the years we’ve had many people stop in to train while they’re visiting Louisville or passing through for work. Without fail these visitors always tell me of the high level of training and the overall welcoming atmosphere of the gym. Being the head coach, this is a huge compliment for me. I’ve been training for years and have been involved or seen several BJJ programs in action. Many of them had things I liked and other things I didn’t like. When I become the head instructor back in 2009 my goal was to make a gym that provided hard nosed training in an open and positive environment. The kind of place where the training is tough and you go after it, but where you take care of your teammates and help them improve as well. So, when a visitor who has no vested interest in me or my gym comes and trains and leaves with a great experience, well, that lets me know I am on the right track with my coaching. Here is the most recent message I received from a GI who was visiting Fort Knox on Army related work.
“Coach, Nick, “chewy” I just wanted to thank you for the time I had at Derby City MMA. You and all of your students were very welcoming and provided top notch instruction. I had to come back home earlier than I expected but I just wanted to thank you for everything.