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BJJ Blog | Women BJJ | MegJitsu MegJitsu I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You found my BJJ blog! Blog About Contact Connect     ? 2016 Meg Smitley Site by Sproutee Women’s Grappling Tights Review: Ranger Up USA Leggings 15 Apr 2016 By Meg Smitley Women’s grappling tights review of the Ranger Up Women’s USA Leggings. The Women’s USA Leggings are part of Ranger Up’s new premium Bombshell range for women. They are made in the USA and retail for $59.99USD. This limited edition legging sold out in 2 hours in its first run and is now on pre-order. So, if you want to get your Wonder Woman on while grappling, lifting, running, or chasing down preschoolers – stay frosty! Women’s Grappling Tights Review: USA Leggings Styling The USA Leggings offer a grunge-style stars and stripes design. The palette is nicely muted. There is very subtle red and blue-black on a black background with white stripes. The colours are blended with a paint-splatter effect. For me, this softens-up and dirties-up the look in a really appealing way. This is literally the first American flag piece of clothing I’ve ever worn. What swayed me? Full disclosure, Suzy Palmisciano, the absolute machine behind Bombshell and the USA Leggings, is a personal friend of mine. Only she could get me to put on patriotic wear, but I gotta tell you – I love the look of these things! The grunge styling gives them a tough edge. The very subtle use of colour means a design that could be naff or cheesy, ends up looking sassy not saccharine. There is also a super-heroine quality to these leggings. More Jessica Jones and less Super Girl, more badass misunderstood vigilante and less by-the-book Girl Scout. I really dig this reimagining of an American flag theme and look forward to future Bombshell designs. Women’s Grappling Tights Review: Fit and Performance These are my best-fitting leggings. By best-fitting, I mean the smoothest lines at the waist and the least hiking up. The stay-put fit applies to grappling, lifting and hitting the grocery on the way home from strength & conditioning for BJJ. The USA Leggings don’t use the much-touted wide waistband. On me, I find that these lay much smoother than the leggings I’ve worn with the big band, ie Sweaty Betty, Nike, Under Armour and Athleta. The USA Leggings waistband sits firmly just above the hip bone and anchors there. It feels secure and moves only very little, even during grappling practice. Yet, it isn’t so tight that it is uncomfortable or that it pinches and bunches any softness in that area. The great fit of the USA Leggings is in part due to the secure waistband just atop the hips. I think it is also due to the great fabric. The leggings use a very thick – and silky – polyester / spandex blend. The fabric has a good level of stretch and is totally opaque. While the leggings fit like a second-skin, they are not extra tight as with compression gear. As mentioned the fabric has a lovely silky feel. The thickness of the fabric gives the leggings a premium feel and really helps with a good fit that doesn’t shift around as you do your work. The sizing runs Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large. I typically wear the size one-up from the smallest and the Medium fits me perfectly. For comparison, I wear a Small in Under Armour and Athleta leggings. I am 166CM / 5’5″ and the length of the Mediums is great for me. Conclusions Pinching my knees but – tree trunks! I’ve tried to be objective and fair in this review. I honestly feel great in these leggings and love their fit. Nevertheless, it is only fair to concede my personal affection for Sooze. With that in mind I can confirm that these wash and wear very well when the care instructions are followed (cold hand wash cycle). I’ve also been impressed by how well they’ve withstood grappling training. My UA Coldgear pilled at the knees pretty much from the start, and my USA Leggings aren’t showing any signs of no-gi training abuse. I’ve also slayed in class when I’ve worn them and managed a legit armbar on Toby Reh, the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor blue belt, pictured above in a recreation of my glory. So, yes, I love these leggings and I’ve already pre-ordered the Valkyrie Leggings. Clearly, it is more that my friendship with Sooze that has me re-uping so fast! These leggings are a quality item, designed to turn heads and get you in the zone. Filed Under: Fight Wear Hello 2016, What’s Shakin’?! 24 Jan 2016 By Meg Smitley I am having a great time at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor! We arrived in Rochester just short of a year ago. The disruption of the past year has been pretty intense. On the one hand, I miss London, the UK, our friends, family and lives there very deeply. On the other, Rochester has a lot to offer us and our family-life is certainly more balanced and happy. Big achievement! As we begin 2016, we are much more settled here. Finding the right folks to train with both at Wolf Brigade Gym and at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor has really helped me to reclaim the Roc as ‘my home’. There are some very skilful and welcoming BJJers in the Greater Rochester Area. For me, John Ingallina and the people at Gracie Victor offer the school that is right for me. I am incredibly grateful that this club started offering GJJ around the time that I arrived in Rochester. I am so pleased to have been welcomed and embraced by this group of practitioners. John is a very well-rounded and seasoned martial artist. This is clear from his skill and his humility. It is also clear in how invested he is in his students’ progress. John sets a great tone and his club is full of men and women of a wide range of ages and abilities. A very inclusive and loving place to train. Keith, Alicia and Kimora at Gracie Victor Settling-in here has taken a toll on my health and fitness. In London, I walked many miles everyday, attended a couple PT sessions a week and trained jiu jitsu. Here, we drive everywhere, it took several tries to get my gym and jiu jitsu situation right and last year much of my ‘free time’ was eaten up with renovating our new house. This resulted in the undoing of much of my hard work in the UK to get my fitness back after becoming a parent. When we arrived in Rochester I was 3 kilos off where I’d like to be, now I’m more like 6 kilos off. It may not sound like a big deal and in the scheme of things of course it isn’t. However, I do find it really demoralising and just don’t feel at my best, physically, while at the same time I seem to lack the lifestyle mojo I once had to eat well and to move about. As we’re getting on a more even keel now, I am hopeful that 2016 will see me lean out a bit more and get my diet to a clean and healthy state. On a more positive note, I’ve been really enjoying strength and conditioning classes at Wolf Brigade Gym and I’m there pretty consistently twice a week. I’m making a deal with myself to up that to three times a week in February. In the jiu jitsu arena, I had a chat with my coach, John, about how I’d really like to work more conscientiously towards getting my Gracie Academy blue belt and be more involved with Gracie Victor. Over the course of last year, my attendance was okay, making it in once a week as much as I could, but overseas moves are no small potatoes and there’s been a lot of work getting ourselves set-up here. This impacted on my training frequency. It also impacted on how much my head was in the game and how goal-oriented my training was (or wasn’t). John has been more than happy to meet me halfway and we’ve come up with a timeline for my blue belt examination. This has really helped me to get focused and the process of working through the BBQD (Blue Belt Qualification Drills) has been a useful exercise for me. John Ingallina I’ve practiced the techniques included in the Gracie Combatives programme for years. Even still, I never really internalised the names nor could I systematically name the variations for individual techniques. I could perform these techniques in class and sparring, but I was intellectually lazy about it. Having to commit the syllabus to memory has helped me to re-engage with my jiu jitsu in a number of ways. Firstly, it has helped me to consolidate and strengthen my existing knowledge of Gracie Jiu Jitsu by forcing me to properly and fully internalise a syllabus. Secondly, working through the BBQDs has encouraged me to put more mind-cycles on jiu jitsu. Since becoming a parent my visualisation and jiu jitsu daydreaming time has reduced to essentially zero; in my leisure-time laden pre-natal days I would spend several hours a day musing on technique, considering problems in sparring, writing in my training diary, watching interesting fights, reading jiu jitsu blogs. Readers know exactly what I’m referring to. After the boy came into my life and my leisure time was radically compressed, I dropped all of that ‘mental jiu jitsu time’. This affected my on-the-mat performance as well as my emotional connection to my art. Making a goal to get this blue belt thing done has helped me a great deal to build-in time for jiu jitsu contemplation. Finally, I feel much more motivated to make sure I am getting more and very consistent mat-time so I can get better at jiu jitsu and healthier in my body. Two things crucial for my sense of well-being. So, with all this talk of getting a(nother) blue belt, I suspect some readers are curious to know what is the situation regarding the belt that I wear? As some readers may remember, the jiu jitsu Internets went a bit mad when I made an off-hand remark that I would be wearing a white belt in my Combatives classes when I joined my new school. I followed this up with a discussion of why, in my case, it felt like the right thing to do, though no one at Gracie Victor expected me to change my belt. Big feelings erupted. Not so much about me, per se, but my telling of my story acted as a catalyst for a flare up of tensions around the Gracie University system, how the Gracie Academy codifies its syllabus and delivers its instruction, and the intense opinions around ‘GJJ’ and ‘BJJ’. I respect and appreciate the complicated feelings associated with ‘GJJ versus BJJ’. I myself feel uncomfortable with the somewhat divisive nature of the term ‘GJJ’. At the same time, the material that term is used for and the material disseminated through the Gracie Academy’s CTCs is exactly the sort of stuff that I want to be involved with. With that preface, what friggin belt am I wearing? John and Alicia I wear a white belt. It has a stripe on it. Wearing a white belt makes me feel like a part of my club, rather than like a swaggering interloper parachuted in from the UK. I don’t bully or ‘sand bag’ anyone, and the people who train with me understand, respect, and recognise my previous experience. The Gracie University system has a clear procedure for handling belts awarded outside of their system: If you have achieved rank in Gracie or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from any school that is not accredited by the Gracie Academy, your belt color will be recognized in the Gracie University student database, but it will be tagged as ‘unverified’. In order to officially recognize your rank, we must verify your knowledge of the street applicable techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and the only way to do this is for you to demonstrate proficiency in the Gracie Combatives techniques by passing the blue belt test. In other words, if you were awarded a purple belt by a BJJ instructor, and you pass the official Gracie Combatives blue belt test, then Ryron and Rener would consider assessing your skills to see if your purple belt can be formally recognized by the Gracie Academy ~ Gracie University FAQs This suits me very well; of course it wouldn’t be right for all readers. My relationship with jiu jitsu has been on the fritz for a number of years owing to a knee operation, a pregnancy, an infant, and an international move. Methodically working through the Combatives syllabus, as discussed above, has been invaluable in helping me to reinvigorate my relationship with jiu jitsu. It is my intention to work up to the Gracie Academy Blue Belt one stripe material. Then, I’d like to seek to have my purple belt ‘verified’. Could that happen in 2016, maybe yes, maybe no. Lots of smaller goals and milestones to reach first and right now I’m targeting submission of my blue belt exam materials by the end of Q1. First things first! Photos reproduced with permission of John Ingallina, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor. Filed Under: BJJ Strength and Conditioning for BJJ 19 Dec 2015 By Meg Smitley Strength and conditioning for BJJ is a wise complement to one’s jiu jitsu practice. We often encounter two main strands of thought on strength and conditioning for BJJ in our community. On the one hand, some argue that to be ‘good’ at BJJ one must be exceptionally athletic (and by implication, young). This worldview prescribes a lot of gym work alongside jiu jitsu training. On the other hand, there’s the position that in order to become better at BJJ, one must simply put in more mat-time. Personally, I lean towards the latter end of the spectrum. That said, I’m a big believer in strength and conditioning for BJJ both to maintain one’s body and to recover from injuries. Full disclosure, I also happen to really like working out and lifting weights. “Effort is an expendable currency; Drain the well when the opportunity presents, for it cannot be saved, stored, or taken with you.” (Few regrets have ever come from trying too hard.) #mental #wolfbrigadegym #gregwalsh #thoughtcrime #strength #conditioning #effort #crossfit #criticalthinking #antifragile @borobulker @athleticrecon @targankozak @kabuki_strong @no_coast_rob A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Nov 26, 2015 at 7:04am PST November marked my eleventh year in BJJ, and over this time strength and conditioning has taken on increasing importance for me. As many readers will know – and have experienced themselves – I’ve had two knee injuries; an MCL sprain on the right followed by a rupture of the left ACL some years later. I’ve also had a pregnancy and birth. The postnatal body has recently been viewed from a sports injuries point of view and I can attest, that sh1t takes a toll! A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Dec 4, 2015 at 8:34am PST Exploring one’s physicality as personal development is an aspect of many athletes’ practice. Whether hobbyists, amateurs or professionals, athletes can find ‘flow’ in their practice. And flow, as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, has huge implications for one’s self improvement, sense of well-being and emotional and intellectual robustness. Personally, I experience flow from writing, from software development, and physical pursuits. Athletic endeavours have long been part of my flow experiences from dance, gymnastics and softball as a child to horse-back riding as a teen and, after the relative sloth of my undergraduate degree, martial arts. Strength and conditioning became an important part of my weekly routine from 1998 when I started martial arts practice. Over time, strength and conditioning, itself, has become an opportunity to experience flow, and reap its benefits. A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Dec 5, 2015 at 2:59pm PST My full appreciation for the joy and technicality of strength and conditioning didn’t emerge until relatively recently, when I began personal training in the summer of 2013 with Vicky Busby (Soho Gyms, Bow Wharf). Vicky addressed a number of suboptimal habits I’d developed and introduced more contemporary knowledge and techniques into my strength and conditioning practice. Her support and expertise was vital to helping me rehab after the pregnancy and the first – rather gruelling – year of motherhood. After a big, disruptive move from London to Rochester, NY in February of this year, I looked high and low for a personal trainer to keep me on track. I never imagined I’d find Heather McAllister and Wolf Brigade Gym. I started working with Heather in July of this year and was amazed by what she had to offer. Her dedication and application are fearsome; her commitment to her clients’ development is palpable. Just the past fortnight, I’ve started the strength and conditioning classes as Wolf Brigade’s proximity and timetable makes this an option for me. A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Nov 16, 2015 at 9:12am PST What I really REALLY love about Wolf Brigade Gym is the level of technical proficiency and mindfulness applied to strength and conditioning. For me, it is truly ‘next level’. I love BJJ. What that means for me, is that I love the challenge of applying technique. That’s why I love drilling, there is no substitute for reps when it comes to nailing fundamental jiu jitsu movements, or single techniques or complicated ‘attack by combination’ flows. It is why I love sparring, there is no greater joy than (finally!) getting an offensive or defensive technique to work for you in live you rolling. Nothing compares. And with a great mix of training partners – bigger, smaller, older, younger, more and less experienced – you can scale the personal challenge and the technical milestone you’re trying to reach in the varying context of size and skill differentials. Jiu jitsu practice, to be successful and satisfying, requires intense mindfulness and being fully present in what one’s doing. This is what helps us experience flow during practice, which in turn helps us to de-stress and empower our minds, bodies and spirits. Like I say, I’ve long enjoyed pushing myself with strength and conditioning, but I’d never know it could demand a similar level of mindfulness and technical proficiency. A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Nov 10, 2015 at 8:54am PST My heart belongs to jiu jitsu. Right now, personal circumstances continue to mean training once a week. In addition to less mat time, since becoming a parent my visualisation and grappling day-dreaming time has shrunk to about zero. When it was ‘just’ work and a partner to balance there was A LOT more room to invest myself on and off the mats. I’m optimistic that over the coming years, there will be increasing room for me to practice my jiu jitsu. Strength and conditioning at Wolf Brigade really helps to keep me together, physically and psychically. It hurts to feel so disconnected from jiu jitsu, and while there are dark moments when I feel like chucking it in, I need to hold on to the jiu jitsu pieces of myself, keep the embers glowing and bide my time. Strength and conditioning work at Wolf Brigade offers a great complement to my jiu jitsu practice and is teaching me so much. A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Dec 10, 2015 at 3:23pm PST Wolf Brigade is guided by a strong philosophical perspective and has a flavour of dojo about it; I always feel I should bow on the way in. Indeed, there is significant martial arts experience among the trainers and there are Muay Thai classes and a matted area for members. Wolf Brigade trainers are deeply passionate and have nurtured an empowering and supportive environment which has attracted men and women of a wide range of ages and fitness levels. What speaks volumes about the meritocratic and empowering environment, to my mind, is the number of women in classes and among the trainers. This gym has a formidable female presence among its staff; and the technique, strength, mindfulness, passion and ability of the trainers – men and women – is aspirational and inspirational. The ‘subversive fitness’ of Wolf Brigade wouldn’t be for everyone. But it isn’t meant to be. Greg Walsh, the owner, and his crew, have made a brave choice to forge an independent path, offering instruction which, promises to develop your self-reliance, your mental and physical fitness, if not always sinking to your comfort level. That said! – don’t get it twisted. All are welcome. Everyone can do something with the right adjustments and instruction. We can all be our best selves. That process, by definition, just isn’t comfortable. Again, with reference to Flow; the distinction between saccharine ‘pleasure’ and ‘enjoyment’ which, for us grapplers, arises in the nexus of challenge and reward. A photo posted by Wolf Brigade (@wolfbrigadegym) on Sep 19, 2015 at 9:00am PDT This week’s class, case and point. I went in on Wednesday after a harrowing and conflict-heavy day of parenting feeling down on myself in a number ways, not least feeling disgusted with the lack of personal discipline which is manifest in my retention of a good bit of post-natal flab. Has been bloody difficult getting my mojo back since becoming a parent and after days like those, when I don’t tune into the boy and we don’t get on well, it can be a bit of a self-loathing spiral. Too bad I couldn’t dwell on any of that crap during strength and conditioning class, where I learned several power clean variants before a conditioning routine of KB ‘power’ swings followed by ‘death by Airdyne’. I have very little experience of power cleans and there is a lot of coordination involved as many readers will already know. We did skill work with empty bars then added weights for high hang, hang and full power cleans. More and more of it was coming together for me, but I was struggling to make the lifts from a coordination/technique point of view. Heather and Greg worked closely with me and then Greg was like, ‘Hold your breath from 1 one thousand at the bottom, hold that breath until the end of the movement, you’re exhaling as soon as you start the movement’. I hadn’t realised I was breathing out so soon and giving away all my power and as soon as I made that adjustment I could execute the lift. Cue shit-eating grin. Very much the feeling of getting all the moving parts of a jiu jitsu technique to come together for the first time, or for the ‘first-time’ at a higher competency. Looking ahead to 2016, I’m excited by all I have to learn and experience at Wolf Brigade and Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor. Being able to train with professional and passionate people At Wolf Brigade and Gracie Vitor helps to make the hometown I left so long ago feel a lot more like ‘home’. Filed Under: BJJ Original Jiu Jitsu T-Shirt Review 6 Dec 2015 By Meg Smitley Original Jiu Jitsu brand, the secret handshake of the jiu jitsu clothing world, employs great use of fonts and subtle artistic styling to craft understated jiu jitsu clothing. I’m delighted to offer this Original Jiu Jitsu T-shirt review of two of their products: the Basic Black Tee and the Dia 25-04 Brasilia Tee. Both tees are priced at $25.00USD. Original Jiu Jitsu products celebrate the careers of leading jiu jitsu practitioners, in a subtle ‘in the know’ kind of way. A wee wink and a nudge to other jiu jitsu fanatics. Original Jiu Jitsu T-Shirt Review: Basic Black Tee Original Jiu Jitsu Basic Black TeeThe Basic Black Tee is a great understated garment for the jiu jitsu practitioner. The Original Jiu Jitsu text logo script is present on the left chest and ‘NYC 1996’ on the right arm. This date commemorates the establishment of Renzo Gracie’s New York City Academy. The minimalist style of the tee lends itself to streetwear or activewear. Personally, I liked to team it up with my Fighter Girls Pinkie Boyfriend Shorts. Basic Black Tee + Boardshorts Original Jiu Jitsu T-Shirt Review: Dia 25-04 Brasilia Tee Dia 25-04 Brasilia + Skinny JeansI loved how the text subtly blended with the heather grey fabric, giving a really subtle finish to the tee. This top had a lot of use in the spring and summer and worked well with black skinny jeans. The Dia 25-04 Brasilia tee celebrates the historic Rickson v Zulu fight on 25 April 1980. And, I mean, Rickson, oh! – the smoothness. I know you feel me! Original Jiu Jitsu T-Shirt Review Summary Original Jiu Jitsu sent over two tees for consideration, the Basic Black Tee and the Dia 25-04 Brasilia. Both tees were in size small. The Basic Black in the ‘athletic cut’ and the Dia 25-04 in the ‘slim cut’. For me the fabric and cut of the Dia 25-04 worked best. For reference I am 5’5″/166cm and 135lbs/62kgs with a ‘V-shape’ body type. The Basic Black Tee is 100% cotton. The Dia 25-04 is 60% Polyester / 40% Cotton. I like the idea of 100% natural fibres, but I preferred wearing the 60:40 polyester:cotton split. Between the slimmer cut and the stretch added by the polyester, the tee seemed to drape and hang better. Same time, the 40% cotton provided breathability and softness. In contrast, the fully cotton tee was soft to touch but felt stiff when worn. Similarly, the athletic cut is more generous and felt boxy on my size and shape. Clearly, these comments reflect my personal tastes. Readers will know how they like their tees to fit around their own bodies. You will know too how your favourite tees are constructed and tailored. Let that knowledge guide your choice. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a stylish, affordable and good quality holiday gift for the jiu jitsu practitioner in your life, Original Jiu Jitsu offers tees and other gifts that speak to the jiu jitsu insider. Filed Under: Fight Wear Does Changing BJJ Schools Mean Changing Belts?! 14 May 2015 By Meg Smitley In the penultimate sentence of my discussion of how to change BJJ schools I wrote: …as the rest of GJJ Victor did when entering the Gracie University system, I too will put on a white belt and work my way through the GJJ belt system My story was picked up by BJJ Eastern Europe with that sentence as the main takeaway. As I blithely wrote my post about this particular twist in my personal journey, I didn’t really think about the controversy it might court or how that decision might be perceived. Naive! I think it is important to elaborate on my choice, to help diffuse any misunderstandings. Was I Asked to Take Off My Purple Belt? No. The decision to wear a white belt at GJJ Victor was purely my own. The instructor, John Ingallina, himself a Gracie University blue belt and Gracie Academy Certified Instructor*, respects my purple belt. He was perfectly happy for me to wear my purple belt while training in his classes and working through the Gracie University belt system. Ah, those pre-natal purple belt days… You Demoted Yourself?! Not in my view. The Gracie University system of Certified Training Centres (CTCs) follows its own grading scale. From a Gracie University point of view, my purple belt is respected, and it is between me and Dave Birkett, who awarded me that belt. If, however, I want to grade at a CTC, I need to do so via the set curriculum and testing measures. Sure, I could wear a purple belt in class while working through the GU curriculum. To me, that seemed disrespectful to my new instructor and training partners. So, while I level up via the Gracie University system, I’ll wear the appropriate GU belt in Gracie Combatives classes. To my mind, the GU belt is an additional belt, rather than a demotion. It does not override or overrule my purple belt under Dave Birkett. It is in addition to, rather than a replacement of. Isn’t Demoting Yourself Disrespectful to the Instructor Who Gave You that Belt?! Again, to my mind I have not been demoted. I have chosen to follow an additional path of promotion under the Gracie University system based on the Gracie Combatives material. That said, I have been in regular communication with Dave Birkett, my instructor back in the UK. I count Dave among my greatest friends and as an amazing martial arts mentor. I didn’t leave the UK and shut the door on the people I love and respect on the other side of the ocean! Indeed, Dave and I have been back and forth about how to continue my training here in Rochester, and he supports my decision to train at GJJ Victor, totally. He also fully supports my choice to work the GU Blue Belt programme and to wear a white belt in my Combatives classes. Dave knows better than anyone how hard I worked for that purple belt. He was there with me, every heartbreaking step! For years I was dominated session after session, never getting a glimpse of offensive success on the bigger, stronger men I trained with. He supported me tirelessly. He supported my efforts to develop confidence in my defence, first. Then, and only then, we worked on dismantling opponents for the submissions. It took 7 years to get to that point. I could ‘play’ with whites and blues of any size and escape, reverse and claim a sub. Being able to hold my own and to get submissions on big, strong, skilful white and blue belt men, was a BIG DEAL for me. At the end of those 7 years of training every day, I had a knee op, a pregnancy and a baby. I lost a lot of skill and timing during my ‘BJJ maternity leave’ and am grateful for the 18 months I had back with Dave before moving to the USA. I have struggled immensely – as we all do on the mats – to overcome demons in order to progress physically and mentally in this art. Dave stood with me throughout and will always be by my side. Wearing a different belt to work through a specific curriculum at a different school doesn’t take away my blood sweat and tears or the bond of love and respect we forged as friends and as teacher-student. Your Belt Should be Transferrable! ‘BJJ’ and ‘GJJ’ are the SAME! I hear you. The distinction some draw between ‘BJJ’ and ‘GJJ’ can be divisive. For the purposes of this discussion I’ll assert that in context of the Gracie University system, ‘BJJ’ and ‘GJJ’ are not the same. CTC’s follow a very specific grading criteria as defined by the Gracie Academy. If one chooses to train at a CTC, and wishes to be promoted, one can reasonably expect to do so via the Gracie University process. Practitioners outside the Gracie University system may well have encountered the Gracie Combatives material. I know I did! The material covered in the Gracie Combatives programme is the material I learned with Dave Birkett. The belt Dave awarded me is, in fact, a ‘GJJ’ belt. As Dave wrote to me this week: I teach Gracie Jiu Jitsu. You are a purple belt in that. You know the self defence, striking, takedowns, grappling and philosophies, but to be recognized at Gracie HQ, gotta go through their programme. Exactly! There are a number of ‘lineages’ in our community that focus on GJJ. Likewise, there are a number of lineages and schools that marginalise or wholly dismiss the sort of material covered in Gracie Combatives. Agree or disagree, if one chooses to train at a CTC, one is following a defined curriculum and grading system rooted in a definable body of techniques and philosophies. The Gracie University system seeks to ensure accountability and consistency across CTCs through a particular system of learning and promotion. If one signs up for it, one accepts that one’s belt isn’t transferrable – respected, yes, transferrable, no – and one will need to level-up through the prescribed channels. I fully appreciate why this upsets some folk! Me? I’m cool with it. I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Gracie Combatives tests. It is a good chance for me to refine, consolidate and build upon my previous learning. My first instructor, Dave, is proud of me for working on the Blue Belt programme and supports my journey fully. Indeed, he discovered the existence of GJJ Victor and suggested I check it out when seeking a new ‘home’. My new instructor, John, is very welcoming and keen to support my progress. I see the Gracie Combatives belts tests as new opportunities to improve and I’m down with having an additional belt to represent my progress in this particular curriculum of techniques and abilities. The race is long, and in the end, it is only with yourself. ~Mary Schmich In sum, for me, right here, right now, based on my options and goals for my training, changing schools means changing belts. A Gracie CTC isn’t for everybody! I am game to train at a CTC, that means I am willing to play by their rules. In solidarity with my new instructor and training partners, I want to wear the appropriate GU belt as I work through the Gracie University grading system. That works for me. My ego is cool with that. I know how far I’ve come, what I am capable of, what I know, and where I can improve. At this point in my life and training I don’t need people to know that I’ve attained a purple belt. I’ll just let my skills (or lack thereof) do the talking. The belt doesn’t make me, I make the belt. *In addition to his GU blue belt John holds a host of martial arts/grappling credentials: 4th Degree Black Belt Shingitai Jujitsu (John Saylor) 3rd Degree Black Belt Tatsu Do (Soke William Cavalier) 2nd Degree Black Belt Aiki Kenpo Jujustu (Hanshi Patrick McCarthy) Blue Belt Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (Ryron & Rener Gracie) Certified Instructor, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (Gracie Academy, Torrance, CA) Level 1 Kapap Instructor (Major Avi Nardia) Filed Under: BJJ How to Change BJJ Schools 10 May 2015 By Meg Smitley Everything flows and nothing abides. ~Heraclitus Every time we train, we grapplers get an object lesson in the fluidity of circumstance. This principle is as true for our personal lives off the mats, as it is for any given spar. At some point in our grappling journeys we may find ourselves in need of a new club. Relocation, changes to work or school schedule, the arrival of children, intra-club bullying or harassment, the breakdown of an intra-club romance, or a change in one’s training goals – these things and more can lead to the need to find a new place to train. This isn’t an easy task. So what are some tips on how to change BJJ schools? How to Change BJJ Schools Up until January of this year, I had been lucky enough to have trained with Dave Birkett at Dartford Academy throughout my 10 years in BJJ. In February 2015, after 17 years living in the UK, my family and I moved back to my hometown of Rochester, NY. For me, a big part of making this city my home again, has been finding a new group to train with. This process has given me some experience in how to change BJJ schools. Let’s start with some parting advice from Dave Birkett: observe a class have a private with the head instructor do a trial class Now, this is good advice and it assumes that you’ve done some initial leg-work, perhaps online, looking into what schools and teams are available in your area. Firstly, by observing a class before mucking in, you can determine if you feel safe and welcome in the environment and if the material is the sort of stuff you’re interested in. Secondly, by having a private with the head instructor, you can get a feel of his/her degree of professionalism; this person will be setting the tone for the club and if you feel good about how they teach and behave, you’re ready for the next step. Thirdly, do a trial class. Train and roll with the students. Perhaps from here you can do 2-3 more classes ‘a la carte’ before committing to a membership. Likewise, if after this process finishes, you feel a particular place may not be quite the right fit, no biggie, you haven’t bedded in too much with a group, so no hard feelings. All very reasonable and a rational and methodical way to change BJJ schools. I’d add to this, if you do discover a school isn’t quite right for you, be sure to communicate this frankly and clearly to the instructors who kindly opened their doors to you. Ours is a small community and there’s no point in burning bridges; some folk may take it personally while others will see that we each have our own path and welcome you to the local scene, regardless of where you might end up training. From ‘BJJ’ to ‘GJJ’ Rochester has some great options and the BJJ scene has really evolved in the years of my absence. There’s something for everyone from the ‘sportier’ side of things to a bigger focus on the fundamentals and ‘punch proofing’. I tried my hand at a few places. All were welcoming and showed technical proficiency. After weighing my options, I’ve decided to join Gracie Jiu Jitsu Victor, a Gracie Academy Certified Training Centre. GJJ Victor is run by John Ingallina, owner and operator of United Martial Arts Center in Victor, NY. John, though relatively new to GJJ/BJJ, is a veteran martial artist with in-depth experience in traditional martial arts including Japanese jiu jitsu. He runs a clean, respectful and welcoming facility that attracts men and women of a wide age range. His teaching is clear, methodical and professional. He and his students have been very open to some mad purple belt coming in off the streets and I’m delighted to have met John and his students. John Ingallina, GJJ Victor NY GJJ, or the fundamental and basic core of BJJ, is what appeals to me. I have some reservations about the Gracie University approach. I also recognise its strengths and I hope to discuss this topic further when I have greater experience with the Gracie University method of teaching and learning. What I do know, right now, is that material branded ‘GJJ’ is what I want to train. Dave Birkett and Marc Walder, my instructors back in the UK, focused on GJJ material to a very fine degree of detail. This is not the post to dwell on the community’s divisions over the relative merits of BJJ versus GJJ (you can see a nice post by Dave on this here). I will assert now that ‘GJJ’ represents the bread and butter of ‘BJJ’. These are the techniques that I have drilled since coming into the art. They have helped to ‘save my bacon’ when rolling with bigger, stronger, younger, faster players. I love this material. It is what I want to continue to drill and hone. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Victor can offer me that and I am excited to be joining this group of detail-oriented and careful practitioners. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Victor Many of the folks at GJJ Victor have significant Japanese jiu jitsu experience and there are opportunities to spar in the traditional classes and open mat sessions. The GJJ classes, as currently offered, do not include sparring. (This probably represents my central gripe about the Gracie University approach, though, again, I can see some benefits as staving off sparring does seem to entice a wider range of folks onto the mat and perhaps once players are a bit more seasoned they can handle the ‘realness’ without the drop out rate – would be interested in some data on this!). Happily, I’ve been invited to attend a regular open mat at another local BJJ club, and as both instructors are cool with me sparring around town, this can help me get in some extra sparring while meeting more practitioners here in Rochester. Very impressed to have found some dedicated professionals running clubs here in Roc City. It has been a bit of a process choosing a club. February weather in Western NY is no joke and there was promptly 35 inches / 90cm of snow upon our arrival. This messes with travel, not to mention waiting to close on our house, get jobs, bank accounts, and set up the rest of one’s mundane life infrastructure all while handling a child and trying to eat clean and get to the gym. As Spring sprung and we settled into a routine, I had the opportunity to trial a couple clubs. I knew GJJ Victor was the place for me as soon as we started drilling those good ol’ basic techniques. I can’t speak on how to shop around for a club without BJJ experience, but as someone who has logged a respectable number of years in this game, I think it is reasonable to suggest that one can expect a love at first sight feeling when one has found the right club. While you may find great people at many dojos you’ll know, as an experienced hand, what style of instruction and what material you’re after. The new-fangled, finely-grained positioning for competition is cool and challenging. That’s a great thing to study if that’s your bag, but for me, I want core basics, the fundamentals. GJJ and GJJ-style training can offer that. GJJ Victor, specifically, I believe, can also offer a respectful and mature training environment managed by humble and committed instructors. So, as the rest of GJJ Victor did when entering the Gracie University system, I too will put on a white belt and work my way through the GJJ belt system (more on this as we go!). It is early days, and I miss Dave and my team at the Dartford Academy everyday. As a grappler, dear reader, you know change is the only constant and one must adapt or tap. Onwards! Photos reproduced here with permission of John Ingallina, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Victor. Filed Under: BJJ End of an Era, Dawn of a New Day 2 Feb 2015 By Meg Smitley Friday 30 January was my last class with my first and only BJJ instructor for the last 10 years, Dave Birkett. After 17 years in the UK, I’m moving back to my hometown of Rochester, NY with my husband and son, tomorrow. Martial arts has been a big part of my life during my time here, and BJJ the star of the show for the last decade. Readers will appreciate how hard it is to leave a dear BJJ-family, and this has been an emotional couple of days. Last Class My last class was fun. We worked on one of my favourite techniques, a ‘punch proof’ triangle from closed guard. Felt some good mojo in my final rolls with some club mates, and managed to defend some issues I’d had trouble with the week before. While, in my opinion, my fitness and skill is not quite at pre-natal levels, it is pretty close. This last year of training has helped me to claw back a lot. My last class was made a little extra special in two ways. A new young woman came to her first class. We trained together and she was great and showed an excellent willingness to give it a go. It was nice to see a new female face on the mats and I do hope she’ll stick with it. I also received my third stripe on my purple belt. It feels a little too heavy for me to carry, to be honest, but I’m confident Dave would not have given it to me unless he was confident that I am at the right level for it. What’s Ahead I’ve done my Rochester-BJJ reconnaissance and have contacted the club I think is most likely a good fit for me. I’m hoping to observe a class this week and perhaps have a private with the main instructor before doing a class myself. Want to take it slow and feel confident it is the right sort of training environment. Readers appreciate what a commitment joining a club can be, and I’d like to do what I can to ease into it. With any luck I’ll be rolling with a new group of folks in a fortnight or so! What I’m looking for in a club is – foremost and beyond considerations of doctrine and style – is a place where I will be treated as a ‘student’ and as a person, rather than as an ‘female student’ or other. Being accepted as a serious and capable student, regardless of gender, has been a big hallmark of my experience with Dave and my club mates at Dartford BJJ; I know this is not the case for some women in some clubs. For me, this is the thing that makes all the difference. Teaching-style and BJJ-style are also important considerations, but these things are irrelevant if there’s a sense that I’m viewed as an ‘other’ vis a vis a male ‘norm’. Sure my attributes – physical, intellectual, emotional – play a part in how my journey plays out. That’s not something confined to being a female player. Everyone’s unique collection of attributes contributes to the advantages and challenges they take on the mats. The sign of a superb teacher is that s/he can tune into how to guide each individual based on his/her needs, rather than fall back on stale stereotypes. In my experience, there are plenty of ‘good apples’ out there working as BJJ instructors and I’m feeling good about finding a new BJJ-home. While we are really looking forward to a fresh start, old friends, some nearby family and capitalising on new opportunities for our businesses and lifestyle, it isn’t easy to leave our home and culture. Knowing that BJJ will be there for me, one way or another, and that we’ll get our routine of weights and mat-time up and running swiftly, helps to ease the anxiety and sadness of leaving our home and loved ones in the UK. Filed Under: BJJ Erik Paulson Seminar Review Dec 2014 19 Dec 2014 By Meg Smitley I had the pleasure of training with Erik Paulson at Dartford BJJ on 17 December. This was the first no-gi session I’ve done since the pregnancy; I attended Monday night CSW class at Dartford BJJ prior to that. Every grappling diet needs a bit of no-gi, sweaty and gross though it can be. And work up a dewy sweat, we did! Erik Paulson Seminar Dartford BJJ, Dec 2014 The Techniques Erik ran the seminar with professionalism and good humour. After warm-up drills to get the blood pumping we worked a nice flow of techniques, recapping them at the end of the seminar to aid retention. Too often seminars are lots of talk and less action. I really liked the opportunity to learn from a master in his field and actually get the reps in. Heel Hooks We started with a pair of heel hook attacks: ‘Snake legs’ to heel hook Heel hook versus an open guard For the ‘snake legs’, the opponent pops up to their feet in your guard. You kick through one leg to snake around and opponent’s leg and choose one of two variants to sweep them to the floor. Against, an open guard, your opponent is on the floor with feet on your hips. You shuck both feet off and use a cross grip against an opponent’s leg while coming to the floor and applying the heel hook. In both cases, ideally, one is applying the heel hook (with the bony part of the forearm) during the sweep/transition to the floor. Easier said than done! Practice, practice, practice. Breaking Down the Turtle Next we looked at a trio of attacks against the turtle: Arm trap to short choke or bulldog choke Face lift to hip through bulldog choke Roll to crucifix This was a fun series, which I’d had some exposure to from my instructor, Dave Birkett, himself a long-time student of Erik’s. The CSW training we’ve done together has been particularly helpful in this area of my game, and it offers positioning and movement applicable to work in and out of the gi. For the arm trap, from a side-on position to their turtle, you cross-face your opponent and hook their near-side arm with your northern-most leg. From here you can take your time to get a nice position for the short choke, or transition to the bulldog choke. For the face-lift, start with the cross-face and transition to the face lift to create space to move to the bulldog choke. Send your southern foot forward as hips turn up. Finally, for the absolute LOLs cuz it is supremely fun movement, start from the arm-trap position and roll over the opponent’s far shoulder – whee! – figure-4ing your legs as you come to your back. Get opponent’s free arm under your inside underarm, 10-finger grip on their head, pull at a 45 and, ‘tap tap’. Erik Paulson CSW Seminar Kesa Gatame and Fist Chokes We finished the evening’s drills with fist chokes from mount, side control and kesa gatame and 4 submissions from kesa gatame: Arm bar with legs Bulldog choke Pillow arm bar (kesa gatame) Pillow arm bar (side control) These attacks harmonised nicely with the drills against the turtle. These drills applied a similar theme of submissions in a different context, ie opponent on their back rather than in their turtle. Don’t you find this aspect of grappling incredibly obvious and simultaneously opaque?! The idea that there is a relatively narrow set of positions and submissions. The real art and skill is in seeing the positions in different contexts. It is cognitively simple to recognise the basic positions. In practice, it is hugely challenging to see and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of a roll, find those positions, control and submit. Observations This was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of training with Erik Paulson, one of my teacher’s teachers. I’ve been training with Dave for 10 years and he’s been training with Erik since the ’90s. It was really eye-opening to see another of my teacher’s teachers in action, and recognise the legacy of some of the material in the mix of Dave’s instruction. I could see parallels in their approaches to teaching too, and perhaps this is more the mark of a seasoned and earnest teacher than anything else: building up a logical flow of techniques; highlighting the importance of writing notes and visualisation; emphasising personal development alongside and through practice. If it’s grappling, learn it. ~ Erik Paulson Erik Paulson discussed the importance of an eclectic and open-minded approach to grappling training. He noted that every teacher adds his/her own nuances to any particular technique. You may have seen a triangle demonstrated by a dozen different instructors. It is important to seek to distinguish the different flavourings each practitioner adds to his/her triangle recipe. Every take on a technique may not be for you, but by being open to the possibility, you might discover unexpected gems that you can incorporate into your individual game. Quite right. Good reminder of a fundamental truth in all learning. With that in mind, where ever you fall on the grappling spectrum, I heartily recommend checking out an Erik Paulson seminar in your neighbourhood. He and his wife and business partner, Tonya Paulson, put together a well run seminar that shows earnestness and respect for the attendees. As with any seminar, some of the approaches may be more or less to your liking, and you’re certain to take away some nuggets to integrate into your own special grappling-brew. Links Erik Paulson CSW web: | erik paulson facebook: | tonya paulson facebook: Dartford BJJ / Dave Birkett web: | twitter: @dartfordbjj | instagram: @academia_de_jiu_jitsu Filed Under: Seminar 1 2 3 … 22 Next Page ? Recent Posts Women’s Grappling Tights Review: Ranger Up USA Leggings Hello 2016, What’s Shakin’?! Strength and Conditioning for BJJ Original Jiu Jitsu T-Shirt Review Does Changing BJJ Schools Mean Changing Belts?! 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