Backmount grip breaking instructional (now with catamaran action)

Hey guys, i was off in St. Barthelemy in the Caribbean training with a bunch of awesome folks over there that are have started a very cool Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym on the island. We stayed for a week and trained/taught at the St. Barthelemy academy, and in general just had a blast.

We were invited to go sailing on a catamaran with some of the guys from training one day, and of course we jumped at the opportunity, and while there I had the weird idea to shoot a short instructional there. The setting just looked so beautiful  I thought it might be a nice break from the traditional black background instructionals we see all day.

The move I show here, is fairly straight forward, though I do bumble through it a bit in the video (sorry, a few beers were had while at sea). Basically whenever you have backmount, your opponent tends to want to control your choking arm, so assuming you have over/under grips (seatbelt), and your right arm is over, then they will often grab your right arm/wrist, (usually with two hands, even though i only show one in this video), and try to baseball grip it, before trying to move it to the other side of their head (as shown in the video), to escape.

In order to avoid this, and get back to choking, i do this move shown here in the video. It’s really easy and straight forward (though most people are a bit confused with hand placement in the beginning). It’ll allow you to continuously break the grip every time they grab you, and has the added bonus that it’ll stop (or at least slow) them from being able to pull your arm over to the other side of their head as soon as you lock your palms together. This is one of my main moves from the back, and it’s really effective at grip fighting from the back. Hope you enjoy it!

New training method: The progress so far.

So i talked about in my last post, this new approach to training. So far it’s going pretty good, and i’ve expanded it to include the two NoGi classes i teach per-week, where i’ve been experimenting with a few different ways of teaching classes without showing a set technique, so now i’m training 4x a week without any technique from an instructor (including myself), and then i do openmat once per week on top of this.

In general i really feel like my game is getting ahead leaps and bounds, it’s hard to be sure though, because i’ve had moments like this as well when training “normally” when my game seemed to be going along faster than normal, we all know the ups and (dreaded, inevitable) downs in your game when training. Some days everything works, others everything is terrible.  I guess the proof is in the competition results though, and so far they have been very positive.

Winning at NAGA

My competition year started off the same way i’d been doing pretty much since i got my brown belt, by losing in the first round at the European Open, didn’t even score a point. It was after this tournament i decided to change my training strategy, and go for this new method. Since then i’ve competed twice, first in the NoGi European Championship (IBJJF), which i managed to win (middleweight master brownbelt), marking the first major IBJJF tournament i’d ever won, and now this weekend i snagged silver in the 12 man expert division (beating a brown belt and two black belts, before getting caught early by another black belt in the finals), and gold in the brown belt expert divison with a gi (4 competitors), both wins by submission. I’m extremely happy to have won the gi-division especially, as my nogi game has always been better than my gi, and my results with a gi have been extremely lackluster since i turned brown. All in all, it’s difficult to say if this is just because i’ve now been brown for a longer time (thus meeting guys with less experience than i was in the beginning of my brownbelt career), or if the methods are doing the trick. It’s only been 3-4 months, so it’s hard to believe it makes such a big difference, but i really do feel as if really focusing on moves i myself want to, and getting a LOT of quality mat time in, is making a huge difference. Aggregated over the week, that’s 3 hours of quality mat-time (double what i was doing before) that i was basically wasting before.

Awkwardly celebrating win

Mostly i was really thrilled to win because i had already planned my post-winning belt picture, the now somewhat publicized “Creation of Adam” recreation, so i was thrilled to get that belt, so that i could harvest all the delicious likes and reddit-Karma.

The Jiu Jitsu creation of Adam

A lot of you expressed interest in seeing how this would work for me going forward, so i’m just keeping you updated here, below are my first three matches in nogi, conveniently my iphone ran out of memory 10 seconds into the finals, so i’m spared the humiliation of posting that :) I’ll post my gi-matches when i get them, but since memory ran out they’re on a camera from my friend.


P.S. that toehold in the second match is becoming my trademark of sorts, I’m catching people in that submission all the time in competitions now, and a quick search on MGinaction and youtube makes it look like there’s not many, if any, doing this same attack from x-guard, if there’s sufficient interest i might make a short instructional on this move.

A new approach to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I’m a brown belt in BJJ, but i am by no means a phenom, a good athlete or a fast learner. I started this journey back in 2002, so it’s been over 10 years, and i’m not a black belt yet, in fact i’m not even that great of a brown belt. Until about a 6 months ago, my first 18 months at a brown belt, i roughly had a combined brown belt record of  2-9, not exactly stellar. Then again, I’ve always been a casual practitioner, albeit a steady going one. Aside from short sprints at the start of my training (live-in program at Chris Brennans old Lake Forest gym), i’ve trained maybe 3 times per week on average, and never any extra sessions, just show up to class and do what i’m told, never taking time off (except for injury).

So i think we’ve established that i’m not a fast learner, or a natural talent/athlete, that’s why i’m pretty excited about trying out a new way of learning BJJ for the next year, to see how it goes. You see, i hate drilling, and i hate doing techniques. 90% of techniques shown in classes and seminars are from a very specific position, which is most likely not related at all to the current problems i’m having in my own BJJ game. When all my BJJ thoughts revolve around making my leg-weave passing work, spending 40 minutes drilling mount escapes is just a chore, something to get out of the way so that i can get to the fun part (sparring, where i can try out my leg-weave passes). There’s not many things in BJJ that i find to be genuinely boring or unenjoyable, but working on a technique you know you’re not going to be using, and will be out of your mind by the end of the day, is one thing i definately find falls into that category, which brings me to this “new” style of learning.Kari IBJJF

I’ve always had to self learn most everything, since 90% of my BJJ career, i haven’t had a black belt to ask question, but i’d never done it in a structured way. I was first exposed to a structured self learning process by Martin Aedma, who was teaching classes at CSA for a couple of weeks. Every Friday class, he would not teach anything, he’d simply make us pair up, and go for 7 minutes each. First 7 minutes my partner decided what to do, it could be anything from zero resistance technique, to 100% sparring. Now me, being the partner, had to do whatever he said. After 7 minutes we switched, and it was my turn to do whatever i wanted. This format allowed me to take positions i was having trouble with, nerd out the technique a bit, start off with maybe just drilling some zero resistance movements, then gradually work up some resistance, and eventually just sparring. This is to this date, my favorite training sessions ever, it’s kind of like an openmat, but with more structure. Openmats tend to devolve into 100% sparring quickly, but this way you get to work with specific techniques, that fit into your game and your current problems, and find solutions to them. You can usually notice the effect immediately, and the techniques you do here, are retained much better than a normal technique session in my opinion.

So this is what i intend to do for the next year. I still have a full time job and a business on the side, so i will only be able to train the same amount of time per week, but I’ve made a deal with my coach, that i can skip the technique portion of class for now, and do technique nerding/rolling with a friend on a sidemat, and then show up for the sparring portion. I’ve been doing this for 2 months now and i already feel like I’ve been able to address some weaknesses and improve my game (in fact, I won the European Open in NoGi last weekend, i’ll make a seperat blog post about that). I think this makes for an interesting experiment, as it’s been clearly established that I’m no phenom, so any acceleration in my learning curve would be directly related to this new training method. I’m excited to see what it leads to, and refining the way i spend those 45 minutes;  I’ve already been in contact with reknowned drill-hater Kit Dale, who was happy to dole out a detailed reply with some great suggestions on how to structure my training, which I have already started incorporating. I will be keeping you updated on this blog on how things go and how this works out for me, my goal for now is to win gold at the European gi championships next January, where i’ve been handily beaten the past two years, lets see how that goes.

P.S. I should say, that I do drilling as well, but I do it with techniques i feel are relevant to me. I’m working a lot on my leg weave and knee slide passes now, and some of the drills that the Mendes brothers do are great here. I think the key point for me, is not to do drills on positions that are not relevant for me (or rather, that my mind is not ready to take in), i think with so limited time per week for me to train, that if i can take that 45 minute technique part of class, and custom make that to fit my own needs, I’m making my training time much more efficient.

We finally released our IBJJF ranked rash guard

As you may know, the IBJJF has quite strict rules on what clothes you’re allowed to wear during their competitions.

The gi itself, it’s lengths, thickness, patch placement, belt length and so on keep practitioners on their toes (and slightly nervous about it passing inspection), but this is also the case in the No-Gi competitions, that are becoming increasingly popular within IBJJF. It wasn’t long ago that IBJJF started doing NoGi tournaments of their own, and they’ve quickly become recognized by the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community, as one of the premier No Gi tournaments around (although the ADCC remains the most prestigious one).

If you however, plan to compete in an IBJJF tournament in NoGi, you will need to wear clothing that is legal. That is why we here at Odin Fightwear have created a IBJJF legal belt color rash guard, that complies with all the regulations.

In essence, the rules are that you must wear a rash guard, and it must cover your entire torso, and reach well beneath your belt line (our strong, and high friction, rubber elastic in the waistline, takes care of this, and avoids you showing your belly). In addition to this, they have a number of rules on the colors of the rash guard, if it is to be IBJJF approved. The base of the rash guard, must be either black or white. In addition to the black or white, the only other color allowed, is the belt color (aside from the logo, which can be any color). At least 10% of the rash guard must be in the belt color that signifies your rank.

Most companies today simply use a generic rash guard, and either make the entire rash guard belt-colored, or just the sleeves. We thought that this approach was fairly boring, and wanted to create a good clean looking design, that caught the eye, without being crazy. This is what we came up with.

IBJJF belt color rash guard - Back rightBelt color rash guard - Back leftBelt color rash guard - Front leftRash guard waistband closeup

 

As you can see, the base of it is black, with the belt color only shown on the left side of it. The line in the front doesn’t come straight down, but rather comes in at a slight angle towards your centerline. It does the same at the back, but about 5 inches from the waistline, it takes a sharp turn right, giving it some asymmetry.

The front of the rash guard features our new logo, a stylized ravens head, and the back read “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”, and features a simpler version of our ravens head as well.

Hopefully this rash guard will be a welcome addition to the flora of IBJJF legal rash guards, I feel like it is a unique and clean design, that will hopefully appeal to a good portion of the BJJ community.

My NAGA matches from Paris

A short post here, but since i made a lot of posts about the trip/competition, here are my NAGA matches from the Paris tournament.

I wrote two blogs about the whole experience, first a recap of the whole trip, and later a reflecation on what i’d learned about the importance of your mindset when competing in BJJ.

First of 3 NAGA matches:

My first match was against brown belt Mohamed-Ali Hayat.

Semi final match:

The second match was the semi-final, and against black belt Jay Turner.

 Final match:

Final match was against black belt Ferre Fabien.

What to look for, when buying an BJJ / MMA rash guard

So you’re looking to buy a BJJ or MMA rash guard? Well it’s a bit of a jungle out there, so I wanted to write a quick guide. To start with, i should mention that it’s hard for me to be completely impartial, you are after all reading a blog from the producer of his own MMA / BJJ branded rash guards, (we also have some IBJFF legal belt color rash guards) and so it’s hard not to toot my own horn, as I obviously believe in my own product. But I’ll try to be impartial and impart some general wisdom.

So, first things first: You‘ll probably do fine with almost any rash guard, even the cheap ones. One of my favorite rash guards (and the one that inspired the rubberized waistband on my own rash guards), was a no-name store brand from a  California surf shop that has since gone bankrupt. I‘ve never myself tried on compression shirts from walmart or other discount stores, but from what i‘ve heard, they will serve just fine, and cost a GOOD amount less than any MMA / BJJ brand name rash guards.

So if you can get a generic rash guard at a big box retail store for less than 10$, why would you pay upwards of 70$ for a BJJ or MMA rash guard? I would argue that the answer is the same as with all other brand name clothing: To look good.

I think that there is for sure, also an element of build quality, and some rash guards do have completely unique features that you will not find in the ultra-generic ones, but as far as just a functional compression shirt to get you through training? A generic one will probably be fine. However if pure functionality was all everyone thought about, then everyone would be wearing cargo shorts and sport buzzcuts. Trends and styles exist on the mat just as it does outside of it, and this is usually the major motivator to get an MMA / BJJ branded rash guard.

So to answer the question „What to look for when buying a rash guard?“, my #1 answer would be „A design you really like“. There are however, a few things that you want to check for, to make sure that you are buying a good quality product as well.

The main things to look for in a BJJ /MMA branded rash guard

1)      Stitching. In general you want your rash guard to have flatlock stitching, preferably with 4 or 5 threads. You will most likely find this on all higher echelon rash guards (and often the lower as well), but it‘s still always nice to make sure that the stitching is of a high quality. For reference you can see the different kinds of stitching (details can vary of course) over at Husqvarnas website (http://www.husqvarnaviking.com/SiteMedia/Products/Machines/Stitches/s21_stitch_overview_eng.pdf?ext=.pdf it’s a pdf showing the stitches their machine can do)

Example of flatlock stitching on an odin IBJJF belt rash guard

2)      You want to make sure that there are no stitches in the armpit. Some rash guards have the seams meet in the middle of the armpit, which can be extremely uncomfortable, especially on a very tight fitting rash guard, as the seams can result in irritation and rashes in your armpit. It‘s usually ok with stitches around the armpit, as long as it‘s not in a friction area. Take a look at the image below for explenation, on the left is Odin’s new IBJJF brown belt rash guard, and on the right is a generic rashguard. The belt rashguard dips it’s stitching down in the armpit to avoid irritation in major friction zones, while the generic one crosses it’s stitching right in the armpit.

Armpit stitches on rash guards

3)      This is more of a personal preference, but with tight fitting material in general, i find that neck tags can be incredibly irritating, as they tend to be made out of slightly thick and abrasive material that rubs against your neck while training. I‘ve owned some great rash guards, where this small detail left me really disliking it, and putting it at the back of my rotation. It‘s a shame if such a small thing ruins your experience. I know not everyone has such strong feelings about it, but be aware that it can be a factor.

4)      Material; the most important part here is, for lack of a better word, „flimsyness“. You want to hit a right balance between a material thick enough to take some abuse, but light enough so that it won‘t leave you sweating like crazy (soft is a nice bonus as well). Also note that different types of material have different stretch, how much stretch you want in your material can be a personal preference, but i prefer it to be more stretchy rather than less.
Also note that pilling can be an issue, and i have heard from some reviewers that ours are prone to it. Personally i have not had this problem to any real extent (rash guards/compresison wear in general is prone to it though), but then again my only velcro is in my shorts, and i‘ve made a habit out of always closing the velcro enclosure when I‘m not wearing them, especially during a wash cycle. But if you train MMA (gloves and shinpads tend to have a lot of velcro), and notice that your rash guard tend to pill, you might want to find a rash guard that is extra resistant to pilling.

5)      This last bit is more self promotional than the rest, as it‘s something that not many outside of our design has. That is, some method of resisting the dreaded „roll“ of the rash guard. If you have rather large hips like me, you may have noticed that many rash guards tend to roll up, exposing your belly, when rolling. Not many rashguards have any mechanism counteracting this, but we have inserted a rubberized elastic band in the waist, which clings to your hips and stops the rash guard from rolling up. As far as i can tell, we are the only ones in the market currently doing this.
I should mention, that i have seen some surf brands, such as O´Neill, use a loop at the front of the waistline, that loops into your shorts drawstring, but i did not have much success with this system, (it still rolls up, but clings slightly to your drawstring, making it look a bit silly).

Rubberized grip at hem of rash guard

And that‘s it! Many rash guards fill many of these criteria, and i would of course recommend that you check out our designs, as i feel that they satisfy them all (although i would not classify them as overly resistant to pilling).

Let me know what you think, and if there are some other attributes that you look for in your MMA / BJJ branded rash guards!

 

The importance of your mindset in competition (and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in general)

Ok, so it fels a little strange to me, to be writing a blog about how to compete. I’m no monster at competing, i’m no world champion, and never will be. I have, however, competed in a lot of tournaments, i’d guess I’ve had around 2-300 matches over the course of the past 11 years, so hopefully that will lend some credence to the advice that i’m about to dish out.

I received my brown belt about 18 months ago now, and it was a mixed emotion. On one hand i kind of felt like it was time, i’d been a purple for a long time (5 years), and won some competitions (though not the big ones), but it always felt like when i rolled with brown and black belts, that i’d get completely destroyed. The way i saw it, a decent brown belt should be able to catch a black belt every now and then, i don’t think i’d ever caught one at that point. The good purple belts were still giving me trouble, and hell even some blue belts made me feel like I was working way too hard to beat someone who’d only trained a fifth of the time i had. This insecurity about not being up to snuff was probably exacerbated by the fact that apart from my coach, (who got his black belt the same day i got my brown), there were no other brown belts at the gym, so knowing where i stood was difficult.

The importance of mindset in BJJ

And so, competition season comes up, it’s time to test the theory, and see if i actually am just a “fake” brown belt, getting it more for time put in, than any real skills. Over the course of a year in competition, i start off decently but a few matches getting crushed send my confidence toppling. By this time, I’m coming into the matches almost beaten beforehand, the Scandinavian brown belt scene isn’t huge, so the guys i meet tend to be guys that I’ve already met before, and hence guys I’ve lost to. I know they can kick my ass; if i try to implement my game they’ll just counter it. I start playing really passive from my guard, which is usually my favorite place to be, thinking that if i open up and start playing freely, going for my butterfly hooks, surely they’ll just switch their hips and pass my guard easily? So I go to stale, boring, but relatively safe guards, that don’t resemble my normal game at all, and i’m therefore devoid of any attacks or comfort there, just sitting there, unable to do much else than defend. And so my brown belt record came to 2-9, with one of my wins being more or less erased later, when the guy taps me out in a different competition.

This brings me to my latest competition. I went to NAGA in Paris a few weeks ago (i wrote a blog about it here as well), and was signed up to compete in the expert division NoGi, and the brown/black belt division in Gi. The NoGi competition came up first, which is is not really measured in belts, but anyone that has 5 years + in any grappling training (so me as a blue belt would have fitted into this division). Before this tournament, i really wanted to focus on not being lazy, and being aggressive from the guard. My trip to Marcelo Garcias gym (blogpost about that here), had gotten me to understand that i was way too passive, and allowed my opponents to get into their favorite positions without me really fighting, I got completely smashed by all levels there, but it really allowed me to take a step back and re-evaluate what i was doing. As soon as the going got rough, i’d just kinda lay back and let them do what they wanted and attempt to flow with it. This time i was determined to be aggressive, and go for my game (x-guard, 1-leg x-guard and butterfly sweeps) right off the bat, not wait for them to establish grips, or lay back and wait for them to initiate.

Confidence started building as competition went on

As I watch the other competitors, i can see that they are very good, but seem to be wrestling based. Lots of the matches are taking place standing, exchanging shots, once it’s on the ground there is a furious pace. I conclude that these are BJJ guys with a base in wrestling and/or Judo. My first match comes up, and my gameplan works good, i rack up some points, and eventually catch him in my favorite x-guard move, a toehold. Second match starts the same, i aggressively pull xguard, thinking that i don’t want to be standing against a wrestler, and not wanting to give him a chance to settle and start putting a grinding game on me, I immediately go for the same toehold, and catch it, ending the match in 20 seconds. The last guy, i hadn’t seen much of, but i knew he’d fought 4 guys and won, and he was built like a wrestler, i decided to go for the same strategy, but his base was really good and i didn’t get my x-guard. I however decided to keep being aggressive, i felt like a wrestler shouldn’t be able to pass my guard, so i started really opening up my attacks, trying to pull him ontop of me for butterfly sweeps, going for cheeky crusher armbars, and eventually rolling for a kimura that i turned into an armbar and got the tap about one minute from time. These are the kind of moves i do in the gym all the time. Try to be aggressive, always looking to attack rather than wait.

Starting to feel like i can pull it off

After the match ended, and i received my NAGA belt, i ended up talking to the guy from my second match in the medic tent (we both messed up our knees, so no gi competition for me), and i found out that both him, and the guy i met in the finals had been black belts, and the first match was a brown belt.

At the time i just thought “oh wow, cool”, and was happy with my performance, but the more i think about it, the more i realize that i don’t think i would have performed as i did, if i had known this beforehand. My mindset was so hellbent on brown and black belts kicking my ass, that i was very half heartedly trying to get off my own attacks, constantly thinking that “these guys are better than me”, and expecting some magical counter that i’d never seen before. The truth is, the vast majority of moves out there, you will have experienced in the gym already. Your opponent may be better than you, but the likelihood of losing is only going to increase if you do yourself the disservice of giving too much respect and not trying to implement your own attacks with full intent of finishing it. Of course some guys are just better, and they will time you and hit you with counters, but you can’t avoid losing those matches by refusing to take the match to where you feel most comfortable. I feel like i won those matches because my mind wasn’t burdened with expectations of what my opponent would do, and i can only hope that the experience will be enough to alleviate that burden in future competitions.

Relief at the podium

I’ve always told my students when i coach them, that nothing their opponent does is going to be different from what they train in the gym, i tell them to impose their own game, and roll exactly like they do at the gym, just with a bit more intensity. I think it’s time i take my own advice.

P.S. the IBJJF belt rashguard i’m wearing there is the prototype, the logo will be slightly higher on the chest on the final version. They should arrive in the store in about 1-2 weeks time, if everything goes to plan.

My trip to NAGA Europe in Paris

This past weekend my team in Denmark, CSA.dk, lead by our coach Christian Graugart, headed out to NAGA Europe in Paris. It was actually a very tough choice to go, as Scandinavias biggest tournament, Swedish Open, was happening at the same time. It’s a really well run, and incredibly competitive tournament, and CSA has been a regular there for the last 4 years. This year however, we decided to try something new, and head out to Paris, see a new city and compete against people we don’t know as well (the BJJ scene in Scandinavia isn’t huge, so it tends to be the same guys you meet, especially at higher belts).Our new IBJJF rashguards in action

We headed out with a team of 14, of which about half was kids. Our kids team has always been incredibly strong and talented (we have in fact won best junior club at the aforementioned Swedish Open in the past), and this crop of youngsters is no different, so that was one of the main excitements in this trip, seeing just how good they were, and how they measured up against the best Europe has to offer.

The day started early, we showed up at 9 AM, so that the kids could weigh in (the adults had done so the day before), unfortunately the day started late, and never recovered. Our kids first match didn’t start until around noon, and they weren’t finished until 3 or 4 PM (many hours behind schedule). Never the less, the kids kicked ass, and basically swept all their divisions, winning 5 championship belts, and only losing a single match the entire day. The adults also did well, and all in all we took home 13 medals (of which 9 were 1st place (6 of those belts)), with 15 competitors.

Before my first match, my nerves started setting in. I didn’t know any of my opponents, but seeing as how this was the expert division, i assumed they were very good. I start thinking “Why am I competing? It’s not that enjoyable.” I start watching the other competitors in my group, they all look huge, and they’re all putting on a furious pace during their matches. Fuck. I can’t keep up with that kind of scrambles, will my cardio even be good enough? I have been training hard, but definitely could have trained harder. Luckily my self doubt is cut short by my name being called.

I step onto the mat, nerves start dissipating, it’s time to go. My opponent steps into the mat, he looks more like my size, so there’s some relief there, I start getting more confident but remind myself i also got more confidence after seeing a young kid with pimples and braces step onto the mat against me a few years ago, moments before he berimbolo’d me and beat me up. I mentally remind myself again of the lessons learned at Marcelo’s gym a few weeks earlier, be first, don’t wait for him to go, establish my position first.These IBJJF belt rashguards will be released late November 2013

The match starts, and i bull butterfly guard as soon as i make contact. I pull 1-legged x-guard immediately, and work the sweep, switching to a footlock as he falls over before eventually getting the sweep. Guard pass, attempted back take and failed rear naked choke passed before i ended up on bottom again, and went for my favorite move, setting up the toehold from the x-guard and get the tap about a minute and a half into the match. The perfect first match to get rid of the nerves and get the body warm.Gaining sidemount before attempting back take

I watch the quarter final opposite of me, whoever wins this will meet me in the semi’s. As before, they look huge, and put up a crazy pace, with lots of scrambles and wrestling; the match ends, but there is controversy. The guy who is declared the loser is unhappy, he claims that points halfway through the match were given incorrectly, and protests. His coaches have video and incredibly the referees agree to look at it and revise the decision. This goes back and forth, grinding the entire bracket to a screeching halt for at least 20 minutes, as 2-3 different referees seem to watch the video, and eventually overturn the decision. The guy who thought he won earlier is (understandably) furious. It seems ridiculous that you can change a decision after the fact, he would’ve obviously played a different game if he thought he was behind, and not stalled out the last 30 seconds. What warmth my joints had gotten from the first match are now long lost, but it’s time to go again.The leg catches an unfortunate angle, was difficult to control with the rolling

I go for the same gameplan, i immediately pull guard, going for my one-legged xguard, but switch it to a normal x-guard, and again go for my x-guard toe-hold setup and catch it. He doesn’t want to tap, and starts rolling. My IBJJF rule instincts try to take over, and i almost give it up to secure top position and get sweep points, but close submissions give 2 points at NAGA, so I cling on. His ankle pops early, but he keeps going, i feel his knee pop as well, but he keeps escaping, and a few seconds later he eventually taps. As i step away I can see that his knee is twisted in an unnatural way, it looks out of the joint. It’s hard not to feel bad in the situation.Concerned about my opponent after the submission

My opponent in the final matchup seemed like a strong wrestler, physically imposing, and had dominated 3 matches on his way to the finals. I had hoped since my matches were less than 2-3 minutes in total that i’d have a cardio advantage, but incredibly he looked as fresh as when he started. I attempted the exact same thing, pulled guard, attempting to get into my x-guard game, but he was having none of it, his hips were heavy, and as i tried to pull his thigh ontop of my shoulder from butterfly halfguard, my knee pops. He works passing my guard, and i’m attempting submissions. I’m incredibly given a point for a rather weak submission attempt, putting me 1-0 ahead, and decide that this could be my road to victory. I felt confident in my guard not getting passed, and if I could keep going for submissions i could rack up some points that way. I dive for a Kimura, diverting to a game i played a lot 5-6 years ago, but had barely touched in years, utilizing the knee-shield and kimura combo. Surprising myself i manage to get the kimura free, i think perhaps my opponent was distracted by the fact that we were out of bounds, but NAGA doesn’t stop matches when a submission is happening, unless they absolutely have to. He rolls out of the kimura, and i quickly counter with an armbar on the same arm, and after some struggle i manage to get it. I let out an embarrassing and awkward scream of joy and pump my fist to the kids watching up in the stand, looking silly in the process.After the final match

After the matches were done, I ended up in the medic tent, getting some compression on my knee (it popped as i tried to pull xguard), and met my opponent from the semi’s there, getting his knee looked at as well. We had a nice chat and i found out that both he and the finalist i met, were black belts. After thinking on this a bit, i realized that had i known they were black belts, i doubt i would have performed as well as i did. I’ve competed against black belts before, and i always end up worrying too much about “what if” (as in “I can’t try to butterfly sweep him, he’s too goo,d he’ll just switch his hips and pass easily”), so i wait for them to move, rather than attacking myself. Today i saw no belts, so i had no preconceived notion of how much better than me they were, this combined with the revelation of my lazy habits at Marcelo (and subsequent pledge to be more assertive) lead to my best result in a competition to date. I think the conclusion is inescapable (and i might write a seperate blog post about it in the coming days), the worst thing you can do, when met with a skilled grappler (or any grappler really), is to be hesitant and be reactionary. You need to impose your game, get the match where you feel comfortable, not wait for him to do the same. It worked for me.

P.S. The rashguard i’m wearing is the prototype for our IBJJF legal brown belt rashguard (we’ll of course get it in all belt colors), that should be shipped to us any day now. The final versions will have the logo a bit higher on the chest than the one seen here. If you want to know when it comes out, like our page on facebook to get the latest news (i don’t post often, so don’t worry about spamming your feed).

Always nice with more silverware :)

A not so quick review of Marcelo Garcias NYC gym

New York City skyline from my hostel I’ve always been a big fan of Marcelo Garcia, or at least since he burst into the public eye with his incredibly impressive debut performance at ADCC 2003, where he took out legend after legend on his road to the gold. It wasn’t however, until 2010 that i really started paying attention to his style.

It was about that time I started to notice that the game that i was playing at the time, was seemingly very similar to Marcelo‘s. I had somewhat randomly transitioned to a very x-guard oriented game, and had recently seen Matt Arroyo‘s video on what he called „The magic guillotine“ (basically Marcelo Garcias famed version of the guillotine), which almost overnight became my #1 submission. This coupled with the fact that i had a small revelation about the butterfly guard at the same time (read: I finally caught more than white belts in it), resulted in me deciding that basing my game off whatever Marcelo Garcia was doing, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Now, it‘s perhaps relevant to know that until my friend Christian Graugart received his well deserved black belt recently, i‘d never trained with a black belt for more than 6 months (Chris Brennan for the first 6 months of BJJ, and later a 6 month stint with the late Jeremy Williams). That‘s less than 15% of my total BJJ life more or less studying on my own, figuring out where i wanted to take my game.  This is why, when i came across MGInAction.com, i was really thrilled to have such a vast resource at the ready. The logic seemed obvious to me, since my game already resembled his, whenever i‘d be having trouble with a situation or position, I could use the excellent layout of the website to find exact answers from arguably the worlds best competitor.

This went on for about 3 years, at my home gym, CSA.dk, until i finally decided that it was time to go to New York City, visit Marcelo Garcias Academy, and of course see the famed city. It was only a brief visit, but long story short, i fell in love with the city and the gym alike, and almost immediately started planning coming back again (i‘d only been able to train two days this trip).

Fast forward to October 17th this year, and i‘m on a plane on my way back to New York City, for an extended 10 day trip, hoping to make a full week of training twice a day (and, I must confess, have some fun as well, i did after all have two weekends in arguably the greatest city on earth). What resulted was great training every single day i was able to make it down there, in an incredibly friendly atmosphere, that i really can‘t praise enough.

I’ve traveled to a fair bit of gyms around the world, and they seem to usually fit into two categories, über competitive gyms (usually high focus on competitions), and the local friendly  gym, with more casual practitioners. Now both these gyms can be great to visit, but the mentality of the two is often quite different. The competitive gyms tend to have a very hard mentality, and can be a bit cold to strangers, they often foster an „us VS them“ mentality (which i guess is often a natural bi-product of strong competitive teams), that of course means great team spirit and togetherness, but can be a rough gym to visit casually. The casual local gym however tends to be more laid back and welcoming to strangers, but may not offer the same quality or intensity of training as the competitive gym does.

So right off the bat, let there be no doubt, Marcelo‘s gym is a competitive gym. I‘d venture to say that their brown belt team is one of the best in the world now (especially now that the Miayo brothers and Keenan have gotten their black). There‘s no doubt that showing up with a brown belt there people, wanted to test me; and I had really intense rolls there every day, with incredibly skilled grapplers, and i‘m not ashamed to say that i got my ass handed to me pretty decidedly (and not just by the brown belts). But here‘s the thing, the gym doesn’t have the cold feel of so many competitive gyms. It‘s one of the friendliest ones I’ve visited. The gym gets at least 5-10 visitors a day from what i could tell, and yet Marcelo and a few of the other guys there remembered me and greeted me when i came in (and my last visit was pretty standard). Every day, lots of people walked around and shook everyone’s hands, Marcelo being at the forefront of this, making sure everyone felt welcome. People took the time to chit chat with me before and after class, and were gracious about spending some time showing a move or two if i had some questions in regards to specific techniques taught (or something they hit me with in sparring). In short, it felt pretty close to being the perfect gym. You have world class instructors, high level sparring at all belt levels, a very friendly atmosphere (i thought New Yorkers were suppose to be asshole??), all wrapped up in a city where you’d be hard pressed to be bored.

I feel this is definitely a matter of „leading by example“; first thing Marcelo did when coming in, was coming over to all the students (visitors included) with a big smile on his face and shaking everyone’s hand and saying hi. On top of that, he just seems to have a really healthy attitude to training, and a commitment to creating a positive environment. One moment that stuck with me from training there my first time around, was an incident when I was rolling, where I heard some commotion behind me. From what i gathered, someone had gotten a bit heated in the rolling, was grunting a lot, and eventually got really upset once he got tapped. Nothing serious, just upset and if memory serves me slammed the mat in frustration. Marcelo was on the situation fast however, chastising the student for aggressive behavior, and thereby setting the tone for the rest of the students, that while people trained hard here, it was not a place for aggression and anger. A small gesture, but something that definitely sets the tone and vibe in a gym over time, and it really shows in my opinion.

Marcelo Garcias New York AcademyUnfortunately Marcelo wasn’t teaching all his classes this time around, but seeing as how he literally just became a father for the first time, that is of course entirely natural. Paul Schreiner taught the classes in his absence, and he‘s as good an instructor as any I’ve had. One of the days he did a full class of short one legged x-guard drills that really showed me a lot of details my game had been completely missing. He also opened my eyes to how underdeveloped my butterfly game is, by lifting me from seemingly impossible situations (and here i was thinking i had figured the butterfly out, back to the drawing board). As far as i understand, Marcelo teaches every 12:30-13:30 class, and every 19:00-20:30 class, and even with the recent birth of his children, he still managed to teach half the classes i attended (coming from socialist Scandinavia where dads disappear from the work market for a few months after the birth child, that‘s pretty impressive to me).

Unfortunately the trip was cut a bit short by a fire in the basement of the gym, which cut off the electricity, forcing them to cancel classes, and meaning i missed my last two sessions (as far as i know the gym wasn’t damaged at all, they just needed to get the electricity going, and it was back on schedule the next day). Oh well, 3 day weekend it is (it’s Halloween after all)

In summary, I leave Marcelo’s gym with a mixture of being annoyed at letting myself develop lazy habits, and feeling invigorated/motivated to continue on my BJJ journey. I had naively thought i had reached a level of understanding of Marcelo’s game, and was starting to try out new things, only to be harshly smacked down to earth, and reminded that there’s plenty to learn still. Not many sports in the world will leave you feeling this happy after getting your ass kicked.

First post!

So, yet another company blog? Yes I’m afraid so, hopefully however, we can keep it interesting.

I’ve been inspired by my friend Jonathan, who runs Kuaui Kimonos, to launch a hybrid blog; a mix between company related news, and a general personal/travel blog (as it pertains to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu).

BJJ rash guards

As  this is my first post ever here, I figure introductions are in order:

My name is Kári Gunnarsson, I’m an Icelandic expat, who settled nicely in Denmark after coming there to study physics. Within half a day of stepping off the airplane from Iceland back in 2004, I was inside my current gym, CSA, training with my now good friend Christian Graugart, who runs the gym. That has been my homebase for the past 9 years, and i don’t think there’s a place in the world where i feel more at home than at CSA (if you’re ever in Copenhagen Denmark, make sure you drop by, the gym is very welcoming to travellers). I’ve been training BJJ now for about 11 years all in all, as i said, mostly in Denmark, but i started out under Chris Brennan (got my blue belt from him), and trained extensively in USA under Jeremy Williams and the rest of the Apex Jiu Jitsu guys. I got my purple belt from Rick Estrada (of Subfighter.com fame), and eventually got my brown belt in 2012 from Robson Barbosa (as you can tell i’m not a fast learner, still just a mediocre brown belt after 11 years).

Being friends with Christian it’s hard not to get infected with his love for travel, and i do indeed travel with him to tournaments all over Europe, and hopefully i can blog about my travels here throughout my days. My next trip is to New York on October 17th to train with Marcello Garcia, my all time favorite Jiu Jitsu person, and i will definately post a blog about my experience there and life in the city in general.

I guess starting this company has been an extension of my love for the sport, trying to get more involved with it, and doing more than just training. My philosophy is more or less to create clothes that i would want to train in myself, both in terms of quality and designs. There’s lots of things that i’m learning as i’m going, but it’s a great, albeit slow, ride :) Hopefully you will join me on this journey as we grow the company.

I will experiment a bit with different styles of posts here, my next one will be a bit more “commercial”; a buying guide for MMA/BJJ branded rashguards (horribly biased of course), but mostly this will be about my personal BJJ journey, and the going ons in the company in general.

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