I spent this past weekend moving out of the house my wife and I bought nearly 14 years ago. As I’m sure any normal person would, while I was loading a trailer in the rain, I naturally started thinking of Jiu-Jitsu…
It is amazing how much stuff accumulates over time. Trip after trip hauling stuff outside, I was in awe with how much my family has. I’ve spent enough time in third world countries to be embarrassed by the enormity of my possessions. Sorting through things I found objects I use daily, others I occasionally use, and some objects I haven’t seen since tucking them in storage 10 years ago. Some are still useful, others are not.
As I started relating this to Jiu-Jitsu, I realized stepping away from one house to live in a new, completely different house that this is similar to progression in Jiu-Jitsu. I am a completely different Jiu-Jitsu player than I was 8, 5, even 2 years ago. When I started my BJJ journey, I was a guard guy. I had long, strong legs and held close guard like my life depended on it. I went for armbars and triangles from the bottom, and that was my entire game. 8 years later, I can’t remember the last time I used closed guard. 80% of my submissions were triangles. Now, I triangle someone once in a while, but more frequently attack elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles.
Just like the useless, sentimental stuff I had packed away in boxes, some of my BJJ techniques from long ago are no longer useful. Techniques I used to use all the time worked great on white belts, but would get me quickly submitted against the guys I train with now. Other techniques probably shouldn’t have even worked on white belts, but I got away with them because I was strong and athletic and the other white belts were as clueless as I was. Most of these techniques I threw out years ago, and a couple I still break out when I’m training with beginners. Some of my junk got tossed during this weekend’s move, and just like the back-up techniques, I’ll pack some back in storage another 10 years, just in case I need it someday.
Other useless items weren’t even hidden away unfortunately. We had some things sitting out in plain sight that have no value or practical use at all. We are used to having them around, so they stay. Sentimental or not, we need to cut some of these things from our life. In my Jiu-Jitsu game, there are these things as well. I developed bad habits years ago on the mat that still haunt me. I still do them because they are comfortable. To a certain degree, they define me, regardless of how many times my coaches chew me out about them. I’ve been told thousands of times never to lay flat on my back, but I still do frequently. I frequently turn the wrong way, grab the wrong arm, and get caught in basic submissions. The difference is that while once naive about these things, I now know imediately that I once again screwed up. Still, the habits remain. Now that I am moving, these impractical things have been once again brought to my attention, and I’m committed to purging them from my life.
And the triangle, my bread and butter move as a white belt…IT’S COMING BACK!!
If you have trained or competed in Utah very long in Utah, you’ve likely been submitted by Jake South via some form of this slick Kimura series. With every version, you feel completely safe until you are suddenly and unexpectedly swept into danger of a simultaneous reverse triangle, armbar, and body crusher. I can drill this 45 minutes with Jake, know it is exactly what he’s chosen to submit me with for the day, and Jake will still get me with this series 10 times out of 10.
Jake is a super technical 4-stripe brown belt at Unified Jiu-Jitsu in South Jordan, Ut. Thanks for your help Jake!
Jake’s last MMA opponent knows all too well how effective this series is!
by Arlo Gagestein
I had the honor of spending last Saturday at Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu in Las Vegas for a belt test and promotion ceremony. Several of my teammates were testing and a handful of us from Utah went out for the festivities. Witnessing the test brought back a flood of memories from my last promotion a couple years ago. After successfully demonstrating proficiency on a wide range of techniques, each person being promoted has to roll for an hour straight.
Now for those of us who frequently roll and hour or more, this might not sound too bad. The catch however is that you get ZERO rest, and every two minutes a new opponent jumps on you with the primary goal of breaking you down and wearing you out. If you notice the number of people in the above photo, it should be no surprise that there were plenty of fresh, well-rested opponents to keep those testing fighting to catch their breath.
As I jumped from one body to the next, I remembered the despair of being 30-40 minutes into my test with a seemingly unending supply of energetic teammates attacking me over and over again. You are exhausted, it hurts to breath, your limbs are useless, and you are repeatedly being beat by people with years less experience than you have. Let’s start you fighting for your life against the black, brown, and purple belts, then let every blue and white belt in the gym kick you while you are down. Welcome to purple. It doesn’t take long to begin questioning, “What am I doing here?” “Do I really want to continue suffering through this?” “How bad do I want this belt?”
There is a Rickson Gracie quote that I absolutely love and that defines Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for me.
“Where there’s discomfort, there’s fear, in these very tough positions, you’re in a little piece of hell. And through this daily suffering, you learn to survive in these situations. You have to find comfort in uncomfortable situations. You have to be able to live in your worst nightmare. Jiu-jitsu puts you completely in the moment where you must have complete focus on finding a solution to the problem. This trains the mind to build that focus, to increase your awareness, your capacity to solve problems. Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing.”
“Sometimes, you don’t have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing.” In the helpless, hopelessness of a belt test; 40 minutes in with 20 minutes of hell to go, you learn what this promotion means to you. You have dedicated yourself to the art, to the endless pursuit of progress, chasing a destination that never arrives. In this moment, survival is everything. Everyone in this hour thinks about quitting. Everyone questions themselves, but I’ve never seen anyone give up. I’ve never seen someone in the dark tunnel, chasing the colored belt, quit. The rougher the ride, the more abuse they take, the more satisfying the victory of completion.
My hat goes off to everyone who was promoted last Saturday. I know you suffered worse than anything I can remember. You too have probably already forgotten just how bad it was. The sweetness of promotion erases a multitude of beatings. Beatings we are programmed to forget, so that in a couple years, when the time has come, we’ll once again silently wait in the mat’s center, ready to battle all who approach.
To my teammates from Mori Training Center, thank you. Your determination and dedication to the art makes me better. I admire and value your friendship and support more than you will ever know. Together we suffer, and together we grow.