Sunday, February 25, 2007

Swollen knee :(

I have wanted to shoot some tutorials lately, but unfortunately I have spent a lot of my time in hospitals lately to have my knee checked. About a week ago it started to swell up and get really big. First, the doctors thought it might be an infection, then later when my leg started to swell, they thought I might have a blood clot in it. So I have been checked in every possible way and fortunately, it was only an irritation due to too many bumps on the mat. It's the penetration steps fault I guess :)

So I am out of the game for 4-6 weeks, which SUCKS. I can only do some weight training and I will still teach some classes in the gym. But I can't really show any techniques or roll :(

And if that wasn't enough, it has started to snow a lot here, it is difficult to get anywhere. So I am just lying in doors with a bad knee and can't do much really. I can only dream myself back to my wonderful vacation in the Philippines back in December....

I promise to post some cool stuff here again as soon as I can use my knee just a little :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Old Vale Tudo clip

This clip is about four years old. It is from my old gym, where we held a small gym turnament in Vale Tudo. Back then, we trained a little more for self defense, so we figured we would allow knees, elbows and headbutts to the opponents head (not full force though) while wearing helmets. We had a fun day with some good matches, although I probably would not do this again today - our training has evolved into a more intelligent MMA sparring instead of just kicking eachothers ass like we did back then. I am the one wearing white kneepads, kicking people in the head :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

BJJ as a tool to handle emotions and pressures

BJJ is much more than the sport you see on the outside. It is much more than just the techniques, the history or the system.

One of the biggest values of BJJ training lies in the way it works as a tool to learn how to handle different emotions and pressures, that we don't normally experience in our daily life. Think about all the things you may feel, when you roll in class or competition:

  • Pain
  • Fear
  • Nervousness
  • Adrenaline
  • Claustrophobia
  • Limited breathing
  • Exhaustion
  • Panic
  • Frustration
  • Failure
  • Etc.

Sometimes you have an easy roll and don't experience any of this and other times you go hard or you roll with someone who puts a lot of pressure on you. The most important thing to think of is, that no matter how many emotions and pressures you must go through in that roll, you always come out on the other side.

So if you roll and feel really uncomfortable because of some of these things, remember that it is exactly this experience that makes you stronger. It will end and when it does, you come out stronger on the other side. Next time it happens, you handle the pressure a little better and next time again a little more, untill in the end none of these things bother you at all. Nothing can make you panic, no matter under how much pressure you are.

And that is a super valuable real-life skill you develop from training in BJJ.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


If I were to point out one thing, that has had the biggest influence on my training throughout the years, it is without doubt the principle of Aliveness. It is basically just common sense, but I have not come across a better definition and description of just that, than from the Straight Blast Gym.

I don't want to copy/paste a long description of Aliveness here, but I want to encourage everyone to read the Aliveness 101 blog and especially the post Why Aliveness.

Here is a videoclip on the subject with Matt Thornton, the President of the SBGi, that I shot in my gym some years ago:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It is just a giant videogame

This is a quite posted by Leo Kirby from Florida on the subject of internet discussions. I think it is a great little piece, that everyone can benefit from reading now and then. Just as a reminder on what we are actually doing here.


Everyone knows this is just a game...right?

To steal a thought from a friend of mind who posts here occasionally, do you think there are badmitton forums where people get pissed off at each other and debate technique vs. concept, live drills vs. dead patterns?

What is it about the Martial Arts that makes all this so serious? Our lack of ego?

If I post questions that I have about the way we do things it doesn't mean we do not have a lot of great people all over the world, some of them I have met and some I haven't. It doesn't mean we don't have a few dicks out there either. In short, we are pretty much like everyone else in that regard. Shouldn't upset anyone that i say it though. I'm not sure where that comes from.

Maybe in our haste to supress our egos and create a playful enviornment where we can all develope our own games in the spirit of fun we have become a little sensitive to criticism from both inside and out.

But in the end we are adults rolling around on the ground with other adults. We are adults sitting behind our little screens typing out thoughts and ideas and opinions. That is all it is. That is all it ever will be. There is really nothing here for anyone to get pissed off at. It is just a giant videogame.

Photo by Nicolas Dalby.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Inquiry method

This is a post I wrote some time ago about the inquiry method of teaching. It was posted on MMAlibrary on a request from my friend Matt Kirtley.

It's quite simple. As an instructor, instead of giving all the answers and teaching in a one-direction manner, you create a framework for your students to explore and teach themselves.

I am not an expert in this, but have experimented a bit with it in my gym, and must say it has worked amazingly. People come up with new (good) moves every time and best of all, they really seem to remember things better when they have explored them by themselves.

Best way to explain how it is done is by this flowchart made by Cane from SBGi Portland:

What is really cool about this approach to training is, that I don't act as an instructor in a traditional way. In fact, may of the questions that arise, I don't even have an answer for them, but the people in the gym together can come up with some really good answers, so I learn a lot myself. I don't teach, I just provide a framework for people to learn by themselves.

This method naturally brings up the very interesting question: If we can find answers to all the questions together, without having any external information source (e.g. a higher level instructor) - does that mean that we hold all the information inside our (connected?) minds already and just need to "activate" it to "learn"?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Gi or no-gi?

Do what you enjoy most :)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The art of teaching people how to slowroll

I almost always start my classes with having everybody slowroll for a few rounds to warm up. I hate doing stretches, running, etc. so I would rather educate people to understand slowrolling, as it is a much more fun and activity specific way to warm up.

Throughout the years I have taught, I have tried to teach people how to slowroll and it is not easy. Especially with new guys. You can be 100% sure, that if you just say "now you roll really light and easy", then it will only work for the first 30 seconds before people start to tense and speeding up and the whole idea of the drill is gone out the window.

As with most meathead-issues in BJJ, the answer is education. I believe that intelligent athletes that know how to train smart is what we want - not tough guys who can take a punch and go hard for hours. So I have written down a few points that I use, when I explain people in class how to slowroll. Putting emphasis on this has made a big difference and I can have students slowroll intelligently in no time. I also use this in my MMA classes and have everybody "slowspar" MMA with small gloves. Works really well and gives everyone an opportunity to play with eachother, not compete against eachother.

So here are the points that I always go through:

The purpose of slowrolling is to warm up, experiment, play, put yourself in bad spots, work on your weak points and have fun. The purpose is not to win, to get a submission, to beat someone better or worse than yourself or to not lose.

Try to do everything you can to not win.

Don't go fast and don't tense up. One little thing I do if I see some people start to go too fast or use too much strength is, that I yell "freeze!" to make everybody stop. Then I tell people to take the level of speed and intensity that they are at now and divide it by 2. That can sometimes "reset" the class, and make people start over at the right intensity.

This point is really crucial to make people successfully slowroll. You MUST let your partner succeed most of the times with what he is trying to do. If he is trying to go slow and you keep defending what he is doing, then - even though you might go at a slow pace yourself - he has to turn up his intensity to be able to do anything else than defending. When he turns up his intensity, you will automatically match his level, and you are on your way to roll competitively instead of slowrolling.

Let your partner do what he is trying to do, and he will return the favor. The result is less tension and less chance of turning up the intensity.

If you get a submission, let your partner escape and keep going. Don't force it to get a tap, it will only create tension. In fact, I don't think there should be any taps in slowroll at all.

If you feel like your partner is starting to go a little too fast or a little too hard, TELL HIM. If you don't communicate it to him, he will most likely not know what you are thinking. Unless he can read your mind. And what will then happen is, that you have to match his level of intensity. Don't do it. Tell him to slow down instead.

Enjoy the training, remember that it is only a game. Have fun and relax :) The sideeffect of having fun is most often, that you learn more.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Computergame star!

How cool is this? :) Unfortunately, the game never finished. It was some guys in Germany who made it as a hobby in their sparetime.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

MMA fights yesterday: 3-1

Yesterday, we had four guys from the gym fighting MMA at the Neoblood and Cage Challenge show here in Copenhagen.

Three of the guys were fighting for the first time, all fighting under amateur rules. Charles lost by decision to a much larger opponent after a very close standup fight. Simon rocked his opponent with strikes from clinch after only 10 seconds and after the tencount, he took the back and won by rear naked choke. Christoffer won a split decision over a tough opponent after showing great takedown and groundwork skills.

Thomas la Cour was fighting his to day toughest opponent in a professional fight. It was a three round war with the swedish fighter. Thomas won by a close decision after controlling the fight with great takedowns and groundwork.

I am so proud of all of these guys!

Photos by Nicolas Dalby.

Friday, February 2, 2007

About "getting good" and enjoying the process

From new students, I often get the question "How long does it take to get good at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?". It is always a question that requires some time to explain, as there is no answer really.

What is "good"? When are you "good"? Consider, that no matter how long you train, there will always be someone who are better and someone who are worse than you at this sport. Let's say you have a goal of reaching the black belt. You train and train for years always with the goal of "getting there". One day, you finally get the belt... and then what? There are still tons of guys out there, who are much better and tons of guys who are much worse.

No matter how long you train, no matter how much you - in your mind - measure your own level up against other students, no matter how much you think about how far the other gym in town has come now compared to you, you will never come to a point where you are "done". It is a natural thing for people to gather in groups (/tribes) and then start to gossip about other groups of same interest with whom they have little or no communication with. I think this is seen more in sports, where those groups eventually will meet in competition and measure themselves up against eachother. In real life, some or all of those people in the other group could have been your best friends if you have just met them in another way than as competitors within your own interest group. Does it really matter how "good" they are? Does it really matter how "good" you are? Does it make sense to not be best possible friends with people who share the same interest as you?

The point is, that you can never "get there" and then you are "done". So if you always focus on getting to a certain point in your training where you are "good" (measuring yourself against others), then you might forget the most important thing of it all - enjoying the process.

Ofcourse, setting a certain goal can be very beneficial for some people/personalities, but I always encourage my students to try to throw all these (natually occouring) thoughts of measurement away and just enjoy playing BJJ. Because the process of training is the real goal, not the belt or a certain level. The real value of this sport is in the training, the sweating, the pain, the small successes, the small failures, the friends you make, the self esteem, the hard work and the development of non-fantasy skill that actually works against resisting opponents. And you are already right there to enjoy it. Every day in the gym, on the mat. So forget about getting good and enjoy what you are doing NOW. The goal is right there in front of you and it has been there all the time :)

My own gym is completely designed with this in mind. Our number one priority has always been to create the best possible environment for enjoying the process of training. We always play nice music in class, hang up pirate flags, play playstation, arrange social activities, and most important of all - we never take training too seriously. Some people might find themselves comfortable in a strict, hierachial, no-music, serious and competition-minded environment, and that is perfectly fine. They just won't come to our place then. We never focus on "being the best", although a side benefit of our process-focus has been, that people are getting really, really good at what they do. Simply because they enjoy coming to the gym every day to hang out and train.

Just some thoughts on a pleasant winter friday in Copenhagen. Enjoy your weekend :)