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-One Man's Journey to Black Belt-

This is's blogger Chris Murray vs the vanilla Gorilla ( funny thats what we call Chris) Chris is in the black gi.  

GTA Classic 2014 - Chris Murray vs the Vanilla Gorilla

If you didn't see Chris got the Gorilla with a one handed keylock that we have been working on for a wile! Good job Chris.


Lessons Learned from MY OWN PROMOTION

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: October 11,2016

I got promoted. It took two years of being consistently ground to a nub, reconstituting and getting after it with renewed vigour and technique. Two whole years focused on being the best white belt competitor I could be, only daring to cast fleeting glances ahead to when I would be called forward to the hallowed promotion position before my jiu jitsu family, have the ragged four-striped beginner belt removed and have the unmolested blue replace it. Four greyed and stained strips of tape gone, and now a vacant black bar standing as a silent, taunting challenge. I've never won a trophy in anything that meant as much as that belt. The climax of years of persistence, a ragged totem of my effort, living colour proof that I had paid my dues.

Then I starting competing as a blue belt. First lesson learned: I fucking suck as a blue belt. My first contest was as a no-stripe blue belt and I was positively out-classed, man-handled and tossed away like so much ultra-heavyweight trash. I am not used to this. I do not like this. I want my ratty old white belt back. I want to be good again.

But alas, it is not to be. I have years- nay, decades of dues yet to be paid. The most immediate and uncomfortable lesson of my promotion? I am not special. I am not that good. I have an immeasurably long way to go, and I developed an untoward habit of thinking I actually understood how to play Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was a textbook example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in an athletic arena; the less I understood of the subject, the more confident I was in my mastery of it.

The reality: I had graduated from Fundamentals into Practical Application of Fundamental Theory. Welcome to orientation to BJJ 201, your professor will now proceed to beat the ever-loving shit out of you with unforgiving ferocity and fluidity and- Oh! surprise, bitch, there's now a whole goddamn wrist lock game you've got to learn to deal with. So good luck and get used to tapping. For a long while. Then you'll get better. Then you'll stripe up, And get promoted. And start this all over again.

As of the writing of this entry I am 18 months and three stripes deep into my blue belt. I was not humble coming into this rank, I got humbled. Regularly and easily. Confidence in my ability waned, I regressed quite a bit and spent more rides home than I care to remember somewhere between dejected and frustrated. But then a wonderful thing happened: Jeff Rowe got promoted to purple belt.

Jeff Rowe is the human scouring pad that filed my ego down to nothing. An absolute machine of a man on the mat who seemed to be able to use my offence as his own tool. Any mat time with Jeff meant a long, tortuous session of being routed at every transition, every swept being countered, every submission attempt being shrugged off with casual disdain. But for the fact that he may be the funniest guy I've ever rolled with, and easily one of the nicest, I would have loathed rolling with him. He had an answer for everything I threw at him and handled me with such ease, I felt I'd never have the chance to improve.

Subsequently, Jeff has since opened his own jiu jitsu school in Goderich, Ontario called Rowe Jiu Jitsu. Jeff is a brilliant tactician, an incredible teacher and a wonderful guy. If you're in the area, be sure to check out his school. If you have an answer to his knee-on-belly, please (for the love of Christ and my ribs) let me know.

The class immediately following Jeff's promotion, my coach pointed something out about Jeff to the class, and some of Jeff's students who had happened to join us in Kincardine that night.

"This guy truly does not give a fuck on the mat. Zero fucks. Never seen anything like it. He is always on offence, and if you stuff a submission, he just goes 'okay, moving on, I don't give a fuck,' and starts working on something else. It's nuts."

And therein was the grain of sand I've been trying to grow into a proper pearl of wisdom ever since. Aggressive Zen. A complete lack of attachment to any attack strategy on the mat. The implementation of Durdenism in jiu jitsu:

"No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide."

Refocus on the root of the art. The gentle path. Forget your plan. Let the attack go. Don't force anything. Don't waste energy forcing an opponent into a position, that doesn't work past white belt. Attain position, maintain at all costs, attack what is immediately available and let go in the face of adequate defence. No fear of this being the only avenue or opportunity of attack. No distractions of second-guessing or trying to set up the flashy move. Be utterly pragmatic and utterly unattached to your plan of attack.

Sheer brilliance in its simplicity. Don't grab your opponent and drag him into deep water. Instead, attain an offensive position, attack surgically and abandon anything that becomes too much work. Lay on top, and let your opponent thrash and defend until he drags himself into deep water with you on top.

Above all else, being promoted to blue belt has shown me that there's a lesson in everything in this game. From every opponent, every loss, every victory, every conceivable facet of mat time has a profound lesson to be learned and applied so long as your willing to get out of your own way and absorb it.

This has only redoubled my love and respect for my teammates. Our club has grown substantially in our number, and mat time has me all but drowning in trained killers of all shapes and sizes- marmosets, honey badgers, buffaloes and badass bitches. Beautiful savages, all.

Thank you, Mike Weichert, for your guidance, patience and tutelage to have given me the gift of this sport.

Thank you, Jeff Rowe, for giving me a new approach that I have openly stolen, am brazenly copying and give zero fucks what you say unless you're coming to class this week in which case I'm sorry sorry sorry please don't hurt me Mr. Rowe you're a nice man and I'm sorry. Thanks for being a great partner and an amazing team mate.

Thank you, Dawg Jiu Jitsu squad. You make every trip to Kincardine worth it and I am grateful to share that mat with all of you.

To all the readers of this little blog, thank you for your patronage, attention and patience. I'll try not to take another entire goddamn year off. Until next time.

Peace, love and arm bars. Unless it's not there.

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: December 2015

Merry Jiu Jitsu, everyone! This week's entry is going to be clipped short as I have two sick kids, one of whom is teething, so getting to a decent length is pretty much untenable at this point. Please enjoy my meagre thoughts listed below, and when you're finished, please do yourself a favour and see John Wick. The movie under-promises and over-delivers with some legit fight scenes and impressively choreographed jiu jitsu techniques. It's the first time I've ever seen de la riva, a berimbolo or a proper bow and arrow choke in a Hollywood movie and it therefore deserves some substantial props. Bonus points for having stuntman performances from Keith Jardine and Tait Fletcher as well. Great move, solid jits.

Here we go:

There's something supremely satisfying about getting thoroughly trounced in jiu jitsu practice. Being able to sink in submissions and maintain good position throughout a sparring session is certainly enjoyable, but being put through the paces by a higher-ranked teammate brings a greater sense of satisfaction to the time spent on the mat. Getting choked, cranked, swept and tapped out non-stop is humbling and uncomfortable, but it also adds gravity to the modest successes.

Sparring with an equally ranked teammate is fun. Because both players are familiar with each other's gameplay, there are rarely any surprises. There's a shorthand to the strategy, an air of comfort, and a sense of ease when trying new things. This is a great opportunity to truly play jiu jitsu.

Sparring with a higher ranked teammate is an entirely different animal. Even if you can train together often enough to become familiar with the typical pathways, guard passes, bread-and-butter sweeps, you're still dealing with someone with substantially more experience and better technique. Most times, it's not a matter of if you'll get tapped out, but when and by what. Getting beaten handily can be infuriating. However, when dealing with a teammate and having nothing at stake, it's the ideal learning opportunity. This adversity is the best medium for growth. There's nothing better for exposing the holes in your game, the improper positioning, the unstable base, the foreshadowing of your attacks than someone who can positively dismantle you. After a few rounds, those misplaced inches get tightened up, your positions get locked in place. Maybe you won't score a submission, but you'll still have had ample opportunity to develop the more fundamental components of your game. Furthermore, after getting manhandled for a while, even landing a sweep can feel as gratifying as a tap out.

When I get tapped, or swept, or stuffed, or whatever manifestation of 'not getting my way' on the mat, it's not a matter of the technique not working. It's that I'm not working. The technique is not wrong, I am. Either my execution or my strategy was off-kilter and it failed. At this stage of jiu jitsu's evolution, the techniques that have proved generally useless have been discarded, and the lexicon is constantly growing from current masters finding new pathways, new subtleties to the art to make it more successful. Nothing is invalid. Only improper application of a technique can make it invalid. It's not that arm bars from guard don't work, it's simply that I'm not turning my hips enough. The art is perfect, the artist is flawed.

Failure and adversity are incredibly fertile grounds for growth in jiu jitsu. What facilitates this growth even further is to internalize everything. Taking personal responsibility for every short-coming on the mat, and meditating on its root allows a player to make immediate and focused adjustments to his or her technique or strategy. A change may not necessarily be the right one, but the mat is an accommodating laboratory on which to test and re-test, until the solution is found.

So get out there, pair up with someone better than you and hold on for dear life. It's going to be uncomfortable, but it'll make you better, faster. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

And with that, I must tend to my young'ns. I wish you guys all the best. And seriously, see John Wick. Or maybe Whiplash. Both good. But one has jiu jitsu and is thereby better. That's just science.

Peace, love and arm bars.


The Challenges of Taking BJJ Mainstream

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: March 13, 2015

Brazilian jiu jitsu is the fastest growing sport in the world. I know I've brought this up in previous blog posts, but it's true and bears repeating. For years, we were told that soccer- otherwise known as "The Great European Runny-Runny Dive and Cry Parade of Silly Kicks"- was going to become the first global sport. Never going to happen. Instead, BJJ has stepped up as the lumbering incumbent and I feel pretty confident in it's ability to take the whole world by storm. The reasons are many, but the highlights are these:

a) BJJ is for everybody. It's a perfect sport for every gender, size or physical acumen.

b) It requires almost no equipment.

c) It's dope as fuck.

d) With the incidence of award ceremonies on the rise, it is important for everyone to know how to sink in a loop-choke, should they want to do the whole world a goddamn favour and choke Kanye West the fuck out.

e) BJJ is so dope that it's dopeness needs to mentioned twice in a five-point list.

Despite it's exponential growth and it's presence in the cultural zeitgeist becoming larger by the day, jiu jitsu's prevalence and accessibility in the mainstream has stalled. Granted, those within the jiu jitsu community are it's most ardent disciples, but our Great Inciting Incident, our Griffin versus Bonnar moment, has yet to occur. So what is keeping our beloved, benevolent art from becoming a staple in sports viewing?

I know thanks to customized podcast subscriptions and a tendency to stick to the same corners of the Internet have likely left me a little insulated from the greater expanses of cultural goings-on, but it seems as if every week, I come across some celebrity or luminary professing their new-found love of the gentle art. In the wake of the recent hysteria over concussions in contact sports (sidebar: I played football. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, I understand that much- but I did know enough that running full speed into another human being head-first was going to kill some brain cells, and understood this was a consequence of playing the game. If you played football and didn't have the capacity to comprehend the price to be paid for this behaviour: you are not entitled to any kind of financial compensation after the fact because you would have spent the money on scratch-tickets and crayons any way.) parents everywhere are scrambling to find a new contact sport to keep their children's brains safe (as well they should) and what better answer than jiu jitsu? All the physicality of a contact sport and all the independent discipline of wrestling, without the potential brain trauma of tackles, checks or slams.

The rise of televised and webcasted jiu jitsu events is a huge step in the right direction. Metamoris, the Eddie Bravo Invitation, et al are substantial steps in the right direction to offer up high level rolling at it's finest to the uninitiated in the comfort of their own home. Although these events have been generally appealed solely to the existing jiu jitsu community, let us not forget that only twenty years ago the UFC was a barbaric pay-per-view carnival sideshow until it found the right producers until it became the mainstream sports juggernaut as it is known today. However, jiu jitsu (and all grappling competition for that matter) has one major hurdle to overcome that the UFC did not need to worry about. Everyone understand striking. Everyone can watch two savages wail on each other and determine a winner. From BumFights to Glory, any human being of any ilk can watch a fight and do decent job of interpreting the skill and dominance being displayed. Striking is like watching televised poker games (sidebar: what have we done as a species when a card game gets more air time than grappling? I'll take judo or wrestling- hell, any kind of martial art- before I can fathom watching people play cards. Cards.); the scoring is simple, their is a tremendous amount of skill involved, but understanding it's execution is universal.

Grappling and jiu jitsu, on the other hand is more akin to chess. The strategies and execution are so intricate and the scoring requires so much explanation that every match needs an introductory breakdown of important positions, along with a commentator team with unfathomable charisma to make it all palatable to the ball-game crowd. It's easy to understand a sweep or a submission- but try explaining the drama of fighting for grips and hand position from the 50/50 to someone who doesn't understand jiu jitsu while it's happening and you'll understand what is holding jiu jitsu back. I'm not saying it's impossible- I'm just saying it hasn't been done yet, and no one seems to have the solution.

We are living in an era where Olympic television coverage devotes more screen-time to marathon running and McDonald's ads than judo or tae kwon do. The Olympic committee nearly cut wrestling entirely due to 'lack of interest.' It's not that people are not interested in grappling, it's that no one has taken the time from a production stand point to make it interesting. Make no mistake, people are out there working way harder than me to make it interesting, and the rise of these new tournaments and sub-only rules is doing a lot to make it more palatable for a television audience. That, as far as I'm concerned, is the key for jiu jitsu going mainstream.

As the gentle art inches toward the limelight, there are some precautions that must be taken as that time approaches. The explosion in popularity of other traditional martial arts because of iconoclasts like Bruce Lee and his ilk was a tremendous boon for their respective arts. It also made those arts a marketable commodity for the unscrupulous and dishonourable to attempt to cash in on. With dojos popping up on every corner, black belts were being handed out en masse, and now these belt factories become YouTube gold when some good Samaritan posts the ridiculousness of haggard, spastic katas being rewarded with meaningless belts. Meanwhile, those same arts continue to shatter into more off-shoots and separate schools which further waters down the gravity of the practice.

We have something fairly unique in Brazilian jiu jitsu. It is a modern martial art whose efficacy has been proven ad nauseum ad infinitum on the highest levels worldwide. The lineage of BJJ masters is short, which makes it all the more valuable. Being able to demonstrate the pedigree of your belt, no matter the rank, is what gives the colour its value. Across the planet, a black belt in BJJ always represents the same level of skill. This is a sacred tenet of the art, and any action made against the sanctity of rank must be called out immediately. The idea of a "junior black belt" is preposterous. As a community- nay, as a BJJ family- we must decry this concept. While the action itself isn't outrageous, it's the first sign of the art becoming watered down and we must fight tooth and nail against this. Furthermore, when someone claims to be a black belt and isn't- like a UFC Gym coach of recent internet fame- we as a BJJ family, must call these poseurs out. We must protect the purity of our ranking and pedigree, and never sacrifice what makes our art special in order to broaden it's appeal.

BJJ will eventually go mainstream. Maybe if Beck had slapped on decent Ezekiel choke at the Grammy's, that could have done it. In the meantime, let's just keep supporting those doing their best to make BJJ as palatable to the general community as the UFC is today.

Peace, love and arm bars. 

The Keyser Soze Method

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: March 6, 2015

     Sixteen seconds. It took just sixteen seconds for Ronda Rousey to put away her most anticipated opponent since her explosive career began. For Cat Zingano- a fighter who had been regarded as the most likely candidate to dethrone the undisputed queen of female mixed martial arts- knowing for a year the fight was coming, months worth of planning and six long, hard weeks of constant training and fine-tuning of her game plan came to nought after a scant sixteen seconds. Cat came out fighting MMA, Ronda made the fight all her own, and showed the world what Olympic-class judo looks like in a brutal display of surgical prowess. Nary a strike thrown; instead a throw, sweep, transition and a preposterously perfect arm bar to put away the last woman considered a legitimate threat to the championship.

      What tends to be lost in the speed and fury of such a remarkable victory is the true extent of the preparation that makes that performance possible. Yes, Ronda knew for just as long as Cat that they would be fighting, and had a training camp of similar duration and intensity. But the preparation required to utterly dismantle every single opponent in the ring to the degree Rousey has done thus far began years before she started training for mixed martial arts. 

     There's a colloquial story about Picasso sitting in a park, when he is recognized and a woman asked him for a drawing. He pulled out a pencil and began to sketch for a few minutes on a napkin. When he finished, he showed the woman the sketch.

"Wonderful!" she exclaimed, "May I have it?"

"Sixteen thousand dollars," Picasso stated.

"That's outrageous. It only took you ten minutes to draw that."

"No, madam," he retorted, "it took me twenty-two years."

    Expertise is an accumulation of time spent developing a skill. The degree of expertise is compounded by the intensity with which perfection is pursued. The difference between prowess and mastery is a difference between interest and obsession. 

     Anyone can bang away on a piano for an hour and call it practice, but it takes unrelenting dedication to produce a Ben Folds. Anyone can scribble thoughts out on paper, but it takes merciless self-criticism to produce an Ernest Hemingway. Anyone can sign up for a judo class, but it takes obsessive compulsion and masochistic discipline to produce a Ronda Rousey. She drove hours to get to the right coaches. She practised each technique thousands of times. Each new barrier that could have held her back became a new challenge to be mastered and defeated and would prove a springboard for growth. 

     What an outsider will callously label as 'obsessive' behaviour is what champions call dedication. It's the Keyser Soze method of pursuing greatness. Keyser Soze rose to the top of the food chain (albeit in a fictional world, but the metaphor is apt and the movie is flippin' awesome so deal with it) is the ability to take things to a level his competitors were unwilling to go. To pursue greatness at the expense of all that which does not truly matter.

     Look at Kit Dale as another example. A black belt in less than five years. That's an insane accomplishment. On paper, it's absurd. As a white belt whose spent nearly two years pursuing that elusive royal blue, it's simultaneously inspirational and demoralizing. It's inspirational to know that it's possible to rise through the ranks that quickly if you dedicate yourself properly, and demoralizing to know that despite the efforts I have put forward thus far, they're not enough to be halfway through to a black belt. (As a writer of a blog entitled One Man's Journey to Black Belt such a promotion rate would mean for a lot more personal material in a much shorter time frame.) 

     Part of the beauty of jiu jitsu- at least from an administrative standpoint- is that the entire discipline maintains strict standards for what is necessary for a black belt (Recent Machado scandal notwithstanding), unlike so many other traditional martial arts. It's far more rare to find a jiu jitsu belt factory- a school focused on churning out belt promotions as quickly as needed to keep those monthly dues cheques coming in on time. Although it's painful to watch fake black belts get called out and subsequently publicly shamed, (as seen in the video wherein a UFC Gym BJJ instructor is called out as a phony) it does the community good by protecting the honour and valour of those who have dedicated the time to be deemed a master.

     What can take some people decades, Kit Dale was able to achieve in less than five years. How is this possible? The same way any human has ever achieved mastery: tireless work and the highest conceivable standards. I didn't see Kit rise up through the ranks, so I can't say what his natural acumen for the sport is or was. Regardless, he achieved his black belt in absurdly short amount of time by pouring in an absurdly efficient amount of energy into his own development. Four years to a black belt from where I'm standing means four years of missed night's out, four years of furrowed brows from friends and family asking "jiu jitsu again?" four years of non-stop training and meditation and pursuit of perfection one technique at a time.

Again, the Keyser Soze method. The ability to take your dedication to a level your cohorts will not.

    I want to earn my black belt. Before that day comes, I want to be a master white belt. Then, when the time comes, a master blue belt, and so on down the line until the day I can don the black. I want to reach that Rousey-level mastery of the art. I want to accumulate stripes and belts with the speed of Kit Dale. I can't. At least right now. I'm married with three boys to look after and all the other responsibilities that comes with being an adult. I don't have the time or the ability to grind my days away on the mat.

     The great equalizer in my world is that my competition is in the same boat I am. They will also have families and jobs and responsibilities. For now, at least, I don't need to sacrifice as much as the masters have and do. Instead, I need to make masterful use of the time that I do have, and emulate a master's time management, dedication, discipline, self-criticism and commitment bordering on obsession that led my fore-bearers to greatness.

     To look at the masters is to know what is possible. The difference between a white belt and a black belt is just the accumulation of time spent developing the skills, compounded by the dedication to perfection. One technique at a time, class after class, week after week, year after year. Until eventually, all it takes is sixteen seconds.

Peace, love and lightning-fast arm bars.


Whiplash, and Training Masters

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: February 29 2015 

     There is something incredibly satisfying at the core of the movie Whiplash. A young man is ferociously bent on becoming an all-time great drummer has every inch of his mettle tested by a mirthless, merciless professor whose pitiless methods either bring out the best in his students, or cause them to completely collapse. Beyond the fact that the movie is perfect (yeah, I said it.), I believe one of the reasons it appeals to so many people is that we recognize the method to that sort of madness. We know it works. It's an uncomfortable truth, but at our core, we know that antagonism fosters aggressive growth. There's no better impetus for self-improvement than an echoing chant of: I'll show them. I'll show them all.

     I was a fat kid. Not Mississippi fat- this was around 1996- but I had a perky set of B cups jiggling under my t-shirts and the low-swinging pride to match. I already had a season of football under my big-ass belt, and being an offensive lineman with a great desire to justify eating entire sleeves of cookies at a time, took refuge in the idea that I needed to be heavier (euphemism for fatter) to be better at my position. My second season, however, I entered the first Ring of Fat Boy Hell and it's guardian demon was a former Marine Recon officer with a sadistic attitude and mile-high standards.

     In this cultural climate of participation trophies and hyper-pussification initiatives, what I experienced throughout that season of football would be considered bullying. It wasn't. It was a man stating uncomfortable facts in a harsh but appropriate manner in front of my team. I was fat, and that made me slow. If I am slow, I cannot contribute adequately to the team. If I cannot contribute, I am useless. If I am useless, the team will lose. These are objective facts. Yes, he called me fat. Yes, he called me slow. But instead of leaving me dejected and ready to quit, he set the table (fat kid joke) for me to knuckle under and get mad. At him. I started working my ass off every second on that field. At first it was because I didn't want to become the target of his ire- and then when I still caught flak, I worked even harder because I was going to show that motherfucker. Anger is an incredible engine. It drove me to outwork everyone around me to show my coach he was wrong about me. At the end of the year, when he threw his arm around me and told me what a good job I'd done, it made the whole summer's worth of sweat and agony worth it. Knowing that I could wind up with him as a coach again, kept me focused on training hard through the off-season. No way was I going through that again.

     I've often compared coaches to farmers. Their students are their crops; tended to carefully and diligently, whilst creating an open, nurturing environment to foster healthy, productive growth. In the same way farmers go to county fairs to exhibit their wares and compare them to other, competing farmers, so do coaches bring their students to tournaments to display a combination of their students' talent, but more subtly, their acumen as teachers. Growing athletes, especially in a discipline as highly-skilled as martial arts, has got to be a fickle trade. Developing of techniques and creating game plans and managing egos and expectations is a taller order for a coach to handle in a single student, let alone an entire team. 

There comes a time when a coach must transgress from the metaphorical farmer to the metaphorical blacksmith. There comes a time when it's time to put away niceties and a gentle touch and get tough. In the way a crucible burns so intensely, the impurities of the metal are burned away, a student needs to be wilfully put into states of stress and duress to break bad habits or forge new, proper ones. When the ore has been purified, it needs to be smashed into shape. It's not that the blacksmith is bullying the metal, nor is he being cruel. He is using the explicit and exact application of direct pressure to make the metal more useful as a final product. If the metal should break, better it happen on the anvil than in the field, and it can be repaired immediately. This is how proper tools and weapons are forged. With intense heat and tireless smashing metal into shape. It's gruelling and utterly irreplaceable.

     I have had a lot of coaches for a lot of different sports in my life. Although I'm always more appreciative and generally more receptive to the encouraging 'farmer' approach, the 'blacksmith' style, the kind of leader J. K. Simmons channelled in Whiplash always get the most intense effort out of me in training. I sweat more in practice so I would bleed less in battle. This was a brilliant exchange in my pursuit of more hellacious and violent sports like football and rugby. These are not games that require a tremendous amount of subtly, and my positions were not those that required finesse (see:offensive lineman and accompanying fat boy positions).

Jiu jitsu on the other hand, requires a gentler touch- if you'll pardon the pun. It requires the farmer. The inherent scouring of the ego of rolling in class doesn't need further antagonistic accompaniment from a coach. There is no losing on the mat- only winning and learning. The learning process doesn't need the salt of a tongue-lashing or trash-talking.

     For me, there will never be a better antagonist in my jiu jitsu career than the unknown opponent. He is the perfect version of the Fletcher character because that opponent that I do not know, have not met, have no experience with, can be as mirthless and merciless and vicious as I need him to be. Because he is an unknown, because he is a nebulous truth, I can make him an absolute. He can throw metaphorical chairs. I can run scenarios in my mind of him trash-talking and criticizing at top speed while working tirelessly to outwork me. If I do three rounds of sparring, I know he'll do five. If I want to eat like crap, I know he's eating so clean Mike Dolce would weep with delight. If I want to take a rest day, I know he's doing two-a-days. And should the stress of the competition start to weight to heavy, I tuck him away out of my mind. It's perfect.

Anger makes for powerful engines. Compassionate teaching makes for highly skilled drivers. Combining the two is an easy recipe for champions, be it on the mat, on stage or anywhere in between. Now go watch Whiplash. If you've already seen it, see it again. It's perfect.

Peace, love and NOT MY FUCKING TEMPO!


Competition Mentality

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: February 20, 2015

"And now, as then, it is not fear that grips him, only restlessness. A heightened sense of things."

-Dilios of the 300

Disclaimer: My competition mentality is prone to being gripped by fear. I have the restlessness and a heightened sense of fear, but by no means am I not gripped by fear. I am by no means as badass as this quote. I just liked it for its badassness.

Without actually sitting down and counting them (cuz fuck math, son) I have done about a dozen jiu jitsu competitions in my short career as a white belt. From the first, the week leading up to those fate Saturdays is always marred with the steadily growing hum of dread. It's going to hurt. It's going to be hard. Worse yet, I could lose. The idea of going to sleep from a choke, or trying to power out of an armlock one second too many and hearing a snap- that's a pain I can live with. Bones heal, bruises fade away. But losing? That's a psychological defeat. That's a kind of pain that hangs around for decades, knocking around in your brain, waiting to bubble up while you're trying to fall asleep along with that dumbass thing you said five years ago. The shame. The embarassment. Now that's a legitimate source of fear.

It has taken me a while, but I have finally figured out how to practice jiu jitsu. How to properly pull back the intensity during a sparring session. That is a skill that took me way longer to figure out than I would have figured. But I'm there now. I can keep my heart rate low and my mind in control as I work through live scenarios with a partner. I can be slow. I can be patient. I'd like to say "I can be graceful," but that's a bridge too far. Suffice it to say instead that I can flow through the movements. 

If I could perform in competition the way I can in practice- in light rolling and full-blast, balls-to-the-walls sparring- my coach and I would be a lot more satisfied with the execution and outcomes of my matches. I'm not about to diminish my victories, nor do I mean to imply my coach has been anything but incredibly supportive during competitions. That being said, the next class after a tournament is full of a lot of hard truths that need addressing. 

I am an emotional wreck on competition day. As soon as I step into the venue, I'm immediately wondering if it's too late to sneak out the back. Truly. I can keep my mind under control the morning of, and during the drive to the tournament. Once I'm actually there, seeing a crowd of spectators and competitors (but more importantly hearing the tournament already happening, the slaps on the mat, the cacophony of coaches' instruction, cheers and cheers- that motley chorus just kicks my balls into my throat), my mind begins to race, my palms begin to sweat and all I want to do is start so I can be done. 

Leading up to an actual match is a different animal. By now my anxiety is at a fever pitch. I know who my opponent will be. I know when I will begin. I can drown out the stimuli of the rest of the tournament by keeping my eyes low and my music volume high. (Speaking of music: as a change of pace, I was listening to a mix of Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer and John Williams while waiting to be called on to the mat. Try it, seriously. It's like you'll be rolling to save the world.) My mind is focused on my breathing and my muscles staying loose, warm and pliable. The only words bouncing around my brain are "Total control." My only concern is to demonstrate total control over all the variables I can manipulate. At this point, there are not many. I have a loose game plan, but with tension this high, words and strategy begin to fail. I know how the first, oh, say, six seconds of the match will go. Then hope the training takes over.

This is where things start to fall apart. 

It's not that I abandon the game plan, or that technique goes completely out the window. It's that my brain drowns in a torrent of adrenaline, fine motor control is reduced to that of a drunken chimp and my technique en masse retards by roughly six full months worth of development. Ugly isn't the best word for it, but it's the first that comes to mind. My coach sometimes calls it bullying. I can't argue with it. Finesse is replaced with power. Patience is non-existent. I try to bury my opponent with an avalanche of strength. I am nowhere near the crushing glacier I had hoped to be. I am, instead, a marauding Uruk-Hai berserker charging headfirst in the fray.

Eddie Murphy talks about how eighteen year olds bang in his special Raw. "Y'all are just like this," and he stiffens his whole body ramrod (HA!) straight, and convulses wildly, "because you're just so surprised you're fucking. By the time you hit twenty-two..." his whole body relaxes, and he starts to gyrate with smooth, practiced finesse.

That's a pretty solid comparison to my jiu jitsu game. The whole endeavour of a jiu jitsu competition is still so new, so overwhelming, so shocking that all confidence and swagger falls away and I turn into this rigid, convulsing mess, looking to prison-pummel my way into a quick submission. During practice on the other hand, with nothing at stake, I can relax. If there's any truth of applicability in the Eddie Murphy metaphor, I've got about two more years until I reach the cool-headed finesse and smooth movement of a twenty-two year old. Not a bad timeline, overall. So, uh, look out, blue (purple?) belts of 2017, cuz I might actually be as good in competition as I am in practice.

I know experience is the best teacher with this. I know the only way to inoculate my nerves to the stress of a tournament is to do more tournaments, and build up my tolerance. By then, all those sensations will seem like an old, comfortable pair of shoes I can slip on and go for a nice, leisurely walk through my matches. But that time is not now. In the meantime, I have to keep my nose to the jiu jitsu grindstone, listen to my coach and make definite, permanent progress to my game and technique, so when game time comes, and the adrenaline knocks me back six months, I'll still maintain a modicum of finesse. Get a little better every day.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE! 

PEDs in Sports

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: February 13, 2015

      Before I delve into an introduction in earnest for this blog post, allow me to presage it thus; firstly, this week of all weeks is perhaps not the best to try to offer any novel perspective on the use of of PEDs because if your social media network is constructed anything like mine, then you, too, have been all but buried in a figurative avalanche of PED scandal and opinion pieces. Secondly, it is necessary that I clarify exactly what I mean by PEDs as mentioned in the title of this piece: I mean steroids. The euphemism of Performance Enhancing Drugs is ultimately a misnomer buzzword used to egregiously and absurdly group together chemicals with usage and benefits so utterly disparate, that a single term can encompass the use of creatine, cannabis and Dianabol. Its absurd. Therefore, for the purposes of this blog, let it be known that my definition of a PED is exclusively steroids.

     Both Diaz and Silva tested positive. Rough week for professional MMA. Diaz pissed hot for cannabinoids (shocker) and Silva tested positive for steroids (actual shocker). Now Hector Lombard has tested positive as well, and if the rumours coming out of fight camps are to be believed, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since the UFC has drastically increased its investment in rooting out steroid users in the organization, more fighters are getting caught and we have the first wave of high-profile cheaters getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Or at least the metabolites that conclusively prove that the cookies were in their system in the past three weeks.

     While many non-athletes and commentators scoff and condemn the very notion of professional athletes using steroids, I simply cannot. I understand it. The idea of competition (of any kind) is to do anything and everything within the rules of the game to win. Fighters cut weight to increase their chance of being matched against someone smaller than them. Jon Jones uses an open-hand probing strike to gauge distance that whoops! just so happens to poke everyone in the eye. The Patriots film their opponents practical. Bob sledders put weights in the front of their sleds (or so Cool Runnings has led me to understand). Everyone is always on the lookout for the next, best, most effective and legal substance that can best replicate the effects of steroids. (Ultimately, that is what these supplement companies are selling you; little tubs of sugary chemicals that will do a fraction of what steroids are capable, but legally.) When you are training twice a day for six weeks for a chance at a purse that can spell the difference between your kids' college funds or needing to sell the house- steroids can certainly seem like a viable option. 

     Furthermore, when your athleticism can actually become a marketable enterprise, the temptation to chemically enhance your abilities must increase by an order of magnitude. As a football player, knowing that if you can consistently hit like a Mack truck and knock another man's spleen out of his asshole will mean; a) you'll be on the weekly highlight reel on the regular, b) your jersey sales will increase along with c) your cash value to your team (and any off-field endorsements you may have)- why wouldn't you roll the dice? The answer is honour. Honour is a keystone tenet of all martial arts. It's something that even the casual practitioner takes seriously. This may be why there aren't doping scandals breaking out in the jiu jitsu world, even with the rise of super-shows like Metamoris- there isn't enough hard-hitting sizzle-reel content. Until the world becomes jiu jitsu-literate, and major companies and networks come in, wallets flying and endorsements through the roof, there isn't the incentive to use these chemicals. Money hasn't (yet) had an opportunity to corrupt the honour of the athletes.

     The beauty of all professional sports is its purity. It's pure, athletic capitalism. In the free market of talent, the athletes we see grace our screens are the ones who outworked the competition to become the undisputed best in the world. There is no nepotism, no politics, no backroom dealings to decide who makes the roster. You'll never watch the NFL, NBA or UFC and hear someone say "Well, the only reason that guy's even playing tonight is because his dad owns the stadium," because an athlete's personal background plays no role. It is purely a matter of skill and discipline and ability to deliver under the highest pressure we can muster. When you watch a professional athlete in action, there is an unspoken, innate knowledge that no one else on the planet can do what these humans can- and that is the primal allure of professional sport.

The use of steroids throws a shroud of suspicion over the entire ordeal. There's no way to distinguish where natural ability ends and steroids begins. Could Silva have beaten Diaz if not for the steroids? Could Bonds have hit those runs? Could Armstrong had peddled his little bike yada yada yada who gives a shit any way- he was riding a bicycle. Steroids can't make a non-athlete a superstar. Every town has at least one gym loaded with guys on the spike, desperate to achieve even a shadow of what Arnold had in his prime. It's never going to happen- it can't, that's not how it works. But when you have two equally skilled athletes squaring off, one using the juice and one abstaining, no matter the fashion in which the user wins, it's impossible (dare I say unethical) to claim steroids didn't contribute.

     In knowing that there will always be athletes willing to cheat, and there will always be athletes whose honour will never fail (tip of the caps to Tim Kennedy and Ronda Rousey), there needs to be stronger protocols for dealing with doping. The UFC has been very vocal and adamant about their new screening protocols, which is a huge step forward. While the screening costs go up, so too, should the consequences. Silva was fined two million dollars for his infraction. Two million. That's an insane amount of money. But it's not enough. He can take that hit. Diaz, who tested positive for cannabis use (which is a wholly separate argument, but in the interest of brevity let me just say that pot use shouldn't be punished as severely as it is in athletes), should receive Silva's purse. He stepped into the cage with an opponent who knowingly and wilfully broke the rules in order to win, and thereby is entitled to more money. I believe any victor that tests positive for steroids after a fight should turn their purse over to their opponent and their victory be vacated.

     I don't come to this argument with the sanctimonious position of 'ensuring young athletes have good role models,' because growing up in the environment that I did- the idea of finding positive role models in this cultural climate is slim at best. You really need to go digging these days. I come to this argument as a lover of the purity and honour of sports. I understand that stricter testing and consequences for steroids will likely mean less spectacle in sports. I know this means my favourite athletes may not last as long in the arena as their body breaks down with age. I also know that we're at the dawn of a new techno-medical age where soon the phenomenon of gene-doping will become an issue to discuss- but at this stage of athletic development and performance, I am willing to sacrifice a better card for the comfort in knowing that I am watching the height of unaided human athletic potential.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE! 

Internet-Entropy and the Evolution of the Gentle Art

Author: Chris Murray

Posted February 6, 2015

     The Internet has midwifed a new era for just everything. Anything on the planet remotely worthwhile has experienced some modicum of fundamental evolution since the Internet became involved. People will never interact the same way again. Businesses will never grow the way they once did. Knowledge- infinite and expanding oceans of information- are available for the cost of a few keystrokes and a mouse click. There was a time when one would need a library card and low regard for social interaction to develop a thorough understanding of how the Mongols devastated Asia. Now Dan Carlin can break that down for me in five action-packed podcasts and I can supplement that information with Masters-level history course lectures that have been transcribed and made available online for free. Thanks to the Internet, I understand protein synthesis and I'm a goddamn moron. I know that outer space smelled like hot metal and burnt meat. I know that Furries are a thing. I know that merkins first gained their popularity during the Elizabethan era because of a lice outbreak co-mingling with intense anatomical shame. The Internet is beautifully horrific and obscenely inspiring. The Internet is the most schizophrenically brilliant professor humanity has ever produced, and it can give you an arm-chair PhD in anything if you can discern the intellectual wheat from the chaff.

     Therein lies the great Exception of Internet learning. Since anyone has access to the content, anyone can create content. The amount of energy required to dispel erroneous information on the internet is at least an order of magnitude greater than the energy required to create it. How can the great Exception be navigated? Twofold; firstly, by having a practiced and certified authority vouch for its veracity, and secondly, (and less practically) applying said knowledge in a real-world laboratory.

     Martial arts, as has been observed ad nauseum of late has experienced more evolution in the past twenty years than in the past two thousand. As I have observed in earlier blog posts, this can very obviously and appropriately be attributed to the rise and dominion of mixed martial arts competition. However, the growth and adaptation of martial arts went parabolic with the advent of the Internet. Now anyone, anywhere, can see jiu jitsu trump every other fighting style in the early nineties in living colour. They can watch the evolution of the perfect fighting style clamber to include jiu jitsu and grappling hybrids as a necessity. They can watch jiu jitsu be incorporated nearly whole-cloth into the fighting lexicon of the mixed martial elite across the planet- and only of late, see but individual fragments of other martial arts be accepted as well. Lyoto Machida throws an Aikido-style front kick to the face, then everyone does it. Edson Barbosa sends Terry Etim into another dimension with a spinning heel kick, then everyone from Vitor to the skinny, fourteen year old kickboxing student is trying it out.

     While the Internet and the gruelling laboratory of MMA competition has made most traditional martial arts functionally obsolete, jiu jitsu has exploded in popularity. Not only is it the fastest growing sport in the world, but it has become so popular that you can see guys pulling guard or throwing up berimbolos in street fights. (Did you guys see that video of the dude who ducked the sucker punch, pulled guard, transitioned to a triangle and eventually heel hooking the guy? That was boss-level purple belt street jitsu.) 

     Although I do not follow other traditional martial arts, as far as i can tell jiu jitsu is the only art who's repertoire continues to grow. While other martial arts may pick up new techniques cafeteria-style from other styles- a form of progression that guarantees their eventual hybridization into a single form of striking (My guess it will all be qualified as differing schools of Muay Thai or kickboxing, and their won't be karate schools, but instead merely karate kicks being taught at the aforementioned kickboxing schools.), jiu jitsu seems to simultaneously contracting and expanding.

     In the days before the Internet, black belt techniques could only be observed in passing by underclassmen; like witnessing some occult ritual with hidden meaning and incredible power one could only imagine learning, let alone practising. Now, those same techniques are broken down by the picometre by the finest practitioners on the planet and available for free, here. 

     There was a time where magazines were the only means of learning a master-level technique without being a black belt or being taught by one. As an experiment, take a minute and actually try to learn a new technique using only pictures. It may work for a strike, but it definitely won't for a sweep. It takes scores of repetitions just to get a fundamental understanding of a new technique. Fortunately, that number can be decimated if you can watch a Rener Gracie or a Kit Dale execute and explain the technique ad infinitum, against a partner, from multiple angles. If you can memorize that level of detail in a breakdown, you may just develop a new tool to break out during open roll after class tonight.

     Now, a white belt can play around with black belt-level moves. It may be unlikely that a white belt would be able to execute that level of technique, but it's far from impossible. Ultimately, it's a matter of dedication and watching the right video. In the end, there aren't any exclusively 'black belt' moves. If an underclassman can wield the technique properly, he will. That's the nature of the contraction. Like a telescope folding into itself, jiu jitsu techniques are being informally harmonized across all belt levels. There is no secret black belt knowledge. If you want to learn it, you can. If you want to use include a new ninja transition in your game because Gary Tonon pulled it off at Metamoris, you can try it in class tomorrow with a keen enough eye for a good technique video. Keenan Cornelius invented the worm guard to counter the sharpest black-belt offence, and within weeks blue belts across the planet had that game mastered and the brown belts were tweaking it to make the whole set up more effective. As the innovators discover new methods, it gets posted to the Internet and collectively studied and nurtured by the global jiu jitsu hivemind. We, as a single harmonious engine , drive the evolution and expansion of our art at an inhuman pace.

     But how does the intrepid jiu jitseiro and web-crawler avoid the pitfalls of the great Exception of Internet learning? Simple. By delegating the responsibility of vetting the veracity and aptitude of the video and the technique to this website. We exist as a technological jiu jitsu thresher; separating the wheat from the chaff and laying it at your feet in bite-sized morsels. We are here in the hopes of further the development of jiu jitsu for the individual and the collective. It's not that we have wrist-lock videos, we have found the best wrist-lock videos. As the art grows, as more masters make better videos breaking down the minutae of each movement, we will continue to grow along with it.

Take a few minutes. Browse. Learn a new move and try it at your next class. It's what we're here for.

Peace, love and arm bars. 

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!

Slaying Phobos

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: January 30, 2015

     Competition is the scariest part of jiu jitsu. It also happens to be the most fun and rewarding, but before all else, it's scary as hell. The week leading up to the competition is the worst. Every spare moment your brain has to meander and possibly consider the weekend is punctuated by that rude punch-in-the-gut sensation, reminding you that the time to perform is nigh. If I start to think about a competition while I'm eating, I'm no longer hungry (Which is a big deal for me. I'm an ultraheavyweight. Not a lot of uneaten portions on my table.). If if it happens while I'm driving, I speed up without thinking. It's an unwelcome adrenaline rush and it's not pleasant. It's the exact opposite of the week leading up to Christmas.

     The bizarre thing about the fear is that I can't usually nail down it's origin. I know that the competition en masse is the source of the fear- but what is it exactly about the competition itself? Is it fear of impending pain? No, I know that's not the case. Even at the worst of times jiu jitsu doesn't hurt a modest fraction of how much football hurts. I was an offensive tackle. I ran headfirst into dudes running headfirst into me, I can deal with a pinched neck. Plus, knowing that I can tap at anytime gives the same kind of comfort you get when you control your own morphine-drip post-surgery- if the pain ever gets too much, I can make it go away. Furthermore, I know that if I walk away with a substantial injury (a la Big Nog's shattered arm care of Kimura-de-Mir) the blame rests solely with me. (ie. I could have tapped, but I didn't and now I have a piper to pay.) I have enough presence of mind to know that this is a martial arts competition, not a tickle fight. It's not going to be an afternoon of windy walks and Shiatsu, but it also isn't getting kicked in the face.

      Part of the fear is probably an outgrowth of the innumerable 'unknown' factors. I can learn the names and schools of the other competitors, maybe troll YouTube for some previous film to study- but there isn't a lot of actionable information that can be pulled from that. Especially in a sport where sand-bagging is a problem, and a white-belt in jiu jitsu can have extensive wrestling or (god forbid) judo experience, it's hard to know just what kind of skill-set you'll be lined up against for the match.

     I remember the week leading up to my first gi competition I expressed my trepidation about the whole thing. One of my teammates, a seasoned veteran (though substantially younger which made for an odd interaction) told me; "Once you get on the mat for your match, one of two things is going to happen. One, you'll completely forget everything you know about jiu jitsu, then it'll just be a matter of survival until your brain turns back on. Two, you'll remember everything and it'll be over before you know it." That Saturday, I started my day with the first option. My mind went completely blank and I had that paralyzing, ice-cold asshole sensation of abject horror. When we hit the mat however, the blankness actually mutated into a strength. The adrenaline rush made my body hyper-alert and simultaneously numb, and my inability to process thought allowed my muscle-memory-auto-pilot to take over and I won by keylock, almost without realizing it. That aggressive-Zen state is a wonderful/horrible thing. It's a competitive, utilitarian fugue state.

     It's also worked against me, and the blankness gave way to utter, mind-scrambling panic just one month later. I found myself squared off against a guy with fantastic stand-up and a berserker's urgency and that Zen-state manifested as me on my back, desperately shrimping to make my fetal-position-defence look tenable as I fought off submissions from a soul-crushing knee-on-belly offence. The fear won the battle for my mind, and my opponent won the battle for the cede. 

     Fear of losing is one thing, but this is more potent than that. At the root of it, after much contemplation is the fear of performing below my ability. Topically, there's the shame of being handed defeat (moreso by losing by submission; there's something viscerally repugnant of admitting that had the match been in the real world, I would have choked to death or had my arm snapped) and dealing with the psychological consequences of being bested by a stranger. But it's unlikely I'll see that stranger again outside of the insulated world of jiu jitsu competition. 

     However, the people around me- in my jiu jitsu circle and beyond- those who know I was in a competition, know that I had been training toward this thing only to come up short, those people are inescapable. The idea of being a force on the mat during practice and a farce during competition and having to bear that shame among teammates and family- that's where the fear comes from. The fear of being shamed.

     So how can I reconcile this? How do I slay the beast Phobos? How can I insulate my mind from nagging fears, and enter a competition wholly confident? Truthfully, right now I don't know that I can, nor that I will. I'm still new at this. Granted, I feel substantially less fear about competition than I did when I started, but I'm sitting here sweating through a t-shirt just thinking of next week's tournament (Seriously. My wife just came in and asked if I'm feeling all right). Can I defeat my fears? Maybe. Eventually. In the meantime, I can ameliorate them, by executing total, despotic control over all the variables that are under my influence.

     I cannot prevent my opponent from being a sand-bagger. I cannot prevent him from being better than me. I can, however, exploit every single second of mat-time to maximum effect. I can roll as much as possible. I can use every spare moment to consider my game, my strategy in an honest, objective fashion to find any holes that may exist and work to close them. I can train my ass off. That way, at the very least, I can walk away from a defeat knowing I went in fully prepared, or walk away from a victory knowing what is necessary to repeat that performance. 

     I imagine as I continue training and competing I'll become more comfortable in the days leading up to competition. As the techniques become more advanced and the stakes get higher, I imagine I'll go in with a great sense of exhilaration and anticipation than nervousness or fear. In the meantime, all I can do is focus on using the fear as a fuel for dedication and tool for increasing training intensity, and not let it consume me. Fear is a fire; a powerful tool if wielded competently, or a deadly master if left to its own devices. It's all a matter of discipline and focus.

     Now if you'll excuse me, I need a new t-shirt. Seriously. It's gross.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE! 

Fortune Favours the Bold, Victory Favours the Prepared

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: January 23, 2015

     This week's videos featured two living legends in the jiu jitsu world; Andre Galvao and Kit Dale. In addition to being masters, innovators and martial arts firebrands, they represent two opposing sides of a debate within the realm of competitive jiu jitsu; namely, the need for drilling. Galvao, a traditionalist (and some would deem a purist) has written a book entitled Drill to Win, while Kit Dale, a fast-moving phenom who earned his black belt in a scant four and a half years, publicly and adamantly insists that drilling is unnecessary. Clearly- with the heights these men have reached in this sport- when they speak, you should listen. But what's to be done when you get conflicting advice? To begin, I turn to history.

     Ever wonder how the Spartans kicked so many dicks in the dirt, their very nationality is synonymous with ascetic valour and hellacious victory? It sure as hell wasn't abs. In the decades leading up to the Battle of Thermopylae, city states would often violently annex their neighbours' land to add to their own. As a result, each city state procured and groomed a militia, whose duty it was to protect the homeland. These militia would have armour, and would take time off from their regular work to occasionally drill and execute mock campaigns should the enemy ever come knocking. These drill weekends would usually look like what you'd expect a militia meeting to look like in West Virginia right now. Lots of weapons, a little too much booze and a ton of grab-ass (sometimes literally- this was ancient Greece, folks.) As a result, these groups would more often than not be caught on their heels by marauders and then be wiped off the Earth, one home at a time. Whereas the Spartans raised every able bodied male to become the penultimate warrior- the perfectly milled cog for the war machine. (We've all seen 300, I don't need to expand further.) As a result, no one deigned to fuck with Sparta. They didn't play at war. They lived for it.

      Just before the Persian invasion began in earnest, the Spartans went to war with the formidable Syrakusans. The Spartans had been expected, were outnumbered by an enemy that had done everything to prepare the battlefield in their favour (placing boulders on the Spartan advancing side, setting fires, using rivers and siege walls to create natural flanking positions, etc.) and still managed to win the day. As a witness to the battle explained, the Syrakusans, though trained, charged the Spartans in the throes of fury while the Spartans waited patiently just over a half mile away, still in tight formation. As the lines neared each other, the berserker Syrakusan formation lines fell apart, becoming an effluent wave of screaming humanity, while the Spartans held fast.

     With just a hundred yards between the two fronts, the Spartan officers called for the army to prepare for battle. Instantaneously and with the mechanical precision of a single unit, the entire Spartan line closed ranks, raised shields and lowered spears as they had, hundreds- thousands- of times before. The mere act of maintaining such discipline and calm exactitude in the height of violent fervour caused nearly a third of the Syrakusan army to retreat. They knew they were out-matched and out-skilled. The remaining soldiers charged the line and were ground to slurry by martial automatons until their officers could take no more and called for a retreat.

     Everyone knew the Spartans had won before the battle began. Their reputation certainly preceded them, no question. However, when the enemy charged, they were able to demonstrate the extent of their training before the first swords crossed. The Spartans maintained superhuman composure, and a single act- getting into position, no less- was done with such extensively honed meticulousness, proved to their opponents that they had prepared more thoroughly, were more confident, than they could ever dream to be. The Spartans won the battle psychologically. First, by being so comfortable in the scenario of combat that nothing could faze them. Secondly, that comfort allowed them to focus only on their technique. Thirdly, their comfort, their ability to execute regardless of the scenario, completely overthrew the confidence of a lesser-experienced, though larger and wilder opponent.

     Ergo, drilling is the foundation of technique. Deep understanding of technique midwifes confidence. Confidence heightens execution. Proper execution of flawless technique trumps everything. 

     If you have a professor worth his salt (Greek military idiom reference), he knows how to teach perfect technique, perfectly. The purpose of drilling is to ingrain the minutiae of the movement into muscle memory. There are gifted people in the world who can have a technique demonstrated once, then naturally intuit how to implement the new technique into their game. In some cases, there are certain techniques that jive so well with someone's existing repertoire that the same thing happens. However, I feel confident in saying that the majority of techniques (particularly the fundamentals) needs to put through the crucible of drilling in order to become properly honed. It's true that the same can be achieved from live-sparring, but if you have access to the laboratory of a drill to isolate and perfect the subtle nuances of a particular technique- why wouldn't you? There isn't a debate about whether drilling is necessary in football, soccer or boxing because experts understand the need for constant adjustment and fine-tuning of the smallest movements in order to improve the entire skillset.

      Conor MacGregor has made a real splash by, among other things, admitting that he rarely goes in with a strict gameplan, instead opting to allow the movement to flow, and his movement to be based on instinct. Meanwhile, in the same arena, 10th Planet fighters are consistently putting on clinics in the octagon and no-gi tournaments alike by adhering to an established decision-tree pathway strategy to submission (ie. move A leads to move B, B leads to C, C leads to tap out.) Although opposed, neither of these methodologies can be considered inferior because of two common factors; 1., expert practitioners that are 2., winning handily. Ultimately, this case is akin to the difference between a scat-jazz saxophonist and a classical cellist. While one flows intuitively, allowing his instincts to guide him to a higher art, the other follows the exact instructions he's been given to deliver a stunning performance. While the execution is radically different, the result is the same. No matter the genre or style, so long as the player has a masterful understanding of the fundamentals of his art- he'll perform beautifully in whatever manner he so chooses.

     Is drilling necessary for everyone? No. There are absolutely no absolutes. As a white belt, I need to drill. I need it. My familiarity with fundamental jiu jitsu is decent, but far from perfect. I imagine as I continue to rank up, my fundamentals get better, my repertoire grows and it takes more to surprise me on the mat, the necessity of drilling will diminish substantially. In the meantime, I'll continue to drill like a Spartan- constantly looking to refine and hone my movements, to commit each new technique to muscle memory, and try to win the psychological battle. I'm still comparatively new to competitions, so anything I can do to bolster my confidence is a huge advantage. Spartan abs won't hurt anything either.

See you on the mats. Drilling.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!! 

Prospect Profile: Jordon Rowe Ranked #1 in the OJA

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: January 16, 2015

     Do yourself a favor. Next time you're at a jiu jitsu tournament in Ontario, be sure to say hi to Jordon Rowe. Because in a few years, you're going to want be able to say that you knew him back in the day. And it will be easy enough to find him- just hang out by the podium and he'll swing by soon enough to pick up his medal. At sixteen years old, Jordan is a phenom on the mat and in the ring. His natural ability to learn and immediately implement new techniques, along with a militant discipline executed with baffling nonchalance. Being guided by fantastic mentors and coaches make Jordan a standout at tournaments, a punishing opponent, a vicious striker, an imposing prospect and an impressive kid just pursuing his passions.

     Currently ranked number 1 in his division in the OJA, Jordan has accrued an absurd amount of medals since starting competitive jiu jitsu just a few years ago. Absurd is a strong word, however not even his own coach can pin down the figure. Suffice it to say, it's enough to warrant a chiropractor should you choose to wear them all at once. Equally skilled in the gi and out of it, Jordon's performances in competition are always impressive and strangely visually contradictory. I'll explain.

     His trademark opening stance is to assume a position of almost blase disdain, a facial expression of wincing annoyance. The footwork manoeuvres honed to razor-sharpness, now executed in a manner somehow simultaneously listless and precise. There isn't an inch of rigidity to the movement, and the whole affair now seems curiously...casual. While his opponents move with the stiff demeanour of practised martial artists about to exact their trade against their mark, Jordon flows, almost meanders. He looks...well, bored. But the instant he clinches with his opponent, everything changes. Albeit stone-faced and with an air of disinterest, Jordan suddenly springs to life and mirthlessly imposes his will. The plodding flow transforms into martial acrobatics. He's unpredictable and that makes him unstoppable. Even as someone who has rolled with him for almost two years, I still can't figure out in which direction he's going to attack until it's too late. As someone who has watched him compete at a half-dozen tournaments, it's stunning. 

     While appearing to have the attitude of someone who has somewhere they'd much rather be, Jordon Rowe consistently rolls circles around his opponents. This appearance belies his tremendous dedication and focus during training. His casual attitude is a by-product of hundreds upon hundreds of repetitions, of putting each technique through the crucible of experience, of unflinching focus on making use of each minute on the mat. All this, combined with his remarkable rapport with his incredible coach Mike Weichert, and the warfighter mentality inherited from generations of military greatness, makes Jordon a force on the mat.

     That warrior mentality is most obvious in his striking game. With a current record of one and one, Jordon is off to a strong start in his kickboxing career. His loss comes from a tough decision bout, wherein he broke his hand early and finished the fight strong against a tae kwon do black belt. Although the fight did not go his way, it does however stand as another example of his iron will and how his stubborn toughness almost borders on a fault. 

But, wait, why focus on the loss first? Because the story of his victory is the stuff of legend.

     Jordan's kickboxing victory is the result of a hellaciously violent and shockingly brief match (beating?) wherein he literally (and I mean literally, not the colloquial 'literally' as an emphatic version of 'figuratively') kicked the shit out of his opponent. A punishing- absolutely flawless- kick to the midsection early in the first round sent Jordon's opponent hobbling to the bathroom to make a hasty deposit. That's right folks. He's also the inventor and proprietor of: RoweKixLax!

Yes, it's RoweKixLax, for brutal relief from occasional irregularity. Non-chewable shin-tablets used for: treating constipation, and rude implements of destruction. RoweKixLax can be used as a ruthless stimulant laxative. It works by irritating bowel tissues by kicking them into your spine, resulting in bowel movements and Internet gold.

     At sixteen and a blue belt, the future is bright for Jordon Rowe. The wise move would be to snag those rookie cards now. Just look for the guy at the podium that looks like a live-action version of Robin from Lego Batman. (I've got a four year old, that show is on day and night. And the similarity is uncanny.) I'd like to offer a heartfelt, well-deserved congratulations to Jordan for being ranked number 1 in the OJA- a fitting reward to the tireless hours spent honing his craft on the mat. All the best in your bright future.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE! 


WorldStar Validates Jiu Jitsu

Author: Chris Murray

   Posted: January 9, 2015  

 One of the most glorious, wondrous jewels of the cretinous, grotesque underbelly in the depths of the internet is WorldStar. If you are a male with enough technological prowess to call up this blog and the world WorldStar does not immediately resonate with you- if not trigger a cascading flashback sequence of soccer kicks to the dome of unconscious drunks on the street, toe-curling cheap shots and awful, awful technique- you're doing your Internetting wrong. WorldStar is a peephole into countless people's little slice of existence, usually depicting first-world humanity just about at it's worst. Which is not to say that fighting is first-world humanity at its worst- far from it- humans fight, it's part of being a pack animal and being forced to live among others. Conflict is imminent. What makes the whole endeavour so cringe-worthy is the sheer barbarity of the typical street fight. Sucker-punches, wailing on people well after the fight is over, having a whole group take on a single opponent; all this proves ad nauseum ad infinitum that street fights are not fair, they are not what Hollywood has trained you to believe, nor are they isolated incidents in your life that bubble in and out of existence. Street fights are scary, they are brutal and each one has the potential to permanently damage someone's life.

     This blog entry should likely be retitled Why Junior Needs Jiu Jitsu: Continued. The very existence and popularity of WorldStar ought to be enough reason to convince any parent to enrol their child(ren, if not themselves) in martial arts. As people living in society- nay, our species and collective evolution are extraneous here- as mammals living among other, competing mammals, we must expect that eventually the social contract will break down among individuals and/or packs and some will revert to the most primal expression of conflict resolution and actively seek to perform harm (or worse) upon others. Barring some spontaneous, gargantuan evolution in our simian brain, or at least within the constructs of our communal interaction as a species- humans are going to be violent with each other. This violence can be unexpected, unprovoked and sometimes unavoidable. Some account for this by carrying guns or knives or mace or other self-defence tools. However, in general, it's a lot more prudent to just learn to properly defend yourself using your own body. Enter martial arts. 

While no martial art is invincible, Brazilian jiu jitsu is about as close as it gets. At the very least, its the safest for all parties involved. Furthermore, anyone with a modicum of polished BJJ technique can trump someone looking to throw down in the streets. If WorldStar has taught us anything, it's that untrained people all fight almost exactly the same way. Observe:

Male technique: Throw probing jab by snapping the elbow straight to find range, (unless you are Russian,

                     which makes this step a kick of some kind.)

Follow with a looping right haymaker thrown with the back foot off the ground,

Repeat until your opponent is in grabbing range

Attempt a leaning takedown while throwing frantic ten-inch punches. 

If on the ground, take mount and pound your opponents skull in.

Repeat until fight is over.

Female technique: Grab opponents hair with left hand and pull

Punch with right hand

Repeat until fight is over.

How does this lunacy validate jiu jitsu? There are abundant reasons, but herein I shall focus on three.

     Firstly, but for the repugnant Knockout Game, the fights on WorldStar could have all been avoided. The easiest way to instill the character to walk away from a fight, or at least the respect for inherent dangers of fighting, is training in a martial art. Even in a highly controlled sparring match, fighting is scary. This is because without equivocation, someone is trying to hurt you. If you are not scared, you are either monumentally stupid, borderline psychopathic or full-blown Rory MacDonald. Experiencing the avalanche of emotions in fighting and then eventually learning to maintain your composure under extreme duress is the essence of martial arts practice. The fact that BJJ, by the grace of not having any striking, can be trained at full intensity- all out combat seeking to choke out or injure an opponent- even in a sparring match between friends, drastically heightens this learning curve. Subsequently, the ego of the BJJ practitioner is scoured away as he or she is acutely aware of exactly what they are capable of- however much or little that may be. Furthermore, as someone who is consistently testing themselves, their technique and their resolve- a BJJ player rarely has anything to prove to themselves. Ryron Gracie has said that he could have been in dozens of street fights, but has actually been in none. He's one of the highest ranked martial artists in the world and has never been in a street fight. Not because of lack of skill, will or intestinal fortitude, but because he knows there is no way it can end well. The best lesson BJJ teaches for impending street fights is to (if possible) walk away. Sticks and stones and whatnot. The vast majority of WorldStar videos begin with obligatory trash-talking (which, gone unchecked, often meander into the homoerotic...those are my favourite.) While some can be goaded into conflict with the right set of expletives, as a BJJ practitioner, you know that you could put that douche to sleep with your Darce, or snap his arm in half with a standing kimura- and that's enough. Now walk off into the sunset and live to roll another day.

     Secondly, for those unprovoked instances of violence (namely bullies, robberies, and sexual assaults) BJJ offers a methodology to end a fight that offers (comparatively) minimal damage to yourself and/or the attacker, and also a means to end a fight despite size descrepancy. There's a reason BJJ is considered BullyProofing. Not only does it teach self-esteem and composure, it teaches how to use leverage- not strength- to take an opponent to the ground (thus eliminating their striking base), getting to the top position and inflicting your will. On the schoolyard, this may mean pulling guard, sweeping to mount, then holding on until a teacher can arrive. In a robbery situation, this may mean hip-tossing a thug to the ground, taking mount and Ezekiel choking him to sleep and then calling the police. As a female dealing with an attempted assault, it may mean using the Hane Goshi to take a larger opponent down, then baseball choke the scumbag out, snap him arm with a keylock, then kick him a few times in the dick (on principle) and run for safety. In a world where the average physical confrontation is either unexpected or wildly unfair at the outset, BJJ is a means to safety/victory for the undersized, and/or those interested in ending a fight as quickly and safely (for both parties) as possible.

     Thirdly, those unavoidable scrapes- or those committed to in a fit of hasty rage and cocksure foolishness- have a strong tendency to end up on the ground. As can be observed in countless videos, people under extreme duress have a tendency to do the exact opposite of protecting themselves when on the ground- namely, giving up their back. You can see dozens of guys end up in a defensive position (on the bottom) when a fight goes to the ground, and their first instinct is to roll belly-down, cover their ears and turtle as best they can, whilst the guy on top throws merciless, panicked bombs to the head. It's a bad scene. One of these kinds of poundings even ended up with it's own Gracie Breakdown (which I highly recommend.), wherein the Gracies explain why the shock of being on the ground and fear of taking damage drive a man to render himself offenceless and thereby essentially defenceless on the ground. 

     As has been outlined above: fighting is scary. Fear makes you stupid. Defending yourself requires skill and practice. Becoming marginally competent on the ground is basic jiu jitsu. You can't even expect a stripe unless you can properly defend yourself. Once you've figured out the broad-strokes of defending yourself on the ground, you can figuring out how to turn the tide (sweep) and eventually capitalize (submit) in a ground scenario. Seeing how so many of these documented fights end up on the ground, and how poorly things turn out for the fighter on the bottom, it underscores the prudent, dire need for jiu jitsu. Being competent off your back can save your life.

     The existence of swords necessitated shields. Firearms necessitated body armour. Nuclear weapons necessitated missile shields. In the evolution of combat, necessity has led to the invention of defensive tools. As a result of the ostensible devolution of social interaction and propensity for street fights, people need jiu jitsu. Not just for the fun, not just for the workout, but for training of one's body and mind to handle themselves safely in the event of attack. Jiu jitsu is not an impenetrable defence. WorldStar has shown in droves that the gentlemanly accords of a fair, one-on-one fight are well and gone and nothing, no fighting style can work for long against multiple attackers. The very best method of defence in a street fight is not getting in one. Run, if you must. I'd much prefer to be pronounced a coward than pronounced clinically brain-dead from getting curb-stomped after a lucky punch turns my lights out. The second best method of defence, and the best method of preparation for those kinds of scenarios is to train jiu jitsu. WorldStar, in all its grotesque glory, just proves in spades that jiu jitsu is necessary and prudent. WorldStar validates jiu jitsu.

Peace, love and arm bars.

(P.S.: My apologies in the delay between my entries. I had a few chambered, but Murphy's Law prevailed and the files were corrupted. I appreciate your patience, and hope you all had safe and happy holidays. Happy Festivus and Merry New Year. BJJ FTW.) 

 Sorry guys!! Chris is on vacation, I will get his next blog A.S.A.P.!! for now check this out!

Your Resolutions Will Fail. Make Goals Instead.

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: December 19,2014

Brace yourselves. Winter is coming. As the noble Starks of Winterfell have bemoaned and forewarned all these glorious summer and autumn weeks, the snows have fallen and taken hold. Within a week's time the first day of this fateful season shall be upon us, and soon thereafter- the most harrowing festival in all of the Western World. After but a scant few days from the Great Heralding of the New Year, our precious Sanctums shall be inundated with wave upon wave of the fearsome Resolutioners.

Equipped with new iPods, sneakers, baubles and the latest addition to the Holiday Belly, gyms across the continent will be crushed and overrun by new members. These newcomers will sign their year-long contract while repeating the oft-recited mantra; this is the year, this is the year, this is the year..., they make an earnest albeit weak-willed attempt at incorporating the gym into their routine- but slowly, as January transitions to February and fades away into March, the punishing flow of the non-committed will break and gently ebb back to a mere fraction of its former glory.

Lest this read as a personal criticism of those new members, the Resolutioners, allow me to clarify. Gym membership levels explode in the nascent weeks of a new year. The rise in gym membership sky-rockets, but the general attendance level is parabolic; an awesome surge upwards to an impressive and brief climax, followed by an equally awesome surge in the opposite direction. By March (at the latest) upwards of 85% of the new members fade away never to be seen again. The sub-15% that survive are owed a heartfelt congratulations for beating the odds and making a positive change in their lives.

I can't legitimately fault those that quit on their health and fitness Resolutions for two reasons. Firstly, getting in shape and/or exercising by-and-large sucks up and down a flag pole. I can still remember my first few seasons as the fat kid on the football team, sucking wind and sucking in general at something everyone around me seemed to excel. The embarrassment, the frustration, the humiliation of failure is more than enough fodder to feed into the powerful Excuse Generator and return to the comforts of sedentary mediocrity. Secondly, the overwhelming majority of Resolutions are doomed to failure before they are begun- not for their scope but for the circumstances in which they are born. Whether a Resolution is to get in shape, learn a new skill or make any lifestyle adjustment- if it is predicated on the notion of waiting to start based on a(n ultimately banal) point on the calendar, it cannot be considered something of terrible import to the person who makes it in the first place. If a personal change of any breadth was considered worthwhile or in any way important, it wouldn't require an illusory transition on the calendar to take root. Making a New Years Resolution to get in shape is like making a New Years Resolution to not be on fire. If it was that important to you, you would have started already.

However, I digress. Soon enough, the fitness equipment will be overtaken by half-hearted exercisers and the mat population will swell slightly. I have more hope for those whose Resolutions involve jiu jitsu. I would wager that the retention-level of BJJ clubs (or any martial art, for that matter) is higher than the typical health club. I would also wager that the likelihood of a Resolutioner becoming a dedicated acolyte of the Church of Helio and Latter Day Stranglers is equal to that of anyone testing the waters at a BJJ club at any time of year. (I'm curious what the over-under would be on first-timers puking after their first roll. I puked. Can't think of anyone who didn't their first time, come to think of it.) Trying BJJ for the first time is intimidating- not only for the same reasons listed above, but also because it's a martial art. It's entirely more comfortable to be bested by an inanimate weight set than another human being. Most people can't recover from that, no matter the time of year. Those that do, at least by my experience, take to the mats like ducks to water and the rest is history.

To the Resolutioners considering BJJ as a means to fitness, or as a new skill to be learned: a hearty welcome to the brotherhood. If you stick around, you'll form close friendships while learning to conquer your enemies so that you may see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women and so on and so forth and whatnot, Arnold quotes and other dramatic language to tie in to the introductory paragraph.

Ultimately, fuck your Resolutions. If you had plans for making yourself our your life better, there is no reason you needed to wait until a New Year. I have had countless diets whither and die waiting to start on a Monday that never came. The changes and resolutions that have the highest probability for success are those that start immediately, regardless of their timing, convenience or practicality. The longer you stall, the more time the Excuse Generator has time to stockpile ammunition.

New Years should be a time of goal-setting, instead of an arbitrary starting line. On the surface this may appear to be a semantic difference, but observe. Resolutions are typically a matter of behaviour change- an adjustment of a current habit or trajectory. Whereas Goals are actionable endpoints which can thereby have plans developed to reach them. Why resolve to 'get in shape,' when you could instead focus on losing twenty pounds? The specificity of the goal makes it all the more likely.

My goals for the New Year pertaining to jiu jitsu are as follows:

1. Win the World Championship as an Ultraheavyweight White Belt. Because fuck it- I'm dreaming big. I have the best damn coach I could hope for and an incredible team that kicks my ass as a matter of routine. If I can make proper, efficient use of my learning time on the mat and use each lesson as an opportunity to get 1% better, I have a real shot at this.

2. Earn my Blue Belt. Lately I have become increasingly aware of the differences between white belt execution and blue belt execution. The most prominent distinction is the idea that while blue belts are properly executing the techniques with precision, white belts are mostly just 'making the shapes' of the technique. While a blue belt slaps on a triangle and locks that shit down for a tap, white belts transition into a rough approximation of the proper body positions, then squeeze like hell and hope for the best. Its akin to watching a 14 year old and a 4 year old write the alphabet- the obvious difference between someone who intimately understands not only the shapes, but is familiar with the minute details of execution for maximum effect, versus someone making a rudimentary facsimile of the shapes and angles without the benefit of experience or mechanical literacy to execute with anything resembling precision.

I'm beginning to recognize my shortcomings and make the adjustments to improve on the techniques that I'm familiar. I hope to keep this up and further develop my understanding of the fundamentals.

3. Medal as a Blue Belt. Because fuck it- I went big once on this list, might as well go big again. It'll be a whole new level of competition, and I'll be shunted straight to the bottom of the totem pole in that division, but every competition I've ever entered has been intimidating so I might as well kick it up a notch.

I'm curious to see what this list looks like in a year. Even if all three are pie-in-the-sky unlikely, I'm still going to work on making definitive steps toward them each day. I suppose I'll have to redouble my efforts now that I've committed these thoughts to the ether/bandwidth/whatever. In the meantime, I'll keep this blog updated with any new developments or shortcomings (hopefully more of the former than the latter.)

In the meantime, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas (fuck your secular-humanist, hyper-non-denominational PC Winter Holiday Festival nonsense. Jesus was black and he was hear to party, now strap on a dumbass sweater, cheer up, listen to Joey Diaz and sing the songs.) Enjoy your time off with the family and take some time to spread some love. It's a beautiful time to be alive, my friends, and the world needs to be reminded of that.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are you thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!



Eric Garner, Excessive Force and the Dire Need for Better BJJ in Policing

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: December 12, 2014

We have a serious issue on our hands. As crime rates plummet, instances of excessive force and police brutality are on the rise- or at least the reporting of these instances is increasing thanks to the newfound ubiquity of the smartphone. In the past month, the news media and internet alike have been awash with scathing headlines decrying the forceful actions of police that have led to the deaths of several people. I have no interest in getting bogged down in the politics and social implications of these arrests. I do have tremendous interest in discussing two lines of thought that are actually pertinent to jiu jitsu blog and they are;

a) the argument of the 'submission' hold versus the 'choke' hold of Eric Garner, and

b) the utterly paramount role of martial arts (especially jiu jitsu) in policing.

Gracie jiu jitsu is the most commonly used combative method for police departments across the United States. Other departments and countries also employ various schools of jiu jitsu as well as their means of effectively and efficiently subduing a suspect for their arrest. I've just had a friend complete the first stage of police training where he spent a lot of time on the mats learning the techniques he may be required to employ against someone resisting arrest. My love for jiu jitsu aside, I am a huge fan of this idea. Jiu jitsu is the optimal martial art for police officers because- as any versed practitioner will tell you- a well-trained jiu jitsu player can manipulate the body of another person with as much, or (ideally) as little force as is needed. I am infinitely more comfortable with the idea of cops getting an unruly drunk into a restraint position by using posture, leverage and joint fulcrums, rather than clubbing, tazing or pepper-spraying him into compliance.

I am equally comfortable with a police officer using all the tools at his disposal to deal with anyone who is considered an active threat to them, or anyone else for that matter. If you make an attempt for an officer's gun, he has the right to shoot you. If a police officer were to shoot you within four seconds for arriving on the scene, that police officer will go to jail. If you are unarmed and resisting arrest, a police officer has the right to use only force that is necessary to force you to comply. These are the reason crime rates are going down folks. We have men and women willing to become part of that thin blue line that separates society from chaos.

That being made abundantly clear; NYPD Joe Pantaleo choked Eric Garner. Let me be clear. I am not saying he is responsible for his death. Eric Garner was four hundred pounds, had asthma and heart disease. I do not believe that same arrest scenario would have killed someone in better health. I believe strongly that the amount of force exuded by Pantaleo and the accompanying officers was excessive. The Gracie brothers posted a lengthy video explaining the anatomy of the submission hold that is taught to police officers to be used in this type of situation; wherein the officer's arm is used to restrict blood flow through the carotid artery to the brain, and pacify the suspect, if not put the suspect to sleep. This video has been pointed to by members of the news media that the officers only followed their training during the arrest.

I'm a white belt. In the hierarchies of jiu jitsu, it is not possible for me to suck more and know less about this art I love so much- and even I can tell that's an air choke, not a blood choke. It's the same shape as a blood choke, but the application is way off. To the uninitiated, it looks similar to what the Gracie video demonstrated- but I could say that a dude from WorldStar used the same punching technique as Chuck Liddell because their overhand rights looked the same. (As a side-note, I'm not nearly arrogant enough to think anyone of media import is reading this, but: To those of you who claim 'if you can't breathe, you can't talk,' I cordially invite you to; a) get on the mat and have someone actually choke you before you try to spout that nonsense again, and b) go fuck yourself. Preposterous arrogance.)

To properly sink in a blood choke to as to pacify or render someone unconscious from a rear naked choke takes tremendous precision and practice. Even minor deviations in arm placement, movement, squeeze will drastically alter the efficacy of the choke. It can make the difference between, say, subduing a suspect twice your size or potentially contributing to his cardiac arrest. It can make the difference between a standard arrest and national headlines. It's what makes necessary force excessive.

Which leads me to my second point. Despite crime rates being at an all-time low, anti-police sentiments are at an all-time high. Do I think this sentiment is undeserved? No. But there are simple and actionable steps to rectify this.

Firstly, there is empirical evidence to show that police wearing body cameras leads to a drastic reduction in complaints about excessive force from citizens, and the ubiquity of security cameras and smart-phones all but guarantees there will be a video record of an arrest. This is a tremendous boon for police/citizen relations and we need this as much as possible. We need to take action against authorities who would and do arrest those who film police, and the nefarious and egregious minority of officers who step beyond the boundaries their authority or outside the law need to be dealt with swiftly and harshly as individuals.

Citizens appropriate their hard-earned dollars to have men and women keep the streets safe. I sleep soundly at night knowing I have police officers willing to do what it takes to keep me safe. I sleep even better knowing that the few who deign to behave criminally are being caught and dealt with the the full extent of the law.

Secondly, there is a reason why so many police departments use Gracie Combatives as their means of physically controlling suspects: it can be maximally effective whilst minimally damaging. It is the perfect martial art for police- especially when their actions are being captured on video. A wrist-lock looks infinitely better than an elbow to the face. While police training requires a certain understanding of these manoeuvres and techniques to graduate, the accepted level of proficiency is evidently and obviously insufficient. These officers need more training. These officers need more time on the mat, more frequently, for their safety and ours.

I want the boys in blue sporting black belts. I want to know that they are more confident in their arm-drag than a right cross. I want to know to that they can overcome any suspect using their mastery of posture, leverage and technique. I want to know if they are arresting someone twice their size, they can properly apply a blood-choke and put the guy out in nine seconds, than have the whole debacle degrade into a schoolyard dog pile that puts a non-violent offender into cardiac arrest. But especially because I want a police force with at least a modicum of the enlightenment that comes with martial arts mastery.

That dissolution of the ego that Rogan always refers to so affectionately? I want that attitude in a police force. The days of Barney Fife are well and gone, my friends. We need guns with full clips and pepper spray and tazers. But we sorely need good, balanced individuals wielding these implements. The best way to do this is to get them on the mat and have them humbled. Have police officers experience that humbling torrent of being a white belt that scours the ego away, and then that life-altering swell and rebirth as a martial artist who can put a man to sleep without throwing a punch. Give them the confidence that comes with the abilities of a jiu jitsu practitioner and an effective outlet to expel all the awful energy that comes with constantly dealing with the public at its worst.

We need to remember that police officers are people who have elected to spend their lives protecting and serving the public. Subsequently, we need to remember that these officers deal with a level of negativity, ire and spiritual poison that we can't imagine. They spend their days in a car or behind a desk, dealing with people on their worst day. Of course it takes a toll. How could it not? These men and women need a constructive and positive means of working through these emotions, otherwise we get videos of police brutality repeated ad nauseum in the news media echo chamber. The public needs well-balanced police officers, and police officers (as a whole) need a better understanding of jiu jitsu as a mean of defence and as a form of therapy.

I truly think jiu jitsu is a major part of the solution to the problem of police brutality and excessive force. I'm biased, I know, but I want what is best for everyone. Riots and sensitivity training are repugnant and useless. The media misrepresenting facts to fit a provocative narrative is reprehensible. Instances of police brutality are as disgusting as they are rare. Criminals belong in jail, even if they wear a badge. Police deserve respect, and need to re-examine their standards for physical competency.

Jiu jitsu solves all. It's the social panacea. What a beautiful art.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!

Chris had surgery this week on the downstairs. NO MORE BABY'S for him!! LOL! So I can't wright a blog so here is a motivation video on the path to success with Felipe Costa.

 Path to Success

Felipe Costa

Time: 36:09

How Ultraheavyweights Got a Raw Deal

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: November 28,2014

We ultraheavyweights have a bad reputation, by and large. We have a bad habit of going too hard with the smaller guys on the mat. We don't mean it. We're just one big collective Lennie Small, and everyone else are our beloved rabbits. (If you understand that reference; firstly, Lennie Small is from Of Mice and Men, and secondly, why have you deprived yourself of John Steinbeck?) We don't mean to go too hard, it just kinda happens. It's not our fault. Jiu jitsu is a smaller man's game. In a sport where the creation and deletion of space between two bodies is the first parameter of success, we big dudes ended up with a raw deal. Our tiniest openings are big enough for the smaller guys to scramble through. Take a look at the winning classes in your average Absolute division. It's pretty irregular to find an ultra on the highest platform of the podium.

I have two competing theories as to why ultras rarely succeed in the Absolutes. Firstly, it could be that most ultraheavyweight players began learning jiu jitsu at an age when they were already substantially bigger and stronger than their peers, and use this inherent strength to counterbalance imperfect technique while developing their fundamental skills and instincts. I, for one, always found it profoundly easier to bench press an opponent off me than take the time to develop a proper side control escape. (It took getting spanked my first competition match to prove that idea to be asinine.) Secondly, (and I submit these ideas may not be entirely exclusive) is that it is not possible for an ultraheavyweight frame to manoeuvre properly against a smaller, equally skilled opponent. Our longer frames naturally create larger, unavoidable spaces during transitions that can be exploited, and these longer frames carry more heft to manipulated, which takes more energy and more time. Our only compensation for our lank and bulk is strength. It's not as if we're on the mat with team-mates hoping to pour on the power and smash an under-sized opponent (which can certainly happen, but ultras who engage in this behaviour are part of a fringe group of players known as 'Colossal Assholes'), it's that our frames and shape make the type of mobility and manoeuvrability enjoyed by the lighter classes impossible, and all we can hope to do is slow them down.

Either way, we are big people playing a small(er) person's game. We are all one big Lennie; well-meaning and enthusiastic, but typically too large to be totally useful in comparison to you lighter guys, the collective George; smaller, sharper and usually the ones to put Lennie down when the time comes. (I would have given a spoiler alert, but the book's 77 years old and the movie's been out since '92. You had your chance.)

Jiu jitsu is a game of patience and grace, and I've never encountered a truly graceful ultraheavyweight, especially compared to people of smaller stature. Frankly, I doubt that sort of grace is possible. You don't see male floor gymnasts over six feet. At the highest levels of MMA, its rare to find people of that stature with technicial prowess sufficient to draw a crowd. Although you'll never see someone like Big Country or Travis Browne with footwork like TJ Dillashaw, you'll never see someone like TJ or John Dodson with face-crushing punching power. We may not be able to scramble like Nate Diaz, but a Joe Lauzon couldn't slam a dude through the planet like Daniel Cormier. Our shape dictates a different style of jiu jitsu. Our inability to bend like rubber, or move with robotic precision necessitates our reliance on strength and relentless development of base and posture. It may not look as smooth on film, or in real life, but its effective. James Joyce wrote Ulysses in crayon- the method doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to be effective.

In the Savannah of Jiu Jitsu, we are Nile Crocodiles; we are the biggest predators with strength for days, but are generally slow-moving and far from the apex predator on the mat. However, we use our bulk as effectively as we can, and no can argue the efficacy of our attack style. Is it the prettiest, most agile or most impressive? Far from it. But when executed properly, it's pretty damn remarkable. The lighter weight classes range from lions, to hyenas to honey badgers, and I'll leave the assignment of those classes to someone else. (But lightweights, you guys are the honey badgers. Jesus Tapdancing Christ you guys go hard and you do not give a shit.)

We do, however, have one major benefit to being our size come competition time. While the rest of the competition team may be doing extra burpees, wind-sprints and toughing out aching hunger to cut and make weight, our main concern is to not mention food in front of people cutting weight, lest we suffer the wrath of feisty, hungry team mates. If you want to see what an ultraheavyweight per-competition nutrition regime tends to look like, take a minute and creep Vijay Hemenchal's Facebook page. It looks like the prize for a Reward Challenge halfway through Survivor. It's glorious. I'm getting ready for a competition as I type this and I just had a snack- wasn't even that hungry. Just eating because I wanted to. Now that's an advantage.

In the end, ultraheavyweights are just like any other jiu jitsu player/addict doing their best to achieve some modicum of expertise on the mat. Our body size and inherent athletic capacities have forced us to adopt slightly more brutish attitudes on the mat than our lighter brethren. In team sports, we could be assigned positions to keep us away from the smaller guys- linemen in football, backs in rugby, defence hockey, drunken hooligans in soccer stands- but when it comes time to free roll, sometimes we get matched up with a bad pairing. We're not brutes, we're just big guys playing a small man's game. In the meantime, we'll keep trying to keep up with the rest of the class, and keep a secret smile for when teammates in the lighter classes have to start cutting weight. Jiu jitsu is a brotherhood, after all. Ultras just happen to be the bigger, slower brother that you'd love to have behind you when the shit goes down.

Peace, love and arm bars.


What do you think? Join the discussion Forum HERE!


The Deceptive Simplicity of Strength Training for BJJ

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: November 21,2014

I will be the first to admit that I overuse physical strength when rolling in jiu jitsu. It's my ace in the hole, and although its appears crude on the mat, it is a skill that I have worked years to hone. I have enough presence of mind now to adjust my strength output according to the weight of my rolling partners in class, but when rolling against classmates my own size, or during competition, it's fun to let the strength run free for a while. Jiu jitsu may be the gentle art, but I think we've all seen enough Rickson matches to know that that adage tends to be a little more ceremonial in competition scenarios. In general, I would say that as you get into the higher weight divisions in jiu jitsu, strength training goes from useful to paramount. While the lighter classes need to maintain conditioning and flexibility above all else, the heavier classes need to compensate for lacking flexibility with power.

Regardless, strength is a necessary skill for jiu jitsu that deserves attention. Although technique will always trump strength, strength does have the potential to offset unpolished technique. Strength should be treated like condiments on a hamburger- a means of subtle enhancement. If used (and trained for) properly, it can take you to the next level.

The bodybuilding world has utterly saturated the world of sports conditioning in the past few years. Some of the concepts have caused some major development in athletics, however the majority are useless movements that pack on muscle in places it's not needed at the expense of another dimension of athleticism. In jiu jitsu, as in all martial arts, muscularity has a point of diminishing return. It's all well and good to develop a monster squat, but if you do it at the expense of your triangle choke- what have you actually gained?

Instead of encouraging hypertrophy, the goal of strength training for jiu jitsu players should instead be on increasing strength efficiency (ie., becoming stronger at your current bodyweight) and unconventional training methods. Unconventional methods are growing in popularity and are becoming easier to access at the average gym and are worthy of their own separate blog post, so I will leave these for another time.

Throughout my journey as an athlete I have had access to supremely educated coaches, and have spent enough time in the gym testing the newest and oldest forms of strength and conditioning to have a decent handle on what actually works. (Bottom line: if your program came out of a magazine, it doesn't work.) The strength and conditioning needs of a BJJ player are unique, but simple.

"There is no point to be alive if you cannot deadlift."

-Jon Pall Sigmarsson, while deadlifting 1,005 pounds

No matter your weight class or experience level, you can always benefit from the development of the posterior chain. Far and away the best way to do this is the almighty deadlift. Anyone familiar with this exercise knows where and how often this dimension of strength factors in to jiu jitsu. From maintaining a closed guard, to finishing arm bar, and everything in between- the deadlift covers it all. If nothing else, this is the one movement that can- nay, should be trained heavy to improve on the mat.

For the inexperienced and the dedicated gym rat alike, the best overall method for training the deadlift for all weight classes in jiu jitsu is Mark Rippetoe's 5x5 Program. It's as simple as it appears to be; five sets of five reps.

Train as heavy as is safe and log your weights.

For the especially hardcore or those looking for an additional challenge beyond the realm of BJJ, may I humbly present Chad Wesley Smith's Juggernaut Method. In addition to having the most bad-ass name in all of sports conditioning and being endorsed by Romulo Barral, Juggernaut is challenging and exciting way to make substantial gains on the bar that can be applied to the mat.

While the programs above cover deadlift, they also include squat, military and bench presses. While training all these movements can have a positive impact on your performance on the mat, squat and bench are two movements that should be maintained, rather than developed. In my experience, you'll develop the pressing power needed for jiu jitsu through weighted military press and bodyweight push-ups much more efficiently than with benching, and squatting heavy just invites injury and limits flexibility.

The only other 'traditional' weight movements that are important lifts for jiu jitsu are dumbbell rows and chin ups. No matter your age, weight, gender or starting level of strength, you should be doing chin ups. It helps everything. Everything. Rowing exercises are also hugely helpful for developing applicable strength. Lawnmower rows, Kroc rows, T-Bar rows, cable rows- you can't go wrong. As you get better at these supplemental movements, all the muscles that help to fill out a t-shirt get bigger.

This segues into a very important side-note: this is all the arm training you need. Fellas, step away from the bicep machines. Stop curling. It's unnecessary. The best you can hope for is a bulky meat balloon on the front of your arm that will fill with blood and gas out after a few seconds of squeezing on the mat. Trust me on this. You do not need to work your biceps. Chicks dig jiu jitsu players enough as is.

Since I'm on the subject of arms anyway- the most important area of strength outside the posterior chain for jiu jitsu is grip strength. In BJJ, having a death-grip can save your life or win you a gold medal. It also happens to be widely overlooked in the weight room. If you're already deadlifting, chinning or rowing on the regular, but are doing so with wraps- you're robbing yourself of the most crucial part of strength training for jiu jitsu. While Farmer's Walks, shrugs and working with axle bars or Fat Gripz are fantastic weights to improve hand strength, what I have experienced the most improvement with are Scramble Grip Trainers. They are gi sleeves that can be wrapped around bars as handles. Not only can they be used for all the exercises listed above, but you can adjust your grip to work on the hand positions most often used in your game.

It almost goes without saying that the best strength and conditioning for BJJ is BJJ itself. While there is no better way to improve the condition of the muscles used than actually rolling, this isn't always an option. For those of you who want or need a little more than a few sessions on the mat per week, I hope I have offered some guidance in choosing a method that is right for you- but more importantly right for your goals in jiu jitsu. Don't get suckered into fitness magazine pseudo-science or photo-shopped movie stars. Instead, focus on the elements of strength that are used the most in your jiu jitsu game and develop those accordingly. Seriously though, stop curling.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion Forum HERE!

 Finding Heroes Close to Home

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: November 14, 2014

"All the best heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary."

­-Gerard Way

We all have heroes in jiu jitsu. Just as all people, of all walks of life, elevate someone else to superhuman

status, everyone who has donned the gi has set their sights on someone else and thought; "I want to be like

them." I watch videos of the Gracie brothers, Jean Jacques Machado, Eddie Bravo, Fabricio Werdum and

others, and in between the waves of inspiration and awe, a part of me whispers 'someday.' What makes this

inspiration actionable is all these jiu jitsu gurus have laid out the path to success: unwavering dedication

married to the highest order of discipline attached to the technique. Everything else is variable.

As a white belt, I watch international superstar black belts sculpt masterpieces of martial artistry in matches

and get floored. These guys are producing Renaissance­era busts on the mat while I'm stabbing popsicle

sticks into Play­Doh. I've got black belt dreams and white belt ability. I plug away each class, always focused

on making another step forward each time. Whether I'm adding a new skill, or shedding a bad habit, I insist on

progress. The much whiter, though equally profane CT Fletcher voice in my head screams, "I command you to

suck less!" However, there are times when it is hard not to be discouraged when I compare myself to the living

legends of the game.

What is equally inspiring (if not more so) is to pay careful attention to people better than, and closer to me.

It's all well and good to watch Metamoris and try to dissect the technique and the strategy behind it, but these

athletes are executing at a level I can barely dream of at this point. They are black belts. By and large, they

could not be any further away from me in terms of ranking and ability. Watching matches at the tournaments I

attend, watching blue and purple belts throw down, watching the intermediary levels, lays out just what it looks

like to be at the top of your game at each ranking. At blue and purple, everyone is still light­years ahead in

their ability, but even my feeble white belt brain can recognize the evolution of the game­play, the precision in

the movements and the dramatic change in pace and flow. These players are all still much better than me, but

are at least closer to my level, and thereby their ability seems a lot more accessible.

We all have our heroes­ the superstars, the innovators, the legends. Black belts, all. We use them as idols

and landmarks for achieving greatness in our sport. For me, I have found it just as motivating and necessary to

discover the heroes a little closer to home. I'll lay them two of them out here.

There are countless people I try to pay close attention to when I see them at tournaments, and its entirely

possible that they'll be featured in the same way in the future. At this time, I'd like to take this opportunity to

publicly recognize the two competitors that have had the biggest influence on my game lately. Both are

international champions and when you see them in action, its easy to see why.

Eric Francis: Ultra Heavyweight Blue Belt

I first met Eric last year in Toronto at a tournament. We were already marginally familiar with each other

from occasionally crossing paths playing offensive line in the OUA. (he was much, much better than me, as

his record unequivocally shows.) We were both white belts at the time and I distinctly remember watching him

roll for the first time. As soon as he was engaged in stand­up, my overwhelming thought was "Oh, Christ I do

not want to have to fight him." Lucky(ish) for me, this did not happen because I managed to very thoroughly

shit the bed on two consecutive matches and was able to watch him win gold from the safety of the sidelines.

Not only is he huge, not only is he strong as an ox, but he has an ineffable calmness on the mat that is

infinitely more intimidating than the harshest war face.

Early last month, I had the fortune to watch him again at the Abu Dhabi Trials in Montreal. He is a blue belt

now, and in between us seeing each other he had made it to California and won gold at Worlds­ a dream that

I, too, hope to achieve. Our divisions happened one after the other, and I was able to watch most of his


What makes Eric so impressive is his patience. He exudes a state of grace on the mat. He never appears

rushed, as each manoeuvre flows into the next like musical harmony. I watched him pass a guard like a slow-

motion tsunami. He was patient, gliding over his opponent with restraint, confidence and unrelenting power.

He used his physical strength as the metronome, setting the pace of the match to what suited his intentions,

whereas I tend to use my physical strength for little more than a rude smashing tool.

Studying his matches and style have taught me that achieving world­championship level white belt

proficiency lies in fluid, confident movement. Achieving the same at blue belt requires a mastery of base and

posture to force your opponent to play your game, by your pace and using silken, melodic flow to take your

position, secure your submission and win the match.

A master in the making, and a man whose footsteps I hope to follow very closely.

Arther Zuka: Featherweight Purple Belt

I can't think of two players with more contrasting styles than Eric and Arther­ but if you're not inspired after

watching Zuka roll, you're not paying attention. He's frenetic, he's unconventional and unpredictable and

always, always entertaining. Take a second and watch some of his highlight reels. Seriously. Right now, this

blog isn't going anywhere. Go watch Zuka 2.0 on the competition page, here:

Pretty flippin' impressive, right? I can't do that­ can you do that? You lying bastard, of course you can't. If

you could do that stuff you'd need a chiropractor to fix your neck from lugging around all those goddamn


I first met Arther at my first ever tournament, but I was so panicked and dizzy that I barely noticed. I had an

opportunity to roll with him a few months later when he put on a seminar at my school and was utterly

confounded by his technique. He set a pace I couldn't handle, and when I did manage to get a decent hold on

him, he seemed to Nightcrawler BAMF! to a dominant position. It was like wrestling a shadow. He showed me

what Shinola looks like.

What makes Zuka so impressive is his calculated tenacity and guile. He always seems to be in the middle

of setting something up, but has enough wherewithal in the midst of a match to let go of something if it isn't

there­ a lesson I sorely need to learn. His approach is unlike any I've seen in that I always tend to see him

attacking from or hanging out in positions I'd never considered. Although he's always moving, probing, looking

to improve position or attack, there is no wasted energy. I'd almost liken it to an episode of Curb Your

Enthusiasm (wait, I'm going somewhere with this.). Both an episode and one of his matches start out strong

and set the pace. Although its not likely you'll witness something totally novel, you will see some oddball

moves and unpredictable turns that are as impressive as they are unexpected. Finally, everything will

eventually coalesce into a masterfully constructed punchline and when it's all over, you turn to whoever is next

to you and say "See that? That's why he wins all the awards."

Studying his matches and style have taught me the importance of finding a well­tailored approach to the

game. You may not be able to do everything an opponent can, but if you can perfect a strategy that maximizes

your unique strengths and abilities on the mat, it won't matter. An opponent cannot defend a move if he

doesn't recognize it. A little subterfuge on the mat goes a long way. Finally, I've learned how badly I need to

abandon the white­belt security blanket of holding on to submissions when I know it's likely to fail.

Everyone needs someone to look up to, someone to emulate. The beautiful thing about jiu jitsu is that the

techniques of the masters aren't hidden away and horded by a cabal of masters. Everyone wants everyone to

improve­ if you want to learn a move, you can just ask. There's no ego attached to the knowledge, it's not

treated as finite and sacred, it's shared willingly and openly.

I imagine if we polled every player in the world, we'd find tremendous overlap on who we consider our jiu

jitsu heroes. But what about on the more local level? Who is out there setting the pace and blazing a trail on

the Ontario jiu jitsu scene? Leave a comment and let us know.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion fourm HERE!

Fight Club is Obsolete

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: November 7, 2014

Fight Club made a contribution to the Western cultural zeitgeist that can still be felt today. In the book and

movie, a nebulous militia of disillusioned suburban males pressed back against the crushing existential void of

Western hyper­-commercialized living by beating the living piss out of each other­ violently reconnecting with

their most primal instincts. This idea spread through North America like a virus­ every group of guys I know

had access to a Fight Club if they wanted­ an opportunity to cast off polite social norms, hide away somewhere

and throw some bones. While it may have been gratifying at the time, that behaviour is ri­-goddamn-­diculous. I

mean, honestly, think about it.

I am a huge Fight Club fan. I have the book, the special edition Blu­-Ray, I even had a copy of the

screenplay on my computer for a while. I had the poster of the Ten Rules of Fight Club on my wall to let

anyone know that I was a 100% certified wannabe suburban badass. But the idea that a group of guys would

still get together and try to hay­-maker each others' brains to mush in a world where BJJ clubs and MMA gyms

are almost ubiquitous is asinine. I don't know Chuck Palahniuk. I do not claim to understand the operation of

his mind. However, this is what I predict the story arc of Fight Club would be if it had been written today:

Jack, a cog in the corporate machine, reaches a point of abject existential crisis. After failing to achieve

sufficient emotional release from various therapy groups, he discovers a friend who knows of a Brazilian Jiu

Jitsu Club. He then works through his problems and reconnects with his primal hunter-­gatherer self, and

becomes a more stable, well­-rounded and athletic human being. He doesn't blow anything up, he doesn't

try to cut anyone's balls off, and he still makes a ton of friends.

A jiu jitsu club is not just like a Fight Club, it's better. A member still gets all the benefits of a spontaneous

purging of all the inherent pent-­up emotions of modern Western living by trying to choke the life out of

someone, all the benefits of the sacred camaraderie forged when a group sweats and bleeds together, all the

benefits of pushing one's body to the absolute limit, without the drawbacks of, oh, say, some skinny dude

punching your balls into oblivion on the basement floor of a tavern.

Jack finds Tyler and Fight Club after months of feigning weakness in group therapy sessions. He would

escape into a padded womb of pity­ where his weakness was welcomed and applauded. When that method

dried out, he was lured over to the other side and coaxed into exploring his potential for strength and

aggression instead. Humans are aggressive people. It is this quality that has made this civilization possible.

Now, our civilization has developed to a point where this same aggression, this desire to conquer or ability to

overcome is no longer necessary and has been packaged as abhorrent. While, of course, it is infinitely more

humane and intelligent to use brain power to resolve conflict, the primal ape­-brain foundation within all of us

still needs assuaging from time to time.

I am of the opinion that the social and personal angst that seems to be so inseparable from modern living

these days is a mental, emotional and physical consequence of disregarding our species' natural ability and

desire to occasionally push the body to its limit, and/or dominate a competitor. By and large, this angst can't be

cured with talk therapy. That approach usually stabs at the leaves of the problem, rather than hacking at the

root. The best means of overcoming modern existential abjection is choke therapy.

Sure, you could get a group of dudes together and really have at the Jack and Tyler method, but eventually

all those head shots will come back to haunt you. There's a reason we have a medical diagnosis of pugilistic

dementia. Skip the concussions­ choke your friends instead. Its the choice of the discerning savage.

"Third rule of Fight Club: someone yells "stop!", goes limp, taps out, the fight is over."

­Tyler Durden

"Fight Club became the reason to cut your hair short and cut your fingernails."

I challenge you to go through a whole class with long finger or toenails and see if you don't get called for it.

When you're rolling in jiu jitsu, your hygiene is no longer a duty to yourself, its a duty to the whole class. See

what happens when you try to wear your gi one session too many without washing it. That doesn't make you

hardcore, it makes you a dick. A smelly dick. You must respect your body the way you respect your partners.

"Only after disaster can we be resurrected."

This is a parallel statement to the tenet in jiu jitsu that you either win, or you learn. I know I, for one,

experience the most significant growths forward as a player after being absolutely smashed by my team.

Furthermore, the most significant growth I've seen in those around me is the personal evolution that comes

with playing jiu jitsu. The ego is slowly ground to dust. Jiu jitsu players are the most laid back people I've ever

met, and it is because we acknowledge and accept our weaknesses and actively work to improve them. This

level of introspection begins on the mat, but eventually, inherently, blooms forth into all dimensions of life.

"Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing."

Gracies. Think of the Gracie brothers cranking and choking the daylights out of each other for decades to

make this art possible. Think of the thousands of soon-­to-­be masters doing the same, trying to develop the art

even further. Think of the pain and sacrifice you put in to every single class, every stripe, every promotion. The

gratification doesn't come from a colour change or a strip of tape, these are merely symbols. A physical

manifestation of your triumph over adversity, a technique, a competitor, yourself.

"A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he

was carved out of wood."

This is almost too easy. Replace "Fight Club" with "jits" and you're done. Compare yourself from your first

outing on the mat, to who you were after your first stripe. Still scared to get your neck pinched? Likely not.

"I say never be complete. I say stop trying to be perfect. I say let's evolve and let the chips fall where they


I am a four­-stripe white belt who writes a blog called "One Man's Journey to Black Belt." As a jiu jitsu

player, I couldn't be much farther from complete. As far as rankings go, I'm only four pieces of tape away from

being totally incompetent. Every minute on the mat is another step forward in my evolution. I may not know

much, but I do know that my black belt will only be another step forward and far from my last. I will never be

perfect. Nothing about my current game or technique is perfect. Some of it is good enough, but that's as far as

it goes.

Frankly, I don't expect to ever get to a point where I consider anything perfect. As I have mentioned before,

this game is in a constant state of entropy. Nothing is static. Everything is moving, everything is building upon

itself to become slicker, sharper, more proficient. I've certainly never had a roll or match that I could remotely

consider perfect. A mindset of contentment breeds complacency, which is the first symptom in the death of

growth. The day you consider your technique to be perfect and untouchable is the first day you start to whither.

Jiu jitsu is an addiction with a vicious grip on me. I will never have enough. I will be the weird old guy in the

corner with the tattoos and the big ass white wizard beard. It's cheaper than therapy and more rewarding than

lifting weights. It's not about how I look, but how I can perform. It's not about proving anything to anyone else

but myself. My biggest opponent is myself­ getting out of the way and letting the art do its job.

There is no high more rewarding or more freeing than collapsing in a sweaty heap after a gruelling match.

It's an opportunity to let schedules and responsibilities and money and traffic and all the endemic bullshit of

trying to be an adult truly slide and just let the ape out of the cage for a while.

Although it's not from Fight Club, there is one literary quote that applies equally to the mythos of the book

and the reality of jiu jitsu. I've found myself thinking about it a lot lately when thinking about the bonds I have

forged with my team mates.

"From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered—

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother..."

­William Shakespeare; Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are you thoughts? join the discussion forum HERE!

Witnessing the Evolution of BJJ

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: October 31, 2014

"The art of jiu jitsu is worth more in every way than all of our athletics combined."

­-Theodore Roosevelt, 1905

What an incredible age of martial arts in which to be alive. Thanks to laboratories of professional mixed

martial arts organizations, humanity has borne witness to the most substantial growth and adaptation of

martial arts in history. The results are astounding. When the UFC premiered as a contest focused primarily

pitting one martial art style against another, it was proven unequivocally that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu trumps all. (As

an interesting side-­note for all you UFC historians out there, take a minute and listen to the personal

comments coming from each fighter before a match. While other fighters claim they will win because they are

tougher, or stronger, or Jesus loves them the bestest­ only Royce claims that he will win because his style is

superior. He's not representing himself or attempting to dazzle with machismo­ he brands himself as an avatar

for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Remarkable stuff, says I.) Out came undersized Royce Gracie, the only fighter sporting

full gi in the tournament, and he trounced everyone. His ground game was so perfect and so unexpected that

Art Jimmerson tapped out to mount. The position. He tapped to the position.

The next few UFCs demonstrated the consequences of Royce's domination. Royce hadn't spent any time

developing his karate game, or his kickboxing, or Sambo. But every other competitor had taken some time to

develop their ground game. When Brazilian Jiu Jitsu premiered on the world stage, the world of martial arts

was changed forever. In those early days of the UFC, the fight game mutated in such a way that no one could

be a well-­rounded fighter without a ground game and the mutation eventually grew to the point that a fighter

didn't even stand a chance without an understanding of grappling. Since then, MMA has become a proving

ground for effective martial art techniques taken cafeteria-­style from existing styles and integrated into a

kickboxing/BJJ hybrid. (I will digress and admit that wrestling and Sambo represent a substantial portion of the

current form of high-­level MMA ground game. However, it's more than fair to assert that not only does BJJ

influence the majority of style and technique on the ground, but the majority of MMA practitioners of all levels

employ BJJ as their grappling style.) There is no other martial art that can boast such an accomplishment.

Now, there are those (particularly traditional martial arts purists) who claim that the reason you don't see

entire styles being wholly incorporated and applied into contemporary MMA because there hasn't been a

"Royce Gracie" of, say, Go Ju Ryu Karate. To those people I say; firstly, don't hit me, and secondly, you're

wrong. Twice. Observe: Lyoto Machida and Georges St. Pierre each had to adopt a ground game from BJJ to

become world class. If their styles of karate was enough to eclipse any other form of martial art, it would have.

Simple as that. Also, there is ultimately no way to prove yourself right in this argument because the

environment has changed too much already. It is no longer hospitable to one-­style specialists. It wasn't even

hospitable for Royce himself. Matt Hughes proved in devastating fashion that being the one of the baddest

motherfuckers in the world on the mat isn't enough when you're down there with another bad motherfucker

with ruthless ground-­and-­pound to boot.

As a result of the explosion of professional mixed martial arts around the world and the concurrent

proliferation of the Internet, all styles have been in a constant, break­neck speed state of flux. In the stand-
up/striking world, we have seen a piecemeal integration of individual techniques from different styles based

only on their performance at the highest level. Machida lands a front kick to the face, then it's everywhere.

Barbosa destroys with a wheel kick, then that, too, starts popping up everywhere. This dimension of fighting is

becoming the embodiment of what Bruce Lee envisioned when he spoke of selecting only what works and

throwing the rest away.

"All greatness comes from an investment in time and the perfection of skills that render you great."

-John Donaher

In the world of competitive BJJ, it is easy to see the consequences of practising a martial art in a world

where the greenest white belt can study the techniques of the best black belts in the world in real time. While

the world of no­gi evolves and acts as a de facto proving ground for useful techniques in the MMA world,

traditional gi work is being led by the nose by the top practitioners in the world. Only a few decades ago, BJJ

techniques were doled out to players based on belt rank and employed based on one's ability to successfully

apply them and the evolution of the game was steady but slow. Now, black belt Keenan Cornelius can invent

the worm guard, demonstrate it and its efficacy, have that footage make it online and within weeks you'll see

that whole guard game being used proficiently at any level tournament, anywhere in the world. Soon enough

there will be some new, plucky black belt (or less, who knows) who has their own variation on the worm guard

to make it more effective and that will go viral and it'll infect competition mats all over again.

The remarkable twist to this evolution is that the traditional techniques are not being left behind. They are

­just as prevalent, just as useful, just as deadly. While striking­-focused martial arts are contracting as more

techniques are proven useless against trained killers, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is expanding. A kimura is as likely to

be found in the repertoire of a white belt, black belt, no gi champion or a fighter in the UFC, while the katas of

Drunken Monkey style fade into obsolescence in the annals of martial arts history.

Comparing the styles of old school practitioners to the firebrands in the art of today is incredible. That is

why I'm so thankful for events like Metamoris. Metamoris 4 showcased where the art has come from (as seen

in Ribeiro versus Medeiros), where it is (as seen in Cornelius versus Magalaghaes), why it is the dominant

form of grappling in MMA (as demonstrated with Sonnen versus Galvao) and where it remains vulnerable to

other forms of grappling (with Barnett's stunning submission of Dean Lister.)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the fastest growing and fastest evolving martial art on the planet. We have seen more

development and refinement in this martial art in the past twenty years than had happened since its inception.

It's pretty much equivalent to watching a fish walk out of the ocean and have its progeny grow fur and take to

the trees in one lifetime. It's absurd. It's beautiful. What other generation can claim to have seen such progress

in learning how to best kick someone's ass? What other martial art can boast to have become so diverse and

yet so wholly untouched in this environment? What an amazing time to be alive. What an amazing gift the UFC

and the Internet have been to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What an amazing art this gentle way has proven to be.

As a white belt during this dynamic time, I owe an incredible debt to the Gracie family and all their

predecessors who made jiu jitsu's domination possible. I am in awe to bear witness to the innovators operating

at the highest level worldwide. I wait and observe with baited breath to see what is coming next, what little

variation is set to shake up the competition scene, what new move makes me jump up and think "oh snap, I'm

trying that one tonight!" If only there was some badass website that could collect all those kinds of videos for


See you on the mat.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE.


Don't Bring Your Girlfriend to Jiu Jitsu Class

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: October 24,2014

Full disclosure: that title is shameless click-­baiting. The real title should read; "Don't Bring Your Girlfriend to

Your First Jiu Jitsu Class," but that's not nearly as provocative, now is it?

Girlfriends (and all females for that matter) undoubtedly belong in a jiu jitsu class. I personally believe

fundamental take­downs and guard work should be mandatory in girls' physical education for its self­-defence

applications­ especially when dealing with a bigger and stronger attacker. I can't help but smile thinking of

some drunken douche trying to get too familiar after one too many Jager Bombs, and end up getting Ezekiel

choked or Seoi Nage'd into the pavement.

As for the girls who compete in jiu jitsu: Jesus Tap­-Dancing Christ you ladies go hard. The average

women's match I've seen has more war faces and bad intentions than a typical viewing on World Star; but the

camaraderie afterwards is stellar. I've seen more tap­-outs followed by mutual laughter and hugs from the

competitors than I would have ever expected or believed.

You ladies train hard, play hard and are fantastic representatives of the sport. If you haven't tried jiu jitsu

before, find a good school and go. Just leave your man behind if it's his first class, too.

If you have no previous grappling experience, you are going to be a shit sandwich at jiu jitsu. The only

variability is how big and how soggy you are as said sandwich. Your first time rolling, you are going to be

swept, cranked, locked, mounted, twisted and choked by everyone. Probably pretty easily, too. This is, on

average, the humiliating moment when one's perceived ability on the ground is thrown into stark relief to your

actual ability. This is the moment where the rose-­coloured ego glasses come off and people are confronted

with unabashed, unrelenting reality: you cannot defend yourself on the ground, and yes, you are an asshole

for booing at the UFC event when the fight went to the mat.

"Contradicting the long-­held belief that they would just go off and destroy anyone who tried to mess with them, published Thursday revealed that U.S. males would be on average 4,000 percent less effective in a

fight than they imagine. "

-The Onion

This is an unwelcome reality for everyone, especially men. It is utterly emasculating. You have been

physically bested by another man despite your best efforts. Years of weightlifting, preening, brawling, watching

Hollywood fight sequences and carefully constructing a swaggering ego of invulnerable toughness and

believing at your core that a vicious, warrior mentality trumps all in a fight­ handily eviscerated by an

undersized white belt's sloppy triangle choke.

Now there is unequivocal proof of your vulnerability. You are confronted with your weakness, your fragility

and your stunning incapacity to survive against a moderately trained opponent. If this was a real street fight,

not a class, this little guy would have choked you to death. You would be dead and there would have been

nothing you could do to stop it. And this guy's only a white belt­ he's only been training for a few months-
anyone could potentially do this to you. He's short. He doesn't even fill out a t­-shirt all that well. But he killed

you. What could a bigger opponent do? What could a black belt do? Now you have to assume that anyone is

capable of this. Not only do you suck at jiu jitsu­ you suck at defending yourself in combat. You suck at not

getting yourself killed. It's worse than the nightmare where you're trying to fight someone and all your punches

are in slow-­motion. It's a new nightmare where your punches come out full speed but it doesn't matter. You still


This is a crushing realization. The hunter-­gatherer warrior ape-­man in you­ the reptilian-­brained

testosterone troll in you­ are disgusted in your failure. You tested yourself against another man in simulated

mortal combat and you lost. This results in either:

a) This is hard. I suck now, but if I keep coming back, I will eventually improve and redeem

myself, or;

b) Fuck this, this is stupid. I don't need this, grappling is for losers, now I need to buy some

Truck Nutz and troll other dudes on Call of Duty 'cuz I'm the man and Gracie's a

girl's name.

The average decision is the former, unless the guy goes through this experience with his girlfriend present.

In that case it is always the latter. It's humiliating enough to get spanked your first time on the mat­ but with

your girlfriend watching? That's like, well, it's like getting beat up in front of your girlfriend. You lay your honour

on the line and had your ass handed to you.

“Show me a guy who's afraid to look bad, and I'll show you a guy you can beat every time.”

­-Lou Brock

Most guys can barely handle that feeling on their best day­ ameliorated by the relative anonymity of a new

jiu jitsu class­ let alone in front of the woman they are perennially attempting to impress. Whether he's willing

to admit it or not, men are constantly acting out primal courting rituals for their mates.

"Observe, potential life-­mate, as I provide ye with sustenance. I am a sound decision as a partner; behold

my wealth, my health, my knowledge. Watch now as I best this competing male in a battle of brawn. I shall

hold him thus, and will attack his­ SHITFUCKTAPTAPTAP! What was that? Your balls were in my face and I

couldn't breathe!"

If for no other reason than to share an activity or get some exercise together, by all means, bring your

girlfriend to jiu jitsu class...eventually. You're going to suck for a while and you're going to get tapped a lot. A

lot. Once your ego can handle it­ which is typically around that first or second stripe­ that's the time to bring

Sally through and show off your far-­from-­honed, let's-­face-­it­-still-­pretty-­bad­-but-­good-­enough-­to-­be-­impressive-
to-­someone­-who-­has-­never-­seen-­it-­before skills. The hunter-­gather warrior ape man in you will be redeemed

and your girlfriend will be very impressed with the humbled version of your former self you have become.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!

 Point Farming In BJJ Competition

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: October 17, 2014

The first version of this blog entry was originally titled "The Epidemic of Point Farming in BJJ

Competition," but in taking the time to really meditate on the idea of point farming has left me conflicted.

While it can be infuriating to see a competitor's pace and aggression grind to halt to secure a victory on

points, to consider that a wholly invalid method of winning discounts the skill required to win that way. The

difference between playing to finish your opponent versus playing not to lose can be epitomized in

comparing the Diego Sanchez/Chris Leben approach, to the Greg Jackson/Ben Askren approach. Is martial

art competition about ruthless pursuit of a finish, or about using all one's skill to win using the scoring

parameters of the sport?

My answer (for now, at least) is that both ideologies are equally valid and deserving of respect. Watching

strikers fight in a phone booth, throwing masterful wheel kicks hoping to turn their opponent's brain off for a

while, or watching Frank Mir put himself in a position to be swept in order to lock in a kimura are vastly more

impressive and exciting to watch­ whether the viewer has martial arts experience or not. Meanwhile, the

average spectator would agree that watching GSP's last few fights or any of Ben Askren's would be (among

other disparaging adjectives) predictable, dull or slow-­paced. I agree with this school of thought. As a GSP

fan it would get tedious knowing that he would be looking for a takedown to cinch the round with a minute

left. However­ if I knew that takedown was coming, so too did his opponent. Everyone knows Askren will

just lay on top of his opponent just as everyone knows Ronda will go for the arm bar. In spite of this

knowledge, GSP gets the takedown and Askren wins the fight because their technique is so finely honed

not even the best in the world can stop them. Trained killers get offered tremendous amounts of money if

they can stay off the mat, they train for months and still can't do it. Take a minute and reflect on the prowess

required to pull that off. No one has an answer for Askren's top game, and GSP strung together years of

successful title defences with his version of point fighting. It may not make for a great highlight reel, but it

does showcase the highest level of skill.

In jiu jitsu competitions, I believe wholeheartedly in constantly pursuing a tap out. My focus is always to

secure position and apply submission. As a white belt, this unfortunately manifests as a hyper-­agressive,

rushed and frenetic style, but it has been fairly effective so far and my growing competition experience is

fostering a feeling of comfort and patience on the mat. As a spectator, there is nothing more spell­binding or

exciting than watching two high­-level players chain together sweeps, reversals, attacks and counters in

rapid succession, waiting to see whose technique will fail first. That modality of playing to win and looking to

finish in timed-­round competition, or submission-­only tournaments demonstrates the true nature and intent

of jiu jitsu. The application of a martial art in order to conquer an opponent.

I understand why not every tournament is submission­-only, and as a player with kids to get home to, I'm

thankful for the scheduling prudence of timed rounds. It makes for a substantially more regimented

competition. Thereby I understand the need for awarding points in a match. However, it is my opinion that

every player should be trying to end the match by submission before time runs out. This is (or at least

should be) a banal assertion. The difference between winning on points and merely point­-farming is

substantial. Winning on points adheres to the martial principles of martial arts; each player aggressively

looking to finish, the most successful player is considered the victor should time run out. Point-­farming is-
bluntly­ infuriating and boring. There is nothing more irksome as a player or spectator than someone

hanging on to a top position, no longer concerned with setting up an attack, just to keep a point or (God

forbid) advantage lead until the time runs out. If it's flagrant enough that Rickson Gracie starts making

chicken noises on the sideline, it's time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Can I argue the efficacy of this style? No. Otavio Sousa managed to shut Kron Gracie down using this

strategy and could have become an Abu Dhabi champion had he not been goaded into action by Rickson's

display. The onus of defeat by this kind of point­-farming is squarely on the shoulders of the loser. Your

opponent took mount and just hung on for two whole minutes? That is terrible way to lose. Your opponent

didn't merely coast­ he had developed a mount-­game so strong that you couldn't get out for two whole

minutes. That's some cold lotion­ no question­ but you lost. Your defensive game was inferior to your

opponent's offensive game and it cost you the match, the tournament, the championship, what have you.

Can I argue the validity of this style. Unfortunately, no. It's an egregious method of victory, but when the

parameters of the competition require time limits and awarding points, there will always be those who will

work the system. They are not cheating, and if their technique was not effective than their opponent's, this

method wouldn't be possible in the first place.

Can I argue that this violates the core principle of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Yes. Yes I can. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is

a martial art. When the structure of a tournament is stripped away, the goal is apply the technique to force

your opponent to submit or face serious injury. You are practicing mortal combat and your aim is to finish

your opponent. It is not about hanging on to a dominant position until someone else intervenes. Go for a

choke, an arm bar, a key lock­ anything­ just attack. Act like a martial artist, not a point-­fighter.

I cannot discount point-­farming as a fair way to win. That doesn't mean it's something of which I approve.

Ultimately, I'm conflicted. It's like doing burpees; I don't like it but goddamn it, it works.

I, for one, would like to see stronger penalties for stalling in matches. One warning, then subtraction of

points, and if that isn't sufficient motivation to attack, disqualification. But those aren't the rules and I cannot

fault someone for doing anything within the rules to win. It's the nature of competition, even if it's not in the

nature of jiu jitsu.

Well, I've thought a lot about point farming in BJJ competition for this blog. My gears have been turning

for a while and I can't say I've made any real headway. If you have any thoughts about this, I'd love to hear

them. Let me know your opinion in the forum or on Facebook­ but DON'T FOR THE LOVE OF GOD let the

discussion degrade into the comment section on YouTube. That form of discussion is the darkest realm of

abject human misery and bilious hate on the planet, and you­ we­ are better than that. We're not just

people. We're jiu jitsu players.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion Forum HERE!

 Analysis of the Canadian National Pro Jiu Jitsu Championships

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: October 10, 2014

Before I delve into the competition itself and my performance therein, there is one thing that I need to

address first and foremost. That is how absurdly lucky I am to have Mike Weichert as a coach. He's six­foot-
three, two hundred and sixty pounds­ and every ounce of that is heart. The man bleeds jiu jitsu. His mind is a

strategy factory and technique warehouse. He's a natural leader, a gifted teacher and an incredible man. I

wear his Dawg Jiu Jitsu patches like badges of honour, and I know everyone else on the team do the same.

He takes a regular group of ragtags, feeds us precise lessons honed from years of practice, constructs game-
plans and movement chains based on practicality (not flash), and tailors competition stratagems based our

individual strengths and weaknesses. The reason I, and everyone else on the team perform so well is not

because of some freaky jiu jitsu juice in the Kincardine water supply­ it is because of Mike Weichert. No one

accuses the farmer of luck when he rolls into the fair with the winning pumpkin year after year. It is his skill,

and attributing the success of his produce to anything other than the skilled hand that sows it is outright

underhanded. He's Vince Lombardi. Simple techniques, taught carefully, are executed mechanically and

critiqued surgically, diligently and with a voice of compassion until they are unstoppable. I am not naturally

skilled at jiu jitsu. I do have unnatural luck in having such a maniacally driven coach at the helm.

I would also like to take a moment to call out the rest of the Dawg team. I have not asked if it's alright to use

their names so I will speak to them all at once. Ho. Lee. Shit. You guys are awesome­ the best, kindest,

funniest and most relentlessly vicious group of kind­hearted savage killers I could have ever hoped to find. Let

alone train beside. Anyone who rolls for long enough knows that beautiful, unspoken kinship on a jiu jitsu

team. In the reality of the mat, we have all crippled and killed each other dozens of times. It's a sacred

brotherhood and there are not enough words to describe how thankful I am to be part of it. You are all my

second family and I love you all. And Mr. Liam Brown, though you have left the family to pursue "higher

education" in hopes of "furthering your career" because you want to "challenge yourself intellectually," know

that you are missed on the mat each class, that I will never, ever miss having to do stand­up work with you,

and that I truly, deeply, hate you for leaving before I figured out how to tap you on something, anything, no I'm

not bitter how dare for asking. (Thanks for the call, bud. You're one in a million. I'm privileged to have had the

time on the mat with you that I did.)

As for the contest itself, I won gold in the 95kg+ division and bronze in the open weight division. I am very

proud of my gold medal. I am pleased with the bronze, but am still nursing a bruised ego from having tapped

out to a triangle. The triangle itself was excellent. I made him work for it, but he persevered and tapped me

out. It was especially frustrating for me because I had been getting a repetitive-­turning­-droning reminder from

my coach: "The littler guys are going to have a good triangle game. Stay away from triangle territory. Don't put

yourself in triangle position." I was handily beaten in that match, but I deserve at least half the credit for my

Herculean effort to ignore my coach's advice.

I am not about to downplay my victory, nor am I going to revel in it either. This is about learning, improving

and executing­ not wallowing in self­-satisfaction. I am sure the videos of the matches will be available soon, in

the meantime; here's my perspective. In a word: sloppy. In a few words: sloppy but effective.

I was spastic and my technique dripped of panic. Which makes sense because I was panicking from the

time I started the eight hour drive to Montreal the day before. (By the way, Montreal, how did you manage to

get Dr. Suess to design your highway system? Seriously, the whole transport layout and ramp-­system looks

like a kid's first attempt at laying roads in SimCity. Dafuq happened?) My internal monologue watching the

higher belt matches happen and waiting for my turn ran pretty parallel to DMX's outer monologue from the

video where he rides the Slingshot ride in Orlando. (If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour.) My coach did

his very best to keep me calm and focused, but I was crawling out of my skin. The eight hour drive home was

a big factor in keeping me there. I wanted to bail so badly.

My first match went the full time and I won on points. In watching the footage, I see myself clamping down

on everything­ just heaping strength on top of everything­ rather than being calm and finding the flow. The

biggest takeaways from that match is to use the adrenaline of that calibre of match to stay mentally vigilant,

physically adaptable and to slow down in transitions.

I learned the most about what needs improvement from having watched the 95kg+ divisions in the higher

belt divisions, especially blue and purple. In those matches, I saw familiar techniques executed masterfully. I

saw the art of the martial art play out at the highest level. Watching the technical grace, the sweeping flow of

transitions, the calm in each position, the surgical, savage flurry of a submission was inspiring. What struck me

most was the patience. The competitors' confidence in the technique and their ability to execute brought forth

a graceful elegance to it all. No rush. No panic. Just steady, methodical progression from one move to the

next. I felt like I was watching the movements of a Renaissance painter. Flowing, graceful, practised

movements, years of dedication and practice and total outer calm coalesced into a triumphant masterpiece.

Put another way, watching that calibre of match played out like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata: elegant, yet

declarative. Graceful in its flow, no wasted beats or movements. Inspirational.

Watching my matches, conversely, were more akin to watching a half-­trained chimp who had been given a

paint set and easel at the zoo. Spastic, jerking movements­ stabbing colour on the paper­ more impressed that

colour­goo plus stick­thing make pretty picture me­likey, than making any attempt at coherence. Then again,

it's white belt. Everyone knows it isn't going to be that impressive. Furthermore, there are some who find those

chimp paintings unique and impressive in their novelty, and some (suckers) will even spend good money to

have their own copy. To bring back the musical metaphor, my matches were less like Beethoven and more like

John Zorn's Bonehead (if you've seen Funny Games, you know which song I mean.) Chaotic madness that on

paper (probably) makes sense, done with tremendous effort and intensity, but overall grating and unrefined.

Inspirational. To get back to work and improve.

The moral of the story is I had my first taste of world­-class competition and came away with boastful

hardware, a wheelbarrow full of lessons and an inferno of inspiration. I am on track for achieving my goal of

the World Championships in California and have a compiled a hefty list of issues that need addressing to

make that happen. My game does not need an overhaul, but every bit of it needs a tune­up. Thankfully, I have

a world­-class coach and team to help me make these changes. I'll be under the hood again starting this week,

working alongside the rest of the Dawg Jiu Jitsu crew, all of us improving all the more thanks to our amazing

coach, Mike Weichert­ and I'll be combing through the videos on this site for the next little tidbit to take my

game to the next level.

To everyone who made my first Abu Dhabi Trials experience possible, from those named in this post, those

described in the post, those left out in the name of brevity, and especially to my indescribably loving and

supporting wife and sons: I love you all. Truly, unequivocally so. I am beyond words. I am overwhelmed with


Peace, love and arm­bars. Dawg Jiu Jitsu FTW.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion Forum HERE!

 Preparing for the Canadian National Pro Jiu Jitsu Championships

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: October 3, 2014

This blog entry will be a slight departure from the norm, and this may well become a format that will start

to appear regularly. It's still focused on jiu jitsu­ but now it's focused specifically on my jiu jitsu. This is after

A Man's Journey to Black Belt, and this journey is going to be long and sweaty, fraught with peril, laughs

and tournaments. I usually don't like talking (let alone typing) about myself, but I think that what I'll be talking

about is a fairly universal experience for jits players looking to challenge themselves in competitions. Bear

with me.

There is an agricultural practice called slash and burn wherein farmers will harvest their crop, then slash

down the remaining vegetation and burn it to the ground. This ostensibly destructive force of burning the

crops actually returns the nutrients from the unused plant matter to the soil, thus increasing the fertility of

the soil. It is destruction as a means to creation.

How this pertains to jiu jitsu is such: acknowledging defeat and meditating upon your failures is the first

step to improvement. The painful and destructive feeling of getting tapped in a roll, spanked through a

whole class or trounced in a competition can become a medium for substantial growth if properly exploited.

"There is no losing. You either win, or you learn."

­-Carlos Gracie, Jr

This weekend I will be competing in the UAEJJF's Canadian National Pro Jiu Jitsu Championship in

Montreal. This will be far and away the highest level of competition I have ever attempted, in any sport. As a

white belt, even taking gold in the open weight division will not mean a travel package to the Big Show,

however the stakes are still high and everyone in the tournament will be world-­class. My goal for the 2014/5

competition season is to make it to the Worlds in California and this weekend will be a fantastic and apt test

of my abilities, and also how realistic this goal actually is. (I know better than to end a sentence in a

proposition, but there's no way to make that sentence sound conversational otherwise. Please release thy

Hammer, Grammar Police.)

I am coming off a solid performance at the GTA Classic, however my cardio is not where I would like it

and I have a few holes in my game that still need closing. My coach has been a huge help in developing a

game plan that accounts for this, and has been monumentally helpful in not sugar­coating his opinions on

my shortcomings. We both know where I am strong and where I am weak, so using this precious little

preparation time to work or even comment on my strengths is akin to masturbating in front of a mirror

(sidebar: only focusing on one's strengths is likely why your average gym rat only focuses on chest and

biceps. They're easy to see and easy to do. Squats are hard to do and don't have the same visual appeal

during or after, and thereby get left by the wayside.) Addressing my weaknesses in oblique ways or flowery

language is akin to not addressing them at all. I need to get to the root of the issues, rather than futilely

hacking at its leaves.

My coach has essentially said, "You suck at (x), now we need deal with that." It may sound harsh, but it

was needed. I would much prefer stinging honesty about my ability in order to plan accordingly ahead of

time rather than be pelted with saccharine-­sweet affirmations, and have a rude awakening come contest

time. If I wanted smoke blown up my ass, I'd be in the backyard with a pack of Marlboros and a short length

of hose. (credit: The Simpsons) We have been working on my game plan hard and often and I have been

feeling pretty confident.

Until last night.

I had an opportunity to roll with two new (to the club) ultra­-heavyweight partners during last night's class-
a jovial blue belt, and a soft-­spoken and devastatingly powerful white belt with a ton of no gi experience.

The plan was for me to switch off rolling with these two oak trees of men for three-­minute rounds, one

minute rest in between, with a heavy focus on starting from defensive positions.

I got destroyed. Just smashed. I could barely improve my position. Nothing worked. Then the panic sunk

in. Panic is like trying to put out a grease fire with gasoline-­soaked hair. It's only going to feed the flames

and now it stinks even worse. 'Demoralizing' just barely encapsulates the feeling from last night. Stinking up

the joint six days out from the fight of your life isn't exactly a shot in the arm, "go get 'em, tiger" ­type

experience. It's more like the "whoopsie-­daisy, looks like ya dropped the soap" in prison-­type experience.

God. Dammit.

"When you lose, don't lose the lesson."

-The Dalai Lama

So, how do I find the silver lining to this shit­-storm cloud? Well, this is essentially my thought process on the

drive home after my spanking:

a) I ate a plate of dog shit tonight.

b) I ran out of gas.

c) I panicked, and

d) I'm going to lose.

All right. If nothing else, I have identified the problem. I have been slashed and burned to cinders and ash. I

now, ideally, have a fertile bed for growth and development. How can I address these issues realistically so

as to improve sufficiently in time for Montreal? Some painful, honest, and objective-­as-­possible assessment

of my performance has yielded the following conclusion:

a) I ate a plate of dog shit tonight because I tried to out-­muscle my opponents rather than use

proper technique and leverage.

b) I ran out of gas because I was intimidated my partners' size and experience, and reverted to

spazzing out to try to force a scramble rather than remaining calm and picking my spots


c) I panicked because I let my emotions get the best of me. Rather than reflecting on why I

couldn't improve my position, I freaked out that it wasn't happening and let all technique fly out the

window, and

d) I am going to lose if I let this happen during the competition.

It would seem that I have developed a decent-­enough physical and mental game plan. Stay calm, stick

to the technique and leave the strongman method at home. Last night's class was a crucible­ a blazing

inferno that would bring any imperfections to the surface. At the very least, I know what they are. I believe

the crucible and my reflection on it have helped burn them away.

I am not going to hope. I am not going to ask for, or count on, luck. Hope and luck are teddy bears. They

are inert and relics of childhood. They offer no influence on reality. What I will do instead, is focus on the

lessons learned from last night's failures, remind myself that I am capable on the mat and run through my

coach's masterful game plan ad nauseam.

His plan is flawless. Truly. That stinging honesty I mentioned earlier, paired with his vast and intimate

knowledge of the game has coalesced in an airtight strategy that cannot possible fail. There isn't a situation

he has not accounted for. It's elegant in its simplicity and impressive in its depth. The only variable aspect is

me. If it does not work in any way­ the only reason is me. Generations of jiu jitsu players have done the

work to show what works and what does not­ there is nothing left to chance or happenstance. The

technique is either executed properly and it succeeds, or the technique is bumbled and it fails. I am the

actor, I am the agonist, I am the catalyst. The test is pass or fail. Passing means I can demonstrate the

technique under pressure. Failure means a long drive home to reflect on the somber lessons of the day.

I'll let you know how it went.

Until then: peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!

Strength As a Weakness

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: September 26, 2014

"The hardest people to teach jiu jitsu are the strong ones and the smart ones."

Royce Gracie

Ever since I started lifting weights to get stronger for football, I've been fairly strong. Once I had access

to university-­level strength and conditioning coaches, I got a lot stronger. Then, when I finally put down the

bodybuilding magazines and stopped worrying about my chest and biceps, I started making some serious

gains. I lift, bro.

When I started playing jiu jitsu, I figured I had an immediate advantage over anyone on the mat. I figured

I could cut corners technically, knowing my strength could smooth out the rough edges and if I found myself

in a bad spot I could Hulk-­out, force a scramble and get back on top. I'm not going to lie­ it worked. For a

while. Long enough for me to get comfortable with that kind of strategy. Then I entered my first (and

currently only) no gi competition and had a devastatingly rude awakening.

Before I get into the competition itself, I need to back up and explain where my game was at that time.

Firstly, I had just switched from a gym that focused on kick­boxing first and grappling eventually, to a gym

that was more focused on developing a competition team which was something I had been seeking for a

while. Secondly, this gym was being taught by a phenomenal natural talent­ a fact that looked fantastic on

paper but broke down immediately on the mat. (Sidebar: In my experience, BJJ or otherwise, being taught

by natural athletes, or individuals with a natural affinity for any skill, is not a good thing. Someone who has

an inborn ability for a skill generally cannot effectively break down the steps to acquire or apply that skill-
they just did it and it worked. Now, give me someone who had to overcome their own short­comings, who

had to grapple (Ha!) with the technique and master something in spite of themselves, now there's a

fantastic teacher.) Thirdly, my instruction and feedback on the mat up until that point had been pretty

minimal so my 'Hulk Smash' methodology seemed acceptable and universally applicable. Fourthly, I had

been advised to cut 36 pounds in five weeks to drop from Ultra­ to Super­ Heavyweight on that day (Holy

Lord that sucked, but I made it, thank you very much, Mr. Dolce.)

I arrived to the competition exhausted, dehydrated and a bundle of nerves. I was so worn out from

having to lose the weight my wife had to drive me. As soon as I shook hands with my opponent, a gut-
wrenching thought washed over me. Holy shit, I don't know any take­downs. I had always, always, started

from my knees or guard. It's alright, I told myself, Hulk smash. Grab him, be first, figured something out. I

got about halfway into grabbing (angrily hugging, really) him before I was slammed on my back. My

opponent slipped through my half­guard and then started claiming side­control. This was my bread­and-
butter sweep. Overhook the head like a half­assed guillotine, other hand in the belly and bench press him

over top of me, then get on top. It worked. Huzzah! But he hip escaped out. Damn. Then took my back.

Damn it. Then got my neck. Goddamn it. Then tapped me out. But...but...Hulk smash. I was supposed to


Next opponent, different set­up, same punchline. I managed to pull off an ugly rice­tump takedown,

managed to stay on top for a while, then gave up my back and tapped out to a masterfully applied rear

naked choke. But, bro...I lift. This wasn't supposed to happen. I was the strongest guy in the gym­ I wasn't

supposed to lose; this was supposed to be easy. I had just spent a decade in weight rooms dedicated to

forging the highest level of muscular power I could muster. I had sweat and squatted and pressed and

puked trying to become the biggest, baddest mofo in the room­ and when it went to the mat, it didn't mean a

damn thing. It was as if I had forged a gold brick only to be stranded in the middle of the desert. My strength

was valuable, but useless in this environment.

"You have nothing; nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength."

-The Joker

I collected my wife and my gear and attempted to slink out of the gym unseen. One of my opponents

saw me coming and stepped in front of me with a big grin and a silver medal. He shook my hand.

"Man, you're strong as an ox. Once you figure out your technique, I'm in trouble."

I grinned back at him, thanked him, and kept plodding for the door. I made it to the hallway outside of

the gym when a great, menacing alligator tail of an arm reached out from an alcove, grabbed my arm and

pulled me in. I was nose to nose with a coach from another school.

"You gotta get outta that school, man. You're strong­ whoop-die­doo­ but your technique is garbage. You

need to find a better school. You're just playing grab­ass in rash guard. If you want to win, you need to start

learning jiu jitsu."

In the gloom of humiliating defeat, that coach showed me a light at the end of the tunnel. That

competition and coach humbled me the way a jackhammer humbles a sidewalk. I was so thoroughly broken

down, I had no choice but to rebuild from scratch.

That competition was on a Saturday. By Thursday I was in contact with my new (current) coach.

My first class with my new (current) school was also the first gi class I'd had in years. We focused on

fundamental guard passing (which was brand­spanking new to my eyes) and eventually moved into free

rolling. I was about thirty seconds in to my first round (doing fair to midland, a gentler version of Hulk-
smashing) when my coach stopped me.

"That won't work," he told me. "Well, it'll work for a while. But that's not jiu jitsu."

From that point on and for several weeks, the gym seemed to have a constant echo of "No strength!

Technique!" whenever I was rolling. Eventually my comprehension of the fundamentals went from rough

(compensated ­for by strength) to not terrible (with no strength).

This is still my greatest obstacle on my path to getting better. Knowing that I have that tool in my bag to

call upon is a constant temptation. I am slowly becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable on the mat.

Slowly figuring out my angles, my posture, the importance of patience and trusting the technique. I've

learned that being the stronger man on the mat counts for­ at best­ well, not much. If size and strength

meant a whole lot, Bane would still be running Gotham­ amirite, folks? It has taken a long time, and lo! how

I have miles to go before I rest on this journey, I am finally getting to the heart of jiu jitsu. The real jiu jitsu.

The gentle way.

My strength is my weakness. It's a bastion of ego on the mat. It is ugly, wordless arrogance that belies

my true intent. It creates the holes that proper technicians can exploit. When they do, it's not as if they have

achieved some miraculous David­-versus-­Goliath-­esque feat; they used their tools properly. I'll learn to close

those holes soon enough. It will be a matter of trusting my technique enough to let it speak for itself; to cut

away the safety net of trying to out­-muscle my opponent and just play the game. When that time comes I

will garnish my game with the practical application of strength, rather than making it my bread and butter. I

will learn. I will improve. I will execute.

See you on the squat rack, bro. Deadlifts for Jesus. Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? join the discussion forum HERE!­

Why Junior Needs Jiu jitsu

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: September 19, 2014

This particular entry will be directed toward parents who are giving consideration to­ or reluctant to­ sign

their child(ren) up for jiu jitsu lessons. Also, if perchance you are a plucky young'n with black belt dreams and

are feeling frustrated about your parents' hesitation about putting you in classes: firstly, congratulations in

getting off Facebook and finding this lovely site; and secondly, print this off to show your parents.

"We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will

serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills..."

-John F. Kennedy

Greetings, fellow parents! I am a white belt in jiu jitsu, a father to three sons (ages four and under) , uncle to

three nieces and three nephews (ages eight and under), and I would like to explain to you why your child(ren),

of any age, unequivocally, need jiu jitsu in their lives.

I'd like to begin by making one thing perfectly clear: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is not MMA. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

is a part of MMA, but can be practised wholly separate from mixed martial arts. Jiu Jitsu is a submission­ based

grappling art that is totally free of striking. No punching, no kicking, no hitting of any kind. Furthermore, most

children's classes don't even teach the actual submissions, but instead focus on positions and transitions. (For

you hockey parents out there, picture fundamental hockey­ it's skating lessons with a hockey stick, the logic is

the same with children's jiu jitsu.)

Once you understand the fundamentals of jiu jitsu, you can (age permitting) move into sparring­ called

'rolling.' Jiu jitsu is unique in that it can be practised at full intensity (the boxing equivalent of throwing hay-
makers against your partner) with zero chance of injury. A player can tap out and end the roll at any time,

saving themselves from injury, discomfort, or even just being in a bad spot on the mat. No concussions, no

injuries­ maybe a battered ego, but who couldn't benefit from that occasionally?­ just a safe, disciplined

environment to practice self­defence and/or blow off some steam in a controlled and constructive manner.

People of any age, size, gender or physical acumen can learn to defend themselves against others, while

learning the skills and discipline of a martial art. Grappling is a simple concept, but complex in execution. It is

jiu jitsu's physical and mental difficulty that builds character in its players.

As a parent, I don't worry about my sons starting fights­ I raise them better than that­ but I do worry about

other kids who weren't brought up with the same respect or discipline. That is why I put them in jiu jitsu­ so I

can send my oldest to school knowing if a bully singles him out, he can defend himself (and this is the best

part) without hitting anyone. If a fight occurs, I'd much rather see it end by the bully being held down by weight

placement, posture and technique learned in BJJ until a teacher arrives, than see that same fight ended by the

bully being hit with, say, a crescent kick learned in karate class.

If you're unsure of jiu jitsu's efficacy (especially if your child is undersized), please take a few minutes and

watch UFC 1 (then called the Ultimate Fighting Challenge) and see Royce Gracie (a jiu jitsu black belt) handily

take down and defeat a group of the most highly trained killers on the planet in seconds without taking any

damage himself. Royce was well undersized compared to all his opponents and while everyone came at him

swinging for the fences and hell­bent for leather, he took them down, got on top and submitted them with

fundamental level transitions and submissions.

I can confidently say that anyone with a thorough understanding of even fundamental jiu jitsu is effectively

bully­proof. I am six foot three, two hundred and fifty pounds, and I roll regularly with a guy ten years younger,

a hundred pounds lighter (!) and a belt ranking above me, and he manhandles me like I am a child. Jiu jitsu is

not about strength or punishing athleticism­ it is about technical application of weight and posture to render

your opponent's strength and posture moot. Imagine the confidence that comes from knowing that you can

defend yourself in one on one combat, no matter the size the attacker.

"Give me the right leverage and I will move the world."

­-Helio Gracie, Grand Master of Gracie Jiu Jitsu

The flip­side of that coin is the incredibly humbling nature of jiu jitsu. It teaches that technique and a cool

head under pressure trump everything (a valuable lesson on the mat, in the street and in life in general) and

that real­life combat is to be avoided at all cost. No one who has been in a martial arts class ever goes looking

for a fight because we have learned that the reality of fighting is nothing like the movies. Martial arts training

teaches the danger and potential consequences of aggression and physicality in the real world, in a highly

controlled and safe environment.

Learning jiu jitsu is like having home insurance. I pay for it and summarily hope that it will never be

necessary. However, if my house catches fire or my son is attacked by a bully at school, I sleep better knowing 

that I have those methods of insurance in place.

In conclusion, fellow parents, let me assure you that: a) jiu jitsu is safe; b) jiu jitsu is a good idea for your

child(ren) and; c) jiu jitsu may even be a good idea for you. It's fantastic exercise, it's cheaper than therapy and

a great way to meet new people. Use it as a means to bully­proof your children. Use it as an exercise class.

Use it as a medium to grow world­class character and respect for others. It is a beautiful, safe, necessary art. I

will keep my sons rolling on the mat and hope to get my nieces doing the same. You should send your

child(ren) to your local BJJ for their enjoyment and your peace of mind. You won't regret it.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!

Discovering Jiu Jitsu

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: September 12, 2014

"I'm selling evolution. You grow or you die."

Eddie Bravo

I started playing jiu jitsu when I was twenty four or twenty five years old. I played football from when I

was thirteen to twenty (which is subsequently why I can't remember when exactly I started playing jiu jitsu). I

started football as a fat kid looking for a place to blow off some steam and thanks to some excellent

coaching and a bowel­shaking fear of my conditioning coach, I improved enough to play for my university

team. Well, "play" is a little strong. Suffice to say I quickly realized in the middle of my first live hitting drill

that­ dammit­ I was a big fish in a small pond and these are some big ass fish and they hit harder than I

could ever conceive, and then quietly rotted on the practice squad.

Shortly after leaving the football team, I found myself with decent strength and above average gut and

made a brief (and admittedly) silly turn into bodybuilding. My progress was respectable, but not wanting to

get on the juice left me in the dust of my geared­up iron brethren.

Then I found my first fight gym. I learned how to throw a few punches, how much I suck at kicking and

my very first jiu jitsu class. I was hesitant to get on the mat at first. I had a hefty ego, inflated sense of my

own ability and no desire to be potentially tapped in front of my girlfriend. However, after a hefty amount of

coaxing mixed with a plethora of insults a friend convinced me to give it a try.

I got on the mat in borrowed gi, two sizes to small, and did my first guard passing drill. Easy stuff, I

thought. I see this on UFC all the time, I thought. No problem. When it came time to roll, all six­foot three

and 265 pounds of meathead­bodybuilding­wannabe me got paired up with a guy who was about five­foot

ten and 170 pounds. We got on our knees, shook hands, quick fist bump, I grabbed him by both lapels and

promptly threw him four feet to my left. Straight up lineman pass protection­style. Hells yeah. I dove on top

of him and started to try to get to mount. Then his thigh was on my shoulder and in a second I couldn't

breathe and tapped out.

"Triangle choke," my partner said.

Round two. Shake hands, fist bump, grab lapels, attempt same throw and jesuschristTAP!TAP!TAP!,

because he'd just easily thrown up an arm bar and just about snapped my arm at the elbow. And like that,

this little guy had shown me just how weak I truly was. It didn't matter how much I could bench or curl. It

didn't matter how much bigger my muscles were, how much strong I was. Technique trumped it all.

"If size mattered, the elephant would be the king of the jungle."

­Rickson Gracie

It was a long car ride home as I reflected on the wasted hours trying to look bigger in a t­shirt. What

good were big muscles if I couldn't defend myself against someone so much smaller? As it turns out, none.

Well, if big muscles don't intrinsically make me a better fighter, what's the point? Why spend time trying to

look tough if you can't actually be tough? Why have I spent so many years perfecting simulated combat,

when I could be practising actual combat with a martial art?

The answer, I know now, is ego. I had carefully constructed a grandiose ego around the premonition that

I was some big swinging dick that was not to be messed with and subsequently would avoid situations that

would actually test my mettle. Now, on the mat, I had an opportunity to discover who I actually was without

an ego standing between my perception of self and reality. People pay fortunes to therapists to do this

same work. Holy shit. I think I love jiu jitsu.

This revelation brings me to today. After a few extended absences from the mat for various reasons, I

find myself now at the best damn club I've ever been to with a fantastic coach rolling with the sweetest

group of savage killers I'd ever hope to meet. I've been lucky enough to find a coach who's able to lure me

away from my safety net of strength (I still have a bad habit of going full­retard gorilla­mode in defensive

positions) and showing me the actual technique behind the gentle art.

I find myself now as a four­stripe white belt going into my second year of competing. I still have a lot to

learn, but I have a ravenous appetite for all things jits. It has become my default thinking pattern. I

contemplate collar chokes in traffic. I meditate on Mir Locks. I teach my sons positions, hoping they catch

the bug, too.

Best of all, I find myself a shadow of the meathead I once was. I'm still big enough to compete in the

Ultra­Heavyweight divisions, but a substantial part of myself has been left behind on mats all over Ontario.

Each time I tap out, I am reminded of how fragile I actually am, how much I need to learn, how far I have left

to go. It's another blow to the ego, which I gradually chip away, revealing my true character underneath.

I am so thankful for every experience I've had in jiu jitsu as it, more than any other athletic endeavour, 

makes me a better person. There's no better stress relief than choking someone, and no faster reminder of

your mortality than being choked.

The world needs jiu jitsu and all its fruits. No other sport rejects ego as explicitly and actively as this one.

Its beautiful and its a community to which I'm proud to belong.

Learn, improve, execute. Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum HERE!


Finding the Perfect BJJ Club

Author: Chris Murray

Posted: September 5 2014

"The Karate Kid was the worst thing to happen to martial arts. After that movie, everyone started opening

their own gym and calling themselves karate masters."

Joey "Coco" Diaz

If you'll allow me to be farmer for a moment; nothing good grows in bad soil. That's the truth whether

you're dealing in blueberries or boxers, juniper berries or jiu-jitsu players (that's alliteration, kids!) if the

medium for growth isn't properly cultivated, the best you can hope for is something that looks nice, but

under­ performs. In the fields of the gym, your coach is your farmer and his students are the crop. Ultimately,

the environment on the mat is in his control­ whether you're forging an elite team of well­mannered and

highly trained killers, or a ragtag group of aggro douche­bags playing grab­ass in rash guards.

Over the past few decades, their have been several substantial swells in the popularity of martial arts;

starting with Bruce Lee, into the Karate Kid and most recently with the popularity of the UFC making "mixed

martial arts" a household term. Each time the rise in popularity of martial arts has led to a growth in the

number of martial arts gyms popping up in towns and cities across the planet­ and they run the gamut, as

will be explored here. My goal here is to help any burgeoning jiu jitsu player identify the qualities of a truly

upstanding learning establishment, and what makes it different from a Planet Fitness­clone with the letters

"MMA" on the door. Or put another way, to show a jiu jitsu noob how to separate the wheat from the chaff

(Ha! Farming reference call­back.)

The first offender on this list is likely the most common as well: Mom's MMA, aka Mixed Martial

Aerobics. This is a gym more focused on making the participants look like fighters, rather than perform by

fighters. High on warm­ups and low on skill work, these gyms are usually run by "coaches" with little to

know martial arts experience, but saw Jillian Michaels taking her clients through a kick­boxing routine and

decided to get in on the action.

Make no mistake­ there is certainly a real­life, practical value in cardio­kickboxing/MMA. Anything that

can motivate someone to get off the couch and better themselves is a beautiful, sacred thing­ unless you're

looking to compete. I can throw some mean combinations to the focus mitts, and I can really pound a set of

Thai pads­ but I would get lit up like a Vegas Christmas tree against anyone with a few years of sparring

experience on their hands.

Jiu Jitsu at these gyms is usually packaged as Submission Wrestling, Grappling or even BJJ, but you'll

likely find your most intense skill development you'll get is the sprawl part of a burpee. A notice for the noob;

unless your coach has actual wrestling or jiu jitsu experience, they should not be teaching it, because you

certainly won't be learning it from them. It does not matter how many times you watched the UFC slow-

motion replay that day­ unless you've actually slapped a Peruvian Necktie on someone who was fighting

like hell to stop you­ you don't know how to do it. It's always a good idea to ask about your coach's

experience, ranking and their past instructors. Getting a black belt from Cesar Gracie means a hell of a lot

more than getting one from the A­1 EZ BJJ Program of the University of Derpington Online.

The second offender is easily the worst and the most dangerous, a phenomenon I call the Daddy Didn't

Love Me Fight Club. Remember those super­aggressive assholes from school? Whatever happened to

them? I'll tell you what happened to them­ the found this place. Hope you brought your mouth guard kid,

because you're about pay to get beat the fuck up. This place stinks of ego and Axe body spray. Usually led

by an unscrupulously aggressive coach with shattered dreams of making it to the show; this gym is high on

drill, high on skill and achingly low on discipline. There is no 50%, there is no encouragement, and there is

no chance of getting out without an injury. These guys want to fight, and they'll do it with anyone at anytime-

which usually equates to everyone, all the time. Sure, you'll learn to throw a devastating liver shot, or your

guillotines may never be sharper (see what I did there?), but this is outright dangerous.

A proper fight gym, especially when dealing in jiu jitsu, trains hard but puts safety before anything else. If

you're new to a gym and you're getting bullied on the mat by a guy who feels like he's trying to pop your

head off; do two things:

1) Take a hard look in the mirror. Are you being equally aggressive and/or disrespectful? No?


2) Run, Billy, run! Run for the hills. You're going to get hurt. It's not a matter of if, but when. Run.

When you find yourself rolling with tyrants, you'll never progress past aggressive grab­ass. If you can't

rely on your partner to give you an opportunity to learn, nor can you rely on your coach to keep the mat

safe, you will not improve. There's a reason "jiu jitsu" means "the gentle art," folks. It's about a gradual

eradication of the ego, one submission at a time. There's no losing in proper jiu jitsu. You either win, or you


The perfect gym lies somewhere between these two extremes. The perfect gym is, by definition, led by

the perfect coach (and these, too, run the gamut.) The perfect coach is someone who knows grappling

inside and out­ on the mat, in the street, and in the octagon. If he or she is truly an accomplished grappler,

his or her experience being choked, cranked and tapped will have vaporized his or her ego long ago. They

do not demand respect, they command it­ it's earned. There's nothing to prove on the mat, just technique to

improve. The bullies get pulled from the mat like weeds from the soil; the soccer moms are given the proper

attention and left to flourish as they prefer. As there is a time for warm­ups, there is a time for drills and

games and technique and rolling. To put it simply­ everything is in balance.

This is the beauty of jiu jitsu. The humbling nature of it. An acceptance of your fragility and a

demonstration of your strength. The perfect gym can be found anywhere from a multi­million dollar training

facility to your local gym to somebody's basement. Sometimes they're down the street, sometimes they're

an hour's drive away. It's all contingent on atmosphere cultivated by that perfect coach.

"You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?"

Matthew 7:16

The best fighters come from the best gyms, the best gyms are comprised of the best people, and the

best people are led by the best coaches. Have fun. Be safe. Learn, improve, execute.

Peace, love and arm bars.

What are your thoughts? Join the discussion forum here.