You win or you learn, My Pet Peeve…

You win or you learn.  I know it’s been said by many top renowned black belts; however, the more I think about it; the more it bothers me that we tell ourselves or our students that. Yes, its feels awesome when you won and are one getting you’re hand raised and I’m sure it feels great in that moment if I’ m the other guy and that I learned something. Wait. What? No, you lost and it sucks and there is a bit of disappointment (especially with single elimination tournaments).  There is nothing wrong that you lost that match, that’s the point you need to compete against others to try and make your hard work pay off.  Learning comes from hindsight.

Losing is part of the sport; it is not a bad word that needs glossed over or like Voldemort that you can’t say the word out loud. Embrace it, you will have your good days and bad but you do not need a crutch to call it something other than it is. Maybe it reminds me of “everybody gets a trophy” approach, but I as a coach I like to speak directly with my students, it saves time and gets to the point. If I lose (and I’ve lost matches), I don’t think that I did a great job learning today, I’ll go back for more, Woot, Yeah!!  No, it eats my lunch a little bit and then later one to wonder what I did wrong or what could I have done differently. You win, you go out and celebrate and talk about the cool parts of the match with your team. You lose, well, you still go out, but then when you get back to the gym and sit down with your coach and do a video review of the match, what can be improved, what did you do well and not so well. What happened that you LOST the match?

This saying has to apply to tournaments and not in the gym; is that when training, you are expected to try new things, put yourself in bad positions and take risks and you will be submitted and lose in training. The Point of competing is to go out and test yourself against unknown opponent to assert your will, your game plan to win a match. You roll to finish and fight to win; however, there can’t be two winners, or even a winner and a learner, there has to be a loser.

The art and sport that I love is one of constant improvement and refinement; full of frustrations that you have to overcome, challenging yourself along the way and is not kind to those with fragile egos. Dealing with the ups and downs for many it does help their confidence grow past their ego. There is a constant learning process, of trial and many, many errors. Or even when you have done everything that you were supposed to do only to be countered and the opponent escapes because they did what they were supposed to do better than you. So much hard work for those moments of successes makes me so much more appreciative once achieved and so disheartening when you fail but, the art that I know helps grow strong minds as well as bodies; able to accept the challenges put before them, the successes and the failures.

You will learn regardless

The simple beauty of this art is that you don’t need to add feel good glitter to it; you will have fun, train, fight, win and yes, sometimes you will lose. Embrace all of it; the highs and lows, it’s one of the things that makes Jiu-Jitsu Great.

See you on the mats.


Blue Belt promotions

My First Blue Belts!

Blue Belt promotions
Hard Earned Blue Belts

I’m proud to say that I promoted my first belts.; Jackie and Gabi (Brawly) on April 20th.

When I rebooted the women’s BJJ program 2 years ago; Jackie was the only student and basically had a lot of private lessons as a result. On the one hand; she received a lot of instruction, on the other, the when you out are considerably bigger you have to get creative (185>110).

Don’t misunderstand, it does not mean that training gets easier for them, but when someone new is learning and there is a large weight and size difference you have to adjust so that they learn correct positions, movement and progressively build up to  to dealing with with larger opponent.

We had few ladies come try the class. Some stayed longer than others and then Brawly (well earned nickname for her assertive style) showed up one day.

Being honest; at the time, when a new student started in the women’s class I’m always happy (since I truly believe that all women should do Jiu-Jitsu); however, I am always expecting them not to show up for the next class as the program has been difficult to get started.

Brawly not only kept coming, she joined Jackie and I prior to class for extra time as well as staying for the all levels class after. Having another student and closer in size was helpful. After months of being consistent and seeing their progress I thought it would be fun to set a personal goal of trying to get them to a solid Blue Belt level in a years time (I did not tell them about it though). However; as they improved and I gave them fair warning of when the intensity level would go up as they got better.

I made whatever time possible available to them; before classes and Saturday mornings, any seminars I taught or field trips to other gyms. Sometimes for my Saturday morning 7 am training session and the cool part is they would show up ready to go!

BJJ is an art that tests you in ways you don’t expect; both physical and mental.  First Jackie broke her foot and was unable to train, so she came to watch so as to stay engaged and not miss out. As soon as she had a boot on and crutches; we worked around them and using them, when the crutches were gone and boot was left her training was adjusted to keep her working and drilling what she could. By the time she tested boot had been off for a while but it turns out it never fully healed and she had been training with a broken foot.

Gabi had been on a roll; lots of training and mat time. We had our first affiliation get together and when rolling with a purple belt from another gym, she had her hand jammed and severely sprained her fingers. So much so that had to work through physical therapy to get them going again and then months of rehab, tape and ibuprofen. All the while, she kept training. She adjusted what she could do and watched out for her hand ( and no Spider Guard).

Being able to stay involved when injured takes serious discipline and mental fortitude as it’s much easier to stay home and watch tv than to sit on the sidelines and watch class.

While I was on the training for my black belt and being on the injury list; everyone helped out, time drilling, rolling and being available on off times as well. It’s always great to see how an academy pulls together to help each other improve. we also had female BJJ guests come in to help train with that were closer in size to get a good feel for students closer to their weight.

Come test day, they were there about an hour and a half early; nervously drilling the techniques (it probably didn’t help that they didn’t know the format and I’d been purposely evasive on questions regarding the test.)  As class started all the white belts were on lined up on one side of the mats and the colored belts on the other and they were center stage. As this was my first promotion for belt ranking I thought I’d try a different approach than static demonstrations and to chain techniques together that would involve bother partners, like guard passing to establish positions and submissions, then working the escapes or recovery of various positions. This not only help to show their technical skills, but that they could transition between them, knowing where to go and what options to use that worked best for them. That was the first part.

The second part of the test was live rolling; and it was a little more gauntlet style, and though I’m not a fan of big beat downs, I am a huge fan of hard work and determination. The live roll portion consisted of 10 3 minute rounds with only 30 seconds rest in between, just enough time for their sparring partners to leave and the fresh one to come in. The could only roll with blue belts and above and I brought in special blue belt BJJ girls from X2 Fitness and Next Level Combat. And they worked, hard. they were pushed, but were able to show how much they’ve learned and grown and that they deserved to step up to the next level in their Jiu-Jitsu Journey.

Proud Coach 🙂

Group photo
Blue Belt Test

I received my black belt!!!!….

On March 5th I received my black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under my friend and mentor Chris McCune of McCune’s Martial arts.

I’ve just been taking the time to absorb this in for a bit; it still feels like someone is going to come up and say, “sorry , that was meant for the other bald guy, we are taking it back.” I admit it, there would be great sadness and crying would occur; however, as it happens, Chris has not changed his mind and I’m grateful.

Being my own worst critic at times made me second guess my performance and question my abilities. While normally never satisfied, or entirely happy with my technique, at least I felt like I was progressing.  Then I received the test date, March 5th at a Rigan Machado seminar. I started to prepare, not just for myself, for my goal of obtaining the Black Belt. But also for those who have supported and believed in me over the years. Chris, my friends, my BJJ family and most importantly my very, very patient wife.

March 5th finally came. The test date. I’ll admit it, I was a little nervous; I took 4 ibuprofen got on the mat and did the best I could. There were other students testing , blue, purple, brown belts as well as my friend and training partner Roland Larson , going for his black belt. It was an hour and a half of demonstrating techniques, teaching and of course live rolls with multiple partners. I had 7 rounds in all, some were my students as well as students and coaches from other academies. Everyone pushing me, making me work for every inch; by the end I was a big puddle of tired and luckily I made it through without anything going too bad . I could definitely feel my knee complaining and the tendons and muscles shaking but i was nothing to the satisfaction of being done with the test.

When we started the test; Chris was the only one in front of us, watching intently, making sure that we were on point. However; when we lined up at the end of the test waiting to receive the belts, there were 9 other black belts opposite of us lined up behind Chris in a room with well over a hundred people watching. A little awe inspiring for me. When my turn came and I heard my name called out I walked up to Chris and I was darn near teary. I admit it. I was about to say something and knew I would probably lose it and decided that for once, I’d shut up a little.  It was unexpectedly more emotional than I was prepared for.

When the belt was tied around my waist and the final  knot pulled tight, it was one of the best moments of my life. After spending over 25 years on BJJ. After persisting through times of not having instructors, through injuries, setbacks and all the little things that make one question “why am I doing this” or “wouldn’t it be easier to just stop?”.

To finally make it to this point, to reach this achievement and be recognized and welcomed by my peers is something that I still have a hard time expressing into words; I think grateful is a good start. I feel gratitude for all everyone in the BBJ family that have shared mat time with me. Gratitude for coaches that shared their game with me and even for mistakes that I’ve made and learned from.

Thank you to  my BJJ family that has put up with years of horrible jokes while I taught and learned but still kept coming back. Most importantly,  a heartfelt thank you to my wife;  that has put up with so many years of gym stuff, stinky gi’s and injuries.

I am grateful and so thankful to all of them.

My friends at that came to support at the Rigan Machado seminar
My friends at that came to support at the Rigan Machado seminar


The saying ” a black belt is a white belt that never gave up” has a whole new appreciation for me.  Don’t stop chasing what you want.


Cryptid Jiu-Jitsu seminar 2/20/16

In February I went for a visit to my Affiliate group Cryptid Jiu-Jitsu  (CJJ) in Waseca; Minnesota, it is great to see that that they are growing, offering more class times and getting together even on off times just to train. The head coach is Rob Eggers; one of my blue belts, the force behind the scenes is Jason Lynch, he make sure everything else gets done.  Without these two it would be difficult to start a club and keep it going. They deserve a lot of credit!

As the popularity of BJJ as a sport grows; it’s important to me to address an element of self defense in all my seminars with these guys, especially as there are law enforcement and corrections officers that attend. I’ve come to think of these guys as my friends, I want to make sure they know the distinctions between, sport, sport fight and real fight/ survival.  With so much that can be work on at any point, we focused on defending the big ole Haymaker, how to make frames and options for take downs. Little by little we’ll add on.

The rest of the class was working guard passing; starting with some movement drills, a lot of these guys are kinda big, most being well north of 200 pounds;  I have some friends that refer to movement as “little guy S**T” and equating movement to speed and jumping around,  however, being big is not an excuse for improving movement and timing and being find the best way for you to move to the best of your ability and body type (I’ll stop there before I end up on another tangent).

Then worked passes some standing guard passes, and half guard passes, we worked some basic passes for each position and when there is a beginning group I like to do two things; one, when I explain that they are learning basics, it not that the technique is something simple that is used only by those just starting but that is just a starting point and there is a lot of detail and complexity that can always be added as they learn and can be developed to use to a high level. That what they are learning is laying a foundation for their game to build on.

The second thing I like to do is leave “Breadcrumbs” at toward the end and show how the same technique can be used in multiple positions with a little adjustment. It is much easier to know how to use one technique really well than having to learn a new one for every position.

It is great to see that they’ve become addicted to BJJ and are so hungry to learn.

CJJ Seminar
CJJ Seminar

Cryptid Jiu-Jitsu Seminar on 1/23/15

Cryptid Jiu Jitsu
Cryptid Jiu Jitsu

I’ll be going back to Waseca, Minnesota for another workshop with my affiliate group Cryptid Jiu-Jistu (formerly Brickhouse MMA). These are up and running, they have one of my blue belts down there to teach during the week and are hungry for more. I’m always excited to share Jiu-Jitsu and help people grow.

Please follow the link for details on the Facebook event page.

12/17 Women’s Self Defense (escaping mount with arms pinned)

Akagi1188-1I love it when I get asked a question that is outside the normal BJJ sport frame of mind; at the end of class one of my female students that is new to BJJ said that one of her biggest fears is someone sitting on her chest in a very high mount and their shins/knees over their biceps trapping their arms. My first thought; I would never hold mount like that (automatic BJJ sport response, Duh), it took me a moment to catch up and get out of the sport BJJ world, she wasn’t saying what is a mount escape, she was saying “This terrifies me, what can I do?”.

Well After I work out what i thought was a viable concept of an established mount escape, and testing it out with her, she asked if it would work on someone bigger than me.  I said I don’t know, lets find out. I called for my assistant coach Joe to come over, I weigh 180ish he’s about 235. I asked him to get into the position in question and his reply; ” I wouldn’t hold mount like that”  ( so it’s not just me).  We tried a couple other variations for that situation but it seemed to work. Before writing this I wanted to test the concept one more time with Coach Tom, he’s about 265 , it took a little more effort a but worked as well and decided to put it out there and put it down on video.

Keep in mind; I’m addressing this as a “concept”, this in one instance in what could be an assault or rape situation. This is not meant as a end all solution but only to show that you have options and hopefully that it sparks an interest in learning some options for escaping from the ground. If it starts you on a Jiu-Jitsu Journey all the more awesome, but find a good gym with a good coach that will answer your questions.