The Time Between

It has been 3 years since my last post on this blog. Much has happened since then, as would be normal in a 3 year span. I thought I would get back into things by telling a story of the time between… but, not the full story. I’ll just talk about the stuff that has effected my ability to do BJJ.

In 2014 I moved from Upper Hutt to Rolleston. For those outside the know Upper Hutt is just outside of Wellington, in New Zealand’s North Island. Rolleston is just outside of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island. Upon arrival I decided to take a year off of BJJ so that I could settle into things.

In 2015 I started coaching high school basketball. I also joined a league where I hurt my knee 5 minutes into my first game… which is a really bad start to a season. I went to the doctor the next day. That began a 9 month process where I was treated for a knee sprain. After 9 months, and still very little improvement I was sent to a specialist where it was discovered that I had severe damage to the cartilage in my knee as well as a missing ACL, which is a pretty important thing to have.

In January 2016 I went in for surgery to replace my ACL and fix the damaged cartilage. This completely restarted the already 9 month long rehab process.

I am now six months into my recovery. It is still sore. It is still weak. It has changed the way to function in my everyday life. I am in the worst shape of my life. I have zero flexibility. I have zero strength. I am slow and lethargic. I got to the point where I had almost completely given up on ever playing any kind of sport again.

Then, I was approached by a friend who knew I did BJJ and heard that it might be able to help with his son’s bullying problem at school. I thought long and hard about it and decided that I would give it a go. I would teach this kid BJJ.

That has reinvigorated my desire to get back into BJJ. I have taken the mats out of the garage, cleaned them up, dusted off my Gi pants, pulled out my Gracie Bullyproof curriculum, and begun teaching BJJ. I am getting back into doing regular exercise in order to get back into shape, and rehabilitate my knee. I have gotten back into a stretching routine and have even decided that I would get back into writing my BJJ blog… which would make sense… because I’m here writing stuff… yeah.

So, look forward to some more blogs and I continue to jot down my BJJ journey.


Loss = Win #2


I wanted to take quick advantage of my previous post by highlighting an experience. 

Last night I went to a new gym down in Christchurch, New Zealand. At this gym I experienced a lot of loss. I felt very slow mentally and physically. My technique ranged between sloppy and non existent. I am also not in getting-crush-fitness. It’s amazing how quickly your body adjusts to not having people trying to crush the breath out of you and help you pass-out. 

All of that is just time. I will get back into shape. I will get used to the physicality of the game. I will get my movement back, and my mind will sharpen. That’s all fine.

What I realised is that I have some major holes in my game. Much of this has to do with the kind of gym I come from.

Now, before I get into it I need to make it understood that this is not criticism. This is observation. Things are not better or worse, they are different. The difference simply create realities. 

The gym I’ve been training at my entire BJJ career is (generally speaking) a defensive, arm-drag, head-to-head kind of gym. Guys don’t play guard, they get back to their knees and re-engage from bottom. They attack from side-control, and don’t (again, generally) tend to shoot for mount or attack the back. Why is this? It is because every gym will look like its teacher. My instructor plays this kind of game. A lot of guys at the gym are big and strong. Therefore, as the small, weak guy I spent a lot of time on the bottom and chasing submissions through transition, especially when guys were in bulldozer mode. That’s how I’ve learned BJJ. 

This new gym is very different. These guys play a lot of guard. Most of last night I was put in a position of dealing with the guard. I’ve spent 2.5 years playing guard. I quickly realised last night that I didn’t have a passing game. Another issue is that I’m seeing guards that I’ve never had to deal with before. There were spiders, and De LaRivas and seated guards. I was, quite simply, stuck without a clue.

Hole #1- Guard passing, specifically of open guards. 

I got quite good at attacking in the guard. However, since my old gym wasn’t a guard playing gym there weren’t many guys great at passing the guard. It’s not bad, it just isn’t needed. At the new gym, since people play the guard, guard passing is a fundamental part of the gym’s game. I got passed like my guard was a small plate of warm butter being cut by a knife on fire… yeah, a fire-knife. 

Hole #2- Guard Maintenance and pressure. 

I lost a lot last night. But, I can see where I’m losing and adjust. Therefore, Loss = Win. 

I will now look at drilling guard passing, of various guards. I’ll build a game plan out of that for dealing with the things that I’ve seen so far. From there, I will simply add and adjust to whatever else I see. The idea is to have 1 or 2 main passes that I learn to get to from different guards. I will also drill my escapes. Drilling escapes give good fitness and deals with a lot of basic BJJ movements that are useful everywhere. It’s never a bad idea to drill escapes. I will also pick a standing guard, and a kneeling guard to focus on. The focus will be movement and maintenance along with a submission chain and a sweep chain (chain = 2 or 3 techniques that work with each other). 

When you experience loss, if you adjust what caused the loss, it will become a win. That’s the beauty of BJJ. 

Loss = Win


I learn more from a loss than I do from a win. 

I remember having to learn an escape from headlock side-control because a brute of a man at the gym I was attending used it really well. It was uncomfortable to have all his weight on my chest as he methodically went about dismantling my pathetic defenses. If I didn’t get out of that position early, and with gusto, I would tap every time. 

I remember having to abandon the deep-half game because the sweep that I knew got countered by a good friend, and training partner. He turned my go-to sweep into a counter armbar. I wasn’t willing to invest more into the deep-half so I had to find another way to sweep. 

I remember getting dominated in a guy’s guard so often that I one day decided that I just wasn’t going to go into it anymore. It changed the way I looked at guard passing, and the rules we seem to create around engagement. It was the first time I was forced to apply the, “if it happens every time you go in there, why do you keep going in there?” logic. 

I remember getting caught with a figure four every time I moved when rolling against my instructor. It meant that I was moving with chicken wings hanging out. I needed to move less like a chicken trying to jump over a fence and more like a guy who’s elbows were sewn into his ribs. 

I remember, very early on, that I decided that I wanted to last long enough to be able to play the game. That forced me to look into postures and survival and escapes. 

I remember very few wins. 

Loss has caused me to take far more significant steps to growth in my Jiu-Jitsu than any wins that I might have experienced. Winning has provided me with a minimal ego boost for at least ten seconds each time, but that every loss has resulted in a better game.

The great reality to this beautiful, gentle art is that a loss is far more of a win than a win will ever be.  



Hello again, Jiu Jitsu world!

I am done with full-time study and am headed to my first appointment as a Salvation Army Officer. My family and I head to Rolleston which is a town 25 kilometers outside of Christchurch in New Zealand. I take with me my lovely wife, Naomi along with my two sons Josiah (4) and Noah (2). With that comes my BJJ blue belt and a stack of nine mats (thanks to my coach, Glen Tarrant).

As a new chapter in my life starts it also brings with it a new chapter in BJJ. I am no longer able to continue with my original coach. This is sad, but was always on the cards due to the profession I am committing to. So, the comeback begins.

I have been on a jiu jitsu break for about six months as I finished my studies. I am now in the worst shape of my life (thanks lazy-time break!). My game is slow and limited, mentally and physically. So… here goes my list of BJJ goals for 2014 (seeing as it is the 1st of January)!

#1- Find a gym There are various gyms down in Christchurch and I plan to check out a few. My goal is to to find a good place, with a good mat culture made by a group of good people in order to step into my next goal.

#2- Get into shape- I have a ways to go to get back into shape. I have to start somewhere. I will start on the mats. I have played sport my entire life and I can say with all confidence that I have never been more fit than I was when doing jiu jitsu. It gives you great core strength, mobility, flexibility, and (unless you adopt a lazy game, which is very easy to do) good cardiovascular conditioning. It is also the only time I haven’t had a sore neck and/or back. The reason is because you need neck and back strength to do BJJ. I want to train a lot, stretch every day, drill on non-training days, and get back all that child-like mobility.

#3- Find some partners- After I get into shape and establish a relationship with a gym I plan to start finding some training partners. The reason for this is because Rolleston is well enough out of Christchurch to be its own gym eventually. I don’t have much of a desire to start a gym though. I want to find people that want to train. So, I’ll be matting out the garage and going for glory with recruiting people who want to learn jiu jitsu.

#4- Get back to blogging- Finally, I want to get back into regular blogging about my BJJ experiences. I miss it, and it feels like it’s time for a comeback.

The next time I post will likely be out of shape and sore… but glorious.

Rolling with Others and how I think about it later


Last night I had the privilege of joining a different school for a night of training. I am from Wellington, but am in Whangarei for a week. There is a club up here, so I decided to bring my Gi and have a roll.

This reminded me of something that, I believe, should be foundational to everyone’s BJJ life:

Whenever you have the opportunity, train with new people.

After 2 years at the same place you tend to have a pretty good understanding of everyone’s game. You naturally learn counters, and counters to counters. You discover strategies that work against different opponents. You know what positions to stay away from and what positions you can enter freely without consequence.

When you head off to another school, and hop on the mats with people you’ve never met before, you have to go through the entire discovery process again.

For example, from last night I’ve figured out the following:

– Against opponent A I cannot let him get to the top position. If I do, I won’t get out and will likely get submitted. I also have to be posture-focused while in his guard because he likes to attack from there. I also have to play a sitting hooks guard against him rather than a laying hooks guard (so I’d be attacking with my arms rather than my legs). This is because he sprawls on the hooks which exposes my legs.

These things mean that when I roll against opponent A, I have to look for underhook sweeps and drags from the guard. I have to use an early escape plan.

Since I spent the entire spar on the bottom I don’t yet know what works when on top. So, if we rolled again I would look to test that out.  My hypothesis is that he would have quite a physical bottom game where he looks to break posture. So, I would try to play a busy top game looking for underhooks and collars along the way.

– Against opponent B I cannot allow him to gain side control, because it takes more effort to get out of side control than it does to not allow it in the first place. I was defended while there, but he stayed busy, and kept attacking. Again, I didn’t have a chance to test the top. He also sprawls well on the hooks.

Similar to opponent A (probably because they train together) I would have to play seated looking for underhooks and drags. I would look to just play top and stay busy. I would defend sweeps, so as not to give up position.

– Against opponent C I can play a bit more, but need to be willing to work my way out of things. He defeats lazy-jitsu. He plays a very tight, grabbing game. Top would just be slow and steady, working towards better positioning. He is a north-north top player (someone that just keeps pressing forward) so a laying hooks guard is fine.

I would look to play more east-west in the guard and attack a lot with the legs, with drags and scissors sweep thrown in. My top game would be all about dominating staying clear of arms (so that I don’t just get stuck and have to waste energy working out), and using knee-rides and transitions. Since he likes to grab I would look for arms and opportunities to transition into submissions, rather than trying to work towards submissions.

– Against opponent D I can play a lot more. This opponent rolls, and scoots and flows. Grips, foot placement, blocking with shins and simply countering slight movements is the game are all important. This opponent doesn’t hold position, they advance while looking for spaces to attack. I get to play a lot, and give up position, and try different things, but I have to always be on because submissions could come from anything. There are no resting (mentally)positions against these kinds of opponents.

I would look to play even more against this type of opponent. Why? Because it’s fun.

The best reason to roll with others is that is tells you, very clearly what’s missing in your foundational game. I get to ask the question, “What, when I roll against someone I’ve never met, is a hole in my game?” I can now take these things away and create new triggers for my techniques. I can broaden my game just enough to fit the new things in without making it too big.

This is a great practice that every practitioner should do as often as possible.

Thank you to the folks I rolled with last night. Thank you for helping me grow my game. See you next time!

Postmodern Martial Arts

I am currently studying at a theological seminary run by The Salvation Army in New Zealand (which is part of the reason I haven’t posted in so long). My current topic of study is how post-modernity has effected the Christian faith.

Now, I’ve always felt that the world of martial arts and the world of religion have a lot in common. Especially when it comes to the more traditional vs the more contemporary expressions of both. Well, in my studies I’ve realized more and more that BJJ is a great example of post-modern martial arts. 

First, definitions. Modern and postmodern are terms used to describe how people think. The way people think has always been consequences of society. 

Modernism is all about human reason as a way of discovering systematic truth in an orderly world. There is truth, and we can find it out, and everything else is wrong. 

Postmodernism is basically the opposite. It is a believe that human reason is flawed (a logical conclusion of a look through the history of “truth”), and that the world isn’t orderly and therefore can’t just be limited to systematic truth. This is simply because people discovered that there seems to be layers of truth and that everything contains some truth AND some non-truth and that all of it is relative to whatever reality someone might exist in.

Got it? Exactly, you’re not really meant to. That’s kind of the point. 

That brings us to martial arts. 

Every martial art in the world thinks it is the best. If it didn’t think that it wouldn’t continue to be whatever martial art is it. That’s just silly. Many martial arts exist and teach in the modern realm of human thought. We do this because this works. It works because I tell you it works, because I was told that it works by someone else who was told that it works. This is what we do because this is the true path to better martial arts. You do it this way because it’s the truth. 

Then comes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Now, if you haven’t read the history of this martial art you need to. You can google it, or find it in many BJJ books (especially ones done by the Gracies), or many MMA books. 

BJJ is a martial art that has it’s base in effectiveness. I won’t get much into that here, because it’s not the point of the post. 

What I will talk about is how BJJ works so well for someone like me, a postmodern thinker. 

I believe that everything in this world is relative to the user. Truth for me might not be truth for someone else. BJJ is a great example of this. Marcello Garcia and Roger Gracie have very different games. Both games are true. Both games work. However, if Garcia started to roll like Gracie and Gracie started to roll like Garcia, neither would preform as well (I don’t think). Therefore, what is true for Garcia is true, but not for Gracie. What is true for Gracie is true, but not for Garcia. To teach that either is wrong is not a true teaching.

I am at a club as a 70kg guy. There are two other regulars that are under 80 kgs. That means that my reality is different than anyone else’s reality. What works for me is actually different than what works for others. It is all relative.

That works, and is actually quite enjoyable for a postmodern thinker. If I were told, “These are the moves. They are to be done in exactly this way. Never deviate” I would be lost in a sea of big sharks trying to do all the same stuff. That modern form of thinking just wouldn’t work. I would quit and leave. 

BJJ also works really well for me because it gives that opportunity to test truth in a live setting. That’s a key for a postmodern thinker, the safe space to test truth claims. 

I don’t accept something just because someone tells me it’s true. I don’t just believe something that someone says just because they have a certain degree (or belt color). I want to test it before I’ll accept it. BJJ gives me that opportunity in live, full contact sparring.

So, I want to encourage anyone like me, a self-proclaimed postmodern thinker, to embrace all the amazing stuff about this great martial art. Your game can be relative to you and you can test truth claims every time you hit the mats. Don’t waste the opportunity to explore. 

Keep thinking, and test every possibility.


It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog.

I’ve been studying this year as a full-time student. Between that and family I stay quite busy.

I’ve still been able to train at least once or twice a week at the club, and usually once or twice with a training partner at the campus. So, my Jiu-Jitsu hasn’t suffered much physically. If it’s suffered it’s been in the mental game. However, I will say that it has become a bit of a blessing for me as a creative outlet.

The course I’m doing doesn’t allow for a whole lot of creative outlet. We do what we’re told to do when we’re told to do it. Everything we do has to match some kind of criteria or structure. There’s always some limit, or rule, or thing that has to be done to please a teacher. So, creativity is limited.

I love expressing myself creatively, so the fact that my creativity is limited could easily drive me crazy.

My Jiu-Jitsu has become my main creative outlet. So I’ve fully embraced what I’ve come to call ‘Fun-Jitsu’.

Not that all Jiu-Jitsu isn’t fun, don’t get me wrong. It’s more been about the attitude I’ve carried this year. I haven’t been as serious and focussed on my progression as I had been. I’ve been a lot more focussed on just getting out, and enjoying the game. Having a good roll, seeing what new techniques I can try, and maybe pulling out some crazy escape are things that I’m taking into every session.

It has been fantastic.

It’s also been interesting to analyse.

I’ve found that, since I spent a year drilling and using the basics I have quite a firm foundation to fall back on. They have, more than ever, become my basic game and they come out naturally when I roll. I automatically fall into my scissors sweep, arm-bar from mount, cross collar choke, guillotine, over-under pass kind of game. But, I’ve also been able to add some surprises in.

Omoplatas have become a major part of my game now. The Rubber Guard is showing up. The X-Guard is becoming a bit of a go-to. Spider Guard is even starting to creep in. I’m experimenting right now with the rolling back-takes from top half-guard and side control.

In the minimal analysis that I’m doing I’m finding that I’m actually getting a lot more taps than I had been. I’m also tapping less… interesting. It’s a bit harder to measure my progression, but I do feel more relaxed, more fluid, more patient, and more consistent with many of the basics.

Most importantly, I’m just having fun.

Aggressive Defence

I’ve been analysing my Jiu-Jitsu game lately (as I always am) and came to a realisation that I already knew (but was nice to remind myself of anyway). I remembered that my best attacks come from aggressive defence.

I grew up in the USA. I played Baseball when I was little and hated batting. I loved to field. I love the defensive part of the game. However, I was always very aggressive in defence. That translated into my batting as well. I was very concerned about not getting out. When I wasn’t focussed I would just close my eyes and swing away like there was no tomorrow. When I did that, I got out.

When I played Football (the American kind) I always preferred to be on defence. On offence I loved to block more than anything else.

When I played soccer I was usually in the midfield and I was always playing defensively.

When I played ice hockey I was always defensive minded.

Playing  rugby, I prefer to defend.

Playing cricket I prefer fielding to batting.

Now, in Jiu-Jitsu I am at my best when I play defence.

I am naturally defensive.

In BJJ this has some interesting translations.

I am working with a friend, doing some one-on-one sessions. I’m introducing him to the game and am already finding that I’m explaining to him a very defensive game. However, that’s not to say that I never attack. I’m attacking all the time.

One of the amazing things about BJJ is that you can become a very aggressive defender. For example, when I get caught in mount I am very aggressive in my escape plan. I fire them off quickly until one pays off. That’s not to say that I thrash around, growl, and throw my arms out. I’m defensive about my escapes, but I’m aggressive none-the-less.

Elbow escape, upa, snag & drag, back to elbow, snag & drag, elbow, upa… attack, attack, attack. I’m not giving away hooks. I’m not leaving my neck open. I’m not giving up my back. But I’m definitely letting them get comfortable. I’m firing off escape after escape after escape.

It’s the same in side control. Underhook, bridge up, hip out, turn in, underhook again, turn in more, move aggressively with their transitions.

Knee-ride? I bridge hard and quick.

Back control? I scoop down or scoot up quickly. I look to escape well before they have even established.

If they move an inch I try to take 4 and a half miles.

I’m very aggressive in my defence. In fact, I’m attacking.

If my opponent is having to defend against an escape, they can’t submit me.

Next time, I’ll talk about all the submissions that I use off opponent’s escapes. Reason is, because that’s another part of aggressive defence.

Man, this is a fun game.

Shorter Ladders

Jiu-Jitsu is great because we get to spar every time we meet. That means that you get a lot of opportunities to experiment because you get a lot of opportunities to test your new thoughts.

My newest thought was that of making my technical ladders a bit shorter.

The Scissors Sweep is still my go-to sweep against a kneeling opponent. When I’m rolling, and have simply had enough of being on the bottom, I set up the Scissors Sweep. That technique goes something like this.

Closed Guard with the left hand gripping the opponent’s right sleeve and the right hand gripping the opponent’s collar.

Open your guard putting your left leg down by the opponent’s right leg and bringing your right knee across the opponent’s belt line.

Pull your opponent down with your collar grip. Pull up over your head, or across your body with your sleeve grip. Sweep to your right with your left leg an guide the opponent over with your right leg.

Follow your opponent up into the mount.

That’s a longer ladder than I want to have to climb every time I want to sweep. So, I want to shorten the ladder. Here’s how I’ve gone about doing it.

I look for a cross sleeve grip.

The opponent’s posture has to come forward and I have to eliminate the post on the side I want to sweep to. I realised that if I’m able to get a cross grip I can pull my opponent’s arm across his body. If I do it right it also brings him forward. This takes the steps of getting the grips, and breaking the posture and puts them into one step.

I don’t bother with the closed guard.

I usually play a seated guard looking to establish butterfly hooks. However, I also quite like to put my feet on hips and knees when the opponent is kneeling. If I establish a cross sleeve grip I tend to go straight to a hip/knee placement because I’ll look to either arm drag across, or sweep. Instead of having to open my guard, then get my feet in place I simply place my feet very close to where I want them to end up. This effectively cuts the leg placement process in half.

I have also started to bring my right leg, knee first across the opponent’s chest. I create a hook under the opponent’s armpit. This acts as a knee shield (similar to the z-guard) to help keep space, a barrier against around-the-leg passes to my right, and a placement that adds itself very well to the scissors sweep.

So, I develop a guard system around the knee shield with a cross sleeve grip all aimed at the scissors sweep. That systems means that the sweep is always two steps.

Pull my opponent’s arm across and towards my right shoulder as I push on the opponent’s right knee.

Follow over into mount.

Shorter ladder.

My current other options from that guard are:

– Armdrag to back transition

– Triangle if they try to underhook the right leg

– Omoplata if they try to overhook the right leg

– Figure 4 if they pull arm free and post

– Guillotine if they pull the arm free and come forward with the head

I’m also looking to develop a similar system when I can’t get the cross sleeve grip but can get the cross collar grip, which has presented itself as of late.



New Years Resolution

It’s almost February but for me, it’s the start of the year.

In my work, January is a bit of a write off. There’s always the final bits of Christmas and New Years holidays. This year I got back to work just in time to head away for an 8 day camp where I was teaching. No time for BJJ. I got back from camp and spent the next week packing with my family so that we could move a week later. Then, we moved. After all that I really needed a week of recovery. So, it’s now the 29th of January, and I’m just now ready to get back into BJJ.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. However, I am a fan of resolutions in general. So, I’m going to make some for BJJ.

I’m a 3 stripe white belt and have 12 months of BJJ under my belt. Now, I feel like it’s time to really focus my training.

2012 BJJ Goals

#1-  Drill every day. This is my number 1 goal because I think it might be the most important. I started drilling a bit at the end of 2011 with a few others and found it to be fantastic for my game. Great fitness, great for getting techniques deep into you, great for simplifying your game (because you can only drill so many techniques, therefore you can only have so many techniques in your arsenal), and great for keeping that BJJ rhythm.

I plan to do this by grabbing the mats my coach is so graciously letting me borrow, finding some space, and planning an hour of drilling into my schedule.

#2 – Stretch for 30 minutes every day. This is my number 2 goal because flexibility is an amazing thing to have in BJJ. It’s also just great for the body.

#3- Take my nutrition very seriously. This is number 3 only because 1 and 2 were already taken. However, I see this as just as important as the previous ones.

My plan is to adjust my diet is simple. Less sugar and salt. More fresh, raw foods. More water. Easy, and vital to being able to perform.

#4- Create a solid gameplan. I want to think a lot more about my gameplan this year. There are so many hours of mat time I killed last year ‘just rolling’. Just rolling is fine, but there’s so much more to gain if the rolling has focus and direction. I’ll do this through a process.

Focus on a specific part of my gameplan during sparring.

Analyse the outcomes.

Adjust the gameplan.

I’ll be keeping track of my drills through a drill sheet. I’ll be checking off the days that I spend 30 minutes stretching. I’ll be keeping a log of what I eat and drink. And, I’ll be mapping out my gameplan and keeping a sparring journal.

Bring on 2012!

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