Every December I get into a bit of a funk.

I have spent 2011 is learning mode.

I took up a new job that required adjustments. Those adjustments required learning, not just of material, but of people and systems and other ‘ways’.

I spent the year traveling and speaking at all sorts of places. Churches, conferences, seminars, and study groups. That required that I spend a year learning new things so that I didn’t just attempt to share the same material everywhere I went. Sometimes, I would share the same material as I did previously, which was a learing process because I had to take a view of improvement instead of simple duplication. I learned how to plan series of presentations, how to speak to vastly different audiences, and how to revisit with groups.

I also picked up Jiu-Jitsu. I fell into a massive universe of techniques and positions. It’s got a human chess element to it. I learned protection and survival. I learned reversals and attacks. I learned drilling disciplines and mental practices.

I have spent 2011 in leaning mode.

However, every December sees me get a case of Decemberitis.

I get to a point where I just can’t be bothered learning anything new. My brain goes into hibernation.

My work turns into autopilot as much as I can make it.

My traveling and speaking stopped in November (because I knew I wouldn’t be very productive in December).

My Jiu-Jitsu is a bit of a different story though. Mostly because I can’t understand how you can go into a training session without learning something. I don’t understand how you can spar without learning something new.

I know how it happens. I know those nights where guys come to the gym and munt their way through the sparring sessions. They grab submissions as hard as they can and growl until they get a tap. They panic when they get into a bad position which usually leads to them being let go of because the other guy doesn’t feel like munting. They don’t use technique to control, they use pain and heavy breathing and an unshaven face and the little metal band they left on thier arm. They grab collars and try to rip it off. They get to side control and hold as tight as possible until they can get their forearm into your neck or get their knee on your belly in order to pull up on your leg and shoulder in an attempt to push the knee through said belly.

That’s all ‘legit’ Jiu-Jitsu. I know how it happens. But, I don’t understand it. You see, when I get in that mode I don’t learn anything. When people do that stuff to me, I know they don’t learn anything. How do I know? Well, because it doesn’t work but they still try it next time without any adjustments. That simple concept says a lot about someone’s willingness to learn.

Please note that I said, ‘willingness’ and not ‘ability’. There’s a huge difference in those two words.

So, come December and the onset of Decemberitis I learned that going into Jiu-Jitsu with the ‘I can’t be bothered learning anything this entire month’ attitude doesn’t actually last long. I think I ended up learning more last night than I usually do. The reason has a lot to do with what’s stated in this blog. When I can’t be bothered I tend to be a lot more clear in thought. When I’m clear in thought I roll a lot better. When I’m rolling better it’s because I’m using more brain and less hairy face/munter elbow/growl growl jiu-jitsu and more technique based combat.

As John Will via Glen Tarrant says, it’s Jiu-Jitsu (the soft art) vs Go-Jitsu (the munter art).

In my annual month of not wanting to learn anything new I have come across two news lesson.

#1-  Experience will always teach but only if you’re willing to learn.

#2- If you’re not willing to learn your bound to end up as a munter… no one wants to be one of those.

#3- If you spend so long in munter mode (not learning) you’ll get well left behind because you’re not growing, you’re just munting.

#4- Don’t state how many lessons you’ve learning until you’re done making the list…

Happy December everyone!



Understanding yourself is a key to understanding your game as a jiu jitsu practitioner. It’s one of the greatest things about the art. It’s just as alive as you are. It reflects it’s user. It adapts to who you really are.

With all the teaching out there today it can become more an more difficult to know what your natural style might be. There are a lot of people learning someone else’s game. We watch the latest world champ, get his DVD, and model our game cometely on him. The problem with this is that it doesn’t always reflect your personality.

Our entire society refelcts this. More and more rules are being applied to expressions of art. Other people’s rules. Rules are okay. They usually come from an established truth. But, when truth is used to hinder the discovery and expression of further truth… well, we just start to become bored and struggle with our chosen art. The struggle is that we’re not expressing who we really are through it. At that point, it’s no longer art.

It’s copy and paste.

So, here’s a practice to try out:
Go into sparring without any kind of gameplan. Don’t hold on to submissions. When you see one, grab it, lock it, then let it go. Don’t hold a position without activity, but don’t just abandon them lightly either. As much as you can, follow your instincts. Don’t stop to think. Just roll. Let go of all thought. Just roll. If you get caught, tap. You’re not aiming to win here. Just roll. You’re aiming to get a feel for your natural game.

When the session is over, go back and think about what felt right and what felt forced. What felt natural and what didn’t. What felt like instinct and what felt like programme.

I have done this over the last year in jiu jitsu. I have also done this over the last 20 years playing sports and video games. I have discovered my natural game.

Tight and patient.

I think defensively. I protect first. I naturally limit options for the opponent, and anticipate action. When I see what I’m looking for I test it. If it’s good I’ll take it. If it’s not I’ll toss it back. I wait until the right moment instead of forcing.

My natural game is to slowly back my opponent into a corner taking an inch at a time until I’m ready to cover that last metre.

Because of all that, my natural game also involves a lot of movement. In BJJ I’m constantly adjusting to the reactions of my opponent. They move an arm, I move a leg. They lean forward, I shift to the side. They sit up to attack, I hip out.

The vast majority of my taps have come from counters because the opponent didn’t have any other options but to play into what I’d set up. Or, slow and patient work from a dominant position.

It’s important for me to note here that I haven’t played my natural game for some weeks now.

I’ve felt off. I’ve been in a jiu-jitsu funk. The reason for the funk has been that I haven’t been playing my natural game. I’ve been trying to play someone else’s. That’s lead to me ending up stuck underneath most of my opponents, not holding top when I do get there, and trying to force things (which usually starts the cycle of underneath and loss of position all over again).

So, I’m going to find my calm, do a bit of clear minded analytical thinking, and get back to my natural expression of art instead of attempting to copy and paste someone else’s personality.

Out Before It’s Too Late

Escapes are harder the longer you hold on to whatever it is that lost you control in the first place.

Last night I was an armdrag machine. Not one of those really good machines that does its job. I was one of those machines that’s meant to do one thing and only did it once out of 100 attempts. I was playing a seated guard while sparring. My gameplan in the seated guard is this:

Sweeps- Armdrag, Hooks Sweep, Hook lift to Back

Submissions- Guillotine, Omoplata

My aim last night was to armdrag to the back. So, here’s what would happen.

I would get a hold of a same side wrist. I would jump up to get a hold of the arm. I would drag back down. I wouldn’t get out to the side. I would allow them to grab my leg and keep me underneath. I would keep dragging them as if it might work the second or third time. I would get my guard passed. I would get stuck underneath in a well established side control. I would have to work my way out of a deep, weighted control.

Lessons I took away.

Stop insisting on moves. I should be shooting for a technique and letting go if it’s not there. By shooting for the armdrag and missing, and still holding on like they might forget what was going on and stop defending the move that they are in the process of defending, I am giving them everything they need to pass. If I miss I need to be willing to reset.

Bail out. The second one is the half a step deeper than the previous one. Bailing on lost moves saves lives. It really does.

Escape early. I should be looking to escapes well before they ever get into side control. The problem last night was that I was still trying to armdrag as they came around, got a crossface, and underhooked an arm.

So, to help me get back into a good mindset I’ve decided to watch more Marcelo Garcia videos.


This is Marcelo. I watch for his grip fighting, submission set-ups, and early escapes. This is a great video that shows how simple his game is. It shows how good he is at bailing on a lost technique and, most importantly, not letting a bigger fighter establish a dangerous control.


Natural Consequences

Another year gone by. Another year where I’ve successfully repeated my cycle of trying to get into shape, eat right, and be more productive.

Granted, every year get’s a little bit better. Every year I sleep a little less, eat a little better, work out a little bit more, and form other slightly better habits. I feel like I need to give myself a little pat on the back, especially considering that this year is probably the most flexible my shoulders have been in my young adult life… I can now actually pat myself on the back.

But, I’m still not where I want to be. I want to eat better. I want to be more fit. I also can now add ‘- Better BJJ technique’ to the list.

So, the battle against myself will continue into 2012. However, I feel like I’ve come to a bit of a landmark.

A few days ago I had my Gi with me in town. There was a seminar on that evening so I brought the thing in and was just going to stay in town. I was aware that there was a group that had a lunchtime roll during the week. I thought, while I had my Gi, I would head down for a bit of a workout.

I got there and was told that changed it from just an open mat sparring session into a drilling session. So, we did an hour of drills. For me, that was a good solid workout. I got back to the office and couldn’t bring myself to eat the big pasta lunch that I’d brought in. I grabbed a light sandwich from the bakery down the street. It was perfect.

That evening we had the seminar.

The next evening, on my usual night at home while my wife is at Pilates, I decided to get out the mats and run some more drills.

The next morning I woke up early and hit the mats again for some more drills.

Since that lunchtime roll I’ve stayed away from sugar and cut down my meal portions. Why? Because while my body is recovering from workouts it doesn’t want to have to digest heavy foods. It wants what it needs, and no more. It’s not a decision that I made. It’s my body saying, “Alright, that’s enough” whenever I eat.

I’m drinking a lot more water because I’m a lot more aware of the need for it.  Not that I’m sitting there thinking, “I should drink more water”. I’m simply applying logic to the reasons I feel thirsty. Because I’m drinking so much more water, I’m cutting down on all the other junk that I could be drinking, like coffee and coke.

I’m getting plenty of exercise because of the extra drills that I’m doing. Jiu-Jitsu is basically a non-stop core workout. Great for that six-pack that I’m trying to create. It’s a great cardio workout as well.

Which brings me to my lightbulb moment of the day.

There are things in life that you want to change. Many, many things. The key is to find the thing that triggers natural consequences. BJJ, and improving its practice through drilling has the natural consequences of better fitness, better eating habits, and drinking more water. Those things lead to being fresher during the day, sleeping better at night, and no longer constantly feeling bad for not exercising, eating right, and drinking enough water. 

Likewise, I’ve found out that a recently acquired passion for cooking has a natural consequence of making me do more dishes. That’s because I only like working in a clean kitchen.

Engaging in more theological (the study of God) discussions has made me have to learn more, which encourages me to read and study more.

We all have lists of things we want to be better at. Find the thing that triggers the natural consequences.


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