When Expectations Meet Limitations

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OK first a little bit about what is going on with Rolling Bones Gear, there are two new gi’s coming in mid-December, a new rashguard design from your’s truly was released last month.  We have been taking in orders world wide and so far things are looking good for 2018…AWESOME!  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest and greatest and visit our new website at http://www.rollingbonesgear.bigcartel.com

We have picked up a few new athletes in the last few months and we would like to welcome them to the RBG family.  Featherweight MMA fighter Jacob Kilburn is making big noise in the southeast United States and has just moved to the number one contender slot in Valor Fights promotions and Jerry Imasa is a BJJ Blackbelt and lead instructor Nova BJJ in Tokyo.

We have all had those moments that grind us to a halt where suddenly your expectation of a situation runs smack dab into a wall of reality.  Where the limits, be they physical, mental, or emotional, literally stop all progress…we have all been there.  What surprises me is how some people set the expectation bar incredibly high while other people carry that defeatist attitude around with them constantly.  We have new folks come to class and in a few short months are already telling me they think they are ready for their blue belt.  Along comes the ego bruiser who exposes all the limitations in their game and then they are no longer there early or staying late, as a matter of fact within weeks they probably aren’t there at all.  Or the youtube king who watches the latest videos of BJJ star Tom Terrifico showing you how to pass the guard, take the back, and move to the bow and arrow while standing on your head and spitting rainbows.  When he shows up to class, it doesn’t work…ever, and results in him getting swept at best or crushed then its even money whether he suffers the same fate as the wannabe blue belt.

In my last tournament, in the open weight division I was sooo confident I was going to win that I limited myself and ignored every possible opportunity for victory.  In the first few seconds of the match I could feel how much stronger I was and my only thought was “I’m going to grind this guy into dust”  even when he got the under hook…and then slid right to my back.  It was all down hill from there and I kept my tail tucked securely between my legs for weeks.

The point that I’m trying to make is that we all have tools at our disposal whether it is on the mat or off , each of us have our coping mechanisms for when our expectations meets our limitations.  Some of us take it to heart and let it color our lives while others treat it like water of a ducks back and press on.  We’ll internalize it, externalize it, rage, sulk, weep, laugh but for the most part eventually we move on.  Let what you CAN achieve define you as opposed to your limitations.

I can’t nail the berimbolo but I’m not kicking the neighbors kid over it and I’m not giving up on it either.  I tried to deadlift twice my weight…iron don’t lie.  Wanted to be six foot two and be ruggedly handsome…ain’t gonna make it.  Know your limitations but don’t let them stop you, instead use them to inspire you to be creative enough to find a work around.  Personally, I train more, I get stronger, I have a tall hat and hang out with folks uglier than I am…in the land of the blind the guy with one eye is King.  Long live the King.

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Going From Being A Big Fish To A Meal For Sharks

11129457_10152753262266190_2035217343_nI’ve been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for about nine years now, and I’m a four stripe blue belt. I’m also active duty Navy and have been bouncing around from school to school because of my military requirements. I was recently stationed in Japan, and I trained at the Seahawk BJJ club on the Navy base in Yokosuka. Most of the players there are beginners, with a few new blue belts thrown in. Training there was great for beginners. I really enjoyed helping my teammates grow and prepare for tournaments. But I felt like my own game was suffering because there were no higher belts there to help me grow and improve. I guess you could say that I was a big fish in a little pond. I’m not saying that I was that much better than all of the players there, but I had been training for a significant amount of time longer than most of the players there. I’m also a Judo black belt and I really enjoyed helping my teammates improve their standup game. But, if you’ve trained long enough, you’ll find that everyone goes through their ups and downs in jiu jitsu and I’m no different.

I found myself in a real slump in Japan. I never thought about quitting, but I must admit that I had kind of lost the spark and the excitement for it. Let’s face it; a lot of the people that quit jiu jitsu, quit at the blue belt level. This past July, my family and I relocated back to the United States after serving a three year tour in Yokosuka, Japan. I’m now training at Da Firma Training Center in Chesapeake, VA under Professor Ricardo Tubbs and let me tell you, there are some serious heavy hitters there. There are plenty of high level blue belts, purple belts and brown belts at the gym, and I’ve been getting smashed on a nightly basis. Now trust me when I say this, I’m not whining about being smashed. Quite the contrary. I’m loving the hell out of it. My new teammates are helping me improve my game. They’re helping me close the holes in my game, and get my timing and speed back to where it needs to be, as well as tweaking old techniques and learning new ones. I’m leaving class every night exhausted, and can’t thank them enough for it. Some may find it frustrating to come into this situation after being the “big fish”; some may even let their ego get in the way and let the “Quit” bug start creeping into their brain. Not this guy! I have have been fortunate enough to have found that spark again, and have fallen in love with Jiu Jitsu all over again.

So I guess my point here is this: there is nothing wrong with being a meal for sharks. Embrace it! You may not see the benefits now, but I promise you that you’re improving so much more than you would if you remained the big fish.

Contributed by MadSiss Productions’ Andy Barker be sure and check out his podcasts and vlogs.

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Back Again

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I didn’t realize it had been so long since I last sat down to write.  What has happened, well I took a new job with the same company not far away just across the street but I’m the only contractor in a small team of government workers and military personnel.  To the untrained eye it would seem like no big deal but to the knowing observer, a big deal it can be.  That being said I am nothing if not flexible much like the bass player Derek in the band Spinal Tap, “it’s like fire and ice, and I feel my role in the band is to be kind of the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water.” But enough about work, let’s get on with the BJJ talk.  I have had a productive year since we last talked.  Did a seminar with Reyson Gracie, did a seminar with Kris Kim, had two private lessons with Kris Kim and a two week training camp with Koji Imanari.  Competed!  I found two other old guys to compete with in the Asian open, lost on points each match.  Which like most of us we don’t mind getting beat by a better opponent but we do mind if we don’t think our performance was up to snuff and that is what we are going to talk about today.

The last year has seen me uninjured and so I was able to attend class on a regular basis with the legendary Koji Imanari.  Let me ask, does your school focus on playing the game of BJJ or ending the game.  Most of the schools I visit are teaching the right things but the students for the most part (myself included) aren’t grasping why this is important.  What is the lesson…guard pass.  Why…to get to side control.  And?  and what I’m in side control and I’m going to apply the weight of the world on this guy and when I get tired of this I’m going to either apply a choke to his scrawny neck or snap one of those things hanging down from his rashguard that kinda look like arms.  BTW this was my game plan for every match and if I thought I could reach your arm or your neck, or your ankle I wouldn’t even bother passing the guard.  I was in dog on a steak mode constantly…attack attack attack.  No wonder I’m losing everything outside of the gym.

I am awoke (heard that on the news the other day).  Outside the gym the game is not submit or survive.  It is a progressive game in which the points you earn are based upon that progression.

2pts-takedown

3pts-passing the guard establishing side control

4pts-mount or back take

I have left out sweep and knee on belly because they don’t fit in my scheme of progression.  Now that I have discovered this and have started to apply it in my rolls there is a world of difference in my approach to the game.  Interestingly enough applying this process sets me up for the submission I wanted all along…who knew?  My partners are seeing the difference, I can feel the difference, although I do have a tendency to still fight from bad positions a lot more than I should but I am also getting more sweeps in and escaping not just out of bad positions but to dominant positions.  So there I am again on the mats trying be the luke warm water between ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK and playing the game strictly for points.  Kris Kim said that the mats don’t lie, the way a person rolls tells you exactly what kind of person you are…I believe that.  I also believe that as people we all have the capacity to change even if it is to pass the guard instead of fighting from it.  See you on the mats!

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Getting Back To Center

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It’s been four months since I’ve written so let me bring you up to speed.  My wife has turned the corner on her treatment with a combination of half doses of prescribed medications and CBD oil and green lipped mussels from New Zealand.  She is back up to about 60-75 percent pain free mobility.  With things normalizing at the house I have been able to resume training more regularly and with a new found enjoyment.

There have been some big changes in the last few months.  I was recently promoted to blue belt which was a major surprise.  Which also means that I might be able to find folks my age to compete against.  That being said the folks who gave me fits before are still giving me fits now, proving the point the belt only covers two inches of your butt, its up to you to cover the rest.  I have had to say good bye to my coach Kyle Rhodus as he and his family relocate from Japan to California.  We will all miss his guidance and experience, a team couldn’t ask for a better coach.

Kyle has turned the Seahawk team over to Sensei Koji Imanari.  He is an absolute legend. Sensei has a gift for bringing out the best in you while keeping the fun in the game.  He will be the first to tell you that he is never serious, but roll with him and you find out that he has serious, SERIOUS Jiu Jitsu.

Miki Nakao (world class brown belt) is running Team Enishi on base and I get to train with her at least once a week sometimes its even a one on one class due to her’s being an adult lunchtime class.  There are never more than handful of students so she has the opportunity to focus more on each student.  So the stars have all lined up and provided me with a wonderful team and more time to train.

So lets talk about change and how it affects you and your Jiu Jitsu.  I had an issue a while back with the game getting too serious.  Too serious equals no fun.  I put waaay to much pressure on myself.  I sought out Koji-san who helped me to refocus.  He helped put more fun in what was supposed to be a game to begin with.  This is when the Coach started to see a difference in my training, this is what it took to get me as he put it, “back on track.  A better partner and a better student”.

Miki-san plays a much more fluid game than I think I can pull off.  She gets my best effort but being older and slower I wondered what is the benefit of spending my time trying (I said trying) to get inverted when my instinct is to be heavy as a dead whale.  This week she drilled shrimping away from knee belly inverting and coming up with the single.  I was able to complete the exercise and that evening at open mat I was able to take chances with like moves with a modicum of success.  Who would have guessed?

To bottom line all of this, change is inevitable.  We get promoted out of our comfort zone.  Our favorite training partners leave.  Our coaches leave.  We get new training partners.  We get new coaches.  We get older and slower and the new guys get younger and faster.  We get tired more easy and we learn to roll better being tired.  All these things, the changes, they have to potential to make you better if you let them.  Remember nothing very good or very bad last for very long.  It will all come back to center.

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Life Gets In The Way

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More aptly, the real world gave me a wake up call.  I’ve been training about two and half years with the gi on and did a good year before that without the gi.  I am a mere child in the grappling community but I’ve willingly let it dominate my free time.  If I’m not at work there is a good chance that I am on my way to train or just left training and am headed home.  Five or six days a week a couple of hours a day, sometimes twice a day…and lovin it.  I can honestly say I’ve never been in better shape in my life, I have an expanding social circle of grappling athletes, my FB news feed is literally covered with posts I can’t read (Portuguese and Japanese) and videos of people folding gi’s with people still in them.  Life is good.  Life was good.

About six months ago my wife was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis her case was mild to moderate.  The end of May we were in Seoul so that I could compete and so that we could visit family, we were there with my friends and team mates Andy Barker (Madsiss Productions) and Jeremiah Oh (he’s a big deal) and their families.  My wife took a lot of pride in walking them around Seoul, introducing them to to Korean dishes, shopping, etc, etc.  No more than a month later the idea of walking through Seoul with her seemed as far fetched as me ever seeing a black belt around my waist.  Her pain has jumped from moderate to severe to extreme, her mobility is zero, she can’t sit up without help, prepare her food, dress, walk, you get the idea.  Doctors have tried numerous different cocktails to control the pain and get her into remission but nothing so far has worked.  She hurts, she cries, I hold her till she stops, I make sure she’s OK then I cry for her and pray she doesn’t know.

My partners in Rolling Bones Gear put our business on hold so that I could focus on things at home.  Training has become the exception as opposed to the rule.  My son frees me up as much as he can because he knows I need some me time and some mat time.  I recently bowed out of the Copa Bull Terrier mainly because I won’t allow myself to be more than twenty minutes away from the house, but even if I went who can concentrate on competing and worry about what’s up at the house.

What is it that allows us to make BJJ the center of our universe?  I hear people talk about how BJJ is life, unless it’s how you are putting food on the table, it’s just some cool catch phrase.  I meet wrestlers that train constantly and will shoot you out of your socks from across the street but even the best realize that it is just a sport.  Have you ever noticed that there are more meme’s about BJJ than anything else?  BJJ’s first family, the Gracie’s is there a baseball or football equivalent?  What is it about the sport, that will have you speaking with an accent straight out of Rio when you were born in Council Bluffs, Iowa?

With my new found focus on what is truly important, I find myself clicking my heels together chanting “it’s just a game, it’s just a game”.  I no longer side glance the guy who decided a night out was more important than attending class.  Getting a chance to get to the gym at all whether its class time or not will suffice until things normalize.  In closing, train, roll, be obsessed, but know what is truly, TRULY important and be ready to pivot at a moments notice.  I read where an instructor said BJJ is important but being a good human being is so much more important…living it.

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The BJJ Carrot

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I was talking the other night with a bud who told me that friends he had trained with in the states had been promoted and it bothered him that he hadn’t.  Moreover it bothered him that it bothered him.  Now, I don’t know his friends and have no idea what their progress has been but this guy is a beast and I doubt seriously if they are better at BJJ than he is, I doubt they compete as often as he does, and doubt if they’ve had the successes that he has had.  He’s not belt hungry, but when you feel you aren’t being recognized for your successes or that guys who were your peers yesterday are now your peers no longer, even the strongest of us will let disappointment creep in.

I’m a white belt and nowhere near ready for promotion, as the blue belts in our class are life-takers and heart-breakers and its easy to see I’m not at that level.  I don’t do it for the belt.  I do it because I’m trying to fight off being an old man, I do it to compete, I do it for the exercise, for the friendships I’ve made, I do it for the fun of it…but even I feel a little envious of those who have passed me by…annnnnd I’m over it.  Truth be told, I think I’d like it better if there were no belts at all (like wrestling or boxing) but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority.  Even the NoGi guys are separated by belt rank.  A friend told me that if you took the carrot off the stick, 80% of our class would never show up and I can’t believe that our class is all that different from every other class in the world.

Do we need that recognition?  Does that drive your training? Does the allure of a different color around your waist keep you writing the check every month and training day after day?  That’s OK!  As long as you don’t let the disappointment of not advancing as quickly as you thought you would or as quickly as you think you should hinder your enjoyment of of the sport.  Trust your instructor.  He or she wants all of his/her students to advance and when you are ready they’ll know before you do.  They’re looking at every success and when you are ready they’ll tell you.  Until then, train, enjoy, compete, enjoy…repeat this as often as possible.

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If we are sharks on the ground, why are we scared to get in the water?

11129457_10152753262266190_2035217343_nFirst of all some good things happenings with Rolling Bones.  We have two new rashguards coming out next month, the new Black Ronin Gi is being very well received, and Rolling Bones is being represented in a new BJJ documentary by MadSiss Productions and was just mentioned in a recent article in the US Navy periodical “The 76er”.  Now on to the stuff that I hope helps you in some way in your BJJ journey.

We bow, we shake hands, bump, slap, and then bend over get our hips and legs as far as humanly possible away from our opponent and slap the hands of anything that gets close to grabbing our gi.  This dance goes on until someone makes a mistake and a lapel gets grabbed and then guard gets pulled.  Mike Molina, who has penned a few blog entries for us, has pointed out that unless you are submitting your opponent from guard to the point that it is a death sentence, why pull guard.  Does it make sense to take away their opportunity to score two points and instead give them a chance to score three by eventually working past your guard.  So here are a few of the reasons I’ve come up with that people do not work their stand up or that their stand up consists of only pulling guard.

  1. I’m scared of getting thrown to the ground.  Someone once said that the ground was the biggest thing you could hit someone with.
  2.  Lazy.  Yep just too lazy to make the effort to learn it.  Shooting or throwing someone is a lot of work.  Without a doubt, being on the feet constantly manhandling each other pushing and pulling is a lot of work.
  3. I don’t have time to become a wrestler or a Judoka and do BJJ.  Since my training time is limited I’d rather spend it training on the ground where I expect most of the fight to be.
  4. The flexibility isn’t there for me to change levels and I’m not fast enough to take a effective shot.  (There are other ways to get someone to the ground without shooting on them.  There is Judo and Greco Roman wrestling which use more throwing and tripping than that deep fluid shot we all envision.)
  5. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but I can put my foot in your hip and drag you on top of me.  Realistically, chances are you that didn’t know what you were doing the first few times you and your sweetie crawled into the backseat of your parents car, but you were ready to practice that until you became world class.
  6. The coach isn’t teaching it, so it must not be that important.  I will stab you in the eye, if you are using this as an excuse.
  7. I’m embarrassed by my lack of ability to drive the game to the ground and I feel I’m too far down the road to help.

OK, those are seven reasons.  Not the top seven, or the best seven, just seven reasons that I can think of or that I have heard folks mention over the last few years.  The truth of the matter is that not everyone you go against is going to be a wrestler.  Not everyone you go against is going to be a Black Belt in Judo.  There is a really good chance that the guy standing across from you is as ignorant as you are about how to get the match to the ground.  Even a little effort put into your stand up game may be enough.  Like anything else the output will equal the input.  Try this, learn two ways to get someone to the ground.  A simple throw, a trip, a single leg take down, a tackle, sing them to sleep…something/anything.  Practice it until you have the confidence to try it in one of your in class matches.  So what if you don’t get away with it, keep at it.  If it is a solid tried and true technique, the more you practice the better you will get with it and eventually you’ll have confidence to attempt it when they are keeping score.

Everyone has a perceived reason that they are not putting in the care and feeding that their stand up game deserves.  Start peeling back that onion and you’ll probably find that your reason is just an excuse you are using to keep from doing something that you don’t want to do.  Me too, in case you haven’t noticed a lot of my contributions to this blog are being used to motivate myself into doing what I need to do.  See ya on the mats.  11129457_10152753262266190_2035217343_n