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Competing: Pros and Cons

Competing: Pros and Cons

Original Article: BJJSTYLE

Competition plays a major role in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Pick up any BJJ magazine or surf the web and you’ll find competitions and successful competitors highlighted.
Walk into almost any BJJ academy and immediately see medals, trophies, and pictures from tournaments on display. There are a number of regional, national and international organizations and tournament circuits now making regular competition accessible and a real option for athletes around the world at all belt levels. These organizations and tournaments are popular in the BJJ community, as they provide points of reference – sometimes even including ranking systems, rallying points for teams and the opportunity for notoriety for both athletes and teams based on positive performances.

Competitions also serve as a platform to display and discover new techniques and strategies to the larger BJJ world outside of the athletes’ individual training circles.

As an instructor, I often use competition footage to make points or bring ‘real world’ perspective to lessons covered on our mat. Due to that practice and the focus of much of the BJJ media on competition, some of my students have asked me for guidance in terms of if or when to compete. To their surprise, I offered advice both encouraging and discouraging competing that I would like to share.

Reasons to compete

One of the main reasons why athletes should compete is the reward of benefitting greatly from the process of preparing for competition. That process includes paying greater attention to technical details during class and in positions, often more mat time over-all, some focus on “areas of weakness” and a self-imposed, over-all “higher personal standard” being applied to training sessions.

These individual benefits would be substantial but – taken as a whole – they provide a compelling argument for competing to improve our BJJ regardless of the results achieved.

Competition expands our BJJ experience. As athletes, we train at our local academies or with our regular training partners. There is a level of comfort there over time as trust is developed and friendships often established. Competition allows us to be exposed to “strangers” who may or may not have similar views, coaching approaches or styles to us. This stimulation can be a positive thing as it can challenge us to think about our own BJJ and grow in our understanding of BJJ. Beyond that, competitions can serve to introduce us to others in the BJJ community that we otherwise would not meet, providing us with the opportunity to make new friends in the community. All in all, tournaments can really help enrich our personal journeys by enlarging our scope and perspective of the community.

Competition helps us develop the skill to process adversity in a positive way. Even Buchecha and Gabi Garcia, the current Mundial open division champions, have lost matches – so it stands to reason that we, if we compete, will lose matches as well. No one is unbeatable, so competing puts us all in the position to deal with losing. Derek Kaivani, black belt and co-owner of Lucas Lepri BJJ and Fitness, says that this opportunity for personal growth is the “most valuable thing we get from competition as it is a life-skill that goes way beyond the mat in its ability to generate success in our lives”. Tournament victories are fantastic and we compete to win, but losses should be valued as well as they can improve us both on the mat and in the game of life if we allow them to. The by-product of honing this skill is that it takes needless anxiety out of competing and that makes us more capable of producing our best in the stressful situations that competitions often represent.

The last reason to consider competing is that it is often FUN! Some consider the actual matches fun, while others enjoy the preparation and yet others savor the “glory” that comes post-competition. Competing also brings teams together in a unique way that helps “jump-start” friendships, which also helps everyone have a good time. When I look back at 20 years of BJJ, most of the BEST times I have had have tournaments center-stage. Whether I was competing at regional or international tournaments or I was coaching/cornering a teammate, I have fond memories of great times full of humor, excitement, and camaraderie. Wherever we find the fun individually, the point remains that tournaments are often a great source of it for everyone involved!

Reasons not to compete

The first reason why competition may not be a good idea for us is if there is some physical reason we cannot compete. This may sound like common sense to most of us but it needs to be covered. I am not talking about “discomfort” here but real injury or a physical condition that prohibits us from safely competing. If a doctor says we cannot compete, we should not compete. No prize, medal or amount of prestige is worth potentially risking our health. Once we cross this line, we are taking something that should be positive and making it harmful and negative.

Related to this point is the inability to properly prepare. Reasons can be family obligations, work, an injury, etc that prevent us from training or dieting in a way that will support our reasonable preparation. Also, in this category is competing before having enough mat-time to safely participate. To this end, I tell students to have at least 6 solid months of training before even considering entering a tournament.

While most of us can safely compete in tournaments physically, many of us do not have the skill I eluded to earlier: the skill to process competition in a positive way. I have a saying that I repeat during competitions season, “If you are not ready to lose, you are not ready to compete”. It is NOT a defeatist mentality, it is simply looking realistically at the possible outcomes of competition and making sure we are prepared for the worst. When we push towards the best and yet are prepared to deal with the worst, we free ourselves from allowing the worst to have a fatal impact on us. Every academy has at least one example of the talented BJJer who competed, lost and then was never the same. That person was not prepared for the worst. If the choice is between potentially quitting BJJ and not competing, I will always push that athlete not to compete, at least until they are READY to process any potential outcome in a better way.

Some BJJ athletes simply do not have the desire to compete. This is NOT referring to the athlete who says they do not have the urge to compete BUT they SMASH every training partner they can get their hands on and keep score during all sparring sessions – that person is simply fooling themselves. The person who has no genuine desire to compete does not treat teammates like the enemy and can often be an AWESOME training partner and teammate as there is not any ego involved in their training. This is not to say that they approach training with any less intensity or have any less love for the sport. This athlete simply has a different view of BJJ or different personal goals. BJJ is so much more than the competition so we must be open to those of us who embrace the elements of teamwork, technical growth, and the overall lifestyle in a way that does not manifest itself in a combative way.

All things considered, I believe competition can be a great tool to both improve our BJJ games and to add layers to our BJJ experience. When my students ask me about whether to compete, I encourage them to do so if they can have a genuine desire and are willing to prepare. I also make sure my students understand that tournaments are to be used to help them reach their BJJ goals and not to elevate their standing in my eyes. Competition can help spur growth but is not a REQUIREMENT for advancement. In short, use tournaments to get better and have fun – do not allow tournaments, or anything, to sour you on BJJ or derail your BJJ journey. See you on the mat!

Don’t forget to check out Gracie’s new online instructional website, Roger Gracie TV.

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Your Bjj New Year’s Resolutions

Your Bjj New Year’s Resolutions

Original Article: Gracie Barra

After the holidays have passed – and with it all of the rich foods, Christmas desserts, drinks and sleeping off the big meals on the couch, it is time to think about getting back to bjj training. The media is filled with features on health and diet advice for those who have made a “New Year’s Resolution” to quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol and/or go on the dreaded celery and carrot stick diet.
As practitioners of bjj, we can use the start of the year to embark on some new training goals to add some fresh motivation to our training.

Training Layoffs

If you have been absent from the academy for any reason, this is a good chance to get the kimono out again and get back on the mat. Start back slowly and allow yourself enough time to “get the rust out” and restore some of your previous conditioning before returning to the intensity of training that you may formerly have enjoyed.
One of the biggest sources of frustration for those returning after a layoff is expecting to resume training at the same level and intensity from which they left off.
Attaching an unrealistic time schedule to your return to full speed will likely end in frustration. You have to allow your body to adjust to training again. Go slowly at first and build your intensity and frequency gradually. Before you know it, you will be back rolling at your previous levels.

Check the conditioning blog here!

Concentrated Learning

For those of you who have not been absent from the mats, you can use the start of a new year as a time to begin a new area of study in your jiu-jitsu.

I pose the question:

What area of jiu-jitsu – if concentrated on for the next 8 weeks – would cause the greatest improvement in your bjj game?
I have successfully used this concentrated approach to training to radically improve several different areas of my bjj game. It might be working from a new DVD set that has been released on guard passing, arm triangles, positional escapes or whatever you have identified in your own game.
Over a period of weeks, this becomes my focus in training and I can raise my level in that concentrated area beyond anything that would have been possible by just showing up at the academy and training normally.

This year have decided to focus my bjj New Years resolution on butterfly guard.

I have some techniques that I have employed for years, seen some moves that I would like to try to integrate, and need a new challenge in my game. I would also like to tie the different isolated techniques into more of a system, where one technique flows into another and I develop combinations.
Two months of concentrated drilling and positional sparring, YouTube research and experimentation with your training partners (try to enlist them in your campaign ass well) will stretch my butterfly guard proficiency to previously unreached levels.

So, what is your bjj New Year’s Resolution?

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Jiu-Jitsu and Holiday Season

Jiu-Jitsu and Holiday Season

Original Article: BJJFanatics

The holiday season is finally upon us.  If you celebrate Thanksgiving, this week will be filled with family, feasts and for some of us, missed training.  As amazing as the anticipation of the holiday season can seem with its lure of time off from work, from school, and from our normal routine, we must be careful that we don’t derail the progress we’ve made by straying too far from the routine and lifestyle we follow throughout the rest of the year.  Here are just a few ways that training jiu-jitsu can help ensure that your holiday season is the best it possibly can be this year!  By applying a few of the aspects of the BJJ lifestyle you follow year-round can make the holidays more festive and healthy for you.

Jiu-Jitsu and Holiday Stress

There are so many causes of stress during the holiday season.  First off, the changing of seasons and the onset of the cooler weather tends to force people to be indoors much more which can lead to periods of relative inactivity compared to the rest of the year.  In addition, the shorter days, especially if you’re in the part of the world where daylight savings time brings utter darkness by dinner time, the lack of sunshine can be very depressing and can actually lead to conditions like Vitamin D deficiency and seasonal depression.

As wonderful as our families may be, the annual social gatherings filled with people you don’t see the rest of the year can be stressful in itself.  Holiday classic films like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Christmas Vacation come to life for many of us as we spend extra time planning, traveling and visiting with as many family members as we can during this special time.  Even if you enjoy this process, it is still stressful.  It is still a change to your normal routine and can impact your health and well being.

How can jiu-jitsu help us during these hectic festivities?  Science has long shown that physical activity of any kind can help relieve stress by helping to release excess energy and release endorphins.  BJJ can also do so much more because of the community that surrounds you at your academy.  Chances are you have friends and peers who also train.  Being around those folks can help fight off the winter time blues and give you a welcome break from the Aunt Marthas of the world.

With that said, it’s important to try to be as consistent in your training as you possibly can.  Your instructors and coaches have families and responsibilities too, so there is a good chance that your academy may be closed during some of the holiday season more than usual.  Do you best to get in training while the gym is open.  Rearrange your schedule if Thursday (Thanksgiving) is a typical day you plan to train and your gym is closed.  Some academies also offer Open Mats in lieu of regular classes during this time.  This can be a great way to squeeze in an extra hour or so of training when your gym was supposed to be closed.

So what do you do if your gym is closed or you’re traveling for the holiday season?  If you’re planning to travel, it’s always to see if there are other gyms in the area that you might be able to check out.  Most BJJ academies are amazingly hospitable and if they’re having classes or open mats, will welcome you.  But let’s say you’ve tried that and there is no one open in the vicinity where you find yourself.  What can you do?  Anything you want, do another physical activity of any kind to keep yourself moving.  Yoga and BJJ-related body exercises (shrimps, bridges, etc.) are something you can do anytime with limited space.  A short weight training circuit can do wonders for your stress level even if you have to utilize the limited options at a hotel fitness center.  Twenty minutes is all you need to make sure the rest of your day is festive.

Jiu-Jitsu and Holiday Overeating

Coupled with the stress that the holiday season can bring, the prevalence of huge feasts can be a daunting obstacle to your jiu-jitsu goals.  Whether it’s the potluck buffet at work or the holiday dinner with relatives, the chances of overeating are high this time of year.  You just spent 6 hours in the car listening to Christmas Carols on your way to your relative’s house.  What better way to numb your suffering but through a pile of mashed potatoes and half a pumpkin pie.

Sticking as closely to your jiu-jitsu training schedule can help with these holiday binges by helping to burn off some of the calories you may be consuming.  It has also been shown that physical activity can sometimes curb one’s appetite and help minimize the amount that you eat.  If you are lucky enough to be able to train on the morning of Thanksgiving, for instance, there can be a truly satisfying feeling having just rolled for an hour or two before sitting down to dinner.

What are some other things you can do to help control yourself and possibly minimize the damage should you veer off course?

DRINK LOTS OF WATER

This is one of the main tips that Tom DeBlass gives out when giving someone any type of nutritional advice.  He has stated in the past that he’s seen dozens of people lose upwards of 10 lbs of weight making no changes to their nutritional approach except adding one gallon of water intake to their daily plan.

DON’T LET YOURSELF GET HUNGRY

When you’re rushing around and dealing with the hectic holiday season, it’s easy to skip meals or go long periods without eating.  This makes us prime targets for binge eating and will make even the toughest, most disciplined athlete weak in the face of that cookie and dessert table.  Plan in advance and have plenty of healthy snacks available.  Protein and healthy fats can be some of the best items to snack on.  Eggs, nuts, greek yogurt, and low-fat cheeses can be quick snacks that will give you a few hundred calories to keep you satiated and possibly save you a few thousand calories of mindless binge eating later.

The Holiday Season and BJJ Community

The holiday season is predicated on the importance of gathering together with your friends and families and enjoying quality time.  This goes for your jiu-jitsu family as well.  Perhaps your school plans holiday get-togethers.  Do you best to support and get everyone involved in these events.  We cannot be successful without our teammates and this time of year can be a great time to acknowledge them.

Jiu Jitsu can be a life-changing art that can inform your life year round, especially during the holidays.  It will help you stay calm under pressure, burn off some stress and extra calories.  By staying consistent you will eliminate the holiday layoff and the challenging return that can sometimes follow.  You will also get a jump on those New Years resolutions and be way ahead of the competition!

BJJ instructionals can be great gifts for your friends and family members who train or even for yourself.

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Training with a Full-Time Job and a Family…Is it Possible?

Training with a Full-Time Job and a Family…Is it Possible?

Original Article: RollBliss

A HUGE contributing factor towards why people stop doing or participating in whatever hobby or extracurricular activity their currently in to, in my non-scientific and purely anecdotal experience, revolves around commitment issues.

To be more specific: TIME COMMITMENT!

It’s very difficult to fully receive the benefits and/or complete enjoyment of any given activity without putting in some time and dedication. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is no different! In fact – time, dedication, devotion, and money are all required (again, in my opinion) by the jiu-jitsu practitioner in order to progress in skill and ability.

As a married man with three young children and a full-time corporate job, I’ll often get asked: “How on Earth do you find the TIME to still train jiu-jitsu?!” It’s a valid question! Anyone who begins training understands that not only is time and commitment required to get better at jiu-jitsu but, also, it’s a very addicting activity that intoxicates the practitioner to the point of obsession where the desire to train isn’t difficult to obtain but finding the time to train sometimes is.

It’s all about balance

For some, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for one to set aside for training BJJ. For others, their training gets in the way between themselves and a functioning social life outside of the mats. I’m definitely not here to judge anyone’s priorities but, again, as a married man and father of 3, I find that there is a way to balance life and jiu-jitsu.

I’m fortunate that I have an understanding wife who is on board with me budgeting time throughout the week towards training BJJ. Ideally, I train 3 nights during the week and then the Saturday morning class offered at the school I’m a member of. Each class is roughly one hour of instruction and then roughly an extra hour of open-mat styled rolling or situational drilling.

You don’t have to be great at math to figure out that I spend a lot of time during the week on the mats!

Personally, I benefit from my school having a training schedule that fits with my life’s schedule. I’m able to make the 7 pm class because my wife and little ones are all getting ready for bed around that time so my wife isn’t too overwhelmed with our kiddos while I’m away training.

During the Saturday morning classes, I’m able to bring my older kiddos with me (if need be) to help give my wife a break and they’re old enough to sit in the waiting area and entertain themselves with technology or playing with the other kids who come with their parents too.

Even though I’m fortunate that my life and training schedule line up reasonably well, I still have to always be mindful of keeping a healthy balance. If my wife and kids require something from me that isn’t part of our “usual” schedule, I  prioritize them over my training. It’s easy for me as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just a hobby for me and I’m not a professional competitor with no aspirations to become one either!

Balancing work life too

Much like my personal life’s schedule, my work schedule lines up great too with my training schedule. My usual work hours are the standard 8-5 corporate schedule and training for me starts at 7 pm. There are lunch classes offered throughout the week that I’ll sometimes frequent but, more times than not, I stick to the usual evening classes.

Most BJJ schools tend to make a training schedule that fits the “average” person’s life schedule, so you probably benefit from that too at your school! It makes sense as a business to accommodate your members as best as possible so unless you have a really awkward life/work schedule, you’ll probably be able to find a school that offers training during times that you have free.

Since I desire to keep my current position with the company I work for, I always make sure I don’t let my training affect my work life. Aside from the swollen ears, eyes, and fingers, my training rarely mixes with my work (except for the times I may daydream about choking certain coworkers as a means of conflict resolution)!

In a perfect world, training or competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would be my work and I’d get paid to practice, teach, or showcase the beautiful art. Until then, I balance work with my training like I balance my personal life with my training.

Wrap up

I’ll admit though – there have been many times where I’m tempted to neglect a lunchtime conference call because I’ve got the itch to train at a lunch class. I’ve also genuinely considered skipping out on “Meet the Teacher Night” at my children’s school because I’d rather be on the mats with my buddies…  but it all boils down to what I’ve been emphasizing this entire article: life is all about balancing the things you enjoy with the things you’re obligated to do in order to maintain your desired lifestyle!

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Here’s How BJJ Strengthens Both Your Body And Mind

Here’s How BJJ Strengthens Both Your Body And Mind

Original Article: Evolve Daily

Martial arts is both physical and mental. In fact, there is almost an equal importance between the two when training to become a martial artist. The way the body moves fluidly to execute techniques, it requires great coordination and presence. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in particular, serves as a prime example of this concept.

Referred to by many as ‘the gentle art’, BJJ focuses on grappling and ground techniques. It basically promotes the concept that anyone of any size can defend themselves against bigger, heavier opponents by utilizing sound technique and leverage.

It is a martial art that requires not only a lot of physical strength but also the mental capacity to make quick decisions in given situations. Because it requires a lot of intelligence to practice, some say BJJ is the closest martial arts gets to chess.

BJJ is such a great physical and mental workout. Practicing the discipline every day will quickly enhance both areas. For those looking to train both the mind and the body, BJJ is a great system to practice.

There are loads of benefits that you can pick up from training in BJJ. Today, Evolve Daily shares four ways Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is good for the mind and body.

1. It Fortifies the Mind

BJJ is about performing techniques intelligently and strategically, adapting to situations and making transitions depending on how opponents respond. It’s comparison to chess in this regard is truly warranted. Sometimes opponents are able to swing the advantage in their favor, so your next move needs to be executed with intelligence.

You might initiate the grappling exchange by attempting a sweep and transitioning into a leg switch, but if your opponent anticipates it and instead puts you on defense, you’re going to have to adjust and change strategy. BJJ forces you to think several moves ahead, but also challenges you to keep your strategy flexible because anything can happen.

This constant strategizing and plotting exercises the mind immensely. By engaging the mind to deal quickly with the fast-changing tide and momentum of scrambles, it trains our mental strength. With a mind that grows stronger every day, techniques become easier to execute and we are soon able to be more creative with how we use them.

2. It Strengthens the Body

While training and sharpening the mind is one of the most important aspects of BJJ, there is no doubt about the fact that you must also strengthen and train the body. It may not appear so on the surface, but BJJ is one of the most intense workouts you will ever experience.

A prevalent theme in BJJ is that the smaller and weaker man will gain the ability to overpower a larger opponent by executing proper techniques and using leverage. Performing sweeps and locks utilize leverage and technique to overpower larger foes. In this case, it is usually the quicker thinker that gains the advantage.

However, when two practitioners are equally intelligent, then it will come down to who is stronger. The bottom line is that strength isn’t the most important thing in BJJ, but when it comes down to it, sometimes strength will come in handy. Which is why physical development and strength training are both crucial when it comes to practicing BJJ.

3. Improves Flexibility

One of the most significant ways BJJ affects the physicality of a practitioner is that it improves flexibility. Flexibility, of course, is an important trait in martial arts, especially in grappling where one must be limber for the body to adapt to any situation.

Although matches begin standing up, BJJ always ends up on the mat the majority of the time. While all martial arts require practitioners to be flexible, your success in BJJ is dependent on it. By performing many drills, stretches, and exercises in BJJ, you are able to train your body to become more flexible and limber.

Basically the more you are able to stretch, the more techniques and combinations you can execute.

Improving flexibility also makes you a better athlete. This will greatly impact your performance in other martial arts disciplines such as boxing or Muay Thai. Enhanced flexibility is important in any physical sport.

4. Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Last but certainly not the least, BJJ enhances problem-solving skills.

Because BJJ puts practitioners in many situations where they have to overcome mental and physical obstacles, at times it resembles a very tricky puzzle. How to maneuver opponents and put them in certain positions so that you can take advantage of them, this is what often goes through your mind when rolling.

BJJ definitely makes people better problem solvers. This permeates in real life, as it trains us to think multiple steps ahead of situations in order to find viable solutions. Problem-solving is a major component in BJJ and training this skill surely improves the mind overall.

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5 Things We Learned From 2018 IBJJF World Master

5 Things We Learned From 2018 IBJJF World Master

Original Article: Hywel Teague/FloGrappling

The 2018 IBJJF World Master Jiu-Jitsu Championship has come and gone, and now the dust has settled it’s time to reflect on an intense four days of grappling action.

1. Masters Worlds is really, really tough

Forget the “Master” and focus on the “World” in the title. This championship is no joke. People come from all over the planet to compete at this tournament, and they take it very, very seriously. The competitors will train for months on end– even all year long– with this event in mind.

First off, the divisions are HUGE. Black belt Master 1 and Master 2 middleweight both had a massive 59 entrants. Even at Master 3 (40 years of age and above) there were four divisions with over 40 competitors. That means a lot of matches to win gold.

At the black belt Master 1 there were elite level competitors such as Rafael “Formiga” Barbosa, Osvaldo “Queixinho”, Vitor Oliveira and DJ Jackson. At Master 2, Roberto ‘Cyborg’, Gustavo Campos, Josh Hinger and more signed up, making these some of the toughest Master divisions we’ve ever seen.

2. It’s big– and it’s going to get bigger

With 21 mats running (and another 6 in a separate area for the Las Vegas Open, which runs concurrently) the World Master Jiu-Jitsu Championship is the biggest IBJJF tournament of the year. Along with the Brazilian Nationals, it’s one of the largest (if not the biggest) jiu-jitsu event in the world.

The continued success of the event, coupled with the continued international growth of jiu-jitsu, means that the IBJJF are considering scaling up for 2019. More news as to the exact plans as we learn of them.

3. Legends are surprisingly down to earth

There were so many big names at Masters Worlds it was hard to keep track. Every few steps you’d bump into a current World champion like Buchecha or Leandro Lo. Holding court at seminars and booths were great figures such as Cobrinha, Leo Vieira, Saulo Ribeiro, Kyra Gracie and many more.

The ceremony which honored every black belt absolute World champ with special rings brought together great champions past and present, such as Amaury Bitetti and Mario Sperry (who even competed in the Masters 5 division, winning gold).

One thing I noticed again and again was the presence of retired MMA fighters. There were even UFC title challengers like Travis Lutter (who fought Anderson Silva in 2007) and Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Elvis Sinosic, who fought Chuck Liddell in 2006 and Tito Ortiz in 2001 respectively.

All of the above were more than happy to stop, talk to and take photos with the fans, of which there were many!

4. There were more women registered than ever

After a few years of disappointingly low numbers, that all changed in 2018. The World Masters saw more competitors than ever, especially at black belt. There was a total of 58 women registered at black belt Master 1 and 2. Karen Antunes stole the show by winning gold just months after winning Pans and Worlds earlier this year. Don’t forget the new mother had her first baby just last year. Just incredible.

The story of Betty Broadhurst had a happy ending. A 61-year-old purple belt, she put out a national call to try and find an opponent with the likes of Gordon Ryan advocating on her behalf. Thankfully the call was answered and she managed to compete. Heartwarming.

5. The jiu-jitsu was old-school, and that’s not a bad thing

Don’t confuse “old school” for ineffective– quite the opposite, in fact. There was a distinct absence of 50-50 guard and lapel trickery. Many joke about the difference between modern jiu-jitsu and the old school, but we really did see a lot of takedowns, guard passing and submissions from every angle.

The strategies were different due to the length of the matches, which were five or six minutes long depending on the age division. People tended to come out fast and score or submit early, probably due to the awareness that it’s tough keeping up an intense pace as you get older.

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Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Original Article: The Brain Flux

Psychological health is an important part of our lives. It affects our moods, emotions, behavior, and social interactions. Not only in our personal lives, but in our professional lives as well. It even has consequences for our physical health. Exercise can bolster our energy, make us resilient in the face of hardship, and has many other benefits for your mental health.

Exercise Alleviates Stress

This exercise benefit isn’t going to shock anyone. It’s a well known psychological benefit. Also one of the biggest reasons why people take up exercise. The science behind it is well documented, as well as it’s calming effect on a stressed mind. But how does a physically stressful activity on the body actually end up relieving stress?

It’s a bit of a puzzle, but the long-term benefits definitely compensate for the short-term stress. For starters, it releases neurochemicals into the brain. The big ones being endorphins, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals are associated with better cognitive functioning, alertness, and elevated moods. In addition to dumping feel-good chemicals into your head, it also helps purge stress hormones from your body – cortisol and adrenaline.

From a psychological perspective, exercise also gives you a way to distract yourself from focusing on daily stressors. This could be from your boss, a task at work, or any number of personal problems. When the mind has nothing else to focus on, it will drift. Many people can fixate on immediate issues, specific stressful problems, or strong emotional feelings. So exercise can simply give you an immediate task to focus your energy on.

So while this benefit of exercise won’t come as a surprise to you, it’s still one of the best, time-tested reasons to get out there and get moving. As we’ll explore in other articles, stress is one of the biggest enemies of efficient brain operation. And exercise is an efficient stress management technique.

Gives Your Emotional Resilience

Stress also affects your emotional state. Strong emotions can be an unfortunate side effect of stressful events.

One study separated participants between participants between those who exercised regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups were equal in mood before the experiment. Then they were exposed to a stressful event. They observed that the physically fit group actually had smaller declines in positive mood than their more sedentary counterparts.

It seems that people who get regular exercise are able to maintain a more positive attitude – and emotional outlook – after something stressful occurs. This gives exercisers yet another level of protection from the day to day stress that happens to all of us.

Reduces Anxiety

meta-analysis published in 1995 had researchers take a look at 40 studies to measure the effects of exercise on anxiety. In analyzing several different study types, they found that exercise had a low to moderate effect on reducing anxiety levels. They also noted that adults who led a more stressful lifestyle benefited most from the exercise. So for those that are feeling anxious from stress will benefit even more from exercise than someone who isn’t.

Increases Pain Tolerance

It has been pretty well documented that intense exercise can dull pain in the short term. Your body releases endorphins and other chemicals during and shortly after exercise that will decrease pain in the body.

But it’s more than just short term. Exercise could be the key for those of you looking to increase your mental grit. A small study published in 2014 from Australia showed that participants who completed a six week aerobic exercise program increased their tolerance for pain. It wasn’t that they felt less pain. In fact, researchers noted that participants were feeling pain at the same levels as before. The change was actually a mental one. They were able to withstand pain at higher levels after they had completed the exercise regimen.

Helps Battle Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental conditions that affects people worldwide. An estimated 350 million according to the World Health Organization. Even scarier is the fact that depression is on the rise. It is set to be the 2nd biggest medical condition by 2020.

A large meta-analysis analyzed the effect of exercise on alleviating symptoms of depression. Two things were found from the review. They found positive results from a significant and moderate relief from depression. The second result came from the comparison of exercise to other forms of psychological therapy or drugs. Exercise was found to be just as effective as the other alternatives.

Pretty important news for a nation that has a slight addiction to pills and prescriptions. People who may be looking for other, more cost-effective ways to help fight depression, regular exercise could hold promise.

Prevents Depression

Preventing depression is even more important than fighting it. I won’t use a cliche quote referencing ounces and pounds here. But let’s agree prevention is far better than curing. Research tells us exercise helps the symptoms of depression, but scientists didn’t understand how. At least until recently.

In a study published in September 2014, researchers found a mechanism that helped explain the puzzle. And not just fight it, but help prevent the symptoms of depression.

The study gets pretty technical, but here are the key points. During stressful situations, there’s a harmful substance that builds up in the blood. The blood then carries that substance to the brain. Scientists used genetically modified mice to help produce a certain protein. A protein which helps break down and remove the harmful substance in the blood.

Normal mice and the mice with the protein were then exposed to multiple stressful situations. Scientists saw the normal mice begin to express depressive behaviors, while the genetically modified mice acted normally.

So here’s where the rubber hits the road. This same protein can be produced by skeletal muscle (both in mice and humans) through physical activity. The more physical activity you do, the more protein produced. So by doing regular exercise you build up the amount of protein in your system. When stress strikes, the protein eliminates the harmful substance, and shields your brain from symptoms of depression.

Improves Your Mood

Exercise causes the release of feel good chemicals in the brain. This part you know. So I want to share some interesting information you may not be familiar with.

Researchers took a look at how people deal with their bad moods. They identified a total of 32 different methods that people reported using. They then analyzed which methods were most effective at regulating their bad moods. After all the data was analyzed, exercise emerged as the most effective method at changing a bad mood. If you’re curious, the methods coming in second and third were music and social interaction.

Exercise Might Just Make You Happier

Moods come and go. They are temporary by nature. But can exercise have an effect on happiness in the long term?

An important question, but also a difficult one. I thought there would be tons of information on the subject, but it’s surprisingly sparse. There are various definitions of happiness and different ways to measure it. And happiness can mean different things for different people. Despite these problems, there have been some initial attempts to answer the exercise happiness question.

One study looked at data from 15 European countries. They compared people’s physical activity from different categories. Higher levels of activity correlated with higher levels of happiness. Researchers noted that even though there was a link, they couldn’t determine if the physical activity was the cause of the happiness.

In a slightly more convincing study, researchers looked at levels of physical activity in residents of Canada. They first established a baseline happiness for participants. They then analyzed data for changes in activity levels and happiness in the following years.

People who were inactive through the years were twice as likely to become unhappy than those who were active. Those people who were inactive were also more likely to become unhappy than others who became active over the same years. And finally, the researchers noticed people who were active – and became inactive later – increased their odds of becoming unhappy.

Beyond the Psychological

Exercise has some incredible benefits for our mental states, but it can do more than just that. Read other mind bending benefits in this article here. Also, if you have a friend that needs a quick mental boost, be sure to share this information with them!

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The Key to BJJ Success – Showing up

The Key to BJJ Success – Showing up

Original Article: BJJ Fanatics

A few years back, I remember hearing that the BJJ documentary “Roll” had been released. I rushed home to watch it that night after training. Click to watch it.

The film is a great look at some of the history of BJJ, and how its inception in the US  took place. There’s a particular quote that has stuck with me ever since. Chris Haueter is a large contributor to this documentary, and there’s a point where he says, “it’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left.”

What does that mean? To me, it means that our presence and commitment to BJJ carries more weight than any accolades, medals, or belts we hold. The great competitors of BJJ push our sport to evolve and have become the familiar faces of BJJ, setting standards, creating new techniques, and leading the charge for the recognition it deserves. But this is not the only way to be successful and contribute to BJJ.

If you are young, strong, and athletic, those attributes will eventually dwindle. If you are a decorated competitor in the prime of your career, that too, although admirable, will not be the case forever. We cannot rest our worth on the fickle. There has to be a greater purpose.

Be a pillar at your academy. Be the face that everyone knows. There are those in my journey that have been on the mat since before I started, and still, continue to train. In the face of everything that life and BJJ have thrown at them, they continue to be a constant. I have a great deal of respect for these heroes of the mat. They have endured serious injuries, life-changing events, and tough losses They’ve grappled with the ego and have learned to tame it. There is something special about them, and there is much to be learned from these great leaders.

So how do you judge your success in BJJ?

Success in BJJ is not stopping. If you’re on the mat, you are succeeding.

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The Workout to Burn Off Belly Fat

The Workout to Burn Off Belly Fat

Original Article: Men’s Journal

“You can rip out ab exercises all day long in the gym, but without the right combination of high-intensity fat-burning cardio along with specific abdominal-strengthening exercises that build your abs rather than break the tissue down, you won’t ever show off the results of your efforts,” says Liz Lowe, C.S.C.S., owner of Scorch Fitness, a high-intensity interval training gym in Sarasota, Florida.

Spot training doesn’t work, but this workout does. It’ll burn off the layer of fat hiding your chiseled “show” muscles, strengthen your core, and build muscle density so your abs really “pop,” Lowe says. “Strength exercises such as the front squat, overhead plate walking lunge, Bulgarian and counterbalance squats will work to build deeper core muscles since your abdominal wall is being used to stabilize your entire body during each exercise,” she explains. “The Russian twist, suspension trainer crunch, and decline crunch act as fine-tuning exercises, giving your abdominal wall the shape you want.” What’s more: You’re continuously moving in this workout, so it sky-rockets your heart rate, scorches calories, and burns fat long after the workout is over.

Prescription: This workout can be done 2-3x per week max since muscle recovery is extremely important with any muscle-building and fat-burning routine.

The Belly Fat Elimination Workout

Directions: Complete three rounds of each group of superset exercises. Take no rest until all three rounds are completed, then use the prescribed time to recover before the next superset.

Superset 1
1a. Heavy Front Squats x 6-8 reps
1b. Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing x 10 reps each arm

60 seconds rest

Superset 2
2a. Dumbbell Plyometric Step Up (on a box) x 10 reps each leg
2b. Overhead Plate Walking Lunge x 10 reps each leg

60 seconds rest

Superset 3
3a. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat (dumbbells in front position) x 8 reps each leg
3b. Jump Rope x 45 seconds

60 seconds rest

Superset 4
4a. Plate Counterbalance Squat x 12 reps (As you lower into the squat, your arms should simultaneously raise. Once your thighs are slightly below parallel, the plate should be extended in front of the eyes. Push through your heels and return to the starting position.)
4b. Medicine Ball Russian Twist x 15 reps each side

60 seconds rest

Superset 5
5a. Rope Slams x 30 reps
5b. Suspension Trainer Oblique Crunch x 15 reps per side (Start in a suspended plank position with your feet in the TRX straps (toes pointed down) and your shoulders directly over your hands. Bend both knees at the same time, drawing them together toward your left elbow. Extend both legs straight to return to the plank position. Draw both knees toward your right elbow. Extend both legs straight and return to plank position for one rep.)

60 seconds rest

Superset 6
6a. Decline Weighted Sit Up x 12 reps
6b. Treadmill Sprints x 50 steps (The treadmill is OFF. To move the tread, push off the tops of your feet.)

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Adulting and BJJ: 8 Ways to Impact Your Training When You Have Limited Time

Adulting and BJJ: 8 Ways to Impact Your Training When You Have Limited Time

Original Article: Princeton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

For most practitioners of BJJ there comes a time in life when shit gets real. After many years of putting your BJJ before everything in your life other than making some sort of paycheck to cover the most basic expenses (in this order): tuition, online training resources, training gear, tournament fees, ramen noodles and cell phone fees, we start to feel like maybe we are missing out on something.

Oh, I don’t know, friendships, romantic relationships, career advancement, family planning, home ownership, financial planning (what’s that? you mean I can’t just clean mats to train for the rest of my life?) suddenly start to feel like they might matter too.

But what then of your precious training time? How on earth will you get better at BJJ if you have to devote time to your long-term existence and success?

It’s a careful balance when you have to consider shifting your priorities. The first and most important battle is admitting to yourself that something else may become more important than BJJ. Now I firmly believe that everyone has a right to be a little selfish in their life because our selfish needs are what makes life worth living. Without our personal ambitions, we may be living for other people vs. living for ourselves. But moving on from the familiar rhythm of training day in and out and regimenting your entire life around your gym schedule is a very scary thing for many people because you feel like you may be lost without training, or you may feel like it means that you don’t love BJJ as much as the next person.

So before you begin to feel guilty about all the time you won’t be able to dedicate to training anymore, remember that your relationship to Jiu Jitsu is 100% yours. You practice for your own reasons, so don’t let anyone else’s goals or routine make you feel inadequate about yours.

Here are some ways to think about your training and exercise your passion when you are constricted for physical time on the mats:

1. Quality, not quantity. When you consider the hours you can actually train per week, no matter how minimal, seek out the best way to spend those hours. If you only have 2 hours a week to train, look at your gym schedule and zero in on the classes where you really jive with the teacher or you have access to the most helpful training partners. Don’t just go to any class on the schedule. Make your time special and make it matter.

Another scenario is that perhaps you don’t have a lot of good schools around you. If you know that there is a good school further away, it may be worth your time to train 2 times a week at a really good school vs 4 x a week at a low caliber meathead club.

2. Put effort into what you train and with who. I often hear the complaint, ‘I’m a brown belt and the school I go to only have white belts and 2-3 blue belts. They don’t push me hard enough.’ This is bullshit (most of the time). Be accountable for your own training and think about what you need to get better. We don’t walk into a clothing store and say, ‘Dress me, I’m here!’ You go pick out the things you like. If you want to work on sweeps, pick out techniques you want to work on and then just hit them on everyone you can. You’re lucky to have another body in the room. It’s up to you to make use of them. It’s also your responsibility to help make them better and mold them into the training partners you’d like them to be. The overall outcome is that you can get what you need out of whoever is breathing and moving around with you. If you have the opportunity to travel to a different gym from time to time where they have more belts at your level, go test yourself out. Take ownership of your practice, everyone is useful in some way.

3. Watch BJJ. A lot of it. If you can’t get on the mats a ton, watch a lot of matches on the internet. Enroll in an online academy. There are so many online resources now. If you’re a visual learner, watching matches may help you emulate movements on the mats. MGInAction has an ‘inaction’ feature where you can watch Marcelo Garcia hit particular techniques in live training over and over again from varying entries. I loaded up a whole bunch of these once and mysteriously found myself trying to hit these moves in sparring a week later. It gave me more motivation to study the techniques more closely. Sites like the Grapplers Guide give you the ability to build flowcharts and link videos. There are a ton of great tools out there to help you methodically piece together your game or help you think about how to push your studies forward.

Alternately, go support a teammate at a local tournament. Watching tournament matches is a great way to see what is trending.

4. Go to a BJJ camp or retreat and consolidate your learning. If you can’t go to class 5 x a week, how about dedicating 2-3 days to training 1-2 x a year? There are some incredible camps and seminars that are being marketed these days with stellar instructor lineups. Find a camp or a seminar series with a solid reputation and in 2-3 days you will probably take in enough technique to keep you going for 6 months or more. This is especially helpful if you are an instructor yourself and you don’t have the option of being a student much because you have to be the responsible leader on the mats most of the time. Going to a camp or seminar allows you to take everything in and be a student again.

5. Stick your nose in a book. Read a BJJ book. Read an autobiography about a fighter your admire. Read about performance psychology. Reading or listening to an audiobook can greatly influence how you think about training. This in effect can affect your physical time on the mats. Perhaps you begin to drill more efficiently or implement routines that you learned about in your exploration.

6. Grab a grappling dummy. For some people, drilling is super effective. Building muscle memory helps you take the thinking out of execution in the moment. If you need hours but don’t have bodies and time, grab a dummy and put in some reps each day on your own time.

7. Create feedback loops. Film your training. You can study your footage and critique your strengths and weaknesses. Then when you get on the mats you can specifically ask your partners to set up training situations that will address your problems.

8. Invest in a periodic private lesson. I see some students on a regular basis and others on a more periodic basis. Working with your teacher or another teacher you enjoy can be a great investment in time and money. They can help you troubleshoot areas you are getting stuck in, or teach you a stylistic series of movements that you’ve never seen before. Either way, you are getting personalized attention for a full hour (typically). This is a big bang for your buck.

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