Could you teach BJJ?

We’re looking for an assistant head coach for our super-friendly, progressive and growing BJJ club in Brighton.

The chance to play a central role in the running and fuctioning of a BJJ club doesn’t come along very often, but this is one of those rare opportunities.

We’re looking for an assistant head coach to help teach at Brighton BJJX and to potentially shoulder more and more responsibility, ultimately possibly taking charge of the day-to-day running of the club.

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To be considered for the job, you’ll need to be a purple belt or above, and you’ll need to understand, and identify with, the principles on which the club is founded.

Our mission at Brighton BJJX is simple: we want to create the best possible environment in which to learn BJJ, both in terms of teaching and the way the club is run and functions. We’re a gi-based club (though we’d like to offer no-gi in the future), and we offer high-quality, low-cost training.

The low-cost part is important to us. We don’t want people to be excluded from enjoying the wonderful gift that is BJJ by not being able to pay the sorts of high monthly fees some other clubs charge. We will therefore always offer classes on a low-cost, pay-as-you-go basis. We’re not a charity, but we don’t want people to to be priced out of training either.

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We train hard and we’re a competition-focused club, but we’re pretty informal and mostly downplay the hierarchical element you can get at martial arts schools. In fact, we see ourselves as a sports club, not a martial arts club.

Our club is participatory: we ask students what they want, actively seek out their feedback, and adjust the teaching and the way the club is run accordingly. In the pedagogical jargon, we follow a student-centred-learning approach, putting students first and treating them like the adults they are.

We’re as legit as a BJJ club can be, being affiliated to Mad Hatters, led by Jack Magee, one of Britain’s foremost black belts, as well as Gordo Jiu Jitsu Europe, headed by Ben Poppleton, a pioneer of BJJ in the UK.

That’s enough about us. What about you? You’ll need to be all the usual stuff that goes along with a job like this: reliable, trustworthy, dependable, personable, patient. We like banter at our club, so having a good sense of humour will help too.

Obviously you’ll need to be passionate about BJJ, and if you’ve already got any sort of teaching experience, that’s going to help, but you will receive plenty of teaching support anyway. You need to be technical, but you also know that a whole lot more goes into coaching and running a club than being able to demonstrate techniques.

This is paid work — modestly paid, but paid — and it’s a part-time job. You won’t get rich, but if you’re the right sort of person, you should find the role incredibly rewarding.

So if you think you might be a good fit for our club, contact me, Marcus, at brightonbjjexchange at gmail dot com, and tell me why.

 

 

 

BJJ Puts Me In The Moment Like Nothing Else

BJJX Student Blog

Matthew Cowell used to meditate but found his attention wandering. There’s no chance of that in BJJ, though, when your opponent is trying to choke you, he says.

Life is really confusing. We have so much going on these days – jobs, education, friendships, relationships, healthy living, social media, whether you remembered to turn the oven off before going out – it’s no wonder that so many of us find ourselves thinking about the past and the future, unable to really be in the present. I used to be a reasonably committed adherent of Buddhism and had a pretty regular meditation practice, but I always struggled with being able to really move my attention to the now (not to say that meditation isn’t a wonderful practice, one that I should really get back to!) and not get distracted. My will just wasn’t in it 100 per cent, even though I knew that meditation did my mental health a great amount of good.

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Matt (centre) at the English Open last month, at which he won his first fight.

What does this have to do with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Whereas, when I practised mindfulness, I had to really concentrate to bring my mind to the present, in Jiu-Jitsu it’s dragged kicking and screaming there. If you aren’t concentrating when you’re rolling with someone, chances are you’re about to get beaten. There’s no time to think about that embarrassing thing you said three years ago at that party, or the awkward date you had the other day, or how bad you feel about not having called your mum for a few days (though you should probably do that). All that you have time to focus on is your opponent: where are their posts? Can you break their posture down? Alright, shoot for that overhook and then – Oh shit, they’ve opened your guard. What now? Get your grips and set up an open guard, start to think about sweeps, foot in the hip . . . Fuck me, that pass was quick. Frame, frame, frame. Don’t panic, breathe. Move your hips out. Block the transition to mount and get your knee in, extend through your shoulder; back to guard.

What are you gonna do from here? Ooooh, their arm is a bit out of position; could be something there. Grab that sleeve grip, throw it up and get your leg through. Yes! Lift your hips, calf across their neck, lock off the triangle, yank their arm across and—

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Damn, was that five minutes already? It always goes so quickly.

You shake hands with your opponent, thanking them for a good roll, get up and get a quick drink of water, breathing heavily, sweating profusely and grinning from ear to ear.

Life is really confusing, and that’s why I love Jiu-Jitsu. It simplifies life down to its core elements: competition, cooperation, exertion, achievement, family. For a few hours every week, I’m in the moment; everything makes sense.

The everyday is full of distractions and complications, and sometimes it’s really hard to know where you’re going or if you’re making the right choices. But on the mat, there’s no room for doubt or second-guessing.

Slap. Bump. Let’s go!

Matthew Cowell is 19, and hails from Thanet. He’s been training at Brighton BJJX for a year, and he’s studying Philosophy, Politics and Ethics at the University of Brighton. Click here for information about our classes.

 

Four months in: Lost 8 kilos, gained a new passion

BJJX Student Blog

Facebook imageThough Tom (right) has only been doing BJJ for a matter of months, it’s already had a huge impact on his life, he says, including his weight.

I couldn’t be any happier. I started training BJJ sometime in June, so as I write this, I have been doing it for four months now. I’ve written previously about how it all began for me, so I am not going to repeat myself. Suffice to say that casual, one-day-a-week training almost instantly felt insufficient. I wanted more. I was hooked.

I bet many of you know the feeling – you anxiously wait for the next training day, you watch stuff online constantly, and you talk a lot about BJJ to anyone who will listen. I train mainly at Brighton BJJ Exchange, in Brighton. I am really fortunate to have a nice teacher and a great bunch of people to roll with. I imagine it’s not like that everywhere, and people I know have told me about all sorts of experiences they had when they began their BJJ adventure. The atmosphere at Brighton BJJX is great, though, and the level of teaching is really high.

At the beginning, I didn’t know much about what to do, although working for years on the door and a little MMA experience helped me to not feel completely lost. There is sparring during every class, so you get to try straight away whatever you’ve been learning in class.

I quickly realised that for a white belt like me, trying to do submissions is not really that important, and it’s far more crucial to learn how to survive and possibly escape. Luckily, I have a good mindset for training BJJ. I have no ego problems, and I don’t mind tapping multiple times, even if my opponents are smaller and so on. It helps that I don’t get frustrated but rather treat it all as a learning curve. Sure, I can get bit annoyed if I am caught in a triangle choke or an armbar yet again, but then I sit down, watch some videos, check my copy of Jiu-Jitsu University, by Saulo Ribeiro, and then I have a better idea of how to stop these things from happening, or at least how to make it harder for my opponent.

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Tom, exhausted, takes it easy after an intense session.

I am trying to go to as many classes as I can now, recently adding no-gi training as well. It’s all very exciting, and there is definitely a big sense of satisfaction when you manage to pull off a sweep you tried for some time or you successfully defend against an attack from a more experienced opponent who a couple of months back was submitting you left, right and centre.

Since June I’ve also acquired a bit of a collection of BJJ gear. One of the advantages of being a big guy – I’m six foot one inch tall and take A4-size gis – is that you get a great choice of sales items that are sold out in other sizes. I’ve managed to buy the majority of my stuff with good discounts, sometimes as much as 60 per cent. What’s not to like? I have, of course, to resist the temptation of buying more stuff quite a lot. After all, it’s really easy to spend a small fortune on BJJ stuff, since there’s so much choice and it all looks so good.

There is also one big advantage to BJJ training that a good blue belt friend of mine told me about. When I said to him I’d started doing BJJ, he said I would lose weight really fast. I was 121 kilos and used to being that heavy, and all my life I’d found it really hard to lose weight. Four months down the line, I am eight kilos lighter and feel great. Everyone around me has noticed the change in how I look. It really feels good, and I am constantly trying to push my limits and see how much more I can do.

It feels like a whole new universe has opened up to me with BJJ, and I am really eager to find out all that it has to offer.

Tom is 38 and comes from Poland. He has had many jobs in his life, including history teacher, radio journalist, labourer, translator and bike courier. His most consistent one, though, has been working on the door, and for this reason he does not like to be in photos. Contrary to what some people believe, he is not an operative of a foreign secret service. Check out his BJJ blogs at facebook.com/curiousgrappler and follow him on Instagram at @curiousgrappler

 

 

5 White Belt Predicaments and How to Deal with Them

Feel claustrophobic when the big guy puts you in side control? Or that there are too many techniques to learn but not enough time? Don’t worry: help is at hand. Second-degree black belt and all-round man of wisdom Nick ‘Chewy’ Albin has some great advice to give that’ll help you navigate the early days of learning BJJ.

Help! I Feel Claustrophobic and Want to Tap!

This happens to everyone one time or another. Some guy twice your size puts you in side control and the pressure makes your chest and lungs deflate like a birthday balloon hitting a drawing pin. So you decide you need to tap. Right. This. Second. But wait. Don’t tap yet. Chewy tells you what to do when the panic sets in.

Help! I’m Drowning in Technique!

Are you overwhelmed by how many techniques you’re being taught and need to master? The message here is, don’t be. Without your knowing it, your body is actually getting on with the job of selecting the right techniques for you. In other words, you’re learning what you need without even realising.

Help! I’m Knackered After Sparring for Thirty Seconds!

People just starting out doing BJJ tend to go a little crazy in sparring and expend a lot of energy inefficiently, making matters worse by holding their breath, meaning they’re quickly exhausted. Also, there’s a tendency to think you have to do every move as quickly as possible. Let Chewy set you straight in the following video.

Help! I’ve Been Training a Few Months and I’m Getting Worse! 

Feel like your BJJ is already going downhill? That could be because you’re actually getting more technical, says Chewy, and starting to apply the techniques you’ve been taught rather than doing random stuff on instinct — ‘button mashing’, as he calls it.

Help! I’m Not Sure If I’m Ready to Compete!

Just tick off the items on the checklist Chewy gives and you’re good to go. And, he says, don’t build competing up into something it’s not. It’s not the end of the world if you lose.

3 Fantastic Free Resources for BJJ Beginners

There’s nothing better than getting free stuff that’s genuinely useful. In a combination of altruism and good marketing — they want to get you on their mailing list, which can actually be a good thing for you, since they give away great material — some of the foremost personalities in the BJJ online instructional community offer free e-books for you to download. Here are three of the best.

The Beginner’s Guide to BJJ: Get A Head Start On Your Jiu-Jitsu Journey, by Nic Gregoriades

Nic Gregoriades is famous for taking only four years to attain his black belt, something that usually takes about ten, and for being very conceptual in his approach to training. He also has his own association, Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood.

In his 56-page The Beginner’s Guide to BJJ, Nic gives a little history of BJJ, talks about the equipment you need, what to look for in a good school, and describes and discusses the key positions in BJJ — side mount, knee on chest, turtle, etc. He talks about ‘position before submission’ — the idea that you should look to improve your position all the time rather than try and get submissions straight off the bat, something beginners tend to try to do. At the end, he gives some useful and very specific tips to beginners, such as learn to pass closed guard by standing, and learn to breathe and relax when you’re underneath your opponent.

Download The Beginner’s Guide to BJJ here

A Roadmap For Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, by Stephan Kesting

The highly likeable Canadian black belt Stephan Kesting is a one-man whirlwind of instructional activity. Drawing on his huge experience in martial arts, in the 34-page A Roadmap For Brazilian Jiu-jitsu he talks about how complex BJJ is compared with other martial arts, and the fact that when they start out, beginners can feel a little lost and confused by the complexity of it all. He addresses that issue, outlining the main positions, talking about how they interlink, and giving some specific advice about what you need to learn — for example, two submissions from each position.

Download A Roadmap For Brazilian Jiu-jitsu here (scroll down the page, on the left)

Focused Jiu-Jitsu: 8 Drilling Strategies To Destroy Training Plateaus And Effectively Implement New Techniques, by Nick ‘Chewy’ Albin

Kentucky-based black belt Nick ‘Chewy’ Albin is a huge advocate of drilling (repeating techniques again and again), saying that it was when he really embraced putting in the repetitions that his BJJ took off. The problem of training plateaus — those times when you feel like you’re not progressing — is not really a beginner issue, but the sooner you embrace drilling, the better your BJJ will become. Chewy talks about the different types of drilling — for example, drilling slowly against no resistance when you’re learning a new technique, and drilling against resistance when you’re trying to apply that technique more realistically — and describes how the different types of drilling should fit together. He also talks about how it’s important to get rid of the fear of losing so that you can work on your B game, rather than always go to your A game because you want to win — which, in the long run, will inhibit your development, since you won’t work on your weaknesses.

Download Focused Jiu-Jitsu here

BJJ: Sport or Self-Defence?

What would a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guy do if faced by two attackers? I’m in the interesting position of having put that question to two of the prime movers in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu movement. It’s an obvious question. If you believe your fighting style is a form of self-defence, then it needs to work when more than one person is attacking you, a situation that is repeated in town centres across the country every weekend. But if you’re rolling around with one guy on the ground, how can you stop the other one from, say, kicking you in the head?

The first time I asked the question was at the third UFC, in 1994, which I was covering as a journalist, and the person I put the question to was Rorion Gracie, Royce Gracie’s older brother and the man who brought the UFC to the States and the world. His answer? He made a gun with his fingers like kids do when they’re playing. His meaning? You would need a gun to fight off two attackers. The second time I asked the question was in Rio, in 2003 at Gracie Barra, when I put it to Carlinhos Gracie, the head of Gracie Barra, and now head of the IBJJF, the biggest BJJ organisation in the world (or at least, that’s how it feels). His answer? He said it was impossible to defeat two men attacking you at the same time. They’d tried it at the academy and the person being attacked never won.

Both, in their own way, were saying that BJJ could not equip you to fight two people, but they were saying something more than that — they were saying that nothing would. This, of course, was before YouTube, and here, contradicting what Rorion and Carlinhos believed, is some well-circulated footage of a balding, ageing boxer knocking out two guys, and here is a young, full-head-of-haired boxer also knocking out two guys, with commentary from the excellent Firas Zahabi.

Now I’m no expert on self-defence, but in my twenties I did a lot of martial arts training (Thai boxing, JKD, tae kwon do, aikido, t’ai chi, a few lessons of wing chun), as well as submission wrestling, freestyle wrestling and judo, and in middle age I’ve taken up BJJ, so I have some knowledge of fighting and grappling styles and training. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Geoff Thompson twenty years ago, a guy who it struck me really did know what he was talking about when it came to fighting on the street and on the doors and so on. Based on those experiences and that conversation, here are a few of my thoughts about self-defence:

  • If you’re not training to fight multiple attackers, then your self-defence training has a big hole in it.
  • If you’re only learning physical techniques, then your self-defence training has a big hole in it. You should, for example, also be learning how to deal with the adrenaline dump that comes in a real confrontation, and how to talk someone down from aggression, and how to recognise the physical signs of imminent attack, plus the legal context for fighting on the street.
  • If, when you train physical techniques, you only train against people who do the same martial art as you, then your self-defence training has a big hole in it. There’s a big difference between asking a BJJ training partner who has no real striking experience to throw a hook at you, then rattling off your predetermined defence, and facing a trained boxer on the street throwing a seven-point combination in three seconds that you’re not going to see coming.

As far as I’m aware, these three holes exist in most BJJ for self-defence training. Does that mean BJJ is no good for self-defence? Absolutely not. BJJ is great for self-defence, because you learn how to grapple with, and subdue, a single opponent on the ground, an important skill if you want to be able to defend yourself — you’re not always going to be confronted by more than one person. Also, because BJJ is sparring based, you really are learning and honing skills that transfer from the club to the street.

But BJJ alone is not enough. If self-defence is what you want, then you might want to learn some striking as well. For example, you could learn Thai boxing or boxing along with BJJ, or you could take MMA classes, which combine Thai boxing, boxing, BJJ and wrestling. You might also want to address the second point, which is that self-defence is not about physical techniques alone.

For me, though, the question of BJJ’s effectiveness as a form of self-defence isn’t an important one. I like doing BJJ because I like doing BJJ. It doesn’t have to have any relevance at all beyond the doors of the club where I practice it, just like a tennis player who enjoys playing tennis doesn’t worry about whether the physical movements of playing tennis have any application beyond a tennis court (swatting flies?).

To me, BJJ is a sport, and that’s the way I like it. I want to practise against someone who also practises BJJ, not someone drunk and swinging at me on the street. Using a chess analogy, I want to play against someone who also knows how to move the pieces properly, not who knocks over all the pieces and tosses the board to the floor. I like the complexity of sport BJJ, the fact that it’s a game of moves and strategy. And the techniques that those at the forefront of sport BJJ are coming up with (the Mendes brothers, the Miyao brothers, the Ribeiro brothers, etc.) are amazing and beautiful to watch and do. These people are innovating because they are trying to outwit others who are innovating, and therefore sport BJJ is constantly evolving and growing  — and I love that aspect of it too.

BJJ is ridiculously addictive. You’re always learning, refining your game, and discovering new techniques to work on. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is highly complex, and part of the attraction is that there’s always so much to learn. You climb one knowledge mountain, look beyond it and . . . there’s another knowledge mountain to climb in front of you.

And rolling around on mats fighting someone is a lot of fun. The great thing about BJJ is that it’s sparring based and you actually get to do all the techniques you’re taught without holding back, unlike in a lot of martial arts, where you never really battle it out full-on without protective equipment or gloves, since it would be too dangerous.

You could see BJJ as a form of fighting without hurting in fact, which is why it’s safe to spar hard. There’s no kicking or punching in BJJ. Instead, we try and beat each other using joint locks, such as arm locks, and chokes and strangles. No one gets hurt: once the technique is on, the person taps their opponent or the mat, meaning they give in, or submit. And when you’re doing BJJ, you always spar with your opponent’s safety in mind  — that’s rule number one.

Meanwhile, as you train you’ll be getting in great shape and making friends. And then trying to strangle those friends.