Monthly Archives: July 2010

I would never do that for a hobby

“You are just going to get hurt and all beaten up why on earth would you want to do that?”

This is a certainty I have had TOLD to me by many people over the last couple of years.  Not folk who do train, or people who have been down, not even by folk who really know what BJJ is, just by folk who KNOW.

Well the simple answer to that is NO, you are not going to get hurt and beaten up if you go to the right club which will have the right people, the right setup, the right coach and the correct rules.

Now OK I admit I write this with a bit of a poorly elbow due to an expertly applied arm bar which I was fighting so hard that when it went on it went on.  Thus ignoring my own advice about slowing down. J

But let me talk about my tally, from a young age to 30 ish the PBJJ years (pre BJJ) I spent a lot of time, fighting with my brother, playing rugby at a good level, doing various sports, drinking and misbehaving.

I suffered 14 broken, fractured or dislocated bones, including a fractured skull (happened in the bath a story for my latter years J) and a knee injury.  The knee injury was skiing and comprised off, a fractured knee cap, torn interior and anterior cruciate and medial ligaments, a snapped patella tendon, a broken femur, a snapped kneecap, double dislocation and break of my ankle, my shin broken in 2 places and couple of operations, some metal, some fibre and 2 years physio.

From the age of 30 to where I am now 33 and a bit, my BJJ years, in BJJ class I have suffered a couple of black eyes, a couple of broken toes, a bloody nose and a few aching joints including my current poorly elbow, which is in all honestly just one of those things and not too bad in fact I trained last night.

So why do people have this perception that you are always injured or you will get hurt if you do BJJ.  Well I do have a theory and I think it is a mind set thing with the whole sport.  When I played rugby if I strained my groin muscle or broke a bone I took time off, no training and rested.  With BJJ a broken toe is just something to be taped to another toe, a strained muscle just means you take it easier when you roll.  This is where the issue lies, now I do BJJ it has become something more than a hobby it is really a passion I do not want to miss time.  So I could sit at home with my elbow all poorly and ice it some more and just take it easy, but that is never gonna happen.  So that night I iced my elbow, stuck some gel on it and last night taped it (for about 10 mins till it annoyed me) and just said “if you get an arm bar on that arm it is yours just take it do not put it on” my team mates were all cool with that and I rolled away merrily.

Thereby lies the problem, it is something I see night in night out and am guilty of it myself, a small injury which is not enough to stop you rolling is never given the chance to heal, so six months down the line the finger is still broken or the muscle still a bit sore.  Couple that with the fact that there are still more men than woman doing the sport and most men, myself included would rather wait for a dislocated shoulder/elbow/spine to “get better” than bother the doctor.

From the outside then all people see is the fact that you seem perpetually injured, and if you ever end up with a Gi burn or black eye well shock horror that is further validation of their fears.  They forget that unlike in boxing when the KO blow is thrown or in football when the chest high world cup kick comes, we can tap before it gets too painful before it delivers the coup de grace.  Also the fact that before we do a general mixed belt roll John reads “the rules” no neck cranks, nothing that goes against the neck, straight back foot locks only, no knee bars, no small joint manipulation take all the fingers or none, no slamming (which is my lament J) , try not to lift your opponent (a blow for BMJ) and remember we all are friends and all a team.

Now do not get me wrong serious injuries do occur of course they do and to anyone who does get hurt my sympathies as I lost a chance to take my rugby further because of my knee.  All I am saying is that the occurrence of these injuries and also the minor ones is not really any different and probably less than most sports or even accidents at home.

Put it like this I have never stood on a plug at training but I have at home, and my lord that smarts.

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Fear is indeed the mindkiller

First of all congratulations to the Goldson clan who become one more after the birth of a baby girl this weekend, few more to go before you get to Gracie numbers man 🙂

Just recently I feel that my game has come on a bit after a long plateau after I got to my blue belt. The other night for example I pulled off a move I was really pleased with using proper technique against someone I have really had nightmares against for the last 6 months or so.

Is this because I have got fitter and stronger, well maybe a little bit, is it because my technique has got better, no not at all because John drilled this move with me till I was fairly proficient a while ago.  So what is the answer then, well I can only put it down to the fact that the fear which had crept into my game has finally gone away again.  I did not really realise it had happened but now I look back it was very much the case.

I was a white belt for about 13 months and for the first 9 or so of them I was not worried what happened, I came I tapped I walked away learning a little something else new.  The purple belts were a strange and scary breed who would do things to me I had never even seen but then would sit and explain it to me after wards and for that Max, Steve, Dunc, Paul Cole (brown now), Noel et al I owe you many thanks.  The other blue belts like James, Rob, Ryan and Rich (last two purple now) were the same in fact everyone was great with John constantly spurring me on.  I saw my mate come and go as it was a bit rough I think and another one join and surpass me in Big Hayden and life was good.

Then I went to three stripes and eventually in April I went to Blue Belt as is explained in an earlier entry/musing/ramble whatever you may wish to call it.  From this point the nerves came in, I felt like I had to start doing more which in all honestly I did, I had to attack and get subs, I had to show I was worthy of my promotion and I just could not get subbed by a new guy.  None of this was particularly conscious in my head and certainly no one said it to me it just crept into my game and like the 300lbs wet blanket that it made me it smothered it.

I became almost entirely defensive and due to my size and strength on the whole it worked well.  Don’t get me wrong on the odd occasion that I chose to verbally self harm myself and give John some lip J he showed me that I could still easily be picked apart by an expert, as did many of the others lads.  But on the whole it did work, I developed nice little rolls out of Omaplatas, and spins here and there which surprised people due to my size, but I then did nothing with that surprise and advantage.  Here and there I might get an arm bar from side control after I had wet blanketed my opponent for a few minutes but all in all I was going no where.

I became sub consciously wary of sparring sessions in case I went up against someone who I knew could handle me as I felt like I had nothing to give back, I still went and enjoyed the roll but there was that something on my mind, which it turns out was fear.  I was not worried about losing to X and Y but worried that I was not doing as well as I could, that I was not performing and showing that I deserved my Blue Belt, that I was not proving myself, the stupid thing is I was the only one who was asking myself to prove anything no one else on the gym was, only me.

Then a few month ago after I got a stripe and had a decent Seni a cloud lifted I kind of thought and felt that I had validated myself to myself.  Like I say no one else was asking this and I know my team would have been there to shout me on if I had lost in the next 20 competitions in a row.  Suddenly I relaxed and started to try things, so what if they got me tapped, that is after all the best way to learn.  Throw a leg over, try a choke, make a move for an advance after all what is the worst that can happen, a team mate and friend can make you tap and you both smile shakes hands and start again.  If a smaller man spins round you like the mistral and takes your back before you breath then good for him because next time I will pin him to the ground and make him swim in my waters, and if not next time then the time after. If a new guy taps me then great and I just remembered how that felt when I was brand new, it is a good feeling and one you can take home.  Do not think this was ego as it really wasn’t as I hope that I will always be there to help folk like people were and still are there to help me, it was never about the fact that someone beat me, it was a personal thing, I felt I was better to draw or stalemate than lose.  Now I realise that to draw and stalemate is worse than losing as it really is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Will the fear come back will I have these moments again, no absolutely not, well maybe, in fact almost certainly as self doubt from time to time is only human and keeps me a little more humble.  In then end though I hope I remember this point in my journey when I decided “at least I will go out on my shield”.

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Filed under BJJ, Blue Belt, John Goldson

Stop, take a breath and slow down

Now before I go into this let me say I am not for one second presuming to teach anything to any one, there may well be clubs who consider a blue belt a worthwhile coach but I certainly would never presume and the Forge has far far better proponents of the art than me.  If you want to learn technique, a move, an escape or any of these things go and see John or one of the purple belts if not him.  All I am suggesting here is something which John and others passed onto me and made a big difference to me and my game.

It is a simple thing but when I first started like many people I acted the complete opposite way as that intuitively felt like the way to go.  The advice is, slow it down, take a breath, get your head up and think about what you are going to do.  Now in a fight type scenario this seems contradictory after all surely you need to go 100Mph to be the best don’t you?

Well no in all honestly you don’t and this is also illustrated by another sport which looks like it is doing just that but in reality isn’t, the 100 metres sprint.  Look at the top guys such as Usain Bolt and when you see them in slow motion what is the one thing that is always commented on, answer, how relaxed he is.  In fact a few sprinters have suggested that it is not how fast you run but in fact how slowly you slow down that makes the difference.  Most runners hit top speed at between 50 and 60 meters and it is all slow down from there so the one who to use an common term ‘gasses’ the least and can slow down more slowly will win of course there will always be the odd anomoly.

This is very much the case I have found in BJJ, for example there is one lad who is getting very good, and is also very strong but worries about being on the bottom against me, so he charges in as fast as possible at the offset.  I no longer even try to fight back against it I just weather this storm and survive until he starts to slow down which he always does and then I more often than not end up on top and he will tap generally because he has nothing more to give.  It happened in the recent Carwin v Lesnar fight, one man gave all he had as fast and as hard as possible and when the fight did not end he had nothing left.  The thing is that if your opponent starts off so fast and furious that when the pace starts to drop no matter how fast they are still going you feel it is getting easier and they feel it getting harder so the psychological game is tilted towards you as well.  I try and tell new starters to watch the likes of John and others when they roll and watch the slow patient control with controlled bursts of energy.  Many think that a fast start against a big guy like me will win it for them but if it doesn’t and they go from 10 to 5 to 1 very quickly and I keep at a consistent 5 or 6 (more likely 3 :-)) throughout the roll then by the end it will feel much worse for them.

John also stated that another thing I was doing while going hell for leather was just reacting, not thinking ahead and not grabbing and pinning things for a forward plan but just because I thought I should.  This also leads into trouble as you may well escape nine moves but the tenth will get you and so on.  Also you have no plan of where you are going so all you are doing is prolonging a fight until you get more and more tired and the fight ebbs away from you.

It is something which works for me and has changed my ability to compete and keep competing, I even put down my decent Seni showing to the fact that I took it steady and worked for positions slowly and methodically with patience, keeping some stamina back.  Also John, Chaz and Kerry yelling in my ear helped 🙂

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BJJ becomes BMJ

There are a few things that you have to learn when coming to BJJ, well OK there are loads of things but for me a couple of things changed my game and I think really helped me to improve (not saying I am that good, just better than I was).

Now I have a few nicknames Grandao (larger than large in Portuguese), Big Stew which is obvious and one of my favourites which is Stewnormous which was coined by 6’3″ 19stone buddy Hayden from New Zealand.  Then finally James “Spinaroonie” Fairclough announced that I was an anomaly because I was soo big and yet very flexible.  Now all this was stuff I knew but had not really been using, my size and the way I can bend means that I can be very good in some positions but in others am very poor indeed.  Of course I need to work on all areas and learn the proper and best techniques the correct way from John who as ever is excellent at teaching these.  However some things are just not for me and some only work if adapted for my size and anatomy.

Thus I began to work on my “game” and develop what suits me better, there are certain movements that when I do them at my height and weight just leave too many gaps.  But a nice smothering side control game which leads to arm bars and shoulder locks suits me great.  Working from guard is both good and bad as it is hard to get off my back when put there at times but my strength is a bonus for controlling an opponent.  Some chokes with hands deep into the collar are trickier as there is not too much room anyway let alone for my giant paws, but a nice little ezekiel choke works a treat from front and back.  All in all what I found was as my friend Naz the Samurai calls it BMJ – Big Man Jitsu.

There are many guys who do the small man version, quick agile and all movement but that is just not a game I can play.  I use the natural advantage that I have which is size and flexibility, I also make sure while that I move at the speed of a tectonic plate I keep my control at all times, never lifting my weight.  Now some folk think this is unfair but if I asked them to slow down a bit and stop running round to my back I am sure they wouldn’t 🙂

At first I was very nervous to do this as I was and still am worried about ever hurting someone after all none of us do this for a living and we all have jobs which it is nice to be able to make it to the next day.  My game then became quite a defensive one and one of very little else, until John and my good friend Chaz drilled into me that I need to up the aggression, go for the moves and drop my weight.  John explained that if I control it and it starts to hurt someone they will tap and it will not be a problem, control is the key.  Get that position before submission and make sure that I use all I have to my advantage as no one else will hold back from using what they can.

With this in mind I went to the Seni and did OK there with a game very much based on control, balance, using my weight and making sure I concentrated on only going for things that were there and would better where I was not just throwing moves for the sake of it. I am now back in the gym and of course am still bested often by all those folks who have their game far more developed and to a higher level than me but at least now a days I do get the odd win here and there.

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Filed under BJJ, forge, seni

BJJ – good for body and mind

Well I had a great week in Glastonbury saw all the acts I wanted too, the weather was amazing and I took my Gracie Barra T shirts down there to represent (I think that is what the young cool kids call it :-))  It was fantastic and I felt physically well after  a break from training which allowed my dodgy shoulders to heal up and even let me brush my hair again 😉

Then I got back and work loomed, all good I thought I am chilled and relaxed, I walked back in with a smile and a few moments later the storm had descended and it felt like I had never been away.

This week it got even worse with one thing after an other 12 and 13 hour days and many missed training sessions, I even missed the kids getting thier gradings which really got me down.  Once again let me say well done to them all but especially my little mates Will, Sal and future UFC champion and hall of famer Cole (4 years old) you are super stars and will all go on to become good fighters and people.

I felt my self get worse and worse, sleeping less, more and more difficult with folk and fed up moody and insular at home, all in all 300lbs of angry man.

So last night I forced myself to leave work and get to training, my good friend Mr Gregg came down and we had a very good warm up roll and then I went through a class even tapped the near un-tappable Damo with a nice little leg lock which pleased me greatly (maybe a little more than it should I will admit, but I kept it inside).  I loved every minute of it from helping some of the newest of the new where I could to rolling with some of the lads I have not seen for a while.

I slept better last night although I always suffer a bit of restlessness after training and never sleep that well, remedies on a postcard please, I also seem to suffer from heartburn after training for some reason, but anyway it was still better and I feel much more rested.

Woke up this morning and I feel so much better and more positive, admittedly the fact it is Friday helps but the fact that I am off training again tonight has also made me feel a lot better.  All in all then I now know that no matter what I have to try and make some time even if it is just a little bit in the middle of the crisis to get myself down to the forge and get some sparring under my belt.  BJJ it really is good for what ails you.

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