Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Escape the Rear Naked Choke By Your Couch

After working long hours, I love to do nothing but couch.  This laziness is in direct conflict with my ambition to learn BJJ.  After a stint of falling off the wagon (i.e., the mat), how do you get back on the horse and get going with BJJ class again?  The answer is "with much regret."  After missing a series of classes, I always kick myself for not fiting in at least 1 class per week (I travel frequently which is the other reason besides laziness (Master should only read that work is the cause of any of my absences)).  As an Aged and Feeble BJJ Practitioner, missing just a week puts my cardio back two weeks or more.  Nothing sucks more than gassing.  Well, maybe getting choked when you are gassing out.  So, How to Escape the Rear Naked Choke...From Your Couch?   Answer: don't let the couch get its hooks in.  Go to at least one class per week.  Take your Gi on business trips and find a nearby BJJ club.  I did this once in Lexington KY and it was fun.  As an aged and feeble student, you will be a novelty.  Every BJJ Club probably wants their own token old pummel, choke and cherish.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Old Man Judo in Manassas VA

I was intimidated to take the Judo classes at Rage Fight Club in Manassas.  Just doing BJJ warm ups, I ended up getting surgery by only break falling poorly....duh.  What would the aged and feeble OMJJ novice get into with a full program of  break falling?  Nonetheless, I knew that I needed to learn how to break fall the correct way and I always loved the Ippon Seio Nage/Japanese Whizzer/Shoulder Throw from high school wrestling. 

The Judo class is taught by two black belts: 1st and 3rd dan, Victor and Jay.  It is really amazing to have two sensai of that caliber teaching a class attended by a small group of students.  My hesitations were somewhat unwarranted.  I am learning how to do some basics, including break falling.  The sparring still has me cautious, as I am not really used to the part of getting thrown.  I really enjoy the art aspect of Judo.  The end of class Victor does this meditational breathing routine.  It is more formal with the bowing and the like but still very casual and non-militaristic.  Judo is very fun.  It is awe-inspiring to watch and "play" as the throws are more dramatic and exciting than BJJ's ground game.  However, it is more restricted given that Judo disallows leg take downs, which with a wrestling background is my standup game.   If I could even call it a "game," at this point.;

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Injuries vs. To-be-expected Aches and Pains

Aches and pains are to be expected when you are an aged and feeble BJJ student.  Unfortunately, injuries are also to be expected.  Since I started, I have had a rotator cuff sprain, elbow bone spur, elbow bursitis, popped rib, torn shoulder cartilidge, and arthritis in both shoulders.  These injuries and the elbow surgery have had me out about half of the year that I have been training.  I have learned how to protect myself and be smarter at training.  Here are my lessons learned:

1. get very warmed up.  Don't spar until you are loose and ready.

2. Follow the technique with no short cuts.  I screwed up my elbow by being lazy when break falling.

3. Be defensive and avoid being submitted.  Subs are brutal on the joints.

4. Tap as soon as you are caught.  There is no sense in straining your joints when you are already done for.

5. Give your joints a break.  When my arthritis starts to ache endlessly, I will take a break from class or spare for a shorter time.  Your younger team mates will not understand, but if you are in it for the long haul, be prepared to take extra time.

Historical Use of the Term Political Jiu Jitsu or Political Ju Jitsu

The term Political Jiu Jitsu or Political JuJitsu is a new one to me.  I heard it on a news show referring to the act of taking one's strength and twisting it to seem like its their weakness.  An acadwmic seacribed it as "The ability of weak actors to exploit the frequent contradictions that arise-particularly in advanced liberal democracies-between normative commitments and material interests."  Huh...uh...ok...  The origins of the use of this term is unknown, but it is something that appeared in the 2008 presidential race. 

This post did better research on the term ( "In his classic study, The Power of Nononviolence (1934), Richard B. Gregg coined the term “moral jiu jitsu” to describe the principles undergirding Gandhi’s satyagraha as he had seen them operate in India.  Martin Luther King, Jr. considered Gregg’s book one of five that most profoundly shaped his thought, and wrote the foreword to an edition published in 1960. (An abridged version of that edition is here.)  Gregg argued that the use of physical violence by groups that seek to challenge a repressive order legitimizes a violent response by that order, and since that order usually has a far greater capacity for violent force, this is a losing strategy.  A refusal to use violence, on the other, causes the repressive order to lose moral balance, in the same way that jiu jitsu causes an attacker to lose physical balance.

In 1973, political scientist Gene Sharp, termed by one commentator “the Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare,” published The Politics of Nonviolent Action.  In it, he dropped “moral jiu jitsu” in favor of “political jiu-jitsu,” a phrase intended to encompass tactics that went beyond Gregg’s emphasis on the psychological effect of nonviolent resistance.  The metaphor informs the entire book, and a key chapter is entitled “Political Jiu-Jitsu.”  Its first paragraph defines the term:

Political jiu-jitsu is one of the special processes by which nonviolent action deals with violent repression. By combining nonviolent discipline with solidarity and persistence in struggle, the nonviolent actionists cause the violence of the opponent’s repression to be exposed in the worst possible light. This, in turn, may lead to shifts in opinion and then to shifts in power relationships favorable to the nonviolent group. These shifts result from withdrawal of support for the opponent and the grant of support to the nonviolent actionists.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

BJJ in Lexington, KY

I was in Lexington for work and I brought my Gi in hopes of finding a BJJ gym. Four Seasons MMA is a great place. Head Coach Michael ODonnell, black belt and member of Carlson Gracie Fight Team, was very welcoming. The class was not large (<10) and the coaches were not lazy. They went out of their way to help with technique. The format was different than what I was used to: starting and ending with sparring. The BJJ mat was elevated on top of used tires, which added a spring and cushion to falls, very OMJJ Approved. I am still searching for the gym that has double mats for that cushiony soft landing from a toss, but 4S's were close (yes, its a joke)! It is located in an industrial building and it was like an oven during the hot September day that I was there. It was a very active place with kids and other MMA classes.

Bow and Arrow Choke from Full Mount

After succumbing to the bow and arrow choke many times, I finally was in a class where it was being taught and drilled.  We drilled it as a counter to the opponent shrimping out of full mount.  It is definitely OMJJ Approved.  It requires minimal movement and energy.  The especially OMJJ Approved technique is the variation where you don't pull back on the leg or hip, but just use the free hand to pry behind the head.  I couldn't find a YouTube video of the bow and arrow choke from full mount nor the head pry variation, but this video is close:

OMJJ Approved BJJ Techniques

In an attempt to identify the most favorable techniques for the old man jiu jitsu practitioner (and to assist me in remembering them), OMJJ Approved techniques will be listed with the following logo:
OMJJ Approved techniques meet one or more of the following criteria:
  • Minimizes energy use
  • Requires limited flexibility
  • Emphasizes technique over strength
  • Applies strategy over endurance
  • Frustrates youthful practitioners
OMJJ Approved may also be applied to BJJ schools and events that facilitate the aged and feeble BJJ practitioner.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blair Academy Wrestling Cage Fighter Fundraiser for Adam Frey Foundation

I went back to my alma mater, Blair Academy, for my 25th reunion.  I wrestled at the school starting in 1981, which they have had a run on being national champions in prep schools for 30 years.  Blair is widely regarded as the best high school wrestling team in the country, for which I had little to deal with.  The Assistant coach during my last years, Jeff Buxton, is still there leading the team...truly amazing accomplishments.  Coaches Hutchinson and Latessa have since moved on, but they were also amazing at building the program in its early stages.

Adam Frey ’05 and Ryan McGrath ’98 were accomplished wrestlers at Blair who died from cancer at young ages.  Cage Fighter created a fundraiser Tshirt, which proceeds from the sale of the shirt go towards the Foundation in Memory of Adam Frey and Ryan McGrath.

Buy the Tshirt at

See more about the Adam Frey Foundation:

"The Adam Frey Foundation is a non-profit organization formed by Adam Frey to give comfort to and provide enjoyment for those receiving treatment for cancer.

During an aggressive bout of chemo, about a month before Adam passed away, he wrote in his blog, “Hopefully life outside of chemo and the sickness will be comfortable.” The purpose of The Adam Frey Foundation is to make this hope come true for people fighting cancer.

When Adam was undergoing cancer treatments, he would visit with the other patients in the hospital. It did not matter to him if someone was nine or 90; he was going to engage them in conversation, and it was these conversations that enabled him to see a real need.

He started with bringing a hot lunch every third Wednesday to the Hillman Treatment Center in Pittsburgh. Then when Adam started going to Sloan Kettering in New York for treatments, he asked, “Mom, can you make dinner for the whole floor. Mom, when you order the groceries, get this type of Gatorade for this person and this cookie for that person.” He even planned a turkey dinner one day and invited people as he walked down the hall. Adam had the means to help, and he did, no matter what he had to do. It was at this time that he decided that when he left New York, he was going to start a foundation that would help people get the food they needed, gas monies to get back and forth from the doctor’s, air fare, and other necessities needed for life with cancer. His mindset is that millions of dollars are allocated to the research of cancer, but very little goes into funds that can be used for something other than needles and pins; something that can put a smile on their face.

As of today, The Adam Frey Foundation is the leading contributor to the Hillman patient assistant program where gifts cards are provided in $100 amounts to be used for food, gas, or prescriptions. We have also organized an event for Easter where the Easter Bunny will be providing treats to the children, and gift cards to the parents at the Children’s Hospital Cancer Ward in Pittsburgh. Also, we are in the process of speaking with The Hope Lodge, and Sloan Kettering, both in New York City.

As The Foundation grows, the amount of those who we can help will also grow. Adam was very passionate about this work, and it is through this Foundation that not only his love of life and compassion for people can continue to spread, but his fighting spirit will also live on."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

President Theodore Roosevelt Trained Jiu Jitsu To Lose 20 Pounds

According to an article on, President Theodore Roosevelt trained jiu jitsu to lose 20 pounds prior to an election.  He also aspired to attain the fifth degree of the seven degrees (purple belt?). 

Below is an extract from Professor Yamashita Goes to Washington.

Although The World reported that there were seven degrees in jiu-jitsu, and Roosevelt intended to have at least five of them, Roosevelt’s primary goal in all this was not rank, but weight reduction. Since becoming President, his weight had soared to over 220 pounds, and he hoped to be down to 200 by the elections. So, during March and April 1904, Roosevelt practiced judo three afternoons a week, using a ground floor office in the White House as his workout space. Then, for the rest of the summer, he practiced occasionally. He stopped training during the elections, and there is no record showing that he resumed his studies afterward.
The President’s training partners included his sons, his private secretary, the Japanese naval attache, Secretary of War William Howard Taft, and Secretary of the Interior Gifford Pinchot. When these people were unavailable, then Roosevelt tried his tricks on husky young visitors. The latter included Robert Johnstone Mooney, who with his brother visited the White House on the afternoon of Thursday, August 18, 1904. According to an article published in The Outlook in October 1923, Mooney’s brother was a noted amateur boxer. So, after doing a little sparring with the two young men, Roosevelt:
sprang to his feet and excitedly asked: ‘By the way, do you boys understand jiu-jitsu?’ We replied in the negative, and he continued, pounding the air with his arms, ‘You must promise me to learn that without delay. You are so good in other athletics that you must add jiu-jitsu to your other accomplishments. Every American athlete ought to understand the Japanese system thoroughly. You know’ – and he smiled reminiscently – ‘I practically introduced it to the Americans. I had a young Japanese – now at Harvard [A. Kitagaki] – here for six months, and I tried jiu-jitsu with him day after day. But he always defeated me. It was not easy to learn. However, one day I got him – I got him – good and plenty! I threw him clear over my head on his belly, and I had it. I had it.’Then, to prove his point, Roosevelt demonstrated his techniques on the Mooneys using considerably more enthusiasm than control. Professor Yamashita remarked the same problem, of course. According to an American journalist named Joseph Clarke, Yamashita later said that while Roosevelt was his best pupil, he was also “very heavy and very impetuous, and it had cost the poor professor many bruisings, much worry and infinite pains during Theodore’s rushes to avoid laming the President of the United States.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Old Age and Martial Arts: Age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill

Kung Fu, TKD, and Karate never really sparked my interest, but this pic is  still funny (from
"Never act incautiously when confronted by a little bald wrinkly smiling man!"
— Rule One, according to Lu-Tze, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld
"Age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill."
— Fencer's Adage
"Boot to the head."
— Old Master, The Frantics' Tae Kwon Leep

Links to Mitsuyo Maeda and BJJ History

Links about the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  This post is updated as I come across new information.

Review of book, Carlos Gracie: The Creator of a Dynasty, published in Brazil.

Helio Gracie Interviewed by Nishi Yoshinori

BJJ History by Slideyfoot

BJJ History searched in Google Books

Mitsuyo Maeda (Count Koma) Biography from

Mitsuyo Maeda from

Mitsuyo Maeda from

Professor Yamashita Goes to Washington

Old School Ju Jitsu articles, press, etc. from

Edwardian Jujitsu

Health & Vim

Helio Gracie

Jiu Jitsu for Kids Video Amusing

Jiu Jitsu for Kids is Professor Carlos Rollyson (7th Degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) in a cartoon with sparing teddy bears and teaching the ippon seoi nage to an alien. The move is shown in 4 angles and is actually sort of technical, you could say. At first, you are not sure what you are watching: a SNL-like parody skit about BJJ or a genuine kids cartoon.   Its amusing...for a few minutes.  Very creative and well done. 


Are you a fat, out-of-shape, couch potato?  Good.  Stay that way.  Or... Take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and replace that description with "In pain, writhing, moaning on the couch."

This is a blog/compilation of BJJ information and experiences of a 43 year old attempting to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a great sport.  It is also very difficult for those suffering from the post-tonal swelling of midlife.