Saturday, January 14, 2012

Top Ten Comments of Friends and Family to BJJ Injuries

At 44 yo my order of priorities is the opposite of BJJ, Work, Family.  Thus, being injured again (knee this time doing judo) intensifies this dilemna of priorities.  Regarding the injury, dumb-me...I didn't fully warm up and I should have not sparred as my training had been limited at the time.  I also have not done any weight training in over a year, which I think helps protect from injuries (and I have started again).  The worst part of the injury is not the rehab.   Its the wife and workmates essentially calling me an idiot for continuing to train BJJ after having 4 significant injuries in the last 28 months, since I started (that resulted in a surgery and 2-4 months off in each case).  
Now, 3 of the 4 injuries came from my, albeit successfull, use of the seio nage.  Thus, to me, the solution is clear, no more judo and seio nage.  I am inherently clumsy anyways.  Thus, I do not blame the sport.  I also point out to people that I (slightly) injured myself by falling down the stairs twice and kicking a chair playing Kinect in the same 2 year period. 
Other BJJ Over 40's must also be experiencing many more injuries than our younger counterparts.   I will post that question on the BJJ Over 40 facebook group.   For this blog, we focus on the humor of age, injuries and BJJ.  Thus...
OMJJ's Top Ten Comments of Friends and Family to BJJ Injuries
10. You are too old for that (yes, boring comment, but by far the most often heard comment).
9. Did you ever think of taking walks at the mall instead?
8.  For what you get out of it, it can't be worth it... retire!  (a comment from an overweight 300 lb. guy)
7. Do something easier.  What do you have to prove?
6. Your body is not flexible like it used to be.  Your tendons and ligaments are like beef jerky now.
5. Get a grip, your days of glory and competition are over.  (ouch)
4.  You may suffer from arthritis later in life due to that injury. (comment from my new buddy, the orthopaedist...not funny at all)
3. Getting pudgy shows that you are a content father.  You don't need to be in shape like a twenty year old.  (no need to worry about this one, I still look like a content father)
2.  Why don't you be a normal person and buy a sports car or get a mistress and have an affair for your mid-life crisis?  (I tried that, I bought a Camry)
1.  Jiu Jitsu will not make you any younger.
Au contraire...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

BJJ in Orlando Florida

I was looking for a place to train on Orlando (while there for work) and came across the new Alliance Orlando.  I walked in to a building that wasn't yet a full operating gym, but knew they had classes going from their facebook post.  The General Manager was very welcoming, very engaging, and offered me to come back for the class in a half hour or so.  When I came back, I know that I was in the right place when most people waiting were speaking Portuguese.

The class was run by BB Michel Langhi, brother of Michael Langhi.  Michael Langhi is the head instructor, but was back in Brazil.  It was a "real" training session with long warm ups and 3 or so rounds of 7 minute sparring.  They are just starting, so the class sessions have not been separated between experience levels, but the drills were in separate groups.

For me, this was the first time that I had trained BJJ with Brazilians.  Its not like it is any different for me, the noob, but there is a novelty.  More experienced people will gain a lot from training with the upper echelons of the sport.

The important thing for me was that this place was great experience (instruction, welcoming-ness, facility).  I look forward to training here again.  To train with the sports elite gets me thinking a lot about the sport.  Think about it (ca. Falling Hard), can you ever train with professional football/basketball/baseball players?  No.  Here is the chance to train with BJJ's professionals.  It makes that training session different.  Even if you are just here as a BJJ tourist.

BJJ in Littleton / Centennial, Colorado

I was in Denver and had the opportunity to train at Easton BJJ in Littleton.  Easton BJJ has six branches, which I was at a South Denver suburb branch.  This was my first time training at a larger school, but there was little difference except in their being a well organized curriculum.  My impressions:
  • Very welcoming to a drop in - it is a little intimidating/awkward showing up at a new school to train just for a night - they were very friendly and accommodating.  Thanks!
  • They required an instructor to watch you roll before attending class or sparring - meant to monitor the spazzes - safety measure. 
  • Floated/elevated springy mats were very nice.
  • They had separate Beginner (up to 3 stripe white belt), Intermediate (above 3 stripes), and Advanced classes, which seemed like it could make it easier for a beginner to start training to only spar with fellow noobs (or more spastic).
My biggest impression was the uncommon number of Over 40 folks.  I asked Head Instructor, Chris Stolzman, about the gentrified popularity of his school.  He noted that they had a well attended kids class and many of the older folks were parents.  Another instructor responded to my question on the percentage of aged students, "this intermediate class here is pretty typical, it has 2 of 10 people over 40, so 20%."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roy Harris Interview on BJJ Over 40, DVD Review

Roy Harris has a great instructional DVD specifically targeted to the OMJJ's over 40 years old (Volume 3 of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: The Best of Roy Harris).  When I started BJJ, it was very difficult to keep at it.   Being very out of shape, I would get very winded. Gassing combined with little moves to use, I was like a big fat wrestling dummy for the youthful ones to beat on.  After class, all I could muster was laying down (and moaning).  The more practical techniques I learned, the easier BJJ became.  I wish that I had watched Master Harris's DVD sooner.  The apparent lack of information/technique geared to the older player is an original reason that I started this blog.  This DVD gives a great blueprint to start BJJ, regardless of age.  Even after you have a foundation, it still has many lessons to offer. 

One thing is totally apparent when you watch the DVD.  Roy Harris is a master teacher.  He really has a passion for educating and has the skills to be clear, concise, while covering a lot of information.  His voice sounds a bit like the Saturday Night Live skit, Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.  However, this may not be so much of a laid back demeanor, but a method of teaching to make it easier to listen to his lesson.  I don't know.  I wish that I would have asked him.  Master Harris was kind enough to answer a few questions about the DVD and its targeted audience.

Roy Harris teaching a seminar in Norway, where he returns for another seminar on October 29-30, 2011, see Trondheim BJJ
Master Roy Harris is a Fourth Degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Professor Joe Moreira. He was one of the Dirty Dozen, the first 12 non-Brazilians to get their black belt in BJJ.  He has trained with the Who's-Who of the sport: Rorion Gracie, Royler Gracie, Rigan Machado, Jean Jacques Machado.  His BJJ school is the Harris Academy in San Diego, CA.  Master Harris has taught hundreds of seminars in 24 countries for companies, police and military, including special forces from Poland, Slovakia, US Marines and the US Navy Seals.  He even instructed the Anheuser-Busch "Bud Girls." Ay, chihuahua!

The DVD covers theory, i.e., protect yourself and make your opponent do all the work, and has a lot of practical positions and techniques.  He goes through basic concepts of fundamental movements and positions, before getting into techniques.  The detailed explanation of "fundamental" positions and movements goes beyond what you would see in class, although they are basic concepts.  He makes it easier to grasp by combining explanation, followed by demonstration, and then a powerpoint-style wrap up of why the moves are important.

One of the more "controversial" techniques is to grab your collar when mounted or in side control and wait for your uke to give some space and then sweep or recover to guard.  As Master Harris explains, "Basically you use this defensive position to get them to uncross their ankles. Pretty sneaky, huh?"  I have used this one especially when I gas out.  People rightly think it is stalling, but that is OK.

"Tell me more, Master"
I talked about stalling and why it was common in BJJ with Master Dave Trader (my Master where I train).  Dave explained, "BJJ has a history of very long or even no time limit matches.  So, the tolerance for stalling is much higher than in wrestling or judo which have short time limits.  Also, the focus on achieving dominant position requires you to not rush.  Rushing to achieve a sub or position can cause you to lose position and possibly the match or fight." Master Harris uses the defensive positions as a "wise man's" technique.  Why try to match the superior strength and endurance of a younger opponent?  It is a losing battle.  Let them do the work, get frustrated, screw up and then sweep or improve your position.

The most difficult thing that I have with using his approach is being pragmatic and defensive.  After realizing you gave up mount or an opponent has got your back, I am in panic mode.  I am not thinking, OK, get you defenses and wait for him to screw up.  I am not in the mode to think defensive, but that is more a symptom of my lack of maturity in the sport.  Hence, why I am a white belt.  Master Harris points out that defense prevents injury by reducing the number of times that you get tapped out.  In one example, an aged student went from 10-20 taps night to 10 a week.  As he states, "You like that word "survive", huh?" 

The technique portion of the DVD is also very good with some neat bemt armlock approaches (without movement), good submission escapes, etc.  He wraps up the DVD by showing sparring and "playing," a less than full speed sparring that focuses on trying techniques.  I sometimes can get out of the survival mode sparring and get into the "playing" mode with the upper belts, but that is also a level of maturity in BJJ that comes with experience.  he adds, "Its not about who taps who. The focus of training is to learn."

Here is the interview...
OMJJ: You explain in the dvd that these techniques are for the occasional BJJ practitioner that has a family, job, greatly needs to avoid injury, and wants to have fun with the sport.  Are these techniques not right for competition?
MASTER HARRIS: While some of the techniques and tactics can be used for competition, it must be remembered that competition isn't the only aspect for Jiu Jitsu. While there is the competition and self-defense aspect in Jiu Jitsu, there is also the playful, hobbyist's aspect. Each aspect requires a different mindset to be useful. 
It must also be remembered that there are a lot of Jiu Jitsu practitioners that are not interested in competition. While most of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that is taught in this country is competition oriented Jiu Jitsu, there are a lot more hobbyists now-a-days. This is the reason why I developed the Over 40 DVD! 
"Don't believe the lie that says,  'You're wussing out if you don't train hard.' That stupid mindset is for twenty year olds who have very few responsibilities in life!"
OMJJ: What advice do you have for the older BJJ noobs to get the most enjoyment out of the sport and keep at it?
MASTER HARRIS: Here's what I recommend: 
1. Not all instructors "get it." They do not understand your needs. So, shop around town until you find someone who gets it!
2. If you can't find an instructor within a reasonable driving distance, start a training club in your own garage. Take three to six months to find the right people.
Speaking of this, here's a funny story from my school:
A group of guys in the 40's and 50's decided to do what I had asked of them ("train on your own outside of the academy environment" - because that's where your progress will occur). They started their own training group in a couple of garages. Over the course of a few months, they trained in secret, not telling anyone what they were doing. They focused exclusively on escaping from the mount and side mount positions. 
Several months down the road, many of the young guns started to notice they could no longer hold down the old guys. Of course, the young guys started asking questions. The old guys told them they were training one day a week at this guy's house and one day a week at that guy's garage. Of course, the young guys wanted to cash in on this newly found resource. So, they asked the old guys if they could join them. The old guys said, "No." There's more to the story, but I am so happy that (a) the old guys got together on their own and trained outside of the academy environment, and (b) they said "No" to the young guns!
3. If you don't want to do either of the above, then you need to be vocal at your young gun training facility. You need to tell the other students, "My back is giving me problems today. So, don't go hard with me!" You also need to tell the spazzes at your academy "No" when they ask to roll with you. Speak up and let your wishes be known. Don't believe the lie that says, "You're wussing out if you don't train hard." That stupid mindset is for twenty year olds who have very few responsibilities in life!
OMJJ: At your school (Harris Academy in San Diego, CA), what percentage of white belts are over 40? 
MASTER HARRIS: The over 40 crowd represents around 5% of the students at the Harris Academy. Over the years, I've had guys in the middle to late 60's training with me. My oldest student was 73 years old. He trained with us for a year! 
OMJJ: Are there any different approaches that you take to help the Over 40 BJJ beginner get started in the sport (versus approaches for the younger student)?
MASTER HARRIS: For starters, a male who is over the age of 40, and just starting Jiu Jitsu, needs to understand that he is no longer a twenty year old. He needs to accept the fact that his body is "more mature" (which means it will take much longer to heal) and that he has responsibilities outside of the classroom. 
Second, he must focus on his priorities. Why is he there in the first place? He's there because he wants to get in shape and learn a bit of self-defense. So, focus on getting in shape and learning a bit of self-defense. In other words, turn a blind eye to the competition team. Forget about the fact that you used to be a decent wrestler. Forget the good ol' days of competition - how you long for them…..or how you'd like to see how you might do against one of the really good guys at the academy.
Third, have periodic talks with your instructor. Make him responsible for your safety. Place "some" responsibility upon his shoulders. Tell him your expectations and ask him if he is willing to meet you half way.
Speaking of talking with your students, here's a story from my past: 
Over the years, I've had all kinds of people come and train with me. Two gentlemen who came to train with me were surgeons. Each one pulled me aside and said, "Just so you know, I am a surgeon. I depend on my hands for my work. I need you to protect my hands during class. I am relying on you to help me accomplish this goal. Can you do that?" My response was, "Yes. I will help you accomplish this goal." 
Long story short, I watched them like a hawk. Any time they were about to begin sparring with a "spaz", I changed their partners. Other students wondered what I was doing, but my surgeon students knew. They were very appreciative! 
Thanks so very much, Master Harris.  It is going above and beyond to take the time to help us Over 40 Practitioners learn from your experience.  It is people like you that make this sport so great.  You can buy his 3 DVD set directly from Roy Harris or from other retailers.  It is also available as an iPhone App.  It is very OMJJ Approved!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ex-soldiers in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

At our school, we have a few folks that served in the military.  Given that we are in the States, at least two I know where in Iraq.  One guy, was in his late thirties and in the infantry.  He never really said much about it, just that he was there.  After class, I saw him stretching and wincing.  I asked what the problem was and he said his sciatic nerve.  I asked, if it was from kicking the heavy bag.  He nonchalantly said that it was from Iraq, daily patrols with the weight from ill-fitted body armor, a rucksack and the other gear.  Herniated disks and other various maladies are what he contends with after moving on from that job.

That is such a real sacrifice to have made.  I can't imagine doing that work in my late thirties.  I whine about my physical degradations.  Hence, this blog, but I made choice to do the sports or was just born with clumsiness that has caused my few physical impairments.  These ex-soldiers were working, doing their job, got hurt (or worse) and sucked it up to live with the problems later in their lives.  Problems that they got from doing a job in public service. 

So, in respect and tribute to the servicemen and women on this Memorial Day weekend (oh yeah, its Labor Day weekend...uh, who cares, I always get them confused), OMJJ is thankful and gives this truly amazing fireworks salute.