At the Jiu Jitsu Studio I teach at in El Dorado Hills, we have a mantra of “think strong, be strong.” This is an idea that your actions and your being are a result of how you think. Since our thoughts are constant, it is essential for us to be aware of the thoughts and make a conscious decision to think in a way that will help us become “stronger.”
For example, today I was doing a strength and conditioning session at One Body Pain and Performance in El Dorado Hills, and I found myself clinching my teeth and gritting through the pain. In that moment, I became aware of my difficult state and instead of telling myself to embrace the difficult moment, I decided to smile and tell myself that I was having fun. Sounds crazy? Sorta… But that was my method to think strong in the moment, telling myself that I was having fun and slightly smiling. Doing so allowed me to embrace the difficult moment of training and persevere. I got through the workout and I became “strong.”
Therefore, the mantra isn’t in thinking strong all the time, but coming up with a set of tools to cope with difficult situations. Being aware that you are in a tough spot and want to quit, but going a little further than you could by thinking strong. Realizing that you are about to face something difficult and scare, yet having a set of words or actions that give you the ability to work through the fear. This is the mindset behind “think strong be strong.” This is the same as mental toughness.
Mental toughness is being tough in difficult, scary, challenging situations. While this ability to be mentally tough is a conscious decision, it is a constant mental and physical challenge. It’s a conscious shift to decide that you are going to be tough, but it is also a repetitive practice of putting yourself in a difficult, uncomfortable, challenging, frightening situation and using or creating a set of tools to overcome the difficulties.
Make the practice of “think strong be strong” a routine and ritual. If I can help as a coach, I am happy to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend a wim hof workshop in San Francisco with a few friends. I wasn’t sure about the experience going into it, but I knew just meeting Wim Hof would be a cool experience. The workshop was more than I could have ever asked for. The experience was a full day experience, especially since we drove from El Dorado Hills to Treasure Island, and we could have been there much longer to stay for the Q&A, but decided against it since it was a Sunday and we all had a busy week ahead of us. But let me tell you more about the workshop.
The workshop was very well organized. We checked in, waited in line for the doors to open, and found a seat in what I think was a 300 person room. The room was just right for the type of experience we were walking into. The workshop began with the story of Wim Hof and his exploration to the method. There were several other presentations by a doctor of medicine on the physiological changes and benefits of the breathing exercises and cold exposure. The explanations started with some simple science, but got pretty deep for me to explain to anyone. I struggle with giving a good explanation of the science behind the method and benefits, and with some studying I hope to be a better ambassador to explain what is actually going on in the body when people take part in the breath charges and ice showers / baths.
The breathing experience was super cool. I had tried it a few times with the app on my phone, but I wasn’t convinced of continuing with it. At the workshop I quickly realized how to better implement the method and practice it. One person sitting in front of us actually passed out…. An usher came to his help, but he just went right back to the breathing exercises. In total we probably spend 20-30 minutes actually doing the breath exercises. After that we walked into the cold. It was COLD. Bone chilling cold. I’ve always been scared of the cold, but I got in and I realized I needed more practice with this one. The workshop was good practice but I needed more coaching to embrace the cold. As Wim says the cold is “merciless but also righteous.” Since then, my friend Reed in Houston TX has really helped me with embracing the cold shower and baths.
I’ve now figured out that I need about 20 minutes of “ME” short for ME-ditation time to practice the breathing daily. The breathing is a method to meditation, and it’s shares some common grounds with typical meditation mantras. I definitely get a boost during and after the session but most importantly, I find strength in the connection between breath, calm and focused mind, relaxed and energized body, and a steady glide of consciousness. The “me” time gives me joy, it gives me a sense of connection, and a smile on my face.
In March of this year I had a life changing opportunity. I met a nutritionist that changed the way I approach eating. From talking with him, going through a body composition exam, and figuring out the healthiest approach to eating I discovered some new things but more importantly discovered that there is so much bad information and misconceptions about nutrition and eating.
The simple version is we’ve been lied to. We’ve been told by our teachers, the experts and the doctors, by advertisements, and all the things around us that we need more food to be strong, healthy, active and vibrant. We do need food, but we don’t need to be eating all the time.
Dr. Bon really broke things down for me to better understand what was going on. His explanation is simple and it has to do with the cause and effect inside the body when we consume food. What hormones are being released, what is being shut off, and how do these hormones affect our muscles mass, fat mass, and energy levels. How does it influence our metabolism? Taking a look at how the hormones being released by the body really made me better understand the significance of what we eat and how that will change our body composition and mental state.
It really hit home when he said that exercise should be used as a form of stress reduction, not weight loss. Exercise trains the muscles and releases certain hormones that influence how we feel. How we eat will influence our body composition based on the type of hormones being released by the body. This will influence your metabolism and energy levels. I was skeptical but at the same time realized that he was speaking the truth. Exercise should be done to regulate stress and strength, diet should be done to regulate body mass index and energy.
I had the opportunity to talk with Icho Kaori this summer. For those that don’t know about her, she is a 4x Olympic Gold medalist. She was gold at 4 consecutive olympic events starting in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. I believe it’s the first for any female to win gold in four consecutive olympic events.
I was lucky to work as a translator for her group visiting the bay area and we sat across from each other during lunch one day. In our conversation I asked her if she had any wrestling idol’s that she looked up to as a student of the sport. She didn’t mention any names but she did say she liked to watch film on different wrestlers, especially of those is felt aspired to imitate to learn from. I was intrigued because I had (and sometimes still do) study film to learn a new or different technique. This is a common practice for many that find entertainment in watching great technique in action or learning a technical position or movement. What was interesting was the conversation that followed.
Icho said in addition to studying the technique, she also like to watch the strategy involved in the match. “Who goes for the first point.” “How does someone comeback from losing.” “How do they shut the door on someone trying to comeback from behind.” I was intrigued. I had never thought to study match strategy. The psychological battle of the mind to score in the beginning or score in the end. The method of coming back from a deficit. This aspect of the game was just as important as having crisp technique. I realized then that to Icho wrestling was not just a study of positions but also the study of tactical strategy as well.
Tactics combined with technical understanding is her prowess. Wrestling often confines the battle into, technique, power, speed, stamina, and mental toughness, but I realized that there is one more significant area that isn’t talked about very much. That is the tactical strategy of a match. Not just scoring and defending, but a higher level of strategy of when to score, how to set up an attack on a defensive opponent, etc. It was such a simple thing, but I was in shock that I had never approached the game from that perspective. That’s some high level thinking worthy of 4 olympic gold medals.
Last night we did an ice bath wim hof style after jiujitsu. Every Friday that I’m in town I intend to do these ice baths and everyone in the el dorado hills community is welcome to join! It’s never gotten this cold. Bone chilling cold. I’ve gotten used to the cold in the last few months by finishing my warm showers with cold ones, doing a weekly ice bath and getting into river water, but I think I psyched myself out of this one. It was intimidating. I went and bought 15 x 20lbs of ice at Costco (best price out there about $2 a bag) something I am used to and have been doing. But then people started bringing more and more ice until we had another 140lbs of ice making the total 440lbs. There were 2 inch chunks of ice still floating on top of the bath a few hours later. I was intimidated. I didn’t want to get in even after coaching and watching everyone go through it. I wanted out.
In that moment, standing in front of the below 35 degrees water, so many things came across my thoughts. Will people judge me if I get out too soon? How bad will this hurt? Just do it…. And in that moment, I just made a conscious decision to change how I was thinking. I started to embrace the idea, “this is about having fun” “go deep into the cold” “get in touch with your self” “connect” instead of un-coaching and talking myself out of the moment, I began coaching myself to perform.
I realized the importance of coaching your thoughts. We often try to “control” how we think and that might work for some people, but I realize now that I just needed to coach myself and follow through with it. I had to coach my thoughts as much as I was trying to coach others who had made their way into the freezing ice bath. As a coach I carried the extrinsic voice, but as a student I initially lacked that intrinsic voice. I realize now that your extrinsic coaching needs to sync with the intrinsic coaching. When those two sync, the coach and athlete, teacher and student, employer and employee are able to produce the best results attainable at that moment.
The syncing of thoughts, the connection of extrinsic and intrinsic dialogue, is the connection between leadership and group. As a leader of a jiujitsu group, I discovered that my words mean nothing to my students if their intrinsic monologue is disconnected from my leadership advice.
Thankful for the intimidating ice bath, that led me to some thinking.
I was driving home today for my mid-day time with the family and I found myself thinking how precious my time had become. A quick reverse in time, I was out the door at 5:20am for a 6-7am class, got some coffee and a nap in for the 9-10am Strength and conditioning, back to the gym to do some work and set up for the 11-Noon class (almost all classes end up taking 20-30min more at the end to answer questions, drill, and clean up) and found myself talking with one of the first responders to the recent shooting in Sacramento.
Back to driving home in my car, I realized how important it is to take the time you spend doing things (or not doing things seriously). What we do or don’t do with our time will define who we are and who we become. Therefore, how we consistently spend our time is a revelation to who we are, and what we do with it is what will define us.
As important as it may be to take your time seriously, (or think about how you spend your time) I also felt the inkling to remind myself not to take yourself (me) too serious. Why? Maybe it’s just my personality or who I am at the moment, but I believe that juxtaposition of ideas complements one another. Since there is only 24 hours in a day and you can never buy or rewind your time back, get a redo for a misplaced day, you need to be very considerate with your time. However, if you do the same with yourself, I think you lose touch with those around you. A “serious person” can be inconsiderate of others. Maybe a a person who takes their time serious is already serious enough, and not taking yourself too serious is a way to balance the yin with the yang.
For myself, I realize more and more the importance of taking my time serious. Knowing that even though class ends at a certain time, it’s part of my job to allow myself to be open to others for some time before and after a class. I also feel that during the precious time we have during a class, things are serious, it’s time that people choose and pay to spend training or learning in our dojo/classroom. So I take the athletes and students seriously. At that same time, not taking myself too serious in those moments reminds me that as a coach and a teacher I am there to serve them. My purpose for that hour or 90 minutes or 30 minutes exists to serve their needs, and not taking myself too serious allows me to better perform those duties. I can stay more patient, yet maintain a sense of urgency to get things done. I can stay calm, yet upbeat to keep things in rhythm. I am focused but maintain vision of the entire room. I don’t know if I would be able to do this if I took myself too serious.
As I’m training I’m also going to be making a scouting report of my potential match ups at the ADCC championships this year. The full list is not on here, but I will be adding to the list as things get closer. I’m very excited to prepare for the tournament and compete in the championships. A goal of mine since 2011.
There are some great up and comers from Japan in Judo. Shonei Ono is one of the already on the top up and comer in the world of Judo. His style is very systematic and very tenacious. Not to mention he is always entertaining to watch with his dynamic throws from every position.
A Rio olympic gold medalist, he was born in 1992 and has been practicing Judo since the age of 7. In addition to winning the olympics, Ono has won the world championships in 2013 and 2015. This prized fighter still has a long career on the mat ahead of him. It will be fun and interesting to watch him in action in the coming years.
What I like about Shohei Ono is not only his physical ability and skill but also his philosophy to take on a challenge and display his best in competition. From what I’ve learned about him and his style is that he pursues the ippon finish while holding on to the importance of winning the match. His speed seems to be his biggest asset as he hits his dominant uchi mata throw on many opponents. More than being a one move master, he seems to be able to transition from move to move, attack to attack and confuse his opponents defenses. Essentially his relentless attacks forces his opponent to defend one move but to give up position for a follow up attack.
In jiujitsu people practice flow rolling as a type of exercise to warm up, training, or warm down. Flow rolling is the idea of free flowing from move to move with a partner. The exploration of transitions. The ability to move from one move from one position to another without feeling interrupted or disjointed in movement. This is difficult. Flowing requires people to understand timing and execute the right movement at the right time. Doing this in a non match situation requires you and your partner to give and take. BUT when one is not sure if it’s their turn to give or take things can become problematic and even very disjointed. There are other ways to practice your flow than just loosely rolling around on the mat.
Resisted drilling: Resisted drilling is a type of drilling where you put yourself in the same position and have your partner give you some resistance. This resistance, the push pull, the left and right, up and down of weight shifting is a good way to study the position and figure out how to flow the movements. FLOWING COMES WITH TIMING AND KNOWING HOW PEOPLE WILL REACT. When you do resisted drilling you bring yourself back in the same position every time the situation changes and as a result are able to try the technique over and over to confirm the accuracy of your timing and transitions. I always ask my partner for more or less resistance depending on my mastery and understanding of the technique. As an example let’s take a look at the single leg takedown. Your partner could react in several different ways. 1. turn away and jump out 2. hug around the body 3. sprawl near hip down 4. sprawl far hip down 5. leg slip. Based on these different reactions your partner can use or transition between, you can work your single leg finishes. This is the beginning of chaining, or micro chaining.
The flip side to micro chaining is macro chaining. This is done by chaining moves together with bigger transitions in mind. This looks much more like a jiujitsu demo or a match. It require you and your partner to work out a 5,10, or 15 move sequence of distinct techniques, combined in the form of a chain. For example. 1. pull guard 2. scissor sweep 3. mount 4. americana 5. escape americana 6. pass the guard to side 7. knee on belly 8. choke Chaining is beneficial because the student can think of a progression of attacks and counter attacks. This chaining is essentially a mind map to work towards in a match. Once the chain is set students and drill the chain to practice their flow. In this way there is no interruption to decide whose turn it is to attack or move. The move is set and the focus can be on flowing. A SET CHAIN OF MOVES ALLOWS THE STUDENT TO PRACTICE FLOW.
It’s ironic that a flow roll is better practiced from a regimented and planned series of chains instead of a random selection of movements decided in the moment. Structured practice gives reason and intent to helping the body learn and understand flow. Structured chaining gives the body the chance to learn the macro transitions necessary feeling and anticipating the partner to move in certain ways. Flow rolling is definitely a great exercise that forces the body to think in the moment, but chaining is also a method to help the body understand timing and transitions.
I had three weekends of jiujitsu in March all in a row. It was busy and kinda crazy, but I’m sure it was much harder on my wife staying at home on the weekends with no relief. As for me it was probably the best I’ve felt going into three weekends of competition. The least “beat up” I’ve felt entering a tournament. I believe it’s because I have a great strength and conditioning coach along with a nutrition coach and have really helped me make a significant jump on the way I recover. I think this is the key. recovery.
Anyway, a quick recap on the three weekends. Nothing too impressive. I lost the opening match of the 5 Grappling 8 man invitational to Tanner Rice. (yes we occasionally train together and we did go have dinner the night before) It was a clear referee decision in his favor. I think most of the matches ended up in a referee decision. The 6 minute submission only was exciting, but there was definitely some controversy in who should have won the match. The night before at the rules meeting there was a heavy emphasis on giving submission attempts the decision over positional advantages. Well…. from a person watching the outcomes of the match that didn’t seem to be the case. Lucas Barbosa ended up winning the match against Nick Schrock and Tanner Rice taking third after defeating Tarsis with a submission.
At Pans I lost the opening of the open or absolute match to Lucas Rocha from team Z. It was a tough tough match, but the advantage he scored ended up costing me the match as we finished with a 4-4 0-1 advantage decision. The next day I had a match against Felipe Matos in the first round from Alliance. I won 7-0 in points and several advantages. He had a very tough guard, but I was able to pass through it and get on the board. In the second round I had number one seed Erberth Santos of Atos and lost 8-0. In my opinion the score didn’t reflect the match. There were some inconsistent refereeing going on (one that I didn’t let bother me during the match, which probably would have in previous times). I say inconsistent refereeing because there were similar moments of giving points or resents that happened for both competitors in our match, but it seems like my opponent received the reset or points and I did not. That was very strange. I referee sometimes and I understand the difficulty of making a referee decision or when to stop the match on the edge, but this inconsistency seemed very out of character with what I expect from the IBJJF. That was the quarter finals. The same finish as last year, again to the number one seed.
The following week I found myself in Oklahoma City facing Jared Dopp, an ADCC veteran and multiple world champion. After a series of flight delays it took me 12 hours to get there from Sacramento. I missed weigh-ins that night because I didn’t get in until about 11:30 that night. The match was toe to toe until the very last minute. He was able to secure a great double leg and while I had been countering with a fount headlock / guillotine counter attack the entire night, he was able to drive up and get the takedown and transitioned right to my back. It was an impressive strong finish by my opponent. I lost the referee decision and went home the next day.
Thinking back on the three weeks I really would have liked to have finished stronger. Not necessarily in my match, but in my standing. There were good lessons to be learned from the experience tho. I’ve been changing up my attacks from the feet, and I realized instead of changing things up, I need to incorporate. Add the new things I’ve been working into my game. I think this will make me more difficult to handle. Believe in my positions. There are some positions that I just need to trust myself in more and execute from there without hesitation. I think doing so will open my game up even more. Embrace the journey and progress as much as the destinations. It’s hard to remember the fun memories you gain when you have a difficult loss, but it’s important. I had a great time talking with my students from el dorado hills, friends I don’t usually talk with and meeting new people in and out of the jiujitsu community.