Category Archives: Jiu-Jitsu Blog

Jiu Jitsu blog is a collection of thoughts and stories related to me and my jiujitsu journey.

The three R’s of progress and improvement

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an interesting blend of learning and training. Students can go online and login to a training website to study movements and techniques. Students can also watch jiujitsu on flograppling, youtube and instagram to learn from their favorite athletes or coaches.

The most important element of bridging the gap from learning a variety of techniques and drilling them methodically to successfully executing them in practice or competition exists in self awareness.

Self awareness for your own personal style of jiujitsu. This comes from multiple places.

  1. Personality
  2. Body type
  3. Athletic ability
  4. Mobility / flexibility

There are universal concepts in jiu-jitsu that exist as a result of human mechanics and physics, but there also exists efficient movements that make a difference in how you are able to move efficiently. While your initial pursuit of jiujitsu might exist in learning the fundamental concepts and the basic understanding of different positions and movements, there will eventually be a need to practice what works best for your body.

At EDH Jiu Jitsu we have a weekly question and answer class that allows students to better understand those unique positions under some guidance from an instructor. While discovering what works for you is an individual development, it is very helpful to have a coach or training partner to ask and think about specific positions. The Q&A class allows the students to ask those questions and from there drill them. In the drilling process more questions may arise and it’s acceptable to ask more questions based on the feedback you receive from your drilling.

Ultimately, what jiu-jitsu is striving for is a higher, enlightened level of awareness. An awareness of the dangers of specific positions and what prevents their execution. An awareness of where your strengths are and how you can bring the “game” back to that position to better control the match. An awareness of the style of jiujitsu you play and the need to embrace that style when you are rolling or in competition.

Therefore, strive for awareness. Take the time to ask questions on the mat. Something to keep in mind when taking steps to better awarenss is the THREE R’s. Something we emphasize at El Dorado Hills Jiu Jitsu.

  • Reflect
  • Review
  • Refine

Reflect on your previous performances and ask questions. Review the adjustments with a training parter or a coach. Refine the adjustments while you are rolling and drilling. This process loops back to the beginning as you refine your technique you should be reflecting on the movements and thinking about the strengths and weakness of the position.

Make Progress

Efficient movement should feel effortless

I usually listen to some type of podcast in the morning to get through my drive to the dojo or to teach Japanese. All the stuff I listen to is great, but this morning podcast with Tim Ferris was incredible. His interview with Terry Laughlin was profound in its simplicity as well as concise details to understand technical mastery.

The most important idea that I was drawn to, “effortlessness.” Terry comes from a background in coaching swimming, and explains the mastery of swimming in effortlessness. This idea applies directly to the study of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the many grappling arts and martial arts. While conditioning and strength are important factors, true mastery and efficiency comes as a result of using proper technique at the correct moment. All this is really easy to say and understand, but can be very difficult to actually execute. More importantly, it is very difficult to evaluate your efficiency.

In jiu-jitsu you often hear instructors train their students to “relax, slow-down, breathe, use their technique, etc.” All great reminders to help the student understand the importance of training to use their technique. The explanation of things feeling “effortless” is one that I haven’t heard in a long time. (My initial attraction to jiujitsu was in seeking to better understand the martial art while being in an ‘effortless’ state) I think this is a perfect form of assessment. “What was your effort today?” Not in the sense of how hard did you try, but how hard were you forced to work?

  • Did you strain when attempting to sweep your opponent?
  • Was there tension in your face during a roll?
  • Are you exhausted after a roll?

If your answer to any of these questions are a yes, then you are probably not engaging in effortless jiu-jitsu. It’s not the end of the world, nor are they an all or nothing answers. These are indicators for you to make assessment of your effortless training. Make an assessment and engage in understanding your use of technique. Make your evaluation based on the feeling of effortless.

It’s not unusual when a higher level coach or practitioner trains with someone who is newer to jiu-jitsu for them to make things look effortless. This is happens because their technical superiority overwhelms the other person. To the untrained eye it may seem that the higher level person has superior strength and conditioning, but most of the time this is not the case. Things look effortless because technique of leverage and position are overwhelming the  technically inferior practitioner.

I believe Rickson Gracie’s  invisible jiujitsu mirrors the concepts of effortless jiujitsu. The closer you come to using effortlessness is easy to see when there is clearly a lack of understanding for the use of technique, but it isn’t as visible when people know moves and positions, but fail to implement the finer details of a position or technique. Another master of this is Ryan Hall. He often talks about not doing strength and conditioning to better his jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts technique. Rationalizing that better technique will always prevail.

One more detail from the Tim Ferris podcast that stood out to me was when Terry talked about effortless being silent. The more noise you make the less efficient you are in the water. Although this might seem obvious in the water, with people splashing around making a ton of noise, I think it applies to jiujitsu as well. If striving for effortless doesn’t make sense, try being silent in your rolls. Make as little noise as possible in your transitions. (well, first of all become aware of any noise you might already be making) Once you are aware of the noise, try to silence it with efficient movement. Be effortless.

Eliot Kelly

Increasing Performance through Meditation & Extreme Temperatures

This year I’ve really gotten in touch with my thoughts through the practice of meditation. I’ve always been into visualization to access creative thinking, sports performance, and brain storming, but have never been into the idea of meditation until now. Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to be around friends that are exploring meditation and mindfulness. I attended a Wim Hof Method workshop in the bay area, talked with my friend in Houston who went to a Wim Hof Method Instructor course in Amsterdam, and talked with my other friends from jiu-jitsu about cold training and meditation. I’ve really begun to better understand the practice of mediation through Wim Hof’s breathing exercises. Wim’s workshop is what really opened my curiosity to explore meditation and it’s potential.

To be honest, I think I’ve regressed in some of my approaches to mental toughness since I started meditation. But I also believe if I follow through with what I’ve been doing it’ll be a “one step back to go three steps forward” experience. Catapulting my potential through to the next stage of comfort and mental toughness. Tiger Woods went through a transition like this at the peak of his career. After becoming the best of the best, he discovered some flaws in his swing. Instead of playing it safe and maintaining his swing, he chose to adapt a new swing with more power and precision. He had to take a risk and regress in order to break though to another level.

Since I went to visit my friend Reed in Houston in late July, I’ve been trying to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Using the cold as a means to challenge my discomfort, I started by taking warm showers and turning them over to cold to finish up. This was quite difficult at first, but has become quite natural after a few months. I used to jump and cringe when the water turned cold, but now that cringe lasts only a few seconds before I feel my body warming with the cold water.

Once a week I would make an ice back with over 300 lbs of ice. This has been a great community event at our jiujitsu studio, getting in the cold ice bath after a Friday night training session. Seeing people go through the process has helped me understand the challenge even better. I’ve noticed that my “current state of mind” is exposed with my response to the cold on those evenings. Some nights I’m focused and calm. I’m able to find comfort in the uncomfortable. On other nights, I already know I’m going to struggle with the cold even before getting in. The next stage is being able to move past that struggle and refocus myself when things feel turbulent.

Just recently, I started doing the sauna again. I’ve stopped doing this just because it wasn’t convenient to visit the sauna.  While I was in Finland, for the ADCC, I got on a sauna twice, and was reminded how much I enjoy that intense heat. (During graduate school at SFSU, I would start my day in the sauna. I was commuting out to SF from Plymouth, CA and would spend a couple nights in the car. In the morning, I would drive over to 24hr fitness to sauna and shower to get ready for the day. I remember how this was a great stress relief for me.) So the other day, I decided to combine the cold with the head. And not only did I feel great and sleep great that night, but I had great energy the next morning. Here is what I did.

A post shared by Eliot Kelly (@eliotkelly) on

I started with a cold shower. (I’ve been very nervous to do this… I really don’t like the cold.) Did a cold shower for about 4 minutes and then jumped in the sauna for 20 minutes. I usually bring drinking water into the sauna but I didn’t have any with me on this night. I try to make sure the dry sauna gets quite warm by adding water to the rocks and ceiling. I followed the sauna with another cold shower for about 4 minutes. This was great. In the past, I’ve gone from hot to cold, but adding the cold at the beginning was a great addition and I felt it incorporated that next mental step necessary in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Something I took away from the Wim Hof Method training that I’ve been doing is forced inhales before entering the cold. One explanation I’ve heard is that the cold leads to the body metabolizing oxygen, and by flooding your body with oxygen before entering the cold, you become better adept to handling the cold. I also take a deep breath and hold my breath before entering the cold. This is to avoided the initial “panic” breathing response when your body touches the cold.

Going back to the Wim Hof Method workshop. I recall a few powerful phrases that were emphasized by Wim. One that I have been processing lately is “don’t think just feel.” With an emphasis in feeling my body’s response to the cold, the heat, the breath, and the mind. With that I’ve feeling I try to get in touch with the cold as it sinks me in to a deeper darker place. When I was in Finland, plunging in the Baltic Sea with my friends Paul, Ryan, and Ty I was really able to push myself to some outer limits. As I look forward, I’m excited to take a step back in order to discover a more powerful and precise swing.

Eliot Kelly

Comparative Analysis: Downhill Skiing, Judo Throw, Jiu-Jitsu Guard Retention

I have the opportunity to teach private lessons in jiu-jitsu and wrestling a few times a week. While working with a student who volunteers as a downhill ski instructor, we found some common ground between skiing, brazilian jiujitsu, and judo / wrestling throws.

Through some observation and discussion, we found that the throwing motion in judo or wrestling , the movement in guard retention for jiu-jitsu, and downhill skiing to cross gates all share the same concept of rotating the body. In fact rotation is a very common movement pattern in humans, but our lifestyle of sitting in a car, at a desk, on a couch, and repeat has diminished our rotation ability over the years. The movement is quite simple, where the upper body rotates in one direction while the lower body rotates in another. As a result the body is able to pre-load and powerfully whip through to execute the movement.


This is split second before the load is carried. In this part of the movement the body is getting close to full rotation with the legs and hips facing one way and the chest and shoulders facing another direction. In the hip throw, this would be the entry, with the body rotating at the spine. In downhill skiing a similar effect is desired. The skier maintains the chest and shoulders down hill and allows the lower body to rotate in the desired direction. This is the pre-loading phase for downhill skiing as well.


Loading takes place in the split instant of action where rotation becomes undone. In a throw the load happens in the split second  the body goes to untwist and the opponents body goes flying. In downhill skiing, this loading happens the split-second transition from one direction to another, cutting around the gate. The more dynamic the rotation combines with the whipping of the body to unwind the rotation, results in more power being generated.

Promoting & Regaining Rotation:

Using the Mobility Stick in Finland at ADCC

I’m no physical therapist, but I am very movement curious. I’ve recently started using Stick Mobility to work on my rotation and have noticed some quick short term gains. However, I think routine stretching that involves rotation is a good start. I also enjoy doing yoga and other activities that promote rotation; playing catch, hitting  a baseball, tennis, racquet ball. Yoga is also a gentle practice that will promote rotation, but all these things need to be done consistently. While playing sports or martial arts are a great way to maintain rotation, it is also a good idea to promote healthy rotation by using Stick Mobility or doing Yoga on a consistent basis.

Eliot Kelly


Seminar in Oakland at Guardian Gym

I’m looking forward to visiting the Guardian Gym in Oakland, CA next weekend. I will be teaching a seminar that is entirely donation based and free for those that are under 18, with a focus on takedowns and guard passing. The Guardian Gym is a nationwide project that offers classes in kick boxing, boxing, mixed martial arts, and brazilian jiu jitsu. The facility is free for youth age 10-18 and offers tax deductible memberships for the adults.

Guardian provides students with skills that help them build self esteem, confidence and discipline, and to propel young lives and prepare them for the future by providing a world-class environment to connect with mentors, peers, and community leaders.

When I teach a seminar, I always have a lesson plan prepared. However, I also have a few back up plans to teach based on the students that show up to learn. Some techniques require a base of movements that would be very difficult to practice without mastering a set series of movements. I also structure the lesson so that the students feel comfortable asking questions and can make suggestions on how they might try to do the move. From my years of teaching, I’ve noticed that asking the students to think about a position and it’s progression, is a great way to lead them to discovering a the intended technique. As a result, we are able to learn technique and understand concepts at the same time.

Here is an interview I did with Ben and Caleb a while ago on their project in Oakland.

IBJJF Pan NoGi Championships Reflection

A week after the ADCC, I found myself on the east coast getting tuned up for the IBJJF Pan NoGi Championships in NYC. A BIG THANK YOU to the Armor Kimono guys who have been sponsoring my Gi and some NoGi Jiu Jitsu.

I had one match in the division. Jackson Sousa of Checkmat in the finals. He had also just come from the ADCC tournament with a third place finish. I lost the match 2-0 on points from a sweep. Here are some take aways from the match:

  1. Scoring first sets the pace of the match. (especially when the referees only call double penalty)
  2. Use forward pressure but don’t reach forward to assert that pressure
  3. Pressure works with time. So start using it from the beginning

This was my third time facing Jackson in competition. The first two I lost in the gi, one by points and one by submission. This was our first nogi match, but was the closest match we shared. Although I didn’t win, I was able to close the margin, and “improve” from my previous matches. Jackson is a class act, and went on to win the open class later in the afternoon. Congratulations!

In the open class, my first opponent lost his temper when I asked the referee for him to take the grease out of his hair. He gave me the double birdie, and was disqualified.

In my second match, I faced Diego from ZR team. He had a super sticky guard and although people told me I was the aggressor on top pushing for the pass, he won the referee decision 0-0 after 10 minutes. I realize that the guard player is not obligated to stand up, but I find it ironic that the top player is obligated to try and pass but the guard player can defend and counter attack, make no attempt to sweep, and still not be penalized. I don’t questions referee decisions anymore, but I do think there is a need to better define the “lute” call and reward the athlete that is forcing the action in a match. Otherwise the defensive athlete, playing a safe game and conserving energy, is being rewarded for doing nothing. In my opinion, the athlete that is progressing forward, forcing the action to score or submit should be rewarded.

Eliot Kelly

Life Skills in Youth Sports are Developed not Acquired

Youth sports is intended to have many practical applications. The strongest expectation from youth sports is the ability to learn not only the skills necessary to succeed in play, but also critical life skills that apply to the life outside of the sport. Some of these life skills are; leadership, manners, eq, decision making, ability to digest information, collaboration, communication, etc. While these are skills that parent’s assume their children will acquire when they enroll their children in sports, science has proven that not to be the case.

In fact, coaching for the sake of becoming a better athlete looks different than coaching for the sake of becoming a person with strong life skills. Studies, led by Dr. Daniel Gold have shown that athletes who grew up in an environment where the coach emphasized the acquisition of the life skills along with the acquisition of technical skills required in the sport were the only athletes who actually developed the ability to apply the lessons from their sport to their life outside of the sport.

This is an insightful break through. The valuable life skills are not ACQUIRED merely through the practice of sport. They are intentionally DEVELOPED through the curriculum, and lesson plans designed by the coach. Dr. Shimizu and Dr. Shibamoto have also been leading scholars in the field of applied sports psychology. Some of their research has reinforced the research by Dr. Gold.

There is one more key critical factor in understanding the value of coaching sports skills through life skills. Studies have found that athletes coached in life skills perform better than athletes who have only been coached in their athletic skills. While there is no certainty or little value in learning practical life skills through the practice and learning of sport, there is great value in being coached by someone who truly embraces the idea of coaching life skills through the means of sport. Therefore, it’s essential that as parents we seek out sports clubs and teams that emphasize these life skills in their lessons above anything else and remember that the practical skills we hope our children to acquire through sport only happens where there exists a conscious minded program that emphasizes these things.

Eliot Kelly

ADCC Championships Reflection

I had two matches at 2017 ADCC Finland. Lost them both. One to Lovato jr. & another to Aly. In reflecting on the weekend, I walked away with some important insights.

1) Embracing my style of “fighting”

2) How quickly your mindset can influence your performance.

As a side note, to me winning & losing are only trivial moments as a result of a bout, therefore I’ve always made an effort to evaluate my performance <physical // technical // mental> in a match instead of the win or loss. I haven’t watched my bouts yet, but I was very unsatisfied after my initial match. I tried to play a strategic game and it was a total failure. Lovato Jr. completely shut me down. 7-0. I walked away from the mat frustrated. I think I played it conservative and there’s no way you will perform well or beat any of the best 16 guys in the world playing it safe.

Thank you Ty, Paul, and Ryan for coaching  and sharing your insights on the match.

The next day I faced Aly in the open class. In between the two days i was able to better understand myself as a grappler. To embrace my style. And I was damn sure I wasn’t going to play it safe on the second day. (And hopefully everyday) And I feel as though did. I didn’t win and there were some things I need to change but I could walk off the mat knowing i was a different person from yesterday. Only one thing changed between the two days. My mindset. My conscious approach to fight hard. To go HAM. (I’m quoting Tanner Rice here)
So I challenge everyone to go and fight their style every match. To embrace who they are on and off the mat. Because when you do…. It make everything so much more fun! And when you don’t it’s almost a guarantee you won’t win…

A special thanks to Komainu Apparel and AK BKK . These guys made this ADCC experience extra special for us. Thank you Satoshi for the photo! 📷

Think Strong Be Strong: Mantra of El Dorado Hills BJJ

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!

Eliot Kelly

20 minutes of “ME” time Wim Hof Method

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.