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Resolutions, goals, and minding your business

And so we’ve rolled into another year (see what I did there?)

New year’s resolutions have gone out of fashion, I get that.  “You shouldn’t wait for a specific date to set goals, you should always be setting goals” is the modern refrain.  And yet we can’t deny there’s something about the calendar ticking over that makes you reflect. What do I want the next 12 months to look like?

For many people the answer is “different to the last 12 please”.  And there’s one word in that sentence which is the killer.  But I’ll come to that shortly.

But first a word about goals.  Or at least my personal view on goals.  I understand the importance of a well formed goal.  Specific, measureable, ecological (i.e. fits in with the rest of your values and needs), important etc.  And there are times when setting specific goals in that way is really useful.  But useful for what?  Goals aren’t’ important in and of themselves. They are important because they set you up with momentum and direction.  They are the tool to get your life moving, not an end in themselves.  The achieving of the goal is not the thing.  Who you become in the achieving of the goal is the thing.  Getting a blue belt (or a purple, brown or black) is trivial. The forging your personality goes through on the path to that belt is what matters.

So I believe in fuzzy goals.  I never set a goal to start a martial arts school.  Or a business consultancy.  Or a private therapeutic/coaching practice.  These things just happened because I had a general sense of the things that spun my particular propeller and followed that scent where it led.  Not like a bloodhound.  More like a tourist in a strange city wondering where the smell of that fresh baked bread is coming from.  I drifted into it. Ambled.  I believe in fuzzy goals and I believe that if you have a vague idea of the general direction you want to head, and live by a few basic principles great things begin to happen.

So let’s come back to that wish for 2018.  How would you like the next 12 months to be?  “Different to the last 12 please”?.  The word to watch there is “please”.  It’s an entreaty.  A request for a favor from the universe.  Hoping that the world, other people, circumstances, will serve us up a different set of conditions.  Hoping that luck will fall our way.  But as John Will is fond of saying. – hope is not a strategy.  So get rid of the “please”.  Get rid of that wish that someone, something, some event will happen to you.  Replace the request with intention.   And apply some basic principles.

Be proactive – mind your own business

If you touch hands at the start of a round and then wait to see what happens, something will always be happening to you.

And this is how some people spend their entire lives.  Not living it,  but rather having their lives happen to  them.  Whatever your resolution for this year, of course outside factors will have an effect.  The behaviours of others, the economy, the politicians, your mother in law, the weather, you name it.  But that’s none of your business.  Your business is to look the momentum and direction you want in your life and move towards it.  That’s your job.   Goals can be fuzzy, but what needs to be very clear, is your understanding of the part you must  play in creating your life.  Want a better relationship?  What can you  do to change the patterns?  Want a better financial situation – what are the small steps you  can take to be in more control of it.  Yes I agree, there’s more to the outcome than what you do.  But that’s not your business.  Your business is maintaining your own energy and actions.  So mind your own business and everything else will eventually take care of itself.

Don’t’ waste energy

I love getting big strong newbies in mount.  I love how they struggle and thrash.  Using their superior strength and fitness to gas themselves out.  They have more energy than me.  More strength. But your strength and your energy count for nothing if they are focused on the wrong activities.  Put your energy where it does most good.  We’ve all made mistakes in our live and it’s easy to ponder them and ask ourselves what if, and why did I?  People have had all sorts of terrible things happen to them and it’s tempting to turn your gaze back to the past and wonder why me?  We all have limitations on us and it’s easy to think if only I had more money, more time, a better support network, a more understanding boss.

It’s not fair

You don’t understand

It shouldn’t be like this

I deserve better

These are all valid statements.  They will often get the support of like-minded friends.  But make no mistake.  They are energy leeches.  They suck energy from your life.  There’s an opportunity cost here.  For every moment you spend on those thoughts, that’s a moment that you can’t be moving forward.  They are natural thoughts to have and of course it’s ok to spend some time, some energy on those thoughts.  Just like it’s ok to spend money on frivolous things from time to time.  But you want to be budgeting carefully.  How much of your energy and time are you prepared to spend on such things before moving into a more creative zone?  A zone which creates new ideas, opportunities and experiences.  To move into that zone there are just a three simple instructions that you need to follow. Everything else is just noise and wasted energy.  Here they are:

Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.

Follow those three simple ideas, and you won’t need hope as a strategy, you won’t need to ask the universe “please”.  You will just stumble into great things and meet great people.

See you on the mat.

 

 

Remember that technique?

 

Recently I’ve had several discussions about how well students remember the techniques or classes that they have been to.

Memory is an interesting thing. Especially when applied to a physical skill like jiu-jitsu.  It turns out that memory is a term we use to cover a multitude of different activities in our brain. So perhaps if we can better understand memory we will better understand  how we apply our memory  to jiu jitsu  techniques.

The neurosciency stuff.

There are a number of different ways to view memory but one useful way to think about is that there two types of memory. What is called episodic memory, and then implicit memory. So what’s the difference? Well episodic memory is as the name suggests memory of episodes in our lives. So for example, if I ask you to think of what you did last New Year’s Eve, you would probably pull up an image or a  memory of a particular episode. Who you were with, some of the things you did, maybe even how much you drank.

However if I’ve asked you to actually perform a task, say for example riding a bike or driving a car, the chances are you will not be drawing upon episodic memory. You be drawing on implicit memory. In other words the memory of how to do something,  the memory that gets coded in through activity.

This distinction was brought into stark relief through the study of psychology’s most famous patient.  He was known around the world as HM (HM recently died in 2008 – the most researched man in psychology).   After a childhood accident left HM afflicted with terrible epilepsy, his neurosurgeon sought to reduce the effects by removing a particular part of the brain known as the hippocampus (the surgeon later admitted he had no idea what effect this would have an it was an experimental move).

As a result HM’s amnesia abated, at a catastrophic cost to his memory.  He had developed anterograde amnesia.  What that meant is he could not form any new memories after the time of his surgery. In other words although he could remember his early life (episodic memories)  he could not form any new memories from after the surgery.  He could not even recognize himself in the mirror as he aged

While tragic for HM this condition  provided a wealth of research opportunities for psychologists. They were able to, test HM on his ability to perform over a range of tasks over time despite, having no memory whatsoever of having done the task before. And of course they had a subject that was delighted to perform the same tasks over and over again every day – to him it was new and exciting every time!

What the researchers discovered, was a very clear distinction between these two types of memory They would sit on the patient in front of a computer screen and asked them what was in front of him.  Having never seen a computer before the surgery, he would  describe it as a telephone typewriter or something of that nature. They would then give him  a simple range of tasks –  like rotating shapes to fit a certain pattern. Although HM had no memory of having done these tasks before, there was a very clear improvement in his ability to perform the tasks over time. In other words the memory was being coded in implicit memory, but not episodic memory.

What became even more interesting was,  being sat for the first time that day in front of a test he had performed many times before, the researchers would sometimes ask HM what he thought he should do in this test. HM’s answer was consistently “I have no idea”. Researchers then asked him to take his best guess at which point he would often take a “guess” which was very close to the specific instructions they were about to provide.

In other words although he had no memory of having ever done the task before, somewhere in his brain was still the knowledge of exactly how to go about doing that task.

So how does this relate to learning jiu-jitsu?

Well we learn in a couple of different ways one is episodic memory. Think back to the last John Will seminar you attended for example. There may be certain parts of the seminar that you remember very clearly, and others which have not been emblazoned across your episodic memory in quite such detail. However in arts like ours it would seem to be that implicit memory is much more important episodic memory.

In other words what does your body remember about how to do the techniques? Sometimes we will perform techniques and will not even remember where we learned them. So how do we increase our rate of  implicit  knowledge.?

Well if HM’s case is anything to go by repetition seems to be the key. Drilling. But this blog is not meant to be just another preach around the importance of drilling.   I think we are all already aware of that.

Rather I think it’s useful for us to take it easy on ourselves with how much you remember sometimes after classes. I have always been an advocate of using training notebooks to jot down pertinent details of things we might have learnt, be they technique related, or simply related to concepts and learning lessons.  However I often see students start to berate themselves for the fact that they can’t remember what was taught even last week. Perhaps one lesson HM teaches us is that, as long as we are on the mat, coming to training, and doing repetitions, we need not worry about whether we “remember all this stuff”.  The point is that some structures in our brains will be remembering whether we are aware of it or not. So you want to get better at jiu-jitsu? The key seems fairly simple –  come consistently to class, focus on doing repetitions and the learning takes care of itself.

One more thing

One final word on implicit memory.  When we apply techniques from implicit memory in our sparring I believe, that we have a slightly different experience than when replaying techniques from episodic memory.

For example – imagine you’re in the middle of a roll, and you notice a situation which you link, via episodic memory, to something learned in a previous class or seminar.  ”oh it’s that technique we learned”.   Then you apply that technique.  You now get a real sense of improvement and competence “hey I did that thing we learned last week!”

This is because you are consciously aware that you have applied a new technique to the given situation and therefore you consciously understand that learning and improvement has taken place.

Interestingly I think it’s a little different sometimes when our responses on the mat come from implicit memory. In other words if we are not linking what we do into specific classes we remember taking, sometimes we are not even aware of our own improvement.

I regularly see beginners on the mat  complain about not feeling like they are improving, not feeling like they are not doing any better in sparring than they did previously. And as the coach both watching and rolling with them I can see and feel significant improvements. Moreover when the knowledge is coming from implicit memory it seems be more fluid, – there is less delay between the trigger and the response. So you could say in many ways that this the best form of learning because it just flows out of the persons game as if it was a natural thing.

And yet if we’re not really looking out for it we can miss the fact that we are improving!

So I guess the message is simple. Come to class, drill, and be prepared to step back from your rolling from time to time to really notice what you’re doing now that you weren’t doing six months ago.  Even if you don’t remember having learned it. See you on the mat.

If Somethings Worth Doing…

 

At the last official rolling session for the  year I found myself reminded of some great advice I once read.

Anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly…..at first.

Which when you think about it is absolutely common sense. When we first do something new, chances are we’re doing it poorly.  We know this. And we know that with practice and time we start to get better and better until we achieve full competency, and then on to mastery. That’s a fairly well understood and straight forward process. So why do we see so many people (including ourselves) bailing out before we get to that point?

Simply because doing things poorly (in the learning stage) is uncomfortable. It challenges our view of ourselves as capable and effective individuals.  We don’t want to be poor we want to be great. And so we tend to protect ourselves from experiences that make us feel less than great.

Like learning new things.

So the question is – is it worth going through the discomfort of doing something poorly? Most of the time if we ask ourselves this question the answer is a resounding “yes!”  The trick is remembering to ask that specific question.

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly – at first.

Case in point. The other night I was rolling with a student and just as we touched hands he let me know he was focused on being more “ju” in his rolling (being softer and less strength based).

I was pleased to hear that as its exactly what I would have picked for him to focus on. However as the roll progressed I found myself thinking “if this is soft I’d hate to feel hard..”.

To be fair there were times when I could feel attempts at softness but they didn’t tend to last very long. The problem was apparent.  He really wanted to go soft, but not at the expense of “losing” the roll”.  He wanted to develop a softer rolling style but not at the expense of doing poorly. You can guess the result –  as soon as he was under threat, the strength came back in.

Anytime you’re working on something new in your game, a new sub or sweep or even just a new rolling style, going lighter or slower, or more flow -expect that you will not be doing as “well” for a while.  I put the inverted commas there because it does depend on how you judge “well”.  If you’re judging your rolling by who dominated, who was tapping etc then you will feel like you’re taking a backwards step in the learning phases.  However if you’re judging your rolling by asking yourself if you were doing something that gets you closer to having the game you want – then you may have tapped out 8 times and been stuck underneath but still judge the roll to be successful because you forced yourself to uncross your ankles in pursit of an open guard game.

If something is worth doing its worth doing poorly.

Or to put it another way – the reason people sometimes don’t develop is that we’re not prepared to let go of who we are in order to become who we want to be.

So with a new year looming in our sights it’s a good time to ask ourselves what are we prepared to try being poor at for a while…

Have a Game Plan (and maybe stick to it)

That’s Interesting…

As I peruse the latest event results posted on this page, I notice somethign interesting.  The various successes reported, be they MMA or BJJ  have something in common.  They all describe someone working to a game plan.

It got me thinking about game plans, for BJJ, for MMA, for life.
Any good coach will tell you as you’re preparing for competition it’s important to have a game plan.  At the very least a basic idea of what you want to achieve, what positions you are trying to get to and what you want to do once you’re there.

One of the tools that is closely connected to game plans  is visualisation. Pretty much any top athlete on the planet now uses visualization as a training tool -a practice that, as far as we can determine started with Roger Bannister. Bannister was the first to break the 4 minute mile despite accepted beliefs at the time that it was physiologically impossible to do so.

So if we accept the importance of visualization as a training tool,  having a game plan can help structure your visualization training.

Some assembly required.

So how do you build a game plan?  There’s a couple of different models.  One is a very linear approach.  For example in a BJJ match, here’s how I’m going to start, here’s how I’ll take down, this is the position I’ll end up in and this is how I’ll finish.  You have now have a clear structure to the match you can visualise.

But there’s an obvious flaw.

Fighting, wrestling, competition is a chaotic environment.  There’s other factors involved (most notably your opponent) which can get in the way of your carefully crafted script.  And if your plan is too narrow, once you end up off plan you may find yourself lost, unsure what to do next and therefore a bit panicked.

So the next layer of sophistication is to have a plan that is more encompassing. Rather than starting at the start, start at the end. Think about your preferred finish and work out how to get there from a variety of different places. If I want to finish with a rear naked choke from back for example, do I have a path to get the back from mount, from guard, from side control (top and bottom) from half guard etc etc. Now wherever I end up I am still “on plan” and it’s simply a matter of executing.

When top athletes visualise their events (for example a track and field star thinking about an 800m run), they will visualise every conceivable eventuality. If they’re in the lead early on, if they stumble at the start line, if they’re boxed in by other runners etc etc. So that when it’s time to run the race whatever unfolds they have already experienced it, it’s already familiar and they know how to get from that point to the end goal – crossing the line first.

And then of course you can have branching plans. Rather than having all roads leading to rome (e.g. back choke) you have a separate plan or way to finish from every position.  To take an extreme and inspirational example it’s said that Jean Jacques Machado really doesn’t care how you attack him because over time he’s had so many seperate game plans they have all melded into one. So whatever the attack, he has a response ready to go which could feed into a variety of game plans. Or to put it another way he’s worked so many game plans to the point where he no longer needs one.

This is also how Rigan Machado was able to go into a match with a world class judoka and ask John Will to pick a finish. So broad is his library of game plans he was confident whatever John chose (omoplata, left arm), he had a path to that outcome from any situation.

 
Beware positive thinking.

That may seem an odd thing coming from me. Maybe it’s more accurate to say beware of certain types of positive thinking. Because the research shows some positive thinking is very helpful, whereas other types are not only not helpful but potentially harmful. And the difference can be quite subtle. Here is one of the pitfalls of visualising a game plan that I’ve seen. A tendancy to focus only on “positive thinking” to the point where competitors refuse to entertain the possibility that they may be losing – on the bottom, or getting hit with a flurry – for fear “negative thinking” will make it so.  So they never consider how they will deal with being on the back foot.

This is not so much positive thinking as wishful thinking.  Those that were around in the mid 90′s would have heard alot of this from the world of  Traditional Martial Arts (“We don’t fight on the ground because you’ll never get us there”.  Oh really?)

Much more useful is to go there, imagine you’re under mount, or facing a barrage of punches, but to see yourself working out of it, turning the tables and taking the initiative.

 

So what’s the point?

That’s all well in good if you’re into competition.  However, for the amount of time effort and resources we devote to our training, if getting  better at fighting people is all we get out of it  return on investment just doesn’t stack up. Particularly when you consider fighting is a skill that most of us are not likely to need off the mat.  However as anyone that’s been training for a while can attest, the true beauty of training is that the lessons translate directly to our off the mat lives.

So how does the idea of a game plan fit off the mat.  Obviously there is a parrallel with goal setting.  I’m sure we’ve all heard various accounts of the importance of goal setting.  And yet at the same time it turns out some of the studies that are quoted around goal setting (e.g the “yale” study) turn out to be urban myths.  And when I look at my life, and conversations I’ve had with others, I can’t help but notice something else.  Often the biggest opportunities have come out of no where.

And what about visualising success?  Of course there’s The Secret, the pop psychology phenomenon which everybody was citing after an appearance on Oprah. The Secret will tell you to simply visualise what you want (more money, great exam results, that perfect partner) and the universe will “manifest” it for you. However as John Will is fond of saying – if you put a picture of your perfect house on the wall and visualise it every day the only thing that will manifest is a family of spiders behind the picture. And John’s scepticism is backed up by the research. It turns out if you spend a bit of time visualising those great exam results every day, you’re actually *less likely* to get good marks. It seems that the visualisation tells your subconscious you’ve already accomplished the goal – so it decides there’s no need to work for it!

So while most would agree it’s important to have a game plan for life it’s clear we need to be careful about how we go about setting that plan.

Visualising the successful outcome, that winning moment, getting the job, opening the results, is great for creating an emotional incentive for the work. However just visualising the outcome is not enough.  We need to have a clear idea of the end point and then get serious about working backwards to the “how”. That then needs to become our point of focus. Rather than day dreaming about how nice it would be to get those great exam results, we need to focus on today’s study plan, or even better, that page of text in front of us right now.

Or to put it more succinctly, visualize the outcome to connect you the “why” at an emotional level, and then focus on the process to create the “how”.

From there it’s a question of execution. There’s a number of factors and unexpected complications that may need to be overcome in the pursuit of any goal.   So we have to be aware enough in the moment to both notice any barriers early, and change tack accordingly (just like on the mat!) Sometimes there are more difficult obstacles to overcome. The goal may not be “ecological” (i.e. it doesn’t fit in with the rest of your life very well), you may have some unconscious part of you that is resistant to the goal for some reason or you may have  ingrained limiting beliefs that are holding you back..

In these cases, just like on the mat, a coach can help iron out the wrinkles and get everything aligned.

 

Too Focused?

Another thing to consider is how  a game plan that is too narrow can restrict your options. On the mat for example, if I’m absolutely focused on hitting omoplatas this month I’m probably going to ignore, and not even notice all those opportunities for chokes. That’s ok on the mat.  But if we become too obsessively focused on a narrow goal set in life – what more important things can we be missing out on? How many people have pursued “financial security” so single mindedly they sacrifice any quality time with the family for whom they are supposedly working. Or are so intent on that next step in the specific career they have mapped out that they don’t see other and perhaps more exciting career opportunities right in front of their face.

As BJJers move from blue to purple one of the things we look for is a shift from a single minded attention on executing a game plan, to a slightly different mindset. A mindset that has a gameplan in mind, but is also so flexible and in the moment that they can notice changing circumstances very quickly and adjust to take advantage. This I believe is also the appropriate mindset in life. Have some end points in mind, and at the same time not to be so focused on that, that you miss the opportunities that are around you all the time.  Rats head and ox’s neck all at the same time.

So where does that leave us?  

Just like on the mat there’s a number of different ways we can run a game plan. We can have a very linear game plan, this is what I’m going to do- I’ll do this then I’ll do this then I’ll do that. Unfortunately just like a fight life can be a little chaotic. There are a whole heap of things that can get in the way. And if we are overly focused on just that game plan we may find ourselves too slow to adapt and adjust. Try asking yourself occasionally – “what opportunities am I failing to notice right now by being focused elsewhere”

Or we can have an end point in mind and a number of different ways to get there. Allowing for as many contingencies and “what if”s as we can come up with.

And then perhaps the more sophisticated version, the Jean Jacques version if you like, is to work simply on developing ourselves. To develop ourselves goal by goal so we are more and more prepared for whatever life throws at us. To be awake and aware enough that we can notice what opportunities are around us and then be absolutely focused in the pursuit of our passions. All the while being open to changing circumstances and new possibilities. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to some remarkable individuals, from John Will to Olympic gold medalists to top business people and world renowned sports psychologists. When discussing the area of goals and achievement they all seem to indicate the same thing.

At the end of the day it wasn’t the achievement of the goal that was the important thing. It was who they became in the pursuit of the goal that mattered.

So maybe it’s not so much a matter of developing ourselves so we can achieve our goals.

Maybe it’s more a case of setting goals so we can develop our selves.

Getting the fire back

I was thinking today about the peaks and troughs we all go through with training.  Sometimes we feel like we’re rolling really well and sometimes we feel like we’re stalling.  Stagnating.  What is it that makes some sessions feel so tough and others we walk away from excited and motivated.  As a white belt you assume that it must be about the result.  Who are you tapping and who’s tapping you.  You assume that once you develop the skills to dominate your partners it will get rid of the tough sessions and all will be smooth.  And then as you advance you realize that you still have those peaks and troughs, through blue, purple, brown and yes even black belt level.  And if you’re paying attention you realize that it’s not necessarily about whether you’re “winning” or not.  Some of your flattest nights can be when you have a many to none tap ratio.  So what’s actually going on?  There are of course many answers to that question, but here’s one.

It’s a question of motivation. Not the “can I be bothered going to class” kind of motivation.  The other kind.  The fire in the belly, I love what I’m doing, rising sense of excitement and joy kind of motivation.So what makes people motivated in this way?  Despite what corporate sales managers across the globe believe it doesn’t come from external incentives (like commission, or say, a tap). The research shows it comes from three components.

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose
Autonomy is the feeling that you are in control of your own destiny.  Purpose is the idea that what you’re doing is in some way meaningful.
Mastery is what I want to talk about.  Mastery is not about being the best or feeling like you know everything there is to know.  It’s about a sense that you are in the process of mastering.  That you can feel your progress.  There’s something intrinsically enjoyable about realizing you’re a bit better today than you were yesterday.
What’s the secret to developing your sense of mastery?  Ironically it’s about not getting stuck in your A-game.  You certainly felt that sense of mastery on your way to developing your A game.  As you built the skill in the particular techniques that became your most successful.  And then you could use that game to control the roll and against the right people, dominate.  And often this is the game people go back to when they’re having a tough patch – hoping that going to your highest percentage techniques will let you win and therefore feel great.
But that’s not how it works.  Because when you use what always works and find that it still works it’s nice – but it doesn’t’ give you that sense of growing mastery.  The mastery bucket on your A-game is already pretty full so it’s harder to find a sense of  extra improvement.  Rather, it pays to go into the opposite direction.  What’s the new thing you want to work on, the thing where your mastery bucket is empty – where there’s plenty of scope to feel a sense of improvement.  That’s where you’ll find the fire in the belly again.
What does that mean practically speaking?  If you go into a night of sparring with no plan, just taking it as it happens – you’ll inevitably end up back in your A-game. And even if you’re getting taps they’re the same ones you’ve gotten before and you may end up feeling a bit flat.
So the key is to have a plan.  What is your intention?  What are you trying to get?  What’s the first step to the new technique you’re working on getting into your game?  What’s the position you want to get to?  If you’re clear about your development goals – just hitting the start of that technique once or twice in rolling will have you walk away feeling stoked and itching to get back on the mat again, to make the next step.
Which brings us to purpose.  What is important about training Jiu Jitsu?  Obviously it’s different for different people, but for me it’s how the lessons learnt on the mat enrich my life off the mat.  It was BJJ as much as anything that really taught me that the joy of life lies in that space just outside the comfort zone.  The value of finding new ways to do old things and old ways to do new things – to pursue a feeling of continuous development and learning everywhere in my life.
Set a new goal.  Commit to the first step.  Experience the mastery effect.
Or as one of my favorite quotes says – “Mastery is the skillful avoidance of a sense of completion”

John Will’s regular visits to our mat are always special, but November 28, 2015 was particularly memorable.

The session started with the awarding of brown belts to coaches Thomas Kwok and Mark Schatzdorfer.  Brown belt is a high level grade in BJJ which few attain, and these grades are just reward for the years of hard work and dedication shown by these two impressive practitioners of the art.  Technically advanced, learning focused and fantastic coaches, Thomas and Mark are lynchpins of the GroundControl culutre.

It wasn’t over there though, as John finished the session awarding the grade of black belt to head coach Mike Fooks.  The BJJ black belt is among the most significant accomplishments in modern martial arts, taking over a decade of dedicated training as a minimum.  With only a handful of homegrown black belts in NZ this was a proud moment for Mike and the club.

 

 

Lessons from the Rugby World Cup (so far)

Pool play is almost finished in the world cup and it’s fair to say the NZ public isn’t overjoyed at the all blacks performance so far, although most seem to agree that they looked to come good against Tonga after a shaky first half.

So what’s happened up to now?  Well I’m no expert in rugby but I’ve got a couple of theories which I thought I’d throw out because right or wrong – it relates to your development on the Jiu Jitsu mat.

Firstly the commentators I’ve heard – both studio and couch based – seem to be in agreement.  The early games have seen the ABs trying to do too much, be too fancy when they needed to just focus on the basics.  Jiu Jitsu is the same.  It’s very easy to get captivated by the latest cool toy – new sweeps, guards, new positions that involve various degress of upsidedownness.  These are all great. One of the best things about Jiu Jitsu is how it continues to evolve making it easy to stay engaged and have that “new student shine” for years and even decades into your BJJ career.  But this *must* be built on a solid bedrock of basics.  If the basics fall apart the fancy stuff won’t work.  If your basics are ingrained into your DNA you will be able to integrate the fancy stuff very quickly.

Antidote:  Get to Essentials class!.  Once you’ve got your first or second stripe it’s easy to get excited by the new toys and sparring opportunities offered in general class.  But remember your requirements to blue belt are all covered off in Essentials.  Learn to pace your training so you don’t have to choose between Essentials and General but can do both in a night – the best of both worlds.  If you find that’s too much of a mission it may be you’re going too hard, being too tense or doing that weird thing white belts do where you forget to breathe while doing your techniques.

Back to the All Blacks.  The important question is why have they started the cup with poor execution on the basics?  Here’s my opinion.  In a pool with no opponents that would be considered a serious threat how do you impress?  I’m assuming they do want to impress the fans, and more importantly themselves to build confidence and momentum going into the elimination games. So how do you do that against “weaker” opposition?  You do it by posting something that looks more like a cricket score than a rugby score.  That’s what’s happened in previous cups when the mighty sides have faced the minnows.  Put aside for a moment the fact that the context has changed with many “minnow” nations now sporting professional players that play in Europe.  What does the lure of the big score actually do to the mindset of players?  It takes the focus off the process and puts it back on the result.  Which is seldom a recipe for success.  Time and again when we research into the mindset of elite performers the same thing shows up.  The mental focus is not on the result (looking into the future) but on the excellence of execution of the behaviours that will inevitably lead to the result (focus on the now).  John Will talks about BJJ being a focus on process not goal.  Hence position before submission.

Antidote.  Less focus on the tap, more on positional control, setting up the situations you want to be working from, noticing what’s working and what’s not.  If you’re in BJJ you are in it for the long game.  How many taps you get tonight or tomorrow night is irrelevant.  How well you focus on the process of learning, developing, and getting the next technique in the game is crucial. Oh and incidentally the most fundamental thing to focus on to start with – is coming to class.  Get that right and the rest will follow.

My prediction is that as the ABs hit the money rounds, they’ll put the focus back on precision execution of the pass they’re making, the ball they’re catching, the ruck they’re controlling and we’ll see them perform well in the second half of the tounament.

I may be wrong about that, like I say I’m no expert on rugby.  But I do know this.  On the BJJ mat – focus on the process and the goals will come.  Make sure your fundamentals are rock solid and people will start asking how you got so advanced.

And who knows, you may also find find that setting goals, focusing on just the next step and doing the simple things well, yields results in that other, non-matted part of your life.  I hope so, after all that’s the point –  we train on the mat to improve the world off the mat.

See you in class.

 

What is Alpha MMA

MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world today.  As events like UFC and shows like The Ultimate Fighter have become more and more popular, interest in training in the sport is growing quickly.  However there are many people who feel unsure about making the transition from avid fan, to participant.  And it’s no surprise.  Sure if you’ve already got a background in kickboxing, boxing, grappling, it might seem like an easy transition (hint: it’s not necessarily).  But for the student who is looking to start their journey with MMA it can all be a bit daunting.  Particularly given the following two facts:

  • Many MMA fighters still use the “three coach approach”.  They go see their kickboxing coach one day, their wrestling coach the next day and their BJJ coach the next day and then try and stitch it all together on the fly.
  • Many MMA gyms operate in the old school “survival of the fittest” mentality.  Early sparring sessions weed out who’s tough and who isn’t (as opposed to making you tough)
Alpha MMA at GroundControl is different.  It’s a full MMA curriculum designed by John B. Will.  The focus is on technique acquisition rather than hard sparring for the new student.  Over a course of classes you will be introduced to the basics of footwork, how to throw the basic strikes with both hands and feet, how to defend against those strikes, how to clinch, takedown and control the ground game all the way through to submission.  Each technique is broken down into simple steps so anyone can follow along and make them work.
 One of the key distinctions is that Alpha MMA will not teach you just the individual techniques but how to connect them together.  How do you go from throwing hands, to tieing up in the clinch and taking the game to the ground?  What do you need to adjust on the muay thai thigh kick so that you are set up to immediately shoot the legs.  It’s these connections that make you fluid.
The sessions are safe great fun, a great workout, and a great foundation for both the sport of MMA and self defence.  Those that then want to take it to the next level can then step up into the sparring sessions where experienced members will spar at your level and take you all the way through to an MMA fight if that’s your goal.
Contact us now to book your free one week trial and see for yourself how much fun you can have while getting in shape and learning world class Mixed Martial Arts skills.

 

The Gathering 2013 – Matt Perkins’ report

 

 

NZ crew including GC members

Two weeks ago an eighteen strong contingent from New Zealand landed in Melbourne for the 13th annual Will/Machado BJJ competition “The Gathering” with clubs GroundControl Auckland, GroundControl Hamilton & GroundControl Cambridge along with our friends from Submission Martial Arts Takapuna, GSW Martial Arts Wellington and the Christchurch Academy of Combat represented. It was my first time in Melbourne and although I haven’t competed in many tournaments I immediately felt like this event was going to be something special. A heap of us rocked up at the event location the night before and helped lay the mats down and there was already a great vibe around.

The competition itself was really well run and matches came thick and fast during the day. Some divisions were merged in the age categories so I was matched up with a lighter opponent in the final which I won by an advantage and took out the Gold. I also competed in the open weight tournament which had five competitors in it and after losing my semi-final on points I won the Bronze medal match up by arm bar submission. For me, the matches had a certain feel to them that was refreshingly unique and some new friends were made on the day. The awards ceremony was very cool with John announcing the winners of every division and sixteen of our party were awarded their medals including our two junior competitors James and Glenn Craven which was a joy to witness. Pretty sure the day ended ahead of schedule too (which is pretty unusual in my experience) and this is testament to the planning, organization and execution of the event by John and Melissa.

One thing that really struck me about The Gathering was the care that had obviously been put into the details. There was some very nicely produced merchandise and the whole experience just felt great value. I really enjoyed the day and felt pretty proud to see all the NZ team competing. Need to start saving my pennies for 2014.

Rank bonanza. 2 blues, 2 purples and 2 brown!

John Will’s visits to GroundControl always generate excitement. His latest trip on November 24 proved to be even more significant than usual. Not only did we get the usual degree of best in class instruction in both  MMA and BJJ skills, but there was also some significant upgrading of senior ranks.
It started with two new blue belts in Fran and Martin, two friendly and hard-working students who thoroughly deserve this significant grade. And then it only got better with the awarding of two purple belts. The first  going to Thomas Kwok, a staple of the GC mat who can be found at training, well pretty much any time the club is open. Thomas, officially known as Zen,  is well known for his calm cool demeanor on the mat which belies how dangerous he is as a grappler.
The second purple belt was a significant one as it went to our first female to receive the grade, Inger Craven.  Inger is a tenacious grappler and extremely hard-working student while at the same time being notable for her constant good mood. Her ability to hang with the boys in free sparring is the result of countless hours of dogged determination and an ego-less approach to learning.
And then in a significant step for GroundControl John awarded brown belt  to head coaches Andrew Craven and Mike Fooks.  The brown belt represents a major step up, and recognition of the last three year’s progress.   The grade is the result of many hours coaching, training and travelling and expense to learn from our coach John Will and his coach Rigan Machado –  amongst others.  At the same time there is a degree to which these ranks are owned by the entire club and without our students we wouldn’t be progressing.  We feel very fortunate to have a mat at GC full of awesome people operating a culture which both supports and challenges us.
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