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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.

Wins, Learns and upgrades.

It’s a been a huge couple of weeks for GroundControl.  On February 11 Shayne Young was back in the cage fighting to keep his undefeated record intact.  After weathering a storm in the first round Shane fought back hard to take out the second and show real dominance in the third to win a unanimous decision.  The win a testament to his composure under fire and exceptional conditioning.  This brings Shane’s undefeated run to 5 straight victories.

Then on February 18 we had BJJ 4th degree black belt and our head coach, John Will back in the house.  John once again showed why he is the best at what he does, taking us through a range of not just new techniques but as always training concepts that can be applied on and off the mat.

John’s visits are also a fantastic opportunity to recognize the progress folks have made and award some well deserved ranks.  And this time round there were a bunch!  Going to the highly regarded rank of blue belt were Shane Young, David Grant, Matthew Tusa and Bryan McKenzie.  All of whom have shown outstanding dedication to their training and have developed some formidable skills.

Speaking of formidable it was an absolute pleasure to have John award the rank of purple belt to Jason Kelly.  Jase has been a central part of the culture at GroundControl for many years now and his dedication to training is simply awesome.  A big man who has the rare ability to roll heavy or light with a thorough understanding of BJJ’s technical landscape this significant rank could not be more deserved.

The injection of more blue and purple into the auckland mat will give another boost of learning to everybody there, and we’re excited about the future prospects.

As if that wasn’t enough, the following day in Hamilton John also awarded the purple to Errol Watson.  Errol, assisted by Travis, has been leading the charge in BJJ development in Hamilton for many years now, and it’s fantastic to see him rewarded with this grade.  Well done my friend.

There’s a lot more to come this year, with ICNZ and several grappling comps just a few weeks away, more seminars from John to come, and the Will/Machado NZ nationals in the planning stages.  2012 is shaping up to be even bigger than 2011 was.

What a year!

Well another training year almost in the books.  And it was another standout.  We welcomed a host of new students onto the mat, bid farewell to some old ones and all in all had a great time rolling round hugging each other.

Stand out seminars again from John Will this year in both BJJ and MMA.  Everytime he comes he gives us a new way to think about our training and new ways to open up our game.  Truly an inspirational coach.
With seminars come grades and we awarded some very well deserved grades this year – of particular note Gareth Terry and Andy Mui taking the big step up to purple belt.   Both of these gents have been around since the garage days and both of them are obsessive about their training.  And it shows.
 And then what better way to finish off the year than with some absolute gold from multiple world champ Robert Drysdale.  And as if that wasn’t enough the women got to spend time with Robert’s wife Sophia -an outstanding black belt competitor in her own right who delivered a cracker of a session on how to beat up the boys.
Speaking of competition this year was another great one.  Andrew competed at the worlds in Abu Dhabi and also put on a dominating display in his first pro class MMA fight, good enough not just to win by rear naked choke, but also to win a well deserved fighter of the night.  Mike came home from the Australasians in Melbourne with a gold in his division and other GC members won countless other medals in local gi and no gi competition and we continued our winning record in MMA.  Not be outdone the juniors stepped up and had some standout performers in the growing juniors competition circuit.  Supported by Drew and Amy they came back with fists full of medals and often it was an all GC final.  Of special note was Hannah’s performance in May where she not only took out the mixed girls/guys division but also came away with most technical fighter of the day.
So how do you wrap up a year like that?  With a party of course.  And what’s the best way to start a BJJ party – rolling around hugging each other.  So 17 December is our end of year party -come along to the club from 1pm and celebrate a great year.  We’ll be rolling, playing grappling games, calling each other out for death matches and then at some point fire up the bbq and break out the beers.   Looking forward to seeing you all there.

Last opportunity to train with one of the worlds best BJJ competitors – Book Now!

Title: Robert Drysdale Gi Seminar
Location: GroundControl Auckland, 20 Stonedon Drive
Description: Rare opportunity to come and learn from one of the sports most successful competitors

Professor Robert Drysdale is one of the most accomplished tournament decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belts in the entire 100+ year history of this martial art. Robert was born in the USA in 1981 and has lived in both the united states and Brazil. Robert started his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu career in Las Vegas, NV in the late 1990’s and trained extensively with MMA pioneer John Lewis as well as the American black belt Steve Desilva.

Early on in his career, as a blue belt in BJJ while still living in Las Vegas, Robert Drysdale made the decision to return to Brazil to train full time with the best teams in Brazil. From
1999 to 2008 Robert lived full time in Sao Paulo Brazil where trained in BJJ full time, owned and operated a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu School, and coached his students when they competed. Additionally, Robert Drysdale made the commitment to compete for almost 10 years. In this time span he competed in more than 100 traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and earned over 90 different Titles.That list of championships includes 6 different medals in the adult division at the Brazilian Mundials and the Brazilian world Cup.

Start Time: Gi 10 am  No Gi 14:00
Date: 2011-12-11

Yeoman boys make their MMA debut

Congrats to Matt and BJ Yeoman who both made their MMA debut in B-Class matches in Shurikens Rising Soldiers promotion on the weekend.  Both boys have worked extremely hard leading up to the event and it showed on the night.  Matt took an early knockdown to come back hard and dominate in the clinch and takedown.  He showed great control on the ground to eventually finish with a back choke in the first round.

BJ’s fight looked to follow the same script at first as he recovered from an early knock down as well.  His opponent however was able to defend on the ground and the fight turned into a three round war.  BJ showing great grit to wear some big shots and still stick to his game plan and drive the match to the ground time and again with some big takedowns.  He dominated on the ground to take out the decision victory.

Expect some big fights to come from these boys in the future.  Well done lads.