30 Dec 2008

I have acquired quite a few BJJ books. I can't help it. Whenever a new one comes out, I have to buy it. And Santa was most obliging this year with the provision of two new titles for me to pour over Christmas.
But if I asked myself, how useful are these books actually? I would say that they only offer me a small return on their investment. Mainly because you cannot substitute good hard training on the mats. But also because I am a lazy reader and don't really study them properly, I just browse through random pages when I am on the bog and make a mental note of moves that interest me. If I remember, I may try some of them out in class, but mostly I don't. What they do help with though, is if you have just recently learned a technique and need some pointers for fine tuning, or to reveal variations on the technique. They also reveal stuff you may never have tried before, so you can at least be aware of them. So with that in mind, here are my top recommended BJJ books so far:

1. The winner of the 'I do traditional martial arts and would like to see what all this Gracie stuff is all about' category:
Theory & Technique, Renzo and Royler Gracie - this book was criticised when it first came out for its random assignment of techniques to belt levels. Despite its flaws, it has stood the test of time and is a good introduction to the art. A review can be read here.
Honourable mention: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Basics, Gene Simco - His 'Master Text' is too weighty to be of practical use, but Simco's beginner's guide is not bad. Though the b/w pictures are a bit poor in some areas.

2. Winner of the 'I have been doing BJJ for a few years and need to learn some sh#t hot moves now' category:
X-Guard, Marcelo Garcia - this book is so beautiful it could only be authored by one man. Marcelo Garcia is such a legend I really don't think I am worthy to even try these moves out. A good review can be seen here.
Honourable mentions include:
Advanced Jiu-Jitsu Techniques, Fabio Gurgel (small handy size, great ready to use techniques, but not great pictures).
Black belt techniques, Jean-Jacques Machado - Cool fancy moves that the Machados are famous for.

3. Winner of the 'Oh no my instructor called in sick and said I have to take the class, what now? category:
Guerrilla Jiu-jitsu, Dave Camarillo, Erich Krauss - wanna learn to fly? this book is your flight manual and first class lounge all rolled into one neat package. A whole chapter dedicated to beating judo guys and another on flying submissions...awesome! A good review here:
Honorable mentions should also go to:
Jiu-Jitsu unleashed, Eddie Bravo, what can be said about the man Bravo that has not been said before? Whatever your view, this book introduces his unique take on BJJ. Not very good pictures, but subsequent books offer more detail or free on youtube, a zillion guys trying their rubber guard or Zombie or whatever he calls it. Actually I quite like his stuff, but there you go what do I know?

4. Finally, 'most awesome BJJ book ever award'
Jiu-Jitsu University, Saulo Ribeiro - I only just got this book but already it looks so amazing that I can't take my hands off it. The sheer variety of techniques on offer and more importantly, the philosophical points raised by Saulo make this book stand out. Ribeiro is a brilliant instructor, an elite competitor and now, an author of probably the most definitive BJJ book of them all. Well, until Marcelo publishes his next book.
Full review here.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Books

I have acquired quite a few BJJ books. I can't help it. Whenever a new one comes out, I have to buy it. And Santa was most obliging this...

23 Dec 2008

Well the RGA internal comp never happened for me. The two fighters who were in my category pulled out at the last moment. Oh well. Us short guys have it hard you know.
So 2008 is coming to an end and time to reflect on achievements, accomplishments and lessons learned.
The early part of the year was still occupied with trying to juggle work, jujitsu and coping with the newborn. By the Spring, I was able to take a little more control of my JJ life and increase my training. Summer was a bummer - I twisted my ankle in the most horridly public way and laid up for several months. By Autumn I got back into training and was soon fully prepped and ready to compete at the JJJA Nationals, in which I failed to get past in the first round of my division. I learned that a one dimensional BJJ game won't get you very far, and also to tread more carefully when venting spleen on this blog. I did however earn an extra stripe on my blue belt and host a number of excellent seminars at my Trad JJ club. So all in all, a good year MA wise. Next year, I plan to up the training level in an attempt to reach my budo potential. Of course, this Meerkatsu blog will document all the highs and all the lows, so may this Meerkat wish you all a happy Christmas and an awesome New Year. Together we are all Citizen Jitsukas.

My Year

Well the RGA internal comp never happened for me. The two fighters who were in my category pulled out at the last moment. Oh well. Us short ...

16 Dec 2008

As we wind down towards the end of the year, it is probably a good time as any to mention a few blog warriors who I like to read on a regular basis.

In the regular joe blog category, we have:
White Collar Jujitsu: http://whitecollarbjj.blogspot.com/
Steve's BJJ log: http://www.stevebjj.com/
I like reading blogs that reveal bits about the writer's personality, their humour, their trials and general opinions as well as the technical aspects of the sport. To me, I can identify with regular Joe Blogger who has a family, busy job, demanding wife etc but still has time to dedicate to training and of course writing enjoyable blog content.

For Instructional blogs, there is one that is top of every BJJer's favourites list:
Stephen Kesting's Grappling Tip of the week blog. Kesting has written books and produced numerous DVDs and I'm a big fan of his crystal clear instructional style. He is also very generous and by giving away a free e-book and numerous handy tips on his blog, is someone who stands up to be admired for not using his knowledge simply as a way to make money. He wants to share his passion with you and you really get the sense that he is there to help.

Closer to home, Roger Gracie black belt, Nicolas Gregoriades, has a very informative, if less frequently updated blog here:
My favourite article of his explains just how awesome Roger Gracie is at BJJ:

There are hundreds of BJJ blogs out there and possibly a thousand times more on the theme of martial arts. It is hard to read even a small percent of them and so a good blog has to really stand out. It should have enjoyable content, updated regularly, pretty pictures help and so does spellcheck. So, on that note, if anyone wishes to nominate Meerkatsu in BJJ Blog of the Year award, they can do so here:
No pressure...

Keyboard Warriors

As we wind down towards the end of the year, it is probably a good time as any to mention a few blog warriors who I like to read on a regul...

10 Dec 2008

Against my better judgement, I have for some reason agreed to take part in the forthcoming Roger Gracie Academy (RGA) internal competition. It'll be my first BJJ competition and I think I agreed because it was billed as a nice low-key way to pick up some tournament practice. I say low-key. But when you consider that RGA consists of some of the most hard-training and richly decorated, medal- winning students in the UK (eg 35 medals at SENI07) , then I would hardly say it was that low key.
Anyway, my weight seems to be hovering around the 58 kilo mark so Nick put me in the 'galo' category which is Portuguese for rooster (weight) - the lightest category in adult BJJ. I quite like that. I was born under the Chinese sign of the rooster and that imagery pervades throughout my life. So rooster weight it is then. Although judging by my fighting style, 'cock' or 'chicken' may be a more apt description.

In other news, my Trad JJ pals David and Kevin both passed their second dan gradings. It's quite an achievement as second dan involves lots of very complicated joint locking katas and lots of weapons and empty hand katas and then lots of sparring and then..oh you get the picture - it's flipping hard work mentally and physically. Both still looked drained several days later. And for Dave, it doesn't end as he has an escrima grading at the weekend.

Galo, the rooster

Against my better judgement, I have for some reason agreed to take part in the forthcoming Roger Gracie Academy (RGA) internal competition. ...

3 Dec 2008

In today's blog, Meerkat gets a bit philosophical...

One of the most persistent topics of discussion among martial arts forums around the world is the style versus style debate. In particular, BJJ versus traditional JJ (TJJ).
There are lots of differences between the two MA and much debate about which is better. Die-hard TJJers poopoo the notion that BJJ offers realistic self defence when they believe that being on the ground is a bad strategy and they mock their colourful logoed uniforms. BJJers laugh at youtube clips of so-called experts imparting invisible ki power tricks and their love of samurai swords. It is two worlds that may seem poles apart. But I want to focus on the positives that both martial arts can offer each other.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a growing trend for TJJ students to also join a BJJ club and, rather than choose one or the other, actually stick to both. I like to think I was one of the early adopters of this scheme, but I’m sure there were many who practiced both forms long before I joined the bandwagon.

During the path to black belt, a TJJ student will learn hundreds and hundreds of techniques that have to be drilled over and over again until they become second nature. This method of learning is repetitive but forms good habits when it comes to muscle memory. It is also of great benefit in another way - in my own experience, I find that I pick up newly taught BJJ techniques pretty fast and a lot of this has to come down to my TJJ experience. A TJJ student will have been trained to analyse every minutiae of a technique and to ask questions if they don’t understand how something works. This anally retentive attention to detail means the TJJer is a good student of technique – regardless of style.

In TJJ you will invariably come across pretty much every joint lock scenario that the human body is capable of sustaining, so a BJJ instructor teaching something new to most of the class, may actually be showing something familiar to the TJJ student. Many a time I have seen a BJJ joint lock or transition and thought, ooh, that’s just like the so and so from purple belt or words to that effect.

But the biggest difference between BJJ and TJJ is that BJJ incorporates sparring on the ground as a major component of each lesson, allowing the students to pressure test their techniques. Very traditional TJJ schools have always said that sparring has no place as it would be too dangerous to pressure test, for example, knife attacks or full force strikes. However, these days, most TJJ schools have varying degrees of sparring as it is without doubt a good way to train under pressure. And this is where BJJ can assist the TJJ student. BJJ has been refined over a number of years to perfect the aspect of fighting from the ground. Of course strikes are not allowed, but as a platform for gaining good positional advantage and utilising very effective chokes, strangles, and joint locks, it is a great way to spar under pressure without danger of serious injury. If TJJ students and clubs can utilise this method of sparring, it would be of great benefit to their overall development as a martial artist.
But being such a specialist art, BJJ could be said to be too restrictive when it comes to overall self defence and sport fighting. It is noticeable that very good MMA stars train in both stand-up styles such as kickboxing, Muay Thai and boxing as well as BJJ in order to be a complete fighter. For the average punter, some exposure to defending punches, kicks, bites, weapons etc would be useful experience, and this is where TJJ might offer an opportunity since the syllabus covers all these aspects.

At the end of the day, as I have said many times before, the world is large enough to cater for all tastes. Many people will prefer one style over the other, but for some, like me, if you enjoy both, then you will reep the benefits of both.

...oh and let me not forget to wish my TJJ training buddies David and Kevin the best of luck with their second dan grading on Sunday...Oooosssss!

Ebony & Ivory

In today's blog, Meerkat gets a bit philosophical... One of the most persistent topics of discussion among martial arts forums around th...

20 Nov 2008

There is an internet sensation sweeping the UK BJJ scene at the moment. He goes by the name of Faixaruakimonos and he has been lighting up fight forums with his unique brand of cutting humour. His posts are the stuff of legend. But who is Faixa Rua?
Some say he is from Brazil and a veteran of the BJJ scene now making his own brand of BJJ kimonos, some say he is an impersonator with a genius marketing plan. Who knows? What is true, is that his posts are side splittingly funny and provide welcome light relief from the heated debates that can rage on these forums.
Here are some of examples from the wisdom that is...Faixa:

On the subject of junior grades in BJJ:
here at Faixa Rua Kimono's we gonna make big promise to you guys we never gonna makey green belts in adult size for sure we carry on for make Green Belt in A1 but if fat kid
wanna green they gonna have lose wait first. So,for sure we gonna support the kids (cept fatty ones) but we NEVER gonna sell out and make adult green belt in brasil the guys already larfing at stupid americans and you guys need for make sure UK don't end up look dumb too.

In response to a rival gi maker:
we no make karate kimono,we no sponsor karate fighter,we only make best fight in world

A summary of how the sizes work out:
Here is special gi for make best fight in the world, not for Judo guy lie on front and turtle, made for jiu jitsu guy make best clock choke in the world.

All sizes from A1 to A5. If you very small then you A1, very fat man is A5, most guys A2 or A3

A1 really small guy, maybe girl.
A2 normal guy, wishes he bit taller though.
A3 Normal guy, make good fight,
A4 Tall guy, always hard find nice gi.
A5 tall guy who fat also, if get side position you big trouble.

Some advice to a poster worried about body odour:
make sure carry spray deodorant in kit bag and when guy in changing room
befor class get tough purple belt hold him from back while you spray him for
least 1 minute in face and all over body shout "now you not gonna smell like grannies pussy!"
this how we deal with problem in Brazil
Faixa Rua's favorite spray is Lynx Oriental for this job

Advice to a beginner on what not to do on your first lesson:
no go to academy with sperm on stomach

On the subject of alleged 'fake' dojos selling on-line BJJ tuition:
man those guys faggot cocks i clock choke those mother fuckers in name of BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU those guys not even pass guarde of my granny,Rob T you me hangry now-why those guys llowed operate?
who gonna smash them?? someone need for go academy and get mount and punch in face front of students then burn their patches and confiskate belt and kick down road until for bleed in gutter.

On the subject of differences between the BJJ belt levels:
blue belt=gonna submit most beginner ease include guys from karate and kung fu.blue belt able not get hurt if fight muscle head steroidy on beach or outside club.
purple belt=he nasty guy.gonna be able smash people.SMASH THEM.
brown belt=able twist evryone up real good and still not breath heavy.he not even gonna fight in street no more incase he kill someone.
blackbelt=professor.sometime nice sometime if upset bit dangerous.if pass his guarde he gonna be upset so careful.some blackbelt crazy other nice guy.some gonna contrate on vale tudo,other gonna teach jiu jitsu for student.some gonna be very technical other just tough if guy both he gonna do well in mundial.

In response to a heated debate between a rival gi maker and Carlson Gracie Club:
man you guys crazey. Argue with karate guy on Internet like argue with woman on minstrel cycle. in Brazil we jus have fight an then never talk to other again an swear life long blood feud
so our children never can be frens as well. maybe that Brazilian way best,is more simple no?

Finally, some thoughts in response to a poster who wondered if Krav Maga was any good?
my fren,
is shit.
i choke most guy for fun but for a krav maga guy i gonna twist him up reel nice.

So watch your back, Faixa Rua is coming and he gonna clock choke you real good if you not wear his nice new gi.

Best Fight in the World

There is an internet sensation sweeping the UK BJJ scene at the moment. He goes by the name of Faixaruakimonos and he has been lighting up f...

17 Nov 2008

This is BJJ training mate Dan Jones who is illustrating one of the unfortunate pitfalls of heavy training - the dreaded cauliflower ear. Poor Dan travelled from doc to hospital to clinic in his search for someone who will drain the offending lughole of fluid and relieve his pain. In the end, he had to pretend to be a junkie just so he could obtain a 'blue pack' of hypodermic needles and syringes so he could drain it himself. Half a dozen syringe-fulls of pus later, the ear is still a bit puffy and prone to swelling again. Ew! Still, no pain, no gain, as Dan just won a silver at the Kent BJJ Open.
No such disfigurements with me yet. Not with my lock in to guard and hold on dearly A game. My ears normally never go anywhere near to a body to scuff and scrape.

But today, I rolled with the guys who are competing at the next competition and was instructed, well more goaded, by young Daniel to roll with full intensity. So I did as I was told and man! That was awesome. I never roll with anything like the intensity that I suppose I should for tournament work so today was a real eye opener. In five minutes, I must have worked dozens of techniques and manoeuvres all without thinking. Of course I made big mistakes too which I paid for, but it was quite thrilling to work at full speed. It reminded me that that was how I should have played it at the recent Southend comp. But then again, that is what I love about BJJ. You can train at any level you choose and always learn new things.

Getting an ear-full

This is BJJ training mate Dan Jones who is illustrating one of the unfortunate pitfalls of heavy training - the dreaded cauliflower ear . Po...

10 Nov 2008

With the news of a wonderful new president-elect over in the US of A, I thought it was time to celebrate by illustrating some of the more 'interesting' martial arts uniforms your average punter at Rex-Kwon-do can purchase over the net. Enjoy!

And let us not forget our style 'sensei', Master Rex himself. Ooooos!

The Patriot

With the news of a wonderful new president-elect over in the US of A, I thought it was time to celebrate by illustrating some of the more &...

6 Nov 2008

I love old jujitsu books. The funny costumes, the archaic language, the innocence and yet at the same time the dire warnings against the dangers of ruffians and vagabonds - all of it is wonderful in my eyes. Despite their historical and comical entertainment - many of the techniques shown in these old books are the same ones practised by modern jujitsu clubs today. The pictures here are from a 1920 manual produced by a Captain Allan Corstorphin Smith, Hand-to-Hand Instructor of the Infantry School in Colombus, Georgia, USA.
The photos above come under the chapter entitled: "THE SECRET JAPANESE DEATH LOCK - The most effective lock in existence. Superior to the ancient secret holds of Greece and Rome. Known to but a few Japanese and NEVER before published in any book."
Wow! Looks like a basic rear naked to me.

Vintage books usually run through a range of simple wrist and body grab escapes, with throws, elbow locks and usually a couple of techniques where a woman wearing impossible garb is seen throwing an assailant. All great PR. I think most of these instructors were influenced by time spent in Japan with early judo schools, rather than traditional ryu jujitsu.
Probably one of the great unsung heroes of vintage martial arts in the UK is Edward William Barton-Wright, the inventor of Bartitsu and, for a few years at least, quite the celebrity during late Victorian and early Edwardian England. I'll maybe write more about this fascinating gentleman, but savour the thought that Barton-Wright may have been one of the first promoters of 'mixed' martial arts in the West!

The Secret Japanese Death Lock

I love old jujitsu books. The funny costumes, the archaic language, the innocence and yet at the same time the dire warnings against the da...

27 Oct 2008

How to get over a disappointing tournament result...I know, train with the world's greatest grappler - Roger Gracie!
Yep, multiple World Champion Roger Gracie popped down the Nick's Mill Hill BJJ club this evening and took the mat. Roger made us drill some simple techniques, but as is the case with very good instructors, it is the minutiae of detail that makes the difference between a successful technique and one that fails. Today's techniques included attacks from the closed guard, standing passing guards and a counter to the hip escape when in mount. As I say, simple stuff, but with small twists that make them special and very workable.
I've not met Roger before, but he is spoken about by his students with a hushed reverence. He came acrosso to me as a thoroughly pleasant chap. His instruction was articulate and fluent and best of all, happily posed for photos afterwards!
When we all sparred, with Roger looking on, one couldn't help but try that little bit harder to look good. So despite my despite my delapidated body, I put in as good a turn on the mats as I could. I managed to get a few nice techniques to work and moved quite well for an old geezer.

Roger Gracie

How to get over a disappointing tournament result...I know, train with the world's greatest grappler - Roger Gracie! Yep, multiple Worl...

26 Oct 2008

First the bad news:
Meerkat is annoyed. I'm annoyed cos I lost my fight in the first round today because I got my tactics all wrong. I played open guard from the bottom and found it hard to sweep or submit my opponent. I was very much counting on this and it didn't happen. My opponent didn't pass my guard or submit me so I thought I played an even fight but the judges saw it the other way. C'est la vie as they say. Now I know to be more aggressive and avoid fighting from the bottom. Anyway, here is the video for you to see, WARNING: it is very boring...

Now the Good.
Team Imperial had a monster in its midst. This monster was not known to us until the moment the referee shouted Hajime! This mons ter, is now to be called...The Oscarnator. Yes, Oscar, our American chum with one lesson of BJJ and perhaps a handful of g/f sessions at my club BULLDOZERED his way to the most awesome bronze medal in the 80-89Kg group you will ever see. This man got armbarred like about half a dozen times and simply REFUSED to give in. Not only that, but The Oscarnator escaped one wincesome elbow cracking armbar to pin his opponent down and do what Oscar can only do best, hold the mount and crush the poor unfortunate individual. Trust me, the following videos ARE worth seeing, especially his armbar escape.

Round 1 and Oscar takes pretty good control early on against a bigger guy:

Round 2 and he is up against a very good technical BJJ fighter, and somehow, evades an awesome armbar at around 2'06'':

Round 3 - he loses by armbar to the eventual winner of the whole category (this guy is a London Fight Factory BJJer and very good he is too)

Bronze fight off - with NO REST Oscar is on again and watch how his route 1 tactic (take leg, side hold, full mount and hold) works its charm yet again. Magic!

Oscar had to wait to fight right until the end of the day, but boy was it worth it. Finally the camraderie of Team Imperial came out in force as we all gathered beside the mat to cheer on our hero.

Some more good.
Our man Bartek produced some outstanding groundwork skills, exactly as planned. He wanted to work his scissor sweep all week and produced a volley of them at will in his 70-79Kg category. He even secured a number of very excellent armbar attempts before his opponent, rubber jointedly escaped with amazing eel-like abilities! I thought Bartek edged a win but the judges scored two against one, so it was close.

Quick mention to John Hales who also fought in the 70-79Kg group. He lost to a guy who made it all the way to the final so no mean feat in holding him off with some good techniques and all this despite a stinking cold.

Ooh, before I forget. More good news - well done to sensei Grant, he won Bronze in the weapons kata (doing the sai kata with a pair of tonfas!) and Gold in the pairs with Eddie Garvey. It is a measure of their skill and talent that Grant confessed to not having any time to practise or rehease. He simply went on to the mat and did his stuff. Next year they really need to tell him to give the others a chance as it is not fair he always wins gold ;)

The seminar
Most years I plough my way through the dozen or so mini-seminars in the morning but my mind is constantly thinking about the tournament. But this year was really fun and I enjoyed all the instructors. Some that I remember:A very entertaining and funny sensei from Denmark explaining to us about risk assessment before using ju-jitsu on an assailant.Danny Burzotta getting all of us to work a Twister Eddie Bravo style. I loved this segment!A very tiny wiry chinese boxer who wowed us with his padwork session.Some classic JJ from Jikishin stalwarts Graham Seargent and Brian Mallon, and of course a smart and clever hand drills from sensei Brian.Oh and let me not forget our Belgium guests who this time, put way their BJJ techniques and offered us good old fashioned JJ knife defences.So overall, it was a well run and good event. My head was down a bit after my pathetic attempts and then when Bartek lost I was a bit miffed but the sheer delight at The Oscarnator made it all worthwhile in the end. So well done everyone!!!

Southend 2008 - A mixed day of results

First the bad news: Meerkat is annoyed. I'm annoyed cos I lost my fight in the first round today because I got my tactics all wrong. I p...

18 Oct 2008

It's one week to go until our big Jikishin JJ tournament in Southend and I've been putting in some serious mat time. I don't feel particularly ready, especially my cardio which is non-existent, but I do feel I am more tactically aware than in previous comps. I've picked up a lot of new techniques and re-worked some of my well-worn favourites. Groundfighting comps that start on the knees are a bit safer than BJJ comps, which begin by starting in stand-up, because you avoid being thrown and being subjected to jumping techniques. However, g/f on the knees can still be as technical as full BJJ. Recently, I've been working on rubber guard, spider guard, sitting-up guard, butterfly guard and various permutations of triangle chokes, armbars and sweeps - all from fighting on the bottom. And, since your opponent is not allowed to stand up, being stacked is less of a worry, as are standing versions of passing the guard. But there are dangers. Getting pinned in a side mount or locked in someone's very tough closed guard is a constant danger, not because they are winning positions, but because they can take a while to work an escape and within the 2 minute timeframe, one can easily lose a match just trying to escape all the time. The weight categories are not really in my favour. I weigh around 57Kg with a gi and the category I am in is under 65Kg. So I could struggle against a bully-boy 65 Kg fighter. The point I am trying to make is that basically - whatever the rules, the fundamentals remain the same when it comes to good groundwork technique.

For me, the Jikishin comps are special. It may not be SENI or ADCC and it is not noticed much outside the trad JJ radar, but our trad JJ association is a community and when you win an event here, it feels amazing to be acknowledged in that community. This year, my club - Team Imperial - will be entering three competitors: me, Oscar and Bartek. I'm pretty hopeful of some good results, especially Bartek who has been tearing up the mat at the Roger Gracie club where he has recently started a beginners course.
But whatever the outcome, for me, it is hugely enjoyable training and working towards a target. Sport JJ, including groundwork and stand-up grappling, are crafts that need time and energy to master and I've been lucky to work with some great players. The actual competitions are just the icing on the cake. It's the journey that is most fun, and at my advanced age, to be honest I'm lucky to even be able to leave the mat in one piece!

So let the games commence...


It's one week to go until our big Jikishin JJ tournament in Southend and I've been putting in some serious mat time. I don't fe...

10 Oct 2008

One of the hardest aspects - well one of many, many - in my BJJ training is trying to break away from my old habits. Despite learning and drilling loads of new techniques every week, I still rely on the same old techniques when it comes to live sparring. You know the ones - closed guard, scissor sweep, maybe a passably bad one legged guard pass etc. They are the same techniques I did at white belt and still do at blue. But look at any brown or black belt. You hardly ever see them use closed guard, or any of the same techniques that white and blue belts do. Why?

One of the things I have noticed is how my instructors Nick, Eddie and other high grades I have sparred with all are adept at open guard. So I've resolved to change my habits and open up my guard and play a more loose game - attempting to transition between various guard positions. My current favourite is the Del La Riva guard and it's variants. It looks really loose and easy to pass, but when I've started using it against a standing and sometimes even a sitting down uke (who is in combat base), it is amazing how durable it actually is. During my private sessions with Nick, I've been playing with the reverse Del La Riva and X-guard. For me, it's a whole new world that has got me all dizzy. But I am trying to make the effort and use them in live sparring. With some interesting, though encouraging results. I feel this is the start of a new phase in my BJJ journey.

Mind you, none of this is useful in our own trad JJ groundfighting competitions as the rules state - knees on the ground and no standing. This is fine with me, I have no skills in stand-up sparring so starting on the knees is all I know. But it means some aspects of the open guard game is not applicable. Which is a shame as they are really cool. So, come October 25th, watch me as I attempt my same old, same old - passably ok closed guard, dodgy scissor sweep, ropey armbar and choke defying escapes. Who knows, it might just work again.

Opening up

One of the hardest aspects - well one of many, many - in my BJJ training is trying to break away from my old habits. Despite learning and dr...

28 Sept 2008

Anything goes - no, not the musical of the same name, I'm talking about 'vale tudo' which apparently translates as 'anything goes'. It is the style of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting that was taught by the Danny Burzotta seminar I just attended. Danny used to train in our trad JJ system and won so many competitions in so many events they were thinking of just handing him the medal each time to save everyone the bother. Anyway, that was a few years ago and Danny has since carved an MMA career for himself, first as a fighter, now, mainly as a trainer and promoter.
Danny began the session with submissions and takedowns from the clinch. Immediately it was obvious to the group we were in for an interesting ride, as the seminar progressed we sampled techniques from Muay thai, submission grappling, BJJ and even a technique that reminded me of our JJ syllabus.
Let me say that Danny, is a huge man. Standing at 6'3'', weighing 105 Kg and wall to wall muscle, he also has amazing technique and agility.
I partnered Bartek, our club's Polish strongman, who in true Bartek fashion, threw in lots of cheeky moves and variations from the standard drills that goaded me into a full on sparring match with him each time. It was great fun, but we probably should have been a bit more respectful as it could look like we were mucking around.
There was lots of interesting techniques but I felt a little removed from the whole MMA concept as it is a bit far from where I personally want to go with my ju-jitsu, although I do of course enjoy watching MMA, it is not something I want to train in anymore. Having said this, the whole seminar was good. I learned several new things, including the 'anaconda choke' which I have never done before. This was wicked and me and Bartek rolled around thrilled to be able to hurt each other in such a technical and flashy way!
Finally, at the end, we were matched up by Danny for some groundfighting. My first bout was with Bartek but we both agreed we were just gonna go light. Then I was matched with a young lad who I did not know before. He was pretty aggressive but in the end I subbed him 5 times in a row including my newly acquired anaconda choke. But then I got complacent and got caught in a silly ankle lock (duh!). I must say, this bit of sparring at the end really got my competitive spirit going and acted as a lovely taster for the big Jikishin tournament ahead.
If I had to voice once criticism, I would say that, whilst hosting MMA seminar is a nice introduction to the art, I think most members of my JJ association require seminars that are more relevent to our style of sport groundfighting (which is more judo and BJJ based than MMA). Unless that is, our style is going to change to MMA, in which case I will definitely be up for it - anacondas, boa contrictors, pythons and all.

Anything goes

Anything goes - no, not the musical of the same name, I'm talking about 'vale tudo' which apparently translates as 'anything...

24 Sept 2008

Meerkat just had an awesome three consecutive days worth of training. On Sunday I attended an instructors training day with my Association head, sensei Brian Herbert. This was awesome as we got to examine in minute detail various throws, kung-fu style blocking drills and stand-up sparring techniques. Favourite moments were a quick but more efficient way to do a winding throw and the spur kick as a better way to use the front kick in sparring.
On Monday it was BJJ class over at Mill Hill and I flukely managed to get a collar choke on another blue belt who was much, much bigger than me.
Tonight, as the photos here show, I invited Nick Brooks over to prep our guys on groundfighting, BJJ style, for those interested in our forthcoming tournament.
The session began with one simple premise - the hip escape. Nick then showed a wide variety of escapes from mount and side, all using the hip escape, but escapes that would also lead to a subsequent submissions. We then worked some very simple opening gambits when starting with knees on the ground (our style) which is different to BJJ where you start standing up. These simple techniques were so easy, everyone got them straight away and had fun attempting these when we sparred at the end.
Speaking of which, something I thought quite extraordinary happened. Nick offered to spar with each and every one of us, one after another without a break. He duly did this, against our biggest guys too, and subbed each one with, if my memory serves me right, a triangle choke in each case. It was a jaw dropping display of groundfighting at its best.

Triangle to finish

Erm, triangle to finish

Yep, that'll be another triangle to finish.

Imperial Ju-Jitsu Club London with Nick Brooks

Nick and Seymour possibly in their most aggressive fighter pose.

So there you have it, three days of training bliss, with much much more to come. Sometimes I hate myself.

More pictures on Flickr.

Jitsu Inferno

Meerkat just had an awesome three consecutive days worth of training. On Sunday I attended an instructors training day with my Association ...

17 Sept 2008

Unbelievable as it may seem, I do actually have interests outside of martial arts. Photography is one. But if they gave belt ranks in photography, I would be a white belt one stripe, ok maybe the one stripe is an over-promotion.
Regardless, I do appreciate good art, and they don’t come much finer than the image above, taken by top studio photographer Spiros Politis, and featuring our Escrima buddies Diana and Alex from the Doce Pares Filipino Stick Fighting System.
When Alex came to our JJ club a few months back, he showed us his full contact sparring and the big leap depicted in the image is no trick - he really does leap six feet in the air to attack you. It’s amazing to watch, and really scary to be at the receiving end.
I asked Spiros what inspired him to come up with the concept and how he managed to take the photo. He generously got back to me with his thoughts:

“I was playing around with the idea of doing a rain shoot for quite a while prior to knowing about eskrima. Inspired by films such as Sin City and The Matrix I wanted to create a situation where some kind of action took place in the rain.
I came across Alex and Diana purely by coincidence through a mutual acquaintance who is an eskrima practioner herself and having seen them in training several times approached them with the idea.
The set up was technically very complicated and needed a big studio and an elevated stage for them to perform their action on in order for me to capture them at their most dramatic angle. The addition of rain to the set up meant that it had to be lit in such a way that the light went through the rain and wasn't reflected by the rain whilst still being able to light the people.

Keeping the very powerful photographic lights dry and away from the water was also v important in order to avoid fried martial artists! We then had a collecting pool below to pick up all the excess water. Needless to say it was also a rather expensive set up!
Shooting martial artists really doesn't differ much from shooting other sports in action. Its all in the preparation of the photographer and the talent of the performer. Incredibly though at the very point of capturing the image I cant actually see it as the shutter goes up-so a modicum of premonition is always good.”

The full set of images appears in the October issue of Men’s Health Magazine and is possibly the most exciting visual depiction of martial arts I have ever seen in a long time. Thanks to Spiros for permission to use the images. In the meantime, I’m inspired to take photos of ju-jitsu myself. Sadly, the finger-over-the-lens, out of focus effect is not as striking as Spiros’s. But, as we say in the MA world, practice, practice, practice, then beat the crap out of it.

Stickfighting in the rain

Unbelievable as it may seem, I do actually have interests outside of martial arts. Photography is one. But if they gave belt ranks in photog...

16 Sept 2008

I used to think I was a bit different to other martial arts practitioners. No, seriously, I mean being an established instructor from a trad martial art who moonlights in another (almost rival) martial art (BJJ) can't be too common right? And for a short time it probably was the case, since most of the BJJ comrades I met in the early days were people who only trained in BJJ. But recently I have come across quite a wide variety of guys, several of them who are instructors at their own school of martial arts. At Nick's club, one chap I met told me he runs a taekwondo-based MMA school here: http://www.ukblackbelt.com/ As a two stripe blue belt I thought he would be good, and in the two milliseconds it took for him to sink an armbar on me, my thoughts were quickly realised. God forbid I ever engage in a stand-up spar with him if he is this good on the ground. In fact BJJ now seems to attract a lot of guys who also train in other systems, especially trad JJ, like me. And the BJJ instructors and classmates seem to be very cool about this. It speaks volumes about the confidence they/we have in the art. Clearly, the idea that including an effective ground-based strategy into your repertoire is widely agreed to be important. So I am the special one no more, but I’m glad. The more we all learn to appreciate each other’s style, the better the world of martial arts. No secrets I say. Oh yeah, here’s the blooper reel to illustrate just how special I am:

It was grading day for my club students on Sunday. I had quite a few guys grading and all passed, thankfully. But a couple of errors were pointed out by the senior senseis had me cringeing because I was the one that taught them the erroneous techniques. Invigilating gradings is also frustrating for me as I can't help but look on at other students and critically thinking, Nooo, that was wrong, wrong, wrong. But having to perform in front of a judging panel is a nervous thing and nerves can play havoc with your memory, coordination, and ability to do, erm, ju-jitsu.
So thankfully, the senseis grant a large degree of allowance for this.
Speaking of grades, as we all know, BJJ awards grades ad hoc and not on a formal grading like trad JJ. so it was a nice surprise for me to be awarded my third stripe at blue belt by Nick Brooks. I'm quite chuffed as I feel accepted into the fold at what is still a fairly new club for me. I'd better watch my back though. A three stripe blue belt I think makes me technically the most senior non-teaching regular at the club. Gulp!

Special One

I used to think I was a bit different to other martial arts practitioners. No, seriously, I mean being an established instructor from a trad...

7 Sept 2008

I've finally finished my epic showreel. For a long time, I have wanted to produce some video clips to add to my JJ Club home page. So that newbies can see what our style of ju-jitsu entails and perhaps to add a little flair to static words and pictures. In the world of martial arts, moving footage seems to connect quickly with people, and in today's YouTube generation, one can't afford to be left behind. It was good fun making the video and producing it. I learned alot about editing and the tedious process it involves. I hope it gives a fair reflection of the wide variety of techniques that we practice at the club - including throws, punches, kicks, locks, strangles, kata, kobudo weapons, groundfighting, stand-up etc.

So sit back, get out the popcorn, chill to the sounds of DJ Krush and enjoy.

Coming up soon, the sequel - IJJC - the lost blooper tapes!

It's Showtime Folks!

I've finally finished my epic showreel. For a long time, I have wanted to produce some video clips to add to my JJ Club home page. So t...

2 Sept 2008

I’ve been slightly obsessed with leg locks recently. It’s probably because my ankle injury highlighted just how vulnerable this part of the anatomy is. Our own Trad JJ style has a surprisingly diverse and full array of ankle, knee and hip locks incorporated into the syllabus. I say surprising, only because I never really looked at them in close detail, since they are generally integrated into a ‘locking set’ kata that you learn as a whole piece, or tagged on as a ‘finish’ at the end of a throw. But when I read through my recent purchase of ’65 Vital Leg Locks’ by Steve Scott, I realised that our style covered most of those contained in the book, including old skool wrestling favourite –the Boston Crab (as illustrated so touchingly above) In fact most grappling styles incorporate leg locks, there are a few in judo, Russian Sambo is most famous for them, and of course wrestling, oh and BJJ willingly includes them all.

The book is pretty cool as an introduction to this diverse facet of submissions. But my impression is that it really only offers an introduction and I personally would only feel comfortable using them if I was shown how to get a good position first by an instructor. In BJJ class, we’ve covered leg locks on occasion, but it is only rarely. My favourite is the knee bar. You can transform a giant uke with tree trunk legs into a weeping baby, tapping for mercy with this awesome lock. Having said that, I only ever managed to get this lock on once ever in sparring. I was quite chuffed, but only for a fleet moment since my uke was injured and out of the game for several months (not just due to my knee bar, but it didn’t help in his long list of injuries).

So I quickly realised that leg locks, although an awesome submission, are quite dangerous in training since a lock can go from ‘nearly-on’, to torn ligaments with just a few millimetres of leverage. In BJJ, MMA and subgrap sparring, inexperience or stubbornness could result in a serious injury if the uke does not tap out soon enough. In fact I seem to recall that only blue and above are allowed to attempt leg locks when rolling, and I think even heel hooks are disallowed until purple or brown. Maybe someone can clarify that.

So all this recent fascination of mine with leg locks culminated in a recent episode of
Cage Rage Contenders on TV. Brazilian fighter Jean Silva fought against Japanese MMA fighter Masakazu Imanari, a fighter who was billed as the ‘Master of leg locks.’ See his video here and you’ll see what they mean.Now if you fought against someone billed as a leg lock specialist, why would you willingly tempt fate and offer him your legs, as Jean seemed to do when he went for a crowd pleased spinning guard pass? Naturally enough, Jean ended up being leg locked. It was horrendous to watch since he got caught by what looked like a heel hook and in order to get out, he twisted and rolled frantically, only making it worse. Finally he tapped but Imanari held on until the ref pulled him off. Silva was seriously injured and remained on the mat for ages. Post match reports indicate that he suffered bad ligament damage to his knee – but it could easily have been worse.


I’ve been slightly obsessed with leg locks recently. It’s probably because my ankle injury highlighted just how vulnerable this part of th...

28 Aug 2008

According to google stats, I’ve just received my 2,000th visitor to the Meerkatsu blog this year. Of course this figure could easily represent 10 people visiting 200 times, or one person 2,000 times (more likely), I’m not entirely au fait with analysing the figures, but it is reassuring to know that some people read my rants at least some of the time. Interestingly, in the figures for 2007, there was an extraordinarily huge peak of visitors when I posted a photo of the rather gorgeous Kyra Gracie. So just for the sake of clarity, let’s see what she looks like again…

Taken from her website: http://www.graciekyra.com/
Every male BJJ practitioner I know goes on about Kyra, including me. But the website actually offers very interesting information, revealing her impressive fight stats and training photos and it endorses the widely held view that she is a tremendous athlete who is dedicated to her sport, which is more than can be said about me.

I had a number of people emailing me and commenting in my last post about the Chinese characters I wrote in the made-up fake martial arts diploma. It translates: I believe I am Chinese, but I am really a ‘Big Nose’.
'Big Nose' being an old-skool insult that Chinese people give to western ‘foreigners’. Other phrase book nuggets to use on your holiday could include ‘pale face white ghost’ (very nasty insult), ‘son of a turtles egg’ (probably the worst you could ever say) and ‘Imperialist Opium dealing scumbag’. OK I made that last one up, but in my experience, Chinese people used to be very blunt with their insults. What with the Olympics, international economy and general more openness they are probably much more world aware now and have more subtle insults. Or maybe not.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make was that I sometimes come across people here in the UK, especially martial arts fanatics, who live, eat, breathe, dress, and even speak with an oriental accent in their quest to be a martial arts master. It is really weird. But there are also reports of American BJJ instructors who, overnight, begin to take on a Portuguese twang when naming their techniques. For example, the word ‘guard’ is almost universally re-iterated by a Portuguese speaker as ‘Gwardo’, which is very quaint sounding but you know what it means. If you catch a native English speaker saying GWARDO, he has either been watching too many BJJ DVDs or has spent half his life in Portugal or Brazil…or just wants it to appear that way.
But nowhere is the ‘crime’ of pretending to speak in a fake accent more prevalent than in the karate dojo.
24FightingChickens master, Rob Redmond writes in his excellent website about just this very phenomenon:
To quote his article:
“I personally do not like using Japanese terms in my karate classes. I think it gets in the way of good communication, and that it makes things seem mystical that are truly quite plain and unimpressive. I also worry that use of Japanese in my karate classes will create an exclusivist culture where newcomers feel uncomfortable. I also tire of spending time and energy teaching the terms to students, or reminding them of what they mean. I also do not care for trying to teach pronunciation, since my Japanese is accented with American, it seems a little preposterous that I would be correcting pronunciation.”
It is probably for this reason that our style of trad JJ does not use Japanese words to describe techniques. But this can lead to problems when I get the odd Aikido, judo or jitsuka from another style coming to my dojo and talking about techniques using the Japanese terminology. I just nod, sagely, narrow my eyes, and witter something inscrutable under my breath…was that an insult maybe?…I'm not saying.

Forked Tongue

According to google stats, I’ve just received my 2,000th visitor to the Meerkatsu blog this year. Of course this figure could easily represe...

26 Aug 2008

Photo (c) Yahoo Sports/ AP News

Wow, what an Olympics we just witnessed! With all the Gold medal bling of Team GB, and the world records broken it was armchair sports fan heaven. But for me, one of the surprise highlights of this Olympics was the taekwondo.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m just stating an observation, but to my untrained eyes, tkd does look a bit funny. I mean, there’s lots of hopping around with arms hanging limply by the sides, a bit of argey bargey interspersed with amazingly acrobatic kicks that seem unrealistic in self defence terms. But I was proved wrong. The success of the GB team meant the BBC showed lots of TKD (well, more than usual) and you only really get a sense of the skills when they show the slo-mo replays. Some of the kicking on display was unbelievable - sheer speed, accuracy and skill. It also highlighted the darker side to sports – the biased judging and ‘blindsided’ reffing that I thought was a hallmark of Olympics long past. I’m really glad the British girl, Sarah Stevenson, got her results changed. It showed what a farce, in these modern times, that such a clearly won technique could go against her. The decision to change the final result was unprecedented apparently, so she’ll go down in history, despite her eventual loss in the semi (she won a Bronze later though). I was also amazed at the Cuban guy, Angel Matos, who kicked a judge in the face with such ferocity and speed, you couldn’t help but he amazed at the skill – but of course we don’t condone his actions do we? Yes, in all the slickness and glamour of the Olympics games this year, it took an ancient martial art to provide some gritty entertainment.

My post ankle injury BJJ is progressing nicely at the moment. I managed to get 5 bouts of sparring in last night, one of them with the female blue belt, multi Gold medal winning whirlwind that is Pippa Grainger. My god, this girl, although petite, is fast and furious and armed with some neat techniques. I managed to get a few sweeps during sparring but she was strong and fast, oh and did I mention she was fast? I’m pretty pleased that I can roll with such a high calibre of students these days, my only concern is that I don’t make a tit of myself too often by getting caught with basic errors.

Always believe in your soul, you're indestructable

Photo (c) Yahoo Sports/ AP News Wow, what an Olympics we just witnessed! With all the Gold medal bling of Team GB, and the world recor...

19 Aug 2008

A-levels, SATS, GCSEs – every year the same headlines ring out – exams are getting easier, grades are too high, ‘A’ grades are worthless, etc etc. But of all the academia stories seen in the press during this silly season, the press seem to reserve a special sneer at the unusual and quirky university degrees that our beloved institutes of education appear to specialise in. You know the ones. Degrees in things like surf science, acupuncture, parapsychology, even a degree in funeral studies – the list of non-traditional academic degrees is endless.
So why not a BSc in martial arts?
I’m serious! A curriculum could include all aspects of sports science that affect martial arts, lots of practical training in eastern and western arts, coaching studies, psychology, physiology and anatomy, history etc.
A degree in martial arts would give weight to individuals who wish to pursue their career as instructors with universally recognised academic qualification, as opposed to a simple black belt in a style no one’s ever heard of.
STOP PRESS…I’ve just been informed, and this is no lie, that you can actually do a university degree in martial arts. It comes from the University of West Coast in Panama (not quite Ivy League then) and is a distance learning course (those dreaded words distance learning…ahhhhh!)
STOP PRESS…God, I knew it, this Meerkat is obviously quick on ideas, slow on realising them. The University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, US, has an established martial arts degree – and one you can actually attend, rather than from a bogus place in Panama.
STOP PRESS…OK I give up, you can do a degree in martial arts at the even more renowned, Indiana University in the US.
Oh well, back to the drawing board. Martial Art doughnuts anyone?
BTW - the diploma picture above contains some offensive chinese words - you know when you are paranoid that the Chinese waiters are mocking you in front of your face?

Finally, finally, after about 7 weeks of injury provoked inactivity, I got back onto the mat at Nick's BJJ club. It felt sooooooo good to be back in training, and the sweeps we drilled were excellent. I was a bit gutted to miss the sparring but it was probably for my own safety so soon after injury. Instead, I looked after a bunch of kids who were scarily good at BJJ, despite being so young and tiny - the future of BJJ.

Martial Art Doughnuts

A-levels, SATS, GCSEs – every year the same headlines ring out – exams are getting easier, grades are too high, ‘A’ grades are worthless, et...

15 Aug 2008

I came across this clip quite randomly (I googled Juko Ryu, more about that later). If I am honest, it is pretty amazing stuff, I can't work out how they manage to withstand punches to the throat and kicks to the groin. If we disregard the ambiguous claim of channeling 'chi' energy, I would imagine that this skill takes many many years of repetitive training of those parts of the body to tense at exactly the right moment.
Not easy, but certainly feasible physically (not that I would want to test the idea personally!)
Genki Sudo is a MMA star who rather shockingly knocked out Royler Gracie in an MMA tournament. Us Royler fans don't talk about that one too much. Ahem. BTW Royler is coming back to the UK in October for a seminar, hoorah! I'm getting my gi ironed in anticipation right now!!!!

Balls of Steel

I came across this clip quite randomly (I googled Juko Ryu, more about that later). If I am honest, it is pretty amazing stuff, I can't ...

11 Aug 2008

Ju-Jitsu was entering an exciting time when I first joined my club over ten years ago. The Association was abuzz with news that a good showing in the forthcoming World Games would ensure a favourable candidacy towards Olympic Games acceptance. Fast forward ten years and those heady days are long gone and as I watch the Beijing Games, I can't help but feel a tang of envy at the judoka, taekwondo and even wushu competitors as they show the world their exciting martial arts.
What went wrong?
Nothing really. I think Olympic acceptance was never gonna happen for many reasons, mainly, that (1) it already has judo which is too similar, (2) the world governing body for ju-jitsu (JJIF) is not powerful enough to lobby the Olympic officials and (3) there are too many competing and, let's face it, more telegenic sports than ju-jitsu. Heck, even BJJ, a very glamorous and lucrative martial art if you compete at top level, will probably never reach Olympic acceptance for exactly the same reasons. And anyway, does anyone actually notice the World Games? go on, test yourself, where is the next World Games gonna be? Answer - Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Where? Yeah, exactly. But if in 2009 you do manage to find it televised on some obscure satellite channel, you will find the likes of Team GB competing in events such as skydiving, korfball, sumo, tug of war, fistball, and....life saving!

I write about this because I just spent two whole days qualifying for my Level 3 coaching certificate. Not much coaching was actually on display, simply a boring powerpoint demonstration about ethics, child protection, communication skills etc. But what made it worthwhile was the brilliant stories and anecdotes from Sensei Terry Parker, founder of the Jikishin system and, with 54 years of jujitsu experience, a wonderful mentor and host for the sessions. But, inevitably, during proceedings, my mind did wander and the whole JJIF and World Games debacle did enter my head as I was longing to be somewhere else instead of a coaching lecture...like watching the Beijing Games.

By the way, some will recall my post about my all night vigil to complete 11 essays as part of the written assignment part of my coaching qualification. Well, I passed them and not only that, was told that I passed with top marks and that my essays should be used as model examples for other students. Phew! My traditional tactics of crashing for exams at the last minute still works. Sadly I can't remember a single word, so I can't say I learned much by writing them.

So there you go. As you progress up the ladder of any organisation, be it sport or commerce, you inevitably come across bureaucracy, politics, officiousness and administration. The powers that be see it as a necessary goal in promoting the martial as a safe and respected sport. Nothing wrong with that. But as I wade through binders full of pages about health and safety policy and ethical obligations, I cast my mind back to the excited talk of World Games and Olympics and wonder if it has all ballooned just a bit too much beyond what is actually necessary and what is actually needed to maintain a decent organisation. During the two days, the best bits were when us candidates could actually express an opinion and share experiences about our own coaching tips. I learned a more through listening to what others experienced directly in their clubs than from the pages of any manual. Oh well, only another 3 years until I renew all the licences again.

Coach Trip

Ju-Jitsu was entering an exciting time when I first joined my club over ten years ago. The Association was abuzz with news that a good showi...

5 Aug 2008

I must give a shout out to Stephen Chee Shihan, founder of Ju-Jitsu Kobudo Singapore, who made our man Rob Line so welcome. As some of you know, Rob was a big presence at my club, having trained up to brown belt and was a winner of several medals in the random attack competition. He left the UK to take up a post in Singapore and wondered if he could find a good club out there. Well, Rob just emailed me to say he found a club and wrote a detailed account (which I will post in full on the Imperial website in due course) of his first session, here’s a snippet from his article:

“I had emailed the most promising looking jujitsu club last week, explaining what I was looking for and a little of my background training with Jikishin. I received an immediate reply from Stephen Chee Sensei, inviting me to join his dojo and make sure to ‘bring my gi’ on Sunday. Result. Turns out Stephen Chee Sensei is a 6th dan Jujitsuka, affiliated to the World Jujitsu Federation, which was developed by jitsu luminary Prof. Robert Clark in Liverpool.

After warm-up, was sparring. The rules were 1) no punching in the face. 2) Er..that’s it. We rotated along the line swapping partners every 20 seconds, and trying to work throws in. I managed an inside hock counter to a roundhouse kick on one of the brown belts - happy with that – and then the next fellow attempted a cheeky hip throw. I pushed him off and swept his leg - he didn’t go down, but was certainly well off balance. That was fun.

Finally we repeated the 20 second sparring rotating line-up, but with groundwork. This was interesting also, and I have to say that practicing at Seymour’s BJJ-infused groundwork sessions stood me in good stead. I fought three blackbelts, one orange belt and one brown. Drew the first four and submitted the last one, so I was quite pleased. With that the class was nearly over ; some warm down exercises brought things to a conclusion.”

From the impressions given by Rob, it seems they run things pretty well in Singapore and ju-jitsu classes are no exception. I noticed on the web that Stephen Chee is not only a 6th dan in jujitsu, but is a 5th dan in judo, 4th dan in karate and is also a qualified krav maga and arnis instructor…phew! What a cv. Good luck to Rob in his continuing jujitsu studies.

Singapore Ju-Jitsu

I must give a shout out to Stephen Chee Shihan, founder of Ju-Jitsu Kobudo Singapore , who made our man Rob Line so welcome. As some of you...

28 Jul 2008

Recently I’ve been coming across a lot of newspaper articles about up and coming young sports athletes who are supposed to be the great British hope for medals when the Olympics comes around to London in 2012. But we have a number of young talents in the UK who are already winning gold medals at non-Olympic sports, and in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there is arguably no brighter star than 17-year old Daniel Strauss.
I’ve just got the news that Daniel, who is an assistant instructor at Nick Brook’s Mill Hill BJJ club and regular crusher of Meerkats, has won gold at the blue belt, featherweight category at the Rio de Janeiro State Championships. This tournament is pretty much up there amongst the big prestige events in BJJ, OK it’s not quite the Mundials, or the Pan Ams, but it’s still Rio and attracts the top competitors around the world. So to take it to the Brazilians and beat them at their own game…5 fights – 4 won by submission…is an out of the world achievement. Read more about Daniel’s fights here.
When he comes back, I shall give Daniel the honour of beating me up yet again, erm, pretty much as he always does anyway. God, and when I think back to my days as a very lazy, spotty, geeky 17 year old, obsessed with girls but too scared of them (hey, who said nothing has changed??), it's hard to fathom just how much work, dedication and personal sacrifice it takes to rise to the pinnacle of this, or any sport.
But, the Wagon-Wheel of success doesn't stop there folks. Of course I should also mention Nick’s own fantastic achievements at winning Gold in the brown belt category at the CBJJ International Masters & Seniors Tournament, also in Rio.
As one comment from a poster on the European Fight Network forum affectionately observes:
“This is further proof (as if it were needed) that of all the skinny old brown belts held together by sticky tape, Nick is the best”.

Indeed! But it's also pretty cool that I'm training at a club full of successful and decorated competitors. I shall take this as inspiration when I myself attempt to win a gold medal at this year's Jikishin Nationals in the slightly less than Copacabana surroundings of Southend on Sea.

The Winner Takes It All

Recently I’ve been coming across a lot of newspaper articles about up and coming young sports athletes who are supposed to be the great Brit...

18 Jul 2008

Well Meerkatsu world is not exactly alight with martial art prowess at the moment as the ankle, despite making good recovery, is still too tender to run on or do anything jitsu. Still, it doesn't mean I am not busy, as the British Ju-Jitsu Association Governing Body coaching certification course is looming.
Let me remind readers what this mighty honour involves. First you need to have a senior grade. Purple belt is accepted but to be honest, most coaches apply for their licence when they reach first dan. Then you need CRB clearance. Understandable of course, who wants crims running our ju-jitsu schools...God forbid they might even know how to fight too. Then you need your first aid badge up to date (within last 3 years). This is mightily sensible and I won't be trite about this issue. Several bits more paperwork and then, here comes the really onerous bit - the homework you have to do before being allowed to participate on the 2 day course which costs £100 plus travel.
Now, for some reason, I got my wires mixed up and did not realise that my 'distance learning pack' was actually a single letter with essay titles and a website url to visit. Somehow, in my pea sized brain, I simply did not read the letter properly until the deadline to submit these lovely essays passed by.
So after a few stern words from the BJJAGB officer and I am allowed to submit them a week later. Realistically, what with small issues of children that wake at 4am, a day job and a ju-jitsu club to run, it leaves me only two days (make that two late nights burning the midnight oil) to write 11...yes 11 essays each filling up one A4 page.
Oh boy, now I don't mind a bit of background reading around the subject. Heck I don't even mind exams. But to wade through pages and pages of bland, unstimulating, GCSE-sports-science articles about health and safety policy and communications skills doesn't exactly fill me with excitement. But I gotta do them since I run a club and it would be weird to be a coach and not be qualified to be a coach.
So, forgive me if I seem a little stressed, but it's been decades since I had to submit essays for homework and and I've 3 more essays to write (yes, the time really is 1:34am, leaving me with 3 hours sleep before my kids wake screaming). Oh joy of joys.

By the way, as light refreshment, see if you can make out if this guy in the youtube video, is real or a spoof. Those who have done even one minute of BJJ will see that the techniques offered are not bonafide BJJ, but the chi power thing made me suspect it as a spoof. Anyway, see what you think (thanks for Nick Brooks for passing this on).

Testing Times

Well Meerkatsu world is not exactly alight with martial art prowess at the moment as the ankle, despite making good recovery, is still too t...

30 Jun 2008

I can't help it, I love buying books about martial arts and especially Ju-Jitsu and BJJ books. I don't even read most of them, but I have to buy them.
But there are some that are worth mentioning, so here are my views on a couple, starting off with traditional jujitsu.

Ju-Jitsu, Eddie Ferrie, 1990

In the old days..I say old, I mean pre-UFC and the Gracies... jujitsu pretty much meant one thing - a syllabus-based system of self defence techniques culled from karate, judo and aikido with a few references to more ancient techniques and habits. BJJ has changed this and today, jujitsu could refer to quite a large range of styles. But let's stick with the jujitsu that we know and love and the one to which my JJ club mostly adheres to.

If you wanted to learn about this art in print form back in the oldie days, then Ferrie's book is the main guide to the background, history and modern day status of the art. It introduces all the aspects that typically the syllabus covers, from basic blocks, strikes and kicks to throws, locks, pressure points and weapons. It even has a section on gun defences! In general, the tone is light and easy without being burdoned by too much technicality. On the chapter of ground techniques, Ferrie wisely advises: "always keep the testicles protected...this is perhaps the most vulnerable part of the male anatomy"..quite.

Jiu-Jitsu, The Official WJJF TrainingManual, Robert Clark, 1991

So you've learned the history and liked what you saw in the Ferrie book. Back in the old days, you could learn all the syllabus techniques, step by step from the Robert Clark books. There was even a correspondence course one could follow with a black belt available by post to those who completed the course. Much has been muttered in JJ circles about this, and many other aspects surrounding the man Clark,but let's stick to the facts.

Robert Clark was one of the founding leaders of the style of JJ that most of us practice today and without his endeavours, arguably may not have been the success it is today. So we owe him some respect.

My own style of trad JJ closely follows the WJJF syllabus and so many of the techniques are identical (there is some argument about which came first...Sensei Parker says Jikishin came first so I'll take his word for it). Therefore I found these books to be very helpful when I was training for my kyu grades. Each technique is illustrated with four or five nicely posed and clear photos, followed by a short description. There is no discussion about the origin of the technique or the relevant possible applications, it is just a simple a-follows-b write-up. I personally would like more discussion for each technique.

The WJJF is still going, and these books can still be found on Amazon or Ebay. Worth getting if you train in trad JJ.

I wonder what Clark makes of all this cage fighting nonesense?

Ju-Jitsu, Martin Dixon, 2003

Here's a book written at a time when UFC, the Gracies and BJJ were starting to make big waves around the world of martial arts. In the ground fighting chapter, an allusion is made to this:

"ground-fighting has been very much in vogue in the last few years, but there is nothng new in the techniques."

This book basically follows the Ferrie book in terms of describing the components of the modern syllabus. But a huge chunk of the book is dedicated to non-technical aspects,including chapters on Ethics and Codes of Conduct, Philosophy, How to Find a Dojo etc.
I find all this boring and unnecessary. Speaking as a punter I want to see cool techniques and a description of how to do them.
But Sensei Dixon, who is Chairman of the governing body of Ju-Jitsu in Great Britain, obviously felt these were important to write about.
Overall however, the techniques are described fairly well and the photographs are a big improvement on the Ferrie and Clark books. It's a big ask to cover all the aspects of modern ju-jitsu in such a slim book but this book offers a useful introduction to beginners, if they skip the first half.

The Ju-Jitsu Handbook, Roy Inman, 2007

Roy Inman is an 8th dan in judo and a senior instructor at the world famous Budokwai in London. I was very curious that a judo expert was writing a ju-jitsu book so I bought it. At 250 odd pages it is the thickest ju-jitsu book here and it is in full colour.
Modern ju-jitsu shares many techniques with judo. In fact you could argue that ju-jitsu is judo with added punches and kicks. It is probably true to say, that given most ancient ju-jitsu ryu were secretive and unwritten, judo (and possibly aikido) was the only means by which modern syllabuses could be based. A sort of reverse engineering of martial arts.
Anyway, back to the book. The style offered here is very judo based obviously. The uke and tori in each photo really follow through with their throws in a very 'judo'style of throwing. That last sentance probably sounds pants but exponents of our style of ju-jitsu will probably understand what I mean. Although the photos are very clear, the accompanying descriptions are woefully brief.
Having said that. I like the book. The style difference is very minor so won't stop a student from picking up tips. The format is logical and and easy to follow. And all the basics are covered, from breakfalls to neck cranks and sacrifice throws. The ground-fighting chapter is a little better than the books above, but offers no more than a tiny selection of old-skool ground defences - as if BJJ never existed - which is strange given that it was printed in 2007. (and even stranger when you consider
Roger Gracie - unstoppable World Champion - trains in judo at the Budokwai too). Anyway, I digress.
To sum, this book is the best so far and worthy purchase for keen jitsuka everywhere.

Ju-Jitsu Book Reviews

I can't help it, I love buying books about martial arts and especially Ju-Jitsu and BJJ books. I don't even read most of them, but ...

25 Jun 2008

One of my biggest fears is the fear of making a tit out of myself when demonstrating a technique in front of my students at my JJ club. Well, that nightmare came true last night as I stupidly insisted we drill spinning kicks. It was all going swimmingly well, with everyone enjoying these strange twisty turny kick combos i was coming up with. I was gonna wrap things up, but no, I had to show off just one more technique. Ironically, the least flashy of all the one's so far - the simple jumping spinning back kick. Something I had practised a thousand times before in kickboxing. Last night however, I jumped a little too high, my body angle was all wrong and I landed on the outside blade of my foot, which gave way, a loud 'SNAP', and then me, crumpled on the floor weeping like a toddler. All in full view of everyone at the club. Lovely.
Thankfully, various club members acted swiftly in bringing ice, raising the leg and generally showing lots of serious concern and good advice. Of course I felt like a complete prat, lying there helpless as the rest of the class continued, but shit happens and there's no point going over the 'what if's'. It was only me that got hurt and better me than one of my students.
So here I am at home, hobbling around like Marty Crane from the TV show Frasier and acting all grumpy as it is so frustrating not being full bodied. I can't even pick up my kids, let alone contemplate doing martial arts.
But I suppose it gives me a bit of time to write my book reviews. And as it happens, my latest purchase arrived in the post today. I'll be reviewing this and adding my thoughts in the next blog post. Right, now for the ice pack.

Way of the Falling Idiot

One of my biggest fears is the fear of making a tit out of myself when demonstrating a technique in front of my students at my JJ club. Wel...

12 Jun 2008

Years ago, when my sensei handed me the reigns of the JJ club, I was worried about the big responsibility I was being given. He reassured me that after a short while, it would be a breeze but there would be the occasional tough times too. Largely, I have had nothing but good times and fun times. As a club runner, you get to try out any drills or techniques you like, you can watch students mature and progress, you can invite other experts down to show you new stuff, and generally, it is a privileged existence. But there are tough times too. The times when you have a stinking cold and can barely make it to the venue, or when only three people turn up, or a stranger turns up and tries to cause trouble, or the place is flooded, or a nasty injury occurs to a student etc. All of these have happened at my club.
Right now, it a little tough, I am nursing a painful neck which prevents me from demonstrating anything, and since the new year, newcomers and established members have dwindled slightly. But, as the person in charge, I have to keep things going, turn up and show my face regardless of the situation. And, as I celebrate ten years of being in jujitsu, I know by now that events go up and down in cycles. Club numbers will soon pick up and my injuries will heal. It’s all part and parcel of running a club.

In fact, my experiences with club running are nothing compared to some others. Sensei Grant, my current JJ instructor, runs a club from an army barracks, but for several months of the year, he cannot run the club there due to the army needing the space. Which would be fine except they give no notice, so many a time, students have been locked out or forced to train in a tiny squash court. Sensei G has finally got fed up and found a new venue. One with plush facilities and a clean room that will be the clubs to use as they like all year. BTW, he will be grading for the dizzy heights of 4th dan this Sunday, so again, we wish him good luck.

Another sensei, who I chatted with recently, runs a kids class and during one session, some youths broke in and started mouthing off. The sensei threw the youths out but minutes later, had to deal with an angry father intent on knowing why the sensei had, allegedly assaulted his son. The whole incident blew out of all proportion over the ensuing weeks as a whispering campaign by 'anonymous' pranksters led to numbers in his previously very full class, dropping fast. Anyway, the kid owned up to his misdemeanors and soon, the club members returned. Still, a cautionary tale.

My current neck injury was sustained sparring with Nick at the Mill Hill BJJ class the other night. We were working on triangle escapes all evening and during sparring of course, first thing Nick does is triangle me. My neck ‘cricked’ in an unnatural way and now I can’t look left, right or up and down without a lot of pain. I couldn't physically lower myself into bed that night amd it required the assitance of my wife to cradle my head and lower it onto the pillow (still attached to my torso I should add), where I lay there, blinking, unmoving for hours until my kids woke up yelling for attention. Poor Nick was overcome with apologies and regret, but sometimes, these things just happen, no one is to blame.
Anyway, I’ve had this type of injury before, years ago, it came on when my uke preformed an over zealous neck and spine lock (kinda like a BJJ crucifix lock, with lots of neck pressure). I was out for about three weeks, seeing physio and resorting at times to copious painkillers and a neck brace just to get by. My current neck injury is nothing of that magnitude, but it does suggest that I have a weakness there, and given my prediliction for grappling arts where the neck is a target, I should really be careful in future.

Anyway, Meerkat’s martial struggles will always continue and I promise to be in more upbeat mood next time.
BTW. The picture above has been doing the rounds on blogs and forums but I love it so much I reproduce it here to cheer up those feeling a bit blue. Thanks to Eddie Kone’s new blog for the link and a big congrats to him for being awarded his black belt in BJJ. An awesome achievement and the very pinnacle of the sport.

Upside down, inside out

Years ago, when my sensei handed me the reigns of the JJ club , I was worried about the big responsibility I was being given. He reassure...


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