30 Jul 2009

BJJ is the best martial art and combat sport in the world...fact. Sadly, not everyone in the martial arts world agrees. I was curious to see what bloggers and forum posters from other styles had to say about BJJ. Here are some choice snippets. Of course these views are simply those expresed by one person at a time and may not represent the general consensus but they give a reflection of views outside the closeted world of BJJ:

"It requires more skill to become a good thrower than to be good at ground...If I do a clean throw with no mat/tatami and smash someone's head into cement I guarantee it's game over. Nobody rolls on the hard ground, especially when others are around to kick heads."
From Judo Boy, Apr 23rd 2009, Seattle Dojo Forums.

"My opinion (READ: OPINION) Technique wise Aikido is really rich compared to the B Jujitsu. It will be hard for a B Jujitsu to tackle down a well versed AIKIDOKA...On the ground with the B Jujitsu on top of me ( We started with me lying down) I was able to do both IKKYO and NIKKYO on one of the hands holding me down."
From Aries Navy 26/2/02 aikiweb forum

"I think BJJ is overrated...Aikido to me is a martial art BJJ is a sport...Both have applications for self-defense, but both are flawed. If you really wanna learn to defend yourself take a 6 week Krav Maga course."
From Erik 13/9/07, Aikiweb forum

"fighting on the ground like this, doesn't protect your balls... A real street fight have no rules... and jujitsu is doomed to fail. And if your opponent is a real ninjutsu artist, and go for a free for all, he would just poke your eyes out with his fingers."
From Ling1134, commenting on Rorian versus Kung fu guy video here:

" if anyone has noticed recent UFC and other "MMA" fights, the one using the guard is getting his face pounded to a pulp, but he still maintains the guard. This is the most absurd thing I have ever seen!"
"Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques are neither Brazilian nor Jiu Jitsu. They are a stylize form of Japanese Judo, and they may be highly effective under the rules of a competitive format designed for it, but it is NOT a reliable form of self-defense in a street attack!"
From:www.alljujitsu.com - The Problem with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Techniques, by Commander Nitro.

Can't you just feel the love people, feel the love.

Feel the love - What do other martial artists think of BJJ?

BJJ is the best martial art and combat sport in the world...fact. Sadly, not everyone in the martial arts world agrees. I was curious to see...

28 Jul 2009

  1. Gi - Faixa Rua Classico (one of four currently in use)

  2. Belt - blue Evolution Fightwear size 3, cut to size

  3. Rash guard - Koral short sleeve

  4. Ear guard - Brute Shockwave

  5. Groin guard - Shock Doctor Ultra Carbon Groin Guard

  6. Gum shield - Opro custom fit, stars on blue

  7. Tape - Boots stretch dressing tape

  8. Contact lenses - Acuvue One Day toric lenses

  9. Spectacles case

  10. Fight shorts - Atama

  11. Protein drinks shaker - Sci-Max mixer

  12. Deodorant spray - Adidas sport

Funny. For an empty hand martial art, one sure can bring a lot of stuff along to class. Some guys rock up to class with nothing more than their gi and belt. Others lug a sports bag so huge, you could sleep inside one. I'm kind of in between. I carry all this with me because I really need them for every session. For competitions though, rash guard, ear guard and groin guards are not allowed. The tape is really handy for all sorts of emergencies, mainly bolstering finger joint pain. I always bring spare lenses and my glasses. The drinks bottle is great for avoiding lumpy protein shakes. And I always bring shorts just in case someone wants a bit of no-gi sparring. This is pretty much everything that is inside my kit bag.

What's inside the kit bag?

Gi - Faixa Rua Classico (one of four currently in use) Belt - blue Evolution Fightwear size 3, cut to size Rash guard - Koral short sleeve ...

25 Jul 2009

I thought I would kick off my once-in-a-while BJJ Academy tour with an easy one - RGA Vie is part of the Roger Gracie family and many of the Mill Hill crew go down there to train so I felt at home the moment I opened the Roger Gracie logo'ed door. The gym is located in the basement of the Vie Health Club and is permanently matted wall to wall. The training area is partitioned into two by a couple of large pillars, but these don't seem to get in the way too much. I would say it is a small mat area, but big enough to cope with perhaps 15-20 students. The walls have cool 'Vie' graffitti spray art.

Class today was taught by Cesar Lima, a brown belt. But as it was Friday, most of the time was open mat sparring so I didn't really drill any techniques.

I rolled with couple of white belts and a female purple belt. As there was no time limit set, we just rolled and rolled until a natural break occurred. I would say each roll was about ten minutes long. The guys and girl were very friendly and I struck up a nice rapport with the crew. As it is a fairly new academy, most of the gang were white belts with a few blues. Amora, the purple belt female, had earned her belt from another association.

One interesting piece of equipment was a thick rope suspended parallel to the ceiling so that one could monkey climb along it upside down. At the end of the rope was a horizontal bar for chin ups. I was so zonked from sparring, it being in an airless cellar, I did not attempt the rope. It looked a bit formidable but I have no doubt it is awesome for tough upper body and grip training.

Finally, the big benefit of training here I would say is the top notch health club facilities. You get proper showers, lockers, huge changing area, drinks machine, towels, leather armchairs in reception - everything you expect from a proper gym. The cost to me was £14 drop-in fee. RGA members pay £8 so I'm going to ask if my Mill Hill RGA membership counts for the discount next time I attend. I doubt it, but it's always worth asking.

RGA Vie is located on 122 Clerkenwell Road, London. Buses 55 from Oxford Street or Farringdon tube is nearest. Classes Monday - Saturday all day. See website for further details.

Academy Tour - RGA Vie, Clerkenwell, London

I thought I would kick off my once-in-a-while BJJ Academy tour with an easy one - RGA Vie is part of the Roger Gracie family and many of th...

23 Jul 2009

Just got to big up my new Opro gumshield. This little beauty fits like a glove and has already saved me from cutting my tongue on my own teeth (I tend to spar open mouthed so any knock and my tongue gets caught).
The Opro gumshields are the next step up from boil your own types. When you order one online, they send you a putty mix and you make your own dental mold. Then you send it back and they laser a gumshield that exactly matches your dental pattern. At £40 it's cheaper than a custom fit job from the dentist, although obviously more expensive than the boil your own. I can honestly say, after one session wearing it, the Opro is very good indeed. No gagging, no looseness, no cutting of the gums. It is well worth the money.
BJJ training is going ok. I'm not making any particularly big strides with my new sparring style, but then I'm not necessarily making too many errors as before, so I think I'm going in the right direction. In between training sessions, I've been adding some road work (cool term for basically jogging badly round the park), kettlebell sets and generally trying to get fitter. One of my biggest problems at the last comp was gassing out too early. I want to give myself a better chance at the forthcoming Grapplers Showdown London Open in August. I've also ordered a Powerbar. This chin-up bar does not need to be screwed into the wall, and the bar itself is set high above the top door frame, so you don't have to bend the knees when dangling. When it arrives, I'll post a little review here.

Opro gumshield

Just got to big up my new Opro gumshield. This little beauty fits like a glove and has already saved me from cutting my tongue on my own te...

19 Jul 2009

I've mentioned before that I came across a very geeky subset of BJJ gi reviews on the Sherdog gear and equipment review section of their forum. These guys examine their newly purchased gis with the kind of staggering level of detail usually reserved for family cars or a new U2 album. So to pay homage to these reviews, I thought I would do my own. Handily, I have a brand new Faixa Rua Classico gi and a fairly new Vulkan Pro Lite. So here it is in all its quasi-scientific glory [all photos by Meerkatsu, click on pic for larger versions]:


Manufacturer: Faixa Rua (website: faixarua.net/)
Model: Classico in white
Size tested: A2
Weave: Goldweave top, denim cotton trousers
Weight: 1.6kg (?? with embroidery)
Manufactured: Pakistan
Overarm sleeve: 78cm brand new / 72 after one 40C then one 60C wash
Underarm sleeve length: 55 / 51cm
Sleeve width: 19 / 18cm
Jacket length: 77.5 / 74cm
Trouser length outside: 101 / 101
Trouser length inside: 68 / 68
Trouser ankle width: 23 / 23
Trouser knee width: 27 / 27
TOTAL Average % SHRINKAGE: 6.2% (top), 0% (trousers)

This gi is very light, comparable to the Vulkan Pro Lite. The weave appears to be a goldweave pattern, but seems much thinner than other goldweaves I have owned eg Atama. The cut is of the two-piece design with no seam on the back and no separate skirt. There are double reinforced areas under the arms, around the shoulders and by the notch at the jacket base. It interesting to note the shrinkage percentage is greater along the length of the arms, and less so in jacket length - possibly due to the direction of the weave.

The routine to shrink the jacket (40, then 60 degree wash) was effective in reducing sleeve length and jacket length. I may require one more 60 degree wash for a perfect fit, but it is already at an acceptably good fit. The lapel is made from thick spongy rubber. It felt like it would be hard to choke me easily.

Embroidery and patchesThe embroidered pattern on the back is very intricate, and the workmanship to be of a very high standard. I was worried beforehand that it would be too stiff and may even buckle after several washes, but has not turned out to be the case. Some may feel impeded by the obvious presence of a solid patch on the back, but not me. Although I did wear a rash guard during testing. Apart from the embroidery, the gi is fairly minimal in design with red shoulder strips and a small logo on the trousers.

I do not have scales so it would be interesting to see how much the embroidery adds to the overall weight.

TrousersThe trousers are held up by a flat cotton cord.

I prefer these flat cotton ties to the cheaper feel of the 'rope' style ties. The loops are logically placed. I've never understood why some makers place a loop right in the centre, under your navel. The knees are double lined as is the case with all BJJ and judo trousers. However the denim type material feels much heavier than other brands. This is an area that could be improved. The trousers did not shrink at all even after a 60 degree wash. For me, I may end up wearing one of my old trousers as it is too long for me.

Comfort during class
Rolling with the gi during class was brilliant. It felt incredibly light and comfortable to wear. The addition of the club embroidery drew admiring comments from class mates. Although the sleeves are a tad long and wide for me (see below), it was not an issue that vastly affected the outcome during sparring. Long term durability may be an issue over a year or two. But, as with any gi, it depends on how frequently the gi is worn and washed. I may report back on this after 6 months usage.

Comparison with Vulkan Pro Lite
My Vulkan Pro lite is about a 2 months old and has undergone about 8-10 washes. Vulkan call their material 'honeycomb weave', but it is effectively a thin single weave. It is advertised as 'pre-shrunk' but most users experience a small degree of shrinkage after one wash.

Sleeve aperture is a big issue here. There is a considerable difference, the Faixa gi being 18cm wide and the Vulkan is 14cm. For those who like to do ezekiel chokes, this is a bonus. For those who get caught in spider guards, this is a bit of a pain.

Interestingly the Faixa collar is much thicker than the Vulkan. This could help defending against lapel chokes.
[CORRECTION: the above photo says 'Ultra' but the gi I reviewed is a Vulkan Pro Light, not the Ultra model] 

A comparison of the trousers, you can see the Faixa is considerably longer than the Vulkan. The material is much thicker also. Reinforcements, cords and loops are roughly the same.

Overall, I would rate this gi a 9 out of 10. The high rating reflects the high quality and good value of the product. The lightness and comfort of the gi matches, and even surpasses that of other, more expensive brands. There were a few slight issues regarding the cut of the sleeves and the non-shrinking trousers, but these are fairly minor points. In fact, I after a while I forgot what gi I was wearing. This in the end is what a gi should do - ie to allow you to forget niggly little things and concentrate on your game.

This gi can be purchased online, or from select suppliers at a cost of around £60 (plus P+P if ordering online). This is a 1/3 cheaper than well known brands such as Koral and Vulkan. The downside is that it may not acquire a high resale value. I have for example sold many of my older gis on Ebay (several Atamas and one Koral) and obtained at least 40-50 percent value on them.

I would rate the Vulkan Pro an 8/10 and my Atama Mundial No#1 as a 7.5 mainly due to their comparitavely high cost. The Vulkan pro trousers are much better than the Faixa ones, but the jackets are equally comfortable. Considering the cheaper cost of the Faixa model, it represents a great mid-range priced gi for the beginner and experienced competitor alike.
Embroidery I believe is only available on bulk club orders. More details on this can be acquired by emailing Faixa Rua.

Another impartial reviewer asserts his opinion


Geek-gi Review - Faixa Rua Classico (embroidered) vs Vulkan Pro Lite

I've mentioned before that I came across a very geeky subset of BJJ gi reviews on the Sherdog gear and equipment review section of the...

15 Jul 2009

First up, some exciting news. Our BJJ club, Mill Hill Roger Gracie BJJ, will be moving to a brand new, purpose built location in a few weeks time. The builders are currently busy working round the clock to refurbish it. Nick tells us it is 2,000 square feet, will be permanently matted, open 7 days a week and hold classes in BJJ, subgrap, MMA, Thai boxing, judo and conditioning.

I've seen glimpses of the place and it looks amazing. It kind of looks like an old style warehouse but with a tallish roof and skylights. Actually, a bit like a mini version of the main RGA dojo. Everyone is getting really excited. And best of all - it is still in Mill Hill, thus avoiding the embarrassing situation where you are called one name, but located in another.
Hopefully we'll have a proper opening night and get some big BJJ names down to celebrate with us. Goodbye old scouts hall, hello cool new dojo.

Since Roger Gracie told me my sparring ability looked a little lost, I've been really focusing on rolling with a purpose. It means I'm playing a much slower game as I set my grips and try to make them work harder and waiting for the appropriate moment to attack, rather than my usual continuous and frankly random switching around all the time. I also took a private with Nick to go over my last competition video. His conclusion was that I needed to recognise when a certain guard was not working and progress from there to another guard position. Mainly, that my de la riva guard was ineffectively applied but there were moments I could have moved to sitting up guard.
So, with those two facets in mind, I have noticed my sparring has definitely changed. It's too early to say if I've made improvements to my game, but I'll reassess it in a few weeks time.

Oh nearly forgot to mention. I rolled with my new Brute Shockwave Earguards the other night. Man, did I get grief from some of the guys mocking me in jest, but I'll be laughing when they're syringing their gunk out of their fat cauli ears, Ha! Seriously, I found the earguard to be no impediment when rolling and after a ten minutes or so, forgot I was wearing them so £30 wisely spent I think.

Meerkatsu's Academy Tour
I'm annoucing my UK tour. Ha, sounds like I'm a rock band doesn't it?
The plan is to visit a few BJJ academies regardless of affiliation, and write about my experience there, maybe interview the instructor, learn some new stuff, meet cool new people etc. It's not a new idea - Jadon is currently doing the same thing with his BJJ Pilgrimage - and others have written about their worldwide versions. But it's something I'd like to do too, so we'll see how it goes. I already have a few invites from various instructors, who have read my blog and BJJ reports, so that's a good start.

Hon Bu

First up, some exciting news. Our BJJ club, Mill Hill Roger Gracie BJJ , will be moving to a brand new, purpose built location in a few week...

13 Jul 2009

Just picked up my new Faixa Rua goldweave fully embroidered club gi. The base of the main section also has the words: Roger Gracie Jiu Jitsu Team but I cropped in to get a closer picture of the logo.

There seems to be a trend in the UK BJJ scene at the moment for personalised pimped up gis. Some fall just within the boundaries of the CBJJ rules on patches and logos, some fall wayyyy outside. But I think it is a sign of how confident the scene is growing in the UK that a guy and rock up to a tournament wearing a salmon pink gi, and he fights a guy wearing a jet black gi with white trimmings and cartoons on his legs. And as for the ladies, man have any of you seen the awesome custom-dyed gis that Catfight gear make?
Check out a couple here:

Above courtesy of gringabjj blog
Below, courtesy of Catfight Gear website.

Personally, I love a bit of customisation. But I probably would draw the line when it comes to the gi below courtesy of Happy Kimonos...

Tie-dye is definitely an acquired taste in my view. But fair dos, nice try at being creative. And to think in the old days, turning up in a black gi was considered the height of self expression.

My new pimped up gi

Just picked up my new Faixa Rua goldweave fully embroidered club gi. The base of the main section also has the words: Roger Gracie Jiu Jitsu...

6 Jul 2009

I wonder why 40 is celebrated as one of those big milestone birthdays? Could it be that it marks the moment when you can finally relinquish silly notions you may have previously had of becoming a (i) rock star, (ii) Wimbledon champion, (iii) remotely good at fighting?
Luckily for me, my wonderful wife still lets me believe I can continue my quest to improve at (iii) above and arranged for me to have a private training session with none other than Roger Gracie. It was the best birthday present I've ever had and an eye-opening training session with the World's best grappler.

Private lesson
And so to business. Roger asked me what I wanted to go over. I mumbled something about learning some cool techniques and he suggested we roll for a bit to see what my weak areas were. So we started off with me trying to pass his guard. Roger let me stand up and open the guard, then, in a comedy moment I got excited and tried to step over his legs, rather like you would step over a puddle of milk on the kitchen floor. I was so unbalanced that I tripped and fell on top of him. He laughed and said that I had 'swept myself over'. Um yeah, not a great start. But almost immediately he pointed out some crucial alterations I could make to my attempts that were a great improvement.

Next up was passing half guard. I get caught with this all the time. Roger showed me three very simple but effective passes. All involved simultaneously applying large degrees of pressure onto the opponent whilst trying extract the trapped leg. One involved my shoulder and his gi lapel effecting a choke and Roger urged me to put it on full strength. his gagging, choking noises sounded convincing enough for me to think that I really was choking him out. Maybe I was. He said I was. Good Lord. Imagine little me, choking out the World Champ!!!

Finally, Roger wanted to check out my guard game. Aha! I thought, this is where I am most comfortable, surely the 9 times World Champion would be impressed here. So he sat there in my guard and I gripped here, opening guard there, twisted left, bended right....basically working real hard to do something to break his posture. After a few minutes, I stopped and Roger gave me his assessment. He said, I seemed to look...a little lost. LOST! But I thought I was playing a cool fast and furious game, yet the reality was that I resembled nothing more than a small child fumbling in the dark! I was mortified by his withering assessment. But, all was not lost, he showed me what he prefered I should do; it was nothing more simple than being more patient, not to change grips so often and just trying to break posture before attacking. So I tried again and perhaps faired a little better (ie didn't look so silly).

The biggest lesson he wanted me to take away was to concentrate on understanding what the opponent will do next (as a result of my attempted techniques). I can only do this by repeatedly attempting the same few favourite moves during sparring and analysing how the opponent reacts each time.

Roger gave the example of his friend Braulio Estima. He told me Braulio knows thousands of moves, and yet in the intensity of a black belt fight, he will often opt for only his 2 most favourite moves. These moves have been practised so much, that he knows every conceivable reaction his opponents will make, and thus can counterattack at a hairstroke.

So overall, a great session. One hour seemed to zip along. I felt like we had covered so much and all his tips and pointers were already filling my head, and at the same time oozing out the other side. It was a rare privilege for Roger does not give privates out to anyone. So I have to thank my beautiful wife and my coach Nick, for arranging this.

Insider Knowledge
I asked Roger about his Mundials fights. How was it that he had managed to submit ALL his opponents with basically the same choke? He corrected me, with some pride, by stating that 3 were ezekiel chokes, one was a guillotine and the others were collar chokes. Roger explained that when he finally got into mount position, his opponents were so desperate in trying to shove him off, that they extended their arms to push him away, thus leaving their necks unprotected. It was then fairly straightforward matter for him to attack with chokes. The principles of patience, and using the technique at the right time, that roger taught me today, also applied to Roger himself during his actual fights.

It was also interesting to see Roger train. I got to the RGA academy a little early and he was working on conditioning drills - the same animal workout drills I mentioned before. He said he had his third big MMA match coming up in 6 weeks so was beginning his preparations in earnest. I guess soon he will be going to the States to continue his MMA training with Renzo Gracie. Which leads me nicely onto my final bit...

Renzo Gracie, Legacy.
This week I watched the Renzo Gracie documentary, Legacy. Oh my God, this is THE best martial arts doc I've ever seen. It is just so well made but Renzo himself, is such a HUGE character he positively jumps out of the TV screen, grabs you by your neck and chokes you out. There are several excellent reviews of Renzo's film already online so I won't add to the review list other than by saying it is a MUST SEE film for anyone into MMA, grappling, BJJ or just curious to see what a complete nutter he is (I mean this in the nicest possible way of course). You can buy the DVD here.
More RGA training photos on Flickr here:

My one-on-one with Roger Gracie

I wonder why 40 is celebrated as one of those big milestone birthdays? Could it be that it marks the moment when you can finally relinquish ...

3 Jul 2009

In a parallel universe, the academy would be my home, the instructor my parent and training partners would be my brothers and sisters. BJJ is our food, clothing and warmth. So I want to describe my brothers and sisters to everyone - the cast who are roughly in my weight class and with whom I train with week in week out. To spare their blushes, I'm using their in-club nick-names. So come into my home and meet the family:

Spidey is thin, light and fast. An ideal training partner for anyone except that Spidey is very laid back. An academic sort, he once fell asleep at competition waiting for his name to be called and got disqualified. But when Spidey wants to, he can tie you up in a sticky jiu jitsu web.

Sweet-tooth is one of those guys that just looks like he wouldn't say boo to a goose he's always so incredibly well mannered and polite. Don't be fooled. Sweet-tooth is an assassin on the mat.

Princess Leia
Princess Leia is on the outside quiet and demure. On the mats, she is a devil to pass, with a very tough closed guard and Houdini-like escapes. Rubbery, athletic, fast and strong, Princess Leia definitely has 'The Force'.

Macaquinho (Little Monkey)
Small, hairy but incredibly strong, macaquinho is generous to a fault and has helped me out a hell of a lot for pre-comp training. Little M lets you roll just enough to make you think you are doing well, then, notches it up a level and chokes you at a moments notice. Little M inspires me to improve all the time.

The Bull
The Bull is from Slovakia where fighters are hewn from mountain granite and forest timber - these guys are tough tough tough. Short and stocky, Bull only rolls one way - fast forward with the might of a bull raging towards a red rag (I am that rag). He's the ideal partner for pre-comp training with his never-cease attacking spirit.

Double Cheese Burger.
DCB is one of those kids who hits puberty really young and goes from boy to man overnight. He's big for his age sure, in fact he's big full stop. And sparring with him is a really tough roll. At the moment, I can just about cope. But his youth means he can only continue to get better and better. He does however like to remind people how many Gold medals he has won - just in case we forget.

What more can be said about our resident kid prodigy? Winner of billions of medals, the Superboy is now Superman since he's beefed up a weight class and is now too big and too strong for me to even remotely stand any chance of holding my own (not that I did before).

Those be just some of the guys and girls that I partner up regularly with. There are a whole gang of bigger guys who I have not mentioned. I'll save that for another post.

Meet the family

In a parallel universe, the academy would be my home, the instructor my parent and training partners would be my brothers and sisters. BJJ i...


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