Get the most out of an open mat

In a few weeks we will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary with an open mat sparring session. If all goes well we will have all available students (and some visitors) sharing the mat and testing their jiu jitsu against each other.

However, if you have never sparred before (or a little) or you only do jiu jitsu for self defence but you don’t want to miss out on a training session, the idea of an open mat can be a daunting one.

Here are some tips to get the best out of an open mat session.

1) You do jiu jitsu for self defence and you only have a few classes under your belt.

Great, go an find other students like yourself (you know who they are) and spend as much time as you want reviewing your techniques. This is a great opportunity to drill the techniques you already know or ask someone about a new technique they have previously learned.  Think about the reflex drills we often do at the end of a class, string some techniques together and practice the drills. Pair up with a more experienced student or your instructor and see if you can learn some new details that increase your proficiency in your already learned techniques.

This is also great advice for women who want to drill their self defence techniques.

2) You only have a few sparring classes experience

Take it easy. An open mat can be tiring if you spend all your energy in your first roll. Work on conservation of energy. Remember that it’s OK to tap, especially against experienced opponents. Use the time to see how to defend against common attacks and where the openings are. Ask questions. If someone does something cool let them show you how they did it and then ask them if you can try it on them. Seasoned jiu jitsu practitioners love sharing their cool tricks.

3) You are have been rolling for years.

Your job is very important. Besides having a huge amount of time to roll and (hopefully) new partners to roll with at some point you may partner up with someone mentioned above. Take this time to share your knowledge with others, or help them drill techniques, even if they may seem ‘boring’ to you. Remember that the foundation of a good practitioner is mastery of the basics, so reviewing the beginner techniques will only improve your game. Feel free to show off a cool new technique or two you have learned. People love to learn new, cool stuff!

If everyone respects the various levels of experience they may come across on the night and acts accordingly, not only does an open mat become a place to have run and roll but also a place where lessons can still be learned and your jiu jitsu can grow.

See you on the mat.

Interview with Moshe Kaitz

Moishe Kaitz is a Royler Gracie Black Belt who runs Gracie Humaita Israel. He was recently featured in two articles on the BBJ Eastern Europe website, showcasing his self defence based jiu jitsu. He graciously gave us the opportunity to chat to him about his jiu jitsu story.

Hi Moshe, thank you for taking some time to talk to us

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Moshe Kaitz, I am 37 years old and I live in Israel.

I teach Gracie Jiu Jitsu under the original Gracie Academy from Rio de Janeiro, Gracie Humaita.

I am a black belt under Royler Gracie and David Adiv.

I also have a professional MMA record of 6-2 with my last win over UFC title contender (and WEC world champion), Hermes Franca.

How and why did you get involved with Grace Jiu Jitsu?

As a kid I used to train Karate and even got a black belt.

I never felt good and confidence with Karate, in terms of self defence. I never felt that I could really handle against a bigger and stronger attacker.

One day I was watching TV and came across a show called UFC. it was UFC number 4. I saw Royce Gracie defeat Dan Severn and I was hooked!!

Actually I opened the TV when this fight, which was the final fight, was starting, at that time I didn’t even see the entire event.

I started training and soon realized that it would be the best to go to Brasil.
Went there, met Royler Gracie and since then I have been traveling every year to Brasil and USA, to train with Royler and David and all my friends from Gracie Humaita.

What do you like the most about Gracie Jiu Jitsu?

I do believe that Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the best martial art and it can really gives a chance to a smaller guy or girl against an attacker.

You have been promoted to Black Belt, perhaps you could share that story with us?

Over the years I was trying to stay as close as I can to my teachers,
take as much private classes with them, join them to as much seminars I can and of course, train in the academy with everybody, from white belts to the champions
It was a great honor to get the black belt from the legendary Royler Gracie.

You were recently featured in a few articles on the BJJEE website, specifically related to the self defence aspect of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. How did this come about and what has the reaction been like?

I believe in the old way. the real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the Gracie way.
Those who follow Helio Gracie methods are doing the real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The aspect of self defence is the real essence of this art and should be the essence of every martial art.

Sport jiu jitsu at the end of the day is a game with rules.
Of course the top competitors are tough and strong enough to handle themselves on the street even without knowing self defence, but these are a very small percentage of the general public.

The majority needs to learn the proper techniques in order to survive street aggression.
You could combine sports. It’s fun and actually can help you sharpen your fighting instincts, but you should try to use positions which make sense in a real fight.
The berimbolo, 50/50 worm guard and other “sportive” positions, will only get you in trouble.

In South Africa, the Israeli art of Krav Maga is gaining popularity as a self defence art. You are from Israel, but you chose GJJ. Why is that?

Krav Maga is nice and has its advantages & disadvantages, like everything else.
Personally, I don’t like it too much.

Does your school take part in competitions?

Of course, if someone likes to compete, we always support. Some of my students are doing very well in competitions.

What is your favourite Gracie Jiu Jitsu technique.

My favorite move is Mata Leao

Finally, do you have any last words for our readers?

Keep training, have fun and don’t forget the roots of this amazing art.
None of us started training to learn how to score points!

Thank you

The business of importing gi’s

An open letter to anyone who has ordered/wants to order a Gameness gi from Infinitus

As you know, Infinitus Jiu Jitsu is currently running on offer on Gameness gi’s from our website.

When I was contacted by Gameness, with the massive trade discount they offered, I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to get some great branded gi’s at a really good price. Who wouldn’t want to take up this offer?

My goal was to be able to pass the saving onto anyone who ordered a gi. All I wanted to do was cover international shipping costs. So I calculated what I expected this to cost, based on a cursory investigation and posted the prices online.

Then I got a call from James (Smart, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town), someone who has already had experience in importing goods for his school. He pointed out to me that I had possibly not taken into account the 40% import duty I would be charged, as well as the 14% VAT (over and above the already 12% Sales Tax from the UK) I would be charged on the gi’s. A second round of research and more calculations and I posted an update to the offer and a new range of prices.

At this stage the prices displayed only take into account the following:

  1. Cost price to me for the gi’s in Rands (calculated at the exchange rate at the time)
  2. 12% Sales Tax on the cost price (UK Tax)
  3. 40% import duty on the cost price
  4. 14% VAT (SA) on the cost price

This price excludes any international shipping/handling/customs charge that may or may not still be added during the process.

Because this is the first time I have tried this I really have no way of telling 100% what the final price will be. I am hoping it will only be a small additional amount on top of the prices on the posted prices. There are online calculators and tools that I can use to do this. However, because I want to make sure that anyone who orders is charged only what it actually costs to import the gi, it’s difficult to calculate a final price. If I was adding say a 50% profit mark up I could use that mark up to cover any additional charges. The problem is, at this stage I don’t know entirely what these charges will be.

So in line with this I would like to make the following promises.

  1. Once I have all the pre orders, I will do my best to make sure that before you confirm and pay for your order I have taken into account all factors and can give you the closest accurate price possible. Having said that, once the gi’s actually arrive, there may be a small additional charge on the gi that you may be required to pay. I will do my best to ensure this is a minor amount.
  2. I will ensure that the total cost to you is only what it is costing to get the gi to SA and that I am making no profit on this order, nor do I want to.
  3. Once I calculate an estimated final price and you are not in a position to pay/not prepared to pay that amount, I will not hold you to your order. No money will be required by you until you confirm you are happy with the price.
  4. I will keep you up to date, via email, of every step of the process.

Once I have completed the first order, I will have a much better idea of the costs involved and hopefully the second option to order will be much smoother. (That or I’ll give up trying all together.)

If anyone has any questions about this, or wishes to change or edit their order, please do so via the order form on the original offer.

Infinitus Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu, the antidote to bullying.

If you have met me or heard my story, you will know that it started way back in primary school, where I was a victim of school yard bullying.

Mine was not the atypical, Hollywood style ‘give me your lunch money or I’ll beat you up’ bullying. I don’t actually recall the full reasons, but to me it seemed that my circumstances were the cause of the taunts, name calling, pranks and beat downs. Based on who and what I was and probably various other factors I wasn’t even aware of, I was picked on and often beaten up by fellow class mates. Maybe I wasn’t ‘cool’ enough. Maybe I was a nerd. Maybe my sense of humour wasn’t understood or appreciated. Honestly, I can’t remember.

What I do remember was how if affected me as a person, both my confidence and my desire to fit in. It also lead me (eventually) to Jiu Jitsu. It is one of the main reasons I become an instructor, to be in a position to reach children who are experiencing the same things I did.

As an adult, I can look back at the (some vague, but still there) memories of bullying attacks and each time I can see how knowing Jiu Jitsu as a boy would have helped me in these situations.

  1. Jiu Jitsu techniques (especially the Bully Proof programme) are taught in a fun, safe, playful environment, so that as a child you not only learn how to defend yourself, but get some good healthy exercise at the same time.
  2. Jiu Jitsu teaches you how to control and subdue an attacker without inflicting any injury on them while doing so.
  3. Once you know how you can deal with a bully, physically if you need to, you now have the confidence to stand up to them.
  4. This confidence leads to the ability to shrug off any taunts that are directed at you in the first place, never having to place yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself anyway.

If I had one wish, it would be to have enough time and resources to teach every single child in the country the art of Jiu Jitsu.

For now, I’ll happily settle on reaching every child in my community.

Jiu jitsu, the best form of self defence for women?

Walk into any GJJ/BJJ gym/club/school and take a look at the split between genders. I’ll guarantee that it’s probably a male to female ratio of something like 1 in 10. Perhaps more. Why is this the case? If jiu jitsu is supposed to be a good form of self defence for women, why don’t more women take part?

The answers to this question lie partly in the following article by Eve Torres, a model/actress/performer who also trains Gracie Jiu Jitsu, is currently married to Rener Gracie and teaches the Gracie Women Empowered programme at Gracie Academy in LA.

In my short experience as an instructor some, if not all, of the following reasons are common.

  1. Ladies don’t want to take part in a sport where you willingly allow someone, possibly a strange man, into your personal space.
  2. Jiu Jitsu tends to attract males to the sport, and it can be intimidating for a women to train in this environment.
  3. It’s not really fun or feminine rolling around on the ground getting sweaty.

In the old days of the original Gracie Academy in Brazil, the idea of a group class didn’t exist. All lessons were done in a private class format. As long as the student felt comfortable with the instructor, the lesson was held. This would have made it much easier for a woman to learn the defensive techniques of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

For those ladies who want to learn some form of self defence, but find it hard to make that first step, I have some advice I can offer.

  1. Take the first class with someone you trust. A husband, boy friend, good friend, cousin, brother, sister, mom, whoever. There is nothing easier than attempting something strange and scary with a partner.
  2. As much as it is hard to allow someone into your personal space, remember that a would be attacker will not have a problem with it. You are better off having already experienced this with someone you trust, than your personal space being invaded by an unknown attacker.
  3. Make sure you ask any and all questions that come to mind. The instructor is there to help you not only learn the technique, but also to tailor it to your specific strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Ignore the rolling. I’ve said this before, but if you search ‘Brazillian Jiu Jitsu’ online I guarantee you will come across a bunch of links of sweaty men rolling around in pajamas. This is only one aspect of jiu jitsu. Do yourself a favour and take a look at the Gracie Women Empowered programme to see how jiu jitsu can be applied in real life situations

Finally, if you do take the big step in trying out jiu jitsu, and it really isn’t for you, then don’t give up. There are many other martial arts/self defence programmes out there that may suit you better.

The old saying, ‘rather be safe than sorry, applies. Rather learn some self defence and not need it, than not learn anything and need it one day.

5 Tips to get ready for your Blue Belt assesment

The blue belt is probably the most important and, I believe, coveted belt in Jiu Jitsu. It is the first belt you have to ‘grade’ for and indicates that you have progressed from the rank of beginner and can now start your journey towards mastery of the art.

I’ve had the opportunity to take my blue belt assessment three times. Not that I failed any of them, the first was my actual blue belt test, the second was to qualify to be accepted into Gracie Jiu Jitsu Cape Town’s Instructor programme and the third was to be accepted into the Gracie Academy’s Instructor programme. As such I feel I can confidently say I am qualified to advise what is required to pass your blue belt assessment with flying colours.

1) Get a good bad guy.

The most important aspect if your assessment is not how well you know the techniques, but how well your bad guy does. The assessment is aimed at testing your reflexes against the most common forms of attack, as detailed in the Combatives programme. If your bad guy does not know and understand all the attacks, as well as how to effectively and, most importantly, realistically present them to you, you stand as good a chance of failing as you do if you don’t know the techniques well enough.

The best kind of bad guy is either someone you have trained with extensively, another blue belt, or your instructor. Remember however that your instructor may not be available to be your bad guy as he will probably be the one filming the drills, so rather make sure you have someone else in mind.

2) Know your techniques.

I know this sounds pretty obvious, but it actually isn’t. I’ve had the opportunity to assist a few students over the course of the past 3 years with their assessment preparation and believe me, a lot of people who think they know the techniques well are surprised at how many key details they have missed or forgotten (myself included).  The human brain can only process so much extra information so unless you are training techniques for 1 or 2 hours every day, some pieces of information get lost.

Not only that, but knowing the descriptive names of the techniques will go a long way to assisting your execution of them in a timed drill.

Your best course of action, if you can’t train every day,  is to review the Combatives videos (either via DVD or online) as much as possible. Even to this day I often review techniques when preparing a lesson and I pick up little details I have forgotten.

3) Use your time wisely.

We all love rolling. It’s one of the most fun things in Jiu Jitsu. But there is ample time to roll once you have your blue belt. While you are preparing for your assessment use any spare time (even rolling time) to practice and review your techniques or assessment drills.

When I took my first assessment, my training partner Duncan and I gave up our rolling time to practice our assessment drills. Even if it is only one rolling session per class you give up, it will be worth it in the long run.

4) Time yourself.

Each of the five assessment videos needs to be filmed within 5 minutes. Trust me, you don’t want to find out on filming day that you can’t do the techniques for a drill within that time. Before you even book your assessment day, make sure you have at least completed all 5 drills within the time limits.

5) Instructor input.

This is not a requirement, but once you have completed all 4 steps above, I suggest booking one (or two if required) private classes with your instructor. Often he/she will be able to give you pointers in areas that you haven’t thought of, or pickup critical errors you aren’t aware of, just because they a) know the techniques well and b) are seeing your execution of the techniques from a different perspective.

If nothing else, it will help break that fear of doing the drills in a timed environment while someone else is watching. Stage fright can be a game changer come assessment day.

And finally, above all else, remember to always, always, ALWAYS stand up in base!

Excerpts from my self defence talk at the last Girl Geek Dinners in Cape Town

I recently had the opportunity to do a short self defence talk at the March Cape Town Girl Geek Dinner

Below is an abridged version of that talk.

“Hi my name is Jonathan, I am a developer, gamer, geek, husband and dad. And from the age of about 5 to about 13, because of my nature and circumstances, I was bullied at school. This led me in my adult life to find something that would give me the tools to defend myself and the confidance to be to do so. I found these answers in Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Before I start I want to ask two questions

1) How many of you have a plan for backing up your data/work files

2) How many of you have a plan for if you are attacked in the street/driving home/in a mall

Isn’t it sad that most of the room have a plan for question 1, but only a handful of people in this room have a plan for the question 2.

Because I am talking specifically to ladies tonight I want to talk about the reasons that women typically dont do self defence. I refer to the following article, where Eve Torres, WWE performer and Gracie Jiu Jitsu student talks about why she didn’t want to ever take a self defence class :

1) I didn’t think it would happen to me. I thought I was pretty vigilant and aware of my surroundings.

2) Even if it did happen to me, I wouldn’t really be able to defend myself. All the kicking and striking in the world couldn’t incapacitate a larger attacker, especially since I couldn’t even hold my own against my younger brother at the time!

3) I didn’t want to look stupid, or get hurt training. I was already putting my body at risk with the work I was doing in the ring with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), and I couldn’t afford an injury.

4) It didn’t appear that fun or feminine. I would much rather take a dance class or hit the gym on my own.

The truth of it is that Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the only self defence program that I have found that requires no previous experience, that deals specifically with being attacked by a larger, stronger assailant, that will not result in injury during training and that is loads of fun.

Before I end off, I’d like to list the reasons why I, as a geek, think Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the ultimate form of self defence for other geeks:

  1. We like elegant solutions to problems
  2. We don’t like to reinvent the wheel
  3. Mostly (pause for sarcastic smile) we are not the biggest fans of exercise regimes
  4. We are methodical and apply a methodical approach to our work and lives
  5. We like structure and a structured approach to problem solving

Gracie Jiu Jitsu fits into all of these criteria

Thank you and good night”

What I learned from the Metamoris Pro Invitational

1) Take out the points and give a longer time limit and you will see some great submission finishes.

2) Keeping it too playful can go too far and put you in a really bad position.

3) Even the boogeyman can be defeated by good technique

3) Arm bars can be escaped from but only when you are in a competition/rolling environment. Faster hip pressure and that arm snaps.

4) Sometimes even World Champions can be sore losers.

5) If Rener Gracie was so badly injured that he could no longer practice jiu jitsu, he definitely has a career in sports/jiu jitsu/MMA commentary.

6) Next time, I’ll wake up early and watch the replays, not the live stream (the time delay between the US and SA is just too much).

All in all a great jiu-jitsu tournament, I am starting to look forward to the next one.

KeepItReal vs KeepItPlayful

Very recently, Ryron Gracie, head instructor of Gracie Academy has started being promoting something he has called the KeepItPlayful Movement.

In essence, the ideals of the KeepItPlayful movement are aimed at teaching students of the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu to never allow egos to dominate their sparring/training. By keeping it playful during a sparring session, one’s aim is never to dominate your opponent with the goal of submissions only. Instead you and your opponent allow each other to experiment with jiu jitsu, or as Ryron calls it, to ‘play’ jiu jitsu. In this manner both of you learn something new about yourselves/your opponent/the techniques, while at  the same time you are able to train with a vast majority of opponents, without running out of steam or injuring yourself.

This is a mindset that I have been in agreement with for some time now and anyone who has read this blog will attest to that. In all my sparring sessions my goal is to keep it as relaxed as possible, so that I can learn more about my jiu jitsu and the jiu jitsu of my opponent.

However it is important to remember that sometimes when keeping it playful you can often forget that you also need to keep it real, a sentiment that both Ryron and his brother Rener Gracie have installed in many jiu jitsu students who have watched their videos or participated in a seminar or class with either of them.

Keeping it real shifts the focus of jiu jitsu to the self defence applicability of the techniques and ensures that you are also spending some of your training time in honing your self defence skills. Does this technique ensure that I am preventing a knock out punch? Can I maintain this position against a larger, stronger opponent? Would this work if my life depended on it?

In my humble opinion both mindsets are valid in the right circumstance. I think it is great the Ryron is promoting the KeepItPlayful Movement.

However we should never forget the importance of KeepingItReal. In my/an ideal world, Rener would be promoting the KeepItReal movement in parallel to Ryron’s KeepItPlayful movement, reminding us all of both sides of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu coin…