Training without training.

It’s good to be back. The feel of the mat, speaking jiu-jitsu with fellow students, the awesomeness of the rolling. The Feastive season is over and I am training jiu-jitsu again, and its great!

Something that I spent some time doing in the off time was thinking about the previous years sparring and techniques learned and trying to find where my weak points are. I pictured the techniques in my brain and then thought about the next logical series of movements, trying to analyse and improve my jiu-jitsu technique. James has always spoken of visualisation and how it can be as good as the real thing, but I had never really tried it out.

To my surprise I found that it did indeed pay off. I found myself able to switch from one postion to the next without having to think to hard about it. It’s almost as if the time spent thinking about the techniques had trained my brain to react more quickly under the pressure of a live opponent.

I’m not saying that I am now suddenly brilliant, but I can definately see an improvement. I think I may do some more research on this.

On a less technical note, our first class of the year was a great one, Gary allowed us to roll for pretty much the entire class. Awesome way to start the new year!


Gary, one of my instructors at Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Cape Town, posted an article on the Academy’s facebook group.

While I’m sure the article is meant in a light hearted fashion, there are some truths to be learned here.

Reading this made me think of how we train in jiu-jitsu. My instructors are always reminding us to relax while sparring and try to be in a learning mindset. Being the (alpha) males we are, this is usually a difficult concept and one that many people take some time to learn. The reality of the situation is that in relaxing ourselves we are opening our minds up to the essence of the technique and really learning how to apply our skills in combat.

This was made all the more real to me recently. As much as I try to roll with as many different people at the Academy, there are one or two people that I tend to try and roll with regularly. Generally these people are a higher belt ranking and I like to roll with them to practice my defence against more advanced opponents. There are however one or two people that are at a similar skill level that I often roll with and this gives me a good opportunity to work on offensive techniques, without always being on the defensive.

Recently I have noticed that one chap has really started relaxing in his sparring. Whether this is due to someone mentioning it to him or simply his becoming more confidant in the techniques I do not know, but I can really feel how his sparring technique has become way more focused and less worried about using simple power in his defence. This then allows me to also be more relaxed and focus on technique.

What really surprised me however is how easily this person is now able to counter my offensive techniques. It’s almost like his mindset change now allows him to pinpoint the chinks in my game and be able to use this to effectively counter my attacks. This forces me to realise how much I (still, to my utter dismay) rely on strength to maintain a position or technique and therefore I have to look at what I am doing wrong and correct it.

So in relaxing he not only improves his jiu-jitsu, but also forces me to improve mine.

Talk about a win-win situation….and I didn’t even have to do anything to benefit from it.

What Gracie Jiu-Jitsu means to me

My martial arts career is a rather sad and chequered one. From junior Goju-Kai Karate to Jikishin Ju Jitsu (with a little bit of Wing Chun thrown in for good measure) I have spent a small part of the past 30 years of my life trying to find something that works.

I have found it in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

For the past year I have trained at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Cape Town. It has been a great year and the one thing that has always impressed me is how the techniques I am learning are so invaluable in a fight situation. I have gone from not being able to remove a man about half my size from the mount position (in a very frustrating intro class) to being able to roll with, defend myself against and attack guys much larger than myself.

Now I am certainly no expert on fighting, MMA or martial arts. As I mentioned above I have dabbled in various styles and I have spent a lifetime watching every martial arts movie I can find. For me the key lies in the effectiveness of the technique, whether I feel that in a real life situation I would be able to use it to defend myself.

And after a year (or more) I can say that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is that effective. There is no “secret”, “hidden” skill here, simply tried and tested methods of efficiently disarming an attacker. That to me is what martial arts is about.

This is my journey and boy, what a ride….