The next chapter begins

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I wasn’t expecting this. So much so I only entered the British Open NOGI as a blue belt only a few days ago. Guess I’m competing up a level.

I love Jiu Jitsu, and have had some amazing memories thus far in my journey, but I won’t lie, it’s been hard. I’ve contemplated quitting many times over the last 18 months. When I came back from injury following my shoulder surgery late last year it was my personal goal to train regularly and hopefully stay injury free long enough that I would improve myself enough to for this.

I’ve dislocated my shoulder twice since then.

But what jiu jitsu gives me far outweighs the tough aspects such as injuries. Reaching this milestone last night was another memory I’ll cherish. It’s one I was at one point pretty sure I’d never have.

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Thank you to all my coaches and training partners that have helped me on my journey so far. I owe you all so much for the ivaluable positive influences jiu jitsu has brought and continues to bring into my life.

 

 

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Traveling and Jiu Jitsu, my first experience

What a week. I write this sat in a dazed state in the departures lounge at MaCarran International Airport, feeling compelled to collect my thoughts before the haze sets in.

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When my friend and training partner, Wayne, was selected to represent the UK in the IMMAF World Championsips in Las Vegas, I knew immediately I would be going along to support. The trip of a lifetime beckoned and it didn’t matter how much it was going to cost, I wanted to be there.

I set myself goals for the week, I wanted to train at a  Vegas gym, compete abroad, go to a UFC event and watch the IMMAF World Championships. The IBJJF American National 2016 was annoounced that it would be held as part of the UFC Fan expo, I promptly entered. This would be my first time competing in a foreign country. I felt the butterflies in my stomach the moment my entry was confirmed on the IBJJF website. Knowing my injury history, what would happen if I injured myself in America? Screw it I thought, you only live once.

Not only would I be able to watch the IMMAF world championships, but I would be working for IMMAF, updating live scores to the ‘My Next Match‘ website. This meant cageside seats for the whole tournament and staff credentials to access the complete week of the Fan expo. I loved working the event and was able to work as part of a great team on Cage 3, seeing some amazing fights along the way.

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Unfortunately Wayne lost his fight in a competitive bout to the eventual Gold medalist. I remember thinking immediately after the decision was announced that if the two were at opposite ends of the bracket, this could have quite easily been the final.

My hopes of training at a Las Vegas gym were dashed on Monday, my first full day in the city of sin. I stupidly didn’t respect the desert sun and was badly sunburned on my torso after an hour by the pool. It was so painful I was worried I wouldn’t be able to compete on the Friday. The days quickly went by and the tshirts stayed on; it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that I felt that I could possibly manage to roll.

After Thursday’s IMMAF fights were done for the day, Wayne suggested we quickly drill in the athletes warm up area to blast away the weeks drunken debauched cobwebs before I competed the next day. I jumped at the chance and we drilled a few strategies before rolling a few rounds. Just as we were about to leave, coaches from the IMMAF teams along with Referees and other officials that train started to turn up. Apparently an open mat had been organised and suddently the mat was now full of catch wrestlers, brown/black belts and pro MMA fighters. I stayed another hour rolling, finally acheving my goal of training while I was here, and actually having an amazing session with a diverse and very skillful bunch of guys.

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Friday came. I woke up feeling anxious, I couldn’t finish my breakfast and my stomach saw the return of the butterflies. Nothing new here, I always feel like this the morning of a competition. Kristie, who had also flown out to support Wayne and was also working the championships, mirroring my duties on Cage 2, was also competing. We made our way over to the venue the same as we had the three days previous, but today it felt different. I realised I was putting pressure on myself, I wanted to win.

I had felt good in training in the months/weeks leading up to the competition. I felt that I would be able to do well here in this competition. This was a new feeling, in over 5 years of training I have never felt this way before a comp. But the pressure I was placing on myself was making my stomach do flips.

It was time to compete. As soon as I step on the mats the nervousness dissipates and I’m fine. It felt just like every other competition I had ever entered, there was just another person I had to try and beat, the pressure I had been placing on myself was gone and it was time to just go and roll, go have fun, go lose myself in the moment and try my best to do what I know I can.

It was going well, I had managed a few sweeps, had mounted my oponent and had racked up a decent points lead. 30 seconds from the end during a scramble, my problematic shoulder dislocated. Luckily I was able to hold on and ride out until the end of the match. I wasn’t able to contest the final so I came away with the silver.

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Overall I relly enjoyed my experience competing abroad and I will definitely do it again. However next time I will use suncream more effectively, hopefully sort this damn shoulder and will not drink to quite the same excess as I did prior to the competition!

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The benefits of physical exertion through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. My mental journey.

I get injured. A lot. I think I may be one of the unluckiest players in existence. It won’t stop me from training. As everyone who trains knows, injuries are just a part of the sport. If you train regularly you will constantly have niggling injuries and some will keep you away from the mat for a while.

Unfortunately after multiple dislocations, my shoulder got so bad I was forced to have labral repair surgery. This, combined with a menisectomy on a bucket handle tear in my meniscus would ultimately keep me away from the mats for almost 11 months.

This had a profound affect on my mental wellbeing. My behaviour changed. I was prone to mood swings; things that I would usually deem inconsequential would really get under my skin. I would get stressed at work, I drank a lot more frequently and I started smoking again – something I had quit after a few months of BJJ, over 4 years ago.

I think it’s a commonly accepted notion that physical exertion has anti-stress benefits and that ‘exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries’. 1 But what I found was not only was I tense, stressed and generally feeling crappy – I was making decisions that when I was training regularly I just wouldn’t have made. Not having to worry about my fitness the next day in class made me not worry about the food I was eating, the next drink I ordered or the next cigarette I lit up. Constantly having a competition coming up was a major element in my original successful quitting of cigarettes, without it, I was mentally weak and I fell back to old ways.

However, there was always a clear goal there in my mind. To return to jiu jitsu. I defined this goal at a very early stage with my physiotherapist. I told my physiotherapist I wanted to return to jiu jitsu competition very early on in the first post surgery consultation and after one physiotherapy session with this goal clearly set, the motivation had returned. I haven’t had a (sober) cigarette since. I had fallen into old bad habits in the medically enforced months barren from jiu jitsu following my knee surgery and prior to my shoulder surgery. However, in my mind, as soon as the path back to jiu jitsu became clear to me I was able to quantify the decisions I was making. I was able to again make better choices, I again had a goal.

The concept of ‘flow experience’ by famed Hungarian Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states that a flow experience is one where your whole consciousness is absorbed with a particular activity and by setting yourself regular, meaningful goals you position yourself to encounter more flow experiences. My flow experience was invoked by my desire to return to jiu jitsu.

‘To achieve this state it is important to have a clear purpose. So clearly defining your goals is a good start. Goals and the flow experience have a good relationship. By setting goals we enhance our chances of experiencing flow. By experiencing flow, we are more likely to achieve our goals.’2

This leads me to question something. If the endorphins that are being released every time I trained jiu jitsu are helping me to feel more relaxed, if the fear of gassing out in competition is making me consider what I eat and drink and is making me choose not to smoke, if not having a goal clearly defined in my mind makes me choose the wrong path; why is it only jiu jitsu that has been able to focus my mind? Going to the gym and lifting weights doesn’t have this affect on me, running certainly doesn’t. My weekly 5-a-side football games never made me consider one iota of any decision I made outside of that activity, even if drinking heavily the night before would mean playing hung-over would absolutely suck. So why does jiu jitsu?

Jiu jitsu is an individual sport in a team setting. Your coach and training partners help you improve on a daily basis, but at the end of the day it’s an individual journey and you are 100% responsible for yourself. It’s also hard. Training jiu jitsu is really fucking hard, especially if you’re lazy and prone to making bad lifestyle decisions like I am. I think that’s what I have learned from this experiemce. I really love training jiu jitsu – I care. I didn’t care about anything else previously and that’s why it didn’t have a profound affect on my lifestyle choices.

Jiu jitsu will always be in my life. I don’t like who I am when its not.

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References:

  1. mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469
  2. http://makethechange.com.au/the-positive-psychology-of-goal-setting/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi

 

 

 

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The Return

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The return of many things.

Firsly; my blog.

A cathartic, theraputic and mentally stimulating pastime I have neglected for far too long.

Secondly; training.

After about 15 months of struggling to train through numerous shoulder dislocations,  a torn meniscus and multiple surgery which forced almost a year away from the mat, I am now back and  have been training reguarly for about three months. It feels so good.

Thirdly; me.

Being back training, and doing so regularly, makes me feel like me again.

My fingers hurt. My knees ache. I’m getting twinges in my back. My neck is cracking.

IT FEELS FUCKING AMAZING!

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Triangle

Even though some training partners have nicknamed me Ryangle, I do struggle to finish triangles due to the amount of room I leave with my extremely long legs.

This makes this win at the Welsh NoGi today even sweeter as not only did I finish the triangle, but I did it from standing.

Happy Tickles 🙂

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Sweet Genki Sudo grappling highlight video

…from a competition back in 2001.

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Paul Harris is a dick…

Rousimar ‘Toquinho’ Palhares, often also referred to as ‘Paul Harris’, has long been one of my favourite fighters to watch due to his ferocity, his intensity and his eagerness to dive on submissions. Especially heel hooks.

Unfortunately, I believe the raging fire that seems to fuel his positive fighting attributes is detriment to his sportsmanship.

When the fighter taps, it signals that he gives up and the fight is over. Granted, the referee doesn’t always see the tap so it’s sensible to hold the submission until the referee ends the contest. However, cranking a submission harder when a fighter taps and then refusing to let go even when the referee is pulling at your arms to let go makes you a dick. It makes you a bigger dick that you have history in doing this sort of thing and it is not an isolated incident.

Having witnessed Palhares’ latest outing versus Mike Pierce, I am glad that the UFC didn’t award him the submission of the night bonus on grounds of unsportsmanlike behaviour. I would also not be unhappy or surprised if the UFC were to cut him following this latest incident. In my opinion, holding on to a heel hook after a contest has ended is much worse than the punch that Paul Daley threw at Josh Koscheck after the bell that ultimately saw him expelled from the organization. Yes, a punch is bad, but it won’t rip your knee to shreds and cause you to be unable to make a living for 6-8 months.

Take a look at the whole fight below and decide for yourself. (If the gif doesn’t load on this page, click it and it will load on a separate window.)

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**UPDATE** Palhares has now been cut from the UFC and has also been banned from ever again competing inside the Organization – http://www.mmafighting.com/2013/10/10/4825310/dana-white-rousimar-palhares-banned-from-the-ufc

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Introductions…

It’s not a secret that I love training BJJ. My facebook/twitter is always full of jiu jitsu related material. It has changed my life, my outlook, my fitness and I have vastly grown my friend base.

One thing I find puzzling though, is even though I have always spoken positively about my favourite hobby to my friends, family and workmates; I haven’t been able to spark an interest in any one of them.

Whenever I have suggested that they could try a class I am often laughed at, usually citing homosexual remarks or acting out a cheesy ‘karate chop’ gesture.

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I’ve often wondered why it is so unappealing. Is it the close contact with another individual (something other sports like Rugby don’t seem to have a problem with), is it the terrible stigmatic image of traditional martial arts and it’s inept nerditude?

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Does the image of the dweeb in thick rimmed glasses posing with nunchucks on covers of martial arts magazines over the past few decades reflect badly on us even today? Is ‘UFC groundfighting’ (that’s how I’ve had BJJ described to me by a casual MMA fan) too brutal for the average Joe?

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When I said I haven’t been able to spark an interest in any one of my my friends/family/workmates, what I actually meant was I wasn’t able to convince anybody to try jiu jitsu – until recently.

Last Sunday, my cousin competed in his very first jiu jitsu competition after taking up jiu jitsu in April. The first person I have introduced to BJJ, and he’s hooked. I was right, just as I told him before his very first class – “You’ll love it, BJJ is awesome!”

VINDICATION!

I won’t stop advocating jiu jitsu to anybody who will listen, as I’m sure that you will! (Presumption! As I assume only avid jiu jitsu players will ever read this blog!)

DO NOT BE DISMAYED BY THE MOCKING, BJJ IS AWESOME AND YOU KNOW IT! LET THE PEOPLE KNOW! THEY’ll THANK YOU FOR IT!

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BJJ off the mats…

I’m chilling on a Sunday evening watching a ‘Storage Wars’ marathon on my Sky+ with the prettier half and I find myself working out ankle-lock guard transitions and ways to tighten up my footlock game on her.

She exclaims “Stop foot-locking me you prick!!”…

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Best get back to watching Dave Hester gazump these other fools then – “YUUUUUUUUP!!!”

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MR TICKLE BJJ DEAL ALERT!!! 4 x (1Mx1M) 40mm Jigsaw mats for £21 DELIVERED!!!

If your looking for an awesome and cheap solution for mats check this out, Cannons’ eBay site have a deal to get 4 x 40mm jigsaw mats that are 1 meter by 1 meter for an incredible £21 with free delivery!

40mm STANDARD Jigsaw Judo Martial arts mats YELLOW BLUE http://bit.ly/1c3EstO 20130728-211202.jpg

If this was around when I was matting my garage it would only have cost me £42!!!! Let me know if you end up buying from it and send me the pictures of your finished space!!!

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Summer Grappling: Another sweaty night…

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BJJ Photo quiz – How many can you name?

This gallery contains 1 photo.

How many can you name? See comments for my attempt, can you do better? Comment with yours!

Rate this:

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Monkey vs Dog BJJ match!

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Hereford Open Sunday 23rd June 2013

Another really good day the the Hereford Open, a really well run comp with awesome medals!

On a personal note I got to the Bronze final of my category before having to tap due to dislocating my shoulder while driving in on a single leg. Shit that hurts! The Red Cross paramedic guys helped me pop it into place on the mat and have been icing it since – it has now ceased up! Hopefully it won’t keep me off the mat too long 🙂

I also met Seymour Yang (Meerkatsu) today and he is a very cool bloke

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All in all another top day at this awesome local competition. Can’t recommend it highly enough if you are thinking of entering. The next event is on Sunday September 15th 2013 and tickets are available here: http://ho19.eventbrite.com/ (White belt Adults and Juveniles only at this comp)

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The UKBJJA is coming, it’s a good thing.

Well respected members of the UK BJJ scene are forming the UK BJJ Association.

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Currently they are taking memberships for UK BJJ clubs soon they will be taking memberships for individuals. Eventually they will be running copetitions.

This is HUGE for the UK BJJ scene and will go a long way to regulating the sport we love and could even help BJJ attain national sport recognition. Something that will benefit many players and will grow our sport through new initiatives and programs (think Judo).

Get your clubs registered by visiting the official website here – http://ukbjja.org/

 

The UKBJJA’s objectives are listed below and in my opinion are fundamental to growing our sport, while preserving the aspects which contain it’s essence:

 

The UKBJJA is a non-profit organisation and any surplus funds are to be reserved for investment for development of the sport. The objectives of the UKBJJA are:

1)     To preserve and protect the integrity of BJJ as a performance based martial art

2)     To promote BJJ and encourage wider participation in all areas of the sport

3)     To provide a framework for national recognition of the sport

4)     To preserve the integrity of the ranking system

5)     To provide a framework for competitions and individual schools to follow to ensure minimum standards of safety and good practice

6)     To represent all clubs and members in a democratic and transparent manner

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