Recognising I’ll never be a world champion

It’s difficult, but it’s true.

Only a very, very small percentage of people will ever be truly, truly great. You and I are most probably not in that percentage.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about my position in the jiu jitsu world. About how utterly, completely and terribly, abysmally, anonymously low it is.

I see videos of the greats, of the Leo Vieiras, the Naoya Uematsus, the Genki Sudos, the Rickson Gracies, the Andre Galvaos, the Eddie Bravos, the dude in the purple belt test, and it makes me a little sad, because I know I’ll probably never be that good.

Rickson Gracie will never give me a nickname. Marcelo Garcia will never ask to borrow my taping. Royler Gracie will never get my armpit in his face.

Faced with this thought, this idea that I’m 99% guaranteed a jiu jitsu career that involves pottering about at local competitions and clawing my way through each belt, I have three choices.

1) Cry. Give up. Realise it’s all hopeless. Some part of me, when I do something, always wants to be really, really good at it. Not just a little good, but to be really fantastic. I’m like the world’s laziest perfectionist. I’m a half-arsed obsessive compulsive. When I do something, I like to do it the same way every time. But that never actually happens because I’m too lazy and forgetful. When I enter into some field of endeavour, I’d like to do it to the best of my abilities and really make something of it, but that rarely happens because life always gets in the way. And I’m lazy. Sometimes when things are going really good at training, I imagine that I could enter the worlds one far, far off day. Then I get another cold, take a week off training, and return to suckitude.

2) Be a real American hero and yell “Fuck you!” in the face of insurmountable odds. In other words, delude myself that I will be the greatest in the world one day, and train with that lofty goal in mind. Pros: Looking totally awesome while being really aggressive in sparring and grunting a lot when performing moves; pumping my fist in the air while stirring rock music plays; wiping sweat and blood from my brow and taking a deep breath then plunging back into the fray. Cons: Requires too much energy; lifetime of minor disappointments followed by major disappointment when I fail miserably on the world stage and / or never even reach said stage.

3) Accept my lowly status and continue pottering. Now, this is more like it. You could even say it’s zen. Or Krishnamurtian. Or just lazy. But it basically means accepting my place in the grand scheme of things, and just getting on with it.

There’s a very cheesy and over-used saying which I’m going to use here again, with some cheese, delivered in in the form of a commandment.

Thou shalt not compare thyself to thy peers. Thou shall only comparest thyself to thy previous self.

It’s an oldy but a goody. It really is true. You can only compare yourself to how you were yesterday, and if you improved, you’re doing good.

Even the best out there are not the best for long.


My good friend Theo used to have a saying. “There’s always someone bigger and badder than you out there.” One night we were cruising along and we saw a guy prancing down the street, chest puffed out, looking like Captain I’m a Right Hard Bastard, giving everyone the stink eye. Theo pointed at him and said to me, “There’s always someone bigger and badder than you out there.”

Later that night, a friend of mine was drunk and tried to tackle Theo. Theo is a master ninja, and he stepped out of the way and redirected him into a wall. He split his head right open, so we took him to the hospital. Who did we see getting brought into the emergency room beaten to a bloody pulp? None other than Captain I’m a Right Hard Bastard. No word of a lie. Looks like he ran into someone bigger and badder and suffered the consequences.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes. You suck, the sooner you realise that, the sooner we can get on with our lives.


Noma Judo

Judo is great. After training the other night, the black belts sat down and gave a speech. This is after we’ve done the communist-style communal exercise complete with ritualistic chanting, and bowing to about ten different places.

One guy, Maraiga-san (who is also a BJJ blue belt) gave an excellent speech about how a kid’s work is to study hard, train judo, and help with his or her parents. About half of the members of this small judo class are kids from about 5 to 14 or so. He then asked them if they had all done their homework, without a hint of comedy or irony.

All the while, one of the other blackbelt’s kids, himself a pretty good judo-er, was choking back sobs. His heart, his spirit, had been so affected by a particularly intense training session in preparation for an upcoming competition that he was spontaneously crying. When you are around people who always talk of spirit, of heart, kokoro, it becomes a very believable and tangible thing. The act of pushing yourself to your physical and mental limits, under the strict, harsh-but-fair guidance of a senior, in a group environment… I’m not surprised the kid was sobbing.

I’m really enjoying the different side, the, dare I say it, more traditional side that judo proudly holds on to. It is a refreshing change from the dudes at jiu jitsu lying around scratching their balls and clipping their toenails (which is also charming, in a different way.)

In other news, I bought some awesome reversal t-shirts, and a new gi from Keiko Raca. I need to buy some patches from the dojo, put a few pennies in my coach’s pocket, and get the missus to sew them on for me.

Jiu jitsu is going well. This year should be a good year, I’m going to shoot for my purple belt.

I plan to compete in March, so I have January to ease myself in, February to train hard and lose a couple of kilos, and March to get my face squished in. Should be great!

I’ve also invested in a gym ball and some latext tubing, and have been doing all kinds of weird and wacky exercises to help build my strength. I’m using this weird, bright-green metal chin-up bar contraption, donated to me by my mother in law, too, and I have actually noticed an increase in strength since I started using it about two months ago.

Lastly, things are looking good on the writing front, but more news on that later.

Andre Galvao Seminar

I got my hands on this cool video, Andre Galvao, BJJ legend, giving a seminar somewhere in Japan. Here is a clip from a fantastic documentary called “Arte Suave” where you can see his innovative and enjoyable-looking training.

He outlines some pretty sweet techniques, three of which I will stick here for posterity. Hopefully the act of writing them down will help me remember them. There are two half guard sweeps which is great because I really feel my half guard needs some work lately and gets too easily passed.

1) Rolling Sweep
From half guard. I’m on my right side, right leg in between his legs, left leg up in the right side of his body. If I don’t have any space I need to frame up on him (push him away with my forearms) to get some space to work with. I grab his gi at the wrist on his left arm with my left arm. My right arm grips the folds in his gi pants on his left knee. Initially I try a kind of scissors sweep, getting some action/reaction going on. As he pushes back against me to stop the scissors sweep, I use that, switch my left hand grip under and to the inside of their wrist (so that I can pull the arm towards me easier.) I arc their arm over my body, pulling their weight over me. As I bring their arm down to the mat, at the last minute I thrust it away and down, taking away any possible base, and roll over my shoulder for the sweep, landing on top in half guard.

2) Half to back
Almost the same setup as before, except my grip is left hand in the collar, right hand gripping their left knee. I push and pull, get them up over me on my knees, then quickly shove my right hand, and thus their left leg, away and down from me, kicking my legs out, and rolling their back towards me. Then get the hooks in and take the back. Sounds weird but looks great on video, and I can’t wait to try it.

3) Counter against passing half guard sweep
I’m on my right side, they are passing towards my right. As the knee comes through my legs, I hook my right foot on their right thigh, so that my knee is gripping his knee, kind of. Foot curled around their leg. Then I secure his gi at his left wrist with my right hand. My left hand is in his left collar. Put my left leg on the floor, pull him over me, stuff his arm down between his legs and roll over my shoulder for the sweep.

I really want to try these out next time I roll.

While googling for Andre Galvao I found this cool video, I’m going to have to see if this is as easy as it looks, too.

Some BJJ thoughts

Been lazy this week and only went on Tuesday. Last night I went for fried gyoza and beer with a friend. Not good for my training but great for my mind.

Some thoughts from Tuesday’s training:

Collar control in side control. Having a good, deep grip in the collar can stop people shrimping out. Grip under their head, thumb deep behind the neck, fist down on the mat, and if they try to shrimp turning towards you, angle their head back up with your forearm so that they can’t turn.

I mostly rolled with good blue belts, and didn’t get to work much of my gameplan (aggressive guard game) but rather, worked on passing the guard, and just surviving.