Getting Older in Jiu Jitsu

As an older, not old (53) jiu jitsu practitioner/instructor I can easily admit that my physical abilities are weening. After a lifetime of physical abuse to my body by way of sports and martial arts training resulting is several surgeries my body just doesn’t do everything I ask of it with the same efficiency it once did. I’ll continue to roll as often as I can but, my focus has shifted.

On the other hand my knowledge continues to accumulate and my ability to pass that knowledge as a coach/instructor continues to expand daily and at this point in my life my main goal is to the best possible instructor I can be.

The best coaches are not always the best competitors and the best competitors do not always make great coaches.

I feel that as a coach/instructor I have far more to contribute to the growth of our martial art/sport then I could ever contribute as a competitor and at this point in my life I feel good about this.

Basic Anatomy of a Jiu Jitsu Class

 

Okay so what makes up a BJJ class? In my opinion there are 3 basic parts to a complete BJJ class. This can be interpreted in a few ways but here is how I break it down. I’ve also included the issues that typically come with each part.

  1. Warm-up/stretch
  2. Drill 
  3. Roll (spar)

The class should start with a light warm-up and stretch. I combine these 2 components together because they should both be light and the stretch should be an active stretch and both the warm-up and stretch should be specific to the class to follow and the fundamental movements of Brazilian jiu jitsu. Far to often I see pre-class warm-up sequences that rival a full blown HIIT work-out and the students are spent before the actual jiu jitsu starts, or the warm up is just skipped all together. 

The second part of the class is where we learn the techniques and drill, drill, drill them. It’s also the part where the students like to talk more than the drill, do the technique 1 time and start looking to debunk its validity by resisting a partner who doesn’t even know the move yet. It’s also the most important part of the class because in addition to learning the technique whether it’s a transition, a sub, or a control technique, etc you should also be learning the theory behind the move, (when and why). 

Finally the rolling portion (sparing) of the class, the part everyone wants to skip straight too. This is the most fun part of the class and the part most people understand least. At the end of class when we roll each student should have a specific goal and that goal should be the same for each student. That goal is to try and apply the technique you just learned in class to a resisting partner who is trying to do the same to you. The thing I hear most when I tell this to students is “Yeah, but we just did this he’s going to be expecting it,” yeah, no shit and what better way to work the technique and develop a better understanding of both sides of that specific technique. 

This is also the part of the class that turns into a world championship fight to the death for some students, this serves no purpose other than the potential of injury and loss of students, it also causes students to not want to train with specific students for the above reason. Everyone should understand that the academy is a team with the end goal of improvement for all in a fun safe team environment. 

This anatomy of a BJJ class can be further broken down to subsections depending on the training atmosphere, for example is it a class or a seminar, length of the class, and if the class is training for a specific goal (upcoming competition). 

Have fun, train hard, train smart, and have fun 🙂

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But What Do I Know

Just a couple things on my mind.

  1. When training in Brazilian jiu jitsu (most any martial art I guess) during the drilling part of the class let your partner perform the move you are learning. If you apply immediate resistance neither you nor you partner will learn anything. You are in the process of learning a new move and if you don’t fully know how to perform the move yet how can you possibly do this with resistance? You can’t.. Be a good partner and everyone involved learns, and you instructor will be much happier.
  2. You get what you give. This applies to everything from training to every day life. Every wonder why you have so many issues with people? You want this to change? Start with yourself. Generally speaking people are good, however there are some real jackasses out there..
  3. Everyone should learn jiu jitsu, ESPECIALLY WOMEN..
  4. New beginnings; I start Judo on Monday… (story to follow)

You get what you put in and people get what they deserve…

The Path

When I took my first jiu jitsu class in 2002 I never imagined the path I would eventually follow. At the time I was already well into my martial arts lifestyle and jiu jitsu was just another tool to compliment my overall skill set. Jiu jitsu started off as a once per week class (Saturday) with one day of review during the week to go over what we learned and prepare for the next weeks class. Little by little my personal martial arts curriculum started a shift, Muay Thai and the self-defense art that were once priority slowly moved into the back seat and jiu jitsu jumped behind the wheel. 

Due to a lack of resources I started teaching jiu jitsu very early into my jiu jitsu training which forced me to really break down the technique and understand every little detail so I could explain how and why the technique worked and was effective. I was already teaching a self-defense art at the time and I believe this helped me with understanding and breaking down technique but, with jiu jitsu I took it to a whole new level. I’ve always felt that I was good at teaching and I’ve always received very positive feedback on my classes, however I feel jiu jitsu help me raise the bar on my own skills and ability to pass them to others.

Early on I used to talk about traveling to train at some of the academies run by Brazilian black belts and some of the better known competitors and instructors. At one point I was really into flow drills, I used to put together simple 2 step drills up to very complex drills with as many as 10 steps or more. I would teach these drills in steps which caused the student to learn the individual technique and the transitions between which helps them with the overall understanding and helps the student move seamlessly between technique without pause. At the time I was doing this I had this dream about traveling and teaching seminars based on flow drills, in my mind it was a great idea that couldn’t fail, but also in my mind was I’m a blue belt and who gives a shit what I think so I just kept doing my thing and let the seminar idea go.

In 2015 I heard about a book called The Cauliflower Chronicles about a dude who went to train in Hawaii, it sounded pretty interesting so I went on Amazon to buy the book. In true Amazon fashion when I put the book into my cart they showed my some other books I may be interested in based on my selection. One of the suggestions was a book called The BJJ Globetrotter, it looked pretty cool so I let Amazon get the best of me and bought both books. Jokes on you Amazon, The BJJ Globetrotter ended up have a major impact on my life and opened doors I never dreamed of.  After reading the book I looked up the author Christian Graugart on Facebook and sent him a friend request and joined his Globetrotters Facebook group, I also found the Globetrotters website and joined the community. 

Through this research on the Globetrotters I found that Christian was running jiu jitsu camps. The camps were mostly in Europe but there was a U.S. camp in New Hampshire coming up in September of 2016. I was talking with Tara about this and she noticed the excitement I showed while talking about this whole community Christian was building. Now anyone who knows me can tell you I’m pretty much on the same level no matter the circumstance, I don’t really show excitement.  Tara seeing this bought me a ticket to the BJJ Globetrotters camp New Hampshire 2016. 

I was a brown belt at the time Tara bought me the ticket to the camp, in April 2016 that changed, I earned my black belt and went to my first camp as a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt. I drove up to the camp stopping along the way to pick up one of the instructors Trenton Cooke at the airport. Talking with Trenton on the ride I learned we had common training partner in our jiu jitsu journeys which was pretty cool. So my very first camp class I was Trenton’s assistant which helped me interact with a large number of students immediately. 

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After this camp I felt totally reborn, I emailed Christian and expressed interest in becoming one of his camp instructors and while it didn’t happen by the next U.S. camp at that camp Christian invited my on as an instructor.  The first camp I taught at was in Heidelberg Germany in August 2017. I had never traveled out of the states before and now I was traveling out of the country for the first time in my life and teaching jiu jitsu at a camp with 150+ students from all over the globe. I had this fear that no one would be in my class because well, let’s face it; who the fuck is Rich Sab? Well, the class was 100+ students and other camp instructors and the feedback was awesome.

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I have now been to 6 Globetrotters camps, taught at 4 camps (2 in Maine, 1 each in Germany, Iceland, and St. Barthelemy) and I will be teaching in Maine again this year and just confirmed that I will be going back to teach in Heidelberg Germany this summer. 

So the question is: Where has the jiu jitsu path taken me?

And the answer is: Everywhere…….

Peace

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Jiu jitsu in St Barthélemy 3

Now back to the part about eating horrible for the entire trip. Let’s get this straight, for most people I ate really well but, by my standard it was a disaster. Every morning we had bread (French, and Italian) delivered from a local bakery and it was awesome, best Italian bread I’ve had in a bit and I ate a lot. Breakfast and lunch for 8 days straight consisted of peanut butter and banana on Italian bread. 

For dinner each night we went to some local restaurants and because I eat a plant-based diet most of my dinners turned out to be pasta with mixed vegetables. 1 night we had burgers delivered so I had a veg burger with fries and we got pizza twice. I can honestly say that I ate more bread and pasta in 9 days than the past 6 months combined and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. Did I mention I lost 3.2 pounds over the course of this trip? Oh and the pizza was awesome, I expected the worst and it turned out to be some of the best.

So on the last day of the camp we had a boat trip during the day and the camp beach party at night. For the boat trip we had 3 catamarans and we sailed to a remote cove dropped anchor and just had a blast. Between diving from the boats and swimming boat to boat and boat to shore not to mention the sun beating down this adventure wiped me out. Swimming truly is one of the greatest forms of exercise available and I need to figure a way to work swimming into my workout program. 

The end of camp beach party was a cool relaxing way to put and end to a great week of jiu jitsu and fun. We had entertainment while we ate and just chilled on the beach. After the beach I headed back to the hostel with a bunch of others while the rest of the camp participants went to a local club. 

 

Generally speaking the island of St Barthelemy is a beautiful place with perfect weather, the most beautiful beaches and the water is simply amazing. The jiu jitsu is quality, the people were friendly and I can’t wait to go back…

Peace

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Jiu jitsu in St Barthélemy 2

I’m going to jump back a little here to try to get a little more detail of this amazing trip. Christian (the creator of BJJ Globetrotters) and Katla picked up a group of us from the ferry, from there we drove to the hostel where we all stayed for the camp. The facility was built by the local government to host athletes visiting the island and is quite impressive. The way the facility is set up there are a number of “cabins” with dorm rooms and bathrooms in each. I stayed in cabin 1 dorm 1 which was a small room with 2 bunk beds and 2 closets for 4 of us to share. I’m not sure how the other dorms were set up (there were different options available) and we had to share a common bathroom which had 2 sinks 1 toilet and 2 showers in a common stall. Now anyone who knows me or has read my blog from the beginning knows as recent as 3 or 4 years ago there was no way I could’ve survived this setup, boy have I come a long way. There was also a common kitchen and an area with tables where we spent time eating, playing games, and just hanging out and also common bathrooms.

The gym where we trained we at was next door to the hostel. This was a big steel building divided in half. One half of the building is operated by the local BJJ and Judo club, the other half is a tae kwon do academy. During the camp the local club still held some of their regular classes. I was able to be involved with assisting during one of the kids classes which was a lot of fun; 2 of the camp instructors and myself played some jiu jitsu games and rolled with the kids. It was pretty impressive to see how well they behave and how receptive they were to 3 instructors who were not only strangers to them but also speak a different language (they speak French). 

Each day of the camp there were 3 or 4 classes and 1 open mat. The classes covered a lot of different areas of jiu jitsu in both gi and no-gi format. The initial open mat of the week was an outdoor open roll on the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, this experience is hard to describe with words so I’ll just attach a couple of pics.

Much like every other camp I’ve attended I met some pretty amazing people, people with a common interest and a common goal; jiu jitsu. Ego free, no politics jiu jitsu. An environment where everyone has the common goal of learning jiu jitsu and having fun in the process. Through the BJJ Globetrotters I’ve made some really great friends; people who I look forward to seeing when the next event comes along.  

To be Continued…….

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Jiu Jitsu in St Barthélemy – 1

Question – What’s better than a vacation in the French West Indies? 

Answer – A jiu jitsu vacation in the French West Indies. 

So this was the 6th BJJ camp I’ve been to and although I love them all for different reasons this one I believe to be my favorite to date. More on the reason for this thought later. 

The trip started with a flight to St. Maarten. After getting through customs I jumped into a cab to Philipsburg so I could catch a ferry to St. Barthélemy. When I got there I had a couple of hours to walk around town and grab some lunch. The biggest thing I noticed in Philipsburg is that they have yet to recover from hurricane Irma. The city seemed pretty run down and although there is rebuilding in progress it seems some areas are forgotten and it’s going to take quite some time. I did sit in a small bar/restaurant for lunch (I don’t remember the name but the wifi code is buybeer). The place is what I pictured as a stereotypical Caribbean bar and while I don’t drink I was hungry and the place looked really cool so I felt compelled to get lunch there. My lunch; an awesome vegetable wrap and fries.

Did I mention I ate like shit for the past 9 days? 

*Side note – left Saddle Brook 10 Feb 174.8 pounds, this morning 19 Feb 171.6.. Scratches head…..

Ok, the ferry from St Maarten to St. Barthélemy, where do I start? Do not, and I mean do not under any circumstances sit outside in the last row on the left side of the boat unless you dig the smell of diesel fuel and like being soaked with salt water, by the time we docked it looked like I swam there however, I was in St. Barthélemy and about to begin a week of surfing, jiu jitsu, and all around fun with a group of awesome people.

Now I need to address what’s makes this camp so special,  besides the prefect weather and island life of course. Most of the camps I’ve attended have anywhere from 100 to 200 participants so training partners of all size and skill levels are readily available however, it’s hard to meet everyone and people tend to group off. This camp has about 35 to 40 people in attendance so it was easy to meet everyone and actually get to know them. We ate dinner together ever night, went to the beaches together, trained together and just had a great time hanging out and playing games, one night after dinner I witnessed one of the most intense games of pick up sticks ever played. 

Cliff Hanger…..

To be continued……..

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I’m Back

Re-posting one of my past blog entries yesterday made me realize how long it’s been since I wrote anything new. As the new year came in I made a list of things I would like to accomplish in the coming year. This list includes starting a sauerkraut business, being consistent with making soap to grow that biz, release a weekly podcast and several other things I already do but incredibly inconsistently. I just added post a new blog weekly to my list.

This coming Sunday I will be heading to Saint Barthelemy for my 6th BJJ Globetrotters camp (4th time as an instructor). I will be teaching 2 classes at the camp, the 1/2 guard sweeps class I also taught in Iceland last July, and a new class I recently developed on the lasso guard. I’m really looking forward to this camp because it takes me away from the New Jersey winter for a few days even though this has been a mild winter. As much as I’m looking forward to going to the camp I still get an incredible amount of anxiety every time I attend BJJ camps. I think the fact that I’m usually one of the oldest if not the oldest martial artists at the camps contributes to my anxiety, also flying makes me very uncomfortable especially flying over water, however this usually passes quickly one I arrive at the camp.

My BJJ journey has been a long amazing trip and is finally at the junction where I feel like I’m passing knowledge to those who I reach through teaching and training. Although I’m not very old (52), when you spend a lifetime physically beating on your body 52 can sometimes feel like 100. Myself and most of the martial artist I know and train with do a variety of things to keep ourselves in good shape to continue training, teaching, and to keep our bodies strong and healthy. The catch 22 is the things that keep us in that condition can also be the very same thing that break us down. At this point in my life my main goal as a martial artist (BJJ specifically) is to be the best instructor I can possibly be and share my knowledge with as many people as I can. As much as I love to roll (spar) I need to be smart about it and limit myself so I can stay healthy and teach and train for many more years.

One more subject to cover here.
As most my friends and family know I was adopted from birth. Although I consider myself 100% American and I grew up in an Italian family (Sicily and Bari) I never knew my actual biological background. I do now…
Stay tuned………….

 

Sab-Jits The Podcast Episode 3

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Sab-Jits the Podcast Episode 3

Today I sat and talked with my friend, student, and training partner Oscar Martinez at The Edge Ultimate Martial Arts Academy in Saddle Brook NJ. We talked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Self Defense….

Eat Fresh

So let me start off with this; when someone tells you a specific exercise, diet, cleanse, or whatever the latest buzz happens to be will help you burn fat from a specific body part it’s in you best interest to walk away. This also applies to “cleansing” specific organs. Drinking lemon water, ginger water, apple cider vinegar water, salt water, pepper water, or any other spice water isn’t going to make your liver or any other internal organ cleaner and more functional, what it will accomplish is that you be drinking shitty tasting water all day which in most cases will cause you to dink less water than you should be drinking; end result, dehydration.

The people who making these claims come from one of the following groups; people who will gain financially from you believing their claims, or people who are not properly educated on the subject.

The truth is, if you follow a good diet eating fresh food and drink at least half your body weigh in water (body weight 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water) on a daily basis, (if you’re very active add 10 to 15 % to this), eliminate processed food, and excessive sugar, and do some exercise daily you will start to lose excessive body fat.

Supplements, do you need to take them; well, the 80 katrillionbillion dollar supplement industry will tell you that you need every vitamin, mineral and herb on earth to maintain a healthy balance, strengthen your immune system, have a strong healthy heart and digestive system. Truth is if you eat fresh foods and in great variety you are most likely getting everything you need to stay healthy. Best way to find out, go get a full physical and blood work to test for deficiencies. Better yet, do you feel good, eat fresh food in variety? Yes, you don’t need supplements.

If your diet eliminates specific foods you may need to supplement, for example if you follow a vegan diet you will need a B12 supplement. Also in the winter when you’re not getting the proper sunlight you may need a D supplement. Of course with varying issues there may be some exceptions to this, but I speaking to generally healthy people.

In summary:
Eat a good variety of fresh food, eliminate processed food and sugar, and move your body.

Peace