Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Brown belt

Got my brown belt from Saulo on 5/26/2016...whew.  Was there for Hell Week (inadvertently) for Worlds, had no idea I was getting a promotion.  Did a private with Saulo as well.  Had a great time.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Course Level 1

Amazing course taught by Saulo and Xande.  Went there from 12/5-12/7

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Training with Saulo 4/7/14 and 4/9/14

Did a couple private classes with Saulo.

class: ½ guard from top.  walk trapped leg around, use near side hand for choking pressure from top, use far side hand to stabilize.  after walking leg around to flatten opponent, place far hand on belt and use elbow to free knee to mat.  switch far hand to under elbow then proceed to mount, using near leg to help free foot if necessary.

private:

cross collar choke from guard
1. get deep grip
2. go to scissor/knee shield
3. kick scissor leg up and then down across back to get the angle
4. get palm down grip
5. scoot hips out to finish choke

cross collar choke (palm up/palm up) from guard
1.  get deep grip
2.  grab sleeve
3.  get close with butterfly hooks
4.  pull opponent down while still maintaining angle
5.  opponent will post, giving opportunity to get second (palm up) grip
6.  square up and secure butterfly hooks

omoplata
1.  do as above, but using sleeve grip rotate body underneath and get omoplata or straight arm bar

cross collar vs. posted hand:
1. attempt to cross collar and to get the angle
2. opponent posts on your hip so you can’t get leg down across their back
3. bring knee inside and push against armpit, almost like a knee shield
4. near side hand grabs sleeve
5. far side hand switches to collar grip
6. if they stay down, go to omoplata or straight arm bar
7. if they stand up, switch to 1/2 spider, kick them over top, then into slx

side control
1.  sit on their belly button
2.  far side hand for base
3.  near side hand with top down choke
4. when they move, transition to knee on belly or mount

s-mount attack
1. from the thumb in position, transition to s-mount
2. pull other lapel straight, bring head to mat for submission
3. if they fight the arms, just slowly crawl hand up collar and transition to normal mounted choke

passing closed guard:
1. brace against ribs to keep posture
2. knee to butt cheek
3. move to belt grip and step up with far leg at same time
4. scoot back until legs open
5. transition to X-pass immediately

X-pass:
1. put a lot of weight on them
2. kick with leg and lead with shoulder
3. if caught in 1/2 guard…

1/2 guard/knee shield pass:
1.  grip lapel and outside of opposite leg
2.  straighten out opponent so knees are up by scooting horizontally
3.  if legs open, back step pass
4.  if legs closed, near side knee slide pass

vs. turtle:
1.  far side kimura grip roll over arm bar

vs. turtle #2:
1.  jam knee into hip to force open
2.  seat belt grip if possible
3.  roll towards their near shoulder and get knee through
4.  rotate hips and try to point knee up
5. shrimp away and use hand to push them away

Monday, December 31, 2012

Tips for Running a Successful Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy

Since starting my BJJ training I've had the (mis)fortune of changing academies a lot due to relocating around the country.  This has given me the opportunity to see how different academies run things, and the relative success of each of those academies.  Note that when I talk about success I'm specifically referring to a combination of student fulfillment and the ability of the instructors to make a living.  It doesn't matter how great and happy the students are if the instructor is failing to make a living, and it doesn't matter how much income the instructor makes if students are dissatisfied.

Emphasize Kids Classes

Kids classes are the bread and butter of almost every single successful martial arts academy there is, but with MMA and BJJ schools in particular, kids classes are not considered nearly as cool or fun as having a bunch of men rolling and trying to submit each other.  The reality is that kids classes can often make up over 75% of an academy's revenue -- this is how all those karate and tae kwon do schools pay their bills, and if BJJ schools want to have the same level of success, they have to prioritize kids classes!

Have an Extensive Schedule

This is pretty simple -- the more classes you have, the more chances you have of being convenient to a potential student's schedule.  Big, successful gyms have classes every day throughout the day.  Early morning classes, mid-day classes, and evening classes, including Saturdays.  You also have to have enough of them that if someone can only train mornings, they'll feel like they can get their money's worth.  Don't do two morning classes and two evening classes and fool yourself into thinking that a student will be able to attend four classes a week.

Be sure to leave time in the schedule for private classes, cleaning, lunch, and doing paperwork.

Now, this assumes that this is the instructor's full time job -- if not, then obviously the instructor's day job will impact the schedule.  The topic of transitioning from part time to full time instructor is beyond the scope of this article.

Don't Lean Too Hard on Senior Students

Senior students are a valuable resource for an academy.  They help beginners, they assist during instruction, and they can substitute teach if the primary instructor is unavailable.  They are also the way an academy's culture propagates to new students -- senior students learn how to act and teach from the head instructor, and in turn pass that on.

However, there's a slippery slope from "helping out on occasion" to "uncompensated overworked employee".  Senior students are usually full of enthusiasm and eager to help, but if they feel unappreciated or overused, they can become resentful.

And nothing creates more drama than a long time senior student bolting because they feel they're being taken advantage of or unappreciated.  You can't expect your accountant student to do your taxes for free, your IT student to do your Web site for free, your graphic artist student to do your logo for free, or your photography student to do all your pictures for free.  If they offer, that's great, but don't abuse their generosity.

Use your senior students when it makes sense, but make sure the help flows both ways.  Give them free private classes, cut them a break on dues if they need it, but most of all, don't go to the well too often.

Offer Private Classes

For a black belt instructor, a single private class can generate as much revenue as a student training for a month.  This can often tip the balance sheet from red to black.  Don't oversell privates to students, since that can seem slimy, but some people prefer one-on-one instruction and are willing to pay for it, and others are willing to spend the money every few months to fine tune their game.  Teaching one private class a day can make a huge financial difference for the instructor.

Also, be flexible about pricing and structure.  I personally do not believe that private classes are that valuable since the maximum effect requires a partner, so allow someone to bring a partner to work with, or consider doing 'group privates', etc.

Fixed Fees (Don't Nickel and Dime!)

This is more of a cultural issue.  Traditional martial arts often make a significant amount of income from 'upsell' -- belt fees, mandatory training equipment, and organizational membership fees.  Brazilian jiu-jitsu, on the other hand, has made a name for itself by emphasizing merit based promotions, not financial ones.  Charging for stripes and belts is often interpreted as a money grab, tainting the value of a promotion.  Mandatory fees outside the monthly fees are a tough pill to swallow.

In addition, parents like fixed bills -- budgeting $100/month is easier than budgeting $75/month and then being hit with random fees of $20 to $100 every few months.  At some point a parent will throw up her hands and go "I just have no idea how much this is actually going to cost anymore!"

Present Head Instructor

Many students choose a school based on the reputation of the head instructor -- remember, in Brazilian jiu-jitsu we put a huge amount of stock on lineage and tournament accomplishments -- and will become disappointed if their head instructor is notably absent.  It's misleading to call something John Q Awesome Academy and then John Q Awesome only shows up twice a week, leaving the bulk of the instruction to senior students.

Happy students won't quit over this, but it does come up in reviews of gyms, and at some point students do talk about how they're learning from a purple belt or brown belt for 90% of their classes because the head instructor is always busy elsewhere.

This isn't to say that purple or brown belts can't be excellent instructors -- they absolutely can -- but if you sell the academy based on the name of an instructor, that instructor needs to be there.

Consistent Schedules

Make a schedule and stick to it so that students can organize their training.  If you change the schedule every three months it will eventually alienate some students who can't keep up with the changes.

In addition, don't look for any excuse to take a holiday.  Just because banks are closed doesn't mean your academy needs to be.  Those are often the days that students can get away from school or work to train!  If you continually close the academy randomly it appears that you simply don't enjoy teaching anymore.

And consistency isn't just day to day consistency -- it means each class needs to be consistent.  Don't work on "Brazilian time", because students aren't necessarily going to have that same flexibility.  If you have a 6pm class, show up at 6pm and get it started because some of those students may have to be home at 730pm.

Good Communication

Develop a strong online presence.  This obviously means a Web site, but it doesn't hurt to have a Facebook page and Twitter account as well in order to disseminate information to students.  The number of students an academy "loses" just because they can't find any information is surprisingly high.  Drive-byes are still a big driver of enrollment, but you can't afford to miss potential students just because they can't find any information about you online!

And once you have this presence use it!  Don't wait until the day before an academy closure to announce it.  Have a well defined schedule for tournaments, seminars, and holidays so that parents and students can plan accordingly.

Nothing is more frustrating than showing up to the academy to find it closed, with the only announcement of its closure made the night before.

Stock Essential Gear

Traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu requires a gi/kimono and belt.  It's a turn off to potential students to discover that they need a gi but are on their own for finding one online -- especially when they see that some gis are over $200!

Make sure you stock a reasonable assortment of affordable entry level gis.  These don't have to be Shoyoroll or Atama boutique kimonos, just a decent entry level BJJ gi for $50.  Consider throwing in the gi for free if someone prepays for their first six months or year.

Coach Students, Teach Classes

For the individual student very often the difference between progress and stagnation is coaching.  What's the difference between coaching and teaching?  Teaching is the explanation of a concept or technique.  Coaching is helping an individual student execute and understand what you've already taught.  It's common for junior students to flail around for months with poor technique because no one points out basic flaws in their game.  Grip fighting, posture, grip breaks, managing space, tucking elbows, bridging and shrimping properly -- students can go years without developing these aspects of "invisible jiu-jitsu".

Students that have these elements pointed out to them individually will see consistent progression, and if they're seeing progression they'll stick it out.  If they feel that after six months of constant attendance that they still aren't getting better, they may quit out of frustration or a just a feeling that it's "not for them".

So pay attention when students are rolling and drilling and help them out, don't sit in a corner bullshitting with other higher belts or looking at your phone.

Provide a Comfortable and Welcoming Environment for Normal People

People train jiu-jitsu not just for the martial art, but because of the environment.  If you attract a bunch of unemployed young men who want to be the next GSP and are eager to show that they've got what it takes every time they roll with some pudgy bank teller in his mid-40s, then that's the type of people you will continue to get.  Because the moms, dad, bank tellers, lawyers, doctors, and others won't show up any more since they don't want to be scared to step on the mats.

And keep in mind that just because you might be a 25 year old world champion, that doesn't mean that your students will be.  Warmups should be short, to the point, and not intimidating to regular moms and dads.  Asking older, out of shape students to do cartwheels, handstands, and burpees may be a great way to show how athletic you are, but all it does is alienate and embarrass those who aren't.

And while a class that's purely calisthenics might seem reasonable in an absolute sense -- hey, you need to be in shape to do jiu-jitsu! -- most students aren't at jiu-jitsu to do sprints, sprawls and situps, they're there to learn jiu-jitsu.

Obviously the gym's facilities should also be clean and welcoming.  Have a separate changing room for women.  Make sure the mats are clean -- no one wants to feel like they're rolling on a petri dish full of staph and ring worm -- and enforce hygiene rules (gis washed every night!).

Use an Automated Billing System

While it seems like it's more personal and profitable to handle billing yourself, in the end this almost always ends up a net loss.  Automated billing and payment systems offer several key advantages:

  • payment and contract status tracking.  It's tiring and error prone trying to track how much everyone has paid and when.
  • impersonal management of finances.  It's emotionally important to separate the instruction from the business side, and if you're riding a student about paying while also trying to teach him, it can cause an uneasy tension in classes
  • prevent students from just wandering in and out with little tracking of their payments vs. attendance
  • billing statements are reminders to students and parents to get to class
While you may give up 10% in revenue as part of your fees, you will often gain back significantly more due to fewer late/delinquent bills.

I've seen this scenario at almost every place I've ever trained:  student shows up on the 22nd, trains for a week, is told he can just start paying on the 1st.  No one wants to nickel and dime over a week, right?  Then student disappears during the billing week, comes back a month later, and assumes he can start paying on the first of the next month.  If asked to pay for the previous month, claims that he's been gone for 3 weeks so why should he pay?!

Sadly, I see this even more with parents.  I don't think it's ever intentional, but a week here and there that isn't paid for quickly adds up.  I've seen gyms where kids would train for two weeks, then be gone for a month, then train for two weeks, disappear again for a month, and the parents would be upset if asked to pay for a 'whole month' -- after six months of 50% attendance.

Some people don't like automated billing, so you have to frame it as a discount.  For example, gym fees are $125/month cash, or only $100/month if you use automated billing.  Most people will opt to save the money every time, but at least if they go for cash the extra bit of income makes it worth the hassle.

Clearly Define and Enforce Your Gym's Rules

Gym etiquette is an important part of defining your culture, but many gyms neglect to document the rules, or they only document the big ones and then call people out when they commit an infraction.  No one likes to feel as if they're screwing up, especially if they had no idea they were screwing up in the first place.

So it's always a good idea to post your rules physically; distribute them as part of the enrollment process; and have them online.  Enforce the rules evenly -- if you're lax about it, then your students will be too.  There's nothing wrong with bowing on/off the mat, facing away to tie your belt, not asking higher belts to roll with you, addressing your instructor as "professor" or "sensei", and there's nothing wrong with not doing those things as long as everyone knows what's expected.

Manage expectations.

White Belt Stripes Are More Important  Than You Think

This may seem silly, but I've seen it enough times that there's a pattern.  For every new student there's a decision point at which you have to decide if you're going to stick with jiu-jitsu or not.  Some are gung ho and will never quit, but most recreational types have to evaluate the time and financial investment against their enjoyment and advancement.

For many students, that evaluation period comes somewhere after their first month.  If they reach that point and feel like they're not getting better or that their advancement isn't recognized, they'll shrug and just think "I'm not cut out for this".

However, if they earn their first stripe at this point, they're often reinvigorated, since it's seen as evidence of progress, despite what they may think.  That stripe may be the difference between quitting and sticking it out for the next ten years.  That stripe may be the most important promotion they receive!

Now, once you hit blue belt you're responsible for your own dedication and effort, but until that point the onus is on the instructors to keep students motivated and happy. And white belt stripes, for better or for worse, are a cheap but powerful commodity.

I would never advocate doling out promotions for any reason but merit, but white belt stripes, especially the first one, are a special case since they're more often about morale and mindset than ability.

Don't Fail to Invest Because of a Fear of Failure

You need students.  You need students right now because you only have a limited amount of runway before you go broke.  You try to hold onto your pennies until you get some money flowing in, and this is laudable in the abstract.  But you won't get new students if you don't promote yourself!

So you have to set aside a budget to get a Web site, signage, fliers, and any other type of marketing expenses, because when you open a new academy you are at your most vulnerable time in terms of morale.  The more students you have the more students you'll get, so you need to kickstart your student base aggressively.

Quality Instruction Isn't Enough

As much as we'd like to hold onto an idealized view that all that matters is quality instruction, in the end students are only being taught fifteen minutes in every class.  All the intangibles add up to give a school a vibe and a student a sense of place and progress.  I've seen places run by famous, world class instructors slowly lose students, and I've seen many examples of schools run by anonymous recreational martial artists that have done phenomenally well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mendes Brothers seminar notes

Went to a Mendes Brothers seminar (only had time to do the no-gi day) and it was fantastic.  This was at the GB Seattle location.  They skipped warmups and went straight to explaining some concept of sitting guard, specifically about head control and maintaining control of distance.

The first set of techniques were taught by Rafa, all starting from sitting guard with foot on opponent's hip (toes pointed out) and other foot curled undernath so you can use it for scooting.  One hand had collar tie grip on opponent's head and the other was used to post on the floor.  Assume left foot in hip and left hand securing head control.

  1. Pull guard to arm drag.  When opponent posts hand on the ground you hip out and to the side, push shin into opponent's bicep, then when they try to posture you use both hands to arm drag over the head and do a back take.
  2. Technical standup to guillotine/ten-finger choke.  Pull opponent's head down while keeping elbow tight, do a technical standup and use other hand to grab opponent's chin.  Connect both hands (move your original hand from top of neck to underneath jaw), keep elbow's tight, then walk in, head/chest down on opponent's back, and use hip pressure to get the choke.
  3. Technical standup to Anaconda choke.  As #2, but opponent defends the choke with both hands.  Use left leg to 'scoop' out their right arm, swim left arm from underneath chin to underneath their right arm, connect hands, then roll to the right.  Once you're on your back your leg should still be controlling their elbow so they can't defend.  Ratchet/extend right arm as much as possible, grab bicep/tricep, squeeze, then start turning/walking into them to finish the choke.
  4. Technical standup to Peruvian necktie.  As #3, but this time you can't get the arm out.  Throw right leg over their head/neck and left leg over their body, pull into necktie.
The second set of techniques were taught by Gui and were various kimura attacks from top 1/2 guard.  Assuming you're working a knee slide pass to opponent's right side (your left side), use right hand to maintain distance on their hip (so they can't get deep underhook), then hunt for the kimura grip on their right hand.  Grab the grip over their back then roll.  If they try to come up/turn in, go for the back.  If they don't, get your hips on mat near their shoulder (facing away from them) and apply pressure.  There were also some triangle variations from here as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Purple belt

And I got my purple belt tonight. I still think I'm 6 months away from having it legitimately, but oh well.