Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

What Makes a Great Coach or Instructor?
What attributes does it take to become a great teacher of Jiu Jitsu?

BJJ is a tough sport to master so imagine how much harder it is to teach it. There is tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure to convey knowledge to your students who entrust you to share your knowledge. We often take for granted the stress this can bring upon our own instructors. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from some amazing people and decided to write an article for BJJ WEEKLY about what makes the perfect coach. Hopefully it will give you some insight into what your instructor goes through and perhaps what you can do to help elevate your game.
check it out at BJJ weekly

Jake Santiago, Patrick Ryan, Patrick Broring, Tim Bruce, Pedro Lima, Chris Escamilla, Eddie Twyford and Zach after training for Mundials 2011!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tips To Help Getting Sponsored In BJJ

How to get sponsorship in BJJ

Often the topic of sponsorship comes up among Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors. In the gym, there are lots of guys that want to compete but don’t have the necessary funds to do so. Not everyone has the luxury of having tournaments held near to their homes or academies and certainly most fighters I know don’t have the money to fly all over the world to compete. If you are financially well off and able to do this…awesome. For the rest of us, we need to find money to do what we love. One answer is sponsorship. So the question is, “How can I get sponsored to fight?” The answer is simply, you have to work for it. Sponsorship money is out there but you need to know what you are doing and you need to put in some work for it.
Remember…unless you are one of the biggest names in the sport, people are not going to throw checks at you. Since I’m no Roger Gracie, I need to look for people willing to help me out! Businesses are most likely not knocking down our doors to pay us to fight. There is no such thing as free money. But the good news is that there is money available in corporate world that people will be willing to share with us to train and compete. With a few helpful tips, you may be able to help fund you passion and obtain sponsorship to the next big BJJ tournament by following a few simple general guidelines.
            Recently a friend of mine had asked me if I had any tips on how to get sponsored. The first thing I told him is to look within the academy. In many BJJ schools, there are people from all walks of life. You may have doctors and lawyers and wealthy business owners that share your passion for the sport of BJJ but perhaps not the desire to compete.  These people have trained with you. They have sat on the mats after class and laughed with you. They are your teammates and friends and they know you as well as anyone out there. These are the first people to ask if they would be willing to help out with travel expenses. Usually this will be a business expense or tax write off for them and they will get the satisfaction of helping out one of their own. It may not necessarily be an actually BJJ student, but perhaps a good friend or family member related to you or someone within the academy. In the school, there are multiple opportunities to find some financial assistance to compete. All you need to do is ask. Remember that these people are you biggest fans.
            If you or your coach doesn’t feel comfortable soliciting from within, you need to consider outside businesses and institutions. This requires a little more effort and preplanning on your part. There are many things that you need to factor into your decision on whom to approach and how to approach them. The first step is researching potential sponsors. Find someone who is a good fit for BJJ. A music store or ballet dance studio is probably not the best place to look. Realistically, for a sponsor who doesn’t know you, this will be a business opportunity and they need to get something out of this deal. A local sports bar may be a better fit. You need to formulate a letter that explains why they will benefit from sponsoring you and what you can do for them. If you were going to the World Championships, you can tell them how many competitors will be there. You can tell them how many spectators will be there. Explain how many magazines, websites, journalists and worldwide viewers will be watching this event. Tell them how many people train in your gym and that live in the community, who are following you. Tell them how by sponsoring you, their business will be getting a return on their investment. Prove to them that you are a sound business investment. Be confident and persuasive and professional. Above all, be honest and do not promise or make claims that you can’t guarantee and back up. This is a legitimate business partnership and if you wish to be sponsored continually by them, you need to work for them.
            One you find some suitable sponsors that seem to make sense for Jiu Jitsu sponsorship and you have researched them well, you need to find the contact person whom will be in charge of making any decisions regarding your potential sponsorship with them. Before you send them a letter, drop them a line or even stop by in person. Normally a business will not bother reading or responding to a letter from a stranger asking for money. Remember that in the letter, they will most likely not be able to understand your drive, passion and enthusiasm for the sport. However a short and sincere phone conversation and introduction will let them know to expect a package from you in the near future.
            In the letter you send them afterwards, you should include a breakdown of what the money you request will be going towards, i.e. Travel, lodging and registration fees. Also include some info about who you are and your competition record. They need to know why sponsoring you will help them get a return on their donation and how you will help them for their contributions. This has to be in more than just a logo on your Gi. In today’s age of internet marketing, you can explain to them, that you will be mentioned on your Facebook page, your website or Blog if you have one. You will put them as a web link on your signature and mention them in Jiu Jitsu forums and if you win, you will proudly mention and display who they are. You will wear their patch and make youtube videos and get their name publicized as much as yours. Let them know that your name is out there and theirs will be out there with it!
            Another must is having a well written letter. If you have the grammatical skills and persuasive ability of an angry 10 year old, get a friend to help write it. A professional organization will only respond to you if you are presenting them with a well organized and well written proposal. There are probably plenty of people in the academy that would be willing to help you out in this endeavor.  When writing the letter, don’t sound desperate and do not beg for money. Some people include pictures of themselves during tournaments. This is a personal preference, whether or not you include one. The idea behind this is they will see a good photo of you in action and understand the environment you compete in and where they may be advertising. Do not include a picture unless it presents you in a positive light and try to have a good photo taken with a decent camera if you decide to go this route. It would be counterproductive to give them a cheap, blurry Polaroid of you in the locker room with a plastic medal around your neck!
            This brings us to the point that the process of trying to find a sponsor should begin well ahead of time. Some companies have major red tape and protocol to sort out before deciding on granting you sponsorship. If you are patient and prepared, you may be successful. When asking for funds, remember, it’s better to get one main sponsor than to have a dozen small contributions. You don’t want to look like a patchwork quilt on the mat with 15 small logos and patches on your Gi! When you approach an organization you feel has good potential, ask for more money than you actually need. This will give you some room to negotiate ad still leave all of your expenses covered for the tournament. You also don’t want them to feel as if they are getting some second rate fighter. Exude confidence in your ability as a fighter and person so that they feel as if they are sponsoring a quality contender and individual. Remember the work you put in to BJJ on the mats…that’s the person they are getting when they sponsor you. Let them know that.
            If you follow these steps and you do get sponsorship, keep them updated periodically as to how you are doing and how training is going. Emails and letters and periodic phone calls will remind them of the fact that you appreciate you partnership and this may help maintain the relationship you build with them for years to come. If you don’t work for them in some capacity, you can probably forget ever getting money from them again. It’s typically easier to get sponsored by an upstart equipment company compared to an established Jiu Jitsu gear company with big named fighters sponsored by them or a local business not related to the sport. You may be able to obtain lots of free gear and equipment, but this probably will not cover the costs of a major competition. It will however help offset the expenses involved in training and can translate to more money in your budget for competitions.
            Some people may have difficulty finding a local business to help. If this is the case, you need to go out and look at different venues to find them. If you want to meet the people that may potentially help you with sponsorship in the future, one option is to think about ways in which you and or the academy can do volunteer work in the local community. This is an excellent chance to meet other individuals who could possibly introduce you to potential sponsors in the future that will remember you for your charity work. It will also show local business owners the type of people they are dealing with and make it more likely that they will want to help you. This is a good chance to get you and your schools name out there in a positive light. It’s all about the exposure for a business to see their potential gain. Hopefully by using some of these tips you can get some financial help to assist you in following your dreams and get to do what you love, for free.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reading to Improve BJJ....Part 2

Reading to Improve BJJ...Part 2

Reading short articles of a page or 2 in length are appropriate for the purpose of stimulating the brain before Jiu Jitsu as we are just “activating” our brains to gear them up and set an overall emotional mood and stimulate cognitive areas of the brain involved in learning, memory and motivation to bring positive energy and results into the day or training session. Further reading in great detail has huge benefits that are beyond the scope of what I’m prepared to write about here, but essentially the more you read, the smarter you will become overall and certainly within the context of your subject of choice. As BJJ practitioners, we are generally limited in the amount of material out there, but the more you do read, the better your game will become. Fortunately more and more material is being written by people in the sport for us to choose from. We can cross over into other athletic fields and learn much from the researched material as it may have a similar benefit, such as wrestling, judo, swimming, track and weight training to name a few. Training ideas can be found with scientific research backing up many of the theories presented and incorporated into our jiu jitsu.
 But as far as the benefits of reading for daily motivation, we are restricted temporally to a few minutes in order to help direct us towards our individual goals. A good way to start the morning upon waking up is to get a short piece that has positive emotional qualities. Uplifting and positive reading material will help to get our attitudes and emotional states aligned with our expected outcomes and goals. A book of quotations is excellent for this purpose. Unless you have an advanced degree in history, political science or philosophy, you will probably be introduced to a good number of people whom you may never have heard of, but will probably be able to learn a lot about and from. Famous presidents and generals in history are excellent sources of inspirational quotes. Sun Tzu, Patton, Napoleon, Julius Caesar are examples of people who offer great material to read. Perhaps Gandhi, The Dalai Lama or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be a benefit for others.
Jiu Jitsu quotes are easy enough to find if you look online for them with a quick search engine query. Due to the nature of how many pro fighters arose to glory, you may find them both inspirational and hilarious. See some of Rampage Jackson quotes if you want a better idea of what I mean by hilarious. There are also many other stories about athletes overcoming adversity and beating the odds. The inspirational material will trigger combinations of hormones, endorphins and chemicals that will stay in the blood stream for sometime benefitting us throughout the day as we work, train, compete and live. This is where a little preplanning goes a long way.
 There are plenty of BJJ magazines and websites with excellent information out there that offer fantastic reading opportunities to improve one’s BJJ knowledge while strengthening one’s mind. A trip to local book store or google search will return seemingly endless possibilities. As fighter’s we are always finding new ways to strengthen our bodies but we often neglect the single most important aspect of jiu jitsu, which is our brains. The nature of the material you read will help guide you through the type of mood you desire to be the underlying essence of how you feel throughout the day while potentially providing you with excellent technical knowledge of the sport and its practitioners and history. If you wish to train hard, you can read an article on the importance of hard work and effort. If you wish to gear up for a major competition or fight, a story of success or that of a champion fighter will hopefully help to inspire greatness.
Whatever direction you chose, you will ultimately be able to choose your reading material based on your own personal interests and requirements as a fighter and an athlete. As with most things Jiu Jitsu related, this is beneficial in other areas of life as well. Many of my students who have tried these techniques have come back to tell me that this opened an entirely new area of their minds and they have begun to make huge gains on the mats. When you have found yourself hitting a plateau in your game, you may want to try something new out. This technique is so simple and logical that once you think about it is hard not to understand how and why it will be a huge benefit to anyone who commits to it.
Once the flood gates have been opened, there is no turning back and the new knowledge you acquire through a little reading will manifest itself through your physical actions in the gym and on the mat. The BJJ you learn in class and in reading will permeate into your subconscious and have more pathways to reach your periphery when called upon. Often this will happen in a subtle way. You will react without thought to an opponent’s advances and flow instinctively. This can be achieved by repetition in the gym and through a little reading. When this begins, you will notice the change in your game and huge strides you will begin to make.


Tim Bruce vs. Alexander Vamos in the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials Black Belt division

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Using reading to improve BJJ

How Reading Can Be Used to Increase Cognitive function for Jiu Jitsu.

The next stage involved in directing the fighter’s brain towards strengthening cognitive ability and improving overall jiu jistu is through reading. There are unlimited choices as to what type of reading selection one could make but certain criteria need to be well thought about and the selection should be made based on the personal situation and goals of the individual. One needs to read material related to what they are trying to get out of their routine and desired motivational effects from this practice. It shouldn’t be a “breaking news flash” that reading makes you smarter, but the fact is, it will help us to understand the psychological and cognitive reasons as to WHY this happens.
Also it should be noted that reading alone will not make one proficient at jiu Jitsu but it will increase performance levels of a practitioner of the art who does supplement their training with studying through reading. Through the understanding of these processes, we can take advantage of this knowledge and it will make us more successful in all aspects of our lives and in this case in specific, our jiu jistu through the specific reading of material related to our training.
 Studies have shown that reading will increase the neural activity in the left hemisphere of the brain, specifically in the occipital and temporal lobes. By reading, you will strengthen the neural connections between what is read, written language, spoken language and allow your brain to consume more oxygen and even grow. By grow, I mean that white matter levels in the brain can increase in some individuals. The actual size of your head will not expand so there is no need to worry! This discovery was made by researches from Carnegie Mellon University who conducted an experiment where they had subjects read daily for a 6 month period. The study revealed that after 100 hours of remedial reading training, the subjects had new white matter form. White matter is the circuitry that connects areas of the brain to send signals. In theory, the more connections between “stored information” that we have in our brains, the greater the ability to recall facts and knowledge.
 In terms of jiu-jitsu, a person who has more white matter “filled” with stored information, (memory), and technical knowledge of jiu jitsu techniques and theory can respond to a situation faster without having to sit and think of a potential escape or attack. It’s like when you are taking a long trip by car and you have a road map with multiple routes to the same destination programmed into a GPS telling you where to go as opposed to one set of hand written directions with no alternative route information that you need to stop and read every few minutes in order to not get lost! Who do you think will arrive to where they are going first?  The more connections, the more options and the faster we can recognize these options when we need them.
By stimulating and thus “waking up” the areas involved in memory recall and the white matter in our brain where we store our technical and applicable jiu jitsu knowledge before we go into training, we actually allow our brains the ability to learn faster and more efficiently by making multiple cognitive connections within our neural infrastructure. In essence, Jiu Jitsu is like a physical language and the more techniques we learn, the greater the ability to manifest our physical "vocabulary" within the sport.
 The overall tone of what should be read may help direct the conscious mind to a certain mood and emotion as well. There are passages to help one relax. This may not be a great idea before a training session but may perhaps be beneficial to an individual who is nervous before an event. Calming the nerves before a tournament and harnessing the adrenaline experienced can focus a fighter on their body and mind without the unnecessary expenditure of energy due to the increase in the autonomic nervous system functioning (heart rate, respiration, salivary production, sweating etc…)
Some people are not big on reading and they will begin to pass out and fall asleep after only a few pages. These people need to choose the correct time to read and certainly the correct material. Base your selection wisely and read towards your goals. As it usually ends up, a person will begin to get excited when they are able to read about a subject they are passionate about. When that material can speak to them on a personal level, such as when a BJJ fighter reads about a method to improve their training, and they are both interested in and benefitting from it, they will usually go through a period of aroused levels of excitement directed towards the sport itself and be able to function at a higher level as a result.
Some people may need to focus less on the technical aspects of BJJ and theory based instructional and instead try to regulate their emotional states as that is a huge determining factor in overall success and improvement in our sport. For some people reading their favorite biblical passages may be beneficial. Others may want to read an article based on leisure activity not related to jiu jitsu in an attempt to calm their anxiety levels and clear their minds when too many ideas and techniques begin to overlap and add a level of confusion to their game. Often a serious BJJ student will go to bed with a weeks worth of new knowledge and techniques swirling around inside their minds and it begins to be counterproductive. Taking a step back and “wiping the page clean” so to speak may do wonders.

Next post...Part 2 of reading for improved BJJ

Monday, March 21, 2011


Check out this website and my article....
here is a link to their archives

For those of you who have never seen it, its an awesome site dedicated to BJJ. The techniques are great and the rolling reflections is unique and offers a glimpse into the cerebral aspect of BJJ. The fact that they published my article on mental toughness doesn't hurt their credibility either! They put out new material every monday and its totally worth subscribing to their email list (its free!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Daily motivation in BJJ part 2

Using music to elicit a biochemical change in the Jiu Jitsu fighter's brain

Start off simple. Try this out on a day when you don’t have to rush out the door to go to work or school and enter a hectic environment. Have time to relax and put full effort and concentration into it. If you have other things on your mind, you may miss out on the benefits. If you hurry through the process you may not see the desired results right away and may give up on it before it has a chance to help you. If need be, wake up a few extra minutes early, but not so early that you resent the practice! This will be a process of trial and error in the sense that some things will work better for you than others. Pick what aspects and techniques suit you best and go with it. A little bit of advanced preparation will make the process time efficient and effective. The type of music or motivational material will vary and you will eventually find what seems most appropriate for you. I find that there are 3 main types of music to set a tone. Type A) for relaxation, type B) for a positive mood and type C) for motivation are the main categories. Music has a proven benefit to mood and psychological well being. Research has shown huge emotional changes and physiological benefits from listening to music. Listening to music will actually improve cognitive functioning and may help to “refresh” certain memories or even in BJJ, techniques. If you train with music in the background at your gym, listening to that type of music will begin to put your mind in that same emotional state you reach when you are rolling hardcore. You see fighters with head phones in their ears walking around warming up at tournaments because it will act as a distracter to take their mind off of the environment and get their mind and body ready for combat. Psychologically, without the same environmental factors that we are used to when engaging in a specific activity; we are creating artificial anxiety which may have a detrimental effect on performance.  Music can relax you at night and energize you in the morning. It helps set the mood when trying to romance a date, sends the audience onto the edge of their seats in action or horror movies and even can create uncontrollable physical reactions when a person hears a song that they like. Music is also used to pump up and excite crowds and players at sporting events. In recent years professional sports owners and coaches have realized this and will play chosen songs for their players each time they come up to bat or come onto the field. Walk in music has been pumping up fighters for years in boxing wrestling and MMA. Soldiers will listen to certain tracks before battle. It helps create emotion. Music is one of the strongest sensations for evoking past memories. It will help clear the mind of all problems, set a tone and environment for directing your consciousness and helps one focus on connecting mental, physical and emotional energy for positive use by the athlete.
Music for relaxation may be anything from classical music to meditation tracks. Yoga and Chinese themed songs work well. Research into what you like and what will help you relax. Music for a positive mood will vary greatly. What music do you love that always makes you happy when it comes on the radio? This could be any genre of music and is dictated by the personal taste of the individual. Download several of your all time favorites and play them back to back uninterrupted. Make sure that these songs all have positive memories associated with them, for it will be counterproductive to have a song that reminds you of an ex and makes you depressed or angry for the rest of the day. Finally, songs to motivate you can be similar to the previous category in the sense that they make you happy to hear, but have the extra little edge that makes you want to attack. Create a list of 5 songs that you’d walk into the ring or cage to and that’s a good start. You’ll find that you will start remembering other songs and the list will be very easy to create. The chemicals produced when these feelings are being generated are more than just “in your head” but are physiologically altering the composition of the brain and make very real changes. Music is recognized and processed by the auditory cortex in the temporal lobe, so listening to music will awaken this area in the brain and facilitate other areas involved with similar cognitive functioning. Adrenaline will be produced as well as testosterone and enter the blood stream. Cortisone levels will fall and endorphin levels will rise. Creating an environment where you can get your mind and body at a level both physically and psychologically where you want it to be is a huge advantage for an athlete to begin their day and their training.
            While listening to the selected music, this is the time to allow your body a chance to wake up. This can be accomplished by a combination of stretching and light calisthenics. Depending on the desired outcome, you can change the intensity of what you do, but the idea is not to establish a strong workout routine in the morning but rather devise a quick set of activities designed to increase mobility and range of motion. With all of the chemicals your brain is now pumping out via the endocrine system, you want the circulatory system to deliver them to all the possible cells and muscles that they can. There is a direct benefit from stretching first thing in the morning due to the physiology of the body. At night when we sleep we experience a pooling of the blood in the visceral tissue or internal organs. Less blood reaches our peripheral muscles and as such or circulation is inadequate in the morning when we first awaken. By stretching lightly we increase the circulatory capabilities of the body and increase cerebral blood flow. This has a positive effect on waking up the body and mind. An increase in blood flow to the brain and endocrine organs will increase the flow of beneficial hormones throughout the body and initiate positive changes in the individual over time. A steady production and distribution of the right hormones will prevent depression and encourage physical activity. It’s the same way that on a nice sunny spring day, people are more likely to get outside and go for a run whereas on a gloomy grey day, they are more likely to stay inside. Some people even suffer from SAD, or seasonal affective dissorder, which is a mental disorder that causes depression in the darker winter months. There isn’t much physically that a little extra vitamin D wouldn’t take care of, but psychologically this disorder has a tremendous effect on mood causing many people to become sedentary due to the changes of the seasons. By generating a steady production of hormones the body will have an increased amount of energy and psychologically there will be greater motivation to workout and train. The increased blood flow does more than just wake up the muscles it also wakes up the brain. The Cerebellum will become more engaged at this point and help with coordinating voluntary muscle activity in the body making the transition into the day an easier one.
As the body will be cold upon waking, it is important to keep the stretching light and fluid as to not cause an injury. Finding a good place to stretch out while listening to music will be an important part in changing the biochemistry of the body. Depending on how much time you have a little light exercise in the morning is an option as well. Light exercising in the morning will jump start the metabolism and elevate energy levels and keep the metabolic rate higher throughout the day for longer when compared to not exercising. A more intense session may involve some pushups, squats and sit-ups as well but were not trying to replace a proper workout at this point, only get our body geared up towards bigger things later in the day and sustaining a positive physical and mental mood throughout the day. By intense, I refer to a more “motivating” activity with emphasis on a particular mindset as opposed to the description of the actual workout. A handful of bodyweight exercises to pump up the major muscle groups and release a few endorphins to connect your brain and body to get you ready for hard workouts later is the goal. Remember, the goal is to wake up the body and mind and direct it towards succeeding in a goal oriented capacity, not necessarily to provide a long or intense workout. It should be pleasurable and something that you look forward to doing. Most people won’t continue doing something that they dislike, so this needs to be enjoyable to become a permanent part of the daily morning ritual.
Next post...part 3...Reading.

                      Tim Bruce vs. Gregor Gracie in the Grappler's Quest finals

Music as a tool to elicit biochemical changes for a fighter

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to Increase Daily Motivation Part 1

Daily Motivation
Biochemical changes in the Jiu Jitsu fighter's brain!
In many of life’s activities, people will often start off with a certain zeal for their chosen hobbies or professions. They will enter the activity with a huge amount of enthusiasm and then begin to falter later in the game. This is normally not due to a physical deficiency on their part but rather a mental one. Their body will become stronger but then their will to drive onwards will become weaker. What allows a person who seems to have the love of a sport, become apathetic towards it for no apparent reason? Besides the obvious situation of financial strain or incompatibility of their schedule due to work and family obligations, how does one lose focus on their original goals so quickly? What seems to be apparent to me is that once goals have been perceived as important enough to attempt to achieve, the mental toughness of an individual serves as a huge indicator as to whether or not the goal will be a successful accomplishment or a failure. In Jiu Jitsu one of the greatest goals for an athlete is the rank of Black Belt. Most practitioners that I know covet this prize and hold it in the proper regards as far as ranking it high as one of life’s great accomplishments. Why is it then that people stumble and fall off the path mid way through the journey? What steps can one take to increase their chances of reaching that goal? There are many techniques that can be used to keep you concentrated towards maintaining the discipline needed to give you a competitive edge and help succeed in sticking to your plan and accomplishing great things in both BJJ and life. As both a fighter and a coach it is paramount to understand this psychological process and be able to prevent it from occurring and help positive progress in your technical and practical knowledge of the art. As a business owner it will allow you to retain your students and allow for academy growth. As a competitor, it may be the difference between winning and losing.

            On technique that I find particularly useful is something that I call “conscious direction.” This is a technique that can be uniquely tailored to each individual and helps out tremendously. This is a motivational technique used in sports psychology and motivational therapists. Tailoring it to BJJ isn’t very difficult as the general idea is to create positive visualizations to instill emotions and direction molded and adapted towards a jiu jitsu fighter. “Conscious direction” is simply a way to start off the day or activity with a positive mental outlook focusing on success. It is similar to meditation and self hypnosis but requires less imagination and visualization on the practitioner’s part. It differs in that unlike with self meditation and hypnosis, the conscious brain is targeted and no subliminal suggestion is required. It is more or less a way to get the brain and “competitive spirit” warmed up and on track and aligned with targeted goals that an individual may have. This is extremely important in competitive sports, that the athlete works on increasing confidence and focus through visualization exercises. This only takes perhaps 5 to 10 minutes in the morning and will start the day off with an increased intensity, motivation and drive. Subjects find that there moods are elevated and this is likely due to an increase in serotonin levels. After time, the body will begin to make changes on a biological level and the association between mental imagery and endorphin levels will institute a behavioral change. The connection between brain and body is stronger than most people realize. Doctor David Bohm a renowned physicist and who made huge contributions in the fields of theoretical physics and neuropsychology gives valuable insight into this process. He understood that thoughts control our actions. We feel as if we have control over our thought processes but in actuality it is our thoughts that drive and control us. What this means is that when we are critical of ourselves and have self doubt, we will actually change and alter the biochemical make up of our brain, lowering serotonin levels while increasing cortisol levels, causing depression and leaving feelings of anxiety and stress. This will then only accentuate the negative thought processes which caused this process to begin, which leads it to spiral into even greater feelings of self doubt. It’s a snowball effect…it only gets worse over time. Fortunately the reverse is also true. Putting positive thoughts and associations in one’s mind and thought process of success and achievement will only increase the biochemical activity associated with these behaviors, decreasing cortisol while increasing endorphins like serotonin and likely increase the chances of repeating such successful behaviors and endeavors. Sometimes losing is a self fulfilling prophecy and reversely a winning attitude can be the difference in the outcome of an event. The influence the brain has over the body is profound and by directing the brain to focus and orient itself towards a directed goal, one can improve their productivity, attitude, health and well being. In the terms of Jiu Jitsu, and training, one can focus and orient themselves to help with their diet, stretching, training, competing, learning and teaching. Unlike self help books and c.d.’s, one can tailor their own program to reach their individuals goals and change it on a daily basis if need be.
Next Post...Part 2. Creating a Routine

                                              Baby Rhino gets a new belt!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Maintaining Motivation in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Maintaining Motivation in BJJ
retraining the brain to stay focused on goals
How one keeps motivated to pursue their goals varies. There are many strategies that people will utilize in order to keep motivated and to remain on task. According to research, most people will rely on will power to stay the course, keep their resolutions and reach their goals. This conscious discipline uses a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for such actions like moderation of social activity, construction of the behaviors responsible for maintaining internal goals, decision making and the general personality of an individual. Where many people may start off strong and disciplined in regards to sticking with their goals, the cognitive ability to maintain this drive may become overworked and resolutions begin to falter and ultimately fail as the prefrontal cortex becomes overwhelmed with external stressors. Studies have shown that there are better methods to try and maintain the motivation required for reaching goals. Researchers have suggested that a much better method is to connect positive emotions with new habits in order to retrain the brain and form new behavioral patterns. The more neural pathways that connect good emotions and endocrine releases, the more the brain and body begin to view these activities that cause these emotions and hormonal releases as favorable and you will actually strive to perform them to experience this positive feeling. This is ultimately a biological impetus for behavioral change. The problem is that often we get stressed in life and the areas of the brain that are responsible for maintaining our commitment to staying disciplined and reaching goals becomes over loaded and we ultimately fall back into old habits. When we are upset or stressed we will desire an instant fix which is why things like cigarettes, fast food and other vices replace the activities that pay dividends in the long run. Maintaining the focus to stay motivated in anything, let alone Jiu Jitsu requires a constant effort. It is an endurance event, not a sprint. Setting measurable goals will allow a system of emotionally gratifying rewards when certain benchmarks are met. A detailed plan of goals will take this into account as well as what to do when you stumble along the way. For example, one might have a goal to make class 4 times a week and workout 4 times a week. Maybe they miss one of those days. A good system will have a contingency plan to work out on the off day or double up on another day twice that week to make up for the lost sessions. Otherwise, it could signal the beginning of the end if you allow missed opportunities with not addressing the setbacks and fall into old patterns and bad habits. Preplanning will help to develop a plan of attack that can address many of the unknowns and facilitate success.
We need to be constantly reminded of our goals. When surveying highly successful people and athletes, one thing that they all share is the fact that they will always reaffirm their goals and dreams and this helps them stay motivated and focused on their long term plans.  Perhaps you are focused enough that a single post it note will suffice in reminding you. Other people may need to create a motivational wall in their bedroom with posters and phrases and the listed goals highlighted to help push them every day. Whatever method you find works best for your personality, having the goals clearly defined and written down will guarantee you don’t lose track of that which was important enough to be written down. Stanford University Professor, Dr. Barbara Shiv recommends changing the way you think in order to maintain the focus needed to implement such change and maintain behaviors conducive towards reaching established goals. Visualize yourself as a champion every time you begin a difficult running set. If while you envision yourself atop the winner’s podium, you will begin to assign positive feelings towards a difficult step in your conditioning program and you may no longer begin to dread it, but value it for what it is going to help you accomplish. If emotional stimuli accompany the behaviors needed to reach goals, then the odds of continuation of such behaviors increase significantly. On the other hand, picture yourself losing every time that you engage in a behavior detrimental towards your goals and you will begin to assign negative emotional thoughts to that which will cause you to derail from your intended goal. This will allow your brain to automatically feel a certain way towards a certain activity even when your prefrontal cortex is too exhausted to maintain the focus and drive it would normally take to stay disciplined. Staying prepared in all aspects of your life, you’ll have a chance to reduce normal daily stress which will help to prevent a derailment of the motivation needed to work towards Jiu Jitsu goals.
DNA fighters Zecca, Tim Bruce, Brad B, Rob Jewett,  Rodrigo M, Anderson Pinto, Luis Wilson and Lidio showing off their hardware after a successful tournament.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Goal setting in BJJ...Part 5.

Goal Setting in BJJ...Part 5.   TIME.

Setting goals that are Time relevant

The last letter in the S.M.A.R.T. acronym is Timely or Time relevant. There needs to be a “light at the end of the tunnel.” There is a huge difference in the attitudes and work ethic of high school and college freshmen than there is in 12th graders and graduating college seniors. In many cases, 9th graders will not see the urgency in working hard to meet the requirements to graduate high school and move on to college due to it being so far away. However a senior in high school sees the light at the end of the tunnel and now has a time frame in which they need to meet certain deadlines and commitments in order to pass high school and move on to college. College freshmen will often enter college and put less focus on their academics and more on their social life but by time they become seniors they start to prepare for the “real world” and their priorities are often way different.  In BJJ, any open ended goal will allow for procrastination. A good goal will have certain check points to determine whether or not progress has been made towards meeting ones goals. I always like planning goals in coordination with tournaments. You will have a time frame in which you can measure your progress and an ultimate date to measure your performance at the end. Setting goals with time limits is a good way to motivate and “push” someone along to take the steps needed to advance. Have a mixture of short, medium and long term goals. Short term goals may be goals for the week. Medium range goals may require preplanning for up to a year and long term goals should be well thought out and ultimately lead to the highest levels you wish to achieve in this sport. All short and medium range goals need to support the overall long term plan which for many people is to receive their black belts. Short term plans will support the medium term plans which will support the long term ones which will increase the chances of reaching them. By having short and medium term goals, you will be able to constantly adjust your goals to meet your long term goals. As you improve, you will most likely need to adjust certain aspects of your training to optimize your chances of success. It’s like building a house. The short term goals will be the daily and weekly building and construction schedule. The medium range plans will be checkpoints that make sure certain areas are completed, such as individual rooms or floors. The long term plan is the completed project. Problems will arise and adjustments will be made. Making sure we overcome the obstacles that stand in our way is important and easier to handle when we have a blueprint of how we plan on accomplishing what we had set out to do.

 Many people set goals based on belt ranks and stripes and when they want to get there. This is common and ill-advised. Train hard and try to improve but don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to achieve a belt rank in a given time period as this is something out of your control. The skills and techniques you improve and the effort you put into training ARE within your control and hard work WILL get you results, but when someone gives you something is anybody’s guess. Despite the fact that you may be able to tap higher belts, an instructor may keep you for other reasons. Don’t worry about it. Promotion will happen when it happens. Focus on your forward progress instead of when you get your next belt. Worrying about when you get a new belt may set one’s self up for disappointment. A belt is only a piece of fabric. Of greater importance is the skill that this belt represents. I’d rather wear a white belt and have black belt skills and mentality then have a black belt with white belt skill sets any day. Don’t stress over when you get a belt, but rather when you develop the skills needed to compete at that level. All good goals will be able to be achieved within measurable time limits.


Black Belts Joao Amaral, Beto Nunes, Pedro Lima, Murilo Bustamante, Edgard Dutra & Tim Bruce

Friday, March 4, 2011

Goal setting in BJJ...Part 4

Goal Setting in BJJ .....Part 4
Realistic and rewarding goals

The next letter in the acronym is R. There are 2 R’s as far as I’m concerned. The first is REALISTIC. This is similar to Attainable in my mind, as any realistic goal is something that you can achieve. Perhaps with a family and a career it’s unrealistic to put forth the time required to meet certain goals that MAY be attainable in the right circumstances. Some goals that people set may be completely unrealistic at first but as they begin their path towards accomplishing them, they can make the necessary adjustments along the way to permit success. As your skills improve and your knowledge of the sport and conditioning and dietary requirements increase, you may be able to accomplish things that were unrealistic when you first started. One MUST have the will to work, as well as the time and ability to accomplish whatever is required of them to reach their goals. A high goal, such as promotion to black belt can be accomplished with hard work and a good plan that takes into account all aspects required to succeed. In BJJ to be successful, there are multiple areas to work with including psychology, conditioning, technique, time management and financial support as aspects of the sport that we need to study and master. But perhaps the most single important attribute to determine if a goal is realistic and attainable is a personal belief that you CAN accomplish something and that you WILL do what’s needed in order to succeed in achieving your goals. I’ve always liked the old saying, “Shoot for the stars…even if you come up short you may still hit the moon.” There is no reason to strive for mediocrity unless you are the type of personality that will shut down from missing your targeted goals in life. Knowing yourself and some of your weaknesses are important in establishing realistic and attainable goals. Some people cannot handle failure and shut themselves off at the first sign. Others will avoid situations where they feel they may encounter failure. After training a little while in BJJ this is a situation that can slowly be managed. Without perseverance, we’d all have quit after the first week when we were getting tapped left and right!  If you plan on winning worlds and come up short taking 5th place, that’s still a huge accomplishment and something to be very proud of. But by having realistic and attainable goals, you may be able to achieve greater things than if you don’t push yourself at all.
 The other R that I like in this S.M.A.R.T. acronym is REWARDING. If the goals achieved are rewarding, the individual is more likely to attempt to recreate a worthwhile goal and the work and conditions that took them there and ultimately success will be assured. Goals that have no rewards, be it personal or monetary in nature may be pointless and unworthy of further pursuit. If a goal is too easy, there will be no reward in it. Easy goals will require very little effort to accomplish and keep the person unmotivated to excel. A goal of tapping out every white belt in the gym for an experienced BJJ practitioner, for example, is not going to really help you out in pursuit of much loftier goals and will probably cause more harm than good. As silly as that goal may sound, I have heard it before. Where is the reward? What will require you step up and improve your overall game? A more appropriate goal may be to allow every white belt to take your back and escape within a certain amount of time. Afterwards, show them the techniques and teach them how to improve their back attacks, making it harder on you the next time. The value of helping teammates as well as the benefit of having a more technically proficient training partner has greater value for you and the gym and will perhaps prove to be both a greater challenge and benefit in the long run. A higher and more difficult goal will require a higher degree of personal motivation and one that you consider to be of worthy or noble pursuit will make you take greater pleasure and passion in the ultimate successes when reaching certain milestones on your way to reaching these goals. Nothing is more impressive and intimidating than when you see a highly motivated individual working harder than everyone else in the gym as they try to push the limits of what they believe to be possible. The secret is a well thought out plan that pushes the boundaries of what they believe possible. And when you believe what you can do is realistic and attainable…almost anything is possible.

Next post...Part 5. Time

Luis Wilson, Black Belt Tim Bruce and Pat Ryan at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Goal setting in BJJ part 3.

Goal setting in BJJ part 3.

Attainable goals.

One of the harder aspects of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym is A which stands for ATTAINABLE. This is tough because not all fighters are created equal and there are some people that will have a harder time reaching certain goals than others. There may be some people that will not be able to achieve success in tournaments or perhaps will not be able to receive their black belts. This is a truth supported by the fact that most people in BJJ do not go on to receive their black belts or become world champions. If it was easy, every academy would have as many black belts as they do white belts! For whatever the reasons, they come up just short. Not that ONLY receiving a blue belt should be considered a failure; it’s actually a tremendous accomplishment and something to be extremely proud of. But if you start out with a desire to become a black belt, anything less is disappointing and being stuck at the same level for years will only remind you of where you are and where you wanted to be. Competition success can be equally as exasperating.  If you strive to win and you are a competitive individual, even 2nd place will leave you unfulfilled. Having a realistic outlook on our physical abilities can be difficult for many to be able to do because it’s a form of self analysis that requires people to accept the fact that they may be good but not great. This can be a hard pill for lots of people to swallow. The truth is that we will always be able to improve our jiu jitsu, but we may not be able to achieve the loftiest goals we set when these goals are unrealistic. A good instructor will always be honest and should never tell a student that they can guarantee certain successes in their martial arts career. The only promise that can be made is that if the school is creditable and the instructor competent, that they will improve over time with hard work and dedication to the sport. Never set goals that will eventually result in failure as this may cause an irreversible decline in performance and participation. If someone begins to associate BJJ with failure and they develop a negative attitude, they can lose the passion that drives them. Any goals that are made should indeed be challenging, but something that can actually end up in success. I don’t want people to lose optimism and have lower expectations of themselves and set the bar too low. Quite the opposite. It’s just a fact that there is only ONE Jiu Jitsu world champion crowned in their respective weight divisions every year at each belt level which can lead to a lot of disappointed fighters whose goals may have been to take gold. Being able to medal at a tournament like the world championships is by no means a failure, but sometimes certain individuals will put so much effort to achieve certain success that anything less is a failure to them. This is a good attitude to take for the certain select few apex competitors of the sport, but the rest of us need to be more practical.
Not everybody can receive their black belt in 4 years! Setting a timeline for when you want to get promoted is partially out of your control, as it is the instructor’s decision ultimately and they may not agree with your timeline. Think in terms of realistic skill sets. As a white belt, shoot for blue in 2 and get there first. Take baby steps and surprise yourself when you achieve success sooner than expected. Start low and always adjust from there. If the ultimate goal an individual sets is to become World champion, then great. Begin with a small tournament and win that. Then you can move on to an IBJJF Open event and win that. Start off with realistic goals and only when you have conquered those should you adjust the expectations to meet your abilities. It’s a shame to set one’s self up to fail because you set an unattainable goal. As you set up the steps necessary to accomplish these goals, you will find that your attitude and skill sets will begin to grow and improve and the once seemingly unattainable is now within reach. As you improve, you will see that almost anything is possible with the right steps and people behind you, but most importantly is the drive and discipline required to reach that which you wish to possess.

Next Post...Part 4....The R's
Professor Tim Bruce vs Sam McCoy

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Goal Setting in BJJ part 2

Goal Setting in BJJ: Part 2

Measurable Goals.

The next letter in the goal setting acronym is M for MEASURABLE. This can be harder in Jiu Jitsu than in another sport that can have easier statistical data to measure. For example a basketball player can set a goal of 75% free throws and averaging 15 points per game. BJJ has a tougher time measuring results and progress due to the fact that each day and each partner you roll with is different. We have our good days when we roll at a high level and we have days where we just aren’t feeling it. The trick is to find a goal where you can track its progress. Instead of saying “Get better at Armbars”, try finding a way where you can set a measurable goal that will naturally improve your armbars. Practicing 50 extra armbars a day, attempt 5 armbars during live rolls and attempt 1 armbar in a competition are measurable and will lead to the goal of getting better at armbars. It’s hard to keep statistical data on what percentage of armbars attempted you finish, there are too many variables to complicate the data, such as rank and size of opposition, etc. This is a major reason why BJJ is so unique and wonderful, yet potentially frustrating all at the same time! A goal that you can measure will allow you to determine if you are making progress towards the greater prize.
     Physical conditioning allows for an easier time in measuring progress. Being able to increase weight lifted, times run for a mile and pull-ups done are all quantitative and thus can be monitored and assessed as far as their progress towards an ultimate goal. Saying I want to get better or good at something is relative and cannot be measured so having targets to show improvement are important to allow a fighter the feedback needed to adjust training methods when a plateau is hit. Speaking with your instructor or coach is a good way to determine your growth. Ultimately a good instructor will be able to provide the best feedback for you concerning your Jiu Jitsu and how it’s progressing and what elements you need to work on. It’s important to remember that if you are using quantitative measurements, then you need to predetermine what numbers represent success. When do you know and how will it show are two questions that you need to be able to answer when setting measurable goals in BJJ.

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NEXT POST.... Part 3..."A"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Goal Setting in BJJ ...Part 1

Setting Goals in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu = The formula for success.

Sports psychology is an underrated and often ignored aspect of martial arts. The fact is that it is often one of the most important areas in determining a person’s potential for advancement and success in their chosen art. Whether you want to compete, train for fun or are serious about personal fitness goals, having a handle on the psychological aspects of learning a martial art can mean the difference between success and failure. The very first step in the process is to sit down and determine what your individual goals are. Goal setting is the process of thinking about what you want to accomplish and establishing realistic expectations of yourself. How well you establish your own personal goals and think about the best way to accomplish these goals will give you the formula for success.

            Creating a list of goals is not as simple as one thinks. There is an acronym used to help develop a list of goals that can be used. It is called the S.M.A.R.T. goal acronym. The first part in S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is SPECIFIC. Setting Specific goals is important because it will help narrow down WHAT a person wants and then helps them determine HOW they can accomplish such goals. Often people will set a goal like “I want to get in shape.” Or “I want to be a UFC fighter.” These goals are not nearly specific enough and will not allow any clear path to accomplish anything. Setting a goal that is more specific will allow the person a chance to actually reach goals in a timely an efficient manner. Rather than setting a general goal, break it into realistic and easily attainable accomplishments. A goal of “Getting better in BJJ” can be simplified into specific goals like I. Go to BJJ class 3x a week. II. Compete 3X this year. III. Attend 2 seminars this year. IV. Watch 2 BJJ instructional DVD’s. V. Get my Blue belt within a year and a half. All of these are specific, non generalized goals that can be accomplished and will eventually lead you to the ultimate goal of getting better in BJJ.

Next post.... The M in S.M.A.R.T. Measurable.

Professor Tim Bruce teaching class

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