Saturday, December 29, 2007


In terms of training-related stuff, I think 2007 has been pretty good to me.

I've started to explore and experiment more with my Jiu-Jitsu. I've been working on a pressure-style top game for smaller guys (not by choice, everyone is heavier than I am) which is a bit tricky but I still want to see where I can go with it.

I also feel like I've begun to get myself stuck in a rut. I started playing around with the Ezekiel choke early on in the year and I think I have a decent game based around that submission.

Unfortunately, I started using it too much, to what I believe was the detriment of other facets of my game. So now I tell myself to play more with other submissions.

After this year's Machado Australian BJJ Nationals, I was fortunate enough to meet Rigan Machado himself, as well as to go to Geelong for a class at John Will's place. That was pretty awesome.

Around that time I started keeping a notebook for BJJ and CMD stuff; thoughts, techniques and so on. It's really helped me, more than I could have imagined. It's helped me mentally process classes, techniques, drills...basically it's improved my game significantly.

I met Rigan again at the CMD retreat in Singapore, where he proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is so cool, it's insane. He hung out with everybody, he told us all the best stories (not just about BJJ) and he even asked if he could get a photo of himself with me (not that I was so special, he did that for everybody, so he could put together a slide show, which I took as further evidence of his complete and utter coolness)!

After the seminar he said to me: "My friend, you're doing really well. But, I want to see more movement from you. I want you to improve your chess game." I've been thinking about those words ever since and I came back from that seminar completely imspired to do just that.

My boxing took a while to get going but I think it's starting to move along on the right track. I started going to the CMD classes again in January, signing up to become a trainer in March. It took me forever to figure out what I was doing.

I was quite nervous about it, not being used to the nature of the class. I was always too stiff and tense when sparring. I was always eating shots to the face (thanks, Mike!) and wondering "how the hell did he do that?" I just didn't know what I was doing wrong.

At the CMD retreat, I got to attend one of the Gold sessions, in which Rodney King shared with us details of his "Fight Compass" (no, I'm not giving details about it). Without trying to sell it too much, it completely blew my mind wide open.

It was like in the cartoons, when the lightbulb isn't working so someone lights a match to reveal the room is packed with dynamite or nitroglycerine. Well, it was for me, at any rate.

I could literally feel new doors open for my game. I'm now much more confident; I have at least a fair idea of what I'm doing, I know it's what I'm good at and I know what I can try when it's not working.

Just in the last couple of days, I found a really good location for my future gym. I have a name for it pretty well set and I expect to get it under way this year at some point.

So yeah, 2008 is looking good, too.


My to-do list for early 2008:

My armbars are still in dire need of work.

I want to work on my bottom game for side control.

I should probably also really be thinking more about playing open guard.

I want to develop a game around the gogoplata from mount. Like, a real game, not just a gimmick.

I would also like to play more with the omoplata.

Edit: Gogoplata from MOUNT, not GUARD.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


This post intentionally left blank.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


As Galileo Galilei said, "we cannot teach people anything. We can only help them discover it within themselves" .

If, indeed, there is nothing that can be taught, there are only things that can be brought out from inside us. That means that every great thing that has ever been done by a human being is just as achievable by any other human being, under the right circumstances.

It means that for any activity that you can think of it doesn't matter how good someone is at it; if you put in the hours, you will one day be just as good. Maybe even better. All you have to do is want it enough.

It means a lot to me when I see this kind of spirit displayed by the guys on the mats, be it in BJJ or CMD. It's so cool to train with guys who both really want to be there, and who have the right attitude.

It's even cooler to be there on nights when people have those lightbulb-going-on moments of enlightenment, and to see everything click for them.

I'll end with a paraphrased quote from the Hagakure:

It is spiritless to think that you cannot achieve what the masters have achieved. The masters were men. You are also a man.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


About a week ago, during the CMD class on Monday, I started feeling a sharp pain in my left ear. It was taking small knocks and I didn't think anything of it. Later that night I found out that it was cauliflowering and that it was much bigger than my first one.

[photograph coming soon]

I don't remember exactly when I got my first cauliflower, but it was pretty small and most people wouldn't see it without looking for it. I went to a doctor who told me it wasn't cauliflowering and that it would go away. Later that week it hardened.

This one was sizable enough, though, that I didn't really think it was such a hot idea to let it become permanent. So just this afternoon I went to get it looked at by a doctor, who told me I could have minor surgery done on it.

The alternative was to just simply get it drained and leave it alone, meaning it would probably fill up again in a day or three. I went for the more lasting option.

I am told that it would need to take place in an operating theatre. OK, that's fine. I get there at the appointed time and I am directed to Day Surgery, where I am instructed to change into a robe and wheeled on a hospital bed into the next waiting area.

Around this time I started feeling a little awkward. Was all this really so necessary for an ear? I mean, I thought I could just walk there. I didn't say anything though, because it was my first surgery and I thought I may as well see what it's like.

We get to the waiting area where I switch beds again and wait some more. Once we get moving again and I'm in the operating room, the first thing I remember thinking is,

"Ooh, operating lights are pretty when they're off".

And then they were switched on, which was actually quite painful. I then had some thick hospital-type paper(?) towels draped over my head and I was made to look to my right, so now all I can see are shades of blue and yellow spots where the lights were.

Before we get started I am informed that the procedure will involve four buttons being sewn into my ear to stop it from filling up again.

It was a very weird feeling, as even with the local anaesthetic I could still feel quite a bit going on. I thought parts of it were bordering on dicey - at times my head was being pulled up by the ear and I was still bracing myself for any pain.

When it was all over, I felt a little groggy and was suddenly thankful that someone was there to wheel me back to my stuff. The doctor said that many patients complain of increased pressure around their heads after this type of surgery (which is surprisingly common).

I did feel a fair bit of pressure at first but it's quite alright by now. I'm also pretty noticable walking down the street, being that the bandage they put on my ear makes it stick right out (think, Dumbo), but thankfully this is only the case when someone looks at me from the front or the back.

I'm also pretty thankful that this happened at the end of the year - the gym is closing for the Christmas-New Year break soon and I'll have until the second week in January to get better.

Thanks also go out to my fiancee, for threatening me with pre-emptive divorce if I didn't get this done.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


My fiancee and I made spaghetti for lunch today.

We poured some water in a pot. After a few minutes it started boiling so we put in some salt and spaghetti. It wasn't long before the noodles were soft enough that they could all fit in the pot. When 5 minutes had passed (we were very careful to double-check that's what it said on the packaging) she asked me,

"Can you check to see if this is done?"

Sifting through the remnants of my culinary knowledge from my days in university, I chanced upon (odds were pretty good, it was either this, or "food tastes good hot") this gem: pick up a noodle and fling it against a wall. If it sticks, it's done. I then obliged my adolescent urges and had a food fight with myself. The wet noodle duly adhered to the door (easier for me to clean).

We drained the pot, putting the pasta into 2 dishes and brought them to the living room. All we had for sauce was a jar of chunky tomato puree so we started pouring it over the spaghetti. A quick bite revealed that the food was far too sour for our tastes. We rummaged through our cupboards and turned up some olive oil to go with more of our salt, so to our lunch we added a little of each.

The salt turned out to be quite the big hit, though the olive oil sadly bombed out. The particular brand we used was really pungent and we had to use more salt and tomato puree to cover it up.

Making mental notes to buy real spices next time, we finished off the spaghetti and washed up. The spaghetti we used came in a clear plastic bag, so we had to keep it sealed with some plastic wrap for next time.

Around this time I thought it might make a nice blog post, so here I am.

The first part of this surprisingly long analogy is the desire to eat - the hunger to train jiu-jitsu - as well as the will to translate this thought into reality. Without this, nothing more would happen, or even be possible.

Next comes the noodles. This could be seen as the experience more than the actual food but I prefer to think of this as respresenting us - the sweaty guys rolling around on the mats. Some may say that a noodle is a noodle - it all tastes the same in the end - in some respects I disagree.

There are different grades of noodles: fine, thick, fresh, loaded with preservatives, and so on. I'm not a connoisseur of Italian food but I'm sure that I could find one who will tell you that this has a real impact on the finished product. Just like how when you look at the guys you train with, you can see that each one is a mixed bag of attributes, experiences and mindsets and that this can affect how they learn, train and interact with others.

Of course, just because one noodle has a gourmet label and another is a local supermarket brand, in the final analysis it doesn't matter as much as the way each noodle is cooked. Moving right along...

Now you have to prepare the pasta. If you follow the instructions on the label, you're at least heading in the right direction. This is akin to receiving competent, accurate and safe instruction from an experienced coach. If you don't listen, who knows what horrible injury or experience you will visit upon yourself. Maybe you slice your thumb off while trying to make a sauce from scratch, maybe you pop a friend's knee by trying that cool new heelhook setup you saw on YouTube, I don't know.

What comes next but, of course, The Test. How are you going to know if the noodles have spent enough time in the pot? Pick one up, throw it at a wall and see if it sticks. How are you going to know if what you are training in will actually work? Start rolling, try a technique against a resisting opponent and see if it works.

Of course, it doesn't end there. Some may consider it done and dusted right now, but the truth of the matter is that it's all just starting. Sure, you now have a bowl of cooked noodles. Maybe they've got that perfect not-too-wet-not-too-sticky consistency. Doesn't matter, because who's going to eat a bowl of plain noodles and then say it tastes good?

You need to add some kind of sauce, seasoning or something to go with the pasta, to enhance the taste of the noodles. Maybe to you this means drilling over and over until your game gets really smooth. Maybe it means training standup, clinch or whatever to broaden your horizons. Maybe it means doing conditioning classes to boost your stamina. Maybe it's all of the above, the point is to do something more.

As you start to get into your food, you may want to add to it, in the hopes of making it taste better. Likewise, as you get better at BJJ and tighten up your game, you'll likely want to check out as many sources of information about BJJ as you can. Books, magazines, DVDs, the internet - each and every one can be either a fantastic gold mine of knowledge, or a big, heavy chunk of lead with the words "A FOOL AND HIS MONEY" scrawled across it. Please don't ask me how I know that.

Some will help to enrich your game, others will weigh you down with false information and bad habits if you don't discard them. You'll need to make your own mind up about what does and doesn't work for you. Some will - great. Some won't - that's ok, too. It's all down to personal taste, right?

When all is said and done, you're left with a bunch of dirty pots, dishes and utensils. You have another choice ahead of you: do you do the washing-up now and get everything ready for the next meal? Or do you let it all sit for days on end, letting the sauce stuck to the fork harden, bonding the two forevermore in unnatural matrimony?

A less-disturbing way to think of it is: after your brain-overloading information dump of a class, you can either go home and take notes on everything - getting it all down so you can properly mull it over without fear of getting something mixed up, or you can let it sit - so that if you do finally decide to take notes, you get one class confused with another, one technique confused with another, until you don't know what's what.

Yes, you can do it, but the longer you wait, the harder it gets. I'm also sure that by allowing different combinations of food to fester unchecked for extended periods of time, there is the possibility that you will create a mind-blowing taste sensation. But I doubt you'd be able to do it.

So there you have it - some new food for thought. And I have just successfully killed 2 hours of my Sunday afternoon.

Now get out there and cook something!

P.S. That pun wasn't intentional, I promise.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


To preface this post, I have a bit of a reputation in my gym. I'm pretty hard to choke. Even my fiancee teases me about having no neck. Some of the guys have even gone so far as to give me the nickname, "unchokeable". It's been going on for a while and if I'm honest, at some point I started getting used to it.

Well, tonight at class I got choked unconscious for only the second time since I started training. I think I was out for a good 9 or 10 seconds, during which time I had a lovely dream, only to wake up and see 5 guys standing over me.

I don't remember what I dreamt of, but I'm reasonably sure there was a nice, soothing light. There were almost certainly a few clouds, for which the only descriptor I can think to use is, "cheerful".

There are a good number of things I could be feeling at this point: frustration, resentment, self-pity, self-doubt...the list goes on. I think it's a bit odd, then, that what I felt was inspiration. And, I mean, I feel so completely excited about training, I started to worry there was something wrong with me.

I can see where, in some respects, I've been getting pretty complacent with my game. If anything, this was a much-needed reminder that I need to pull my socks up.

I'd like to think I made him work for the choke, though.

Monday, December 3, 2007


I think I've met a good number of belt chasers in my time. I'd like to say I've seen more than my fair share but then I'd probably cop some stick the next time I go to class. Once I was talking to this guy who trained in Wing Chun, and he actually said "I can't wait to get my black sash, cause it'll be, like, my walking papers".

I suppose if you're training in a martial art which places less (if any) importance on functionality, it's safer to chase belts. If all you're doing is kata and zero-contact point sparring, then fine, I can kind of see the rationale behind it. I'm sure we've all got a story or 30 of some guy who was a black belt in such-and-such martial art who totally didn't deserve it.

If on the other hand, you train in something like BJJ, putting yourself at a higher level than you should be just doesn't strike me as a good idea. First of all, as soon as you start rolling with someone they're going to have a pretty good idea that you aren't what you seem. It's quite a potentially risky thing to do.

Case in point: most BJJ gyms that I've seen have some kind of prohibition against leglocks - say, not until blue belt. So what happens when you walk into a gym wearing a blue belt that you shouldn't be wearing, and some guy puts you in a straight anklelock. You freak out and roll to the side, bam - you just heelhooked yourself.

Then, there's also the pride factor to consider. Walk into a friendly gym, and most everyone will be chomping at the bit to roll with you, because they're just antsy to roll. Walk into a competitive gym, and everyone who you outrank may just be salivating at the thought of the fresh meat to be had on the mats.

The potential damage to the ego of someone who needs a differently-coloured belt to feel secure could in either case be devastating.

So unless you want to be "that guy" - unless you're prepared to be the guy who sits in the corner, forever politely declining invitations to roll because "oh, I got a bum knee" - unless you want to spend your BJJ life being nothing more than window dressing - just say "NO" to belt chasing.

This post does not reference people with legitimate injuries in any way. Any resemblance to any persons is unintentional, except of course where it is intentional.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Maybe you had a bad day. Maybe somebody said something or did something. Maybe you thought you were standing up for something. Maybe the other guy was being a jerk or a meathead. Or, maybe, that was you.

The bottom line is something inside just switched off. And it doesn’t really matter whether or not you try to be a good person, you know – normally, because right now all you want to do is knock somebody out.

I’m not writing about the guys who walk on the mats and want to prove their manhood through the indiscriminate usage of violence. This is about the guys who try to keep it nice and friendly, but when push comes to shove, fight fire with fire and end up giving the first bunch of guys the validation they never deserved in the first place.

Somewhere in the back of your mind there’s a little voice that’s saying, “you know you should be better than this”, but you don’t hear it until later. And when you do hear it, you get angry with yourself because you know it’s right, and that you just screwed up.

If I’m not writing this for you, then it’s ok to move on. If I am, well, the next time, just try to stay cool. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I just got back from the Saturday Open Mats session at KDT, where I had the pleasure of again rolling with guys from a new BJJ club in Sabah. They were also at the Thursday night class and it was cool to meet them. They’re a pretty new group, led by Allen Chong, a blue belt under John Will.

It was a lot of fun rolling with them, especially Allen. It was also fun giving the guys some help with their game. About 6 guys (and some girls too, that was really cool to see!) flew over to KL to say hello, and I’m told Allen has more students back home in Kota Kinabalu.

They’ve been training for maybe a couple of months, but already I can see a lot of potential. As BJJ classes go, it’s a decently large group, all around the same level, technically speaking. Ideally, they would all progress at the same rate, so they would always have people pushing them to get better.

We talked for a little bit about maybe meeting up more, especially since I plan to open my own gym in the near future. That would be awesome, and, I hope, a good omen for things to come for Malaysian BJJ.

It was really encouraging to see the spirit these guys have. I hope they keep training and don’t give up. Most of all, I hope that this experience has given them a source of inspiration and hunger for more, because I’d absolutely love to see what they could be like with a couple of years’ worth of experience under their belts.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I first heard about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2000, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. At the time I had been studying Karate for less than a year. As you might imagine, I had no idea what it was. I didn’t understand it and being completely ignorant I even made fun of it.

I first discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur. I was talking to someone who has since become a very good friend, and he told me he had just started training Jiu-Jitsu at KDT, a gym a few minutes away from my apartment. I felt apprehensive about it, but still more curious.

My first BJJ class was on a Tuesday night. I walked in to the class not knowing what to expect. I was tossed around, armbarred, choked and just generally mauled. I walked out of the class stunned by what just happened to me. It was totally out of this world. Or, at any rate, the world as I knew it.

About a week or two later I went to the men’s room after class. I had just gotten my face smeared across the mat (thanks, Vince!) and was sporting a huge burn across my left eye. As I looked at my face in the mirror I suddenly felt so utterly, completely happy, I thought I was going to cry. In point of fact, I did.

Talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to someone who’s never done it is tricky. It’s like telling someone how to play a videogame: they can watch all they want, but they won’t ever really understand you until they do it for themselves.

Talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to someone who’s tried it but just didn’t get it is impossible. It’s like talking about politics or religion: you might be able to talk your point through, but you’d probably have more luck teaching a horse to pee standing on one leg.

Talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to someone who actively trains is unnecessary. It’s like preaching to the choir: you know it’s not going to accomplish anything meaningful but we do it anyway, as often as possible, because we just can’t help ourselves.

I’ve heard BJJ described in many ways: grappling, submission wrestling and ground fighting. I think one of the most appropriate ways to describe BJJ, and I don’t know exactly who said this, is that it is Human Chess. I like that description because it speaks to both the technical and tactical aspects of BJJ.

I have come, in my own journey, to equate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with music. There are only so many individual notes you can play. But, when you place them in different combinations, the possibilities that can result are most definitely endless.

Every last roll, or match, is like its own song. The pace can be slow and methodical, maybe even boring, or fast and frenetic, maybe even insane. One can be vastly different from another; you could also get one that sounds exactly like the next. It can be relaxed, soothing or playful. It can also be hard, forceful and intense. It’s all left up to you: what kind of experience do you want to create?

I trained in 2 styles of Karate for 4 years. I have nothing but love for my teachers, but looking back I realize that I had never felt truly confident, either in what I was doing, or in myself. I was getting pretty slick at performing kata, but after 6 months of not training, I had pretty much forgotten all of it.

What I have found in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is, no disrespect meant towards Karate or any Traditional Martial Art (TMA), something that works. It’s that functionality which first drew me in – and this is the kind of realization that usually only comes with getting choked out. If, as John Keats said, truth is beauty…then beauty is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Maybe I still haven’t really found that confidence that I was missing when I trained Karate – I don’t think it’s for me to say. What I can say is that I’ve come a pretty long way in the two years since I started training.

I think I see myself in so many guys that walk into our gym. I see guys who may have trained in something else, usually a TMA or even some “MMA” gym. I can see that when they start their first class, they are in the same place I was. I hope that I can be a good enough example to them, that they can see for themselves what Jiu-Jitsu can offer.
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