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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