Wednesday, December 17, 2008


1. Perspective

Throughout all 3 days of the seminar Rodney shared some of his views with us and I got a lot of mileage out of that. I really appreciated having the opportunity to look at things in a different light and see what was old become new again.

2. A bunch of cool techniques

Not “cool” as in “flash”, but really more as in “simple”. Martial arts are at their most beautiful to me when they are kept really simple, and Rodney embodies that kind of economical, pragmatic, “just the facts” approach. No messing about, just functional training.

3. A new title

Rodney moved me to full Trainer status in the Crazy Monkey Defense Program. Also, Vince was promoted to Pro Trainer status. I’m very happy to have achieved this, and also for Vince, who thoroughly deserves the recognition.

4. Inspiration

I’ve not met very many martial artists who are as skilled as Rodney, even less who are as well read, and less still who combine these with intelligent and effective coaching. I’ve got so much to learn from him, it’s amazing. Just the fact that it’s humanly possible to achieve that level of skill is enough to make me want to go train right now.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Was shopping for exercise gear today and I picked up some balance balls. I had to ask a store attendant a question about their stock and then put three boxes up on the counter.

"Oh, that's quite a lot", said she. "Are you a trainer at a gym?"

"Yes", said I, "I am".

Now I know that's not amazing to some of you, but it was pretty cool for me to be able to say. You know, finally.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


It’s 5.50pm and open mats has been over for almost an hour. Everyone went home and I was outside KDT chatting with Tommy and Fidael for a while. They have just left and I’m sitting alone typing in my Macbook.

It’s hard to believe that 3 years of my life have passed, just like that. 3 whole years. All I can think of are various random memories of my time here. It’s all quite literally flashing before my eyes. No, seriously, when I look through the windows I can almost see myself training.

There, by the windows, where I got choked unconscious for the first time. Over there, next to the wall, where I had a bad fall (my collarbone has been slightly misaligned ever since). Here by the door, where Adam personally cooked and fed me a 10-course meal’s worth of body shots. Right in the middle of the room, where Vince let, I say LET, me tap him.

I remember my first core strength class here. I remember the first time I met John Will. I remember getting my blue belt. I remember training for competitions. I remember birthdays, promotions, and talking loads of nonsense while drinking can after can of 100 Plus.

My kettlebells are where I usually keep them, chained up by the wall with the other privately owned kettlebells. I think I’ll leave them there for a little while. Just the thought of taking them out of the gym is making my eyes mercilessly well up.

I’m just amazed I made it through this open mats session, never mind the annual gym dinner last night, without crying. I’m trying really hard to think of ways to describe how I feel, but all the analogies I can come up with are all massively inappropriate in some way.

When I move I’ll be leaving a huge part of myself behind. My chest feels kind of – I don’t know – ‘hollow’ is the first word into my head.

Since I have no idea how to properly end this post, I guess that will have to be that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Lately the upcoming opening of my gym has been the biggest thing on my mind. It's not too bad yet, but I'm starting to get more and more nervous. It's kind of an awkward combination of "wow, I can't believe I get to do this for a living" nervous and "I really wonder if I can get away with this" nervous. I suppose that's a good thing.

I'm looking forward to leading classes and I'm already thinking of cool stuff to do. I recently had a chance to put a little bit of it into practice, as Sam was away for Yulius' wedding (congrats man!) and Vince asked if I wanted to do the classes. I got to lead 3 of them over 2 weeks and while it started off slightly choppy, it definitely picked up steam. My favourite was the third class, I got the guys to do drills using balance balls which, as far as I know they had never tried.

I've also been doing a few private training sessions with Vince. I've almost never done any PTS with anyone, being that I usually never know what to ask for. Or, when I know what to ask for, it turns out I don't know how to ask the right questions. Either that or I just articulate myself in a manner that only serves to confuse the guy. I really get annoyed with myself when that happens.

It turns out that all I really wanted was to get a bunch of ideas to get my mind going, so I can come up with my own stuff. We spent a few sessions working on my guard, a couple on kicking drills, and still more using club bells, which are pure madness on my wrists and palms.

I thought kettlebells were bad, now I have to get used to a whole new torture. At least it's a cool torture. My normal kettlebell weighs 20kg, or 16 when I feel lazy. Right now the 4kg club bells are whooping my butt good. I can't wait to see the effects this has on strengthening my shoulders, forearms and grips!

KDT is also gearing up for a visit from Rodney King, who will be in town next Monday through Wednesday for a series of seminars in CMD, BJJ and MMA. I'm expecting a great time for all, and I'll be getting my notebook ready!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


3 years ago to the day, I had my first BJJ class. In certain respects I just don’t know how I lived without Jiu-Jitsu for 25 years. In others, I can’t believe I stuck with it for this long. At the beginning, it was just a thing to do three times a week. Now it’s one of the central preoccupations of my life.

I’ve met some truly excellent people from all over the world. Through BJJ I now have friends in Thailand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and England – none of whom I would have had any occasion to meet, were it not for seminars, competitions and what not – which I find to be really quite amazing.

I suppose I can consider myself even more fortunate that my experience with negative people has been minimal, limited mostly to a certain someone about whom I won’t any more waste time and brain cells typing.

Today my thoughts are mostly about the guys I’ve trained with at KDT, many of whom became good friends and, thanks to life getting in the way, almost none of whom are still active. I wish things were different, and they could have kept on training – and not just because the BJJ scene in Malaysia would be so much better off for it. On a more selfish note, this would mean I’d have more guys to roll with and help push me to a higher level.

Which is not to say I’m complaining about my lot in life. I get to train 5 days a week, 6 if I’m not sick, injured or lazy. I don’t have to put up with an office job and in a short time BJJ will also become a way for me to make a living. And my wife is not only cool with it – she’s also encouraging. I’m living the dream, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It’s really exciting, really bizarre and really humbling.

Sure, there are lots of things I wish could have been different, but these are regrets that aren’t worth having. I’ve got a lot of hope for the future, some ideas that could turn out to be pretty cool – and really nice digs to use as a big BJJ Petri dish. I can’t wait.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I checked out Tropic Thunder a few days ago and, aside from laughing my head off at a tremendously funny movie, I noticed something that I think most people would not have picked up on, which was really funny for me to see (spoiler warning but to be fair it's pretty negligible and really, if you haven't seen it by now I don't know what to tell you).

When they're showing the documentary about how Kirk Lazarus goes through skin pigmentation treatment to look like a black man, they show the doctors using this:

For all those of you who aren't familiar with this product, it's a liniment for bruises and such. This brought back so many memories of my Karate days - I used to be very familiar with this stuff, you see. I actually used to wonder if I kept using it heavily, if my skin would look darker. It made me smell terrible, but that was about it.

A small thing yes, but it just made the movie that much funnier for me.


Also, I can't be bothered to make a new post about this so here's a couple of pictures I just got (thanks, Rob!):

This is the mall courtyard where the Bangkok competition was held. This was taken just after everything was finished. I really liked that there was a fully-stocked supermarket 10 feet from where we were wrestling.

Here's me with Adam. I really liked this one as, well, it's the ONLY clear picture I have of him. And yeah check out the burns on my forehead. Every freaking competition so far, guaranteed, my face gets marked up.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I am not.

In essence, fear keeps people safe. I know that as well as anybody, yet I simply didn't realise how much it applied to me until class on Tuesday night. Fear stops you from doing stupid things, but it also inhibits your growth.

I think I have a much better picture of how fear has influenced my learning curve and the evolution of my game. To an extent it's been great: I have a top game which works quite well, and a bottom game that leads slowly back to a top game. As far as that, it's worked out quite well for me. So it's not so much the fear of losing, or looking stupid, in my case it seems to have been a fear of letting go.

John Will has a great analogy that more or less illustrates my point: (paraphrasing) if a bad situation in BJJ is like the sinking of the titanic, the black belts are the first ones off the ship (with the best lifeboats and supplies), the browns and purples are right behind and get whatever's left, the blues have what is pretty much a 50-50 chance and the white belts are locked in their cabins wondering why their feet are getting wet.

When I first heard it I thought it just referred to knowing when to bail on a submission or position and move on. Now I think it's also about not being fixated on one or a few facets of my game, to the exclusion of others. Maybe it's about letting go (not the same thing as abandoning) of what I think I know and being OK with moving outside my comfort zone before I get mentally locked into a set path and never deviate, even if it becomes a sinking ship. Because I like my top game, but it's really depressing to think about never doing anything else.

My game has almost always been very stable, tight and economical. It's been slow to evolve and when it has, it's been quite a significant jump. But a part of the reason is simply that I was afraid to try new things. Not of the consequences, just of trying them. I got so comfortable with one game and never really did any kind of exploring. I had so many missed opportunities over the last couple of years to try and experiment that it hurts to think of.

So I started messing around with my guard game and, while it's kind of lacking, I started really enjoying it. What also made a huge difference was a few nuggets of advice Vince gave me. They changed the way I approached my guard, which was pretty exciting.

That same class, we had another grading. Leong was promoted to blue, which I was happy to see. I feel he deserves it because he's put forth an impressive effort in developing his own unique game, which nobody else can really imitate. At this point it's still kind of attribute-driven (but hey, who am I to talk) though I can clearly see him getting more and more technical. He's the only one in the class who regularly goes for (and hits) gongoas.

Also, I got bumped to blue with 3-stripes. Which was nice.

This will likely turn out to be the last grading I see at KDT as a full-time student. In a way it was really a bummer, but it's still got that "In a little while I'm going to have that new car smell I can feel good about" vibe.

I'm really going to miss nights like these.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Sorry sorry, I would have liked to have posted this with the pictures but I only just saw this. If you get bored watching it, just let it load then forward to about the 3:20 mark. Thanks very much to Aziz of Kreation BJJ for taking the video and for the encouragement during the match.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This is a selection of the photos that the professional photogs on the scene were able to get. I'm waiting on the pics on Rob's camera so can't put those ones up yet.

The rules meeting just before the day got under way. There were over 120 competitors, quite a fantastic turnout, I would say.


I was fortunate to have a few friends from Singapore there at the competition. Here are some of them, wondering when the action is going to start.

I went for an ezequiel but couldn't lock it in time. Can't say I didn't try.

He almost got both hooks in but I stopped him getting points by underhooking his leg. You can see he's almost got the choke set, he's nearly past my chin.

Here's the mount that I still don't remember how or when I got.


He really wanted the choke. He couldn't get past the chin but he meant business.

Here's how you can tell: the blood that would normally be in my torso is currently in my head. Either that or I really need a tan.

Here's one of the few moments in the match that my head is free.


I didn't actually find any photos of this match that I liked, but here's one that I'm putting up so you can check out the scuffs on my forehead. It's more than 2 weeks later and I've still got them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Over the past weekend, Gustavo Machado was in Singapore to give a couple of BJJ seminars at Kreation BJJ, for both gi and no-gi. If I'm being completely honest I wasn't so hot on going - not because I didn't want to (because I did) but because I was just feeling fatigued and slightly emotionally drained after the recent competitions and just wanted a quiet open mat session at KDT.

As it turned out, my sister-in-law needed to drive to Singapore on Friday night. I didn't want her to go alone so I volunteered to drive. Her plan was to come back Saturday night so I thought, "OK great, this means I'm in town anyway, so I may as well go to the seminar". It was set for gi from 2-4 and no-gi from 4-6.

Then, just before we leave KL I check the details again. Apparently I managed to read "Sunday, 5th October" as "Saturday, 4th October". I don't know how, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm feeling kind of bummed about it as we're all still leaving town Saturday night, but when I check with Aziz, there's a BJJ class anyway from 2-4 at Kreation so I may as well bring my gi.

Fine, so we get to Singapore. Friday night passes without event and we're on to Saturday. I had printed out a bunch of Google maps so driving to Kreation was also pretty merciful. I get there and I say hi to a lot of familiar faces. Aziz and Melvynna were there and I met Christiano, their resident black belt. Gustavo is also walking around and I get introduced to him.

We started with a cardio warm-up that was way more intense than I'm normally used to for BJJ. Fortunately it was still much easier than one of Vince's conditioning classes, or Adam's style of warm-up, so I was fine. We did some basic self-defense stuff and that's more or less all I remember about the class. I know we did one or two BJJ techniques as well but they just escape me right now.

Which is fine, as the main reason I wanted to attend the seminar was not to see what he teaches, but how he teaches it. It's always interesting for me to check out different coaches and their styles.

At the end of class we started rolling. I got to roll with Aziz, Christiano, Kon and Gustavo, among others. It was a lot of fun! It was my first time rolling with all of those guys, except Aziz and it was a really interesting experience. Particularly fun was rolling with Kon and Christiano, I really like those guys.

The only thing was except for the roll with Gustavo we kept getting interrupted by people who were getting too close to us. As it so happened, twice the normal number of people showed up and it was pretty packed. I got a photo taken with Gustavo but it wasn't with my camera so I'll need to wait for that as well before posting.

Finally, after I left I drove over to the Fightworks Asia gym to have a look, as they were pretty much just down the road. It was more or less the end of the day for them and I had a chat with Sascha, who runs the place. He was cool to me, he showed me around both floors of the gym and we talked for a while.

Overall it was a really edifying trip. The drive itself was quite the experience, as was the causeway. Rolling with the guys at Kreation was always going to be fun. I learned a lot this trip and I'm glad I made the drive!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Here's me and Aziz surveying the crowd before the action started, and trying to not get kicked.


He shot, I sprawled, I landed on top. Not the smoothest of starts but it worked out for me.

He went for the guillotine but I had known it was coming for at least 10 seconds because of all the people yelling, "GUILLOTINE!"

Fortunately for me, by the middle of the match he had already used up most of his energy trying to sweep me and I was able to get mount, and subsequently, an ezequiel.


He opened with a shoot but I saw this one coming as well (last Machado Nationals, I lost after getting double-legged pretty early, so I spent the next year working my sprawl).

Here's me thinking, "He's trying to choke! Thank God!"

Here's Matt shouting instructions at me. I didn't have a clue what was going on until a bit later.

I got to mount again and started looking for an ezequiel, which fortunately I was able to find.


Neither of us was willing to commit to a shoot, so we were standing for a fair while. I managed to pull him into a kind of sprawl, which didn't really work... he used it to drive in and get takedown points.

He went to consolidate his position but we landed outside the mat and they brought us back. He started to get a kneeride but I blocked his leg and rolled to my knees.

He went for it, giving me the chance to underhook his legs and shuck him off.

He ended up putting me in hook guard, which I passed by pushing his knees down and hopping forwards.

Me and Matt.

A handshake, a first place trophy and congratulations from one Mr. John Will. I'm not going to lie to you: this felt SWEET.

Aziz, my wife and I were joined by our good friend Justin, who took us all out to a restaurant called Sofia for a post-competition dinner. The portions here are, as you can tell, massive. All of these dishes are "small".

I'll be putting up pictures of the Bangkok competition as soon as I have them. I forgot to bring my own camera, but Rob loaned me his and I got a few photos. Also, a nice value-added feature the organisers had was the option of getting professional photographers to take pictures of your matches for a small fee (I've never seen anyone else offer this type of service but it's a great idea and I hope more people do it). So when those come in I'll try and put them up as well.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Edited for misspelled names.

I am writing this in Bangkok, where I just competed in the 2008 FBT Thailand BJJ / Submission Grappling Open.

I got to Bangkok the day before and spent it walking around, trying not to drink too much water. I was still a bit nervous about my weight and the not knowing was killing me. I did manage to meet Allen and Sam, friends from BJJ Borneo. They were here with the Tiger Muay Thai team, who sent quite a significant contingent.

Dinner was a barbeque chicken salad, the "healthiest" thing I could find in the Paragon food court. Everything else looked incredibly delicious but I was scared to death of eating it. I bought some Gatorade and chocolate bars for the competition, as well as some bananas. Later that night I met up with Aziz when he arrived.

The day of the competition started pretty early for me, I was up by 7. I was staying at the Golden Palace hotel, which was offering a special deal for competitors, as well as a shuttle to the event. I went down to the waiting area and met Rob, Aziz and some guys from Singapore: Melvynna, Mitch and Justin. Pretty sure they are all with Kreation BJJ. I also met Luke from BJJ Asia, who was there to help organise.

The shuttle ride took about 20 to 30 minutes and we found ourselves at Futuremall, a smallish shopping centre. The competition would be held in the central courtyard-type area. There were loads of guys already there and I got ready to weigh in when I ran into Adam. I actually didn't see him because there were so many monsters in the room! It was great to catch up, I hadn't seen him in a really long time, maybe close to a year. I also saw Sebastian there, who I had last met in Singapore.

Anyway, weigh-in. I'll cut this part of the story short and just say that I needed to be 69.9, and that's what I clocked in. All that stress and disgusting "health" food paid off! From the weigh-in at the Machado Nationals 2 weeks hence, I had lost at least 5 kilos, which isn't that impressive but it was my first time dieting, let alone dieting to make weight for a BJJ competition.

When I got to the mats to warm up, I found out there were only 4 guys in my division. The absolute, however, was jam packed solid.

It was really a lot of fun just hanging out with the Singapore bunch, and we were also joined by Charles, who I believe also trains at Kreation and is a super funny guy.


MATCH 1: Blue Belt <70 division v. Momon Fortich, from New Breed BJJ in the Philippines.

I'm going to be honest, I really don't remember very much about this. My memory of this match is very fuzzy in a lot of places, and it almost just happened.

I recall him starting by jumping to guard and then trying to sweep me repeatedly. He wasn't able to, but he had my arm trapped at an awkward angle so I couldn't work for an ezequiel. At some point I think I got halfguard but was quickly pulled back to closed guard.

I couldn't get around his arm that was trapping my own and I guess I took too much time trying to figure it out because the referee gave me a warning for stalling: I had 20 seconds to move, or else. Fine, so I give him more room to move and I feel him trying to pull my left calf into him, to try and push me over. I kick that leg out and somehow end up in halfguard.

So now I go for the ezequiel and I get it - partially. I wasn't able to finish the hold by grabbing my arm with the choking hand. That let him roll me onto my side and fight his way out of it. He then jumps to my back and gets his left hook in, while trying for a rear naked choke. I see it just in time and get my right arm back to block his leg.

We roll around for a few seconds and I'm able to get back to guard. Here is where it gets fuzzy. Somehow, from there I end up (let me see if I get this right) in side-back control - with him ON TOP. I reach around his neck and get a rear naked choke.

Result: Win via submission (rear naked choke). I was leading with 4 points because I got mount at some point, but for the life of me do not remember when.

After I let him go I just rolled on my back and stared at the sunroof of the mall, all I could see was a really bright light, which was kinda cool. But man, I was completely destroyed. I was just hoping that my next match would be much later.

Before the next match though, I was able to chat with Momon and his friends from New Breed. What a cool guy! He was also going through some of the same problems I was having, namely having to make weight. He told me more about their gym and gave me an invitation to go train there when I'm in Manila. Sweet!

As it turns out, my absolute happened before my division final. And as luck would have it, my opponent was to be Sebastian! I remember thinking that in Singapore I would have loved to roll with him but never got the chance.


MATCH 2: Blue Belt Absolute, v. Sebastian Desvignes, from EMAC in Bangkok.

This one started with Sebastian really going for sleeve grips on me. He managed to get me in a really awkward position but when he went for the footsweep I could keep my balance.

Memory not so great on this one as well, he pulls guard pretty early and spends half the match going for a cross lapel choke. He never got past my chin but man, trust me this guy is strong. He went for a couple of sweeps but I managed to block his attempts. He pulls guard and I try to set up an ezequiel but his legs are way strong and he pulls me back.

He pulled guard and went for more of the cross lapel choke. Again he never got past my chin but I couldn't move! Again, his legs were just too strong. So now I get another warning for stalling, which I found really funny actually - I mean, like I could have done anything. I remember that around now he almost gets me with a triangle, but he couldn't isolate my arm so he couldn't finish the choke.

Aziz is now yelling at me that the score is still 0-0 but I'm in the lead with an advantage (wha??). He lets the guard go and stands up, taking me with him. We get sleeve grips and he shoots in. I see it coming and I actually get the sprawl - but he lifts me up like a sack of rice and puts me on my butt for the points, and passes my guard right away. He tried a kneeride that I blocked but time got called.

Result: Loss via points - Me: 0 points, 1 advantage. Sebastian: 5 points.

Not bad for me being outweighed by 15 kilos! It was so excellent to roll with Sebastian, it totally did not feel like a competition match. There were a couple of times we just had a moment to laugh, usually after he let a choke attempt go and I start sighing in relief. He was very cool, a great guy and I'm happy to know him.

About 45 minutes or so later, I get called for my division match. It would be with a Japanese fellow, we shook hands and exchanged a couple of pleasantries before the match.


MATCH 3: Blue Belt <70 division, FINALS v. Ozaki Shigeharu from Axis Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Japan.

So my memory of this is a bit better, mainly because there wasn't that much variation in the match. He pulled guard early on and when he wasn't able to sweep me, he went for a cross lapel choke. We were, and I'm not kidding, here for at least 3 minutes, maybe 4. He was really going for it but he had not got past my chin at all.

So anyway. I'm trying to open him up but I simply can't because he has a deathgrip on my head, and his legs are locked tight. At least I didn't get called for stalling again. I hear Adam yelling at me with updates on the time.

At close to the 5-minute mark, I feel him open his legs, and after a brief scramble I get halfguard for a little while but I get pulled back to guard. He lets me lurch forward and get my arm around his neck so now I'm going for an ezequiel but time is called.

We get up and I'm really dreading the outcome. I'm under the impression that the score is still 0-0 and I'm not sure who was more agressive in the match. I did not remember anyone telling me otherwise, everyone was just yelling updates on the time. Also, I'm shortsighted and do not wrestle with contacts so I can't see the scores. My hand is raised.

Result: Win via points - Me: 0 points, 1 advantage. Shigeharu: 0 points.

Talk about cutting it close! After the match some of his team were a bit confused about the result but after some discussion they were cool with it. It was really good talking with them as well: Ken and Yoichi (sp? - he did really well too, he won the <64 Blue division AND got 3rd in the absolute!). I also got invited to train at Axis if I'm ever in Tokyo. They were such cool guys, I don't see how I can't if I'm in Japan!

The competition was so much fun. I was completely blessed on the day because not only did I meet so many awesome people, everyone I rolled with was very cool. Thanks to the organisers and sponsors, who made the medallions we got possible. Those things are actually really heavy! I also picked up some really nice t-shirts, one of which (they ran out of my size, bah!) has writing in Thai on the back which says something like "BANGKOK BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU", I thought that was a brilliant idea.

After the presentations, I said my goodbyes and went to catch the shuttle back to the hotel. I ended up in a taxi with Taki (who won his brown belt division) and Kubo, a couple of cool Japanese dudes who run Kowloon BJJ in Hong Kong. Yes, I also got invited there, yes it was very cool!

It's also worth noting that the political situation in Bangkok is, as the organisers tried to tell everyone, very much the victim of media hype. The amount of sensationalism pumped into the happenings of late seem completely crazy when you actually go to Bangkok and have a look around. I was taking the MRT and Skytrain all around the city, walking through side streets to find weird Lebanese restaurants in German hotels with Aziz, and hanging out at Paragon. No riots were observed, sorry.

It was excellent seeing Adam and Jem again, that alone made my trip. By far the best part of the trip was having Adam in my corner for the finals. Also very cool was meeting Sebastian, and Luke - a good guy and a great BJJ player!

This marks the end of my first ever real tournament cycle: 3 in a month's time. Singapore to Australia to Thailand. Thanks to everyone who gave me encouragement during my training, and also on the actual competition days. Special thanks to my friends at KDT, Aziz, the Bangsar Sports Centre Judo guys, and all the excellent people I met during my travels.

Thanks to my wife, who I couldn't have done this without, and to Jesus, who made this possible for me - the glory that I won is all His, I'm just holding on to the medals for now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Blogger is being a real pain about uploading photos so the pics from Melbourne will have to wait.

I'm flying to Bangkok tomorrow for the BJJ competition on Saturday. Kinda nervous about my weight. Been trying to watch my diet all week so I can lose the approximately 1.5 kilos I need to be OK for the <70 division. Hopefully I can make it, if not I'm hoping they'll let me join the <80 division. But we'll see. Anyway, I'm also signed up for the absolute.

Won't be bringing my Macbook so on the off-chance you were at all curious, you'll have to wait till next week to read of my glory/mediocrity/humiliation/non-action. Further bulletins as events warrant.

EDIT 10.45pm: Just got back from BJJ class. Weighed myself with a heavier gi than normal and with belt I'm right at 70. Which is sweet, now I know I can get there.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Pictures coming later, I'm feeling pretty lazy about my camera right this minute.

This past Saturday, I took part in the 2008 Will-Machado BJJ Australasia Championships. I competed in the Male Blue Belt Lightweight division (60-70 kg). Loads of people were here, not sure if there were more spectators but definitely more competitors. There were 8 guys in my division, compared to the middleweight division (70-80 kg), which had like 20 guys.

The adults were scheduled to get going at 11 am; my wife and I arrived at around 10, when we met none other than Aziz, from Kreation BJJ! He decided to take the plunge and make the trip out here from Singapore, and this would be his first tournament as a blue – something about which I do know a little (the 2007 Machado Nationals was not only my first tournament as a blue, it was my first-ever tournament). Aziz was signed up for the middleweight division.

The three of us spent the time leading up to the matches chatting. We had some time to kill – Aziz’s division was only scheduled to begin at 12.45, and mine was set for 1.45. We just sat there and had bouts of nervous laughter looking around at all the huge Australian guys. I do not know what they feed these people but it is unreal. I mean, we knew they were mostly white belts but come on.

We had a light roll before Aziz’s first match to get the jitters out. He asked me to be his corner man, something that I was honoured to do (during the Singapore tournament he acted as mine). Unfortunately, there were just so many guys in his division that mine started before his first match! There was also a women’s division that was running concurrently on the same mat as Aziz’s, which didn’t help.

I had weighed myself just an hour prior to my division getting together and clocked in at a kilo under the limit. Sweet. However, when I got on the scales with an official watching, my weight was DIRECTLY on the limit, I literally made it by the skin of my teeth. I actually thought I was over. All I could say was “…uhh?” to which the official replied “it’s ok, you just made it, you’re alright. You were ****ing bricks for a second there, huh!” I managed a weak smile and staggered off to sit down and get my head right.

Mine was the 3rd match in the division so I had a bit of breathing room. Just then Aziz came up to me. As it turned out he ran into some bad luck, he got armbarred in the first round. I saw the guy Aziz had to fight and will very gladly vouch for the fact that he was huge. Not necessarily a genetic freak (debatable) but still scary-looking (not debatable).

Now to the actual matches – I apologise in advance, as I was really bad with last names on the day.


MATCH 1: v. Joel

I started the match by getting a sleeve grip. His response was to shoot for a takedown. I got a really sloppy sprawl and we lurched, as one, towards the edge of the mats. What ended up happening was that I managed to push myself forward and land on top, in his open guard.

He kept working the hip bump sweep – kimura – guillotine combination but since he was leading with the sweep I was able to stop it by getting up on my knees, pushing forwards and locking my arm. I worked my way to halfguard, but it is unclear whether he also wanted this for his own game, as I heard some guys telling him to lock my leg down. No complaints from me, I stopped worrying about the leg and went for an ezequiel.

I didn’t get it, as soon as he felt my arm around his neck he went for a cutting armbar but my arm was bent too far, giving me the time I needed to slip out. He was still going for the sweep, after a few attempts he went for the guillotine but I knew it was coming as I heard his corner yelling at him to do it. I blocked it, got my leg past his and took mount. At this point I think he was starting to tire out, I went for and hit an ezequiel.

I do want to say that Joel and I had a quick few words before the match – nice guy, with a great attitude.

Result: Win via submission (ezequiel choke). I was also apparently leading in points.

After this match I was really zoned, it always amazes me how much tournament matches take it out of me. I can only imagine what high-level athletes or professional fighters go through, especially at the start of their careers, it must be crazy.


MATCH 2: v. Paul

I was pretty nervous about this one. We (the other guys in the division) were all watching Paul’s first match – which he ended in less than a minute with a very smooth armbar, so we knew he was still fresh. I was still feeling wrecked from the previous match and honestly wasn’t sure I could win.

This one started with me trying to get a sleeve grip, he was trying to circle around. I was actually trying to clinch him and use that to push him down, but he never let me get the first necktie in.

Like the first match, he shoots in and I sprawl. Unlike the first match, he gets out right away and we scramble, ending up with him getting hook guard. At this point I hear a voice yelling, “He likes to play fast! Slow him down! Slow him down!” I stopped myself from asking Paul if that guy was talking to me or to him.

He immediately begins to work a cross-lapel choke. He got past my chin at one point but my neck pulled me through and I held out long enough to push his hands up. He was still really going for it though, so I was happy.

He spent the next part of the match trying to hip escape away from me as I was working for the halfguard. However, in almost a mirror image repeat of the first match I pushed his leg down and took mount. I went right to secure my position for the points. He tried to sweep but I hop up, let him roll and took his back.

Around now I hear the same voice going “Albert! Albert!” (So I know it’s for me) “You’re smashing him on points, just don’t do anything crazy! Don’t do anything crazy!” I was really puzzled, because I know nobody here actually knows me but John, Aziz and my wife – and it wasn’t any of their voices.

He tries to roll me off but I hang on and try to stretch him out. He got on top of my right leg and tried to escape but I saw it coming and countered by pushing my left leg over and taking mount. At this point I start looking for the tap. He defends the first ezequiel but the second one gets him.

Result: Win via submission (ezequiel choke). I counted 12 points for myself, possibly 14 or 15 as my first mount was also a guard pass. It’s possible I didn’t get points for the second mount, though, as if I remember, the transition was mount - back - mount.

After the match I was first congratulated by one of the other guys in the division, Matt (who would be in the finals next with me). I found out he was the guy pulling for me! What happened was: he looked around and saw there was nobody in my corner while everyone who was yelling was giving Paul instructions. He asked if anyone knew me, nobody did so he goes “OK, I’ll go for him!”

I was so amazed by that; he definitely went above and beyond and I really appreciate it, and plus his instructions actually did help to relax me during the match. He was really cool to me and we talked for a little while. We wished each other good luck for the next match.


MATCH 3: Male Blue Belt Lightweight Finals, v. Matt (I know how to pronounce his last name but for fear of butchering it, will not attempt to spell it), from Dominance Mixed Martial Arts Academy, in Melbourne.

This one was almost completely unlike the first two matches. We were standing for what felt like half the match. We were each trying to get sleeve grips and he was trying to pull me around to his side, and didn’t want to shoot in.

It was kind of weird as he was using his head to try to unbalance me, but I managed to stay on my feet. After some effort I manage to get myself on top of his shoulders and try to sprawl him down. He stays on his feet, bent double. I’m trying to grab his belt and pants to push him over, when he rushes forward and goes for the takedown. I was hopping around for about 10 seconds but he gets me down for 2 points.

Immediately he starts setting up a kneeride but I saw it coming and blocked his knee with my elbow. I roll away from him onto my knees, trying to get him to go for my back. He does and I roll him off me. We scramble and he gets me in hook guard.

I hear a voice telling us we have one minute left. I’m not sure how I distract him but it seems I do (I think I was faking a choke but I just do not remember) – I manage to push his knees down with my hands and jump to mount. He knows he has to do something so he’s really going for the reversal but I block it and get the points.

I’m also working hard for an ezequiel but he blocks my first few attempts. I actually was almost about to get it when time is called.

Result: Win via points – Me: 4, Matt: 2.

That’s the first time I’ve ever won on points – I do not think in terms of points and much prefer to work for taps, using position as a means to open up the submission. Honestly I wanted to win with the choke but that’s how it goes. Matt got up and we shared a good, brotherly hug.

During the prize presentations I was checking out what each winner received. Second place got a backpack and first place got a goodie bag. At first I was actually bummed because the backpack looked really cool. Then I looked inside MY bag and found out that all first place winners received coupons for a free pair of shoes(!) from Globe – AND a FREE GI from Virtus (I’ve already given the gi a test-drive and it feels pretty nice)!

Some other highlights of the day:
*There were enough brown belts this year to have 2 separate divisions (both won by Dave Hart).
*There was even a black belt competition this year (last year there was only 1 black belt exhibition match), won by Cameron Rowe (who was also really cool to me).
*Steve Perceval (who I believe is the only official UFC-certified referee in Australia) received his black belt from John.
*Dave Hart received his black belt from John. I can literally not wait to come back next year and watch THAT division.

The event was very well run, very smooth. Last year there were 220 competitors while this year there were 270 – and it was actually smoother than last year. They really had their game together and it was a very awesome time. And it wasn’t all about the tournament. Sunday morning saw Rigan give seminars at Dominance, where I saw him teach some really cool stuff from his “secret stash” and met some great people from New Zealand (Dom, Sarah and Geoff – if you’re reading, hi!).

Thanks to John Will, Melissa Will and their team, to Rigan Machado and to everyone, especially the sponsors who donated such fantastic prizes, who worked to make this tournament what it was. This is NOT a normal competition. To me, and I say this as an almost total outsider, in many ways it’s more like a big family reunion, with the attitude and the atmosphere. I am so glad I even made it here.

Thanks Matt, for showing such coolness and kindness. You’re a real credit to your gym and this sport. Cheers mate.

I want to give a special shout to Aziz. I know what it feels like to get on a plane, go to a faraway place where nobody knows you and compete, with no home support, in a huge room with hundreds of people watching, that you know are not in your corner because they have no idea who you are. It can be really scary and to take that step usually requires either clinical obsession (me) or serious, serious guts (Aziz).

Special thanks also to my wife, who was always right there with me. She was always ready with a bottle of water or a banana or extra tape, whatever I needed. She made the day a lot more special just by being there. She also SMS’ed our parents for me – thanks, baby!

Finally, who else should be thanked, but The Ultimate Sports Psychologist, who deserves all glory and praise for my performance.

Winning the Machado Nationals has been something I’ve really, really wanted for a year. As soon as the last one ended I had made up my mind that I was going to come back. I can’t describe how this feels, really, to have won a competition bearing the names of two guys I respect so much. It’s a great feeling – and all I can think about is coming back here next year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Some pictures from the competition (only a few were usable):

Match 1

Here I am, about 2 seconds from being pulled back to his guard.

Here I am, about 1 second from being pulled back to his guard.

Here's me thinking, "He's not letting go, why won't he let go?"


Match 2

He couldn't get the hook sweep but it still counted as an advantage.

Here's something I forgot about: at one point I had side-back control on him, and I got his lapel under his chin. My choices were to either try and take his back or to attempt a choke. I went for the choke but he escaped.


Match 3

He shot and I sprawled. We were here for a good while. The ref never cautioned us for lack of action but he did look at his watch a few times.

Here I am going for an ezequiel, again. It felt like we spent almost half the match like this.

Finally, here's me with Yu, after the medal presentations. He was cool to me and I got a great impression of him. I hope to be able to roll with him again, even though it was a competition it was really fun!

Thanks again to the organisers of the competition, especially Albert Tan and one other guy (sorry man, I realise I never got your name, I think you were wearing the baseball cap). It was their second competition and considering the region we're in, I thought it was an encouraging turnout. I'm looking forward to the next competiton in Singapore.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Edited for spelling mistakes and forgotten details. Sorry if you read this and saw weird stuff, it's the computer's fault I promise!

No pictures yet as my camera cable is in KL, so will post when I get home.

I'm sitting in the Business Centre of my hotel, having just finished a day of BJJ competition. I was in town for the Singapore International BJJ Tournament 2008, joined by Rob.

We got there at 8.30am and we hung out until 6.30pm or so. Mostly we were sitting around, but we got to meet a lot of cool guys. Roy from Synergy (Indonesia) was one of them, as was Sebastian from EMAC (Bangkok), both really cool guys.

It was mostly white belts. Not many blues attended, there were like 4 of us, Sebastian and I were 2 of them. Unfortunately, because of an apparent issue with the number of referees, Sebastian had to bow out. I don't blame him, it was just taking much too long and he wanted to go hang out with his son - I'd have done the same thing.

At first there were only 3 blues registered, but the third guy pulled out being that he was stuck in Indonesia for the day. Then a few guys showed up from Hong Kong, one of whom was a blue. Also, they got one of the blues from the organising gym to enter, a Japanese expat living here.

Sebastian was in a heavier weight class but the other two were in mine. So I would need to roll with the Hong Kong dude, then meet the Japanese guy in the final. I also entered in the open weight division where there were again only 3 of us (I was all set for my division to be "open" anyway), so I would have to go with Sebastian then, again, meet the Japanese guy in the final.

When Sebastian had to go, it was down to the two of us, so it was straight away a final.

At about 12.30pm they had the first rules briefing. At about 3.45, I had my first match. They only had one referee available and had to run only one match at a time, whites then blues.

MATCH 1: Blue Belt <77kg division, v. Danny H, from Impakt gym in Hong Kong.

I don't really remember much about this. He tried to pull guard but ended up trying to set up a scissor sweep. He couldn't get the sweep but he had a grip on my collar that I just couldn't break.

After the first few sweep attempts I managed to pass guard for a bit before he reestablished the scissor sweep setup. If I remember correctly I was always on top or in his guard. He tried a triangle but I defended and passed his guard. I didn't hold it long enough for the points because he pulled halfguard. I dropped down to secure it before he could get his knee in the way and hit an ezequiel.

It was a case of "I got him before he got me", as we had a chat for a bit after that and I found out he was trying to set up an armbar, but couldn't move his hips enough. He struck me as a good guy when we talked, and so did his friends from Impakt.

Result: Win via submission (Ezequiel choke), I was told afterwards that I was up by about 3 advantages.

MATCH 2: Blue Belt <77kg division, finals, v. Yu Morioka, from Alive Academy in Singapore.

The match started with him also pulling guard. He tried a couple of hook sweeps, one of which gave him an advantage. Early on, we ended up seperated then had to reengage standing. He hit a throw for 2 immediate points, I think it was an ashi barai. Rob later told me it was actually the best takedown of the entire day. Yay, I think.

I suspect he was watching my earlier match because he really didn't want to give me his neck. I think he then passed my guard or did something because he got another 2 points. I pulled him back to halfguard and got a lockdown, which he wasn't able to break.

At this point he tries his own ezequiel, but I managed to defend it. He goes for a cross lapel choke next, but I stopped that too. I pulled guard and went for a wristlock, and I hit it, but time was sounded. I imagine his wrists were pretty flexible though, didn't look like anything was happening.

Result: Loss via points - Me: 0, Yu Morioka: 4 points, 5(!) advantages.

So, a silver for me and guaranteed at least another silver, being that I'm directly in the finals, with Yu again. I was a bit disappointed in the result but I know I gave it my best, so that will have to do.

MATCH 3: Blue Belt Open Weight division, finals, v. Yu Morioka of Alive Academy.

The match started with some shuffling around, he was trying to circle around but I kept my hips squared up. He shot in for a takedown but I got the sprawl and we were there for a fair while. I was trying to get him on his knees or back. He, meanwhile, was bent double and holding on to my arms so I couldn't do anything. He was also very mindful of his neck.

I don't remember how but he got out and we scrambled for a bit. I'm not sure if he passed my guard or what, but he was up by 2 points. I was trying to set up another ezequiel but he got me in a triangle which fortunately I spotted. He was really going for it but I held out - he never got my arm free and his cutting leg was never directly over my neck.

After that was done I spent the rest of the match going for an ezequiel which I could never get, he just wouldn't give it to me. It was kind of funny as his cornerman was the referee in my first match, and he was yelling in Japanese but I KNOW I heard him say "ezequiel" (I mean, there's no Japanese translation). I looked up at him and gave a quick smile and a shrug.

Result: Loss via points. Me: 0 points, 1 advantage. Yu Morioka: 2 points, 1 advantage.

A much better job of it if I do say so myself. Was a much closer match. There was one point where I felt like I could almost have taken mount, but I could feel his hook near my knee so I could never get it.

After the medal presentations I talked to Yu and asked how long he'd been training and found out he's got 6 years' experience, 4 of them as a blue. Which was GREAT for me to hear, now I felt much better! It was also a pleasure to have rolled with him twice, he's smooth and fast - and also pretty strong.

The event was a great experience, not counting all the waiting we had to do. I met some good friends and got to catch up. Sul was there, as was Aziz (who competed in two divisions as a white belt, got gold in both, AND got graded to blue! Congrats buddy!).

In addition, Rob did a great job in his first-ever BJJ tournament, winning the silver in the White Belt Novice (<6 Months' experience) division. Way to go!

I'm also really pumped up for Melbourne - looking forward to a few good rolls!

Postscript 31st August: I ended up pulling out of the no-gi tournament due to injury. My ankle was slightly buggered after yesterday's competition - I can walk on it but risking it in competition struck me as being less than prudent.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I consider myself really fortunate in the sense that ever since I started training BJJ, my enthusiasm never stopped pushing me on. I’ve never experienced a serious drop in my desire to train, or ever considered just packing it all in and giving it a rest. So far so good, it’s been all about finding newer, better ways to drill and roll, and make it more fun.

Which is not to say that I’ve never had nights when I was just plain not up for it – the nights when I felt neither motivated nor engaged and just went straight to autopilot – which, also fortunately, have been few and far between. This brings me to something my wife was telling me about. She heard it during a workshop she attended and goes like this:

Finding out what is right in life gives us the strength to fix what is wrong.

I thought it was a very good way to look at things and because I seem to be clinically obsessed, set to applying this to my Jiu-Jitsu. You know, for the next time I start feeling blah. I ended up with a list of various people and things that inspire me, and give me a reason to not only get in gear and train, but to want it as well.

It turned out to be a great exercise. Not only was it, in some cases, a great reminder of stuff I want to bring back into my training, it was also cool to just hang out with some fun memories.

The list:

My wife
Vince, Sam and the rest of the KDT bunch
Rigan Machado
John Will
Adam & Jem Kayoom (one of my favourite memories of Adam is him looking at me and going “Albert, you’re one tough son of a *****”)
Finding out about the Ezequiel choke
Finding new ways to apply the Ezequiel
Taking loads of flak for using the Ezequiel
Reading Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu, by Dave Camarillo
Road tripping to Singapore with the KDT guys for BJJ seminars
Rooming with Vince and Tarbo during my first CMD trainers’ retreat
Silvio Braga, who taught me my all-time favourite armbar setup
Rolling with handicaps, even if everybody else cheats at it
Combining striking with takedowns and grappling in CMD class
Judo – with and without gi
Coaching, and learning how others coach
Batman & Superman

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Last Saturday, Steve Cotter was back at KDT for the second time this year to conduct a seminar on Dynamic Joint Mobility. No kettlebells this time, it was all bodyweight stuff. It was like a 2-hour warm-up that thoroughly did us all in! We did mobility exercises for pretty much the whole body, including individual fingers.

The only down side to the whole day was having to miss open mats, but it was worth it. It’s not often that someone like Steve visits and I’m glad to have been there. He even gave me some help with my bum knee.


On Tuesday evening, I made it back to the Bangsar Sports Centre for another spot of Judo training with Mike and Junji. Again, it was a lot of fun – I showed up late, which was a shame as I walked in and found out they were doing no-gi grappling! Looked like I missed a lot of fun.

I did a bit of standup and groundwork with a fellow named Max, really nice guy. I also got to do a bit of standup with Chew. I asked if he could go for throws while I just defended, which he was cool with. I decided that the best way to spend my time here was to get a better understanding of how standing starts feel – and to try and not get thrown, which I did a better job of this time.

I really liked training with Chew and Max, they’re the kind of training partners you wish you could have all the time.


Thursday evening, we cut our BJJ class a bit short, in order to adjourn to the Chili’s at Bangsar Shopping Centre. It was the last class for Ean, who’s in college in Texas and back in Malaysia for summer break. It wasn’t just a goodbye drinks session for him, but also for Walter, who will be making his way back to British Columbia to continue going after a university degree.

We shared stories and shot the breeze over many, many refills of 100 Plus and iced lemon tea, it was a great time. I wish them both well in all they do, they’ve got a lot of potential and their whole lives ahead of them (one’s 20, the other is 19)!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


No picture - I didn't think to bring my camera.

Earlier in the week I got my first taste of Judo training, courtesy of Mike. A little while ago he brought his friend Junji, a Judo black belt from Japan, to KDT for some BJJ training. He struck me as a cool guy and so I decided to act on what had for me been a pretty long-standing curiousity, which was to try Judo out and see what happens.

I had been interested in Judo for a fair while, but I didn’t want to jump into too many different things all at once. I already had Jiu-Jitsu and boxing to tide me over, so I put this back on the shelf. Then one day I read Dave Camarillo’s book, Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu, and the combination of BJJ and Judo really got me thinking. I just kind of don’t see myself trying any of his flying submissions.

It just so happened that in CMD training, we began to work on takedowns from the clinch around the same time. As soon as I realized what was going on I was sold – we did no-gi setups for tai otoshi, uchi mata, kata guruma and koshi guruma that week, definitely one of the more exciting developments of the CMD program at KDT.

I arranged to meet up with Junji and Mike at the Bangsar Sports Centre, where they train Tuesday nights (which was a major reason I never tried to join before, the timing is a direct conflict with the BJJ class). Mike met up with me a litter earlier and drove me there, where we found Junji waiting for us. We decided to meet up before the Tuesday class and train for a bit, then head back to KDT for BJJ.

The first thing I have to say about the sports centre is if the city council was trying to design that place with camouflage in mind, they did a really good job. It’s right smack in the middle of a housing estate, far away from anywhere I would have thought to look for it.

We began with some basics and Junji talked to me a little while about balance and the breaking thereof. After that and a little bit of practice (during which I got dumped on my head, ouch) some more people started to show up. Junji and Mike got me to spar with some of the regulars there. I did have a bit of difficulty adjusting to the rules of the Judo game, though. The biggest one for me was not being allowed to hold a cross-lapel grip for more than a few seconds, which took some getting used to.

I also found out that a lot of the guys there were keen on practicing their groundwork. I rolled with Junji, a fellow named Ash and this guy Chew, who is a black belt there and is apparently on the state team – as well as a really nice guy and a great training partner. During standup, whenever he would set me up for a huge seoi nage, he made sure it was always just uchikomi, giving me ample time to (very humbly) tap his leg.

It was a good time and a great learning experience. It was cool doing standup with those guys, and it reinforced the importance of having good grip strength, which they had in spades. Rolling with them was a bit like with wrestlers, as they had a lot of power and excellent base. They also know how to use their weight and their grips made it difficult for me in a lot of situations.

Finally, I learned the importance of being prepared. The room we trained in looked fairly innocuous when I stepped in. The thing is, when it starts filling up with guys it starts to turn, ever so slightly, into a gigantic pressure cooker. I was there for about 2 and a half hours, either getting thrown on my butt or rolling, without much of a rest in between. That, combined with the monstrous grips these guys have – they’re also pretty strong – made for an experience that almost equated rolling with all 130(?) kilos of big Raj at KDT.

I also didn’t think to bring water, which really cost me. By the time we got to KDT, dehydration was completely beating me down – after about an hour I had finished 7 cans of 100 Plus.

I’m going to give it a little more time to settle in, but I’m really hoping to train there again soon. Just about everyone was cool to me and it was a fun change of pace. I’m looking forward to more of this type of training!

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Living in Malaysia is a bit of a mixed bag as far as training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The local scene is pretty blah overall, with only 2 gyms on the peninsula, there were 3 until recently when one closed down. So the bad news is you need to leave the country to get any kind of competition experience. The good news, if you can call it that, is that Malaysia's relatively central location makes travel a bit less painful. Not what I would consider a fantastic trade-off.

There is a pretty packed cycle of tournaments coming up soon, in the next couple of months really. I'm trying to finalise my plans but I've settled on this so far:

Not confirmed:
Aug 23-24 - Taiwan
Aug 30-31 - Singapore

My dilemma here is mainly financial, coming down to "plane ticket" vs. "bus ticket and hotel stay". It would be nice to go to both but I'm not sure that will fly.

Sept 13 - Melbourne, Will-Machado Australian BJJ Nationals. I basically nailgunned myself to this one as soon as the last one finished.
Sept 27-28 - Bangkok, Thailand Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu / Sub-Grappling Open. As I understand it, some good friends will be there and I'm looking forward to meeting them again...just waiting for the online registration to open up.

UPDATE 10th August: Have just dropped off my registration for Bangkok, and am looking at the Singapore registration form now. I really, seriously wish there could be a standard set of weight divisions across the board. In Singapore my division is <77, in Bangkok it's <70 WITH GI, in Melbourne it should be <70 with a 3kg gi allowance. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I just got back from Hong Kong, where I spent the weekend with my super hot (yes it’s true, I don’t mind telling you) wife. She was in town for a dance conference, so for at least a little while I was on my own. Fortunately Imran and Yulius, friends from KDT who are currently based here for work, invited me to dinner – and to go train BJJ with them. Even more fortunately, the class would be held at the exact same time that I was free.

Having made no plans to do anything in Hong Kong but buy the soundtrack to The Dark Knight (since Malaysia takes freaking forEVER to get movie soundtracks that in other countries I can get pretty much as soon as I leave the theatre on opening night) and then eat lots of pork when that was done, I felt a bit bummed that I didn’t bring any of my gear. No worries, I was told, nobody else except the coach has a gi yet. I am also informed that this would be only the second BJJ class at this gym, the first class bring held earlier that week. Right then.

We set a time and place to meet up. The gym is near Causeway Bay MTR station and I got there early, so I braved the insane crowds and popped into a mall to go shopping for knee protection. I managed to find a really nice pair of Nike supports so I was all set. A short walk later, I was introduced to the coach, one Mr. Silvio Braga, a 2nd-degree black belt from Brazil.

I was immediately put at ease. From the word go, Silvio came across as a really cool guy – down to earth, funny and easy to talk to. I was seriously impressed with his ability to coach, and he definitely showed that he could take his skill and articulate it concisely and effectively for others. He was very adept at giving the right coaching cue at the right time and it made a huge difference in my understanding of the material and my enjoyment of the class.

He also ran us through some stretches and drills to warm up (that I will be shamelessly appropriating for my own use), and then showed us a nice guard pass and an armbar from mount setup that I particularly liked, as I can secure and keep my position for as long as possible. I never try armbars as, not only do I hate losing top position, in doing so I would frequently crush my own unmentionables. With this setup, I feel pretty confident in being able to avoid both pitfalls.

I got to roll for a little while with Silvio at the end of class and it was quite the experience. It was super fun, we had three quick rolls and I got armbarred as many times, and it was then that I was even more impressed with him. He would coach on the fly and give me opportunities to escape or attack, flowing right around anything I tried – it was all about mutual respect and having a whole lot of fun. Destroying me would have been about as hard for him as making a bowl of cornflakes, and the whole time I felt completely safe.

After we were done, Yulius and I spent a couple of minutes chatting with Silvio. He shared a couple of anecdotes with us and was really encouraging, a real class act. I left that class completely inspired and – since I wouldn’t be able to attend any more classes before my flight back – all I wanted to do was get back to KL and train.

It was great to meet up with Imran and Yulius; good guys, good training partners and good friends. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get back to Hong Kong anytime soon, but as long as Silvio is still based there, I’m definitely packing my gi!

Thursday, July 3, 2008



I've only just watched your new Hulk movie. I'm sorry, I know, I should have done it a month ago, but I've been busy.

Thank you for doing such an excellent job with casting. Ed Norton was an inspired choice to play Bruce Banner - though to be honest I also really liked Eric Bana's portrayal (shame about the rest of that movie).

And seriously, William Hurt as General Thunderbolt Ross? Like, whoa. BEST. CASTING. EVER. And by "ever", I of course mean "since you cast J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson".

Thank you for staying true to the spirit of the comics and still managing to make awesomely nerdlicious movies. I completely squealed when I saw Stan Lee get Gamma poisoning, and it would be so sweet to see the Leader in the next Hulk movie.

I loved Iron Man too (its soundtrack will be a near-permanent fixture in my conditioning classes in the future) and you have got me so completely pumped up for Thor, Cap and THE AVENGERS! YAAAA HA-HAAAA! WOOOOOO!

As an aside, thank you for giving DC a big wake-up call, and showing them exactly what they can accomplish - in terms of continuity, content and sheer butt-kickery, if they can only get to work. I mean, I love DC, but nobody can deny that right now you have the clear advantage in terms of storytelling. Overall, that is. To be frank, for me, you haven't done anything that tops Batman Begins, and with The Dark Knight coming out soon, they still have the edge in terms of stand-alone movie goodness.

Thank you again for being so utterly cool by giving so much respect to the TV series (the theme? VERY classy) and to Lou Ferrigno. If I wore a hat, it would be so totally off to you.

Thank you for giving people a whole new reason to give the comic book industry the respect it deserves.

And finally...because I need to justify putting this post up on a BJJ blog...

Thank you so much for casting Rickson Gracie! I went nuts in the theatre when I realised who it was. So very cool. So much respect. It was sweet to watch him..."the man who slapped Hulk in the face"!




...But, why was Rickson credited as "Aikido Instructor"?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


No picture yet, I'll try to get one.

Last weekend a small group of the KDT guys made it down to Singapore to go train with Rodney King. Unfortunately, we were almost all of us injured or sick. Vince had some really bad food poisoning, Mike cut up his hand in a freak accident with exploding beer bottles, and on the Singapore side, Kon was out of action with stitches in his forehead, while Sul also had food poisoning (but he was ok for the second day of training). It was a bummer also because Adam and Jem were not able to make it down from Bangkok, as Adam hurt his elbow and shin in one of his Muay Thai fights.

As for me, I had a really weird thing going on with the middle knuckle on my left hand. About 2 weeks earlier I hurt it on Mike's forehead. Wasn't a hard shot, just one of those things. I suppose I didn't take enough care of it, because on the Friday we got there, it literally ballooned up. It was a bit scary and really strange. A lot of ice helped with the swelling and the blood stuck around for a few days after, making half my hand really purple. Going to the doctor tomorrow.

The trip was pretty fun regardless, we got to see some good friends there and it's a treat to watch Rodney in action. I learned a lot just watching him coach basics. He also showed a few drills which were really interesting and will definitely make their way into CMD classes at KDT. I'm really looking forward to the week-long CMD retreat in November!


Bottoms-up cleans are MUCH easier with Pro Series kettlebells.

What can I say, I couldn't find my sneakers.

Assistant coach Chui led stretches for the day.

Posing down after a hard morning's work.


...about my training journal. And by that, I don't mean this blog. Instead, I'm talking about the actual notebook that I scribble in every now and then.

I've got this thing where I'm mad about brand new notebooks. I love everything about them: from the way the pages smell, to the sound they make when you flip the pages, to the feel of high-quality paper. It's especially the case for high-end notebooks, like the kind with the built-in rubber band, so they don't flop open, and the pocket in the back for loose sheets of paper.

I just hate writing in them.

It kills me when I have to start writing in a really nice book, because it's like I've just condemned it. Its future is now etched in stone. If I rip out a page so I can use the book for something else, I've just taken away a little part of its soul.

The worst part, though, the WORST part? There was a time when I was absolutely horrified of writing anything in my notebook about my BJJ classes until I had - and I know how this will sound - positively every aspect of every technique ready to put into print. Never mind the ignorance of assuming this was even possible. Let me explain.

Guy obsessed with getting everything positively right the first time with a notebook + constantly evolving system of combat sports = not fun. To illustrate, imagine the following internal dialogue:

"OK, right. So. I'll just start writing the alphabet in this book, with my ballpoint pen. So...whatever I write...will be permanent. So I need the first page for 'A', the second page for 'G' and the third for 'Y'...OK I can do this, I can do this, just breathe. Just breathe. Relax. I'm just going to write down some letters in a book. In order. But great Caesar's ghost, what happens if THERE'S A LETTER BETWEEN A AND G?!?!"

You get the idea, I hope.

Yes I know, there's something a little wrong with me. I mean, I'm no Tony Shalhoub. I think this is the only thing I ever really get all OCD over.

I've had the same book since last september. I started writing in it after last year's Australian BJJ Nationals, when I was on the train to Geelong for a visit to John Will's gym. The train was really jerky so the writing for the first 10 pages or so is frighteningly sloppy.

When I got back home I found some old notes from a seminar earlier in the year. I didn't want to lose them, so I copied them into the book. Pretty soon I started using it to take notes on CMD classes. Thoughts and things I had learned about coaching also made it into the notebook. I ended up writing in the book from both ends, so now there's just a bit of space left in the middle.

I'm trying to save enough space to make it last until after this year's Australian Nationals, at least, so I've been going back and looking for pages where I didn't write on both sides of a page to scribble in the latest notes.

When I look back at things I wrote just a few months ago I see rubbish and I wonder what I was thinking. That's OK, because I can flip just a couple of pages and be reminded of something I may have forgotten about, and have it become a meaningful addition to my game after some drilling. And who knows, a few months from now I may look back through my notebook and yesterday's 'awesome' will have become today's 'this is a joke, right?'.

I can, with some embarrassment, trace the progression of my game through the kind of notes I take, which for me is really cool to think about. It's also helpful that having a notebook does not mean I can just totally forget about stuff. In addition to the mat time I spend drilling something, I've also taken the time to write it down, which makes me think about it and analyse it enough to be able to articulate it.

The purpose of this is to say, just get a book and write in it. To an extent, it doesn't matter what you write, just as long as you get started. Write down things you learned in class, things you feel, things you think won't work, whatever. I mean, not to sound facetious, but if I can do it, I think anyone can. The trick is, if you are even half as obsessive as I am, don't think about it...start writing before your OCD defense mechanism knows what hit it.

It also helped that my notebook is ringed, and not bound with glue. It drives me absolutely up the wall when the spine on one of my books is damaged.
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