Monday, March 24, 2008


If you're trying something new and you aren't sure of yourself, I would say it's pretty common to have a look around, say "hey that guy seems to know what he's doing" and then just follow along. There's nothing wrong with this - it can be a good way to start yourself off. It's how many people learn and it's how many people teach.

Taking this back to Jiu-Jitsu: say someone in the gym has a really good open guard. Nobody can pass it and he sweeps or subs everyone like it was nothing. You look at him, say "that looks cool! I want to do that too!" and all you do from then on is drill your guard game.

A few months pass. Maybe you've become hot stuff on the mats. Maybe you haven't - maybe you just don't feel comfortable playing open guard. The problem with "monkey see, monkey do" starts when all you do is imitate others.

Just because "hey, that guy makes it work" doesn't mean everyone will have the same kind of success with it. There are tons of reasons for this - attributes (gogoplata from closed guard, what?) and mindsets ("I'll wait and see what he gives me" vs. "If I don't explode right now I'm going to lose") are great examples.

Not everyone is insanely flexible, even if half the guys you train with seem to have some kind of genetic mutation. Likewise, if you're naturally agressive, you may not be well suited to a "lay & pray" game.

By default, your coach deserves trust (without which, there's really no point to your even being in the class). But the coach really only shows you your options - and you do need to take responsibility for the choices you make in training.

A coach can be a great fighter with the best triangle game in the world. You may have short legs or bad knees that mean your triangles are horrid. There should not be an issue here unless all your coach makes you do are triangles. You can learn to make your triangle more efficient but if it's not clicking, it's not clicking.

The whole point is to play and explore, to see for yourself what works and what doesn't. Sometimes you just know right away you won't like certain positions or techniques, and sometimes it may take you months of experimentation before you find out.

Don't be afraid to take parts of other peoples' games and make them your own - equally, don't be afraid to go your own way and try to find something that is truly yours.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Good Coaching Behavior

Loves the game
Cares about athletes
Calls athletes to nobility
Focuses on excellence in fundamentals
Uses intensity to build and encourage
Speaks well of athletes to others
Shakes hands with the athletes
Encourages progress
Uses the coach position constructively
Is good at support
Talks to athletes directly
Says "We'll work on that"
Honors athletes' past coaches
Supports the team
With wins, boldly esteems the athletes
With losses, brutally examines self
Expects 100 percent from athletes
Gives 100 percent of self
Gives consistent message to athletes
Shows loyalty to athletes
Is strong in character
Invites feedback from athletes
Respects parents/family
Earns respect
Seeks to understand the athletes
"Owns" the results of his/her coaching
Apologies and forgives
Cultivates confidence
Embraces humility
Is teachable and open-minded
Seeks help and input
Shares information
Single faced and forthright
Emotionally and intellectually honest
Protects athletes' weaknesses
Admits personal weaknesses
Inspires hope
Brings joy to the game
Releases athletes
Channels passions
Finds the best in every athlete
Teaches and instructs
Works for athletes
Seeks acclaim for athletes

Bad Coaching Behavior

Loves to win
Cares about wins and losses
Calls athletes stupid
Develops the showy before the solid
Uses intensity to degrade and shame
Speaks poorly of athletes to others
Shakes head at the athletes
Encourages favorites
Uses the coach position to tear down
Is good at sarcasm
Talks about athletes behind their backs
Says "What was that?!"
Mocks athletes past coaches
Supports own ego
With wins, boldly esteems self
With losses, brutally examines athletes
Expects applause from athletes
Talks about how much he/she gives
Gives erratic message to athletes
Shows disgust with athletes
Boasts of his/her strength of character
Instills fear in athletes
Disregards parents/family
Expects or demands respect
Seeks to undermine the athletes
Blames results on athletes/staff/circumstances
Holds personal grudges, seeks vindication
Crushes confidence
Parades arrogance
Knows it all
Seeks to block and isolate
Withholds information
Two or three faced and oblique
Emotionally and intellectually dishonest
Exposes athletes' weakness to others
Denies personal weaknesses
Inspires hopelessness
Robs the game of joy
Stifles athletes
Chokes passions
Seeks only the best athletes
Yells and shames
Expects athletes to work for him/her
Seeks acclaim for self

Final note:
A Good Coach reads this and reflects on his or her style and motivations.
A Bad Coach reads this and responds with contempt and cynicism.
Gut check time.

~Mark Eaton~

I hope that according to this I'm moving more or less in the right direction. I also hope that anyone I coach will call me out if I'm not.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Scott Baio, eat your heart out.

Seriously though, tonight I led my first BJJ class. I wasn't really expecting to, but Sam wasn't in town and Vince had a wisdom tooth removed so there I was.

I led the guys through a warmup based on some stuff I saw from Rigan Machado, then went into drills based around positional control. We only really had time to focus on the mount and side control before everyone started rolling, but it looked like everyone was into it.

I was trying a bit of a different format for the class, where I'd get them to drill and then after a couple of minutes I'd break, bring everyone in and do a little troubleshooting session where everyone got to listen in. Seemed to work pretty well, and I got everyone to try and apply the suggestions I made in the next round of drilling.

For me, it was really fun getting the chance to put on the coach's shoes for just a little bit and get a taste of what it's like. I hope the class was just as fun (or more) for the guys. It was all really inspiring to me - just like the recent MMA-based classes we've been doing, it was like rediscovering why this is so completely fun.

I'm playing around with things I'd like to try if I ever get asked to do this again, which I'm hoping for.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Last night we had an MMA-based boxing class. For many of us, myself included, it was pretty new territory so we started out slow. Very light contact, as some people didn't have MMA gloves - as well as limited drills: maintaining the mount and some basic defense.

I just wanted to learn it - I had no idea how fun it was going to be! Using strikes to set up positions and submissions opens up a whole new field of possibilities. It's a pretty exciting time right now, as it also freshens up BJJ classes (not that they needed it), helping me to be aware of my options, even if they're not allowed.

Very cool stuff. I can't wait for Wednesday night!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Note: This post is completely unrelated to anything close to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing or any other martial art, unless you count the Monk class in 3rd Edition.

I feel that, ridiculously wild tangent though this entire post may be, I would be seriously remiss in my duties as a nerd (for you see, besides my fiancee, and BJJ, the other great love of my life is role-playing games) if I did not take the time to make a blog mourning the passing of one Mr. Ernest Gary Gygax.

The co-creator of the epic and marvelously fantastic game Dungeons & Dragons, Gary sadly left this life on March 4, 2008. He leaves behind an unimaginably spectacular legacy of great games inspired by his part-brainchild. He is mourned by his family, which includes millions of other nerds around the world.

Fare thee well, Master Gygax. Wherever you are, may you roll maximum damage for your fireballs, and may all your attacks be critical hits.

Rest in peace.

Ernest Gary Gygax (July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)

Monday, March 3, 2008


"How did he do that?"

For the first couple of months of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, that's pretty much what I thought it was: insane. Not in a bad way, mind you. It was so completely incomprehensible, just thinking about it makes me laugh.

During drilling it was ok. I could more or less grasp general concepts, because everything would get broken down nicely. During rolling it was a bit different. I was just trying to survive, because everything I just learned went nicely – out the window.

One second I'm trying to pass guard, a moment later I'm defending an armbar. One second I'm on top in side control, a moment later I'm on the bottom and my face is being smeared across the mat. One second I'm in safety position, a moment later I'm getting triangled.

And so on. And the whole time, there I was, with no idea as to what was going on. I can see how this could get old. It didn't for me, but I can see how it's a possibility.

I suppose that really, the best advice I may be able to give to people in this position is to just not give up. Stay focused and stay engaged. Want to be there. Trust that your coach knows what he's talking about, and that he’s actually interested in seeing you get better, because unless you are tremendously unlucky – or unpleasant – he probably is.

Most importantly: it really doesn’t matter if you get your butt whupped, it really doesn’t (in fact, it’s arguably the single best way for you to learn). What really matters is if you keep putting in the time (just make sure you train in a safe environment, where you can feel comfortable).

Sooner or later you’ll start seeing returns. The fog will start to clear up and while you may not become brilliant overnight, at the very least you’ll experience a taste of what it could be like. Put in enough time and this is as good a guarantee as you'll get.

It’s a bit like a 1,000,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in this respect: at first it’s a freakishly indecipherable jumble (especially if you don’t have a good example of what it’s supposed to look like). Nothing makes any kind of human sense and it’s the easiest thing in the world to say “nuts to this” and walk away.

But if you stay, keep at it and never stop wanting to see what you can make of it – soon enough you’ll find two pieces that go together. Keep looking and you’ll find a third piece, then a fourth. You may even find two unrelated pieces that go together. Cool, just hang on to those.

Maybe you find it easier to start at the corners, maybe you like to lump them up by colour. Well, nobody said you have to start in a particular place, right?

Eventually you come to a point when you can try to put 2 and 2 together, and make an educated guess as to what a small part of the picture is. You still don’t have the whole thing together but now you’ve figured out enough that you aren’t clueless.

Imagine that all across the world there are people working on this same puzzle. Many are farther along than you are. Learn from these people; if they don’t give you straight answers as to what they’ve figured out, at least try to see how they go about it.

Many are still mired in tangible confusion. Learn from these people; see what they’re doing wrong and either help them or not, but don’t repeat their mistakes.

You may come to a point, or several points, when you wonder if it’s all worth it. There are so many other ways to spend your life, why would you devote so much of your time to this? You may decide that you want to go on, or that you’d rather call it a day. Hey, do what feels right.

The bottom line is: it may take you all your life, and still you may not even come close to finishing it. But, as long as you're having fun along the way, it's really not so bad after all.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


No, that's not my picture. This is Steve Cotter, who was just at KDT to conduct a 2-day Kettlebell Trainer Certification seminar.

Steve is the Director of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF). He has over 25 years of fitness and martial arts experience. He's also phenomenally strong (we took a picture of him doing a double windmill, holding a 20kg -AND- a 28kg kettlebell, both in his lower hand).

So the long and short of it is, after around 13 hours' worth of training over 2 days, I am now a Certified Kettlebell Trainer (level 1)! I'm told that we're the first batch to be certified in South-East Asia, which is pretty cool. I had a lot of fun - Steve is a really cool guy, and not just cause he autographed one of my kettlebells.

The others who were certified were (from KDT) Vince, Kate, Thong, Chui and Cliff. Paul and David, Vince's friends from Kota Kinabalu were also certified, as were Jonathan Wong from the Pushmore gym and Ty (sorry man, forget your last name), an American living in Bangkok.

My palms had the life wrung out of them and I wonder how much of this seminar will make it into Vince's classes this week. Time to soak my hands.

P/S I'm also in the process of adding more pictures to the blog. Just in case you didn't notice.
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