Thursday, December 24, 2009


I've just finished my first year (officially, anyway) of full-time coaching. It's been a really unforgettable year. It seems like just a few days ago that I was stressing about pre-launch problems, and now I'm getting ready to go unwind and prepare for the coming year. It was definitely a year of self-discovery and I learned so much more than I would have thought possible.

I learned that God is good. Actually I already knew that, but 2009 just completely reinforced that for me.

I learned that people skills are actually pretty important. Who knew?

I learned that it's much harder to hide dirt, hair and dead bugs on lighter-coloured mats than darker ones.

I learned that isolation doesn't have to mean stagnation. If you want to improve, find a way or go do something else.

I learned that running a business with your wife can be really fun.

I learned that friendships and relationships should be prioritised far, far above who can tap who out. Actually I already knew that too, but 2009 drove it home.

I learned that eye infections really, really suck.

I learned that it's easy to create a fun, ego-free atmosphere... but only if that's what you actually want, deep down.

I learned that hypocrisy is not worth your anger. But it is worth your pity.

I learned that running a martial arts/fitness business by yourself is much, much more demanding (mentally, emotionally and physically), involved and scary than the mere sum of its parts would make it seem. Which leads me to the next point...

I learned that God is very, very good.


I learned that you may or may not be able to go home again, but if the people there were worth your fond memories in the first place, they'll still be worth it when you visit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Celebrated my 4th year anniversary of the day I started BJJ 4 days ago. I say "celebrated" but really, that should read more like, "completely forgot until last night when a CMD client asked me how long I'd been training".

It feels a bit weird, me typing this, like I'm moving my fingers for the sake of doing so and little else. It's really interesting for me to go back and read my old posts. Nostalgia and memory lane and such. Doesn't do anything to make me want to write new ones. Got a lot to say and nothing I feel compelled to blog about. Except this, I suppose it's good for future reference. Ah well.

Teaching has likely been one of the best things to ever happen to my BJJ. And as it turns out, I've got everything I need to work on what I need to work on. Which is nice.

Still enjoying training, still loving Jiu-Jitsu.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


From this link. Emphasis mine.

I feel like I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to train with a lot of different people and to compete a lot, but honestly what I try to do and What I really believe helps me the most is that I try to break Jiu-Jitsu down to a fundamental level and really work to understand what determines success and failure, kind of on a body mechanics level, to really understand that there are correct and incorrect ways to do things.

There are plenty of reasons that people have success with a given technique or a given strategy, yet often times they are succeeding in spite of doing things improperly. I know I was. You can win a match and still have done 10 things wrong. Maybe you’re the vastly superior athlete or maybe the other guy was hung over…or you could do almost everything right and still lose. In any event, the idea is that if you can get down to a fundamental level of body mechanics and understanding, you can kind of distill your Jiu-Jitsu down to something that’s very direct, very simple, allowing you to be able to operate on a higher level of efficiency in many, many positions, all positions really, instead of just drilling just one series or just a couple series of moves and becoming very strong [in that particular area] while neglecting other areas.

Many guys I know, they’re very tough at their specific areas. Like so-and-so has a great De La Riva guard; they can use this sweep to this sweep to this sweep, and they know that series in and out, but if you can drag them out of that series, they’re far less dangerous because their Jiu-Jitsu knowledge is more superficial. On a more fundamental level their movement as a whole might not be great. Rather than focusing on specific techniques, I feel what’s been able to help me and my students succeed pretty rapidly has really been trying to focus on how to move rather than a series of techniques…I’ve noticed a massive change for the positive.

-Ryan Hall

Monday, October 5, 2009


So I know this isn't a particularly original revelation - I've heard lots of guys talk about how they like to play Jiu-Jitsu without submissions, or just catch and release. But over the last couple of months I've come to understand that Jiu-Jitsu really is arte suave - the "gentle art" - and it's more important than, oh, say, winning.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SO, UH...

It's been business as usual for the past two weeks or so, apart from my not doing any competition training - which is fine, it's still Jiu-Jitsu and that's all good. Since the Pan Asians in May I find I've been really branching out and playing with all-new stuff on a regular basis. That's really fun in and of itself but the fact that I'm not preoccupied with a tournament looming on the horizon means I can really let go and play.

Which is not to say I'm happy I'm not going to Bangkok. I was really looking forward to not just the challenge, but seeing a lot of friends, and I'll not be sad to see the end of September. I notice Isaac's name isn't on the list anymore either, which is a bit of a bummer as since I wouldn't be there, he was my pick to win my division.

What else is new...oh, I keep getting knocks on my bad eye. Murphy's law has really zoomed in on that one, it's taken three hits in the last week from relatively freakish accidents. My glasses slipped in my hands as I put them on, poking me in the eye. I go to defend a punch that takes a weird curve and the velcro in my glove scrapes the eyeball. Most recently I was playing no-gi and when I was defending against a stack I manage to knee myself in the eye. Thank God for medicated eyedrops.

Attendance in the CMD classes has been picking up, which is pretty exciting, and I'm looking to get the BJJ program some advertising, so we'll see how that plays out.

Friday, August 21, 2009


For the lack of a better way to say it, this is something I've been trying to figure out for myself. When you play BJJ, do you stay present and mindful of yourself and the situation, or do you just go all zen, blank out and just do whatever? I can see both sides of the argument having good points. It gets a bit confusing for me, though, as each side has some really credible support.

For example, Saulo Ribeiro is one of those who advocate the no-mind-let-your-body-know-what-it-knows-to-do style of rolling. He quotes Rickson(?) by saying "if you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you get tired. If you get tired, you die." (source: Jiu-Jitsu University - IMHO a freaking incredible resource that was worth every cent!) That says it all so I won't try to elaborate.

On the other hand, Roger Gracie prefers to stay present and think his way through matches. To paraphrase him, "it's like chess. You've got to think. If you don't use your brain, you're going to lose" (source: Arte Suave vol. 1). It's really not as though you could argue with the man, based on his results. It is of course valid to note, though, not everyone is 6 foot 4, trains with a number of the greatest sport BJJ players alive, is super-strong, and has freakish Cobrinha-level technical ability - all at once.

For myself, I've noticed big results when I don't actively try to think my way through things. In rolling in the gym, or in competition matches, some of the best stuff I've ever done came in the absence of conscious thought. And on the other side, when I lose in competition, it's because I tried to use my head and work stuff out - while my opponent is already acting.

Which is not to discount engaging the mind and applying problem-solving skills to BJJ. I get a big kick anytime I'm able to have a game plan when I roll,and then implement what I can and adapt on the fly. For me, it feels really awesome if I can go in with an actual strategy. Just being able to read the situation and use tactics to get by is something I find amazing. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it's really quite cool. This must be how rock climbers feel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I'm withdrawing from the Bangkok Competition in September. I'm not injured, and I didn't give up competing - there's some stuff that has to take priority over this trip. That's just how it is.

Big ups and all the best to everyone who's still in. Especially to all my friends over there in Bangkok BJJ and also the Malaysian contingent. Stay safe, don't get hurt, and have fun!

And bringing some metal home with you would also be nice :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The weekend is over and with it, the latest Rodney King seminar at KDT. I had a tremendous time as usual, it was a lot of fun to hang out with everyone from the gym again. It was also good to meet James Woodfield-Jones, who is a new CMD trainer from Perth. Rodney was back and brought with him some really top-notch material for BJJ, CMD and MMA training. Some highlights for me included:

*Rodney's Combat Intelligent Athlete (CIA) module, which is a tool to help with preparation for self-defense. He covered some very interesting insights on self-defense and how these situations affect you physiologically.
*Of course, getting to hang out with Adam. Bummer that I couldn't train with him but there'll be time for that. Oh yes. Time there will be.
*James and (belatedly) Adam got promoted to Trainer! Congratulations, guys!
*Rodney's BJJ material. He covered some guard passing stuff which he actually showed before, but I seriously appreciated this second round. Last time there was a lot of stuff to go over and I wasn't able to get everything down on paper. This time though, I think I could understand a lot more of it, having had months to let it sit. Plus he showed some cool nuances to the techniques which were very cool.
*Kon and Naresh from Kreation BJJ in Singapore made the trip up and it was really cool to see them there.

I appreciate every opportunity to go to KDT, it's just that being such a huge seminar, it really made it quite the occasion. I'm a bit bummed that it's all over (a feeling reminiscent of the post-holiday blues, actually), but there's the seminar at Studio 23 coming up, and I definitely have a load of stuff to play with until the next seminar. It should be another awesome time and I'm so looking forward to it!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

EXQUISITE TORTURE... being in a room full of BJJ people and NOT BEING ABLE TO ROLL BECAUSE OF YOUR EYE. Almost all the KDT regulars were there at open mats. I especially wanted to train with Rich, who I've only recently met but who is a great (and really strong and skilled) guy. The salt in this wound was that Adam was also in town for Rodney's seminar and I couldn't roll with him. At least I get to train with him in Bangkok, but that's a month away and for right now it's really killing me.

At least the eye is doing much better now and I will hopefully be able to be on the mats (as opposed to sitting at the side with a notebook) when Rodney is over at Studio 23 in a few days' time.


Thursday, August 6, 2009


About 2 weeks ago I reaggravated the injury in my left eye. It wasn't so bad immediately, but a few days later when I woke up it started to feel like someone was scraping my eyeball with sandpaper. To make things even more fun, I could see a white dot on my iris. A trip to the doctor confirmed that not only did I have corneal scarring, the injury was infected. Extreme light sensitivity, sporadic pain and it honestly didn't help that I was so insistent on touching my eye. The doctor gave me some medicated eyedrops and away I went.

It's now much better, no more real pain, though there still is some irritation, which was made worse by the onset of the haze. There's nothing like waking up and smelling the faint scent of burning to start the day on the wrong foot. The odd thing is though, I started to notice that (I have required glasses to correct shortsightedness in both eyes since I was a teenager) I could clearly make out shapes and lines with my injured eye.

After the initial confusion, I went to the doctor again and was told that the scarring changed the shape of my eye. So it seems that me getting injured actually helped my vision(!!). Except, of course, for the fact that all my prescription glasses now have to be changed, including a really cool pair of sunglasses I just had made. Plus it appears that I'm now farsighted in the left eye, as things really up close are a bit blurry. Oh well, makes things more interesting, I suppose.

Anyway, I'm flying to KL tomorrow for the weekend, as Rodney King is in town for seminars at KDT. What's more, he'll be coming to Kuching for a seminar at where else, but Studio 23! I'm looking forward to seeing everyone in KL, and a fairly relaxing time since I obviously can't do any standup for the moment. Here we go!

Monday, July 27, 2009


On the latest Fightworks Podcast, they've got Andrew Smith from U.S. Grappling on the show. He was talking about his most recent tournament, a submissions-only, NO TIME LIMIT event. In his words, "if a match goes a couple of hours, it goes a couple of hours". Smith goes on to add "almost all the competitors walk away extremely happy with the outcome, because nobody can complain about the outcome".


Anyway, it's also a really good episode. I think so, anyway. Ryan Hall is on it. So, yeah. U. S. Grappling = two thumbs up!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Online registration for the 2009 Thailand BJJ Open is now live. I've got myself down with lots of time to spare to get a free rashguard out of it! I thought I was early enough last year to snag one but I suppose not. Ah well.

I see loads of familiar names on the list already, and I'm looking forward to a great time! I'm planning to take some time off to stay in Bangkok after the competition, so I'll also be looking to do the no-gi competition.

It'll be my first experience competing without a gi and frankly I have no idea what to expect (not to mention, going by the experience chart, I'm supposed to be in the advanced category, hah). It's all good though, at least I'll finally get to see what it's all about.

Right now I'm the only one on the list from Malaysia. Come on you slackers! ;)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I was reading the recent Cobrinha interview on Facebook (the full transcript appears on BJJ Asia) and the thing that made the most impact on me was when he talked about how he used to be a baker and still enjoys it – but doesn’t get much time for life outside BJJ, as one may imagine.

I don’t know how common this sentiment is, but something that sometimes pops up in my head is a feeling along the lines of:

“Oh man, if I had been training BJJ since I was a kid, I would be really good now.”

Maybe now and then it would be more like:

“Wow, if I hadn’t spent all that time playing Warcraft / at the office / doing nothing / reading comics (I do not, in fact, regret that last one), and just put all that energy into Jiu-Jitsu, I could be so much better now.”

Very rarely, this comes in the form of something like:

“I wish I had a BJJ group around me when I was younger, like the Gracies had – being so fully immersed in Jiu-Jitsu from childhood would have been awesome!”

I can’t be the only one to have felt things like this. I think it’s not uncommon to look at a Rickson, or a Roger, or whoever, and wonder what I could be like with the same kind of background. Honestly, who wouldn’t want that kind of amazing skill and insight into the game – and to still be whatever age you are?

I say it’s perfectly normal to look at a mind-numbing, soul-crushing office job and wish you could just throw it all away and go do BJJ every day. Jiu-Jitsu 3 times a day, 7 days a week, would sure sound appealing when faced with a backed-up inbox and a 12-hour day of conference calls and client meetings.

For me, it’s understandable to wish you had the kind of support for Jiu-Jitsu that kids in Brazil seem to enjoy so much. Wouldn’t it be so cool to have a group of enthusiastic guys to push me in all things BJJ, to have that brotherhood and community to challenge and encourage me?

Upon reflection I think the important thing to remember is that people like Roger, Saulo and all the other amazing BJJ players I could name are who they are – and still have the desire and motivation to train BJJ – because they each lived a life that not everyone was meant to have.

If we are shaped by our experiences, then how can anyone say they would be who they are now if they lived a vastly different life? Would I really be so in love with Jiu-Jitsu if I had to be around it every day from since I was a toddler? And what about my relationships with friends and family, how would they be different if my whole life was all about training?

The more I think about it, the more I’m really thankful for my experiences, and where they’ve brought me in my life. I’m thankful for the ability to just buy a bunch of DVDs and benefit from the experiences and sacrifices of a Cobrinha, a Saulo, a Galvao, or what have you. I’m thankful I get to train Jiu-Jitsu, compete in Jiu-Jitsu, and travel and make friends from all around the world, because I choose to.

Friday, June 19, 2009


A couple of nights ago I was finally able to make it out to Kota Damansara where Marcos Escobar, a 2nd Degree Black Belt with Check Mat, runs a BJJ class. Finding the place was no problem, and parking was plentiful as by 9pm most of the tenants there have long since left for home.

Right as soon as I was about to lock my car up I noticed Roy, who was one of the first guys I ever trained with and who was himself getting his stuff ready for class. It was great to see him again, it must have been 2 years since the last time we rolled. I also saw a bunch of friendly faces while I was waiting for the class. Aaron, Eugene and a few of the other guys who went to Manila were there, among others.

Marcos took us through a great warmup, as well as a really nice guard drill before finishing up with a transition to kneeride and choke. It was all excellent food for thought and I enjoyed it. Rolling after the class was also very fun. I got to go with the blues in the class, as well as Marcos himself, who was very open and friendly.

I would like to say this about the guy: I've met Black Belts who talk a good game and put forward this image of themselves as laid-back avant-garde hippies, but when they roll and don't get their way with lower belts, will invariably end up kicking it into high gear and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their hapless target.

Marcos is not one of those guys, and in fact I had a tremendous amount of fun rolling with the guy. I got hit with an armbar that was so smooth I didn't even realise it was on the way until it was too late. So right there I picked up one more thing to watch out for.

I really liked that there were so many familiar faces in the class, and it helped me feel immediately at ease. I look forward to the next time I get to go train there!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


1. They only really cared about you videotaping matches on the final day. I saw a lot of people break out their video cameras and tape black belt matches on Saturday, and nobody cared. It was only on the day of the finals that they started searching bags. I did not video any matches after Thursday (the only day that it was officially allowed), partly because I didn't want to have my camera taken away or something, but I was also still wallowing in righteous indignation.

2. If you're there with friends, excellent. But if you're there on your own, don't bring more than 1 bag, the room is just too huge and you won't be able to keep an eye on your stuff the whole time. Also, if you have to go to the bathroom or buy some food (see next) you will have to lug your stuff everywhere with you.

2a. Travel as light as possible. Leave extra space in your bag for food, maybe an extra T-shirt and maybe a couple of DVDs that you may or may not (you know, inevitably) purchase.

3. Buy extra food and water in advance. You don't want to be starving but afraid to leave your seat. This scenario will usually take place in addition to one of the following circumstances: either there's nobody in line at the concession stands but there's a hugely important match coming up, or there's a lull in the action and everybody wants to get a hot dog. Buy extra food in advance. Bring your own water though.

(note: the hot dogs at the Walter Pyramid were in my opinion incredibly good, I didn't try the pizza though)

3a. If you're interested not in the regular food, but the açaí, then you don't have to worry, as the stand for that should be located in an area with a good view of the mats. They may change the location for next year but I honestly don't see why they would, as it made it so much easier for them to sell their product. Which was fantastic.

4. Bring a bit of extra cash but leave the credit card at home. If you're anything like me you simply won't be able to walk past the DVDs and not "have a look", no matter how many times you do so.

5. Are you competing? Get there early on your first day. If you do not, then the line to collect your competitor T-shirt may take 30-60 minutes to get through. Why? I don't know, it seems like it's pretty straightforward: say hello, tell them who you are and show your ID, collect your stuff and go away. Someone will always manage to drag this process out for several minutes.

6. If you are a competitor but you only see action on some of the days, you will be able to enter as a spectator for free (normal spectator fee is $10), which is nice - just go through the athletes entrance, EXCEPT on the day of the finals. Be aware that on the last day everyone except black belt competitors has to pay a $15 entrance fee. I was a bit shocked at this. I understand why they did it, which still doesn't make it OK, but whatever.

7. Bring an iPod. Mundials competition is a huge game of "hurry up and wait", and trust me, the waiting you have to do will be excruciating. It's MUCH better with friends around but it's nothing short of torture if you have nobody to talk to.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The last 2 days of the Mundials were crazy, with loads of awesome matches to be seen. I didn’t stay the whole day on Saturday, and had to leave before Kron Gracie and Marcelo Garcia had their matches, but I did get to watch Braulio Estima and Roger Gracie in their absolute matches.

On the Sunday I got there in time to catch Cobrinha’s first match. Later that day I met up again with the Factory BJJ team, as well as fellow CMD trainer, Cecil Burch! It was excellent to meet him finally, and he struck me as being a great guy. I hung around until just after the last matches of the day then left for the airport.

So here’s a bunch of random thoughts from the competition:

I was really struck by the sheer scale of the Mundials. When they say “world championships” they mean it. It’s crazy how big this competition is. ESPECIALLY for a guy from South-East Asia. I’m used to having 3 to 4 guys in my division. Everything wraps up nicely in a day and you can stay to watch every last match. And if you’ve been to maybe 2 of them, you already know at least half the people there. Now, the Mundials, unless you don’t care at all about life outside BJJ, it’s just about impossible to watch everyone’s division. It’s exhausting, really…in a good way, but still. It would be so easy to burn out from 4 solid days of BJJ, 9 to 12 hours each.

Roger and Braulio were easily, for me, the definite highlight of the whole Mundials. I saw loads of people play for points and then stall to the end so it was both really satisfying and really inspiring to see people go out and actually submit their opponents. As far as the matches I watched, that is to say, as many as possible, Roger tapped everyone out and Braulio won all his matches by submission except his division final.

Braulio Estima has, in my opinion, the single coolest name in all of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, rated higher than even “Cobrinha” on the grounds that it’s his actual name.

My favourite match of the competition was probably Roger Gracie v. Rafael Lovato. This one was pretty amazing to see; almost no other match (Cobrinha v. Rafael Mendes and Kron Gracie v. Lucas Leite were probably the others) that I watched had as many people in the audience more pumped up to watch. For me, this match wins out because it’s the only one that ended with a submission instead of points or referee decision.

Gilbert Burns, after winning a match on Saturday, decides to taunt the losing player’s team, by doing the little Atos victory dance – 2 slashing motions and a stabbing motion with an imaginary sword (the Atos crest is a sword and shield) – in their direction. Normally that sort of thing is just being a poor winner. But when the team you decide to flip off is Alliance, people will start wondering if you’ve lost your marbles. The whole Alliance team was singing chants at him for maybe a few minutes, it was awesome. Not the greatest exercise in public relations but really fun to watch.

Gui Mendes, after winning his division final, also decides to do the little Atos dance and use it to cheese off the Alliance bench. The only thing was his opponent (Samuel Braga) was from Gracie Barra. Then, after the match (more below) he goes and celebrates with the Barra team, which at that point was sitting right next to Alliance.

Samuel Braga, after being (IMHO) ruthlessly and blatantly stalled out by Gui Mendes, decides to shove Gui and get in his face. Yes, what happened to him in that match was really frustrating, but he lost any sympathy the crowd had for him. The organizers also weren’t impressed, and DQ’ed him, stating that “there will be no 2nd place in this division”.

After Michael Langhi won his division final match, against Gilbert Burns no less, Sergio Moraes runs on to the mat and does the Atos JJ dance at Langhi, whose response was to get his hands in a machine gun motion and riddle Moraes, who falls over flat, with scores of imaginary bullets. Just about everyone in the room went crazy for that. Makes you wonder how long they were waiting to do that.

After Sergio Moraes won his division semi-final and Romulo Barral won his division final, they spent time to give their opponents respect. They got their team to cheer and/or sing to honour the loser, which I thought was really classy.

I get there on Saturday and find a spot on the bleachers. After a minute I notice a guy sitting a few seats away. I’m thinking “hey, that guy looks just like Xande Ribeiro. Can’t be him though, he’s way too huge.” And then I notice he’s wearing a “University of Jiu-Jitsu” shirt and he’s talking to Saulo. What? He looks a lot skinnier on Youtube.

My vote for the best team would probably go to Alliance. Not because of any success on the mats, but because of the tremendous support they gave their players, it was nothing short of amazing. Fabio Gurgel was always there to lead the team in chants and songs. They were easily and by far the most vocal bunch of supporters – every time they won a big match, everybody in the room knew about it. They also had a huge flag bearing the team logo and waved it every chance they got. I wish every team was as supportive of their guys as Alliance.

For much of the time I really enjoyed the location of my seat, which was on the side with the bulk of the Barra supporters. The guys I was most there to watch were Roger and Braulio so this meant everyone near me was also cheering for them. A bonus to this was that it was the best possible place to watch the Alliance team go crazy.

After Rafael Lovato lost in his division I saw him sitting by himself. I could feel the anguish and frustration from all the way in the stands. He didn’t break down or anything, he was just really quiet. Some guys will lose it right on the mats and I’ll feel bad for them. Rafael sat there by himself and it was heartbreaking. Royler walked up to him, patted him on the shoulder and walked away without saying anything. I would not even try to compare my disappointment to his, and it gave me some valuable perspective.

There was another moment of silence on Sunday to honour Helio Gracie. The whole building went dead silent and for just a minute, we were all family members at a belated wake. They played a video of his life and you could see all these world-class BJJ players looking up at Helio. “What? No I just have some dirt in my eye.”

Marcelo Garcia is still incredible.

The Budo Videos guys were really cool as well, and really helped me out. I needed to get some stuff that they didn’t have available at the competition so they brought it over from their store (which I also went to, it’s a bit small but very impressive…just costs a lot to cab there from downtown Long Beach).

Cobrinha won his division semi-final and final matches by referee decision. I know that these matches are really close but I did feel just a bit unsatisfied. Not just as a spectator but I can only imagine the sense of injustice felt by the “loser”. It happened a whole lot of times that the score would finish perfectly tied, and the referees would pick the winner. The thing I found a bit awkward is that both players would always raise their hands and act like they already won.

At the Budo Videos booth looking to buy some dvds, the guy I’m talking to asks me to hold on a sec. He says to someone behind me, “hey, Rickson”. I’m thinking, “ehh?” I turn my head to the left and sure enough, Rickson Gracie is standing right there. I did a pretty good job of being cool, but what I really wanted to do was scream, ask him for an autograph and a photo and then have a heart attack.

Demian Maia and BJ Penn were there to check the competition out. That was pretty cool to see.

My favourite personality at the competition was the announcer on Thursday, no idea who he is. He was a big guy and whenever someone didn’t show up on time and missed the warnings, the whole room would hear something to the effect of, “(NAME), you are NOW oFFICially DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE KEWWWWWWWWWWWWWW” in this awesome bass voice. It was brutal. Sometimes he would do it in a southern drawl. It got to the point where some audience members would sing along.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Thursday June 4: Woke up to some abysmal weather, especially considering we were in Southern California. Took a cab and got to the Walter Pyramid around 10.30 or so in the morning. Spent some time getting used to the place and such, checked out the merchandise booths.

I managed to catch up with Adam Adshead and the Factory BJJ guys and chatted with them for a bit. It was good to meet them. Didn't see anyone else I knew well enough to just go up to and say hi, but I definitely saw some recognizable people.

Around a half hour or so before my division's scheduled start time I went down to the holding area to get warmed up. John from Factory BJJ was in my division and we passed a bit of the time chatting, but he got called up first at I don't know, maybe half past 2.

I was there for a good while before my name got called. I don't know how long, but it felt like forever. Then when my name did get called, it felt like another eternity (I was told later it was around 40 minutes or so) before I even had my gi checked.

Match 1: v. Omar Rashid, from Rick Young's Blackbelt Academy

The match started with us working for sleeve grips. He jumps guard and right away starts to look for a cross lapel choke. He doesn't get it (though the scrapes on my face are still evident some 12 hours later) and I go for an Ezequiel. He doesn't let me get it, and keeps me pushed away. He keeps working for a sweep by trying to underhook my leg, but I use the opportunity to underhook his head and go for a choke.

After a few minutes of this, the referee stands us both up, gives each of us an advantage (for stalling, apparently, I'm not sure how this works) and makes us go again. He jumps guard though and it's the same thing over again, albeit this time he's got a bit more urgency about his game.

I don't let him get anything, he tries a couple of sweeps (from the same underhook setup) but I base out. I'm trying to pop his legs open to pass his guard but I guess I left a hole open so he jumps in and goes for a triangle. He cinches it in, but I'm nowhere close to tapping. However, my best guess is that the Mundial-brand adrenaline was pumping, because I just couldn't break his legs open. Time gets called and the referee awards him an advantage for the triangle.

Result: LOSS VIA POINTS: Me - 0 points, 1 advantage. Omar: 0 points, 2 advantages.

It was a bit of a surprise, as I really didn't think we were taking that much time. I thought I still had maybe another minute to get things done. I shook hands with him and we thanked each other. He seems like a nice guy.

I don't feel like I was very affected by the atmosphere. Once we touched hands, it was like I forgot where I was and it was just the two of us. Having said that, I was surprised by all the faces I could make out. Robert Drysdale was walking around, Marcelo Garcia was sitting a few rows behind me and I could swear I saw Saulo Ribeiro there. While waiting for my match, I saw Leo Vieira and Lucas Leite chatting to some competitors.

So for me, yes the experience was quite surreal, but as far as the actual Jiu-Jitsu part, I don't think I let it get to me. I went in with a strategy and maybe I was too rigid in following it, whatever, it didn't pay off. Full credit to Omar, who played his game, stopped me from playing mine, and got the win fairly.

While it was an extremely disappointing way to lose - the worst part was that I was still fresh, and had to go home without even sweating - I'm trying to take as many positives from this as I can. Don't get me wrong, this is pretty hard to swallow, but judging from the sheer amount of what-if-20-20-hindsight-coulda-shoulda-woulda scenarios running through my head, I definitely have a list of things to analyse and to work on.

I'm so very thankful to God that I even got the chance to be here, to see what it was like at this level of competition (even if it was only for six minutes) and that I have such an amazing wife and family, who have fully supported my crazy globe-trotting BJJ adventures. They know I'm not done yet and they don't care.

I'll be taking Friday off, before heading back to catch all the black belt action on Saturday and Sunday.

When I get home I think I'll be giving my BJJ mind a good rest, during which time I look forward to occupying my Dungeons & Dragons mind. Next competition stop: Bangkok!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Posted: Wednesday June 3, 11.45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. My division is set to go at 2pm tomorrow. Brackets have been posted and my first guy also has a bunch of tournament wins under his belt. Seems he's from Scotland, which means that one way or the other, somebody travelled a long way to lose in the first round. All I can really do is pray that I'm able to give it my best and play my game.

I'll be heading to the venue later to check it out and get a feel for the area. Taxi fares cost an arm and a leg over here! Thank God there's a city bus that stops in front of my hotel.

I still feel good. Going to relax today and take care of my mind.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Long Beach is freezing, the 3-day forecast won't put the high above 21 degrees celcius. Nobody knows why. My hotel is pretty awesome though. So far that's my favourite thing about the trip: there's a really good competitor discount for a whole bunch of hotels in the area.

I just found out some pretty important details though:

1. The schedule, newly released, has me competing in my division on Thursday and not Friday as I was expecting. Not a tremendously huge deal but it did catch me a little off guard and means I have less time to do touristy stuff with my wife. The absolute is to be on Friday.

2. NO VIDEO CAMERAS ALLOWED ON FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. I'm NOT happy about this, as not only have they not given any indication that recording would be banned - I've JUST bought a HDD camera to record the black belt matches. GAH. Well, at least I'll get to have my division matches taped.

Edit: GAHHH!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Day 60 (May 28)
Have just checked the Mundial competitor list and since the last time I read it, 24 guys have been added for a grand total of 72. For most guys that's a lot. For me it's a phenomenal number. Strangely, I'm much more excited about competing than I am anxious. I really can't wait to get out there and roll. I feel good, fitness level is alright, and I should be fine if I can make it past the first round.

Taking it easy on the strength training but I'm pretty confident in that respect. My main focus until the competition is done will be my mental game (I say that like I know what I'm talking about, but mostly I just watch Roger Gracie videos on Youtube), but I will be packing my skipping rope for maintenance fitness work / weight watching.

I read that only the top 3 finishers in each blue belt division will be eligible to join the absolute, which I thought was funny. If my division stays at 72, then unless I'm mistaken, just getting to the division final means I have to do 7 matches. Some divisions have more than 100 people. Assuming the top 3 from each division accept, it means 27 competitors, or another 5 matches to win that as well. I've never in my life come across a mountain that I've wanted to climb more than this.

Class tonight will be a bit more relaxed, as not only is it my last day at the Studio before heading to KL, but it will be the last class for a couple of guys who are moving soon.I fly to KL on Friday night and before my flight on Saturday there's enough time to go to open mats at KDT. I'm just going to take it nice and easy, savour the moment and enjoy my life - which right now is just a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I've been getting this a lot lately. For the last week I’ve been debating my attendance at the Mundials, which is why I haven’t posted anything about plyometric chinups or whatever.

It’s a long story and I guess I don’t have to go into very much detail about this. Suffice it to say that it’s not been fun. There were a lot of reasons for me to stay in Malaysia and I’ve been busy dealing with them. Even as late as yesterday morning, I was convinced I should just withdraw.

Something then happened to change my mind and get me back on track. Again, there’s not much need to go into it right now, but the end result is that I will in fact be there this year.

I’ve just checked the competitor list and there’s now 48 guys, which means a current maximum of 6 matches. It’s by far and away the largest competition I could even think about entering. I’ll have to fly to the other side of the world, deal with a 16-hour time difference and I fully expect every one of these guys to want this as much as I do.

Which is fine. I am going to the Mundials to give it everything I have and, win or lose, I will carry God and His Word with me.

Time to get back to training.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Day 41 (May 9)
Training: Open mats was pretty good today, I’m messing about more with my open guard game and I can see clear signs of improvement, which is very encouraging.

Day 43 (May 11)
Conditioning: Chelseas x14 sets – Was halfway through set 15 but some people walked in and asked me about classes. Oh well. Decided to track my progress with the skipping rope, I’m averaging 140-ish reps in a 60-second period (high of 164).

Day 44 (May 12)
Checked the competitor list and now there’s 11 guys in my division. Around 3 weeks to go and it’s already almost the biggest division I’ve ever been in (12 guys in the 2007 Machado Nationals). But the divisions right above mine are pushing 30 guys. Yow.

Training: BJJ class was fun, no big surprise there. Afterwards I rolled with Ivan, not sure for how long, but it ended when I tried to pass his guard at the same time as he pulled me forward for a scissor sweep and we headbutted each other. We didn’t get cut but I was just happy that his forehead missed my eye. Spent the next 15 minutes chatting and holding cans of 100 Plus to our faces.

Day 46 (May 16)
Training: Open mats today was really good. 6-minute rounds with Ivan (82-ish kilos) and Greg (87-ish kilos but he used to play high-level rugby and is huge to boot) rotating, and a short break in between rounds (never more than 5 minutes). I went 11 rounds which doesn’t seem like much I know, but what can I say…they’re big, strong boys.

In 2 weeks I’ll be off on my biggest BJJ adventure yet: the Mundials. It kind of doesn’t seem real that I’m actually competing in the world championships (but if this swine flu thing gets much worse it may still not be). I feel pretty good, and should be good to go. I’ll have a few days in LA before the competition so I may be able to get away with another two nights of good rolls before I have to be on my way.

Weight check: (before open mats) 67.5 kilos without gi, (after open mats) 67 kilos without gi. Maybe I should start slowing down my fiber intake. Where did I put that loaf of white bread?

Friday, May 8, 2009


Day 37 (May 5)
Training: First night back in BJJ class. Had a really good bunch of rolls, inspired both by stuff I saw at the competition and also by a few really good videos I’ve seen recently. Feeling a bit of fatigue though, so will probably take it easy for this week and then start picking it up again.

Day 38 (May 6)
Official results for the Pan Asians are up on BJJ Asia. I see that my studio is properly listed, which was nice (“Studio 23” is also a TV station in the Philippines so they weren’t sure how to announce my team, but on the results they were kind enough to include “Malaysia” in the team name so there would be less confusion).

Day 39 (May 7)
Weight check: 67.5 kilos without gi. It’s time for some fried chicken! Can’t be getting too skinny now (Slow news day).

Training: Had another good class. Messing about with all kinds of fun stuff now (Cobrinha guard, what?). Maybe I’m just more relaxed after the competition is all said and done, I’m not sure. Started my conditioning routine again today but am looking to ease into it.

Got home and found out that the competitor list for the Mundials is also out. So far there’s 9 guys in my division including me. Why, hello there, anxiety! Haven’t seen you in a few days, how you doing?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Waiting in KLIA for my flight back to Kuching, and there's a booth with free internet access so hey.

The no-gi day was really good. It went by much faster than I expected, and it turns out I could actually have competed in my division before going (the absolute would have made me miss my flight).

There were a lot of good matches on show, with at least one flying armbar and loads of very cool sweeps. The highlight of the day, possibly both days of the competition, was the Advanced division, which was packed with talent. Sebastian and Scott were in it, as were Marcos Escobar, Jason Bukich (from BJJ Taiwan) and Makoto Ogasawara (who was also representing BJJ Taiwan.

I did get to watch Marcos and Jason go at it before I had to leave, and it was an amazing match. Simply amazing. It was back and forth and back again, with Marcos losing out on a single advantage point. I actually thought it was going his way but for a last second submission attempt.

I'm really happy I got to go, even with all the delays and quirks of the trip and what not. I don't regret it mainly because of all the awesome people I got to catch up with (or meet for the first time). I enjoyed hanging out with the Escobar BJJ team and hope to see them more in future competitions (and for them to take part in the absolute, you know who you are!).

Finally, I have to say it was worth it for one more competition with Aziz. He quit his job and will shortly depart on a truly epic globe-trotting adventure. Biking it across the UK, visiting Africa, and even training BJJ in Brazil with Demian Maia's people!

I'm really going to miss not hanging out with him at my competitions (he was there at my last four, he's like a fixture!). Safe travels, my friend, and hope to roll with you again one day soon.


EDITED for some stuff I forgot (like putting in the NAME of the competition, duh). What, I wrote this at 2 in the morning.

I'm just going to treat this post as "COMPETITION JOURNAL 2009:5".

Day 31 (May 1)
Flew from Kuching to KL. You know how some people clap when the plane lands? Well, my guys applauded when the plane took off. They also applauded when the plane landed. And when the stewardess announced, "ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Kuala Lumpur International Airport". Some even clapped when everyone stood up to get their bags. The food was really good though, a veggie omelette.

Flew from KL to Manila after a short transit period. Food was also very impressive, a chicken curry with briyani rice that I wouldn't let myself finish, *SIGH*.

Got to the hotel after a surprisingly long taxi ride. It seems like I got the old bait and switch again by the internet - I could have sworn it was something like 2 kilometers from the airport to the hotel. I get here and ask where SM Mall of Asia (venue for the competition - I deliberately booked it as it was "just down the street") and I am informed that it is a 20-minute walk.

I get in touch with Aziz, and am tempted to cancel my room reservation and go stay where he is if he's closer. He's not. Never mind then, I check in and get sorted, then decide to walk to the mall.

Online, all the buildings are friendly, orange rectangles beside a welcoming street in a matching orange (which looks a very invitingly short length, relative to the nice, happy buildings. It makes it seem that you can just pop back and forth in between the hotel and mall. In reality, I had to navigate a semi-complex system of elevated walkways connected to the public trains (for this being my first time, I was a bit disoriented), and then duck across a couple of main highways, passing through some ghetto-looking area.

The mall itself is very impressive. Loads of stuff to check out, I could spend a day here window shopping. I went to get some dinner, which ended up in the form of a teriyaki chicken salad that was actually really, really good. I also scouted the area where the competition would be held, the Music Hall. I got close to it and heard a loud commotion. I thought, "this doesn't sound like a bunch of guys setting up a BJJ comp?"

It wasn't. There was some fun fair type thing happening, and on the main stage there was some Filipino boy band singing Akon covers. I thought that was funny, and left it at that. I have to say they were actually quite good though.

After picking up the obligatory supplies for the coming day (bananas, Gatorade, water, Mars bars) I cabbed it to Aziz's hotel. When I got there what greeted me but the sight of several hundred soldiers and SWAT teams, armed with automatic rifles and riot gear. Yup. Apparently every year at this time there's a riot in front of the American embassy, which is right next to the hotel. How come Lonely Planet never covers this kind of stuff, huh?

I met Aziz in the lobby and we walked through several battalions on the way to find some place to eat and catch up. I really enjoy hanging out with this guy, it's one of the things that has helped make my three previous competitions that much more fun.

Went to bed at 11pm.

Woke up at 2am. Tried to get back to sleep.
Woke up at 3am. Tried to get back to sleep.
Woke up at 4am. Tried to get back to sleep.
Woke up at 5am. Tried to get back to sleep.
Got up at 5.20am. I have no idea why my sleep was so restless, this has never happened before.

Took a cab to SM Mall of Asia at 7am. I really didn't want to walk all that way again. Besides, I want to get there nice and early, right (they listed their start time at 9am)? Right?

Get to Music Hall at 7.20am or so. There's almost nobody else here. Fine, so I pull out the ipod.

8am comes and goes. People start showing up at 8.30 though, that wasn't too painful. When most of the people are there, we start registering and I find out that while you can check your weight, official weigh-ins are not until right when your division gets together.

If the wait wasn't bad enough, I was also feeling really hungry. I was hoping for a system like they had in the FBT Thailand Open, where you weigh in at the start and you can go do whatever. But the BJJFP is now affiliated with the IBJJF, so we have to use their rules. Ok, so how long do I have to wait? I am told blue belts won't compete until 2pm. Huh?

I spent time chatting with Aziz and also some of the Escobar BJJ guys. It was good to catch up with guys like Eugene and Aaron, who I had not seen in a long while.

At one point, though, I spotted Silvio Braga there! I talked to him for a bit and was surprised to see he still remembers me. Either that or he has at least a passing memory of an Asian guy with a goatee visiting his BJJ class, I guess we're not all that common. I found out he's planning on opening up his own place in central Hong Kong. Like I said, if I ever do go back to Hong Kong (they have competitions too, right?) I'm definitely packing my gi!

That aside (though it was cool), I was starting to feel a bit miserable. I was really hungry, but didn't want to put myself over the limit. I was making do with munching on some biscuits. They were OK but some big, juicy lamb chops would really have hit the spot.

I also met this guy Ben, who is a Brit living in Japan. He's here representing AACC. He's a cool guy. He's the only person I've met in the 6 years of having the tattoo on my right arm, who recognized the reference, which was very impressive.

They started a bit late (closing in on 11am), beginning with divisions for the kids, women and masters, followed by the first white belt divisions. The kids were first, and I don't know why, but they did a guided warmup on the competition mats for what felt like 30 minutes before starting.

I checked my division when it was posted and found out that my first match would be with JR Santos, whose name sounded familiar. I think I saw him in Thailand. At any rate, he remembered seeing me there. There were 4 guys in my division.

Pretty suddenly though, they made the announcement that the blue belts should start weighing in and warming up! I was surprised, and I knew just by looking around that everyone else was caught off guard too. I rushed to the weigh-in station, clocking in at 68.5 to 69. I'm not exactly sure, it was an analog scale and the needle kept jumping. Anyway.


As soon as the match started and we got sleeve grips, he jumps guard. He tried to play a very aggressive guard game, but I pretty much knew that's what he was going to try so I flattened him out. He tried to get on an angle to sweep or triangle, but I squared myself up.

I got my arm around the back of his neck and immediately developed "Ezequiel Eyes". Somehow it was the one and only thing that I could see, so it's the only thing I went for. He did open his guard to try and create space to escape a couple of times, but I didn't bother trying to pass. I didn't want to have to deal with his speed (and he did look like a very agile fellow) so I killed his space.

I went for the Ezequiel a couple of times and didn't get it. I heard his coach tell him that's what I wanted, and to counter with a cutting armbar. I thought "OK, I know that counter, I'll be fine. It won't get me".

Then, though, I heard the coach yell out that I wasn't playing a tactical game. At the time I let it roll off my back but the more I think about it, the more I resent it. I feel I played a very tactical game. I knew what this guy wanted to do, and shut him down through a series of very deliberate, sequential actions, with a specific, set goal in mind i.e. the Ezequiel. That's not tactical? But whatever.

In any event, he defended another deep Ezequiel attempt but I finally manage to hit a good one. He fought it as best he could, but I had it locked tight.

Result: Win via submission (Ezequiel choke).

After the match I felt pretty fresh actually. For some strange reason, made stranger by the fact that we were outdoors, I wasn't even sweating much.


The match started with him playing a very cautious grip game, then as soon as he had a grip he jumped guard. He tried a few hook sweeps but couldn't get them, so he pulled closed guard.

I tried to pop open his legs to pass, but he wasn't having it, keeping my posture broken. At one point he got my left arm across my centreline and tried to take my back, but I walked myself back to face him. He tried a few times to get one of his feet to hook under my leg. I wasn't very comfortable with that but found out I could fix it by straightening the leg and then bringing the knee back in.

After a couple of attempts to pop his guard open he tries to triangle me. I get both arms through between his legs though and I'm safe for the moment.

I hear Aziz yelling at me that I have to do something. I don't remember if he said I was behind on advantages or what have you. Anyway, at that point he tried to sit up and when I flattened him I had my arm around his neck, so what the heck, I went for an Ezequiel.

I get it, and he's also fighting pretty hard. I remember thinking "please don't pull back, just tap, please don't..." and then all the tension in his neck disappears. That's not good. Fortunately I'm now at least slightly useful to have around when someone blacks out. I pulled him up and held his shoulder down in case he forgets where he is (hey, happened to me).

Result: Win via submission (Ezequiel choke).

I spent a bit of time after the match to make sure he was OK and we chatted for a bit. He looks at me, smiles, and says "I should have just opened my guard". Another cool guy, who as things would have it, wouldn't see the end of me just yet.

But in the meantime...

Aziz was going strong in his division, he also had 3 other guys in his division. He won both by points to take gold for the first time as a blue belt! He fully deserves this success, he's worked hard for it and has definitely put the mat time in.

Also, Escobar BJJ took home 2 medals: Eugene won gold in his division and Aaron brought home a bronze. Good work, guys!


I was fully expecting to have to go with someone else, as per the printed schedule, but there was some reshuffling and a bunch of guys had their opponents switched.

This was a really interesting match. He had just wrestled me and knew exactly what he didn't want me to do. He gets sleeve grips and immediately goes into a tomoe-nage, which he doesn't finish (and doesn't get takedown points) but he turns it into a helicopter armbar attempt.

Fortunately my arm's at a funny angle for him, so I turn it further to my advantage and pull it out. He spins to face me and gets a butterfly guard, using sleeve grips to trap my arms to the outside of his legs.

It turns out his grips are pretty strong, and it's all I can do to get my arms on the insides of his legs. At one point he isolates one arm and goes for a triangle. Luckily I see it coming and get my other hand in between his legs. He's still going for it though - he has the cutting leg directly across my neck and he's pulling my head down. However, I don't feel any pressure. It's just that I can't posture up.

Scott Calver from Kreation BJJ was there to compete in his Purple belt division and started yelling for me to get my knee to his hips. I do and it helps me escape. I make the mistake of looking at the scoreboard and see that Isaac has an advantage. I stand up to try and pass through his legs, but he grabs my ankle for the sweep and 2 points.

I pull guard, but he stands up, grabs my lapel, straightens his arm and bases out. He's there for the remainder of the match while I try in vain to get something.

Result: Loss via points, ME: 0 points, ISAAC: 2 points, 1 advantage.

It was actually a really fun roll, he's very strong and technical, with a great open guard game (which does make me wonder why he wanted to play closed guard in our division).

After it was all said and done, we got to chill out and watch some great matches. The BJJ Taiwan team put on a terrific show, with guys like Demitri and Vladimir who were really fun to watch. It also helped that their whole team was very cool.

The purple belts also were great to watch, with Mr. Sebastian Desvignes putting on a stellar bunch of performances, even winning the "Match of the Day" award! When I wrestled him in Bangkok he weighed around 85 kilos with gi. Today he weighed in at 79 kilos, and was every bit as strong. His secret? Train 6 days a week and do super cardio. Note to self.

There was also a purple belt from Guam here who was just as impressive as Sebastian, winning the absolute. I think his name is Javier, but I'm not sure. Young, very strong, very skilled, very fast. A total beast.

I went to get changed and got a drink at the nearby Coffee Bean with Aziz, then went back to the seating area and had a good chat with Aaron that lasted maybe 20 minutes. Then we all just kind of sat up and went "hey, where's our medals?" It took them a fair while more to get everything ready for the medal ceremony. Maybe they were still figuring out who won which award for best team, I don't know.

However. When they did announce the medal ceremony was going to start...they made everyone put their gis back on. Yes. That's right. The same disgustingly rank, filthy, sweaty and in some cases blood-encrusted gis that most guys had already changed out of. And if you didn't at least put the top on they made you go back and get dressed. I'm not going to say anymore about this but dude. Seriously.

The night ended with a good dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in the mall, some lively banter and a spot of shopping. In the morning I'll be heading back to the mall to catch some no-gi action before flying off home (I wanted to enter no-gi but due to the fact there's only one MAS flight a day out of Manila, it turns out I can't both do that and be in Kuching on Monday).

The good:
1. I improved upon my performance in Bangkok. There I got 2 wins (1 by submission, 1 by points) and a loss by 5 points. Here I got 2 wins (both by submission) and a loss by 2 points.
2. All the competitors got a free can of Pocari Sweat.
3. I'm still hard to submit and nobody's gassed me out in the middle of a match before.
4. It's beautifully easy to get a taxi in Manila who won't try and cheat you (especially when compared to Bangkok or even Kuala Lumpur).
5. Malaysia is finally starting to get more BJJ competitors. This time out, there were maybe 6 Malaysians competing, bringing home 2 golds (myself and Eugene) and a bronze (Aaron). I hope this will push them all to do better in the future and get something really cool going.
6. Meeting so many cool guys there. It's always one of the highlights of the tournaments I've been to.

The bad:
1. I still can't get more than 3 matches in a day. I would love to get to 4 but it will be a month until I can try again.
2. If I lose a match it is always because of points. If it weren't completely unfeasible, I would wish that all matches could only end with a submission.
3. In some places they tell you that the lines on the road are just suggestions. Never has that been truer for me than in Manila. I do not know where these people learn to drive, I really don't, but for all the drama you see when just driving around, they could charge admission for joyrides.
4. The medals we got look pretty nice, but maybe I've been spoiled by the Bangkok guys, there's really no comparison between the two. If the Pan Asian medal is the Iron Man movie, then Bangkok BJJ's medal is The Dark Knight (Iron Man was pretty nice, but nonetheless overwhelmed by the sheer, unadulterated awesomeness of Batman).
5. I was there at just after 7am. I thought, cool! I'll show up early because it's bound to be really happening, right? Thanks to a few delays, the competition wrapped up at 8pm. I'm so utterly glad I decided to go so early.
6. The warmup area was tiny (and a lot of people still decided to walk on it with their shoes - oh, a bunch of people also weighed in wearing shoes).

No official comment:
1. The thing about putting your sweaty gi back on to collect your medal. At least one guy was refused his spot on the podium until he went back to collect his gi.
2. General socioeconomic issues that I have.

1. The purple belt divisions are scary beyond words.
2. If you want to do weigh-ins before the division starts, make sure that everyone is extremely well taken care of. The blues and purples were just sitting there letting our stomachs dissolve themselves. Anyway, I think for the big IBJJF competitions, the white belts go on a seperate day.
3. The guys from BJJ Taiwan won first and second in the blue belt absolute and decided to close it out by flipping a coin rather than wrestle each other. This is a practise that I do support. They train with each other almost every other day or something, why do they need to fly all the way to Manila to tell everyone what they both already know? They proved their point and deserve the rest.
4. Note to self, don't ever try and look at the scores again in the middle of a match. Just don't.

I thank God for the opportunity to have come here and taken part in this competition, and for all He has done for me. It was definitely an experience I won't soon forget.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I'm in the process of packing for my flight tomorrow. I have to fly to KL and then catch a connecting flight to Manila. I'm looking forward to the trip. A bit nervous, and I won't write very much about this just yet...

Weight is alright, I'm on target. Feel pretty strong, and I should be fine on the day if I can get a good clean meal tomorrow night. All the conditioning has paid pretty good dividends. I could go posting half-naked before and after pics of myself on the net, which I won't, but I will say that for a month's training, I look pretty damn good.

If you are so inclined, please pray for the health and safety of all the competitors, officials and spectators, and also of course for an atmosphere of good sportsmanship.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Day 23 (Apr 21)
Weight check: 71 kilos with gi. So. Close.

Training: Finally managed to get my hands on a good skipping rope, have been playing around with it. I’m thinking of giving the Chelseas a rest for the time being.

Day 24 (Apr 22)
Weight check: 71 kilos with gi. I think I’m weighing myself too soon after eating.

Training: After 2 days of skipping rope I think that yes, I will stop the Chelseas until after Manila and then start picking them up again. I really miss working with a good skipping rope which, I have to say, was actually quite painful to find.

Day 25 (Apr 23)
Weight check (after BJJ): 70.5-ish kilos with gi. I think. I can.

Day 27 (Apr 25)
Training: Had a great open mats today. I’m looking at this as the last chance to train at a slightly higher pace before Manila. For the coming week I’ll be focusing on lighter rolling and maintenance cardio work.

Weight check after open mats: 69.5 kilos with gi and belt. I love you, Gameness Pearl Weave! My competition gi has been with me for something like 2 and a half years. It’s been put through a whole bunch of crazy, interesting and monstrous wringers and still looks in near-perfect shape. Best gi I ever owned.

Day 28 (Apr 26)
A woman I know walks up to me and asks if I use protein supplements (I do not, and have never done so). I say no, and she asks me to talk to her son, who seems convinced that I do.

Him: “But how did you get so big?” (I thought this was cute – I weigh 69-ish kilos at the moment, keep in mind I’m talking to an Asian kid in his early-mid teens)

Me: “Lots of pushups”.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thank you for registering for the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2009/International Open Novice Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2009

I mean, I already bought my plane tickets and all, but this had a nice little air of finality about it.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Day 18 (Apr 16)
This morning was the first time in 7 months that I’ve actually seen my weight dip below 70 kilos. Pretty encouraged by that.

Day 19 (Apr 17)
Training: Kettlebells at KDT. Am in town for a John Will BJJ seminar, so had a go at the Fizfit session. Was a lot of fun – good, super solid workout with great friends, loads of pain and lots of laughs besides. My favourite kind of workout.

Found out that the link to online registration for the Mundials is live. However, there was a problem when I tried to verify my info. Bah.

Registered online for the Pan-Asians. Looking forward to a great competition. I found out that Aziz will be going, which was excellent news, it’s always a more enjoyable experience with that one around.

Day 20 (Apr 18)
Spent hours watching BJJ videos on Youtube. So addictive. It’s making me really nervous but I can’t help but watch. I don’t even know if this is a “healthy nervous”.

Training: John Will seminar at KDT. John was in KL in between his seminars in Singapore and England, so he stopped by KDT and went through a bunch of stuff with us. I found it tremendously informative and interesting, with a wealth of concepts to work with. I had a pretty big hole in my game filled up, so I’m happy. I only had the time to attend his BJJ seminar though, MMA on Sunday mornings is all well and good, but all the same I’ll pick church.

In exactly 2 weeks I will have competed at the Pan Asians, barring an Act of God. The excitement level is picking up, which is good, hopefully it can give the anxiety level a run for the money. This is the last week I’ll be doing any real training, so I’m going to start tuning it down. Which isn’t to say that I’ve been doing anything Cobrinha-esque in my routine, I’m just saying is all.

Day 22 (Apr 20)
Tried to register again for the Mundials but ran into the same error. Sent them an email, hope this gets sorted soon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Day 9 (Apr 7)
Training: Played around with a new - to me, anyway - drill in BJJ…roll, full speed, until you get a dominant position, then consolidate and hold it (the guy in the poor position has to keep going and try to escape, thereby forcing the other guy to resume going all-out). 3-minute rounds. No submissions, just positional control. Lot of fun and a great workout besides. Not sure what to call this drill… “Full throttle”? “Gas-jitsu”? “Death Roll?” (this one is my personal favourite so far) Help?... I want to see if I can get this up to several rounds (ideally 6) @ 6 minutes each by May.

Day 11 (Apr 9)
Conditioning: Chelsea x18 sets. May have been OK after this, but made the mistake of gulping down a bottle of water right after, which killed me off for about 9 minutes (the approximate play time of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” and The Cure’s “The Lovecats”…so far, every time I’ve stopped my Chelsea sets, it was because I chose to do so in the interests of slowly building up. Which is encouraging in that I know I can push myself further). Bear crawls x2 laps (approx. 23m each), crab walks x2 laps, bear crawls x2 laps, running x20 laps, running x30 laps. Not as hard as I remember the workouts at KDT being, but I also don’t have anyone else here to push me along.

Later spent about 20 minutes working balance with a stability ball.

Day 15 (Apr 13)
My situation (see previous post) was not helped by the fact that I need glasses to see properly and haven’t worn contacts in years. So to put a contact in one eye when my other is a) damaged, b) already myopic, and c) covered by a patch – and then try and coach – proved to be extremely disconcerting and just generally not one of my more brilliant ideas. Fortunately classes were really fun nonetheless.

Day 16 (Apr 14)
Decided to bin the patch and already feeling better.

Conditioning: Chelsea x21 sets – I stopped voluntarily when I felt fatigue settling in. Quite happy with this progress, at this rate I’ll hit my target of 30 sets within 2 weeks.

Monday, April 13, 2009


So anyway, yesterday my eye started really bugging me. Extreme light sensitivity and such. A while ago while training (this was actually in KL) I took a shot to my left eye and since then it's been giving me problems whenever I rub it accidentally. It's been a decidedly minor irritation for me until now and I finally decided to see a doctor about it.

Turns out I have some kind of corneal erosion. The cells that are trying to repair my eye don't get the chance to stick properly and get pulled off, causing the irritation. This wasn't helped by my pathological need to keep touching my eye. So, my wife had to step in. One quick trip to the pharmacy later and this is what I look like:

"I'd like to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative..."


On a completely unrelated, and much happier note, congratulations to my friend and BJJ-brother Rizan, on the birth of his daughter Sierra!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Start: March 30, 2009

Day 1 (Mar 30)
Made initial payment at bank for US visa application.

Day 2 (Mar 31)
Conditioning: Chelsea x10 sets. Wanted to go on but timing was bad – had to stop as clients started arriving for Fizfit session. Also had a large meal immediately before.
Initial goal to reach by May 1, 2009: 30 sets. Am not sure if that is pushing it a bit too far.
Set date and time for US visa interview. Flying to KL this Sunday for interview Monday morning.

Day 4 (Apr 2)
Conditioning: Chelsea x15 sets. Slightly burned out from recent workouts, towards the last few sets the chinups were very sloppy.

Day 7 (Apr 5)
Training: Went to Ivan’s Judo place. Trained standup and newaza with a bunch of the guys. Good thing I went today, as it’s Gary’s (their black belt instructor, nice guy) last Saturday there, he’s moving to Penang. Pity that, I was hoping to train with him more.
Flew to KL for the night.

Day 8 (Apr 6)
US visa interview. Went off without a hitch and I got it. Everyone was very nice to me, I didn't see any of the horror stories so many people told me about. A huge weight off my shoulders, now I can focus more on Manila and the Pan-Asians.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I was in KL over the weekend for the wedding of a good friend, and had Saturday afternoon free. So of course I decided to go to open mats at KDT. It wasn't that long ago, just a few months, that I would just go "hi, boss!" to the guards at the gate (in the interests of preempting any confusion, KDT is located in a small gated community-type development), hand them my KDT membership card and drive through.

Now though, I have to wait while the guard (odds are he won't be someone who knows who I am, as the company who supplies the guards rotates them among different assignments) fills out the details in my driving license in his book, then hands me a big laminated sign saying "VISITOR". It's quite a new thing to have to get used to, but I usually run into one of the guards who does remember me and we exchange pleasantries.

I showed up about a half hour early, which was nice, as I got to hang out and just be with the atmosphere. I really miss sitting alone outside the gym with nothing but the afternoon breeze and the sounds of birds chirping and the occasional car driving past. I sat there for a bit and chatted with some of the guys who arrived later on.

When Vince got there he told me Adam was just there a few days ago to say hi. Vince also handed me some of the new CMD shirts, which look super cool. Really slick design and the shirts themselves are dri-fit. Sweet. I didn't pack my gi, which was fine as I just put on one of my CMD trainer shirts and did some no-gi. I got to roll with Leong and Wee Li, did some standup with Rizan, Adrian, Fidael and Mike and just horsed around with Vince.

It was such a great time, I don't even know how to describe it. It was like I never left. The whole afternoon was extremely fun: high energy, everyone laughing, a real spirit of play. An excellent time spent with good friends is just plain hard to beat.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


In reviewing my competition plans for the year, I've hit on some stumbling blocks. Firstly, there are the (perhaps rather obvious) problems with wanting to go to both America and Australia for competition. Leaving aside the fact of the entire world's economic slowdown, it's just not very responsible to close up shop in both June and September. Which means I'd need to choose one over the other.

If you asked me 2 years ago, the Mundials would have been as much an option for me as, I don't know, winning the Tour de France 7 years running. Even suggesting I consider taking part would have been Spaceballs-level ludicrous. Now though, I think I may actually do quite well for myself. Plus, this year is - and I was more than a little shocked to find out - the only opportunity for me to compete in the Mundials and NOT. ALSO. BE. ELIGIBLE. FOR. THE. MASTERS.

So then, if I can manage to get a US visa, I'd have to forego attending this year's Machado Nationals. Which was not the funnest decision I ever had to make. I was really hoping to go for a bunch of reasons. In terms of atmosphere (and if I'm being totally honest, sentimental value), this competition is the best one I've ever taken part in. There's loads of really cool people there. Plus, I was actually kind of really looking forward to, you know, defending my title.

However, it's looking like I won't be able to take part in any competitions outside of South East Asia next year, and if I had to pick one, I'm not sure I would be able to live with a "what if?" this big. Not to mention, there's a slight conflict with the Thailand competition. They aren't on the same day, but Australia is set for the weekend right before Bangkok, and I'm not quite that crazy.

So now I'm thinking my (still very tentative) schedule looks like this:

May 2,3: Pan Asians, Manila, Philippines

June 4,5,6,7: Mundials, Long Beach, California, USA

September 19,20: Thailand BJJ Open

A lot more spread out than last year, so I'm wondering how this will pan out.


Also, I've just found out that Adam's just been given his black belt! Very cool stuff, and extremely well-deserved. Congratulations Adam!

Friday, March 6, 2009


Things have been moving along over at the studio. Not really at any kind of breakneck speed, but fast enough to keep me on my toes and perpetually fatigued. In a good way. Honestly.

The CMD class is starting to grow, with a couple more people signing up recently. The play drills are very popular and it's always a great time to coach people when they're laughing and having fun.

The BJJ side is also seeing some encouraging growth. For us having done zero advertising, I think it's pretty good. There have been a few signups lately, with regular attendance in both weekly classes and pretty good feedback. We've been working from a conceptual standpoint and then focusing in on more specific stuff.

For the end-of-class rolling, what we've been doing is working purely on positional control, i.e. no submissions, while also throwing in random handicaps for every roll. It's been a lot of fun and we're seeing a lot of cool stuff come out in rolling, just from putting in a small change to the rules. It's funny how whole games can change for the better, and all I had to do was say "OK, in the next roll you can't use your hands to grip or post."

Just last night we did this drill where the object is to lose. I've read a lot about these kinds of drills - while I do agree it's very important to not fear the tap, I wonder what it would be like if both guys were competing to lose. I mean, if this was the case, then nobody would ever go for submissions, since tapping your opponent is an instant loss. So the best we could come up with was to roll, and the winner would be the guy who finished in the worst position at the sound of the buzzer.

It was tremendously fun, not just for the novelty factor, but with the play drills in general it's a good change to cut back on the competitive aspect of rolling.

Speaking of competition, I've been trying to plan what I want to do for the year. Firstly, there's the Mundials in California this June.

Really, the only thing standing in my way is the absolute pain of trying to apply for a US visa while living in a muslim country. Since to my knowledge there's no American embassy in East Malaysia, I'd need to fly back to KL for an in-person interview. Bah. The only other problem would be that I'd have to close up the studio for possibly up to 2 weeks, but I'm working on a plan to keep things running.

Then there's also the Machado Nationals in Melbourne, which should be in September. I'm really keen on going to that one, as for me it's always an awesome time down there.

Finally, I'm hoping that Luke and the guys over at Bangkok BJJ will be organizing another tournament this year, I'll definitely make an effort to swing by for that one!

Monday, February 16, 2009


The "Give Hope, Go Bald" event was a lot of fun! Over a hundred people stepped up to get their heads shaved in support of children with cancer, and their families. The SCCS had set a target of RM200,000 and by the end of the day I believe they had exceeded that by a tidy sum, towards which Studio 23 managed a contribution of RM5,000.

Thanks to everyone who donated! Much respect also goes to everyone who got the haircut, especially the few women who went for it (Way to go Georgette!).

Plenty of hair to spare.

...Not so much now.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


2 years ago during the CMD Trainers' Retreat in Singapore, Rodney King brought up a point that has stuck with me ever since. I think about it every now and then, and I find this has been one of those exercises in articulation which has really helped me to refocus myself when I need it.

To paraphrase:

If our actions are the outward manifestations of our internal mental and emotional states of being, how do we reconcile that with the fact that functional, honest training in the martial arts invariably involves the domination of other people?

For me, anyway, the answer is always the same, and it's pretty straightforward. I won't post it, though. Get your own.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Edit for updated information.

So anyway, I'm getting my head shaved this Sunday, 15th February, to benefit the Sarawak Children's Cancer Society. They are holding an event named "Give Hope, Go Bald" at the Spring shopping centre, and I'll be among several people having their locks shorn in the name of children fighting cancer.

We are also collecting donations for this. Cancer in children is highly curable, and usually the only problem is a lack of funding. So please, give generously.

If you would like to donate, email me at (there is no .com) with your name, IC number (if Malaysian) and the amount you would like to pledge.

You can deposit the cash into Public Bank, account # 3151803723 (Account name: Studio Twenty Three) - or, you can write a cheque (if you do, please just make it out to SARAWAK CHILDREN'S CANCER SOCIETY).

All of the money you pledge will go directly to the SCCS. You don't have to be in Kuching, or even in Malaysia to donate. If you want to donate and you aren't in Malaysia, please visit

Cheers all.

Monday, January 26, 2009


With the Chinese New Year kicking off, I've been taking advantage of the first real opportunity this year to relax and process the last three weeks of running the studio. My wife and I came back to KL for the long weekend and we've been having a lot of fun meeting up with friends and going to family reunion dinners.

I went to Open Mats at KDT on Saturday afternoon and spent most of it talking with Sam and Mike, before having a couple of quick rolls. The place looks quite different now as there's been a few new coats of paint slapped on ("apple white", say they) and some racks and such put in to make more efficient use of the space.

Sunday I met up with Vince and had a chat over some dim sum, which was also a lot of fun. As would be expected, I got a lot of great ideas out of this talk, and that's always cool with me. Tomorrow evening there's another get-together with the KDT people and I'm totally looking forward to an evening of great food and catching up with friends.

After almost a month of coaching, I think I'm starting to see things in a whole other light. It's really an eye-opening experience not just to be a once-in-a-while backup for the backup, but to strap in and do this full time, with no safety net, as it were. It's given me a new appreciation for what coaches go through on a day-to-day basis.

The Fizfit classes are pretty fun to do, as I've been working on some new stuff. CMD is always great as because the format of the class is so simple and set, I don't have to worry about what I'm going to coach, and just go focus on my clients - which adds a lot to the fun factor. BJJ is also starting to really pick up, and I'm playing round with some things now which I think will work out well.

Everyone kept telling me about funny stories and incidents I missed while I was gone, and what they're doing now, which was quite the reminder that while I'm not alone, I'm on my own. Far from being something I regret, however, running my own place is definitely one of the most rewarding things I've ever done - so far, so good!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The Crazy Monkey Defense website is having a free open day for its Pro-Membership section.

In case you've never been, there are two main sections to the site: a free membership section, and a paid Pro-Membership section with instructional videos and a Pro Forum. There's a whole bunch of good stuff to be had, definitely more than any normal person can get through in 24 hours.

If you're up for it, all you have to do is to register for the free forum and log in from 5pm EST on Friday, 16th January. In Malaysian time, that's 5am, Saturday 17th.

Link in the sidebar, or go to

Any questions, come and talk to me.

Monday, January 12, 2009


It's been a mad few days. Contractors are still going through the building, we haven't got all our furniture in, blah blah blah. I knew it was going to be busy but I should be able to be forgiven for underestimating what we actually got. By Thursday I was so drained I thought I was going to pass out. And then I went and wrestled on Saturday.

The Fizfit classes have been doing alright, some sessions smaller than others but it's all good. The BJJ side already has a small core of people who look to be regulars, so I'm happy with that. I'm also having a lot of fun coaching CMD.

Not really much more to add right now...I'm still without a fridge but I'm working on getting one in by the end of the week.

Week #1 down, #2 starts in less than 4 hours.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Oh yeah.

In the last few days I've officially become the owner of a gym. We had our launch on the 1st of January and there were, for me, a shocking number of people. My wife led some workshops and demonstrations for her dance classes, followed by BJJ and CMD demos by me (ably accompanied by my lovely assistant, Patrick). We finished off with a Fizfit class.

It was a lot of fun, made all the more special by the presence of friends from KL! Vince, Kate, Cliff and his wife were there, which was very cool. They even brought me a special "eyes, meet tears" kettlebell sporting a custom design by Daniel at KDT, pictures of which will definitely be posted if I can remember to.

Classes start tomorrow. It's a bit intimidating but I know I've been well trained and have a lot of support from a lot of good friends. I'm looking forward to seeing what God's got in store for me.

Studio 23
152, Lorong 8, Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce, 93150 Kuching
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