Training for worlds 2016

Now that the 2016 World Jiu Jitsu Championship is over. I finally have time to reflect on my training and other experiences while staying in California.

I’m going to start off by saying that I had a general idea of where I would stay and train. But if you travel a lot you realize that your plans don’t always work out. But that’s how life works.

So a word of advice from me is to always stay networking. Meet new people within your social network and outside of it too. Build lasting relationships.

Building relationships has helped me in so many ways. It’s a big reason behind how I’m able to travel and train all over the world.

I’ve been to California many times for competitions before. But like many, I never strayed far from training or if I did, I only really had a short window to do some exploring.

This time I decided to stay for a few months in preparation for the world championships. A real dream come true. Not only is California where actors and other performers go to make it but now Jiu Jitsu athletes as well.

I wanted to get a deeper view of California. To get a taste of the California lifestyle. Beyond all the beaches and Jiu Jitsu.

Training

Before coming to LA, I trained twice per day along with strength training two or three times a week. This training regime worked really well for a lower intensity level of training.

But training for the World Championships at the black belt level is no easy task.

As soon as I made it to LA, I began my training at Cobrinha Jiu Jitsu Academy/ Alliance Los Angeles. I knew coming in that the training would be really intense. Training with Cobrinha pushes you to your limit. Your mental limit and your physical limit. There were a few sessions where I would lost track of time. Only focusing on completing whatever technique was being shown.

To insure my health and to cope with the higher intensity. I decided to lower the number of my training sessions. This meant that I would attend less Jiu Jitsu classes and workouts. But I would maintain the same intensity.

Many people are stubborn in this regard. They think that they have to go balls to the wall everyday. This is true to a certain degree. You do need to train hard.

Especially for tournaments like the World Championships. But you have to be smart the last few weeks before a major competition. Training at a high level is more than just pushing yourself physically. Many end up overtraining. Burning themselves out or even worse. Injuring themselves over preparing.

I think they do this to quiet their nerves. They don’t have time to worry if they spend all of their time training. So that’s what a lot of competitors do. I’ve even heard of some competitors training hard right before their matches. Although I definitely don’t suggest you should do this.

To combat this I would take the weekends off to help prevent burnout. I also made a large effort to focus on my mental prep and my strength training to keep me healthy.

I’ve found that my mental prep has often had a more powerful effect on my performance than everything else. It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how good your conditioning is if your mental game is off.

Mental Prep

There is always some level of mental prep going on into a major tournament but I decided to take it to the next level.

I started by keeping a training journal. Where I would write down my thoughts on my progress and keep track of all the techniques that I was working on.

Tracking your training is so important especially during the last weeks of preparation. Not only is it a good tool to insure that you stay focused. But it also gives you a glimpse into your motivation, physical condition, and confidence levels.

Even the best guys go through fluctuations in how they feel and how they perform. So it’s important that as athletes that we do everything in our power to be as close to 100% as possible.

To help prepare myself mentally. Everyday I would set daily goals.

These goals could involve everything from working on a technique that I had trouble getting in my last training session to other small adjustments like working on my timing or reminding myself to break a specific grip to help my performance.

I also focused a lot on keeping my mindset positive. It’s easy to let little setbacks turn into large one. Before taking my mental prep seriously I would think about every little detail and try to obtain control over everything that happened during my training sessions. But it had the opposite effect. It just negatively impacted my Jiu Jitsu. It made my movements sluggish and not sharp, and my confidence would get smaller after every perceived defeat. However, focusing on having and keeping a positive mindset will help you get through all the ups and down that’s comes with doing Jiu Jitsu and keep you moving forward.

Strength Training

During the month leading up to worlds I scaled back my weight training from 2-3 sessions per week to once a week for 4 consecutive weeks.

I kept my lifts simple. Focusing on the three big lifts. The squat, deadlift, and bench press.

Sample workout

Deadlifts 3X5
Box Jumps 4X3
Pull Ups 3X Max

There are a lot lifts that I normally incorporate into my strength training. But right before a major tournament. Right when I am training my hardest and fine tuning the last few details in my technique. That’s when I’m least focused on lifting heavy.

A lot of guys like to train hardcore two to three rolling session a day and lift heavy.

This might be possible if you’re nineteen or if you’re on performance enhancers.

But for anyone looking for longevity in this sport you are going to need to train smart.

For serious athletes this means periodization.

I know it’s hard for some competitors especially in Jiu Jitsu to understand. But training hard twice per day is not always the most effective training method.

Everyone’s body is different and can handle different levels of stress.

There will be times where you are in awesome shape and feel like you can take on the world.

And there will be times where you are in less good of shape and less motivated.

This is where periodization comes in. Simply, you want to be at your very best for the few really important tournaments.

Periodization

Periodization is a broad topic deserving its own post. But the short version is that it is a method of planning your athletic training for maximum performance during a competition season.

Essential you peak for your major tournaments.

This is really popular in many sports but hard to implement in a sport like Jiu Jitsu that can run the course of the entire year with many major tournaments.

I would love to see more coordination between the major tournaments. Allowing pro athletes a season to ramp up their skills to perform at their best and then maybe a dedicated offseason to allow for recovery.

Fun

I was pretty broke during my stay in California so most of the things I did for fun were for free or low cost. Which there is nothing wrong with.

I spent a lot of time at Starbucks and Whole Foods. Not buying anything mind you, but I would hang out at these places because they offered free wifi and the atmosphere is really good. Especially after a hard training session.

I also did a lot of skateboarding. I’m from a city where you can only really skate at skateparks so coming to california was a dream. Being able to skate from Venice beach to Santa Monica. Being able to skate everywhere. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

On weekends, I would spend a lot of time in Santa Monica near the boardwalk and the gymnastics area with the metal rings and ropes. This was a prime location for meeting people at the beach and for getting a good workout. You could literally hit every body part. And if you’re lucky you will get to meet Yoshi. A forty something year old Japanese guy, who is part ninja and gymnast. If you get the chance to see him kill it on the rings tell him that I said hello.

Outside of this I ate a lot of acai, brought my blog back to life after it died and started writing again, and just had a lot of fun meeting new people and training my heart out.

Los Angeles

I spent the majority of my time training in Los Angeles.

I would train train once per day at Cobrinha BJJ. While training one or two times a week at my friend Tim Peterson’s academy, Robot Fight and Fitness, in Santa Monica.

Most people know Cobrinha BJJ for the high level of instruction and the caliber of students that he puts out which is evident. Cobrinha is a great coach and motivator and has a wealth of knowledge that has been pivotal in success of many of the world’s top competitors and my own.

Robot Fight and Fitness is also a great academy. It definitely has its own different vibe. The atmosphere seems really laid back when you first walk in and they are playing some instrumental hip hop. But the truth is far from it. Under Tim’s guidance, his advanced students are set to drill many different situations and positions using their own techniques. I think that this is the future of Jiu Jitsu instruction. Where students will be left to themselves to develop their own unique games while the instructor will serve as more of a guide than a task master.

I really loved training at both of these academies because it helped me balance out my training. Not only did I roll with world class level black belts but I also got to work with older hobbyist and newer white belts.

Very yin and yang.

Jiu Jitsu is for everyone. Being able to train with a large variety of people from different walks of life is something that drew me to doing Jiu Jitsu in the first place.

If you plan on ever teaching or owning your own academy one day. It will help to have this same mentality.

Santa Barbara

This was my first time in Northern California. My main reason in traveling to Santa Barbara was to meet up with my old friend and Jiu Jitsu big brother Adam Benshea.

Adam is a living legend.

An American black belt under Ricardo Franjinha. Adam has been around Jiu Jitsu longer than most. In fact he was around before both Jeff Glover and Bill Cooper. Two of the most well know American grapplers and students under Franjia.

At Patagon I got to show a few of my favorite techniques from half guard and roll with many of the students.

Traveling and training has exposed me to so many different people and styles of Jiu Jitsu.

I also got to try paddle boarding for the first time and had a blast.

I can’t wait for my next visit!

San Jose

About four hours from Santa Barbara. San Jose is not only a hotbed for tech companies but also for Jiu Jitsu.

I came up here to visit my good friends Brian and Eileen and really had a great time.

I was only there for a few days but we went to the beach, trained a few times, watched a Jiu Jitsu tournament and managed to go see the pride parade in San Francisco.

It was so much fun!

While I was there, I spent most of my time training at the academy that Brian trains at, a Claudio Franca affiliate. Everyone was super welcoming. Another great place to visit!

Travel tips

In my last travel write up Training in Sweden I wrote about a few travel tips. Many of which I felt made the difference between a good trip and a great trip.

I think that it is important that I share these tips for anyone looking to travel and train Jiu Jitsu because it will save you a lot of time and headache. Time that you can use to train more, go sightseeing, and have fun. To have an overall better experience. So I plan on focusing more on my travel tips in my future posts.

Being in California for any stretch of time you will need to have a car or access to one. This is something that my US friends understand. But often my international friends, so used to great public transportation often fail to plan for. Simple trips like going to the grocery store or going to train on a daily basis are almost impossible without a car. LA does have a metro system including buses and a developing rail subway system but it’s far from convenient. And make sure you read all the parking signs carefully. There’s nothing worst than getting a $75 USD ticket because you were five minutes late on a street cleaning day.

My next travel tip has to deal with where you stay. California, Los Angeles in particular is an expensive place. If you’re planning to stay for anytime over a week and you don’t have a trust fund then you will need to find a place to stay that won’t break your bank account. Even the hostiles are expensive. Being between $30-$60 USD per night to share a room with strangers. If you’re really serious about training in California for any stretch of time I think the best option will be to stay with a friend or an acquaintance. Not only will you save money that you can use to further put to having more awesome experiences but you will also have your very own local to show you the best spots to eat sushi and grab a bowl of acai.

Conclusion

Staying in Los Angeles for almost three months was a life changing experience for me. Some days were really hard, especially when I was down on funds and would get a stupid parking ticket. But others were out of this world like the time I skateboarded down Hollywood Blvd. I met so many great people during my trip. All of the guys at Cobrinha’s were super friendly and I know I made some life long friends. I’m also really thankful for all the academies that opened their doors to me to let me train and teach privates out of. Without the support of the Jiu Jitsu community this trip would have been a total nightmare. If there’s one thing that I took away from my experience that I think will be able to help you and everyone that reads this is that you have to have faith in yourself.

No, I’m not saying be selfish and only think of yourself.

I’m saying that you have to know what you want and figure out a way to make it happen. I knew that I wanted to spend a decent amount of time in California, but I would be lying if I said that everything was planned out for me and worked out perfectly. But I was forced to believe in myself and make things happen and they did. I think you can apply this lesson in all parts of your life.

Believe in yourself and go for it! Whatever it may be.

White Belt Mindset

My friend Sam has written a lot about the beginner mindset.

If you have the time I definitely recommend reading up on this topic.

I bring this up because in a lot of my post I talk about the white belt mindset.

In fact they are one and the same.

Having this mindset has helped me so much during my travels.

Especially during my current stay in Japan. Not only am I a beginner in wrestling. But I’m also a beginner in Japanese.

It’s a very humbling experience.

Sometimes it gets hard. Like when I say the wrong thing or I don’t quite get the technique down right away.

I might embarrassing myself.

But through it all, I never give up.

Doing Jiu Jitsu has taught me how to persevere.

How to break complex moves and ideas down, and make them smaller and easier to understand.

And of course patience.

Patience is key.

As an instructor I have taught many students at the beginner level.

So much so that I’ve noticed a lot of trends between the students that stick with their training and go on to higher levels. Versus those students that plateau and eventually give up.

It all comes down to mindset.

That and a few actions that we can all develop to make ourselves better students and better teachers.

 
Why do white belts learn so quickly?

White belts learn so quickly for a number of reasons.

Everything is new to them so when they are first exposed to techniques they look at it with no judgements, no preconceived notions or any past reference of what they are being taught.

Much like a toddler learning to walk. White belts are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t over think. They just try their best.

By putting in their best effort and focusing all of their energy into learning something new. White belts are able to reach a clearer state of mind.

They are not thinking about their lousy day work.

Or the girl that turned them down for a date.

They just focus on the techniques.

Very zen like.

Because they have no past reference of what they are learning. They are more likely to listen.

They listen to their fellow white belts.

They listen to the higher ranked students.

They listen to their instructors.

We have two ears for a reason.

This is one skill that has personally helped me throughout my years training.

Being able to listen to instruction or being coachable is an asset that many people lack. Even more important if you have plans towards competing.

And once white belts are done listening. They always have a question.

Some instructors frown upon students asking questions.

This is more common in traditional academies. Where the instructor shows a technique and then expects the students to perform just like robots. Drilling the move to completion.

But most of the top schools encourage asking questions.

Not only does it help open dialogue between teacher and student. But it is also a learning tool.

By allowing students to ask questions they deepen their understanding of Jiu Jitsu and they are more engaged. More involved.

But the most instructive experience comes from white belts lack of experience.

They fail and they fail often.

It doesn’t matter how good the instructor is or the level of the academy.

Starting out we all fail.

But how we handle failure and all the other set backs to come. Shapes us.

I think this is the essence of what it means to have a white belt mindset. It’s a pure focusing of energy for a singular task. Ever moving forward.

 

Pitfalls of the white belt mindset

The white belt mindset is not without its downsides. I believe that the major pitfall of the white belt mindset is the rush to improve.

Improvement is good.

I think it’s what really hooks beginners when they first start training martial arts.

Every day they go to the academy they are learning something new.

A new technique.

A new exercise.

A new form of movement.

It’s actually quite addictive! Getting better at something everyday. I think it’s very similar to a lot of video games where with enough time at the start, you can level up a lot in a short period.

This is all fine and good. But when beginning students begin to rush improvement or when more advanced students want to force success that’s when they lose sight of the power of the white belt mindset.

In fact many students begin to lose their white belt mindset at the awareness of new belts and higher ranks. Especially in the U.S., where we have a history of misusing martial arts belts.

The sparkle of the new belt and the responsibility that comes with it weighs heavily on less experienced students.

There are a number of Internet memes showcasing a student after graduating to a higher rank sporting a target on their back.

It’s pretty funny right?

I admit to promoting this idea too, but it only adds unneeded stress if you really look at it. Our time would be better spent developing the white belt mindset. Not being in such a hurry to pass it by.

Improvement is good. No one can stay a white belt in skill forever (hopefully).

But again it’s all about having the right mindset.

 

How to redevelop the white belt mindset

In my post Rushing Success I talked a little bit about my own battle with wanting immediate success. My own impatience actually causing me to underperform in the academy and in competitions.

I think many competitors get caught in this trap.

The harder you try to force a technique the less effective that technique becomes.

And it’s the same with the white belt mindset.

As a black belt, I rely on the white belt mindset. More now than I did when I was a white belt.

I wish someone would have told me that a long time ago. But if I look back I think that’s why in Jiu Jitsu we always talk about flowing.

Flowing describes a way of moving. Being technical and smooth.

Flowing also describes a mindset too. One I bet is deeply related to the white belt mindset.

However, it’s easy to let our ego get in the way. To keep you from further developing yourself.

I’ve seen guys that trained for years.

Competing in every tournament.

Make no improvement whatsoever in their Jiu Jitsu game.

This isn’t just regulated to Jiu Jitsu and martial arts.

You can see this in every walk of life. People who seem stuck in time. Just going through the motions.

But like any skill. The white belt mindset can be developed and honed for any imaginable task.

If you wish to develop or to redevelop your white belt mindset then I think you will need to focus on four major tasks.

Do your best in whatever it is you choose to focus on.

Listen intently to mentors and those with more qualified experience than you.

Ask Questions if you are unsure of any details or need a simplified explanation.

Fail often because this is the quickest route to gaining more experience.

It’s that simple.