Triple Down on Your Strengths

The “A” Game 

I am a fan of doing what you are good at. We hear a lot of advice on working on our weaknesses, particularly as it pertains to Strength Training and Jiujitsu. I agree with those concepts too – but you need a game-plan to implement this.

With JiuJitsu, you need to develop your “A-Game” on Offense. That means having a go to move(s) and chain of techniques that allow you to get to the best control or submission options you have the highest percentage to achieve. To keep it simple, I recommend having a submission on every joint in the body (wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee, ankle) and develop your techniques around getting into and around those offensive techniques. You may not be able to work on all of these at the same time, but one at a time is a realistic goal to start. For your defense, that is a slightly different animal, in that, you need to know many different attacks in order to develop the defense to them. That said, it may be a better use of your time to study concepts related to defensive postures, distance management and framing maneuvers in order to find the common thread that binds the defensive successes all together. Having holes in your defense, especially if you complete, is a no-go.

Watch this video by Gary Vaynerchuk. He is one of the few people on the internet that puts out motivational material aimed at helping people start doing what they should be doing that makes them happy and “triple down” on them.

Jiujitsu Training

What are some ways you can triple down on you? One way is to develop an “A” game for the position that you are most dominant. Most White/Blue Belts begin to have “go-to” moves that they use all the time from each position.  Instead of thinking that you need 20 moves from one position, make the moves, maybe 1-2, super-sharp and continue to work them.

In the clip below, Eddie Bravo and Joe Rogan ponder on Marcelo Garcia’s game after Joe mentions that Marcelo “does not “believe” in arm-in chokes” or the kimura because “it’s a strong man’s move”.

As you watch the clip, what emerges is the idea that if you only work on a few things that you polish over and over again and make them as error-free as possible, you may be better off than someone who works on numerous things without fully mastering any of them.

Strength Training

For Strength Training, when starting out, I believe you should pick exercises that you are naturally better at. For example, if you pick the Deadlift for total body strength, you should spend time finding which variation works best for you. This means finding the grip (i.e., mixed grip, overhand grip, snatch grip, etc.) and stance (sumo, conventional, etc.) that allow you to use the most weight with proper technique and then go “balls to the wall” to work that “A-game” move for as long as you can until you coax as much out of it (in terms of progressive overload).

At some point when your technique begins to display weaknesses, you will want to focus on bringing them up. This can be over years of training. In order to maximize this in your continued growth within the technique, you need to work on the weaknesses in your game/technique (i.e., accessory/auxiliary movements) to strengthen your “A-game” technique chain.

Try tripling down on your strengths and keeping the “A-game” concept in mind and let me know how it works for you.

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JiuJitsu Journey: Julian Gabbard

Julian Gabbard is a Brown Belt under Mike Moses of Evolve Academy.

(Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Rickson Gracie > Pedro Sauer > Mike Moses).

He has been training for 10 years.  He actively balances work, studying for law school, being a husband, a father to four kids, training up to 6 days a week and competing when he can.

To say he has his hands full is an understatement.

Find out how be balances it all and makes the most of his time on the mats. Julian shared his JiuJitsu Journey with us here and we are pleased to share it with you here at WWW.HEAVYWEIGHTBJJ.COM.


Question 1. What is your name, age, competing weight, number of years training?

Answer: Julian Gabbard.  I have several nicknames, the most used one is Toeholio (because of my love of Toeholds), I’ve also be called The Law, Double Barrel, the Ghost and Casper (I am extremely pale).

pale

Question 2: What is your all time favorite technique? 

Answer: If I had to choose, I’d say my most common/favorite submission is the heel hook.

Question 3: What Academy(ies) you train with? What team or sponsorship do you represent?

Answer: I am coming up on 10 years training. I am currently a Brown Belt under Master Mike Moses at Evolve Academy. I also work with the Fort MMA in Frederick, MD where I teach on Saturday mornings.

I’ve competed at every belt level mostly at local competitions. I’ve placed 1st in several of those but those placements are irrelevant, what I treasure from those competitions are not the medals or belts, but the growth that is fostered from pushing myself. This is why I compete, its nothing but a tool for personal growth.

belt

Question 2. Why did you start training JiuJitsu?

Answer: I was bored with the typical gym workout. I was a power lifter. My mind was changed after I rolled for the 1st time and was choked out by a 16 year old who weighed around 150 (I was 195 and could bench around 300lbs).

I decided to cancel my gym membership and devote as much time as I could to training martial arts.

Question 3. What can you recall from your first experiences with JiuJitsu?

Answer: I hated BJJ. I was extremely claustrophobic. I would have panic attacks when mounted.

I signed a contract so I told myself I would get my monies worth show up and at least try and learn something even though I disliked it.

Question 4. Are you an active competitor? If so, what is your last tournament and results?

Answer: I wouldn’t classify myself as an active competitor. I try to compete as much as I can while balancing other priorities (family, school, and work).

My last tournament was October 2016 at NewBreed Richmond. I placed 1st in the Nogi Masters Advanced and 2nd in Brown Belt Gi.

sub

Question 5. How often do you train BJJ? Strength Train? Conditioning? Mobility or Flexibility? What does a typical week look like?

Answer: I train at NoGi 530am 4-5 days a week. I teach a Gi class on Saturday at The Fort MMA in Frederick.

About a month ago I started yoga. I do this 7 days a week and light weight training twice a week.

Question 6. What BJJ Practitioners do you look up to the most and why?

Answer: I wouldn’t say I look up to any. I find value in every instructor I have had and every training partner or student I train with. Every session I learn, even if its a beginner. I learn from and value everyone.

Question 7. What are your strengths and weaknesses related to JiuJitsu?

Answer: My strengths are leg locks and submitting from non-dominant positions. My weakness is definitively wrestling.

Question 8. What do you like most about JiuJitsu? What do you dislike about JiuJitsu?

Answer: What I enjoy most about BJJ is the personal growth that comes as a result from training.

Something I dislike, is sometimes people get too focused on who tapped who or focusing on the belt.

I feel the focus should be on your growth and helping others. Focusing on belts and the ego of who tapped who sometimes get in the way of improving.

CAPSTONE QUESTION 9. How has JiuJitsu changed your life? What types of lessons have you learned on the mats that you have successfully brought into your personal life and the lives of others? Please elaborate.

Answer: Master Mike Moses really set a great foundation for me.

mike moses

In my early days as a white belt I had a fixed mindset when it came to skill set. If someone was good, it was because they were naturals and born that way. I felt like I was terrible not because I wasn’t trying but because my skill set was fixed and couldn’t be changed much. This mindset was like a disease infecting many areas of my life.

Evolve Academy and Mike Moses blew that mindset out of the water. Every day I came in and saw everyone working hard, taking control of the own development, the path has been paved, all that’s need is for the individual decide.

Question 10. Name a setback you’ve experienced during your path of JiuJitsu and how you overcame it.

Answer: LAW SCHOOL. I work full time and go to law school at night. I am also a husband and father of four. I told myself a lie. I told myself I was too busy to train more than once a week.

In my first three years of law school I only taught on Saturdays. That was my only mat time. I told myself I was too busy to stay in shape as well.

Then I thought about my journey and the life lessons learned from Master Mike. My development is under my control, its my responsibility. I cleaned up my diet started working out when I got home from school. I started showing up at 530 am to train at Evolve 5 days a week. I went from 190 and then competed at 156 last June. I’ve become much stronger mentally and learned to balance priorities. I am thankful for this setback.

Question 11. What are the ways you currently do or you plan to give back the lessons JiuJitsu has taught you? Are you involved in any Jiu-Jitsu related projects (e.g., podcasts, community education and training, web-sites, etc.)?

Answer: I give free private lessons every Saturday before the schedule JiuJitsu class. My goal is to really help grow the program and get more people hooked on JiuJitsu.

Question 12. How can a general level JiuJitsu practitioner get more out of their JiuJitsu? In other words, how can they incorporate mat lessons into their everyday life and the lives of others?

Answer: There is a proverb “How you do anything, is how you do everything” if you slack, or are indecisive, or lack confidence on the mat it will bleed into all aspects of your life. Fixing those problems on the mat will affect corresponding problems in your relationships, career, etc.

Question 13. What are your personal and professional goals with regard to JiuJitsu?

Answer: Growth every time I train.

I have several short term goals. I give myself specific tasks for each training session. For instance, I was challenged to hit 20 toeholds in 7 training session. Then it was 10 Kimuras in 5 training session. Right now I am trying to hit 20 arm drags.

Question 14. What do you want your JiuJitsu legacy to be?

Answer: Someone who made a difference in students lives, not just someone who helped them on the mat.

Question 15. Any parting words of inspiration or wisdom for BJJ enthusiasts?

Answer: Don’t complain or make excuses, focus on growth and be grateful for adversity.

In Closing

Thanks to Julian Gabbard for sharing his JiuJitsu Journey with us. We will enjoy watching him continue to evolve and be active in the JiuJitsu community.

Here are 3 takeaways from his journey:

Takeaway #1: Time is what you make of it.  Everybody has the same number of hours in a day. When Julian struggled to find time to train (or let himself believe he did) he doubled down on his effort to make the time and continue juggling everything else in his life.

Takeaway #2: Don’t set artificial limits. Looking at your progress with a limitation-first mindset is a dead-end to progress. We are all born with unique attributes and JiuJitsu has proven effective for every body-type, size, shape, weight, etc. When you don’t set limits and look at progress as a never-ending quest with milestones that are aligned to goals, you can achieve much more than you ever thought possible.

Takeaway #3: Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Julian knows he has a solid leg lock game but he also knows his wrestling is weak. He makes time in his training to work both, shifting priorities to help both areas.

What have you taken away from Julian’s story?  

Hopefully his story will inspire you to share your story with us!

Go to the JiuJitsu Journey page, fill out the questionnaire, and we will do the rest! You can be featured in a future article, just like this one!

Share your journey and help spread JiuJitsu worldwide!

Hard Work Profile: James C. Hawkins

“Everything they said I couldn’t do, it became my goal to do.”

“It takes more skill to NOT hit somebody.”

“What people fear is the unknown and what they don’t know or don’t understand”.


These are words to live by.

As my coffee was brewing, I sat on the couch for a few minutes and surfed through all of my social media feeds looking to see what was going on.

I found inspiration from this video clip in my Facebook feed this morning by none other than Wheaties. It was one of the few videos I’ve watched all the way to the end, usually opting to fly through the feed quickly.

James C. Hawkins story was captivating and was a story that I wanted to share right away.

He is a Karate Black belt, a Veteran, an Executive.

He has had 3 battles with cancer and won them.

He has endured incessant racism for a large part of his life.

Here is a summary of some of the things that stood out to me:

  • In a school of 450 kids, he was the ONLY non-white minority in the whole school.
  • He had a fight every day after school for the first 90 days.
  • When he moved to Massachusetts, he and his wife had a coalition built against him by their next door neighbor, night time phone calls, etc. for 30 days of hell. He later became close friends with the same neighbor.

Here is the video:

James Hawkins has words of wisdom from his life that he shares.  This is what resonated most with me.

This man is a true champion.

Through the training of martial arts and the lessons learned in training sessions, the discipline you develop to accomplish or to restrain yourself allows you to get through every day with a clear slate rooted in knowing you did everything you could to improve yourself.

His life is exactly the mission of advancing human potential through Hard Work, Heroic Will, and living a life worth following.


 

“A champion is the one who gives an honest and complete effort in everything he attempts.”

“Don’t tell me why you can’t do it. Tell me what you need to be able to do it.”

“All winners aren’t champions. You know in your heart that you did your best and you accepted responsibility for it and went for it.  That makes you a champion.”

DIY Balance Board & Muscle Roller

One of the best ways to get your “Mat Legs” is through balance drills. Your equilibrium and staying on your feet in combat sports (really, any sport), requires you to have basic faculties of maintaining balance.

You’ve also undoubtedly sought the foam roller at your academy, or maybe you even spent money on the giant foam packing peanut and learned quickly how weak and useless the product is.

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I’ve got one solution that addresses both.

DIY Materials

You’ll need:

  1. 1 PVC Pipe
    • Dimensions: ~2 feet length and 6 inches diameter and 1/2 inch thickness
    • Requirements: Make sure it is at least 1/2 in. thick. You’ll be standing on it so it needs to withstand your weight.
    • Cost: ~$4.40
  2. 1 roll duck tape
    • Cost: ~$3.50
  3. 1 roll rubber or insulation tape or foam insulation
    • Cost: ~$7.20 (insulation tape price)
  4. Medium Density Fiber (MDF) or Melamine Board:
    • Dimensions: A 2 ft. by 1-1.5 ft. board, or 2.5 foot by 1-1.5 ft.
    • Requirements: Something that can withstand your weight. I weigh 240 lbs. and I’m using an old shelf from an old TV stand.
    • Cost: $4.95

Total Cost: ~$20.00

Quick Comparison

A quick price comparison reveals this is a “no-brainer”.  The links I provide were quick searches performed on the Internet. You may be able to get items cheaper if you have a local hardware store or a chain hardware store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Balance Board options are usually over $100.  Here are two examples: This option costs $119.95, and this popular option costs $159.95.

Foam rollers are all over the map. A higher end foam roller like this one can run you nearly $45.00.

You’ll make a more durable, more versatile version of these products for 1/10th of the price.

Instructions

  1. Use the rubber tape, insulation tape or the foam insulation to create a thin layer over the PVC pipe. The pipe is too smooth on its own to make contact effectively with your skin or the board, so this layer will help create friction for balance drills and a little comfort (not much) for rolling. NOTE: I made the version in this video with insulation tape as it’s easy to apply and not expensive.
  2. Apply one, thin layer of duck tape over the insulation tape. This helps protect the insulation tape from wear.
  3. Go workout.

Here is the final product:


Video Training Demo

Here is a quick video of the new item in action. I demonstrate the balance board option using the upper body and lower body.


That’s all there is to making your own. A couple of quick things to make sure you get the most out of your time.

Tips:

  • Consider smoothing out the MDF/Melamine board on the edges. Use the extra tape around the sides or have someone good at wood work smooth it out. If not, wear long pants the first few times you try balancing.
  • Wear shoes at first when trying until you find your legs. After you’ve comfortable with the movement, you can go barefoot, which is ideal.
  • Perform this on a suitable surface. You may fall at first. This works very well on mat surfaces. You don’t need to be a show-off and do this on your sidewalk and crush your elbow when you fall. If you have no alternative, wear elbow pads, helmet, etc. like you would with a skateboard (Note: I know most of you won’t listen, but it’s my recommendation to be safe, not stupid).

Want to see more drills like this? The new DRILLSKILL WORKOUT MANUAL for COMBAT ATHLETES is now available in the Store. It has over 120 exercises and 100 workouts for you to put into your program!

3 Resistance Band Drills For Grappling

I’ve used resistance bands for training for over a dozen years. The right bands can add a lot of value to your training program.

They are a very affordable alternative when compared to a complete weight set, durable, portable, and versatile.

You can perform nearly every exercise with bands that you can perform in the gym, with some creativity and modification.

Iron Woody Fitness resistance bands are by far the best bands I have ever used. I do not have any endorsement deals with this company. This is simply my experience. Try it for yourself and you’ll find out.

Drill for Skill

With JiuJitsu and other grappling based movements, we have many ways to move that are not common to other exercises.  Therefore, drilling these movements is a useful and necessary ingredient in your overall success as a practitioner of the arts.

In the videos below, I will demonstrate how I use bands to train:

  1. The Wrestlers Shot
  2. Maintaining Positional Control
  3. Neck and Guard Posture Maintenance

I’ve a big fan of drilling. If you’ve read my articles, you know that every workout and training session I perform is reviewed as a set of drills. I’ve created a product around this concept called DRILLSKILL.

Solo drilling is a way to turbo-charge your results. You may not always have the luxury of a training partner to drill with, being creative with your solo drills becomes paramount to your development.

Overall, drill by yourself, drill with a partner, drill with multiple partners….it all helps you reach your goals faster.

In this video, I demonstrate a few of my favorite video uses for bands: the wrestler’s shot and positional control maintenance.

 

Here is another example using bands to improve the quality of neck training.

The first drill includes a guard posture drill where you resist the tension of the band throughout your neck and body as if your posture were being compromised in the Closed Guard.

The second is a brief demo of resisting the tension from the side, making your entire body resist the tension and posture-breakdown caused by the bands.  In this manner, neck training becomes much more “functional” as a result, rather than isolating the muscles of the neck.

Add bands to a few basic drills and you will notice the difference in your performance on the mat.