Learning

Yoga Munki

I have been training in Ashtanga Yoga now for about six months.  There are a number of recommendations on the internet, about how well yoga and bjj go together.  There are a number of famous yogis that are high level BJJ practioners, Rickson Gracie, Nic Gregoriades and Danny Prokopos just to name a few.

When I was recovering from my second surgery yoga was my go to exercise that helped functionally strengthen me back up.  I have now progressed on from the original Hatha Yoga style class I was originally attending to a specific Ashtanga Yoga class. I did try hot yoga for a while, but Mrs Munki was not a fan and I then struggled to find a class that would fit my schedule.

Just so you know Hatha yoga tends to be a mix of the different types of yoga,  it is reasonably slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation. It is also recognized as a stress-reducing practice.

Of the two my personal preference is the Ashtanga style of yoga.  It is split into the Primary Series and subsequent intermediate or second series and the advanced series. The  Primary Series is seen as a way to prepare and repair your body, in readiness for the more strenuous Second Series.  This suits me great as this Old Munki body needs a lot of repairing and to be honest the healing side of it is working.

I would point out that Ashtanga Yoga is not the easiest style to practise and it is a kind of strength yoga, but this additional effort does bring benefits.  As the type of strength I am building is transferable to BJJ, but also benefits me physically in day to day life.

I have found that my spinal and shoulder flexibility is improving, both of which help with my jiu jitsu and my overall Munki wellness.  But I also feel that after a week of training and rolling, yoga feels like it pulls me back into place. This may seem a strange thing to say, but you will all know how much you get banged around when rolling.  Spending an hour and a half pulling and stretching myself, feels really good…afterwards!  It does also help that my yoga teacher helps me into some positions and adjusts me, just enough each time to make the posture challenging.

As far as achieving the postures this is very much a work in progress, my Downward Dog looks more like a Wobbly Table, but as with BJJ it is all about getting the techniques right and achieving as much as I can and not about comparing myself to the very bendy other people in the class.  It’s my body and my journey just like BJJ.

If you live around Manchester UK, I would definitely recommend Ashtanga Yoga Manchester for both men and women.  The teacher is very helpful and they even run beginner courses and separate classes, if you are totally new to yoga.  This does help you feel a little less intimidated and help you understand what Ashtanga Yoga is.

There are a number of different types of yoga not just Hatha and Ashtanga that I have mentioned already. Explanations of the main types of yoga you are likely to come across can be found here. My advice is if yoga is something you want to try, would be to research and find a style which will suit you.  They do what you did when starting jiu jitsu, find a class you can make locally and see if the teacher works for you.

Be prepared some teachers and their classes may have more of a spiritual content than others.  So don’t be put off if you want more or less chanting etc.  Just try another teacher first before considering another style.

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The start of my journey in hand balancing…..

Over the last few weeks I have been reading how people are now setting goals for themselves.  One blog I read Skirt on a Mat, made a good point goals are not resolutions.  As we all know resolutions are normally broken by now.   So now I am a few weeks into it I thought I would tell you about one of my goals.

I have written previously about how I also do yoga to help me physically and with my jiu jitsu.  A number of the postures I am practising at the moment require me to do some hand balancing, like the one below.

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I found this surprisingly hard to begin with but as with everything it has gotten easier with practise.  So this made me think, (Mrs Munki never likes it when I do that) when I am rolling with Adam one of my coaches, he seems to almost balance when he changes from one side of the body to the other.  This is a little confusing when he does it and it is something I would like to be able to do.

This was definitely going to be a challenge for this Old Munki as I couldn’t straighten my arms out directly above my head, due to shoulder mobility.  I also have a bit of a “fear” issue as I do tent to be a little overly protective of my shoulders and I had to admit to myself this was an additional reason.

I have been working on my above the head movement since my operation and I have been using a double handled medicine ball to help extend my shoulder flexibility in this area.  I am pleased with the progress and I felt good about going the next step.

My cartwheels are particularly bad due to lack of confidence in a lot of areas, I was aware this was going to impact me on this.  But that’s never stopped me.  I thought I would be better starting the process gaining some confidence.  For this I decided to start with a handstand against a wall obviously.  I did a lot of research on line about how to do a handstand and I eventually found this video.

What I like about this method is I can do this safely and adjust a little bit at a time and it will strengthen my shoulders at the same time.  I decided to do my practise as part of my mobility work in the mornings.  I only intended to spend a minute or two doing this, so it seemed like the appropriate time.

I have now been doing it for a few weeks and from a very nervous start, I am now starting to feel more confident and I am working my hands closer to the wall.  I don’t think I will ever achieve a straight handstand, as the surgery I have had on my shoulders is preventing me from getting my arms straight above my head.  However I am taking any improvement as a little win.  Every day I practise this I class it as a win as it makes me a little more confident in this position, as honestly I would not even have attempted this 12 months ago.

I do have the next step in mind for when I feel comfortable in this position.  I happened to come across it whilst doing my research.  This exercise will have more relevance to the jiu jitsu aspect that kicked all of this off, than a straight hand stand.  This is called a pyramid and can be seen in the below video at about 58 seconds in.

It does not look like a hard exercise, but when I tried this initially I couldn’t do it at all. I was either shuffling across the floor or just jumping.  It was a good job Mrs Munki did not catch me doing it otherwise it would be on You Tube.

I know these little things I keep trying aren’t amazing feats of achievement.  But for me they are a challenge and it is good to have a challenge no matter how big or small it is.  It takes you outside of your comfort zone and stops you becoming comfortable and the improvement affects all areas of your life not just specifically BJJ.  BJJ may be a motivating factor, but the mental and physical improvements achieving these little challenges ripple out across my life.  Plus for us Old Munki’s it is a must or we just seize up.

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JT Torres in Manchester

I had the good fortune on Sunday to be able to attend a seminar by ATOS black belt JT Torres and Factory BJJ.  Additionally Mrs Munki was also able to attend, which makes life a lot easier.

The numbers at the seminar were limited by the host Factory BJJ to ensure safety for everyone participating.  I feel this also made for a better learning environment for those attending.  I have to say I really appreciated the smaller numbers.  It was really easy to get a good view of all techniques that were being shown and also to get JT’s attention to help you out when we were drilling.

JT was working on guard passing.  This was a great subject from someone is so good at their passing game.  He did say what he was going to show us was quite simple, but that’s because in a fight the simple stuff works the best.  I had to agree with that.

He mainly taught techniques from a couple of positions, but built on each one to give you a number of alternatives.  This really works for me as an Old Munki to take techniques on board, so I was pleased with this.  There was a lot of content, but not too much  for this Old Munki to take on board.  The good thing was that the techniques did fit in well with with some of the stuff I have been learning in class and the bonus was a way to deal with the lasso/spider guard, which is something I have had difficulty with when sparring.

Mrs Munki also appreciated the way he could break the techniques down so that as a new white belt she could understand them.  Plus he was really helpful in walking us through the techniques, whilst we drilling when we got stuck.  Mrs Munki really appreciated this and shows the quality of JT’s coaching.

We also had an opportunity for Q&A with JT and everyone asked some really good questions, about techniques, competing and mindset.  The answers JT gave were really interesting, if not painful for Adam Adshead when JT showed a little tweak to the body triangle, to make it even more “fun”.  I did like JT’s answer regarding competition mindset and how he deals with waiting between fights.

At the end of teaching JT took time with a number of people to roll. Mrs Munki was keen to do this and she did manage to get to roll with him.  For JT you could tell this was more of a flow roll, but Mrs Munki really enjoyed the experience, his control and the compliment about her strong fundamentals.

I have to say it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and I have to say thank you to Adam at Factory BJJ for organising it and to JT for such an enjoyable seminar.

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Everyday is a learning day….

Over the Christmas period I managed to start with a sore throat and progress it into a cold.  So this kind of screwed up all of my training plans for the holiday period.  I physically could have trained, but I didn’t want to pass on my germs (not cool) plus a number of people I train with are getting ready for the European Championship in January and the last thing they need to be around is a croaky snot Munki.

As I have gotten used to being side lined over the past couple of years, I decided to make use of my time with watching some videos.  I started watching the Ryan Hall Inverted Guard DVDs.  I have to say I do like the way Ryan explains techniques.  The explanations were very simple, which for an old Munki is very good.  I also found that some of Ryan’s terms, which despite not being politically correct, were not offensive but funny and I think added to the feel of the instruction.

The thing I mainly like about them is the way Ryan explains concepts.  The “expand and contract” concept for me was a bit of a revelation.  It was like another piece of the jigsaw was put in place, one of the edge pieces, that help get you started on your way.

Also he mentions a number of little movements that help a lot.  Not complex little things, but actually quite sensible and easy biomechanical actions that just make the techniques easier for me.  To the extent that I started seeing the applicability to other techniques and actions that I currently do, or more realistically trying to do.

I should point out that the DVD’s are not all about the inverted guard.  The first two are almost more of a set up to how to use it.  This is not a bad thing at all from where I am sat, as besides the other content being quality stuff it gives you an application or a way in and out.

I am aware that there are two big for and against camps about learning techniques off instructional videos.  I can totally understand both viewpoints on instructionals, but the content of these DVD’s really fits in with where I am going with my learning right now and actually what I am learning in class.  So it is really a very fortunate fit.

That is probably one of the other reasons why I am so positive about them.  They look like something I will be watching for a while to come; just so I can get them into this coconut I call a head and as I do see them as having a value in my current game.

Would I recommend them? Definitely, especially if you are working on inverting or spider guard as part of your game.  If you fancy buying them they are available on groundfighter website and at the moment I think there is a 40% off holidays deal.

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The last post of 2013.

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the new year starts I guess I have spent a little time reflecting back on this last year,I
As an Old Munki I become a little reflective at this time of year, as my non Christmassy post last week shows.
Yes I have set myself some targets for the start of the New Year. As always targets are good no matter the time of year, to keep you motivated and to give you something to measure against.
Looking back at the last year which saw me restart BJJ after quiet a long hiatus, I can say I am pretty please with what I have achieved. I’m not sure if I am where I wanted to be, but I am taking the win. I am back on the mats, training regularly and maintaining my enthusiasm.
I think what I am most pleased about is not letting my physical limitations impinge too much on my training. There have been times when I have been worried, but I have been fortunate that my issues are not really that big and I have been able to realise this.
I am also fortunate that I have made new friends this year, as we all know BJJ brings people together and the people I have trained with and been coached by have made my return easy, hassle free and so much fun. So thank you so much to these people for what they have given me.
I don’t want this to turn into a long list of thank yous or it to sound like I’m giving myself a pat on the back. So I’m going to end this bit now.
I appreciate that a lot of people don’t have training as a priority and just like dipping in and out and that’s great. We all train at our own pace and in our own way. Once again having reflected on my own training (wow you could call me Old Munki Mirror at this rate) I realised that previously I have not focussed on anything for a long time. Taekwondo, Iaido, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do I have done them all got to a good grade and moved on. It is a bit late in life to realise this, but its never too late to start and I think that’s why BJJ is important to me.
I am able to integrate my training in a healthy way into my lifestyle. It also helps Mrs Munki enjoys BJJ as well. So I really want this to be the opportunity that I can get good at something, not bothering what grade I am, just enjoying the training and the journey. That is my long term ambition. Besides we all need something more than work to do, just so we can stay sane.

Over this year I have accepted that improving the flexibility in my shoulders is going to be a slow process, but it is improving with my yoga and mobility work.  I just need to keep on this and remember flexibility work needs to be done everyday.

Most importantly I am going to work on my post training recovery to enable me to keep up my daily training.  Getting a routine and relevant nutrition to help with this and this is something I will write about at a later date, once I have worked out what works for me.

I hope that the new year brings you all some focus and the ability to do what’s important and fun.

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The non Christmassy, Christmas post.

“Pay as much attention to the things that are working positively in your life as you do to those things that are giving you trouble.” – H. Jackson Brown

I’m not a very Christmassy person but this year I’m looking forward to it in a way.  I enjoy spending time with Mrs Munki, but also over the last month or so I have had a little trouble getting to training.  The majority of this is work related in one way or another.  It has prevented me from doing what I enjoy, as real life always does.

But as the schools where I train are open the majority of the holiday period I am looking forward to playing catch up.  In addition to this being an opportunity to get more mat time, I am viewing it as a time to set my intentions for the future.

Following a speech at a recent seminar we both attended and a discussion with Mrs Munki she suggested that I should start setting some target for the forthcoming new year.  This would give me some achievable targets within my jiu jitsu and motivate me through the work issues.

So these are my targets:

1. I want to compete, I have made excuses to myself and I have put this off.  But I will compete in the first competition  I can from March 2014.

2. I am going to develop a game plan.  I have techniques in the bank, but I use them all reactively and not proactively to a finish. Obviously this would support target 1 as well.

3.  I am also going to start attending the open mat sessions on Sunday mornings.  I am going to work on a minimum of 10 sessions up to March for my target.

4. I am also going to make time to attend some additional morning drilling classes.  I could probably make two of these a month so my target is 6 up to March.

Why am I saying March, well Mrs Munki and I have a training holiday planned at the end of March.  So it kind of gives a natural break to this and an opportunity to review if I have achieved my planned goals.

I am hoping that the negative things that been affecting me for a while, can be overcome with a more positive focus in a positive area of my life.  Plus it won’t do my jiu jitsu any harm starting to pull it together a bit more.  So now its time to speak to my coaches and put the hard work in pulling this lot together.

I have a particular reason I am setting these targets, but if anyone out there has any targets or goals of their own that they are looking to start in 2014, it would be great to hear from you.

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Becoming a supple Munki

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I have recently been reading the book by Kelly Starrett : Becoming a Supple Leopard.  Besides having a cool name for his book Kelly is probably most famous for his “Mobility WOD” You Tube and Website.  There is a mass of content on his You Tube channel, which separately deals with lots of different physical issues and the techniques to put in place to prehab and rehab these.

I came across the Mobility WOD as a consequence of my shoulder issues and generally as I’m getting older I wanted to know how I could best deal with prehab and rehab issues at home.  Yes I have been totally convinced and now own a lacrosse ball and various rubber bands to help me stay in one piece.

When I found out he was releasing a book I thought this will be an awesome resource.  I have to admit that the book is a little expensive, but when you consider it more as a text book the price is not too bad. When you compare it to some of the strength and conditioning books I have bought brand new it is quite reasonable.  When I last checked a kindle version was not available, so you will have to go for the good old fashioned paper version for now.

After reading through the book I realised that some of what was being said, did go a little against the biomechanics that I was taught during my strength and conditioning training.  But he did have very convincing arguments on these few areas.  So I am trying them out at the moment and they do not seem to be detrimental in anyway and if they have the benefits he mentions in the book then it is worth maintaining them.

I have found some really useful little tweaks to things like external rotation of your shoulders during press ups and bench press, which do actually have a big impact on your stability during these exercises.  Considering I dislocated a rib once through poor form when doing press ups I’m sticking to these changes for sure.

One of the other big things for me was the posture corrections.  As a desk munki these little changes have been really positive for me.   To the extent now after a number of weeks putting them into practice, that my previous “relaxed” (ok slouched) position is actually not comfortable anymore.  I am also now very conscious of these changes when I am walking or just standing. I feel taller when walking. Also when just standing the suggested changes have erased the ache in my lower back that I previously would inevitably get.

Like I have already mentioned I have some strength and conditioning training, which did include elements of biomechanics and form, so not all of the stuff in the book was a revelation to me.  However the further explanations of why and the consequences if you don’t, did put a lot of things in a perspective I didn’t previously have.

In conclusion this is  a very good resource, especially for those postural things that we do wrong all the time, but over time have big effects.  Kelly gives very good explanations as to why these postural changes should be made and the potential impacts on your body if you do not make the improvements.

Now don’t get me wrong you are not going to change everything overnight, a lot of the things we do are habits we have formed over years.  This is the case for me with my shoulder position.  So I have had to make new positive habits.  The same will apply to you munkis too, both in your day to day habits and as part of the form during exercises that you do at the gym. But the knowing what changes to make and the “why” you should make those changes is very motivating.

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Over 40 and doing BJJ????

As you may have gathered due to the name of my blog, I am an Old Munki and I have come to jiu jitsu late in life.  I have found that one of the main reasons I have started training “seriously” is I wanted something that was both mentally and physically stimulating and that I could potentially carry on doing till I drop.  BJJ hit the mark on all counts.

However whilst training it has made me take a long hard look at reality, which I feel has been a positive action for me.  I was wondering if this same sort of situation applies to other older participants that come to BJJ later in life? So I thought I would go through a few of things that have arisen for me to see if any other older Munki’s can relate.

I have realised that despite me thinking I’m still in my early 20’s, my body is very aware I’m over 40.  This means recovery and physical maintenance have to be a serious consideration.  This is not too much of a problem, as the majority of this makes me feel better anyway.  It is just the balancing issue of remembering the additional stuff is to support my BJJ.  So hauling back in on the weights or other stuff, so I don’t get worn out and miss out on a BJJ class.

I also need to get to know my body again. (No rude comments here!!) I have changed a lot over the years.  Physical damage, muscle and joint issues are something that I am working on to improve and repair.  Having adapted to these physical limitations over the years, I now have to make as much of an improvement that I can.  Otherwise I could potentially risk further injury. I have come to understand this will take time.  Have had these issues for many years and I can’t rush the physical changes.  Pushing it will just cause me more damage.  My body doesn’t bounce back like when I was a youngster when I could do the splits and train 7 days a week. I have learnt to take my time and appreciate each little change and improvement that happens as a little win.

I have also realised that if I have a hard/long day at work not to beat myself up for not making class that night.  Sometimes the negative self talk I give myself is really bad.  I understand now that I may need the rest so I can make class the next day.  This is far better than wearing myself out, beating myself down and then missing a few days on the mats.  I know I’m never going to be as good as the Mendes brothers or Andre Galvao, but I will be as good as I can be and there is no immediate rush to get there.

I also have to really check my ego.  This is for both getting tapped and comparing myself to others in the class.  I always have to remind myself, that when I get tapped by a younger or stronger opponent, it’s because my technique isn’t good enough.  It’s not his fault that I gave him the space to tap me.  I have to stay focussed, figure out what I did wrong and seal up that gap. I won’t die or lose my house because I got tapped, but what I need to do is learn from it.  For me at the moment it’s all about acquiring knowledge and figuring out how I can apply it.

Then I have to stop comparing myself progress to others, especially the younger guys! When I look at some people and they are the same grade as me and pulling off some amazing stuff, I have to remind myself they are not me.  They may be shorter, lighter as well as younger but we are all different.  I am working on my potential and improving myself.  Not seeing if I am better than someone else at a technique.  Doing this take my focus away from my improvement and creates a potentially negative mindset.

When I spoke to Chris Hauter at his recent seminar, I asked him about getting into Jiu Jitsu as an older person and what he thought. He felt it was a great thing to start doing as an activity and I do agree with him on this. All the things I have mentioned have given me a positive direction to go in, physically and mentally, so that is definitely a good thing.

If anyone else wants to add to this feel free to leave me a comment.

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Big bad stress….

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Stress is a very interesting term.  In my experience it seems to be one of those words that people either misunderstand or don’t like using. Whilst sat in a nice coffee shop, with Mrs Munki on a chilly  Saturday afternoon we were discussing our training.  Yeah that’s a surprise for two people that practise jiu jitsu.

One of the topics we discussed was training volume.  We are two out of a large number of bjj practitioners that love their training, but have so much more in their lives to deal with. Being able to train bjj as much as we want, along with support training is always going to be a problem.  We were discussing some of our differences and those around us.

As part of the discussion a point came up that I thought seemed applicable to everyone.  That is the way we look at our training.  We can call it strength and conditioning, technical training or cardio, but as far as our bodies and their neuro muscular recovery are concerned it is all stress.  But then what also falls under this same title is work, relationships and day to day living to mention a few.

My weekly training consists of approximately 8 hours of bjj and 1 hour of judo. Now for me as an Old Munki this seems reasonable amount of training.  I’m not trying to be a world champ, just enjoy myself.  But then when you throw in an 8 hour work day and the travelling, the occasional crappy night’s sleep and some poor food choices, to name a few, the total amount of stress that I am putting myself through can start to mount up.

The main problem is I do find my training enjoyable, so sometimes I do ignore the obvious physical impact it has on my body.  So I have to force myself to consider my recovery requirements from this.  I have written about the GAS Principle previously here, in a more technical context.  But it seems that people do take their eye off the ball when it comes to not only to their training volume, but also the trials of daily living as an overall impact.  Looking at Mrs Munki as an example she does not look at her weekly activities (work, training etc) as a total amount of stress that she puts herself through.  She tends to ignore the “real life” issues and focus on how much training she has done that week. This is how she judges if she has had a hard week.  So I see this misunderstanding occurring very close to home.

You could probably make tagging a conditioning or weights session onto the end of your bjj class work for a while.  As the perception could be that you will have ONLY trained for 3 hours that day.  But eventually it will catch up with you.  Likewise when you go to the gym before work and then go to your bjj class after work.  You may think you have had a rest between sessions.  But is that the way your body sees if? Especially after your boss throws a tight deadline in, or even worse you work is physical as well.  You are just jumping to different types of stress.  I have seen this situation arise with a number of my friends and training partners and it always follows the same path.

Professional athletes have nothing to worry about but their training.  After a heavy training session they will be told to do nothing and just relax, even have an afternoon nap, which gives their body the opportunity to recover.  A lot of people I know including Mrs Munki are lucky if they get a lunch break on some days, never mind a nap or a massage.

At this point I am not saying training is bad at all, but just every now and again changing perspectives and re-evaluating the overall stress you put on yourself can help plot your recovery and keep you coming back to the mats.  As an Old Munki this is something I always consider.  I actively plan my recovery and stress volume to keep me coming back to the mats.  I do some yoga and mobility work to help my muscular and joint recovery.  I also occasionally see an osteopath and if necessary a chiropractor. This is what works for me, it might not be the thing for you. You may be more of a massage person like Mrs Munki, but considering your recovery and overall physical maintenance is important.  I also understand that these are expensive options. However, buying a basic foam roller and using this to self massage would be a much cheaper option.

The ultimate point of all of this, is that we should all consider our overall stress and not look at issues in isolation.  Then use this to plan your recovery to keep you healthy. There is only one of you and you need to take care of yourself, to keep you on the mats for as long as possible.  I hope that this all makes sense, but if you have any questions please feel free to message me.

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The Chris Haueter Show hits the UK.

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Thanks to Carl Fisher for the photo

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a seminar by one of the Dirty Dozen Chris Haueter.  This is first seminar I have attended for a couple of years, because of the shoulder surgeries.  So I was really looking forward to this seminar.

The session started very informally by Chris explaining why he had to tape his wrist and fingers up. This was both a humorous and very relatable story, which set the informal tone of the whole evening.  So the night was kicked off by going back to the fundamentals.  Retaining posture whilst in guard was the starting point.  Chris managed to provide a number memorable comments to assist with recalling the key points.  This was followed nicely by some breaking closed guard techniques, which could not have been better for me, because this is something I have really been struggling with. So we were shown some tweaks and some new little things to improve closed guard breaking.  Mrs Munki who came with me was a little nervous before the event,  but she liked his relaxed teaching style as it set her at ease. Also because the first few techniques were something that were something she wanted to learn and they sunk in well.

After these first few techniques we progressed onto some passing guard and some control techniques.  This was all really good stuff, but it was the additional philosphical comments that put what we were learning into context.  One thing amongst many others he said was that jiu jitsu is an art about your guard.  Retaining guard or passing guard and then everything else branches off from this, which if you think about it is true.  This was just one of a number of insights that Chris provided during the session.  Also the additional interesting analogies that he provided to assist with undertaking the techniques in the correct way, helped with the learning process.

After all of the jiu jitsu activity we settled into a spontanous Q and A.  This turned into both a theoretical and historical time.  One very good point he made during this time, was that every time you get promoted you need to go back and  work on your fundamentals and that is why he had worked on that with us.  Once again this made complete sense.

I could go on and list the many interesting and very valid points and stories he recounted to us, but that would spoil it if you got the opportunity to attend on of his seminars.  One thing I would say is if you do get the chance definitely take it.

As a brief follow on from this I have been using some of the fundamental points Chris showed us and I have to say it may be psychological or for real, but I feel a bit more in control now when I roll. These few tweaks have made a great difference for me.

Thanks to Adam at Factory BJJ for the opportunity and Chris Haueter for the great content.

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