Friday, February 16, 2018

New Fundamentals Videos on

This post is mainly for those with access to

If you're a student at a school that is an affiliate of Professor Pedro Sauer's association, you may also have access. I don't know how it works with affiliate schools, so I apologize if this post is for a very narrow audience!

By chance I heard Prof Mike Horihan mention that he had loaded new fundamentals videos into the site. I remembered seeing Professor Sauer and Prof Jeff Curran posting to Instagram about recording these videos. Professor Sauer said one night in class that about 20 years had passed since he and Jeff had recorded the original fundamentals instructionals!

I wanted to offer a few comments on what I found in the new videos.

First, the easiest way to access the new videos is to select the "Fundamentals" check box in the "Programs" part of the web site, as shown in the first screen capture. Uncheck "Video Pool," "White to Blue," and "Blue to Purple."

You will find 73 new videos. They are easy to recognize thanks to the bright yellow floor and black walls. Mike Horihan recorded these videos at the HQ in Herndon, VA, during the day, using professional lighting and camera equipment.

For comparison, at the left is a screen capture of the original T-position to Hip Throw video. On the right is a screen capture of the new corresponding video.

The new videos play in 720 x 1280 HD format on my laptop. The sound is great as well.

The videos are in the same basic format as the originals. They are only a few minutes long at most. They address a specific element of the curriculum.

One concern I have with the new videos is that it is not straightforward, in some cases, to match them with the 88 techniques of the white to blue curriculum. For example, there are 87 original videos. (Forward and backward rolling are combined into one video.) Each video is named to match the item on the curriculum and has a number to match.

The new videos do not share this convention. While I plan to watch all of the videos, it would be easier for newbies like me to have an index like a technique number or exactly matching language. In some cases this is true for both video sets -- "Mata Leao," "Squeeze the Bread," and so on are exactly the same in the new and the old. In other cases, there are differences.

(I might create a mapping of video name to old technique name and number as I watch each video.)

The content is as excellent as ever. You can tell Professor is much more comfortable speaking English compared to the original recordings. He mentioned having trouble expressing himself back when he recorded the original videos.

The old videos are more direct, explaining the technique with little deviation. The new videos feature more variety. Professor offers more context, more details, and more energy. He tells you why you might need to apply a certain technique and how to adjust if necessary.

If you are new to Professor's curriculum, I recommend starting with the original videos, and add the new ones to your practice.

I'm very happy to find these on the web site, and I hope all of you can access them as part of your membership in Professor's association.

What do you think of the videos? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rigan Machado Seminar Thoughts

Saturday I attended a Jiu-Jitsu seminar by Rigan Machado, hosted by Patrick Tray of Trident Martial Arts. I want to share a few thoughts on the seminar for anyone who wants to attend one in the future.

The location was top notch. Trident is in Woodbridge, VA, and features two huge training areas. They are meticulous about mat hygiene.

I've trained at Mr. Tray's school before, about 1 1/2 years ago for a great series on ground, striking, and weapons scenarios.

The cost was very reasonable -- $79 for early registration and three hours. Saturday was a gi session and Sunday was a no-gi session. I could only attend Saturday.

If I had paid at the door, it would have cost me $99. If I had registered early for both sessions, the cost would have been $149.

In addition to Master Rigan, Master Marcos Santos from Texas was present and helped teach material.

Mr Tray and several of his black belts (like Mikey Custodio) participated and helped teach. Ben Gilbert, who is a full instructor for all of Mr. Tray's programs, also helped. All of the instructors and students I worked with were friendly.

We had about 50 attendees, including the professors.

Rigan began the seminar with a short discussion on his strategy. He emphasized tightness and pressure. He wants to make his opponent feel uncomfortable and make him tap using pressure. He really likes operating from side control, so we spent most of the seminar working from that position.

He divided the seminar into three parts. The first two parts involved teaching 3-4 techniques each. I do not remember the exact numbering but I will share what I can.

The first technique was a transition from side control into controlling both of the opponent's arms and his head. The second involved lifting him off the mat, tightening control, and then flattening him out. The third involved a leg entanglement that resulted in twisting the opponent into a submission.

After drilling each of these techniques for a while, we had a few minutes for a water break. The opening discussion and first part last about 90 minutes.

In the second part we worked four more techniques. The first was an arm-in choke that required switching side control from one side of the opponent to the other. The second was a transition from north-south into side control. The third was a transition from side control into an arm bar or triangle choke. I do not remember the fourth!

That second part lasted about 60 minutes, after which we had another water break. Rigan then had us perform "quick drills." In this part all students ran around the mats in a circle. Rigan called out a technique number. We grabbed the nearest partner, dropped to the mat, and took turns drilling the techniques. Then we stood up and resumed running.

These were more tiring than I expected. We dropped every 20 seconds or so. The session last about 20 minutes, so we probably did about 60 techniques during that time.

The last 10 minutes of the session included positional rolling. I happened to be odd man out when it started because I asked Rigan about his work on the John Wick movies. We ended up talking about his movie work during the rolling time, which was fine by me. He showed me pictures from attending the premier of Clint Eastwood's new movie, and we discussed Jiu-jitsu training for Air Force basic trainees.

After the seminar, Rigan and everyone took the time to get pictures with anyone who wanted one. He also talked about starting a black belt club for RCJ black belts.

Overall the seminar was great. We did a lot of technique drilling and my partners and I were able to get help when we needed it. Thank you to Mr. Tray for hosting Masters Rigan and Marcos and to my training partners for an awesome experience.

Have you attended a Rigan Machado or Machado brothers seminar? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Update: Thanks AW for the typo fix!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gracie Punch Block Series In Action

I had a chance to apply Jiu-Jitsu in a striking class recently, and I wanted to share the results with you!

One year ago this week I started practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Prof Pedro Sauer's school in Herndon, VA. Right away I started with the Gracie Combatives program, and mid-year I began regularly attending the Pedro Sauer fundamentals curriculum classes.

Two years ago this month I began practicing Krav Maga at Nick Masi's school in Herndon, VA. Last week ground combat was the focus of the classes. I participated in the Thursday night "fight" class, which is several notches above the intensity of the Wednesday sparring class.

Once in a while we go to the ground in a Krav session, but we tend to avoid extended ground contact or pressure. I had only done this sort of dedicated ground striking session once before, and that was in 2016 before I started Jiu-Jitsu. I did not perform very well. I'm 46, 5'9, and less than 145 lbs. If I have to depend on speed, power, aggression, or conditioning, I'm in trouble.

Incidentally, these traits appear fundamental to Krav Maga. A Krav Maga Twitter account that I follower recently posted this:

I replied "technique"!

Back to the ground fighting. In the pre-Jiu-Jitsu ground striking session in 2016, I remember pulling guard and being pounded from above. One opponent even stood up to get a better platform to rain punches down. I didn't know how to handle that problem, and I didn't have the kinesthetic conditioning to properly protect myself.

How did I fare last week, when we put on MMA gloves and did ground sparring with strikes? I am happy to report I did much better. I used my guard properly and broke down my opponent's posture, but the key was the Gracie Combatives punch block series

I remember one engagement very clearly. My training partner was younger, taller (almost a foot), heavier, and stronger. I pulled guard and put him in punch block series phase 1. He was surprised and struggled, but I was able to maintain control without expending much energy. 

He pulled an arm free and tried to punch. I put him in stage 1.5. When he ripped his other arm out, I put him in stage 2. I thought to myself "I'm actually doing this!" 

Next he tried to get on his knees, so I put him in stage 3. Throughout the engagement I stayed calm and managed my breathing and energy expenditure. 

Before he could stand up, I accepted his forward pressure and put him back in stage 1. It could have been a scene in the Gracie Combatives video!

He eventually switched to driving his elbow into my jaw. I started to set up for a sweep, but we both heard something pop in my jaw. My partner relieved the pressure, took off his gloves, and checked my jaw for damage! I didn't know at the time that he was a dentist, so it was weird holding him in my guard while he was showing concern for a possibly injured jaw. I was ok, and then time expired.

The bottom line is that the Gracie Combatives punch block series worked for me in an aggressive striking training scenario. My performance in 2018 was far better than 2016, and I credit the Gracie Combatives technique and the Pedro Sauer rolling experience. My very limited experience as a white belt with one year of Jiu-Jitsu was enough to help me engage with training partners who have better physical attributes but less ground experience. 

Thank you to both my Jiu-Jitsu and Krav Maga schools and training partners for making this story possible!

What do you think of the punch block series? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Keep Rolling Rolling Rolling

Since starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last year at Professor Pedro Sauer's school, I've had to regularly do forward and backward shoulder rolls. Both are part of the KMG curriculum we follow at my Krav Maga school, but we don't practice as often.

I've been trying to improve my backward rolls because they are part of the regular Jiu-Jitsu warmup drills. The instructors and many students can do them slowly, without building momentum. This was my goal, to smoothly roll backward over either shoulder.

Recently I watched a video by Stephan Kesting titled 3 Most Common Backwards Shoulder Roll Mistakes. I paid close attention to his technique and took a series of screen captures. Something clicked when I watched him roll backwards towards the camera.

The breakthrough for me was watching how Stephan twists his whole upper body off the centerline, and then swings his legs along the centerline. For whatever reason, that clicked with me. I tried focusing on those two elements and suddenly I could roll a lot smoother, over either shoulder!

Thank you Stephan for this great video and expert instruction!

How are your backward rolls? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Professor Sauer on Jiu-Jitsu TV

A year ago I started learning Jiu-Jitsu at Professor Pedro Sauer's school, One Spirit Martial Arts, in Herndon, VA. I don't take the quality of instruction for granted. Having access to so many talented instructors is a blessing. It's particularly special when I can attend a class taught by Prof Sauer himself.

I find myself in a catch-22 situation when Professor teaches. If I'm on the mat, I can try the techniques and concepts he is teaching that night, but I can't really record what he's sharing. If I'm off the mats, usually staying for a few extra minutes before heading home, I can record what he says. However, I'm not in the class, so I don't get to try the lesson.

Thanks to a new set of video instructionals, I have found a way to have recorded access to Professor's wisdom and concepts.

Last month Jiu-Jitsu TV began offering a set of 81 video lessons from Professor's 2017 seminar series in Australia and Singapore. I decided to take advantage of a Christmas special and purchase access to the lessons.

They are so interesting that I decided to write this blog post, after only watching the first two. The "intercepting attacks from the bottom" lesson captured one of the tenets of Professor's approach to Jiu-Jitsu, that I often hear in class but haven't had a chance to capture. Thanks to the video, I can share it here, in his own words:

Don't fight moves against you. Fight moves that are starting against you. 

Let your opponent start, but don't let him finish. 

You don't fight what's been done. You fight what's just starting. 

Don't let him lock a move, and then resist. You intercept it. 

This is a very powerful concept. In a later video that has also been posted on YouTube, Professor explains this idea as setting a mousetrap.

This is one of the secrets of Professor's Jiu-Jitsu. He seals off your attacks, but then opens something. You, as the attacker, think he is making a mistake, so you take what you think he is giving you. However, he is just setting a mousetrap. When you move to exploit the supposed vulnerability, Professor intercepts your attack, and leverages it to finish you.

If you want to learn more about Professor's approach to Jiu-Jitsu, check out his new video series on Jiu-Jitsu TV.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Martial Arts Year in Review

2017 was my second full year practicing martial arts, since my return in January 2016. About a year ago I posted my 2016 Martial Arts Year in Review, reporting some statistics on my training and how I spent that time.

Because I have no official training scheduled today or Sunday, it's time for me to analyze how I practiced in 2017.

For comparison's sake, in 2016 I spent approximately 300 hours in formal training. About two thirds involved Krav Maga. Less than one sixth involved other martial arts, such as Kali, combatives (including my first serious ground work), and Kung Fu. The remainder involved fitness (Jungshin and Ground Force Method) and firearms.

Krav Maga

In 2017 I began my second year of training at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA. I started the year as a P-2.

Prior to my P-3 test in March, I participated in 50 formal Krav Maga classes. (I had trained 94 hours since my P-2 test.)

Between my P-3 test and my P-4 test in September, I participated in 50 Krav Maga classes.

After my P-4 test and through the end of December, I participated in 30 Krav Maga classes.

That is a total of roughly 130 hours of regular Krav Maga classes, down from 144 in 2016.

In addition to regular classes, I participated in several seminars and camps.

In March I completed the five day, 40 hour General Instructor Course One (GIC1).

In April I completed the five day, 40 hour Kids Instructor Course (KIC).

In May I attended 7 hours of the spring KMG camp.

I September I spent over 3 hours in an instructor seminar.

In October I spent 3 hours in a sparring seminar taught by GM Jeff Smith.

That is a total of roughly 93 hours of special events, up from 73 in 2016. Combined with my formal classes, I spent 223 hours training Krav Maga in 2017, up from 217 in 2016.

In 2017 I spent time as an assistant or as a primary instructor for youth and adult classes. For kids, I spent 61 hours teaching (outside of the classes that overlapped with the KIC.) For adults, I spent 27 hours teaching (outside of the classes that overlapped with the GIC.)

That is a total of roughly 87 hours of instructing, up from 0 in 2016. Combined with my personal training, I spent 310 hours as a Krav Maga student or instructor in 2017.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

I began studying Jiu-Jitsu on January 30th. My last post, Reflections on 100 Hours of Jiu-Jitsu, explains my experiences as of December 16th. Since that post I added 4 more classes, and adding my trial class, I spent 105 hours in formal classes at Professor Pedro Sauer's school in 2017.

I also trained outside of formal classes.

In March I spent 2 hours with Rener Gracie at his seminar in Leesburg, VA.

May was busy: I spent 2 more hours with Rener at his seminar in Baltimore, MD, 2 hours with Royce Gracie in Takoma Park, MD, and 6 hours at Prof Sauer's spring camp. 

In September I spent 3 hours with Rickson Gracie at his seminar in Albany, NY.

In November I spent 6 hours with Henry Akins at his seminar in Atlanta, GA.

Adding these 15 hours to my 105 formal class hours, I spent 120 hours as a student in Jiu-Jitsu in 2017.

Other Martial Arts

I trained in several other venues in 2017. In January I completed an 8 session, approximately 12 hour introductory course on Kendo.

In February and August I participated in two Shuai Jiao seminars taught by Nick Masi, for a total of approximately 4 hours.

These martial arts totaled 16 hours.

Other Training

In February I spent 3 hours with other Krav Maga instructor candidates learning urban defense tactics at Silver Eagle Group.

In September I began practicing Yoga at East Meets West Yoga Center. As of this writing I've practiced 13 hours, but I plan to add a class on Sunday the 31st to end 2017 with 14 hours of Yoga.

This other training totaled 17 hours.


Adding up all of the time I spent in formal training or teaching in 2017, the total was approximately 463 hours, up from 300 hours in 2016.

Removing hours spent instructing, the total is 376 hours, up from 300 hours in 2016.

Only looking at training hours, about 60% involved Krav Maga and 32% involved Jiu-Jitsu. The last 8% involved other martial arts or training.

Looking Forward

As noted earlier this month, I decided to no longer pursue instructor status in Krav Maga. Although I am interested in Jiu-Jitsu instructor opportunities, I do not expect much progress in 2018 due to my low rank. I therefore do not expect to be logging instructor hours in 2018.

I expect a shift towards more equal training time in 2018. For several months I have attended Jiu-Jitsu classes 3 to 4 nights per week, and Krav Maga classes 3 days per week. When possible I try to attend one night Krav Maga class as well. I will probably still train 3 to 4 hours per week in Jiu-Jitsu and 3 to 4 hours per week in Krav Maga. Therefore, the two activities will be more balanced in 2018.

For Krav Maga, I hope to test for my P-5 rank in the spring and G-1 in the fall. For Jiu-Jitsu, I would like to test for my blue belt some time in 2018, although I am not in any rush to do so! 2019 would be fine as well.

How did you spend your training time in 2017? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Reflections on 100 Hours of Jiu-Jitsu

On Wednesday night I logged my 100th hour of training at One Spirit Martial Arts, the home academy of Prof Pedro Sauer. We sign into a computer every time we visit the school, so I have a record of my "official" training time there.

My trial class happened Monday January 30th, and my first official class happened January 31st, 2017. At the time of writing, I have a little over 10 months of time at the school. As of Wednesday, I spent 52 hours in Gracie Combatives, 34 hours in Pedro Sauer Fundamentals, 11 hours in open rank classes, and 1 hour each in a Gracie Reflex Development class, a morning open rank class, and an evening "lab" class.

In terms of actual training time, I've spent more than 100 hours doing Jiu-Jitsu in 2017 -- but not much more.  My trial class was an hour. In March I spent two hours with Rener Gracie at his seminar in Leesburg, VA. May was busy: I spent two more hours with Rener at his seminar in Baltimore, MD, two hours with Royce Gracie in Takoma Park, MD, and six hours at Prof Sauer's spring camp.  In September I spent three hours with Rickson Gracie at his seminar in Albany, NY. In November I spent six hours with Henry Akins at his seminar in Atlanta, GA. That's only 16 additional hours.

Realistically I only expect to train 5-7 more hours in 2017, based on the dates Professor's school plans to close. I will end 2017 with roughly 120 hours of Jiu-Jitsu instruction.

Where am I on this path? I'm a white belt, as I expect to remain for a while. In the Pedro Sauer system, we receive up to four white stripes on the black bar. Next, we receive a blue tape bar applied to the other end of the white belt. We can  earn four more white stripes, applied over the blue bar. At that point, we are eligible to be invited to test for blue belt. Because I have my blue tape bar, you might say I'm halfway through this process.

How do I feel physically? I'm still 5'9 (thankfully), but I've lost at least 10 pounds. I weighed a little over 158 at the beginning of the year, and these days I float between 146 and 148 lbs. A cleaner diet is responsible for most of this weight loss, but I do feel heavier on days without Jiu-Jitsu. My muscles and joints feel good, and I'm progressing on my path to stop taking medication for rheumatoid arthritis. I just turned 46 years old, and I feel as good as I ever have. I still need to work on strength, and I have a goal of adding pull-ups to my training program in 2018.

How do I feel about my capabilities? I don't feel completely helpless when rolling, but it depends on the opponent. If I roll with a new white belt, I can be very relaxed while he or she is more likely to be tense and obsessed with strength. Against more experienced opponents, or larger opponents, I'm still in deep trouble. I've recognized that anyone who weighs 20 pounds or more than me is going to be difficult. Guys in their 30s are a challenge, and those in their 20s are killers. I completely agree with the Gracie "Boyd Belt" concept!

I feel like I'm getting the hang of moving my hips. I can recognize more dangerous positions. I can usually identify the point at which I'm going to tap out in a few seconds. I'm much more comfortable just being on the ground! I need a lot of work practicing techniques but I can follow along with lessons much easier than when I started the year.

I'm a much bigger fan of Jiu-Jitsu now than when I started. My favorite aspect of the art is the ability to test everything against resisting opponents. I really like being able to immediately feel that a technique or approach is working or not working. If it's not working, I like being about to make adjustments until it is working. I really like that the system is not predicated on strength, or speed, or explosiveness. I can see myself doing Jiu-Jitsu from now until I am very old.

At the very end of the year I will do another year in review post, as I did for 2016.

Can you remember what it was like to have 100 hours of training under your belt? Let me know here on on Twitter!

Stay informed of new blog posts by following me on Twitter @rejoiningthetao.