BJJ Lifestyle

I haven’t been to class in two weeks, so I really can’t claim I’ve been living the BJJ lifestyle (whatever that means).  Here is a list of the lifestyle’s I HAVE been living.

-BBQ Lifestyle
-BBW Lfestyle-
-M4W Lifestyle
-NWA Lifestyle
-TLC Lifestyle (the band)
-NWA Lifestlye
-DAD Lifestyle
-MWD Lifestyle
-XXX Lifestyle
-JPG Lifestyle
-OMG Lifestyle
-GMO Lifestyle

I’ve been busy.  So don’t judge!


Golden age

Are we in the golden age? No, of course not.  We’re living in a dystopian hell scape.  This is very obvious.  Nobody has a job and everyone’s sad all the time.  If anything, we are in some kind of neo-feudal iron age. Pretty soon we’ll be feasting on human bones.

But the question I want to ask is, “Are We In The Golden Age of Jiu Jitsu?”

If you are a classicist, you would know that the Greeks define the Golden Age of peace, harmony, stability, prosperity.  Since we are not in a parlor discussing the minor works of Virgil,  I’ll define the Modern Golden Age with these four characteristics

  • Growth
  • Accessibility
  • Unity
  • Innovation

So let’s take a a philosophical stroll and talk about each of the aspects of Jiu Jitsu.  We’re gonna answer this question, together. We will rate each aspect on a  scale from one to five old white men. Because nobody loves talking about how great things used to be than an old white guy.


This one is a no brainer.  Have you been to a NAGA lately?  It’s like a cross between an ant farm and Moroccan Souk.  Pure chaos.

There has been explosive growth in the sport over the last 25 years, with the sport truly hitting mainstream attention within the last few years.  While BJJ may have been shown to be the most practical in the first UFC (1993),  MMA was still seen as human cockfighting until 2005. It was only post Stephan Bonnar/Forrest Griffin, where ironically, they beat the shit out of each other, that UFC and BJJ in general became mainstreamed. Which is weird.  It took the ultimate human cockfight for people to recognize the legitimacy of human cockfighting. Life can be funny sometimes.

But as to Jiu Jitsu specifically, in 1996, the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation hosted a total of four competitions.  In 2005, eight, and in 2013, 41 events. That is a fivefold increase from less than ten years ago, and over a ten fold increase from 20 years ago.

Another fun fact: Over 400 black belts registered for the World’s this year.  Believe it.  This sport is huge. Full points awarded.


five white guys


Accessibility should walk hand and hand with growth. It follows that the more gyms that open the more accessible Jiu Jitsu becomes.  But the real question is, who can train in these gyms.  The answer is: Certainly not everyone.

Let’s use my home town as an example:

In Philadelphia, the average cost of a BJJ membership is $189.45 based on a sampling of five major clubs in the area.  That’s just about $2,270 a year, just in membership costs.  The median income in Philadelphia County over the last four years was $37,016.  (Like I said, we already live in a dystopian hellscape).  That’s 6% of a person’s total income for the year.  Doesn’t seem so bad, right?  Until you factor in rent (15,060, yearly) and utilities ($1,910, yearly), and transportation (1,098).  It begins hard to justify a membership at these prices. Plus most humans need food. At least the weak ones do.

Oh, and for cable/internet it’s $2,000 a year.  BECAUSE HAVING WE TV IS NOT NEGOTIABLE.

Then there are the gis.  Jesus Christ the fucking gis.  Sure, you can get a crappy $99 dollar gi, but you can also get the limited-edition-goldweave-thatfeaturesbigtittedjapanesegirlssewnintotheinsideseams-andtheyonlymake30everydecade-andyouhavetobuythemfrominsideavolcanoduringahalfmoon gis.  And they can run you a pretty penny. Like diamond rings, there all no ceilings on these things.  Well over $300 if you’re high as shit and  enjoy wasting your money.

But costs aside, Jiu Jitsu is becoming more accessible.  Women’s participation has never been higher, and the sport has become somewhat less focused on the competition aspects of BJJ (for better or worse).  You don’t have to walk into a gym and have expectations placed on you to train to be a champion.  Some people just want to make friends and wrassle, like Andre the Giant.

I give accessibility three Old White Men, out of five.

three old guys


Every year all of the heads of each club get together for a rafting trip.  After a couple of miles they stop at a clearing and take huge rips from a bong.  A spectral Smoke Wizard emerges from the pipe and lectures for hours about the importance of cooperation and respect for each other.  Everyone nods their head in profound agreement.  At night they have a barbeque and talk about how much they love each other, and that it would be great to have an agreed upon structure to present a united front to the world. Everybody chips in for Kurt Osiander’s bus fare and they all go home.

This scenario has yet to happen.

In reality, BJJ is a fractured mess.  “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE IBJJF?” you’ll ask.  The IBJJF is only one federation.  It’s not official, but it’s the biggest, thus the defacto leadership.  Many people don’t/won’t recognize their legitimacy. Ever hear of the North American Jiu Jitsu Federation?  No?  Ok.

And how about reaching an accord on a unified rule set?  Not likely, hombre.  You’ll be getting heel hooked at NAGA till the cows come home.

I award unity one Old White Man. I am a cruel mistress, and  not easy to please.



Of the four Criteria, this one is the most slippery.  Unless people start growing a third arm, or extra thumbs, the basic concepts of Jiu Jitsu have been established and explored.  The WormGuard is a modified Lasso.  The Berimbolo?  Inverted De La Riva.

Imagine a tree.  The trunk of which is comprised of the basics of Jiu Jitsu.  Takedowns, armbars, sweeps, side control, etc.  Imagine that each branch consists of a set of techniques, and each twig the specific variations.  At this point, most “innovations” are at the sub twig level.  Hyper specific variations on existing frameworks.

You can make the case that since the sport is so new (comparitively), that the sport has yet to fully develop.  That makes everything an innovation.  I guess.  But I think I need a more compelling argument than that to award full points.  I am not assuaged. I demand more rigor.

I think the real issue is the word “innovation”.  Its hard to pin down exactly what that means.  Does something have to be a quantum leap forward to qualify as an innovation?  Or do small, incremental changes meet the definition? I suspect the answer depends on your world view.  America loves a GRINDER, and hates GLORYBOYS, so I feel that anything that makes it look to easy we shun.  We want our athletes to scrape and claw their way to victory, leaving a bloody snail trail of tears and broken fingernails.

Brazilians, on the other hand, are laid back south American brahs who want to feel like the flow is natural and easy. That’s now how do it up here, son. Brazil, you’re never going to own a Aunti Anne’s Pretzel Franchise with that kind attitude. Get on your grind.

Since I’m a true son of liberty, I’ll run with the American version of innovation.  Slow, dirty, and painful.  Like the subway.

I award four Old White Men.

Four white guys 2


I have awarded 13 out of a maximum 16 points.  I feel that this qualifies as some sort of Lesser Golden Age at best, with marginal room for improvement. At this point the major stumbling block of the BJJ golden age is lack of unity and the (rising) cost considerations that a lot of people face.

Because really, Jiu Jitsu gonna do what it do.  You can’t stop it, it’s always going to be awesome.  It’s the outside shit that can stand in the way.

Take a rip from the wizard bong and think about that, man.


A Time When I Thought I Broke My Neck, As Illustrated by MS Paint.

A couple of days ago I thought I almost broke my neck.  In reality it probably wasn’t even close, BUT I LOVE DRAMA and want to make it seem like I almost got hurt when actually this is a complete non-story.

I was thrown by a drop seoi nage by someone much, much shorter than me.  Not a child or a midget, but still pretty short.  If you don’t know, a  Drop Seoi Nage looks like this:

It looks cool, and the fall is surprisingly easy to take.  But like I said, my partner was much shorter than me (about a 18 inches) so things go complicated.  Let’s unleash the power of MS Paint. and break it down.

Figure 1

FIGURE 1: The Start. As this shows, my partner has entered in and is underneath me, starting the throw. Both of us are upright, with the arrows showing the orientations of our heads, and the dotted lines to show our trajectory. But as you may notice, the diameter of my opponent is muuuuuch smaller than mine, effectively shortening their turning/throwing radius. This will become important.

Figure 2

Figure 2: My head is now parallel to the ground, and I am being pulled up and over by my opponent. We have yet to enter into the crashing awkwardly phase. But that’s going to happen soon.

Figure 3

Figure 3: This is where things get tricky. My opponent’s tiny body allows them to start torquing me over sharply. However, I’m turning like a gentle wave breaking upon the shores of dreamland. My head is now at a forty five degree angle to the ground as my opponent begins the end game of trying to tuck their elbows in and accelerate me down to the mat.

Figure 4

Figure 4: Unfortunately for me, my gentle arc is cut short by the earth. If I was a little shorter, (or my opponent a little taller) our trajectories would be a little more simpatico and I would completely rotate through the throw into a nice gentle roll over my shoulder. Unfortunately, my partner is finishing up, while I’m still only about 75% done rotating. Thus landing right on my forehead. If I was smart I’d try to figure out the physics of how much force was exerted on my skull, but this is America and science isn’t important or relevant anymore. To put it in modern terms, “Shit hurt real bad and I thought I was fucked up.”

Figure 5

Figure 5: This part never actually happened. But if I died, would you come to my funeral? Do you ever think about who would come to YOUR funeral if you died? Sometimes I want to fake my own death just to find out.





My greatest fear in Jiu Jitsu?

Shitting my pants at practice or a tournament.  Either scenario has its pros and cons. Accidentally shitting yourself in practice means you’ll be forever known to your team mates as the guy who shit himself.  But paradoxically you’d be surrounded by people who would ostensibly support you through your ordeal.  Maybe they’d never bring it up again.  But it would always be lurking in the corner of your mind, a wet turd rotting away at the foundation of your confidence.

If it went down at a tournament, you could take comfort in the fact that you’ll probably never see most of those people again.  But only if you actively avoided competitions for the rest of your life.   Also, it’s a virtually certainty that it was captured on film somehow.  And there’s probably no way to kill that person who filmed it before they upload it to their tumblr, so that’s another mondo bummer.  You’d probably have to wear a wig to avoid getting stopped on the street after that shit winds up on Tosh.0.

I’ve never shit myself in either in those circumstances.  Knock on wood.  Maybe in an alternate universe I shit myself in my first class and never came back.  Maybe in another it happens every day and I’ve learned to deal with it.   I feel like I’ve pulled the best universe when it comes to not defecating all over myself and others in Jiu Jitsu.  So in that respect  I guess I should be thankful.



Awesome/Weird Places To Test Your Jiu Jitsu

Awesome: On top of a snow covered mountain, while the rest of your nomadic tribe watches.

Weird:  a gym that uses the world’s biggest Heath Bar as a mat.

Awesome:  A wizard’s lair.

Weird: Some intradimensional portal, fighting hideous pig men streaming into our reality.

Awesome: Hustler magazine’s secret underground fight club.

Weird:  Rolling atop the world’s largest mozzarella stick.

Awesome:  A No Escape style futuristic island prison, earning the respect of Ray Liotta and the other islander inmates.

Weird:  Al Yankovitch’s private fight club.

Awesome: Jesus (strong white guy carpenter version) any time, any place.

and Weird:  A time machine where you fight your dad on your 16th birthday, and realize he’s kind of a pussy.



Zen Lotion

I take public transportation to get to work with the rest of the dirty, howling masses. A couple of days ago, something interesting happened on the way there.

I take the express train to get me to the office.  On the stop I hop on, the express train usually pauses for about ten minutes, so there’s a bit of a wait after I inevitably rush to get on.  I’m sitting on a bench, and across the from me sits down a beefy middle aged white guy in a crew cut and passe’ little square sunglasses.  His boots have tiny little chains on them for more traction on ice and snow.

He’s drinking a Dunkin Donuts iced tea with lemon, and he puts the drink down on the seat next to him and takes off his parka.  He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt three sizes too small.  Which is weird because it’s a 15 degree snowy day in Philadelphia.  He takes out a travel sized bottle of Cocoa Butter and proceeds to slowly, lovingly lotion his arms, neck, face, hands, and shins for the next 15 minutes.  He did it in a very deliberate precise manner that seems to indicate he does this often.

All the while, I’m focused on his iced tea, afraid that if the train started, his tea would tip over and spill everywhere; making a big fucking mess for everybody. But this guy doesn’t care.  His sole focus is a thorough application of scented lotion to fight the winter itch.  I have to admire his singular focus and mindfulness.

“One thing at a time,” his bizarre behavior tells the world.  He’s gonna do it right the first time.

I think we can all learn a lot from the weirdo’s we encounter on trains.


Learnin’, Burnin’, and Turnin’

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is hard, both mentally and physically.

No doy.

Anyone who has ever stepped on a mat knows this. You get your ass kicked repeatedly with extreme prejudice, and your coordination sucks. Mostly because you simply don’t know what do, and how to process the conceptual framework of bjj.  My observation has been that most people struggle through the end of their white belts until they begin to realize that bjj is a system of movements, and that each submission, sweep, pass, etc. are all based on only a handful of core principles. Once those principles are grasped, learning becomes much more facile.  That’s why a brown/black belt can pick up new moves faster that beginners.  Simply because they realize that what they are learning are simply variations on a theme.

To use another example, it’s like learning how to have sex.  Sure, I was really bad at it when I started, but after a few years, by the time I was nine I really had the swing of things, and by 12 I had pretty much had the entire Kama Sutra at my disposal and command. All by discovering and applying the rules of eroticism. It’s just a matter of practice and mindset.

Now I don’t know if I’m a world class lover/ok bjj player because I understand these concepts, or that I understand these concepts because I’m a world class lover/ok bjj fighter.  I recommend you don’t think about that too hard because it’s a chicken/egg question and the metaphor doesn’t extend that far.

Hey man, I’m just throwing ideas out there. If you want sound logic go read Socrates.