Passing Thoughts No.1

What if part of the problem was that I only had one route? Once I was in Guard I only wanted to pass. What if there were other less direct ways. Like if you are in a car and you get stuck in traffic. You can't go forward but you could turn around and try a different route.

Another problem was that I only had one position that I lead to a submission in my strategy. If I had been confident in attacks from other positions then I possibly would not have focussed so much on that one route.

One solution would be to work on simple attacks from every position.

Euro dreaming

Flying back from Lisbon, I've had time to think and I still want to watch back the fight but it's honestly hard to say whether I am disappointed or not about my performance at the IBJJF European Championships this year. 

Last year on my first time out I didn't get a score at all. In some ways it was a more chastening experience but it was my first IBJJF competition and once I unpacked it I was able to realise that it was a good experience. That performance put me on a solid run throughout 2016.

This year my preparation was good, I flew back from Romania just under two months before the competition and worked with my Combat Academy team mates solidly throughout December and January. I felt strong and aware going in and my nerves were in check, probably thanks to the previous years performance.

Unlike last year I didn't research my opponent. I knew his name, Francisco Sanchez, and bar a very quick google search I didn't really look. In the pen it looked like he was getting sent back for an illegal gi and when they last called him I thought I might get a first round bye, however he made it at the death.

As I have not watch the fight my timeline is a bit shaky from here. I am going to try to break it down from memory.

Similar to last year the guy pulled to Half Guard and then Guard straight away. 

While I worked for standing pass and he moved to De La Riva he worked for a sweep but I managed to counter and avoid the full sweep but he jumped around for my back. I've been working a Deep Half Guard reversal from back so I wasn't too worried but I had to defend the choke and get under him while avoiding letting his hooks in. I should have tried to establish the Deep Half Guard and try to take some points here but instead I went straight for the reversal. The reversal worked but I lost an advantage. I also ended up back in his Half Guard.

0-1-0
0-0-0

From here he moved back to Full Guard and we got moved back to the centre. This time I looked for the Sao Paulo pass but I felt like my arm was in danger and he put his shin across so I bailed on the pass. 

After a bit of back and forth in his half guard I attempted to Gi wrap his arm. He used this to pop up into Triangle. I stacked and broke the triangle but then I passed the wrong side coming back into his Half Guard. He then worked a Worm Guard type grip and I gave up a sweep. I guess that is the most annoying point. I spent a year thinking about not getting swept but got caught with a similar sweep as last year.

2-1-0
0-0-0

From the sweep I got into Half and the Full Guard. I then worked his Gi out to hold his posture down and looked for Deep Half. As I rolled he went for the back but this time I managed to come out on top giving me the sweep and him an advantage and we were back in his Half Guard.

2-2-0
2-0-0

At the death I tried to force the pass by standing and he got a single leg but the timer was done so he just got the advantage. My thinking was to try and kick out but I was totally out of time and it ended.

2-3-0
2-0-0

Unfortunately I just could not force the pass from Half Guard throughout. I could hear my coach, Dave Coles, asking me to establish the half guard top but I was so focussed on trying to get the underhook that I didn't really register, which is super annoying as that might have got me an advantage or two. All that time in his quarter guard probably cost me the match so I have to look at that and force it more instinctively.

So. I did manage to get some things that I wanted working (a kind of deep half guard) I competition tested a few things that need more work (Sāo Paulo pass) and I got caught with something I know I need to work on (De la Riva). I learned some things, mostly if you get stuck in quarter guard switch to half guard top. Most of all I didn't feel outclassed at purple.

I'm not happy but it wasn't a disaster, feels like purgatory. It sucked being the first guy on the team not to win his first fight and I feel like I let Dave and the guys down a bit. I plan to do the Masters Euros and UK Masters, as well as a few others this year, so plenty of time to work on what I need to improve.

On the flip side I did get to watch my team mate Merv get bronze and that was just magic. That on top of Sam Bentley and Fraser Hackley getting Gold and Silver respectively in the white belt divisions made it a good trip.

Next year Lisbon... next year!

From survival to position

White belt survival

At white belt I was always proud to be known as 'that guy who is hard to submit'. Like most folks the key was to avoid submission by having a solid defence; spoiling games and having a solid system of clinging on until the buzzer went. I had submissions but they were employed mostly opportunistically rather than with an obvious set up. Regular competitions changed that for me as I needed to advance to win, but remnants of this game stuck about well into my first year at blue. 

Newquay 2015

The most obvious change was at Newquay in 2015. Competing in Blue Belt Masters Featherweight I met a really tough Mark Rowlett. As soon as we hit the ground I was on my back where I was least happy. As he looked to advance I reverted to my white belt tactics and switched to lockdown. Therein we spent a frustrating three and a half minutes of me clinging on. Obviously Mark won and I started to realise this tactic was limiting me.

Getting rid of half guard lockdown

I came back from Newquay disappointed. Sometimes the other guy is just better, but it wasn't that, it was that I was just clinging on in a bad position. I was hard to submit solely because I was doing nothing. It was time to kill the lockdown.

Half guard sweeps

Back at The Combat Academy I spoke to two of my team mates Liam Doverman and Emma Baker and asked them both for their favoured half guard offences. Then I drilled... and drilled... and drilled. I got to a place where I had options from. Like all new techniques I got smashed attempting them, I still do, but I slowly killed off my automatic lockdown response.

Deep half

Along the way I asked Ash Amos about Deep Half Guard. I was already playing a lot of Half Guard but seeing him use Deep Half and remembering team mates using it to great effect in Melbourne it started to click. Between Half Guard and Deep Half I now had the beginnings of a game where I was looking to gain and retain a guard which could lead to a better position.

Concusion - Tough is great but smart is better

I guess the takeaway from this is a pretty simple one. Tough is great but smart is better. My progress only really began in earnest when I realised that just surviving was not a sustainable tactic. Being hard to submit is great but opening yourself up and going for position is far more rewarding in the long run. I probably get submitted more in class now but I have objectives and positions that I am working towards and this makes BJJ far more fun and challenging. 

Fighting Myself, Heart Rate Monitoring in BJJ

I'm always interested in seeing if there is a way of informing my training and getting more out of it. To this end I started looking at Heart Rate Monitors and Heart Rate Variability while I was in Romania back in May. In all honesty the main thing I have discovered over the last three month is that I don't listen to advice! However it has given me some good insight.

Lets start with equipment. I started out using the HRV app's ability to track heart rate using the camera on my iPhone. This worked pretty well but I was curious to see if I could get more accurate data, I mean how accurate can it be if it is just using my phone camera. Add to this I could not track training data this way without stopping during training. So I bought the Wahoo TickrX this seemed like it was going to give me the ability to track my heart rate during training as well and, as it has memory, it would continue tracking if it lost signal from my phone.

Hairy Guy Problems

First problem came when I put the strap on the first time. I'm too darn hairy. Heart Rate Monitors actually work through the strap not the tracker itself and the strap needs contact with the skin all the time. When I first put it on I could not get a reading and I figured I might have a dud. Then I did some reading and a few people were mentioning that they had the same issue. Some suggested KY Jelly (or more expensive conductive gel) and others suggested shaving. I did buy the KY but after taking it to the club once I decided that it just looked too creepy so I went under the blade. So now I have a weird hairless strip under my pecs but better readings!

I also noticed that I got really odd readings from the HRV app in the mornings using the Wahoo TickrX. No matter how still I was it would jump between 45 bmp and 150 bpm. I still can't work out why, but I have now ditched using the Wahoo for HRV in the morning and gone back to the finger over camera method which is much more stable (the variation is between 45 bpm and 65 bpm).

All the data I have I have been uploading to the site on my Training Data Page.

Training Data Insight

So for training heart rate monitoring the Wahoo TickrX is great. It does sometimes come off due to an errant toe but in the main it gives me some good data to work with. It's early days but I can see that in most 90 minute sessions I stay below my burn rate between 10 and 15 minutes. Burn means my heart rate is below 144bpm and I am increasing my aerobic ability and forcing my body to burn fat as a fuel source. Apparently burning fat is good, so check one for training!

I also get into a burst mode where my heart is over 171 bpm for between 1 and 5 minutes over the same 90 minute training period. Burst mode is where my body is burning carbohydrate as the primary fuel source increasing my body's ability to buffer out lactic acid and prolonging my ability to sustain an uncomfortable pace. The burst mode directly correlates with sparring heavier or faster opponents. No huge surprises so far I hear you say. 

However when I compared a 90 minute training session to a 46 minute cycle there was some interesting stuff. Over 46 minutes cycling I was in burn for just over 10 minutes and I was in burst for over 13 minutes. So far I can't replicate this intensity in a BJJ training session but I presume this is because the cycle is constant exercise whereas the BJJ session, however hard, has breaks (drilling, partner changes, round times etc). The obvious take out is that if you want to increase your burst levels you probably want to do something that pushes you continously. This is particularly important if you are a competitive BJJ athlete as that burst mode will come into play during those wars and recovering between bouts.

Heart Rate Variability

Ok so now to the troublesome one. HRV is best used to inform how intensely you should train based on the concept that a nervous system that is reacting continually to change is working better than one that is less responsive. I am seriously over simplifying this but that is how I look at it.

The data tells me that I have a below average resting heart rate for my age and gender. I have above average level of recovery and heart rate variability. This is no huge surprise as I am in pretty good shape. The problem comes when I look at the recommendations that this data gives me. Often it will tell me to limit intensity or rest on days where I want to train. On other days it will recommend more intense training but I am having a rest day. 

Here we come to the crux of the problem. To really benefit from the data you need to collect it and then react accordingly. However if you are hell bent on self improvement in BJJ it is really hard to say, 'HRV is low, I'm going to have a day off' or you get called out by some beast in training and you say 'Nah, bro my HRV is low today'. So, I at the moment I am aware of the data but I am not using it correctly. On the other hand wearing a Heart Rate Monitor in training is giving me a good insight into how much effort I am putting into training and how I could push on further.

How hard should you train?

Finally, I was inspired to write this blog post after listening to the excellent Raspberry Ape Podcast by Daniel Strauss with Nick Gregoriades. During their conversation they got onto the topic of how much to train and Nick had a very different intensity to Daniel saying that he trained BJJ 3 times a week and Yoga 3 times in contrast to Daniel's 8 training sessions a week. I was chatting to one of my team mates and he mentioned that he had heard that Keenan Cornelius only spars twice a week and we both acknowledged that the Miyao brothers claim to be on the mats 7 hours every day. I guess that throws up the following questions; What is the optimal intensity of a BJJ training session? Should high level practitioners rest on days when they should as per other athletes? What could a rest day look like?

I guess I need to find out.

BJJ Progress

One of the things that fascinates me about BJJ is the concept of self improvement. So many people talk about their personal progression. I sometimes find this a bit hard to swallow because, I think, many people are basing their personal progress solely on their belt or medals. Now there is nothing wrong with this, I just think it is a bit subjective and, dare I say, sometimes a little arbitrary. There are people who are amazing, talented, committed and hard working and people who, let's be honest, are just persistent. 

It does not bother me. 

My personal view is to look at my progress I need to look at my progress critically and importantly support it with data (emphasis on 'my' here is important. As Kacey Musgraves would say Follow Your Arrow). Quite a few years back I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. It clearly had an impression on me because one of the things I started tracking early on in my training was number of hours trained. In my head I felt like if I could measure hours trained then I could slowly tick off the 10,000 hours that I would need to become an expert. Like a prison sentence! Recently I have started a new data set looking at my heart rate, but that's for another blog post.

I have just finished listening to the Freakonomics Podcast - How to Become Great At Just About Anything and if you are interested in how to improve performance I would suggest this is worth listening to. It sounds like Gladwell's 10,000 hours also needs to be tempered with a little more structure. In the show one prominent scientist in this area K. Anders Ericsson, who Gladwell cited in his book, suggests that the 10,000 hours is an attractive number but the key to expertise is in 'Deliberate Practice' which is later defined in the show as '...a very organized, canonized, or codified, way of working really, really hard.'

From this perspective it would suggest that expertise, and therefore progression, comes from continued repetition of ever more challenging drills. Ericsson says "Deliberate practice takes place outside one’s comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her current abilities.”

This does seem to suggest that drilling is key to progression. Yeah I said it, sorry Kit. Interestingly in the same podcast Ericsson says this; "...when you’re playing, there’s really no target where you’re actually trying to change something specifically and where you have the opportunity of repeating it and actually refine it so you can assure that you will improve that particular aspect." So the bit that we all LOVE of any class, the roll, is not the key to improvement. Sure it helps us pressure test but does specific or scenario training do the same thing? 

Does this mean that you could progress in Jiu-Jitsu by just drilling? Nope, I am not saying that but the research does seem to suggest that progress towards expertise hinges on constant increases in difficulty and repetition. Or to put it another way, to get good you have to drill often and when you do drill you should be drilling things that you find hard. Seems so obvious when you write it down...

I will be reading Ericsson's book though:
Peak - Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

Polaris Pro 3

First and most importantly...

Buy the Pay Per View here it is worth every penny! I have heard that some folks are getting a pirated version. If you do this, lose my number. If you can't pay £15 for 2 hours of non-stop action then you need to have a word with yourself. That's less than 13p a minute. Remember it's only through us (the community... that means you Cheeto fingers) paying for tickets and content that shows that this can run. If you want more... and I do, Pony up you douche.
https://www.polarisprolive.com/

A wee disclaimer

I could never be a sports journalist. If I am watching the action I can't take notes and if I am taking notes I can't watch the action. So really all that I can write about are the moments that stick with me. Luckily for me Polaris Pro 3 had a few of these. So this is not a play by play review but just an overall consideration of the event and some of the action in it. 

A few of the Combat Academy team and I headed from Hereford down to Poole, which, for the record, is not Liverpool as one of the team found out as we were driving! On the way there was the usual chat about Jiu Jitsu and BJJ lifestyle. I love these car journeys because you begin to understand your team mates more. There is a genuine closeness that you get from training together but often it is not balanced with any knowledge of the person... Probably another blog post there to be honest.

Venue and Seating

The venue was easy to find. The carpark was HORRIBLE to drive around but it was right next to the venue and although we were totally unsure of whether our parking ticket covered our stay it was not expensive. 

When we did get inside we realised we had awesome seats. We were in the bleacher style Choir Stalls right on top of the mats. Seriously we could not have had better seats, however we could only see the back of the big screen, which was a shame as we could not see any of the interstitials or live footage... was their live footage... I presume there was. Still good seats and great venue.

Prelims

Watch the Prelims FOR FREE here: https://youtu.be/EpoLdtUyHTM

It was great to see some folks who I have seen on the UK competition scene over the last year. The first fight with Alain Pozo and Micah Aitkenson was won by Alain via heel hook and that kinda set the tone for the entire show, leg spaghetti. The downside of all this leggy stuff seemed to be a bit of difficulty imposing wins. The fights were exciting but genuinely difficult to win as there were long of periods of one fighter trying to untangle themselves. Now, if you were on top of the action like we were you will have seen how close some of the submission attempts were but I'll admit if you were at the back of the hall you might have needed that big screen.

That said the Keith McKenzie and Jeff Lawson fight in particular was full of action. I was a bit sad to see Jeff lose as I had watched him battle through to take third in the Europeans after breaking his finger in the first round. I shook his hand at the Euros simply because he embodied the best spirit of BJJ by just fighting on. At Polaris he was similarly gutsy and only lost in the final seconds.

The prelims were not without drama either. The final fight in with Ben Dyson vs Travis Newaza saw a what sounded like, from where we were, a verbal tap reversed. Ben Dyson hit his head as Travis applied a beast of a toe hold and the referee imposed an injury time out. While Ben went on to win, I had the winner as Travis in that one. One to argue over in your own time I suppose.

Fortune Favours the Bold

The main card was pure drama all the way. From Joao Miyao and Gezary Matuda's constant attacking to Gianni Grippo's technical grip work it was all fascinating stuff and, courtesy of our great seats it felt like we were right on the mats. 

Interestingly it seemed there were two camps. Which is almost mirrored in the Jiu Jitsu competition scene at the moment. On one side you have a more traditional approach that says that you should defend first and foremost and on the other you have a newer school that says that you should always be looking for the submission. It's a wide ranging debate but it means that we have Sport Jiu Jitsu with a points system that rewards control positions and a growing Submission Only scene.

This, I think lead to the sheer number of draws because in most of the fights we had high level fighters, one person attacking and the other consistently defending. Now if you are both near the top of your game this should even out because only of you is risking defeat (the attacker). Still it lead to compelling watching none the less, not dissimilar to watching someone try to open an oyster with their bare hands. 

However it was really the last two fights that coloured the whole evening. AJ Agazarm vs Jake Shields was a sher show stopper with both fighters being aggressive from the start and engaging in a fair amount of foul play. Whatever you thought of either fighter beforehand the fight itself, when it wasn't being stopped for slapping, was very entertaining with plenty of back and forth.

If you look at this fight in particular, objectively you have to say that Submission Grappling needs antagonistic fighters because we need to stay emotionally engaged. I am pretty sure AJ knows this and is happy with his place in the ecosystem because, as long as he keeps antagonising opponents, he is going to keep getting offered fights because that is what he brings. He's exciting and annoying in equal measure and he has the ability to make a traditional villain, like Jake Shields look like a hero. If you don't get that this is part of AJ's strategy you probably believe in rivalries in WWE. 

Finally the Main Event where Garry Tonon was to take on Rousimar ‘Toquinho’ Palhares. This was the fight where we all felt that someone might be going home with a leg. Again we had a villain in Palhares and a hero in Tonon. When Palhares took off his top I think most people pretty much felt like he was just going to snap Garry in half. But where the previous fight was ill tempered this one was just full of action. For every technical attack Tonon put on Palhares had an equal and often dramatic defence. Garry was in the air and on the ground and it was, at times, like watching a wolf fight a bear. High drama indeed and at the end no one felt short changed. It was pure theatre and the kind of fight that needed to be a draw so that we got the full 15 minutes of action. 

Conclusion

What a time to be part of Jiu Jitsu. It's vibrant growing in student numbers and expanding in techniques. Submission Only events are definitely an important part of the scene and in Polaris the UK has an event that can compete on the world stage alongside Eddie Bravo's EBI (http://www.eddiebravoinvitational.com/). It is exciting, well run and worth. every. penny. I can't wait to see more.

Again... Go buy it if you have not already. https://www.polarisprolive.com/

REVIEW: XBRAIN HMB & ZM-B6

After my first care package from XBrain I asked them for some advice. We had a chat about my needs as an athlete and they came back with some suggestions. Now, when I first contacted XBrain it was because they had Onnit products and I was keen to get a sponsor that would allow me access to these products. Naturally XBrain were keen for me to try their own brand so when they suggested HMB ad ZM-B6 I was a bit curious. I have been taking both for a couple of months now and I have noticed some benefits so I felt it was time for a review.

HMB

http://www.xbrain.co.uk/xbrain-products/performance-line/xbrain-hmb

So during training (especially Jiu Jitsu), muscles get damaged, causing muscle protein to break down. I read that HMB, the attractively named hydroxyl beta methyl butyrate, a metabolite of leucine (a branched-chain amino acid), helps prevent protein breakdown. I knew that taking protein and amino acids as part of your supplement regime can help replace lost protein, and build more. Since Australia I have been taking BCAA's after every session, on the recommendation of a team mate (Shout out to Jimmy!). I REALLY noticed the difference from taking BCAA's. I found that my muscles were less sore and I got less little niggling muscle injuries.

According to various sources the presence of HMB signals muscle cells to preserve your existing muscle, thereby promoting additional muscle growth and faster muscle development and recovery. 

RESULTS

I have been taking two HMB tablets before every training session for over a month, I train between 5 and 6 times a week. To my shame I have not been tracking muscle growth, which I should. However anecdotally my wife has pointed out that I have been getting bigger and a couple of training mates have mentioned that I seem stronger.

Mostly I have noticed that I am less fatigued and, barring stupid wrist injuries, I feel pretty strong. This is all without actually increasing my training or particularly working on strength and conditioning. In the run up to the British Open in May it should be interesting to see what happens as I push myself a bit harder but at the moment it is a tick for HMB.

ZM-B6

http://www.xbrain.co.uk/xbrain-products/xbrain-zm-b6

I don't know if it is because I am a bit older or if it is just hereditary but I get restless legs. It's a REAL pain, especially at night. So I was already taking a magnesium supplement which is one of the possible ways of relieving RLS. Naturally I was pretty happy to be trying out a supplement that contained this mineral. 

Zinc I knew was something that helps with your immune system, which is always good, and B6 I found out helps with the conversion of glycogen to glucose. Lost? Well it seems that glucose (one of the many sugar molecules - sucrose, fructose, lactose... yup all sugars!) is not stored in the body per se. Instead it is converted to glycogen and stored. Then when the energy in glucose is needed, mostly through aerobic or anaerobic respiration (I'm rapidly getting out of my depth), B6 helps with the conversion. Ok, once again, I am not a nutritionist, I am just curious about how things can help me improve myself feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

Results

First and foremost I have had far fewer attacks of restless legs. Which is great. Also my energy levels are up significantly during training. Again I don't have a specific measure but I do feel like I have more energy and someone asked me what my wife was feeding me. I struggle to meaningfully measure energy however I am trying a new measurement using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) that I am hoping might give me a bit more insight. I'll let you know how that goes.

RATINGS

Taste: N/A (They are both pills...)
Effectiveness: 8/10
Ease of Use: 10/10

NB. One of my training partners has decided to try out these supplements so I am going to find out how he fares with them. 

The Jiu Jitsu Gods' Revenge

Give a little respect...

100% no sh*t I was thinking about how to start this post in the shower and when I stepped out Erasure - Respect was on the radio. It's a sign from the Gods!

So much about Jiu Jitsu (and Martial Arts training in general) is about respect. You have to respect your body; stretch, warm up, warm down, eat well, take supplements. You have to respect yourself; tap early and often, push yourself to your limits. You have to respect your coach; listen, really listen and follow advice. You have to respect your opponent; appreciate their strengths and show respect in victory or defeat. You have to respect your training partners; it's not the Mundials every night, go at an appropriate speed, push each other and don't try to kill each other.

I've always loved the respect part of training. Because I like the mental discipline it takes to follow, also if you are respectful you start to make meaningful relationships in your training. If I am being honest, I'll also admit that I am also not very good at all of it. Which means I need to constantly remind myself of it's importance. 

I'm a believer!

When I started this blog I wanted to be totally honest so that it becomes a record for me to use to improve myself. That means the good and the bad. Last night at training the Jiu Jitsu Gods* punished my hubris. I went too hard with a training partner and during the roll felt a pain in my wrist. Now it's not too bad, and I will be able to strap it and train, however it is a reminder because I could have gone easier, I made some poor decisions and they directly lead to the injury. Luckily I injured myself and not my training partner. 

So, reminder to self: Respect your training partners!

*As with all religions it can be easier to blame a higher power but to be honest the fault usually sits with the individual. 

English Open NoGi 2016

We drove all night...

Ok, so we didn't drive ALL night but Luiza didn't finish work until 2130 so we were on the road late and what with a diversion on the way and some roadworks we didn't get to the Premier Inn in Dartford until 0045. So it was straight to bed. Luckily I was not fighting until 1345 so I was able to sleep in a bit. 

English Open

http://www.englishbjjopen.co.uk/

I have to say that I love the Dartford Judo Club for events and I really like the English Opens as competitions. The two I have been to have been smoothly run and if you are going to get thrown a sprung Judo mat is what you want to get thrown on to. Registration was super smooth and, amazingly, I managed to get a event t-shirt in small (usually I end up with XXL, which, you can imagine is pretty pointless). Oddly they didn't call our weigh in until the very last second so Marc, Ivo and I were all warming up when there was a 'very urgent call' for us to weigh in...

Fight 1: Marc Thompson

https://youtu.be/5vqgiQuaHng

Marc proved to be pretty strong in stand up, from the point of view that he didn't offer any openings. Later he told me he was also a Judoka and he showed me a nice tactic for keeping wrestling grips off him. Seriously, pushing his arms was like pushing on tree branches. That said I did manage to get over the top of him but then screwed up my drag down and he got a deserved two points doing a decent leg grab. I was pretty annoyed with myself on that one but I tried to stay calm and play my game. Once I had calmed down I managed to get a sweep from half guard and then get things back on my own terms finishing with Rear Naked Choke. 

Fight 2: Ivo Ganchev

https://youtu.be/AT8O7bHlkH8

I'd fought Ivo before at Kleos in High Wycombe however I knew that on that day he'd been well under weight (he fights at Light Feather) and not feeling great. He was a lot more relaxed in the stand up than Marc and as a consequence it was easier to get closer but I could not really get a decent underhook. Once I did get over the top of him he sat back and then I spent a fair amount of time dealing with his half guard due to my habit of trailing my rear leg (Note to self; must drill more!). My last match with Ivo went to points and this one was pretty similar as he was really stubborn in defence, constantly moving and altering his angles. I did hear the corner shout '30 seconds' and put a push on at the end and managed to get a Rear Naked Choke with a couple of seconds to go.

Summery

All in all it was a good competition. Both Marc and Ivo are really nice guys who I really appreciate competing against. I love the venue and the organisation and I'm looking forward to going back in November for the English Open Gi. I'm pretty happy with my NoGi game but I've got plenty to work on. Next up is the British Open Gi! 

 

Fight Week: English Open NoGi 2016 - Saturday

The Day Before

So as usual I have been monitoring my weight and it's gone pretty well. I had a fright yesterday when I got my new NoGi shorts and they weigh 200g more than my previous ones. This means I need to be a bit more careful today but I am sitting under 67kg on my morning weigh ins. On the plus side I have had a chance to to my favourite preparation routine where I go to the sauna, hence the photo. 

How I cut weight...

So first off I believe the trick to staying on weight is not to blow up in the first place. If you monitor your weight by weighing yourself every morning and then knowing how heavy you need to be for competition you can avoid needing to run around a sportshall wrapped up like Matthew Modine in Vision Quest. If you do go over then you will know and you can react accordingly. 

However if you are cutting weight I find that the best method is to head to a sauna the day before. This morning I weighed in at 66.6kg, which is great but I know I am carrying fluid so I headed to the sauna and did five minutes in the sauna followed by a cold shower then five minutes in the steam room followed by a cold shower. Repeat this for an hour and boom! I now weigh 65.5kg. Now, obviously I need to rehydrate but I can do that slowly and I can use the rehydration process to replace a meal by drinking diluted coconut milk or a very watery smoothie with some additional supplements. Today I am trying diluted coconut milk and Onnit Earth Grown Nutrients.

Final preparation

First up is my research. The final brackets came out on Friday and I have Marc Thompson first round. Ivo Ganchev has a bye in the first round but I figure it's basically a round robin so I need to get two wins for Gold. I have done a bit of research on both but there are no real recent videos. Ivo came second in the Gi at Light Feather at the English Open 2015 and Marc is ranked number 3 senior blue belt. There is a video of Marc fighting at the Hereford Open in 2015 as a white belt and I have fought Ivo before so I have a little bit of insight, but more importantly I now have un-demonised them in my head which I like to do.

Next I need to cut my hair and beard, pack my bag, tidy the house and do some work. The hair and beard are part of my ritual as I like to feel prepared. The other things are just to take my mind off tomorrow and try to relax. Luiza and I are driving down after she finishes work tonight so I might need a nap in the afternoon but I am not fighting until 1345 so I can sleep in a bit and I rested well last night. 

Fingers crossed.

Fight Week: English Open NoGi 2016 - Thursday

Midweek Update

Ok, so mid week and my weight is down and holding nicely. Tuesday sucked a bit as I needed to eat almost nothing and still train but I am now sitting at a very healthy 66.5kg and the wife has prepared loads of really healthy food for the run into the competition. including the following delights:

Hemp Protein Bars

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2011/07/totally-baked-hemp-protein-granola-bars-2/

Samoa Smoothie Bowl

https://www.onnit.com/academy/samoa-smoothie-bowl-recipe/

Who will I be fighting?

So after seeing Marc Thompson move up weight mid week I thought I might end up in Masters 1 but the provisional listing has come out and both he and Ivo Ganchev are in my category. Hopefully there will be a round robin system so we all get a chance to fight each other. Whatever happens Liam and Pat will be there and I am really looking forward to the competition. I am travelling down on Saturday and have a hotel booked, if I am really lucky the wife will be my co-pilot, however that might mean leaving Hereford at 2100... Still it looks like I am not fighting until 1345 so it's not all bad.

New Rashie and Shorts!

I decided that I needed IBJJF legal kit for this competition so I invested in the a ranked rashguard from Faixa Rua and new shorts from Aesthetic. These are both small UK based companies so I am pleased to be supporting them, although I will 100% bet the apparel will have been made in China or Pakistan... but that's for another blog post. I got the Faixa Rua rashguard through my team mate, the Chocolate Pig, Ash Amos who is sponsored by them. The guys from Aesthetic were SUPER responsive via email so I really hope the kit is good as I really liked how they handled my request... on a Sunday!

Faxia Rua - Ranked Rashguard

http://www.faixarua.co.uk/shop/product.php?id_product=13

Aesthetic - Patterned Shorts

https://fightaesthetic.com/collections/no-gi-compression/products/patterned-fight-shorts

I'll do a review of both when the shorts arrive and after the competition.

 

Fight Week: English Open NoGi 2016 - Monday

Mothers Day!

Darned Mothers Day! I had my weight nice and low and I was in good shape to just eat sensibly throughout the week this week. Then Mothers Day came along and I succumbed to a tasty pizza with the family and now I need to cut down by 500g. It's not a lot but psychologically its a pain as I was all set.

In other news I am not sure who I will be fighting. All last week I was pretty sure I would be fighting Marc Thompson from Carlson Gracie but I see he's moved up a weight class. That said there is only one person in his weight class and one person in the weight class below so who knows. There are five in Master 1 so I might be asked to go down an age, or perhaps I will need to go up one to fight Marc, or Ivo Ganchev from Mill Hill who I fought at Kleos last November might be asked to step up into Master 2... I will wait and see.

I did research Marc as I usually do so I have an idea of who I will be facing. I like to see who I am going to fight beforehand, not really to see how they fight, but just to get a sense of what they look like, otherwise I build them up into massive demons in my head. 

Training went well tonight. Good to be sparring with Merv again as he's SUPER tough and I find I have to work from the bottom a lot. I took some positives away but there are some niggles about some of my usual issues with passing half guard. Still I have plenty to try on Sunday to see what sticks.

How do you measure Jiu Jitsu training progress?

The obvious answer is by the belts but as we all know you can’t talk about your belt. Alternatively you could talk about competition wins, but what about that guy in the gym who is a killer but never competes?

I recently read Tim Ferris’s The 4-hour Body and what intrigued me was the notion of needing to have a baseline and then measure improvement. In Tim’s book he uses measurements to understand progress. So if you want to measure muscle mass, first you measure the bicep then you work out for a month and then you measure the bicep again and boom, progress (hopefully). 

Confessions of a data nerd...

Ok, so I am a graphic designer to pay for my Jiu Jitsu habit and by far and away my favourite designer is Nicholas Felton. I have always loved how he collects and communicates data and that has always inspired me to track everyday data with the aim of using it for interesting things. Obviously, most of the time, these things are only interesting to me... Seriously I once did a talk that included graphs explaining my daily underwear choices for a month.

For the record I already track my weight, but I tell myself this is more a check against blowing up between competitions. This REALLY helps because, after 30 (ish), your metabolism slows down and you can’t smash beer and burgers and still expect to stay under 70kg. So a simple weight check every morning and I know where I am at from day to day. No competition day weigh in panic for me!

I track my competition record which is a great for setting goals. I don’t track the type of submission, perhaps I should and I really like Jack Burrell’s data on this. I do track, wins, losses and wether it’s points or submission.

Finally I track the number of days and hours I have trained. For ease of use I use a bit of a formula to make it automatically update so I admit it is a bit approximate, but I try to be honest if I miss a session and take that time out of the spreadsheet. Re-reading Jack's profile I see he does the same, which is heartening (because I think he's a good person to look up to in the sport... I've not met him but I have watched him fight and he also seems like a decent bloke).

The Plan

As you can see, it makes total sense to me to track data but the challenge is first working out what I want to improve and then building a way to measure it. To go back to the original question ‘How do you measure Jiu Jitsu training progress?’ I realise need to break down my training into what I want to achieve for myself through this sport. 

Primarily I want to continually improve my mental and physical wellbeing. I also want to gain understanding and mastery of the techniques I am taught.

So I am going to try the following:

  • To improve my wellbeing I am going to look for some way of tracking my heart rate during training. This should give me a decent idea of my training work rate and something to try to continually improve.

  • To improve my muscle memory I am going to devise a more formal personal program of drills of which I will measure the number of repetitions I can do within a timeframe. This should give me a solid idea of how efficent drilled movements are.

Ok, now I have a plan. I just need an indistructable heart rate monitor and some spreadsheets. Look out for the data coming on this site real soon

Review: XBrain PreCharged

Disclosure:
XBrain are my sponsor so they send me products to use and review for free. The views are my own and I only review the items I think make a difference to my training.

http://www.xbrain.co.uk/precharged-pre-workout-super-fuel

Heads Up

This is my first product review so bear with me a bit on this because I might need to explain some things about myself along the way so that you can see where I am coming from. 

Wha...?

Ok, admission, I don't... wait, didn't use preworkout. When I spoke to XBrain initially about sponsorship it was because I have been a religious user of Onnit ShroomTech and AlphaBrain they are the UK's exclusive distributor for Onnit products. When we first spoke I asked the team for supplement advice and they said they would send me some things to try. My first package contained PreCharge preworkout. Honestly, I was a bit stumped. I put it in my suppliments cupboard with those things that I have bought and don't use. 

Early Morning Call

Before the IBJJF Europeans one of my Combat Academy team mates Pat Baker asked me if I would do some strength and conditioning with him. The only snag was that he wanted to do it at 0800 in the morning. I am not a natural early riser so I needed an extra boost. I remembered that I had the PreCharge kicking about and that it had Caffeine in it. I mixed up a batch and fired it down. It was not unpleasant tasting but noticeably it is not super sweet. I use a BCAA drink during and post training normally and it is ridiculously sweet and chemically, however I persist with it, as all other BCAA drinks I have tried have made me nauseous. 

Dosing

When I first got the product it had a sticker on the lid that had dosing requirements on it. I wanted to take a picture of the packaging so I ripped that off (see previous note about not using preworkout). Therefore the first three or four mornings I just guessed the dosing. It had a pretty big scoop so I just used a whole one. OOOF! On the plus side I was awake, but I did feel like I had been strapped to a rocket. On the flip side, despite overdosing slightly, it delivered more BCAA's than I was currently using without making me want to hurl. So, plus one for no nausea, minus one for being more awake than I ever have been. After a few days of being a bit too wide eyed I read the side and reduced the dose back to 18g. Much better.

Noticeable Effects

I found the effects, like a very very strong coffee, I could focus on a single task really well. So much so that I started using it for evening sessions where my coach was explaining techniques. I also noticed an increase in my energy levels during sparring. Not that dissimilar to other legal stimulants, I would find colours a bit brighter as the supplement kicked in, which like the itch, I took as a sign of it working, which I like. 

What's that Itch?

The first morning as I drove to training I noticed I was itchy. Minor panic ensued as I checked for a rash (because I do BJJ and to be honest we spend a fair amount of time rolling about on the floor). It wasn't debilitating and I just focussed on training. I did note it and then look it up online. It seems that preworkout supplements are often high in Beta Alanine and Vitamin B3. These cause 'Paresthesia' which sounds scary but in preworkouts is pretty common and is harmless at preworkout doses. To be totally honest it worried me until I looked it up and then I came to welcome it as it was a sign of the supplement working.

You can read a bit more about the Beta Alanine and Vitamin B3 here:
http://bodybuildingforbeginnerstips.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-2-ingredients-in-pre-workout.html

Conclusion

I honestly was disappointed when this ran out. It had become part of my routine and because of the BCAA's in it I had ditched my 'during and post' BCAA drink in favour of just plain water. Overall I found it a good supplement which I would definitely use again for the focus element and BCAA content...

Did I mention I am a HUGE fan of BCAA's? I should probably write about them... 

Ratings

Taste: 6/10
Effectiveness: 8/10
Ease of Use: 8/10

 

 

 

 

Morning Rituals

I guess the best place to start this blog is how I start my day. It seems like such an uncomplicated subject but it has taken me a year or so to get this in place. It is probably the only thing that I don't really play with much and I'll explain why.