Thursday, 29 January 2009

Helio Gracie 1913-2009

Grandmaster Helio Gracie

I had to post something here today. This morning, one of the creators of the form of the art that I practice and think about every day died at his home in Brazil.

There are many alive today that call themselves "Grandmaster" and many in the past that have been lauded as such, but Helio was genuinely a legend that took a form of martial art and moulded it, refined it to become a phenomenon that forced all serious martial artists too look at the effectiveness of their systems.

Pick up any book on BJJ, or google his name and there are stories and legends of how Helio pioneered significant developments in an already efficient system and created a legacy.

I do not intend to cover old ground here but just wanted to pay tribute to a man that had a lasting effect on martial arts and the lives of all of us who practice his, and his family's incarnation of Jiu Jitsu.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Who ate all the pies?!

Well, we’re just approaching the end of January 2009. Unbelievable. A belated happy new year to you all and I hope you had a great Christmas.

I really enjoyed Christmas this year. Immediately before Christmas I was suffering with a pretty bad cold – mainly a cough, but this cleared up just in time for me to enjoy my Christmas dinner! Having been ill with colds for the best parts of Oct, Nov and Dec I decided to take advantage of the break and do absolutely no training and I think it was just what the doctor ordered…I returned after Christmas feeling much healthier…although also much heavier! More on that in a moment.

One of the great presents I got, which I had hoped for, was a set of Bodylastics. You may remember me talking about these in a previous post. These are a great set of graded rubber tubes with fittings for resistance training. Having seen Dean’s demonstration of how these can be used to practice Jiu Jitsu movements just about anywhere there’s a door, I knew these would be a really useful thing to have. Besides that, there are a whole range of resistance exercises you can perform. They all fit into a tidy little pouch which means that you can take them anywhere. I don’t do loads of travelling, but for anyone that travels for work and can’t always find a gym, I’d say that they have to be an essential item in your luggage.

So after a couple of weeks’ rest, too much food and some illness I returned to training. It was great to be back and the ideal antidote to being back at work. There’s a renewed passion in many of the guys in the club and I get the feeling that 2009 is going to be a great year for everyone in the club so long as we can maintain what we have now. There’s a Saturday session again too, which is a great way to spend a few hours at the weekend. Here’s a quick rundown of the stuff we’ve been doing (more for my purposes):

- A cool variation on the guillotine choke – as the opponent comes forward, guide his head with hand and grab under chin, trapping the pack of his head under your armpit/shoulder. Place the “mound” of your thumb to the back of the chin (above the Adam’s apple) and twist up and into the base of the tongue. This (forgive my anatomical knowledge if I’m wrong) appears to close the Epiglottis over the Glotis (the same action as happens when you swallow food). It simply cuts of air at the source and is far less gnarly than the usual guillotine and easier to get.
- From the knees: creating space – rising up to tempt opponent in to mid-rift, rock back on to toes, fall back projecting your butt to create distance and bringing opponent off balance to create several opportunities for advancement/submissions.
- From standing: opponent jumps to guard, control base and posture, defend space and grips, breaking guard and pass (opponent under hips)
- Revision on Mount escapes: Elbow escape, upa (main point bringing other elbow into play) and practicing these with good movement and adapting between the two depending on opponent’s position.
- From standing (self defence): Defend punch (hair comb), clinch, step in for hip throw, or take back for lift from rear (important to get hips under).

More recently we’ve been revisiting many of our basic movements – teeter-totter, shrimp etc and engagement of the core – this is great stuff to do again and again and get ingrained – it makes such a difference to the movement and flow of Jiu Jitsu.

I’ve managed to get back to the gym too, which is great. I have lost some fitness, but not below what I would consider my minimum acceptable level, so that’s good. Just before Christmas, I moved to a new office, which has showers, so I’ve also started to run at lunchtimes which I also hope will make a difference (by the way, I've found a great little tool for mapping runs/walks and it does so much more at Yoga continues too and I can feel myself getting stronger in the poses all the time. All this and 2/3 Jiu Jitsu sessions a week and hopefully (colds permitting!!) I’ll soon be back in shape. This year I really want to get down to 15 stone. For some that’s heavy, but for me it’s a good, healthy weight. Right now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and I’ve got to reverse the slide, for health, for my kids and not least, to make my Jiu Jitsu better!

This goal has received an excellent boost by Dean seeming to have taken me on as a project. He’s taken my goal on of getting me down to 15 stone by mid-year and this is just great motivation for me. Now, for all of you that can just eat well and train hard, great for you…me, I need some external motivation. Way back when, it was the RAF, last year it was the Blue belt, now I’ve got my instructor putting his faith and confidence in me to do this. After a Saturday session at about 6 p.m. I got a call from Dean checking that I wasn’t eating any carbs after 6, but mainly to let me know how I’m doing in training. This was unexpected, but this was the turning point for me from vaguely hoping I could lose weight to actually making a commitment that I am actually going to do it. Same again this week – Saturday night a phone call from Dean - “a weekly motivational call” and it was. I don’t need any motivation to train, but to keep on the straight and narrow food wise…another story. And it works! I’ve spent the last week or so eating tons more fruit and veg than normal, and actually enjoying it…enjoying being healthy and enjoying that it’s got to be a good thing for me. Weight loss? I don’t know….time will tell but I’m staying away from the scales until I can see a difference.

Thanks Dean – I will do this...and if anyone else sees me sneaking contraband, you gotta slap me.

On to a couple of other things that have caught my attention in cyberspace this month. Firstly, an interview on the Fightworks Podcast with Rickson. It was great to hear some recent thoughts from Rickson, especially with the focus being Jiu Jitsu. So many of his interviews are taken down the route of MMA, which is old news, so it was nice to hear him talk about where he wants to take his art and about his seminars that he has been doing. Worth a listen.

The other thing that I’ve been checking out is a blog called Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood. There are so many blogs out there that it’s hard to see them all. This one is written by Nicolas Gregoriades who is, I believe, a Black Belt under Roger Gracie. It’s a great blog and one that very much mirrors many of the aspects of Jiu Jitsu that Dean espouses and that I feel. Definitely worth a read.

Got to go – I hope this year works out well for anyone reading this. I hope you stay healthy and achieve your goals. I’m hoping to be able to find time to put up a few more related articles this year and some reviews to add a bit of variety to the blog, so I please keep checking back for the latest.

All the best.