The inaugural issue of Jiu Jitsu Style, the UK’s first dedicated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu print publication, hit ‘stands’ today. I had the great honour of being involved with the first issue, to which I contributed an interview with Marc Walder for the cover piece and an article on BJJ for self defence; both pieces are beautifully illustrated with pictures by Fighters in Focus. Callum Medcraft, the mag’s progenitor, has put together a stunning publication and it really raises the bar for national and international martial arts periodicals in its professionalism and polish. The JJS team has worked with British-based BJJ-writers such as Seymour Yang aka Meerkatsu and Can Sönmez aka slideyfoot and fulfills the brief to represent and cater to the UK Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community in superb fashion. Not only is the design, layout and content of the mag of excellent quality, even the paper is A-grade; this mag is a class act (yeah, I’m biased, but seriously it rocks!). Go here to order your single mags or a £23/year subscription; JJS will also shortly be available as a digital subscription from iTunes!
It has become clear from popular representations of open hand combat that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and grappling are becoming a stronger part of the mainstream consciousness. Surely, the popularity of the UFC and MMA more widely and the fundamental importance of grappling skills for this arena has influenced this, and while portrayals of fighting still emphasise ‘flash’, there is greater and greater use of more practical ‘smash’ via BJJ and grappling arts in these representations, for instance the cobra choke in Inception. While ground and pound to a rear choke is increasingly apparent in popularised representations of fighting on television and the big screen, it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, rare to see women showcasing grappling skills in fight-fantasies (and let’s leave surrender of an ‘ultimate’ nature to one side – keep it clean, people!).
There are popular representations of female grappling, however, and I was very excited by the overhead sweep to mount/ground-n-pound in Lady Gaga’s Telephone video; I friggin’ LOVE that sweep! The most recent pop culture representation of women’s grappling is Britney Spears’ doppleganger cat fight in her Hold It Against Me video in which she attempts to RNC herself (yes, the technique is atrocious, but that’s not really the point here). So, as far as I know, Ms Spears is the first A-list – is she still A-list? – female celebrity to go all BJJ, albeit within the context of some crazy kung fu mania, and thus marks some sort of milestone of yet indeterminate connotations for women in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Can you offer an earlier popular representation of a woman practicing BJJ? Comment below!
Julia ‘Jiu-Jiu’ Johansen writes a lovely BJJ blog, which she began in the summer of 2010 when she met BJJ and fell head over heels. I first ran across Julia’s tales of a BJJ grrl in Korea with this open-hearted tale of her first BJJ competition and have enjoyed her posts ever since.
Julia’s most recent (super cute) post, Your BJJ Nickname, has a great thread of comments on readers own nicknames and Julia’s hunt for an appropriate alias. I noted that my nickname is ‘Megatron’ as my name is Meg and my team mates consider me and my game (I suppose) ‘tronic’. Julia, a self-professed Sci Fi Fanatic and Geek Grrl Extraordinaire, shared with me:
Your nickname is a badass leader of the Decepticons in Transformers … Plus, you come in standard mode and BATTLE MODE!
Holy H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks! Standard mode and battle mode? Now we’re talking! I normally consider myself a Soldier of the Light, or at least I try to keep my dark side in check, but I can’t say I’m not psyched by my fellow Megatronian’s chimeric qualities!
So, what’s your BJJ nickname? Why not shoot on over to Julia’s blog, leave a comment, and help her create a name with just the right balance of sassy and sweet.
In 2009 I attended a seminar with Carmen Janke. I was a few months into my blue belt at the time and while I had respectable offensive success against females of my size and skill level and, on rare occasions, against big male noobs, I was all about survival and escaping against the (almost always) bigger and stronger dudes I train with at Dartford BJJ. Carmen, who also weighs in around 60 kilos, said something that day that struck me and has stuck with me: ‘I really didn’t develop my offence until purple belt’. Snap!
Since mid-2010, as I got closer to purple belt, I began to see green shoots of an improved offensive game and over the three months since my purple belt promotion areas of my offence have really started coming together. Let me quantify what I mean by that. My goal is offensive success against larger, stronger and more powerful opponents, ultimately of my own skill level. For me, evidence of an improved offence is consistent success versus a wide range of heavier, stronger novices. While this may not sound like much to those who had offensive success when white belts, themselves, this has been a long journey for me as a smaller ‘out gunned’ player, so it is a significant step forward in my personal jits journey. I attribute the evolution of my offence to a convergence of several factors: very good instruction, dogged persistence, improved self-belief and the re-introduction of both no gi and BJJ basics/self defence into my weekly training regime.
I have been focussing on my triangle for 12-18 months. In particular, I’ve been refining my ‘shoulder walking’ and transitioning from the triangle to an arm bar/inverted arm bar. I am cracking this on folks of all different sizes now, rarely on people of greater size and similar skill, but reliably on much larger opponents of lesser skill; while I’ve been able to survive and escape from less experienced big ‘uns for some time, it is a recent development to regularly submit opponents with a 20-50 kilo weight advantage. I’m pumped!
From the beginning I have been taught defence first. A basic delineation of the early belts in my Academy is survival at white belt, escape at blue belt. That’s your job. Coach has been assuring me over the years that, with time, I would gain enough confidence in my defence to being to dismantling opponents with my offence. Don’t get me wrong! I still tap like River Dance and I’m not ashamed of that, but, I foil enough attacks and escape enough uncomfortable positions to feel that I have a solid defence, a defence which can now serve as the backbone of an emerging offence.
When I write that I have been working on my triangle combos for some months now I mean trying it in sparring against every sort of opponent regardless of how much they might outclass me in weight, strength, skill, youth or speed. Working this flow in sparring has often resulted in being passed and crushed. Demoralising as consistent failure might be in the shorter term, I play a long game and trust that only through persistence will my game grow over the longer term.
Coach often advises us: ‘You must believe in your offence more than your opponent believes in his defence.’ Confidence in the offensive area of my game has long been lacking and as accurate as Coach’s prediction was that improved defence would make room for improved offence, so too was his insistence on the importance of self-belief. As new offensive skills did indeed reveal themselves, my confidence grew. A month or two before my promotion, I remember coming away from one of many private lessons working through the kinks in my triangle flow thinking, ‘I *can* submit with this triangle!’; I finally believed in it.
When I began my grappling-journey, no gi was a regular part of my weekly training routine. Changes to my training schedule during ’09 meant that this aspect got lost, to be re-integrated in ’10. I believe the speed of no gi allowed me to better capitalise on an RNC-opportunity which was pivitol for my self-belief. Likewise, I regained BJJ-basics/self defence in 2010. Drilling this material, which looks at technique in context of a striking attacker, gave me new perspectives on transitions to the triangle, in particular the utility of controlling the opponent’s wrist while getting the feet behind the opponent and maintaining that control while locking it up. Following on from my earlier discussion of BJJ as a ‘martial art’ or ‘combat sport’, I feel convinced that it is essential to balance training with a competition-focus with training for self defence, and indeed, complementing gi work with no gi. At least for me, this combination of approaches has been essential to consolidating a discreet area of offensive capability, a foundation upon which I hope to build and expand.
I accept that the ideas presented here aren’t original and I have certainly learned the importance balance in all things from teachers and mentors inside and outside of BJJ, but I have progressed to where I *know* these things for myself, on a visceral level, I see how they have contributed to my growth and I am simply here to testify!