Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Steve Erceg headlined Eternal MMA 52 tonight in a flyweight championship bout against the reigning champion Shannon Ross.

(via @eternalmma on Instagram)

After a slick knockdown in the first round, Erceg smothered Ross with his dominant grappling, resulting in a first round finish via rear naked choke.

As someone who’s had the privilege of having their ass handed to them by Steve, it was an honour to watch him claim the highest honour in Australian Mixed Martial Arts.

Steve’s victory tonight was not just historic for his career, but for Australian MMA at large. Eternal 52 was the first Australian MMA event to be streamed through UFC’s fightpass.

Tonight marks a huge step forward for Steve ‘Astroboy’ Erceg, and perhaps an even bigger step forward for Australian MMA.

With such a dominant victory, it seems like only a matter of time before we see Steve on the biggest stage in MMA.

With the UFC 251 coming to his hometown of Perth on June 7, could we see this hometown hero scrapping with the world’s finest?

Long story short, I’m trying to put on a little bit of useful weight. Skip to the bottom for the delicious recepie I’m using to jam breakfast back into my mornings.

Unfortunately, I’m not bulking up just for the hell of it. In order to continue being competitive in higher level jiu-jitsu competitions, I need to be stronger than I am.

As it turns out, this is harder do than I thought. First of all, getting strong hurts. A lot. Which doesn’t make training jiu-jitsu any easier either.

In spite of the pain, I’ve just started the Stronglifts 5×5 workout program. A number of muscly people I trust have reccomended it as a good starting point for building the type of strength required for jiu-jitsu.

The program consists of two alternating body weight workouts, each comprised of compound free weight exercises with the intent of progressive overload.

If that was gibberish to you (like it was to me a few weeks ago), what this means is that the program has you switch between two workouts which don’t involve any machines or special equiptment. You show up, lift free weights and progressively add a tiny bit more weight each session until you can no longer complete 5 reps at a given weight in an exercise.

Avoiding machines at the gym and focussing on free weights means there is a whole lot more balance and posture involved in the lifts. Because Each exercise activates (and agitates) a big portion of your body, so you have to focus on keeping your whole body activated throughout each lift, and need to focus on less total exercises to get results.

I’ve never been one to get motivated by superficial physical incentives. Muscles are nice, but if I were desperate for them I would have started going to the gym a long time ago.

I’m going to the gym primarily to hone the tools I take to war on the mats.

But what I’ve found out is that in order for all that work to mean anything on the mats, I need to pay a lot of attention to what I eat while I’m off them.

If I want to gain muscle mass, I need to be consuming roughly 4000 more kilojules than I’m used to eating every day and a large portion of that needs to be protein. At my current size, I’m simply not putting in enough food to offset all the energy I expend exercising. Which is a good problem to have. But still…

As someone mostly disinterested in the prospect of breakfast most mornings, this was a troublesome fact to uncover.

However, I think I’ve stumbled across something which is going to solve my problem; peanut butter protein shakes.

Luke’s Peanut Butter Protein Shake

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 scoops vanilla flavoured protein powder (whey or plant based)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 table spoons 100% peanut butter
  • 1 table spoon chia seeds
  • 1 table spoon honey
  • 1 date
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups milk of choice

The best thing about this recepie is that you can prepare it ahead of time.

Just put everything except the milk into a container or zip lock bag and pop it in the freezer. When you’re ready to have it, empty the contents of a container into your blender, add your milk and blitz away!

I’ve prepared a batch of these in advance, and am now looking forward to each morning when I get to slurp down a meal which feels like a treat, even though it’s a necessity.

My Jiu-Jitsu team, Legion 13, won the state championship last weekend for both the kids and adult competition.

In the week since, it’s been interesting to see how bound together everyone feels.

There’s a unity which shared success can generate which is infectious and highly motivating.

Like shared trauma, shared success brings people together.

Successful teams relish the relief of success together through shared pride. In order to be proud of the team’s achievements, one needs to be proud of themselves and also their teammates.

By definition, the team is larger than any one of the individuals which make it up. Great teams relate to one another as such.

The social benefit of this shared success compounds as the team does better and better; the more unified a team, the higher their chance is of succeding.

We have seen this in every era of every sport; mythical teams who found success and went on to seem undefeatable.

That’s all a bit grand for our local Jiu-Jitsu club, but the comradery and respect amongst team members this week has been a privilege to witness nonetheless.

If you’re not involved in some team activity, sporting or otherwise, it’s worth considering seeking out a tribe.

You might be surprised by how much can accomplished in unison with others.

Image via the Legion 13 Facebook page

Bad days are a natural part of any meaningful pursuit.

There will be days when the things that normally fall into place just don’t. The writing doesn’t flow, your technique doesn’t work or the weight simply won’t go above your head.

It’s easy, and natural to feel exhausted and defeated; like progress rests on the other side of a swamp you might drown in before you cross it.

I had a bad Jiu-Jitsu day today; my body felt weak and slow. I felt as if I was two steps behind every one of my training partners. It was hot, and I felt like vomiting for most of the session.

Times like these are a valuable reminder that sometimes growth feels like drowning, and that’s okay – as long as you keep showing up.

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I’ll be back at the gym at 6am tomorrow, and I’ll have every opportunity to find my feet again. If things still aren’t working, there’s always the next session, or the one after that.

Losing finite games only becomes a problem once you stop playing the infinite ones.

It’s hard to do, but so are most things that matter.

Refining a technique minimises the intensity required to execute it.

This refinement is achieved through practice.

Practicing techniques is most effective when you’re able to apply them thoughtfully.

It’s difficult to apply a technique thoughtfully when you’re applying it with maximum force; so when we practice, it’s usually at around 70% intensity.

This princilple applies to physical techniques, like Jiu-Jitsu submissions, but also to mental techniques.

When you’re trying too hard to force a submission, you’re compensating for bad technique, and your overall progress suffers.

Try too hard to write, and you’ll never write anything. Try too hard to meditate, and you won’t get much out of meditation either.

Consistent performance at 70% is worth more than sporratic performance at 100%.

For certain pursuits, like Jiu-Jitsu, it is sometimes required that you are able to perform a technique at 100% intensity.

This requires occasional testing of the limits of your technique. This extra 30% intensity should be a bonus, not the norm.

The potency of your 100% depends on how consistent your 70% performance has been in practice, not how often you practice 100% exertion.

When you operate at 70%, you leave yourself enough resources to notice mistakes and implement feedback.

Fail to leave yourself enough bandwidth to consider the limits of your technique, and you might never master it.

Remain playfully engaged with improving through every chance to practice, and you’re guaranteed mastery of any technique with enough invested time.

Once mastery is achieved, your technique at 70% will well exceed the technique of most others clumsily operating at 100%.

Mastering the art of practice is the key to mastering everything else.

Build good habits. Master yourself. Do things you love.

Then persist.

ADCC 2019 is done and dusted and Australian grappler Lachlan Giles has taken bronze in the open weight division. The Anaheim crowd erupted as Giles submitted Mahamed Aly by heel hook to secure his place in ADCC history.

Why is this such a big deal?

Giles weighs 77kg. The three people he submitted on his way to bronze each outweighed him by more than 20kg. He submitted the +99kg champion (Kaynan Duarte) in his first match. And the only reason he didn’t take the gold was that he lost to the winner of the division (Gordon Ryan).

Image source: Kit Canaria for Jiu-Jitsu Times

As a smaller guy, I know first hand what it’s like to be overpowered by someone significantly stronger than you.

The fact that Giles managed to overcome this, on three seperate occasions against some of the most dangerous grapplers on the planet and in an age where performance enhancing drugs are rampant throughout the sport is outrageous.

His success is a testament to Jiu-Jitsu; it’s an art form which empowers smaller, weaker combatants to defend themselves against larger, stronger opponents through effective use of technique, timing and strategy.

Even at the highest level.

Giles is a head coach at Absolute MMA in Melbourne, has a phD in physiotherapy and is one of the most respectful guys in grappling.

I’m looking forward to taking a trip over there to train with him and his team sometime in the near future.

The Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) is one of the fiercest submission grappling competitions on planet earth.

In little over a week, the ADCC World Chamionships will be held in Anaheim Calafornia. The best no-gi grapplers in the world will travel to compete for the highest prize in submission grappling.

But this Sunday September 22, ADCC Western Australia (ADCCWA) will be putting on a show of its own at Craigie Leisure Centre. If you have any interest in grappling or Mixed Martial arts… you should probably be there.

Unlike traditional Jiu-Jitsu competitions, ADCC organises competitiors into divisions based on experience, not belt rank; allowing grapplers from all backgrounds to compete against one another.

Freestyle wrestlers will fight Judo practitioners, who will fight Jiu Jitsu artists, who will fight Sambo competitiors.

In a sense, ADCC is the Mixed Martial Arts of the submission grappling world. It fosters a space where grapplers from all disciplines can come and test the efficacy of their practice.

Which is why it’s so impressive that ADCC champions are almost exclusively Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners.

My favourite Jiu Jitsu artist (Nicky Ryan) on his journey to ADCC 2019

But on Sunday, at the local level, expect everyone to have a chance at victory.

‘What sets the ADCC apart from the other grappling competitions is the emphasis on going for the submission victory’.

ADCC WA

ADCC WA are adopting the same ruleset we’ll see at the Word Championships next week, which is the perfect introduction to grappling for the unaquainted.

One of the common critiques of Jiu-Jitsu competitions is that there is an overemphasis on complicated point systems, which isolate those who don’t already train. ADCC WA promises that this won’t be a problem on Sunday.

‘You won’t see stalling tactics used like you do in other grappling competitions’.

ADCC WA

Over the past few years, submission focused competitions such as team-based grappling competition Quintet, and the Eddie Bravo Invitational have emerged with the hope of appealing to more casual fans.

For the competitors in these organisations, the ADCC is their version Olympics.

If you’re a grappler of any kind and haven’t signed up to compete this weekend, you only have a few hours to register (which you should).

And if you’re at all curious (or skeptical) about what submission grappling looks like, or whether Jiu-Jitsu is a practical martial art to pick up for self defence, do yourself a favour, support your local grappling scene, and be at Craigie Leisure Centre on Sunday.

Submission focussed competitions like ADCC are the future of grappling. With so many new organisations promoting the sport, there’s never been a better time to get involved; fighter or fan.

Any meaningful progress requires the processing of (and response to) feedback.

An archer practicing her shots on a target nocks an arrow, aims, draws, then releases.

(Tan Ya-Ting, world class archer representing Chinese Taipei)

One of three things will happen;

  • She hits the bullseye;
  • She hits the target imperfectly;
  • Or she misses all together

The beauty of pursuits like archery is that the feedback involved in its practice is unambiguous, immediate, and self-enacting; it’s clear whether-or-not you’ve succeeded, and every possible outcome inspires the same response; nock another arrow, and try again.

If the archer misses, she picks up her bow and tries again until she hits.

When she hits the target imperfectly, she tries yet again, aiming for dead centre.

When she strikes dead centre, she tries again, and again, until she can strike dead centre one hundred times in a row.

Even when she has accomplished this, her mastery is not complete.

She takes a step back, increasing her range. Then once again, she tries again.

The process of improving at archery is ingrained in its practice. You hit, or you miss until you only hit.

You can’t pretend to be good at archery. Not to others, but more importantly, not to yourself. You are, or you aren’t. You hit, or you miss.

Similar loops can be found in pursuits like Jiu Jitsu, pottery, or lifting weights; You can defend yourself, or you can’t. You can throw a set of identical bowls, or you can’t. You can deadlift 80kg, or you can’t.

Want to get better at any of these things? Then do them.

Show up. Try. Process feedback. Repeat.

It sounds simple, because it is.

What most people fail to realise is that this type of progress is not exclusive to pursuits with self enacting feedback loops inbuilt.

Feedback loops can be designed and implemented into any pursuit.

It’s not always easy. But if progressing in your pursuit means something to you, designing and implementing feedback loops is essential.

Some artists do a particularly poor job of this. An artist’s failure to develop usually has to do with the ambiguity of their feedback, and their failure to reframe it into something actionable.

When the feedback generated by an activity is ambiguous, responding productively is a challenge.

Unlike arrows in targets, the effective success of artistic practice is often hard to measure.

What’s worse is when that ambiguous feedback gets further distorted and filtered by the artist’s ego.

What happens when ambiguous feedback gets passed through an ego filter?

Not a lot of growth.

When pursuits don’t have clear feedback cycles, we have to build our own. We owe it to ourselves.

If you want to get better at whatever it is you’re pursuing, you must be able to point at the bullseye, and describe what sending an arrow crashing into it looks like. Not the field it’s in, not the target itself, but the actual image of an arrow lodging itself cleanly in the centre ring.

For the artist, their bullseye might be the approval of a trusted mentor, or to their second timing on a monologue or poem.

A bullseye could look like one interesting blog post published every day, without typos, at 6am.

A detailed understanding of what perfect execution looks like is essential if you intend to trend towards it.

Fail to do so, and you’ll dabble in mediocrity for however long it takes you to quit.

Incredible things are difficult to do.

You shouldn’t feel horrible every time your arrow flies wayward. You shouldn’t expecting perfect results every time you loose an arrow – It’s about giving yourself the best opportunity to grow towards perfect results.

When designing your own loops, consider three things;

What does perfect execution look like?

What opportunities do I have to practice my own execution?

When I fail, how will I know what needs to change?

The more you try, the more you grow, the closer you get, the more you try.

Get trying.

Mixed Martial Arts seems to be in a strange state of flux. As the average fighter is becoming more and more technical, respectful and intelligent, it seems like some fans aren’t adapting quick enough.

Last night I attended Eternal MMA 47 to support Steve Erceg in his main event bout against Paul Loga, which he finished by knockout with a clean left hook in the first round.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing

Steve is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He has an incredible Jiu-Jistu game and is one of the coaches over at Wilkes Martial Arts. Our gyms are affiliated, so we’ve trained together from time to time.

He’s someone I have a lot of respect for, and every time I step into his gym I’m reminded of the respect which martial arts instills in those who practice it. Steve’s humilty and kindness is inspirational, and his work ethic is something else.

Which is why I was so stunned (and frustrated) to hear boozed up sections of the crowd dribbling slurs and screaming derogatory crap at the fighters for a huge portion of the night.

MMA hasn’t historially been the most inclusive sport, but it’s made astranomical leaps in the past decade with the rise of womens MMA, the embrace of the LGBTQ+ community through the “We Are All Fighters” campaign (of which all proceeds go to the LGBTQ centre in Las Vegas), and the first openly queer UFC champion in Amanda Nunes.

Image result for we are all fighters amanda nunes
Amanda Nunes (Right) and partner Nina Ansaroff

Organisations like One, whose entire brand revolves around the fact that their fighters conduct themselves with integrity and respect, are also contributing to this shift in a major way.

The sooner people can understand that elite level mixed martial arts has nothing to do with machoistic peacocking anymore, the better. The game has evolved. We need to move on.

Nobody mildly interested in their local MMA scene is going to attend another live event if for the duration of their first card the pudgy guy seated in the row behind can’t stop screaming, “Twist his dick!” to get a laugh of of his wasted mates every 45 seconds.

As fans or practitioners of any martial art, it’s our responsibility to stamp this idiocy out of our culture whenever we can.

This kind of flamboyant ignorance shouldn’t be welcome in a place where disciplined people who sacrifice their lives to be the best at what they do put their bodies on the line to prove it.

We can do better.

I am now a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt.

Jiu-Jitsu has changed my life, and I’m barely recognisable from the person I was when I starter a year and a half ago. I’ve let go of 15kg and learnt more about nutrition than I did in my first 20 years.

Most people don’t understand what the journey from a white belt to a blue belt means, and I’m not a good enough writer yet to distill it into one blog post; but I’m going to try anyway.

Jiu-Jitsu is as much a mental pursuit as it is a physical one. The journey from white to blue drills a certain mindset into those who make the cut.

Here are the most important things I’ve come to understand;

I understand what it’s like to feel completely powerless at the hands of another, and what it feels like to have total control over somebody else’s body.

I understand that exposed vulnerabilities become strengths.

I understand that doing great things hurts sometimes; that your success is directly related to your ability to persevere through adversity, that improvement is a guarantee if you can.

I understand camaraderie; the intangible respect for those who share your pursuits.

I understand that building someone up involves breaking them down, while also having their back.

I understand that winning matters far less than growing does.

Controlled failure is growth.

Most people who start training BJJ don’t make it to their first promotion, but everybody should.

There is no greater reality check.