technique

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.

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.

Perfecting a technique ensures that you’ll be able to execute it perfectly from a distinct starting point.

But what if you never find yourself at that starting location?

Perfecting a system ensures that you’ll be able to execute a move from every starting point possible.

As you become proficient in a technique and begin to practice it; you learn about the counters to the technique and how to prevent them; the set-ups, the angles and preconditions required to execute the technique; and the principles which apply to the technique, and to your opponents reaction.

The implementation of these counters, set-ups, angels, preconditions and principles is the systems based approach to learning Jiu-Jitsu.

A Jiu-Jitsu system endeavours to define all possible scenarios within the system.

Mastering a system maximises your chances of submitting you opponent once you have them within in.

For example, you can have the best swinging armbar from guard on the planet, but if your opponent would rather be triangled than let you cross his arm over your centre-line, you better have a good triangle set-up too.

Having an incredible armbar is worth nothing compared to having an incredible guard which includes a great armbar.

It took me a while to realise this, so for those of you just starting out; apply a systems based approach. Don’t just ask your instructor how to execute a technique; ask how, why, when, and when it doesn’t apply.