Competing in BJJ or Grappling: Why?

•November 22, 2011 • 1 Comment

Competing at the 2008 Pan Ams of BJJ

Many students of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu feel a burning desire go out and prove themselves on the competition mats.  This is all well and good for those guys, but for the rest of the community who see their teammates compete, or who are dimly aware that competition happens, competing might seem like a more risky endeavor than is worth doing.  The nerves that lead up to competition are overwhelming for many; the process of trying to diet or cut weight is daunting enough to discourage many more.

Who am I, and why should you listen to me?  Follow the link to read my bio (I’m at the top of the page).  I don’t send you there to impress you, but rather to let you know that I do have more experience competing than most.

So… why should you compete in BJJ?   The following reasons are going to be personal anecdotes as much as logical arguments in favor of competing.  The benefits I have personally received have been tremendous, but your own experience is going to be different from mine, or anyone else’s, for that matter.  Here are just a few things that competing in BJJ has done for me:

1.  Testing your skill level against people you don’t roll with every day means that you can get a true barometer of where you stand at your belt or skill level.  Sure, you mop the floor with the other white belts at your gym, but can you hang with guys interested in competing from other gyms in your area, or even internationally?  Or maybe it’s the other way around:  you don’t do so well at your gym, but maybe you can do all right when you compete.  It could be that your gym is just really tough!

For me, I realized that I not only enjoy competing, but I’m actually pretty good at it.  I certainly wasn’t always the toughest or best guy at my gym, but for whatever reason, I found that I competed really well for my level.  The opposite is certainly true for many competitors, and overcoming nerves is something I will touch on in a future article.

2.  Competing against people who don’t know your game is crucial to your developmental process.  If you compete well (see #1), this is the biggest difference from daily training at your gym.  So you can catch everyone at your gym with a guillotine choke.  What about the guy with superhuman strength and no neck from across town, or the guy who happens to have a great guillotine defense?

When I first started competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I was shocked at how well certain techniques I had previously (naively) considered unimportant actually worked.  Why?  Because all of my training partners knew very well the patterns of the fundamental attacks I was trying to use on them.  I had given the techniques a try, then discarded them from my daily rolling routine when my partners defended them.  Fortunately for me, I had still drilled them enough so that they were ingrained in me.  I found out that I was pretty good at the triangle choke, for example, by competing.  Even today, I compete regularly at US Grappling events, and the techniques I use are often things I haven’t used in quite a long time on my training partners or students.

3.  You can learn more in one day at a tournament than you will in a month of training.  This is no exaggeration, although it’s not always going to be true.  Competing isn’t a substitute for learning at the gym, but you can make incredible leaps forward, both conceptually and technically, by getting out there and testing yourself.

I have learned a great deal from all of my matches, but I have almost certainly learned more from the losses than from the wins.  This doesn’t mean beating myself up over losing a match, but it does mean analyzing the mistakes I made, or the way my opponent was able to set me up to score or submit me, and integrating a better defense (or offense) into my game to gradually eliminate that mistake from my game.  Conversely, I remember what I did well in the matches I won, and reinforce what I’ve been working on


The Most Exciting Match I’ve Ever Seen Live

•November 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hands down, this one takes the cake:
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs Roger Gracie at the 2004 Mundial.  I can’t begin to describe the atmosphere at the Tijuca Tenis Clube, the location where the world championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was held from 1996 until 2006.   If you were there, you remember this match as well as I do.

Even though the crowd is noisy in the video, I’d swear that where I sat, everyone was silent immediately after the stunning submission attempt felt around the world.  It was such a surreal feeling.

BJJ Memes (courtesy of the Underground Forum)

•November 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Experienced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students and instructors alike will appreciate the following “BJJ memes” generated by jiu jitsu practitioners, as seen on the Atama BJJ Forum on the Underground:

6 competitors, 12 medals

•November 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Congratulations to all the Revolution BJJ students who competed at US Grappling’s Submission Only tournament in Richmond this past weekend.  Six competitors brought home 12 medals, including golds from instructor Andrew Smith and blue belts Dax Estep and JB Burnley.  Special thanks to Ben Westcott, who fought well despite giving up a great deal of weight in some of his divisions, and to Candice Deisher and Lo Menzies.  Lo stepped up at the last minute to compete, and Candice tried out no-gi for the first time.

Revolution BJJ getting ready for Submission Only Richmond

•November 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This weekend’s US Grappling Submission Only tournament will see several Revolution BJJ students competing again, some for the first time!  We’re looking forward to putting into practice the drills and techniques we’ve been working on at the gym for the past several months.  Last time, Revolution BJJ won the school title.

If you’re in the Richmond area this weekend, come check out the action.  There is no spectator fee at the tournament!

Competition Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training

•October 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This site is for the Revolution BJJ competition team.  If you’re new to jiu jitsu, check out

Reaping the knee – BJJ tournament legality

•October 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

U.S. Grappling rules: straight footlock legality

I originally wrote this for my old blog, but this is really pertinent info for anyone competing in a US Grappling tournament.

The legality of the “footlock,” or straight ankle lock, is perhaps the most common area of confusion in all of BJJ and submission grappling rules. Below are several examples of legal methods by which to apply the footlock vs illegal methods.


Note: you must fall to the same side as the leg you are attacking.

Note: my foot rests on my partner’s hip and my toes point outward.

Crossing your feet outside is OK.

Finishing belly-down is OK.

Finishing the cross-body ankle lock is OK, provided you fall to the same side as the foot you are attacking.


Note: the plane of my partner’s hip is breached. This is called “reaping the knee,” and jeopardizes the safety of his knee. This is never allowed in the gi, and is only allowed in no-gi advanced divisions.

This is illegal. You must fall to the same side of the leg you are attacking. This is never legal with the gi, and is legal for no-gi advanced only.

Posted by goatfury at 10:15 AM

Top Five Greatest American No-Gi Grapplers of All Time

•September 29, 2011 • 6 Comments

This past weekend’s ADCC has a lot of us thinking about the top grapplers in the world, no doubt.  This list will consider some of the best American grapplers of all time.  I’m talking strictly no-gi here-  reflecting on Abu Dhabi, but taking all tournaments into consideration, especially IBJJF’s no-gi worlds.
Don’t like my list?  Make a comment below!

1.  Dean Lister
I think any such list has to include (if not begin with) Dean Lister.  Not only was Dean the 2003 absolute champion and 2005 superfight winner, but he surprised everyone by breaking any legs in his way this year at ADCC (including Rodolfo and Joao Assis).

2.  Jeff Monson

Monson won ADCC in 1999 and 2005, took silver in 2000 and 2001, and bronze in 2009.  Holy crap!  He also went on an undefeated tear in tournaments in the US in the mid 2000s that included ADCC (yes, it was in the US that year), the Bud Cup, Grapplers Quest and some other local tourneys.  Monson was practially unbeatable for a few years.  He even won the IBJJF no-gi worlds at black belt.

3.  Mark Kerr
If Monson was the immovable object, “The Smashing Machine” was like the Juggernaut on steroids.  Literally.  He was a comic book character on Vitamin S. Kerr won the 1999 and 2000 ADCC, and added the open class victory to his resume as well in 2000, landing him the superfight against Mario Sperry in 2001.  Kerr won.
Kerr faded into obscurity in 2003, after losing to Arona in the ADCC superfight (and being featured in “The Smashing Machine”, a very sad movie about his decline), but he remains one of the top American grapplers of all time.

4.  Jeff Glover
Perhaps Glover’s biggest accomplishment- on paper- was winning the 2007 IBJJF worlds at black belt.  He also took home a bronze medal at ADCC this year (2011), submitting a very experienced and savvy Robson Moura (one of the greatest gi grapplers of all time).  Glover is more of a people’s champion, though, having literally dozens of local tournament titles, including more than 20 Grapplers Quest titles to his name.  Glover continues to be very active in competition, and will probably add several more titles to his resume.

5.  Rafael Lovato, Jr
Lovato is easily the most accomplished American gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor of all time.  Alas, this is strictly a no-gi list.  However, Jr cemented his position in 2010 by winning the IBJJF no-gi worlds at black belt, and then won the Abu Dhabi Pro No-gi Worlds in 2011 (not to be confused with ADCC, but still a legitimate no-gi win at black belt).  Lovato also racked up two Bud Cup pro wins, along with 2 Grapplers Quest pro titles.

Revolution Interviews: Vince Newton

•September 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Revolution Interviews: Vince Newton.

Check out an interview with a great friend and student at Revolution BJJ, Vince Newton.

5 matches in September, 5 submissions (coach’s corner)

•September 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I recently had the opportunity to compete on four consecutive weekends, a feat I haven’t been able to achieve since 2005, before I started running tournaments on a regular basis. The tournaments were all US Grappling events, which follows, since we had four events to run this month.

The submissions were all different, but they were all based on the system I’ve been using and teaching at my gym over the last year:

1. Straight armlock (from the Kimura grip)
2. Reverse triangle (overhook/wrist/grip setup)
3. Triangle (same setup)
4. “Big bird” from Kimura (1/2 guard)
5. Reverse armlock from omoplata (same grip sequence as other guard attacks)

I was glad to finish all of these no-gi matches with things I’ve been teaching at the gym, and I’ve been able to figure out things about them by trying them out in competition. Really looking forward to sharing these things with my students!