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Keys to a Better Mount Position

Keys to a Better Mount Position

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Beginner's Tips | 0 comments

Often called the ‘King of all Jiu Jitsu Positions’, the mount is powerful, yet complex position that needs to be deeply understood in order to be utilised correctly. I once asked Roger Gracie, the best jiu jitsu fighter of all time if could choose to start his bjj matches in any position, which one would it be? Without thinking twice, he replied ‘the mount’.

Until I reached the brown belt level, I used to believe that the mount was overrated. So much so, that once I had secured it and scored the 4 points I used to just leave it by switching to side-control.

But after seeing Roger’s success with it  and studying it intensively for several years, I finally began to understand just how effective it could be.

Here are seven of most important details which have helped improve my ability to fight from the mount.

1. Balance

 

If you don’t have good balance, the mount position is practically useless to you. It’s next to impossible to set-up an attack when you’re just trying to avoid be rolled off. This balance has to be instinctive – it’s not something you want to have to think about because your focus should instead be on your attacks.

There’s a drill I use that can really help with this. Establish the mount position on a training partner and have him place his hands behind his head, while you do the same. Then have him try to buck you off while you attempt to maintain your balance. Once this becomes easy, the next progression of the drill is to have your eyes closed while doing it.

This will teach you the timing and sensitivity required to hold the mount without using your hands, which can then be freed up to start working your chokes and armlocks.

2. Foot Positioning

 

This simple little tip from my teacher Roger Gracie really reduced the number of times opponents were able to trap one of my legs into half-guard. When you are in the classic mount position, make sure your feet are constantly ‘tucking under’ into your training partner’s body. Any room between your feet and his body is a potential opportunity for him to trap one of your ankles and allow him to start his re-guard proces, and we all know how frustrating that can be.

Mount (standard)

Keeping your feet tucked against your opponent will make it harder for him to escape

3. Hip Flexibility

 

There is a common misconception that squeezing your opponent tightly between your knees while holding the mount position is the most effective way to control them in the mount. It’s been my experience that the best mount-specialists do exactly the opposite.

While keeping their feet tucked, they widen their knees and ‘sink’ their hips into the other fighter. This greatly improves their balance because it both broadens their base and lowers their center of gravity. It also puts far more pressure on the person beneath them. (If you’re ever unlucky enough to have Red and Black belt Mauricio Gomes holding you in mount you’ll understand exactly what I mean.)

The only way to allow yourself to sink low enough to apply this kind of pressure is by having a certain amount of flexibility in your hips. If you don’t yet have it, it’s time to start stretching more. (hint: do yoga!)

4. Understand the Different Types

 

The main variations of mount you will work with are:

Low Mount – in which you are almost lying flat, with your legs ‘grapevined’ around your opponent. The low mount is good for control because it allows you to drive down into your opponent’s hips with yours, completely nullifying his bridge. It’s quite limited when it comes to submissions though.

Technical Mount – this is usually used as a counter to the most common mount defense, the elbow-knee escape, allowing you to maintain a reasonably good attacking position when your opponent has made it onto his side.

High Mount – In my opinion the most lethal of all the variations, the ideal high mount has you sitting up, right over your opponent’s sternum, with your knees forcing his arms far away from his mid-section.

It’s best to choose one of the mounts and not spend too much time in ‘no man’s land’ (i.e. sitting over your opponent’s stomach, between high and low mounts)

Also, as a general rule you should be trying to work your way towards a high mount as it has the most attack options available.

5. Chain ‘High’ & ‘Low’ Attacks

 

Athough there are many submissions from the mount, the three ‘bread and butter’ are: the straight armlock, the cross-choke, with the Ezekiel-Choke.

Now if a smart jiu jitsu guy finds himself defending the mount he will be trying to do two things matter what:

1. Protect his neck
2. Keep his elbows close to his center

But here’s the thing – he can only do one of those properly at a time. He can protect his neck perfectly with both hands, but then his elbows will start to flare exposing him to armlocks. Or he could keep his elbows glued in at his sides, in which case his hands invariably move away from his neck, meaning he’s vulnerable to chokes. Knowing this, you can keep combining the armlock and choke attacks until he gives you an opening, making you far more dangerous from the position.

6. Keep His Shoulders on the Mat

 

Almost every escape from the mount necessitates that the person defending will have to lift one or both of his shoulders from the mat, because he will either need to sit up or turn to his side.

Knowing this, we can adopt a wrestler’s mentality when attacking and try to pin both of his shoulder’s to the mat at all times. This will make escaping much more difficult and give you more time to move to high mount and set up your subs.

7. Know When to Transition

 

Sometimes, no matter how good of a job you are doing at holding the mount, a strong opponent will be able to power out. There is a ‘point of no return’ at which there is no use trying to fight his escape (whether it be a bridge, or a shrimp etc) because he’s gone far enough to have gained sufficient leverage.

If you can identify this point and your timing is good, you need to make the tactical decision of giving up the mount and transitioning to side mount or the back.

This is especially important for smaller fighters, who may have difficulties holding bigger players down due to the weight differential.
If you enjoyed this article you’ll love my new book, ‘The Black Belt Blueprint‘ – a compilation of all the best articles on the site plus all-new material, packaged to form a comprehensive guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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Performance Enhancing Drugs & Jiu Jitsu

Performance Enhancing Drugs & Jiu Jitsu

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Nutrition & Conditioning | 0 comments

After I mentioned performance enhancing drugs in my article ‘8 Tips for Grappling After 30’ I received many emails requesting more information on how to use said agents. In this piece I will give a broad overview of the drugs commonly used to improve your physical and mental attributes, which can in turn improve your jiu jitsu abilities.

Dosages and protocols are beyond the scope this article, as is sourcing (yes, strangers will actually email me asking where they can get steroids – unbelievable!).

Let the record state that I do NOT condone the use of any controlled substances without the requisite prescriptions or legal permissions, nor do I recommend that anyone below the age of 21 even consider the use of drugs of any kind. If you’re young your body is already producing everything you could possibly need. Don’t even think about it. Let the record also state that I’m not a doctor, nor am I qualified to prescribe any of these drugs. I’m just a guy on the internet giving his opinion.

On the whole, I do NOT recommend you take performance enhancing drugs to improve your jiu jitsu. Instead, train smarter, eat cleaner and arrange your lifestyle to allow you to invest more time on your on your conditioning.

steroids2

“Using steroids is cheating.”

 This is a knee-jerk response that is commonly encountered whenever the topic of performance enhancing drugs is brought up. To me, this is a naive statement and usually an indicator of ignorance.

A large portion of elite level jiu jitsu competitors and mma fighters use performance enhancing drugs. I personally know of several mundial and adcc world champions (and it’s not who you think btw) who are consistently doping with many of the substances I outline below.

If you want to compete at the highest level, you are at an immediate disadvantage if you choose to forgo these options. Bigger, stronger guys who recover faster will always have an advantage, especially in a sport like jiu jitsu in which speed and power play a big role. Just accept this. It’s not good or bad – it is what it is. But I’m not saying you cannot become a champion without these things – you definitely can.

I once heard somebody say that if you removed all steroids from sport the same people would still win, and I completely agree. Most of the time, the guys who look to juice do so to allow them to train harder, not to make it easier on themselves. The drugs will not do the work for you. They will just allow you to do more of it.

Despite the importance of physical attributes and increases to them which drugs can provide, they are still superseded by the mental aspect of the game. Willpower and mat-time cannot be injected or swallowed. From my own experience, I remember that the very short period of my competitive career during which I took steroids coincided with my very worst performances. My mind was all over the place due to several difficulties in my life at the time and the fact that I was in great shape (chemically-enhanced albeit) did little to help. In fact I would say they probably hurt, because of the mood swings they caused.

“What about the average guy that doesn’t even compete?”

Consider the following scenario:

Steve Is a 40-year old blue belt who has been training for a couple of years. He works 10 hours a day at a stressful job career and has three kids who take up most of his spare time. He loves jiu jitsu, but he doesn’t have the time to do as much conditioning as he should. He’s tired of getting injured and thrown around in training during the few classes he manages to get to each week, so he turns to pharmacological assistance. He sees an endocrinologist who discovers that he has low testosterone and prescribes him some TRT. After a couple of weeks Steve feels better than he has in years and his motivation for jiu jitsu improves.

Is Steve a bad person? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

“But steroids will cause you to die a slow and painful death.”

I’m so tired of hearing this. If steroids are used responsibly, in moderate to low dosages, the side effects are relatively minimal.

One of my favourite examples is Sylvester Stallone. He’s 65 years old and he’s been using testosterone and growth hormone for years. Here’s a picture of him from one of his recent movies:

Sylvester Stallone has been using Testosterone and Growth Hormone for years

Sylvester Stallone has been using Testosterone and Growth Hormone for years

He doesn’t look sick to me. Ok, sure, he works out. But my dad (who is also 65) works out too, and he sure as hell doesn’t look like that.

However…

Everything in life has a trade-off, and these drugs are no exception. While the likelihood of dying from using the substances I list below is relatively low, every one of them has potential side effects, including but not limited to: acne, hair loss, gynecomastia, liver damage, kidney damage, mood swings and long-term heart-failure.

The human body is a complex and finely tuned mechanism, and changing the levels of some hormones within it will have an knock-on effect on others. If you do go down the route of using performance enhancing drugs (hypothetically speaking of course), I would suggest you monitor your health closely, including having blood work done. The technology now exists whereby you can do this with home-testing kits, but it’s a way better idea to see a doctor, preferably an endocrinologist.

It’s been my experience that when it comes to using most substances, less is more. Doubling the dosage does not necessarily double the desired effect, and in many cases reduces it. And again, before you even consider tampering with any of these drugs, I highly recommend that you first maximise your own endogenous (from inside) production by ensuring that the influential lifestyle factors of diet, supplementation, sleep, conditioning and stress management have all been tuned to their optimum levels.

1. Anabolic Steroids & Testosterone

Artificially synthesised steroids  are classified into two broad categories, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. The anabolic variations are the ones that are pertinent to sports performance. Anabolic steroids mimic the effects of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the body. They increase protein synthesis within cells, especially those of skeletal muscle tissue. They can also have ‘androgenic’ effects, i.e. promote the development of male sexual characteristics such as increased body hair and the growth of the vocal cords.

There are many different kinds of steroids, of which testosterone is one. Each of them produces different effects and side-effects. If you want to know more about specific ones, do your own research. They are of interest to a jiu-jitsu fighter because besides increasing muscular strength, they can reduce recovery time. They can also increase aggression, which, depending on the individual’s predisposition, could be a positive or negative in a jiu-jitsu context. Some guys could do with being a little more aggressive, wheres some guys are already overly-aggressive douchebags who need to tone it down on the mats.

I have limited experience with steroids, having done only two cycles in my life (Testosterone Cypionate & Anavar). Both times I found that the benefits (increasead strength and aggression) were outweighed by the costs (mood swings).

Best For: Increased Strength & Muscle Mass

Supplement Alternative: Testosterone Boosters

2. Growth Hormone

This is my favourite of all the performance enhancing drugs I’ve experimented with – I’m actually on a cycle as I type this (doctor-prescribed, of course!).

Growth Hormone, often referred to as ‘HGH’ is is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals. It is released by the pituitary gland, mainly during sleep. The amount secreted tapers off sharply after puberty and continues to decline as we age.

If it’s abused it can cause acromegaly (growth of the bones in the hands and face), liver damage and diabetes, but after much research and my own experiences with it, I’m convinced that at low doses it’s therapeutic. In fact, a friend of mine, (who is incidentally a multiple-time, bjj black belt world champion – again, not who you think) takes growth hormone pretty much constantly and has done so for years.

I find that it helps me recover much more quickly after tough sparring sessions, especially now that I’m in my 30′s. It has also been instrumental in healing the cumulative damage 15 years of hard martial arts training has done to my body. It also makes me sleep a lot better. Note, I’m an extreme case – I do 20 hours of jiu jitsu and yoga per week and I travel almost constantly. My body takes a LOT of strain. I don’t take HGH to compete, I take it because it helps me do my job better.

Best For: Recovery & Injury Rehabilitation

Supplement Alternative: Growth Hormone Secretagogues

3. Cognitive Enhancers

These are drugs which purportedly improve mental functioning.  Two of the most common and widely used are Modafinil and Adderall. It is my understanding that they both have similar effects but work using different neurobiological mechanisms.

I haven’t used Adderall but I’m a huge fan of Modafinil – I truly believe it’s a wonder drug. I can state categorically that it has immense positive effects on my cognition, memory, intelligence, motivation, and concentration. The practical applications of this for jiu-jitsu are far-reaching. When I’m using Modafinal I can drill techniques without losing focus for much longer periods, and I find that I am far more likely to retain what I learn.

You can here me discuss this in further detail on this episode of my podcast, The Journey.

Best For: Drilling and Memorising Techniques

Supplement Alternative: Nootropic Vitamins

4. Diuretics

‘Diuretic’ refers to anything which causes the body to increase secretion of water, and the strongest ones available are those in drug form. These are not at all performance enhancing (in fact they do nothing but degrade performance), but I have included them in this article because many fighters use them to rapidly drop large amounts of weight before competitions, seeking the advantage of being a bigger guy in a lighter category.

I do NOT recommended them – I feel the negative impact that they have on long-term health and performance exceeds the potential benefit of being in a different category. A close friend and doctor often tells me of the individuals he sees in the emergency room with diuretic-induced kidney-failure. If the stakes are high (i.e. you’re a professional jiu jitsu athlete or you fight in the UFC), then you might want to consider them, but I think they are best avoided.

Best For: Cutting Weight

Supplement Alternative: Vitamin C

5. Caffeine

Probably the only performance-enhancing drug you can get on just about every street in the western world. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, but most of us don’t realise it because we are so habituated to it. Try cutting it out for a month and then have a cup before training. You’re realise just effective it really is. Caffeine helps your body make use of its fat stores and encourages working muscles to utilise fat as a fuel. This delays the depletion of muscle glycogen and allows for a prolongation of exercise.

Some studies have also shown that caffeine prior to exercise lowers the perceived rate of exertion – i.e. it can make you feel like you’re not working as hard as you really are. Doses of as little as 75mg (less than the average cup of coffee) have been shown to cause significant improvements in attention span.  If you treat it with respect and use it infrequently, a cup of coffee before training can make a huge difference to the quality of your session. If you do have it before training, I would suggest you consume it with a high quality fat source like coconut oil or grass-fed butter in the ‘bullet-proof’ style. This will make the energy rush it produces more level as opposed to a large spike and subsequent crash.

Best For: Short Term Energy & Focus

Supplement Alternative: Pre-Workout Formulas

It’s all up to you.

If you’re reading this, it probably means that you’re one of the lucky individuals on this planet for whom this ultimately comes down to your own choice. This means that the risks and potential rewards are yours as well.

If you’re not a competitor and just want to heal more quickly and get stronger, PED’s can, when used responsibly help you to do that. But yoga and a good diet can do that too.

Think long and hard before messing with your body, it’s the only one you’ve got.

If you enjoyed this article you’ll love my new book, ‘The Black Belt Blueprint‘ – a compilation of all the best articles on the site plus all-new material, packaged to form a comprehensive guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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8 Tips For Grappling After 30

8 Tips For Grappling After 30

Posted by on Nov 18, 2013 in Experiences & Philosophy, Nutrition & Conditioning | 0 comments

When I began training in jiu jitsu there were a few older guys at my academy who would always say things like “It’s different for you, you’re still young.” and “It’s not the same when you’re older”. I used to think that it was just them being lazy and negative.

Now that I’m in my mid-30’s I finally understand what those guys where talking about. Grappling after 30 becomes a very different experience.

When I was younger I never realised just how hard jiu jitsu and grappling can be on the body. Sometimes, after a hard sparring session I will be sore for 2 days. And injuries…they take so much longer to heal.

Reflexes slow too. I often find myself a split second too late for sub and sweep openings which I would have hit easily a few years ago.

But despite all this, I still believe that the years after 30 can be the most enjoyable and beneficial time in your training. You can still continue to improve with age, you just have to be smart about it.

Below I have listed 8 tips which I believe will help you enjoy your time on the mat well into your 50’s, 60’s and beyond.

 

1. Adopt a Positive Mental Attitude

 

Your mental attitude (not circumstances) is the most important factor in the quality of your experiences, especially in jiu jitsu.

 If you keep telling yourself that you’re too old, then it’s going to come true. But if you’re focused instead on what you can do and adopt good thought patterns you will be much more likely to grow and improve. Here’s a few to start with:

 - As you get older,  your kinaesthetic awareness improves. Because you’ve been in your body longer, you know it better. You are much more in-tune with your capabilities and limitiations, and so you can use your ‘physical tool’ much more efficiently.

- Also, although cardiovascular fitness is harder to maintain, you can get way stronger after 30. This is because your tendons and ligaments harden, imbuing you with the oft-touted ‘man-strength’.

- Look at all the competitors over 30 who have a achieved and still hang with the young guns. Hell, Rickson was 30 when he won the first pride tournament. And what about Eddie Bravo, Mario Sperry, Fabio Gurgel, Megaton Dias…are you telling me these guys aren’t still total bad-asses on the mat?

 

Fabio Gurgel can still thrash most 20 year-olds.

Fabio Gurgel can still thrash most 20 year-olds.

2. Approach your training intelligently

 

The ‘more is better’ approach can work really well when you’re young (it can also lead to overtraining and burnout), but it’s not the way forward if you’re older. Even though you might be inclined to train harder to in an attempt to make up for your waning attributes, this is the least beneficial thing you could do, because your capacity for recovery is more limited.

Instead of training harder, make your training time more efficient by approaching it intelligently. There are many strategies for achieving this and you will need to do your own research, but here are a couple to start with:

- Drill more. I would suggest that you make drilling (and not sparring) the focus of your training. Although sparring is arguably the most fun aspect of bjj, drilling a technique or sequence can be an almost meditative experience, and it also brings about huge improvements in skill. Drilling also mitigates the effects of the slowed reflexes I mentioned earlier.

- Choose your training partners wisely. This means avoiding 250 lb meat-head who is always injuring people, and instead seeking out those who are devoted to their health and the learning process instead of medal-chasing.

 

3. Monitor the Health of Your Joints

 

Scott Sonnon, one of the most progressive coaches in the martial arts, is fond of saying “You’re only as old as your joints.”  and nothing could be more true. If your joints are stiff or damaged, you move like an old person. If they are healthy your movement is youthful. Adopting a sequence of joint mobility exercises which take each joint through its full range of motion is one of the wisest investments in your grappling future you can make. I find Scott Sonnon’s Ageless Mobility program to be excellent.

 

4. Stretch Consistently

Because flexibility is one of the first things to decline as you age, it (not strength) should be the focus of all your supplemental training. The best time to stretch is when your tissues are warm, so after bjj class is perfect. I’ve found that yoga offers the most precise and intelligent approach to stretching correctly, and so that is the focus of my stretching routine.

 

5. Warm Up Correctly

 

This is a big one. When I was 20 I could walk off the street into the academy and start sparring literally instantly. If I try that now I’m pretty much guaranteed to injure myself.

Contrary to conventional jiu jitsu wisdom, a good warm requires more than jogging a few laps around the mat and doing a couple of lengths of shrimps and breakfalls.

Your warm up should include a good selection of dynamic stretches and joint rotations (focusing on the neck, shoulders, hips and knees). My personal warm-up also includes giving each of my major muscle groups a few hard contractions as I feel this approximates the type of loading they are subjected to in training.

Although it’s technically your instructor’s responsibility to get you warm for class, ultimately only you know when your body is prepared for jiu jitsu – so make sure you’re warm before you begin.

(Note – avoid static stretching before training – that should be saved for after.)

6. Maximise Your Sleep

 

This was a big one for me. As mentioned previously, your recovery time is longer after you are 30. Quality sleep is the best way I have found to minimise the effect of this. You can read an in-depth article on this here.

7. Be Impeccable With Your Nutrition

 

This is important when you’re a young athlete, but it’s absolutely vital as you age. You can get away with eating pizza and ice-cream several times a week during a training cycle when you’re a teenager, but for the more mature of us that’s a privilege we don’t have access to anymore.

The quality of your nutrition determines the quality of your tissues. As Rickson Gracie says, “You are what you eat”. Low-quality food, and alcohol all lead to inflammation in the body. This delays repair and recovery (notice how that word keeps coming up?), so it’s wise to avoid them. For more information read my in-depth article on Nutrition for Jiu Jitsu.

8. Consider Supplementation

 

More and more research is showing that quality supplements can slow the effects of aging and lead to improved health. I have written an in-depth article on this here.

You might also want to consider a more powerful approach: Including TRT, Steroids and Human Growth Hormone. Your hormonal profile changes significantly as you age, and using some (or all) of these can offset the resulting decreases in tissue repair which is so taxing on the jiu jitsu athlete.

Now please, please don’t sent me vitriolic messages whining about how steroids are unhealthy and immoral. I’ve studied them for long enough and from my current perspective, when used correctly they can greatly improve your quality of life. I’m also not telling you to do them. I’m just letting you know that they are an option and that you should be mentally flexible enough to consider them and do your own research. I will also publish a more in-depth article on this topic soon.

 

See you on the mats!

 

If you enjoyed this article you’ll love my new book, ‘The Black Belt Blueprint‘ – a compilation of all the best articles on the site plus all-new material, packaged to form a comprehensive guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

 

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