Thursday, July 25, 2019

How is Your Commitment Level?

Excerpt from the book From the Ground Up: The Jiu Jitsu Survival Guide to Jiu Jitsu by Professor Keith Owen. (A most excellent read geared toward beginners but valuable information for all) 

How is Your Commitment Level? 

I have seen numerous people quit Jiu-Jitsu after they swear that they are in it for the long term! There is a sales expression I learned as a younger man: “Time kills all deals.” This means that as time goes by, there is a good chance that people will talk themselves out of what they initially wanted. I have done it, and chances are you have done it as well. This can be especially true for Jiu-Jitsu. 

You start out excited and come to class on a regular basis, and then one day your progress starts to slow, which it inevitably will. You get tapped out a few times too many. It becomes harder to come to class and then you start to make excuses not to attend. You make more excuses and finally you come to the decision that you are just “too busy” to go to class. You have lost the momentum. You come to a complete standstill. You take “time off,” which is just another way of saying “I’m quitting.” You start thinking about just how out of shape you are and how hard it will be to get back into the groove of class. You start to have other interests. You start to put other interests ahead of your Jiu-Jitsu training. It becomes easier and easier to quit. 

This is the time you will call your instructor (or you will duck him for weeks and he will call you) and tell him that you are “taking a break.” Every martial arts instructor knows that this is code for “I’m outta here!” You swear to the instructor that you’re coming back, but very few do. It’s merely a graceful way to exit without having to come to grips with the real truth: You are no longer in love with Jiu-Jitsu. It’s sad, but thousands of people do it each year in the martial arts. 

Later on, you feel bad for not coming back but you are too embarrassed to get back in the game. You have done this countless times in other things and pretty soon you simply accept it as part of life. You have become a good quitter. What is your commitment level? Is your goal really black belt? If it is, be prepared for a long, tough haul. Times will not always be easy; you need to admit that to yourself. You will have tough times that you are not expecting and haven’t prepared for. But you need to expect it. You need to harden yourself to these times. You will see your classmates getting ahead of you and decide that it’s better to just quit. You may not want to go through all the trouble of starting back up after time off, even after an injury. Is this how you want to waste your time? I don’t think so. 

You might not even be able to envision yourself as a black belt. Why bother if you can’t see yourself with the coveted black belt? If you plan to succeed, you need to have things squared away. You need to make a commitment as opposed to having a simple interest in training. 
Can you deal with setbacks? Can you deal with the monotony of training? The pain? The loss? Can you handle the self-doubt? Can you deal with the time it takes to get a black belt? This is a direct reflection of your character and who you are as a person. Don’t rely on your instructor to motivate you. You need to come to grips with the fact that sometimes it won’t be as fun as it was when you first started. Remember showing up is 90% of success or, in this case, getting a black belt. It’s a battle that is so easily lost. Will you be a casualty of this war?

Find Professor Owen's book on Kindle: From the Ground Up

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Weaponizing the Mind and Body

 Weaponizing the Mind and Body
 -original article Sept 1 2014

How much do you really know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight? -Tyler Durden, Fight Club

  In the 30+ years I’ve been involved in martial arts training, my number one goal for doing so has never changed; self protection. I truly enjoy the sportive aspects of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the aesthetic movements of Aikido and the classical applications of Japanese Jujutsu. But, my goal and primary reason has always been to ‘weaponize’ my mind and body. This is done by connecting the mind (purpose) and body together as one single unit.

  "Weaponization" is the process of adding tools to your mental and physical ‘toolbox’ which will allow you to be as combat ready as possible when violence comes your way. Martial training is as much mental training as it is physical.  If you break under pressure, all the training in the world will do you no good. 

  Violence, in its truest form, is quick, unpredictable and messy. 

  My weaponization started in 1992. I was 18 at the time and driving to work downtown. I came to a stop light and two cars pulled along side me. I noticed three males jump out of the vehicles and begin to yell and curse at me. Their alcohol-fueled rage led one of them to punch out my passenger side window. As you can imagine, I felt helpless, victimized and unsure of myself. It was a form of bullying that I promised myself I’d never stand for it again.

 I took my martial art training much more seriously after this. I began to read and study literature on combative mindset, violence, gang mentality, law and conflict. I watched and studied literally thousands of hours of footage of violent encounters. I asked questions of experts in the field. I trained harder on the mats. I began my career as a bouncer that introduced me to a completely different side of humanity. I was involved in hundreds of physical altercations over my 18 years on the rope. After each conflict, I took the time to debriefed with myself, trying to understand what happened and how I reacted. I actually reviewed CCTV footage of these encounters to help me break down my actions and reactions.
That experience working the ropes shaped my martial art training and application. I discarded techniques that were cumbersome, impractical or didn’t survive the pressure test of reality. I got bashed around in those early years before I figured out the groove of violent encounters. I faced drunk, sober and high individuals during this time. It all added pieces to the puzzle.
Some 10 years after that initial bullying event when I was in my car, I found myself faced against three males while standing outside during my work’s Xmas party in 2003. This time, the stakes were much higher. One male approached me from the left and ask for the time. His two buddies moved in from the right and were stone faced and quiet. I moved back and to the side as to align them ‘in a row’. Being surrounded isn’t something I am fond of. 
Having spent some time educating myself on violence, I immediately knew this was an "interview"-a technique used by criminals to distract and then attack. One of the quiet one’s lunged at me. The other two tried to swing at my head. 

“Get his money,” one yelled. I was in the middle of a mugging. I was alone. And the stakes where high. The potential for serious injury facing three opponents was no joking matter. I head butted the first male several times as fast and violently as I could. My purpose and goal was to utterly destroy my target with a level of violence that exceeded his.  I moved in a circle avoiding being pinned down in one spot. As the other two grabbed and swung at me, I threw punches and elbows to keep them away. I was keenly aware of my angles in the ambush.

  After what seemed like an eternity (time often speeds up or slows down when adrenaline dumps occur. Its called ‘tachypsychia’ or time in the mind), one of my fellow bouncers (all 5'7'' 240 lbs of him) emerged from the club and grabbed onto one of the assailants. We were entangled in a scrum of some sorts. That’s when one of the male’s reached into his pocket and pulled out a six inch blade. I heard the "clack" of it opening.

  I yelled ‘knife, knife, knife’ to my partner and I kicked the blade-wielding male with everything I had in the lower pelvis. My buddy then tossed him 10 feet down the street. Injured and rattled, the group scattered.

 This situation made it perfectly clear to me that specific moves are not planned when violence occurs suddenly. Your flinch response and training will dictate how you react before you realize what is going on. The one thing that was clear was my mind telling me to ‘survive’.

I had put in a lot of training and personal effort to weaponizing. I was by no means the toughest person on the planet. But I didn’t have to be. I just needed to be tougher and SMARTER than the situation I was faced with.

How to Weaponize the Body: 

Train with purpose. Train smart (or try). I have a litany of injures from training. Its something most people have if they do combat arts long enough. I am not proud of them but physicality of this nature will cause the body to break down. Accidents, trips, falls, joint locks, strikes….they all add to the list. However, it allows you to understand the limits of your body.You need to train and repeat techniques over and over in order to have it kick in WITHOUT thought when its go time. If you want to be tough, you must do tough things. Its that simple.

One of the advantages to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that it’s an art that allows full resistance training with another person. You get to understand body movement, proper breathing under stress (stress inoculation), and the aspects of grappling, joint and choke manipulation. It is awesome for combat training. One of the advantages to Japanese Jujutsu is that it gives you an understanding of standing movement,throws, weapon protection, strikes and to be honest, lethality of technique. I use the two in conjunction as my toolbox. Yours may be different.

But you HAVE to train. I see so many people in professions that need combative skills but lack the desire to train in them. This is incredibly dangerous in my opinion. Typically the "I've never needed it yet" attitude is the most prevalent excuse. That's like saying one doesn't need to learn how to swim until you find yourself in the deep end. You must be pro-active in your training.

Work out. Build up your body to be as strong as possible. The tougher the body, the more it can take when physicality comes your way. I am now stronger, bigger, faster and have more endurance than I ever have had. This was a game changer for me. Combine your healthy living with your martial training. Its important. 

How to Weaponize the Mind: 

Preparing for violence is a strange thing really. You never know how you’ll react until you are in the middle of it. Physical training will help you but it is no guarantee that you’ll be ready to rock when attacked. Proper mental preparation using visualization is key. Also, experience is a teacher that just can't be over-looked. The best people I've seen perform in violent encounters are the one's who are used to violent encounters. Learn from the experienced.

In my opinion, there is a desensitization that needs to occur with violence. We don’t all have the ‘benefit’ of being in professions that have violence in them so you need to start to see what it looks like. You need to understand that you are in control of your mental mindset. Re-enforcement of positive  (never say die) attitude is of utmost importance. Your drive could be personal survival (which it should); it could be family related (your need to return home to see them), or the drive to protect others from harm. You need these basic goals to be burning like a supernova in your brain.  History is replete with examples of humans overcoming situations under the most extreme situations. 

 So, in order to weaponize the mind and body, you need to get them in synch with one another. I am not suggesting everyone’s goals are the same. You may train martial arts for sport, exercise or personal growth. Self-defense or weaponization maybe low on your list. That’s fine....Just make sure you surround yourself with someone who has it high on his or hers.

You don't choose the day...the day chooses you. Are you ready?

Stay Sharp.
Ari Knazan

Monday, July 8, 2019

Invictus: Why Make it Mandatory?

 We have all seen the videos of officers failing miserably while attempting to make arrests or control actively resisting subjects.  At best, it can look like a Keystone Cops sketch.  In less humorous situations, we observe officers use force which can easily appear to be too excessive for the situation.  And at worst, we sometimes see officer’s get seriously injured or even killed.  Full disclosure, I spent at least half of my career as a police officer doing the job with no serious martial arts or defensive tactics training.  In situations where physical force was required, I did what most other police officers with no training do, I tackled and prayed I would be able to overpower whoever it was who was resisting arrest.  Looking back, I realize how very fortunate I was to never end up on the losing end of one of those physical encounters.  And this very reason, I believe, is why many police officers never seriously consider training Jiu Jitsu or other effective martial arts.  Most Police Officers have simply been lucky.  Why start training Jiu Jitsu if you have always been able to simply overpower criminals who have resisted arrest?   
The reason is simple, you are playing Russian roulette with your life and the life of your fellow Officer’s.  I can tell you with an absolute certainty, if you do this job long enough, you are going to have to fight someone who is bigger, more powerful, and more athletic than you at some point.  It is not a matter of if the ultimate fight ever happens, it is a matter of when.  How prepared will you be when this happens?
I am going to focus on the art of Jiu Jitsu for obvious reasons, it is the art I have the most experience in and it is also the art that I believe is the most applicable to Law Enforcement.  One of the main advantages of Jiu Jitsu is its ability to neutralize another person’s size and athletic ability in a physical fight.  Jiu Jitsu simply put, uses techniques which allow a person to be able to place themselves in a position to use leverage to control another human being.  This in essence, is what we are attempting to do as police officers when we are effecting an arrest on a resisting subject. 
Those of us who have trained Jiu Jitsu for a period, have had practical experience using Jiu Jitsu at work and have experienced firsthand how effective Jiu Jitsu can be.   Thanks to social media, many of us who are Police Officers and also Jiujiteros were able to connect and to begin sharing some of our experiences and ideas about how to marry Jiu Jitsu into Law Enforcement defensive tactics.  Through all of these online discussions birthed the #bjjmakeitmandatory movement which then led to the creation of Invictus.  
One of our main goals at Invictus from the beginning has been to inspire Police Officers to begin training Jiu Jitsu.  One of the ways we are attempting to do this, is by featuring Police Officers from around the country who are Black Belts in Jiu Jitsu and who are in good standing in both the Law Enforcement community as well as the Jiu Jitsu community.  We at Invictus have had a lot of black belts from around the country who have reached out and offered to teach at one of our seminars.  I can tell you we are humbled and very grateful to those who have reached out to us.  But our primary focus at this time is getting the word out on how effective Jiu Jitsu is for Law Enforcement, and who better to deliver that message than fellow Police Officers who have also put in the time and dedication to become Black Belts in Jiu Jitsu. 

Another reason we prefer to feature Police Officers who are Black Belts is relatability.  When you come to an Invictus Seminar, you are able to immediately relate with the instructors because we have all done the same job and faced the same challenges.  You know that instructor has been where you have been at some point in their career.  Invictus instructors are also to directly relate Jiu Jitsu techniques to applicability on the street.  Invictus instructors are not operating off of theory, they are operating off of real world experience.  

For this reason we will continue to look to use fellow Police Officers who are Black Belts to share their knowledge with you when you come to an Invictus Seminar.  This does not mean that in future seminars, exceptions wont be made for certain instructors based on their background and contribution to the Law Enforcement community.  We at Invictus want to provide everyone with the best knowledge and techniques available and ultimately have a good experience.  I very much look forward to meeting many new faces at our next seminars.  Till then, STFUT!!!

Jason Rebsch
Invictus Leo Co -Founder
Police Officer
Jiu Jitsu Black Belt

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Getting Right in the World: Quitter to Unquitter

You’ll probably notice people like me seem obsessed with Jiu Jitsu. Constant social media post are probably a dead giveaway. The reason for this is two fold: the first is to basically let people know how frigging cool and life changing Jiu Jitsu is. The second, is to help (push, cajole, and sometimes guilt) those who haven’t been on the mats in some time to return.

Now you may think Jiu Jitsu is ALL I do but it isn’t. As much as I LOVE Jiu Jitsu, I have many other things I am tackling on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. One of the basic tenants in Jiu Jitsu is balance and base. If you don’t have this in your life, things fall out of kilter. Other areas of you life will rapidly go south.

I am no different that the average person taking on a "hobby". I work full time in what is considered a high risk/high stress job. I have family and friends that I spend time with. I enjoy getting out in nature, learning the guitar, doing my podcast , seminar attendance and managing my 3 other entrepreneurial endeavors. Some people do more-some less. But we all can get in some Jiu Jitsu IF YOU ARE willing to to.

Many years ago, my Professor, Keith Owen, was teaching a seminar at my school and he said “I want everyone to look to your right. Now to your left. By the time you reach black belt, those people won’t be practicing anymore.” He did this to illustrate that it is HARD to get a black belt and really, 33% is a generous number when talking about who gets to the ‘finish line’ (black belt…which it isn’t by the way). Its probably less than 5%.

I actually have the video of this speech. I remember seeing people looking left and right and hearing what he had to say. There were many “shaking of heads” indicating the “Oh, that won’t be me. No way.”
Well, as you can imagine, many, many of those “it won’t be me that quits” people are no longer in Jiu Jitsu. They did quit. The road to black belt is littered with could haves, would haves and should haves.

Jiu Jitsu isn’t for everyone in the long run despite the slogan “Jiu Jitsu is for everyone.” Jiu Jitsu CAN be done by anyone but the length of your practice depends on YOU. Sometimes people just don't like Jiu Jitsu. That's totally cool. But this article is for the people who like (liked) Jiu Jitsu but QUIT.

Instructors have heard all the excuses in the world. I’ve shared many stories that are exactly the same across the globe. Seriously. The only thing different about the stories are the names of the people.

I am not devoid of heart and understand the stresses that come with life. But there are a ton of bullshit excuses out there on why people quit. No one thinks their excuse is invalid. They all think they have THE excuse why they stopped training.

“well, my excuse is special.”

No. No its not. I've endured job shifts, deaths, sickness and many other things. So, your excuses ARE NOT special-YOU ARE. If you continue Jiu Jitsu in light of these, you are the special one. IT requires dedication, strength, confidence and motivation.

I posted an instagram meme a while back that read “Are you a “I train Jiu Jitsu” person or are you a “I USE to train Jiu Jitsu” person. At what point do we consider one “former”? Did you take an extended leave but returned? Is that quitting and then unquitting?

You can ALWAYS unquit. Really, that is goal when I see people drift off from the art. I’ve seen a ton of talented people quit. And they still haven’t returned.

If we are going to be honest, there is a point when you quit Jiu Jitsu. You haven’t returned in some time. You are not on a hiatus. You aren’t just taking a break. You quit. This isn’t made to make you feel guilty. Its just the truth. Dedication is hard. Excuses are easy.

I have a tough love/genuine care for my students (both past and present). I will support those in tough times. Shitty things happen and we must be there for our students in those situations. But where do my priories lie? This may be tough for some to hear.

My priorities lie with those students who want to be on the mat. Who, despite THEIR challenges, show up and train and haven’t quit. I don’t expect students to train 6 days a week and that doesn’t make you more valuable that the one day a week student. Both are showing up and doing what they can to move forward.

As a coach, my job is to help you meet your goals. But that requires work on your part. If you aren’t putting in the effort, how can you expect your coaches to put in more than you…into YOU.

I’ve done that too. I’ve dropped everything to pour all my energy into students that just half assed it only to have them quit Jiu Jitsu.

You have to be true to yourself if you have quit Jiu Jitsu. I actually respect those who admit and say “ya, this article is about me. I am that person. I have nothing valid to counter point. I just need to get back to it.”

Stop fooling yourself if you keep saying “I’ll eventually come back.” You like social media posts about Jiu Jitsu  but haven’t been on the mat in months or years. If you truly want Jiu Jitsu in your life you need to set a PLAN. You need goals. If you don’t, you won’t. It will always be that out of reach dream and you’ll never pull the trigger.

And quitting isn’t reserved for white belts. I’ve seen ALL belts quit.

So how do you, the quitter, return to Jiu Jitsu?  This is what you have to do.

  •  be honest with yourself and understand that you have in fact quit
  •  shelve the excuses and tell your self doubt to shut the fuck up
  •  remember how it felt when you were on the mats and the endorphins were firing. How good it made you feel.
  •  think back to the good times and comradery you have with your fellow students
  •  be prepared to start over and realize you will be rusty (or worse).
  •  make a plan and stick to it. It can be one class a week or 5. Be realistic. Do a little a lot as my friend Professor Chad Lyman says. Be Consistent.
  •  the only thing worse than excuses and failure is not attempting to correct them.
  •  make sure your significant other is on board with you training. If you don’t have support in this arena, you’ll 100% never return.
  •  you’ll have a ton of support if you return. The mats are where the action is. Where like minded people can share advice, experiences and positive energy. 

You can unquit Jiu Jitsu but you SERIOUSLY need to have a conversation with yourself and get right in the world again. The longer you spend away from the mats, the harder it is to return. It is possible but its time to dig down, find your character and walk through those doors again. And if you think you are too old to come back or out of shape or not strong enough, let me remind you of this man right here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Fundamentals First. Basics Second. Everything else third.

No, You don't need to know every move in Jiu Jitsu

Its 2017 and with the click of a mouse, you can access You Tube and have millions of Jiu Jitsu videos at your finger tips. All you need to do is  enter your question in the search bar and you'll get a solution. Simple Right? Maybe not-in fact, maybe its information overload.

Every year I see new moves coming from Jiu Jitsu. Or I see old moves making a resurgence and taking our community by storm. People frantically want to learn counters to these moves as soon as they go viral and everyone is talking about them on facebook or reddit.

"You see that move so-and-so did? It was sick. Gotta learn how to defend against that now!"

Well, here is a thought-instead of learning every move out there, how about getting comfortable in your game and the basics. If you are an older guy like me, your passion for learning hasn't stopped but you realize that there is a finite amount of time available to learn 'everything'. So, we focus on developing a game-our game.

Let me explain: Let's say you are a basic guard player and passer. Let's say your x guard game is poor or doesn't exist. You never had the opportunity to learn it or it didn't fit your style for some reason. You are battling against an opponent that knows the x guard and he has you in it. Time slows down and look down to see your legs entangled by his and your sleeve and ankle grabbed.

A quick index through YOUR knowledge base reveals you don't know any specific escapes from this position. What you do know is the concept of base, movement and and leverage. These are the fundamentals in Jiu Jitsu that all must master. You can feel and see that your opponent is trying to upset your balance and kinetically you can feel the legs extending and your base being compromised. You aren't even sure what the follow up will be if you are swept but you know, like chess, a counter move must be devised. You actually can defend well if you know how the body works.

At higher levels its about the CONCEPTS of Jiu Jitsu and not the MOVES in Jiu Jitsu that are important.

When I find myself in a position or submission  that I am either 1)uncomfortable with or 2) unfamiliar with, I always work my way back to position that I do know. Do I have to know all the escapes from x guard for example? No. While it is advantageous to have a solution for every move in Jiu Jitsu, the reality is, you simply will not. That is why you eventually make your way back to a position you do know and then move forward from there.

It doesn't mean that you can't learn a counter to the x guard. It just means that you WILL get caught in something you've never seen before. You can't panic by thinking "I have no answer to this." Your mindset must be "how do I get to a position I do know and impose my game on my opponent?"

Our greatest teacher is when we lose-lose by getting swept or being submitted in practice or competition. We can add counters after we've been exposed to things but we aren't doomed to lose every time we do. Sun Tzu in the art of war states that you must make your enemy fight on your terms-not theirs. So, if you find yourself in deep waters, move back to the shallow end where you are comfortable and then swim out in your own lane.