Fight Breakdowns

Tournament Recap - NAGA Atlanta 2018

Our kids had a great weekend in Atlanta! There were so many hard fought battles and great memories made. With each tournament, I am more and more impressed with their effort, skill, and most importantly - character. I couldn’t be more proud as their teacher!

We posted videos and pictures all of last week on our social media pages, so I thought I’d gather them all up here in one place for you in case you missed some!

Connor (in grey rash guard) slaps on a perfect Anaconda choke in his first match of the day in the Advanced Kids division! He went on to use the same choke with the same result in the finals!

Connor gets his second anaconda choke of the day. I haven’t seen a kid go to sleep in a tournament before, so having it happen twice in the same tournament was pretty crazy. For those concerned, both kids were okay!

6 month’s ago, Grace had to face a big challenge when she stepped up to fight in a boy’s division at her very first tournament. She lost her matches at that tournament, but came back with tremendous experience to build off of - today she picked up two submissions and earned first place in her division!

The wins and medals aren’t why we do this. These competitions for kids help them learn so much about themselves and how to find the spirit and confidence to persevere through such difficult challenges. We had many great performances this weekend - in both wins and losses. And Grace was one of our stand outs!

Look out because here she comes.

This was a big tournament for Maggie. She has improved so much in the last few months, but primarily in one area - starting off strong and bringing the fight to her opponent for the full match.

She demonstrates tremendous skill, heart, and effort in this clip (including a textbook guillotine escape), but what you don’t see are the hours of hard practices she put in to get there. She made huge strides in class with her training partners, and decided she was going to fight differently this tournament.

This is Maggie!

ps - she loved training to this song so we had to throw that in the video.

Ty had some of the toughest matches of the day, and was our vote for the MVP this tournament. He won with mental toughness and good position. I’ll share a couple of videos so you can see the intensity that his opponent’s brought, but has one of our parent coaches said - Ty has ice water in his veins.

In this match he has to overcome a tight Kimura submission, fight back to tie it up before time runs out, and then win in overtime. Please excuse the camera being off occasionally, we were a little preoccupied with the match!

His mental fortitude was they key element, and his physical preparation in the months prior to this are what seals the deal. All of those early Saturday morning practices doing their job…

Here’s another quick one! Grace gets her second submission of the day with a back take from the closed guard and a Mata Leao (Rear Naked Choke).

Alex demonstrated excellent top control and continues to showcase more control and confidence with every tournament. Our team is full of kids that are extremely coachable. We’ve built a great relationship between our coaches and kids, and you can see it in how well they receive guidance and make adjustments mid-match.

This relationship is built on respect, openness, and trust.

Aiden worked really hard on his strategy and position over the last few months and executed it so well in this match.

Watching the whole team takes such big leaps forward from tournament to tournament is an amazing process to be a part of.

Here's a longer highlight of PMA's whole team - we have a little bit of each kid in this video. Our team took 21 competitors to this tournament, with 1 teammate that missed out this time (Mack), as he was in Houston competing with his robotics team at the world championship!

There is footage from both wins and losses in this video. Our kids know that the coaches are just as happy with a win or a loss as long as we get two things - they have fun and give us a perfect effort. And in that regard, we were 21 for 21 this trip.

These kids will remember how tired they were for a few weeks, they’ll remember their matches for a few months, but they will keep the memories of their time together with their team forever!

The Competition Team came back and celebrated last week, and they are right back on the mats training! A little tired, a little sore, but ready to go.

And we had them pose for one last picture with their medals and swords from another incredible trip!


Jiu Jitsu Thrives in the Championship Rounds

*NOTE* I ran out of time to finish the blog post I was working on, so this week's post is a recycled article I wrote that was posted on in 2010.


On Saturday, August 9, 2010, Anderson “Spider” Silva won his 12th-straight fight in the UFC Octagon (a record). After being dominated for 23 minutes, Silva pulled off the submission that is arguably Jiu-Jitsu’s signature move: the triangle choke.

The triangle choke can not only put the person to sleep but it is applied from the bottom, a position most every martial art would say is disadvantageous. You should not ever choose to take the bottom in a fight because of the damage that can be done from the top. However, the fundamental principles of Jiu-Jitsu instilled by Helio Gracie were to use Jiu-Jitsu to survive the fight and most importantly NOT LOSE! Anderson was able to do this that night…from the bottom.

It is a rare occasion that one can see this applied in mixed martial arts competition (not losing, as opposed to trying to win). The reason for this is that the nature of the sport demands that the competitors train themselves to the best and push the pace from the very beginning to try to win. There is a limited amount of time to win the fight, therefore every second counts.

However, in this fight, the five championship rounds provided fans the opportunity to witness this fundamental principle of Jiu-Jitsu: patience.

Anderson was taking a beating, but surviving the fight. Though he was continuously put on his back, Anderson neutralized many of the strikes that were being thrown by Chael. Through many of the rounds, Anderson was positioned to execute the triangle, he had wrist control on the right arm of Chael close to his legs and the left arm of Chael was extended inside the guard. In this position, it was a matter of slipping his leg over Chael’s right arm and… game over.

So why didn’t Anderson pull this off quicker? Nobody can answer this but Anderson. It seemed to me as though he was not sure if the timing was quite right. Without the proper timing, Chael could defend the triangle, possibly advance his position, or at the very least have a read on what Anderson would be trying to do. Chael Sonnen did an outstanding job of putting Anderson Silva where he does not like to be, but we had seen this finish once before versus Travis Lutter. When, he finally thought he had Chael distracted enough and the timing was right, the Spider’s legs locked down the submission.

Anderson represented Jiu-Jitsu very well that night, as did Fabricio Werdum a few weeks before when he pulled off a triangle choke finish versus Fedor Emelianenko. Helio Gracie time and time again demonstrated that he could use his Jiu-Jitsu to neutralize bigger, stronger, dominating opponents and look for a finish later in the fight. Mixed martial arts and sport Jiu-Jitsu competitions many times take away this possibility and thus change the nature of the art in most cases. Same techniques, different philosophies. This is probably necessary for the growth of the two sports, but should always be noted by spectators.

Only a few young, very conditioned athletes can perform at the highest level MMA competitions. However, people from all ages and fitness levels can train the arts that these competitions come from with a holistic approach and carry away with them such benefits as confidence, fitness, stress relief, flexibility, endurance, and overall well-being – the Martial Arts Way of Life.

Anderson had received a lot of criticism after his disappointing performance versus Demian Maia, but on this night he showed a champion’s heart and the patience of a Jiu-Jitsu black belt. After this fight, Anderson did not have a lot left to prove in the UFC. He had demonstrated his superior striking skills and backed up his black belt. From that point forward, it became hard to criticize this UFC legend again and he began to be called "the greatest of all time."

The Triumph of Human Intelligence Over Brute Strength

Jiu Jitsu represents the triumph of human intelligence over brute strength.”
— Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie is the founder of the famous martial art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His son, Rorion Gracie, was my father's first teacher in Jiu Jitsu and the creator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Helio's quote above is one of my all-time favorites, and this past Winter Break I even had it put on the wall in our academy. The thing is though, when people see this quote and the word "triumph" or are told that martial arts teach smaller people how to overcome someone bigger and stronger than them, they tend to think that "triumph" or "overcome" means "to dominate".

If you watch any footage of Helio Gracie fighting, you will see something much different.

In the following fight, notice how Helio is thrown like a rag doll a couple of times before finally securing a move that will render his opponent unconscious and win him the match. This match is narrated by Helio's son, Rorion.

You see, the primary goal of Jiu Jitsu is just to survive against your attacker. Ideally, that would end with you choking them unconscious so you can get up and get home safely, but it may be just protecting yourself until help arrives, or until such time that you can run away.

Recently, I heard of a scenario in which an untrained male (internet troll) is claiming that he could defeat female mixed martial arts fighters because of how much stronger and faster the average man is. A female MMA fighter decided to take him up on the challenge, and it was held at an academy (as such a match would probably never be sanctioned by any organization).

Take a look:


As a martial arts instructor, I have seen this exact scenario play out multiple times. We get the opportunity to see our female students, smaller male students, older students, or any of our students for that matter, train with brand new students who are just getting started.

When I was a kid, I witnessed my Mom choke out a local wrestling coach with the same choke Helio used in the above video. 

I remember at age 18 watching my wife (girlfriend at the time), control a man that outweighed her by at least 80 pounds (of muscle). He started the match telling her that he was not going to use his strength. About midway through the match, he said, "I take it back, I'm going to use my strength." It didn't help.

You see it isn't that size, strength, and speed don't matter. They certainly do, as we've touched on many times on this blog before. It's just that they CAN be overcome with training.

One of the key takeaways from the video above is how quickly the in-shape male runs out of gas. An untrained opponent is not conditioned to fighting the same way as someone trained will be. In fact, not even close.

I will always remember a student coming to train at our school here in Knoxville when I was a teenager. He was an Olympic marathon runner, sponsored by Adidas. Arguably, one of the most "in-shape" athletes on the planet. He can run 26 miles faster than almost anyone else alive. BUT, within 30 seconds to a minute of grappling, he was utterly exhausted - just like every other person that begins training in Jiu Jitsu. This alone is one of the most important reasons to train.

Solely by training martial arts on a regular basis, you are preparing yourself physically and mentally for an altercation that your opponent will be grossly underprepared for if they do not train. We will teach you to weather the storm, and when their gas runs out, your opportunity to come out on top or to get away will present itself.

The funny thing is, in the interview after the match, the man states that it went about the way he expected and that he dominated until he gassed. What he should have said is that he dominated until she dominated! While his strength and speed allowed him to win the early exchanges, it quickly deteriorated, to the point that he actually tapped out to the exhaustion. That means he gave up (defeated both physically and mentally) due to just exhaustion - not from being hit or submitted by something like a choke.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned Rorion Gracie creating the UFC. Well that was now 25 years ago. At this past weekend's UFC event (the two hundred and twentieth event), we got to witness this exact scenario play out.

In the main event for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the world, Stipe Miocic weathered the storm of the fearsome striker, Francis Ngannou, to keep the belt and remain the UFC Heavyweight Champion. In the process, he set a new record for Heavyweight title defenses (3). The strikers are so powerful in this division, the fighters have an extremely difficult time keeping the belt for very long before someone else comes along and knocks them out.

Francis Ngannou was promoted as the most fearsome Heavyweight to ever step into the octagon with the most powerful punch ever recorded at the UFC Performance Institute. In his last fight, Ngannou knocked his opponent out with one punch - an uppercut so hard that his opponent was lifted off of his feet by the punch.

Ngannou came out swinging this fight too but had run into an opponent with a gameplan to avoid Ngannou's punches, use his wrestling and Jiu Jitsu to get the fight to the ground, and control him. Despite Ngannou's 20-pound weight advantage, he was unable to escape from underneath Miocic. He had zapped all of his energy trying to knock Miocic out and defending against the grappling positions with a lack of technique (he is still relatively new to the sport). 

The fatigue allowed Miocic to cruise to his 3rd title defense, but gave the rest of us another clean example of overcoming strength. 

Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley - What the Commentators Left Out and Why the UFC Doesn’t Deserve Him

Demian Maia is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter of a rare breed in 2017. He is a specialist in a time when specialists are hard to find in the UFC. That means he’s an expert in one particular area of the fight - for him that area is on the ground. His forte is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which primarily focuses on controlling an opponent on the ground, and Demian is one of the best in the world at it. 

Hang with me through a long post, as I’d like to introduce you to Demain Maia, for those that don’t know much about him, and then break down some key takeaways from his fight last night for the UFC world championship.

In 2007, Demian won the ADCC World Championships, one of the most prestigious grappling tournaments and considered by many to be the toughest championship to win. That same year he made his debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and began a ten-year display of some of the best grappling ever to be shown inside the octagon.

The UFC was started by the Gracie family (the same family that created Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by adapting Japanese Jiu Jitsu to make it their own) as a way to showcase Jiu Jitsu versus other martial arts. In the early events, it was dominated by grapplers, like Royce Gracie, and the world was sent an obvious message - you have to know Jiu Jitsu.

Now, you cannot find a single fighter on the UFC roster that does not train Jiu Jitsu. With the secret being out, stand up fighters began to slowly take over the sport as they developed better and better tactics to neutralize the attacks on the ground, and keep the fight standing up, and the champions all started to have very similar styles - a potent mixture of striking and grappling.

While Demain Maia also trains stand up arts to learn all aspects of the fight, he has stated that his game plan is always to use his Jiu Jitsu. He is a specialist and looks to get the fight to the ground where he can neutralize his opponents’ strikes, control them, and hopefully finish the fight with a submission such as the Rear Naked Choke (“Mata Leao”) shown in the fight below.

While he makes a living fighting mixed martial arts, Demian distances himself from some of the more negative aspects of the sport: the onlookers who are only interested in seeing a blood bath, the unsportsmanlike and overly cocky attitudes, and the constant trash talk. Instead, he treats everyone around him with respect, including his opponents. He is confident in himself but humble. And intends NOT to hurt his opponent!

A lot of jiu-jitsu is based around the idea of not hurting people. Jiu-jitsu gives people an option to tap or submit. The intention is not to hurt or punish the opponent. They are given a choice to stop that. That’s what I try and do in my fights. I try and represent jiu-jitsu to the best of my ability and to show the philosophy of the art. I don’t like to hurt people.
— Demian Maia

The UFC is a business, and to make more money they have to entertain their fans and get people to watch the fights. Over the last couple of decades, a successful formula has developed in which fighters talk trash to build hype and excitement for their fights. Much of the respect, humility, and kindness that was traditionally taught in the martial arts is not present in the UFC culture as fighting and making money has become more important than sportsmanship and similar values.

Last night, Demian Maia challenged Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight title in the UFC. This fight was the culmination of years of hard work and a seven fight win streak (the current longest in the division) for Demian. Along the way, he took down and submitted the best fighters in his weight class but was passed up over and over again for a title shot because he is the antithesis to what the UFC is looking for as stated above. He doesn’t talk trash; he even said that he doesn’t try to hurt his opponents, and that is not the type of fighter that the UFC promotes (though I wish it were!).

In last night's fight, Tyron won via unanimous decision and based on the scorecards and the comments made by the commentators, Joe Rogan and Dominic Cruz, and the media, you would think that Tyron decisively won the fight. Before I go any further, let me say that I understand this is a business and that making exciting fights will entice fans to buy pay-per-views which creates a need for the scoring system to reward what would make an exciting fight. 

Regardless, I watch the matches as a martial arts instructor and look to take away as many lessons on fighting as possible, and I think there are some important ones here that Demian did well (as did Tyron), but the commentators only talked about Tyron’s success.

Dominick Cruz criticizing Demian’s “wrestling.”

Throughout the fight, Demian shot in to take Tyron down 21 times and wasn’t successful at getting his opponent to the ground on a single attempt. This was obviously a job well done by Woodley. He did his homework on Demian’s takedown strategy and shut it down perfectly. Using a combination of his back against the cage, well-timed sprawls, and turning and pulling his leg free anytime Demian was close on a single leg attempt, he kept the fight standing for the entire 25 minutes.

Now, while this was going on, Dominick Cruz was pointing out some things that he thought Demian could do better with his wrestling to get Tyron to the floor. Dominick has had a lot of success in the UFC, and is very knowledgeable in the fighting game, but so is Demian. My problem with Dominick’s style of commentating is that he tends to point out what he thinks one fighter is doing wrong rather than what the other fighter is doing right. I disagree with that approach because the fact that something works one way for one fighter does not necessarily mean that is the “right” way to do things, and all fighters should do it that way.

Last night, Dominick made the comment that Demian is not following through on his shot attempts and that he needs to keep driving through his opponent to finish the takedown. He said, “that’s wrestling 101.” And he’s right. BUT Demian is not a wrestler, he is a Jiu Jitsu fighter and one of the best to ever compete in the UFC. He trains wrestling to improve his takedowns and takedown defense, but if you look at the success he has had thus far, it is not by using “wrestling 101.” He doesn’t usually drive through his opponents to get them down, and one of the reasons is his body.

If you look at Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley side by side you will notice a taller, leaner Demian Maia, and a shorter, stockier, Tyron Woodley. Tyron is extremely muscular, explosive, and powerful. Woodley is a wrestler and has the body necessary to drive through his opponents and follow through on his takedowns with ease. Demain does not, at least not with ease on a strong wrestler like Woodley.

I know this because I have a similar build to Demian Maia. I wrestled in high school and had a much harder time with it than I did with Jiu Jitsu. In Jiu Jitsu, you don’t need the pure athleticism that you do in wrestling. While both grappling styles are technical, wrestling is much more built around explosiveness, and Jiu Jitsu is much more based on control.

In another martial art, Kenpo, five animals are used to showcase the different characteristics and styles that a martial artist can implement. In this fight, Tyron Woodley would be a Tiger, and Demian Maia would be a snake. Tyron has the explosive power to charge forward and quickly take out an opponent, and Demian has the strength of an anaconda to wrap his opponents up and control them (or choke them!).

So when Dominick Cruz criticizes Demian for not wrestling the way a wrestler would, I’d have to say that he’s right, but it’s because that’s not the style of fighting that works for him. The fight video above is Demian in the middle of his 7-fight win streak where you can see his Jiu Jitsu in action, and the way he typically has success getting his opponents to the ground.

Demian shoots in on his opponents, but rather than drive through to finish like a wrestler, he latches on and either drags them down to the ground with him or even pulls them on top of him. His goal is just to get them close. Then he can go to work.

Both Commentators Calling for Demian to Throw High Kicks

As the fight went on, the commentators began to try to come up with things Demian could seek to do to have more success. At one point they began calling for Demian to throw some high round kicks to the head of Woodley.

Their argument was solid in that Demian needed to try to mix things up because apparently Tyron was prepared for Demian’s game plan. They stated that since he isn’t afraid of getting taken down, there was no risk in throwing kicks and that in fact, it would be a gift if Tyron decided to catch Demian’s kick and take him down. This is true, but what they are forgetting is that while half of Demian’s gameplan was to get the fight to the ground, the other half was to control the distance on the feet and ensure that Tyron could not strike effectively.

The most important rule in the fight is to control the distance, and Demian did it beautifully in last night’s loss. He maintained a range in which Tyron could not reach him to land his notoriously powerful punches that have knocked out some of the best fighters in the division. He did this by calmly moving out of punching range or closing the distance with a takedown attempt anytime Tyron came forward with an attempt to strike.

Throwing a high round kick while trying to control the distance can be risky in that you could be caught standing on one foot and your opponent could seize that opportunity to finally close the distance and land a big punch while you are unable to retreat effectively or shoot. This is especially true with a round kick because since the kick travels around the side, it would allow the opponent to move straight forward past the kick and close the distance. Especially with Woodley’s speed and 2-inch reach advantage!

Discussing Tyron Shutting Down Demian’s Game But Not Demian Shutting Down Tyron’s

Lastly, the commentators highlighted well that Tyron was shutting down Demian’s gameplan by stopping all 21 takedown attempts and keeping the fight standing up. And since it was a unanimous decision from the judges, they apparently felt the same way.

However, I’d like to argue that Demian shut down Tyron’s game effectively as well. As stated above, he controlled the distance very well and didn’t allow Tyron to effectively strike, evidenced by the fans booing Woodley as soon as his name was announced as the winner. The fans were frustrated because of the lack of effectiveness Tyron had on his feet. He did a superb job keeping it on the feet, but then could not execute there effectively.

In the post fight press conference, Dana White was extremely critical of Tyron Woodley’s performance and much like Dominick was doing to Demian Maia as discussed above, Dana was discussing what he thought Tyron was doing wrong rather than what Demian was doing right.

Tyron did not strike effectively because anytime he began to commit to his striking, Demian would shoot in for a takedown. You could argue that while Demian didn’t manage to get the fight to the ground, his takedowns were extremely effective because of what they did. They allowed him to control the distance. 

Demian did a phenomenal job controlling the distance, Tyron did a phenomenal job at stopping the takedowns, and Tyron was able to inflict slightly more damage which is surely what secured him the win on the judge’s cards. Dana White was overly critical and said Woodley should be embarrassed, going as far to say that “it couldn’t be a worse performance.” I disagree, I thought Woodley did a great job staying composed and not falling into the trap that could have landed him on the ground with Maia, not to mention he defended 21 takedowns!

As a martial artist, I enjoy watching someone like Demian Maia fight more than anyone else. He fights efficiently, with incredible technique, and doesn’t look physically imposing. To acquire the skills you see Demian Maia using, you only need to train martial arts for many years. You don’t have to be naturally gifted with athleticism or power, but if you are, the martial arts can provide you with a fighting style that fits you too! The five animals of Kenpo that we mentioned above are the Tiger, Snake, Crane, Leopard, and Dragon. All five are very different, but all can fight effectively. 

Most importantly, I love that Demian Maia carries himself like a true martial artist with respect and humility in both victory and defeat. The UFC really doesn’t deserve him, but I’m glad he’s there so that my children still have some genuine martial artists to watch fight.

Is Jiu Jitsu Dead?

This is an article I wrote seven years ago that was published on Let's revisit it, and at the end, I'll address if anything has changed since then!

With the results of the most recent UFC event, people are already starting to pop the question, “Is Jiu Jitsu dead?” 

We watched Renzo Gracie get obliterated on his feet, BJ Penn had his belt taken from him on his feet, and Damian Maia lost his title shot to what started as a very impressive performance but turned into three rounds of running around the ring by Anderson Silva. 

Renzo Gracie, BJ Penn, and Damian Maia – you would be hard-pressed to find three better men to represent the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the UFC. So is this the end of an era? 

Jiu Jitsu dominated the UFC in the early years, was it just a phase?

Let’s imagine for a second that football has been around since the beginning of time, but all anyone ever did was a passing game. Then, all of a sudden in 1993 a team came out with a running game, went undefeated and won the super bowl. 

For the next few years, other teams started implementing running games into their arsenal and before you knew it – EVERY team had at least some running game in their playbook. 

Now, this year in the playoffs all of the matches were running teams versus passing teams. All of the passing teams won. After so much success, should we stop using the running game? It seems ridiculous to even ask such a question. Of course not, on this night the passing teams had the running teams numbers, and nobody could do anything about it. They just came out with a better strategy and implementation.

Jiu Jitsu is not dead, not by any means. In fact, there were some aspects of those fights last night that proved how alive it truly is. 

Anderson Silva and Matt Hughes, arguably two of the best fighters in the history of the sport said that there was no way they were going to the ground. They trained to keep that fight on the feet, just as the jiu jitsu players trained to get it to the ground, the Jiu Jitsu players just couldn’t pull it off. 

If anything is to be taken from these fights, it is the evolution of all martial artists. Jiu Jitsu in the United States has evolved tremendously. Fighters are taking the words of Bruce Lee to heart and using no way as way. Matt Hughes' Jiu Jitsu includes more aspects of fighting than Royce Gracie’s. His wrestling skills combined with the training he has in Jiu Jitsu enabled him to take out some of the best of the Gracie Family.

So what will I train? I will continue to train my jiu jitsu skills, both the sportive aspect as well as the street. I will continue to train my standup skills, but I will not limit myself to Boxing or Muay Thai, my standup will include Kenpo, Kali, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Western Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and other martial arts that our family has incorporated into what we teach.

Where we believe some schools error is in calling their singular art “THE WAY.” There is no way, and once someone starts to tell you that this is the way, and no other martial arts are worth learning, be wary. 

However, don’t be fooled by the hype of the outcomes of these fights, on any night anything can happen. Watch them, appreciate their place as a competitive sport in which some aspects of the martial arts can be proven on the canvas battleground, and continue to train a very well-rounded program. 

Jiu Jitsu is not dead!

So 7 years after posting this article, has anything changed? If we look at that stats it seems that more fights (while still close) are being won by the strikers rather than the grapplers. 

Check out this post from my father:

No this does not mean Jiu Jitsu is dying but in fact the opposite. More and more fighters are learning it, which makes them much better at defending against it. Why are they learning it? Because the early success of Jiu Jitsu in this format proved it is a necessity.

However, every round starts standing up, and this plays into the hands of the striker - the fight starts where they want to be, so they just have to avoid letting the grappler get it to where he wants to be.

So, what are you training? Are all three sides of this triangle covered? If not, there could be a huge hole in your ability to fight in all scenarios.

Size Definitely Matters

When a new Jiu Jitsu prospect walks in, my favorite part of our interaction is watching their reaction when I tell them Jiu Jitsu allows a person to use momentum and leverage to control a much larger opponent.

The reactions are always a mixed bag, but my favorites are the faces of people who consider themselves at a physical disadvantage - whether it’s because of their gender, strength, or height - as they alight with hope or excitement.  On the other hand, my least favorite reaction, unfortunately, is probably the most common one: the non-believers or skeptics.
As a woman, sometimes they target their disbelief specifically at me. “There’s no way you can throw me!”  “You really think you can hold me down?!”  
Sometimes, their reaction is born from fear.  They want what I’m saying to be true, but whether from their imaginations or respective experiences, they can’t quite bring themselves to trust me - or, as a result, the technique.  “Are you sure this will work?  I don’t know.”  “Well, what if they do this? Then this? Or this? What about this?”

Whatever their reaction - excited or skeptical - every person eventually finds their way here: “They’re too big.”
Some prospective students acknowledge this right off the bat.  They see a room full of men and women of various sizes, but they zero in on the bodybuilder that looks like he could bench press a semi and, oh yeah, just happens to be seven feet tall.  They take one look at that guy, and think, There’s no way I can use leverage to control that guy.  He’s huge!

Some people have enough success with training partners similar in size to silence the worries in the back of their heads about bigger students.  These people usually start to doubt their abilities when techniques that have worked perfectly on smaller partners don’t work as well on larger opponents.

Their concerns are not without merit, and here’s why: size DOES matter.  Read that again if you need to, but don’t panic because while size absolutely matters, it CAN be overcome with technique. 

Here’s how I want you to think about this.  If an untrained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller, well-trained opponent, the smaller man can win.  Take a look at this video to see this theory in action:

Now, if a trained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller individual who is also well-trained, size is going to matter.  It can still be overcome with technique, but it will be harder.  The larger person has an advantage because they have size AND skill on their side.  
A perfect example of this is to watch one of the match ups between Mackenzie Dern, who is arguably the number one pound for pound female black belt in Jiu Jitsu, and Gabi Garcia, another talented BJJ black belt competitor who outweighs Mackenzie by nearly 100 pounds.
They’ve competed against each other multiple times with different outcomes.  When Gabi Garcia wins, Mackenzie Dern is still able to hold her own during the match.  Check out the video below to watch Mackenzie come up victorious in a match against Gabi at the 2015 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship.

Sometimes, size does matter, but it can be overcome.  So don’t let that discourage you; let it challenge you.  And don’t let it make you a skeptic; let it make you excited!

The Perfect Fighter

UPDATE: It has been almost one year since Ronda Rousey was knocked out with a vicious head kick that the whole world heard connect. This week it was announced that Ronda would make her return to the octagon at UFC 197 on December 30 versus the current champion, Amanda Nunes. The following article was my initial thoughts following her brutal loss last November (written immediately following the match) take a look:

Tonight I feel for Ronda Rousey. Not because she lost, as I knew that would happen if she fought long enough. I feel for her that she rose to a position in her career that people viewed her as invincible. She rose to a position in her life that people saw her as superhuman. But she is not. Nor is anyone. 

I am thinking about an article I shared earlier this week from Precision Nutrition that discusses “that person.” “That person” that has “got it all together.” It hits home the point that we are all human and “that person” doesn’t exist. If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes (it’s worth it) -

Coming into the fight tonight Ronda was the favorite and all week I answered the question, “Does Holly have a chance?” Despite only having fought three fewer fights than the champion, I have to admit I was skeptical that maybe they had thrown Holly to their money making machine a little early as her other UFC fights thus far, while wins, were not super impressive. However, my response was that if Holly can circle and use her reach and movement to avoid Ronda’s rush, then she has a chance. As far as the stand-up aspect of fighting goes, Holly was coming into this fight with lightyears more experience. Just as Ronda was coming into the bout with lightyears more grappling experience. Congratulations to Holly Holm and her team of coaches and training partners as she had a perfect gameplan and executed it. Flawlessly.

I wish as a society we didn’t feel the need to raise someone up so high when they are doing well because it makes the fall so much harder when they inevitably fall. Fighting is far too complex with far too many aspects for one person to possibly be the best at them all. No one is perfect. Everyone will lose if given enough opportunities. It just takes finding the person that is better than you at one aspect and with the game plan to exploit it.

I don’t know if it was just for promotion or if she actually felt this way but leading up to this fight Ronda stated in an interview that she wants to also win the boxing world championship and jiu jitsu world championship when she retires from the UFC. If she did believe that she was the best at all aspects of fighting, tonight would be a reminder that she is human. And that’s okay! As a martial artist, I appreciate the sacrifice that she and other fighters make to enter the octagon so that I can take these valuable lessons from their performances. I am not disappointed in her or any other great champions that have ever lost.

I will save some of the more technical aspects of the fight for another post or classes I teach on the mat, but I hope that Ronda’s team handles this loss well and that she gets back to the training camp and gets right to work on filling these holes. Ronda was picked apart tonight but not by a “better” fighter. Holly Holm had a better strategy and executed it flawlessly. I believe Ronda could dominate the fight just as well if she comes up with the game plan to take the fight to the areas where she knows she has the advantage. It will require fighting smarter and of course - she'd have to be prepared to counter the counter game plan that Holly will develop for the rematch.

So tonight we did not see “the perfect fighter” and we never will. Tonight we saw the perfect fight. I hope you can take this lesson with you on the mat as well as into other aspects of your life. Remember that while we may strive for perfection, it is not attainable. What’s important is that we grow every day. Let’s try to avoid comparing ourselves to others and never forget that we are all human. Despite some people having great success, they are not perfect and still face struggles and hardships as the rest of us. Tonight Ronda fell, let’s all hope she gets back up and gives Holly one hell of a rematch.

“To Fall Seven Times. To Rise Eight Times. Life Begins Now.” -Daruma