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12 BJJ Black Belts Give Their Best Tips for Starting BJJ {Video and Podcast}

Today you’re going to get 12 BJJ black belts give their best tips, strategies and advice for people just starting out in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. White belts looking for help getting started and organising their training will really benefit from watching this.

Although there are a few themes the fascinating thing is how diverse the advice is.  There is no one path, no one BJJ tip to rule them all, so getting different opinions from different grapplers is an amazing thing!

If this video doesn’t fire you up and get you on the mat grappling then nothing will!

Watch the video below, or scroll down to find out who they are in advance and listen to this in audio-only podcast format!

Here are the 12 BJJ black belts featured in this video:

Stephan Kesting (0:00 to 1:14) grapplearts.com Bernardo Faria (1:14 to 2:25) bernardofaria.com Brandon ‘Wolverine’ Mullins (2:25 to 5:22) justgipants.com Travis Stevens (5:22 to 6:04) fujisports.com/blog/travis-stevens/ Rob Biernacki (6:04 to 7:21) islandtopteam.com/ Pshemek Drabczynski (7:21 to 8:10) besthometrainer.com Ritchie Yip (8:10 to 9:22) infighting.ca Sean McHugh (9:22 to 10:20) alliancekelowna.com Elliott Bayev (10:20 to 12:09) openmat.ca Jason Manly (12:09 to 12:48) instagram.com/jasonmanly Michael Zenga (12:48 to 13:49) bjjfanatics.com Perry Bateson (13:49 to 14:56) nwjja.ca/ BJJ Positions & Techniques Checklist (free download here)

If you want this same information in audio form then go to your favourite podcasting platform, subscribe to ‘The Strenuous Life’ Podcast, and then look for episode 132. You can find it on most podcast platforms, including…

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/strenuous-life-podcast-stephan-kesting-grapplearts/id320705565?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/listen?authuser&u=0#/ps/I3qvbtkdb74xrpv6ozbzie2ca4e

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-993426357

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stephan-kesting/grapplearts-radio-podcast

Alternately you can also listen to the advice on the embedded player below…

See you on the mat!

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Wrist Locks – Attacking The Most Under-Attacked Joint

Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling offer techniques to attack almost every major joint in the body including the elbow, shoulder, neck, knees, feet, and ankles.

These should be your bread and butter submissions because they have a long, proven track record of effectiveness.

I think a bit of variety is a good thing, however, so let’s talk about a not-so-common attack: wrist locks!

The wrist is the most under-attacked joint in grappling. Just about every time you are attacking the arm you have access to the wrist as well. If your opponent is really good at defending the armlock, for example, you may be able to switch to a quick wristlock and get a submission that way.

The video on wrist lock safety below also has lots of examples of wrist locks that you can intentionally (and accidentally) apply on the ground:

There are lots of ways to compress, extend and twist the wrist. Just watch an aikido class or read a book and traditional Japanese Ju-jutsu. Typically these wristlocks start with both combatants in a standing or kneeling position, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also work on the ground.

But against resistance – an opponent who is really fighting you – wrist locks are a lot easier to do on a pinned opponent than on a more mobile standing opponent.

I am not alone in my respect for the wristlock in grappling. Fernando ‘Terere’ and Fredson Paixao are just 2 of many BJJ players who have used the wristlock at the highest levels of competition. One the home front, one of my main training partners is a master of sneak wristlock attack. When we spar I constantly have to watch where I put my hands or he is going to trap a hand and lock the wrist.

Now for an important safety announcement: APPLY WRISTLOCKS SLOWLY!! Here is why:

The wrist is a small joint with many small bones and ligaments and thus susceptible to injury in the first place Wrist locks are relatively easy to counter, so  the temptation is to slam them on quickly If  you slam them on quickly you WILL injure your training partners.

In a very real sense wrist locks are the heel hooks of the upper body – very effective, but also prone to injure your partner if misused.

I’ve accidentally injured a training partner’s wrist with a simple twist of » Continue Reading.

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The Strenuous Life Podcast: New Episode with Extreme Kiteboarder Jack Rieder

I really enjoyed talking with kiteboarder and extreme athlete Jack Rieder (in part because I’m dying to try kiteboarding myself).  

It’s episode 107 of The Strenuous Life Podcast with Stephan Kesting.  You can listen to the audio below or subscribe to the podcast and then download the episode in iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

Even though Jack doesn’t do martial arts (yet!) he still exemplifies the strenuous life. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Here’s just a bit of what we talked about…

1:10 – What is kiteboarding? 6:47 – The disciplines of kiteboarding 13:57 – Other uses for kites 17:51 – Controlling the kite 21:28 – Injuries and risk 27:14 – Media and video process 30:36 – Training vs doing for high level performance 38:07 – The future of the sport 41:11 – The art of getting sponsored

The best way to listen to this podcast is definitely to download a podcast player to your phone and subscribe to the podcast (details above) but if you want to listen to it right now you can just hit play on the player below:

 

 

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Podcast Episode 102: Ken Johnson on What He Learned in 34 Years of Firefighting

In this episode of The Strenuous Life Podcast I sat down with Ken Johnson, retired Battalion Chief of Training, to talk shop. We covered,

Managing emergency scenes, Staying calm under pressure, Training for boxing and making sure that you’re always in shape, Recent breakthroughs in firefighting tactics, How to do your best in difficult situations, The critical importance of your team, The fun side of firefighting, Whether someone should become a firefighter or not, How to increase the chances of getting signed on, Plus we talked ironworking, boxing, and a lot more.

There’s a lot here for everyone, including non-firefighters, because many of the principles and ideas shared by Chief Johnson are universal.

Find out more about Chief Johnson on his Career Firefighter site where he helps aspiring firefighters get hired and do their best at their new jobs.

You can listen to this episode (number 102) on the player below but it’d be even better if you subscribed to my Strenuous Life Podcast which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher because then you can check out the previous podcasts and not miss the future ones!

Let me know what you think about this interview on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below, OK?

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Older Grappler Training Q & A

In this episode of The Strenuous Life Podcast I answer lots of questions by older grapplers about continuing to train and make good progress when you’re in your 40’s, 50’s and beyond.

Can you still train hard as you get older? How often should you train? How can you recover faster? Should you also do weight training as an older athlete And more!

The questions came from an Instagram Live broadcast I did; follow me on Instagram @stephan_kesting and maybe next time I’ll be answering YOUR question on one of these Q&A sessions.

You can listen to this episode (number 097) on the player below but it’d be even better if you subscribed to my Strenuous Life Podcast which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

P.S. If you’re an older grappler you can click here to check out these other Grapplearts articles, videos and podcasts on the topic

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Cults, Comets and Critical Thinking!

I’ve just released a new podcast episode (episode 093) just out that starts with martial arts training and ends up talking about mass suicides and alien spaceships trailing comets…

At it’s core it’s a rant about the importance of testability, falsifiability, and critical thinking.

You can listen to this episode (number 093) on my Strenuous Life Podcast which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

Or you can just click play below, but then you won’t catch future episodes like you would if you subscribed at one of the podcast provider services above!

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Jiu-Jitsu for the Zombie Apocalypse

As we get closer and closer to Halloween it’s important to shift your priorities from training jiu-jitsu to surviving the impending zombie apocalypse.

(After all, it’s tough to train jiu-jitsu when you’re dead.  Or undead, as the case may be.)

That’s why you’ve got to check out the most important video I’ve ever put onto Youtube: Jiu-Jitsu for the Zombie Apocalypse.

A lot of people will tell you that jiu-jitsu will be useless when the Zombie Apocalypse hits.  But those people have an agenda: usually they’re trying to sell you flamethrowers, or have stocks in the big arms companies.

The truth is that the better your jiu-jitsu and grappling skills are, then better your odds become of surviving long enough to get to your arsenal, your giant vehicle, and making it to the safezone.

This video was a lot of fun to make, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t very important stuff in it. Check it out right now and thank me later!

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Are You Just Not Getting Any Better? Here are 3 Steps to Bust Your Training Plateau

When you’re training hard, hitting a training plateau can be incredibly frustrating.

But first of all, let’s hit on an important distinction.

A training ‘slump’ and a training ‘plateau’ are two different things…

I go into detail about the differences between slumps and plateaus in this article here, but basically a slump is a relatively short-lived event, one to four weeks long, in which your skill level actually goes down.  Usually it’s caused by a specific cause, for example illness, overtraining, or not enough sleep.  Fix the underlying cause and your level starts to improve again.

But when you’re in a plateau you don’t get any worse.  The problem is that, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t get any better either.

It’s one thing to suffer if you’re making progress towards a goal; at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  Suffering without progress is much harder to deal with.

A plateau typically lasts much longer than a slump – often one to six months.  It seems like it’s never going to end.  And it’s doubly frustrating because during this time your  training partners usually insist on continuing to make progress, which widens the gap and leaves you even further in the dust.

Everybody deals with plateaus if they only train long enough.

In the video below, which I shot right at the end of a frustrating cardio session, I talk about the three steps to break out of a training slump…

First, don’t freak out. Plateaus are a normal part of any long learning or training process.

Of course jiu-jitsu players hit slumps, but it happens in every endeavor.

Runners hit plateaus when their running times just stop improving. Academics hit plateaus when they just don’t have any new insights. Businesses hit plateaus when they just stop growing.

Plateau Buster 1 – Try to Identify the Underlying Cause of the Plateau

This isn’t always possible, but if you can figure out what’s causing your plateau then you can fix it.

For many people the underlying cause is training volume.

Maybe you’ve gotten as good as you can get training twice a week.  Yes, every time you go to class you learn something new, but in between classes you also forget stuff.  Maybe at twice a week the knowledge flows into your cup as fast as it drains from it, and that’s what’s causing » Continue Reading.

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McGregor vs Mayweather: Don’t Waste Your Money

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Conor McGregor, the reigning light-heavyweight UFC champion, is going to be fighting one of the all time best boxers Floyd Mayweather on August 26th.\

I know people are excited about this, because I get asked about it every single day…

McGregor is younger, bigger, cockier, is a southpaw and has proven knockout power.

But is he going to win a boxing match with 10 oz gloves?

Almost certainly not!

In the video below I talk about why this is the case…

McGregor is an amazing salesman for this fight, trash talking like nobody’s business.  He has 100,000,000 good reasons to do so after all…

But it comes down to this: football and soccer are different sports, just like MMA and Boxing.  Even the most gifted athletes in the world can’t switch from one sport to another and expect to do well at a high level on their first outing.

McGregor murders Mayweather in MMA.  Mayweather beats McGregor in boxing.  The end.

Let’s say that the best team in soccer (Real Madrid, say) plays a FOOTBALL GAME against the worst team in football (the Cleveland Browns). Even  competing against the worst football team in the game Real Madrid would get slaughtered.

A friend of mine summed it up like this, “McGregor has about the same chance against Roger Gracie in a gi IBJJF match as he does against Mayweather in boxing.

But what about an upset?

Well, it is a fight, there’s a one in a hundred chance that he gets super lucky, lands a crushing left hand and KO’s Mayweather.  And if that happens it’s the end of boxing and the immediate ascendency of MMA to the premiere sport in the world.

But it’s so unlikely that it completely baffles me that people are putting money on McGregor.

Last I looked the odds of McGregor winning were +375.  That means that if you put $100 down on him and he actually wins then you’re $375 richer than you were before you made the bet.

For the layman, that’s roughly 4 to 1 odds of him winning, which is ridiculous.

The odds are so against McGregor that you should get a 50:1 payout if he wins.

Don’t waste your money betting on the underdog in this match!

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July 4th Sale on All Apps!

July 4th Long Weekend Sale: All Apps on All Platforms Currently 50% Off the Listed Price!

I’m not often confused with Tom Cruise.

First of all I’m a lot taller than he is…

I’m also NOT a Scientologist, and have never jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch…

And finally I’m much better looking (at least that’s what my mom used to tell me)!

But Tom and I do have at least one similarity…

In 1989 he starred in a movie called ‘Born on the Fourth of July.’   Coincidentally I star in that very same movie every year.  Because I too am born on the Fourth of July.

So in the next few days, amidst all the fireworks and celebrations I’m going to be celebrating my birthday.  But there’s a twist: YOU’RE going to get the present.

Here’s what’s happening between now and July 4th…

We’re having a giant sale.

First all Grapplearts Apple, Android and Kindle apps, and all Grapplearts instructional DVDs and programs are 50% off.

(The DVDs and on-demand training is also going to go on sale, but I still need to set it up at my end, so I’ll likely send you another email with that info tomorrow).

This is a great time to grab all the BJJ apps you need to turbocharge your training for the next year.  And if your phone or tablet is too full to hold them  all then I’ve got a solution for you!

Remember that you can purchase the app now to take advantage of the great price, but leave it ‘in the cloud’ until you need it.

That way you get the discount, but only actually download the app to your phone from the iTunes or the Google Play store whenever you’ve cleared some space on your device.

As long as you’re still using that same account that app will always be there for you!

Click here to see all the BJJ instructional apps that I’ve got, or select from the links below…

Roadmap for BJJ Apple | Android | Kindle FREE

Grapplearts Submissions Apple | Android | Kindle on sale $1.99 (regular $3.99)

Grapplearts Guard Sweeps Apple | Android | Kindle on sale $1.99 (regular $3.99)

Grapplearts Submission Defense Apple | Android | Kindle on sale $1.99 (regular $3.99)

7 Days to Better Guard » Continue Reading.

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Don’t Be Afraid of Admitting that You Don’t Know Everything

This is rant was brewing inside me for a long time, and I’m sure it’ll upset some people and ruffle some feathers.  Oh well, can’t make an omlette without breaking a few eggs, so I’ll get over it…

I did the rant in video form, and the full name of that video is “Don’t Bullshit Your Students About Knowing Everything!” which pretty much sums it up!

The humility to admit that you don’t know everything is admirable.

And bullshitting students about a position or a technique you know nothing about is deplorable.

Your ego isn’t more important than their development.

Here’s the video…

Now, some shout-outs…

In the video I start out by saying that one of the coolest things I ever heard a martial arts instructor say was “Ask me any question you have.  If I know the answer then I’ll tell you.  If I don’t know the answer then we’ll find out together.

That instructor was Makoto Kabayama (formerly going by ‘Nip) of the Kabayam Bushidokan in Toronto.

And the other instructor I reference in the video – the guy who was OK with my bringing in other teachers to learn Capoeira – was Philip Gelinas of the GAMMA school in Montreal.

If you’re reading then thanks to both of you – you’ve been way more influential than you give yourselves credit for.

If you admit that you don’t know everything then it implies that you yourself still have some learning and growing to do, which is the case for everyone from this year’s Mundial champion to Rickson Gracie himself.

If you’re done with learning you should be in the grave.

Stephan Kesting

 

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A Musician’s Perspective on Studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

By Jeff Marder

I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember, and have been playing professionally for over thirty years. My primary focus is playing keyboards, conducting, and doing electronic music design for Broadway productions, although along the way I’ve also played a lot of jazz, classical, and spent three years in Las Vegas playing keyboards on a Cirque du Soleil production.

Throughout my entire life, I always had a desire to learn a martial art. Aside from doing some wrestling in junior high school, I never pursued this interest as my schedule often interfered or I was on tour with a production. About three years ago, my schedule allowed me to begin taking some classes, so I began my journey at a local Krav Maga school.

While there, I signed up for a No-Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class that was being offered. I was instantly hooked and immediately left Krav Maga to sign up at Vitor Shaolin’s academy in midtown Manhattan. I’ve now been training BJJ for about two years.

So many things about BJJ speak to me on an incredibly deep level; the camaraderie, the physical and emotional benefits, the competition, and the community. However, something that struck me about the learning process is just how similar it is to learning music. I’ve discussed this observation with several other colleagues in the music industry who are also martial artists and I find that we’re all in agreement. The purpose of this article is to share these thoughts with the hope that they might offer a fresh perspective.

Vocabulary

Both BJJ and music each have their own respective vocabularies specific to their practice.

In music, we practice scales, arpeggios, and repertoire to learn the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic syntax. Those specializing in western classical music must learn Bach Preludes and Fugues, Mozart Sonatas, and Chopin Etudes, jazz musicians must learn solos that were improvised by the masters note for note from recordings, and pop musicians need to have the experience of playing in a cover band to learn the building blocks of song structure, production, and arranging.

The BJJ equivalent would be the moves and positions that form the building blocks of the art such as the guard, shrimping, bridging, various guard passes, sweeps, and submissions. Trying to roll after just one or two classes feels a lot like being that guy who hangs out at » Continue Reading.

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Blood, Sweat and… Sparta!!!

This may sound a bit weird coming from a guy who runs a grappling site, but I want you to ask yourself a question: why on earth are you spending hours and hours rolling around on the ground with men wearing spandex and/or pajamas?

Really… I mean it’s not the easiest of activities.  And it’s sweaty and sometimes it’s even painful…

Obviously there are self defense benefits to training, but if that was your only concern then you should just buy a gun! There are health and fitness benefits, sure, but wouldn’t it be easier to just hire a personal trainer a few times a week?

I think that a large part of the appeal of grappling is that it ISN’T a walk in the park!

We don’t train because it’s easy.  We train because it’s hard!

And the major milestones in your training – attending your first class, competing in your first tournament, getting your black belt – function as a sort of rite of passage, which is something that we’ve mostly lost in our society.

We have to remind ourselves that in bygone times rites of passage weren’t easy.  There was no guarantee of success.

But you need the possibility of failure to get the transformation and transcendence.

Let’s look at some historical rites of passage.  Not only is there the possibility of failure, but many of them were actually pretty brutal.

Did you see the movie 300?  Do you remember the flashback to King Leonidas killing the wolf as a teenager?  That was actually part of the brutal krypteia ritual that young Spartan men had to undergo in order to come of age.  And not all of them survived.

Old navy rituals for pollywogs (new sailors crossing the equator for the first time) sent many injured men to sickbay, but also marked an important transition in the sailor’s career. And not all Australian Aborigine adolescents who took off into the bush for months to do their walkabout returned.

Am I saying that you have to go out and assassinate slaves bare-handedly like ancient Spartan youths?

No.

Am I saying that you should get beaten with boards and flogged with wet ropes like a sailor in the Royal Navy?

Not exactly…

But there is a certain glory in dragging your butt to class and getting it royally kicked.  Or waiting to compete at a tournament, scared s***less.

Most people get up, » Continue Reading.

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Every Martial Art Consists of These 3 Things…

I’m primarily known as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, but the reality is that I’ve trained in a lot of other martial arts too.

These other martial arts include Combat Submission Wrestling, Kajukenbo Karate, Boxing, Wing Chun, Judo, Muay Thai, Hung Gar, Pekiti Tirsia Kali, Hsing I, Northern Shaolin, Maphalindo Silat, Capoeira, Tai Chi, Western Fencing, Freestyle Wrestling, Jun Fan/JKD, Shootwrestling, and Inosanto-Lacoste Kali and more…

Obviously there are a lot of differences between the techniques used in these different martial arts, including the way they attack and defend, whether they strike or not, how they strike, how they grapple, etc.

But in addition to the differences in the technique used, there are other differences in these martial arts as well.  And that’s because each of these martial arts consists of three individual components: techniques, training equipment, and training methods.

This insight was shared with me by one of my martial arts mentors and gurus Dan Inosanto, and it’s useful because it helps you identify the different things you can beg, borrow, or steal from martial arts other than your own!

In the video below I break down the 3 components of every single martial art in a lot more detail and using lots of specific examples.  Check it out and tell me what you think in the comments below

 

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‘Twas the Day and the Night Before Christmas…

So about a year ago a semi-annual tradition got started…

The way it works is that every 6 months the toughest woman I know and I do a one day, 30 mile hike through the mountains with a TON of elevation gain and loss.  It’s up and up and up and then down and down and down…

We call it the ‘Deathmarch’ and it’s a ton of fun.

Here’s a video I put together using photos and snapchat videos showing you what the last Winter Deathmarch was like when we did it 2 days ago (December 23rd)!

This particular hike was a tough one because there had been a huge dump of snow at high elevations that forced us to do some careful navigating, and at lower elevations it’s currently sleeting. So challenging conditions to say the least…

If this was interesting to you then this article on mental toughness has a couple pictures from the first Deathmarch (in winter) and here’s some video footage from the second Deathmarch (in summer).

Also, if you want to follow along on future expeditions (and, incidentally, keep up with the copious BJJ content that I share on those channels) then check out my instagram and snapchat feeds…

Click here for Stephan’s Instagram Feed Click here for Stephan’s Snapchat Feed

And finally, if you want me to shut up about outdoor endeavors and get back to jiu-jitsu then don’t despair; Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise I’ve got some really cool stuff coming for you soon!

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Neck Harness Trials

A strong neck is essential for BJJ and grappling.

Obviously a strong neck is simply harder to choke, but that’s not the end of the matter…

A strong neck also helps you maintain good posture when standing and in the guard, and high level grapplers inevitably use the head as a fifth limb.

(If you’ve ever had a skilled wrestler in your guard then you probably know what I’m talking about, because inevitably they all decide that the grinding the top of their head in to your face is a good idea.)

Finally, and most importantly, I’ve found that strengthening the neck helps maintain the stability of that area after a neck injury; at least that’s the case with me.

I’m not a doctor, but it does seem that strengthening the area around an injured joint is almost always a good idea.

In the quest to rebuild my own injured neck I’m currently trying out many of the commercial designs on the market. Some are better than others but so far I’m not really satisfied with any of them. If you have suggestions for a brand I should try please put them in the comments below!

Working with a harness like this can not only strengthen the neck but also help rehab injuries. Just don’t go heavy and don’t go to failure!! #neckstrength #neckharness #grappling #wrestling #bjjconditioning #jiujitsuconditioning #bjj #jiujitsu #donttakeinjurieslyingdown

A video posted by Stephan Kesting (@stephan_kesting) on Nov 21, 2016 at 3:23pm PST

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