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Staying Fit When You’ve Got No Time

Almost everyone is busy these days; jobs, girlfriends, wives, families and other adult responsibilities really get in the way of the full time training lifestyle!

But sometimes one’s life goes to ludicrous speed for a while and it becomes even harder to train, exercise and stay in shape.  At that point it’s not so much about making fitness and martial arts progress, but rather trying to not lose what you already have.

In episode 42 of my podcast I share some of my best ideas for staying fit when you’re crazy busy and have very little time.

My podcast is called ‘The Strenuous Life’ and you can get it on different podcast providers including iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.  Give it a listen there, and if you enjoy it then please subscribe to the podcast itself!

Here’s that podcast audio:

You can also watch a detailed discussion of how to stay in half decent shape when you’ve got absolutely no time in the video below…

The goal is minimise the backsliding so that when you get back to your regular life that you’re not starting at too much of a deficit!

Good luck with this!

Stephan Kesting

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Adding New Techniques to Your BJJ Game

I once posted a cool new technique by a famous jiu-jitsu fighter on the Grapplearts Facebook Page.

Within the hour I got a text from a purple belt friend of mine who wanted me to show him how to do this technique and start using it.

I said sure, but I also advocated caution…

I told him that it was going to take a LOT more time to incorporate this particular BJJ technique in to his game. Not because it was extraordinarily difficult, but because it didn’t fit his pre-existing game!

This concept of congruence of new techniques with your existing game is an important topic, and I discussed it in more detail on episode 42 of my podcast which  you can listen to on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.  Give it a listen there, and if you enjoy it then please subscribe to the podcast itself!

You can also watch a detailed discussion of this topic in the video below…

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How to do the Back Roll

The back roll (or the backwards shoulder roll) is one of the most important movements in BJJ.

Honestly, it’s right up there with shrimping and bridging!

Most fundamentally, the back roll allows you to fall backwards and roll over your shoulders rather than rocketing into the mat and taking the full impact on your back and/or head.

But you can also use it to counter guard passes.  Set up submissions.  Escape bad positions.

If you don’t have a smooth back roll you’re not going to be a complete grappler, simple as that!

However just like the forward roll (which we broke down in this article here) the back rolling movement is often sadly deficient in BJJ and submission grappling students.

There are lots of grapplers flailing like turtles flipped over onto their shells when they’re trying to do this roll.

But it’s actually quite a simple movement – you just have to be shown how to do it properly and then put in a bit of time practising it.

In the video below I break it down for you and also cover the 3 most common mistakes people make when they’re trying to do the backwards shoulder roll on the mat…

I mentioned earlier that the backwards roll is the fundamental movement underlying many advanced techniques, including submissions, escapes, sweeps and defensive manoeuvres.

The very best breakdown of the fundamental movements in BJJ and their applications in different areas of the sport that I’ve seen is Brandon Mullins’ Non-Stop Jiu-Jitsu instructional set.  You might want to check that out if you’re interested in this topic!

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How to do the Forward Roll

The forward roll is one of the core movements in BJJ, Judo, and all grappling arts.

The most important use of the forward roll is to avoid injury; if your opponent sweeps you over his head you use this movement to avoid spiking your head down onto the mat and destroying your neck.

But you can also use the exact same movement in other contexts, including in scrambles and while applying submissions (like the rolling Judo choke).

In Judo the forward shoulder roll is usually taught on day one as part of the beginner curriculum.

But in BJJ it’s often neglected.  Maybe the instructor assumes, incorrectly, that just because he himself can do this movement in his sleep that everyone else should be able to do it as well.

Unfortunately that’s not the case, and I’ve seen more than one otherwise athletic person faceplant hard on the mat because they’d never been taught this fundamental movement.

In the video below I take you through the forward shoulder roll.

Check it out if you do any form of grappling but still find this movement strange, unfamiliar or uncomfortable…

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Podcast: 8th Degree BJJ Coral Belt Carlos Machado!

I loved talking to jiu-jitsu pioneer Carlos Machado about all things BJJ in episode 115 of The Strenuous Life Podcast.  

He shares stories about growing up training with Rickson and Rolls, the importance of universal principles in Jiu-jitsu, pushing the tables aside to train with his brothers Roger, Rigan, Jean Jacques and John, competing in ADCC with a broken foot and more.

I hope you get as much out of this interview as I did! His love for the art and experience in the sport comes through at every second.

Some of the highlights include

01:07 – Carlos on growing up in Jiu-Jitsu family

05:52 – BJJ comes into the mainstream

08:41 – Training with Rolls Gracie

11:07 – Style of the Machado game

13:03 – The continuing evolution of Jiu Jitsu

17:54 – Who are the most athletic Jiu Jitsu practitioners?

20:44 – Who has the deepest BJJ technical knowledge?

27:41 – What he thinks about the introduction of new techniques into Jiu-Jitsu

30:46 – Submission only competition formats ` 33:32 – Carlos’s reflections on competing in Abu Dhabi

It’s episode 115 of my podcast  and you can listen to it below, or go iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and subscribe to the podcast itself (a rating and a review is always super appreciated!

Find out more about Carlos Machado at carlosmachado.net

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Should You Stretch Before Jiu-Jitsu Training?

Some experts tell you that you should only stretch after a workout when your muscles are tired and your body warmed up.  Static stretching before a workout, they insist, can actually lead to more injuries not less.  And there is some evidence from the running world to prove this…

This is the exact opposite approach used in most traditional martial arts classes, where the instructor makes everyone stretch before a workout so that your muscles are loose.

Who’s right?

Well, it depends on the sport.

Are you going for a 5 km run, which probably won’t take you to the limits of your flexibility, or are you doing a sport like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where getting completely pretzeled up against your will is just a normal part of the sport?

In combat sports it’s better to go to the limits of your range of motion under control and on your own terms in the warmup, before your opponent brings you to the edge of your flexibility suddenly in training or sparring.

But there’s a right and a wrong way to do it, and long, static stretches are probably NOT what you want to do right before class.

I go into this topic more in a video from second Youtube channel (Self Defense Tutorials) which I’ll embed below…

Or, if you prefer, you can also listen to the same information on my podcast called The Strenuous Life

It’s episode 114  and you can listen to it below, or go iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and subscribe to the podcast itself (a rating and a review is always super appreciated!

Thanks

Stephan

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Protect Yourself And Your Training Partner At All Times

The other day I almost tore a partner’s ACL off the bone, which would have required him to have surgery and many months of rehabilitation.

What happened exactly?

I was more experienced and a bit bigger than my training partner that day and we were doing some no gi sparring.

Because of the experience discrepancy I was hyper-focusing on a couple of very specific positions, namely Ashi Garami and the 411.

(This is a form of Targeted Sparring which is a great tool to use when you’re going against less experienced training partners – by limiting myself to only a couple positions and one submission it makes the match more even and better training for both of us.)

So we’re rolling, carefully and respectfully.  I’ve tapped my training partner out a few times with heel hooks, all applied in slow motion.  He’s beginning to defend the leglocks more intelligently and I’m having to work a little harder to get them.  Everything is going the way it’s supposed to.

Then it almost ended very badly…

I had the Ashi Garami firmly in place, and was just finishing the dig part of the heel hook (where you get your wrist under his heel).  99% of the time when I’m sparring that’s as far as I’ll go – no need to actually apply the heel hook.  At that point my partner typically knows he’s caught and will tap out.

But this new training partner didn’t know when to quit.  He tried to escape by spinning. And, to make matters worse, he spun the wrong way!

Spinning or rotating can be part of an effective heel hook defense, BUT NOT WHEN YOU GO IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!!

Instead of relieving the pressure, spinning into the dig amplifies the power of the submission exponentially!

If I had remained completely still his wrong-way-spin would have slammed his heel into my forearm.  This would have been a highly dynamic, full force application of the heel hook which can tear all sorts of ligaments in the knee, the foot and the ankle.

Fortunately I saw what was about to happen and completely released my grips without a second to spare.  The submission evaporated, he spun safely and ‘escaped.’

Then I sat him down and we had a good little chat about the dangers of spinning out of leglock if you don’t know which way to spin.

Now I’m » Continue Reading.

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How to Safely Practice Dangerous Leglocks

Q: Given that leglocks are dangerous, how do you train them safely and still have confidence that they will work in a ‘live’ setting.

A: Although ANY submission is potentially dangerous, cranking someone with a heel hook or toehold can not only end the match, it can end your opponent’s athletic career.

Go here if you don’t know what a heel hook is. . If you don’t know what a toehold is, check out the second-last photo in this article about the kneebar.

These two leglocks are dangerous because they are twisting submissions and can severely damage ligaments in the knee and foot. Furthermore, for most submissions the pain starts well before there is any damage to the joint.

With twisting leglocks, however, you often don’t feel much initial pain: as someone is applying it to you might not feel anything at all, then you might feel a bit of discomfort, and then BANG, you feel a lot of pain because something has popped or torn.

So how do you train these dangerous locks so that you can trust in their effectiveness? My answer has 4 parts:

1 – Learn and fight for the leglock positions, not the submissions

One of the beautiful things about the modern leglock game is that leg locking has, to a large degree, become a positional game rather than a sprint for the finish.

That means that you can spend an entire sparring session working on getting into specific positions and maintaining them against a training partner who is pretty much doing everything he can to get out of those positions and catch you in them.

There are about 12 major positions in leg locking.  Some positions are easy to get to but not super-powerful to finish from, and others take more work to get into but are crazy powerful finishing platforms.

To lay this out for you in more detail I have an entire book just about leglock positions that you can download for free here on Grapplearts.com.

Position before submission, not just for upper body attacks anymore!

2 – Master the straight anklelock and the kneebar

When applying 95% of leglocks you end up either facing your opponents head, or facing his feet. The mechanics of controlling your opponent in these two positions are relatively similar whether you are doing a ‘safe’ straight lock or a ‘dangerous’ twisting lock.

» Continue Reading.

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Kettlebell Conditioning for BJJ with Jason C. Brown

Kettlebells are a very popular tool for conditioning these days, with people doing all kinds of crazy exercises.

In episode 111 of The Strenuous Life Podcast I talk to kettlebell expert (and longtime BJJ practitioner) Jason C. Brown and get a ton of relevant and useful tips for the combat athlete!

From how to do the basic exercises, to program design, to carryover from exercises to BJJ techniques there’s quite a lot here.  Plus we also riff on old-school jiu-jitsu techniques and why they still work.

You can listen to just episode 111 of The Strenuous Life Podcast with Jason C. Brown below, or go to the link for the show on  iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and subscribe to the podcast itself!

Give it a listen and, as always, please share it with someone else if you think it’ll be useful for them!

 

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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 Rant: Why You Have to do Jiu-Jitsu, and How to Get Good at It Fast

Here’s a quick 10 minute audio rant I released on my Strenuous Life Podcast recently.

I start out by talking about why you absolutely have to train some form of grappling if you consider yourself a martial artist.

Then we go into the 6 basic position of traditional BJJ – the positions that you’ll be spending 80% of your time in when you’re rolling around on the mat.

And then I cover the idea of having at least 2 reliable escapes, transitions and submissions from each of those positions.

You can listen to the audio below or go to iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher and listen to Episode 104 of The Strenuous Life Podcast.

BJJ

If you’re convinced by my arguments about the necessity of training BJJ and want some help in getting to the next step then I would suggest doing two things…

First download my free checklist of jiu-jitsu positions and techniques in PDF form by clicking here, and then Download my free Roadmap for BJJ app for your Apple or Android device by going here.

Both steps are free and both will definitely help you get good at jiu-jitsu MUCH faster!

Cheers,

Stephan Kesting

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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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Improving Recovery, Rehabbing Injuries, and Training Smart in BJJ

Hey, we’ve made it to episode 100 of the Strenuous Life Podcast!!!  Thanks to everyone for downloading, rating, reviewing and sharing it – I really appreciate it!

If you don’t already have one then first go and download a podcast app for your iPhone or your android phone.  Honestly, listening to podcasts has changed my life because it allows me to stimulate my brain while commuting, doing cardio, etc.  The ability to turn downtime into learning time could be a gamechanger for you too!

You can listen to episode 100 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.

For today’s episode I talk to BJJ black belt Sean McHugh.  I’ve known him and trained with him for 16 years, so I was super-stoked to have him on the podcast.  We covered a lot of important material including

How to train your training partners so that they can help you get better as fast as possible Strategies for optimal post workout recovery  BJJ injury prevention and rehabilitation How the teaching of BJJ has evolved since the art was introduced to North America Beginner’s teaching progressions, and should you let people spar on the first day of class? The dark side of MMA, including concussions, addictions, and lack of options after leaving the sport How to continue training when life is kicking the crap out of you And much more…

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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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New Podcast with Historian Daniele Bolelli: How Violent Was Our Past, Really?

Daniele Bolelli is a martial artist, historian and the creator of the History on Fire podcast. But this time I managed to get him for a return visit to my own Strenuous Life Podcast (Click here for information about our first podcast together).

You can listen to this podcast in Episode 092 of my Strenuous Life Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

You can also listen to the podcast on Youtube in the video at the bottom of this post!

Here’s just a bit of what we covered…

The evidence for and against an ultra-violent human past vs a peaceful noble savage model of our hunter-gatherer past The rise of MMA in Asia.His process of researching and producing History on Fire, one of the leading history podcasts How to get rid of weight cutting in mixed martial arts competition Daniele’s proposed ‘Gladiators for World Peace’ program and how it’s going to get him the Nobel Peace Prize His return to Italy as a tourist Is it too soon to tell whether we’re moving towards a more peaceful future? Ötzi the iceman, Neanderthal DNA in our genomes, and a mass murder that occurred 430,000 years ago And much more!

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New podcast with Travis Stevens, 3 x Judo Olympian, Olympic Silver Medalist, and BJJ Black Belt

In this episode of the Strenuous Life Podcast I go deep with 3 x Judo Olympian and BJJ black belt Travis Stevens.

We go DEEP into his training regimen, including

Why he does 5 or 6 workouts a day What the strength benchmarks are for effective judo Why mental fatigue is often just as much a limiting factor as physical fatigue How he uses his groundwork skills to force his opponents to make critical errors The critical importance of gripfighting The differences between his BJJ and Judo training And much more.

It’s an amazing episode that I’m sure you’ll find very interesting.

You can listen to this podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

Or if you don’t use any podcast players (and you should) then you can listen to it here by clicking on the player below.

P.S. It would be hugely appreciated if you were to subscribe to and give this podcast a rating if you find it useful. That sort of support is really helping us produce more episodes!

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Avoiding Injuries, Training after Age 50, and the Blue Belt Blues…

In this episode of the Strenuous Life Podcast I tried to answer as many questions as possible from my email newsletter readers

Whether BJJ gameplans really are for everyone (3:30), How to pace yourself against the young guys when you’re 52 years old (8:36), The best stretches for grappling flexibility (13:12), What are the best drills for developing a specific position (15:30), What’s my hypothetical plan for creating a BJJ world champion if I had a young clone of myself (18:41), When will the single leg X guard and modern leg lock formula instructionals be released as apps (28:28), What should your focus be if you’re training purely for self defense (29:35), Ranking physical attributes in order of importance for BJJ competition (32:22), Bodyweight fitness routines (38:00), Tips for dealing with knuckle and finger pain (40:50), What’s a good balance between weight training and BJJ for healthy joints (44:30), Is 5′ 9″ too small to do BJJ (50:10), Training around knee pain (52:05), Post training nutrition tips (55:35), Flexibility for older grapplers (57:05), Are you being rude to your partners when you want to go light because of injury concerns (59:25), How can you deal with getting promoted to blue belt but not thinking that you deserve it (1:03:54)? And more…

You can listen to this podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Soundcloud, or Stitcher.

Or if you don’t use any podcast players (and you should) then you can listen to it here by clicking on the player below.

P.S. It would be hugely appreciated if you were to subscribe to and give this podcast a rating if you find it useful. That sort of support is really helping us produce more episodes!

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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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