Immersion in BJJ

23 11 2011

BJJ students will often surround themselves with "the jiu jitsu lifestyle"

When I was 14 years old my grandfather passed away, leaving me his guitar.  I had always wanted to learn to play and now had my grandfather’s instrument and blessing.  As I began to learn about playing guitar, I was given a lesson that I’ve carried through my life and apply to anything that really matters to me.  My instructor said “I can teach you how to play some chords and perhaps how to finger pick some songs very quickly.  However, if you’re goal is to actually learn to play the guitar…really play it, you’re going to have to immerse your life into it.” 

As I continued with my lessons, he began to explain further.  Going to classes was good, but not good enough.  I would need to surround myself with influences of guitar.  Of course I had to do the basic scales, committing them to memory, but I also needed to explore and create as often as possible.  I had to develop friendships with people that played guitar, so that I could play with others and learn from them.  I was encouraged to seek out the instruction of many different people, so as to have the broadest exposure possible.  I was taken to many concerts, so that I could witness first hand the true masters of music.  Finally, I was challenged to play in front of people so that I could learn to handle that stress.

I still play guitar to this day, though life never turned into more than something I share with friends or during the occasional musical that I’m asked to play in for various organizations.  Regardless, it became a permanent part of my life (and now the life of my children) and it all started with immersion.

Now, in the middle stages of my life (37), I’ve been blessed to discover Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, currently holding a blue belt under Rodrigo Vaghi.  With running my own business, tending my own herd of alpaca and taking care of two young children, I do not have the time that youth once offered.  Even still, I approach BJJ in the same manner as I did guitar. 

Going to class is paramount.  There is no doubt about that.  Without the life blood of constant technical improvements, drilling basics and learning new and more interesting things, none of us would remain in BJJ.  That being said, BJJ has to intersect at more points of your life, if you want to truly master it.  You need to watch instructional videos, read books about BJJ and watch competition footage (if not live events).  You need to become friends with people that are into BJJ, doing things outside of class.  That way, people will know and actually care when you are gone from training.  You need to seek out instruction at other locations (after speaking with your instructor), while on vacation.  I love dropping in on other schools to fellowship with the brotherhood of BJJ.  Finally, and this is not an absolute, I think people should compete at least once in order to find out if competition is for them.  I think too many people assume that it is not and miss out on a another great intersection that BJJ has to offer.

Ultimately, it was this immersion mentality that has helped BJJ to become a fixture in my life.  A few years ago, I injured myself and, if not for this immersion, I very easily could have quit BJJ.  However, the art was intersecting so many different parts of my life by that time that I still felt connected, even when I couldn’t be on the mat.  As a result, I was hungry to come back and took the time to study old competition tapes and really break down some of my weaknesses, so that I’d have a full agenda when I returned.  As this immersion continues, it can encourage you to change other parts of your life, like health and nutrition.  I’ve actually gone from around 280 to 210 lbs since starting BJJ, just from the encouragement that the BJJ community has offered me.  My children are also becoming involved and that has been a great bonding experience between us.

Admittedly, this is the opinion of a blue belt, not long in the game.  That being said, if you look around at the higher belts around you, you’ll likely find (as I do) that they have engaged and are engaging in the exact same immersion activities that I’ve mentioned here. 



The author:  Allen Tate

How Long Will It Take Me To Get My Blue Belt In BJJ?

22 11 2011

Train long enough in BJJ as a newcomer and you will either hear this question, or ask it yourself.  I know I have.  Since I began training almost 4 years ago, I’ve asked myself this question over and over.

But I’m not alone.  Google search “How long will it take me to get my Blue Belt in BJJ“.  You’ll see yahoo answers, links to forums, links to blogs and the list goes on.  What is it about that blue length of cloth that vexes so?

To me, it symbolizes achievement.  It’s a physical representation of the hard work, dedication and progression I’ve put into my BJJ journey.

It’s validation!  I won’t be respected until I have it!  It’s the next stage of my journey and I simply won’t move forward mentally in BJJ until I reach it!

Or so I thought.

I started training at Revolution BJJ in January 2011.  Previously, I had trained at another academy for 3 years and due to a series of events, belt promotions did not happen.  When you are a big fish in a little pond, it is easy to delude yourself.  So, when I started at Revolution BJJ, I fully expected to be a blue belt within a month.  After all, there were students of all belt colors there and surely I would be noticed for my skills.  Surely, they would see my spectacular technique!

The ego is a funny thing.  I had convinced myself that I would be able to not only hold my own, but SUBMIT blues, purples and browns.

My first class at Revolution BJJ popped my ego balloon immediately. White belts were submitting me with ease.  The students I rolled with had top notch technique.  Calm, cool and collected they showed me in a few rolls just how much I had to learn.

I started investing myself in training between 3 – 4 nights a week, and I started to gradually get better.  Around July, I started that blue belt chase again.  Mentally, I was so focused on when I would get promoted that I stopped having fun with BJJ.  Every class was more and more frustrating.  I kept looking for the moment where a technique would show everyone that I deserved a blue belt.  And all of that frustration was placed on me by myself.  I had become so consumed with chasing a belt promotion that I forgot to enjoy what I was doing.  I lost sight of why I was training in the first place.  I was embarrassed to talk to anyone at the gym about it because when I said it out loud, I felt like an idiot worrying about a colored piece of cloth.

In August, I competed at a US Grappling Submission Only event.  I placed third in my division and third in absolute.  I was disappointed with my performance as I felt that if I had won gold I would have been promoted to blue.  I felt like I had let myself, my instructor, and my team down.  I was in a rut.

After mulling it over for about a week, I realized that I had focused so much on getting my blue belt, that I’d forgotten how to just enjoy training.  I really had to ask myself a hard and firm “why are you doing BJJ?”.  I came to the realization that I was doing BJJ because I love BJJ.  So, I let go of my belt chase.  I focused on having fun and really learning my techniques.  And you know what?  I’ve gotten LOADS better.  I’m enjoying myself every training session, making huge improvements.  All because I stopped worrying about getting a blue belt.

I am telling my story because I thought there might be white belts out there like myself.  Maybe you’re feeling like you are chasing a belt.  Maybe you’re frustrated.  Maybe you don’t know what to do about it.

My advice to you?  Don’t worry. Relax.  Train. Have fun.  Focus on doing what you love because you love it.  Time on the mat is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.
And getting your blue belt?  Keep training and it will take care of itself.

Don’t worry about average times or when anyone else got promoted.  Just train, train, train. Have faith in the training, and enjoy it.

Five Ways to Get Better at BJJ

18 11 2011

This is something that concerns every student of BJJ!  Whether you’re just now starting out, or you’ve hit a wall in your training, here are five things to do in order to improve your jiu jitsu.

5.  Learn to flow.

Jiu jitsu is the “gentle art.”  What does this mean?
In a nutshell, it means learning to use your partner’s energy against them, to redirect their force into another direction so as to make them move a little too far, or a little to the left, or a little to the right.  This is how off-balancing and sweeping a larger, stronger opponent is possible.  Easier said than done!

So how do you flow?  The quickest way to learn to do this is to remember:  you must lose at the gym in order to win at jiu jitsu.  You have to learn to relax in order to let positions happen.  In the process of doing this, you will be beaten!   Remember that this is part of the process of learning, and that flowing takes time to figure out.  You have to balance the process of trying to execute techniques with trying to let your partner give you enough resistance.  Ultimately, you will have to learn how to use as little energy as possible in order to overcome force.
Relax while you’re training, remember that your goal isn’t to tap out your training partners every class, but rather to learn jiu jitsu, and you will surely improve.

Below is an example of some flow rolling.  Look at the positional exchanges.  Neither guy is overly tense, or especially trying to dominate for more than a few seconds:

4.  Ride the waves.
Every jiu jitsu practitioner goes through peaks and valleys in their quest to understand grappling.   Some days, you feel like the king of the world.  Other days, you feel like a first day white belt.  The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that you can actually use it to your advantage!

How?  When you’re on the top of a wave, you’re able to dominate seemingly anyone, and execute virtually any move you want to try out.  Things are really clicking for you.  This is the time to perfect your offense.
When you’re at the bottom of a wave (a “valley”), use this opportunity to work on your defense.  Let everyone dominate you, but figure out how to get out.  And remember:  even if you’re unable to escape, you are still learning how you’re being dominated!  This is all part of the journey.

3.  Watch other people roll, especially people who are better than you.

You can accomplish this at the gym, especially if there are upper belts rolling constantly at your gym.  At Revolution BJJ, there are generally always brown and black belts rolling every day.  Watch them roll, but also be sure to watch the blue belts.  Sometimes the brown and black belts are doing things that are more confusing than not, whereas the blue and purple belts are generally more easily understood and replicated.
You can also make progress on this one at home, by watching videos of high level guys rolling and competing.  There are hundreds of great videos of BJJ competition on Youtube, from local to international competitions.  Be sure to take advantage of being able to do this one as “homework”, one of the few things you can do on your own!

Highlight videos on youtube are are excellent resource:

2.  Focus on one thing for a set period of time.
Jiu jitsu can be overwhelming.  Because of the wonderful underlying structure of the art, it is a never-ending process of change.  New positions and submissions are invented every day.  If you try to become a master of everything, you will surely become a master of nothing.  Note that the word “master” is relative here; you certainly will never understand a position or move as well as you possibly could understand it if you just worked on it a little longer, but you can certainly develop things that you make your own.   At Revolution BJJ, for example, there is a monthly theme for techniques taught in the majority of the BJJ classes.  Themes include passing the guard, the Kimura, armlocks, escapes, and many more.

1.  Keep at it!

I asked one of my brown belts for his advice to new students to jiu jitsu.  In his words, “I don’t know what to say to anyone, other than the 3 most wonderful words I’ve been told since I was a boy – ‘keep at it.’ ”

Profound in its simplicity, this elegant- yet elusive- advice is the most important to follow from this list.  It’s probably also the most difficult.  A wise man once said, “A black belt is just a white belt who never quits.”  There is a great deal of truth in this statement.  Remember that if you are training at a good school, and you are dedicated, you are on the path to black belt, and (more importantly) to improving over time by leaps and bounds.  Be patient, and improvements will come.

If you’re new to jiu jitsu…

12 10 2011

If you’re starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you are in the right place!  This website is designed to answer your most common questions about the fastest growing martial art in the world.  Check out the sidebar for some very useful information, or just scroll down below to dive right in!

If you’re looking to get started right away at Revolution BJJ, you can go ahead and schedule a FREE introductory class.

We have a comprehensive beginner’s program, including classes at 5:30 PM that are one hour in length- the perfect time for the beginning grappler.  Our staff will work with you one on one to make sure you understand the concepts before moving on to the next technique.

Is Training in Sport BJJ Effective for Self-Defense?

11 10 2011

This is a debate that rages on across the world of Jiu-jitsu, and will continue to do so for as long as “sport BJJ” is practiced.

Proponents of traditional martial arts are often critical of sport Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. They claim that because not all of the techniques taught in sport BJJ are self-defense oriented, that sport BJJ is not an acceptable training method to defend oneself. An example of the techniques that critics feel is unproductive for self-defense is pulling guard.

Pulling guard or “jumping guard” is a technique used my many Sport BJJ practitioners. This maneuver is executed by essentially “pulling” your opponent to the ground and inside of your closed guard (legs closed around the opponent’s torso). The benefit to this technique is that you can avoid the standing takedown grappling, and can move the fight to the ground position immediately.

This can be a very effective technique for sport BJJ. This is not an optimal position for someone in a self-defense encounter. For one, you would be falling (even if controlled) on to terrain that could injure you. While you can fight off of your back, it is generally accepted as a weaker offensive position than being on top. You most definitely would not want to pull guard on hard concrete or ground. Doubly so if there is broken glass or debris in the area.

While pulling guard is not an effective “street technique” this does not validate the criticisms aimed at Sport BJJ. The problem with the argument against sport BJJ is that it completely ignores three essential facts about Jiu-jitsu:

1. Live grappling against a resisting opponent every time you train is absolutely invaluable. You can train safely in Jiu-jitsu at a pace that is close enough to 100% that you can be sure that the techniques you’re learning work well against a resisting opponent.

2. This one is the big secret, the seamy underbelly of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu that traditional martial artists, naysayers, and others who don’t want you to practice BJJ really don’t want you to know:

Rolling is fun. It is exactly this which keeps people coming back for more, day in and day out.

3. Chokes, joint locks, standing takedowns, sweeps, and positional maintenance are all taught, practiced and applied in sport BJJ. They are all also accepted fundamental concepts of effective self-defense.

Because Brazilian Jiu-jitsu can be practiced in a safe manner at relatively full speed, and because it’s unbelievably fun, Jiu-jitsu is the most effective martial art for one on one self-defense.

Revolution Interviews: Vince Newton

27 09 2011

Today, Revolution Interviews is interviewing Vince Newton.  Vince is an example of a great training partner and is well versed in BJJ.  Vince can be seen training jiu-jitsu at the gym on Wednesday’s No-Gi class and on Sunday’s Open Mat.

Vince Newton!

Revolution Interviews: Hello Vince Newton.  First of all, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.  I understand you have quite a bit of experience in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and I’d like to help our members get to know you a bit more.

RI: What rank are you in BJJ?

Vince Newton: I’m a new brown belt.  

RI: How many years have you been training?

VN: I started out in the late 80’s kicking and punching in tae kwon do.  Then, i saw Royce Gracie in the mid 90’s ruling the UFC, and he made me want to grapple.  I found my way to VCU’s Judo Club in 1995 where i met Dave and Tim Wooton, Kevin Santi, Andrew Smith, Jarrett Church, Trey Martin, Russ Helm, and many, many of our like-minded friends who went on to other area schools.  We all trained and grew together.

RI:  Can you tell us how you first got into BJJ and what motivated you to do so?

VN: Andrew had set out on his pilgrimage from VCU Judo to study BJJ on the side in the late 90’s.  Everything he learned and saw, he brought back to us.  By the turn of the century, my body was suffering from being thrown around like a rag doll.  I was getting older and figured I’d be safer on the ground.  Andrew soon opened up his own school associated with Eric Burdo and our Brazilian founding fathers, Rodrigo and Julio.  So, it was a natural progression for me to follow Andrew and everyone else in the Revolution. 

RI: How often do you train?

VN: I train twice a week.  I need the time to heal in between workouts.  I’ll be 50 years old in February of 2012.  At this point, I can’t really remember a time when something didn’t hurt at least a little bit.  But, BJJ has something for that.  You learn to adapt to what your body can and can’t do.  And you keep on rolling.  And it always feels better after a workout. 

RI: What do you love most about BJJ?

VN: BJJ is a perfect fit for my personality.  It’s like a chess match between two players who respect each other’s skills.  I’m not very aggressive, I’m basically a reactive person.  And BJJ allows me to keep that perspective in some very confrontational situations.  For me, i care much less about winning than i do about surviving.  Most of the people I train with are younger, stronger, bigger, and often better than me.  But, if i can manage to roll around with them for a while and hang in there without getting hurt, i feel pretty good about that. 

RI: Why do you train at Revolution BJJ?

VN: I’m lucky enough to have met Andrew 15 years ago.  He’s my mentor.  I’ve always liked his BJJ sensibilities.  He’s relaxed, focused, flexible, and technical – a true scholar.  His school has always been open to all, and he views the BJJ community as a brotherhood.  Anyone is welcome at his school anytime, it doesn’t matter where you come from. 

RI: We understand you run the open mat program on Sundays, what is it, and what can new students at Revolution BJJ expect when they come in for open mat?

VN: Open mat is the continuation of a practice we used to have at VCU Judo.  It’s an open day when people can come and visit and roll.  All in the grappling community are welcome – BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, what have you.  It’s all about community. 

RI: What advice do you have for new students at Revolution BJJ?

VN: Advice?  Give yourself time.  Time to learn, time to make mistakes and learn from them, and time to heal.  Don’t overtrain.  Open your heart and your mind and come have some fun.  It’s a blast.  It really doesn’t take long to learn the game, if you open up.  You first learn to defend the attacks that they throw at you.  Then, you learn to respond with your own attacks.  There’s always someone not quite as good as you, and always someone better than you.  Appreciate your place in the grand scheme and work to get better in the evolution of this beautiful art form. 

RI: How do you feel BJJ has affected your life?

VN: BJJ has allowed me to grow into the person i really wanted to be.  I wish I’d had the opportunity to join this community when i was so much younger.

Revolution Interviews would like to thank you for your time today, Vince.  We appreciate your insight and look forward to seeing you on the mat!

7 great reasons to start training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu at Revolution BJJ

21 09 2011

Choosing a place to train in a martial art can be an intimidating task to both new comers and old hats to the martial art/sport.  It is often difficult to know just how you’ll fit in at a new place or if the new place will be a fit for you.  Additionally, feeling uneasy at a new place is often the case as there is an established hierarchy which can make you feel like an outsider, even after months of training.

At Revolution BJJ in Richmond, VA, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Blackbelt Instructors Andrew Smith and Trey Martin and their students make the process of choosing a gym to train easy and comfortable. Below are some of the top reasons to begin or continue your jiu-jitsu journey by training at Revolution BJJ.

1. Easy to follow instruction with proven results

With a combined experience of over 30 years in submission grappling, Andrew Smith and Trey Martin provide high quality instruction and training tailored to the student’s development and growth.  The training at Revolution BJJ is never exclusionary.  Both new comers and seasoned students can successfully complete training classes and find improvement customized to their needs.    Each month a theme for training is presented and each class centers around expanding the theme.  Drilling, Instruction, and Sparring allow extensive practice and exploration of these the thematic techniques.

2. Excellent training partners of every skill level

Visit any of Revolution BJJ’s classes during your free introductory class and you will find a full class of varied skill and belt levels from White to Black.  Beyond skill and belt level, you will find Revolution BJJ houses not just good training partners, but great training partners.  Your safety and success in Jiu-jitsu is the primary focus of all of your training partners at Revolution.

3. Proven successful competition program

The Revolution BJJ Competition team consists of competitors from all skill levels.  Revolution BJJ has successfully consistently sent competitors to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and competitors have come home placing Gold, Silver or Bronze.  Often in more than one division.  Most recently Revolution BJJ won the total school points with 17 students capturing 26 medals.

4. Effective Self-Defense Training

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been proven to be the most effective single combat (1 v. 1) martial art in the world.  This has been proven over time and even in MMA sporting events.  Revolution BJJ teaches many different self-defense techniques that can be successfully applied to defend attacks from bigger or stronger aggressors.  Training in BJJ will teach you how to defend yourself, which will naturally raise your self-confidence.
5. Flexible Class Schedule that accommodate almost any lifestyle

With the ability to train up to 15 times a week, Revolution BJJ offers one of  the most flexible and lifestyle accommodating schedules at any gym in the Richmond area.
6. Health and Fitness Conscious adaptable training program

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great way to exercise.  Whether you want to get in shape, stay in shape or just condition yourself, Revolution BJJ is here to help you meet your fitness goals, all while learning the most effective 1 v. 1 martial art in the world.  Ask any of the students training at Revolution BJJ, there are plenty of fitness success stories at Revolution!

7. A family oriented team

Revolution BJJ is training family from all walks of life.  Not only will you find great training partners and instruction, but you will forge long-lasting friendships with the members of the Revolution family.  Being mentored and mentoring others on their jiu-jitsu journey is just one of the aspects that make Revolution BJJ more than a team, we are a family.  Come  join us!

Class format at Revolution BJJ

19 09 2011

What to expect:

Fundamentals classes will consist of a very brief warmup, followed by a basic jiu jitsu technique or series. These techniques are highly applicable for self-defense and sport BJJ, but basic enough so that a beginner can immediately grasp the concepts behind the techniques and implement them right away. The end of class is very brief situational sparring- controlled “rolling” that everyone can safely participate in, regardless of experience level.

Easy guide to begin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) – Richmond, VA

16 09 2011

Starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be intimidating.  Our gym is very welcoming to beginners.  We don’t “throw you to the wolves”, or try to weed you out.  We want to give you a real, comprehensive, fundamental program to learn BJJ, the most effective one on one martial art in the world.

What can you expect for your first class?

One of our instructors will introduce you to the other students at the gym.  You will have personal, one-on-one instruction from an experienced practitioner.

Learn this incredibly effective martial art that utilizes grappling to immobilize your opponent to finish with a choke or armlock in a safe, controlled setting.

Starting any martial arts program can be a challenging undertaking. A lot of programs have a very sink or swim approach. We take a very different stance: we feel that we  provide a simple but comprehensive martial arts program that will maximize the results of any student.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What should I wear to my first class?

  • For No-Gi BJJ/Submission Grappling classes:  Gym/Board Shorts and a Rashguard or T-shirt.
  • For BJJ Gi Classes:  You will need to wear a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi or training uniform.  If you do not own a Gi, you can use a loaner for your first visit. 
  • For more on Brazilian, Jiu-jitsu Gi’s,  see the Wikipedia Entry.

When should I show up for my first class?

Generally speaking, it is best to show up 15-20 minutes prior to class start time.  The instructor will introduce himself and speak with you about your first class.  Then, you will opporunity to change into your training uniform, sign-in and say hello to everyone. 

How long is each class?

Typically, class length is 1.5 to 2 hours. 



Try out a free class here!