Ask The Wise Grappler:What to Expect after Training Layoff from Knee Surgery?

May 9, 2012

“Paul, I hope you can give an OG some advice. I tore my knee up (new ACL and badly torn meniscus) last September and will soon be released to return to the mats. I’m nervous about what I will be able to do and how it will change my game. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated?”

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TWG: I had to deal with the exact same situation after my knee surgery and know exactly what issues you’re going to encounter with your return to the mat:

1. You’re going to have a huge mental block that’s waiting to see if your new knee is going to break once you return to training. Your mind will be fixated on every ounce of contact made with your leg, things that happen regularly training that you didn’t even pay attention to before the surgery. You’ll focus on it less and less once you get used to being back on the mat and see that the knee is ok.

2. When you return back to the mat, you’re going to favor and overprotect that knee for a long time (or at least until you feel comfortable enough to stop thinking about during training). You’ll be very sensitive to any contact or twisting that happens to your knee during training, whether it’s a natural movement or not. If the doctor did a good job repairing the knee, it should hold up fine in
practice as long as you take it easy.

3. Work into the warm-ups and technical drills slowly. DO NOT SPAR WITH ANYONE FOR A FEW WEEKS, regardless of how tempting it will be! Many grapplers get caught up in this trap because their enthusiasm and getting stuck on how good they were before surgery causes them to jump back too quickly, running the risk of damaging what was fixed during surgery.

4. If you been given an athletic knee brace from your doctor, use it at all times while training until you feel comfortable that you can actually train without it. If they didn’t give you one, go and buy a good brace to wear during training. That brace will provide you extra protection, both physically and mentally.

5. You have to select your partners very carefully while you’re on the road back to recovery. This will probably be another OG or senior student that understands that you’re coming back from an injury. Make sure that everyone that you drill techniques with understands that you are recovering from surgery and that light drilling is all you’re going to do for the first month.

6. Expect that some students in your class will view your return after a layoff as an opportunity to smash an easy target during sparring matches. If you were performing better than some of your teammates prior to surgery, some will be tempted to show you how much they’ve “improved” since you’ve been gone. It happened to me after my knee surgery when one of my junior classmates made a point to tap me my first week back on the mat. Not only did he rough me up after being off the mat for months, he told me “no one needs to know what just happened” after the match, right before he went to the locker room to tell another teammate what he had done.

7. Make sure to ice your knee down after each class for the first few weeks, especially if you feel any soreness after training.

If you take it slow with getting back on the mat, listen to your knee when it tells you to slow down or stop, and avoid guys that’ll try to kneebar your newly reconstructed knee, you should be fine.


Do You Suffer From “Rank Overload” After Your BJJ Belt Promotion?

September 21, 2011

Imagine that you’ve been training BJJ for a few months and have been enjoying everything that’s involved with the training: the technique, the camaraderie, the friendly mat rivalries that you’ve developed with your training partners, the locker room trash-talking, and the fact that there are no expectations or pressure to perform.

Then one day, your instructor rewards you with your belt promotion to the next rank. You got your belt and should be happy, right?

Wrong!

For many grapplers, the first thing that crosses their minds is denial because they don’t think they’re good enough yet for the promotion.

The next thing that crosses their minds are the people they think are better than them that didn’t get promoted and how they’re going to feel. And it doesn’t help as they walk towards the locker room to hear some people whispering about how they shouldn’t have gotten promoted before someone else did. A moment that should be celebrated has now become a moment filled with anxiety and fear.

Does that sound familiar to you? That’s what I call “rank overload.”

Rank overload is an overwhelming pressure to prove yourself worthy of the belt promotion to every classmate that you were promoted ahead of that didn’t agree with your promotion; along with making you feel that you have to prove yourself worthy to be on the new belt line with the “old-timers” that have to welcome you into their group.

Rank overload can force a grappler to change their attitude from enjoying grappling to hating it because of the incredible amount of pressure that they feel to prove themselves to everyone.

Grapplers that suffer from rank overload almost seem apologetic for the fact that they’ve been promoted and expect to be constantly reminded that they not worthy of the belt, especially when competing in tournaments, visiting other schools to train, or when visiting grapplers show up at their school and outperform them.

Rank overload can happens for a number of reasons:

– The student is promoted too soon because the instructor wants to fill his school quickly with senior students

– Students are given social promotions based on the fact they help out the instructor in non-grappling areas and are well-liked

– Instructors are trying to appeal to a certain demographic among prospective students that may be lacking in his school (e.g. adults over 50 and women)

– The student is technically proficient, but lacks self-confidence, has a horrible mat attitude, and wants to stay at a rank where expectations are low and they can exist as mediocre grapplers without being challenged

For whatever reason that it happens, the grappler is put into a pressure cooker (sometimes unknowingly by the instructor, sometimes self-induced).

If the grappler is to survive mentally, they must act quickly to eliminate this mental state before it steals the joy of the art.

If the grappler feels like they’re not ready for the belt, they should be the first person at the gym and the last one to leave…EVERY TRAINING DAY POSSIBLE…trying to become the grappler they think they should be.

Hiding at home from training or agreeing with others that you don’t deserve it won’t help you. The best way to get out of the rank overload hole is to work you way out of it… through constant drilling and mental toughness.

If you follow that approach, you’ll realize that those “haters” that didn’t think you deserve the promotion will have slowly disappeared because you’re kicking their butts all over the mat!

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6 BJJ Mat Tips to Improve Your Closed Guard Attacks (Part 1)

May 6, 2011

If I told you I knew 6 simple training tips that would make your closed guard more threatening to your opponents, would you be interested?

If you’re a serious grappler, the answer is obviously yes!

And though these tips probably aren’t new or exciting, they could mean the difference in you having better control of your opponent and improving your submission attempts, while keeping your opponent from cutting through your closed guard like a hot knife through butter.

Here are Tips 1-3 for improving your closed guard attacks:

Tip #1: Don’t allow your opponent to get their grips – When grapplers start out sparring in the guard position, the grappler on the bottom usually allows the grappler inside their guard to get their grips so they can start to escape. Every time you allow your opponent to get their grips while inside your guard first, you give them an advantage that makes it easier for them to pass your guard.

Tip #2: Keep your opponents head in front of their hips – I know, how do I keep my opponent’s head in front of their hips during a match. You do that by forcing your opponent to use bad posture and not allowing them to get correct posture. The easiest way to do that is by pulling your opponent off his base by pulling them forward towards you. If your opponent can’t maintain good posture, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to pass your guard.

Tip #3: Get into your opponent’s “blind spot” by using angled attacks – Whenever you start with your opponent in your guard and you’re parallel with them, your opponent can see you using their full mat vision. But once you start breaking down their posture (while scooting out your hips off their center line), you’ve moved into their “blind spot”, making the task of keeping their natural body posture more important than trying to pass your guard. Your opponent can’t stop you from sweeping or submitting them if they can’t see or face you head-on.

In the next article (Part 2), I will reveal Tips 4-6 for improving your closed guard attacks.

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Do All Your BJJ Submissions End With a Paintbrush?

April 21, 2011

A few nights ago, I was teaching a Beginner BJJ Class and taught a sweep from the mount that ended up with a “paintbrush” (or key lock) submission.

After I completed the technique, one of the students asked if all my submissions ended with the “paintbrush” technique.

At first, I just laughed under my breath because I knew the student wasn’t being a smart-A. He was just thinking out loud because he’s a regular at my classes and realizes that many of my finishing techniques from the top usually result in some kind of “paintbrush” lock.

I told him that it’s not that all roads lead to the paintbrush, but more about the simple fact that once most grapplers get swept to laying on their backs, their arms are usually in the “hold up” position (hands above their shoulders) for the “paintbrush” hold. You just have to know what “mat picture” you’re looking for to apply the right submission and in my case, it just so happens to be the “paintbrush” finish.

Then I turned the question on him and asked what he thought I should do in this situation; go for a “boring” paintbrush or try to force another technique once my partner adjusts into the defensive mount position?

And just as I expected, he suggested that I go for something that was reasonable for that position, but required more energy from me to do because the position didn’t occur naturally during the transition.

That WAS the point I wanted the young gun to see.

Fortunately, there were a few techniques that I could’ve done from the mount after sweeping him. Unfortunately, they would’ve required more effort and energy from me to capitalize on the technique.

Wasted effort and energy don’t mean as much to a young gun, but to an OG, it’s one of the building blocks of our “training smarter, not harder” mantra.

And after I explained it that way, he got the point and started drilling the technique.

What’s the moral of the story? There isn’t one, just go for the simple technique that’s right in front of you than the one that makes the crowd go “ooooooh” after you do it.

Then again… maybe that IS the moral of the story! 🙂


Ask The Wise Grappler: Can “Mind Trickery” Work During a BJJ Match?

April 11, 2011

“Paul, as I was running yesterday, coming up on a really steep hill, I realized that I have a habit of looking down at my feet while battling an uphill. The reason for this is that if I look at my feet instead of what lies ahead, I’m less aware of how steep the incline is, and I’m less likely to give up….all part of the mental game.

Then I started to wonder if this is wise, to use my mind-trickery (it works most of the time and I get up the hill) or if it’s just me not facing my challenges head on. Of course, I then equated that to grappling. When faced with a challenging match up, is it better to say to myself “this is just like class…no big deal, just roll” or to acknowledge the challenge in front of me and try to get myself into the mindset of “I can do this”?

Perhaps it’s an individualized thing…whatever works for you, but I thought I’d throw it out there.”

——————

TWG: That’s a good question to ask because I think every OG can and should use this “mind trickery” as you call it.

Experience has shown me that the mind and body work hand-in-hand to complete everything we do. With simple challenges, it’s easy for that interaction to be overlooked. But for bigger challenges, not recognizing how they work together can result in failure. Simply put, the body will do exactly what the mind tells it to do.

For example, when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton during the 1980s, we used to run up a LOT of hills for PT. Those hill runs used to be a struggle for me at times because I would spend most of the run focus on how steep the hill would be.

Then one day, we got a new First Sergeant in our company and when he took us on our first hill run, he made us chant the word “hill” all the way to the top.

It may not seem like much, but with 40-50 guys just repeating the word “hill” up this steep incline for at least half a mile, it made a big difference. For the first time, running to the top of that hill didn’t seem so hard because my mindset was MORE determined to beat the hill instead of being focused on how steep it was.

Now, can the same “mind trickery” be applied to grappling?
Absolutely! In fact, it occurs EVERY training session whether
we’re aware of it or not.

For example, we’ve all had sparring sessions where we “mind
tricked” ourselves out of a good performance because our partner was bigger, stronger or just better than us. And once our mind sends out that “I’m gonna get my butt kicked” message, the body responds to it by ensuring a bad match and eventually quits on you.

However, if we felt that we had the advantage against our partner, our mind would send out the “this guy is toast” message and the body would respond to that as well.

Unfortunately, this kind of “mind trickery” (along with mental
mindset training) is grossly neglected in grappling. Too many
grapplers think the key to mat success is learning a technique that the next guy doesn’t have, but that isn’t the case at all.

Once you start building your mental mindset (like I teach in my “5 Mental Roadblocks System” at http://www.OGMentalMindset.com), you’ll learn that having a tough OG mindset is the missing link that’s been hindering your mat progression and allow you to excel on the mat.

So, keep on “mind tricking” yourself and enjoy smashing through those obstacles placed in front of you, whether it’s running or an opponent’s tough mount defense. 🙂

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)


Ask The Wise Grappler: OG With Multiple Sclerosis Wants to Fight But Coach Won’t Train Him?

February 28, 2011

“I am an older grappler (42 in Feb) and have been training in Jiu-Jitsu for a little more than a year. I live in Virginia near the border of Kentucky. There are no local MMA fights, so I have to travel to Kentucky.

Because of my age, I have to have a physical. That’s not a problem. My problem is that I have Multiple Sclerosis.

My doctor/neurologist cleared me to cage fight, but I have to be cleared by a ringside cage doctor (slight inconvenience). My biggest hurdle is my trainer (who is worried I will get hurt) won’t support me fighting and calls my MS a “crippling disease.” Yes, MS can be a “crippling disease” – but any physical problems I might have would happen before I got in a cage to fight – not while fighting in a cage. My Neuro says I have no greater chance for injury than any other “healthy” fighter.

So, I have three things against me:
1. My age
2. I need a ringside doctor to clear me
3. I have a (great) trainer who is afraid I’ll get hurt and does little to support me.

I need advice. I can’t do anything about my age, I can get medical clearance for a license as a cage fighter, but what can I do to convince my trainer to support me and allow me to be a cage fighter? This is something I want/need to do. This is my journey. I am aware of risks cage fighters take, but I’m willing to risk injury. It’s my choice. Other than leaving my trainer and seeking a new one, do you have any advice you can give me to help me change my trainer’s thinking?

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TWG: First, let me give you props for wanting to pursue your goal, especially when others are telling you to give up on what you feel is part of your grappling journey because of your condition.

Now, let me say upfront that I think you’ve got a pretty good trainer that cares about you and is looking out for your best interest by not allowing you to just jump into the ring with more heart than preparation. The fact that he’s worried about you is something you should take into consideration (just like you want him to take how you feel into consideration to train you) and work on a solution to make him feel more comfortable with you fighting.

For starters, you should get him some medical info on MS to read so that he can become familiar with the facts, which would keep him from speculating on your medical condition. Also, check to see if there are other competitive athletes (in similar contact sports) that have overcome the same obstacles and are following their journey. A little education can go a long way to making him feel comfortable to train you.

Next, you should really sit down with him and really express your desire to be a grappling competitor as well as a MMA fighter. I gotta think that your lack of experience (less than a year) isn’t giving him a warm fuzzy feeling and you’re gonna have to convince him that you’re prepared to make the commitment it’s gonna take to be successful in the ring.

After expressing how much you want to do this and you want him to be the one to help you, you may have to create some kind of an agreement with him that you’ll train for a certain time period before fighting that’s to his liking. That way, he can coach you so that he’ll know you’re ready for your fight and more preparation will calm any concerns he may have about you in the cage.

Also, you may also have to get him to agree to train you for just one fight at a local show (where the competition will be a newbie similar to you in skill) to evaluate your future in the ring. Based on your performance, you guys can determine how reasonable a second fight would be for you. If he sees that you’re more than capable of handling yourself well in the ring and the ring doc OKs you to fight, he might be more willing to train you for more fights.

Bottom line: you MUST make your coach feel like he’s not making a mistake by training and cornering you for a fight because he’s gotta live with the outcome of his decision as well. Make him feel assured that you’re serious about being a good fighter, work with him to create a plan to fight just one fight together, and then plan your fighting future based on your performance. And don’t be so quick to “jump ship” because another coach will let you fight when your current one won’t. The new coach may be trying to just throw a guy in the ring for exposure and not be the least bit
concerned about you.

I hope this helps, OG. Keep me posted on how your training is going along and good luck on your MMA journey.

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)
http://www.TheWiseGrappler.com


OG Earns His BJJ Black Belt at Age 52

February 7, 2011
Last week, I wrote about an OG (Harvey Hensley) that received his BJJ Black Belt at the young age of 52.

I did a quick interview with him after attending a BJJ Seminar that his instructor (and my “younger big bro”) Jared Weiner hosted at his school up in Philly (BJJ United) last December.

If you’ve been “training just to be training” and never thought about earning YOUR black belt, OG Harvey will make you reconsider it with his accomplishment.

Feel free to email, share or post the blog link wherever you think an OG can benefit from it and enjoy!

Dedicated to improving your mat experience!

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)