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?”


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.

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.





Past e-newsletters and testimonials are available here…

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?


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)

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)

BJJ Training Lows (Low #1 – Training Progression: Seeing Immediate Gains, Then Slow Improvement)

January 21, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2010

January 1, 2011

Well, it’s the last day of 2010 and I’m sitting here thinking about the past year and all the “highs and lows” that I’ve encountered.

And as I reflect back on the year, I can’t help but to put things into three buckets:  the good, the bad and the ugly.

The “good” bucket consists of all my successes for the year. The things that I tried and everything turned out in my favor.  I guess it should go without saying this is my favorite bucket and the one that made me a happy wise grappler.

The “bad” bucket consisted of all the things I took a chance on and didn’t work out in my favor.  Although I would’ve wished for a happier ending for the items in this bucket, I gained a lot of wisdom and experience that I’ll carry over into 2011.

Finally, the “ugly” bucket consists of the missed opportunities that came my way because I either procrastinated or chose to do something that added little or no value to me  (e.g. making a decision to play “Madden 10” instead of writing an e-newsletter article).  I always knew those things probably took away more value than they added, in spite of the lame excuses I created to justify doing it.

However, with 2010 hours away from being a memory, I can say the benefits from the “good” and “bad” buckets made me a better person in the long run.

As for the “ugly” bucket, I’ll talk about how I’m going to deal with them in the next article.

So, have fun celebrating the New Year and best wishes for 2011! 🙂

Introducing Matt Burns, OG 4 Life!

April 1, 2010

Last week, I mentioned that I would introduce you to an OG (Matt Burns) that has had a few interesting training experiences that he would be willing to share with the OG Nation.

I’ll begin telling Matt’s story starting this Thursday (April 1),  but I wrote up a little of his background so that you can get an idea what to expect.

Click here to check him out.

Dedicated to improving your mat experience!

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)

OG Representing on the Bus!

March 14, 2010

I know this video has been out for about a month now, but another OG (Leo O’Brien) sent it to me two weeks ago and I thought it was funny and needed to be shared with the OG Nation.  It’s also something we all should be prepared to handle, just in case it happens to us someday.

Happy Turkey Day!

November 27, 2009

I know it’s late in the day, but I wanted to take a moment before it was too late to wish you and everyone in the OG Nation a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

I love this holiday because it’s focused on being grateful for what we have, along with helping others with what they don’t have.

And while being thankful is a good thing, if you feel you don’t have a lot (or enough) to be thankful about, then go and get yourself something or some reason to be thankful.

That way, as time passes, you’ll have more and more reasons to be thankful for since you’ve made it your business to get things that make you thankful and appreciative.

This year, I do have many things in my life that make me feel very

Would I prefer there be more? Absolutely. But I’m content with what I have this year and excited about the possibilities of all the things I’ll have to be grateful for in the years to come.

Finally, I’m grateful to you for reading my messages. I hope they help you in some small way, especially if you’re outside the USA and the Thanksgiving Holiday isn’t celebrated in your country. I hope that you have a wonderful day as well.

Dedicated to improving your mat experience!

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)

P.S. Black Friday is TOMORROW (Friday, November 27, 2009) and you should wait until then to take advantage of the sale to invest in the grappling, mental mindset, AND strength and conditioning products.  Be on the lookout for an email with “OG Nation Black Friday Sale” in the subject line.

P.P.S. If you haven’t downloaded the interview I did with 2004 Olympian Rhadi Ferguson, you’re helping every opponent that will submit you in 2010 thanks to your procrastination!  GO DOWNLOAD IT NOW ( so you can take your grappling to the next level!

Ask the Wise Grappler

November 21, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about an OG finding the “missing piece to his grappling puzzle” by accident during a sparring session.”

Well, I got an email from an OG that thought maybe I was stretching it a bit for the sake of having something good to write about and I wanted to share with you his comment and my reply to it.  Enjoy.

Dear Wise Grappler

So are you telling me that if a 45 year old white belt with no contact sport experience goes up against Rickson Gracie, he can just think his way through a 5-minute match and not get tapped?  I’d love to see that happen.”

The Wise Grappler replies:

No OG, I wasn’t trying to say that “a 45 year old white belt with no contact sport experience” would use their mindset to beat up Rickson Gracie in a 5-minute match.  Even though I believe that anything’s possible (based on pure chance or a fluke), I wouldn’t bet my last dollar on it!  There have been people with more grappling and mental mindset experience than our 45 yrs old couch potato (with no sports background) that have tried and failed miserably against the man that many (me included) believe is the best proponent of BJJ in the world today.

Here’s what I was trying to say in that “Missing Piece” Article.

The positive OG Mental Mindset’s main role is to have an effect on the grappler or combat athlete’s performance during a match.  It provides absolutely NO GUARANTEE that the match outcome will be in favor of the combatant; only that it will force the athlete to fight hard enough to either meet the current challenge successfully or to go down fighting unsuccessfully.

For example, whenever you have a grappler or combat athlete getting ready for a contest, they have to believe without a shadow of doubt in their mind that they’re prepared and going to win a match.  If they don’t (whether it’s due to lack of confidence or preparation), then they’ve already lost the match.  In fact, if you spoke to both combatants before a match, both would tell you they’re going to win and that’s expected.  In fact, I’ve NEVER heard an athlete after losing a match (whether by decision or being knocked out) say they didn’t think they even had a chance to win.

There are so many variables that come together to bring about a winning outcome in a performance (with mindset only being one of them), that it would be virtually impossible to point to one thing
to say that’s the one thing I need to focus on exclusively that will determine the outcome of every match.

In my opinion, to compare White Belt A sparring with Rickson Gracie and using his positive mat mindset to force Rickson to submit, instead of White Belt A sparring with White Belt B, isn’t a fair comparison at all.  There’s a very good chance that if White Belt A knew he was going to spar with Rickson, White Belt A would probably think they don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell against him and would probably just be waiting for the tap to come.

Technically, White Belt A would probably be right. But as a coach, I want to believe that Rickson would correct that white belt’s thinking on the spot by saying something motivational to correct
the negative thinking, causing that white belt to fight as hard as possible… until he made them tap!

I hope this cleared up any misunderstanding from the “Missing Piece to the Grappling Puzzle” Article.  If not, send me another email and I’ll try to get it right the second time! 🙂