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.


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 2)

June 6, 2011

In Part 1 of the “6 BJJ Mat Tips” article, I covered Mat Tips 1-3 (Don’t allow your opponent to get their grips, Keep your opponents head in front of their hips, and how to get into your opponent’s
“blind spot” by using angled attacks).

In Part 2, I will cover the remaining Mat Tips (#4-6) for improving your closed guard attacks:

Tip #4: Your hands must always make contact with your opponent at all times while in your guard – Far too often during a match, a grappler will establish a control grip on his opponent, then release it due to fatigue or frustration from not knowing what to do from that position. Once you break contact with your opponent and put your hands somewhere that’s not helping you during the match (e.g. behind the back of your head), you make it easier for your opponent to maintain the posture they need to eventually pass your guard.

Tip #5: Break your opponent’s base by “Driving Their Head” – Everyone has heard at one time or another to pull your opponent’s head down to your chest, but the reason why you’re doing it isn’t
always clear. Usually, grapplers pull their opponents forward to break their posture, but once you pull them forward, their immediate reaction will be to sit back up, with no benefit from pulling them down. But what if you steered your opponent’s head by turning it like you’d turn a car steering wheel? You would force them to break their own base while trying to free their head from your grip, making it easier to sweep them on one side while creating space on the other side to escape from underneath them.

Tip #6: Transition from closed to open guard BEFORE your opponent’s breaks your guard AND attack immediately – Most grapplers have heard that you shouldn’t wait until your guard is broken before you move to the next position (which tends to be open guard). Unfortunately, many grapplers transition too slowly from closed to open guard. That immediate closed-to-open guard transition should allow you to stay one step ahead of your opponent, making it easier to counter their attacks since they’re still concentrating on opening your legs to pass your guard.

And there you have the “6 BJJ Mat Tip to Improve Your Closed Guard Attacks.” Make sure that you master these tips and don’t get discouraged if your guard gets passed while trying to perfect
these tactics. With patience and persistence, you’ll have one of the most feared closed guard attacks at your academy.


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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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)
http://www.TheWiseGrappler.com


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! 🙂


OG Starting Over at BJJ After Quitting

November 3, 2010

Paul, I’m a 36 year old OG. I started BJJ back in 2003 and quit a
few times. Well now I want to try again but I keep backing out. I’ve
even driven out to the gym only to turn around and go home. I
suppose I’m worried about looking out of shape and getting hurt. I
think I’ve forgotten all my techniques too. What should I do?


TWG:  This problem isn’t as tough as you think and happens quite
often, OG.

First, you should do is recognize the fact that deep down inside,
you REALLY want to train at BJJ, maybe even become a black belt
someday.  The reason I point that out is to show you that you’re
NOT as big a quitter as you feel.  If you were a “true quitter”,
you wouldn’t still be thinking about going back to the mat or going
as far as driving down to the school, in spite of the fact that you
never stop and go inside the school.

Second, 90 percent of this struggle comes from your poor mental
mindset about who you are or what you think you should be.  It
doesn’t matter that you’re out-of-shape because most of the people
that start training are out-of-shape in the beginning, me included.
You just have to get back in there and let the training get you in
shape.  And as far as forgetting the techniques that you learned
back in the day, no one will know that unless you want to go in and
start telling people that you’ve been training since 2003.  If you
go into the school like you’re a brand new student that’s never
taken a BJJ class before, then there’s no pressure to remember
anything you learned back in the day and you can learn like every
other newbie taking BJJ for the first time.

Finally, as for worrying about getting hurt, you should know since
you’ve been training that bumps and bruises come along with the BJJ
Training.  If you’re really concerned about it, use that concern to
help guide you to the right school to train.  You don’t need to be
at a school with a bunch of up-and-coming MMAers where the risk of
being used as a grappling bag with feet is likely.  Check around
and (if possible) find a school that’s being run by an OG
Instructor (see my website for a list of schools).  If there aren’t
any schools run by an OG in your area, pay attention to the school
that seems to have a good number of OGs in their classes and talk
with a few of them.  That should ease your concern about being hurt
because you’re an OG.

Bottom line:  Do your homework to find the right school for you,
stop thinking about all the bad things that can happen (since most
of it is in your head), and get back on the mat so you can pursue
your dream of being a BJJ Black Belt.

And make sure to let me know once you’ve joined the school and how
the training is going once you’re back on the mat.

I hope this helps and good luck.


Are You Training with an Endpoint in Mind… or Just Killing Time?

October 30, 2010

A few days ago, I was cleaning up my office and stumbled across
some pictures that I hadn’t seen in a while. They were pics of me
training back in the day as a white belt and the early days at
LIMAA.

And once I started looking at those pics, I couldn’t help but
notice all those guys that I trained with back then that kinda got
lost along the way on my grappling journey.  Guys that I thought
were more likely to reach black belt than me.

Unfortunately, 90 percent of those guys never even made it to blue
belt.

The thing that made me shake my head in disappointment was the fact
that many of those guys were either REALLY good or had great
potential.

And as I looked through those pictures, I saw guys that were
bigger, stronger, meaner, more technically proficient, and way more
mentally tougher than I ever could be.

But for some unknown reason, they just got off the road to black
belt.

And as I put those pictures back in the box, I thought about how we
never really talked about becoming black belts back in the day.
Most of us thought it was such a far away goal to reach that we
just trained hard and ignored it.

But now I’m starting to wonder since we never talked about or
thought of ourselves as future black belts if that contributed to
many of those guys (and gals) falling off along the grappling
journey.  Maybe just training for the sake of training, without an
end goal in mind, made it easier for many of them to lose interest
and quit.

What about your training?  Are you training with and end goal in
mind (e.g. belt rank, coaching certification, etc.) or just
training because it’s fun and gets you out of the hose a few nights
a week?

Think about that question before you answer it.  It may make the
difference as to whether you’ll still be on the mat five years from
now or talking about what you could have been had you stuck with it.


10 Common BJJ Mat Training Lows and How to Avoid Them (Part 1)

October 10, 2010

A few weeks ago, a grappler sent me an email where he talked about his frustration on the mat.

The grappler (who I’ll call Grappler X) has been training for about a year, experienced what I call “mat lows” and wanted to know if anyone else had these problems.

I assured him that he wasn’t the only BJJer experiencing these
issues and figured I’d write a list of “10 Common Mat Lows” that
every grappler experiences at some point during their grappling
journey.

I’m going to break these 10 Mat Lows down into parts so I can discuss each one in detail:

1. Progressing fast in beginning, then slowing down – when you first start training, EVERY grappler experiences that feeling of picking up things quickly because everything’s new.  And when everything’s new, you’re going from someone who knows nothing to being proficient.  Once you start becoming familiar with the techniques, the proficiency is still happening, it’s just not as noticeable like when you were new to the mat.

2.  Unable to submit anyone during sparring – once grapplers start sparring, it’s usually difficult to submit or apply clean technique against an opponent because you’re spending too much time “thinking” about what to do instead of “reacting” to the situation at hand. The ability to “move without thinking” will only come with time, hard work and patience, NOT any sooner than that.

3. Watching classmates improve faster than you – this is something that grapplers deal with at every level, whether it’s based on friendly competition between teammates or just hating on someone that’s better than you.  And since everyone learns and progresses at different paces, it’s only natural to look at the guy/gal next to you and wonder why it seems easy for them and hard for you.

In Part Two, I’ll talk about “Mat Lows” 4-7 dealing with overtraining, mat burnout, and injury.