Tag Archives: Advice

Sam Harris joins the blogging parade!

How’s this for a slice of fried gold? Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, member of the four horsemen, and all round sciencey bloke has taken up BJJ. What next? Dawkins in an MMA match with the pope?! (I would pay vast quantities of money to see that. Prediction: Reason by armbar).

As a card-carrying member of the militant atheist brigade – my rational jack boots and evidence epaulets look divine, dahling – I’m quite excited about all this. Sam Harris is a fantastic author. I highly recommend everyone to read Letter to a Christian Nation – it’s concise (96 pages long), clear, and as good a demolition of the absurdities of faith as I have ever read.

I am hoping him turning his laser logic onto a subject as full of bullshit as martial arts can only be a good thing. Having cut my teeth in the TMA world, I know first hand how delusional they can be. Write this is stone, tattoo it on your chest, and don’t forget it: Kata does not help you, chi doesn’t exist, you are only as good as your last fight.

Harris has tackled martial arts before, writing about the realities of self defense. I don’t really think I’m qualified to critique his viewpoint – the last fight I got into was in school, and the last fight I avoided was about 10 years ago (over a phone box, of all things) – but what he says here does seems consistent with other things I’ve read about “realistic” self defense as opposed to self defense as it’s taught in TMA: “Now you punch me. No, not like that like that, like this. No the other hand, oh you’re doing the attack all wrong!”

As an aside, I’ve always liked the term “Self Protection” to differentiate between the two. The logic is, I believe, that defense is something you need once you’ve failed to protect yourself from being attacked in the first place. Whilst it’s essentially a semantic thing, I like having the two terms. Of course there is a much simpler word to describe what happens when you need to resort to fisticuffs: Fighting. And make no mistake, the police take a very dim view of it.

Speaking of which: Harris actually links to someone, Lee Morrison, with whom I once attended a self protection seminar which I can sum up thusly: Avoid violence at all costs, but when you have no other choice – hit first, hit hard, and then RUN AWAY. This seems to be what Harris is advocating too, and makes a lot of sense to me. Why on earth put yourself in more danger than you need to be – both physically and legally. You call it “teaching them a lesson” the courts call it “attempted murder”.

Whatever your views on the whole self defense issue, I think we can all agree it’s worth reading. For my part I like the fact Harris refers to police’s views, quotes the stats (fuck yeah evidence!), and also has read the criticisms of his article (mainly about the role of BJJ in not going to the ground) and corrected his footnotes accordingly. It’s this attention to detail that excites me about his BJJ blogging.

I’m not going to go into details about the BJJ article, read it and judge for yourselves, but I really enjoyed it. I liked his analogy of drowning to describe being tapped – something I’ve done myself before, much less eloquently – and his rational approach to the reality of the subject he’s addressing shines through as always. He uses that video of the chi master getting punched in the face to illustrate the self deception of some martial artists. In his words:

Of course, it is sad to see a confused old man repeatedly punched in the face—but if you are a martial artist, or have even a passing concern with safeguarding basic human sanity, you will take some satisfaction in seeing a collective delusion so emphatically dispelled.


The one thing I will say is that the article is very dedicated to the self defense side of the art, something I could care less about if I’m honest, so might not be for everyone. Still, it’s not everyday a New York Times best-selling author starts writing about your martial art. Read it, fools!

For clarity, here’s the link again: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-pleasures-of-drowning  Enjoy!



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BJJ Haiku

A silly post for my silly blog. I should point out these aren’t true Haiku, as I can’t write in Japanese so you get these westernised ones instead. Still, kept me amused for a few hours on twitter whilst at work. Enjoy. Or not.

Every night I die
I am smashed more than smashing
Every night, Reborn

This is my Blue Belt
There are many just like it
But this one is mine *


Opponent in guard
Heavy, crushing,  starts to pass
I reverse my sweep
Worry not about
Your friends, their medals, or belts
It is your  Journey


Strong, Tall and Mighty
Smashes opponents like bugs
Wish he was my Dad


A fool speaks and says
“Girls can’t fight, they just pull hair. “
HA! Real girls pull Guard

And finally, from my good rocking buddy at training, a worryingly accurate Haiku all about me…


When sober pure
In drink he finds happiness
My angry friend

… I like it.



*Obviously inspired by The Rifleman’s Creed. Which, if you haven’t already, you should read. Not least to get an appreciation of how fucking mental the US forces are.

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Buying a new Belt – The Jiu Jitsuka’s Nightmare

I had planned to write the definitive article on the annoying subject of buying a Belt but it appears Meerkatsu has beaten me to it. By “beat me to it” what I mean is “I had the idea about 6 months ago and did absolutely fuck all about it and now that sneaky bastard has done it before me… DAMN HIM TO HADES!”. Ah well, you snooze you lose.

I really didn’t think too much about buying my first belt. I just got a Fuji one when I bought my first Gi. All I wanted from a belt back then was one that had a black rank strip so that it was a proper BJJ belt and I was happy to pay for the priviledge. I believe the term my instructor used for me at the time was “sad”. More fool him – considering the amount of time I had those strips on I reckon I more than got my money’s worth from the rank strip. Ha!

Times change though, and when I was awarded my Blue I decided to shop around a bit. The Black Eagle one I’d been given was waaay too long so I had a perfect exacuse. Also, considering you are tying the same piece of cloth around yourself for years I don’t think this is an outrageous thing to do. Unless you spend £200 on a custom one, nooch. Clearly the best belts are the old Atama ones: Good and thick, hard wearing, but still fray wonderfully around the edges. Sadly they don’t make them like that anymore so my quest was on to find something similar.

Buying a belt is a bit like buying new shoes. You spend ages finding the perfect pair, something new and exciting, despite knowing full well that after a while they’ll look and feel just like your old pair and you won’t remember why you bought the blasted things in the first place!*  Of course, knowing all this didn’t stop me from spending hours on the internet trying to find the “perfect” belt and failing utterly: I am the procrastinator general when it comes to making descisions – as anyone who’s ever been to a resturant with me can attest – and the great wealth of choice the internet offers just compounds matters. Whoever thought a free market economy was a good idea obviously didn’t realise the impact it would have on my sanity!

The main thing I’d say about buying belts (as confirmed by Seymour’s chart) is that length can vary A LOT so make sure you check with the company before you end up buying something that will either fit your cat or end up hanging around your knees and tripping you up. Seriously – What on earth is wrong with the idea of standardising what A2, A3 is? It can’t be that hard, surely? And then there is the colour issue: Given that slight variation in shade is the only real difference between most belts, it’s enraging that you look at the same belt on various sites and it looks different on all of them. I originally bought an Ouano belt as it seemed to have a nice navy shade to it in the picture, but when it arrived it was almost exactly the same shade and build as my Black Eagle one. I only wore the blasted thing once, didn’t like it, and was debating either going back to searching online or just shrinking my Black Eagle one in the wash and being done with it. Import Fail.

Luckily before I managed to waste anymore time or money another of the guys I graded with gave me a spare Koral belt as he’d been sent two by mistake. Done and done. Given what I’ve just said previously about shoes this is going to sound silly, but as soon as I put it on I knew I’d found my belt. Just felt, I dunno, mine.

I really like the Koral. It’s nice and chunky, I like the colour better than the darker blues out there, and it’s the correct length for me. I think I’ve worked out all it’s features too:  I’ve located the “smash white belts” button (though it must be faulty as it sometimes doesn’t work), and I’m very happy with the grappling hook, lock picks and thermite dispenser. I believe there is also a way to summon the Batmobile too – but I haven’t fiddled with that too much yet.

So what have I learnt from all this? Probably nothing. I think I’m going to start looking for my Purple Belt now. By the time I’ve earned one in 3 years time I may have found one I like.

* I say this as a male. I am perfectly aware women can recount, at great length, the entire life-history of every pair of shoes they own: Where they bought them, how much they cost, and why they have to buy a new dress to go with them. Ahhhhh, lazy sexist stereotyping. It’s so fun!

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Top 10 phrases to avoid on the mat

Given that I am now a seasoned Blue Belt, I thought it was about time I passed on my years of accumulated wisdom to any beginners out there. Here a few choice phrases I’ve heard over the years (or possibly, made up) that highlight training mistakes or etiquette faux pas that you may want to avoid.

Obviously this is aimed at newbies, which like most things in BJJ means it goes double for all you higher grades out there… Share and enjoy bitches!

What’s the worst that can happen? BRING IT ON!

THIS. By all means train hard but tap early, tap often, and keep yourself safe.

RAAAARRR!! Newbie Smash!! RAAARRRR!!

Woah! Easy tiger. Everyone wants to win, and it’s really easy to force a sub on to begin with, but you’re really not helping anyone. Relax, and you’ll have more gas. Have more gas and you can concentrate on your technique more. concentrate on your technique more and you’ll find your game improving no end. If you want to train a strength only game, try power lifting.

I just learned a new deep half guard inverted gogoplata on submissions101, I’m going to smash everyone!!

Are you? Well well done you.  In the meantime I’m going to listen to my instructor who I’m paying to teach me and learn techniques that way. There is a very good reason privates cost £40 an hour and YouTube is free.

Yeah, well, he only beat me cos…

There is a big difference between a reason and excuse. Finding a reason as to why you lost helps you learn as you improve your game, making excuses  fools no-one apart from yourself.

Phwoooar, Kyra Gracie! I wouldn’t mind being stuck in her guard/ sometimes passing isn’t an option/I’d mount her alright/etc

Well, done, congratulations. You’ve realised Kyra Gracie is a beautiful women. But have some fucking respect – she’s a world-class athlete, and you’re a tool. I bet Renzo never had to put up with this shit.

When am I gonna get my Blue Belt? When am I gonna get my Blue Belt? When am I gonna get my Blue Belt?

At this rate, never. A watched pot never boils, a pestered instructor never grades. Forget about the next belt and concentrate on training.

Man, I love working on my Jitz game.

Listen Snoop Dogg, it’s not “Jitz” or “B-Jizzle” or any of your other cool trendy made up words, It’s Jiu-Jitsu. End of discussion. Everytime you use the term “Jitz” – Rickson murders a panda.

I’m going to buy a lightweight gi to help with my comp game

If you honestly think 600g difference is going to transform your game then a) you’re probably fighting at the wrong weight and b) you’re deluded. Train harder, cut properly, or fight at the next weight.

Can we take it easy? I put my back out last night humping your mother

I actually used this phrase once, and I wouldn’t recommend it… Big mistake. Huge.

Um…  look. I know we all joke about it, but, well… it really is quite gay isn’t it?

Shhh! There are just some things we don’t talk about, ok?

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