Quick Update

I haven’t written anything here in some time, but I’m competing at the North America’s tournament Nov. 11 and 12 in Long Beach. Blue belt, masters division: feather weight! EXCITED!

Let’s get it going. Happy training everyone!

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The Second Stripe

I’ve decided to write a little to say a lot; this weekend, I received my second stripe on my blue belt, thanks tremendously to all of my training partners, Kenric and Mauricio, who continue to help mold me into a better grappler and better man.

Somehow, after two years without promotion, this stripe feels just as rewarding as my blue belt. I can’t really sum it up, but I’m stoked about moving forward.

See you on the mat, friends.

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Gear Review: Red Journey Brand Jiu-jitsu Gi – Black Classic

Today, I’m reviewing the Red Journey brand jiu-jitsu gi in the company’s Black Classic. It’s noted on their site that the gi is IBJJF approved and is priced at $99.00.


Upon opening the box and examining the kimono, I noticed the simplicity of the design. With minimal logos on the sleeves and front of pants, this gi gives the owner the ability to customize the look as much as they want without compromising the company’s aesthetic. Some companies prefer to brand their product on multiple levels with patches strewn haphazardly across the front and back of their kimonos – not so with Red Journey. You get a simple and clean design with red embellishments that proves a smart, simple aesthetic can be just as powerful. The jacket has red trim in key areas, while the pants feature a red, 8-loop system with thick rope drawstring, reinforcing that minimalist approach while giving the owner some eye candy. While I am very impressed with the overall look of the gi, I do feel as though the drawstring loops are a little low on the pants and the loops look a little close to the middle for my preference. More on that in the Feel and Fit section.


Examining the gi out of the box, I was surprised at the level of craftsmanship at such a reasonable price point. A few loose threads from the sewing machine were stuck to the inside of the gi, but nothing attached or something that prevents the product from doing its job day in and day out. The jacket is a beautiful pearl weave, seems incredibly durable and weighs in at only 400 gsm. The pants are made of ripstop material and feature a pearl weave gusset where a lot of tearing comes from playing a determined open guard. With reinforced cuffs and triple stitched stress areas, I expect this gi to quickly become a prominent member in my rotation.

I’ve gotten to train in this kimono repeatedly and have to say that it holds up as well or better than any of the more expensive brands. The light weight helps tremendously during the hot nights of training and continues to show its strength and durability.

Feel and Fit:

I’m 5’7”, 170 lbs without the gi and asked for an A1. The company’s web site notes a “Tailored Fit.” Pulling pants and jacket on, it does have a slimmer cut than some other gis I own, without feeling constrictive. I worried about how the cut would play into my submission game during the times I use my own lapel as a weapon – would it be too short or would I feel like I was missing material? Not at all. In fact, outside of the more natural, trim fit of the gi itself, I saw no effect on my jiu-jitsu. Though the gi felt a little rough in hand, it played no factor once it was pulled over my shoulders and I had a chance to sweat in it. The lightweight was great for the hot, summer weather and, unlike some of the other gis I own, I didn’t feel this compulsion to pull the jacket off immediately after a hard night’s training. The jacket and pants are both comfortable and the proper length though I will note that I found the drawstring to be a touch shorter than I’m accustomed to – I normally double-tie my draw strings and ended up with shorter loops than I naturally prefer. However, I noted earlier that I was concerned about the placement of the loops – they actually kept the pants nice and snug and, once tied, the pants felt comfortable from bell to bell.


At shipping, the manufacturer notes a vinegar/water soak is needed to set the colors. As I already do this with new gis, it was no issue. After 12 washes, I’ve also not seen the bold, black colorway fade or run at all. Like any other gi, I wash it in cold water with my other jiu-jitsu laundry, then hang dry in the garage. Because of the tailored fit, I was worried – unnecessarily – about shrink. The gi continues to fit and perform well even after multiple training and washing sessions.


I’m incredibly happy with this gi, especially at the price point. For only $99.00, this kimono holds up well, looks good and is comfortable to wear on a regular basis. If you’re looking for something that has the minimalist in mind, this gi could be right for you. For more information and to get a Red Journey Brand gi of your own, check out http://redjourneybrand.com/

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Leverage vs. Strength: the Excuses

OK, I need to rant for a moment.

I hate it when someone (myself included) makes an excuse with an opponent of similar size that they’re “muscling it.” You’ll hear “he’s ok, but he was muscling it” when in reality, all I saw was you counting the lights and getting ROCKED.

The fact is your leverage is supposed to beat their stength. If you can’t escape bottom side control, or you keep leaving your arm away from your body to get locked out — or God forbid, they keep breaking your posture while you’re in their closed guard, that is not their problem; it’s yours.

It could be an issue of saving face – you don’t want to let your ego take the beating it needs because you just got wrecked by a junior belt or, worse, a wrestler. The same excuses come in different packages – be it cardio, agility, etc. The most common though, is strength.

Strength, cardio, agility — these are attributes of success and shouldn’t be stunted just because we want everyone to feel better about themselves. Granted, a big person rolling with a little person needs to focus intently on NOT muscling so that they’re getting something out of the roll, too. Muscling with another big person is likely not to work the same way.

So, do yourself a favor and work those escapes, stay on top, stay heavy when you need to. Speed kills strength; technique kills muscle. You just have to know how to use it.

I’ll be working on the same thing.

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The Blue Belt Blues

With changes on and off the mat lately, I’ve got em. In Spades.

The only way to fix it is more time grappling and to make no excuses, so in honor of mustering up the courage and getting in the thick of it, check out some Henry V. Feel free to change all references to England/English and Harry to whatever is most accurate for you:

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”

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The Bowsers

This post is dedicated to a couple of good friends on the mat, Mike and Kim Bowser.

A little after I started rolling three years ago, a new guy showed up. Hard-working and dedicated but heavy and out of shape. I pushed him as much as I could in a positive way, trying to be a good partner and give constructive feedback when it’s asked for. Mike continues to improve and he mixes strength and technique well …

A year goes by. Mike loses 100+ lbs and is agile, strong and has the gas tank of a Cadillac. He makes me work in warm-ups, always pushing to be first. Always pushing me to be better. One of my favorite moments was watching him get his blue belt. The guy is a work-horse and soaks up the details, asks questions and loves being on the mat.

Eventually, Mike brings his wife to class. Kim is at first tentative — surrounded by the sharks, she’s quiet and reserved — but comes around. She works incredibly hard, her eyes get big every time she sees a new technique that she likes at-first-glance and she doesn’t give an inch. Together, they make a great team — always in the gym, if not on the mat then they’re working cardio, running hard and getting an edge on as many people as possible.

This past week, Mike got his first stripe on his blue belt and Kim got her second stripe on her white belt. It’s cool seeing how jiu-jitsu can bring a family together, showcase a person’s drive and determination and altogether highlight great, hard-working people.

So, to the Bowsers I tip my hat.

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Writing in Capitals

When I was a kid and first began to write out my letters, I was enamored by the capital versions of each, both in cursive and print. I’d spend as much time as I could filling pages with the alphabet in all of its angular and curved splendor. As I got older, I did the same with block letters and script – if I was in a class, chances were that my notes were just going to be scribbles of letters and names on paper. Skipping the lower-cased letters was not an option, though. They still had to be learned and, because of them, the written language is more robust – hell, the lower-cased letters make up the vast majority of our correspondence. Without them, we would be incomplete.

This post is not so much about letters, though. This analogy could be used, not just for letters, but also for jiu-jitsu. If you attempt to only use the capital letters all of the time – the berimbolo, the back-step, inversion, fancy guards, etc. — your game is going to have serious holes. It isn’t until you master the fundamentals — the vast majority of the game — that the capitals take on their real character.

And let’s not just stop there: I originally thought of this analogy because I have been having an issue on the mats lately — I either relax too much or become overly aggressive from the top that results in spazzing out. In attempting to bring the athletic passing style of Rodolfo Vieira to my own game, I’ve started to overdo it. Hopping back and forth without proper technique only results in my own fatigue. Then, I give up the sweep too readily or acquiesce when I should fight on.

I’ve mentioned the latter in the past but it’s still something I’m working on. Even with aggression, you have to have the right amount of balance. Going HAM on the mats needs to be done in a controlled manner somehow; I’m still digesting my thoughts on this, but I know that over-exerting my muscles doesn’t improve form.

All of this came about because last week – for the first time in a long time – I trained 5 days in a 7 day week. Monday morning was a small class; Wednesday morning focused mostly on takedowns; Thursday night I visited Tinguinha’s gym where Emilio was teaching and got WAXED by Scott, who mentioned my spazz nature coming to the surface. I think he tapped me 7 times in 6 minutes; I realized afterward that I wasn’t defending properly and didn’t capitalize where I should have. I let him play his game at the wrong moments and tried to pass badly at other points. All around, it was a blow to the ego and a growing experience. I like rolling with Scott because he continues to improve and doesn’t hold back on me. This will only make me better. Back to the rest of the week: Friday evening class was great and I got lots of work in with multiple people; Saturday, I was back at Tinguinha’s where Emilio was hosting a FREE self-defense seminar. I got to catch up with old friends, make new friends and altogether enjoy the two-hour seminar. The best part was probably just the idea of a self-defense mindset. If more of these come up in the future, I’d encourage all to go.

So, I’m laying there on Saturday afternoon and I’m SORE. I realize that I’ve lost the balance somewhere, like trying to write all in caps. Either I don’t train enough or I train too often for my body to respond appropriately; either I relax too much in the moment and give up the sweep, or I spazz too hard. The next few weeks will be dedicated to finding that balance again, on and off the mat.

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Competing in Brea

I had a great time competing this past weekend at Brea Jiu-Jitsu’s free tournament. I was in the same division with 15 other folk, 2 of them being good friends. I’ve already mentioned this, but I really respect the friends I have in this division as they both work tirelessly and have what seems like effortless technique time and again.

We got to the venue early, checked in, checked my weight and watched some of the white belts. Scott and I talked about perspective a bit and how it changes as your game develops. More on that later.

Weighed in, relaxed and watched some more matches. The best part was that I got to bring JD along, my 10 year-old nephew. I was incredibly nervous, but he managed to make me think less about that; there was some open mat time at one point before the blues went and I got to wrestle around with him, warm up with a decent sweat and have some fun. That’s what jiu-jitsu is about – just enjoying the movement of it, the comraderie, the brotherhood on the mat.

When my name was called, I was nervous but had no fear. I didn’t look at my opponent until we faced each other across the mat and had no intimidating thoughts one way or another. My body told me I’d be going to war and I agreed. Scott talked to me about nerves beforehand as well, because I ordinarily suffer tremendously from them. I felt the nerves and apprehension, but as Scott said, “It’s normal. Tell yourself it’s a normal response and you’ll be fine.” — and he was right.

Standing on the mat across from my opponent, the nerves fell away, replaced with a desire to display solid technique and make my instructor proud. Though I don’t carry his name on my back via patch, I understand that I am representing him, his lineage and his technique.

We shake hands and circle. He pulls guard and immediately breaks my posture and throws up a triangle. I get worried that I’d lose so early on, hear Kenric in my ear telling me “Back straight, head up, Keith! Back straight, head up!” I escape to side control and he reclaims guard almost immediately. Guard opens and I look for the straight ankle lock for about 2 seconds before Kenric tells me “No!” and I go back to trying to pass.

Scramble, no points thus far and we’re both standing, but my posture is broken and he has a hand behind the head, looking to pull me to the ground. I go down and he tries to scramble to my back, but I sit out. I am now on top in half-guard. I’m up 2-nil, I believe. He tries to reclaim guard and I shut him out. Scramble as I go to mount and I end up on top again — half guard. I look for the kimura to no avail. Kenric and Frank are giving me excellent instruction the entire time, how to pull the lapel, to be patient, etc.

My opponent gets the underhook and I reclaim it. Shoulder pressure of DOOM, I tell ya, kids. I can tell he’s not comfortable and I am HEAVY on top, smashing as best I can, looking for the pass. I pass by sitting on my hip and hipping away, kicking out the quarter-guard foot to side control. 5-nil. I think there is a sweep in there somewhere and it’s 8-2, somehow. he locks his arms over my head from side-control and I go for the armbar, but fail miserably at retaining control, fall badly and he comes on top. There’s a scramble and I’m grabbing his lapel on top and he’s threatening the sweep. His knee comes out somehow awkwardly and Kenric is telling me to get a better grip and “SIT UP!” There’s another scramble and I end up on the bottom, with my left leg in the reaping position. There are 4 seconds left. Time is called early. I am disqualified.

As the ref stops time, I know I’m DQ’d. I know it and it sucks but somehow, I am not angry. I’m happy at my showing because I went out there and showed up, finally. My opponent went on to take gold in the division; knowing that, and how well I did against him – knowing I was ahead the entire time and in no danger of losing the match – I had some anger later that evening in the shower, but honestly – I showed up. I’ll get him next time.


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Prep Work

I’m competing in a free tournament with some friends tomorrow at Brea Jiu-jitsu. 16 man, single elimination. Should be good. For the first time ever, my nephew is coming out to watch. He’s 10, excited and a great motivator. I’d love to win for him.

Even though I’d love to walk away with gold, here are my other goals for this tourney:

1. Attack. – Don’t think about points, just go out there, have fun and attack, attack, attack, from all positions.

2. Recover – After the first match, I need to do a good job recovering. Having a minor case of asthma and probably as a result of the adrenaline dump, this is a hard one for me.

3. Light-footed – don’t plod along – be light and quick on my feet.

4. Win or Lose with honor – pretty simple. Don’t be an asshat if I win; don’t be a ninny if I don’t.

I’m excited about this one as I will be among friends, enjoying the day. Hopefully, I don’t put too much stress on myself beforehand.

To prep, I rolled last night and had a great evening on the mats. At our gym, they’re preparing to take down a wall and have been doing some painting, so that was a bit of a distraction at first, but after warm-ups, I got into my groove and the hips responded in kind.

For some reason, everything just felt like it was clicking in place. I hope that continues into tomorrow.

Today, I’ve been doing some visualization and positive self-talk. After a light meal this evening and some good stretching/rest this evening, I should be good to go.

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The Long and Awkward Silence

It’s been too long since I’ve last written, but I will attempt to catch up and post more often.

For Christmas, got the Galvao book as well as the bag I wanted. Score! Drill to Win is helping me immensely, though I’m sure people hate it when I lead warm-ups in class and do some unnatural thing we haven’t seen yet as a group …

Since the New Year, I have been training inconsistently, but am working back to 4 or 5 times a week. Tournament coming up this Saturday, but I’ve got some kind of sinus thing going on and hope it clears up by then. Since I’m not training with anyone as a result of that this week, it means more work with kettle bells, solo drilling and running to maintain weight.

Participated in a Grapplethon in Laguna Niguel as well. Can’t say enough good things about the host academy (Optimus Jiu Jitsu), or the organizers (Montay Wiley and Brett Weekley). It’s always a huge plus when we can gather as a community and invest our time into those who could use our help, either financially or otherwise. Got to see some old friends, make some new friends and enjoy the moment. Also gave myself a bone bruise, but that’s another story.

Finally, saw Metamoris III this past weekend…. I don’t have an opinion on the final match, but wonder how many people will begin to learn things like the Electric Chair or Vaporizer as a result of it? Even though these are pain response techniques (meaning, not a choke and you’re counting on your opponent to respond to the pain of the stretch – similar to CACC), they were proven effective against someone who had never seen them before, even at an incredibly high level. This is the same thing the Gracies did in the 90s with the advent of UFC — no one had seen BJJ on that level, so when Royce decimated people (not saying Eddie decimated Royler), the martial arts world reaction was imminent (though not immediate).

That’s enough of the parenthetical asides for me. Hoping to catch up more soon.

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