newb advice from a new father

A few months ago we finally got to meet our daughter, our second spawn. And of course i look to BJJ for guidance.

With our first child, i read everything i could get my hands on, talking to everyone that had children, and annoyingly to those that didn’t. I wanted to make sure I didn’t go in blind, and that i didn’t screw anything up….selfishly forgetting that it’s my wife that will be pulling the weight, ripping, gushing, likely pooping, and spending precious energy on deciding on loving or hating me through it all. I remember being frustrated finding that everyone’s opinions and pointers differed drastically, everyone had different plans, and none of them went accordingly. But always the same, “don’t worry man, you’ll do fine.”

Looking back now, i remind myself of the non-BJJ people that consistently ask about what to expect on day 1; how to be prepared, what to know first, how to get in shape first, or how to excel or win at BJJ. And i distinctly remember the look i got from other parents exactly matching those of the BJJ practitioner to the newbs. In one form or another, it’s the same, just show up. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.

I know from BJJ that nothing is even remotely as important as mat time. And as i translate this to fatherhood, i see it’s the same. No study of life even remotely comes close to simply living it, especially in the creation of it, and the shared life that follows. I learned more in his first day breathing than i did with months buried in books about first poops, latching, and skin-to-skin contact.

I still maintain my steady study of the process of our second child growing towards toddlerhood, but with the comfort of my “mat time” with our first to keep me relaxed and breathing throughout. I’ll focus on the details i missed with him, and the new ones that will appear with her. With my fresh mat time i have less fear, i’ve seen some stuff. I’m more free to enjoy the process, decided what to bring for the hospital downtime, what photos we wanted to capture, whether to eat the placenta cooked or raw, dried into pill form, or not at all.

The difference in studying BJJ before and after any amount of mat time is enormous. Once you have mat time, your study is clearer, more focused. In some ways it can still be overwhelming, but at least you know why you’re studying it, and get better at filtering what applies to your specific journey through BJJ. Likewise, studying how to father is compounded infinitely by being a father. And life by living it.

To get good at Jiujitsu, to “win”, there is no faster way than to start living it, getting your feet wet, and gaining mat time as soon as your comfort allows. Your fears will diminish and your questions will become more applicable and specific, less driven by fear of the unknown. A minute of mat time serves you better than a month of youtube. Get after it!


Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts

Flow like River, not like Glacier


When rivers flow, they gather more oxygen, invite higher life forms, cover ground, and see major landscape. They’re constantly changing, carving, and evolving. Rivers are experts at navigating obstacles quickly and efficiently along their path. They LEARN as they flow.

When glaciers “hold their ground”, they invite little life, grind on, and have the same damn view for years. They grind slowly, hold on to the past, and take 1000s of years to cover any ground, experiencing so much less. They lay still, and OBSERVE life happening around and to them.

Grappling is the same. Resist the temptation for the instant gratification of “not making mistakes” as a glacier. Take the “risky” route into the unknown, and get as much experience out of each roll as possible. You can learn FROM and AS the glacier, for sure. But you’ll cover more ground and gain more experience, faster and more efficiently, as a river.

*Advice to rivers confronted with a glacier, KEEP MOVING!

Many grapplers meet static partners by joining them! If he’s not moving, then no need for me to. This works to slow the pace and take a break, and that’s great if that’s your goal. But if experience is your goal, try not to let them slow down YOUR  learning. Inertia works both ways, either you join their static state, or you convince them to join your flow. Writhe and bridge, roll and shrimp.  Sometimes the only way to get them to move is to give them increasingly tempting movements, offering a limb or neck can do the trick. Worst case: you get caught and continue your flow. And through flow is the learning.

Roll like river, not like glacier.

best when paired with: The river or the rock. or Don’t roll to “last” or showing up is NOT half the battle: mathematics of bjj skill acquisition


Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts

Don’t roll to “last”

A challenge: don’t roll to last.

Give yourself permission to push it, to “fail” early, out of breath. Attempt to push the pace past your comfort level, repeatedly, instead of resting to make sure you don’t. Embrace and look forward to the feeling of desperation in your breathing, and the challenge of controlling it.

Don’t take breaks or slow the pace to avoid getting tired. Do the opposite, just move, get tired and put this priority above “winning” in your training.

You’ll find a much greater workout, more experienced gained, a faster technical mind with the muscle memory that follows, and a test of your grit that keeps you flying high well after the final buzzer buzzes.

Caveat: don’t make a mess on the mats. And know your body. This is a goal state, a challenge to build up to.

Best when paired with: showing up is NOT half the battle: mathematics of bjj skill acquisition

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Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts

Childhood Lessons Towards the BJJ Black Belt

As children, we learn to play. Through play we learn to trust, share, communicate and show empathy. We allow ourselves to get exhausted, forgetting sometimes to eat or sleep. A cartwheel for no reason is encouraged.

As adults, new skills are added. We now have the responsibility of paying rent and discipline of showing up to work or school early. We protect and provide for the youth, pay taxes and vote.

Somewhere along the way, adults forget the much more important lessons of youth. These new skills of adulthood REPLACE instead of AMPLIFY those of the youth. It’s as if there is room for only one set of skills. But without the lessons of youth, those of adulthood are pointless. We forget how to play in exchange for car payment timeliness. You CAN have both.

White belts are encouraged to soak up all they can, from whoever and whenever they can, like children. Build trust and humility through the tap, our powerful form of communication. Share the mats and show empathy. More importantly, enjoy the play, carefree and fun. If someone isn’t fun to play with at the moment, no need to play with them today. Try them again later. Everyone grows at different rates, with different skill sets. If you catch yourself flowing through the round timer in an awesome technical exchange with your partner, keep after it! There’s no curfew on flow! These lessons are critical to progress and longevity, and not to be forgotten along the way.

Black belts have responsibilities; usually running a school, training or mentoring others, whether they know it or want it or not. They must look after the others, ensure their safety, and keep them having fun and progressing! But they also must never lose the wide eyed curiosity of the white belt, the vulnerabilities, or forget the fears that they have. And don’t forget the lessons of the white belt and the belts that follow. Don’t forget to play. You CAN have both.

Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts

The river or the rock.


A basic armbar: You have your partner ALMOST there, one leg over his chest, the other sorta over his face. You’re grabbing his arm (most likely with your hands buried in his elbow pit) and ripping rearward with everything you got, this fool better learn not to reach up at you when mounted! Not the most technical setup but it feels promising.

He’s got his hands clasped, or folded upon each other, attempting to bury his arm through his chest in defense, grunting and writhing from the bottom.

For a solid minute this goes on, you’re jerking, ripping back and forth, testing the limits of your mouthguard. They’re hoping their arm holds up until the timer saves them.

Nearby newbs are silently (or not) cheering you or them on in a titanic clash of wills. Experienced players nearby wince, waiting for the inevitable.

The grip breaks, a hurried tap, a celebration either externally or within. Both players lie on their backs panting, like a cheesy sex scene from the 80’s, and sit the next round out.

For them, the mistake was made long ago, they should’ve tapped earlier, without exhaustion, and without increased chance of injury. If it’s that much work to defend, they’re caught! They should pay their ticket before there’s interest!

And for you, MOVE ON to something else, something more fruitful, meeting less resistance. Staying where you are, slamming your head against the wall in the same static state, is like a river meeting a rock and insisting on going through it.

Water would go around, and so should you.

Constant pounding of the river on the rock will wear away the rock, but it’ll take much longer that flowing around, and your progress in BJJ will too. BJJ is more about adapting than insisting.

Let the rock be the rock, they can have their arm…for now🙂 Let the river be the river, maintain your flow. Your growth will be much faster, and you’ll see more of the BJJ landscape along the way.

Are you the river or the rock?

Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts

Break your path, Wear your Path

You are shown the technique and practice it. You are corrected in your technique, usually several times, and adjust accordingly. You are praised for “getting it” and are now searching for the next. This is the usual routine for most students learning a new technique. And this is where most students fall short.

Learning a new technique is finding a new path through the woods, from one village to the next. You are told where you need to go and accept it readily. Through instruction and repetition, you are given the landmarks and shortcuts; avoiding the thorns, animals, and sketchy bridges. Through correction, most students navigate their way through the technique or the woods, arriving at the technique’s completion or next village.

But a freshly worn path is only as good as the moment you made it. Soon after it will be overgrown and slow moving. It’s not enough to break the path, you must wear the path. Your movement along it gets smoother, quicker, and with little hacking along the way.

You see this manifesting when 2 grapplers do the exact same technique, village to village, but one looks so much more slick, smooth, and “quick”…the other looks janky, jerky and almost painful.

The repetition that counts most in learning a technique, are those that happen AFTER you “understand” and can imitate the technique, AFTER the path is broken. Once you think you have it, THAT is the time to drill it most.

Traveling a freshly worn path frees your mind to relax, and more easily find new paths along the way. 

Source: Jon’s Jiujitsu Thoughts