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!

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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

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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

The White Stripe: A Neurotic Conversation I Had With Myself

What Is A Stripe And How Do I Get One?

When you are newer to a hobby, I think it’s only natural to question if you’re getting any better as time goes on. With jiu-jitsu it’s very difficult to feel like you’re making progress. For those of you who are newer to the gentle art, you’ll notice that certain people have white pieces of tape on the tip of their belt. This is to signify almost like a mini-promotion. Think of a stripe like the series of stages where a baby starts to walk:

  • A baby stands up on their own (stripe)
  • Takes a step and falls (stripe)
  • Takes multiple steps and falls (stripe)
  • Walks a short distance (stripe)
  • Walking becomes the new crawling (belt promotion)

As the title mentions, this was a conversation I had with myself. To help better organize the cascading inner-battle that will follow this sentence, I will use Aaron (A) for the part of me that is trying to remain positive and Insecurity (I) for the part of my brain trying to convince me that I will suck at jiu-jitsu forever. Strap in, it’s going to get weird.

Aaron: Oh wow, that person got a stripe, good for them.

Insecurity: You’ve been doing jiu-jitsu longer than them, why don’t you have a stripe?

A: Well my foot was broken and I couldn’t do jiu-jitsu for a few months, that had to set me back.

I: You’re probably just not that good. Every person you roll with submits you. Maybe you should stop going. Find a new hobby.

A: That’s a little drastic, but maybe I could pay for some private lessons and find out what I’m doing wrong.

I: That’s not going to help. You should have been promoted already, right? Think about it.

A: This is a little short-sighted. Jiu-jitsu is going to be a long journey, it would be like running a marathon and getting pissed that you’re not the first person to reach the one-mile mark. Just need to be patient and keep working at it.

In actuality, this was a much longer conversation over a period of days, but I want to be polite to any readers so I selected snippets from the inner monolog with myself.

Be Patient, Notice The Small Improvements

I’ve played a lot of golf in my life. One of the hardest things for people playing golf is that the sport doesn’t offer too many instant verifications that you are getting better. Jiu-jitsu is a lot like golf in that you can be really terrible at it, but you do one thing well and all of a sudden it leaves you wanting more.

For me, when I first started, I got arm-barred constantly. I stuck my arms out really far and when someone grabbed an arm, I would turn away from them and try to yank it out (which is EXACTLY what you’re not supposed to do). While I don’t yet have my first stripe, I have started to realize when I’m getting in trouble and things I shouldn’t do to get out of said trouble. When you’re new to jiu-jitsu, you don’t always get immediate feedback (either from promotions or submitting partners) that you’re getting better, but trust me, you are.

This is a marathon, not a sprint, be patient.

Advice For Your First Time Rolling

One thing that’s overlooked in jiu-jitsu is just how rare an injury is. Yes, you will have aches and pains and yes, your body might need breaks. What I’m talking at specifically is just how rare you are a victim of someone else’s carelessness. I’ve been practicing jiu-jitsu for a little over four months now and last week was the first time somebody accidentally hit me in the nose.

Oddly enough, the scariest rolls I’ve had are with individuals who are trying jiu-jitsu for the first time. So, I’d like to offer some tips based on my first time rolling and things I wish I’d known.

Don’t Be Scared

My first time walking into Neutral Ground, I was incredibly nervous. I’m a pretty fat, out of shape guy with no grappling experience. My first thought is that everyone would be super annoyed by my presence. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Jon was incredibly nice and welcoming as was everyone I encountered that day. You might have butterflies in your stomach when you walk in, but you’re going to meet a lot of great people who are very willing to teach and help as you begin your journey.

You’re Going to Look and Feel Dumb

If you’ve never grappled or wrestled before, make friends with feeling out of place or silly. I’ve played basketball and football most of my life, I felt like that gave me a good sense of balance and center of gravity. Nope. Turns out that while I know what momentum is, I have no idea how to use mine, or make sure it isn’t used against me. If you have an older brother (at least 3 to 5 years older) picture being 6 and wrestling with him. It’s a lot like that.

Slow Down

Rolling is super fun. However, if it’s your first time taking a class, and you’re trying to recreate the top 5 UFC submissions it’s not going to go well. Most likely what will happen is you’ll hurt your partner. Take it slow, everyone is really bad for at least 8 months. Just learn and have fun.