The colored belt ranking system is a commonplace feature of modern martial arts. It’s even a part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), with colors like tan, grey, brown, green, and the ever-present black. Most other martial arts still use what have become the usual colors, with white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red, and black. I’ve even earned a camouflage belt in Taekwondo once. Every organization has their own order for the colors, as well as their own meaning. Some systems even assign meanings to the colors themselves (white means a blank slate, purity, and so on). What is clear is that, whatever you think of the current trend in belt ranks, it will probably be a feature of martial arts training for a long time.

As for Jiu-jitsu, I stumbled upon a nifty explanation for it’s belt system. The visual metaphor is effective and makes use of the popular martial arts visual of seeing techniques as tools. Read and tell me what you think…

A nifty visual for understanding the Jiu-jitsu belt system...

A nifty visual for understanding the Jiu-jitsu belt system…

How do you define your art’s belt system?

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I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s the most basic skills you learn that prove to be the most effective. This is especially true in the martial arts. Often, the most basic, low-level, white belt techniques are the ones with the highest success rates and the greatest efficiency of strength and stamina. Though every martial art is different in their approach to the basics, and some instructional systems take longer to teach them than others or perhaps don’t teach them quite so well, this is almost a universal constant in well-developed, mature fighting styles.

As a matter of fact, I have been taking this idea to heart over the past year. I am a sort of hoarder of martial arts instructional materials. Books, videos, magazines, and web sites. I love it all. I used to pour over anything labeled “black belt techniques”. But about a year ago, I competed at the NAGA tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. I finished in second place in both gi and no-gi, and I knew it was my proficiency with the most basic techniques (or lack thereof), not the intermediate or advanced, that determined my performance. It was, of course, my first time competing, and so my performance could also be explained by nerves, inefficient energy usage, and immature strategies. But my need to revisit the most basic techniques was the lesson that most stood out to me.

So for the past year that’s exactly what I did. I drilled only the most basic techniques. Of course I did whatever my instructor told me to, but when I was doing my own private training, and when I rolled with my training partners, I tried to make the basics work best for me. And several things happened. I saw a dramatic improvement in my performance against all belt ranks. The basics, it appears, do not just work on the white belts. I also started to develop my own personal style. I discovered my game (turns out, I favor heavy stacking passes, scarf hold, and s-mount), which is totally different than I’d imagined myself having. Last of all my I grew in my confidence in my own fighting ability.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a white belt still struggling to earn your first stripe, or a black belt looking to elevate yourself to the highest levels of competition. I highly recommend mastering your basic techniques and strategies until you can do them without thinking. Below is a video showing one of my most favored techniques, the Trap and Roll, the most basic escape from the mount position. I’ve practiced this one until I could pull it off on almost every other student in my class, and I’ve discovered another thing: much of your success with this technique depends on your timing, often early, just as your opponent passes into the mount and before he bases out.

What basic techniques should every martial artist know?

One of the great martial arts discussions of our generation is that of sport-oriented martial arts training vs. self-defense or “street” oriented training. Many people feel strongly one way or the other and have developed some compelling arguments for both. Since this is a big thing for Jiu-jitsu practitioners as well, I decided to share this video from the Gracies on the subject.

I found this a thoughtful video, especially the idea that self-defense is a collection of principles more than simply a list of techniques. As for my take on things, I believe martial arts sports competitions act as a laboratory, experimenting on and discovering new combat principles in a controlled environment that can be further applied in real combat. Competition is also a powerful motivator for training and constant improvement. The root purpose of martial arts training, however, is combat survival. A competition that does not imitate some conditions of real combat, at least in part, are probably less helpful. One example might be point sparring matches, where the fighting is interrupted to award points to competitors for landing strikes. While fun and athletic challenging, I have found the rules to be too limiting to encourage applicable martial skills. I think the sports should mimic real fighting, though I am not opposed to rules for safety.

Self-defense training, on the other hand, sometimes runs the risk of not being competitive enough. I’ve attended plenty of self-defense classes where the students were told not to spar since they were taught to fight dirty. As a result, many of these students lacked the muscle memory and the instinct to conduct themselves in a confrontation that extends beyond the initial exchange of blows. The ability to switch on the instinctual, combative “auto-pilot” can only be developed in actual fights or unscripted sparring sessions, which cannot reasonably be conducted without safety rules.

In short, I believe martial artists need a mixture of both sport and self-defense training to remain combat proficient. The proportions of that mixture, I believe, should be based on individual need and preference.

Which do you prefer, sports training or self-defense training?

Stephan Kesting has a great reputation in the world of Brazilian Jiujitsu, Gi and Nogi (But from everything I’ve known of him he tends to do more instructional videos in Nogi. I Kind of wish he would do some in the Gi just because I find his teaching methods very effective).

Here, in his video, he shows a super cool technique that you can do both with and without the Gi.

Now, what is your preference? Do you think the Gi is more important than Nogi? Of equal importance? Of lesser importance?

I trained in Nogi for about 2 years before putting on the Gi. My personal preference, be it known, and putting aside all arguments for both, is the Gi!!! For three reasons:

#1 I feel it is more applicable to what we do at Applied Martial Arts, because the Gi simulates ACTUAL CLOTHING, like a jacket, hoodie, or even a T-Shirt. Training in the Gi is actually more effective in reality-based self defense than is Nogi, because most of the time people are wearing clothes when they attack you–and you can use that against them, having handle-holds everywhere, effective grips for sweeps and escapes, and TONS of submissions with whatever they’re wearing. If you wanted to be an MMA cage fighter, a sport that is topless, then you would have to train more Nogi than in-the-Gi (in my opinion, but I would still have an MMA guy cross train in the Gi for a more technical game).

Now, here at Applied Martial Arts/Asay Jiujitsu, we do teach Nogi to a very appropriate degree nonetheless, because what if you’re at the beach, where you aren’t wearing a shirt and neither is the guy who comes up to fight you? There are times where Nogi is essential. However, most of the time, Gi Jiujitsu is the way to go for reality-based self defense.

We do have a mandatory 20 hours of Nogi live-grappling (not just a class or demonstrations or drilling) that one must keep logged before earning their black belt in Asay Jiujitsu.

We don’t neglect the Nogi game, we just go by the statistics that, A. in this area it is cold more months out of the year and people wear jackets most of the time (even in summer people wear hoodies or jackets at night quite often). B. Most violent crimes happen at night time, when people are most likely going to be wearing a jacket or hoodie.

#2 I feel like the Gi game is more technical, slower paced, like a chess match.

Allow me to elaborate on that analogy:  If you go to New York City and find “Chess Parks,” you’ll see some incredible talent…but they’re all playing “speed chess” (most of the time). If you take Gary Kasparov (multiple time world champion grand master of Chess) against the best speed chess guy in the parks of NYC, and have them both carefully play out their options, in a normal chess match where you have more time to think about your move, Kasparov would destroy!

Now, put Kasparov against the other guy in a speed chess match and…I still think Kasparov would destroy, but I really a not sure. At any rate, that really isn’t the point!

The point is this: I feel that you get a better grasp of the art of Jiujitsu when you have more time to think. The pace is slower in Gi than in Nogi (most would agree), and thus you are able to get really technical (having enough time to assess your situation and make necessary adjustments to your position).

And #3…

I personally think it is more fun putting on something heavy and learning how to be effectively mobile on the ground with extra weight.

Also, I LOVE Gi chokes!!! Very few things in martial arts give me the good ol’ feeling of satisfaction than to choke somebody (submit them) by using their OWN freaking clothing to do so! HAHAHA I love it! I don’t know why.

On the YouTube comments for the video, I came across an interesting exchange:

xymaster19 said, “great video, in order to have a solid no-gi game, its essential to train in the gi, just that simple, I usually train only once a week no-gi and the rest gi, one translates into the other very well and if you dont believe me just ask marcelo garcia :)”

gun slinger replied, “Really? Most greco Roman and Freestyle wrestlers would disagree. They have great grappling skills and have never trained with a gi. The gi is holding grappling back.”

Now what do y’all think?

What is your preference? Why?

–patrick asay
9th degree Aquamarine Belt in Udinkypoo-Jitzu

Video  —  Posted: July 15, 2013 by patrickasay in Uncategorized

The only thing harder than becoming a good fighter, in my opinion, is making a good fighter. Training other people takes a higher amount of artistry and understanding of the art than being taught. I think this is the defining characteristic of the martial arts. Martial arts is not so much about fighting as it is about teaching someone how to fight. This is where we get creative little labels for stances, techniques, and positions, such as horse stance, leopard’s  paw, tiger claw, and so on. It’s about seeing significant patterns in how a fight is conducted and won and explaining that pattern to others. It’s also about finding new solutions to complex problems. Fighting is, after all, a form of problem solving.

So that brings us to today’s challenge. I want you to watch a video. It’s not inspirational, professional, funny (or not meant to be, anyway), or even all that interesting. It’s footage of an amateur MMA match in Canada, and the fighters are, shall we say, inexperienced? For those of you who’ve taught martial arts before, it might just make you cringe. Here it is:


Now that you’ve seen it, here’s my question: what would you have taught either one of these fighters to win this fight? Assume you had only a little time to train them, say a month or two. What do you think would have benefited them most in this particular match? Be specific, and try not to use blanket terms like “how to fight”.

I will say without apology that the skill levels represented in this video are horrendous, but I still have respect for the two young men who stepped into that cage. It’s more than I’ve done, and it takes courage to face someone on such an equal playing field like they did.

My personal answer: this was a match between two very inadequate strikers. I would have taught either one of them the most basic ground fighting strategies. Close the distance, body fold takedown, pass the guard, mount, ground and pound. Submissions would be hard with those gloves on, so I would simply drill some heavy-handed punches from the top of the mount, side mount, and rear mount. I would keep the list of techniques short and drill them over and over and over again against live, resisting opponents. I think that kind of training would have given either fighter an immediate advantage in this fight.

How would you have prepared either fighter for this fight?

How ‘Bout Now…

Posted: July 11, 2013 by beforethefire in Humor
Tags: , , , , , ,

These Jiu-jitsu practitioners address the problem of eye gouging when ground fighting. For those who don’t know, eye gouging and other dirty fighting tactics are a common argument against Jiu-jitsu training.

How do you defend against dirty fighting tactics?

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real...

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real…

What kid did not fantasize about taking on hordes of enemies with his bare hands, like a character from Naruto or Dragonball Z? Heck, I still do! But it’s all part of the martial arts appeal, isn’t it? The training makes us feel competent, strong, maybe even powerful. Knowing you’re the toughest guy in the room feels pretty good. That brings us to the subject perhaps most contended and debated among martial artists: defeating multiple opponents. In martial arts culture, the idea of engaging and prevailing over more than one assailant at a time is a big deal, especially in arts that emphasize self-defense, and the ability to do so is considered the epitome of martial prowess.

As a matter of fact, this feature of martial training (or lack thereof) is sometimes used as a criticism of certain styles, such as grappling arts. You can get a pretty good summary of this argument by looking up a Jiu-jitsu video on YouTube and skimming the comments below. There’s always a critic who mentions Jiu-jitsu’s inability to engage multiple attackers. The argument goes like this: if you’re rolling around on the ground with one guy, his buddy is just going to kick you in the head, therefore Jiu-jitsu and other grappling arts are not realistic or effective against real opponents.

I call that bluff. Show me the evidence. I want to see the martial art that can fight off multiple attackers at once. And I don’t mean a choreographed demo. I mean video of a street brawl. A news story. Facts. Because as of yet, I have never seen evidence of a martial artist successfully fighting off multiple attackers with any martial art. It certainly never happens in sport. There are no two-on-one cage fights as far as I’ve heard. So how do we know what works and what doesn’t in these sorts of confrontations?

Actually, there are fighters who regularly engage multiple enemies at once successfully. They’re military personnel. Marines, SEALs, infantry, and so on. Also, law enforcement professionals. And how do they all do it successfully? Tools. Weapons. Anything that extends your range, or enables you to deal damage from farther away than your own arms and legs. Assault rifles, grenades, and mortar shells all accomplish this. But how do you do it without those things? Say, if you’re ambushed in a bathroom at a gas station? Good question, and not an easy one to answer.

Combat, you see, can be divided into parts. The big part, the sum of the whole, is the engagement. An engagement can be divided into smaller exchanges. An exchange is a relatively short trade of techniques between two combatants. This is where all the punches, kicks, blocks, chokes, and throws occur. A small one-on-one encounter may involve one or a few exchanges between fighters. This is a simple fight, the sort of thing most martial arts training prepares you for. It gets really complex, however, when you throw in additional opponents, since most human beings, regardless of athletic ability or martial arts experience, can only exchange with one opponent at a time effectively. You only have so many arms and legs, and you can only reach so far. You can’t hardly pay attention to more than one person at a time, for that matter. The big danger for martial artists occurs when they try to exchange with more than one opponent at a time. While you’re throwing a punch at enemy A, enemy B could be doing the exact same thing to you from directly behind. Don’t even mention enemies C, D, E, and F!

So how can it be done? First, if you absolutely must engage more than one opponent at a time, position yourself so you only have to exchange blows with one at a time. This requires mobility and survival skills. It might require you to escape from your current position (say, trapped in the middle of a group) and retreat to a more defendable position (like a narrow hallway or doorway). You must know how to minimize damage to your vital areas and how to escape a variety of common holds and bad positions. You must be willing and able to frequently withdraw from the engagement when your position is no longer defendable and you can no longer exchange with one opponent at a time.

Sound difficult? It should, because it is. The situation becomes further impossible when your opponents are armed and with every additional opponent. In order to prevail, you must hope that your assailants are unmotivated, untrained, unarmed, or unfit. Otherwise, your best bet is a firearm.

To get a feel for what this sort of situation is like, try a little two-on-one sparring. I recommend your opponents take it easy on you, since injury will be easier here than it would normally be in a one-on-one match. Try to position your opponents one behind the other for as long as you can, and try not to get cornered.

Here are a few videos with very different views on how to engage multiple attackers. Be sure to tell me what you think…



How would you handle multiple attackers?