Monday, September 20, 2021

The 32 Principles: A Review

A lot of folks have been asking me about Gracie University's 32 Principles program.  I own the first eight principles and have had some time to digest them, so I thought I'd take some time to give it a review here.

The 32 Principles (32P for short) is a digital product that you access through Gracie University Online.  If you have access to Gracie Combatives or any of their other courses, the user interface is exactly the same with one exception.  They allow you to download copies of the videos.  This feature is really nice for me because I travel from time to time, and it's nice to be able to watch the videos when I don't have access to the internet.

The videos are high quality.  It's easy to see all of the details and hear the instruction.  Ryron and Rener are some of the best instructors out there, and they break everything down for you Sesame Street style.  I always enjoy watching them teach.  They're informative and fun!

So on to the meat of it.  What do they teach on these videos?

Well, for this first installment there's an eight minute intro, and a two hour mini masterclass on principle centered learning.  Then there are videos for each of the eight principles.  And lastly there's a four minute Outro video.

The principle videos are anywhere from a little over 20 minutes to just under an hour.  They give you a definition of the principle.  Then they demonstrate the principle using some techniques from their online curriculum.  I feel like they do a very through job of this.  There's no way you're coming away from one of these videos without understanding exactly what the principle is that they're trying to communicate.

Next they talk about research objectives.  This is a new concept in video instruction.  They actually give you homework.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to look for the principle while sparring for at least the next few weeks.  

It's the old Reticular Activation System (RAS) concept.  You know how right after you buy a new car, you notice that same model all over the place?  It's like everyone else went out and bought the same car.  But of course they didn't.  You just happen to notice them more because you just bought one.  It's the same thing with the principle.  The idea is that after studying it, you'll see it all over the place.

Your research objectives are to find nine examples of the principle in action.  Three examples of the principle should be in what they refer to as, “As-is” Techniques, existing Gracie University techniques that already incorporate the principle.  

Three examples of the principle should be in what they refer to as, “Enhanced” Techniques, existing GU techniques that you enhanced with the principle. 

And three examples of the principle should be in what they refer to as, “Discovered” Techniques.  These are non-GU techniques (self-discovered or learned elsewhere) that utilize the principle.

Of course if you're not a GU student, or don't have access to any of the GU curriculum, I'm sure this would be just as effective using whatever curriculum and techniques your instructor happens to use at your academy.

In the final section of each video Ryron and Rener talk about how you should conduct a sparring exercise for the given principle. The top priority of course should be the inclusion of the Principle discussed during the video, with ample time spent after the session to discuss and dissect the implications of the principle throughout the roll.

Overall, I like the process that they've laid out for their 32P program.  I feel like this is a useful endeavor that would benefit just about anyone as long as they have the discipline to see it through.

After watching the first principle myself, I went to the gym and managed to concentrate on the first principle, connection, for the majority of my first roll.  After that I'll be honest.  I was over it.  Yep, there's connection all over the place in Jiu-Jitsu.  And while dividing it up into three purposes of connection (prevention, prediction, promotion) was interesting, it just wasn't enough to hold my interest throughout all but the first roll of the evening.

Even though my limited attention span didn't allow me to use the product the way it was intended, I still feel the information was useful and enjoyable.  I like hearing about how different people think about Jiu Jitsu.  And I'll probably give their "research" methodology another try at some point.  I geek out over this stuff.  

Bottom line, should you buy this or no?

Well, it depends.  I feel it bears pointing out that they originally intended this as their purple to brown belt course, but then decided to market it for everyone.  

If you're a brand new white belt with limited funds, I'd say your money is better spent elsewhere.  It seems like they're marketing this as if it's the only thing you need.  I think it was Rener who said words to the effect of, if he had to start all over again and learn Jiu Jitsu from scratch, and had to choose between all the techniques of their curriculum or their 32 principles, that he'd choose the 32P.

Hats off to Ryron and Rener because really do think they are awesome, but I would have to respectfully disagree.  If you gave me the 32P as my intro to BJJ, I wouldn't have known what to do with it.  I feel like you need to understand the basic framework and fundamentals of BJJ first.  Then the principles can help you.  

If you're a brand new white belt and have to choose between the 32P and say, Gracie Combatives, I'd say choose Gracie Combatives.  It's a brilliant intro to the fundamentals, and it's not like you're not getting any principles of Jiu Jitsu in that course.  It's chock full of them even if they don't explicitly spell them out for you.  

If you have enough money to get both Gracie Combatives and 32P, then you might consider getting both.  But start watching and learning Gracie Combatives first!  Then you'll have a framework with which you can better absorb the 32P.

If you've been doing BJJ for awhile, have a firm grasp on the fundamentals, and are interested in principle centered learning, I'd say give the first eight principles a shot and see if it's for you.

Good luck and happy training.  Hope that helps.

- Big Mike

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Why You Can't Escape Side Control

So you learned an escape from side control.  You learned how to shrimp and recover guard.  You've practiced this technique to the point that you can execute it flawlessly with a compliant training partner.  Your technique is a thing of beauty.  

But then you try it during live rolling.  And it doesn't frigging work.

You frame the neck and the hip just like you were taught.  You can feel the space that you've just created.  All that's left to do is escape your hips to make just a little more room to insert your knee at the hip line.

But then he switches his hips, pulls up on your elbow, and sits through to a broken scarf hold where his hips completely negate your shrimping escape.  

Or... he brings his cross-face arm over to the other side of your neck, switches his other arm to the other side of your hips and again, completely negates your shrimping escape.  

You come to find that different arm and leg configurations on the part of your opponent effectively changes the problem.  

Your escape fails because different problems (aka different side control configurations) require different solutions.

So you go back to YouTube, or instructional, or (and here's a crazy idea) your instructor looking for answers.  You break Side Control down into all of it's different configurations and learn at least one escape for each configuration.

You practice this handful of escapes until you can execute each of them flawlessly, without hesitation, the instance you fall into their corresponding configuration of side control.

You come to your next class more excited than you've ever been.  You make it through the warmups and the technical instruction, eagerly awaiting the rolling portion which is now upon you.

You pair up with your first rolling partner, slap hands, bump fists, and sit to guard.  You allow your opponent to pass.  You feign a feeble attempt at guard retention so as to not make it too obvious.

Now at last, you are ready to put your plan into action.  He grabs an underhook and cross face.  You go for your shrimp escape but just like before, he transitions to scarf hold.  You try your scarf hold escape, but he transitions to the reverse cross face.  And in this manner, he counters each of your escapes by transitioning from one form of side control to another.

Your escape attempts fail because a good opponent continually changes the problem before you have a chance to work a solution.

This effectively keeps him one step ahead of you.

So what the heck do you do?

The good news is you're almost there.  You're so money, and you don't even know it.

All you have to do is find a way to get ahead of the problem.  You know he's going to switch configurations.  He only has so many options.  You can predict which configuration he's going to based on which way he turns.  

Now all you need to do is start the escape for the configuration he's going for, as he is transitioning to that new configuration.  

That way you can start working the solution before he can finish giving you the problem.   

This is the only way I'm able to escape side control against guys who are really good. 

You have to make the current side control configuration just a little uncomfortable for the guy on top.  Just enough to make him want to switch configurations.  You know which configuration he's going for depending on which way he turns.  You start the escape for that configuration as he is transitioning to it.  That way you're halfway through the escape before he even gets there.  

I know this isn't the quick fix to all your side control problems that you were hoping for.  It takes some time, practice and studying on your part to get there.  

You have to know your escapes.  You've got to have them down cold so that you'll be able to execute them without hesitation once the pressure's on.  

Then you can start predicting where your opponent is going.  And that's when the magic starts to happen.  Your escapes start working.  It's like there's nothing they can do.  If they try to hold their current configuration, you escape.  If they try to switch to another configuration, you escape.  Your training partners start to think you can read their minds... 



you can... 

kind of.

And that is one of the most rewarding feelings in all of Jiu Jitsu.  Feeling that you're damn near un-pin-able mind reader.  Now you can go for all those fancy moves your instructor showed you without fear because you're confident in your.

Put the time and effort into this and I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Hope that helps.

- Big Mike

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Big Mike Vs. The Odds

Having recently earned my brown belt, I've been reading some articles and watching videos lately about what to expect as a new brown belt. And it got me thinking about my own personal road to brown belt.

I'm a bit of a nomad. I've been moving around my whole life. I was a Navy brat. Moved around every two to three years growing up. I joined the Navy and became a helo pilot after college and continued to move around for the next 20 years. 

Now that I think of it, College was the longest I'd ever been in one place.  Man, those were some of the best five and a half years of my life!

But I digress...

Moving around tends to hamper your progress in Jiu Jitsu. Ryan Young over at Kama Jiu Jitsu said in one of his videos that if you're one who moves a lot, you can pretty much figure you're not going to get any belts from anybody. It's just the sad fact of it.

What was that? A fact. If you move a lot, no belts. No blue belt. Certainly no purple belt. And a brown belt? Impossible!

His rationale was that it's not just about whether you can beat higher belts in sparring.  Your instructor needs to get to know you as a person.  And that takes time.

I suppose that explains at least in part why it took me so long to get where I am today. I attended my first BJJ class in early 2001. I actually started studying BJJ from VHS cassettes (anybody remember those?) and practicing with my buddies back in 1997. So either way you slice it, I've been at this for at least 20 years now. 

Despite all the moving around, I was awarded my blue belt in 2008.  Then my purple belt 10 years later in 2018. And now my brown belt in 2021.

I would agree that moving around definitely factored into my lengthy time between promotions. Sporadic attendance due to deployments, work ups, and hectic flight schedules didn't help either.

I read in another article at BJJ Tribes that only about 5% of BJJ practitioners ever get their brown belt. I wonder what the percentage is on nomads like me getting there.

If my story were about someone else doing something other than Jiu Jitsu, I'd say they were crazy. Why wouldn't you just hang it up? Move on. Find a new goal. Clearly you're not cut out for this. 

I'd love to say that my stick-to-it-iveness had something to do with my own mental fortitude. But that would be a lie. It's not like I ever thought about quitting and just decided to stick it out through grit and determination. I just love Jiu Jitsu. I need it. Almost as much as I need air, water or food.  

When I can't train for any period of time, I get a little cranky. Robin (my beautiful wife) notices. She lets me know. 

"You need to go back to Jiu Jitsu. You're being an asshole." 

Sometimes she says it with the most adorable smile. Other times there's no smile. But when life gets in the way and I have to take time off from training, she's always there to keep me in check.  And she's right.  I NEED Jiu Jitsu. I'm ADDICTED.

My name is Mike Gorski.  And I am a Jiu-Jitsu-holic.

At this point I figure I'm at least in contention for world's longest road to black belt. Yeah, I kind of stacked the deck against myself initially with that whole being in the Navy thing, but I know I'll eventually get there. Not because of grit and determination, but because I just can't help it.  It may be another two or three or even 20 years, but I'll eventually get that black belt.

What's my point with all of this?  I suppose what I'm really getting at is that if you're feeling frustrated by similar issues I just wanted to let you know that I've been there. 

I've been judged by the color of my belt when it in no way conveyed my level of skill and experience. I've been treated like a brand new white belt upon showing up to a new gym, only to mop the floor with blue belts, and give the purple belts a run for their money.  

As a blue belt I've had purple belts in multiple gyms go to the instructor in shock because this blue belt dominated them or even tapped them out. 

I've had multiple instructors over the years say that I was not your average white belt, or not your average blue belt. 

But Ryan Young was right.  Most of those instructors never gave me a belt. But then again, there were others who did.

Don't get me wrong. There were times where I really thought I'd never get promoted. And it was really frustrating. Downright disheartening at times. But eventually I did get promoted. 

Thanks to Papa John Gorman for understanding the plight of military guys who train Jiu Jitsu, and giving me my blue belt.  And thanks to Dax Razzano for giving me my purple belt, and then continuing to work with me after I moved away so that I could get to brown. 

And while 20+ years isn't the most ideal timeframe to receive those three belt promotions, I'll take it!

Pretty much not going to get any belts from anybody? Eat that Ryan Young! 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're experiencing anything like that, I've been there. And if I can get from there to here, so can you. 

Hang in there and keep training! Hope that helps.  

- Big Mike