I heard a bunch of “breaking news” references on the mat over the last couple of days. I find it fascinating that our jiu jitsu community has grown big enough that the news of drama from 100′s to 1000′s miles away reaches everyone from white belt to black belt where it becomes a topic of conversation. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter have created online jiu jitsu celebrities, and not all of them are famous for just their jiu jitsu. Lloyd Irvin is an example.
The Lloyd Irvin off-the-mat soap opera has captured the attention of thousands of people, probably all of them grapplers… Lloyd Irvin’s sexual misconduct, Keenan leaving the team for Atos, Jordon coming along with him, etc.
The sexual misconduct charges are very serious and it’s important for anyone who did anything bad to get punished.
Instead of going on the forums and contributing to the senseless scream-fest, I’ll just do what most of the people I look up to are doing: focus on creating a positive and respectful environment for the people I train with, and make sure there’s no place for drama on the mat. It’s a sanctuary of sorts, and one that has changed my life for the better. All I can do is help pass it on in small ways every day.
People love impossibly broad generalizations. It makes thinking, writing, and conversation much easier. Philosophy, science, and literature throughout the ages contains statements of the form: “There are two kinds of people in the world: those that do X, and those that do Y”. Sometimes, the author will get creative and divide the world into three groups. For example, in The Plague, Albert Camus refers to (1) the pestilences, (2) the victims, and (3) the healers. One of the categories is purposefully presented as the most noble one, and of course the reader will quietly suspect themselves to be part of that category.
This categorization of people into two groups is just a literary device to make a suggestion about how to live your life. What’s fascinating is that because of its simplicity, this division often become a meme and spreads like wildfire in conversations with anyone who has encountered it. It’s almost as if the human brain is hungry for a simple clear way to think about the world.
In recent years, I’ve encountered a new twist on this literary device: percentages. There was the 99% vs 1% used by Occupy Wall Street to divide based on wealth. There was the 47% vs 53% used in the 2012 presidential campaign to divide based on dependence on government. In the jiu jitsu community, and elsewhere, there was the 3% vs 97% used to divide based on the degree to which you pursue a particular goal. If you spend just 5 minutes on Google researching this last one you’ll quickly see that throughout the 20th century, people have come up with 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, and 5% (and probably more) to make this Randian split of productive vs unproductive people.
I suspect the numerical aspect of these percentages is supposed to somehow lend more credibility to the idea itself. Of course, these numbers are not actually based in any kind of scientific reasoning. It is again nothing more than a literary device used to make a point of the following form:
There are two kinds of people in the world: good and bad. If you want to be good, you should do the following things: …
The list of how to get into the “good” category is based on a value system that comes from an ideology or even simply the environment from which the author comes. If you are a socialist, your list of how to be good might be different from that of an objectivist. If you are an Olympic athlete, your list might be different from that of a fifth-generation farmer.
The point is that we should be careful using percentages in figuring out how to live our life. It’s tempting because of its simplicity, but it’s also dangerous because it washes over the complex often-contradictory concerns that arise in our daily life. At any given moment, on any given issue, we can easily find ourselves on either side of any of the about divides.
My own views have evolved on this incident, with a lot of respect lost. That’s all I will say here on that. The rest of the internet has already said it in a thousand different ways, often with too much hatred, but the people who speak with a calm voice of reason are there and have moved me in a profound way (e.g. Ryan Hall’s open letter and Karen Miller’s comments).
We live in a society (in America) where the act of rape, no matter the circumstance, is never forgiven. It’s a sign of a people dealing with the fact that for thousands of years (until very recently) rape was viewed throughout the world as a minor offense, akin to the damage of property (see history of rape). Now let me pause before I state the next fact. I have written about it often, and think about it with a shudder of disbelief. Rape of women by military forces are still carried out as a weapon of war today. Horrific example: 48 women are raped in the Democractic Republic of the Congo every hour (source). Just sit and think about that.
The world is drowning in injustice. But I’m hopeful, seeing the moral outcry and growth in our country on issues like this incident and many others.
How do either of these reflect on Lloyd Irvin as a man and as a coach? The people that have come to his defense so far have chosen their words poorly. But I asked myself many questions on these two incidents as I was stuck at home for several days with high fever, watching Keenan have a brilliant performance against the world’s best black belts over the weekend.
I think basically many people are waiting for the dust to settle, and for Lloyd Irvin to address the community on the facts of the situation and his place in it all.
In terms of sport jiu jitsu, I have a tremendous amount of respect for his team and his carefully orchestrated training system. The emphasis on dedication to technique through drilling and hard training is the stuff that makes top level competitors of anyone willing to put in the work (immense amount of work).
And so, as I was processing all these events, I was also thinking about Joe Paterno, a man who I admire as a coach as well. The question that weighed most heavily on me is how do moral failings in the realm of sex fit with the greatness of a man in the realm of sport? Does the former override the value of the latter? Same as with Joe Paterno, it’s not Lloyd Irvin’s action but his lack of action to stop wrong-doing and not speaking up at the right time that people have condemned him for.
Rape is a crime that for 99.99% of our civilization has gone unpunished, and has been used to terrorize not just individuals but whole populations. The 20th century has seen the law in the western world crash hard against the brutality of rape: a situation that often has only one supporting witness: the victim. So, modern progressive society has slowly started to err on the side of the victim when uncertain, because the cost of being wrong is too great. But the victim is still often pressured, bullied, and vilified.
I am unwilling to too hastily condemn the man as many have. I want to hear him speak about it, and I want to hear the full story in whatever form that’s still possible 24 years later. Perhaps that is my moral failing and I’m being naive. I continue to struggle with this. The only thing I can say with certainty is that I hope the two rapists in the New Years eve incident (if found guilty) will go to jail for a long time, and that the victim can find peace and recover to good sanity and good health.
I’ve written a bunch about drilling lately, especially inspired by Jordon Shultz and his recent ebook dedicated exclusively to the subject of drilling. Lloyd Irvin released a nice video on the “micro transitional drilling” yesterday and I can’t pass up the chance to comment on it, even though a few great blog posts have already been written on it:
Analogy: Calories In, Calories Out
For diet that maintains weight, the simple formula is “calories in = calories out”. There’s more to a good diet than that, but the math can’t be tricked. In the same way, for developing good competition jiu jitsu, the simple equation is: you have drill the transition to submission more than your opponent drills the defense to that transition. There’s more to it than that, but once again, you can’t trick the math.
In the video, Lloyd Irvin emphasizes the importance of working on the small but critical transition that leads directly or indirectly into a submission. This is different than the way I’ve been drilling. When I work on transitions, I’ll often chain several together. That’s very important to do but it definitely doesn’t sharpen my instinct as much as the micro-transition drilling. I tried it today for several microtransitions into submissions: ezekiel choke, americana, and the teacup armbar.
More Reps, Less Brain
I really liked the result. I didn’t count exactly, but I was able to get over 100 reps in each 5 minute round of drilling without pushing the pace at all. What I also like was that I started to really focus and internalize the flow of the technique. Obviously 100 reps is nothing, but I could sense that 10,000 reps of each technique would make the transitions into these submissions very difficult to stop.
Hard Work is Hard
The above video from Lloyd Irvin doesn’t particularly tell you anything you didn’t already know. He simply reiterates the truth of what breeds success: deliberate practice. Just as he says in the video, whatever good prescriptive advice he provides, most people will take it in, agree with it, enjoy it, plan on doing it, and never actually do it (more than a few times). The challenge is to do it regularly for months and years. It has to be part of your jiu jitsu training.
I wrote last week about my experience at the IBJJF Chicago Summer Open and some of the “lessons” I took away from it. This post is just a continuation of that with a few more thoughts on the competing experience. By the way, here’s the “video blog” I put together for it.
Here we go, random and wordy, but hopefully useful to someone out there:
Open Class Excuses
My division was on at 9am in the morning and the absolute division didn’t start until 6pm at night. So there’s about a 7-8 hour wait between the two. That’s plenty of time for my body to start providing excuses for not doing the open class division. I was sore, mentally down due to losing my finals match, and also just mentally and physically tired as anyone would be after a hard training session. I went to Starbucks, relaxed and “forced” myself to not think about jiu jitsu or anything related to competing. I just read a little Camus on my Kindle, and enjoyed an excessive amount of fruit that I bought on sale at a supermarket across from the venue. There was a 5 lbs bag of apples on sale for $2.99. I couldn’t resist.
I went from not feeling like competing any more to being curious about how well I’ll do to wanting to kick some ass! My mind is a damn rollercoaster sometimes when it comes to stressful things like competition. I just try to ride out the lows, and capitalize on the highs. When I was feeling good, I went back to the venue and just watched jiu jitsu for a while. A couple of hours later they called my division, and I said “why the hell not”. I put on my cold wet gi, and went down to the mats with a stupid happy smile on my face.
I think Bill Cooper said in an interview somewhere that he brings two gi’s to a tournament so that he could put on a fresh gi after he fills the first one with the nervous sweat of the first several matches. I think that’s a great idea, and maybe one day I’ll actually be smart enough to go through with an idea like that.
Tired is Good for Learning, Fun, and Winning
I’d hate to make prophetic generalizations, but based on my experience, some of my most fun and educational matches have been when I was tired from having already fought 4-6 matches earlier on in the day. I stop caring about stupid stuff, and just step on the mat relaxed and confident. The first several matches release the nervous energy that I still bottle up as a relative beginner.
One of the things that I notice mentally is that I stop caring about winning or losing, but care more about executing my techniques to the best of my ability, and working towards a submission. It seems like an obviously desirable state of mind to go to, but it’s not easy for me to achieve on cue without first getting a few matches in.
Big Competition Teams
I’m just a blue belt, and my opponents are just blue belts, but especially for the finals, some guys have roaming armies of loud supportive teammates. It’s cool to see a sea of Alliance, Gracie Barra, CheckMat, Atos, or Lloyd Irvin shirts all really excited if their guy is winning, and all really pissed off (usually at the ref) if their guy is losing. I like going against guys with a big cheering section, because I feel like it gives me an opportunity to earn their respect as a good clean competitor with solid fundamental jiu jitsu.
It’s cool to have friends and teammates there, but to me it’s not essential for the actual match. What is important is that a coach is there or at least gets to break down the video with me after the tournament. Josh has helped me tremendously by breaking down most of the matches I lost in recent tournaments and specifying the things I need to fix. I view tournaments as learning experiences, and that’s why analyzing video of tournament matches is pretty much one of the most important things you can do as part of that experience.
Reffing Ain’t Easy
As a quick closing note, let me mention that I had a conversation with one of the IBJJF refs after my division was done, and he was saying that after attending many of the ref courses IBJJF offers before the tournaments, he still feels like he has a lot to learn about the game of sport jiu jitsu. It made me realize that people who complain about the rules often don’t understand the intricate details of those rules.
It’s important to learn the rules! You don’t have to, of course, but then you better be dominating your opponents on points, or better yet, submitting everyone.
In the following video, Lloyd Irvin brought up the “disease” afflicting the general BJJ population. He calls it “bitchassness”. Basically, it’s the excuses you or your coaches are tempted to make when you lose a match in a tournament.
In the past year of competing, I’ve carefully worked at pushing that need to make excuses out. It comes from the fact that taking full responsibility for being the lesser man on this day is damn hard.
Losing should immediately initialize the same well-practiced process of self-analysis, using video of the match. There is no need to write long posts about it on your blog or Facebook.
So when people ask me how I did at the tournament, I try to limit my statement to: (1) my record on the day and (2) highlighting the fact that I learned a lot from the experience (no matter what the record is).
I try hard to avoid excuses of any kind: being screwed by the refs, going against people much heavier than me, being injured, tired, being stalled against, being screwed by some silly rule, etc.
I say “try” because it’s not easy, as Lloyd Irvin says in the above video. But if there is a culture of “no excuses” in the gym, that certainly helps in the struggle.
In my experience, just because a person preaches the value of “no excuses” doesn’t mean he follows that philosophy in his own competitive life. Again, it’s not easy to do. It’s kind of like drilling. A lot of people preach the value of drilling, but only a small fraction of those people actually drill as much as they know they should.
Anyway, let’s all make less excuses, and honestly discover the problems that lead to the loss, especially the ones that can be fixed through specific training.
D. J. Jackson from Team Lloyd Irvin is a master of the strategy of takedown, pass, and submit with kimura from side control. Here’s an example:
I like this submission very much in concept but I haven’t put much time in to it (YET!) because going for it often opens up the back as the guy tries to escape and I prefer taking the back. Still, lately, I’ve been trying to add more submissions to my game for two reasons:
I believe going for (some) submissions opens up options for improving position (mount, back, etc)
A submission allows me to quickly end a match against an opponent who I’m already beating on points. This is important for when I have a big division (plus absolute) in a tournament and I need to conserve energy for the tough long matches against the best guys in the division.
Many people, including Marcelo Garcia, don’t like the kimura because it doesn’t work as well against bigger stronger opponents. Marcelo likes techniques that work on anyone. I agree with that philosophy for the most part, but I think I have enough strength to pull it off on big guys, once the technique is mastered, or at least distract them while I work to advance position.
Stephan Kesting shows three very basic errors that people make with this kimura. Most of us know of these mistakes, but we still make them:
Of course, no blog post would be complete without mention of Lloyd Irvin’s Kimura Mouse Trap. Here’s a video of him breaking it down:
Just read this interview with Lloyd Irvin and am both inspired and motivated. There is a lot of truth in what he says here about what makes a good school and a good training regimen. Some key points he makes:
There is no winning or losing when rolling at the club, but only there, everywhere else (including in life) you’re either winning or losing.
The higher the level, the more important the mental game becomes.
“If the school wants to be a high level competition school, they have to ban excuse making, they have to ban letting their students make excuses, they have to ban sitting out rounds during sparring, they have to ban asking for water when live sparring is happening (you take water breaks when the instructor says so), you have to ban all of the BS happening on the floor in your school.”
I first came across this philosophy of training at BJJ United. It’s definitely tough, but worth it. As Lloyd Irvin says in the interview “when it’s all said and done the only thing that matters is the results.”
The most important reminder came in the answer to the question: “If you could only pick one thing that an individual could start today that would improve their Jiu-Jitsu what would it be?”
His answer: transition drilling. He probably means something specific, but in general, drilling is key. I think that includes:
Drilling with perfect technique (which often means slow but stead) against a non-resisting opponent.
Positional training against a resisting opponent
Flow drills: flowing through positions in order to explore variations and possibilities