Competing Against Myself as a White Belt

lex-at-27-before-starting-jiu-jitsuWhen I was a white belt, I could deadlift 600+, bench 300+, and lots of other numbers that I don’t remember any more but that (at the time) filled my heart with pride. That Lex liked the 2-on-1 from closed guard, couldn’t pass a tricky guard for the life of him, except by going to old school half guard, and passing from there the judo way.

I wonder how I would do against that guy today. He is a little dumber, more competitive,  and doesn’t care if he is wasting energy. When he goes up on points, he’s pretty damn good at holding the lead.

But mostly I wonder if the game I played at the time is better than the one I play today. It’s kind of like the ex-girlfriend question I sometimes ask myself. Would I have been happy if I stay with this or that girl?

These thoughts are brief and non-remarkable, but it makes me wonder what I will think of my current jiu jitsu 1, 2, 3, 5 years from now. It’s very possible that I’m at my competitive peak right now. It’s possible that I’m past it. And of course, as I hope, it’s also possible that there is still a lot of evolution left to do.

These things can’t be tested, but it would pretty damn cool to compete in an 4-man bracket of just Lex’s: one at age 26, one at 27, one at 28, and one at 29. This is probably not what is meant by that commonly quoted saying in the judo community: “It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than yesterday.”

I hope someone will read this blog post in the year 2113 and chuckle, since at that time, you’ll be able to simulate anything down to the atomic level for just a few bucks as an app on your smartphone that will now be implanted in your brain. Actually, it probably will BE your brain. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume that we are all living in a simulation that is running on a smartphone in someone’s brain in the year 2113.

0 thoughts on “Competing Against Myself as a White Belt

  1. Chris Cannon

    Do you focus less on weight lifting and more on cardio now? If so, how much strength do you think you have lost? I’m trying to get myself to a reasonable strength level (2x body weight deadlift, 1.5x body weight squat, etc.) and I’m not sure if it will actually help my jiu jitsu or not. I know many high-level BJJ players do not cross train.

    1. Lex Post author

      Chris, it’s a complicated question. Every person is different. But my recommendation is to lift weights as little as possible. For strength training, basic bodyweight training is the way to go. Do exercises that you can do 20-40 times. It all depends on what your goals are, but if you want to be healthy and good at jiu jitsu stop lifting heavy weights period. That’s my recommendation.

  2. Dominique

    Lex I need to ask you a question, if you don’t believe in lifting why do so many top level BJJ athletes add it to their training regime?
    When the metamoris pro countdown was on you so a lot of the guys training the basic lifts, ie deadlift, squats and also running track.
    Some of the names that came to my head are, Andre Galvao, Rafael Lovato even Roger Gracie was getting his lifts in, and don’t forget the Lloyd Irvin team.

    Even Eddie bravo, has said its improved his game.

    So what’s your reasoning behind not doing even the basic lifts any more?

    1. Lex Post author

      I think for the serious competitors lifting is important (not heavy but explosive), but you FIRST have to train jiu jitsu every day, or really 2-3 times a day. For most recreational players that train 4-7 times a week, the thing that needs the most improvement is technique not power. So if you have time, you should always drill or roll. Lifting serves the purpose of preventing injury and adding variety to your exercise. In that case, I don’t like heavy lifts or olympic lifts. For me, a 32 lbs kettlebell, a pull-up bar and a treadmill can give me the work out that will break me mentally and physically in 30 minutes. Sorry that was all kind of incoherent. I just threw a bunch of comments out. You have to constantly experiment with your training. What works for me might not work for you. It’s often just as much psychological as it is physical.

  3. Alan

    Given the demands of the different arts, what are your thoughts on lifting for Judo? I know technique should be the most important thing, but let’s be honest here, throwing someone your own size isn’t easy. It’s considerably harder if you’re a 200 lb weakling….

    1. Lex Post author

      If you are asking me… It depends what your goals are. I say that technique IS the most important thing. Not “should be” but “is”. What you need is to develop the muscle required to throw seoi nage with power and speed, and you can only achieve that through drilling (uchikomi, throws, and technical randori). If you can’t throw someone, it’s just a matter of technique, period. Strength can hide that for a while, but in the end it’s all about technique. By “technique” I don’t just mean learning the details of what makes a technique work. I mean teaching your body and your brain the right timing of the technique. Not only does strength not help that, it gets in the way. All that is of course until you get to the highest levels, when the technique is perfected. THEN it also becomes important to impose your will on the opponent through relentless power and cardio, but until then it’s ALL about technique. That’s *my* opinion for *my* goals, so take it with a grain of salt. For me, strength only got in the way.

      If you use a lot of strength in randori and training, you will work a lot harder and burn a lot more calories. Some people like that feeling of getting a “good” workout in. Judo and jiu jitsu after all can also be seen as just a form of exercise. In that sense, technique is only important in that it’s fun to throw people and not to hurt yourself by poor execution.

      Sorry for the long comment. There are days on which I disagree with myself on everything I just wrote above 😉

      1. Alan

        Not a problem. I’m pretty new to the judo game (yellow belt), so I’ll defer to your knowledge on this one, but from my own experience in the O100 kg class, I’ve found throwing resisting opponents with the flashy throws like seio nage to be a nightmare. If I’m dealing with a smaller opponent (including black belts) during randori, they’ll go with the drop versions of these throws, rather than the classical versions they use against people in their own class. Kosei Inoue is often cited as someone who used picture perfect technique to throw with uchimata in the heavyweight classes, but I’ve also heard anecdotally that the man is also exceptionally strong.

        I have more experience in BJJ (blue belt here), so I can relate to technique over power more in BJJ. Recognizing that technique is king in both arts, would it at least be fair to say that developing explosive movements through, for example, Olympic lifting, would be more “important” to judo than BJJ?

        1. Lex Post author

          Absolutely, I think that judo is a lot more about timing and explosive power. But I really believe that you have to develop that explosiveness mostly through fits and throws until you get to be a high-level black belt. Good luck!


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