Friday, September 19, 2014

Because You Didn't Ask: Toro BJJ's Blue Belt Journey Comic & BJJ Sponrsorship(s) Redux

On that note, something I've heard and discussed amongst others, the concept of sponsorship in BJJ.
I stumbled across this from over at BJJNews.com (the first place you should go when you get to your office/cubicle/open your eyes in the morning followed shortly thereafter by my blog *ahem*).
You hear high level guys talk about it. You hear low level guys talk about it. You hear commentators talk about it. At any rate, some food for thought is here from an actual company who has pockets which could provide sponsorship


At the end of the day, if you have a "take take take" mentality, that will shine through and a company worth its salt will not sponsor you. Or, at best, a non-descript no name company will through you a Gi or two or an entrance fee, but that will be about it. Relationships, to flourish, must be synergistic. They must be symbiotic. Hopefully, both parties/organisms/whatever will benefit.



Recently, I was working at my other job and a friend who has a number of friends who are sponsored in skateboarding and snowboarding asked why I wasn't sponsored. She asked how long I'd been training, how long I'd been competing and with incredulity in her voice asked why I wasn't sponsored. Consider that she has no working knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu, as a sport, the rules whatever. Yet, Jiu-Jitsu is a niche sport, but wasn't that also the case once and perhaps to some extent still the case for skateboarding and snowboarding. Sure, they have a bit more exposure and visibility with the X-Games and the now Summer and Winter Olympics notwithstanding. But long before they had that exposure, athletes were receiving money to rep certain brands et cetera. And sometimes, you can think you know more than enough about a topic and not see it with fresh or unbiased eyes. Depth of knowledge doesn't always mean that you see the topic or area better or more effectively and in fact, too much knowledge can almost or perhaps outright become a source of diminishing returns.

It was a valid question. Rather than react out of defensiveness or justify why I'm not sponsored, I had to attempt to look at it without a filter, without my supposed knowledge of truths I specifically hold to be true about this question.

I see white and blue belts sponsored or so they claim. I may not personally want to rep those brands, but there are certainly brands I would like to represent or benefits to be gained from representing those brands.
Regardless of what excuses I might make, the following truths remain: Jiu-Jitsu is a niche sport but one with a rabid fanbase. I own something like 9 Gi's. I know plenty of white belts who shell out money for Shoyoroll Gi's. Hundreds and hundreds of competitors routinely fly across the country and even the world sometimes to compete in what amounts to amateur level competition (meaning it is not directly awarded prize money).
We can use the comparison to other professional sports or niche sports to rationalize why you or me or whoever is not sponsored, or we can see those for what they are: excuses.
The guy I beat 30-0 last weekend at US Grappling Chicago was allegedly a sponsored fighter by RevGear.
I've competed and seen white and blue belts and other purple belts and above sponsored.
At the end of the day, there are guys with more, less, or the same Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and MMA background/resume as myself that are all sponsored.

I didn't honestly have an answer for her.

But it has started some fundamental questions I need to ask myself?
What brands so I actually support and am I willing to support?
I don't like tacky brands with a million logos.
I don't like MMA-themed gear.
Coming from Judo, I prefer a clean Gi with little flash/flair, and beyond that, it is legitimately important that I believe in the quality and durability of the product and that it's something I actually use.
What do I intend/am willing to offer a brand in exchange for their support?
What do I expect in return?
I work a full-time job and a side job. Jiu-Jitsu is still something I see as a passion of mine. I am wary of making the jump to seeing it as my livelihood and here is why.
Before college, I put together my portfolio for art school/college. The process of deadlines and the pressure of outcome expectation made me view art and the act of creation out of more necessity than simply desire made me view my passion in an entirely different way. I don't know that I'm ready to have Jiu-Jitsu be seen as something more work/job than desire/passion and monetizing your desire/passion like with all things comes at a price or at least an exchange.
Another sticking point for me is autonomy. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless, gave a rash guard to famous Jiu-Jitsu competitor but he couldn't put it on or take a picture wearing it due to sponsorship obligations.
This may sound silly, but I want to wear the Gi I want to wear and the shirt I want to wear.
At any rate, perhaps, I'm just a bit too much Kron Gracie for my own good and I'm destined to be largely unsponsored as I journey through Jiu-Jitsu.

I've plugged Toro BJJ on here a number of times because 1) I know the owner and 2) I've used their gi and other training gear over the years in both Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. I've seen their line of Gi's since the beginning and still use both the Gi tops I have of theirs and wear them on a weekly basis. I learned about the whole Gi construction process with the owner of Cageside MMA/Toro BJJ and got a lot of insight into what it actually takes to get a quality line of Gi's from inception to reality.
The owner of Toro BJJ started his own company. In his warehouse is a fully functioning Jiu-Jitsu academy.
In short, it's the type of company I've always respected.

I've got a pretty big announcement concerning some competition news for yours truly, and a busy month and a half ahead with hopefully at least 3 times in the next 6 weeks in Greensboro, North Carolina, Delaware, and Virginia.

- Good luck and happy trainingz


 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

UFC Fight Night Japan: Does Japan's MMA/UFC Hope/Pride Lie in its Women?

Rin Nakai for you female MMA nerds is coming to the UFC.
I'm actually mildly interested.
I haven't given much coverage to women in MMA on this blog but that's simply because I don't watch much women's MMA.
It's a personal choice and let's leave it at that.

At any rate, Rin Nakai makes a big ole' jump into women's UFC/MMA in facing Miesha Tate.

Hats off to the ladies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UFC 178 Johnson vs Cariaso, McGregor vs Poirier, Cerrone vs Alvarez: Extended Preview for the Most Stacked Card in Awhile

In less than two weeks, what looks like to me, the best bang for your buck UFC card in recent memory takes place:

Flyweight title fight.
Alvarez makes his long awaited UFC debut against Cerrone in what has to be a good fight.
McGregor's hype train continues gains momentum or derails.
Tim Kennedy takes a SERIOUSLY dangerous fight against the ridiculously heavy-handed and wrestling standout Romero who looks like a LHW when he cuts weight.
Dominick Cruz returns after 2 ACL surgeries and surrendering his belt.
Masvidal who I love to watch fight is on the card. Patrick Cote from my younger years is on the card, and the entertaining Ebersole fight Doomsday.
Man.
I'm out of breath just putting all that out there. Below is the extended preview.

"main CARD
Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET
preliminary CARD
UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. ET
Manny Gamburyan vs. Cody Gibson "                                                                                              
 

Tuesday's Grappling News: Keenan Cornelius Confirmed for IBJJ Pro League! & Paulo Miyao vs Victor Silverio



The recent Stuart Cooper documentary focus (awesome documentary with some insight into his journey in Jiu-Jitsu and the mental side of elite level performance), Keenan Cornelius, has agreed/confirmed for the IBJJ Pro League's upcoming event in October.

He joins the other all-star list of Jiu-Jitsu notables including: "Otavio Sousa, Paulo Miyao, Claudio Calasans Jr, Yuri Simões, Felipe Pena, Bernardo Faria, Gustavo Pires, Jackson Sousa, Vitor Oliveira, Ivaniel Cavalcante, Luiz Panza and Ricardo Evangelista, Osvaldo Moizinho."
Last year he defeated Jackson Souza (a budding rivalry between those two that's continued since brown belt) and returns this year to defend his title.



Silverio defends Paulo's open guard for quite a bit here with insistent grips on the pants/knees-ish placement but Paulo grinds it out and gets the win against the heavier opponent.
 

Monday, September 15, 2014

US Grappling Chicago Roadtrip Photobomb


It was a long weekend in the books. We met at 530/6am in Durham to ride up to Chicago. We ended up departing by about 715/730am (long story) and began the 12ish hour trek through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and part of Illinois.







I slept several times as did the other guys and split my time playing on facebook or reading the Steve Jobs biography by Isaacson. We left so early I hadn't checked my weight and suspected I was at least about 3 lbs over.



1st place to my teammate John "Delicious Bagels" Telford and 2nd place for me in the advanced NoGi division

We ended up making it to the hotel and I checked my weight around 830pm, but I had suspicions that it was incorrect, though it estimated I was about 4 lb's over. I had a salad with chicken and slept, waking up according to the scale approximately 2 lbs over.
We got lost on the way to the venue and went 30  min's in the wrong direction but eventually arrived and finished the set-up in progress. I was running on about 10 hours of sleep over the previous two nights and felt less than stellar. Also, I was a bit nervous having never done NoGi Advanced and having not competed in NoGi in any manner in over 3 years.

I began feeling the familiar feeling I used to before doing the NoGi: namely that I just wanted it to be over, but I remembered Donald Cerrone saying in an interview that there are red lights thoughts and green light thoughts. Red light thoughts are self-doubt, insecurity, and in general negative emotions. Instead, before I realized it, I had caught myself and focused on what I would do in the match first. Rather than just go out there with no plan, I decided I would sit to guard and work from bottom as that was where I was most comfortable. I had neither the desire nor the recent training to fight for a protracted takedown and just opted to adopt that as my strategy.
It worked, I beat my first opponent 8-4, despite that I let him dive for a takedown as I sat to guard, starting him off with 2 points. I nearly caught him in a triangle, had some close calls as he stood up to pass/guard break, but eventually butterfly swept into a knee through position, scored some knee on belly points but gave up top position as he did the semi-bench press escape as I raised my hips to garner knee on belly points. My teammate and I handshook it out as we were both beat from the trip and waiting for the Gi. I reffed some NoGi intermediate and 30+ men's matches and would later in the day referee some really, really good blue belt men's matches. They were some of the best matches I saw that day.


CJ Murdock, black belt and MMA fighter


 
Venue before the start of festivities. It was a long day.




I warmed up for the purple belt featherweight and faced my opponent from the NoGi Division. I can only be honest and say I felt very confident going into the match. I knew with the Gi on I would almost certainly not give up takedown points, and would immediately work to sweep after pulling guard. I did just that and hit a quick butterfly sweep into a cross grip/knee through pass position. I got my underhooks and passed to knee on belly then eventually as he sat up to sit out took his back, later working my way to mount. I threatened with a double lapel choke from the back and several ezekiels from the back. Later he reversed position as I scored knee on belly and I dove for a rolling baseball choke after making way quite ahead on points.

Busy weekend with something like 26 hours in the car. I'm glad I went through another competitive day and conquered some negative self-talk and made my way back into the Advanced NoGi division at it's another avenue to more matches. I got more referee experience and spent time with the awesome folks at US Grappling.
Win or learn. This weekend I got to do some winning after some very hit or miss performances in the first half of 2014 and my first year at purple belt.
 

1st place to my teammate John "Delicious Bagels" Telford and 2nd for me in the purple belt featherweight
West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana are not my favorite scenic routes through which to travel. I'll just leave it at that.

530/6am meet-up at Cageside MMA HQ/warehouse and Triangle Jiu-Jitsu Academy to begin the 12+ hour ride up to Chicago



with the awesome folks at US Grappling after a 12 some odd hour day
teammate close out with fellow purple belt featherweight John "Delicious Bagels" Telford


Thursday, September 11, 2014

US Grappling Chicago This Weekend


 
 

I'll be riding in a van many hours this weekend but it means I get to compete in Chicago and work/referee the event with the awesome folks at US Grappling.

I'm also biting the bullet and doing NoGi Advanced for the first time. It will also be my first NoGi competition since my ACL reconstruction.

Pretty excited I'll also get to see the UFC Fight Night on Saturday as well.




 



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Competition Year in Review -BJJ and Judo: Purple Belt Featherweight and -66kg Black Belt
















As best I can, I've reconstructed my tournament performance in both Judo and Jiu-Jitsu for the past year.
Jiu-Jitsu has been a busy-ish 2014 as I was promoted to purple belt in December and began the new year in the faixa roxa division at featherweight. I've competed in 5 tournaments since that time with mixed results. I've competed once this year in Judo and twice last Fall. I had intended to hit another Judo tournament this weekend but I've opted to take an opportunity to travel and compete/referee for US Grappling in Chicago instead.






US Grappling Greensboro Submission Only -
- win by brabo/lapel choke from mount - scored guard pass and knee on belly points
- lost by RNC/choke from the back

US Grappling Virginia Beach-
- won by points - scored sweep points from RDRL and deep half, adv for guard pass attempt, gave up sweep points and adv for inverting to avoid guard pass
- loss by mounted collar choke - omoplata transition to giving up sweep points, guard pass, and mount points 

US Grappling Richmond -
- won by arm triangle - takedown,  sweep, guard pass, mount
- gentlemen's agreement with teammate

US Grappling Grapplemania/Raleigh
- loss by points - gave up sweep and guard pass, scored sweep points
- loss by bow n' arrow choke - torreando pass led to leg drag position then eventually the back take then submission

US Grappling Virginia Beach -
- loss by bow n' arrow choke - scored sweep points, gave up a leg drag off of a torreando pass/swarm which led to guard pass points, and also back mount points
- win by triangle - gave up sweep points, scored sweep points, guard pass (but no points scored) to back take points, lost back position, finished with triangle


Some takeaways: the grips on the knees are something which I have to immediately address. The leg drag/torreando pass swarm ala Leandro Lo is a powerful position and thus the leg drag also if not immediately addressed. This deficiency has also stemmed from my not having/maintaining proper grips from on bottom while in various forms of open guard.
As for giving up sweeps while on top. I need to seek out better open guard players. Too often in training, I force my way into a low/heavy pressure passing position but when in tournaments against other purple belts, I often find myself further away in distance/IE: spider guard, shin to shin guard, et cetera and I have to become more comfortable in these positions and in imposing my will in passing from these position when I find myself there which is often right at the beginning of a match as is often the case in modern Jiu-Jitsu.



Judo - I went a bit further back in Judo to include my tournaments since returning from ACL surgery to have a larger pool of data from which to draw.

Hometown Heroes
At 66kg -
- Loss by DQ/hansokumake - up on points, DQ'd by touching leg while executing kouchimakikomi
- Win by Ippon - throw/ouchigari
- Win by DQ/hansokumake - up on points
- Win by pin

At 73kg -
- loss by Ippon/throw - referee error
- Win by points - waza ari - osotomakikomi

Maryland - Shufu Open
- at 66kg - win by Ezekiel from the back - up on points, scored with kouchimakikomi
- win by pin
- loss by Ippon - throw - hip throw

at 73kg -
- win by waza ari in golden score - osotomakikomi
- loss by pin
- loss by pin

Jacksonville Memorial -
at 66kg -
- win by ippon - throw - shoulder throw
- win by ippon - throw - ouchigari
- loss by points

Some Takeaways: my loss in the finals in Jacksonville was solely due to conditioning. I had some submission opportunities and combining my mat work from throws transitioning to the very short amount of mat time allowed in Judo is a continuing process. Switching gears so to speak from Jiu-Jitsu style mat work to Judo style mat work will continue to be a work in progress. I am a strong thrower in Judo comfortable winning on the mat or standing up and genuinely feel comfortable in all the stages or areas of Judo competition.
My loss in the finals in Maryland was simply because my opponent and I were the two best guys in the bracket. We had decisively beaten each of our opponents on the way there and I could tell by his style and mine, one of us was going to get thrown flat out and it was just a matter of who missed the first step.

I haven't devoted the necessary time to Judo training and specifically the strength and conditioning necessary for Judo competition in my time back from ACL surgery. My birthday is coming up, and now that I'm in the 30+ age range but intend to continue competing in the regular adult division, I have to work extra hard and train specifically to force my body to stay in shape, especially for the rigors of Judo competition. I don't like the much narrower range of throwing techniques in modern Judo, but it is another avenue of competition and one that will make me better as a grappler overall, and thus; thus any excuses to not compete are just that, excuses.