Griphouse People: John Brown

Here is our next installment in the Griphouse People series. With this blog series we are celebrating some of our members who have achieved really cool things outwith attacking people in cages and rings around the world. We strongly believe that everyone’s reasons for training have equal validity. Our goal is to improve our people through martial arts .

Just over three years ago I was encouraged to try a session of Muay Thai at the Griphouse gym by my Daughter Jo and her partner Grant. At the time I was an overweight couch potato, with a waistline of 36”, not too healthy for a male who is only 5’ 7” tall. My idea of a good evening after a hard day at work was lying on the couch watching television. I had my week set out and it didn’t involve too much exercise. Friday night was the time to head to the pub for a few beers and then go home and relax for the rest of the weekend. This seems quite a common life style for a 55 year old male in Glasgow.

I attended the first session and I found it really hard, but I was encouraged to give it everything I could by my daughter and the coach “Guy Ramsay”. Needless to say I had a few aches and pains for a few days after that first session but I did enjoy it. How do I know that I enjoyed the training? I am now 58 years old and still attend the Griphouse Muay Thai classes.

I am now a 30/31 waist. I weigh a little more as the fat has now been replaced with some muscle. This has helped my own perception of my body image and increased my confidence. I work as a secondary school teacher which at times is very stressful. If I feel tired and stressed a session at the Griphouse takes it all away. I go into work the next day feeling invigorated and without a care in the world. My overall Health & well being has increased considerably since I started training at the Griphouse.

This has all been possible due to the family atmosphere at the Griphouse, everyone is made to feel welcome. I have made many new friends who I look forward to seeing and training with. I now attend the Griphouse on my own as my daughter now lives abroad but this is never a problem, you always find a partner to train with. It could be a joiner, a shopkeeper or a lawyer. We are all there for the same reason and that is to improve our fitness, so everyone fits in.

The two main coaches that I have worked with over the years have been Tommy Young and Kenny(Kent) Ho. Both are excellent coaches who have a love of their sport , really enjoy coaching and passing on their experiences. They have different methods but the same goals, which keeps it interesting, it’s never boring. There is always something new to learn. I have also been fortunate to attend sessions with Guy Ramsay, Sean Wright, Lyn Minn-Din, Mani Singh and Hillary Mack who are all excellent coaches.

Personally I really enjoy training at the Griphouse and would recommend it to anyone. The family atmosphere where all are welcome makes it stand out on its own, it is second to none. Don’t let silly things like age, lack of fitness, being overweight or your own self esteem stop you from giving it a try. You are never pressured to do any more than you are capable of at the Griphouse. The experienced coaches have your health & well being as their primary concern and will look after you. Always remember that any exercise is better than no exercise. I would recommend that you attend a session at the Griphouse and give it a try you will be pleasantly surprised at how well you feel after the class.

Cheers for that John.

Image

Consistency: Embracing the grind

These days everyone appears to be looking for the quickest way to get results. They want to lose 20 pounds in ten days, they want to be a black belt in 3 years or have their first fight in 6 months. The vast majority of us know that training and sensible nutrition will lead to long term sustainable results yet we would much rather do 6 weeks of the Angry Viking diet and a strength program designed for Bulgaria’s National Olympic lifting team.

There is always a time and place to “Train Insane” but the vast majority of your training should be at a level that is sustainable. This ensures that your training remains consistent and consistency is the key to learning.

Image

Embrace the grind.

Im not suggesting that your training should not be difficult far from it, but if someone were to say that your current schedule was one that you would adhere to for 5-10 years you should not be overly traumatised. Now try suggesting the same thing to a fighter who is training for a bout. Most guys train 6-8 weeks specifically for a fight, at an incredibly intense level. If you suggested to a fighter that they would benefit from being in camp for a few years you may have a discussion on your hands.

Going all out and pushing yourself to the limit everyday sounds cool and makes you feel like Conan but it is ultimately unsustainable. You may find professional fighters back in the gym a day after they have competed (particularly at the Griphouse) but they are almost certainly training at a lower level and enjoying themselves more. Seven weeks into an eight week fight camp very few athletes are truly enjoying their training. The level of intensity combined with pre fight pressure and other stressors takes its toll on the athletes. Many mention looking forward to getting back to regular daily training where they can focus on getting better as opposed to winning a fight. It is not uncommon for some fighters to only train when competing.

The expression “Embrace the Grind” seems to have come from the wrestling community and is the counterbalance to the Train Insane ethos. Its the long slow “grind” to improvement and mastery. Its turning up every day, doing what you are supposed to do and slowly dragging yourself towards your potential.

Image

You are training hard but in a way that does not leave you ruined for your next session. You are putting in the time and enjoying the process, the small victories that lead to the big improvements.

Enjoying your training and being consistent are the keys to mastery. If you do not enjoy what you are dedicating yourself to you are unlikely to be consistent. It is no coincidence that the guys who train the most tend to be the better guys. Books like the Talent Code, Bounce and Mastery have all suggested that the concept of innate ability or talent is overrated. Particularly in sports where technical ability is so prevalent. It comes down to a simple equation

  • Hours of deliberate practice + skill and ability of coaches and training partners + physical attributes = level of badassery

Jiu Jitsu guys will roll light , in Thailand fighters will rarely spar at a competition level instead they play around, wrestlers will flow wrestle. All of these interventions allow the athelete to get more mat/ring/cage time in and anything that increase the amount of deliberate practice is highly beneficial to those commited to getting better. Sparring at 100% could maybe be done for 3 rounds twice a week, maybe? But drop that intensity down to 60-80% and you can be doing 30+ rounds. The further we get away from 100% the less “real” it becomes but with 10 times the mat time, who is learning more?

Getting better at any activity is actually quite simple. Do you want to be a great guitarist? Well you should probably get a good teacher and practice as much as you can. The same goes for any activity. Want to get good at it? Do it a lot.

Embracing the grind means turining up and paying your dues. It is the tougher path as it is sustainable. You wont have the luxury of burning out, giving up or picking up an injury as the intensity is optimised. Everyday you will have the battle with yourself to train or not to train. This will happen forever as you have commited yourself to life long improvement. Missing a session here and there has no effect in the short term but in the long term this adds up.

Eventually you will be where you want to be you just have to keep going.

 

 

Griphouse People: Ross Jack

The Griphouse is well known for producing the country’s finest combat sports athletes, with many  of our guys competing at an incredibly high level. This weekend we have Robert Whiteford out in Dallas competing in the UFC and we wish him the best of luck. Drop the Hammer son.

What many people often do not realise is that a good 90% of our people have no intention of competing professionally. At the Griphouse everyone’s reason to be there is respected and holds equal validity. Our recreational guys are just as important to us as those striving to be world champions.

With that said I wanted to run a series of articles on some of our people who have done really cool things and benefited from their time with us. The first guy that sprung to mind was Ross Jack.

He probably sprung to mind because I see him almost everyday. He has embraced training and combat sports as a lifestyle and the results he has achieved have been a testament to the hours he has put in.

His transformation has been incredible, as the pictures below can attest to.

Image

On day 1 Ross was living a sedentary lifestyle, was unfit and unhealthy. Now he is a competitive fighter, gym rat and an asset to everyone he trains with. He has also begun personal training at the Griphouse helping other to achieve goals like his own.

Here are Ross’s own words.

I have now been training at The Griphouse gym for over 3 years. On my first session I was 15st and lasted 5mins of a personal training session with Guy before collapsing on my arse. But with Guy’s help, support and approach to training I was able to transform my physical abilities and appearance. 

The Griphouse offers a fantastic support network as all the athletes help to train and encourage each other. The standard of coaching is world class and is proven by the titles the coaches and fighters have won.

The gym has a great work ethic that has taught me the discipline and hard work required to transform from a complete novice to a competitive fighter. I owe the Griphouse a lot and would not be the person i am today without it. Guy Ramsay (the owner) is a fantastic coach/friend and if it were not for his patience and determination throughout the past 3 years I would still be 15st and unfit.

Ross’s story is a common one at the Griphouse. To achieve big changes you must make big changes. Body composition and health related goals are not achieved by simply doing a particular class or adopting a goofy diet. In my experience the most profound changes come when a person finds an activity that they really enjoy doing.

When you really enjoy what you are doing turning up is easy. From there adopting the culture of this activity starts happening by itself. You eat cleaner, because training after a chippy is brutal, you turn up more because team mates are relying on you. All of these things and many more combine to encourage you to transform into a better version of your previous self.

Image

Mega Smasher: Murilo Santana’s guard passing breakdown

Murilo Santana is one of those guys who has a lot of success in tournament jiu jitsu but is relatively unheard off. He does not have a DVD instructional series, a subscription website or a host of moves named after him. What he does have is a highly effective and brutal passing style that has served him well competing against the some of the best guys in the world.

Posture in the over under position

Snapshot 1 (04-03-2014 13-54)

Murilo’s passing game is based around working from the over under. He will often pressure from this position for up to 6-7mins in the round and not really commit to a pass. In the last 3mins the exhausted opponent is passed and often submitted in rapid succession.

The over under position provides a number of advantages for the athlete:

1. Being latched onto the hips negates the advantages many flexible guard players have.

2. Inversion is incredibly difficult with this degree of hip control.

3. Adopting this passing strategy completely avoids all the cool guard positions. There is no spider, de La Riva or inverted DLR options.

4. The opponent is carrying your weight the entire time. This is exhausting for the bottom player. Their options are limited to destroying the head position and framing against the top man in an effort to recompose some sort of barrier. This is tiring work, doing dumb bell presses for 7mins will knacker anyone.

5. The top mans has minimised a lot of the bottom guys offense and only really has two main concerns. Which are, the leg escaping into a triangle on the overhook side (this can be minimised by constantly contouring the hips to the overhook side) and being tilted or swept to the underhook side (this can be minimised by posting with the underhooking arm and keeping hips contoured to the overhook side). Keeping your opponent off the leg on the overhook side eliminates a lot of tilt sweep options.

Murilo Santana’s passing breakdown.

There are two really interesting things about Murilo’s personal passing game. First of all he is highly proficient in the passes outlined below on both sides. This is pretty unusual and is probably due to the fact that his passes are determined by his opponents responses.

Secondly he rarely does the traditional shin circle pass to side control. Perhaps he feels this methods offers up too much space when compared to the options outlined below or more likely he prefers passing directly to mount.

The side smash position

Snapshot 1 (27-02-2014 14-33)

After pressuring his opponents long enough to make them start hating life he begins moving towards the opponents mid line I.e. the underhook side. This makes tilt sweeps more difficult as the leg grab is tougher. It also opens up the elbow and knee space for the shin circle pass, but as we know Murilo has no intention of going that way.

Instead he is moving all the way round to the side smash position. Lateral movement is the key here. He is actively raising and lowering his elevation, contouring his hips and moving to the underhook side. You an see this in action whenever anyone tries to elevate him with butterfly hooks. At times he appears to be floating on the end of these hooks before gracefully landing in the side smash as the opponents legs fatigue.

From the side smash he covers the top leg with the shin and moves to the side. The bottom mans hip positioning makes it really difficult to re guard, they are left with a crappy choice, accept side control or expose the back.

The flattened half guard

flattened half

Often in the face of this pressure the opponent will shoot for half guard to increase the degree of control they feel they have in this situation. This rarely helps them. Instead of fishing for the underhook; very difficult to do on elite player, Murilo stays low and pins his head to the ground removing the threat of his opponents underhook while freeing up his own hand to actively post or assist in freeing the trapped knee on the way to mount.

With only the foot now trapped in guard the underhook is taken and solid forward pressure completes the guard pass. The opponent is mounted and in a seriously vulnerable position. The frequency with which Murilo taps an opponent after the pass may be due to the way in which he passes to this incredibly dominant mount.

Jiu Jitsu from a Newbies Perspective part 2 4 Sparring Tips (2014 edition)

So carrying on from the previous blog post we have established the importance of identifying the positions we are in and adopting the appropriate postures. You can tell when you have started becoming accomplished with this stage when more experienced training partners, with similar physical attributes struggle to sweep, submit or advance up the positional heirarchy (guard <side control < mount < back control).

The next stage will be to add techniques to these positions. At the Griphouse we have a 12 week rotating syllabus that addresses the fundamental positions and the most common techniques that arise from them. There are many options for those looking to learn new techniques. There are many YouTube videos, DVD’s and subscription sites out there. What these options do not have is interaction with an experienced and knowledgeable coach. Ask questions and take the answers on board. Your coaches are your best resources, you are paying for their knowledge so you might as well use them.

If your coach suggest that learning to pass guard is preferable to falling onto footlocks at every available opportunity, it might be because they have a point. They might also have spent way too long trying to tear peoples feet off to the detriment of their own passing game……. not mentioning anyone in particular though……yeah ok It was me.

Drilling side control escapes might not be as sexy as drilling a De la Riva tomoenage sweep, but in the initial stages its almost certainly more beneficial. All those guys pulling of amazing, ninja highlight reel sweeps and submissions are all truly amazing at the basic stuff that makes Jiu Jitsu such an effective combat sport.

4 Sparring Tips for the Newbie

At the Griphouse we want to get our athletes sparring as quickly as possible. Usually this is in the form of a drill with a specific goal in mind. Everything in jiu jitsu must work against a resisting opponent. Below are some tips to get the most out of the experience.

1. Win the Small battles.

If you have no previous combat sports experience and can walk into a jiu jitsu school and dominate everyone, you have probably not walked into a very good school. Jiu Jitsu is devestatingly effective. If you do not know the principles behind the art and you are on the ground with someone who does, you are in trouble. Watching a big guy getting dominated by a much smaller, more experienced athlete is so common it does not even bear considering as something unusual.

With that said when you start expect to be submitted a lot. Expecting to chain techniques together like a mundials champion is unrealistic. Instead focus on winning the small battles.

  • Try  to avoid being submitted, mounted, sweeped etc within a round.
  • If your guard has been passed focus on maintaining solid side control posture and escaping back to guard.
  • When in guard work on preventing your posture being broken by your partner.
  • Concentrate on breaking all of your opponents grips.
  • If your stuck, cant move and are being thoroughly crushed try to work on controling your breathing and finding your happy place (super important, the jiu jitsu athlete must develop being comfortable being uncomfirtable.

By assaigning goals to sparring you will find your round more productive and enjoyable. Winning the small battles will prevent the ego crushing that can sometimes put off those new to the sport.

2. Relax and get more mat time.

With  matches lasting up to 10mins and sparring classes often lasting over an hour jiu jitsu is an endurance sport. Then why do we see new guys latching onto a training partners gi and turning purple like a powerlifter trying to deadlift a gigantic personal best. Trying to do any activity above 80% effort or so usually results in a decrease of technical proficiency and a subsequent decrease in performance.

Its the common problem with new guys they try too hard. Very little can hold back technical development like trying way too hard. It will also negatvely effect the amount of training you can do. Holding your breath and squeezing someones head for a 6minute round really limits the amount of mat time you can get in.

Every situation is an opportunity to improve. If your guard is passed its a great time to work your escapes, if you pass it is an opportunity to work on maintaining side control.

3. Think about whats happening

I like to think that jiu jitsu is a perfect art. It’s our application that is sometimes lacking. If a training partner is preventing you from applying the armlock your coach just showed you, try figuring out what the problem is before abandoning the technique.

If you spend enough time on any technique you can make it work for you. Take for example the flying armbar this requires a lot of technical skill, athleticism and an almost suicidal disregard for your own safety. But because it’s cool spending tonnes of time on it isn’t too hard and it seems to land with a lot of regularity.

Try to address why a certain technique isn’t working. Slow your game down and analyse it. Is it a grip that’s stopping you? Is it counter movement? Maybe you are in the wrong position to implement the technique (this falls under identifying the position mentioned previously).

I have had so many ah ha moments that have stemmed from a desire to make a certain technique work. This is after many years of giving up on a technique as soon as my training partners were able to defend it.

4. TRAIN PURE HUNNERS

The simple fact is that the guys who are really good train a lot.

The athletes that are consistent and work hard always seem to surpass the guys who seemed to have all the advantages early on.

In our next part I will address some points on effective drilling and technique development.

20140224-103105.jpg

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from a newbies perspective part 1 (2014 edition)

This was one of the more popular article series I wrote for the old maccavelli blog. As its now 4 years old I decided to update it and let it see the light of day here on the Griphouse’s blog. Hopefully a whole new bunch of athletes can benefit from the ideas shared below.

Those who coach or are otherwise totally immersed in it often fail to see just how complicated Jiu Jitsu is to learn. If you look at jiu jitsu comps today versus those from a few years ago they look like completely different activities. As a fairly new and innovative sport Jiu Jitsu is constantly developing with strategies and techniques changing from year to year.

Image

That being said we can break all these variations into 6 basic starting positions. From this point there is an endless list of techniques and strategies that can be utilised. With so many options no wonder the athlete can sometimes feel lost and overwhelmed by it all.

The chess comparison is thrown about a lot, but I would argue that Jiu jitsu can be even more confusing, as physical attributes are involved, blurring the effectiveness of any “correct response” to a situation. On top of that no one is trying to throttle you with your own clothing in chess.

I wake up everyday thankful that the UFC became popular and I no longer have this conversation every few months:

Me: So this is Guard what I want you to do is wrap your legs round this guys hips and…..

Newbie: Hold on a minute, why the hell would I want to do that.

Me: Well if you don’t, he can get past your legs and hips and beat the crap out of you and lets not forgot all those points you will be giving up. Plus from here you can actually win the fight from your back.

Newbie: this all sounds turbo gay. How would I win a fight off my back?

Me: well what I want you to do is wrap your legs round this guys head and ……

*Newbie leaves*

The rise of mma has improved peoples awareness of jiu jitsu but it is still a vast and confusing sport. What I encourage new guys to do is to break there learning up into stages.

Stage 1- Identify the 6 major positions and their postures

Well it’s actually 12 positions as we must address each with postures for the top and the bottom athlete.

The six major positions, Top and bottom are:

Guard

Side Control

Mount

Back Mount

Turtle

Half guard

From the perspective of the top guy and the guy on the bottom we need to know what these positions are for. What is our aim in these positions and  what is the posture I want to adopt when I find myself there?

Posture is a big deal and cannot be overestimated. You cannot even begin to do anything effectively if your posture is wrong. Without correct posture everything you do will require a lot more effort and will ultimately not work against experienced players.

Again this is a broad simplification. There are many different variations of side control top posture and this corresponds to a different postural response from the bottom man. But as with all complex topics simplification is the first stage of learning.

Example

Side Control Bottom:

Image

My goal from here is to re-guard, turtle up or turn away in an effort to improve my position

Posture- On my side as much as possible, near arm blocking the cross face, far arm on opponents neck, body crunched up small, feet planted and prepared to shrimp.

Once you have identified these 6 positions and determined the basic postures they require, write them down on something.

When training keep thinking:

Being mounted = this posture

Guard top = this posture

Half guard bottom = this posture

“Identify the position” is a great mantra to have on repeat while rolling. As a coach it’s a much easier cue to use than “no put your hand there and your hips here and do …..”.

With experience you can start free styling it a bit, but our initial aim when starting out is to limit the individuals options. When you are mounted for the first time, you have millions of options you could:

  • Bench press the guy
  • Rollover and give your back
  • throw your legs up in the air
  • push his hips
  • underhook a leg
  • bridge like a mentalist in no particular direction
  • Cry

Once you have identified the correct posture to adopt the game becomes infinitely simpler. You only have one option, the right one.

20140205-102516.jpg

How you think is affecting how good you can be.

A change in perception.

The primal nature of combat sports has a tendency to bring out our competitiveness. Forget about football, if you really want someone to bring serious effort and intensity to the table punch them in the head or try to bend their arm the way it doesn’t go.

It’s important to understand where that competitiveness is aimed. For the vast majority it’s aimed at the external; we are comparing ourselves to our team mates and opponents. In the gym this tends to create an environment where we have a food chain. There are guys who you can handle and other guys who can ruin you with ease.

This can be disheartening in the beginning as you will inevitably struggle with those who have more experience than you. A more useful mindset is to focus internally and concentrate on winning the small battles that occur in training everyday. Escaping that big blue belt’s side control or checking all leg kicks for example. When you focus on your own development training is more enjoyable and productive.

If you concern yourself too much with the “result” in sparring you may find that you are distancing yourself from the guys who cause you problems to preserve your ego. To the detriment of your own development.

You will only ever really be as good as your training partners. Top class coaching aside, an abundance of technically excellent training partners is perhaps the Griphouse’s biggest resource. If you are not taking advantage of this you might not be as great as you could be.

I’ve seen the destructiveness of this mindset many times. A guy who has the food chain in his head takes some time off and the order has shifted. Guys whom he could dominate now start tapping him or using his head like a speed ball. These guys will sometimes quit as the effect on their self esteem is too great.

The guys who are focused on self improvement and posses a solid work ethic always outshine those who are trying to protect their position in the gym environment. The tough guys make you tough, iron sharpens iron. If you want to get better, grab your most feared sparring partners and work to get to their level.

Lets face it wanting to be better than others is a fundamentally bankrupt concept. There will always be someone better than you. If you derive your sense of purpose and happiness from being better than others then how can you possibly be truly content.

So what’s the alternative? It’s pretty simple, compare yourself to yourself. If you can consistently kick the arse of yourself from 3 months ago you are on the right track. Competition is great, but the best indicator of success is how much you have improved.

If you understand that your goals should not be dependent on how you compare to others, then you will find them much easier to achieve.

At the Griphouse this is a culture we encourage and it’s probably one of the reason we have the country’s top athletes in a whole host of combat sports.

Paulus Maximus