30 Dec 2008

I have acquired quite a few BJJ books. I can't help it. Whenever a new one comes out, I have to buy it. And Santa was most obliging this year with the provision of two new titles for me to pour over Christmas.
But if I asked myself, how useful are these books actually? I would say that they only offer me a small return on their investment. Mainly because you cannot substitute good hard training on the mats. But also because I am a lazy reader and don't really study them properly, I just browse through random pages when I am on the bog and make a mental note of moves that interest me. If I remember, I may try some of them out in class, but mostly I don't. What they do help with though, is if you have just recently learned a technique and need some pointers for fine tuning, or to reveal variations on the technique. They also reveal stuff you may never have tried before, so you can at least be aware of them. So with that in mind, here are my top recommended BJJ books so far:


1. The winner of the 'I do traditional martial arts and would like to see what all this Gracie stuff is all about' category:
Theory & Technique, Renzo and Royler Gracie - this book was criticised when it first came out for its random assignment of techniques to belt levels. Despite its flaws, it has stood the test of time and is a good introduction to the art. A review can be read here.
Honourable mention: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Basics, Gene Simco - His 'Master Text' is too weighty to be of practical use, but Simco's beginner's guide is not bad. Though the b/w pictures are a bit poor in some areas.


2. Winner of the 'I have been doing BJJ for a few years and need to learn some sh#t hot moves now' category:
X-Guard, Marcelo Garcia - this book is so beautiful it could only be authored by one man. Marcelo Garcia is such a legend I really don't think I am worthy to even try these moves out. A good review can be seen here.
Honourable mentions include:
Advanced Jiu-Jitsu Techniques, Fabio Gurgel (small handy size, great ready to use techniques, but not great pictures).
Black belt techniques, Jean-Jacques Machado - Cool fancy moves that the Machados are famous for.


3. Winner of the 'Oh no my instructor called in sick and said I have to take the class, what now? category:
Guerrilla Jiu-jitsu, Dave Camarillo, Erich Krauss - wanna learn to fly? this book is your flight manual and first class lounge all rolled into one neat package. A whole chapter dedicated to beating judo guys and another on flying submissions...awesome! A good review here:
Honorable mentions should also go to:
Jiu-Jitsu unleashed, Eddie Bravo, what can be said about the man Bravo that has not been said before? Whatever your view, this book introduces his unique take on BJJ. Not very good pictures, but subsequent books offer more detail or free on youtube, a zillion guys trying their rubber guard or Zombie or whatever he calls it. Actually I quite like his stuff, but there you go what do I know?


4. Finally, 'most awesome BJJ book ever award'
Jiu-Jitsu University, Saulo Ribeiro - I only just got this book but already it looks so amazing that I can't take my hands off it. The sheer variety of techniques on offer and more importantly, the philosophical points raised by Saulo make this book stand out. Ribeiro is a brilliant instructor, an elite competitor and now, an author of probably the most definitive BJJ book of them all. Well, until Marcelo publishes his next book.
Full review here.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Books

I have acquired quite a few BJJ books. I can't help it. Whenever a new one comes out, I have to buy it. And Santa was most obliging this...

23 Dec 2008


Well the RGA internal comp never happened for me. The two fighters who were in my category pulled out at the last moment. Oh well. Us short guys have it hard you know.
So 2008 is coming to an end and time to reflect on achievements, accomplishments and lessons learned.
The early part of the year was still occupied with trying to juggle work, jujitsu and coping with the newborn. By the Spring, I was able to take a little more control of my JJ life and increase my training. Summer was a bummer - I twisted my ankle in the most horridly public way and laid up for several months. By Autumn I got back into training and was soon fully prepped and ready to compete at the JJJA Nationals, in which I failed to get past in the first round of my division. I learned that a one dimensional BJJ game won't get you very far, and also to tread more carefully when venting spleen on this blog. I did however earn an extra stripe on my blue belt and host a number of excellent seminars at my Trad JJ club. So all in all, a good year MA wise. Next year, I plan to up the training level in an attempt to reach my budo potential. Of course, this Meerkatsu blog will document all the highs and all the lows, so may this Meerkat wish you all a happy Christmas and an awesome New Year. Together we are all Citizen Jitsukas.

My Year

Well the RGA internal comp never happened for me. The two fighters who were in my category pulled out at the last moment. Oh well. Us short...

16 Dec 2008

As we wind down towards the end of the year, it is probably a good time as any to mention a few blog warriors who I like to read on a regular basis.

In the regular joe blog category, we have:
White Collar Jujitsu: http://whitecollarbjj.blogspot.com/
Steve's BJJ log: http://www.stevebjj.com/
I like reading blogs that reveal bits about the writer's personality, their humour, their trials and general opinions as well as the technical aspects of the sport. To me, I can identify with regular Joe Blogger who has a family, busy job, demanding wife etc but still has time to dedicate to training and of course writing enjoyable blog content.

For Instructional blogs, there is one that is top of every BJJer's favourites list:
Stephen Kesting's Grappling Tip of the week blog. Kesting has written books and produced numerous DVDs and I'm a big fan of his crystal clear instructional style. He is also very generous and by giving away a free e-book and numerous handy tips on his blog, is someone who stands up to be admired for not using his knowledge simply as a way to make money. He wants to share his passion with you and you really get the sense that he is there to help.
http://www.grapplearts.com/weblog.htm

Closer to home, Roger Gracie black belt, Nicolas Gregoriades, has a very informative, if less frequently updated blog here:
http://www.jiujitsubrotherhood.com/
My favourite article of his explains just how awesome Roger Gracie is at BJJ:
http://www.jiujitsubrotherhood.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16:understanding-the-phenomenon&catid=5:miscellaneous&Itemid=8

There are hundreds of BJJ blogs out there and possibly a thousand times more on the theme of martial arts. It is hard to read even a small percent of them and so a good blog has to really stand out. It should have enjoyable content, updated regularly, pretty pictures help and so does spellcheck. So, on that note, if anyone wishes to nominate Meerkatsu in BJJ Blog of the Year award, they can do so here:
http://thefightworkspodcast.com/2008/11/20/bjj-blog-of-the-year-2008/
No pressure...

Keyboard Warriors

As we wind down towards the end of the year, it is probably a good time as any to mention a few blog warriors who I like to read on a regul...

10 Dec 2008

Against my better judgement, I have for some reason agreed to take part in the forthcoming Roger Gracie Academy (RGA) internal competition. It'll be my first BJJ competition and I think I agreed because it was billed as a nice low-key way to pick up some tournament practice. I say low-key. But when you consider that RGA consists of some of the most hard-training and richly decorated, medal- winning students in the UK (eg 35 medals at SENI07) , then I would hardly say it was that low key.
Anyway, my weight seems to be hovering around the 58 kilo mark so Nick put me in the 'galo' category which is Portuguese for rooster (weight) - the lightest category in adult BJJ. I quite like that. I was born under the Chinese sign of the rooster and that imagery pervades throughout my life. So rooster weight it is then. Although judging by my fighting style, 'cock' or 'chicken' may be a more apt description.

In other news, my Trad JJ pals David and Kevin both passed their second dan gradings. It's quite an achievement as second dan involves lots of very complicated joint locking katas and lots of weapons and empty hand katas and then lots of sparring and then..oh you get the picture - it's flipping hard work mentally and physically. Both still looked drained several days later. And for Dave, it doesn't end as he has an escrima grading at the weekend.

Galo, the rooster

Against my better judgement, I have for some reason agreed to take part in the forthcoming Roger Gracie Academy (RGA) internal competition. ...

3 Dec 2008

In today's blog, Meerkat gets a bit philosophical...

One of the most persistent topics of discussion among martial arts forums around the world is the style versus style debate. In particular, BJJ versus traditional JJ (TJJ).
There are lots of differences between the two MA and much debate about which is better. Die-hard TJJers poopoo the notion that BJJ offers realistic self defence when they believe that being on the ground is a bad strategy and they mock their colourful logoed uniforms. BJJers laugh at youtube clips of so-called experts imparting invisible ki power tricks and their love of samurai swords. It is two worlds that may seem poles apart. But I want to focus on the positives that both martial arts can offer each other.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a growing trend for TJJ students to also join a BJJ club and, rather than choose one or the other, actually stick to both. I like to think I was one of the early adopters of this scheme, but I’m sure there were many who practiced both forms long before I joined the bandwagon.

During the path to black belt, a TJJ student will learn hundreds and hundreds of techniques that have to be drilled over and over again until they become second nature. This method of learning is repetitive but forms good habits when it comes to muscle memory. It is also of great benefit in another way - in my own experience, I find that I pick up newly taught BJJ techniques pretty fast and a lot of this has to come down to my TJJ experience. A TJJ student will have been trained to analyse every minutiae of a technique and to ask questions if they don’t understand how something works. This anally retentive attention to detail means the TJJer is a good student of technique – regardless of style.

In TJJ you will invariably come across pretty much every joint lock scenario that the human body is capable of sustaining, so a BJJ instructor teaching something new to most of the class, may actually be showing something familiar to the TJJ student. Many a time I have seen a BJJ joint lock or transition and thought, ooh, that’s just like the so and so from purple belt or words to that effect.

But the biggest difference between BJJ and TJJ is that BJJ incorporates sparring on the ground as a major component of each lesson, allowing the students to pressure test their techniques. Very traditional TJJ schools have always said that sparring has no place as it would be too dangerous to pressure test, for example, knife attacks or full force strikes. However, these days, most TJJ schools have varying degrees of sparring as it is without doubt a good way to train under pressure. And this is where BJJ can assist the TJJ student. BJJ has been refined over a number of years to perfect the aspect of fighting from the ground. Of course strikes are not allowed, but as a platform for gaining good positional advantage and utilising very effective chokes, strangles, and joint locks, it is a great way to spar under pressure without danger of serious injury. If TJJ students and clubs can utilise this method of sparring, it would be of great benefit to their overall development as a martial artist.
But being such a specialist art, BJJ could be said to be too restrictive when it comes to overall self defence and sport fighting. It is noticeable that very good MMA stars train in both stand-up styles such as kickboxing, Muay Thai and boxing as well as BJJ in order to be a complete fighter. For the average punter, some exposure to defending punches, kicks, bites, weapons etc would be useful experience, and this is where TJJ might offer an opportunity since the syllabus covers all these aspects.

At the end of the day, as I have said many times before, the world is large enough to cater for all tastes. Many people will prefer one style over the other, but for some, like me, if you enjoy both, then you will reep the benefits of both.

...oh and let me not forget to wish my TJJ training buddies David and Kevin the best of luck with their second dan grading on Sunday...Oooosssss!

Ebony & Ivory

In today's blog, Meerkat gets a bit philosophical... One of the most persistent topics of discussion among martial arts forums around t...

 

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