Archive for the ‘Off the mats..’ Category

It started like so many classes before it. Warm ups, good technique and finishing with drilling. In our fundamentals class we were covering guard pulls. We practiced the standard foot in the hip guard pull and then drilled it. We then drilled jumping guard, where the bad guy bases down and the good guy drilled jumping to guard, reversing sides each time.

Class was over. I had been busy at work and had been off the mats for a while and wanted to get some rolls in. We had a new student who had just started the day before. I was told that he was a natural. He was physically fit and moved well. My coach told me to roll with him a little bit before he took off. I didn’t have too much trouble with him and I had easily managed to arm bar and triangle him in the first few minutes. I was getting cocky. I was doing what I wanted with him and I wanted to practice some side-control and half-guard escapes so I let him pass to side-control. He tied me up in a half-nelson and held me there. He was strong and I couldn’t get away. Well shit. Now what? I figured I’d tap because he was stalling and I wasn’t escaping. Of course, as is the nature of things, that’s what my coach managed to see and called me out for tapping to the new guy who was on day 2 of his training. Dammit. Now I have to prove something. I’m a blue belt and I’ll be damned if thats what my coach sees before I leave for the night. I knew I could smash this kid and I was going to prove it.

We started again. He started standing, his feet squared to me, slightly squatting with his hands looking to control my legs so he could maybe shoot to side-control or mount. Typical wrestler. I stayed in a combat base. I leaned forward slightly reaching with my right hand for his left leg. I wanted him to step back and he did. As his weight was shifting back and away I stepped in for a single leg pick and got it! I had him right where I wanted! Stepping up and looking to drive my weight to the right for the take down he jumped to pull guard. Smart man. He didn’t know much but he was smart enough to recognize an opportunity to execute what he just learned in class. Like I had been told, he was a natural.

Unfortunately for me, I had leaned too far forward looking for the leg pick. I also kept my head down, instead of looking up, which is a problem I consistently have. It keeps my neck safe but it makes my single leg take downs sloppy. Since I was top and forward heavy I wasn’t able to adjust my footing when he jumped to guard and my heel wedged between his butt and the mat, forcing my knee to carry his weight when he jumped. It didn’t. My knee buckled popping out of place. My patella dislocated, allowing my knee to bend in all kinds of wrong directions. My LCL tore and my hamstring was hyperextended. As we continued to collapse and roll my patella relocated itself and my knee painfully returned to its original position.

As I laid on the mat, writhing in pain, my knee swollen, and a new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student watching in deep concern I learned many, many lessons. First, I’m getting a little old. 30 may be the new 20 but I ain’t the 20 year old I used to be. I have to learn to roll smarter, use my brain and good technique. i also need to work to correct my sloppy skill set.

Second, leave your ego at the door (sound familiar?). Just because I think I may be better than the new student, doesn’t mean I have to prove it. Proving I can tap a white belt with 2 days of training doesn’t actually prove anything, either. I didn’t respect my opponents ability. I figured he was new and I was in complete control of the situation. I figured the guy wearing the loaner gi was not a threat to me. I was wrong.

Third, my team was there for me. They took care of me. They elevated my leg and iced it. They carried me to one of their cars and drove me to the ER. They checked on me in the hospital. They came back and picked me up and took me back to the gym to get my car. They called and texted the next day wishing me well and checking up on me.

I managed to dislocate my knee, tear my Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL), strain my Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and strained my hamstring. I think it was probably the most painful experience my body has had to physically endure.

Gi Soap

Intro

When I reached out to my fellow BJJ players at Gi Soap, looking to write a review on some of their products, I was more interested in just getting some free stuff and maybe a cool patch.  To be honest, my plan succeeded.  I got them to send me some free product to review and a cool patch.  I didn’t necessarily expect to be impressed.  I figured, “soap is soap”.  You don’t really think that any one soap or body wash will be different from any other.  Sure, some smell nicer than others.  Maybe you notice one lathers a little bit more, or maybe, one rinses a little easier.  But rarely, do you say, “Wow!  That’s some GOOD soap!”

Well, today was that day, my friend.  I got me some DAMN GOOD SOAP!   Gi Soap has recently released a new body wash line to complement their bar soap production.  It’s all quality stuff.

Oddly enough, I suddenly found myself reliving scene from Fight Club.  Instead of selling soap to glamorized, size 0, twenty-something’s who just had liposuction I was trying to pawn off this great product on meat-heads with cauliflower ear.  Hollywood ALMOST got it right…

The Science:

There’s a little bit of education involved here.  You have to have some personal revelations about yourself and your body before you become willing to drop $9.00 on a bottle of soap.  If you think about it you’ll probably come to the same realizations that I had.

First, traditional body wash that is chemically made is not good for you.  It “cleans” you by stripping away the natural oils of your body.  Sure, it also strips away all that nasty dirt, sweat and grime but you’re not cleaning your body the way nature intended.  We, as animals, produce and secrete our own natural oil as natural barrier and protection for our skin.  We are programed to defend ourselves against bacteria, dirt, sweat, grime and anything else we can try to find to roll around in.

By stripping our own natural oils we’re no longer protecting ourselves.  Conversely, we’re making ourselves more susceptible and vulnerable to infection and disease.  In fact, we’re more likely increasing our chances of catching ring worm, athlete’s foot, or some other god forsaken bacteria that will keep us off the mats and away from the gym.  This is also why you should never shower BEFORE going to the dojo.

That’s where Gi Soap steps in.  The oil’s they use in their body wash and soap bars protects us, naturally, in conjunction with our body’s own oil secretion.  Tea Tree Oil, for example, has been shown to treat and cure athlete’s foot, has the ability to cure fungus infections of the nails, and helps clear up mild and moderate acne.  Regular body wash doesn’t do that.  And that’s only one of their ingredients!’

"Real products tested on real fighters!!! Ringworm gone in a few days with our bars of soap just by washing the area few times a day and then letting it air dry!!"

“Real products tested on real fighters!!! Ringworm gone in a few days with our bars of soap just by washing the area few times a day and then letting it air dry!!”

 

Packaging:

It’s not the prettiest bottle of body wash but who cares?  It has the Gi Soap logo, the list of ingredients and a cap.  What else do you really need?

Smell / Feel:

It doesn’t smell musky, or male, or like a man without his shirt on riding backwards on a horse on the beach.  It smells natural.  It smells like a peppermint plant.  Not the peppermint candy that you get from grandma’s candy bowl in the secretary’s office, but the real plant.

Its texture is an oil base.  I feel very Roman when I shower with it.  Like I’m pouring perfumed oil over my head.  It’s a little different from what you might be used to because it doesn’t lather excessively.  Rather, it coats the skin.  You may have to use a little bit more than your normal body wash to coat your entire body.

Post Wash:

After washing with Gi Soap you’ll feel a little bit oilier than what you may be used to.  I know I did.  However, it’s not a greasy feeling.  It’s a smoothing feel.  Almost like you’ve treated your body to a massage and it has that post-oil feel.  It’s nice.  After using it for a week I can definitely tell my skin is healthier and happier.

Pros:

At the end of the day my skin doesn’t feel dry.  I don’t feel the need to put lotion on because of cheap soap.  I’ve noticed my skin has a healthier appearance and feel.  It kills bacteria.  It works WITH your body, naturally.  You’re supporting a small business, for a community you love.

Cons:

It’s a little bit expensive.  You have to use more than expected so it doesn’t last as long as your normal bottle of soap.  Your wife or girlfriend will steal it because IT’S THAT GOOD!

Conclusion:

Gi soap works with your body, not against it.  You’ll feel healthier.  Your skin will look better after a week.  It’s a great preventative measure to make sure you don’t get any kind of skin infection to begin with.

Is Gi Soap worth the cost?  Yes!  Absolutely.  After doing a little bit of research and finding out more about the soaps that I’ve been using and what they’re doing to my body, I almost have no choice.  Once you see the sin you’re committing, you have to confess and you have to mitigate it.  I’m no longer using lotion, either, which helps to offset the cost of Gi Soap as well.

After learning what Gi Soap is doing for my body and the positive results that I’ve personally seen, I don’t think I can ever stop using it.

4/5 stars.  Go pick up a bottle (or bar) and try it out.  It’s worth it and you won’t regret it.

See you on the mats!

Roll.Adapt.Win  recently put out a picture that spoke to the heart of the White Belt.  But, it also spoke to the heart of all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players.  Several folks did their own take on it.  So in honor of Roll.Adapt.Win’s great influence (and in homage to the point they made), I’m offering up 10 Things Every White Belt Should Know!

We all start training for different reasons, but many of us show up to class because in the back of our minds we all want to be able to take down the UFC superstars.  Yeah, sure, you say you just want to learn to be able to defend yourself in a street fight.  I say BULL$%!*!  You want to try and tap out Dos Santos!  This leads us to:

# 10:  The highest percentage of submission finishes in the UFC are fundamental, white-to-blue curriculum, techniques.  In 2009, the most successful submission in the UFC was the Guillotine, followed by the Rear Naked Choke.  My point?  Don’t worry about trying to learn that cool thing you saw one of Eddie Bravo’s Black Belt’s doing on YouTube.  LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS!

Okay, so let’s say you didn’t join the dojo to beat up on UFC fighters.  Maybe you don’t care that you can tap out Chael Sonnen.  Maybe you just want to get fit?  Maybe build a little muscle and cut a little fat?  Well, that’s great, but don’t stop hitting the gym because you found this great, new anaerobic exercise!

#9.  When all things are equal, strength and agility will be the deciding factor.  Look, there’s a reason fighters cut 20 lbs before a match.  It’s so they can be bigger, stronger, and faster than their opponent.  If you take two BJJ practitioners, both of whom have been training for 2 days a week, for 2 years, under the same instructor with the same sparring partners, the stronger, faster one is going to get the tap 8 times out of 10.

But you can’t just work out and do BJJ and expect to be the best.  You have to eat right, too.

#8.  You are a machine.  You need fuel and lube to function properly.  EAT RIGHT AND TAKE SUPPLEMENTS!  Don’t wait till you’re 50 to start popping fish oil pills.  Do it now.  Food is your fuel.  Don’t eat for now, eat for tomorrow.  What’s going to supply the power and energy your body needs for later?  I know that greasy cheeseburger looks great, but the grilled chicken salad is going to help build muscle and promote good digestion.

I had a football coach who told me I talked too much in the locker room.  I didn’t know what that meant until 10 years later and I was in a dojo listening to white belts talk too much in the locker room.  If you wear a white belt, you talk too much.  You’re talking too much online.  You’re talking too much in the locker room.  If you’re reading this quietly to yourself, not even out load but in your brain, you’re talking too much.  I still talk too much.

#7.  Shut up.  Listen.  Observe.  Use your eyeballs and mimic that awesome purple belt you admire.  Watch the black belts.  You’ll see even the friendly, outgoing ones don’t talk that much about BJJ off the mats.  You’re not an expert.  Be a student.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is great.  It’s a complete, all around martial art.  I’ll be the first to admit that there’s not a single martial art that’s better than BJJ.  However, like supplementing your BJJ with strength and conditioning workouts, you should consider supplementing your training with another martial art as well.  Many BJJ black belts are also black belts in Judo, Aikido, or some other form of martial art.

#6.  If your BJJ dojo offers more than one martial art, sign up for it!  Expand your horizon and become a multi-martial arts practitioner.  Taking Judo 1 day a week will significantly increase your BJJ in the long run.  This includes arts like Yoga and Tae Chi.  I practice yoga every now and again with my wife and just the small increases in flexibility and balance have done wonders for my game.

So let’s say you took up yoga.  Great!  But being on the mats isn’t the time to work on your Zen either.  Be aggressive in what you want to do.

#5.  ATTACK!  Now, I’m not saying flail around like a suffocating fish on the sea pier.  Don’t be wild.  But, force your game onto your opponent.  Don’t sit in someone’s guard and let them dictate where the match is headed.  And don’t lay on your back and watch them pass your guard, either.

Have a game plan.  If you’re still new, and haven’t even started developing a game plan, have a move.  Have 1 move for each position (that’s 8 moves, give or take) and repeat each move.  He’s in your guard?  Keep trying that same sweep until you learn another.  If it fails and he passes?  Oh well!  Try that side mount escape.  Did it fail?  Good.

#4.  Fail often.  Fail again.  Ask any world champion what they learned after they won a fight and they won’t have a good answer.  Sure, they had some questions answered.  But what did they learn?  Ask any world champion what they learned after they lost a fight, and they’ll tell you a lot.  What they learned about themselves, about what did or didn’t really work, how to revamp their training, etc., etc.  The list is endless.  We learn more in failure than success.

You know what the other great thing about failing at a technique is?  You learn what works best for you.  Repetition and drills are great, they build mechanics, but failure builds technique.

#3.  Learn the variation that works for you.  Eddie Bravo’s rubber guard isn’t for everybody, but it’s for somebody.  And the person that can execute it successfully can give people a good run for their money.  So maybe the standard straight arm-lock isn’t hitting for you, but maybe the reversal is.  Learn to set up the reverse from failing the standard variation.

You have to know the moves, though.  You can’t do anything if you don’t have the knowledge.  Spend 20 minutes a day, even day’s you’re not training, studying.

#2.  Hit the books.  Watch YouTube.  Subscribe to Gracie University.  Buy Gracie Barra fundamentals on DVD.  Get your subscription to Jiu-Jitsu Magazine.  Buy one of Kid Peligro’s books.  Look, keeping it fresh in your mind and studying the material will make you a better grappler by 5%.  It’s a fact, trust me.  Especially if you grab another white belt and say, “Hey, I just saw this cool technique, can we walk through it a few times?”

All of this being said, you’re still going to lose.  However, there’s good news!

#1.  …Drum roll…  There is no losing.  Ah, see how I got all Buddhist monk right there!  You’re going to lose but there is no losing!  Okay, seriously though, you’re sparring.  You’re rolling around on the ground with your friends, trying to perform a specific technique.  This isn’t a MMA fight.  This isn’t a street match.  There’s the old adage, tap early and tap often.  That comes into play here.  Knowing when you’re in a bad spot is important, and attempting to get out of it is important, but not at the cost of your ACL or tearing a shoulder.

Hopefully, I helped out at least one white belt.  Now shut up and roll!

Let’s face it, there are multiple belt systems being used today in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  We’ve got people running around with light blue, dark blue, blue belts with no bands, blue belts with red bands, white belts with blue stripes, and that’s just the blue belts!.  We look crazy!  And yes, I mean WE.  WE are a brotherhood.  It doesn’t matter if you practice the self-defense aspect of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or the sportsman game of competition style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  WE are not Eddie Bravo or Rorion Gracie so WE need to unite under a system that is simple, easy to understand and still maintains our traditions.

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) tried to standardize the belt ranking system some time ago.  A lot of schools use it but most kept what they already had in place.  Why?  I personally believe that it’s tied to money.  The IBJJF want’s you to pay them a yearly due.  To get promoted your school has to pay a yearly due to the IBJJF in order to be recognized by their promotion body.  So, if you don’t have the money to pay and your school does not desire to pay, then the IBJJF belt system of validation becomes irrelevant.  And why should you have to pay?  Isn’t your school already paying affiliation fees to be recognized by their promoting body?  I’m a personal believer in keeping the integrity at home.  Let my instructor and professor judge me and my skill level and promote me accordingly.  I’m not knocking the IBJJF, I’m just not sure we should have to pay them to be recognized or use their system.

I’m not asking anyone to pay to adopt this system.  If your affiliation says that you’re a purple belt, that’s good enough for me.  It’s not my place, or the IBJJF’s for that matter, to issue you rank.  What I’m asking is that we unite under a belt system that we can all understand and use.  If your Professor says that you’re a purple or brown belt, that’s fine by mean.  Just don’t be the fool that wears a purple belt with a red band that’s 10 inches long.  I did not spend any time working on the kids belt system.  I think that Jiu-Jitsu is a valid sport for children, and the children’s belt system needs to be addressed, I just haven’t devoted the time to doing it… yet.

In developing this system, I relied heavily on the Gracie family and history; I think you have too.  Even if you don’t agree with the origins of Jiu-Jitsu, you have to admit that the Gracie family did play a major influence in what is today’s concept and application of Jiu-Jitsu.  You can read about Helio Gracie’s belt system as recounted by Relson Gracie and the difference in the Gracie blue belts from the Valente family to learn more about the history involved.

My Vision for what the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranking System Should Look Like. Click the Image to Open a PDF Version with More Details.

There are five tier levels to the belt system.  The Practitioner, the Instructor, the Professor, the Master and the Grand Master.

The Practitioner:  The Practitioner is your everyday, run of the mill, Jiu-Jitsu student.  He comes to class, he participates and learns, and progresses accordingly based on his skill level.  As he furthers along, he helps his fellow student’s learn.  There are five different belts that the Practitioner can earn:  white, light blue, purple, brown and black.  The white belt does not have the 10 cm black band.  Blue, purple and brown will have 10 cm black bands.  The black belt does not wear the 10 cm red band until after two years.  The highest rank attainable by the Practitioner is 6th degree black belt.  An example of the black belt Practitioner could be the driven competitor who does not own an academy, or a professional MMA fighter.

White Belt with Proper Spacing in Between Degrees

The White Belt:  The white belt is the first belt worn by all students who begin their journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  The white belt does not have the 10 cm black band.  The white belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to the light blue belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch black stripe, with .5 inch spacing in between each degree, with the first degree starting one inch from the tip of the white belt.  The minimum requirement for promotion to blue belt is one year as a white belt and be at least 16 years old.

The Blue Belt:  The light blue belt is the second lowest rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  It indicates a strong understanding of the fundamentals and a basic understanding of some more advanced techniques.  A blue belt should have the ability to properly defend oneself.  The light blue belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The blue belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to purple belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to purple belt is two years as a blue belt and be at least 16 years old.

The Purple Belt:  The purple belt is an intermediate belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamentals, a solid advanced technical understanding and a developed idea of strategy and tactics (i.e. two moves ahead).  The purple belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The purple belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to brown belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to brown belt is two years as a purple belt and at least 18 years old.

The Brown Belt:  The brown belt is an advanced intermediate belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamentals and advanced techniques.  A personally developed strategy and tactical base have been formed.  The brown belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The brown belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to black belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to black belt is one year as a brown belt and at least 18 years old.

The Black Belt:  The black belt is an advanced belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamental and advanced techniques.  Technical savvy and strategy are the norm.  The black belt does not initially have the 10 cm red band.  The black belt student will earn three intermediate degrees prior to promotion to the black belt with red bar.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with a .5 inch spacing in between each intermediate degree, with the first intermediate degree starting one inch from the tip of the black belt.  After one year the red bar will be added and the black belt student may earn up to six degrees.  Each degree will be .5 inch white stripe with .25 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .25 inch from the tip of the outside edge of the red band with each degree placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to 1st degree is two years as a black belt.  Requirements for subsequent degrees is 3 years up to 3rd degree black belt.  Requirements for subsequent degrees is 5 years up to 6th degree black belt.  The 6th degree black belt is the highest attainable rank for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

Gracie Academy Blue Belt Instructor with 1st Degree

The Instructor:  The Instructor is a student who does more than show up for training.  These are the practitioners who have a true passion for the sport, are engaging, outspoken, and have a really strong understanding of the fundamental techniques and can clearly, concisely explain and demonstrate them to fellow students.  The minimum requirements for an Instructor are:  1.)  Be at least a blue belt;  2.)  Be at least 18 years of age;  3.)  Successful completion of an Instructors course in the students respective affiliation;  4.)  Current certification in first aid and CPR;  and finally, 5.)  Direct supervision and tutelage under a Professor or higher.  Note:  The Professor need not physically be on site.  For example, an Instructor could have his own affiliate academy under his Professor’s academy in a different city.  What’s important is that the Professor and Instructor have open dialogue to assist the Instructor in conducting training in accordance with their affiliations guidelines.

The Instructor will follow a slightly different belt system.  If beginning their instruction at the blue belt level the Instructor will be awarded a navy blue belt, darker in color than the standard light blue belt to be worn by Practitioners.  After blue, the colors will match those of the Practitioners until the black belt.  If promoted to black belt as an Instructor they will be award the black belt with the red bar.  The Instructor will wear two additional .5 inch white stripes on the outer edges of the 10 cm band to distinguish themselves from Practitioners.  Time in rank and age requirements remain the same for promotion.  If at anytime an Instructor fails to meet any of the listed requirements the Instructor status shall be removed and the Instructor will revert back to Practitioner status.  As with the Practitioner, the highest rank that may be achieved by an Instructor is the 6th degree black belt.

The Professor:  The Professor is an experienced Instructor and Practitioner.  The minimum requirements are:  1.)  Be at least a black belt for two years;  2.)  Be at least 21 years of age;  3.)  Successful completion of an Instructors course in their respective affiliation;  4.)  Successful completion of a Professors course in their respective affiliation;  5.)  Current certification in first aid and CPR;  and finally, 6.)  Direct supervision and tutelage under a Master or higher.  If at any time a Professor fails to meet any of the listed requirements the Professor status shall be removed and the Professor will revert back to Practitioner status.  The highest rank that may be achieved by a Professor is the 9th degree Grand Master.

The Master:  The Master is a Professor who has met the time in rank requirements for promotion.  A 6th degree black belt Professor is eligible for promotion to 7th degree red and black belt after 7 years as a 6th degree black belt.  A 7th degree red and black belt Master is eligible for promotion to 8th degree red and black belt after 7 years as a 7th degree red and black belt.

The Grand Master:  The Grand Master is a Master who has met the time in rank requirements for promotion.  An 8th degree red and black belt Master is eligible for promotion to 9th degree red belt after 10 years as a 8th degree red and black belt Master.  The 10th degree red belt Grand Master is reserved for the originators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and will not be awarded as a form or respect, honor and appreciation for their contribution the gentle art.

In conclusion, I realize I might be rocking the boat here.  Who am I to tell any one to fix their belt system?  I’m no one, really.  However we have to be honest with ourselves.  People are calling for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to become an Olympic sport, but we can’t come to terms with how we want to identify players in the sport.  This is a simple fix that, if WE as a brotherhood can set aside the personal and political feelings between affiliations, can make happen.  Leave your responses and let me know what you guys think!

I was fortunate enough to attend a mini-seminar at the Academy for MMA and BJJ in Pensacola, Florida with Professor Murilo Rupp. You can catch my video interview with him on my YouTube page. We talked about everything to include why he started training, who inspires him, training UFC star Thiago Tavares  in MMA, his Floripa BJJ Camp, competing, and even using YouTube as a training tool.

His Floripa BJJ Camp sounds pretty bad-ass, too.  Check it out at here.

Enjoy!

Also, for your viewing pleasure, is a pretty slick Lapel Cross Choke from the Guard.

It’s mid-January and you’ve made the resolution (which I’m sure you’ve forgotten about) to start playing Jiu-Jitsu, get that next belt, or even enter your first competition.  What better way to keep that going than buying a new gi!  Get that awesome competition gi you want, replace that old, stinky one that smells no matter how much soap and bleach you use or simply be the coolest kid on the mats!  Or just have something new to get choked out in…

5.  CTRLindustries

CTRL INDUSTRIES is the quiet but bold brand on the block.  They don’t try to overstate their products with designs of skulls and dragons, which I like.  Instead they look to pay homage to the places where the sport originated and took root.  Brazil is heavily themed.  The Rook is their gi for kicking off 2012 and looks pretty impressive.  I’m looking forward to 2012 and seeing where they take it CTRL in the next 12 months.

4.  The COMPETIDOR brand – Just Another Dope Brand

I found out about Competidor brand late last year and was super pumped about their designs.  They’re a Guam based brand that incorporates a kind of Asian-Fusion style of design into their gi’s and t-shirts.  The Guardian:  Charcoal Haze gi is pretty sic and definitely worth examining a little bit closer.  Guam has always taken great pride in their fighting and it’s nice to see that they’re taking great pride in their gi’s.  I’m looking forward to seeing their growth and expansion in the coming year.  I also love their love for the sport:  Rear-naked chokes served with a smile!  Check ’em out!

3.  Zombie Kimonos ~ Spread the Infection

Zombie Kimonos is really connecting with Hollywood and the current dig with the undead.  Zombieland, the Walking Dead, even the rash of zombie inspired books that have hit the market.  Why not do an undead theme?  Zombie Kimono’s was bought out last year and is under new management and is promising some new products over the next year.  We’ll see where Jesus Carlos takes them this year and watch their expansion into the market.  I’m looking forward to seeing their newest gi coming this year.  BRRAAIINNNNSSSS…..  er.. I mean..  OOOSSSSSZZZZZ……

2.  Scramble ~ No Jiu-Jitsu: No Life

I like Scramble.  They’re a UK brand that’s inspired by Japanese art.  It’s different.  It’s clean.  It’s straight-forward.  It’s fun!  They embrace the colors of yellow and purple and try to not take themselves too seriously.  It’s almost like they take the idea of a traditional Aikido kimono and incorporate that familia-style mindset into a modern Japanese tattooing style of art.  They also embrace new ideas.  Half-sleeved rash guards, for example.  Late last year we saw the release of the Ichiban.  What’s next?  I don’t know.  But I can’t wait!

1.  oriGIn:  In Search of the Perfect Roll

I really, really like Origin’s designs.  The small explosion of color in the right places makes all the difference.  Little pops of teal, or orange, or green against simple white or black make all the difference.  Reinforcement stitching but with design is going to be their money-maker.  That and Pete Roberts graphic-designer eye.  I would describe his style as calm, circles, and flow.  He get’s it.  He get’s Jiu-Jitsu.  You can’t push or pull – you have to circle out.  Bulldozing doesn’t work.  Roll baby, roll.  I also really dig the fact that they’ve produced kids gi’s.  Turns out my kid’s like to roll, too.

There’s an old quote that says, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”  I say bring it on!  2011 was a great year for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and we’re counting down the top 10 events that helped shape the year!

10.  BJJHQ – Offering you one great deal a day, BJJHQ is probably one of the hottest deals going for Jiu-Jitsu gear.  However, their significance isn’t their gimmick – it’s their representation of the market that’s important.  We’re talking about a website whose sole purpose is to make money selling Jiu-Jitsu related products.  Not a website who is selling you techniques or is a representation of a specific breed of Jiu-Jitsu, but a third-party sales company who is making money by simply selling merchandise.  If a company can make money only selling Jiu-Jitsu gear then it’s definitely a major mile-stone for our sport and is a great sign of things to come!

9.  Jiu-Jitsu Delivered to Your Door – Jiu-Jitsu Magazine, a publication coming out of California, is making its mark in the states.  Due to the development and recent acceptance of the iPad, NOOK, Kindle and other e-readers the magazine and newspaper markets have taken a hit.  Again, it says a lot about where our sport is for a publication to make it in today’s economy.  Grab a subscription to this and expand your game!

8.  The UFC in Brazil – In 1993 the Gracie’s created the UFC in an effort to show the world that they had created the best defensive combat system in the world.  In 2011 the UFC went to the Gracie’s home country for the first time in history!  MMA is probably going to be the first truly international sport because people all over the world love to watch other people from all over the world getting their arms broken.  And the UFC is going to deliver!

7.  Earn Your Degree Online with Gracie University – The Gracie family has done marvels with growing the sport and the science of Jiu-Jitsu online.  Love them or hate them, odds are, you’re watching their videos.  They’ve also inspired others to create their own online training programs.  The difference between the Gracie’s and everybody else is that they are willing to promote you based on video evaluation.  Not only can you put on your Blue Belt at home, you can add a stripe to it!

6.  The Honey Badger Don’t Care – Fellow blogger, jitz roller, and artist Meerkatsu may have had his biggest break out in 2011 with the introduction of his Honey Badger rash guard.  It’s taken off like wildfire (so much so that I can’t even get my hands on one to review, hint hint…).  It’s turned into the “hot” item for BJJ all across the internet and developed itself into a brand, Honey Badger Fightwear.  He did it right, too, by pushing through a noted and professional company like Tatami.  I expect to see Honey Badgers on gi’s in the near future.  Personally, I think an Octopus could take a Honey Badger any day…

5.  Attack of the App – With the invention of the Android, iPhone, iPad and every other mobile device there has come more apps than one can count.  Thrown in that mix are some pretty impressive Jiu-Jitsu apps.  I’m a big fan of the Mobile Black Belt series by Gracie Barra Black Belt “Bill” Aparecido Faria.  Quick, easy techniques to watch if you’ve got 5 minutes to kill.  Another favorite is access to my Gracie University account via their mobile site.  You can make fun of those who learn watching YouTube, or you can add those tools to your toolbox.  Me?  I have more than one Black Belt in my pocket.

4.  The Match that Never Happened – Supposedly going to be the Superfight of the Decade, the Eddie Bravo vs. Royler Gracie rematch caused more stirs, murmurs and rumors than a hooker in the White House.  Set for ADCC 2011, the always cost conscious Gracie managed to put this one to bed by refusing to roll for riches.  Cash up front had to be provided or the event was to never happen.  And it didn’t.  Bloody Elbow does a good break down of events here.

3.  Grandmaster Dr. Pedro Valente Sr. – Anytime you get a new Red Belt thrown in the mix, especially in Jiu-Jitsu where it’s incredibly hard to get promoted anyway, it’s worth pointing out.  It took Pedro Sr. 58 years to put Red around his waist.  That’s a lot of time shrimping on the mats.

2.  Doing the Twist in the UFC – The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung hit the first Twister in UFC history!  That’s sick!  There are a lot of haters of Jiu-Jitsu in the MMA market but every time Chael Sonnen gets tapped out or somebody does something like the Twister on national and international television it blows the doors off of BJJ schools everywhere!  This technique was so smooth and so sick that it got breakdowns from Eddie Bravo and the Gracie brothers.

And the winner is…

1.  André Galvão Wins… Again! – Black Belt Galvão won his weight class and the absolute at the ADCC 2011.  That’s pretty impressive.  If you didn’t know who André Galvão was from his many other championship wins, you better take note and figure it out now.  Anyone who can defeat Pablo Popovitch and Rousimar Palhares on the big stage is worth watching down the road. The ADCC rematch between Eddie and Royler didn’t play out, but Galvao gave us plenty to watch and be thankful for.