Inverted Gear Blog / Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Becoming OSS (Open Source Software)?

Have you heard about open source software? Its core promise is that its source code is freely available to anyone to use or modify. Let’s think about Brazilian jiu-jitsu as software. As I write this article, there is an amazing wealth of information at my finger tips. I can go on Google and chances are I can find an instructional for any sub, sweep or pass I can think off. This was not always the case! Before Youtube soared to popularity and the advent of paid membership BJJ websites, our access to this kind of information was very limited. For the early American pioneers of BJJ, the only access they had was going to Torrance, CA and learning from the Gracies. Can you imagine being an East Coast white belt during those days?

Access to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu knowledge is amazing now. There are academies everywhere, great books on the subject, a plethora of monthly magazines, and more technique videos that you can possibly watch in one sitting. Whatever you are on the market for is covered. Self defense? Check. Basic closed guard? Check. Escaping side control? You got it.  It's very possible for a group of guys without access to an instructor to get together to train and learn jiu-jitsu. Is this optimal? Of course not, since it will take much longer for them to improve and get to a blue belt level than if they had formal training at an academy, but it’s possible and that is amazing.

Now, the most interesting part to me is the second part of the open source promise: the ability to change the source code. Whenever innovation happens in jiu-jitsu, that is precisely what’s happening -- we are changing the source code.

As jiu-jitsu progresses more and more, its source code is altered. We change how we do things, even basic things like where we put our hands during back control.  The over-under seat belt control was not always the norm. For a long time, double unders was used as it gave better control because you could grab both lapels. Marcelo popularized the seatbelt during his early ADCC runs. Something we now take for granted was once considered revolutionary. Looking back at the history of BJJ, you can find many examples of this, such as the darce/brabo choke, half guard, open guard, and even the basic triangle choke.

No-gi becoming popular has changed things as well. Eddie Bravo has his own grappling software, and guys like Reilly Bodycomb, Ryan Hall, and Garry Tonon have changed the way we look at leglocks.  In the gi, things like the berimbolo are a staple of competition jiu-jitsu, whereas five years ago very few people knew what it was.

I remember training and competing 8 years ago when x-guard and deep half guard were the new things. Before Marcelo popularized it, many people have never seen this position before. Fast forward to 2015, I can pull up any of the thousands of videos on Youtube and get a pretty good idea what I need to do.  If I want to go a step further, I can sign up for and learn from the man himself.

Most new students take this for granted. I remember seeing Wilson Reis pulling off some trickery from deep half guard in a local Grappers Quest back in the day. I was fascinated and wanted to learn it. I asked my instructor with no luck. I asked my friend that trained at different academy, but no luck.  There were no instructionals available on it at the time. So I went to Youtube in all of its grainy low def glory and watched all the matches I could find of Wilson Reis, Jeff Glover, and anyone else that played half guard.  It took a while, but with the help of my instructors and training partners, I got a pretty good idea and started to hit sweeps from there. I look at old matches now and I see I made a bunch of mistakes that I have cleaned up since then. But that’s how it used to be!  Now you can ask most blue belts and purple belts and they have a pretty good idea how to get into deep half guard and sweep a few different ways.

The forward progress of jiu-jitsu is incredible in the digital age. We're past the days of making fun of "Youtube jiu-jitsu." You can watch a live stream of the top competitors in the world competing, and see a breakdown of their gameplans by the end of the same day. The explosion of high quality online instruction and the open exchange of techniques puts the source code of BJJ at your finger tips. You just need to get on the mats and use it!

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How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Changed My Life

Nelson competing as a white belt

It has been eight years since the time I took my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Deciding to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and sticking to it, has been one of the most fascinating and life-changing experiences of my life. My life would be radically different now if I never tied that white belt around my waist. Not only would I be lacking super sweet ninja moves, and not only would my circle of friends and career path be different, but I would never have met my wife. Eight years later I cannot imagine what my life would look like if I didn’t train.

I wasn’t much into sports growing up. I grew up in Chile and during my childhood the only sport that seemed available was soccer. I didn’t have much interest in soccer - my sister being picked before me during our neighborhood games may of have something to do with this.  My family moved to the United States in 2001, opening a world of possibilities. During high school I was part of the football, wrestling and track teams.  Once I graduated high school and decided not to pursue college wrestling, something was missing. I tried rugby, got into Olympic lifting, but nothing filled the gap that wrestling left. One day surfing the net I stumbled on footage of ADCC 2007, which had taken place in Trenton, New Jersey, about an hour from where I lived at the time. I was fascinated. I showed my friend Dave, one of my old wrestling teammates, and started talking about maybe trying that grappling thing out.

A few weeks went by and one Friday night I get a call from Dave at 1 AM.  He was getting out of work, and someone at work told him about a grappling tournament in NJ in about a month.  He gave me the website and the next day we signed up for Grapplers Quest. This was before ever taking a BJJ class.  After visiting a few schools we started training with Dave Ellis who taught BJJ out of the Cranford Judo club. We would train BJJ in the morning then supplement with a few judo classes at night.   After about 4 weeks of training we competed.  Dave won his division and I took third.

After that first tournament I was hooked. Other than injury lay offs I have trained just about every day, sometimes twice a day, for the last eight years. I am truly thankful for what BJJ has given me, and I am looking forward to more training, tournaments, camps and meeting more amazing people through the sport.

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What I learned my first year as a Black Belt.

It's been a year since I was promoted to Black Belt by Fabio Clemente and Kevin Sheridan. As cliche as it sounds I’ve learn more in the last year than I did in years prior to the big promotion. I moved to the North Philadelphia area shortly after being promoted, and for the first time since I was purple belt, I got to be a student again. Big thank you to Jared Weiner, Emily Kwok, Phil Migliarese,Jason Frawley and Alex Britto for letting me and my wife Hillary to train at your schools. We really appreciate it.

Here are the biggest things that I’ve learned over the last year. I think a lot of the applied to many BJJ players so wanted to share.

My takedowns needed work, a lot of work; I am a brown belt in Judo and wrestled in high school. I think I have a better understanding of takedowns than most pure BJJ players. However, I very rarely worked on them. When I started training at BJJ United, Jared starts every round from the feet, most guys there very rarely pull guard. First few weeks there were rough! I was out gripped, timing on my shots were off, my sprawl needed work. And my cardio felt awful. A year later I feel much better, timing is back, and I’ve been developing few things that I can consistently both gi and nogi.

My game had become very grip dependent. When I started getting ready for nogi pans, I started working one more of a sit up guard and x guard game, which was rusty, I had been working lots of De La Riva and Spider guard. Biggest hurdle was passing. It took a lot of drilling to feel comfortable passing again, I had spend about two years, my whole tenure as a Brown belt, working on leg drags and x passes. I now have more of a folding/smash pass passing style, still incorporating the x passes and leg drags.

I didn't realize how much work my leg lock game needed. I think this is the area that I experienced the most growth over the last year. IBJJF wise I added Estima locks to my game, which not only added an awesome submission to my game, but made my passing better. Non IBJJF wise I was able to train with Reilly Bodycomb. First at a seminar at 50/50 bjj, where I spent the weekend getting heel hooked by Reilly, Ryan and Seph. This was a huge eye opener, I had a basic understanding of heel hooks, I even won a few NAGA matches by heel hook. But this guys were miles away! Reilly has a great approach, I highly recommend it if you can ever make one of his seminars or training camps. You can check out his stuff at

Hope this is some help to someone. And helps people realize that while getting your black belt may be your goal, is by no means the end of your journey.

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How much training does it take to be a champion?


People in BJJ often find themselves asking how much the best spend training each day.  The answer is obviously very different for different people, but the quick and easy answer is usually a lot.  Most of the best (world champions and highly respected competitors) spend in the range of 3-6 hours per day 5-7 days per week in order to reach that high level.  I’d like to run through some examples, and talk about what this type of training usually consists of.

I recently read an article on Gianni Grippo’s website where he talks about drilling and why he feels it is such an integral part of anyone’s training.  In the article Gianni states that he trains 2 classes per day at Marcelo Garcia’s gym in NY and also drills before and after the first class, and before the second class.  

Keenan Cornelius has stated in interviews that when he was going for the grandslam at purple belt he had heard rumors that the Miyao Brothers trained 4-6 hours per day, he said in the same video that he knew that this meant that he had to train more and harder than 6 hours per day.  Since this video, he has relocated to Atos from LLyod Irvin, and his schedule has changed slightly but he still hits 1 morning session, a strength and conditioning session, and a long evening session of training.

As I stated previously the Miyao Brothers have been reported to train up to 6 hours per day.  I have heard stories of them staying at their gym in Sao Paolo, sleeping and eating there, and also spending the entire day drilling and training.  In a recent video they also confirmed that since training with the Mendes brothers that they realized the importance of strength and conditioning and have made that a regular part of their routine as well.

At alliance headquarters in Atlanta we have seen both Cobrinha and Lucas Lepri as head instructors.  They each taught multiple classes per day (and also joined in sparring), and regularly scheduled drilling and strength and conditioning sessions as well.

Caio Terra recently had an excellent interview where he talked about his training, coming up through the belts, and his rapid rise from blue belt to black belt.  In the video he discusses leaving his gym and setting up mats at his house where many of his friends (high level competitors and black belts), would often come to train with him.  He describes training in the evening, going to bed, only to be awoken by someone knocking at the door at 2-3am looking to do more training.

We can see by these examples that if you truly want to be the best, or compete at a very high level that most of the sports brightest stars are training hard, training multiple times per day, mixing specific training, drilling, and sparring.  I am sure there are a few exceptions to the rule,  being that a select few may only train one time per day, but these are by far the exception and not the rule.  Most of the top competitors also add additional workouts of strength training and or cardio vascular work.

The take away is this. If you aren’t achieving the results you would like to achieve ask yourself how far you want to go, how much success you want, and how much work are you willing to put in?  The best have gotten where they are by working harder than anyone else, by refusing to accept defeat, by working while everyone else is asleep or at the movies.  The days of training once per day and becoming a world champion in BJJ are coming to an end.  The sport is growing rapidly and becoming more refined and scientific at an exponential rate.  If you want the results then you have to be willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work that other champions do.
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Embrace the spirit of learning.


Have you ever picked up a book or watched a documentary and became fascinated with a subject (could be history, human relations, sports, or anything else), and this very same subject was one you studied in school or were previously exposed to, yet you had zero to little interest in the first time?  If this has ever happened to you, then you most likely experienced the spirit of learning, the passion of learning something that is relevant to you.

I think the big switch that occurs in these situations is two fold.  First, when you initially came in contact with the subject you decided for some reason or another, that this subject or information was not relevant to you.  Rather, you decided that because of your current beliefs, priorities, and paradigms that it had no “net benefit” to you as a person.  Because you didn’t feel that relevance, that urgency within you to learn this topic, you overlooked it, only to find later that this topic did have bearing on you and that it could benefit you.

It is important to always try to keep an open mind, a closed mind is often closed to a lot of new opportunities for growth and expansion.  Those people who welcome diversity and new experiences with a spirit of learning and passion will make huge gains in life compared to their close minded counterparts.


This can vary widely in application but the gist is this, when you get an opportunity to learn something new, realise it is an opportunity for growth.  We often form paradigms (like little lenses we look at the world through), these paradigms are made up of our past experiences, things we’ve been told, and the values we believe in.  It is important to know that your judgement on the value of something does not determine its value.  Where you see trash many others may find hidden treasure.  The problem with paradigms is that we subconsciously do everything in our power to make sure they stay true, often at the detriment of our own well being.

Example:  You have tried to play open guard, time after time, you got your guard passed.  It felt like nothing was there, no points of contact, you were reaching out for a ghost where a person should be, but nothing was there.  You start to justify to yourself in your mind why it doesn’t work (we don’t like to think that we are inadequate or rather that we just need more practice), so you say things like: my grips aren't strong enough, i'm not fast enough, i'm not flexible enough.  Suddenly you begin to form a paradigm that influences all the new information you receive.  You believe that open guard isn’t for you, that you have inherent limitations that prevent you using it effectively.  Suddenly when someone shows you open guard techniques you write them off, they have no “value”, they have no value to your current paradigm of life.  You never learn open guard, and as a result you are reliant only on half guard and closed guard, your game suffers greatly in the long run and you never learn to control a disengaged opponent, because of this when someone escapes your half guard, or opens your closed guard you get passed easily.

An open mind, and embracing the spirit of learning can help prevent situations like this from occurring and ensure that your growth as an individual continues.  The next time you find yourself saying in your mind “this move doesn’t work” or “maybe if I had longer legs I could do this” ask yourself why you believe this.  Ask yourself if other people use the technique successfully.  Ask yourself what details you might be missing that could make it work for you.  Always do this, and you will begin to learn at a faster rate guaranteed.

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