Inverted Gear Blog / Nelson Puentes
A year ago, my friend Sean contacted me to tell me about a school club a few of his teammates from Main Line United were helping out with. The Workshop School is a project-based charter school that takes an innovative approach to teacher and learning. Sean and his teammates were pitching in to help by incorporating a jiu-jitsu program into the school’s offerings. When I saw that the students were using "jawn" -- a Philadelphia catch-all colloquialism -- for an ornament project, we had to get involved.
In case you don't know, "jawn" is an all-purpose pronoun that's unique to Eastern Pennsylvania, mainly Philadelphia, that can refer to any person, place, or thing, such as "pass me that jawn" or "see you down at the jawn." The kids at The Workshop School have adopted it as their logo and use it in fabrication projects.
After emailing back and forth for a few weeks, we visited the school. We got to meet the kids and talk them through the gi design process. They were great to work with, being part of a project-oriented school showed right away, and after some brainstorming we had a pretty good idea what they wanted their gi to look like.
One thing was clear, they wanted their bestselling item to appear on it somehow, so adding their signature JAWN somewhere on the gi was a given. After a few redesigns and samples, we arrived at what you see here.
Now this is the part where we need your help.
Not all the kids at the school can afford to buy a gi. Most of them are wearing hand-me-downs given to them from Main Line United members. We are trying to use the “buy one, give one” model to get them outfitted in fresh uniforms. Here’s how it works:
- You place a pre-order for a gi
- For every gi bought during the preorder we will give one gi to the kids from the workshop school
- Our goal on this project is to give 25 gis to the school
- Preorders will be open for a week, then we expect gis to arrive somewhere in mid-October.
- This is our first time doing something like this, but if we can do some good for these kids we would like to explore doing this more often
If you are interested in a new gi and would like to help these awesome kids train jiu-jitsu this is the gi for you.
These 6 submissions are what I believe every white belt needs to develop as the fundamental attacks. Each submission was picked because it develops skills and movements that later techniques are built on, and because despite their simplicity, they are still high percentage finishes at the highest levels of the sport.
Armbar from closed guard
You need move like you a boxer needs a right hook. This is one of the most fundamental submissions that should be in everyone’s arsenal because it allows you to dictate how your opponent behaves inside your guard. The moment he overextends, you can take his arm off.
Triangle from closed guard
Just like the armbar, the threat of the triangle lets you dictate how your opponent behaves inside your guard. Even if you don’t make it your favorite submission, you should develop a respectable triangle (for your level) so that you can make people fear it enough to help you set up other attacks.
Cross collar choke from mount
As with all of these submissions, our attack allows us to dictate how our opponent must react or be caught in an quick submission. Any time their hands move away from their face, you want to know you can slap on that second grip and get the tap.
Armbar from mount
With the hand in the collar for chokes, you are going to get a lot of people attempting to upa you. That’s where the armbar comes in. When they turn to bridge, they expose the arm. If they give up on the escape, you can switch back to the collar choke. This combo is the quintessential double attack.
Spinning armbar from side control
This move can be difficult for beginners to learn because it requires a movement that is unnatural at first, which is why you should start practicing it early. Once you get it down, it gives you that ability to attack the far side of your opponent and transition smoothly from side to side, giving them nowhere safe to hide.
Double lapel choke from back control
In my opinion, this is the most powerful submission in BJJ. This is one of the highest percentage chokes when you get the back, and it should be in everyone’s arsenal. Once you refine this finish, you are a major threat from the back.
While submissions should not be the primary focus of beginners, you need to start early on these so that you can be ready to implement them as the rest of your game develops. These 6 submissions were chosen because they are the simplest techniques that still work at the highest level. Threatening strong, simple attacks lets you dictate the terms of engagement with your opponent. When they slip up, you'll be ready to catch them.
A few months ago my friend Stephen Goyne was at a camp in Chicago we were teaching at. After one of our training sessions, he started showing us acroyoga poses, emphasizing three he recommended for post-training recovery. We lucked out because in addition to being a BJJ black belt, Stephan is also an experienced acroyoga instructor.
I had seen videos of acroyoga floating around the internet, and it always look interesting, but I never had the chance to try it. After some instruction from Stephen, we started doing acroyoga at the end of our training sessions. My hamstrings have never been more flexible, and it has helped Hillary's back and shoulder issues.
The main poses we worked on are here are folded leaf, high flying whale, and low flying whale. In this video, Stephen takes us through these poses after a training session at his gym Bay Jiu Jitsu in Berkeley, CA.
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC. Stoicism has just a few central teachings. It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be, how brief our moment of life is, how to be steadfast and strong, and most importantly, how to stay in control of yourself. Stoicism has been practiced by kings, presidents, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs. Recently, NFL teams have been added to their mental training.
So how do we apply these set of 2,000 year-old principles to the martial arts we know and love? I can think of many areas but I would like to start with the following?
I run into practitioners, both competitors and hobbyists, that worry and become incredibly stressed over things they have no control over, all the while neglecting things that they do have control over and could be benefiting from. I have seen everything from anxiety over what their bracket looks like to the point of stressing weeks before tournament-day and checking who signs up in their divisions multiple times a day. Then they start dreading fighting this or that competitor in their first match because he is Brazilian or is from a rival team or has a longer competition record.
Meanwhile, they neglect things they can control like a steady training schedule, picking the toughest guys in the room to roll with, not sitting out during sparring, and eating healthy. For the hobbyist, many times they complain about training partners, how a guy they started with is improving faster than them and will get promoted before them because he comes to class more often, effectively comparing themselves with a 19-year-old with no job while they are in their mid-thirties with a career and a family.
You do not need to immerse yourself in Greek philosophy to benefit from stoicism.
Can you identify what you are in control of in your training? Do you have a clear idea in your mind of what you want to work on every time you go into class? Are you taking ownership over your training? Do you drill mindlessly new technique shown in class and never attempt it during sparring?
Stop worrying about things outside of control and focus on what you can control. This simple principle can transform your training and make you a better grappler.
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a few major countries occupy the spotlight. Brazil, of course, tops the list, but the U.S. receives a lot of attention as well. Japan is often in the conversation for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the first two. And recently, we’ve started to see a little bit more love for Russia’s contributions to grappling, but that is still relatively small.
For the rest of the world? Well, they often become footnotes in the culture of BJJ. Designers and gym owners are quick to reference the major BJJ countries in artwork and in products, but the smaller scenes, where jiu-jitsu has just recently started to blossom and make a difference in the communities there, are overlooked.
That’s one of the big reasons we love traveling with BJJ Globetrotters. We get to visit these great jiu-jitsu communities and meet people that might never be on the cover of a magazine but are doing amazing things for their students and training partners and have incredible stories to tell.
Greenland is one of these places. The people who call Greenland home are hardy. The country is rugged with difficult winters and short-lived springs. With limited natural resources, even basic foods like beef need to be imported. And like many native groups, Greenland has its share of social problems and challenges that are made even more difficult by the sometimes harsh environment.
While I spent time with friends and great people I couldn't help but feel desolate. Roads ended at the city limits, and the only ways of reaching other towns was skimobile, boat, or plane. Alcoholism and suicide are huge issues there. We were warned that the government is trying to fight by incredibly high alcohol tax.
It’s not all bleak though. The local culture is rich, and the injection of BJJ has brought some new hope as well. After apologizing for his poor English, a gentlemen we promoted to blue belt on the last day of camp told us how he has been struggling with alcohol abuse since he was 12. And now in his 20s, BJJ is the only thing he has found that helps him stay sober.
The sum of these experiences laid the tinder for a new gi, and we needed a certain globetrotter to create the spark.
Once you have done the legwork of perfecting your cut and sizing, designing new gis is pretty straightforward. You pick the weave, pick the color, decide on stitching and accents, and choose what patches or embroidery go where. With a talented designer, you can do complete this process in a few days, and any subsequent changes are made after the factory produces a sample.
That’s how it works most of the time. The gi I am about to show you had a similar design process, but instead of it taking place inside an office or coffee shop, we were on a boat off the coast of Greenland on a whale-watching trip. I never thought I would ever be in Greenland, much less design a gi there. It all started with a message from my friend Christian Graugart.
He was arranging a trip to visit an old student that had started a BJJ school in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, and wanted to bring some black belt friends with him. A few brave souls volunteered, and after some serious flight searches, we ended up in Nuuk. I wrote a blog about our epic layover in Reykjavik here and the Greenland trip here.
If you haven’t heard about Christian, he literally wrote the book on BJJ travel and nowadays spends his time planning amazing BJJ camps all over the world. Hillary and I have been to 9 out of 27 of the camps, and are trying to hold on to our top 10 standing in the camp high score list.
Christian usually makes camp gis and suggested that we make a collaboration project. His biggest stipulation: We had to have an inverted polar bear.
Most of the design work was done aboard that boat while we waited on whale sightings. Weave was an easy choice. It’s usually pretty cold there, so a 550 GSM pearl weave felt right. Both of our gis usually have shoulder embroidery, so those were a given. We used the polar bear art done by Hillary instead of the usual panda and incorporated Christian’s BJJ Globetrotters logo. For the ribbon, we got Christian’s usual designer to etch the epic landscape was saw from the boat. For the final detail, we took inspiration from the colorful national outfit as a shoulder liner for the inside of the gi and added the Greenland flag.
This was a unique design experience. And as we prepare to launch it tomorrow (7/14/2017), we are excited to report that the fledgling gym we visited in Nuuk has doubled in size since last year. We are sending the guys from Nuuk some uniforms for their club and sharing with you the story behind the gi. There are thousands of powerful jiu-jitsu stories that have yet to be told, and in future gis with Christian, we hope to tell at least some of them.