Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jiu jitsu goal setting

One of my favorite things about the New Year is all the goal setting. Everyone is making resolutions of some sort, from the ubiquitous "lose 10 lbs" to "stop biting my nails" to "expand my banana label collection."

(Yes, it's an actual thing. Collectors even have their own convention!).    

I have always been an obsessive goal-setter and goal-chaser. So I embrace this time of year like goth kids do Halloween. I'm in my element.  And for about a month or so - until resolutions fade, gym memberships get cancelled, and folks go slack with their bananas - everyone else is in my element along with me.

That makes this a perfect time to set jiu jitsu goals, but whether or not you share these goals is up to you. Research has found that people are actually less likely to accomplish their goals when they share them with other people. This is surprising to me, because social support is important for just about everything. But it is theorized that when you share a goal with others, you experience a false sense of accomplishment. This temporary rise in self-esteem from talking about your goal makes you less likely to go out and do the work to make it happen. There is also the Debbie Downer factor. What is ambitious to you might sound crazy to others. Debbie Downers can talk you out of your goal, before you have begun to try.

That's one reason I'm not going to post my goals here, although if you know me well enough to ask me in person, I will probably tell you. The other reason is that my goals, from a scientific standpoint, are pretty lousy. See, as a speech pathologist, I'm a goal writing machine at work. I write IEP and Medicaid goals on an almost daily basis. I know that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). Vague goals like "train more" or "get better at half guard" are not very useful because they are not measurable. It's better to pick something specific and to give yourself a deadline."Win X tournament" is also not a good goal because it relies on an outcome, not performance. Your level of competition (and thus your potential for winning) is just not something you can control.

I find jiu jitsu goals to be very difficult to set, because performance and progress are hard to objectively measure. If you are training consistently and mindfully - with good coaches and training partners - I guarantee you that you are getting better. But so is everyone else, so that progress is hard to gauge or sometimes even notice.

Have you given any thought to what you want to accomplish on the mats this year? What are your resolutions? Feel free to ignore research and share them here!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why I prefer grappling to striking

I'll be honest. One of the things I like best about Brazilian jiu jitsu is that I don't get punched in the face. I wouldn't say that I always look pretty when I go to work in the morning (with gi burn, occasional cauliflower ear, mat hair, and oddly placed bruises), but for the most part, my face remains intact. I like that!

**To say that BJJ does not include striking is not quite true. BJJ is at its heart, a self-defense system. And if you train at a pure, Gracie jiu jitsu school, you will train self defense techniques, including striking defense. **

But as a whole, BJJ is a grappling art. That's why I love it. There are many reasons that I, personally, prefer grappling to striking. Here are a few:

It offers greater longevity. My ultimate goal in jiu jitsu is to follow in the steps of grandmaster Helio Gracie by training into my 90s. If all goes as planned, I will not get too old to grapple until I am actually dead. Striking, however, does not offer the same longevity. Getting hit in the head is a young person's sport. It is damaging to the body and eventually, you just get too old for it.

- I feel comfortable going hard.  I have many training partners who I feel comfortable rolling very hard with. I feel comfortable with them going hard against me, because I know that they value my safety and well-being. They will not injury me to get a tap, will not beast something when the technique is not there, and will not hold me in shitty, painful  spot for no reason. And they can expect the same from me. I can also expect them to tap when I catch them in something, and not make me choose between letting go of a submission and, say, breaking their arm. And vice versa.

Striking, however, is a different story. For me to feel comfortable striking at 100% with someone, it would have to be a fair match-up (ideally, someone of my same size, gender, skill level, and level of athleticism). That narrows my scope of training partners substantially, but I don't want to be somebody's punching bag anymore than I want him or her to be mine.

- I can handle myself against new people.  In jiu jitsu, I can handle myself against the new guys. Lots of people will try to kill you on their first day. Usually they are just spazzes who don't know how to  move on the mat yet. I know I was that way when I was brand new, so I don't judge. Other times, dudes on their first week get tired of "being the nail" and look to me, as a female, as someone who they should be able to tap. Either way, I can handle myself against these new folks. I'm more than happy to beat them up for a round or two when needed.

In striking, however, guys like these will always be dangerous. If a diesel, 250 lb guy, tired of getting beat up, hits me as hard as he can - this is not a safe situation for me, regardless of my striking skill level. One clean hit would be all it would take to do damage.

- Grappling has a safe word. Tap. Say it, and the pain stops immediately. Or if you are proactive about it, you can say it before the pain even starts, saving your joints some wear and tear. It is acceptable and encouraged to tap early and often. Stay safe and be healthy to roll another day!

There is no such safe word in striking, however. Tapping to strikes is looked at as pure bitchassness. There really is no way to make the pain stop in striking, except to knock the other guy out so he will stop hitting you.

In summary, grappling rules!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Women’s Grappling Camp!

...with  Hannette Staack, Michele Nicolini, Emily Kwok, Valerie Worthington, and Sayaka Shioda. That's five, yes FIVE amazingly bad ass, black belt women. From 4 different countries, no less!

I’m on a bit of a jiu jitsu high, coming back from one of the most positive experiences I have had in jiu jitsu so far. If you are a female who’s at least half as into jiu jitsu as I am, I would highly encourage you to do whatever possible to get to one of these camps. There are so many things I loved about camp that it’s impossible to list them all, but here are a few:

1)      The opportunity to roll with dozens of colored belt females.

This is not something I get to do often, because I am the only one at my school. I do get to roll with other blue belt women in tournaments and open mats.  But before this weekend, I had never once rolled with a purple or black belt female (I had rolled with a brown belt lady only once before). There were plenty of white belt  women at camp too, with whom I also had fun, productive rolls. As someone who trains with guys 95% of the time, the chance to spar with so many women all weekend was amazing.

2)      The opportunity to get to know black belt word champions.

Sure, it was great to learn techniques from Hannette Staack and Michelle Nicolini and to play around with their signature moves. But it was also really cool to have dinners, conversations, and round table discussions with them and all the other bad asses. It’s inspiring to hear what got them into this martial art and what keeps them training at high volume and intensity day after day. It was cooler still to spend time with them socially and get to know them a little bit as regular people.

3)      Emphasis was placed on retaining  techniques. Over the course of 4 training sessions, a lot of material was presented.  We learned some open guard techniques from top and bottom that were more advanced than what I’m used to (basic positions like closed guard and half guard are my bread and butter).  So it would have been easy for me to fall into information overload. But there was so much drilling, positional sparring, and review that I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

Hannette Staack shared a great drill for enhancing motor learning of new techniques. We lined up in rows of 3, with 1 person at both ends of the mat and 1 person in the middle.  When the timer went off, the person in the middle did forward rolls until reaching the end of the mat, where she then did 3 pushups. She would then perform the target technique on the person at that end of the mat.  Then, she  would repeat the process, rolling, push-upping, and performing the technique at the other end of the mat, on her other partner. The other 2 people, while waiting for their own turns, exercised in place (performing either jumping jacks or sit-ups, depending on whether they would need to sit or stand for the technique).  I liked this drill, because it took the thought process out of drilling the techniques. It forced us to perform them quickly and while tired, which helped me to retain them.

4)      Perhaps my favorite part of camp was the question and answer session on the last day. I try to be a self-aware grappler, taking note of where I get stuck each day I roll. Indeed, I have created quite a laundry list of places where I have been running into trouble.  My instructor is great about helping me work through these spots. However, he is 6’6” and 215 lbs. So what works for him for, say, finishing kamuras on a super strong person, is not necessarily going to work for me. I was really excited to pique the brain of someone with a body type more similar to mine. I feel like most of the techniques I learned during training sessions will take some serious drilling before I will be able to incorporate them into my game.  But the details I learned from the questions I asked Emily Kwok are things specific to me, things that I should be able to use right away.

Overall, it was a supremely awesome weekend. It’s not like I expected it to be anything short of fantastic, but camp exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to go back next year! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Recongizing bull-oney

There are important barriers that we all must cross in jiu jitsu. Surviving our first roll...getting our first submission...winning our first tournament match...getting our first stripe...crossing the great Pam Barrier...bleeding on the mats for the first time...getting our first injury...getting our first belt promotion.

Crossing these milestones is met with a certain sense of pride. We earned each of these rites of passage. But there is one barrier that I crossed without much thought. Indeed, I crossed it without even realizing it - and that is developing the ability to recognize bullshit.

See, when I was brand new to BJJ, none of the techniques that I was learning worked for me (read: I hadn't spent enough time on the mats to be able to pull off anything legit). The problem, I assessed, was that my teammates had been training longer than me and therefore knew more moves than I did. What I needed to do was learn a move that nobody else knew. Then I would finally start tapping people!

So, after my first week of training, I scoured Submissions 101 and found something that I had never seen at my gym...a gogoplata from mount! NO ONE would see this coming! That meant I might actually pull it off. I tried the move on a higher belt (someone nice enough to let me get to mount in the first place) and was surprised when it did not go well.

To the untrained eye, this might seem like a viable move. But to anyone with even the slightest bullshit radar, this move is ridiculous. If you could tap somebody with this, then  you are so much better than them that you could tap them with just about anything.

But when I was brand-spanking-new, I had no bullshit radar. So I couldn't tell a legit move from complete nonsense. Of course, I would have been better off watching videos of basic mount escapes than of low percentage mount submissions. But I had the outlook of a typical, athletic newbie. I didn't like being bad at something, so I wanted to find  a way to start winning as soon as possible. And I failed. The only thing that made me better at jiu jitsu was time on the mats and sound instruction.

I don't watch a lot of instructional videos anymore, since I'm not much of a visual learner. But I'm happy to say that my bullshit radar has improved substantially since I started. When I see something that's totally out there, I can see it for what it is - nonsense.

Take these past couple of weeks, for example. A new gym was opened in the triangle, one that claimed to teach a hybrid of Brazilian jiu jitsu and judo. Upon watching a few of the instructor's videos, it became immediately clear to me that he had never trained in either.

courtesy of Boomer, from Cageside MMA

the lugnut

armbar defense

Something for my judo friends...

but what happens if the guy doesn't roll?!?

It was with watching these videos that I was pleased to discover that I now do, in fact, have a bullshit radar. These might look like valid techniques to the untrained eye, but I can tell you with confidence that shit don’t work. Of course, so can anybody else who knows a lick of Brazilian jiu jitsu. People are pretty pissed about this guy. And I can’t think of a group of people that I'd want to incite less than a gang of Brazilian jiu jitsu brown and black belts. 

One instructor in the area went as far as to propose the following: 

Billy Dowey's challenge to James Paredes

So why are people so upset? This is what Royce Gracie brown belt Roy Marsh had to say about it: 

"The reason there is so much anger is that he is clearly fraudulent in his claims. Why does this matter to us so much? It is not about him. It is about protecting the art we love so much...Our problem is that his students believe that they are learning to defend themselves with jiu jitsu and if they get into a situation and can't defend themselves, they will blame jiu jitsu, the art we love and represent, and not a fraudulent instructor. THAT is why we are so upset...To say that you have created a hybrid style out of two styles you have no real experience in is straight fraud. It's as if someone who never trained Shotokan or Tae Kwon Do then went out and claimed to teach a hybrid of those two styles and gave himself a black belt. And, in the jiu jitsu/groundfighting world, faking rank has a very serious repercussion because we are combative artists; by which I mean we have to back up our rank and be willing to explain our lineage…I have trained nearly 12 years and do not have a black belt but to the average person, James is more accomplished at this art than I am."

I am a lowly 2 stripe blue belt, but even I can see this bullshit for what it is. I am glad that the upper belts are protecting our hard-earned rank system by calling this guy out. There is a lot of nonsense out there on the internet, and that is fine. But if you try to disguise your nonsense as Brazilian jiu jitsu, you are asking for trouble.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BJJ and judo...basically the same thing?

Most people who I come in casual contact with don't know that I train jiu jitsu. Yes, everyone who knows me well knows that I'm absolutely obsessed with it. But if you work at my elementary school or live on my street, you probably think I am a pretty regular lady. I walk my dogs, pay my taxes, go to work, and come across as pretty normal much of the time. All in all, I think I'm pretty easy to get along with.

But, every once in a while someone takes a closer look (This often happens on a hot day, when I am wearing some kind of sleeveless top). I do something after work, they assess. And then the questioning starts.

Take last week, for example. A teacher at my school took a good look at my shoulders and asked "Are you a swimmer?" I told her yes, I grew up swimming, but don't get in the water much anymore. "Oh," she said, still not satisfied. "Then what do you DO?"

I explain that I do Brazilian jiu jitsu. But that often leads to the followup questions.

- What is that?
- Like, UFC?

- Is that like Judo?

The last question is hardest for me to answer, because the answer depends so much on one's perspective. To the untrained eye, yes, judo and jiu jitsu are pretty much the same. At the tournament level, both sports involve take-downs, ground grappling, submissions, and pins/positional dominance. In fact, one of the new students at my BJJ school was just talking about watching judo in the Olympics and commented on how similar it looked to BJJ. And I agree - they look pretty similar.

The thing is, when you train for a while, you start to realize how different the sports are. And to lump them together diminishes the uniqueness and complexity of both martial arts. I am a fair weather friend  when it comes to judo, training it only when I am 100% healthy and when it doesn't conflict with my jiu jitsu. But I have a lot of respect for judo and know that it can be valuable cross training tool if I put enough time in.  Likewise, I know of judo folk who have taken to jiu jitsu to improve their ground game.

While many of the basic techniques of BJJ and judo are similar, the tournament scoring systems dictate the releative importance of take-downs and groundwork. And this is where the two martial arts are inversely related. I have heard it said that BJJ is 90% groundwork, 10% take-downs. Judo, on the other hand, is 10% ground work, 90% take-downs.

Some might argue these percentages, but jiu jitsu matches are often won without any take-downs at all. Conversely, judo matches are often won without any groundwork. I would not say that these percentages are 100% true across the board - different schools and individuals have different strengths and emphases. But this is what I observe to be a general trend.

I consulted a friend of mine, who trains both BJJ and judo, and asked him to describe the difference between the sports. "The big difference between Judo and BJJ is that Judo players, because they can instantly win a match with an ippon throw, focus on standing throwing, and BJJ players win with submissions, so they tend to focus on submissions from the ground," he explained. "Ultimately people get better at what they practice."

So that's the gist of it. There are other differences too. So, to break  it down for all the untrained eyes out there:

BJJ vs Judo

So there you have it. Brazilian jit jitsu is probably more like judo than any other marital art, but their emphases are fundamentally different. This is why I believe cross training between the two can be valuable, as long as it is not done at the expense of training one's primary sport.

Happy training!

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to throw a BJJ baby shower

1) Find a way to lure the menfolk. 

Guys don't usually go to baby showers. But BJJ players are mostly guys. So unless you get sneaky, there won't be many people at your BJJ baby shower.

The best way to lure jiu jisu guys is to make the shower sound a little more bad ass. And what better way than to have the shower IN THE CAGE! Everything sounds more gangsta when it happens IN THE CAGE! For example, sometimes I go to the gym outside of class hours to drill the moves I want to work on. As much as I know it will make me better, drilling can be a little boring. But when I drill IN THE CAGE, it's easy stay motivated. I feel like a stud!

To summarize: regular baby showers = kinda girly and wimpy; baby showers IN THE CAGE = baby badass

The Triangle Jiu Jitsu Cage

2) Pick your walk out music

Have the mom-to-be choose her entry music. There are plenty of songs about moms and violence - "Mama Said Knock You Out," "Pistol Packin' Mama" or "Big Mama Gonna Whip us Good" to name a few. Dim the lights and start the entourage!

3) Plan appropriate entertainment. What's a baby shower without baby shower games? Of course "guess mom's tummy size" and "blindfold diapering"  won't cut it with this crowd.  You need something less soft. But if you search the internet for fighting themed baby shower games, you will find surprisingly little information. So you have to come up with your own.

I recommend Pictionary for the Cage-fighting Baby. It's played out like regular Pictionary, but instead of standard wimpy-ass clues, party goers draw things like "knockout a dirty diaper," "Judo-throw a tantrem," "tap-out to labor pains," or my favorite "illegal grip on a onesie."

Voila! Follow the above steps, and you will have a shower appropriate for even the most legit jiu jitsu practitioners and their spawn.

Speaking of which:

Photo shamelessly stolen from the Facebook page of Jeff Shaw, dirty white belt
Congrats to my coach Seth Shamp and his wife Brita Klein on their jiu jitsu champion of the future!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Crossing the Great Pam Barrier

If your BJJ gym is anything like mine, you have that one guy who is universally liked by just about everybody. Young or old, male or female, experienced grappler or novice, everyone likes this guy. Women love him, and fellas want to be like him. And when this guy moves away, everyone is very, very sad.

Our gym's most popular grappler award went to a fella named Lucky (pronounced loo-key). He was visiting from Indonesia and was brand new to jiu jitsu. But what he lacked in experience, he made up for with enthusiasm and general badassness -(you should see what he could do with a pair of nunchunks! I would not mess with Lucky in a dark alley). I would almost feel bad for anyone who would ever attack Lucky, except to attack Lucky you would have to be an absolutely horrible person and not worthy of any ounce of pity. Yes, like most other women, I adore Lucky.

As tough as he was, at 135 lbs Lucky was also the lightest guy in our gym.  So being both the lightest guy and the new guy, Lucky often fell prey to the move-of-the-day. If we drilled armbars that day, people would try to armbar Lucky during rolling. If we drilled the d'arce, people would try to d'arce him. But Lucky was a good sport and didn't take this personally. Rather, he seemed to see this as the natural progression of jiu jitsu. You have to be the nail for a long time before you can be the hammer.

One day, Lucky forgot his gi. I had a spare one in the trunk of my car that I offered to lend him. He graciously accepted - before realizing that my spare gi was my pink, limited edition Kyra Gracie gi. And no one bothered to mention to poor Lucky that there were a half a dozen spare, gender neutral gis in the coach's office. So Lucky wore my pink gi for the rest of practice. He also took on a new nickname - Pam.

After Lucky moved away, everyone missed him. We talked about him all the time and wished we could have him back. One day, someone fell prey to the move of the day and exclaimed "I got Pammed!" A new word had been coined. In honor of our moved-away-but-never-forgotten friend, being the uke for the move of the day became known as "getting Pammed."

Which brings me to the point of my post. Crossing the great Pam barrier is an important milestone in jiu jitsu. When you get to the point where you can consistently pull off the move of the day against at least one person in your gym, techniques become easier to retain. Motor learning happens a little faster. You cross the line from drilling a move against no resistance to using it during sparring. The great Pam barrier is a threshold which all new folks must cross, but when it happens depends somewhat on size and strength. A 200 lb man will cross the great Pam barrier more easily than a 130 lb female will.

It took me about 9 months to cross the great Pam barrier, or around the point of the 3rd stripe on my white belt. I am a very strong lady, but at the time, I had no female training partners and mostly trained with big, athletic guys. So crossing this threshold took me a little while. Sure, there were some guys who rolled nice with me and let me work what I wanted to. But I knew that they were being nice and that these rolls weren't realistic. It took me some time (and some new people joining the gym), before I could legitimately Pam anybody.

We recently had several new female students join our gym - all of whom are around the same size and are brand new to jiu jitsu. I am struck by just how lucky they are to have each other. Chances are, it will not take them 9 months to cross the great Pam barrier. They have each other to Pam and to get Pammed by. I am excited for them, because I think it means they will learn that much faster!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pan Ams recap

I'm am walking around with a big, idiot grin on my face, after winning double gold at the Pan Ams.  I am extremely grateful to my coaches and training partners at Triangle Jiu Jitsu and the rest of Team Royce Gracie for their jiu jitsu awesomeness and team effort in preparing for this tournament. I am also thankful for my swimming, crossfit, and yoga buddies for the kick ass conditioning! Here are some points I took away from the experience. 

1) Women want matches, not guaranteed medals.
This was the inaugural year for the female masters division, and being over 30, that’s where I was automatically placed upon registration. One-by-one, other women entered the masters division until our numbers reached a whopping grand total of 4. And none were in my weight class. .

I started freaking out. What if no one else entered my division?! I did not want to fly to New York to simply watch a tournament. Later, I found out that we could move down to the adult division if we wanted to. I did so – and one-by-one, so did everyone else.          

I was proud that all the masters women opted to enter the division that would give them the most matches - not the division that would give them the guaranteed medals. 

I have no doubt that one day there will be enough women in jiu jitsu to support a masters division, but it seems we are not there yet. In due time, friends, in due time. 

2) Renzo Gracie is a jiu jitsu super hero. I was watching my teammate Jeff Shaw's match, when something in the background caught my eye. My other teammate Harold Hubbard had dislocated his shoulder - BAD. It was twisted at an awkward, grotesque angle that was so terrible that I could not stare at it directly.  The human body is NOT supposed to bend that way, Now, as many of you know, Harold is a big, giant pain in my ass. I daydream about heel-hooking him on a daily basis..Yet, it was hard to see him in this much pain. My attention shifted between cheering for Jeff and checking back to make sure Harold was ok. But I couldn't look at the latter for more than a second or 2, before I had to turn away in disgusted horror. (True, this is the reaction I usually have when I look too closely at Harold. But it is all a matter of degrees). Then the unthinkable happened. Renzo Gracie himself jumped from the stands, hopped over the barricade, and popped Harold's shoulder back in place, giving him immediate relief! Just like a jiu jitsu super hero! And just as suddenly, he disappeared back into the background.

3) My coach and I figured out what I need to work on. They say that winning is affirmation and losing is information. And that's true for the most part. But upon reviewing the matches that I won, it is still apparent what my weak points are. As I have said before, the blue belt is a nebulous realm with no clear end point. In Brazillian jiu jitsu, people can spend as long as a blue belt as folks in other martial arts will take going from white belt to black belt. This is quite a formative period and it is not to be rushed. And with so much as still a big question mark, it is worth a lot to get specific guidance about I need to do to improve. By constantly competing and reviewing my matches, I am starting to figure out what I am doing right and what I need to fix. 

For a  write-up on the female medalists, check out /beauty-and-brawn-at-nogi-pan/

Overall, I had a wonderful tournament, but it is time for me to once again focus on training in a gi, Oss!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Promotions and Preparations

Yesterday was a day of promotions!

My husband Jason got promoted to blue belt! Our teammate Dwayne got promoted as well.
(Note: My husband is not a midget. Dwayne is just really, really big).

And I got a very unexpected 2rd stripe on my blue belt, to boot!

Jason felt the same way I did after getting my blue belt. It's good to be a blue belt, but it's freaking great not to be a white belt anymore. You can finally feel just a little bit legitimate. I am very happy for my best training partner!

Besides these promotions, we have been busy training for the no gi Pan Ams. And on that note, I'd like to take a moment to discuss an important, but often overlooked issue. How not to get your ass disqualified.


It's one thing to lose because someone is better than you. It's another thing to lose because of an entirely preventable mistake. I've done 2 IBJJF tournaments and I've come pretty darn close to getting DQed twice - once for almost not making weight  and once for not having my uniform quite right. This time, however, I'm determined to do everything by the book - the IBJJF rule book, that is. I've scoured its contents and used those, along with my own observations and experiences, to come up with a list of key points to prepare yourself to NOT get disqualified.

1. First, the most obvious. Don't be late. When they call your division to the bull pen, you need to be there. Period.

2. Also pretty obvious - don't do illegal moves. Know what is legal or illegal in your division. Different submissions are legal based on skill level, age, and whether the competition is gi or no-gi. Know what is legal for you.

3. Don't be overweight. You get only one chance to weigh in on the official scale. If you are overweight, you will not get bumped up a weight class - you will be immediately disqualified. You get unlimited chances to weigh in on the practice scale, however, so there is no excuse for not making your weight class. Bring a jump rope and some sweats so that you can sweat out a pound or 2 if need be. But know that you will compete within minutes of weighing in, so you really don't want to sweat out more than that. It's important to register at a weight class that you can realistically make and to diet appropriately in the weeks before the tournament.
**warning** the official and practice scales might not be exactly the same. There is a certain amount of error to be expected when you are weighing in on 2 different scales. At the mundials, the practice scale was .5 lbs lighter than the official one. I would recommend weighting in at least .5 lbs underweight on the practice scale, just to be safe.

4. Make sure your uniform is up to the strict, sometimes arbitrary standards of the IBJJF. You don't want to find a picture of yourself in the "what not to wear" section of Gracie Magazine. Standards are enforced inconsistently, so if there is any doubt at all whether your uniform is up to standards, assume that it is not.
Also, wear underwear. "When an athlete is not wearing an undergarment under his/her gi and this fact comes to the referee’s attention," that athlete is disqualified.  Furthermore, "in the female division, the use of thong-type undergarments is not permitted; only briefs-type undergarments." I don't know how the IBJJF refs would know whether I am wearing a thong or briefs under my fight shorts, but I can't think of a more embarrassing thing to get disqualified for. And for the fellas, no cups are allowed. But don't let this scare you - if you sustain a serious genital injury, you might get the IBJJF to give you a free entry into next year's tournament.


5. In a no-gi tournament, don't grab your opponent's clothes. Last year during a match, my opponent's rash guard ran up her torso, and without thinking about it, I pulled it down for her. The ref issued me a strong warning. If points and advantages had been tried at the end of the match, this would have been enough reason for me to lose.

6. Don't tap by accident. The IBJJF lists the following as forms of submission:
"When an athlete taps twice with his/her hand on the opponent, ground, or his/herself in a clear and apparent manner.
When the athlete taps the ground twice with his/her foot, when arms are trapped by opponent.
When the athlete verbally withdraws, requesting the match be stopped.
When the athlete screams or emits noise expressing pain while trapped in a submission hold."
So don't yelp unless you mean it. And if you make your opponent cry during a match, do not tap her shoulder to comfort her (Kristina!). One of my training partners lost a match this very way.

7. Don't lose control of bodily fluids. Disqualification will result "when an athlete presents bleeding that cannot be contained after being treated by the doctor on 2 (two) occasions" or "when an athlete vomits or loses control of basic bodily functions, with involuntary urination or bowel incontinence."
I change my mind about what I said about thongs. There is a more embarrassing cause for disqualification. Don't eat a heavy breakfast.

8. And if all else fails, be more Brazilian. There is a certain amount of subjectivity at play in the enforcement of these rules. Whether or not it is true, there is a widely held belief that Americans are judged a little more strictly at these tournaments. Because all things being equal, Brazilians are supposed to win at Brazilian jiu jitsu.  So if you want an extra layer of protection, convince the refs that you are a bona fide, jiu jitsu bred, my uncle's last name is Gracie, Brazilian. Add an "o" or "a" to the end of your name. Help yourself to an acai bowl. Sprinkle "oss" into your dialogue. And kick a lot of jiu jitsu ass.