Monday, May 25, 2015

The unwritten rules of jiu jitsu etiquette: 5 things I wish I knew as a white belt

There are myriad explicit rule sets governing jiu jitsu. Competition organizations have their own sets of published rules (the IBJJF rule book is 44 pages long!).  In addition, different schools have their own sets of rules, which are often posted around the academy. It's easy enough to avoid breaking these types of rules, since they are explicit and readily accessible. But what I'm talking about here are the unwritten rules of jiu jitsu: things that no one tells you but can nonetheless get you in trouble.

Here are the unwritten rules of jiu jitsu that I wish I had known when I was a white belt:

- Do not ask black belts to roll. I'll admit, this one has gotten me in trouble a few times. Some schools even go as far as to say that you can't ask any upper belts to roll. The line of thinking here is that rolling with black belts is a privilege and once you have achieved that rank, you have earned to right to roll with your choice of training partners. So, if a black belt wants to roll with you, she should be the one to ask you.  

- When you collide with upper belts, be the one to move. Jiu jitsu is magnetic. Even when there is plenty of space on the mats, rolling pairs tend to gravitate toward each other. When this happens, the lower ranking pair should yield space to the upper belts. As a courtesy, the lower belts should be the ones to get up and reset someplace else.

-It's cool to help your training partner. But when your instructor walks over to make corrections, stop talking and let him take over. I often miss details when I learn a new technique. I am grateful when my training partner picks up something I didn't and helps me fill in the blanks. I'm happy to do the same for them. But when the instructor approaches to make corrections, it is time to shut up. The instructor is the one who taught the technique, so let her take it from there.

- Assume the most restrictive set of rules while rolling, unless otherwise specified. If you are rolling no gi with a purple belt or above, do not assume that heel hooks are on the table. There's a reason that certain techniques are reserved for only advanced ranks - advanced students know when to tap in time but they also know how to apply the techniques with control. Personally, I have a limited set of training partners whom I feel comfortable rolling for advanced techniques with. When in doubt, ask your training partners what techniques are on the table and always respect their limits. 

- It's great to ask questions, but there are times when silence is golden. Such as when the head of your affiliation is visiting. I think it's fine to ask questions, even stupid questions, 98% of the time. But when a high level bad ass comes to give a seminar, we all know folks who would benefit from a gag order, for the sake of their own image and that of the school. We all say the wrong thing from time to time, myself included. If you are prone to putting your foot in your mouth, it is best to speak only when spoken to when your instructor's instructor is visiting. Take notes and ask questions to your instructor in private later.

What about you? Are there any unwritten rules of jiu jitsu etiquette that you wish learned earlier?

Monday, May 11, 2015

If you missed Metamoris last weekend, here's why you should watch Toro Cup 2 instead!

I've always liked Metamoris. I was looking forward to watching it on Saturday. But after reading Ralek Gracie's condescending remarks toward female jiu jitsu practitioners, I no longer wanted to give him my money or my time. So this time I didn't watch.

If, like me, you sorely missed your BJJ tube time last weekend, might I suggest an alternative - watch Toro Cup 2 this weekend instead! (*Disclaimer: I am competing in Toro Cup 2, so I may have a biased perspective on why it will be awesome).

Sure, Toro Cup is on a smaller and less elite scale than Metamoris. But I am going to offer you my humble opinion on why you should watch it instead.

1. It raises money for a good cause.
Ralek Gracie has faced a lot of slack for not offering women's matches on his cards. His response? "We're not a charity right now."

Well, guess what?  ALL Toro Cup matches, male and female, really ARE for charity. This time, the proceeds are going to the Animal Protection Society of Durham. Some awesome pets come from that shelter, including my very own Daisy!

2. Live stream for Toro Cup is free! Watching Metamoris costs $30, which goes into Ralek's slimy, little pocket. But you can watch the Toro Cup for free at!

3. The rules for Toro Cup are similar to those of Metamoris but are modified to eliminate the possibility of draws. 

James Hogaboom, one of the Toro Cup organizers, explains the rule set. "Metamoris, better known as Meta-SNORE-is, consistently has more than 50% of their matches end in a draw.....BORING!"

Conversely, the Toro Cup rules are modified to eliminate this possibility:
If after 15 minutes there is not a submission, the match goes to an immediate 5 minute points match.
If after 5 minutes the match is tied, the match goes to an immediate “sudden death” match – first point scored wins.

Case in point: Toro Cup 1 featured 11 matches and all 11 matches had a winner!

4. The organizers of the Toro Cup support women's jiu jitsu.

Out of the 6 past Metamoris events, only 1 featured a women's match. Sure, it turned out to be one of the best matches on the card, but instead of giving the athletes the respect they deserve, Ralek said this: "We had that one match and it was cool, but that was more of, 'That's cool and that was interesting and I want to see that again if the girls are cute'." And he has not featured a female match since.

On the other hand, when I asked James Hogaboom about Toro Cup's first female match, he said the following: "Arguably the most exciting match of Toro Cup 1 was between Ashley McClelland and Christy Cherrey - two purple belt ladies. This match had the entire audience on their feet cheering." And he said nothing about either woman being cute.

Toro Cup organizer Jeff Shaw explains why he wants to see women's matches at both the elite and regional levels. "We need great cards with great matches, and some of the best matches I've seen in my life are women's matches. To build the next generation, it's important that today's blue and purple belts get to watch and learn from people like Leticia Ribeiro, Michelle Nicolini, Bea Mesquita and so many more. It's really important to me that regional events like Toro Cup pick up that torch as well. Women athletes put on great matches, and the more great matches we have, the better."

5. The organizers of the Toro Cup are better rappers than Ralek 

Ralek Gracie produced the musical abomination "G in a Gi." At this point, maybe it's time to cut him some slack. It's clear from this video that he doesn't have friends, or they would never have let him make this song public.


The organizers of the Toro Cup are better rappers than Ralek. Watch here as Jeff Shaw raps the part of "nerdy white zombie with glasses." 

In summary: There are many reasons to watch Toro Cup 2 instead of Metamoris. Live stream is free, admission raises money to help animals, the rules are more exciting, the organizers are not sexist douche bags AND they can rap!!