Lovato’s new site: July 4

Rafael Lovato Jr. is one of only two American black belts to win the worlds in the gi. So what better date for his new online instructional site to open than July 4?

He’s also a terrific instructor, as you can see from the embedded video at the link. I’m a little sad that I won’t be back in the states for another month (the Internet is too slow here to access the site), because guard passing is going to be my main training focus when I get back. The site is called “Ultimate Pressure Passing System,” and I imagine it’s relevant to my interests.

Chances I check it out when I get home: 100%.


A little vacation Judo

One reason I started this blog now is that I have time to do some posts. Usually, work, school and training pretty much covers all my free time, and I’d rather be training that writing about training. But now, I’m on vacation for five weeks or so.

All the training I’m going to get in is judo (there is no BJJ instructor in Palau, where I am, but there is a national judo team), and the rest of my jiu-jitsu time is going to be spent catching up on the litany of DVD instructionals I own.

This means:

* When I get back home, I intend to do some “training log” posts about what we go over in class, but for now, I’m going to post about other things I’m working on.

* Expect the occasional DVD review post in the next month or so. First one coming in the next day or two.

When I visited last, I trained with the judo team. They were kind enough to show me a few things. Unfortunately, two of my favorite training partners just left for the Olympics (Good luck, Jen!).

Fortunately, I can still get a little judo in, which I want to do so I can improve my options while standing in the gi. I did some wrestling in high school, so I’ve always had some takedowns. But the gi changes things, and can impede the kind of shot-based takedowns I’m best at. Some basic judo techniques will diversify my standing techniques.

What I’ve learned so far: short, stubby legs suck for foot sweeps; morote seio nage is my favorite throw, because it looks cool and you don’t run as much risk of getting your back taken; and tomoe nage is a terrific option for “I’m not *really* pulling guard, but yeah, I’m pulling guard.”

Got any favorite judo throws I should drill while I’m here?

Trip Report: Mundials. Or: Why You Should Go and Compete

Warning: this blog contains precious little actual jiu-jitsu match content. If you want to know how my team did, my teammate Kim’s (awesome) blog has a great write-up on that. 

A few weeks ago, my team took a small cohort to the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships, commonly known as the Mundials. It’s no exaggeration to say it was one of my greatest life experiences so far, and I’m a late-30s hobbyist who does this for fun.

If you do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you seriously should go. And if you’re going, you might as well compete and be a part of it.

Not convinced? I have three reasons for you. True, these three reasons are a cleverly disguised excuse to tell some Mundials stories, but I mean them all the same.

Any time you step on the mat, you’re going to get valuable information. At the Mundials, though, you get people gathered from all over the world — each of whom takes a slightly different approach to jiu-jitsu. Even if you only get one match, you’ll get a valuable sense of what others are doing, and how that differs from (or mimics) what you’re doing at your school or in your region.

Examples of what I took away from the Mundials are too numerous to name, but let me list a couple: most people want to pull guard, so I need to shoot faster if I want to get takedown points; and I’ve put in a lot of work on passing the open guard, but I need to put in a lot more, especially on spider guard variants.

(Oh, and one of my teammates kept saying that maybe he’d go, but only to watch. We talked him into competing. He wound up with a (well-deserved) bronze medal. No excuses!)

You also get to pose like this in front of Walter Pyramid.

Besides competing, you can watch match after match. It was helpful for me to watch all the other people around my level. And it was beyond helpful and inspiring to watch those folks who are way, way, way, above my level. These folks are truly the best in the world.

Which leads me to reason number two you should go:

My teammate Hameed and I are admitted BJJ nerds. No shame in that game.

We fly the nerd flag high and proud. Got a DVD? We’ll watch it. Making a sweet new gi? We want it. Put out a jiu-jitsu podcast? We probably already listen to it.

Because I was competing at white belt and Hameed at blue, we got our matches done on the first day.This meant we were free to enter BJJ heaven immediately after. Almost everyone in the jiu-jitsu world that you would like to meet attends the Mundials, and almost without exception, they couldn’t possibly be nicer. Hameed and I brought our white belts to get people to sign. By the end of the tournament, both of them were covered with the signatures of top-level competitors and legends.

Hameed and Roger
Now *that’s* how you dirty up a white belt.

This is one reason I love sport jiu-jitsu. Everyone is so approachable, including the best contemporary players and the best of all time. I hope jiu-jitsu continues to grow — at least, I think I do — but it’s nice that there’s such a community feeling even at a riotously competitive event like this.

When I say “community feeling,” I’m including the Gracie Barra guys who threatened to kick my ass if they saw that white belt end up on eBay. No worries, guys, I understand. Part of community is holding others accountable. But that belt’s hanging on my wall for the duration.

Then there are the matches. This year featured the Rodolfo-Buchecha match that everyone online was talking about, and let me tell you, it was even better in person.

Buchecha after winning gold.

Imagine watching 12 mats of action, and on maybe 6 of them you have at least one legend. That’s what the black belt competition day are like. I should write more about this, but just think: you look one mat, and there’s Xande Ribeiro. On another, there’s Caio Terra. On another, there’s Cobrinha, and … on and on.

Bill Cooper enthusiastically agrees that you should attend the Mundials.

It gets overwhelming. In the best possible way. If you’re fortunate enough to have your instructor with you, he or she can point out the details on what they’re trying to do, too.

Finally, the most important reason of all to attend the Mundials:

When my teammate Ryan got called to the bullpen before his purple belt match, I went with him. It’s important to have somebody with you in case something goes wrong — for example, a problem with your gi.

(Before next year’s Mundials, I’m going to devote an entire post to How To Make Sure You Don’t Get DQed. The gi requirements are no joke, and they’re serious about them.)

Ryan had a patch on the back of his gi that was frayed. They wanted him to remove it. Naturally, I didn’t have a knife — I’ll fix that next year. So I took a quarter and used the ridges to tear out the stitches. This worked just fine on three sides of the patch. But the fourth side was reinforced with adamantium or some shit.

Now, it’s nerve-wracking enough to be in the bullpen. You’ve put in tons of work, put out lots of money, and you’re about to put it all on the line. It doubles the nerves when it looks like they might not let you compete. I wanted to get rid of this patch problem and get the gi approved ASAP so Ryan could chill.

“Ryan,” I says, “lean back.”

I took the side of the patch between my teeth and just reared my head back. Yup, I got the patch off by tearing it out with my teeth. Sweet relief.

Then I hear from the left of me: “That’s some G shit right there!”

It’s UFC veteran and BJJ black belt Miguel Torres. “This guy’s a straight G!” he announces to the crowd, who laugh as Miguel offers me a fistbump.

If you go to the Mundials, I am sure something like this will happen to you.

This can also happen to you, but you’ve got to make sure your patch game is tight first.


If you love BJJ, you’ll have a blast at the worlds even if you get submitted in under a minute. The sting of defeat is temporary. The experience is something you’ll value forever. Trust me.

Next tournaments: US Grappling July 28 (two days after I step off a trans-Pacific flight, yikes), and probably one more tune-up before the No-Gi Pans on September 29. Can’t wait.

Why “Dirty White Belt”?

In Feb. 2011, I started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Triangle Jiu-Jitsu in Durham, North Carolina. It quickly began to dominate my thoughts and time.

I told myself that I wouldn’t start a BJJ blog before I earned a blue belt. That happened, and then I took 5 weeks off from work to visit my girlfriend on an island, so I got some time to write.

I loved being a white belt for many of the reasons Andrew Smith notes here: you get to grow and develop and learn. You advance at a rapid pace because everything is new to you. And no one expects you to do anything but get submitted over and over, so hey, no pressure! My instructor, Seth Shamp, says that during your early days in jiu-jitsu it’s your job to see everything and absorb as much as you can. Given that I’m a naturally curious person, I had a blast following those instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to advance in BJJ, and it’s fantastic to be a purple belt now. But I also want to be sure I keep a similar mentality that I had as a white belt:

* You’re trying to learn here. Check the ego at the door, keep an open mind and have fun.

* Every day your instructor and training partners help you get better. Appreciate them.

* If you do well, awesome, but nobody really cares except you and your mom, and you can’t be sure about your mom. Do this for it’s own sake, and because you love it, and because you want to improve.

The old story is that people became black belts because they just kept training, and their formerly white belts just got darker and darker. Hopefully, no matter where my journey through this art takes me, I will keep the attitude that I’m just a dirty white belt. The attitude stayed the same even if the belt changed.

Hence, “Dirty White Belt.” Let’s see where this goes.