Our Friend the Shoulder

Ah, the noble shoulder: integral part of brawny tasks.

Atlas used his to hold up the (mythical) world, Leonardo drew the (real) joint in detail, and modern English users have metaphor-ed and verb-ed what was originally a noun. We shoulder burdens and put our shoulders to the wheel: you wouldn’t do that with a pinky toe or a navel. When Carl Sandburg wanted to tell you how burly the city of Chicago was, he talked about the town’s shoulders.

And mine hurt, especially the right one.

Mine look like this on the inside, too. I hope. I also have more hair than the model. But not on my shoulders. I hope.

Important disclaimer: getting nicked up is a part of training. Everyone knows this. Call it “The Gentle art” all you want (and that’s really a misleading translation, but that’s a topic for another day), you’ll still be icing something every once in a while.

Why write about this now? Again, injuries are a part of training, and I want to be honest with myself about what jiu-jitsu does to my body — the good and the bad.

The pain’s not much: it only hurts appreciably when I move it horizontally from right to left, as if I were at the end of a ZZ Top music video. But when I do that, I find myself hearing Groucho Marx’s voice telling me not to.

Apart from that, there seems to be a good deal of soreness and much less range of motion. I decided at the start of the vacation that I was only going to train a little bit, substituting yoga and deep-tissue massage for shoulder activities.

I’ll be frank: I’m disappointed that my six-week strategy for recovery hasn’t succeeded to the level I expected. It has improved, but it’s far from fixed.

Granted, that six-week strategy of rest, relaxation, and massage took a bit of a diversion into training judo with the Palau team, but hey, let’s not nitpick.

I’d like to say that I’m going to take it easy for another couple of weeks. But training camp for the no-gi Pans is starting, and, well, you know how it is.

My shoulders might be half as brawny as normal, but they’ll do. I’m not from Chicago anyway.


Shanghai to Durham: Training Diary

I travel a lot. Between work, school, jiu-jitsu tournaments and pleasure travel, I often have a difficult time remembering what day it is or what time zone I’m in.

Actually, check that: I have a hard time remembering those details anyway. It’s probably all the concussions.

A cool side-effect of all this travel, besides the ubiquitous frequent flyer miles and delicious airline food, is getting to visit other academies. Thankfully, my instructor is of the Dave Camarillo school of thought that says train with everybody you can, learn from them and bring those insights back to your home mat. I try to visit other Royce Gracie affiliates wherever I can, but sometimes there isn’t one. And sometimes it’s just nice to check out folks from other affiliations to see what they’re up to.

I just got back from China, where I had one of my two favorite academy visits ever: Shanghai BJJ.

Shanghai BJJ is a Rilion Gracie school, and Rilion’s guard work is legendary, so it was cool to get some of that perspective. We worked a lot of basics – you can never get enough basics – but the instructor, Stan, showed me a slick variation on the classic armbar from guard that I’m going to work once I get home. Stan also has a strong self-defense focus, which he has in common with my home academy, so we worked a bunch of that too.

Stupidly, I didn’t get a picture with the Shanghai guys – things wrapped up fast – but I did get a sick shirt. This is the Shanghai BJJ logo, which is pretty cool:

The full shirt is even better.

Great guys, great instruction and great training. I feel really privileged to be able to get around as much as I do and train with as many cool folks as I do.

… but that starts at home. And to be real, it’s going to be great to be home. First class back in Durham: Friday. Tournament the next day, and I can’t wait.

By the Numbers: the Mundials

On the topic of data visualization, the folks at Bishop BJJ have put together a first-of-its-kind breakdown of statistics from the Mundials. You can see from my last post why this type of information would fascinate me — all the more so because I competed at the tournament this year.

Sign up here and they’ll send you the PDF file. It’s chock full of great information.

My next big graphic project is compiling data from US Grappling tournaments and making infographics. If I think the results are interesting, maybe I’ll do a post comparing the US Grappling events to the Mundials in terms of data results.

… OK, done with the data nerd stuff for a while. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled grappling stories and whatnot.

A Tournament in a Picture

… or a graphic, actually. I’ve been taking a data visualization class, and I thought I’d try to represent the results from US Grappling’s latest tournament in image form. It’s the from the State Line Grappling Championships in Bristol, TN.

If you click here to get the full-size version, it should be pretty intuitive, but I’ll explain anyhow. Each bubble represents a match: the bigger the bubble, the longer the match went. Each bubble is color-coded by how the match finished.

I’m going to be trying to produce more of these after each tournament, so if you have comments — including suggestions for how to represent the data better — please offer ’em up. These are fun projects that allow me to combine BJJ with my inherent data nerdhood.

Every match from SLGC in one graphic. Click it for the big version!

Happy 4th!

For the 4th of July, I’m in Palau training judo, which was invented in Japan, then flying to China to practice an art invented by Brazilians. Like Tom Paine said: “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”

Happy birthday, America! New post tomorrow.

DVD Review: Caio Terra’s Modern Jiu-Jitsu

The bad thing about a vacation: you miss class. The good thing about a vacation: you get to spend more time with instructional DVDs that you neglected when you were training regularly.

(Also, you are on vacation. That’s also a good thing about a vacation. But never mind that for now.)

I own a lot of instructionals, and one of my favorites is Caio Terra’s Modern Jiu-Jitsu. It’s a four DVD set of more than 140 techniques, all of which I had watched before this trip. Since repetition is key to my learning style, though, it’s really helpful for me to revisit stuff I’ve watched before.

And the Caio DVDs are a pleasure to revisit. Let’s get the two most obvious points out of the way: first, Caio’s technique is spectacular; and second, this DVD is beautifully filmed.

Just check out this screenshot from Modern Jiu-Jitsu:

The soft light of this DVD takes me on gossamer wings to BJJ Valhalla.

Compared to this screenshot from Caio’s 111 Half-Guard Techniques DVD:

Great DVD content that looks pretty good.

111 Half-Guard Techniques is a great DVD, too, and it doesn’t look bad. But compared to Modern Jiu-Jitsu, it’s no contest. I think the next step in BJJ instructionals involves improving production values. There are a lot of amazing instructors out there, but very few of them are producing materials that look this good.

As good as the product looks, the actual instruction is even better. Modern Jiu-Jitsu is aimed at beginning- to intermediate-level BJJ players, which makes it perfect for me, but I’ve heard higher-level guys say they learned a lot of details from this material, too. That’s not surprising, because Caio does some very fundamental techniques in a slightly different way from the standard method.

Sometimes, this will leave you wondering “I wonder if that will work for me.” Many times, it will leave you saying “Wow, I can’t wait to try that out in rolling.”

You can see an example of the techniques on the DVD here.

If you pay any attention to competition jiu-jitsu, you know you can’t argue with Caio’s results. For a guy like me — a smaller person who tries to be detail-oriented — his DVDs are top-notch.

Plus, Mobile Black Belt has the product on sale, so you can get it for cheaper than I did! Run, don’t walk to your Internet browser, buy it, watch it again and again, and come back leaving a comment thanking me later.

Also, if anybody from Mobile Black Belt winds up reading this: when are Caio’s iPhone and iPad apps coming out? If they’re anything like Modern Jiu-Jitsu, they’ll quickly become a part of my collection as well.

“Hey, Jeff, would you mind reviewing my DVD? I could really use the support from some random blue belt on the Internet.” “Sure thing, Caio. Let’s be best friends.”


PRODUCT: Caio Terra, Modern Jiu-Jitsu
PRICE: $129.95 for 4 DVDs, or $34-95-$44.95 for individual DVDs
ON A SCALE OF 1-10: 9