A Case Study In Fudoshin

In martial arts and in Zen Buddhism, we talk about fudoshin. Roughly translated as “immovable mind,” fudoshin can be described as a state of emotional balance. This type of composure is of particular value in times of crisis, which is one reason it was a virtue prized by the samurai.

This can be a struggle for all of us. Fortunately, we have some good examples to follow.

Murilo Bustamante is one of the best and most well-respected jiu-jitsu fighters ever. We were fortunate enough to bring him in for a seminar last year. Wherever I visit to train, no matter what the school’s affiliation or focus, I find deep respect for Bustamante.

He even choked me, and how many people can say that? ... OK, a lot of people.

He even choked me, and how many people can say that? … OK, a lot of people.

I was stuck home sick all day today, and I decided to spend some time watching several of the dozen or so Bustamante fights available on UFC Fight Pass, After watching some of his later bouts — and by the way, the next time I’m tempted to make excuses based on my age, I’m going to remember watching a 39-year-old Bustamante in Pride — I moved on to a fight I’d seen before.

That famous fight is his UFC 37 clash with Matt Lindland.

I first learned about this fight from Royce Gracie black belt Jake Whitfield. When I first watched the fight, I considered it part of my education in jiu-jitsu history. Since then, I’ve watched it several times, and taken something new from it with each watching.

This time, I took this from it: this fight is an object lesson in fudoshin.

You can pretty much feel safe if any one of these guys is with you, nevermind five of them.

You can pretty much feel safe if any one of these guys is with you, never mind five of them.

To understand why, you have to understand the context. Bustamante was the UFC’s middleweight champion, having taken the belt from Dave Menne.

Despite being the defending champ, though, he was the betting underdog. Oddsmakers and observers of MMA favored Lindland, who had earned an Olympic silver medal in wrestling. He was also younger and undefeated in seven fights. That is to say, despite Bustamante’s achievements, most people were expecting Lindland to win.

It didn’t go that way. Using fundamental jiu-jitsu, Bustamante took down the Olympic wrestler with just over a minute gone in the first round. Two minutes later, Bustamante secured a tight armbar and Lindland was tapping.

But Lindland claimed he hadn’t tapped, and in what he would later call his biggest mistake, referee John McCarthy informed the combatants that he would let the fight continue.

Commentator Jeff Osborne said immediately after the first tap was disallowed: “That may have cost Murilo this fight.”

Imagine that: you’re the champion. People expect you to lose, which you have to see as a slight. Then you execute perfectly, surprise the critics by taking down a Greco-Roman wrestling expert, get the submission, the referee stops the match …

… and then tells you you have to do it all over again? Now that the opponent has seen what you want to do? How would you react? To say that this would throw most people off would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Would you be able to shake that off and perform immediately? Would you be able to calmly go about your business and secure another submission?

Because that’s exactly what Murilo Bustamante did, hurting Lindland with punches in the third round and securing a fight-ending guillotine.

It’s not just responding with grace under pressure and continuing to fight well that impressed me. Frank Mir, another commentator on the broadcast, pointed out that if you deny tapping the first time, you might not get a chance to tap the second time. More than one black belt I’ve talked to about the fight has said the same.

Not Bustamante. He briefly protested the mistaken decision to re-start the fight, but shortly thereafter put his mouthpiece in and went to work. He used his technique to dominate and finish the match. And when McCarthy stopped the fight a second time, he let go and celebrated with an admirable level of restraint, respect and dignity.

Ignoring the understandable frustration — even anger — that Bustamante must have felt at the time takes incredible emotional control. That’s fudoshin.

Murilo Bustamante should be universally acknowledged as one of the greatest representatives of jiu-jitsu. When you remember his fighting skills, don’t forget his immovable mind.


Gifts For Grapplers: 2014 Holiday Edition

It’s that time of year again: when the grappling tights come out, everyone wears rash guards under their gi tops and I write a gift guide post.

While you might assume that these posts are thinly-veiled ways of showing people what *I* want — and you wouldn’t be wrong — this time I solicited opinions from BJJ gear groups on Facebook, friends and other people obsessed with jiu-jitsu. And I’m recommending some items I already own and like — just to benefit you, the reader.

Show this to people that want to buy you things. Hopefully, this helps you get what you want under the tree this year.

For people looking to buy gifts for grapplers, you might want to take a gander at the 2012 and 2013 versions of the Gift Guide. The first one has general advice that’s still applicable, even if the specific product information is outdated.

Let me repeat a few suggestions from the first gift guide. You could get your grappler a private lesson with their instructor or with another great teacher; you could purchase a tournament entry for them, since tournaments are great training; or you could donate to a charity like the George Pendergrass Foundation or Tap Cancer Out.

If you’d like something tangible to stuff a stocking with other than a certificate, though, read on.


As most everyone who reads the blog knows, I do some design work for Toro BJJ. That’s full disclosure.  But I am also an ethical shill, and I’m not going to recommend anything I don’t believe in. So let me get the Toro promo right out front:

We have a killer new gi out right now, the Toro “Dark Horse” black and gold gi. I didn’t design it, so I can’t take credit for it, but this thing is comfortable, light and looks great. I get compliments on it everywhere I train. It’s one of my regular training gis, and despite many washings, the color has held up really well. And I don’t even usually like black gis! You won’t regret it: pull the trigger on this one.


Majestic. And the gi is also nice.

For your off-the-mat wear, we have grey hoodies and thermal t-shirts that I think turned out really cool. And always be watching for the limited edition rashguards we put out! I don’t know if the Toro spats will be out by Christmas or not, but look for those too.

Non-self-promotion category: I own a good deal of E Nois gear, and I’m really pleased with it. Their gis are comfortable and stylish, and their designs are original. Scope out their t-shirts and sweatshirts: I like the “choke from mount” one myself, but maybe that’s because one of their other design is printed on a gi that I already rock on the regular. Have a gander, I practically guarantee you find something you like there.

As for other gis, I’m intrigued by Tatami’s The Tank. Tatami is a longstanding company with a good reputation, and this is a heavyweight double weave gi that comes in at 950 GSM (compared to 450 for the Toro). Not an everyday use gi, at least here in North Carolina, but you can bet that this thing is going to last — and it’ll be tough to choke you in it.

Maybe you want to give something that isn’t necessarily wearable, but will help someone improve their jiu-jitsu. Well, consider …


Look, jiu-jitsu players love to watch videos. One of my training partners just told me that whenever he looks at my instructional collection, this is what he sees:

As for DVD sets and apps out now: Ryan Hall is an elite competitor and a tremendous instructor. I’ve bought each of his DVD sets and never been disappointed. It’s too late for someone to buy his Defensive Guard and Open Elbow set for me — they’re already on the way — but if you’re looking for a great DVD set, I’m sure you can’t go wrong here.

I can also personally endorse Roy Marsh’s guillotine seminar instructional. I was at this seminar, and Roy put together an amazing set of principles, concepts and techniques. At $20, it’s a steal. This might be the best value for the money instructional available.

As for something I don’t own but am intrigued by: Shawn Williams has a Williams Guard DVD set that’s also available as an app and on BudoVideos On Demand site. This looks awesome and I’m excited to learn it.

One warning: I wouldn’t buy the On Demand stuff again. I bought the Michael Langhi material On Demand, and Budo Videos did a site upgrade which has cut off my ability to watch it for several weeks. This is a huge bummer, and I wish I’d bought the DVDs.

Grumbles aside, online sites can be excellent resources. The two online membership sites I always recommend are MendesBros.com and the Marcelo Garcia site, MGInAction. But Braulio Estima and Rafael Lovato Jr. also have membership sites now, and while I haven’t checked those out, I’d be really excited if someone got me a membership.

I’m talking to you, people who date martial artists: don’t you want to brighten up your living space with a little artwork? If you are, just bypass the usual quibbling about whether the Dogs Playing Poker are funny (spoiler alert: they are). Go straight to the martial arts themed artwork.

Redbubble.com will let you buy one of the many awesome Meerkatsu artworks in print and other forms. John Smalls also has some cool paintings and prints with various subject matter centered around a jiu-jitsu theme.

If you wanted to make me squeal with delight, though, you’d get me this incredible Bruce Lee print by one of my favorite artists, Phil Hansen. Phil karate-chopped the paint onto the canvas to create the work. Don’t take my word for it, either:

This thing hanging on the wall would annoy my girlfriend, of course. But isn’t annoying the ones you love what the holidays all about? Between that and open mats, I think we have it covered.

Happy shopping!