Intro to the Berimbolo

For a move that — to me — is just another powerful sweep from De La Riva guard, the berimbolo sure has become a lightning rod. To some, it’s emblematic of creative jiu-jitsu evolution. To others, it’s an invitation to soccer kick you in the head.

Spin on some cardboard to beats in the street, and everyone calls you Ozone or Turbo; spin underneath a guy to take his back, and everybody loses their minds.

Every job has a perfect tool. The berimbolo is a great tactic in many situations, and when you strip away the loaded connotations some people put on the word, I think that becomes apparent. It’s a terrific move for people who have trouble keeping their grips, since the belt grip is a tough one to break. For people fond of De La Riva guard, it’s a good chance to either get to the most powerful finishing position in jiujitsu — the back. Besides that, it’s fun, and fun has value.

Skate to create.

It also inspires numerous puns and Photoshop jokes, at least in me. Skate to create.


I just did a series of two Berimbolo introduction videos for the Roy Marsh Jiu-Jitsu YouTube channel. Please check these out and let me know what you think! As you’ll see, I often use berimbolo to take the back, but just as often I’ll come up to pass the guard — or use it to take mount, which I didn’t show here, but I will if people are interested.


Have fun with these and let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Feel free to request future videos — or future silly Photoshops — too. I thought about making Kool-Aid Man shirts for Toro, but no plans are in the works for that, at least now.




New shirt and rashguard for Toro

Hi folks! A couple of longer posts are in the works, but for now I just want to do a quick one announcing a couple of new offerings from Toro BJJ.

I haven’t been doing a ton of design work lately, since I’m organizing Toro’s first card of local BJJ superfights (more on that later). There’s a new shirt out today, though, and it hearkens back to those innocent days of getting up early to eat cereal and train:


I’ve been leading a 6 a.m. drilling group for a while that has now morphed into an early morning fundamentals class, and I firmly believe training is the best way to start the day — hence the shirt.

You can buy it here, and if you use the discount code “free15” you’ll get free shipping.

I’m also really excited about a forthcoming rashguard. You can’t buy this yet, but it’ll be available soon and I can’t wait to share it. (If you’re really psyched to get early previews of new gear, you can always follow me or Toro BJJ on Instagram: most of the works in progress get shared there first).

This one was inspired by the era where, in the words of Vast Aire, “when every video game was 8-bit / and you get popped in your mouth for …” … well, you know the rest.

There are some details I want to tweak, but here’s the gist:


And the close-up view, featuring inside jokes about the De La Riva guard:


Thank you for putting up with these commercial messages. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

New Comic About The Journey to Blue Belt

Hi folks! Haven’t had much time to post lately, but lots of big things are happening behind the scenes (I’ve been busy with work, training, planning my 40th birthday party on Saturday, preparing for a Royce Gracie seminar on Monday and getting ready to leave the country on Tuesday).

But! I made a new comic that I hope you like. I’ll be posting it to the Toro BJJ Facebook tomorrow, but hey, blog readers get a sneak peek.

Oh, and I might just have a big jiu-jitsu-related announcement soon. I think you’ll be interested. At least, I hope you will. Happy training.


Suffrage, Jiu-Jitsu and a New Rashguard

I have a new rashguard design I want to show you. First, though, let me ask you two questions: how do you feel about bullies? And have you seen Mary Poppins?

Yes, these questions are related, and they’re also related to the new rashie I’m finishing up. It’s a tribute to Edith Garrud, the Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu, and by extension the group of British suffragists she trained to fight around the turn of the last century.

Who was Edith Garrud? The short version: she was the ultimate anti-bully. A 4-foot, 11-inch woman who stood up to gangs of armed men twice her size using jiu-jitsu, and trained dozens of others to do so as well: how could I not make a rashguard paying tribute to a badass like that?

Back before women had the vote, the British government really pulled out all the stops to crush the suffragist movement. There were police beatings, brutal force-feedings of hunger strikers, and more grisly behaviors. Yes, the Edwardian era British crown was fully down with cracking the skulls of prominent women’s suffrage activists like Emmeline Pankhurst.

Nobody likes a bully, and the people trying to beat down women’s suffragists were kind of the exemplar of bullyhood. Fortunately, Mrs. Pankhurst had The Bodyguard, a 30-woman group of buttkickers trained by Edith Garrud. Quoth Lady Edith: “Women using jiu-jitsu have brought great burly cowards nearly twice their size to their feet and made them howl for mercy.”

The British newspaper punch published a cartoon paying homage to Garrud in 1910, dubbing her “The Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu.” I used this cartoon to create a composite image as the basis of a new rashie.

This is the front:

I blended the classic suffragette cartoon with a historic Brazilian newspaper reading "Jiu-Jitsu Wins Again!" in Portuguese.

I blended the classic suffragette cartoon with a historic Brazilian newspaper reading “Jiu-Jitsu Wins Again!” in Portuguese.

This is the back:

That's Edith Garrud on the left, Emmeline Pankhurst on the right, and some actual text from the New York Times and a suffragist publication.

That’s Edith Garrud on the left, Emmeline Pankhurst on the right, and some actual text from the New York Times and a suffragist publication. (I thought about adding more newsclips referring to the “gang of Amazons,” but I think it’s best to keep it simple.)

Here’s the draft of how the whole works is going to look. This is a rough version, but the body of the rashie is going to mimic old-time newsprint.



When I was a kid, I watched Mary Poppins. Maybe you did, too. Maybe you remember this song, which name-checks the aforementioned Emmeline Pankhurst:

Of course, the movie offers a somewhat sanitized version of a rather gnarly part of history, which you can learn more about through this awesome Prezi, or by checking out some nasty contemporary visual  depictions of people who thought women ought to be able to vote.

But what got me thinking about Mary Poppins is the song’s refrain: “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us. And they’ll sing in grateful chorus: ‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!”

Those daughters’ daughters? That’s our generation. About 100 years ago, a bunch of tiny, fearless fighters stood up for themselves. That’s worth remembering and yes, adoring. We take the right to vote for granted today, but half the population has it because some extraordinary people put their asses on the line a few generation ago.

These stories fascinate me, and I’ve of necessity given short shrift to them. (For more, you can listen to a terrific BBC “In Our Time” podcast about this, and an episode of “A History of the World in 100 Objects” about a penny defaced by suffragists in an act of art sabotage).

This post could be thousands of words long, so I’ll cut it short by encouraging you to check out all the links (and of course to buy the rashguard when it comes out!).

We’ll wrap up by noting that the British government, as this article notes, honored Edith with a plaque in 2012. The last paragraph of the piece struck me:

But Tony Wolf cautions against romanticised images of suffragettes throwing officers around. “The bodyguard had some remarkable tactical victories using decoys and disguises,” he says. “But the grim reality is that they were heavily outnumbered by the police and were often injured.”

This premise is true but the conclusion is flawed. They were always outnumbered, and many of these women (Garrud included) wore layers of carboard under their dresses to cushion truncheon blows from police. They  were smaller, fewer in number, and hopelessly outgunned in terms of weaponry and resources. That’s undeniable.

But they fought. They were right, and they knew it, and so they fought anyway, often knowing they were going to take beatings. Doesn’t that make them even fiercer and more courageous than if they won every fight? I certainly think so.

Edith Garrud lived to be 99, and kicked enough ass for 99 lifetimes of that length. Well done, Sister Suffragette.


It Takes A Very Steady Hand, Or Foot

If you’ve trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu for any appreciable amount of time, you’ve had injuries.

Personally, I consider myself one of the more fortunate. Sure, I’ve had the occasional malady, but I have been lucky to avoid a major injury that would require surgery. Besides the pain and expense — as much it galls me to admit this — I don’t want to take the time off from training that a major injury would require.

One of the first pieces of advice I try to tell the new guys who go too hard is that injury is the real enemy: if you want to get better at jiu-jitsu, staying on the mats is job one. Especially for a guy who weighs 138, turns 40 this year and trains regularly, I’ve been very lucky.

It takes a very steady hand ...

It takes a very steady hand … and believe me, the “Skill Game Where You’re The Doctor” bit from the original game applies to our community’s rampant self-diagnosis.

That’s what I keep telling myself this month. Leading up to the New York Open, I had a nagging foot injury that I trained through. At the tournament, I re-injured it during my finals match. Now, every time it gets manipulated in the wrong way — even gently — it becomes debilitating.

But there’s the Catch-22: you can’t train without risking injury, but part of the reason you want to avoid injury is so you can keep training, especially with a tournament (like, say, the Mundials) coming up. Where is the line between being tough and being stupid?

The answer I’ve come to is that you must evaluate two factors: risk of re-injury and reward of training. When you’re nicked up, which is how I’d classify my current injury, you can still train some things. For example, one of my training partners hurt his knee and spent his healing time working half-guard. You also must evaluate your ability to protect yourself while drilling and rolling, and figure out whether you’re taking too great a chance on setting yourself back.

Naturally, figuring this out depends on the severity of an injury. I’ve had back injuries that were simple stiffness and would loosen up once I got moving, and back injuries that I’d have had to be a lunatic to train through.

Given my various experiences with being nicked up, I’ve often been surprised at how easy some injuries are to train with and how hard others are. I do a lot with gi grips, for example, but finger and hand injuries are relatively simple to train with. You can wrap ’em up and hide the injured hand. (In fact, at least one person reading this has choked me using only one hand).

The opposite end of the spectrum: rib injuries. I’ve had two ribs pop out. You use your core for everything, in jiu-jitsu and in life. One of my rib injuries was extremely painful and fairly debilitating. The other one didn’t hurt much. But then I tried to sit up and couldn’t. This foot injury has shown me — again, stupid as it sounds — just how much you use your foot, both in guard and on top. It’s harder to hide than you’d think.

After musing on which of my little bumps and bruises were hardest to train with, I made this graphic rating the injuries on a scale of 0 (a cakewalk) to 10 (sweet merciful crap, maybe we’ll stay in bed and watch videos).

This is just my own experience and is not meant to be taken very seriously. The only medical advice I feel comfortable giving is “you should eat right and train jiu-jitsu.”

This is a super-scientific image from my most recent x-ray and MRI. They combined them into an MRX.

This is a super-scientific image from my most recent x-ray and MRI. They combined them into an MRX.

There shouldn’t be many surprises here. The big muscles and joints are always big problems. I also always think it’s worth noting that if you have an infection, that’s a 10 and you should stay home, period: I raise an eyebrow at how many folks don’t get this.

One notable rating, and this might be a function of the severity of the injury: I personally found it easier to train with a messed-up knee than with a messed-up foot. Obviously, my knee injury wasn’t a major thing, but I was able to change up the things I was doing fairly effectively to protect the knee.

With the foot? Can’t be on top, you’ve got to stand on it. Can’t really keep the guard closed, and with open guard, you either have to step on hips and biceps (ouch!) or try to hide that foot by putting it further away from your opponent — which means you need to shrimp off of it (also ouch).

We all have strengths and weaknesses. In terms of the old remedy of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, my ICE game is tight, and the rest I have a problem with. (See what I did there?)

The old saying goes, “If you wake up one morning after training and nothing hurts, you died.” My hope is we all start to prove that saying wrong. Happy and healthy training to all of you.