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The Martial Arts Guy

Besides the students, instructors, and owners, the thing that irritates me the most about co-owning a martial arts and fitness academy is being forced to deal with The Martial Arts Guy. This asshole will stop by your academy and tell you about every single discipline he has studied, what degree belt he has achieved, how many years he has been practicing, and famous martial artists he knows or met once or trained with on a remote island in Asia.

Today after class, I was cleaning and preparing the academy to host a two-day Tai Chi seminar when a Martial Arts Guy walked inside. Of all the BJJ joints in all the towns in Southern California, he walked into mine.

I listened to him for ten or fifteen minutes before I resumed cleaning. He apologized for interrupting me:

“No need to apologize,” I said. “I just have to finish cleaning before the seminar begins.”

“Seminar? What type of seminar?”

My mind went blank - “It's one of those martial arts that's more of self defense/meditation thing...What is it called?...Oh yeah, Tai Chi.”

“Tai Chi most definitely is a martial art,” he said condescendingly, “just not how it's taught here. I have a friend who learned Tai Chi in China. He fought a Brazlian Jiu Jitsu guy after returning to the US. My friend touched him in the chest and he flew across the room. Then, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guy insisted they start on the ground and my friend kneed him in the head and knocked him out.”

I was rendered speechless. He verbally submitted me, or rather, he rhetorically shot a ball of chi right into my vocal chords.

I used to be really dogmatic about martial arts, and thought, basically, if it wasn't Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Thai Kickboxing, it was worthless. I don't feel this way anymore, and don't think it's productive to denigrate other people's arts. For example, I have nothing against Tai Chi. I don't know enough about Tai Chi to have an opinion. I do think that anyone who believes that a super advanced martial artist could manipulate something called “Chi” to defeat an opponent in hand to hand combat is delusional, but it's not like I'm going to start an argument about it with Martial Arts Guy, either. So I gave him a schedule and told him he should stop in after Labour Day for his free trial week.

My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Shoulder Injury - Part 2 of 3: Organ Removal & Opiates

My shoulder surgery was scheduled, but a few weeks prior I woke up with lower abdominal pain at 5:30am.  Before rolling over and falling back asleep, the thought occured to me that the pain felt close to where my appendix is allegedly located.  A few hours later, I was still experiencing periodic, stabbing pain so I made an appointment to see my doctor that afternoon.  The pain improved considerably by lunch time, but after a quick assessment, my primary care physician hustled me out the door, and told me to go to the ER immediately, as my symptoms were classic appendicitis.  When I arrived at the ER, I waited for a couple of hours before being given a bed in the (packed) triage area.  My bed was next to an uninsured, loud, angry homeless man who was being treated incredibly patiently by the staff over the course of many hours.  Next to the homeless man, an LAPD officer sat guarding the room of an injured bad guy.
 
I was watching Family Guy on my personal TV monitor when the stabbing pain began to get more frequent, and more painful.  When a doctor checked in on me, I said "the pain is starting to get a little worse" so they injected morphine into my IV.  This, my friends, is something magical that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.  I could feel the warmth spread throughout my circulature like liquid euphoria.  The world, the shitty triage area, the Family Guy rerun, it was all so fucking wonderful.  At that moment, I regretted that I had but one appendix to have removed.
 
I still had pain, in fact, the morphine didn't even seem to address the pain (not that I minded), so when the doctor came by again, and asked me how I felt, I told him "I feel warm all over, but the pain is still there" figuring I might not ever get the opportunity to receive a heavy-duty opiate intravenoiusly.  So they gave me Dilaudid which is about four times as strong as Morphine.  This is like the hard liquor of opiates, and got me so high that I wasn't really aware of my body enough to know it could feel something called "pain".  This stuff was only a couple of steps away from herion which I can say with pretty high confidence must be TOTALLY AWESEOME!
 
 
A little after midnight, my surgeon and a resident came by to personally wheel me up.  The surgeon seemed mildly disgusted by the triage area, and didn't laugh when I asked him to be careful with scarring based on my work as a bikini model, but then again, the drugs were having a really negative effect on my comedic timing.  I met with a couple of nurses prior to the procedure.  One of the nurses (Filipino, of course) had actually visited Westside Training Center a few months ago.  She lives really close to the academy, but couldn't enroll her kids based on their schedule.  Small world.  They injected another drug into my IV, which the nurse explained with a giggle "is kind of like getting roofied", and less then a minute later, I was knocked out.
 
As soon as I regained consciousness I demanded to call home, which I do not remember (nor do I remember the call home itself, however, I apparently called the doctors "incompetent" and the nurses "monsters" in front of the doctors and nurses because I thought it would be funny).
 
In spite of having a breathing tube shoved down my throat, a catheter shoved up my penis, my tummy ripped open, and an organ yanked out, I probably had one of the easiest appendicitis in the history of the world.  I was heavily medicated on awesome drugs before feeling much pain, and only experienced a bit of discomfort for a few days as my internal organs jockeyed for position over the new vacancy in my abdomen.  I was back on the mat in less than two weeks.  I really don't know why people make such a big deal out of having a baby when an appendicitis is pretty much the same thing and it's not that big of a deal.
 
 
I was watching Family Guy on my personal TV monitor when the stabbing pain began to get more frequent, and more painful.  When a doctor checked in on me, I said "the pain is starting to get a little worse" so they injected morphine into my IV.  This, my friends, is something magical that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.  I could feel the warmth spread throughout my circulature like liquid euphoria.  The world, the shitty triage area, the Family Guy rerun, it was all so fucking wonderful.  At that moment, I regretted that I had but one appendix to have removed.
 
I still had pain, in fact, the morphine didn't even seem to address the pain (not that I minded), so when the doctor came by again, and asked me how I felt, I told him "I feel warm all over, but the pain is still there" figuring I might not ever get the opportunity to receive a heavy-duty opiate intravenoiusly.  So they gave me Dilaudid which is about four times as strong as Morphine.  This is like the hard liquor of opiates, and got me so high that I wasn't really aware of my body enough to know it could feel something called "pain".  This stuff was only a couple of steps away from herion which I can say with pretty high confidence must be TOTALLY AWESEOME!
 
Bikini model.
 
I met with a couple of nurses prior to the procedure.  One of the nurses (Filipino, of course) had actually visited Westside Trianing Center a few months ago.  She lives really close to the academy, but couldn't enroll her kids based on their schedule.  Small world.  The injected another drug into my IV, which the nurse said "is kind of like getting roofied", and less then a minute later, I was knocked out.
 
As soon as I regained consciousness I demanded to call home, which I do not remember (nor do I remember the call home itself, however, I apparently called the doctors "incompetent" and the nurses "monsters" in front of the doctors and nurses because I thought it would be funny).
 
In spite of having a breathing tube shoved down my throat, a catheter shoved up my penis, my tummy ripped open, and an organ yanked out, I probably had one of the easiest appendicitiuses in the history of the world.  I was heavily medicated on awesome drugs before feeling much pain, and only expeirenced a bit of discomfort for a few days as my internal organs jockied for position over the new vacancy in my abdomen.  I was back on the mat in less than two weeks, trained for a few days, and then went back under the knife for my shoulder.
 
 
 
I woke up one morning with lower abdominal pain at 5:30am. Prior to rolling over and falling back asleep, the thought occured to me that the pain felt close to where my appendix is allegedly located. A few hours later, I was still experiencing periodic, stabbing pain so I made an appointment to see my doctor that afternoon. The pain improved considerably by lunch time, but after a quick assessment, my primary care physician hustled me out the door, and told me to go to the ER immediately, as my symptoms were classic appendicitis. When I arrived at the ER, I waited for a couple of hours before being given a bed in the (packed) triage area. My bed was next to an uninsured, loud, angry homeless man who was being treated incredibly patiently by the staff over the course of many hours. Next to the homeless man, an LAPD officer sat guarding the room of an injured bad guy.
I was watching Family Guy on my personal TV monitor when the stabbing pain began to get more frequent, and more painful. When a doctor checked in on me, I said "the pain is starting to get a little worse" so they injected morphine into my IV. This, my friends, is something magical that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. I could feel the warmth spread throughout my circulature like liquid euphoria. The world, the shitty triage area, the Family Guy rerun, it was all so fucking wonderful. At that moment, I regretted that I had but one appendix to have removed.
I still had pain, in fact, the morphine didn't even seem to address the pain (not that I minded), so when the doctor came by again, and asked me how I felt, I told him "I feel warm all over, but the pain is still there" figuring I might not ever get the opportunity to receive a heavy-duty opiate intravenoiusly. So they gave me Dilaudid which is about four times as strong as Morphine. This is like the hard liquor of opiates, and got me so high that I wasn't really aware of my body enough to know it could feel something called "pain". This stuff was only a couple of steps away from herion which I can say with pretty high confidence must be TOTALLY AWESEOME!
Bikini model.
I met with a couple of nurses prior to the procedure. One of the nurses (Filipino, of course) had actually visited Westside Trianing Center a few months ago. She lives really close to the academy, but couldn't enroll her kids based on their schedule. Small world. The injected another drug into my IV, which the nurse said "is kind of like getting roofied", and less then a minute later, I was knocked out.
As soon as I regained consciousness I demanded to call home, which I do not remember (nor do I remember the call home itself, however, I apparently called the doctors "incompetent" and the nurses "monsters" in front of the doctors and nurses because I thought it would be funny).
In spite of having a breathing tube shoved down my throat, a catheter shoved up my penis, my tummy ripped open, and an organ yanked out, I probably had one of the easiest appendicitiuses in the history of the world. I was heavily medicated on awesome drugs before feeling much pain, and only expeirenced a bit of discomfort for a few days as my internal organs jockied for position over the new vacancy in my abdomen. I was back on the mat in less than two weeks, trained for a few days, and then went back under the knife for my shoulder.
I woke up one morning with lower abdominal pain at 5:30am.  Before rolling over and falling back asleep, the thought occured to me that the pain felt close to where my appendix is allegedly located.  A few hours later, I was still experiencing periodic, stabbing pain so I made an appointment to see my doctor that afternoon.  The pain improved considerably by lunch time, but after a quick assessment, my primary care physician hustled me out the door, and told me to go to the ER immediately, as my symptoms were classic appendicitis.  When I arrived at the ER, I waited for a couple of hours before being given a bed in the (packed) triage area.  My bed was next to an uninsured, loud, angry homeless man who was being treated incredibly patiently by the staff over the course of many hours.  Next to the homeless man, an LAPD officer sat guarding the room of an injured bad guy.
 
I was watching Family Guy on my personal TV monitor when the stabbing pain began to get more frequent, and more painful.  When a doctor checked in on me, I said "the pain is starting to get a little worse" so they injected morphine into my IV.  This, my friends, is something magical that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.  I could feel the warmth spread throughout my circulature like liquid euphoria.  The world, the shitty triage area, the Family Guy rerun, it was all so fucking wonderful.  At that moment, I regretted that I had but one appendix to have removed.
 
I still had pain, in fact, the morphine didn't even seem to address the pain (not that I minded), so when the doctor came by again, and asked me how I felt, I told him "I feel warm all over, but the pain is still there" figuring I might not ever get the opportunity to receive a heavy-duty opiate intravenoiusly.  So they gave me Dilaudid which is about four times as strong as Morphine.  This is like the hard liquor of opiates, and got me so high that I wasn't really aware of my body enough to know it could feel something called "pain".  This stuff was only a couple of steps away from herion which I can say with pretty high confidence must be TOTALLY AWESEOME!
 
Bikini model.
 
I met with a couple of nurses prior to the procedure.  One of the nurses (Filipino, of course) had actually visited Westside Trianing Center a few months ago.  She lives really close to the academy, but couldn't enroll her kids based on their schedule.  Small world.  The injected another drug into my IV, which the nurse said "is kind of like getting roofied", and less then a minute later, I was knocked out.
 
As soon as I regained consciousness I demanded to call home, which I do not remember (nor do I remember the call home itself, however, I apparently called the doctors "incompetent" and the nurses "monsters" in front of the doctors and nurses because I thought it would be funny).
 
In spite of having a breathing tube shoved down my throat, a catheter shoved up my penis, my tummy ripped open, and an organ yanked out, I probably had one of the easiest appendicitiuses in the history of the world.  I was heavily medicated on awesome drugs before feeling much pain, and only expeirenced a bit of discomfort for a few days as my internal organs jockied for position over the new vacancy in my abdomen.  I was back on the mat in less than two weeks, trained for a few days, and then went back under the knife for my shoulder.
I still had pain, in fact, the morphine didn't even seem to address the pain (not that I minded), so when the doctor came by again, and asked me how I felt, I told him "I feel warm all over, but the pain is still there" figuring I might not ever get the opportunity to receive a heavy-duty opiate intravenoiusly. So they gave me Dilaudid which is about four times as strong as Morphine. This is like the hard liquor of opiates, and got me so high that I wasn't really aware of my body enough to know it could feel something called "pain". This stuff was only a couple of steps away from herion which I can say with pretty high confidence must be TOTALLY AWESEOME!
Bikini model.
I met with a couple of nurses prior to the procedure. One of the nurses (Filipino, of course) had actually visited Westside Trianing Center a few months ago. She lives really close to the academy, but couldn't enroll her kids based on their schedule. Small world. The injected another drug into my IV, which the nurse said "is kind of like getting roofied", and less then a minute later, I was knocked out.
As soon as I regained consciousness I demanded to call home, which I do not remember (nor do I remember the call home itself, however, I apparently called the doctors "incompetent" and the nurses "monsters" in front of the doctors and nurses because I thought it would be funny).
In spite of having a breathing tube shoved down my throat, a catheter shoved up my penis, my tummy ripped open, and an organ yanked out, I probably had one of the easiest appendicitiuses in the history of the world. I was heavily medicated on awesome drugs before feeling much pain, and only expeirenced a bit of discomfort for a few days as my internal organs jockied for position over the new vacancy in my abdomen. I was back on the mat in less than two weeks, trained for a few days, and then went back under the knife for my shoulder.
I woke up one morning with lower abdominal pain at 5:30am. Prior to rolling over and falling back asleep, the thought occured to me that the pain felt close to where my appendix is allegedly located. A few hours later, I was still experiencing periodic, stabbing pain so I made an appointment to see my doctor that afternoon. The pain improved considerably by lunch time, but after a quick assessment, my primary care physician hustled me out the door, and told me to go to the ER immediately, as my symptoms were classic appendicitis. When I arrived at the ER, I waited for a couple of hours before being given a bed in the (packed) triage area. My bed was next to an uninsured, loud, angry homeless man who was being treated incredibly patiently by the staff over the course of many hours. Next to the homeless man, an LAPD officer sat guarding the room of an injured bad guy.
I was watching Family Guy on my personal TV monitor when the stabbing pain began to get more frequent, and more painful. When a doctor checked in on me, I said "the pain is starting to get a little worse" so they injected morphine into my IV. This, my friends, is something magical that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. I could feel the warmth spread throughout my circulature like liquid euphoria. The world, the shitty triage area, the Family Guy rerun, it was all so fucking wonderful. At that moment, I regretted that I had but one appendix to have removed.
I still had pain, in fact, the morphine didn't even seem to address the pain (not that I minded), so when the doctor came by again, and asked me how I felt, I told him "I feel warm all over, but the pain is still there" figuring I might not ever get the opportunity to receive a heavy-duty opiate intravenoiusly. So they gave me Dilaudid which is about four times as strong as Morphine. This is like the hard liquor of opiates, and got me so high that I wasn't really aware of my body enough to know it could feel something called "pain". This stuff was only a couple of steps away from herion which I can say with pretty high confidence must be TOTALLY AWESEOME!
Bikini model.
I met with a couple of nurses prior to the procedure. One of the nurses (Filipino, of course) had actually visited Westside Trianing Center a few months ago. She lives really close to the academy, but couldn't enroll her kids based on their schedule. Small world. The injected another drug into my IV, which the nurse said "is kind of like getting roofied", and less then a minute later, I was knocked out.
As soon as I regained consciousness I demanded to call home, which I do not remember (nor do I remember the call home itself, however, I apparently called the doctors "incompetent" and the nurses "monsters" in front of the doctors and nurses because I thought it would be funny).
In spite of having a breathing tube shoved down my throat, a catheter shoved up my penis, my tummy ripped open, and an organ yanked out, I probably had one of the easiest appendicitiuses in the history of the world. I was heavily medicated on awesome drugs before feeling much pain, and only expeirenced a bit of discomfort for a few days as my internal organs jockied for position over the new vacancy in my abdomen. I was back on the mat in less than two weeks, trained for a few days, and then went back under the knife for my shoulder.

My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Shoulder Injury - Part 1 of 3

It all started a year and a half ago. Back then, my time on the mats ebbed and flowed as I went through a troubling chapter of my life. While my training was sporadic, every time I got a good, solid few weeks in, and every time the disgusting fat around my midsection started to disappear, my shoulder would begin to ache. If I took a day off, it would feel a little bit better, and then as soon as I started training hard again, it would ache some more. The more I trained, the worse it felt. When I attempted to push through the pain, it would get so bad that I was simply forced to let up until it felt better. This went on for months on end until I had a an opportunity to take some real time off.

Time Off

I went on a three-week trip to Southeast Asia, and when I returned, even before I could wash the stink of lady-boy off my body (Note:  Thailand is the only place in the world where the men are better looking then the women - see above...those are dudes), my shoulder began hurting again. So I came to the conclusion that this was not a take-it-easy-and-it-will-heal-itself injury, and finally got around to having it checked out. I assumed I would be able to stretch it or exercise it or ice it or do whatever it took to fix it up. After a few X-rays, my primary care physician sent me to physical therapy, but I ended up going to chiropractor instead (yeah, I know, don't judge me, my girlfriend suggested it, and "Yelpers" sure seemed to think he was hot shit, so I gave it a try).

Chiropractors Are Not Doctors

This chiropractor was awesome. He knew exactly what chiropractors are good for (basically, nothing), and when my injuries were beyond his area of "expertise", he suggested an MRI. A very cheap MRI that he had his staff schedule because he knew I would be paying out of pocket.

A week later, I found myself on a tray, face-up, nose three inches from the ceiling of what looked like a mausoleum, being moved deeper and deeper into the bowls of the machine. I really do not like small, enclosed spaces, but just as I started to demand they let me out, I saw a piece of tape move in front of my eyes. Someone had written on the tape "Don't panic!"

My chiropractor called me with the results, and oh my brothers, it was a horror show of damage and injury. 15 years of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not easy on a guy's shoulders, particularly a guy who is virtually impervious to pain. The MRI conclusion included the word "arthritis". This word is terrifying for a 37-year-old to hear. It conjures up images of mobility scooters, Sons of Anarchy, and the latest issue of "Prevention" magazine sitting on my Grandmother's immaculately cleaned coffee table. I wondered if arthritis was enough to get me the senior citizen's coffee discount at McDonalds.

He finished, by saying, "the results are not good, by any means, but they are not terrible." God bless him. I am so thankful I found an honest chiropractor (I'm sure being Canadian had something to do with it.) willing to own up to the limitations of his chosen profession, and send my ruined shoulder to a specialist.

So I went back to my primary care physician (because this is what we do in the United States). When I said the word "chiropractor" she literally winced, but granted me an appointment to a shoulder specialist once she saw the MRI results.

Kristofer Jones, MD (aka Bon Fucking Jovi)

My shoulder specialist's bio suggested he is pretty much the Bon Jovi of orthopedics. The look on his face was fascinating as he reviewed my MRI pictures. He went through image by image, zoomed in and out, rotated the picture, and nodded to himself saying, "Mmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm" as though each picture represented a familiar episode of damage that he was confident he would be able to fix.

He described a surgery that would solve the problem. It involved shaving down my bone which was chronically rubbing against another bone. It involved cleaning out scar tissue. He sounded like he knew what he was doing so I decided "why not?" I was on an HMO plan, got a lucky draw with my doctor, and it would only cost $500 (plus another $500 or so for physical therapy).

A couple of weeks later, I went under the knife, unfortunately, not for my shoulder....

The Single Most Awesome Judo Technique Ever Created by Jigoro Kano

He had me at "hold his pants at the crotch"

Opening Westside Training Center

Hola, amigos.  I know it's been a while since I last rapped at ya, but I (Kingof Crazy) managed to take down the PullingTheLine.com web site, and I couldn't figure out how to get it back up and running.  I apologize that you have missed Monstro's insightful coverage of the major IBJJF events.  I apologize that I have done irreparable damage to the PullingTheLine brand.  I apologize to our (would-be) sponsors.  I apologize to you, meu Monstro, but I swear on Kron Gracie's top knot, this will never happen again.

After taking the web site down, I got preoccupied.  Then, three and a half months went by.  Then, a developer from Bangalore named Rahul got it back up and running in an hour.  I have definitely got to start outsourcing more, and leveraging the global economy, but this web site is not devoted to inter-country currency arbitrage, the price of gold, the higher education bubble, the Bit-Coin revolution, or the coming financial Armageddon.  It is devoted to the best sport in the world:  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (and sometimes Hello Kitty).
 
Westside Training Center Owenrs and Renan Vital
Left to right:  The Giant Mexican, (Cookie) Monstro, Bolo, Kingof Crazie, Rinoceronte 
 
So while we've been gone, Monstro and I, along with the Giant Mexican and Bolo, started our own martial arts and fitness academy, Westside Training Center.  Pretty sweet, huh?  Yeah, you would think so, but in reality, owning a small business is really exhausting.  Prior to the four partners pooling our life savings, and personally guaranteeing a three-year lease, I assumed running an academy would be about as complex as a lemonaid stand.  You find a place, throw down some mats, the surrounding community signs expensive, long-term contracts in droves, and suddenly you're on the cover of Gracie Mag, taking expensive vacations to Rio, in the Farrari and Jaguar switching four lanes with the top down, screaming out, money ain't a thing.
 
In reality, it's a lot more difficult, and really expensive.  Don't even get me started on commercial real estate managers in the West Los Angeles area, but even if we were opening an academy in the middle of nowhere, Texas, things like the two Zebra pole pads we needed would still run an inexplicable $600*.  In addition to the unanticipated expenses, there was converting a white collar office space into a functioning martial arts academy in less than two weeks.  There was chasing away deluded Herbal Life kids stealing our parking spaces, working with a Persian landlord, figuring out how to schedule classes around our day jobs, and a heated discussion of whether or not we would be a "clothing optional" facility (I lost).
 
Basta!  Enough complaining.  Here are my top ten favorite moments of opening a new martial arts academy:
 
Kingof Crazie's Top 10 Favorite Moments of Opening a new Academy
 
The original office space that we transformed into a martial arts academy. 
 
10)  We had cubicles, dry wall, and a lot of other miscellaneous white collar garbage that we needed to haul away prior to framing the mats.  The Giant Mexican headed to Home Depot to find some day laborers to help us haul the garbage away.  When he arrived, there were a lot of laborer to choose from, so he vetted them by informing the group that "the first one to do 100 push ups gets the job".  
 
Before you get your panties all up in knots about Mexican-American on Undocumented-Mexican laborer abuse, we had to dig deep in our pockets to pay for them to quickly disassemble, throw into the truck, and cart away our junk, which they most likely recycled for even more money.  I do not have their expertise in doing what they did (it really was a sight to behold - those guys fit so much into their truck in a single haul, they must kick ass at Tetris), but if I could, I would be standing outside Home Depot in brown-face doing push ups for the next Mexican-American (or guero for that matter) who showed up in a pick up truck.  (I promise you it would be more profitable than owning a martial arts academy)  
 
 
9)  Monstro (who, if we had a baby together, according to this web site, would look like the above photo) on a ladder, attempting to unbolt the security fence, asking everyone else, "Should it be this easy?"  After five minutes of wrenching, we realized he was "unscrewing" the bolt with a socket wrench set the wrong way, which was more adorable than our future baby will be.  
 
Demolishing the office space
 
8)  The Giant Mexican using his Giant Nephew as a human sledgehammer by throwing him through the dry wall of an office we were demolishing.  This was while the Giant Mexican had walking pnumonia.  (A little fluid in the lungs isn't going to stop the Giant Mexican when there's work to be done.)  He worked himself until he vomited, he agreed it would be best if he stopped working, then he started gradually helping more and more until he was, once again, vomiting and gasping for breath.  
 
 
Cleaning up after demolishing
 
7)  Carrying over 2,000 lbs worth of Zebra mats off of a truck (alone) and into the academy.  It was 50 degrees, it took almost an hour, and twenty minutes in, I was sweating profusely.  My shirt and jeans were soaked.  Naturally, I came down with a nasty illness, an illness I was able to pass on to a handful of other people a few days later who were taking part in the epic lifting and carrying of the dismantled security gate to the dumpster area.  (It took 8 stout men to lift the thing)  We all nearly lost fingers in the process, and I managed to get a few other people sick.  (In Life-Jiu-Jitsu, illnesses are merely an opportunity to spread suffering to others.)
 
6)  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power shut off our lights halfway through training, leading to Monstro's waiting on hold for five hours at work the next day, and a nearly $600 (seriously) bill for our deposit, first month of power, and emergency turn on.  The power came on in a couple of days, but we were forced to lay and frame the mats with flashlights.
 
Laying and framing the mats in the dark
 
5)  Receiving so much help from so many people.  I would love to call them out individually, but I am really bad with names, and you know who you are by the fact that I made eye contact with you that one time.
 
4)  The O.G. (Original Grapplers) crew.  Prior to opening the Westside Training Center facility on the first of the month, the O.G. crew trained in the rinky-dink back room of a Brazilian Cultural Center where we had to lay down mats and pull them up before and after each class.  We had to tandem park.  But the worst part about the old location was that we had to put up with training next to a room full of Zumba dancers, taught by The Sexiest Woman in the World, visible to us through a gigantic glass window that separated the rooms.  Three times a week, we had to furtively glance as she warmed up to the first song prior to stripping down to a sports bra and yoga pants, her body glistening with sweat.  It was downright offensive, to the point where I took dozens of pictures, and many more even after we moved out, as I continue to gather evidence to make a formal (albeit retroactive) complaint.
 
Some of the O.G. crew (unfortunately, we're missing the China Dolls)
 
3)  The mural:  The Giant Mexican knows some of the best graffiti artists in the greater Los Angeles area.  They are incredibly skilled.  We gave them a blank wall, a few ideas, and they created a masterpiece.  You should check it out some time.  It's much more impressive in person.
 
 

2)  The Gustavo Carpio seminar.  Gustavo is an awesome guy.  His seminar was one of the best I have ever taken.  His private lesson was one of the best I have ever received.  He will soon be the father of a daughter.  I wish he lived closer to us than Texas, because I'd love to continue learning from him.

1)  Watching students from the academy learn techniques that they then use to win competitions.  There is something about yelling a technique to someone in your academy, a technique you know that they know, and watching them perform it on a live, struggling opponent, and that feeling is better then throwing someone through drywall.
 

If you're in the West Los Angeles neighborhood, come check out our academy!  See you on the mat.  
 
*This was after shipping, handling, and tax, and while a bit pricey, working with Zebra has been a great experience, and if they wanted to give me a discount in the future for plugging them on the premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blog on the Internet, I would not turn them down, in fact, I might even welcome the opportunity to accept, so call me, maybe.

Rickson Gracie Seminar

A couple of nights ago, Monstro and I attended Rickson Gracie's seminar at the Gracie Academy ™ in Torrance.  The seminar, a bargain at $100, was announced over email and sold out in two hours.  The academy was big, with a one-room “Gracie Jiu Jitsu Museum ™”, huge locker rooms, and a large mat.  There were Gracies everywhere.  The sons of Rorion that I could identify (Rener & Ralek) looked gigantic in person.  There were 22 black belts in attendance, one red belt instructor (Rickson), and one red belt host (Rorion).

Monstro and I did not arrive with expectations that Rickson would be teaching anything mind blowing, but we were hoping, at the very least, to learn something we could apply to our games, and to get a snap shot of us and Rickson.

I was particularly excited as I trained for six months at Rickson's academy when I first moved to Los Angeles.  During those six months, Rickson made an apperance once, criticized the way someone was doing their forward roll during warm ups, and then left five minutes later.

The Gracies who attended the seminar (please forgive poor photo quality)

The seminar focused on the theoretical concept of “connections”, that is, the points of connection between you and your opponent, and between you and the mat.  At times, Rickson referred to this as the “invisible” jiu jitsu, which is to say that two people could be seemingly applying the same technique with one focusing his energy and weight more efficiently than the other, while looking identical to an observer.

He then applied this theory of connections to a handful of techniques.  After every technique, he asked if there were questions.  There were always questions.  He demonstrated for the person asking the question, and made the student perform the technique until it was performed perfectly.

After working on a bottom side control technique, a black belt (training close to Monstro and I) asked Rickson for clarification.  In short, the black belt was asking if the technique could be performed when his opponent was positioning himself deliberately to thwart the technique.  Rickson said “You’re being naïve.  You’re a black belt, you should know this,” and then explained that, of course, if the person was over committing to defend the technique, he should take advantage of the over commitment.

Black (and red) belts who attended seminar (please forgive poor photo quality)

By the end of the seminar, we understood the theoretical concept, we understood how it was applied in practice, and we were equipped to look for places in our game to apply it.

Rickson gave a talk after class*, and got choked up as he described how happy he was to reconnect with his family.  He explained how he always kept in touch, but it had been a long time since they had taught or trained or exchanged techniques.  He also announced that he was, in effect, semi-retired and had no interest running an academy anymore.  He planned on teaching seminars one week out of the month, and spending the rest of the time “eating good food”, “surfing”, and spending time with his fiancé.  When asked by one of the Rorion progeny when he would be back, he replied:

“After I’ve spent some time in Prianha..surfing.”  (Monstro and I exchanged glances as we had been to Prianha a couple of times when visiting Rio.  It is, perhaps, the most beautiful beach in the world.)

The biggest disappointment was that after pictures were taken, they did not allow any personal pictures with Rickson.  Monstro was inconsolable, so I cheered him up with a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, and promised him I would photoshop us and Rickson together as proof that we attended the seminar.

*A spectator, I don’t know what he thought he was doing, started filming Rickson behind and a little beside him until Rickson angrily said “Hey…Get out of here!  Please!”

The Top Ten Reasons Why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Sucks

10 - Injuries:  If you are looking for a low impact sport that you can participate with limited injuries for the rest of your life, I would highly recommend swimming.  BJJ, on the other hand, will beat the hell out of your body.  If you take this sport seriously, you will have a long list of nagging injuries that will most likely get progressively worse until you die an excruciatingly slow and painful death.  Your ears will make small children cry and run away.  You will wince with pain upon standing, sitting, and shaking hands.  Sure, we’ve all seen videos of Helio wearing a gi well into his 90s, however, he knew how to submit his own injuries (one of the key differentiators between Gracie Jiu Jitsu™ and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), and even managed to wrist lock the icy hand of Death a few times.  As for the rest of us, we can assume that our fingers, knees, backs, and shoulders will be mangled beyond repair before we ever join the AARP.

9 - Cleaning Gis:  They are big, bulky, take a long time to air dry, are prone to smelling bad, and because of our archaic notion of gender roles, it is frowned upon for men to wear pink ones with Hello Kitty patches.

8 - Hang Nails:  I have a pair of nail clippers at home, work, and in the car because the rough gi material rubs my cuticles in the opposite direction, frequently creating bloody hangnails that open up in the middle of sparing sessions and polka dot my opponent’s gi with red spots which leads to juvenile jokes and tittering.

7 - Poorly Groomed Teammates:  Every academy has a couple of dirty motherfuckers who do not wash their gis, clip their nails, stay home when they are sick, seek out medical treatment for their infectious diseases, bath regularly, wash their hands after toileting, and are generally nasty and disgusting human beings that walk around in a cloud of filth and stink.  Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid very close, intimate contact with these nauseating individuals who will catch you on a bad day, mount you, and rain down greasy sweat into your mouth just as you are gasping for a breath of foul air.  Afterwards, your gi is forever tainted with a stench that will permeate everything in your house until you go on a journey with a bunch of Ninikos and toss it into the pit of Mount Doom.

6 - Argentina:  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu originated in Brazil, and Brazil is a South American country next to Argentina, and Argentina is full of whores, Nazis, thieves and paranoid schizophrenics.  It is a seriously awful place where people have no souls.  They are backwards, un-evolved, raving lunatics.   I have to assume that some Argentineans successfully fled to Brazil over the years, and that alone is enough of an ugly stain on our sport that we can never fully wash away until we have hunted them down and evicted them from our ranks.

5 - BJJ Causes Body Image Issues:  Prior to training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I was in pretty good shape with a naturally muscular build.  Seven years later, I am in pretty good shape with a naturally muscular build, and I wake up every morning and spend ten minutes calling myself “Fatty fatty fat fat” in the mirror before taking a shower because I know that if the Shiek called with a last minute spot at Abu Dahbi, I wouldn’t be able to cut enough weight to make it to the Medio weight class without risking kidney failure.  Also, when I see the slightest bulge in the sides of my abdomen, I feel morbidly obese.

4 - BJJ is Full of Brazilians:  Sometimes, prior to grappling with a Brazilian, he will blow his nose inside his gi to clear his nostrils.  This is the South American alternative to the breath right (TM).  In addition to using their gis as hankies, Brazilians are known for cheating as refs, and for being inexplicably bad at running their academies, tournaments, and organizations.  The Brazilians that came to the United States to teach and train are generally the cream of the crop when it comes to the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, however, God endowed them with powers of grappling, not powers of business.

3 - BJJ Has Limited Stand Up:  We’ve all heard that a high majority of street fights end up on the ground, and additionally, if one of the street fighters wants to take the fight to the ground, it will probably go to the ground (because Joe Citizen does not come home after a 12-hour shift at the plant and start working on his takedown defense).  Great.  We can all pat ourselves on the back for making a rational decision to participate in this martial art.  We can also agree that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in general, does a terrible job of instructing stand up self defense/fighting.  If I was in a hand to hand combat situation, and my options were knowing BJJ, Wrestling, or Thai Kickboxing, my first option would not be BJJ.  This is tragic because in an ideal world, BJJ would be incorporating the best of Judo and Wrestling rather than teaching people to flop on their backs.

2- Scoring System:  From what I understand, the original scoring system in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was created based on street fighting.  The number of points awarded to competitors relate to the dominance of the position.  In a street fight, if you are mounted or back mounted, you are in deep trouble, so maximum points (4) are awarded.  If your guard is passed, you are in somewhat less trouble, so three points are awarded.  Etc.

These days, most competitions begin with someone pulling guard.  If I didn’t know Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I was fighting someone in a parking lot who jumped on me with their legs wrapped around my waste like a deranged monkey, my first thoughts would be “Am I being sexually assaulted?  Was this person raised by baboons?  Why did I get into a bar fight over Justin Bieber’s sexual orientation in the first place?”  And then my natural reaction would be to slam the motherfucker on his back and head, which would most likely open his guard and/or knock him out, and then I would then do to him what the U.S. Congress is doing to the American people, and give him a little going away present.

The only way to fix scoring in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to penalize a person a couple of points for pulling guard.  The only argument I see against this is that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu developed the guard and should, therefore, promote its use.  To follow this argument to its logical conclusion, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu should not strive to be the “best” or “most effective” martial art, but to carve out it’s on unique space.  Judo recently changed their rules to stimy wrestlers and jiu jitsu players from scoring takedowns in their competitions.  It was an attempt to preserve the "Judoness" of Judo matches.  I am sure it will accomplish this goal.  I am sure it will also be a disservice to all people that learn Judo as it will not prepare them for other disciplines.

1 - BJJ is Addictive:  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sucks, quod erat demonstrandum, yet I am powerless to quit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Substitute Teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

What follows is the actual transcript of a series of text messages between me and my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor, Napolean, who introduced me to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.):

Me:  Just finished teaching my first class.

Napoleon:  Howd [sic] it go

Me:  OK, but I have a lot to learn

Napoleon:  Try to call at least one student a dumbfuck each class.  That way they know how they are doing.  Students like the intructors [sic] feedback.  Just like slaves or prisoners.

Me:  If there is one thing I learned from your teaching method is that students learn best when they are ridiculed

Napoleon:  And spat upon…

Me:  I prefer to go number three on them, but I have a lot to learn

Napoleon:  WTF is number 3?

Captain Caveman is out of town for a week, and he asked me to take over his classes - three gi and two no gi.  The classes are very small, but it has been a great opportunity to practice articulating techniques, and has been a lot of fun.  For my first class, I taught the most basic sweep in the book - The Scissors Sweep.  For my second gi class, I taught a couple of techniques from the sit up series - the Sit Up Sweep and the Sit Up Sweep to the Gullotine.  I had a few visitors from our sister school show up in support which was really cool.

Speaking of which, congratulations to Monstro and Wildcat on their engagement.  Their children will submit us all.

2011 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships (Mundials) – The BJJ Cynic

The 2011 IBJJF Worlds (Mundials) are one week away!  This is the largest, and the most prestigious Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament of the year.  As many of you are aware, the lack of age groups creates huge brackets where some blue belt divisions have more competitors than a Rio favela has drug dealers.  There is an unconfirmed rumor floating around that, to save time, competitors of Brazilian origin will receive direct byes into the finals, begin with a four-point advantage, and be allowed to punch with a closed fist.  The IBJJF has neither confirmed nor denied these rumors, so we at pullingtheline.com suggest all competitors change their last name to “Gracie” post haste!

Assuming you are part of the leisure class, the Mundials are pocket change at $126 USD.  For the rest of you proletariats, this might sound like a lot of money, but let’s put it into perspective.  You can either register for Worlds or buy a bottle of 1997 Mascarello Barolo.  And who doesn’t purchase “Barolos” by the case and have them shipped via courier in climate and humidity controlled rail containers?  What are Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes if not sophisticated wine connoisseurs with collections they are willing to liquidate?  At what point did I begin asking so many rhetorical questions?

I’m not one to complain about the cost (or to suggest that perhaps the IBJJF might want to at least consider parlaying some of their massive profits into a better web site and referees) but $10 for the privilege of watching white and blue belts on Day 1?  The IBJJF should be paying me upon entering, handing me a complimentary Acai smoothie, and giving me VIP access to the “Hot Chicks Room.”  Are they aware of the tedium that is watching (no offense to any of my teammates, because I’m not talking about you – seriously bros, you guys are special, and I’d watch you compete, I’m just busy that day) a bunch of half baked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu padwans?  Yes, it is charming, at first, to watch neophyte after neophyte burn their grips in the first minute and dance around clutching each other’s lapels like a 2am frat house bar fight, yet is this really worth a couple of sawbucks?  Pro tip – Purchase a black belt online, rush the gate, waive it the face of the ticket taker, and find a place near the top of the bleachers to take a nap.

When did I become so cynical?  Ahh yes, I became so cynical when I turned 34 and my entire body began to break down all at once, save for my bionic vision, which has given me uncanny insight into my longevity in this sport.  My knee is hosed!  My groin has been pulled beyond repair!  My fingers are mangled!  The only way I stand a chance against some of the up and coming pre-adults in our kids class is when I feign injury and ruthlessly latch onto heel hooks.  I am the ghost of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu future, and I am not one of God’s beautiful creatures!

I’m mostly kidding.  I needed to shake off the cobwebs and get some of that cynicism out of my system in advance of the 2011 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Mundials.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited as hell that this major tournament is in my backyard.  Next week, I will be taking a (somewhat) serious look (not really, but at least not as cynical, I promise) at what it means to compete in a major tournament in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the best damned sport on the planet ™. 

Monstro!!!!!!!!!!  It’s time for your picks!  The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community waits with baited breath for your insight and cogent analysis.

Nihil Novi Sub Sole

If you train BJJ long enough, you will most likely stumble upon, and “invent” a new technique that you have never seen before.  Odds are, you are not a pioneer of the sport, your last name is not Gracie, you live on the third (rather than the tenth) planet, and you have “invented” a move that has existed since the golden age of grappling when men fought in the nude.  While you could always claim the technique as your own, name it the Hello Kitty, and tell everyone you know that you invented it, BJJ etiquette demands that you at least conduct a cursory online search before writing your new book and touring the world conducting seminars.

A couple weeks back, Monstro discovered a cool back take, refined it, and while none of the black belts at the academy had ever seen it before, assumed that the technique belonged to someone else.  After some research, Monstro found the technique on YouTube being taught by Eduardo "Teta" Rios.

What is the difference between invention and discovery?  There are certain techniques that logically follow, and there is no doubt in my mind that people have (re)discovered them hundreds of times.  For example, Lloyd Irvin’s “mousetrap” makes sense to anyone that knows the Americana and the Kimura, and has attempted these techniques from side control.  I highly doubt that Professor Irwin was the first BJJ player to figure this out, and I highly doubt, even for his penchant for self promotion, that he would claim to be the “inventor.” Other techniques are unquestionably more innovative and creative, and regardless of who put the BJJ puzzle pieces together first, kudos to everyone who figured it out.

So, while in my mind, it was “Monstro’s Back Take Counter ‘aka Steal the Cookie’…” for a couple of weeks, it will be filed away as the generic “Back Take Counter.”  You can watch both Monstro and Teta teach the move here.

K.O.C.S.

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