Monday, January 31, 2011

Travel the World, Meet new People, and Fight them

I’ve been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a little over 5 years now, sprinkled in with a little Muay Thai and Boxing to complement the ground game. I’ve average a two hour class about 4 days a week, which has resulted in a loss of 60lbs (kept off) and a respectable brown belt. I’m currently working my butt off to earn black. While being a BJJ black belt would be unbelievably cool, honestly the belt color isn’t all that important to me. I’ll be training for as long as I’m physically about to for life regardless. The power of this martial art is simply amazing.

Right now I’d prefer to be training BJJ (MMA) twice a day 4-5 days a week, but between WhiteHat and family commitments there is just no way. When vacationing in Maui that’s pretty much what I do with all my down time, in between going to the beach of course. My BJJ game skyrockets to new levels super fast because guys out there are no joke. Everyone is in shape and train all the time. You’ll even find private MMA cages in people back yards that provide “something to do” when there’s no waves.

My job requires me to travel a lot. I’ve been to 5 continents, about two dozen countries, and 35 or so US states. Fortunately there has been an explosion in the number of BJJ academies thanks in large part to the UFC and MMA phenomenon. There’s at least one academy in every major US city I’ve been to and make a point to visit as many as I can. I always fly with my gi, rash guard, mouth guard, and fight short. Trained in about 20 academies across the US and abroad, including in Brazil where of course BJJ all began. I don't do this to try and prove how tough I am or anything, mostly just looking for a good workout (way better than the gym), learn a new move or two, and benchmark my progress. So if see me on stage with what looks like mascara, you’ll know why.

In 99% of the academies I’ve had lots of fun and amazing an experience. Got to meet some really cool people outside of the security industry and keep perspective on things. I’ve also learned a couple of important lessons on what NOT to do:

1) Don’t visit an unfamiliar academy as an out of town traveler unless you are a solid blue belt level or above, which equates to at least a year or more of hard training experience. Not everyone, instructor and students, are nice people so you must be able to truly protect yourself from serious injury in the rare case that someone is actually trying to hurt you. I’ve never had a problem in a strict BJJ (Gi) academy, but some “MMA” (No-Gi) places do have a level of “fighter” attitudes where some try to prove themselves outside of the cage. I’ve only had to deal with this kind of ego twice before. Both times it didn’t end up good for the other guy. They slept, I left.

2) As a sign of respect, call ahead and speak with the instructor. Introduce yourself and your training background. This lets the instructor know where to place you with their students skill wise and tell you if the place isn’t right for you for whatever the reason. Again, I’ve had two moderately bad experiences showing up to a martial arts academy unannounced. One was a primarily an Aikido place and the other Taekwondo, both advertising some BJJ classes on their site. Apparently the instructors in those disciplines also taught the BJJ class, but weren’t highly skilled. I asked if they do full speed sparring, to which they nodded. Once they found out my level, they wanted no part of me and asked that I leave. I think they were concerned that I might tear up their students or something and make the school look bad. Who knows, I complied.

3) NEVER tap anyone in an unfamiliar academy that is a higher belt than you. I hate this rule, but take my word for it. If you get a hold of a submission, let it go. Of course that doesn’t mean you go and let yourself get tapped out. Screw that! Fight to maintain control over your opponent, flow with the go, which demonstrates skill more than just about anything. While it shouldn’t be the case, I’ve a bad experiences when tapping the instructor. Things turn in Abu Dhabi night in an instant. I won’t be making this mistake again until I’m a black belt.

Remember the quote from The Matrix Reloaded, "…you don’t really know someone until you fight them." I’ve found this to be profoundly true, including in myself. A persons true mental disposition really shows when they are under physical duress. Chris Hoff (@beaker), cloud infosec icon, also trains BJJ while on the road. We’ve locked up in battle on the mat several times. His game reflects his personality. He's elusive and unassuming, but DO NOT underestimate him for one moment. He’ll catch you off guard the very moment you back off and not paying very close attention. For me its not who beats who, but having fun, bringing my best game, and see what happens. Learning where Chris is getting an edge on me or where I missed an opportunity.

BJJ Smackdown during RSA 2011
Feb 17, 7-9pm
Ralph Gracie's School
Everyone is welcome, but contact @jeremiahg or @


Thibaud said...

Hi Jeremiah,

What's the main difference between "traditional" Ju Jitsu and BJJ ?

Very interesting article though.

Jeremiah Grossman said...

@Thibaud: Thank you. I've never really trained in studied "Ju Jitsu" From my limited second hand accounts of the BJJ history, Jiu Jitsu came from Japan to Brazil about a hundred years ago. The brazilians who studied under the japanese national modified the art over several decades, which then became know as "Brazilian" Jiu Jitsu. You'll also hear of "Gracie" Jiu Jitsu after the family most directly responsible for the improvements, growth of the discipline, and its export to the US (UFC).

Practically speaking, I think BJJ has a lot more moves and a lot less rules, which making it more applicable to anything goes street fighting.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say really quick that I totally love this post and wish you all the best and continued success with BJJ! I am not a practioner (the proverbial 'maybe someday'), but I absolutely respect anyone who is, for all the right, respectful reasons. Thanks for sharing!


Jeremiah Grossman said...

@LonerVamp thanks! It is so much fun. While BJJ is certainly not for everyone, I highly recommend every give it a try and see if it suits them. Like anything else I suppose, you really get out of it what you invest. BJJ seriously changed my life, for the better.

securityninja said...

I should probably know more about martial arts than I do given my name ;)

The one thing I have to ask though Jeremiah is about the not tapping out someone with a higher grade in an unfamiliar gym. Is this a respect thing or the potential pain you are going to receive for doing it?


Jeremiah Grossman said...

@securityninja: This is by no means a BJJ "respect" rule. There is no such thing.

This is just my personal BJJ traveler rule as a way to keep the peace and prevent a potentially hostile situation from arising on the road. For example, I once tapped a brown belt, while I was a purple, in an unfamiliar academy and a full MMA brawl nearly broke out. I'd have no problem throwing down with any one person, but multiple opponents is another matter entirely.

I personally have no ego attached to my belt color. If someone of lower rank submits me, I want to know so I can improve. Happened last night in fact.

Aaron Bryson said...

Oh wow! I had no idea you trained MMA. I have a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu, and have been training Muay Thai since I was a kid. I have trained all over Austin with lots of great fighters in the last 8 years. If you are ever in Austin and want to roll, you are welcome to my school!

As for the difference in Jui Jitsu and BJJ, there isn't so much a difference in the art as there is in the popularity. BJJ came to from a Japanese man named Maeda who brought it to Brazil where it was taught to the Gracie family, and then continued to evolve and grow in Brazil. Similiarly, it has also evolved and grown back home in Japan.

You will find that the moves in both arts have similiar names (if not the same name), and have all the same applications.

Jeremiah Grossman said...

@Aaron: Wow, nice! You've been training for a good long while too. Amazing how many infosec people are into martial arts, especially BJJ. I'll definitely give you a shout next time I go through Austin.

Unknown said...

Cool option, I have done Jiu, bet now I'm into Krav Maga, its better ajusted to my 41 years old.
Best regards and keep up the good work.

Rick said...

Kevin Johnson from SANS told me that you do BJJ and at some conferences you organize some rolls. Are you going to be at Blackhat and more importantly are you going to organize any training? I am a PB under Eduardo de Lima in Clearwater, FL (I see in your pictures you trained at Jay Valko's place in Chicago) he is a BB under Eduardo.
Also if you ever come to the Tampa Bay area feel free to come on by and train with us. Eduardo always lets visitors train for free.

Are you competing at the Pans at the end of March? I will be there... my first Pan tourny.

Jeremiah Grossman said...

@Rick: Yep, I'm a BJJ brown belt, Chris Hoff is a purple.

We just held out annual RSA BJJ Smackdown #4. 6 of us showed up, great fun. Absolutely next stop will be BlackHat USA just like we did last year! :) Follow us on Twitter for the updates when the time comes.

Yah, the guys in Chicago were very welcoming. Had a good time and learned some good stuff to bring back home.

Won't be going to the Pans, but will likely start my training very early for the US Open in Oct. Need to get under 221. :)

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