Monday, January 30, 2017

Refereeing off the Mat

I spent yesterday refereeing at the Events BJJ Initiator Crown, after a really interesting and fun day on Saturday getting together with Machado brown and black belts at Langes MMA, and doing some Jiu Jitsu training.

The competition was held at Ryde Aquatic Centre. If you think it was humid where you were yesterday, consider competing or officiating in a hangar-sized space with no air conditioning and minimal insulation, adjoining a large, enclosed, and partially heated body of water. Like a steam bath.

After a mildly hectic start due to the head referee's plane from Melbourne being delayed, the competition ran well. Highlights were the two black belt matches between Andre Powell and Shaher Khan, one of which I was lucky enough to referee.

On one of my half hour breaks, I was wandering around the hall, dressed in my black referee's pants and black "Referee - Events BJJ" T shirt, trying to clear my mind and return to the Zone before my next stint on the mat.

I came across a mother, dressed in denim shorts and a red Gracie Barra T shirt, playing half guard bottom with her preteen son, similarly dressed, on the wooden floor, no mats, among the spectators. Our eyes met, I gave her "two points" verbally along with the hand signal. We both laughed. A fun, spontaneous moment that only Jiu Jitsu and all its related rabbit hole craziness could have brought about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review - Flow Jitsu - Mike Bidwell

Digital download - $49 AUS. c. 62 minutes. Available from

Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood


Mike Bidwell runs the BJJ After 40 blog and Facebook page. He had an interesting journey to black belt, which you can read about on this bio. He regularly posts interesting and innovative techniques and drills on Facebook, exhibiting a nimble, agile and flowing style, and thoughtful articles on his blog.

I obtained this video while purchasing Beyond Technique 2, which I reviewed here (and call BT2 from here on in). It was offered to me at half price, if I bought BT2, a deal which I accepted. There was a slight kerfuffle with getting the download link as part of the package purchase, but this was quickly resolved via email by Nic Gregoriades.

Nic G introduces the video with Mike Bidwell, and both discuss a piece of serendipity which resulted in their collaboration in producing Flow Jitsu.

The production, in terms of both video and sound, is of of good quality Mike B speaks clearly and demonstrates while he talks. He is easy to understand and conveys his information concisely. The "All right Ninjas!" before each section might annoy some people after a while, but not me. I like enthusiasm and don't mind a catch phrase.


The video demonstrates several series of techniques, some starting from the "Kimura Sweep" from closed guard - better known in my circles as the Hip Bump or Sitting Rollover sweep - or from the mount (which is where you often end up after a successful kimura sweep).

"Flow Jitsu" as I understand it refers to a style of Jiu Jitsu where your opponent's counters to your techniques are not met with frontal resistance, but by "flowing" around the opponent's obstacles, much like a stream flowing around rocks and other obstacles. A counter by the opponent is seen not as an obstacle to be forced through, but a new opportunity to be exploited, by changing the flow of techniques. Much is made of changing angles to exploit an opponent's force, or letting his push on your face to defend a kimura past you to hit him with a head and arm choke, where his "telephone defence" can then be turned into a wrist lock, etc.

To me, it has parallels with Kit Dale's "Becoming Formless" concept from the BT2 video, though that was more to do with changing your shape to neutralise an opponent's resistance, where Flow Jitsu seems to be more about continually changing up attacks to move around an opponent's resistance, or to take advantage of and exploit it. In a couple of places you can pretend to allow an opponent an "out" of a submission which is actually a trap for a different submission.

This may not be a completely new concept to many brown or black belts, but Mike B demonstrates technique chains which are unusual and imaginative, as well as some tweaks for standard techniques which may slot right in to some people's games. He has a nice variation on the seat belt for back control he calls the "baby restraint", and a really nasty (in a good way) collar choke variation from the back mount.

Of particular interest to me were his use of the gi lapel tails, both yours and his to set up a number of different chokes from guard and mount, plus omoplatas, etc., depending on how the guy moves.

If you like the hip bump sweep and mount, and especially what Mike B calls the "face wrap", and what my Jiu Jitsu circles call the "gift wrap", this will be a great video for you. As a catalyst for imagination and development of a more flowing and responsive game, there are ideas here for just about anyone.

It is probably best for blue belts and above. In my experience, people don't really start learning to chain techniques together until they are about ready for their blue.

After 40

I started BJJ at 44 after about fifteen years of TMAs. I am 62 now. My Jiu Jitsu longevity guru is Steve Maxwell. He is 64.

Mike B is spry and flexible for a 47 year old, and some of his Facebook techniques will require considerable agility and flexibility. I follow his Facebook, not for advice how to train when you get old (whatever "old" means to you), but to see imaginative and interesting Jiu Jitsu.

It is likely that a style that flows and does not oppose resistance directly will result in  longer Jiu Jitsu career. But, in my opinion, this is not really "old guy" Jiu Jitsu.

That said:

None of the techniques on this video require more than moderate flexibility. As a 62 year old - though, perhaps, more athletic and agile than many of my contemporaries - I feel that all the techniques would be well within my capabilities, and do not require putting myself at risk from trying to assume precarious positions that taxed my physical attributes.

I liked this video, and plan to work through the technique chains. If you like the sound of it, I reckon it's definitely worth getting. I'd give it four stars, and would have given it more if it were a bit longer with more technique examples. There's a rich vein to be mined here.

Another, very detailed review, is here:

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Review - Beyond Technique 2 - Nic Gregoriades, Kit Dale

Beyond Technique 2; BJJ Concepts Evolved, by Kit Dale and Nic Gregoriades. 75 minutes approx. Available at

The Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood.

Beyond Technique 2 is a follow up to the Beyond Technique video, produced by the same two gentlemen in around the third quarter of 2014.

Beyond Technique (called BT1 here) approached Jiu Jitsu from a conceptual viewpoint, looking for overarching concepts which could be applied to multiple situations which arise in Jiu Jitsu, as opposed to practising and drilling individual techniques. Being able to develop and apply effective technique, tactics and strategy on the fly is the goal.

BT1 presented twenty strategies in a fifty five minute video, Nick and Kit presenting concepts more or less alternately, and demonstrating one or maybe two quick examples of each. That video fulfils its goals pretty well, but with an average of less than three minutes per concept that doesn't provide a lot of time for illustration of the concepts. Some of the concepts presented on that video were specific to particular positions and thus limited in scope, others pretty much applicable just about anywhere, and the latter set in particular could have benefited from more time spent on examples.

Arguably, one purpose of the DVD is to fire your imagination and think of ways to apply the concepts to your own Jiu Jitsu, and it largely met that goal, in my opinion. In my own experience, I could notice guys using these concepts while rolling, consciously or unconsciously, and I found ways to improve the effectiveness of specific techniques by consciously applying the concepts in my own training.

A write up of BT1 by a training bud of mine is here:

Sonny Brown MMA: Notes on Beyond Technique

The follow up video, BT2, presents four new concepts (though at least one is an improved version of one presented on BT1, as explained by the presenters), and provides longer explanations and comprehensive example of how to apply each concept.

Without giving the game away, the concepts are:

Foot Engagement

Keeping active feet and active toes in all positions, top and bottom. "Pocket Pressure", leglock defense, etc. If you can prevent your opponent engaging his feet correctly, you put him at a disadvantage.

Becoming Formless

An extension to "changing your shape". Denying your opponent opportunities and platforms upon which to apply force or resistance by constant movement, staying relaxed, moving around obstances or finding alternate paths around them. "Be water, my friend." Kit Dale's illustration of the application of this concept show it to be a lot less airy fairy than it sounds.

Strong Shape / Weak Shape

Good alignment, or structure, for the application of force or resistance, has the eyes/head, shoulders/arms, and hips/legs all pointing in the same direction, and including the aforementioned Foot Engagement. This is the "Strong Shape."

Getting the spine twisted, so the head, shoulders and hips all point in different directions, with disengaged feet, is the "Weak Shape."

You should actively try to maintain or recover the strong shape, while trying to put your opponent into the weak shape. This will give you a significant mechanical advantage over him. The leg drag pass is a great example of this.

"Force" the Position

Many trainees try to force specific techniques onto their opponent. What Kit does instead, when setting up a pass, is to try to immediately move to a stable position over his opponent, not too difficult to get, where he feels comfortable and safe. Rather than force a specific technique here, he has become so familiar with the position that whichever way the opponent moves, he has a way to capitalise on it.

So rather than rushing to pass, he tries to quickly get to that position. Once there, he is good to go.

My own coach, Anthony Lange, has a particularly good butterfly guard game. He'll just quickly pull that guard and sit there, waiting for you to pick up the rope and hang yourself.

There are a number of comprehensive examples of each concept provided by both gentlemen.

Nic Gregoriades demonstrates a half guard pass with a fair number of steps, in which he illustrates how and where three of the concepts can be applied, at several instances each during the pass, in particular how maintaining the strong shape yourself, while incrementally putting your opponent further and further into the weak shape, can make the pass way easier, more effective, and more difficult to resist.

Towards the end they roll for several minutes, each illustrating how and where they have applied each of the concepts at various places during an unscripted match.

My Take

These are a good set of concepts. Many of us will have seen them in glimpses before, though probably not as well articulated or conceptually developed as this.

The concepts are definitely immediately applicable to anyone's game. I look forward to experimenting with and applying all of them during my 2017 jiu jitsu sessions.

Customer Service

When I ordered the digital download, I was invited via a pop up window to purchase Mike Bidwell's (of BJJ After 40 fame) Flow Jitsu video at half price as well. Sounded good to me.

Both videos appeared on my order summary, but I only received a download link for BT2. Which I downloaded without problems.

I used the "Contact Us" message link and left a message explaining the problem with Flow Jitsu. This was at about 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning there was a personal email from Nic Gregoriades apologising for the problem and another with the correct Flow Jitsu link, which once again I downloaded successfully. Result!

I will review Flow Jitsu in the near future.

From "The 48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. A perfect fit with this discussion.