I’ve started getting more involved with my Instagram recently, take a look at:
Since 1993 RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan have extolled the virtues of maintaining a strong, healthy neck whilst simultaneously keeping it free from danger and attack. Sound advice you’d think, for the average jiu jitsu practitioner but unfortunately this wisdom is often overlooked or forgotten about, I’m sad to say including by myself.
Around a year ago, the slow accumulation of small injuries in my neck due to cranks, chokes and awkward landings built up until the pain reached an intolerable level. Seeking treatment from a physiotherapist, I was ultimately given sets of exercises and stretches to relieve the pain and increase mobility in my neck and shoulders.
These helped with the symptoms I had, but I couldn’t help thinking that the root of the problem hadn’t been reached. Delving deeper, I realised that in jiu jitsu, the neck plays a pivotal role when it comes to balance, posture, mobility and defence.
The best article I read on the subject was created by Nicolas Gregoriades at www.jiujitsubrotherhood.com and was entitled ‘Is your neck strong enough for jiu jitsu?’ Check out the article link at the bottom of this page for more information. Reading this gave me the inspiration to improve my neck strength and flexibility and make sure I avoid long term damage that could potentially disable me in later life.
My own neck is still a work in progress, but thanks to Nic Gregoriades and the JJB, I have devised a neck workout for myself that includes front and back wrestling bridges, resistance band work and some yoga. Over the course of this year, my goal will be to continue to strengthen and improve the mobility of my neck, keep it free from injury and through this, ultimately add more depth to my jiu jitsu ability.
That’s not a bad investment in the future for any grappler. Give it a try!
Some of us pay little attention to it day to day, perhaps only pausing to take note when something feels wrong or out of the ordinary. Some of us turn a blind eye purposefully, covering it up out of fear, shame, or insecurity. Still others focus every waking hour upon it, forging it into a tool, a weapon or a means to make money. However you choose to live with it though, your body is a wonderful, individual and complex arrangement, one whose mastery only comes with age and experience.
My own experience began in junior school, where from early on, I was prolific and well-versed in the many sports and activities on offer to a kid in the UK. From the ages 6-14, I routinely played and took part in football, rugby, sprinting, long distance running, gymnastics, cricket, tennis, rounders, athletics and martial arts. Aged 14 however, I found myself in hospital with viral meningitis, something I successfully fought, but not without ultimately being ‘diagnosed’ with ME.
From here, I entered a rut, one which I would not fight out of for another 10 years. During this time I was consistently lethargic, both physically and mentally, lazy, inactive and uninspired. Having always been lean, the natural toning I’d achieved through being so active faded away and I was left feeling weak and skinny. For a long time, I completely ignored my body wherever possible, choosing to cover up with jumpers and layers of t-shirts.
These issues with my body image carried on until around the age of 25, when finally having grown bored of World of Warcraft, I rediscovered football. Then the gym. And then Jeet Kune Do…
By now, I had inflicted a lot of neglect upon my body. Whilst still skinny, my core was like jelly, my shoulders were slouched and my cardio and flexibility were completely inadequate. So I began to challenge myself. I started running, I hit the weights, I even walked 100+ miles in 4 days with little to no fitness, gaining deep blisters the size of tennis balls on the soles of my feet. I wanted to push myself and regain the confidence I’d had before I went into hospital. I began to motivate myself by imagining the body I’d have in 6 months time.
That time passed and although I felt far fitter both mentally and physically, I hadn’t noticed a huge change in my physical appearance. Another 6 months then, and I’d have the broad shoulders and big arms I’d been anticipating…
A year later and despite becoming more toned and defined, I still saw no big increase in size. Learning more all the time about exercise and nutrition, I was constantly incorporating something new into my lifestyle. Whether it was protein shakes, bench presses, less reps with more weight, less cardio, huge amounts of meat, squats, resistance training, whatever I tried short of pumping my body full of steroids and my dick falling off, just didn’t seem to work.
Then I discovered the work of William H Sheldon and took the biggest step towards understanding my own body I’ve made so far.
Sheldon’s work defined the three major body types or ‘somatotypes’. These are:
Mesomorphic – Hard, rugged, triangular, athletically built with well developed muscles, thick skin and good posture.
Ectomorphic – Linear, thin, usually tall, fragile, lightly muscled, flat chested and delicate.
Endomorphic – Round, usually short and soft with under-developed muscles and having difficulty losing weight.
Although on the surface, it appears that we’d all aspire to be naturally athletic, well developed mesomorphs, not everybody can hit the genetic jackpot. The huge variety in human genetics and appearance dictates that most people are a mix of a few or all three different types, but will predominantly favour one category over the others. For example, a person could be short but skinny and therefore a mix of ectomorphic and endomorphic body types.
Realising your somatotype can have huge ramifications when it comes to exercise. For example lots of aerobic exercise would benefit an endomorph, enabling them to lose weight, whereas the same effort for an ectomorph looking to build mass would have a negative effect.
Below I will summarise each somatotype and offer a handy list of dos and don’ts for each one. If you can narrow down your body type, try adapting your routine workout accordingly and see if your results improve.
Mesomorphs appear to have it in the bag, which can lead to their number one mistake – complacency. When you don’t have to work as hard as others to see your biceps bulging and your calves rippling it can be easy to sit back and relax a little too much. To combat this, constantly time your workouts and never stop striving for PB’s. You may hugely out-muscle the wiry Bruce Lee-looking ectomorph sweating away next to you in the gym but the chances are he’s working harder and could run rings around your cardio. Do not take your diet for granted either. Whilst your relatively high metabolism will burn off the majority of your cheat days, keep track of your carb intake to avoid unbalancing your diet and feeling bloated and sluggish. Go hard in short bursts with low reps of heavy weights. Plyometrics also suit the athletic approach to exercise that is ideal for a mesomorph. Check out my article on functional training and plyometrics here.
Endomorphs were the winners of the genetic lottery in 10,000 BC. They combined a strong robust physique with the ability to store and use fat through times of famine and hunger. Nowadays, the closest the average Westerner gets to being famished is skipping lunch due to a long meeting or only having half a bowl of cheerios for breakfast. It’s no surprise then that the modern endomorphs biggest challenge is managing their weight. This can be done effectively through High Intensity Interval Training – short, hard bursts of cardio exercise coupled with strength and resistance movements that will shed more fat and produce a more balanced physique than just plodding away on a treadmill. Whilst the endomorph can still gain muscle fairly quickly, they must be particularly vigilant with their food and drink intake, since eating to build muscle can easily lead to an increase in carbohydrates and sugar, the endomorph’s dietary faux pas.
I’ve added the ectomorph last as it is my dominant body type and also brings us neatly to the conclusion of my earlier story. After the somatotype lightbulb went off in my head, I began to realise that genetically, I’m just not destined to be on par with Arnie et al but I’d more than settle to be in the company of Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali.
Ectomorph’s have to work much harder than anybody else to gain any muscle. It becomes a long process that can often feel demoralising when you are not witnessing quick results, but with hard work, they will come. Ectomorph’s need to focus on intense functional training exercises such as dynamic squats, that use all of their muscles in compound movements as apposed to the isolated movement of a bicep curl or a bench press. Keep cardio training to a minimum, sprints and short runs are called for instead of long drawn out affairs. Most importantly, don’t stop until every inch of you is dripping with sweat and pumping with blood. The good news is that within reason, the ectomorph has almost a free pass when it comes to food. As long as their diet is sensible, their insanely fast metabolism means that they can easily burn off excess fats, carbs and sugars as long as they remain active. This comes in very handy considering the amount of nutrients an ectomorph requires to build even a small amount of muscle.
So it follows that a deeper understanding of your body type can lead to improved physical results and a much happier lifestyle.
I’m reaching a point in my life where my control, understanding and respect for my own body are increasing every day. Through exercise and martial arts like Jeet Kune Do and Jiu Jitsu, it is constantly being moulded and changed into something more effective.The more this happens, the happier and more balanced I feel as a person.
Since my days of covering up with 5 layers and hiding away from any sort of physical exercise, I feel I’ve come a long way and as with my martial arts journey, I’m still a work in progress, but a much improved, far happier one.
No-gi Jiu Jitsu has always sparked debate in the Martial Arts world, largely due to the conflict between those who believe the art should be taught traditionally, clad in a gi and those who believe that the gi is expendable, its belt and lapels being substituted instead for innovative positioning and control techniques.
The other big debate within the sport concerns submissions vs points scoring. Currently it is possible to watch a competitor sweep their opponent at the start of a match to gain a point advantage, then control them until the timer runs out. Why risk going for the submission when you’re ahead on points and you can just wait it out, right? Well, because it’s boring and bad for the sport.
Praise Odin then, for the rise of submission only, no-gi jiu jitsu competition. There have been a few events rising to prominence in recent years, but in my opinion, none more so then The Eddie Bravo Invitational.
EBI provides the highest calibre competitors and the most exciting match-ups, all under a set of rules that are tailored to encourage exciting jiu jitsu and in turn, advertise the sport to the world in the best possible light.
Eddie’s rules are as follows:
- ALL submissions are legal
- Matches are 10 minutes long, if there is no submission in this time, 3 overtime rounds are added.
- In the overtime rounds, one competitor starts in a favourable spiderweb or back position and the other must defend.
- If a competitor escapes the favourable position AND submits their opponent in a round, they win the match.
- If both competitors escape OR submit, they move on to the next overtime round.
- If there is no winner after 3 rounds, the total times for each competitor’s submissions and escapes are added up and the fastest overall time wins.
Eddie also offers money bonuses per submission. These roll-over with each opponent that a competitor submits and are kept if the player wins the tournament.
In action, these rules offer fast paced, dramatic jiu jitsu contests, with both players constantly and simultaneously going for the kill and looking to finish each other as apposed to waiting out the clock or rolling strategically for points.
The next EBI event will take place on December 13th and will feature a lightweight tournament including 10th Planet veterans Denny Prokopos and Nathan Orchard.
The event will be available to buy on PPV, but if you’re strapped for cash and can’t wait until December, the good news is the previous 4 tournaments have all been uploaded to Youtube by Eddie Bravo and are completely free.
Below, just a click away, is the full length EBI 4, a fantastic featherweight tournament featuring Geo Martinez, Joao Miyao (mee-ow) and leg lock wizard, Eddie Cummings.
Whether you know your X-guard from your Z-guard or whether you’re just curious what those two guys in tight shirts are doing on the floor, EBI tournaments offer jiu jitsu at an accessible level and to an exciting, high standard. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Episode 699 of the Joe Rogan Experience features the one and only Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, the number 1 contender for the UFC Lightweight title.
Cowboy is known for his wild lifestyle, his willingness to accept a fight at the drop of a stetson and his love for a cold Budweiser. All this results in him being one of the most popular and well love fighters in mixed martial arts today.
Currently on an 8-0 unbeaten run in the UFC, he will finally fight the current lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos for UFC gold on December 19th.
How to make a smoothie that will instantly boost your energy levels, curb your sugar intake and blitz your 5 a day, all without leaving a bad taste in your mouth.
If you’re working all day and training all night, from time to time you may find your energy levels and motivation dipping. Your diet obviously plays a huge part in regulating these factors, so it’s crucial that you fuel yourself with the right nutrients. One way I combat physical and metal fatigue is through my very own super smoothie recipe.
Smoothies are stupidly trendy nowadays. You can’t walk into a cafe without seeing them on the menu or browse the supermarket aisles without spotting an array of colourful concoctions on offer. Unfortunately, these can be expensive and are most often rammed with sugar, either through additives or an overload of fructose. So how do you dodge these fruity bullets?
Together, the words ‘vegetable’ and ‘smoothie’ conjure up all sorts of stomach-churning images, but if you consider past your initial perspective, there are some wonderful ingredients that blend perfectly with each other, such as carrot & orange and kale & apple. Using combinations such as these, you can create a smoothie that will be much kinder to your body, as well as your bank account.
Below is the recipe that I make for myself everyday, to drink either in the morning for breakfast or after work before I throw my gym clothes on and start training.
I use a Breville Blend-Active blender, which saves a huge amount of time and energy through the blending container also being the flask that you drink from. Check them out!
Depending on how much you drink, the ingredients below will make 1-2 weeks worth of smoothies.
1 bag Apples – £1
1 bag Kale – £1
1 bag Spinach – 49p
1 Avocado – £1
1 pot Plain Yogurt – £1.20
Total – £4.69
Add all ingredients according to taste and preference. I sometimes include ice and honey and green apples offer a zingier flavour with a little more sweetness.
Step 1: Cut 1 apple and add to a colander with a measure of kale and spinach, then wash with cold water.
Step 2: Add the ingredients to the blender, filling it half way. Spoon some avocado and pour the plain yoghurt on top.
Step 3: Add a small amount of cold water.
Step 4: Blend until smooth
Step 5: Add the remaining ingredients, along with some honey/ice if you desire and another small amount of cold water.
Step 6: Blend once more, until you are happy with the consistency.
Step 7: Chill and enjoy!
You may find that you will want to tweak parts of the process and your ingredients to make a smoothie that suits you, but after some initial trial and error, you will begin to reap the benefits of a smoothie that is cheap, quick and easy to make, great for your body and better for your energy levels than any sugary drink on the market.
I work out 2-3 times a week. Tuesday and Thursday nights are dedicated to JKD and Wednesday nights to football, leaving me with Monday, Friday and Saturday to focus on strength and conditioning with a well earned rest day on Sunday.
With a 9-5 job to factor in during the day, it’s easy to tire and let these workouts pass you by without much thought to what you’re actually achieving. When free time and the energy to train is precious, how do you make sure that you’re getting the most out of what you’re putting in and gaining the best results for yourself and/or your chosen sport?
For me, the answer is plyometric and functional training. Have a look at the video below for a brief introduction from one of the leading proponents of plyometric training, Gary Marinovich of Marinovich Training Systems.
So if you’re steadily grinding out bench presses and barbell squats, yes you can potentially gain muscle fast, but it is not going to make you fast. Repeated slow and heavy movement will only aid further slow and heavy movement in the long run. If you swap the barbell for a thrown medicine ball on the press then the explosive motion during the contraction of the arm muscles will produce significantly more functional speed and force that translates to a multitude of sports, for example, exploding upwards when escaping your opponents mount in MMA.
Similarly, if an MMA fighter is aiming to improve their strength and conditioning by pulling a weighted sled, yes it will make them fitter and stronger, but the fact is, they could be spending their valuable time doing exercises that will still make them fit and strong but at the same time enhance their fast twitch muscle fibres and have a functional application inside the cage. What scenario is there during the fight where their opponent’s weight is being dragged slowly behind them at all, yet alone whilst standing? Understanding this idea is the essence of functional training.
With this in mind, how does the casual athlete implement these principles into their standard workout and maximise their results? Here is my template, repeated 2-3 times weekly.
Warm up: 10-15 mins of dynamic stretching followed by jiu jitsu granby rolls and balance work on lengths of pipe and a heavy bag laid down on the floor.
20 explosive push ups
20 box jumps from sitting
Agility and footwork either side of a floored heavy bag
20 explosive squats carrying heavy bag
20 shadow box to sprawl to box jump from sprawl
20 Shoulder stands to crunch balanced on floored heavy bag with weighted feet
Benched weights from angles simulating resistance in jiu jitsu (fly etc…)
Repeat the circuit again reducing to 15, then to 10 and finally to 5.
During my roadwork I’ll sprint downhill instead of up, eliminating the less useful slow movement in the stretch shortening cycle and replacing it with faster, explosive input that develops more fast twitch muscle fibre.
Using plyometrics as a guide, I’ve never felt better results when it comes to strength and conditioning. These methods originated in the 50’s and 60’s through Russian scientists who for a long time were at the forefront of strength and conditioning in sport. For decades, they developed the most elite soldiers and athletes and it is from them that America and the rest of the west take their cue.
An American student of the aforementioned Marinovich brothers named Nick Curson has done a lot to popularise the system in recent years. Most recently he trained and guided MMA fighter Rafael Dos Anjos to UFC Lightweight gold and is also responsible for training champions in different disciplines all over the world. He is head strength and conditioning coach at the world famous ALA Boxing Gym in Cebu, Philippines. Check out the videos on youtube under his company name ‘Speed of Sport’. A while ago, he made an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience which is a must see if you’re interested in learning more on the subject matter:
Also, if you’re interested in some more technical information, visit www.speedofsport.com/the-science.html for access to related scientific papers and research.
So with a more considered approach to your workout, you might find yourself making rapid improvements with the short time you have available. Invaluable stuff then, for the Sunday Grappler.
The Joe Rogan Experience is my go to podcast for inside info on MMA, alternative & scientific thinking, American stand-up and general leaf-enduced rambling. If you’ve not listened before, Joe’s sense of humour may take a little time to click, but once it does, you won’t want to miss an episode.
This episode features none other than Ronda Rousey and her head coach Edmond Tarverdyan and it’s a belter.