Boot and Shoe Service Restaurant in Oakland, California serves delicious, thin crust pizza in a vibrant, hip environment. The cocktails are the best in the neighborhood.

Breakfast: 2 grass fed beef burgers + black beans

Lunch: Smoothie // 2 bananas + 1 packet Acai Roots + 12 oz of nonfat organic milk

Dinner: Two corn and zuchini tamales

Dessert (I gave in…): 3 home baked chocolate chip cookies + 8 oz of nonfat organic milk

These tamales are available at Whole Foods and are delicious.

Notes:

  • Last night’s dinner was pizza, salad, and wine at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland (http://www.bootandshoeservice.com/).  I was so hungry from lunch that I overate at dinner.  I am beginning to see Rorion’s wisdom in doing a 4-week phase in for the diet, with each week focusing on one macro element.  If I also had to worry about combining foods, I’d feel defeated.  At least with this singular focus on correctly spacing meals, I can tweak until I get to a place where I’ve eaten enough but have sufficient energy until the next meal.
  • Admittedly, the fact that I don’t have to worry about eliminating desserts until week 2 is great.  There are some yummy baked goods in the house right now!
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Breakfast

Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, steamed spinach, and black bean.

Lunch: Acai, 2 bananas, milk, almond butter smoothie

Dinner: Contigo (http://www.contigosf.com/), in San Francisco.  My God!!!  So delicious.  The fried goat cheese salad with pomegranate seeds and persimmons was easily the best thing I’ve ever had in SF.

Notes:

  • The first week’s focus is waiting 4.5 hours between meals, and this has already proven to be challenging.  While the breakfast looks hardy, it definitely did not take me through the entire period.  By the time lunch came around, I tried to make the quickest thing possible.  This also proved to be less than sufficient calories, as I felt light headed and unable to concentrate at work.  I need to make my meals a bit heartier so that I have the energy to last me through to the next meal.
  • The other challenge is that other people’s schedule may not be in sync with my meal schedule.  Case in point.  My girlfriend’s mother is in town and we took her out to dinner.  I ate lunch at 12:30, which meant I could have either eaten again at 5 and not have had dinner with my gf and her mom at 6:45 (not an option), or I could wait until 6:45.  By the time dinner came around, I was in an unpleasant mood.
  • While the first week’s focus is not on food combination, it’s worth noting that the shake is not compliant.  (Not allowed to mix milk with either fruits or nuts.)  The diet demands forethought and planning, that’s for sure.

Day 2

Breakfast // Grass-fed beef burger, lentils, steamed spinach.

Lunch // 2 “Renergy” Sandwiches (whole wheat toast, raw almond butter, avocados, spinach)

Dinner // TBD, but I’ll definitely wait at least 4.5 hours.

Breakfast, Day 2

Notes:

  • Still on a 4.5 hour schedule.
  • I was hungry two hours after breakfast.  Again, I need to pack more meangingful calories into that meal.
  • The first time I saw Rener make the Renergy sandwich on Youtube, I thought: “That looks disgusting!”  To the contrary, it’s money.  I just had two.

Yum!


If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.


“This is even more important than the jiujitsu.  Really.”  Rorion Gracie maintained eye contact with me to emphasize the seriousness of his statement.  I thought, That’s quite a claim coming from one of the patriarchs of Brazilian Jiujitsu in the U.S.

Ever since I began training, I’d heard about the Gracie Diet.  However, it wasn’t until more recently, thanks in large part to the Youtube videos posted by Rener and Ryron Gracie demonstrating the preparation of various Gracie Diet meals, that I took a deeper interest.  This coincides with larger questions I’m grappling with, which I captured in a previous blog post about The Paleo Diet and American food obsession in general.

Last weekend I was in LA at the same time as The Gracie Diet book launch and signing at The Gracie Academy in Torrance.  I took advantage of this serendipitous timing to drop by, pick up the book and meet some of my heros.

Who should I make the book out to?

Rener spent time chatting with my sister and I. I hope to take him up on a week-long intensive at the Academy in 2011.

For those of you who might be considering buying the book, I’d like to present a measured review of it.  Hopefully, it will better inform your decision.

Overview of The Gracie Diet

The Gracie Diet is couched in the context of America’s current health epidemic, one which finds citizens of the wealthiest nation in the world suffering from very high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.  In fact, it seems that for Rorion, this is his latest calling – to leverage The Gracie Diet as a weapon in combating these epidemics.

The book has a logical and easy-to-follow narrative arc.  Rorion sets the stage for subsequent chapters by providing background on the diet’s fundamental principles.

The main goal of the diet is to combine foods in such a way so as to a) maximize nutritional uptake, b) prevent fermentation, c) make digestion more efficient and decrease the energy demand the digestive process puts on the body, and d) to decrease blood acidity.

Based on extensive field research and personal experimentation, Carlos Gracie – Helio’s brother and Rorion’s uncle – defined certain “rules.”  The basics include:

1) spacing meals at least 4.5 hours apart

2) combining foods according to pre-defined categories

3) staying away from indulgences like desserts, alcohol, and tobacco.

It is a heavily plant-based diet with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and there are undertones of vegetarian leanings in the book.  However, the diet does not exclude meat by any means, and, apart from the rules, it is not a very restrictive diet in terms of the foods one is allowed to consume. (Pork is an exception.)

From here, Rorion “trains” the reader, each chapter providing a progressive building block for understanding the nuances of the diet and implementing its principles.  The progression starts with an eating behavior self-assessment.  Then, it asks the reader to log a week-long inventory of eating habits, patterns and foods consumed.  From there, the book recommends a 3-week phase-in, with the first week implementing the 4.5 hour rule, the second week cutting out desserts and soda, and the third week prohibiting the mixing of two or more starches in the same meal.  The final stage is the first Gracie Diet compliant meal.

Pros

  • The book is well structured, as captured above, especially for the goal of implementing the diet’s principles.  It speaks to the complete layperson, establishes a rather easy-to-use program, and even includes a comprehensive food combination chart and sample recipes.  There’s even a section on how to stay compliant with the diet when you find yourself at popular fast food restaurants.
  • I appreciated that the sample recipes tackle a diverse range of food, ranging from a freshly made vegetable juice to traditional pot roast.   Moreover, there is a 14-day chart that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for each day.
  • The book acknowledges the most obvious critique upfront and encourages the reader to research and self-experiment.  There are no comprehensive studies examining the impact of one or all of The Gracie Diet principles, and Rorion admits that neither he nor Carlos are/were doctors.  However, Rorion practices what he preaches, and believes the diet can have profound impact on your well being.  Frankly, putting more fruits and vegetables on your plate can’t do you harm.

Cons

  • The book never endeavors to explain the reasoning behind the central thesis of the diet.  I was left with the question: What is digestive fermentation and blood acidity, and why is it important to minimize these?  This is a glaring omission that I hope Rorion fills in for the second edition of the book.
  • I would have appreciated more rationale for other aspects of the diet as well.  For example, why is pork cut out completely from the diet?  (I don’t think I missed this in the book.)  New knowledge is better assimilated if the underlying principles are laid out since it helps in applying the diet rather than just memorizing it.
  • This is minor, but the book has very small print.  I imagine this was done to keep page count, and thus, costs to a minimum.  However, for someone as near-sighted as me, it made the book hard on the eyes at times.

Summary Review

If you’re looking to understand how the diet works and are looking for an implementation plan, this book is ideal.

Let me know if this review was helpful in the comments below.

My 28-Day Experiment

If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.  In other words, do your own research.

I plan to implement The Gracie Diet program as laid out in the book and keep you all informed of how it goes.  (Some might think I’m crazy to start this during the holiday season, but, is there ever an ideal time for implementing a new dietary regimen?   I’ll admit upfront that Christmas Eve will be a complete “cheat” day.)  I’ll use brief, daily updates, inspired by a great blog on the Paleo Diet by John Danaher purple belt, Jeffrey Knight. I plan to be transparent, both in what I eat and in how I feel.

P.S.

Caleb has a great interview with Rorion Gracie at The Fightworks Podcast.  Check it out!


“Would you consider me a nice guy?”  Coach Max asked.  How else do you answer that but, “Sure.”  “Well, you’re not going to think I’m such a nice guy after this.”

Then, he unveiled Grace.  Clean and jerk.  135 lbs.  30 reps for time.

Within seconds my heart was pounding with nervousness.  It took considerable effort and focus for me to clean and jerk less weight – once!  He wanted me to do this 30 times???  Was he planning on being here all day?

Again, the voices in my head.  I took a deep breath, channeled GSP (he’s been my mind’s picture when I need to dig deep), and went.  Ugh!  Clean.  Now… jerk.  WHAM!  Weights fall to the ground.  Seriously, how am I going to do this?

I heard Coach Max call out.  “Again.  Don’t step away from the bar.  Stay there.  Don’t run away.  Stop thinking and just go.  Go now!”

I went again.  …WHAM!  Weights hit the floor again.

“Ok, you’re doing fine.  Now, the goal is to string two together.  Lift, touch back down, and go.”  It took nine reps before I was able to string two together.  From there, it was a pattern of one, then two, back and forth until I battled my way through all 30.  10 mins. 58 sec.

Why is it that each workout feels harder than the last, I asked myself?

Here’s a CrossFit guy in Austin doing what took me 11 minutes to do in under 2 min.  I hate him.

Notes

– The technical instruction of this personal session was really engaging.  Apart from the fact that I’d always wanted to learn how to clean and jerk correctly, we also worked on handstand pushups (and modifications for these since my extremely tight shoulders make the movement almost impossible at this stage) and muscle ups on the gymnast rings.

CrossFitters working on muscle-ups.

– Muscle-ups are pull ups to dips, performed on gymnast rings.  Very difficult.  I was swinging all over the place.

– The little work I’ve done on gymnast rings has engendered in me a deep respect and sense of awe for gymnasts.  The sheer strength, balance, and coordination to work the rings is a bit daunting for me.

– Keys to the clean:  Feet in “jumping position,” shoulder width apart.  Head up, back straight, knees bent and quads ready to fire, hands on bar, thumbs inside the fingers, shoulders over the bar.  (The thumb-in grip felt very foreign but is supposed to prevent the bar from flying out of your hands when you start working with heavier weight.)  The distance between the hands should be roughly equivalent to what they would be if you gripped the bar and then extended your thumbs along the bar so that they just hit your waist.

– Here’s a great video on the CrossFit site demonstrating the movement.

I wouldn’t try this movement unless you sought out instruction in how to do it.  But, if you know how to C & J, try this out (with a good warmup beforehand) and post time to comments.

Next week, back to BJJ!


It is a far gone cliche in the jiujitsu community, particularly among the older practitioners among us, that what first inspired us to train was watching Royce Gracie’s legendary performance in the first Ultimate Fighting Championship.  While the same is true of me, I also owe another man a debt of gratitude.

As a junior at NYU, I started training at a Jeet Kune Do school named Anderson’s Martial Arts.  There, I met Craig Dunham.  Craig is 6-feet tall, dark-skinned, with a tight mop of curly black hair.  His face bears the weathering of a mature man.  You might guess he’s in his mid-30s.  But, then his gi top comes undone during training, and you look down at your own gut and ask yourself what the hell he does so differently.  The man is shredded.

His most distinguishing characteristic, though, is something I have some difficulty describing.  He has a passion and an intense but positive energy that leaves you feeling better about life and sensing opportunity and possibility.  It is what I felt when I bumped into Renzo Gracie every so often when I trained at his academy in the early 2000s, or what I imagine people feel like when they meet the Dalai Lama.

One day, after a fierce roll between he and I at Anderson’s, we chatted back in the changing room.  Struck by his joie de vivre, we became friends.  The more I learned about him, the more I was amazed.  Here was a former college football player turned surfer turned BJJ practitioner turned yoga instructor turned salsa dancer…  He even tried out for Alvin Ailey.  Seriously, who was this guy?  But, all the while, he was humble and genuine to be around.

One day, he pulled me aside.  “Want to go to Renzo’s with me next week?”

“…Um…”  I hesitated.  The culture at our school did not encourage cross training.

He read the doubt in my expression.  “Dude – it’s Renzo!”   The next week we went.

That class, which covered mount escapes, started me on my jiujitsu journey.  I experienced the difference between a grappling class at a JKD school and a BJJ class at a master’s academy.  Done deal!  I would not have had that epiphany if not for Craig.

Craig now lives in L.A., which he moved to in order to pursue two dreams: launch a personal training business and train with Rickson Gracie.  He’s done both.  And that leads me to this.

Craig, thank you for helping me find this path.  Oh… yeah… how could I forget?  CONGRATS on becoming a Rickson Gracie/Kron Gracie purple belt!  I am immensely proud of you.

Namaste.

 

Craig winning a tournament match as a white belt. Early 2000s.

 

So what inspired you to train?  Share in the comments below.


The CrossFit crash course continues.

Cindy

5 kipping pull-ups, 10 pushups to lockout, 15 squats // as many rounds as possible in 20 mins / to maximize work, stay in one spot under the pull-up bar

My result: 10 rounds + 2 pullups before time expired.  When I asked Coach Max how my performance was, he replied matter-of-factly: “Not bad, I guess, for a beginner.”

This workout was very challenging.  Physically, it taxed my wind and muscles.  My hands were calloused and bleeding from the punishment of the pull-up bar.  Mentally, I had to work on turning down the noise in my mind and letting my body go on auto-pilot.  From a cognitive stand point, the literal thought of another pull-up or another squat at certain points during the workout created a tremendous road block.  The only way to keep going was to turn the volume down and just go!

It was also challenging from a technical perspective, as there were new things to keep in mind and Coach Max is cleaning up what I’m coming to realize is sloppy technical performance of very basic movements.

A great example is the kipping pull-up, which CrossFit uses in its workouts.  Hanging still from the bar, you hip forward, hip back, and then explode upwards, aiming to have your chest touch the bar.  At first glance, the motion looks like cheating.  But, the larger objective is to teach a motion that will translate over to gymnastic rings, specifically, the muscle up.    And I guarantee you – it does NOT feel like you’re cutting corners.

The pushups were standard pushups, but with a strong emphasis on perfect form, getting your chest all the way to the floor and locking out at the top before it would count as a rep.

The air squat also needed tweaking.  With feet slightly wider than hip width and knees out (not collapsing inward), you crease at the waist, butt down all the way so that your thighs break the parallel plane, and then push back up all the way, keeping everything smooth and continuous.  A key point here is to keep your chest up and out for the entire motion and keeping your head level.  This extra focus results in better posture, but also requires a bit more energy and attention.

The video below has some good footage of the kipping pullup, as well as of modifications made for users at different ability levels.

Try it, and leave your results in the comments below.

Extras

The No-Gi Worlds, broadcast by Budovideos.com, was a great event!  Caleb and Shawn are improving as a commentating duo each time out, with Shawn keeping viewers engaged on the technical aspects of matches and Caleb providing data points and color commentary.

Some thoughts:

  • I love that they won’t let competitors just sit to guard outright.  It is incumbent on all of us a jiujitsukas to work on our throws and takedowns.
  • Kevin Howell is working on a new book with none other than Terere!  Woah!
  • It was fascinating to hear Shawn talk about cycles in BJJ.  Deep half guard was the “Vitor Shailon Guard” back in the day.  X-guard was being used frequently by Fredson Alves back in ’98.
  • The female competitors were absolutely amazing to watch.  Incredibly technical, aggressive, and submission-oriented.
  • Emily Kwok, who I got the pleasure to interview for The Fightworks Podcast, won gold in her division.  Very inspiring to see her hard work pay off.

I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  “How To Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream”  That’s an odd Google Ad, I thought to myself.  And disgusting.  I continued reading.

Lately, Tim Ferriss’s blog has become a touchstone for me of inspiration, practical advice, and thought-provoking subject matters.  As I wandered from post to post, though, I kept seeing the same link.  Ok, that’s really odd.  Each post can’t have a term for which feces-in-the-bloodstream is relevant.  Then I realized it was under the “most popular posts” section.

Obviously, that’s the next one I read.

The Paleo Diet

The post was guest-authored by Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.

According to his website, Mr. Wolf is a former research biochemist, competitive athlete, and gym-owner.  Essentially, the post asserts that grains of all kinds are unhealthy for us because of the composition of grains and their evolutionary survival strategy.  To illustrate the latter point, he explains that blueberries ensure their propagation with a strategy that lures animals to eat them (bright color, sweet taste), thus facilitating seed dispersal.  Grains, on the other hand, are more like poison oak, he asserts.  They have defenses that are harmful to humans.  The bottom line: stop eating all grains (including legumes) and only eat nuts, meats, fruits and vegetables.

Sounds reasonable enough, until you apply it to everyday life.  No more morning oatmeal, whole grain bread for my almond butter sandwiches, or black beans to go with my spinach and grilled chicken – foods that I selected based upon their purported health benefits.

You can imagine my confusion.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Jiujitsu

The comments after the post were contentious, and often, dogmatic.  It seems everyone has a study to support their position.

This is exactly what Michael Pollan was getting at in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. We have so many choices for food in the modern (and affluent) world [I do not dismiss the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are undernourished], that it’s hard to thoughtfully decide what to eat, a questions that’s probably important to many of us who train jiujitsu.

It was easy as a child.  Eat what mom cooked (being the son of a Puerto Rican mother made it quite easy since it was the bomb!) and, occasionally, as a treat, have pizza or a chocolate chip cookie.   Then, I remember the no-fat craze when I was a teenager and zealously demanded that my mom cook with as little oil or fat as possible.  (You can only imagine how difficult this was for her.)  Then, in the early 2000s, it was the no-carb craze.  (I just ignored that one.)   Today, especially where martial arts and CrossFit converge, I’m hearing more and more about Paleo.

But, do I just give up foods I love and that I reasonably understand to be good for me?

The Gracie Diet

Later this month, Rorian Gracie’s publisher will distribute The Gracie Diet, a comprehensive text on the famed dietary guidelines that many in the clan follow.

Here, the emphasis is not on avoiding grains.  Rather, it’s on proper food combinations and spacing out of meals with no snacks in-between as a way to facilitate digestion and uptake of nutrients.  What’s more, as far as I can tell from all of the Gracie Diet videos published on YouTube by Rener and Ryron, the Gracie Diet is largely a plant-based diet, with plenty of grains.  Well, geez, that seems counter-Paleo.

But Wait…There’s More

Penny Thomas and Jake Shields, top jiujitsu athletes in submission grappling and MMA respectively, have both gone on the record as following a vegetarian diet.

So, what is a regular jiujitsu guy or gal to do?

More Than Meets The Mouth

Why am I eating?  Beyond survival, which can easily be accomplished given the resources at my disposal, why am I completely vexed over this question?  Is it because I want to look good?  Feel good?  Perform well on the mats?  For the sheer enjoyment?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  From this point, the next logical question would be: How should I eat to achieve those goals?  And it seems that Robb Wolf, Rener and Ryron, my mom, Jake Shields and Penny Thomas, and others not mentioned here all have a different answer.

However, are those the only questions we should be asking ourselves?

Going Deeper

Enter Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, and a recent reading and talk he gave.  (Credit to Tim Ferris for sharing it on his blog.)   It is a thoughtful and articulate reflection on how our consumption has far reaching consequences beyond looks, or health, or athletic performance.  Not necessarily new ideas, but important ideas argued in a compelling manner.  How does our modern agricultural system impact the hungry and poor?  The environment?  Our health?  Workers rights?  It’s not a short-form video but I highly recommend it during your down time.  Skip the first ten minutes and go straight to his talk.

Conclusion

This section heading is a misnomer, because I have no conclusion.  I am daunted by the research I would have to do on my own to feel confident in any assertions or theories.  I can share that I seriously thought about following a Paleo regimen but could not bring myself to eat that much meat, or afford to buy that much meat in the quality I would have wanted (and frankly, could not see how a bowl of oatmeal can be that destructive for me.)  However, I hope the post will provoke reflection, curiosity, and debate in you, both as a jiujitsu practitioner and as a person, around what we eat and how it impacts us as individuals and around how we consume and how that impacts everyone.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


I’ve hit a plateau.

Every sparring session so far at Prof. Rocha’s gym has been demoralizing.  All of my training partners have exhibited great generosity of spirit and there are no meat-heads whatsoever.  But, every person feels stronger, faster, and more athletic.  It doesn’t help that my work life is playing havoc with a regular training schedule.

After some reflection, I’ve come to two conclusions.  The first is conventional – basics, basics, basics.  It’s amazing that after so many years, my subconscious mind still doesn’t recognize sparring situations quickly enough to apply what I’ve learned.  Hence, I’m always playing catch up.   The solution to this is more sparring, but even more effective I believe, it’s more drilling of the basics.  It’s a bit frustrating that Prof. Rocha has asked me to attend the advanced classes.  I understand that he doesn’t want me sandbagging in the beginner’s class, and he wants me to begin adapting to the rigors of superior technique and grueling workouts.  But, I wouldn’t hire me to teach a beginner’s class, and until I feel that I would, I want to master the basics.  So, to address this, I have already set aside funds for privates that will only focus on the basics.

The second conclusion I’ve reached is more unconventional.  I’m going to do less jiujitsu to get better at jiujitsu.  Let me explain.

As much as jiujitsu is not about strength and athleticism, it is about strength and athleticism.  That is to say, those factors play a more pronounced role on the mats where everyone knows jiujitsu.

As a result, I’ve joined CrossFit EastBay. I know the CrossFit community is a controversial one, with equally vocal advocates and detractors.  However, I’ve seen CrossFit help my friend, Tony Tao, get into better shape while also improving his marathon time.  Additionally, I’ve been flirting with the program and trying some of the workouts since the early 2000’s, when I first came across the website.  I like that the workouts are varied, intense, and short.  This last part is key.  I need my workouts to be functional but they also need to play well with my already busy schedule.  I do not earn my living from working out and I don’t need to behave like I do.  I want to be healthy, look good with my shirt off, and see results on the mat.

I had my first personal training session with CrossFit certified coach, Max Lewin, last Friday.  It was part introduction into the CrossFit system, part tutorial on the fundamentals of our first workout, and then… Fight Gone Bad.  What is Fight Gone Bad?  It is what it sounds like.  It was developed for an early-career BJ Penn by CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman.  After the workout, Mr. Glassman asked BJ for his thoughts.  BJ reportedly replied, It felt like a fight gone bad.

How did it go?  It was the hardest 15 minutes of exercise I’ve EVER done.  I won’t describe the workout here.  Rather, I’ll let you take a look below.  But, to know I could go to that edge and be ok was a confidence booster.

My plan is to get the core CrossFit curriculum under my belt and use the facilities at CrossFit EastBay to take two classes a week as a supplement to my jiujitsu training.  Periodically, I’ll update you on my progress, both in the gym and on the mats.  I’ll also check-in after three months and see if I’ve observed any difference.  This is all an experiment, after all.


Who is the best…?

Who is the best of all time?  Who is the current pound-for-pound king?

Who is the best finisher?  The best at takedowns and throws?  The best guard passer?  Who is the best INSERT INSTRUCTOR NAME’s black belt?

The questions go on and on, as does the debate.  Is Marcelo better than Leo or Terere?  Who’s the competition king – Cobrinha or Royler?  Roger or Rickson?  And while passions run deep in any sport, they seem to run especially deep in Brazilian Jiujitsu.  Theoretical debates flare up into heated arguments which become personal.  Peruse any BJJ forum, and you might read something like this.

Rickson’s the best?  You’re a nuthugger.  …Rickson’s not the best?  Why don’t you say that to his face?  …My cousin’s neighbor’s grandmother’s dogwalker who trains at such-and-such school says that INSERT NAME destroys visiting black belts on a daily basis.  With his hands and feet bound.  For real.  He trains there!  So fuck you!

A competitive sport’s first child, even before a fan base, is the question: who is the best?  It makes sense.  The point of competition is to determine who is better given a benchmark, whether relative or absolute.  But these debates are meaningless exercises without agreed-upon criteria.  They are vulnerable to prejudice.  You might lean towards a certain competitor because you train under the same banner.  Or you’ve seen more of his/her matches and so your mental database has a disproportionate sense of their body of work relative to another person.  Or you like fancy, shiny things and so if there isn’t a cutting edge sweep-to-back-take involved, then you just don’t identify what you see as greatness.

However, these debates don’t have to be meaningless.  In fact, I would argue, that for our sport to grow, we need agreed upon criteria to frame these debates.  And the building block of criteria is data.

The major pro sports religiously define, record, and archive stats, which are the numerical representations of some skill, quality, or achievement.

If you take a look at the body of work [read: the numbers] of Michael Jordan compared to Kobe Bryant or Lebron James, it’s hard to argues against MJ being the better player.

Stats provide a way to measure in a manner that can be disputed and fact checked.  It’s verifiable, and thus, less prone to prejudice.

If we kept stats on each guard pass, each takedown, each submission, gradually, a picture would develop, enabling us to determine things like the best guard passer.  (I might posit that the best guard passer is the competitor who has the best overall guard passing percentage AND is the most proficient at passing on both sides.)

I admit it.  Stats can’t completely resolve the debate.  Nuances matter.  Does being the best mean having the best winning percentage?  How does the submission percentage factor in?   What about point margin over opponents – should this be factored into the equation?  Are clutch performers, who win when winning matters most, when the stakes are highest and the pressure most palpable, better than overall winners?  Is winning your weight division in the 70s quite as impressive as winning today, when the density of competition talent is greater and each of the competitors follows an athletic training regimen superior to that of a generation before?

While nuances keep the debate interesting and open to interpretation, statistics and data will establish the parameters so that we as a community are not arguing out of pride and emotion, but from a position of intelligence.  In addition, I would argue we owe it to the generation of practitioners ahead of us to provide a legacy they can build on and we owe it to the competitors of today who might not grab the headlines but, when the numbers are allowed to speak their part, offer greatness to our beloved sport.

And so I issue a challenge.  I challenge the IBJJF and the ADCC, the most prestigious tournament circuits today, to define what metrics to measure and to create (or find) the tools which will allow them to measure those metrics.

Call Carlinhos.  Call the Sheik.  Let them know we want to take the sport to the next level.


There is a debate at The Underground spurred on by a post which asks whether a top student of the Gracie Torrance Academy, and by implication, whether any top student who bases their training on a Gracie Jiujitsu curriculum, would be able to defeat an MMA Champion in an all out fight?  “What would happen if an mma champion attacked one of Rorions top students?” he asks. The author’s conclusion is that the jiujitsu student would get beat down.

The author’s question and conclusion (which is shared by many others who contributed to the thread) are based on the assumption that Gracie Jiujitsu has no value for a street fight and that an MMA Champion would expose this.  “To me it sounds like the only thing better than GJJ for the street might possibly be Dim Mak.”  However, I think two issues are being conflated: a) amateur vs pro vs b) skill set vs. skill set.

An MMA champion, and for the sake of specificity, an MMA champion in a top promotion, is a world class athlete. He/she is someone whose profession it is to train and make a living from the physical training of MMA. They train like I go to work.  A top Gracie Torrance student may or may not be a world class athlete, and chances are they are not unless they can self-fund or find the sponsorships to allow them to train like a word class athlete. MMA just pays better than jiujitsu at the highest levels, and training like a world class athlete is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.  The odds are in favor of the MMA champion in an all out fight not because Gracie Torrance offers training of no value, but because it’s unrealistic to think an amateur will be able to defeat a professional in a context that calls for similar skill sets.  (Remember, this isn’t an MMA match or a BJJ match, but an all out fight.)

To take the point even further, let’s say the person attacked by the hypothetical MMA champion attended a school with an MMA curriculum and trained 3 – 5 times a week. It would still not prepare him/her for a fight with a world class athlete whose sole professional pursuit is MMA. Again, it doesn’t mean that the MMA curriculum has no value.  Rather, it just means that a regular Joe is not going to beat a world class athlete in any discipline.

Ultimately, I suspect that what Gracie Torrance teaches (I’ve never trained there, so this is speculation) has value from a self preservation perspective for that segment of the population who will never be a professional athlete. One of the contributors to the thread posits that GJJ prepares their student for the mathematically more probable situation: an attack by “Road Rage Joe” as opposed to an attack by GSP.  And, I also suspect that if you took Rener or Ryron and prepared them for the specific format of a 3-round 5-minute MMA match, they’d do pretty well for themselves with their current skill set.  I believe this is why Jake Shields has spent some time with them in the past and why Ryron was invited to give a seminar at a Team Quest affiliate.

But, let’s consider issue B, apply it to the question and modify it.  Would a proficient, amateur student at a school with an MMA curriculum be able to defeat a proficient, amateur student at a school with a Gracie Jiujitsu curriculum in a street fight?  Here, we operate under the assumption that both schools are teaching things of value and ask, which offers more value?

Here’s where I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.