Hey everyone, hope you’re hitting the 2021 ground running and getting in some excellent training so far.

Below you’ll see a few questions from some folks on my email list who also got a chance to read my book [insert link]. I’ll be doing these at least once a month so if you’re interested in participating, read until the end to find out how to get your questions answered here!

I’m nervous about competing: How do you get rid of nerves anxiety and fatigue?

Most of the pre-competition jitters comes from stress and anxiety. Anxiety is typically worry about some event in the future. The challenge for most people competing, especially for beginners is that there is a TON of uncertainty and there tends to be fear of outcomes.

“What if I lose?”

“What if I get hurt?”

“What if I shit my pants?”

However rational or irrational, every competitor has myriad thoughts running through their mind and it’s common that these thoughts tend to interfere with performance.

Personally, I used to worry about getting hurt. Especially when I didn’t have help running the school, I’d worry that I’d get hurt and I wouldn’t have anyone to teach. I had to remind myself at every competition that I’ve competed countless times and aside from minor sprains, never once had any catastrophic injuries [knock on wood].

For the most part, alleviating anxiety is about reducing the irrational, fear-based part of your brain but even this can be challenging.

What helps immensely is meditation and visualization.

Before competition, weeks before, I would sit and visualize how every match would go. I’d visualize everything from walking into the facility to using the restroom, shaking hands with friends and even random conversations with people.

I would visualize my warm-ups and get into the flow state in my head. I would visualize weighing in, sometimes off weight just so I could handle it (“pre-act”) and not freak out if my weight was bad. I’d visualize my name being called, walking up to the mat, shaking hands with my opponent and fighting.

Then I’d visualize the outcomes. Every time I was on the podium in my head. And finally, most importantly, I’d visualize the enormous cheeseburger I’d eat afterward.

Essentially, what you’re doing with this type of visualization is familiarizing yourself with the atmosphere and getting ready for what’s to come.

In my opinion, the visualization process is crucial for overcoming a lot of anxiety about competing.

Finally, an even better way to get over competition anxiety is to compete a LOT. Go out there and compete as often as you can. The nerves will never go away (This is a good thing) but you’ll be more comfortable and able to execute better.

Why are people so worried about leglocks?

I think there’s a stigma behind leglocks that appears more dangerous than maybe they are. I’ve been training for almost 11 years so I missed most of it. When I started, Danaher was already teaching and working on his leglock system (My first professor was Danaher’s student, pre Death Squad). It took time to evolve and develop but I did catch some of the “leglocks are bad” culture while it was here.

I think it shifted about the time I was a purple belt. I think this is about the time the DDS started to have success competing, EBI and submission only tournaments were starting to develop and the paradigm shifted to being more leglock friendly.

I can’t honestly say why “leglocks are bad” culture exists but my guess is it’s mostly ego driven. There’s quite a bit of history that I can only surmise but the reality is I’d rather not comment because I could be very wrong.

What I can say is that leglocks, with poor education, tend to be more dangerous and have a longer recovery time. There are receptors in your body for most submissions that let you know when things are about to get really bad. The same cannot be said about the knees since the knees don’t internally or externally rotate (mechanism of heel hooks, as example). By the time you feel it, it can be too late.

How do I deal with cauliflower ear?

Alright, if you’re a doctor reading this, I just want to apologize in advance. For everyone else, nothing I say here is medical advice so please do not repeat or attempt anything I write here.

At my first gym, it was a little more MMA oriented. A lot of fighters (current and prospective) trained there. Thus, it was a little more rough and tumble compared to your average school. My first experience with cauliflower ear came a month or two in. I can’t remember if I was pulling my head out of a triangle choke or guillotine choke but I think it happened from yanking my head out of some choke or other.

A few of the guys I trained with suggested I drain it myself. Scary thought as I had absolutely zero experience draining my own ears but I had watched another person do it in the gym’s bathroom and figured why not?

My training partners suggested I go to a drugstore, buy some insulin needles and watch a YouTube video to get me set up. In NYC, this was a challenge because going to a drugstore asking for needles, the pharmacist and techs automatically assumed you were a heroin addict. Very few would actually grant this request so I had a couple of spots I’d go to.

I had some prior hospital experience so I knew some basics of safety. I watched the YouTube video and drained my first ear. It was surreal but it worked!

Now, in no way am I suggesting for you to do this. Now, for the right answer.

The best thing for you to do is go see a doctor if it’s swollen. You should ice it and take some time off training until it heals.

Essentially, cauliflower ear is a build up of serosanguinous fluid (Blood and serum) when the ear experiences some trauma (yanking, force, etc). Let alone, it will heal on its own but it needs rest. If you keep training, your body will assume healing is a waste of resources so the fluid will ultimately calcify and then you’re stick with cauliflower ear.

Some people will use headgear to protect but personally, I don’t like headgear.

Again, if you’ve got cauliflower ear, best thing to do is have a doctor or medical professional drain it and rest. Going on YouYube and draining it yourself is not advised.

As a blue belt, how do I know what to start focusing on?

The blue belt is an interesting and incredibly challenging belt. This is mostly because as a blue belt, the white belts are gonna try and kick your sas and the purple belts and above are definitely going to kick your ass. The blue belt is now where you get it thrown at you from both sides of the rank fence.

As a blue belt, you’re a little more proficient than you were as a white belt but you still don’t know much. You have some things that are working and being put together but ultimately, you’re still finding your way.

As a blue belt, I think you should still learn how to survive and get more proficient with your escapes. Focus on the things that are working and try to string them together with other techniques that are similar. I think another hallmark here is to try and learn how to switch directly from defending to attacking. In other words, after every successful defense, you should be learning how to immediately go right into an offensive attack.

Is training with smaller people better for longevity an bigger?

This is an interesting topic.

Weight classes exist for a reason and the reason is, weight and size matters.

You’ll hear a ton of people talking about how “oh size doesn’t matter in jiu-jitsu” but that’s way more conceptual than it is reality. Think about it: A black belt weighing 120 lbs may easily kick the crud out of a white belt weighing 240. But, now, how does that 120lb black belt fare against a 240lb black belt?

I’ve heard “theories” that every X amount of lbs is equivalent to a belt rank. As example, a person weighing 40lbs more than you is a belt rank higher or something like that. Personally, I think that’s inaccurate. It just means that person weighs more than you and you have to figure it out the weight difference with jiu-jitsu.

As for the longevity part, I agree here that training with smaller people is better for longevity. The reason is because there’s not as much strain on your muscles, joints and bones. Training with people your size is always best but if you can control it, and your goal is longevity, try not to train with much bigger people than you unless you want to challenge your technique or are preparing for competition in the absolute division.

What’s been my worst jiujitsu injury?

Broken ribs. I was about for about 4 weeks, trained through some pain and was back to normal in 6.

I was also asked here what I did to recover.

Unfortunately for the go-getters out there, I was forced to rest. There’s not much you can do with rib injuries except let them heal. I actually had to be on the mats two days after the break in order to teach classes. It was super challenging, basically using students to perform moves on each other for demonstration. I would direct them into position and hope that everyone perceived the general concepts correctly.

Once it stopped hurting to use the restroom (not even joking), I was back on the mats with some really light training.

“I have a lot of success passing and keeping low but everyone is telling me high level guys only pass with dynamic movement. If I keep focusing on pressure passing will it just stop working once I get to purple brown and black?”

I think this question is mostly a matter of preference. Ton of high level guys pass low and put heavy pressure. Over time, you’ll notice what works for you but I don’t necessarily think you need to do one or the other because people say so.

I think an interesting thing to do here is watch matches from high level guys in your age and weight bracket are doing. See what’s working and what doesn’t and try to emulate. Pick what’s working for you and adapt it to your unique training style.

There will rarely be a right or wrong answer in jiu-jitsu. It’s simply a matter of doing what’s working best for you. Best thing is, train it all but stick to what works!

Alright, that’s it for this one. Looking forward to the next one. 

If you enjoyed this content and haven’t had a chance yet, check out my new book here. 

I’m opening this AMA to people who’ve bought this book at least once per month. So get your copy ASAP and get your jiu-jitsu moving in the right direction! 

White Belt Tips
A complete guide to Jiujitsu for Beginners