Sunday, 3 March 2019

My BJJ Class Grading Requirements

Over the past two years, I've been working on specific grading criteria for each belt level in my BJJ classes. Previously we had always just based grading around how students were performing during sparring in class or competition success. This had also always been the case at the schools where I'd trained over the years. 

Over the years I noticed some problems with this system. Firstly, students who were more athletic could get away with doing very well in training and competition for the first few years but never developed the correct technique so would often quit once they reached the higher belts. Secondly, the lack of structure and criteria of exactly what you need to know and be able to do at each belt level often lead students to lose interest and motivation.

This is the current Promotion Criteria that I use for Promotion from White to Blue Belt and Blue to Purple Belt. Students are tested on these techniques on Grading Day and are also tested in rounds of sparring including Positional Sparring and Line ups where they have to roll with fresh opponents one after another for a set period of time.

The Grading requirements are still a work in progress and I have been adding and removing some techniques at each Stripe and Belt Level since I began.


White Belt to Blue Belt Grading Requirements broken down by Stripe:
Blue Belt to Purple Belt Grading Requirements broken down by Stripe:

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Deliberate Practice

Over my years of training and coaching martial arts I've seen many training partners and students come and go. Some students improve a lot and others don't seem to make any progress. In martial arts and particularly BJJ there is a culture of 'Just train bro' just keep turning up to class and eventually you'll get the hang of it. In my experience this is not the case, turning up to class and going through the motions is not enough to guarantee improvement and this lack of improvement will lead to loss motivation and quitting.


The key to improvement is Deliberate Practice. This is the opposite to just turning up to class and mindlessly hitting pads or doing arm-locks. It means concentrating and being focused on what you are doing with the specific intention of improving your performance.
Here are some of the basic requirements of Deliberate Practice :

A - Goals.
Having a clear 'stretch' goal of what you are working towards - Its important that this goal is something that will be quite difficult for you to achieve because this will force you grow and improve. Eg. Win all my matches by submission at my next BJJ tournament. Its also a good idea to have 'mini-goals' for each practice session Eg. Today I want to use that Combination/ Technique / Guard Pass at least 5 times in Sparring.

B - Concentration and Effort.
Full Concentration and Effort: When you are training in the gym, you are fully concentrating on what you are doing and giving it your full effort. If you are having a chat with your training partner while hitting pads don't expect to see great results.

C - Feedback.
Immediate and Informative Feedback: This could be from either a coach or from a training partner or alternatively you can just figure out how to give yourself feedback. Eg. I tried that arm-lock but my sparring partner got out of it and passed my guard - therefore what did I do wrong and what do I need to fix before next time.

D - Repetition.
Repetition with Reflection and Refinement. Lots of Repetition but not Mindless Repetition. You need repetitions with Reflection ('did I do that properly or did I screw it up?') and Refinement ('This time I'll make sure I keep my elbow close to my hip')

Monday, 4 February 2019

The Four Stages of Learning Martial Arts

This is a very useful concept that doesn't just apply to learning martial arts but to learning any skill.

There are four stages of learning.



Stage 1 - Unconscious incompetence  
This is where you are screwing everything up but you don't yet realize you are screwing it up. For example, Dropping your hands when you punch, trying to bench press your way out of mount.

Often students will stay in this phase much longer than is necessary because of either
A - They are not being given feedback (either verbal feedback - 'Keep your hands up' or Physical Feedback - Getting your teeth knocked out because you didn't have your hands up).
or
B - They are having some success even though they are using terrible technique. For example, Your training partner taps to a submission even though it was incorrectly applied.

Stage 2 - Conscious Incompetence
This is where you start to learn and develop. Its at this stage that you start to be critical of your own technique and begin to figure out exactly what you are doing wrong and what you need to do to improve.
Examples include - 'Why am I getting kicked in the leg so much? Why can I not escape mount position? Maybe I'll pay more attention the next time coach shows us that technique'

Stage 3 - Conscious Competence 
At this stage, you know exactly how to perform the techniques properly and when to do them. You can figure out what you need to do and what to work on. However, you realize that there is also the possibility to lapse back into bad habits if you lose concentration.

Stage 4 - Unconscious Competence
This is the final stage of mastering any skill and this is a common trait with all great champions. They perform the skill perfectly without having to think about it.

Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

BJJ Seminar at 360 Martial Arts in Ulverstone, Tasmania

Last week I taught a BJJ Seminar at 360 Martial Arts and Fitness in Ulverstone Tasmania while visiting the area for a family holiday. I have attended many seminars over the last 25 years and have had mixed experiences. Some have been great and have changed the direction of my martial arts training and caching and others have been terrible. In some cases its clear that the instructor has not given any thought to what or how he is going to teach and is only there to collect a paycheck. I've always wanted to make sure that when I'm asked to teach that I have a great session planned and that every single person who attends will get something out of it and will improve their martial arts ability in some way. I always plan my seminar step by step and then hand out notes on what has been covered at the end of the session. 

Here is what I taught last week:

Takedown & Open Guard Seminar - Denis Kelly MMA Coaching

Grip Breaks: Kumi Kata (From Right Hand Grip)

  • Right hand Fingertips to ear and pull back right Elbow
  • Both hands grip Right sleeve - Pull Down or Pull away and Lean Back
  • Shake - Pull down Collar grip with Left Hand



Grip Surfing Drill:
  • Get Grip and Prevent Grip
  • Flow from One Grip to the Next
  • Collar - Sleeve - Belt - Leg - Two on One


Fireman's Throw / Kata Guruma:

  • 2 on 1 Grip - Pressure Down on Shoulder - Action/Reaction
  • Pull with Left Hand - Drop Penetration Step Right Knee  
  • Right hand to Sky - Ribs on your Neck
  • Sink/Sit on your Heels - So he doesnt have too far to fall
  • Lower your left shoulder to the mat - let opponent do a forward roll over you




Open Guard Grip Surfing Drill:
  • Non competitive - Just flowing between grips - Partners gives correct energy
  • Hips (Feet on Hips) - Hooks (Feet hooked behind knees) - Elbows (Spider Guard)




Lasso Guard:
  • Wrap leg from Outside to Inside of Arm
  • Block Tricep with your Instep - Lock your Elbow to your Hip
  • Test the Connection - Partner walks backwards and pulls you.

SASA Sweep - Yukinori Sasa (Paraestra Gym Tokyo):

  • Bring Right Foot from Left Hip to Right Hip - Shin across belt
  • Right Hand goes inside his left Knee
  • Bring his Right Shoulder to the mat with your Left Knee & Lift with right hand
  • Finish in Knee on Belly Position

To Oma Plata:

  • If they don't move forward after removing foot from hip
  • Right hand to outside of Right Knee - Rotate under stomach
  • Stretch both legs - Knees tight to force shoulder to Mat

To Triangle:

  • Right Leg over Left Shoulder  
  • Grip right elbow with both hands
  • Pull Right elbow in - Stretch left leg through
  • Inside of left knee on right shoulder to angle off to your right.

Guard Passing Drills:

  • Slap-Head : Passer
  • Slap-Head : Both
  • One Arm Bandit
  • No Arm Bandit
  • Blind Bandit

I received a lot of great feedback about the session and could see that many of the participants were picking up the techniques and concepts really well. Really looking forward to getting back there to run another session in the near future.






Monday, 21 January 2019

My MMA Journey - Part 3


After my win in Italy at the end of 2003 I was keen to get back in and have another go as soon as possible. Unfortunately there weren't as many opportunities to fight or MMA events taking place at that stage. I kept myself busy by competing in BJJ, KSBO amatuer MMA events and also some Jiu Jitsu Kumite events which were mixture of semi contact karate and grappling. I was also pretty busy at this time with work and exams, but as soon as my exams were over I made a big push to get matched up for as many MMA matches as I could get.
I had four pro MMA fights in four months from June to September 2004. I won three of those and the fourth was given as a draw however it was one of my most dominant ever fights. I took my opponent down and punched and elbowed him from guard for three straight rounds. In between these fights I also competed in regularly in BJJ and grappling events.
I found all my own matches by contacting promoters and offering to fight anyone they had at a similar weights. Then a group of us would head off on a road trip on Saturday to the other side of the country. Weigh in, have a fight then drive home later that night. Looking back now that probably wasn't the best way to manage a Fight career but I wanted to keep improving and to me that meant testing myself and staying active. I had to fight whoever was offered and keep working to get better between every fight.
Throughout all these fights and during the training camps I was suffering from instability in my knee. I could still and compete but it would pop out every now and again (including during one of my fights) and I needed to keep it heavily taped up when I fought. At the end of 2004 I was booked in to get ACL reconstruction surgery and this put my fight career temporarily on hold.
In Feb 2005 I had a full ACL reconstruction. This can usually take a long time to recover from but I wanted to make sure I was fight ready as soon as possible after the surgery. The first two weeks I was off work stuck at home wearing a huge knee brace and using crutches, as soon as I could walk again I got back to light weight training and also did rehab physio sessions once a week. About a month after the surgery I got back to boxing, however focusing more on punching and not so much footwork. During this time I did most of my boxing training at the Fitzroy Lodge gym in south London.
I also had more exams around May of this year so once my exams were done I wanted to return to full training. Approximately five months after my knee surgery I was ready to get back to grappling training and was able to compete in a grappling tournament again a few weeks later.
Around this time I also got offered a shot to fight on a new MMA promotion which would take place in London in October. I was very keen to get back in and fight to make up for my lost time. In the months leading up to this fight I also went on two training trips, firstly to Amsterdam where I got to train with many legends of Dutch Kickboxing including Ernesto Hoost, and then a few months later I traveled to Brazil where I trained at Brazilian Top Team, which was the leading MMA team in the world at that time.

My first fight back after surgery was against Ciro Gallo in York Hall, Bethnal green. I dropped him with a punch right at the start of the round then got a Judo style Turtle rolling armbar. I was happy with the result of this fight as I had been out of full training and fighting for so long. However as always when I felt a fight was too easy I also had a slight feeling of disappointment that it wasn't enough of a challenge and that I had wasted several months of training and preparation but hadn't really tested myself. However I was never really the type of fighter to pick and choose my opponents or even to bother finding out much about them before i stepped into the ring. I just fought whoever was in front of me. I didn't look as MMA fighting as a career or even a sport. I just looked on it as a realistic way of testing my martial arts skills. If you get attacked on the street you don't get to pick and choose who you get attacked by, you don't ask for someone who is closer to your weight or has a similar record and you certainly don't ask your attacker to come back on another day because you've got a cold or sore elbow.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Seminars coming up at Australian Combat Sports Academy in February

We have two great seminars coming up soon:


On Thursday 7th February we  have Alex Volkanovski and Frank Hickman for an MMA Wrestling Seminar.


Top 10 UFC Featherweight Alex "The Great" Volkanovski is riding a 17 fight win streak with an undefeated 6-0 record in the UFC. Alex recently defeated top 5 UFC featherweight, Chad Mendes in Las Vegas at UFC 232.
Frank Hickman is the head wrestling coach at Tiger Muay Thai and has worked with some of the worlds best MMA Fighters.
A Division 1 wrestler from Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania and a 3x Division 1 National Qualifier Frank is a grappling machine with 20 years of wrestling knowledge of the famed Hickman Bros.
This seminar is being organised by CMBT Nutrition.
CMBT is the first sports nutrition brand dedicated to the Combat sports community. To find out more check out cmbt.com.au/seminar
To book for this seminar follow the link below:


The following night on Friday 8th February we have a seminar with Mendes Brothers Jiujitsu Black Belts Justin 'Juggs' Dee and Jason Powell.

Justin JUGGS Dee
18yrs training jiu jitsu
1st Degree Black Belt under Mendes Bros/ATOS Jiu Jitsu 
Founder and Head Instructor at Full Metal Jiu Jitsu

Jason Powell
8yrs training jiu jitsu
Black Belt under Justin JUGGS Dee & Mendes Bros/ATOS Jiu Jitsu 
Assistant Instructor at Full Metal Jiu Jitsu
Multiple time QLD Jiu Jitsu Champion
Multiple time QLD No-Gi Jiu Jitsu Champion 
NSW Jiu Jitsu Champion
ADCC Pro Jiu Jitsu Silver Medalist (NSW)


This seminar will run from 6pm until 8pm and the cost is $60 per person.


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

My MMA Journey - Part 2



After losing my pro MMA debut I was in two minds about about continuing in MMA or just focusing on the safer option of competing in BJJ and Grappling.


I continued training hard and also around the same time became very interested in the mental and psychological side of fighting, how to control my nerves and adrenaline before a fight or a match, visualising what I'm going to do and how I'm going to feel and also avoiding the dangerous feeling of 'I just want to get this over with'. I spent a lot of time researching and reading about sports psychology and mental preparation and tried out everything I learned in local grappling tournaments.


Towards the end of 2003 I got another opportunity to fight in MMA. This time the fight would take place in Italy. About a month before this fight I had started a new job at an advertising company right in the centre of London and was also in the early stages of studying for my chartered accountancy qualification, this meant I was very limited on time so I had to fly to Italy on the morning of the event, fight in the evening and then fly home the next morning. Also, as previously mentioned MMA was an unknown sport back then, I couldn't really tell my employers I was going to overseas for a no rules fight at the weekend so I just said it was a martial arts event.


The fight in Italy was pretty tough. I had no idea who I would be fighting until I got into the ring. There was no weigh in and my opponent seemed to have a considerable weight advantage over me. I could tell i was in better condition though and I could see that he was getting tired halfway through the first round so it was just a matter of hanging in there, not getting hurt and waiting for my opportunity. By the start of the second round I could tell that he was done so I got my takedown and won by armlock.


This fight was a great experience because I overcame adversity. I always preferred the fights where I was losing at the beginning and manage to come back and overcome the opponent rather than fights where I had everything my own way.


One of the biggest lessons that I learned from my fighting career is the importance of having a coach, and particularly a coach who is experienced, who cares and is invested in you. Throughout all of my MMA career I had good friends and training partners who would help corner me but I never had a coach who had actually fought and could tell me exactly what to do. Advice such as how to train, how to prepare for a fight, which fights to accept and which to turn down. I pretty much did all of this on my own but in the long term I feel it was beneficial because I've been able to pass on the lessons I've learned to my students and fighters since then.



My BJJ Class Grading Requirements

Over the past two years, I've been working on specific grading criteria for each belt level in my BJJ classes. Previously we had always...