Category Archives: Fitness

Working on some new moves!

Sorry I haven’t been present in my blogs or any blogs for that matter. I’ve been very busy with family visiting from out of town last couple of weeks and been training really hard for an up coming fight in September! However I’m also working on some exciting, new and BIG things with Keep Calm and Roll On. So please continue to show the love and support and check back with updates.

Youtube: NateKCRO

Twitter: @NateKCRO

Stay Tuned…

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More Than Just a Name, Keep Calm and Roll On

I’ve written several blogs now and even started up a short video blog as well. However one important thing I never really spoke about was the name, Keep Calm and Roll On. We heard tons of Keep Calm and (something else) phrases and quotes and Keep Calm and Roll On is the easiest and best way I can describe my philosophy not only in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but also in my personal life.

Reaching the end of 2012, I hit a very unfamiliar place. This is aside from the normal daily stress you get from work and whatever else life brings your way. I didn’t feel like me. Just to give you some history on my personal life, I’ve always been the outgoing, free spirited, break the mold kinda guy. Since I was young, I knew I wanted and I had to do something people don’t normally do. Live my life how I wanted and not what was drawn out for me. The more I felt trapped and suffocated by what I felt society and even friends and family expected of me, the more I wanted to rebel. The more I wanted to dare the odds. I never felt as if I was missing something or even someone from myself as I did then. I had many regrets in my life that held me back for years and kicking off 2013, I wanted to assure myself that this year was going to be the year of me. Meaning that I want and need every bit of me to be whole and when my birthday passed in February, I had a reality check and a deep conversation with myself like no other.

People say within the years, they have seen me grow and change and this year was the biggest. I sat down with myself each private moment I had on the couch, shower, bed, outside and even restaurants. I asked myself one very important question that changed my life so rapidly and dramatically. If I was on my deathbed today, can I say I’m ready to die? The answer was scary and not as simple as you may think. It was a hell no! I reassessed my life, who I was, where I was going, where I wanted to go and most importantly what I wanted from myself. Try asking yourself the questions most valuable to you and genuinely and HONESTLY answer them. If you felt the same as I did when I answered them, which was deeply sad, angry and regretful, then you answered your questions truthfully. Now the next step is to pursue it.

The time life exists in is short. Meaning that even when we feel as if our day is passing so slowly, once our day is finally over, we tend to forget what we did during that day. See how fast time really goes by? Also after my grandmother’s death, which is still hard for me to say, I realize you CAN’T put a timeline on people and on your own life. You don’t know when your time is up! So make the most out of it and LIVE it to the fullest of your potential in WHAT you want to do in life. I refer to that as the road of life, which is long therefore, allowing you to try, explore and experience as many things as possible. I didn’t want to waste MY life’s time and drive on someone else’s life’s road. That’s when I made my decision.

I decided it was time for me to commit and dedicate myself to something that means a lot to me and that I received many benefits from, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I couldn’t stick it out in college and I enjoyed working and making money. Then at work, I’d get tired of doing the same thing over and over again. I started to also miss spending time with friends and family. I got caught up surrounding myself with work, 50 plus hours a week shifts and missing out on so much. I was killing myself for other people’s best interest and dreams and completely side lined my own. I missed the last months and days when my grandmother was alive for a fucking check I can’t even remember where it went! But what hit me worst was not being able to remember when was the last time I sat and had a conversation with her and I’ll never get the chance to now. The person that everyone used to see me as, the cocky, materialistic, high maintenance and money hungry person died the same day she did and all I want to do now is make her proud. I look to only have her see me from above, living my life for others and not only for myself. That’s what Jiu Jitsu taught me. That’s what the lifestyle of Jiu Jitsu has given me.

From the philosophy to the training, I want to dedicate my life to all the aspect BJJ brings to the table. BJJ has shown me to live in the moment and to take my time. If something doesn’t seem to work out and doesn’t go my way, it’s okay, keep moving forward. It taught me to let go and accept the things I cannot change and only concern myself with what I can. I find peace and balance with myself and my surrounds through its teachings, that’s why I practice yoga and surfing because aside from all the other physical exercise needed in BJJ, a calm, clear and balanced mental state is just as if not MORE important. Yoga and surfing challenges the mind to practice patience and calmness and without the two I’d be the same person as I was before. Helping others improve their Jiu Jitsu helps me become a better person by making a connection with the individual. They realize that their game has improved not just by force but also with balance and harmony and to see another person feel that is more gratitude I can get in life than anything else. I will continue to learn, inspire and motivate because that what I get from Jiu Jitsu and all I want is to pay it forward.

I appreciate so much more in my life since making my decision and I feel the happiest I’ve ever felt. I still have much to do and to go through but with all the steps I’ve taken so far and all the blessings I’ve received, I know I’m on the right path and no one is going to steer me wrong. This is my passion and my goal. I have no money, no “real” job but I have this. I have Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Keep Calm and Roll On is not just to improve your Jiu Jitsu but also to improve and better you as a person. Keep Calm and Roll On is my personal philosophy on life that saved me from a life I never wanted to live in the first place.

Obrigado.

Welcome to the first Keep Calm and Roll On video blog!

Bom dia! My first video blog is live! I know I have much developing to do, but it’s a great addition! In the Vblog we will have open chats, questions and news to discuss in regards to BJJ and the lifestyle of BJJ. I’ll also be posting random fun things and more! So do please show some love and support by subscribing. Obrigado!

The Importance of Losing

In life there are many checks and balances and losing is just another one. In order to feel joy, one needs to feels sorrow, in order to experience success, one must taste failure and in order for one to win one needs to lose. All of this is pretty much the same concept. You can’t have one without the other. Experiencing both allows you to know what each feels like and how to prepare for next time. This concept also creates a sense of balance, you can’t have too much of any one thing. That would all be too mundane and you would lack growth and development in many aspects of your life. That’s why challenging yourself is important and sometimes in that challenge you don’t always happen to be the winner.

Monday was a tough day. I’m fighting many battles within my self mentally and physically but I’ll save that for another day. No excuses, my roll today was quite upsetting. We slapped fives and I automatically went into butterfly guard (seated position). I was constantly forcing my way forward to keep my hooks attached. Continuously attempting to play X guard, De La Riva and even deep half. I was quickly looking to utilize sweeps and transitions from the bottom into a more dominant position such as the back. However THAT was my major issue… I was playing the wrong game! This guy was strong and aggressive. So playing off the bottom might’ve been my problem from the start. That was such a lame mistake by me, which cost me to end up flat on my back each time. For all my attempts, he just stuffed it all as if I was no competition. I felt his weight crush my sides, trapped underneath his side control. I had to force my way out every time, giving each upa, each hip escape my every energy leaving me completely drain to start again. It was tap after tap after tap. I honestly felt humiliated, confused, frustrated and angry. I couldn’t wrap my head around this. It wasn’t until time was called as I sat there in disappointment in my performance that it hit me. It wasn’t that I didn’t play my game. I just didn’t play the RIGHT game against him.

I know this guy’s game. He’s strong, aggressive and he just bulldozes his way through. Each time I sat my butt on the mat he kept charging at me like a raged bull. Worst part is I knew this! I tell others that when they roll…”take the position! Stay on top! Don’t play bottom!” and look who doesn’t even listen to their own advice, this guy. I’d grab his lapel and sleeves and he’d just run right through me. I didn’t want to roll with anyone else that day; I only wanted to roll with him. I was not concerned about beating him once, but beating him as many times as he beat me. For every tap, I got right back up and slapped fives again and ended on my back again. All I kept thinking was how? why? And What the F***? I’d get so caught up and frustrated the match wasn’t going my way that everything, my belief, my skill and my calmness went out the window.

I should’ve played for the top from the very beginning. I’ve rolled against him many times and he is a great competitor however, I never had as much trouble with him as I did that night. Looking back now that’s what I realized. Recently I talked much about developing your game but there’s one important thing that I forgot to mention, you need to develop a game from all sorts of scenarios, structures and sizes. Hence in a case like this, the game I’d play with someone equal my weight and size should not necessarily be the same game I’d play for a person bigger and stronger. For someone like him I should’ve forced my way to take a dominant position like side control, mount, the back or even in his half guard. I wasn’t playing aggressive for the top at all. I was clouded by ignorance and frustration. As soon as things fell a part, I panicked and crumbled and only allowed myself to care about the winning than care about what the hell am I doing wrong. Caring and focusing so much on the winning cost me to only lose.

This is a clear look as to why losing is so important. Losing adds growth and development. Think about all the times great teams like the Bulls and Lakers had to lose before winning. They even lost championship games but came back and at times winning back to back. As an individual think about how many times you have to fail before you can succeed. See, you’ll never know what you’re doing right if you never do something wrong. You have to assess the issue, fix it, train it and then make it yours. If you keep winning, then you’re not going against the right person. How does continuously beating the same person or people make you better? It doesn’t, that’s why you always need to challenge yourself and look for those people that will make you work, that will challenge you and that has the potential to beat you. THAT’S HOW YOU GET BETTER. That’s also how you build your confidence in yourself and your game. It wasn’t that I lacked the strength or the skill; no…it was I folded under pressure and I let my emotions try to play the game for me. I know what I should’ve done but from the start I did everything I tell everyone else not to do. I did everything I tell myself not to do. I did everything besides keeping calm.

That’s the importance of losing.

Back in the Competition Game!

Competition is awesome because you get to see your game and your moves at the fullest and in its rawest form. You’re going against a person you never met. Their style, game and everything may be foreign to you but you get to see your technique shine or even fail. Both are important pieces to add in developing your game which I talked about last blog.

If you win, you get that opportunity for moves and techniques to come natural to you in a live situation, especially against someone who’s skill maybe equal or better than you. If you lose, you learn. Maybe you lost because you missed a small detail, off timing or it might be all mental. You might’ve had problems committing to a move. A lot of these questions can be answered during a competition.

I had my first BJJ competition at white belt and Novice No Gi. Like the beginning of my Jiu Jitsu journey, my first competition was very much like that. I was super nervous and very intimidated. I saw kids younger than me at the time, roll like true BJJ practitioners. Made me feel as if all my progress was just quick excitement of adapting to something new so quick. I even saw some gentlemen who were old enough to be my dad roll in some divisions. I must admit, my first time competing, I think I might’ve second guessed my own skills and siked myself out a little bit and maybe… I wasn’t even ready. Fact of the matter is I would’ve never progressed had this never happened.

When training for competition, you can’t think too much about how your opponent is training and working out. All you need to concern yourself with is doing more than your opponent. This is all part of the mental strength you need to have in any competition. Physical attribution is always necessary however, if you can’t apply it then there’s no use for it. The reason in this particular blog I’m not speaking too much about the physical necessities one should have especially for competition is because that’s a given. You know you need to have the cardiovascular and muscle endurance to last 5-10 minutes straight rolling. You also need strength and power to be able fight with a larger or stronger opponent. They may end up sitting right on top of you. But aside from the obvious, what some people fail to train is the mental attribute.

The mental attribute consist of self confidence, commitment, the will, the drive, dedication and most importantly the “mind over matter”. You need to find the will power, that inner strength for just when you think you can’t and when your body says it won’t, you dig deep! You dig so deep to where you do. That strength only comes from belief and that self confidence you only get from your mind. If you can’t incorporate that workout into your routine, then you already lost at LEAST 80% of the fight. Heck, some would even say 90%! You can be strong and have all the moves in the book but if things don’t happen to go your way, you panic and forget all your moves…then what else? You have to be mentally strong. That comes with controlling your emotions, performing under all sorts of pressure, be able and wanting to do what others can’t or won’t. Your opponent, they made sacrifices. Think about the “normal” life top athletes want to have but can’t because they know in order to always perform top level, they always need to be top ready! They’re hungry, I’m hungry. Welcome to the world of competition.

Up coming East Coast Competition (NYC and NJ area):

July 20th : Grapplers Quest- Morristown, New Jersey

July 27th: The Good Fight- St. James, New York

August 18th: NJBJJF Classic- Cliffwood, New Jersey

 

Again, thank you to all on WordPress and Facebook peeps that liked and followed my blog. Really makes me finally feel like I’m doing something right for once and please continue to do share and spread the love! So, Obrigado e gostar!

Developing your Game.

As you move up into your ranking/promotion in BJJ, you slowly start to forget a couple of things along the way. Sometimes those things are the pieces we always need to look back as a reference that will help you grow and develop your game. I think at Purple that’s one of the many mental challenges you will face that separates you from a higher purple, to the next step of brown.

I remember when I first started BJJ I thought it was going to be such an easy transition and sport to pick up on. I had some wrestling experience in the past as a kid, but the high school I attended didn’t have (besides gym class) wrestling and many other sports (basketball, baseball, track etc…) so didn’t go to far with that. For the time I didn’t wrestle, I’d wrestle with a couple of friends that were on the team at other schools. Luckily, by junior year of high school, I started training at Anderson’s Martial Arts Academy.

I remember my first class. Boy was I stoked but I’m not going to lie I had that “grappling? I got this. This is my world” kind of attitude. Sifu made all the white belts line up and all the higher belts take the center. We had to roll with all the higher/advance belts for the center. I rolled against my first blue belt that day. From the knees I still went for the double leg takedown and nailed it! My mind just got a boost of confidence. Feeling so much excitement from the ability to take a higher belt down on my first day! I just wanted to stand up and shout “WHUT? WHUT?” Not only would that be terribly rude and disrespectful but that’s when it all came back to reality! What woke me up from this “ego booster” was that I began feeling a small inch of pain sparking up into my elbow and immediately my eyes zoomed down at the blue belt who cranked my arm up into an arm bar. All that had to have happened in at least 35-40 seconds and it was not any different from any one else I rolled with that day. That’s when I said to myself, “this is NOT wrestling”. That statement right there was the key that opened my door to growth from white to blue.

What I realized at white belt was this is Brazilian Jiu Jitu. Not only being able to fight from the ground however being able to fight off your back. They welcome the take down especially if you don’t cut that corner right, they’re going to pull that guard really quick. Which was what I learned that day. Guard is a basic principle that once you start you need to understand. Similar to how stand up styles, stance or forms switch or change such as orthodox, southpaw, Muay Thai, Boxing, etc.., the guard is similar to that. You have butterfly guard, X guard, half guard, rubber guard, spider guard and so much more. Instead of punches, knees, elbows and kicks, you’re attacking with holds, sweeps and submission. So as a white belt it’s very common to start playing and jumping guard a lot. From there I made it a priority that with all this knowledge to learn, I will keep the most open of minds! When it came time to roll, I’d also ordered myself to only submit using 2 submissions: arm bar and triangle for every person that I rolled with that week. I began doing the same thing with sweeps from the bottom such as tomoe nage and the scissor sweep. Each week I’d change the move ONLY if I saw much improvement from the moves I picked and felt suitable to my comfort level. This really helped me excel in BJJ fast. Win or lose, with the moves you choose allows you to see and feel what you’re doing wrong or right. It also allows you to work timing on a certain body structure and most importantly, you begin to develop the sight for the moves. What I mean by that is you start to see different ways to get to the move or even you’ll start to see the moves in different positions. This makes you super versatile within a move and allows you to start understanding transitions and how to direct a human body. Understanding all that was the first piece in developing my game and within 4 months of training, I received my Blue belt from Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and my Sifu.

At blue belt, my mindset and thought process was no different. However, my submission toolbox and my entire BJJ arsenal expanded. I now began to mixed new submissions with old and being able to catch these transitions from multiple positions. I also started to learn how to attack the legs with straight leg locks and knee bars, which became extremely helpful when people would stand in my guard or even from a sweep. But what really took my game further and really added a piece to the many moves I made into my own game, was the takedowns. Once I was allowed to begin our match standing, I started working on throws and takedowns and because I was so used to take downs, I was quickly able to make that a part of my game in BJJ. After numerous amounts of drilling take downs, I would take my opponents down and land in side control automatically after the takedown during a fight or a match. I felt so comfortable engaging and shooting for the takedown that it really became a part of me. This was the first time I really saw what my game was going to be. From the ground I was able to find the arm bar and/or triangle from almost any position, even some of them being done off of a sweep. Now with mixing my old experiences like wrestling, I was able to take a person down, land in side control and felt dominate enough to force the arm bar or sneak a triangle from mount.

I had a minor block between Blue and Purple belt and I think this comes from focusing on too much ego of the sport. I couldn’t understand why I’d do so well in class but not as well in tournaments and fights. Hell, honestly it even caught up in class. I found myself forcing what I only knew and what made me good at “that time”. There’s nothing wrong with losing, but let’s all admit it, sometimes we do get a little bit upset when we submit to a lower skill level or belt especially more than once. ALWAYS PRAISE THEM though because they still beat you. Which means they’re doing something you’re not. I would play too relaxed not because I was relaxed but I’d underestimate those who continued to welcome new ideas and techniques. See I was limited to what made me good at the time I was at that belt or skill level. Once you move up, you’re rolling with people equal or higher your skill. You need to KEEP your mind open and stay humble. There will always be someone better, but that person isn’t you. Your job is to keep YOURSELF better. Be real and honest with yourself. I sat myself down and focused my energy on my emotions and did exactly that. I let go of losing and looked at my flaws. What I realized was that I got too used to and too comfortable with the way I was playing my game back then. I needed to think like I did when I was a white belt. The sooner I did that the better I got. My first MMA fight, I scored big with a huge takedown. I dominated the first round by staying on top and even almost choked him out with a rear naked. The next 3 fights were no different, all landing a huge double leg and a rear naked choke. See you won’t know what you’re capable of doing if you never try. You need to always explore and challenge yourself to new things even in BJJ. This is when the mental technique of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu made it’s mark.

Once I opened my mind to that mental aspect of the art, that’s when I got my purple belt. At purple belt I’m still developing my game. Only difference is now I question myself each day and each time I step foot on that mat. I ask myself before class, “what is my goal today? how can I help someone else’s game grow?” and after class I ask, “what did I do wrong today? What should I add or improve for next time?”. This helps me slow down and focus on control when I’m either drilling a technique or even during an actual roll. I’m so calm and relaxed that I’m able to think as I’m rolling. I’m able to see how I can I get from here to there. With all the new moves I learn, I always refer back to how can I make it my own and where can I get this from (positions)? Another thing I picked up at purple was helping others. By helping others you get better because now you’re going to need a new bag of tricks to use on them and also chances are they’ll use your move against you. People will always study your game so it’s important to also learn something new each day and help others discover their game. The physical aspect of BJJ is just one part of growth and development, you also need to have the mental part.

Few things to keep in mind when rolling:

  • Have a plan
  • Commit to that plan
  • Feel
  • Control
  • Breathe
  • Keep Calm and Roll on

How Jiu Jitsu became Brazilian.

This is for some who might be new to the discipline of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. To avoid situations and questions like “this seems awesome and interesting but what the heck is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?” Here is a brief history lesson in the art of a thousand handles.

It is said that Jiu Jitsu originated in India and was developed by Buddhist Monks. That’s right, Buddhist Monks. That ‘s probably why Jiu Jitsu is dubbed the “gentle” art. However despite its nickname, Jiu Jitsu soon became one of the most effective martial arts practiced by many martial artists around the world. Jiu Jitsu relies on leverage, holds, joint manipulation, chokes and muscle compression to eliminate a threat (obviously in the act of self defense). With the teaching of Buddhism spreading across Asia, Jiu Jitsu followed with it. Finally reaching Japan where it gained its popularity with a man named Esai Maeda Koma or “Conde Koma”.

Maeda was a Jiu Jitsu and Judo master. Typically the art was practiced and displayed through demonstrations. However,  Maeda favored the prize matches much more. He went on traveling to serval different countries and finally landed himself in Brazil. There he met a Brazilian politician, Gastao Gracie, who helped in the favor of developing Japanese villages in Brazil. Due to Maeda’s popularity, Gastao was already aware of Maeda’s success. Sharing a common interest in martial arts, Maeda returned the favor by teaching Gastao’s oldest son, Carlos Gracie, traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu who then taught his brother Helio. Thus, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was born.

The Gracie’s innovated the art from throws, takedowns, holds and submissions making it more practical for the “smaller” person. Carlos opened the first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy  in Rio De Janeiro where he taught students and fought challengers. Similar to Maeda, Carlos and Helio would challenge opponents from all styles and from all shape, sizes and strength. Proving that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was one of the most effective martial arts, they would publicly post ads and signs requesting open challenges in their schools to even garages. No one would expect what looked to be your average joe, small and skinny guys, tossing around and defeating some of the toughest, biggest and strongest men around. It was then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu became the thing everyone was talking about.

With Carlos and Helio both heavily dedicated to their art and what was considered Gracie Jiu Jitsu, it was inevitable for them to pass the tradition down to their kids. From Brazil, BJJ began to quickly spread to America with icons like Royce, Renzo, Carlos Jr, Rickson and so many more opening up shop across the U.S. Each brother making a name for themselves through the same principles of their father. Rickson and Royce went through similar paths as their father (Heilo) and Tio Carlos (uncle), by accepting challenges both in and outside a sanction events. Little did we know this would help spark one of the most famous sports not only across the US, but around the world.

Today, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become a widely practiced martial arts across the globe especially with the high popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It gave ground fighting a new face. Picture a snake and a prey or better yet a anaconda and a crocodile. They’re able to squeeze bigger prey and objects than themselves. Very much like BJJ. You need to be able to take the fight where you want it and once you have it, capitalize on it in every way. You need to stay patient but hungry and know when the opportunity presents itself for action. You need to be able to move with another person’s energy while staying in control and dominant.  It has now become an essential art you need to have in your arsenal for the sport of MMA or even self defense/street fight.

Even for recreational, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an art you can practice for years. Focusing on movement, control and technique BJJ is a discipline you can be a part of for a while. Down the road in my life, I like to think of it as Yoga but with a partner. Yes, although there’s more contact and your using your body against someone else’s. You start to practice more techniques, functional movement and sometimes just to keep the body loose. As you get better and as you get older, you want to “play” slower and for the lack of a better word, “friendlier”. Like my Sifu said, it’s about longevity. Look at Helio, he was still rolling even at 90 years old! That goes to show you like any other sport, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not only physical. There’s a special holistic connection it has with a person. If you’re talking about longevity and health, you want to make sure you are mentally and nutritionally satisfied. What you put into your body will effect your bodies output. Your body is a canvas and you want to use the riches and most vibrant paint to create your style which is your game. You want to be able to do this over and over again.

No matter the size, strength, age, gender or any of that, BJJ is that something you can take with you. You can gain something physically, mentally and even emotionally. For me it was all of it. I went in to fight, filled with that young gun attitude. Looking at who I am today, I’m still young just less of a gun and more of a handler. I’m still trying to discover more about myself through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Each roll is different, win or lose I take something from it, learn from it and then grow with it. If you are looking to start a journey in BJJ, take your time and don’t rush. Always remember the principles behind BJJ and when things don’t pan out the way you wanted, Keep Calm and Roll On.