Mr. Resistance: A Definition, And A Solution

If you train BJJ long enough, you’ll definitely encounter Mr. Resistance. He’s the guy that tenses his arms, puts up a struggle, and holds on way too tight. Oh, and we’re not talking about sparring. We’re talking about training techniques.

Like many BJJ characters that need a definition and a solution, Mr. Resistance is often a newbie. Over time, he will realize that when practicing techniques it’s often better to give in than to resist. Of course, none of this matters when you meet Mr. Resistance in his prime.

At worst, a simple kimura or choke technique becomes an exercise fraught with danger, one where you better have your tap hand at the ready. At best, you’ll have a frustrating time trying to practice a technique against an overly resistant partner. Either way, you’ll be watching the clock, counting the moments until class is over.

The Definition

Mr. Resistance doesn’t mean to resist. In BJJ beginners, this is typically a normal response to having another human being putting you in a compromising position. From this standpoint, you can understand Mr. Resistance completely. At the heart of his constricted muscles and pinchy fingers is a lack of trust. Building trust takes time, especially when it comes to martial arts.

There are many ranges when it comes to Mr. Resistance. The mildest version is simply a guy who is ridiculously rigid, someone whose survival instinct kicks in automatically. He holds his breath and basically grabs on for dear life—and that’s whether he’s practicing the technique, or having it practiced on him. While training with this mild version will still feel like practicing on stiff training dummy, it’s manageable, and usually dissipates in this partner after he’s spent some quality time on the mat.

The other end of that range is the type of fellow who thinks he’s competing at the Mundials. This means you’re in for a long technique-practicing session, one where you’ll have to fight to practice the technique, and then brace yourself when it’s his turn for a try. The problem here is the threat of injury, be it from him doing a move too explosively or spazzing to the point where you catch a knee to the face or groin. Since in many ways you’re dealing with someone who has a serious ego in this scenario, the chances of this training partner figuring out how to relax quickly, so that you both can work effectively, are not as high. Luckily, encountering this version of Mr. Resistance is rare.

The Solution

People—yes, even adults—learn from example. Simply being relaxed yourself will go a long way toward showing Mr. Resistance that he can let his guard down a little. Again, he probably has no idea he’s tense anyway. But by following through on your techniques with noodle arms, you’re setting the perfect example.

While training partners often grin and bear it rather than saying something to Mr. Resistance, that’s honestly not the right decision. All you’re doing is ensuring that Mr. Resistance lives on in ignorance, and that he will make tomorrow’s training session miserable for someone else. Simply saying, “Hey buddy, breathe” or “Take a second to relax” goes a long way, simply because it will make your partner cognizant of how tight he really is. This subtle approach works well for that Mr. Resistance that just needs to loosen up a bit.

However, for Mr. Resistance: Mundial Edition, you’ll probably have to be more direct, and offer a longer explanation. Again, as a newbie, it’s important for a practitioner to know that technique practice is first and foremost about creating muscle memory, and that grunting and straining through techniques with a death grip rarely serves a purpose. If the subtle cues mentioned earlier fall on deaf ears, you might have to be more persuasive. Explaining that sparring—not technique training—is the place for maximum exertion, is a start. Unfortunately, this may take multiple attempts.

Of course, there are occasions when specifically training techniques with resistance is absolutely imperative. But with most Mr. Resistances being white belts, this should again be left for sparring time. Higher belts that have mastered a technique will certainly want to work on escapes, or even variations that might work best for them. However, in the strictly technique-driven portion of class, most practitioners should focus on creating that invaluable muscle memory. For any belt rank, open mats present the perfect opportunity for experimentation with certain techniques.

Again, Mr. Resistance typically chills out with time. But how quickly that transformation takes place often relies on his training partners. Staying silent serves no purpose. Some simple coaching can go a long way, especially if all of his training partners are helping him relax. Over time, that will come with trust as he slowly discovers the bond built between training partners. Pretty soon, Mr. Resistance will be as loose as a goose—and a pleasure to train with.

When It Comes To Gi’s, Wearing Is Believing

While the Internet affords the modern shopper a gazillion options, it also breeds paralysis by analysis. With countless reviews, vendors, and styles in the mix, making a purchase becomes much akin to compiling data for a case study. And when it comes to something you’re going to wear? A decision becomes even more difficult.

Take shoes, for example. You can look online, but the proof in the pudding comes from lacing them up. The same is the case for a BJJ gi. You can stare at photos of the sports’ stars wearing the latest innovation, waffle back and forth between canvas or ripstop pants, or wonder about the fit of the latest entrepreneur’s contribution to the burgeoning gi market. However, you’re never going to know if a gi’s the right fit until you try it on.

Alas, there’s no true Zappos.com for gis. Buying and returning isn’t as simple, especially if you have to pick up the return fees. But we’ve pulled together some common sense tips to help you make the best decision.

Your Intent Always Matters

One thing you simply have to know before making a purchase is how you plan to use the gi, and this boils down to whether you’re going to wear the gi for training, for competition, or for both. When it comes to gis used exclusively for training, there’s far less pressure on a purchase; while a perfect fit is always wanted, it’s not as critical. But when it comes to competitions, you’ll probably want to be much pickier.

The first thing to do is review the IBJJF rules and regs (page 28) for gi fit. The last thing you want to do, especially if you’ve traveled far and wide to a major competition, is have a gi that doesn’t meet the IBJJF’s stringent requirements. Since giving your opponent as little gi fabric to latch on to is always a benefit, most competitors want a snug fit, but one that still allows for maximum mobility.

But let’s be clear: when competing, your skill level, strategy, and endurance are far more important than the gi you’re wearing—no matter how perfectly it fits. Just chalk a well-tailored gi up as a small advantage, but never as a game-changer. However, if you typically roll in a looser gi, don’t just save that snug gi for competition. You need to feel comfortable in your competition gi, so as much as you probably prize it (especially since they’re typically more expensive) make sure you train in it extensively beforehand.

For Trial and Error, Beg And Borrow

Like most sizing systems, the universal sizing system for gis is very imperfect. An A2 in one brand may fit far differently than an A2 in another. This is another reason why staring at a computer screen serves you very little—even if you pull the trigger on a new gi based on the slick design or thickest collar, the sizing may not be in line with gis you’ve worn from other brands.

The best—and of course, most logical—way to size a gi is by asking your training partners to let you try theirs on, especially if it’s a brand you’re interested in. Better yet, attending a seminar often presents a great opportunity since a large group of practitioners has gathered. While you might not be comfortable asking a stranger to try their gi on—which is somewhat illogical since you’d probably be willing to roll with them—you’ll just have to weigh if that request is easier than having to head to FedEx to return a gi that just didn’t work for you.

Again, with so many new gi companies on the market, and with many of them using smart marketing tactics such as “limited run” gis, “champion-approved” kimonos, and slick new designs, it’s not going to get any easier any time soon. So when faced with these factors, always fall back on fit. That’s why most seasoned practitioners are brand-loyal; it’s usually based on the fact that a particular gi has consistently been a good fit for them, and nothing else.

The Purple Belt Problem

In many ways, the rank of purple belt can be viewed as a bridge rank. When a practitioner receives a blue belt, this represents a huge step simply from a standpoint of dealing with the challenge of an existence as a white belt. This existence starts with cluelessness, continues with beatdown after beatdown, and culminates with having a foundation of knowledge and skill in BJJ. Since so many white belts fall by the wayside, the rank of blue belt is often rewarding simply from a standpoint of survival.

Receiving a purple belt, however, is a different story. It’s very difficult to advance to this rank without possessing definitive skill. This skill ranges from a development of BJJ strategy, an overall wider knowledge base, and extremely refined technique. A purple belt has demonstrated an aptitude and commitment to BJJ far beyond the earlier ranks, and understands that they are halfway to the ultimate goal: black belt. This is why it can be viewed as a bridge rank; you stand squarely between novice and expert.

That’s why many purple belts will admit to this rank being one of the first times they feel pressure on the mat. They’re now viewed as an advanced practitioner, and in most schools this places that purple belt at the top of the food chain, and they feel an expectation to feast upon the white and blue belts at their disposal. Therein lies the purple belt problem.

Here’s a quick newsflash: as a purple belt, you’re going to have blue belt days. This might come about due to injury or by having an off day. Conversely, a blue belt is going to have a purple belt day every now and again. This means the stars will at some point align, and lead exactly where a purple belt doesn’t want it to: with tapping out to a “lower” belt. You can fight against this idea as much as you want to, but it’s inevitable for most purple belts.

So at that moment when a blue belt achieves the upper hand, accept that you might be having one of those “blue belt days.” This is most important at that moment of pain when your stubborn pride prevents you from tapping against your blue belt brethren. But tap, and just move on. Remove this pressure—pressure you have heaped upon yourself—and acknowledge the moment’s inevitability.

Here’s an additional tip for dealing with what will certainly feel like a moment of defeat: think back to that glorious moment when you—as a blue belt—tapped a purple belt yourself. You were having a good day, and maybe that purple belt slept on you or was simply a step behind. Catching belts above you is part of your development. Believe it or not, being caught by belts “beneath” you is part of that development, too. How you deal with it will go a long way toward your emotional and psychological toughness on the mats.

So many BJJ lessons end with the advice to let go of the ego. But for the purple belt problem, the good news is that over time a purple belt’s blue belt days will be few and far between. Soon you may not have any at all, and you’ll be a purple belt having a brown belt day every now and then. Of course, you know how it is with jiu jitsu: pretty soon you’ll be a brown belt, one worrying about having a purple belt day.

Student Spotlight: Justin Caryk

Justin gets promoted

Justin gets promoted

Justin Caryk is a Technical Recruiter in the Telecommunications Industry who has been training BJJ for just over a year. He is a rarely observed white belt, one who does not resort to spazzing when he finds himself lost on the mats—which is frequently. If he is not training, he’s likely playing video games with his faithful companion, a boxer named Miss Piggy.

1. Did you train BJJ prior to coming to Great Grappling? If so, where and for how long?

Great Grappling was my first experience with BJJ.

2. What sports did you play prior to training in BJJ?

I was born into a hockey family but ended up playing soccer my entire life. Apparently, hockey equipment is expensive!

3. Why did you decide to begin training BJJ?

I stopped playing soccer in organized leagues after high school, and with the exception of kickball and some pickup leagues for soccer I have not competed since. At 27 years old, I found myself missing exercise and physical competition. After a combination of an old friend talking about his training and years of watching the effectiveness of BJJ in MMA, I found myself walking through the doors of Great Grappling to try it for myself.

4. What are your training goals?

My main goal is simple: to keep training as long as my body will let me. With any luck, I have many years of challenge and learning ahead.

5. How has grappling improved your life?

Since starting BJJ, I quit smoking, lost 30 pounds, and am unquestionably in the best shape of my life.

6. What’s your favorite submission, position, or transition, and why?

As a white belt, my favorite submission is the one I can get. The Pedron Choke from side control is the first one I surprised a partner with. I can’t always hit it, but this is what I’m looking for every time from side control. Most recently, I’ve been enjoying playing with butterfly. I can’t think of a more gratifying moment than lifting with a hook, feeling my partner’s base give, and ending on my feet with my partner on his back.

7. What’s your proudest BJJ-related accomplishment?

I’ve been training a little over a year, which is not much time to have a truly noteworthy accomplishment. I’m most proud that I’ve continued training. The atmosphere of the gym and excellent training partners make it easy to find small successes to stay motivated, but having become more active in BJJ communities online, I’ve found the turnover rate of white belts is pretty high.

8. What would people be surprised to know about you?

I love drawing and am not terrible at it.

Piper Takes BJJ To The Cage At Fight Lab 35

On Saturday, February 8, Great Grappling’s own John Piper—gi and all—took to the cage at Fight Lab 35 to take on Swamp Fox Jiu Jitsu’s Brian Edwards at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte. Piper, a brown belt, emerged victorious with a unanimous decision from the judges, becoming Fight Lab’s first Brown Belt Champion.

Piper enters the cage with support from his training partners

After being marched down to the cage in a Gracie train with his Great Grappling teammates, Piper’s bout got underway quickly with Edwards pulling guard. After passing to side control, Piper, for most of the match, stayed in a dominant position. In an effort to control his larger opponent, he transitioned to north-south, and also spent some time in mount.

Piper was very close on a couple of submission attempts. Twice he almost trapped Edwards in the crucifix—the position Piper utilized to win his championship at Worlds last fall—but Edwards defended himself admirably. Piper also came close on an armbar attempt, only to have Edwards escape.

Piper with the Crucifix attempt

Though the cage represented a new challenge for Piper, he seemed to enjoy the change from the standard mat competitions.

“I’m always down for promoting BJJ to everyone,” he said. “Fight Lab was nice enough to let the traditional BJJ guys do their thing in the cage, so why not? It was not as serious as the IBJJF comps, and all parties had a great time.”

Still, he acknowledged that grappling in a cage is far different, and represented new challenges.

“The cage gave me fits,” he said. “I heard Jeremy yelling something about ‘He’s going to wall-walk!’ and it made no sense to me at first. It also messed up my normal favorite position and submission. Still, it was awesome though.”

Brown Belt Champion John Piper

Obviously Piper has been on a roll since last year’s Worlds. With his work ethic on the mats it’s not all that surprising, either. Of course Jeremy is proud of him, as well as the Great Grappling family. Of course, only one question remains: would he do it again? The answer may surprise you. (Of course, his self-effacing overall response will not.)

“I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would love to test my skills out against another opponent if I have the opportunity again,” he said. “And I’m always humbled by the support from my wife, kiddos, and GGBJJ.”

The Great Grappling team cheers for Piper at Fight Lab 25

The Great Grappling team cheers for Piper at Fight Lab 25