How to React Without Thinking

What Bruce Lee and Malcolm Gladwell Taught Me About Mushin (or the Art of No-Mind and Executing the Perfect Technique),

Bruce Lee and Malcom Gladwell agree with Mark Mullen.  Sometimes things just happen too quickly to use conscious thought.

Sometimes you just need to forget about thought and simply react to the situation. (more…)

Don't Panic, This is Normal!

I often hear from people distraught about some area of their jiu-jitsu lagging behind.

It might be their sweeps from the closed guard, their submissions from side mount, their escapes from rear mount, or their butterfly guard passes, but in that that one specific area they’re just not as good at as they should be.

Here’s the thing though: there will ALWAYS be areas where you are lagging behind! (more…)

What's the Best Conditioning for BJJ?

I often get asked about the best kind of conditioning for BJJ and MMA.

People want to know what’s better: running vs swimming, circuit training vs powerlifting, crossfit vs bodybuilding, sprints vs extended cardio, kettlebells vs dumbbells, bodyweight exercises vs barbells..

Having done quite a bit of strength and conditioning over the last 20 years I actually do have some definite opinions about these topics. But the thing is that my opinions apply only to me.

You have to figure out what works for you by trial and error. (more…)

The Two Biggest Benefits of Training Martial Arts

Funny story…

I was passing through the downtown core of a major North American city a few years ago. I had 40 minutes to kill, so I went for a walk and quickly came across a martial arts club I had heard about but never set foot in.   So into the club I went, to check it out and introduce myself.

I was immediately struck by two contrasting impressions…

The first thing I noticed were the inspirational posters and sayings painted all over the walls. (more…)

Should You Correct Your Weaknesses or Focus on Your Strengths?

This is an article by longtime Grapplearts contributor and BJJ Black Belt Mark Mullen.

A question I always ask when I discuss jiu-jitsu with senior black belts is, “In developing your game is it better to develop your strengths, or to focus on weaknesses in order to correct them?”  

The simplest form of this question is about developing your top game vs your bottom game in BJJ. (more…)

Brandon 'Wolverine' Mullins on BJJ Training, Competition, Transitions and Evolution

I’ve got a super cool, super informative interview for you today!

This is the first time in Grapplearts history that I’ve interviewed a person for a second time.  But boy, did my friend, BJJ black belt, and fierce competitor Brandon ‘Wolverine’ Mullins ever deliver! (click here for the first interview).

(Brandon and I originally worked together to create the highly acclaimed instructional How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent Volume 2.)

In today’s interview Brandon and I discuss a TON of stuff, including,

  • Life and death on the seminar circuit,
  • What changes you need to make to your guard to transition from gi to no-gi,
  • How to connect moves together to make a smooth and fluid game,
  • The evolution of jiu-jitsu, including the new positions and strategies that are continuously changing the sport,
  • Why you always need to pushing to improve your position even when you’re ahead on points. (more…)

The Danger of All-Or-Nothing Thinking...

In life it’s funny what ends up making a lasting impression on you. An offhand comment can stick with you for years and years, and have an effect way beyond anything the original person intended.

There’s a phrase like that that pops up in my mind often when I’m thinking about BJJ.  But it originated in a very different place.

In fact this comment got stuck in my brain more than 20 years ago when I was taking a biochemistry class at McGill University of all places… (more…)

Judo for BJJ

An article by Mark Mullen

Most students of Brazilian jiu-jitsu are aware that the origins of modern day BJJ came from Japanese judoka Mitsuyo Maeda who was one of the earliest of Jigoro Kano’s members at the Kodokan.

Since those early days, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has evolved significantly and now Olympic style judo and sport BJJ have diverged into their own sports.

The rules governing IBJJF competition differ from those of Olympic judo requiring different strategies by the competitors and consequently a different emphasis on techniques. (more…)

The Answer is Out There!

Let’s say that you want to add a new technique – any technique – to your game.

With new techniques there’s always a ton of trial and error, struggle and effort, discouragement and tough times before it starts working reliably for you.

But here’s the thing: no matter what area of jiu-jitsu or submission grappling you’re working on, I guarantee you that there’s someone out there who has already spent years working on that exact technique. (more…)

How to Build Self Confidence in BJJ

Today I want to share the single best piece of advice I ever got from sport psychology.

Let’s set this up by supposing that you have an ambitious goal, like getting your BJJ brown belt, or winning a medal in a major competition…

To achieve that goal you’ve obviously got to do lots of drilling, sparring, conditioning, etc. All these things get your body into shape and ready for action. But when we’re talking about elite jiu-jitsu then almost everybody is in shape. And most people are fast and strong and have great timing. (more…)

How to Train with Beginners so that Nobody Gets Hurt and You Both Get Better

The most dangerous situation in BJJ is training with an absolute novice.

I’m serious!  Someone who has never trained before is often unpredictable, jerky, and just doesn’t know the rules of the game yet.

All that thrashing around, lack of control, as well as potential ego issues means that there’s a pretty high likelihood of something going wrong. Either that dude planting an elbow in your eye, or not him tapping out when he’s in a Kimura, or doing something else stupid. (more…)

Should I Do Extra Conditioning for BJJ?

To condition or not to condition, that is the question…

Whether ’tis smarter for your body to strain under barbells and long distance runs, or ignore all that stuff and just focus on getting more mat time.

This is NOT an article about general fitness, or about achieving a goal in another sport. If you want to run a half-marathon for the challenge, the endorphins, or the sense of achievement then there’s no ambiguity about what you should do: tie up those running shoes and start jogging! (more…)

How to Incorporate a New Technique into Your Arsenal

Incorporating a new move into your sparring and competition repertoire can be tricky. Too many people go and and try their nifty new technique on everybody right away, hoping that it will work at least some of the time. But this may not actually be the best way to do it.

In fact, this scattershot method, and not having a concrete plan for rolling out new moves, can even be counterproductive… (more…)

Self Defense, Competition, and Performing In High Pressure Situations

Performance under pressure is always tricky.  In fact a lot of martial arts practitioners worry about whether they’d actually be able to execute their skills in super-stressful situations.

Of course competing at a tournament or performing at belt tests can be stressful.  But the scariest high pressure situation of all is a self defence scenario where you and/or your family is being threatened.

If push were to come to shove and you actually had to defend yourself could you actually use your skills?  Or are you worried that your mind might turn to mush in the heat of the moment… (more…)

Crowdsourcing Your BJJ

There’s never been a better time to get better at BJJ.

A sixteenth century samurai who wanted to improve his duelling skills had relatively limited options.  If he put up with enough hazing and character testing then, maybe, his sensei would eventually decide to teach him some good stuff. And hopefully he would have learned some things by watching, or participating in, the occasional sword fight. (more…)

New to Jiu Jitsu? You’ll need a lot of this…

The following guest post is written by Laurie Berenson. She comes to BJJ from a background of training in Muay Thai. I really like her attitude so I invited her to put pen to paper and share her perspective with us. She is currently studying under black belts William Stevens and Casey Van Brookhoven at Stevens Martial Arts in New Jersey, USA.

When Stephan Kesting asked if I’d consider writing a guest post for grapplearts.com from the beginner’s perspective. I immediately balked at the idea. What could I speak to as a white belt? Not much! But I do know that one of the single biggest things jiu jitsu has taught me so far is to have patience… (more…)

A Cool X Guard Drill and Sweep

In recent years the X Guard has become one of the bread and butter positions in the open guard repertoire. It’s an incredibly powerful position, both in gi and no gi grappling (click here for an intro to the X Guard).

There are a ton of great techniques, sweeps, and drills that revolve around the X guard, but today I want to share a new drill with you that I recently learned from Clark Gracie in the basement of a friend’s house. (more…)

What Should A Blue Belt Concentrate On In Training?

by Mark Mullen

A few weeks back I penned an article called “What Do Whitebelts Need To Learn In Their 1st Year of BJJ?“. That prompted a few people to request a discussion of the next step in the BJJ journey: Bluebelt.

If we think of the whitebelt as a time of fleshing out the skeleton of the positional hierarchy and learning the mechanics of basic techniques, I would sum up the Bluebelt as a time of experimentation. (more…)

Question: My Mind Goes Blank During Sparring...

—————————— QUESTION ——————————

Hi Stephan,

First of all, I want to thank you for creating your instructional apps and having these frequent tips/newsletters.   They have really helped me to get started in BJJ.  Even though I have been signed up to receive your emails for a while now I have only just begun my training.   (more…)