Totowa MMA: A look inside NJ United Mixed Martial Arts Academy

“Getting good” at jiu-jitsu: The unglamorous truth!

I started my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training in 2003, the same year that Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill came out. I was a lot younger then. Martial arts action movies and fighting video games held way more motivational influence over me than they do now. I saw them mainly as entertainment, but now and then, I’d learn something deeper from them. And one important takeaway I got from Kill Bill 2 was this simple, basic, irreplaceable truth:

If you want to “get good” at BJJ, you’ve GOT to do the warm-up drills when class begins!

You are reading this blog to learn the mysteries of jiu-jitsu, not linguistics! Fortunately, there’s no mystical secret to learning them. Anyone can do it. Show up on time to class, an repeat the essential movements and drills your instructor teaches. Then do that again, and again and again.

Here, NJU students repeat shrimping motions during warm-ups. Shrimping is vital for your core strength, hip-movement, and your ability to regain your guard if someone passes it.

I’ll never forget the drilling montage in Kill Bill 2, when untested protagonist Beatrix travels to an ancient-looking temple to train with Pai Mei, a calloused and old-school martial arts master. Through a long but entertaining training montage, Pai Mei subjects Beatrix to a grueling session after session of technique-repetition. In true Hollywood speed-montage fashion, Beatrix’s Kung Fu gradually improves. Later in the movie, she’s placed in a precarious situation where her only hope for escape is her oft-repeated training and muscle-memory.

In the long term scope of training, I learned three things from this:

#1. There is no replacement for regular, repeated, basic technique. In other words, you CANNOT get good at BJJ if you skip warm-ups and muscle-memory building sessions. When I teach a jiu-jitsu class, the students who come in late are always the most puzzled. That’s because the warm-ups prepare your body and mind for the movements that will be used again and again in learning technique. And without that, you will be puzzled regardless of what color your belt is!

#2. The BJJ grind is definitely NOT as easy as a Hollywood training / drilling montage! There is no video editing technique that you can use to make the warm-ups go faster. There’s no cinematic quick-fix that will enable you to accomplish a month’s worth of repetitions and improvements in 20 seconds-worth of time. This is a “secret” that is open to everyone, yet surprisingly (maybe willingly?) overlooked by many.

#3. BJJ is a labor of love. Technique is sometimes hard to learn, but you do not need to be extra strong, flexible, or talented to excel. You do not need a special gi, DVD series, or podcast. You simply need to trust your instructor and repeat movements and techniques (via warm-ups and drills) to condition your mind to react quickly and automatically.

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

The Importance of Struggling, Winning, Losing, and Learning in Martial Arts

At NJ United MMA, our programs for kids have the same values as our adult programs – to provide safe challenge that grow skills, character, and relationships!

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine jokingly shared this National Post article entitled “Dodgeball isn’t just problematic, it’s an unethical tool of ‘oppression’” by Joseph Brean. The basic gist of Brean’s article is that competition is “unhelpful to the development of kind and gentle children,” and that the struggles of victory and defeat are not developmentally healthy. In my college years, I would have poked more fun at this article than the readers in the comments section! But when I read the article yesterday, I honestly felt sorry for Brean and people who hold his sentiments. True, there can be bullies and bad influences in any challenging physical activity where you test your skills against others. But true martial arts and physical challenges are meant to be developmental testing grounds that teach men, women, and children the basic skills that will enable them to thrive in an often evil, unfair world.

Our competition students have a lot of tough battles together during training, but the friendship that keeps us together is toughened by that! Here, NJU blue belts Jon and Meidine face each other in the finals of last week’s Grappling Industries tournament, eventually closing-out their division together!

Brean argues that “games become more like cruel initiation ceremonies into a brutal world.” I seriously wonder if Brean had endured some kind of gladiatorial dodgeball-world of doom in his grade school days, and if he did, then I can understand where he’s coming from. But that is not how good martial values are learned, and it’s certainly not how you respect your training partner (of course, if your training partners aren’t healthy, you can’t train!). Interestingly enough, even animals in the wild understand this concept. I’m fortunate enough to live right next to a wooded area where a family of wild foxes have made their den. I’ve seen the fox parents play-wrestling with their young, and I’ve seen them hunting together as well.

I’m sure there are other people out there who, like Brean, may have had terrible experiences in competitive and martial arts-related settings. Maybe you have as well. That’s why I invite you to learn more about NJ United MMA by taking a free Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai class with us. In our academy, we foster a challenging but safe environment that’s designed to bring out your best and grow skills you never thought you could master. After all, if the foxes near my back yard understand the importance of challenge, training, victory and failure, then I believe that we can too, and emerge the better for it.

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

NJU Wins Team Title at Grappling Industries!

What a great training family and support network we’ve got here at NJU! Thanks to everyone who put in the medal-winning hard work on the mats, and thanks to the friends and family of our competitors who help make this all possible!

The NJU crew sure has been working very smart, hard, and consistently lately, and they proved it last Saturday at the Grappling Industries tournament in Paterson, NJ! In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu culture, It’s been said in many ways that participating in a tournament is the equivalent of four months of regular training. But then again, you won’t get that valuable competition experience if you don’t have solid training and training partners! On Saturday, our team proved that they understood the best of both of those worlds, and we took home the 1st Place Team Trophy to prove it.

All in all, our competitors took home 10 gold, 8 silver, and 2 bronze medals. Even the students who didn’t take gold had several victories regardless, giving NJU a grand total of 70 matches won. And when you take into account how stacked some white belt and blue belt divisions can be, some of our students had uphill climbs in front of them (especially our first-time competitors). In any case, we are proud of and thankful for all of our students who step it up to test their skills in competition. Remember that whether you win or lose on the mat, you’ve gained the knowledge to improve yourself, and so you’re better off than you’d be if you hadn’t been tested!

Lastly, here are the official results below. Again, we’d like to give a big thanks to everyone who put in the hard work to compete, AND for all of the NJU students and members of the NJU family who attended the event to support us!

Results: Jon Cruz: 2 GOLDS (9 wins, 7 by submission) Tom Coda: 1 GOLD, 1 Silver (9 wins, 1 submission) Mike Russo: 1 GOLD (5 wins, 3 submissions) Steve Vega: 1 GOLD 9 (5 wins, 3 submissions) Darryl Guinto: 1 GOLD, 1 Silver (6 wins, 1 submission) Andres Villanueva: 1 GOLD, 1 Silver (5 wins, 1 submission) John Schaub: 1 GOLD (4 Wins, 3 submissions) Xavier Lozinguez: 1 GOLD (3 Wins, 2 submissions) Kris Musni: 1 GOLD (2 Wins, 2 submissions) Meidine Figueroa: 1 Silver (5 Wins, 4 submissions) Abilio Vargas: 1 Silver (3 Wins, 3 submissions) Justin Klepper: 1 Silver (2 Wins, 2 submissions)

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (and you) vs. Depression!

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training isn’t just about getting a great workout and learning self-defense. It’s also about developing an awesome support-network of friends and training partners who can help you through rough times and states of mind!

While it’s natural to be discouraged sometimes, some of us have it a lot worse. That’s because clinical, chronic depression is more than just being “discouraged” sometimes. Its causes can be numerous, but it can also be as hard to get rid of as it is nebulous – in other words, people with depression aren’t always sure why they feel bad. And contrary to some of the martial arts pump-up articles you may have read, jiu-jitsu is not necessarily a cure for depression. True, some people have had their depression lessened or perhaps cured by jiu jitsu. But hey I’ll be a realist – sometimes depression isn’t necessarily alleviated by a tough training session where someone is trying to choke or armlock you! But even though jiu-jitsu may not be the magic wand you’re looking for, it is a way of staying connected to the network of your training family, and a way of reinforcing the fact that you are not defined by or are a slave to your feelings.

While I haven’t struggled with the problems of clinical depression, I’ll admit that I’ve gone through some pretty depressing times when I was simply trying to do too much in too small a timeframe. As others can definitely admit, being a full-time student with a full-time job was more than intense. This lifestyle led me to a lot of desk work, which in turn led to back cramps and injuries (some say that “sitting is the new smoking”, and I agree!). This imbalance in my habits led to imbalance in my body, and thus imbalance in my mind. Those certainly aren’t problems that can be solved by an armlock or a choke. However, consistent jiu-jitsu training would have provided the mental, physical, and social balance that would have stopped health problems before they started.

Life is bigger than depression issues, but it’s tough to realize that when you’re up to your eyebrows in depression. Training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an experience that gives you challenges, puzzles, and relationships to take you out of that mentality, AND gives you the health you need to battle depression off the mat!

So in closing, I will admit that jiu-jitsu alone may not always solve your individual mental or spiritual problems. But what it will do is provide you with a a healthy body and a healthy, strategically thinking mind that will definitely help you solve your life problems and slay the inner demons that depression can bring. To delve further into this, check out this short article in which one user sums things up accurately and realistically:

“Thank you for posting this, I have struggled with BJJ for about a year and depression much longer. I can attest to every word you say and it is my great shame that I have taken couple months off to ‘get right’. The longer it goes on the harder it becomes…despite knowing (and most importantly) FEELING the benefits after a roll.”

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

 

Warriors & Nurturers – Moms who Train Jiu-Jitsu!

Are you a parent looking to use your ‘me-time’ in a fun, constructive way that’ll give back to you and your whole family? Come train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the NJ United mats for a rewarding and pleasantly challenging experience!

I am not a parent. I don’t know what fatherhood is like firsthand, but I regularly teach kids and teens Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu here at NJU. When talking with the parents of our young students, I’ve joked that I do know what parenting is like . . . for the 45-minute class period, of course! So yes, managing classes can be tough, but I acknowledge that parenting is a totally different dimension. New mothers sometimes discover that all of their time has been monopolized by motherhood, which is arguably just as hard to learn as a martial art! That’s why mothers and fathers involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu should check out this short jiujitsutimes.com article which highlights the balance and overall fulfillment achieved by moms who train The Gentle Art.

This article expresses something unfortunate that I’ve seen in some mothers who train jiu-jitsu: “mom-guilt”. Basically, mom-guilt is the guilt that moms can feel when they carve-out time for themselves. But for the sake of mental health and balance, having some ‘me-time’ is crucial for parents. Unfortunately, some moms will fill that me-time with watching TV, eating, or doing things that don’t grow them as the individuals they are. After all, life certainly does not end at parenthood, and training jiu-jitsu is the healthy mental and physical outlet that many busy parents have chosen to nurture their own lives. Moreover, many of these parents have children who train a martial art (and some of these parents currently train jiu-jitsu due to the fascinating of watching their own children training and learning technique!). In karate circles, there’s a corny-but-true witticism: ‘The family that kicks together, sticks together!’ I’m hesitant to come up with the BJJ-equivalent of this, but I will admit that it’s absolutely true.

It takes a lot to be a mother, and a lot more to be a mother who takes the time to bring her children to jiu-jitsu class! Why not reward yourself by trying out the martial art that has given joy and confidence to kids?

Motherhood is serious business – so serious that it can dominate every waking moment of your life. But encouragingly enough, the writer notes that “moms who take that time for themselves end up much less stressed and ultimately interact with their kids in a much more productive manner. The added stress relief that specifically comes from physically challenging ourselves in a martial art is just a bonus that most non-training moms don’t realize yet.”

So if you’re a ‘martial arts mom’ or a ‘martial arts dad’ who has yet to train what your son or daughter trains, consider getting on the mat and giving it a go! Here at NJU, our instructors and students have the utmost respect for the time you give to your children and their training. We’ll be happy to show you around the world of jiu-jitsu so that it can give back to you in the best of ways!

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

Demi Lovato shows the spirit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu!

Actress and singer Demi Lovato shortly after earning her blue belt. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle is incredibly rewarding on many levels, as Demi has been discovering firsthand!

Nowadays, you can find celebrity endorsements for just about anything. But the vast majority of the time, celebs are simply being paid to advertise a product. So now that Grammy-nominated singer and actress Demi Lovato is loving every minute of being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, she’s also been bringing a lot of attention to The Gentle Art. And it’s the good kind of attention too – Demi’s honesty, humility, and excitement for the art is genuine, as she’s shown through social media.

BJJ is notorious for its steep learning curve and the slow progression through its belt ranking system that one must undergo to attain mastery. But this has been no deterrent to Demi, whose love for the art is straight-up infectious in this training clip. She hopes that “everyone finds something they become as passionate about as I feel about jiu jitsu,” and her example is bringing the jiu-jitsu experience closer to people and fan-bases who may have never considered it.

So yeah, it’s great to see celebrity endorsements without a catch! I guess that’s because Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pays its own practitioners back with the best fitness-levels of their lives, improved mental health and problem-solving skills, and even a strong and dynamic network of people on their own similar martial arts journeys. What’s not to love?

Props to Demi for using her celebrity platform to let the masses know how fantastic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is!

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

Let’s look at “motivation” differently!

The goal of discipline and ‘sticktoitiveness’ is certainly NOT to remain miserable and exhausted! Instead it’s to push through a tough season to reap skills and rewards that couldn’t be gained by stagnating in a comfortable, relaxed season.

In my last blog entry, I discussed how the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle combats depression by setting the body AND the mind in motion. BJJ is called “human chess” for a reason. When you’re present in the moment of a drill or a sparring match, and when you know there’s a way for you to win despite the odds, personal demons fade away and begin to lose their mastery over you. But what about those times when you’re “not feeling motivated” to get on the mat? Well, another cool thing about this recent vlog entry from Chewjitsu (skip to 3:50 in) is his take on that issue. The long and short of it is that motivation is far more than a feeling. It’s also a drive to reap the fruit of labor and training . . . which are often tough but always rewarding!

Your rank in your martial art is a reflection of your hard work, sacrifice, and hard-tested skills. Come train at an academy where the coaching and motivation is positive and always designed to bring about the best version of yourself!

A lot of workout programs are advertised only with feelings in mind. ‘Join this _______ program, and you’ll feel fantastic in less than a week,’ etc. etc. If you’ve dipped your finger into the huge ocean of fitness-related pump-up material out there on the internet, you’ve heard all that before. But the blunt, adult truth about this matter is that you can’t always trust or follow feelings. Sure, it’s better to feel well than unwell, at peace than at war. But the other side to that coin is that it’s often necessary to go through a tough period of life to gain the benefits and skills that you couldn’t get from just “feeling” relaxed and nice all the time.

I know, that’s nothing new or revolutionary. But I’m highlighting it because it’s a simple, indisputable reality that you’ll have to face if you want to achieve a fitness goal AND maintain your hold on that goal as a lifestyle. The good news is that everyone on the mats here at NJ United MMA is on that rewarding journey alongside you. This is true whether you train anything from BJJ to Muay Thai. In fact I’ll always remember the words of one of my current BJJ students from when he first started training: “Man, I’m tired of the gym and working alone with my headphones on in my own little bubble. I want to just train with you guys!”

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

BJJ vs. Depression: “We were designed to move!”

Do you belong to a community in which you can grow AND test your mental and physical skills with good training partners? If not, come over to NJ United MMA, get some free training in, and see how you like it! 😀

On the internet, a lot of people philosophize about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That’s all well and good, but I’m impressed by Chewjitsu’s straightforward talk here about how BJJ combats depression. After all, depression is not just something that happens to clinically depressed people – it’s an unfortunate part of life, and if you’re not prepared to deal with it, then it could seriously disrupt the positive habits and rhythms you’ve set for yourself. But in this vid, Chewjitsu’s main point is that “You were designed to move” – and that “you” includes your mind and feelings, not just your body.

We were meant for both physical and mental movement, and jiu-jitsu merges those two things together in amazing ways. Before I started my BJJ training, I used to do some running and then a lot of weight lifting. Then, I’d come home and play chess before bed. However, I was unnecessarily segregating one thing into two things. Now that’s a heck of a lot better than some other habits I could have had, but something was missing. When I was pumping iron, I sure was healthy and in shape, but I was mentally unfulfilled – I felt like I was sharpening a knife but had nothing to cut with it. When I was playing chess, I was mentally fulfilled but I didn’t see how my creative and strategic thinking on the chessboard had anything to do with my every day, physical life. It was only when I started BJJ that I became both chess-player and chess piece, merging two good habits into a new lifestyle that was far more than the sum of its parts!

Ask about our kids martial arts programs! There’s a place for every personality and experience-level here on the NJU mats.

If you feel like you’d like to do something similar, then I encourage you to give us a call and take a free Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class with us. Sure, we all have different backgrounds, and we’ve all battled some form of depression in the past. But when you train with the men and women of all skill-levels who make the jiu jitsu lifestyle possible, you’ll be on the road to becoming the best version of yourself!

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

The devil’s in the details. Here’s how to tap him out!

Are you new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? All of our instructors and senior students have walked the path you’re on, and they’re all willing to help you grow and refine your game!

Check out this short, recent article and video from jiujitsutimes.com. Basically, it raises an important issue that is asked in some form by everyone who wants to go beyond the first level of their field of study:

Why isn’t this technique working in THIS kind of situation?

Now, you may be able to relate better to this question if you substitute “situation” with an aspect of your work, or a hobby that requires nuanced skill. It could be anything from building a house to fixing a car, to solving a business-related problem to overcoming a tough challenge in a videogame. Whatever the case may be, it is important that you start with basic, straightforward instruction. Without that, you may not have the eyes to see the later nuances. At NJ United MMA, we make sure to tailor our instruction to help you learn the basics . . . and if your basics are solid, then we’ll look into how and when you’re applying them so that you can further refine your game!

Andres is one of our white belts here at NJU. With just six months of training, he was able to use his closed guard and halfguard skills to take gold in his first tournament! You can use the halfguard on your very first day of BJJ training. However, it can take a long while to use this position well . . . if you don’t have experienced, nuanced instruction on your side!

You can perform BJJ basics on your very first day of training. But once you’ve put in a bit of practice, you’ll soon hit perplexing barriers in your craft. After all, you’ll eventually train with partners who know the basics just like you! Try as you might, you’ll exhaust options and burn a lot of energy trying to leap over or smash through these barriers, but nothing will suffice. Sure, every now and then you’ll find a Youtube video or two that will offer some interesting help. But only training gets you better at training. This being the case, make sure that your training ground is a home-away-from-home – a friendly place with your long-term best in mind.

If videos and instructionals are supplements, then consistent training with experienced professionals is the meat and potatoes of your BJJ or Muay Thai. So come try out a class at a place where you can start training in a no-pressure environment, or get your current game the help it needs through the help of friendly, professional technicians!

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike

Momentum for life, momentum for jiu-jitsu!

Beginning a journey is good. Continuing it with momentum is divine!

Lately I’ve had conversations with some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu white belt students about belt ranks. They’ve all been legitimate questions, and they usually run along the lines of:

  • What do you think the toughest belt is in BJJ?
  • What about the funnest belt?
  • I feel totally stuck at white/blue/purple belt. What do I do?
  • How’d you get your black belt?

These are all legitimate questions, and every high-ranking BJJ practitioner will answer them differently. But more importantly is the all-encompassing, blanket-answer of . . .

Momentum.

The way you excel at something is not by dabbling in it once in a while, and not by looking at it as a joyride (although having straight-up fun is indeed a prereq!). The way you excel at something like BJJ, and the way in which all the above questions eventually answer themselves is through your own momentum. You’ve got to train regularly. Sometimes we tend to look at tough problems and assume that they have tough solutions. But more often than not, the truth is simple and not glamorous at all. Show up consistently, train hard, and train smart. Belt ranks will then come when you’re ready.

Now and then, a new white belt will join my classes, and he or she will have all of the following traits that anyone can have regardless of talent or genetic gifts:

  • Consistency (training 3 or more times per week),
  • Watchfulness and willingness to ask questions.
  • Willingness to work on a move or a position after class is done.
  • Patience.
  • The willingness to actually seek out and apply constructive criticism.

Money, enthusiasm, and a strong will are all fine traits, and they have their place in martial arts. But without momentum, they won’t unlock the richer treasures that jiu-jitsu has to offer!

People who seek and foster these traits are downright amazing. I’ve had students within their first week of training exemplify these traits . . . and then get consistently out-classed and tapped-out by higher-ranking white belts or blue belts for a while. But to them, that doesn’t even matter, and it shouldn’t! Because over the course of a few months, they either learn quickly or they come to an advanced knowledge of the flaws that prevent them from learning quickly. When they continue their training momentum after trouble-shooting their jiu-jitsu, they start to really threaten the higher white belts and blue belts who often rest on their laurels. This is a wake-up call to such upperclassmen, which helps them return to the values they may have lost track of.

You never know when your breakthroughs will occur. You certainly can’t force a breakthrough to happen. What you can do is stack the deck of jiu-jitsu in your favor by sticking to the simple values listed above, and keeping your momentum going!

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at http://www.njunitedmma.com/ for more info.

JJ Mike