Friday, December 30, 2011

Pole dancing is the opposite of jiu jitsu.

Besides some insight into breaking grips, that was my big realization of the night. I left the gym...somehow covered in glitter. A friend joked that I'd been to a pole dancing class that's all the rage now and it hit me that pole dancing is the opposite of jiu jitsu for the following reasons:

  • In pole dancing, clothing is jiu jitsu, you're likely wearing a huge, unflattering, rough slab of thick woven cotton covering you from your neck to your ankles. 
  • In jiu jitsu you're wearing no shoes. Pole dancing...
  • Pole dancing, it's rare to find a man in the jiu jitsu, lots of guys. 
  • Pole dancing, no contact, no touching...jiu jitsu, lots of contact, lots of touching. So much touching.
  • Jiu jitsu, 90% of the time, you're on the ground...pole dancing, you're spending a lot of time in the air. 
  • Feel free to add your own!
**Disclaimer: Apologies to pole dancing aficionados if I got any of that wrong. I've never taken a class (I don't see how you guys get over the fear of falling) so I speak purely from the tales of friends. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Branding in BJJ: Best Commercial

OK...there aren't a lot out there, but I was in the mood to watch some snippets of jiu jitsu set to uber-dramatic music, and I ended up here.

I've watched this a ton of times, but just realized that it essence...a commercial...and the best kind of commercial. The kind that gives something to its viewer while simultaneously making them aware of a product/brand/service.

I admire the branding over at BJJ Weekly in general because I have a bias toward simple, straight forward...anything really. Clean colors, subtle international appeal, well structured emails. It looks like they may be moving to a more high energy image (with an energetic blue and orange replacing the red and black), which would be a shame...but brands do need to be refreshed from time to time. I've just always appreciated the way their polished, sharp and subtly aggressive image contrasted with most of what you see across the board. 

The Year of the Triangle

I've dubbed 2012 the year of the triangle. I've heard multiple times from KickboxerInstructor that I should be fantabulous (my word, not his) with this submission and I plan to make that real in 2012. I don't want to call it a "resolution", so I'm just going to say that, having been promoted to blue belt, I'm more comfortable sitting back and planning what I want to learn and improve. I basically want to be able to threaten a triangle from anywhere.

SO...first step. Information. I bought Ryan Hall's "The Triangle" because it's the first thing that comes out of anybody's mouth when you say you want better triangles, but honestly mostly because he takes a conceptual approach to the position, teaching it as both a submission and a type of guard simultaneously. I'm particularly enamored with disc 2: Angles, Mechanics and Entries. Why? Because I only catch elementary and accidental triangles. I can't impose one on anybody save very new white belts from mount.

I'm quite happy to say that first time on the mats and I'm seeing results. Mostly in rethinking head control and  the base requirements for finishing, but the really big "a-ha" came for my mounted triangles. I've been setting them up from mount and finishing from guard after rolling over (lots of chances to lose them there) but I learned in one lesson, how to finish from mount and it really works. Before, I couldn't even pull it off when just working technique.

The other thing I've pulled from it is his hip shooting drill. Dude is CRAZY fast with his hips...something I'm definitely not...something you definitely need to be when using triangles. He's so fast his legs like bird wings flapping. I tried it once (it involves holding a regular hip shoot and switching back and forth between left and right locks) and came crashing down to the floor. My hips are HEAVY...and not just from the 10lbs I've picked up over the last two months. Anatomically, women just have more weight distributed down there and my hips are quite Black, so it's going to take a bit to be able to move them.

I'll definitely be spending some quality time with this one. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Behind the Branding: Roy Dean

Really glad to be getting back to this series after some time off for testing, grieving, holidaying and general lifeness.

If there were an award for clean branding in jiu jitsu, this guy would take it hands down. I've written about my take on his brand before, but he was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about how it grew to be what it is. The key to it all though, is what he lists as his objectives. He started out, from the beginning, with a desire to put jiu jitsu in the "best light possible". That right there is what sets people who make positive change apart.

Photography by Rick Ellis epic as always. 

1) You've mentioned that you've had professional input on your brand image. What made you decide it was something you wanted to pay purposeful attention to?

I had a few objectives when starting RDA.  I wanted to do something different, something very clean, to put BJJ in the best light possible.  I wanted to show that this art, which was so dynamic and effective, was also very sophisticated.  BJJ could be more than just a martial art.  It could be a budo, a way, a lifestyle path.  

Brands are symbols, and can be very powerful.  Therefore, every detail was critical.  Fonts, colors, logos, and slogans.  Everything matters.  Detail in the branding implies detail in the technique.  It implies mindfulness.  There's a beauty in the art that I could always see that I wanted to share with others.  All of this can be communicated in a glance.

2) Your music and videos are works of art unto themselves...especially those that are more for demonstration purposes than purely instructional. How did they come about?
I have a background in music and video, and looked to leverage those strengths in showcasing the art.  At the time, there were very few videos that focused on the movement and rhythm of BJJ.  Generally, BJJ through video was limited to instructionals and competition footage.  

I realized that sometimes words can get in the way, especially during repeated viewings, and not every moment in a competition holds your attention.  I was looking to show the best movements and techniques, and put it in a format that people would want to watch over and over again.  

Spirals of Jiu Jitsu is a good example.  There was no intention of creating anything heavy or even meaningful when we started this project.  My students Rick, TJ, and myself were just playing around with a high speed camera, and thought it would be interesting to film several techniques.  These included a flying armlock, flying triangle, spinning armlock from mount, kotegaeshi (wrist lock) off a straight punch, shihonage (four corner throw), an Aikido style shoulder throw and hane-goshi (springing loin hip toss).  

I had recently put together a track called "Can't Talk Now" and when I combined the song and video clips, it was working.  I then exercised some creative editing, added a Musashi quote, and we had a short video that displayed the beauty of jiu jitsu techniques, and taught some small lessons on direction and timing.  We had fun.  There was no expectation that anyone would like it.  It was art for art's sake.  And maybe that's why people liked it.

3) You've got crazy thorough branding...from the look of your school, gis, website, DVDs, you even mentioned that you explain the meaning of your logo in your student handbook...what ties them all together?
What ties it all together is a belief that jiu jitsu can change the world for the better.  It's my path, and the more clearly I can communicate that message, the more effective I'll be in connecting with people.  

4) Is your image something you think people notice straight out, or does it work more on a subconscious level? 

It's easy for people to recognize things that are very good or very bad.  It's intuitive.  You know it.  It's that first impression that Gladwell talks about in 'Blink'.  But defining all the elements of what makes good or bad is more difficult.  Crystallizing that into words is takes time and experience.  

My goal is to have a person, who has perhaps never heard of jiu jitsu, watch one of my videos and like it.  They don't need to know why.  The positive impression of the art is the most important thing.  Of course there are multiple elements that go into making this happen. Grooving music and artful cinematography are key.  Clean technique and the distinct lack of force registers with the viewer.  Smiles and laughter are also positive.  For me, it's not about being loud or aggressive.  It's about being quiet, moving less, and being more efficient.  It's about communication and growth more than competition.   The result is a video that has nothing to do with violence, and everything to do with empowering people.

The videos also allow my students to display heart and dedication in their rank demonstrations.  It's about telling a story that others can be inspired and entertained by.  All of this registers on a subconscious level, and the viewer consciously likes the video.  By liking the video, they get a good impression of the art.  This is my aim.

5) Your logo is very distinct and quickly recognizable. Is there any special meaning behind it?

(As described in the student handbook) The logo was modeled after traditional Japanese family crests, or kamon. The three circles in the center of the symbol represent the trinity of our consciousness: body, mind, spirit. The triangle is commonly used in Jiu-Jitsu, but here it is implied, rather than drawn. The outer white ring represents the external applications and benefits of the art, while the smaller ring parallels the inner realm. The heavy use of circles represents the circularity of movement. The balance between positive and negative space reminds us to remain open. 

Thanks Roy for all your time and insight!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shame and vulnerability...

Not sure why, but this made me think of my jiu jitsu experience...probably because the last 2 years have been home to some of the most vulnerable and beneficial moments of my life.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blue belt is such a relief.

Call it maturity, focus, laziness or whatever you will, I've gotten to a point where I prefer to concentrate on one area of improvement at a time. This whole journey from white to blue, I've totally fallen off morning workouts. Yep...for 2 years. Partially because at first, my body couldn't handle any additional work. The second year though? I just didn't want to be disciplined enough to go to bed on time so I could get up early enough to knock out 20 min or so of exercise.

Monday, December 5, 2011

...and there's the valley.

So tonight was the first night post blue belt. I felt very minor twinges of belt induced feelings of inferiority...nothing worth writing about though. What got me tonight, was that none of the higher belts asked me to roll. Could mean nothing. Could be that big blue that joked twice about guys not wanting to roll with me because I'm "so big and strong"--was right. My first thought though, was that it's because I'm really boring to roll with. I'm back to mistrusting people's compliments, so even when WrestlerInstructor, KickboxingInstructor and PrettyvoiceInstructor all gave me genuine comments of "Good job!", I doubted every single one.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

So I got my blue belt today...

I am way more excited than I expected. We had the belt ceremony this afternoon and I sat back and realized how few people get to accomplish things they genuinely never thought they could do.

The night before, at KickboxerInstructor and WrestlerInstructor's tests (brown and black respectively), I was talking with one of the blues that had just gone to purple about preserving your belts. I like to keep the ones that are presented to me and buy new ones for training. Eventually I'd like to frame them all in one display case. We talked about the idea and he insisted I needed to exclude the white since it isn't earned or presented. I explained that that belt was incredibly difficult for me and that walking in that door the second time ready to run was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done. Possibly even more difficult than earning blue.