I will start by saying that I consider myself a student first. Maybe a graduate student, that does some teaching, but first and foremost, my grappling is for me. I sweat in my classes, you learn via time in.
One of my life maxims is “learning is a lifestyle, not just something you do sometimes.”
So, this week has been great for me regarding the mat. I spent the better portion of the week up in Bellingham working with their fire department on hose handling, fire behavior, and Engine Company tactics.
But, I made it a point to stop in and practice with some folks that I use practice with when I lived up there in college.
I got a chance to work, once again, with the guy who taught me more about foot sweeps than anyone else, Mark Glazier. Mark is so humble; this is the guy who has been on the mat and done more for his sport than most of the folks with their name in the lights, the guy who has quietly made WWU judo a Northwest tradition. A guy, who is quick to smile, even tempered, and is a FANTASTIC coach.
It was fun to roll with him, and was a nice reference point for my own progression since I last got on the mat with him in ’99.
In addition, I got to see the guy who taught me the real meaning of hane-goshi, Ralph. Today he is 72, (or so,) and still taking falls, a guy who has loved ground-work longer than most BJJ or whatever the most recent flavor is, has been alive. A guy who competes and wins Master division tournaments…like last year. A guy who trained in Japan at a very high level when judo was king, (and was Judo, instead of Greco Roman wrestling with jackets,) who I have seen choke folks so fast that their eyes popped out. A guy who laughs if you ask him too many details, and will say, “I’m no expert, but this is what works for me…”
Here are two guys who have rolled longer than I have been alive (or nearly in Mark’s case,) who were able to transition between coach and student, without a hitch, without an ego.
Ralph spent the evening working me on O’guruma (a throw of which I am mediocre at best,) Mark spent the evening showing me some finer points to weak side pulls regarding foot sweeps.
I went to practice with guys who I respect and enjoy. Yet, not a few minutes later Mark asked me to coach an armlock approach I use for both near and far side arm attacks.
To have both of them comment to their class that my groundwork overall, was in the top notch, speaks volumes about their characters and class. Here I am a wiper-snapper, with only twenty years on the mat; here they are veterans of their community, Judo players of the old mold.
It was a pleasure to see old coaches and friends, it was a pleasure to be asked to come up every week, (which won’t happen,) but I will be sure to visit more than every twelve years.
Later in the week I made a discovery. I have been researching options on a particular choke for about six months. Working it, looking at every version I can find. See, I can get this choke, but it isn’t as easy as I would like it to be. I have been looking at all the super-secret versions, with the bad-ass names and came across a version that I have been able to employ with great effect. (Sorry I can’t remember the cool-ass name it was branded under.)
A while back I get handed a video of the great Oda and a few of his favorites. This video is newer, Oda, is old. Oda is one of the guys who I dissect. His ground-work was suffocating and clean like nobody’s business. (He was the Marvin Gaye of his era’s groundwork, smooth and is gonna wrap you in his groove.)
Well here I am watching this old man choke the hell outta this young guy and there it is, the version that has been working for me. (It should be mentioned that the details I saw him use made the choke go from just working to working great! The devil is in the details.)
Without the cool name, without the branding and hype, just an old giant staring, like he is bored, into the camera, his movement slow and cautious except when he does his judo. That is when he sheds his years and you see greatness.
Again, there is no real big deal point to this thread, other than remind us every so often of two things.
No matter where you are at, two months or sixty years on the mat, you are always learning. Every movement has room for improvement and the longer you have in experience the more you need to pay attention to the tiny, tiny point. There are things that I have traveled for, movements that I have spent years working on.
That is what I love, the fact that the human body if finite, in the angles from which to gain mechanical advantage. But the study of two finite bodies tied into the call and response of grappling is infinite.
Here is the other point, the hype surrounding modern grappling, the tee-shirts and tattoos, is not the sport. (Even this has historical precedent if we consider the early part of the 20th century.) The arms race to new technique isn’t new, its rediscovery.
If the young would look over their shoulders they would see those mountains are not really mountains, but the shoulders of giants. If you are a student of history you cannot help but be humbled. You quit trying to be original, and focus on simply trying to be good, in that there is freedom.
To quote one of my favorite bands, “don’t believe the hype it’s a sequel, as an equal can I get this through to you.”
Our sport is one of sweat equity
“One man’s dogma is the same man’s undoing”
Excellent post Aaron.
The longer I train the more I realize how much more I have to learn.
GREAT POST!!! I mean incredible content AND a public enemy quote... fucking beautiful man.
Sweet! Great story and message
Thanks for the story, Aaron.
Really terrific, thank you Aaron.
Aaron, thanks for putting this here. One of the coolest things I have seen so far in my practice is meeting people who have been practicing longer than I have been alive. I have been fortunate enough to have a gentleman like that at our bjj school who helps out with our judo classes. He has so many angles and tiny details that seem to be exactly what I need to help out with whatever technique I am trying to get down. His humility and way of saying "You may want to give this a shot, it helped me so it might work for you" attitude is inspiring.
The impressive thing is, despite numerous health issues, he can still throw me. I'm not a small guy. I am over 200 lbs and this elderly man can dump me on my back almost effortlessly.
He practices because he loves it, the man is a multiple PhD and has a life outside of martial arts. I say this because 90% of the guys who have been the best instructors I have had the pleasure to work with have been laymen and not people making a living by teaching martial arts. They've been network engineers, educators, fighters, carpenters, musicians, salesmen and firemen. This isn't to downplay professional instructors, the workman in these types of arts is definitely worth his wage, but these types of mentors/training partners are invaluable parts of any gym.
Many thanks to all those who do this. Hopefully, we'll all make it to be the old guys who have put in the years on the mats and help the next generation of those like us.
You are right my friend...
And thank you for the kind words.