June 25, 2012

A Separate Zebra - John Will Seminar Review

A few hours out of 8,760 is just not enough time with our beloved coach John Will on his annual pilgrimage to the Emerald City.  Accompanied by his ever faithful sidekick, lawyer, personal physician, accountant David Meyer, Mr. Will warmed the class of over two dozen attendee's up with a very simple, yet beautifully integrated shrimping drill that taught the student to shrimp in all four directions (right - left - forward - back).  Always challenging how one perceives jiu jitsu John got our right and left brains firing straight away.

John Will with Renzo Gracie back in the day!
Technically the topic was attaining and working from Spider Guard, and all in all we covered a lot of ground particularly on sweeps.  Utilizing the grips properly in spider guard leaves your opponent feeling like a marionette, with no or little base.  As always John encouraged us to break down each movement into an operations manual.  Literally logging each fundamental movement and key point.  At one point in the seminar he asked us to perform the movement and give him a number of key points we came up with.  It was interesting to note the white / blue belts typically had a number in the range of 7-9, where as the purple and brown belts saw easily 14-16!   This is a prime example of how we evolve  and how our perception and understanding grow each time we step onto the mat.

Evolution was a hot topic over the weekend, and John was quick to remind us that evolution does not always equate to something "better." The word "better" is purely subjective.  Perhaps with technology things get better, but as Will stated "Evolution does not always mean better.  For example; food, cultural habits, nor sweeps."  He reminded us that everything has a price, everything.  We must ask ourselves if we are willing to pay the price.

As with any lesson under John the students get marinated with stories of the past 40 years John has spent studying the martial arts, and he shared several "old-old" sweeps that the majority of the attendee's confessed to never seeing before.  Then Mr. Will begged the question, "Well then, is it new?  I learned what people are calling the Berimbolo sweep 25 years ago from Chris Heuter!  He was doing the same exact thing the Mendes brothers are doing today."  Yet another lesson, not to get trapped into the "better-worse" mindset.  It is all just different.

The real treasures of John Will's seminars are the true lessons peppered in between the techniques.  How we evolve and how the art evolves is really what I walked away with from this weekend.  Don't get me wrong, the tiny little details he shared regarding the omoplata alone were worth the price of admission!  But John really got me thinking of statistics in regards of how often we see a certain movement or position, and how good we are at those positions as opposed to the ones we rarely see.  It reminded me as a student and partner that I need to play more games that are not necessarily mine in an effort to make my partners better.  It also reminded me as a coach/teacher that I need to keep my mind ever open to new and different perspectives so I can expose my students and minimize the surprise factor if they ever run into that certain position, game, submission, etc.

We have to be careful of our fears and lack of knowledge.  Embrace our ignorance so we may empty our cup and let it be filled once more, but sometimes that pesky ego gets in the way.  John shared another story of which I had heard before, but never new the details.  Back in the day spider guard was literally banned from competition in Hawaii for a year or two after a certain Brazilian brown belt moved to Hawaii and started teaching his brand of BJJ which just so happened to be predominantly spider guard.  So naturally he taught his students spider guard and they went into the local tournament that was run by Relson Gracie at the time and they cleaned house.  Well this infuriated the tournament organizers SO much they literally wrote a bylaw in the rules that spider guard was not allowed in the tournament, and since one person was running all the tournaments in Hawaii, it pretty much equated to a complete ban in the state of Hawaii!  Much akin to the Judo federation ruling that single and double leg takedowns are now illegal because too many wrestlers were coming in and nailing them!  LOL!  Why evolve when you can simple change the way the game is played and never have to deal with that problem again!?!?

As I always do I feel like we just skimmed the surface of what John has to offer us in regards to evolving our game.  But I honestly feel that if we take his attitude and philosophy and apply it to our own understanding of grappling and jiu jitsu, then we will perceive our evolution in a more clear, distinct light.

I want to thank Coaches Will & Meyer for sharing their insight with us.  Thanks to my coach Brian for bringing in such great teachers and giving back to the community (something you do all the time, but rarely get credit for I feel).  And thanks to those in the community both in and outside of our academy that supported this seminar.  We cannot do it without you and we truly appreciate the continued support.  Lets get an even bigger turnout next time!

Train Hard.  Train Smart.


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