Stop Trying to Fix Your Cardio & Do This Instead

The biggest misconception in the Jiu Jitsu community is that you need to improve your cardio in order to keep up with your opponent.

The problem with this philosophy is:

Training cardio outside of Jiu Jitsu makes you more tired and less recovered for your cardio training during Jiu Jitsu.

Rolling in Jiu Jitsu is aerobic exercise in itself. In other words, by showing up to Jiu Jitsu and rolling, you are training and improving your cardiovascular system. There is no need to push yourself on a 5 mile run or spend an hour on an elliptical to improve your Jiu Jitsu. If anything, training aerobic exercise outside of Jiu jitsu will hinder your training because you will have already taxed your nervous system before you even step on the mat. The best way to train your cardio for Jiu Jitsu is to train Jiu Jitsu, so you do not need to be doing cardio exercises outside of Jiu Jitsu.

If you are tired of feeling tired, and training cardio is NOT helping, then keep reading to find out what you should do instead.

Learn when and how to breathe in Jiu Jitsu

At the seminar, Gui Mendes said:

“What separates lower belts from high belts is not cardio. It’s knowing when [and how] to breathe.”

While cardio is important, learning when and how to breathe in Jiu Jitsu is what will make the difference between you and an opponent who has similar, or possibly even better, cardio.

With a strong breath, you can learn to reduce fatigue and improve your focus, both of which are essential when rolling.

How to breathe in Jiu Jitsu

Inhale and Exhale through your nose for as long as you can during a roll. This type of breathing is known to allow more oxygen to get to active tissues, which is essential for muscle energy and endurance. If you want to learn more about nose breathing, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:

Eventually, you will find it very difficult to continue breathing through your nose in the roll. This is a sign to focus on your breathing once again. Focus on inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Relax your mind. Decide how you want to proceed.

If you are interested in this topic and would like to know more, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:

When to breathe in Jiu Jitsu

It’s tempting to work your way to closed guard, side control, mount, etc. and rest once you get there. Avoid this.

Why? Because you have just secured a dominant position and should capitalize on this position before you allow your opponent to recompose themselves and their breath.

The when to breathe in Jiu Jitsu is in the time after you have just tried a submission, sweep, or pass and it did not work, or right before you are about to pass, sweep, take the back, or go to mount.

Improve your endurance with strength training

If you are going to spend time at the gym outside of Jiu Jitsu, then you should be focusing on strength training. Lifting weights with long periods of rest in between sets.

You are already training your cardio by showing up to Jiu Jitsu. What you should focus on improving is your strength. When the muscles are stronger, they are more efficient in the energy that they use.

By giving yourself more time in between sets, you allow your muscles to recover for the next set so that you focus on strength over cardio.

If you want to improve your strength training routine, I encourage you to research kettlebell workouts and programs. I especially would recommend Strong as Hec Programming: Kettle Bell Workouts .

I will also be uploading a Youtube video that outlines my strength training routine. As always, if you have any questions about strength training, feel free to ask me at the gym.

How to Create a Routine for Rest and Recovery in Jiu Jitsu

The truth is, most of us already know that we need to eat well after a training session, or that we need to make sure we are getting sufficient sleep in order to recover properly.

And yet, we don’t always do it.

It is easy to get distracted by other priorities, to get lazy in our recovery routines, or just be inconsistent depending on our mood.

This is a reminder to prioritize your recovery routine just as much as you do your training sessions.

Here are some tips I have found that will make a consistent recovery routine more likely to happen:


Make your post-training recovery drink readily available

What does this mean?

After training, you are exhausted. If you do not have a go-to product or already made drink, the chances that you are going to stop at a store or make a smoothie as soon as you make it home are pretty unlikely. And if you are a student that likes to chat after class, the 30 minute window to recover has probably already closed.

My advice would be to purchase a recovery drink in bulk for the week, and bring one to every class so that it is ready to drink on the way home. If you prefer a powder recovery, then bring the powder to class and make the drink before you leave so that you can drink it on the way home.

The key here is to come up with a routine that will help you be more consistent in how you refuel your body after training.


Relax your nervous system before you leave the gym/before you sleep

Again, we all know we need more sleep. Sometimes that’s just not possible with families, work, and other responsibilities. I’m not here to tell you that you need to start getting 10 hours of sleep a night. For most people, that’s just not going to happen and frankly, not helpful, you already know you need more sleep.

What I will say is that training jiu jitsu is taxing on the nervous system. Your muscles are being activated, your cardio is being pushed, and your brain is under the impression that this is a fight or flight situation.

This can result in the release of the hormones norepinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol. These are helpful in the moment because they work to increase your heart rate and enhance focus.

However, if you do not properly relax your nervous system before you leave and especially before you sleep, you will carry these hormones into your nightly routine. This will disrupt the quality of your sleep.

The next time you end a training session, take a minimum of 2 minutes to close your eyes and take deep breaths. This will help ‘reset’ the body temperature, calm the central nervous system and bring your breathing rhythm back to normal. You can also think of this as a time to soak in all that you learned on the mats. You can do this in the gym just sitting against the wall, or while you are stretching. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in the gym, you can do it in your car before you leave for home. At the very least, do it right before you go to sleep at night. This will help to prepare your body for a restful night’s sleep.

If you are looking for more of a guided meditation or breathing exercise, there are many online and hundreds of free ones to choose from on an app called Insight Timer.


Support Your Recovery with Magnesium & Zinc

If your recovery drink does not have Magnesium or Zinc, I highly suggest taking these supplements before you go to sleep. Magnesium supports the body’s metabolism, muscle recovery, and improves sleep by naturally helping to calm and regulate the nervous system. Zinc supports the muscles in recovery and protein synthesis. It also improves your body’s immune system response.

These supplements will be what help you to make it to the end of the week without feeling run down, congested, or sick. They will help you to show up better the next day for training.

EVL’s Sleep and Recovery Complex is a great place to start if looking to add these supplements to your nightly routine.

You can find more information about this supplement for men here. 


These are just some of the tips that I would suggest to students who are struggling to commit to a consistent recovery routine. By making recovery as convenient as possible, we are more likely to remember and commit to doing it, even on the days we are exhausted, burnt out, or unmotivated. Consistency is key, so come up with a routine that best compliments your lifestyle and personality, and stick to it. Notice how your body feels when you implement a consistent and healthy recovery routine.

FUJI Raleigh Tournament October 2021

The FUJI Raleigh Jiu Jitsu tournament was hosted on October 24, 2020, and we had 13 students that competed and represented Team Casarez. For many of the students, it was the first time competing. It is always exciting watching students compete for the first time because there are a lot of emotions that come with competition.

Managing the emotions that come with a jiu-jitsu match at competition pace is challenging. There is excitement, but there are also nerves and fear. This is normal, and I encourage my students to compete if they can because it is a way to face these nerves and fears that we have. These weekends always leave me so proud of the students as they take on these emotions head first.

The 13 competitors brought home a total of 17 medals, with the following results:

Kids:

Silas – 3rd
Valentina – 3rd
Cristalia – 3rd
Gabriel – 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
Caike – 1st, 2nd

Adults:
Caike – 3rd
Noah – 1st
Xavier – 3rd
Shawn – 3rd
Brian B – 2nd
Andrew – 1st, 2nd
Brian – 2nd

Arthur and Henry also competed, and while they did not medal, they fought hard and showed true understanding of technique as they competed. This is important to me because it shows that the students are learning and improving, and are able to retain this information even under a stressful situation.

I would also like to shout out Andrew, who competed for the first time in the purple belt division. He earned his purple belt only 2 weeks before the competition, and won his division in Gi and got 2nd in No Gi. It was also his birthday, and it says a lot that he chose to spend the whole day competing! We are very proud of him.

We also had students who were not competing come out to support, including Sarah and Trinity. It is always a good feeling to have teammates cheering you on as you compete, so we appreciate students who take the time out of their weekend to be there for their teammates.

Every competition, we learn more about what we need to improve and focus on, and we take these details into the gym, and eventually into the next tournament.

Congratulations to the whole team for an amazing and exciting weekend!

Jiu Jitsu Concepts: Gui Mendes Seminar

As Lucas Lepri affiliates, all of our students were invited to attend the seminar hosted by the Lepri Headquarters on October 16. The seminar featured Gui Mendes, a 4X World Champion and current professor at Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy in Costa Mesa, California.

For the students who were not able to attend the seminar, I wanted to share some of the key takeaways that were discussed. I would also encourage you to watch some of Gui Mendes’ competition matches so that you can get an understanding of his style.

Concepts in Jiu Jitsu

Gui Mendes began the seminar by stressing the importance of concepts in jiu jitsu. In particular, he focused on concepts that involve passing the guard. His belief is that concepts are fundamental to learning jiu jitsu, and help students to tie techniques together.

The concept that he shared first was the idea of varying degrees of distances that are used when passing the guard. These distances were:

  1. Far distance
  2. Middle distance
  3. Near distance

Far distance includes any time when an opponent has control of the arms or collar, but your legs are kept far away so that the opponent cannot control them. Far distance, for example, would be when the opponent has spider guard.

Middle distance is when an opponent has control of one leg, and a sleeve or collar. This would be when an opponent has de la riva, for example. Finally, near distance is when there is little to no space between the opponent and yourself when passing the guard, and this would be headquarter position or half guard, for example. He showed examples of passes for all of these guards.

When passing far distance (spider guard), for example, he shared a three step process:

  1. Create distance
  2. Open the gap
  3. Attack

Creating the distance involves constant movement, or “a flow”, as he described. He encouraged students to always stay moving so as to keep the opponent active and adjusting. As an opponent is adjusting, this is when the gap is open. He described a 1-3 second window of opportunity for attack that involves the time when an opponent is adjusting to recompose their guard.

Techniques to Pass the Guard

The other techniques that he showed were guard passes from middle distance and near distance. The middle distance pass was a de la riva pass when the opponent also has the underhook on the leg. Because the leg is underhooked, you cannot remove the de la riva and slide your shin over. You have to also address the underhook. His approach was to move the de la riva leg up to the hip, and then grab their collar and pressure in. This traps their leg, so that you are then able to initiate passing. This technique is difficult to describe in a blog post, so if you are stuck on passing de la riva, come talk to me either in person or through DMs, and I will share it with you.

There were a lot of great concepts and techniques shared by Gui Mendes that it would be impossible to share all of them. Some of the concepts can be found on this video: How to Control the Distance to Pass ANY Guard In Jiu Jitsu by Guilherme Mendes.

How to Study these Jiu Jitsu Concepts

If you are interested, the entire seminar will also be posted on Lucas’ Online Training Program. I highly suggest purchasing the program if these concepts and techniques spark your interest. The Online Training Program also has hundreds of Lucas’ techniques and other videos such as training footage and guest instructors.

Finally, Gui Mendes also has BJJ Fanatics instructional collections on Understanding the Distance on Top.

We will also be reviewing these concepts in class over the next few weeks!

3 Takeaways from the Tap Cancer Out Tournament 2021

On September 11, we took 21 students to the Tap Cancer Out tournament. The event was full of exciting matches and team camaraderie. From the tournament, there are 3 clear takeaways that I want to discuss.

1. Fundamentals are Key!

The first takeaway is that I noticed that our students had a different particular style compared to the other competitors. Because we are under Lucas Lepri and Alliance, our students tended to play a more controlled game with a good, steady pace. For example, there were a lot of fundamentals, such as knee cut passing to side control to basic finishes. Our students played both open and closed guard. They also demonstrated knowledge of basic takedowns from our curriculum which focuses on basic judo and wrestling influenced techniques that are part of our style.

Out of the 21 students who competed from our school, 17 medaled. Out of those 17, 8 got gold. And out of the total competitors, only 1 was a full time competitor who happened to snag a gold. This means that the 16 students who competed and medaled are all hobbyists who train only a few times a week. They have families, full-time school or jobs, or businesses of their own. Their success further proved the system we practice is effective. This was a local tournament but it was still interesting to see this dynamic played out through statistical data.

I learned that our students who practice consistently even just a few times a week can still build the fundamental framework needed to do well in a jiu jitsu tournament. Afterall, fundamentals are key.

2. We Are Family

The second takeaway I noticed at the tournament was that our team relied on each other as family. Since many students were competing at one time, it was hard to coach every single one of them.

Students stepped up, and were able to help each other: from coaching to helping with warm ups to taking videos and pictures of the matches. Our school culture is very important to us as it displays lots of brotherhood and sisterhood that is supportive and encouraging, regardless of results.

Our head of our association, Lucas Lepri, always preaches “we never walk alone,” and this past Saturday was a great example of this. Win or lose, we fight together. And the incredible support from the family and friends radiated and showed us that we are not only a team; we are family.

3. Winning Isn’t Everything

Finally, the 3rd takeaway from the tournament is that this was a great learning experience for everyone. A lot of our students learned from their mistakes. Being humbled is undoubtedly one of the best things that can happen to a person. Everyone wants to win, but winning isn’t everything. As cliche as it sounds, you learn so much from losing. Our team was able to pick the pieces up and rebuild from any losses they experienced. Those who were defeated at the tournament were back on the mats the Monday following.

Where they go from here is really up to them. I am proud of them for all they did not only at the tournament but also the preparation that was involved. As I mentioned before, the majority of these students have full-time lives outside of jiu jitsu. Yet, they made time to prepare mentally and physically. Now, they all know what it feels like to compete. And they know what to change or continue as they move forward.

I’m also really grateful for even the students who didn’t compete because they were there helping out. If they weren’t, they were there in spirit with support. They also helped to prepare these competitors with training at the gym beforehand. In jiu-jitsu, the beautiful thing is you can’t get better by yourself. You lose as a team; you win as a team; you fight as a team.

 

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What To Focus On As A New White Belt In BJJ

What To Focus On As A New White Belt In BJJ

When you first start training Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the excitement is almost unbearable, but there are a few things to focus on as a new white belt In BJJ. Here at Casarez Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a Lucas Lepri Affiliate, in Cary, NC we have students of all kinds come and start the journey into the gentle art. Each person has their own journey, but I wanted to write about some of the things that I personally have found to be helpful as reminders even to myself. 

The Mission Is Not Always Submission

When you learn a new move and then go and try it and wonder why it does not work, normally this comes down to placement, leverage, and also applied force at the right moment. The problem is when you are new to BJJ; it just comes across as it just is not working. To avoid this, simply realizing that getting into a position can be just as effective as actually pulling off the desired submission. Eventually, with the right technique and body placement, you will start seeing these submissions starting to land more and more. Your partners will also appreciate the tactics you are using to position yourself just right before you spring into that triangle or armbar because that can be when injuries happen.

Drill More and Roll Less on Your Off Time

As a new white belt, all you want to do is get your sparring in. Those opportunities to do so on an open mat, for example, could be better spent on drilling the new techniques you have been learning or even asking higher ranking belts questions you may have about techniques. A simple guard break to a pass may seem boring or something you do in class, but doing that 1000 times over the course of a few months creates a guard breaking passing machine of a BJJ practitioner.

Keep a Journal

You may not see that brown belt in class writing down the moves that everyone is going over, but that does not mean there was a time when he or she was doing so. As a white belt you are learning new information every class and chances are you are forgetting minor details of fundamental moves. You can check our blog post out on the benefits of a journal here.  For me personally, when I am at open mat and not wanting to roll hard, I ask fellow teammates if they would not mind going over some positions or submissions I am having problems with. 

Develop a Routine for Training and Lifestyle

At first, you may want to train every day as hard as you can and be right back the next day. The biggest problem with that is at first you may not be ready for the toll on the body or the massive amount of information. Creating a plan or routine can really ensure you are getting the most out of your BJJ training especially if you stick to it. Many factors come along with good training such as sleep,diet, hygiene, rest, and focus. Even if you are just doing it for fun, incorporating the following will ensure you are ready to roll, pun intended. 

It’s Not a Sprint Enjoy the Belt

The white belt is a special time in the BJJ journey as it is the time you get to really fall in love with the sport and martial art as a whole. This is when you start to build lifelong friendships with training partners. Find out what types of positions you feel comfortable in and learn from those mistakes. I am always excited when a new person is trying BJJ for the first time but even more when they put the GI and belt on and see that look on their face. I am not a coach or professor, just another student, but the vibe and energy are real on the mats. I hope these tips help a new white belt enjoy the journey as much as I have so far.

Technique Of The Week #4

This fourth installment for the technique of the week breaks down what to do when an opponent is attempting place a rear choke from the standing position. For this to properly work it comes down to reaction time from the first moment the choke is attempted. You notice that the right when Tony recognizes he is being attacked the threatening arm is controlled, and at the same time the momentum is used to throw the opponent. From there with the arm still being controlled the other hand is used to control the leg of the downed person at which time the armbar is transitioned into.

The breakdown of The Move:

    • React to the rear choke attempt by controlling the attacking arm
    • Use the momentum to throw the opponent
    • Keep control of the attacking arm during the throw
    • Secure the leg with a grip to prevent an escape
    • Transition into an armbar

This is a scenario that happens a lot and when one is not expecting it, so knowing how to react is key to it working properly. At Casarez BJJ here in Cary NC a Lucas Lepri affiliate Coach Tony Casarez and his team want to ensure that all the students here at Casarez BJJ are prepared for any situation.
Our Adult BJJ and Kids BJJ programs drill moves just like this to make sure all students know the fundamentals that keep you safe and ready. BJJ has changed the lives of many and we invite potential students interested in Raleigh, Durham, and Cary to come try out a free week. Contact us today for more information on our BJJ programs.

Technique Of The Week #3

This third installment for the technique of the week displays how to avoid someone from attacking you from the back, preventing a slam or takedown, and then transitioning into a kneebar.

The breakdown starts with:

  • Upon the attacker wrapping their hands around your waist control the grip.
  • Lock your foot around their leg to prevent them from picking you up.
  • When you touch back down from the failed slam, reach between your legs and grab their ankle.
  • Pull up and fall to the same side as the leg at an angle.
  • Apply the kneebar by flexing your hips and pulling up on the leg

This is a common self defense scenario and one that can happen to anyone. At Casarez BJJ here in Cary NC a Lucas Lepri affiliate we strive to not only show moves that work on the mats but also on the street. Coach Tony Casarez and his team want to ensure that all the students here at Team Casarez BJJ are prepared for any situation.

Our Adult BJJ and Kids BJJ programs focus on moves just like this and more. For either self defense or sport, BJJ has changed the lives of many and we invite potential students interested in Raleigh, Durham, and Cary to come try out a free week. Contact us today for more information on our BJJ programs.

Technique Of The Week #2

This technique of the week is showing how to stop an aggressive strike, with then moving to a hip toss controlling the opponent down to the ground. From there you see coach Casarez subdue the opponent with a strike allowing him to transition into an armbar. A key concept here is that prior to fully applying the armbar he secures the hip or pants of the downed opponent to prevent any reversal after the armbar is applied.

A move like this could be used in competition or the street and something everyone should know for self defense. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fundamentals like this and much more can be learned right here in Cary, NC at Team Casarez Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a Lucas Lepri Affiliate. We offer both Adult BJJ, and Kids BJJ classes that are build around these exact fundamentals displayed in this video. Contact us today and come check out a free week of training.

Technique Of The Week #1

Here is the first of many technical videos showing the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Located here in Cary, NC at Team Casarez BJJ, a Lucas Lepri Affiliate you will find top notch instruction from Head Instructor Tony Casarez and his team.

Below is the breakdown of a strike defense to a controlled takedown. This move can be used in many self defense scenarios and something even the most basic practitioner should know.

We are excited to offer this series of techniques and if you are looking for Lepri BJJ in Raleigh, then look no further than Team Casarez BJJ. Contact us today for more information about our Adult BJJ, Kids BJJ, classes and more.