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The trials and tribulations of a no-stripe white belt under Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Master Rigan Machado. Be sure to check back often, as the white-belt chronicles are updated all the time. Also, be sure to register and share any tips you have to help Jiu-Jitsu monkey on his journey to into the depths of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. See the about page to learn a bit more about who this monkey is!

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Posted By on June 22, 2011





Master Rigan promoted myself and 5 others to Blue belt two weeks ago. Quite and honor and really impresses the fact that I have so much to learn. I’m very happy to have found such a fascinating martial art to study and practice.

Once again, a no-stripe somethin’ somethin’ beginning a new journey.


Aikido vs Jiu-jitsu

Posted By on May 19, 2011

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YouTube Direkt480 390 Aikido vs Jiu-Jitsu

50-0 backyard wrestling champ vs BJJ Black Belt

Posted By on October 29, 2010

The monkey hasn’t been able to train for a bit because of the work schedule, so here’s a little something I found that was pretty cool:

Jiu-Jitsu Monkeys

Posted By on October 5, 2010

Here’s some video of a roll I had in Rigan’s class this week..

Don’t you dare ask which one I am..

The White Belt Chronicles – Part 3 – Oct. 2010

Posted By on October 5, 2010

So check it out. Jiu-Jitsu monkey hurt his back. Don’t know how it happened, but maybe too much spine pressure and not enough engaging the core, and boom, irritated T-11 and T12…I think practicing side control escapes from underneath 220 pounders will do it.

Last couple weeks have seen a big slow down in training, and I just had my first full roll and 3/4 speed. Brown Belt lloyd told me tonight that playing too much guard from the back can lead to some lower back pain. Makes sense. Gonna have to work on playing more on top!

The back feels better, if not just a little stiff. My doc, had a serious look of concern on her face when I said I was jumping back in. But she did her job pretty well and  helped straighten it all out. She knows she won’t keep me off the mat too long.

I am glad to have jumped into the doctor within a day or two of getting hurt. And I’m glad to have a treatment plan and doctor for any bumps and bruises that may encroach on this monkey’s body.

I should be posting a bit more now as I ramp my training back up.

Belt Promotion!

Posted By on September 15, 2010

It’s official. On 8/23/2010 The JiuJitsu-Monkey was promoted to 1-stripe white belt by Master Rigan. Very cool to see the hard work paying off..There’s so much cool stuff happening right now at Rigan Machado Academy in West L.A.

Do I feel any different? Nah..As you can see from the White Belt Chronicles I have a long way to go, step-by-step on the mat. But like one of my class mates says, most don’t even get that far..So true!

I was also promoted on the same night that Paul Saucido received his long over due promotion and became a Rigan Machado Purple Belt. In JJ Monkey fashion, his nickname was changed from The Zen Walker to “Grape-Ape” in honor of his new belt color. Congrats Paul!

To the left is my original stripe that was given by Master Rigan and pasted into the JJ Monkey JiuJitsu Journal.. There’s also room more stripes on my white belt before that Blue Belt comes along!


Posted By on September 12, 2010

If you think, you are late. If you are late, you use strength. If you use strength, you tire. And if you tire, you die.

I read that quote in the beginning of Saulo Ribeiro’s Jiu Jitsu University, one of my favorite Jiu Jitsu references. That quote speaks to me in many ways, especially in light of where I am in my early development as a BJJ player. First, you should know, I’m a little guy. Just short of 5′ 8″ and coming in at a whopping 150lbs.  This Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, especially as I think that Master Helio Gracie developed it, was intended for a little monkey like myself.

Sometimes while training I catch myself talking to myself while getting caught, say with my arm too extended or about to get triangled by an upper belt. I know then, that I’m too late..Although most of the purples and browns that I get to roll with let me off the hook and try to work out an escape..

Since I’m a rational type, I love the idea of training technically, efficiently, and strategically. And I’m no where near coming close to being able to practice my jiu-jitsu like a chess game. But there are countless little people like myself, all the way back to Grandmaster Helio Gracie who, I’m sure have embraced the above quote, lived it, practiced it, and embodied it.

I just remembered something from training. About a week before I borked my back(more on that in another post), and had to slow down my training, I was rolling around with a fellow white belt. Just nice and easy. Not to hard, but still taking advantage of positioning. In this instance, and on this day, I was finding it pretty simple get and maintain side control, which is rare, believe it.

I also remember closing my eyes at one point as I was riding side control and moving around to north/south and to the other side. I don’t know many submissions out of transitions yet, so I was just playing with the movement. The memory sticks in my mind because I wasn’t using any particular strength, nor was I having my way..But I felt more in control than many of my other trainings: with my eyes closed, and playing with a certain lightness.

Another thought I had relating to that quote is something Master Rigan encourages, which is movement. I am just making the connection that to resist, is to try and use strength. Resisting, pushing against, all are a danger for little monkeys. When I hold my closed guard, hold tight in the cross face side control, pulling, pulling and pushing away all a reaction for me. A giving in, and allowing someone to dominate. Using strength, I’m seeing is allowing my partner to control the flow and it also represents a frantic sort of flail that drains me of my energy.

I’ve watched myself getting stronger while training. When I was just starting a few months ago, I had sort of a dread right before we were about to train. Not because I was scared of what my partners would do to me, but because I knew I would get tired VERY quickly, and the would have their way. The slow strength isn’t only cause I’m building cardio, but because I think I’m learning some of the lessons and relaxing, and breathing and relying on these techniques more and more. Using these techniques, time-tested and passed down from little guy to little guy, and eventually reaching me, will eventually allow me to close my eyes, breathe easy and flow in the roll. Just a matter of time.

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The White Belt Chronicles – Part 2: 8/16 – 8/22

Posted By on August 23, 2010

I’ve heard it said many times before, that in Jiu Jitsu, sometimes you’ll feel like you’re learning and sometimes you’ll feel like you aren’t. You’ll have a period of time where everything feels like its working and then there’s that phase where nothing works. I wonder if White Belt is one giant phase of just simply not getting anything. If you haven’t guessed, this last week was pretty rough.

Don’t get me wrong, it always feels good to train, but maybe sometimes the gains aren’t so readily apparent. I know that I’m always learning something, but I think that my competitive spirit gets the better of me and I just want to WIN! Check it out:

MONDAY 8/16 – Wow I haven’t seen so many peeps in class..What an amazing treat to see 15 or so students on the mat! I was aso lucky to have a good friend come down and checkout a class. He got to take it easy and train off to the side with a couple others who were just starting out. On my side of the mat, Professor Cindy had us working on the beginnings of Spider Guard. We started off with learning to control our opponents sleeves and trapping their arms to the outside of the legs, feet on the opponents hips and the knees pressuring the arms to the outside by keeping the knees opened outward.

I really like playing with this guard as I frequently find myself late to blocking guard passes to my side from the Butterfly guard. I find it much easier to control opponents when I can keep that at a distance and take advantage of using my legs in the mix. It has also helped me learn to feel my opponents movements better, as the guard allows me to keep the distance and ride their movements while I look for an opening to setup a sweep.

Professor Cindy also taught a more advanced pendulum type sweep from that Spider control that blocked the bottom leg while controlling the opponents arm with the foot in the bicep and the opposite sleeve. It’s an awesome sweep, and feels effective for me, especially since I was having trouble using the Scissors Sweep I learned last week to keep my larger opponents off balance.

Even though the drills were fun, training went by in a breeze. That doesn’t mean it was easy..More like I got tapped out in a breeze. One of Master Rigan’s favorite type of training is to have a group stationary on the ground and the other group rotating partners in 2-3 minute rounds. Yes, I can say I got my ass beat by every partner!

I am glad for two things though.

  1. With the exception of one switch I was able to handle 4 straight partner changes without getting tired. To me that means my cardio is getting much much better.
  2. I see that one of the main holes in my “Game” is allowing the guard pass to side control way to often. So I spend so much time under side control or mount that I can’t even think about establishing any other sort of control.

WEDNESDAY 8/18 – Another awesome night! The drilling portion consisted of varios submission drills: Armbar from Guard, Armbar from Mount, Triangle from Guard, and Kimura from Full Guard..We started running around the mat and when Master Rigan told us, we jumped with a partner to perform the submission..Each time workiong with a different partner. We had to go as quick as we could, making it right, and then jumping up to do it again. What a drill.. My right side arm bar is becoming as natural as pie..Can’t wait until I can throw up some triangles in the same way.

We did more live training in the same manner. Running for a few laps, then jumping down and rolling with a different partner. Again I can’t really remember much except getting caught in lots of submissions.

Afterwards we rocked some serious sprinting across the mat that pretty much wiped everybody out. Afterwards, Master Rigan talked about how he wanted to make the Academy the best in LA. How if we worked hard, we will end up being monsters on the mat, no matter what belt. I though I caught a glimpse of what Rigan’s vision might be for the West LA academy and had the realization that this ain’t no joke. We are having fun, but we are being taught to perform at a high, high level and to push ourselves to be the best, no matter what our Jiu Jitsu aspirations are.

For the first time as well I saw myself, this middle aged professional sort of guy, possibly competing in a BJJ tournament in the future. And it being possible because we are being taught to believe in ourselves and to train hard, maybe work harder that we ever have at anything else.

FRIDAY 8/20 – Had to skip Open Mat and regular class because of a pulled leg muscle from the sprints on Wednesday! As my man Paul ‘Zen Walker” said, since we’re older, our bodies don’t react the same to stress the way they did when we were younger. So we have to make sure we stretch and warm up as much as possible.

I have a small little nervous anxiety as I begin this next week of training. I’ve been told to expect some cool surprises this week and really am looking forward to what Master Rigan and the other teachers have in store.

The White Belt Chronicles – Part 1: 8/9-8/15

Posted By on August 17, 2010

These are JJ Monkey’s White-Belt Chronicles for the week of 8/9 – 8/15 – Every week I’ll try to share my thoughts, experiences, trials and tribulations on being a late-starting, middle aged, zero-degree white belt under Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Master Rigan Machado..

Looking back on the last few weeks, I realized that much has happened. After taking a few weeks off of training to work, I finally was able to get back to a full week’s worth of JJ training and Rigan Machado Academy W. Los Angeles.

Monday nights hold the biggest changes I’ve seen at the Academy. Master Rigan had to leave town for business this last week, and Black Belt Cindy Omatsu has taken over teaching on Monday night as the regular professor. If you didn’t know, Professor Cindy is the 1st Asian American Black Belt and the 1st non-Brazilian woman to receive her black belt EVER! So being able to jump in on Monday with her teaching was very cool..

MONDAY 8/19  – After warm-ups and basic drilling, she taught us a very basic SCISSORS SWEEP from the guard to start. Although I like that move, I had a hard time sweeping bigger opponents, and others who had a good base.

As a side note, the SPIDER GUARD SWEEP, which I’ve learned this week, has given me a tiny bit of insight on why my scissors sweep may not have been so effective. Namely , there’s a hip-escape when placing the bottom blocking leg that increases leverage and power. In order to perform the Spider Guard Scissors type sweep, the hips MUST get out in order to straighten the leg and move the opponent off balance. In fact moving the hips so much as to get on to my side really helps a lot.

Seeing that some were having trouble executing the sweep against all opponents, Professor then taught us a relatively swift and easy SCISSORS SWEEP TO ARMBAR transition to take care of that stubborn opponent who just won’t go with the sweep. I like that transition and found that the Arm-Bar worked pretty nice on my strong side..My weak side needs a lot of hip movement practice. Especially in the guard.

Also that Monday, because of the nature of my work the next day I couldn’t live train with partners in case I injured myself before the last day of my TV gig, so I simply drilled.

WEDNESDAY 8/11 – You know, I hate to say it, but sometimes training flies by and I have NO idea what I did during class. At least when I try to rmember. NOTE TO SELF: Get a JJ Journal, Monkey!!.

FRIDAY 8/13 – Nice evening, smaller sized class. I actuall commented that either it was the class for Hardcore students or for the losers who had nowhere to go on a Friday night..All joking aside, Brown Belt Damone and Ellis taught class..We learned some killer double leg take downs and defense as well as recapping what Master Rigan and Professor Cindy had taught over the last few weeks..

Overall it was a pretty sweet week. I’m very happy to see the class size increasing at the West LA academy. Upper Blue Belt Paul has really turned the academy around and is attracting some pretty amazing people to study at the academy. The energy is good, with about 8 white belts including myself, 5 or 6 regular Blue belts, 2 purple belts (including Senior Rob Arevalo), Brown Belts Ellis and Damone, Black Belt Cindy and Master Rigan..

till next week’s chronicles..


The Actor and the Martial Artist

Posted By on August 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking the last few days about the obsession many actors have with the martial arts. How many if the principles that apply the Martial Arts apply to the art of acting on stage, theatre or even on TV.