Skip to main content

Julia Johansen

Syndicate content
Discussion based BJJ blogging, minus the vitriol!
Updated: 2 years 44 weeks ago

BJJ: Advice for Children (and Adults!)

Sat, 2016-07-02 06:44

American readers: Happy Independence Day! Non-American readers: Happy weekend!

Jiu Jiu’s Note: Big news in my household: we are NOT moving this fall. My husband’s orders were rescinded, as the band he was going to move to is shutting down. Most likely in response to this amendment which would ban military bands from playing any social gigs. We will stay another year in Virginia, then our next post is to be determined. I will be training with Diego Bispo both at Diego Bispo Academy and at MAMMA’s Boys

The first week of summer was hectic. We enrolled stepson in a BJJ kids camp at Diego Bispo Academy, and I helped out! It was Monday through Friday, 9am to 1pm. In addition to helping out the kids, there were lots of bits of advice I gave out that I think is helpful even for adults.

All the little troopers at our BJJ kids summer camp. Photo courtesy of Diego Bispo Academy.

All the little troopers at our BJJ kids summer camp. Photo courtesy of Diego Bispo Academy.


I’ve been guilty of this myself. When I got my black eye, I sat in the middle of the mats and cried. After that, though, I made it a point to cry in the locker room, away from the mat.

What happens when you cry on the mats: things stop. People get worried. It feels weird and callus to just go on and ignore it. It’s normal to want to check on someone. It’s also normal to want to be alone when you cry.

What you should do: Just get off the mats. Excuse yourself quickly. Walk off the mats. Have a good cry. Tears have been shown to have positive benefits: getting rid of negative chemicals, reducing stress, etc. Come back when you’re ready and steady.


What happens when you roll while mad: people get hurt, either you or your partner. When you’re mad, it’s easy to interpret normal partner actions as intentional and aggressive. When you’re mad, it’s easy to respond with more force and aggression. I’ve never had a good outcome when I rolled while mad. Instead, I got more frustrated.

What you should do: Excuse yourself from training. Tap out, say “I need a break” or “I need a minute.” You don’t need to explain that you’re pissed off. Calm yourself down and roll when you feel more normal. That might mean that you’re done for the day.


Jiu jitsu is a very physical sport. If there is someone who you don’t like, or who doesn’t like you, there is still a very good possibility that you’ll be partnered with them at some point because jiu jitsu is still a very small sport.

What happens when you treat your partner negatively: It makes rolling personal. It escalates the negativity, which directly translates into a worse experience on the mats. It also means that it’s unfortunately easy to go harder to get back at someone, or to feel like you’re physically being bullied if the person is going harder and stronger than you want.

What you should do: If you know you can’t get along and you just hate that sonuvabitch, treat them like a stranger. That is to say: Don’t be rude. Greet them, say your pleases and thank yous, don’t go extra hard, and smile when you see them. These are manners. If you are somewhat neutral, do the same, but engage in friendly small talk. In both cases, you might consider asking them to do you a favor. It’s been shown that if you ask someone who hates you to do you a favor, they end up viewing you more favorably.


Oh man. Kids were HORRIBLE about this! Boys would get all weird when paired with girls, the little girls would be overly dramatic with their “ow ow ow”s, kids would take a million years to do their drills, kids would actively resist while their partners were trying to drill, and when rolling, they’d pwn the new kid.

What happens when you act weird to your partner: They have a sucky time. This means you are actively contributing to their negative experience in jiu jitsu. It means you may find it hard to find a partner if you act weird with some people.

What you should do: Have empathy for your partner. Don’t waste their time. Try to be helpful, try to let them use their time effectively, etc. If you’re partnered with the weird/different kid, treat them as you’d like to be treated at a new jiu jitsu gym. We don’t always get our ideal partners, so we should remember that we are someone’s less-than-ideal partner as well.


It happens again and again – online, in person – someone says “They did it on purpose!!!” It’s true for adults as well as kids.

What happens if you don’t give your partner the benefit of the doubt: You will build up animosity, convinced that they intentionally tried to slam you/hurt you. You will get frustrated and mad. You will make an enemy.

What you should do: Remind yourself that people often don’t realize how hard they’re going, and even though you might feel like you’re matching them, you may be contributing to them going even harder. Remind yourself that new folks (ie. white belts) aren’t as physically in control of their bodies as blue+ belts, who have generally been doing this longer. Remind yourself that accidents do happen and you’re probably going to accidentally hurt someone at some point. Finally, communicate with your partner. Use your words. “Can you go lighter?” “My shoulder hurts – please go slowly on shoulder locks.”

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What advice was helpful for you when you started? What advice do you tend to give (or get) a lot? Please share in the comments below!


Health: Physical Therapy

Thu, 2016-04-21 18:52

I went and saw a physical therapist this week. Once on Tuesday, and once today. My hips suck, according to professional opinion.

I have problems with my hips, specifically related to moving things outward. Here is a picture of me with my legs stretched as far as they go. This was even me laying on the ground, relaxing them and letting gravity help.

A photo posted by Jiu Jiu (@jiujiubjj) on Sep 26, 2014 at 6:29am PDT

This also affects my internal rotation of the hip. For example, a healthy hip can generally go out around 40 degrees outward. Mine only goes to 19 degrees on one leg, and 20 degrees on the other. There’s another test. The Physical Therapist rotated it out, pressed it toward center, and I was supposed to try to resist it. No joke, I couldn’t resist a toddler.

Normal hip range

Normal hip range

Another aspect of this is the trajectory of my knee. You know how you can lay down and pull your knee straight up into your chest and hold it? I can’t do that without injuring my hip flexors. My leg scoops out and the knee heads toward my armpit.

It also means that in jiu jitsu, if I’m sitting open guard, feet together and knees apart, if you push a knee of mine to the ground and I DON’T adjust my hips, I’ll injure myself. Sitting in full mount is incredibly painful for me, and even closed guard can be painful. My hips adversely affect my jiu jitsu.

Those hip muscles also attach to the lower spine, which means that my back has been aching like crazy, ready to seize up at any moment. My hip flexors also feel ready to be injured – sincerely, just rotating my legs a little too far, and I get VERY sharp pains. It sucks!

The physical therapist believes the ball of my leg’s ball and socket joint is off track. It doesn’t sit in the right place due to unknown reasons. She first pushes her finger deep into the side of my belly and presses on the hip flexor near my spine. She does this to help relax it. Then she has been pressing strongly on my femur downward, then pulling the leg out, trying to help it sit where it’s supposed to.

Then begin the exercises. So far I have had to do the following:

  • Foam rolling my back
  • “Open Books” – lay on the side with the knees bent and arms extended out together. You then open your arms like a book. Your knees and hips stay facing the wall, but your arms open like a T and your shoulders/back are ideally laying flat.
  • Lumbar Rotation – my back is on the floor, my feet are on the floor with my knees bent. I then rock my knees from side to side.
  • Hip Flexor stretch – kneeling in a deep lunge with the back knee on the ground.
  • Calf stretches – standing on a wedge, hugging the wall.
  • Bird Dog with rotation – on all 4s, I am on opposite hand/knee. One hand is on my neck, and I touch that elbow to my opposite knee, then bring that leg out straight, and twist my torso so that my elbow is facing the ceiling and my chest is facing the wall.
  • Bridging – my knees are parted, with a resistance band on them. I have to hold them apart, and I bridge slowly.

So far, just in the past 3 days, the physical therapy has helped, although my back has been so terrible. Terrible enough that I have just rested or done easy movement this week, with no jiu jitsu. I’ll work on getting some photos of my range of motion – both for my personal documentation and for the blog.

Jiu-Jiu’s Question: Have any of you had success with increasing hip flexibility or flexibility in general? Have you gone to physical therapy and had success? Any words of encouragement? I’m feeling bummed and frustrated and in pain over here.

BJJ: This Pain is WRONG

Thu, 2016-04-07 13:19

After heading back to jiu jitsu three times in the span of a week, I got broken. My hips were absolutely killing me. Husband has this AM/PM beginner yoga dvd and literally me just sitting cross legged was TOO PAINFUL. I eased into it, then experienced GREAT PAIN just changing which leg was on top/bottom. I normally experience hip pain, but it’s just a “whoa I’m sore.” This was much more excruciating. Husband suggested I call a doctor.

Me, but much less whiny

Me, but much less whiny

I waited an hour for the doctor, and when he came in and saw me, I described the pain as FRAKKING AWFUL, like BONES GRINDING ON BONES. Doctor said, “Well, it’s a trade off – people who sit around on a couch don’t generally develop arthritis, but they get horrible heart disease, and vice versa. So, do you want to be the old person hobbling around with a walker, or the person in the wheelchair with an awful heart.” I voted for arthritis.

He thought I might need an x-ray, and he tapped on the bones – no pain. Then he tried to rotate my legs. “Wow – you are REALLY inflexible” he noted. It’s not arthritis, but rather the soft tissue connecting legs to hips. Tomorrow I will call to schedule my appointment with a physical therapist. For now, I’m popping (no, autocorrect, I’m not pooping) horse pills of ibuprofin before class, as well as gently doing that beginner yoga dvd.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What pain has your sport exacerbated? What has it helped with? How do you manage your pain?

BJJ: The Lies Our Instructor Tells Us

Wed, 2016-04-06 06:20

“Tomorrow will be an easy class.” “We’re only doing 1 more round.” “You can work on an easier thing tomorrow.” Lies! Lies! Lies! (I say with mock accusation).

This was the "Easy" day

This was the “easy” day. Thank you Diego!

The whole day was HIIT training – pick a position. Go hard for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds, then switch (top to bottom). Go hard for 30 seconds. Change partners and rest for 30 seconds. Rinse and repeat. “Tomorrow will be the easy day!”

“Tomorrow” was even harder. 30 seconds go hard, 20 seconds rest, repeat. We all died.

I KNEW he was lying, but I WANTED to believe him. I let myself believe the wonderful lies. I hung to them. It was honestly very funny and got me back in the gym two days in a row. “See, it was so easy!” he said at the end of the day. I fake glared at him and made plans to come back.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: How does your instructor inspire/motivate you? What kind of banter does s/he use? What works for you?

BJJ Book: The Combat Codes

Mon, 2016-04-04 13:44

A review of The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin,  published by Insight Forge Press in 2015, ISBN 978-1517765064. You can see this review at Amazon, and GoodReads. Rated 4 stars out of 5.

Click the link to get to Amazon

Click the link to get to Amazon

Murray Pearson is sick of buying broken kids from the slave Circles. He’s sick of training them to become skilled combatants, only to watch them break again. He’s sick of reporting his failures as a talent scout to men who don’t have the guts to stand in the Circles themselves.

Cego doesn’t understand why he’s fighting. He doesn’t understand the grueling training sessions he’s forced to endure every day. He doesn’t understand why they scream for blood when he steps into the Circle. The one thing Cego does understand is hand-to-hand combat. He was born to fight.

Cego is sent down an unlikely path at Murray’s side, paved with fierce competition at the world’s most prestigious combat school along with the answers to his own mysterious past.


This story is mostly fighting/combat set in a scifi universe. Older, retired fighter finds young hopeful in a fighting pit. Retired fighter recruits young fighter for a battle school. Young fighter is awesome. Retired fighter discovers why young fighter is awesome, rocks young fighter’s life with the truth.

The obvious parallel is to Ender’s Game – especially with a young boy going to a fight school, but more like if Ender had been sent to a Japanese judo school and learned to fight. It also had a bit of a Matrix type feel to it, especially with the hyper-realistic simulations.

The Fighting

There were many elements of jiu jitsu, judo, and grappling in this, with the school levels being white, blue, purple, brown, black, and red; the many “OSSS”s that characters uttered; the pieces of martial arts wisdom such as “You may need to give up position to gain position,” and the fighting jargon. The vocabulary in this book was highly specific. This makes the fight scenes very easy to follow if you know fighting terminology, and potentially confusing if you don’t.

Cego shrimped his hips out, circling his legs around Farmer’s knee and shooting his hand in for an underhook. Farmer allowed him to take the underhook, fishing his own overhook under Cego’s armpit and through to the other side of his neck, countering with the brabo choke. Cego felt the pressure on his neck and shrimped out the other way.

The Sci-Fi

This story was enhanced by it being set in a scifi universe, and the main plot point about why the main character is special required a universe with this type of science. Watching a fight and being able to see all the person’s biometrics displayed – being able to see heartrate, images of skeletons and muscles, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure – all things I could see them showing on a UFC fight were this technology available. Having a fight ring that influenced a fighter in various ways – confidence, speed, etc, simply by which element it was made of. Having physical simulations to help train students to be better fighters. All these elements greatly enhanced the fighting storyline. There was also a deeply embedded theme of “Light/Darkness” – purelights vs lacklights, the scifi swear word “darkin’,” and even some beings of light – spectrals.


I most enjoyed the storyline, and the integration of scifi with fighting. I thought they both enhanced one another quite well. It was imaginative, and even though there were very familiar themes present in many scifi stories, it was unique. I thought the final 1/3 of the book was much more interesting than the first 1/3, and I thought the ending was both satisfying and interesting, and it made me want to go back and reread the first part of the book.

There were a few points I disliked. I honestly thought the boy was in his 20s, and it felt jarring to realize he was 13. The character was NOT written like a typical 13 year old – he was far too wise for his age, and missed a lot of the common faults that 13 year olds have. I also sometimes had trouble transitioning from one main character to the next, but this could be me reading at night when I was tired. Finally, I have zero idea why there were “spectrals” – beings of light – not a clue what purpose they served, why they were there, etc.

Disclosure and thanks

The author sent this book to me for the purpose of a review. I did not receive any compensation, nor did I promise a good review. I have no connection to the author other than sharing the same hobby, Jiu Jitsu. Thanks to the author for sending me a copy and entrusting me to give a thoughtful and frank review.

As of the publication date, this book is available on Amazon Kindle for only $2.99 (free with unlimited Kindle), and the physical copy is between $11 – $15.

BJJ: The dangers of “I’ll Do Jiu Jitsu When…”

Mon, 2016-04-04 09:17

I have been caught in a terrible trap. Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

  • I’ll do jiu jitsu when I’ve lost more weight.
  • I’ll do jiu jitsu once I’m in better shape.
  • I’ll do jiu jitsu after I move.

Ah those conditional clauses. I’ve found that they tend to be wonderfully convenient, best-intentions, excuses. They’re my mental blocks as to why I’m not doing jiu jitsu right now. They’re much better than this one: “Well, if I go to jiu jitsu on Monday, it’ll be hard to find a parking spot when I come home.” Unfortunately, that came out of my mouth last night. My husband said “Really?? THAT’S your reason to NOT do jiu jitsu? Parking?”

Perhaps Dr Horrible has our solutions. The world is a mess. He just wants to rule it.

My status quo right now = not doing jiu jitsu

The reality is, it’s easy to keep the status quo. It’s easy to continue what you’re doing. If you’re doing a lot of jiu jitsu, it’s easy to keep doing it. If you’re not doing it, it’s easy to keep not doing it. Right now: not doing jiu jitsu > doing jiu jitsu.

In 2016 I can count the number of times I’ve done jiu jitsu on one hand. I’m a rock that is not rolling. There is no momentum. A tiny bit of momentum will move me a little, but not get me rolling. What I need to do is build that momentum. The conditional clause that has been my great excuse to not do jiu jitsu: “I’ll start doing jiu jitsu after I move.” Husband and I are moving to Huntsville, Alabama this fall. That’s like another 6 months of not-doing-jiu-jitsu excuses right there!

Thankfully, I started visiting a welcoming little gym in Virginia Beach, VA. The black belt, Diego, has been actively encouraging me to come to his class. Here was our recent exchange:

I am full of all the excuses

I am full of all the excuses

I will not lie. There is part of my brain that is seeking permission to NOT do jiu jitsu. I throw out excuses like “difficult parking,” “being sore,” “it takes 45 minutes to get there,” “I can start after I move” because on some level I want the people close to me to say “I totally get it.” Unfortunately they all know me, and they see right through my bullshit and call me on it. Sigh. I went to BJJ on Saturday, now I need to keep that momentum, but I won’t lie – it’s hard right now.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What’s your status quo right now? Active? Lazy? What lame excuses have you been relying on to not be healthy lately?