How Yoga Has Improved My Jiu-Jitsu Game

Doing Yoga at SSCI’ve been doing Jujitsu off and on for about 4 years now but only started doing yoga about 9 months ago and I can honestly say it has had a profound impact on my jits practice and performance.  I do yoga almost everyday now and I  can’t imagine how I ever made it this far without it.

Here’s how Yoga has improved my Jiu-Jitsu practice…

1. Spinal health- Jujitsu is hard on the spine. Thrashing around, trying to rip each other’s limbs off and choking each other out can destroy the spine but yoga seems to safely and comfortably put my vertebra back in line while strengthening, massaging and smoothing out the supporting muscles and tendons.   More importantly,  yoga actually lubricates and replenishes the discs and can even help to rebuild damaged or deteriorated discs. I used to have the worst back problems, muscle spasms, knots and even pinched nerves that would completely decapacitate me for days.  Yoga has also been helping to restore the natural curves of my spine as well as pelvic tilt which, both of these problems left untreated, can lead to chronic disabilities.

2. Core strength- Jits requires serious core strength, from sprawling to bridging to shrimping and other tactical ground movements, your core will be fired up and I have found no better way to condition the core muscles for jiu-jitsu than yoga.

Zack Doing BJJ at SSC

3. Stabilizers- Many body builders and athletes from various disciplines are shocked to find out how physically taxing yoga is for them despite being strong, fit and well conditioned. They sometimes think just because they are good at lifting weights or football or Muay Thai they will be able to keep up with your average yogi but the problem is,  they are not well rounded enough and usually their stabilizers are not prepared to handle the strain. Sometimes certain muscles can become disproportionately stronger than their surrounding counterparts like stabilizing muscles, tendons and ligaments; And this is where most sports injuries occur.

4. Balance- Good balance and a strong base will give you a superb advantage on the mats. Usually, when a struggle ensues between two fighters, the one with the better balance is going to end up exerting less energy and end up in a more dominant position.

5. Mobility- Having a good reach, flexibility and increased mobility while grappling is key.  Not only can you pull off more attacks that may be hard to obtain or hard to reach from certain positions but you can also defend better and have a much higher tolerance to withstand and fight off submission attempts.

6. Breathing- The higher belts will tell you that the way you breathe during a fight can determine your fate. You must be able to regulate your breath during explosive moves but more importantly, when in a compromising  position where you’re gassing out but you’re also being crushed and you can’t breathe well. If you can learn diaphragmatic breathing through challenging yoga flows, you’ll reap the benefits in your jujitsu as well.

3 Person Yoga Pose

7. Mitigate injuries- After becoming proficient in yoga, you move and exert your body differently and in more ergonomic ways. Knowing the healthy range as well as the strengths and weaknesses of shoulders, hips, knees and other joints will help you naturally prevent contorting your body in ways that could lead to injury. Having a a stronger foundation of core and stabilizing muscles along with the increased flexibility also helps to prevent injuries.

8. Rehabilitation- Yoga doesn’t make you invincible or bulletproof so you’re still bound to get injured at least once on your path from white to black belt. And when this happens you can bet that yoga will be the best way to rehabilitate and recover from your injuries. So far, I have been able to strengthen a partially torn MCL and ACL in my knee, repair rotator cuff  tear in my shoulder, straighten out my crooked fingers and much more.  I refused knee surgery after having 3 different doctors tell me its the only way I’ll be able to train again. I’m really starting to think Yoga can cure anything!

Thanks for reading, OSS and Namaste!

My First BJJ Tournament as a White Belt

I started training mixed martial arts (MMA) at IngDojo in the Philippines at the ripe age of 34. Prior to this, I had spent 13 years behind a desk with a laptop in one hand and a phone in the other so I went in with no foundation of physical fitness whatsoever. I couldn’t run 100 meters much less run 1 mile so getting back in shape was both painful and grueling. I trained striking and bjj at IngDojo about 2 to 3 times a week for just over 1 year. During this time I visited other gyms in the Philippines as well as Canada. After a long 6 month break due to business travel and knee injury, I took the opportunity to come to Vietnam to train at the Saigon Sports Club under professor Gilberto Bottiglieri.

I initially planned on staying for a month while working remotely but when I learned about the Saigon One BJJ Tournament was just two months away, I decided to stay so I could train and compete.

I’ve now had 3 months of almost daily training and the tournament is exactly two weeks away.  I kinda feel like a  sandbagger because I frequently tap blues and very rarely get tapped by whites but in my defense I truly only have around 1 year and 3 months of training and only 1 stripe on my belt.  With fighters coming from all over the world and from a plethora of other disciplines, I’m sure I will have to go a against a true sandbagger who may have several years or even decades of training in wrestling, Judo, Krav Maga or other disciplines but since they haven’t been belted as in BJJ, they are able to come in as a white belt. But no complaints, as the cliche goes… All is Fair in “Love and War” so let the best man win.

One thing’s for sure, I aim to bring home the gold medal!

Post Competition Update

So I placed 3rd and won a bronze medal. I’ve been kicking myself in the butt ever since because I really feel like I should have won the gold but I learned a valuable lesson… competing is very different than any other setting because of the mental game that is involved. My only downfall was the mental block. I had my head up my ass and didn’t perform anywhere nearly as well as I normally do. I had the gold medal winner in a triangle coke two different times but instead of correcting the angle and closing it like I should have, I was floundering around trying other things like sweeps and kimoras. The video is painful to watch. In conclusion, I hope to continue competing so I can overcome the mental block and start winning gold medals!