Rickson Gracie using Jin

Just a quick one: Here’s a seminar clip I came across recently of the legendary Rickson Gracie teaching in Tokyo, Japan this year. He’s going over concepts that should be familiar to Tai Chi people.


Labels like ‘internal’ do matter in martial arts


It’s quite ‘Zen’ and deconstructionist to talk about labels not mattering. But over long years I’ve come to the conclusion that labels (for martial arts) exist in the world because they do matter. If they didn’t matter (to whatever extent) then they wouldn’t exist.

I was reading recently (an idea from Mike Sigman) that the best way to view a martial art with regard to the question of “How internal is this?” is as a sliding scale of 1 through 10 from just using local muscle on the left (0-1), through to external martial arts in the middle (5) that use Jin (ground force) to some extent, on to internal martial arts at the end (10 being the highest) that use full dantien control of movement.

I’d put things like Wing Chun or Karate that go beyond just using basic movement in the middle of the scale. These things often get called the true ‘internal’ versions of the arts, but they don’t really use the dantien. The official version of Yang style Tai Chi that you see done by Yang Jun I don’t think is a full 10 either – it just doesn’t use the datien for full control all the time. I think Chen style Tai Chi would be a 10 – of course, that’s the theory. Most practitioners would be bottom to middle of the scale at best.

There was some talk recently on internal aspects in arts like BJJ. I think BJJ and Judo have the potential for being in the middle of the scale – some Jin usage. Often this is what you see termed as ‘invisible jiujitsu’. I think that’s exactly what you need for groundwork (and for fighting generally) – beyond that it’s a case of returns vs time spent. If you want to make your living as a pianist you don’t need to become a master of the very hardest pieces of classical music. It’s almost irrelevant. Of course, if you want to devote your life to it then, it’s your life and it’s a world of discovery.

Traditional vs Brazilian Jiujitsu


Thanks to Stephan Kesting for providing these videos comparing techniques that are common in Brazilian Jiujitsu with how they’re done in traditional Jiujitsu. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past – when you had to worry about more “battlefield” things like hidden weapons, other attackers, armour, escape routes, who needs assistance, etc.



The legend, BJ Penn


Really nice article by Jack Slack on MMA and Jiujitsu legend BJ Penn.

There have been few falls from grace as ugly and lengthy as that of BJ Penn. Nobody who knows the game is hung up on his 16-10 record, he has nothing to prove to anyone who knows their onions in that regard. It is simply that Penn spent so many years being in many ways remarkable, in a few ways wanting, and continued to drag out his attempts to find the mythical ‘motivated BJ Penn’ rather than addressing the actual issues in his game.


5 BJJ techniques a Kung Fu or Tai Chi student should know

Jiu-Jitsu training

While BJJ is known for its ground techniques, each match starts standing up, and there are a few interesting throws and submissions that you can pick up from the art that work well for a Kung Fu practitioner.

I wrote this article for Jetli.com so long ago I’d forgotten about it, but now it’s just been published, so here it is – 5 BJJ techniques a Kung Fu or Tai Chi student should know.

If you like that one you might also like another article I wrote recently there about the throwing techniques that made Ronda Rousey famous in the UFC and also this post on starting in Tai Chi and then taking up BJJ




Not strictly Tai Chi…. Lockdown with Sid

As well as this blog, I also run bjjnotebook.com where I live a second life as a BJJ practitioner who has never heard of Tai Chi 🙂

I got featured in a video podcast called Lockdown with Sid recently, so while it’s not exactly “Tai Chi” I thought you might like to see what I get up to when I’m wearing Japanese pyjamas…


My story – to BJJ from Tai Chi

Graham 2

Rick Matz of Cook Ding’s Kitchen blog asked me to write a little thing about my story and how my Tai Chi and BJJ fit together, so I did! Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite a big thing. In fact, it’s a bit of an essay.

You can read the whole article here.

Have I summed up all the ways that Tai Chi and BJJ fit together? Not at all. There’s still much more to tell, but I hoped I’ve shined a light on to a part of it for you.

Here’s a quote:

“Learning Tai Chi is a constant process of having your mistakes pointed out to you, trying to correct them, then moving on to the next thing. The key to getting good at BJJ is similar – you don’t want to focus on winning, since you end up muscling things instead of being technical and correct. But just like in Tai Chi, it’s learning from your mistakes that matters.”

You might also like my previous article on Tai Chi, BJJ and Rickson Gracie.


Chess and JiuJitsu: Tim Ferriss learns a martial art in one week

This is such a well made documentary about BJJ by Tim Ferriss that I just had to share it. It doesn’t hurt that it features Marcelo Garcia – my favourite BJJ practitioner of all time – and it’s clearly cost a lot of money to make, because the production quality is really high.

Here’s the premise: Tim Ferriss – one of those highly productive/annoying bloggers/podcasters/millionaires/motivational/4 hour week talker types – is going to challenge himself to learn BJJ in one week using a concept from his best bud the chess champion Josh Waitzkin to do with starting at the finish. Instead of learning all about BJJ in the way the rest of us do, he’s going to start with a finish move, the guillotine, then work backwards from there, and then try to do it live on a world champion. Yeah, good luck with that!

It’s a good watch so enjoy!


Bernardo Faria’s over/under guard pass

I’ve been playing about with this guard pass for the last couple of weeks, and it has changed my jiujitsu – it could change yours too.


One of the things I like about Brazilian Jiujitsu is the individuality of it – you’re encouraged to find your own signature moves and perfect them. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. Marcelo Garcia has his X Guard system, the Miyao brothers have the Berimbolo and Bernardo Faria has his over/under guard pass. And I’ve just discovered it…

Read the rest of this post at my new blog… BJJ Notebook



BJJ 101 – Defending the guard pass. Frame and hip escape

Welcome to a new, occasional, series looking at the basics of BJJ. This is BJJ 101.


Now that I’ve got to brown belt in BJJ I find myself wanting to refocus on the basics and get them really tight. By basics, I mean the fundamental moves that you use most of the time, rather than the spectacular spinning back takes or flying triangles that get all the attention. I mean the boring stuff. The bread and butter of BJJ, if you will.


Read the rest of this post at my new blog… BJJ Notebook