Interview with my good friend Pasha Palanker at The Compound in Silver Spring, Maryland. We discuss our mutual interest in building a community for camaraderie and support to active duty, veterans, LEO, first responders, and survivors of domestic terrorism. Some great introductory discussion about depression, PTSD, and those who are suffering in silence.

Only 3 days after Halloween and the commercial industry is already cramming Thanksgiving and Christmas down our throats. Decorations, coffee flavors, movies, and music all glorifying “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Whether or not this cold, grey season is the best is debatable but I do think there is no argument that it is the most charitable time and I CAN get down with the that. Whether through guilt or the threat of being on Santa’s naughty list people seem to be more willing to donate during this 2 month window.

I say all of that to remind everyone that this weekend is Veterans Day, November 11, and there is still time to plan to attend one of the multiple events lined up to support and honor our Veterans. These events are perfectly lined up for you to have time to go out and take advantage of the freebie veteran deals while taking a moment of your time to remember those suffering from homelessness, mental illness, depression, suicide.

Ruck and Roll 22 will be held at Mongrel Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Chesterfield, Va. From 2:00 pm on Nov 10 to 12:00 noon on Sunday Nov 11. Whatever your pleasure, they have options. Pick your poison from 22 hours of open mat time, a 22 mile ruck from Northside to Midlothian, or CrossFit style WODs dedicated to fallen first responders and service men and women who died in the line of duty. Shoot, if you’re squirrelly and feeling extra motivated you can hit a WOD, take a short break, and then still hit the mats. This event is free and open to everybody, of course donations are welcome but not required. All donations will go to VAU – Veterans and Athletes United – dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of Veterans of the War on Terrorism. The event will close out with a cookout. If you can’t make it the event you can also donate via the Ruck and Roll 22 Facebook page and help them reach their monetary goal.

Monday, 12 November there will be a Veterans Day Open Mat at Ground Control in Columbia, Md from 11:00 – 1:00. This event is also open to all regardless of academy or affiliation. Veterans and active duty are admitted “for free” while non-military / non-veterans are asked to bring a donation of toiletries or clothing/ coats. Of course all donations are welcome. There will be drinks and snacks and lots of rolling. This is not a competition atmosphere, we will definitely “keep it playful.” All donations from this event will go to The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training and their effort to treat veterans with homelessness and substance abuse.

If you cannot make either one of these events, please, at a minimum spread the word. For those in need “the most wonderful time of the year” is often the most difficult time to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Hope to see you on the mats.

Expedition series #2 took me to 2nd Gear Jiu-Jitsu in Laurel Maryland for Ken Brown’s Sunday open mat. Some people may look at the schedule and notice that it states “advanced practice” and not open mat BUT the very thing that makes it look weird on the schedule is exactly what makes this open mat so special. I know, I know, this really isn’t an “expedition” for me because I go here kind of often but seeing as its not my everyday academy and it is a weekend “open mat”, I wanted to show the love during the expedition series.

So back to the open mat thing, so while it’s not an “open mat” in name it is an “open mat” in the sense that its free and that there are people from multiple academies. What makes it different is that the practice is directed / guided to include drills and scenarios that honestly, most people don’t spend enough time doing. The actual techniques applied are left up to the individual but the drills are provided, maybe something like take down for take down or sweep for sweep, for example. So its kind of a directed open mat for people who need a little direction or who don’t want to feel awkward asking a stranger to drill for 5 minutes when most people at an open mat just want to conduct sparring rounds. Of course there is rolling at the end as well but thats really the sort of cherry of top.

I love this setup, in fact its one of my favorite practices to attend. This practice provides a great opportunity to rep out the new techniques you may have learned that week or to really get quality reps on things you like. I’ve been to open mats where maybe you only know one or two folks, you roll once or twice then get stuck sitting on the wall trying to get someone to roll with you.I have witnessed this being the case with the white belt nobody wants to risk being by or the advance purple / brown belt that people are afraid to roll with. Its strange that everyone wants to roll with blue belts and of course black belts??????

So yeah, week #2 down,  2nd Gear Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Laurel Md, Sundays 10:00-12:00. Its two hours of legit work with good people.

Next stop is Grapple in the Park #2 Frederick, Maryland. Heard they have free wings, so I’m there! Hope you see you there too. If not, more wings for me suckas.

Side note- If you know of any academies in the Virginia area close to Fort Belvoir please hit me up. I’m trying to scout some locales for the military men and women who train at the Fight House during the week. I’m open to travel Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I’d love to swing through, train, and spread the word about your academy. No matter what it’s free advertising for your academy. How could you lose there?

Those of you familiar with my background know that I travel quite frequently. Oftentimes I can link travel to opportunities to train at new locations and these are the trips I look forward to taking. Then there are the other trips…… Overworked and no time to train or just being stuck out in the middle of nowhere and there just isn’t any place to train.

Side note -when I say no time to train I’m not referring to an inability to manage my time wisely but I’m referring to an inability to break free during gym hours.

When Jiu Jitsu is such a big part of ones routine, failing to train can have a significant negative impact on your overall demeanor and this can become problem. We’re not even talking about skill degradation or not getting credit for training (for those who focus on class requirements for promotion) but missing out on the general sense of camaraderie and the “leave your cares behind” feeling that we all get from our academies, friendships, and time on the mats. I feel that you have to find a way to fill this void not only for your own sanity but for the safety of your coworkers as well (or family if the lay-off is due to a vacation or something).

My initial thought is to just say “f*ck it” and rest up and feed my depression. The rest and recovery are always good for my body but the guilt that comes with it is bad for the mind. I also have that thought in the back of my mind that 1. I’m going to get crushed when I get back to the mats and 2. All of those injuries will come back the first day of training anyway. On the plus side, there’s no better feeling than surprising all of the people who thought they were going to crush you because you weren’t training. Little did they know that you found other ways to stay on top of your game.

I’ve found that lifting and METCONS are pretty much the perfect way to go and it’s usually pretty easy to get access to 24 hour globogym. METCONS assist with maintaining cardio levels and you can never go wrong working the beach muscles. One added bonus with METCONS is that if you hit them hard enough you don’t truly need to workout everyday and you can skip a day and have dinner with your coworkers / teammates. It’s never a good look to be that antisocial guy.

Yoga and recovery stretching days are a good plan as well. All you need is a computer or laptop and you’re all set. Your cardio might take a hit but flexibility and core strength are critical to longevity and safety for a Jiu Jitsu practitioners.

I’m sure the options are endless and everyone has a preference or a routine they use to overcome training interruptions. Keep in mind I’m talking about 1-2 weeks max of not training NOT an injury lay-off or 3 month trip. If that’s the scenario you have to at least find some way to train (solo drilling maybe) even if that means beating up your friends that don’t train.

I would love to hear what you think or how you deal with road trips interrupting your training. I might incorporate some of your techniques into my routine. I invite you to comment below or to visit the Work Play Obsession Facebook page.

One point of wisdom often doled out to those new to Jiu Jitsu is “Don’t worry about stripes, don’t focus on promotion. Just show up and train.” While I wholeheartedly agree with the intent behind this comment, it’s just not true. Admit it or not, everyone has thought about promotion at some point, stripe or belt, and when or why the have /have not been promoted. Just look around during you next round of “impromptu” promotions (or look in the mirror) you’ll notice some pretty salty looks.

In my opinion, promotions are a sign that you have been consistently training and that you are absorbing and learning techniques. Promotions show dedication and commitment and hopefully require a little character building as well.

Today I had the pleasure of training with a few guys who were up for stripe promotions and I’ll admit, we put them through the wringer. The guys were put in the pressure cooker and forced to demonstrate their proficiency under pressure against all belt levels. I personally like this approach because the people being “tested” recognize everyone is coming at them hard and they have the opportunity to mentally validate their skills. At the end of the day they feel like they earned their stripes or they know they need to step their game up. It’s not only about time and showing up it’s also about demonstrating skill “at combat speed”. Additionally, it quickly becomes apparent when a competition “one trick pony” or “сant take the pressure guy” can’t make it through the session.

Congratulations to all who earned their promotion today. You earned it. Don’t quit now, keep grinding.

Recently I had the privilege of being the guest instructor at Kogen Dojo in Severna Park, Maryland. I made some new friends, caught up with some guys I hadn’t seen in a while, and of course got to train and have fun on the mats. The visit coincides with the start of my “expedition series” so it was perfect timing. I highly recommend you the visit the academy and check it out or at least drop by the website and see what they have to offer.

Kogen Dojo: Gracie Jiu Jitsu, May Thai, & Taikyoku Budo

Below is a little interview that I did with Rob prior to class. Unfortunately, we didn’t take any photos so I do not have any to post. All that means is that the next time you see an advertisement for a me guest instructing at Kogen Dojo you just have come out and see for yourself. But if you have the opportunity don’t wait for me, visit the school any day of the week they are open and take a class with their staff. The gym is very easy to locate and has everything you look for in an academy; clean, bright, and friendly people.

If you don’t already, follow Kogen Dojo on Facebook so you can keep up with the schedule of guest instructors. They do a really great job of advertising and you’ll have plenty of time to clear your schedule. You not regret that you made the trip.

The only question that remains is “Where to next?”

Kogen Dojo Interview on YouTube

Use the link, do not click on the photo

Traditionally the winter months present more of lull for non elite level grapplers in the DMV. There just doesn’t seem to be as many competitions available and money is tight for those saving for the XMas holiday. It makes it the perfect time to drill, develop new tricks and to hop around to open mats and visit new gyms.

I am starting my “expedition series” in search of the “best” open mat in the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia). I’m also open to travel as far as Pennsylvania and New Jersey if I receive any invites or recommendations.

I’m open to Gi or No Gi sessions, Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday. Anywhere in the DMV is game and I’m willing to pay a mat fee is applicable.

I will take photos, do interviews, and post my experience to FB, Instagram, and the website. Think of Yelp or Zagat for Jiu Jitsu Open mats. Or you can consider this free advertising for your academy.

Just so it’s out there, “Best” does not mean the place with the most high ranking belts on the mat, the toughest competition or people rolling H-A-M. I’m looking at number of people in attendance, number of different academies represented, friendly atmosphere, people who are willing to share experiences / share advice, etc. Essentially, I’m looking to go out, learn, a little, and have fun in a friendly atmosphere.

So that’s the scoop. Hit me up, send me an invite, let’s do it!