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April 25
Greasing The Groove – The Search for Motor Efficiency and Mastery of One’s Destiny

The author, Rolando Garcia III, has been a respected senior-member of Basulto Academy of Defense for two decades and is a multi-discipline martial arts instructor and sought-after RKC II Kettblell coach in NYC.  He is also the author of the acclaimed book, "Intrinsic Exellence".  Here he addresses the concept of "Greasing the Groove", a term popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline, former Soviet Special Forces instructor and the father of kettlebell training in the West.  Read carefully and apply to all things.

Jiu Jitsu Katana sword.JPG

In the time and labor intensive tradition of making the magnificent Japanese Katana, it is said that the sword is born in the roaring fires of the forge, but its soul comes out of the chaos and into the hands of the warrior-samurai only with the precise aide of the “Toshigi” – the quiet craftsman who is far removed from the blazing fire and the spectacle of battle.  

The toshigi tirelessly polishes each section of the blade to bring it to life.  It is said that the razor precision of the blade, and its unearthly beauty, comes out only through the repeated and focused efforts of the Toshigi.  It is important to note that, in this light, the oft celebrated samurai, whose narrative is inseparable from the Japanese sword, would be far less heroic and note-worthy without the Toshigi to ensure that his blade is equally reliable, effective, and refined.  Before the katana, there is the raw sand that needs to transform into Tamahagane, and before the samurai, the sword needs the polish of the toshigi.

 Toshigi.jpg

Somewhere in our own search for personal heroism and effectiveness lies the eternal and historic narrative that we must transform ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually, from the raw material of our current selves and into a close approximation of an idealized superior self.  This narrative binds all those who seek a better way of being through a self-determined perspective.  All those inspirational memes you see on social media, written by self-made optimists who urge you to not quit, to work harder, to seek to always feel better and be better – those memes are permutations of this narrative that humankind is the master of their destiny…if only one worked hard enough and (ironically) not give so much precious time to social media.     

This is different from those who believe that what we experience as autonomous beings is actually part of a probabilistic phenomenon:  wealthy or poor, fit or fat, happy or sad, all of these states are pre-determined by a combination of Machiavellian socio-economics, inherited genetics, and randomly fluctuating biochemical probabilities.  Those who hold this view (whether they call themselves nihilists, pessimists, or realists) believe that circumstances change toward one’s advantage or disadvantage as randomly and without pattern the same way the clouds gather and disperse in order to make your day sunny or cloudy, inspirational or glum.  This perspective essentially states that you are the master of your own destiny…depending upon the range of variance of your fluctuating deviations, be it genetic or socio-economic.  This perspective downgrades sweat equity by default, but there is a strong reason for this.  No matter how much you love basketball and practice it everyday, if you’re 5’2” you will probably never be the next Michael Jordan. 

 Somewhere between the self-determination theory and the probabilistic mindset lies your individual approach to self-improvement.  On the one hand, you train with that “Be limitless” inspirational meme that The Rock posted on his Instagram account two days ago, but on the other hand you remember reading an article two years ago that cites a study on WebMD that musculo-skeletal morphology is genetically pre-determined and that you experience overall steady decline once you are 29 years of age.  Or was it 39?  You hear The Rock in the first pounding 5 minutes of your warm-up, but you remember the steady-decline study about 15 minutes later after your 2nd work set. 

 It is cool to be a self-made two-sword carrying samurai, until you read somewhere that your samurai-boss can basically tell you when to disembowel yourself at any given time, for any reason and no reason whatsoever.  You are self-determined…until you’re not.

 Rolando Samurai.jpg
Whether we are adding plates to our bench or deadlift, or adding medals to our BJJ trophy, all our efforts are dictated by a desire to either overcome overwhelming odds, or to relent to them.  Heroic or humble, badass or just being, the mindset of a warrior athlete falls somewhere between being self-made and being self-accepting.  You are either pursuing the idealized self, or remain content with yourself. 

 You add those plates because you believe that a sword is wrought from raw materials, and must be plunged into the fire of our wills in order to face battle effectively, and hopefully heroically.  Or you drive yourself in practice to tap everybody on the mat, to achieve a similar effect.  The constant need to win, to drive, to add more, all of it is based on a conceptual argument occurring within you, which happens to be between two conflicting perspectives:  should you work harder to make yourself better, or should you work less and accept yourself as you are?

 The phrase “Greasing The Groove” was made popular in the 90’s by renowned strength specialist and author Pavel Tsatsouline.  His premise, based primarily on Soviet Bloc exercise science and physiology, states that strength is less of an outcome of big muscles, and more of a result of refined motor control.  In other words, the ability to move big and heavy objects is primarily a sharpened skill, requiring less muscle, and more inter-muscular coordination.  Many of his books urged the consumer-grade athlete to disregard the pump and flush approach found in most mainstream magazines, and to rely instead on the proven science of high-frequency training used to develop elite level athletes in Eastern Europe. 

 Here is an example of greasing the groove, as it pertains to a pulling skill:  the pull-up.  Set-up a pull-up bar at your home, either as an independent stand or as a bar secured to a door.  Every time you walk by the pull-up bar, you do 2-3 pull-ups  Vary your dosages and rep-schemes so that one experiences a sense of polish without fatigue (the pump and fatigue go hand-in-hand).  Some days, do 1 each time you walk by.  Some days do 5, depending on your biofeedback. 

 The approach is so effective and simple that it is the typical approach in most military units around the world.  From what I understand, this is the approach that is utilized when a unit is neither in boot-camp nor in the heat of battle, when the warrior is neither in the forge that tests his mettle, nor in the fog of war when it is utilized to its fullest.  When Filipino warriors were not at war, they practiced sinawali and sumbrada drills.  When the samurai were not at war, it is said that their dedication to Zen expressed itself in hours-long practice of postures such as Seigan, Chu-Dan, or Nagashi.  The way of a practicing warrior, in this light, is spent mostly on polishing, on refinement.    

 Grease The Groove is the approach utilized by the warrior in order to remain in a constant state of polished readiness.  No longer is the warrior the raw material that needs to be shaped into a blade, nor is he thrown into battle by factors outside of his control to meet his ultimate fate, the warrior who lives between his fire and his destiny instead thrives only in the humility of his constant commitment to the truth.  Neither a raw recruit nor mythologized warrior, the purpose of this approach of constant refinement is neither to change or accept his nature, but rather to reveal what is, in fact, his true nature hiding underneath his own delusions.  

It is only through this process of discovering one’s true nature can the warrior have any hope of swinging the odds in his favor, on and off the battlefield. Between the perspectives of self-determination practices which seeks to add to our abilities and perceived status, and the self-accepting practices of the probability model, lies the constant and daily dedication to understanding the truth of our being. 

 Rolando with Katana.jpg

There is a well-known story of an award-winning Toshigi currently living in Japan, who turned a 3-hour polish session into a 21-hour marathon, because he felt that in order to win the grand prix prize, he had to bring out an ornate and rare pattern on the blade he was working on.  When his Sensei approached him, he said to his Toshigi “This blade is making you ask hard questions, yes?”   

 The Toshigi eventually won the grand prize, but only when he came to a deeper realization about his 11 years of practice:  the duty of the Toshigi is not to himself, but to the sword.  His purpose is not to impose his will upon the sword, but rather to serve the sword to bring out its true nature.  What he had desired was an ornate and rare pattern on the blade, when in fact the blade’s true structure (determined much earlier in the forging process), was a simple pattern – considered the most difficult to achieve.  He achieved the grand prize by making clear the truth of the blade, his profession, and his simple purpose. 

 Be the toshigi of your warrior practice – neither a slave nor a master (both are delusions).  Seek instead the truth hidden within your being.     

      

December 02
Gracie Jiu Jitsu's Pisao: the “rangemaster”

While most people think of chokes and armbars when they hear of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the martial art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is much more than simple grappling.   In addition to defensive counters to a variety of kicks and punches, a genuine Jiu Jitsu course-of-study includes strikes from a variety of positions and ranges.   

Because all of these strikes are illegal in modern, sport Jiu Jitsu competitions, many practitioners overlook them in their training or are completely unaware that they are part of the full-spectrum of Jiu Jitsu techniques. 

Royce Pisao.JPG
One of the most effective and versatile strikes of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the “pisao”.  This is a quick, thrusting kick to the opponents lead leg with very little “telegraphing” movements to maintain the element of surprise.  The “pisao” from Jiu Jitsu may appear at first glance similar to the side-kick from other martial arts (the Brazilian art of Capoeira has a Pisao kick) but its particular “stomping” motion is meant not only as a percussive attack but also as a vehicle to facilitate a quick entry to the clinch range.

The Pisao is used primarily for two purposes:

 Defensive: as a harrying attack to maintain the opponent at a manageable distance and to intercept or thwart the opponent’s attacks.  

Offensive: to break the opponent’s fighting rhythm and enable the defender to close the distance safely.

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When trying to stop an opponent from advancing, the kick can be used defensively to undermine any incoming attack (punches, kicks, clinch attempts).   When the opponent’s attack is interrupted mid-action, the defender can use the break in rhythm to close the gap and clinch.  

Alternatively, the Pisao can be used repeatedly to arrest the opponent’s attempts to attack and can cause enough frustration to force an error from the attacker. 

However, the most common and effective use of the Pisao kick is to utilize it proactively to cover the distance between two fighters.  In countless MMA, No-Holds-Barred and “challenge matches”, members of the Gracie family and their representatives can be seen using this kick to cover distance, clinch and takedown their opponents. 

 Ralek Pisao.JPG
As the kick is executed at the knee or legs, the opponent responds to the threat by either retreating, stopping his forward momentum or pulling back on the lead leg.  The opponent’s reaction pauses his attack and compromises his base which allows the half-beat necessary to close the distance and develop a full-control clinch.

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Jiu Jitsu's function is self-defense.  There are many ways to train and develop the attributes and techniques to increase their effectiveness, including sportive competition, but never lose sight of the original intent of Jiu Jitsu!

 

October 22
Rare footage of Granmestre Helio Gracie and Royler Gracie

In this very rare VHS video (of degraded quality) one can catch a glimpse of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu system being demonstrated by Granmestre Helio Gracie and his son Royler Gracie.  These are a small sampling of the techniques taught in the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals classes which cover the foundational positions and principles that are applicable not just for self-defense but as building blocks to further study of advanced positions and scenarios including sport-competition techniques.

helio royler.jpg

Gracie Jiu Jitsu has its roots in the ancient samurai arts of Jiu Jitsu.  Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (practiced as Judo) was introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil around 1914 by Esai Maeda, who was also known as Conde Koma. Maeda was a champion of Jiu-Jitsu and a direct student of Kano, at the Kodokan in Japan.  


Helio Gracie, the youngest son of Gastão and Cesalina Gracie's eight children soon realized that due to his frail physique, most of the techniques he had learned from watching his brother Carlos Gracie teach were particularly difficult for him to execute. Eager to make the techniques work for him, he began modifying them to accommodate his weak body. Emphasizing the use of leverage and timing over strength and speed, Helio modified virtually all of the techniques and, through trial and error, created Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.


View the footage here:

Helio Gracie Jiu Jitsu footage​




October 16
1975 Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs Karate School

The ‘Gracie Invitation’ (or "Gracie Challenge") actually dates back as far as the 1920’s when Carlos Gracie first introduced the idea, but the footage shown in this video took place in 1975, still many years before the birth of the UFC and the explosion of mixed martial arts as a sport.

For the purpose of this 1970's Gracie Challenge contest in Brazil, the bouts were set at 10 minutes, and curiously the Karate team had stipulated before-hand that the fights should take place on tiles since they believed that would make it easier for them to stop takedowns or deter the Jiu Jitsu fighters from "going to the ground".

Gracie vs karate.jpg

As it turned out, the entire series of fights lasted less than 10 minutes, and no one from the Karate team was able to stay on their feet, or indeed avoid being submitted.

Remarkably, the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu competitor in the video was just 13 years old, yet he was fighting in a NHB match against a grown man.

Nevertheless, the young student was easily able to take down his opponent and submit him by rear-naked choke.

Click here for video:

Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs Karate School​

That blueprint would continue throughout the remainder of the match-ups, which saw the likes of the video’s narrator, Rorion, Relson and Rolls Gracie all comfortably finish their opponents by submission.​


July 06
Rickson Gracie promoted to RED BELT!

​One of the great legends of Jiu Jitsu, Rickson Gracie, has been promoted to Red Belt.  A title and belt shared by only a select few in the world.

Rickson Grace Red Belt.jpeg
This now earns him the title of Grandmaster Rickson Gracie. He is the son of Helio Gracie and is known for being undefeated with 400+ wins in MMA, with 0 losses.

He was promoted by Rorion Gracie, the man who founded the UFC and helped poplularize Jiu JItsu in the USA and the world.  Rorion Gracie is one of the few people in the world that can bestow such an honor.

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October 21
Don’t give’em the worm!

The practice of Jiu Jitsu involves lots of physical contact and very intimate ranges.  Whether you are just learning new techniques, drilling or “rolling” (sparring), Jiu Jitsu requires close-quarters contact with another human being.  It is one of the reasons that personal hygiene and proper care of your training gear (gi, kneepads) is often a preoccupation of practitioners and coaches alike.

rolling CHristine 2.jpg
Sure to come up at some point in your Jiu-Jitsu/Grappling journey is the discussion or experience of skin-borne infections.  Some of these can be down-right dangerous in addition to scary (MRSA, for example) but the most common and easily treated is “ringworm”.  Though this is actually a simple fungus, it is intimidating mostly because of its contagious nature, being passed easily from person to person.  

ringworm arm.jpg

It strikes such emotion and fear in the hearts of grapplers that many years ago, a war cry of a particular grappling team was to yell “Give’em the worm” as their teammates competed on the mats; a sort of “psychological warfare” to off-balance the opponent and put them on the defensive.

How to treat Ringworm and keep it from spreading.

- How to identify Ringworm.

Ringworm is deceptively named because it has nothing to do with a worm but is actually a fungus of same type as “athlete’s foot”.  Ringworm causes a round-shaped scaly, crusted rash that can take a “ring-shape” at various stages.  It does not always itch and may first start out as a vague, round shape.  A physician would be able to identify the fungus by using a black light to view the affected area. The fungus will fluoresce (glow) under black light.

ringworm diagram.jpg
- Please don’t come to train.  Stay off the mats!
If you even suspect that a skin infection you may have is fungal, PLEASE stay off the mat.  It may be hard to accept this small break in training but ringworm is very contagious and you will not only spread the infection but delay the eradication of your own condition.  Fungal spores spread further than just where you can see the tell-tale ring pattern.  Do NOT just cover up the ringworm lesion you can see and come to train.  You will still spread the fungus.

- Treat the ringworm immediately
The longer you wait to begin treatment the longer it will take to get rid of it.  Several very effective over-the-counter anti-fungal creams are available and even stronger ointments can be obtained with prescription.  

lotrimin-af-ringworm-cream.png
Continue using the anti-fungal cream for at least one week after the actual ringworm pattern is gone.  Even after the infection appears to be no longer visible, the spores can still be dormant.

How to “Ringworm Proof” yourself.

- Shower after EVERY training!
No matter how tired and spent you are after a hard training session, do not ever, under any circumstances, skip a shower!  Use a good quality bodywash (see below) or tea-tree oil based soap.  It is not uncommon for Jiu Jitsu friends to go and eat and be merry after training but at the very least, wash your hands, arms, face and neck with good soap until you can get to a proper full-body shower later.

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- Change/Wash Clothes, Gi and Bedsheets
If you are not already washing your gi, rashguard, kneepads, etc. after every training session, then you are being part of the problem!  But once you actually identify that you have ringworm, also wash all your bedsheets and make sure to not re-wear any clothing form one day to the next.

- Jiu Jitsu Body Wash
A little gem of folk-wisdom I picked up while training in Brazil: Training in Rio gets hot and sweaty quickly.  In the early days of Jiu Jitsu, going “sim kimono” (no gi) meant shedding the gi-top and forgoing the now-ubiquitous rash-guard.  I learned that fighters (especially those training two sessions a day) would shower immediately after coming off the mats using a mentholated dandruff shampoo (like Selsun Blue).

selsun blue.jpg
The post training routine involves using this medicated shampoo as a body and hair wash, then allowing it to dry for a few minutes in the shower, before washing it off.  Though the process may seem unscientific at first, it is good to note that the fungus that causes dandruff (Malassezia globosa) and the ringworm fungus can be considered cousins sharing many of the same characteristics. Try this simple home-remedy bodywash as a preventive measure or to supplement another anti-fungal prescriptive regimen.



December 07
On Choke Holds: The Mata Leao or “Lion Killer” Choke

If Jiu Jitsu can be truly called the game of Human Chess, then the choke is the ultimate checkmate.  On the chessboard, the Mata Leao Choke (or “Lion Killer”) would be, as the name implies, the King (or King Slayer).   As the patriarch of the Gracie Family, Granmestre Helio Gracie once said “For the choke, there are no ‘tough guys’.. .with an arm lock he can be tough and resist the pain.. With the choke he just passes out, goes to sleep.” 

Choke.jpg
The choke takes its name from the tale of Hercules and his battle with the Nemean Lion of the impenetrable skin.  Having discovered that this gigantic lion was impervious to sword or arrow, Hercules grappled the lion and choked it by wrapping the beast’s neck in his mighty arms.  Though some of the contemporary Greek art depicts the stranglehold as something more akin to a modern Guillotine Choke, many artifacts depict a choke from the rear of the colossal lion.

heracles-nemean-lion.jpeg
The choke is often called the “Rear Naked Choke” or RNC as a translation from the Japanese hadaka jime which means “naked choke” (i.e. a choke not requiring the gi or kimono).  It is important to note that what makes this choke effective and relatively safe is that the pressure is applied to the carotid arteries and not to the windpipe.  It is blood flow restriction and not airflow restriction that brings about the incapacitation.

Not unlike the scenario faced by the mythological hero, to be successful at applying this choke requires sound knowledge of both proper positioning of the arms and achievement of positional dominance.  Once this choke is locked in, unconsciousness is inevitable for the recipient. 

Law Enforcement will often use a modified standing version of the Mata Leao or RNC that deemphasizes the role of the secondary hand but can still use the same pressure to induce loss of consciousness by safely constricting blood flow to the brain (not by constricting air flow).  The “Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint” used by law enforcement uses the same principles to reach SAFE incapacitation.
WEB_vascular_restraint_1col.jpg

Every finishing attack (submission) requires, in simplest terms, two key elements:

- Positional Dominance: management of the opponent’s body to allow maximum amount of attack pressure (to pin or control) and deny space for defense.

- Submission: Pain or incapacitation via Leverage and/or Pressure at the Fulcrum/Point.

Positional Dominance
1) Whether done from standing or from the ground, the Back Mount position must be first achieved.  If on the ground, both feet must be turned into hooks that engage and lock to your opponent’s inner thighs to monitor and control his movement as he tries to turn into, away or stand up from the control.

SEAT BELT.jpg
2) Whether from standing or on the ground the SEAT BELT must be achieved.  The arms are locked around the opponent’s shoulder and underarm with your upper chest sealed tight to their upper back in a position called the “Seat Belt” (like a car seat belt that traverses from shoulder to under the arm).  Your chin is locked over your opponents shoulder. 

This differs from the Law Enforcement “Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint” which is often initiated from standing with the head locked behind the shoulder/head and is used to bring suspect down to the ground in a controlled and safe position.

You can choose to maintain the Seat Belt Control position and opt not to choke your opponent or develop another submission from this position (i.e. Sliding Collar Choke, which can also be applied on a jacket or coat).

Sliding Collar Choke.jpg
Note: the lower arm (“Underarm Hand”) should grip the “Over-the-Shoulder Arm” and not vice-versa.  This allows you to still develop the Mata Leao when the opponent rips down your lower arm.

SEAT BELT DEFENSE.jpg
Submission:
The arm positioning is critical in creating an air-tight seal for your opponent’s neck.  From the Seat Belt Grip the “Over-the-Shoulder Arm” wraps around to the opponents far shoulder (not, as is often incorrectly executed, with the hand to your own bicep).  Once your elbow is lined up under your opponents chin and with the centerline of his face, the secondary hand (the “Underarm Hand”) comes behind the opponents head.  At this point the hand that is wrapped around the neck can reach for your bicep or even better your shoulder.

Rear Naked Choke.jpg
The opponent’s head is pushed forward with your rear hand and head while the arm flexes to apply pressure to both SIDES of the neck (at the carotid arteries). 

Unconsciousness is reached for most between 6-15 seconds.  Most people revive safely on without assistance almost as soon as Mata Leao pressure is relaxed or within 30 seconds.

You know this choke is being applied correctly to you if you are not feeling pain at your trachea or Adams Apple and you will know you are executing it correctly when your opponent taps painlessly or goes to sleep in your arms.

November 07
Belts are Graduations in Jiu Jitsu

The long and arduous path to a Jiu Jitsu Black Belt is often compared to the academic track of an advanced university degree.  The level of commitment, dedication and stick-to-it-ness needed are equal to if not greater than someone completing their PhD or pursuing a medical profession.

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But many drop off this vaunted track before reaching their goal, never understanding why they did not progress through each “degree” (academic or Jiu Jitsu rank) and not realizing they sabotaged themselves through their own ignorance.

If you are not progressing through the ranks at a pace that you expect (especially in a modern age of instant-gratification), then you should self-monitor these important aspects of both academic and martial arts degree graduations.

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1) Class Attendance- this does NOT just mean time “enrolled” in the course (like wine aging in the bottle). It means come to class and doing what needs to be done. (example: if one person has attended class 160 times in the last 5 months, you should not expect the same results or “grade” with only 40 classes in the same time period).  In all academic coursework (and public education) attendance requirements are stipulated and required.

2) Knowledge of Standards – there is no mystery as to what you are expected to know and understand. All good teachers and courses provide the standards and expectations from day one.  “Cramming” the information at the last moment has been proven ineffective in all areas of study, so learn your curriculum progressively.

3) Assessment – this means knowing the standards and when/how to apply them. There are different levels of expectations for every grade, but you either know them or need to work on them. A good instructor tells you what areas need help but it’s your job to do the work.

4) Benchmarks – comprehensive assessments at periodic intervals (ie. trainings/seminars). Some courses (ie academies) only offer a high-stakes pass/fail final. Others have mid-terms, tests, quizzes, etc. You may personally prefer one or the other but you don’t get to just “skip” it because you don’t like it and expect to graduate.

5) Tuition does not equal graduation – unless it is what is referred to as a “for-profit university”, don’t expect to magically get your diploma just because your tuition check cleared. Quality schools expect quality work. (ie same for academies).

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Before asking your professor (at university or the dojo) if you are ready for promotion/graduation, evaluate your own performance and progress using these criteria.

October 18
Thousand Mile Journey of Woman Black Belt

On Saturday Oct 11th, 2014 Mestre Royler Gracie conducted another great seminar at Gracie Humaita North Carolina in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina.  Prof. Armando Basulto had over 40 Jiu Jitsu devotees on the mats to learn from the master himself on his annual visit.

Royler Gracie Seminar Group 2014.jpg

Among the promotions that Mestre Royler presided over that day was a very special one.  Christine Basulto, Prof. Armando’s wife and student of over 15yrs, was awarded her Black Belt in front of all present.  This makes her the only Gracie Humaita Female Black Belt in the state of North Carolina and one of the few women Black Belts in the world who were promoted directly by Mestre Royler Gracie.

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Royler Gracie addressed the assembled students to comment on Christine’s long-time commitment through the years and challenges.  Christine had maintained her training and discipline through the birth of twin boys, graduate school degrees, work-related responsibilities and all while administrating the Basulto Academy of Defense full-time.

It is said that the Thousand Mile Journey begins with one step.  Christine began training with Prof. Basulto not long after they met and married 20 years ago.  As a NYC inner-city schoolteacher who had to travel late-night alone through-out the city, she was motivated to learn an effective martial art.  At the original Basulto Academy of Defense in New Jersey, she was the only woman on the mats for many of her formative Jiu Jitsu years. 

Christine Faixa Azul 001.jpg

Christine was a Silver Medalist at the 1999 Royler Gracie Championships and was also a competitive kick boxer, being a member of the 2002 USA Savate Team to fight in Belgium (coached by Prof. Armando).  When the couple moved to North Carolina to raise their newborn twins, she continued to train as often as she could while the new academy was established.

Today at Gracie Humaita North Carolina, Christine has assumed a leadership role, helping to develop women’s participation in the “arte suave” and organizing Women’s Self-Defense Seminars and running specialized “Women’s Training Nights” at the academy.  Now the academy boasts a range of women fighters ranging from yellow belts to purple belts, all taking their first steps on their personal Thousand Mile Journey.

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October 12
Your Guard is your Castle

To those uninitiated in martial arts or those uninformed about real-world combative skills, the seemingly inferior position of a Jiu Jitsu player fighting off his back using his legs to control, entrap, submit or reverse an attacker seems a baffling way to handle an opponent. 

When the Gracie Family created the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) to showcase their art to the world, the general public watched with amazement as Royce Gracie fought, defeated and submitted several larger, stronger martial artists of various disciplines while fighting off of his back using a position called The Guard.

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Master Carlos Gracie, Jr. explained the strategy and tactics of The Guard by using the analogy of a castle’s defensive walls:
Castle boy.jpg
“The Guard is like a fortress of a castle, a construction that gives security to Jiu Jitsu.  He who has a solid wall to defend himself is better prepared for war. …From the top of the wall he can post his offensive arsenal.”

But The Guard is not intended as a place to simply hold and squeeze an opponent.  In fact, letting the pace settle into a stalemate when an aggressive opponent is trying to attack will always leave the defender one step behind. 

“But there is the possibility of lowering the drawbridge. You choose whether to fight with the bridge low or high.  In a war the wisest path is to start the battle with the walls, completely blocking off your enemy.  

"In the closed guard you are fighting with the opponent outside the walls.  If the guy opens your guard, he lowers your bridge.  It’s the threshold position, which obviously demands a new strategy."  

Ramey Guard.jpg

"If he invades – that is, if he passes your guard and gets to the side – the battle starts developing inside your domain with you in a much more exposed position.  It's gonna demand three times as much force to defend, but it doesn’t mean there’s no way out.”

Armando Teaching.jpg
One of the main tenets of Jiu Jitsu is becoming “comfortable in the uncomfortable.”  Developing your Guard game, tactically and strategically, will take you past the level of mere survival and into the realm of victory.

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