“So this is how a cat juggling a ball of yarn must feel,” I thought. I looked up at the ceiling, my back on the mats, and used my hands and feet to juggle a giant ball. Jeff Glover was teaching us his stability ball drills. This moment would have an enormous effect on my Jiu Jitsu journey, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
There are stages of the Jiu Jitsu journey that everyone has to pass through. One of these stages is the balance between improving and having fun. A reminder to play and have fun in Jiu Jitsu came at the perfect time.
For the first few years, BJJ kept me busy learning new things daily. Constant improvement was inherently fun. Success was easy to measure. I sucked a little less than I did the day before and now my buddy isn’t going to have as easy of a time choking the daylights out of me. There were no expectations of performance when I was a novice.
Am I Still Having Fun?
Eventually, as I approached blue belt, I started to feel pressure and a responsibility to improve. I focused more on my performance and winning and less on adding to my game and learning. It was way more fun finally starting to tap out some of my training partners than being cannon fodder ever had been.
Fear of backsliding, or having someone else outpace me turned the “Jiu Jitsu arms race” into more of a chore or task. The glee of shiny new things had finally worn off. The “honeymoon period” was over. Even though I couldn’t see it at the time, I was stuck in a training rut that was limiting my growth.
I was in danger of quitting at this point in my journey and didn’t even know it. Could the “pressure to win phase” of Jiu Jitsu, along with injuries account for the majority of blue belts who quit?
The way I performed on the mats dictated my mood. I was in a rut because I was only focusing on the task of getting better Brazilian Jiu Jitsu results. I judged myself on who I submitted and who submitted me and how many rounds I rolled.
Jeff Glover changed my outlook on Jiu Jitsu, and I’ll get to that later, but first.
My Jeff Glover Experience
I’ve only trained with Jeff Glover one weekend of my life, and it was in 2011. The gi seminar was actually the first time I EVER wore a gi after years of training exclusively no gi. His teaching style was enthusiastic but not as detail-focused as many other instructors.
The first session was at an informal pre-seminar where he shared his “Stability Ball Drill Routine For BJJ”. I had a blast at this session. His presence and personality oozed fun and adventure.
The trailer for his Deep Half DVD where he shows fake move after fake move is a prime example of his personality.
Warning: Watching this trailer will NOT make your Jiu Jitsu any better, but will entertain you.
The no-gi seminar had a mix of flashy techniques. None of the moves seemed to connect at all. There wasn’t a checklist he had prepared of what techniques to show. It felt like he used his intuition in the moment to decide what techniques to show (much like the Nick Diaz BJJ Seminar I attended many years later).
The gi seminar was fun as well, but when all was said and done, I didn’t actually retain anything, which is rare for me. We covered exciting moves, like rolling bow and arrow chokes, that didn’t plug right into my novice gi game.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
I am so appreciative for what Jeff Glover did for the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In an age where many athletes chased wins to build legacies and avoided risk, he was an exciting daredevil.
Everyone knows that when “The Pipe Layer” competes, there will be action. It may be unorthodox, and goofy action, but you won’t be watching a stalling grip battle. Glover is an entertainer in a world of competitors.
His whole game pulls you away from a traditional Jiu Jitsu match where you are comfortable into his unpredictable world of scrambles. Here, in the chaos, he rules. If he is successful in luring you into his territory he changes gears quickly. Now he is in predator mode, ready to relentlessly finish.
This style of Jiu Jitsu is a two-edged sword. When it works, opponents feel overwhelmed by the snares and traps. Before the prey realizes it, the match is over.
When this free-form scrambling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fails, everything can come crashing down. Glover diverts you from fundamentally sound Jiu Jitsu into new territory by breaking the “rules of thumb” most abide by. These principles are rules for a reason.
He relies on his resilience and ability to escape to bail him out of bad spots to create scrambles. Sometimes, all of the elusiveness in the world isn’t enough, to get back out of a bad spot.
How Jeff Glover Made My Jiu Jitsu Fun
Glover doesn’t know who I am or what lessons he taught me. They may as well have been accidental. These are internalized lessons that I picked up by proximity.
With Childlike Wonder
Going through the stability ball movements somehow reminded me of being a kid again. Visceral memories of how to play resurfaced… Like growing up and thinking of ways to entertain myself with nothing but a pile of dirt. (“I could climb on it, and jump off of it, and dig, and make a fort, and…”)
At that time in my life I had been working “for the man” putting in over 60 hours a week for a few years. I think I was starting to “grow up” and become some type of unimaginative business machine.
My natural personality mode is somewhat controlled and measured but my alter ego on the mat needed to be more free-flowing. Training Jiu Jitsu was supposed to be my outlet and source of release. Instead, I had turned BJJ into just another cog in the self-improvement machine. I realized that Jiu Jitsu is the funnest form of play I’ve ever experienced and that I better enjoy it. My entire outlook had changed.
Its A Trap
Getting demolished by Jeff Glover was so eye-opening. He was the first high-caliber black belt I remember rolling with.
Everything I did rolling with Glover felt easy and INSTANTLY wrong. No matter how opportune and right the choice was in the moment, his counter was absolute and effortless.
Some grapplers play a game based on stifling. They battle for inches, progressing through grips and positions to dominate their opponent and never move backward. This can be a grinding crushing way to lose and very effective. Jeff’s style was the exact opposite of this; wide open.
He welcomed and invited movement. Where others would focus on never going backward an inch, Glover would give me a mile. The opportunities seemed so available. I knew they were a trap, but couldn’t just lie there doing nothing. I felt compelled to at least attempt to call his bluff.
The instant I seized ANY opportunity, I ran into his response. Each response showed me the answer that would completely shut my technique down. These weren’t muscled, forceful counters, but slick movement instead.
My best techniques fizzled like soggy fireworks and never got off the ground.”
It was magical because he countered everything I had purely with technical movement, nearly dancing on me. This is what Jiu Jitsu is supposed to feel like!
He was creating art and I may as well have been fighting a villain in my nightmare.”
After feeling how nullifying the correctly executed counter-movement is, I have tried to implement this precision into my game. I try not to settle for “good enough.” I chase techniques that will completely unravel my opponent’s attempts.
While rolling, I set out bait and see what I can catch in my traps. Sometimes it isn’t even really a trap, but my opponent gets that “hot stove” paranoia and is hesitant to even find out.
When it works, everything feels amazing. However, if I fall into a counter-trap unaware, I find myself questioning my entire approach. What a way to go though!
Some people have fake confidence and fearlessness. They are like the dog, barking and chasing after the car. The ignorance protects the canine from the realization he has no desire to ever catch the vehicle.
“The Pipe Layer’s” confidence felt nothing like this. Instead of bravado, it felt like the fearlessness of someone who has put themselves in all the bad positions hundreds of times already. He seemed eager to find a bad position he hadn’t seen yet. Then he would be able to prepare an escape or scramble from there as well to add to his repertoire.
Like a forged sword, Glover’s game was hardened by being smashed repeatedly and of his own volition.”
Garry Tonon, one of my other favorite grapplers to watch, also embraces this chaotically entertaining style. He often gives his opponent opportunities at dominant positions and submissions just for the chance to scramble to a better spot himself.
Garry said that his coach, Tom deBlass, hates his style and that it drives him nuts, in an interview with the Open Mat Radio Podcast. I bet!
Run Into The Fire
I completely changed the focus of my training after feeling Glover’s style. Before, I would press my advantage and go where I felt confident; avoid my opponent’s strongest assets.
Now, every session became an opportunity to run to where the flames were hottest to build resilience against my weaknesses. If I go right into the leg locker’s game, and the guard player’s game, and the passer’s game every time we roll, my resistance will sky-rocket. I will lose often on my way to becoming inoculated!
After feeling and working against the best leg locker in the academy’s attacks it becomes so much easier to deal with lower level leg attacks. Eventually, I understand his specialized game, what choices he makes and why, and can shut it down. Now this pillar, this crutch, my partner’s game was based on, exposes the rest of his underdeveloped areas.
In a very “Highlander”-esque way, I capture the powers of everyone I roll with. I don’t
mind being submitted, and smashed as long as I am getting better.
Be Like Marcelo Garcia
After my paradigm shift, I noticed this is precisely what Marcelo does in his rolls too.
- When he rolls with Eddie Bravo, he let him go to his full guard and half guard, so he could work against the best parts of Eddie’s game (video link).
- Marcelo let Ben Askren work from his wrestling positions even starting in a double leg (video link).
- He played bottom butterfly and half guard with Demian Maia and went into his guard (video link). (BJJ Scout recently featured videos of Maia’s exceptional ability of passing as a guideline for well-executed technique!)
- Cobrinha got a chance to work standing passing and open guards (video link).
- Marcelo played in Ryan Hall’s inverted guard (video link).
Fun And Flashy Moves Make Me Happy
Jiu Jitsu is an expression of who I am. I can pick any moves to focus on, spend my time on and try to implement. Why not put in time on moves that make me happy?
I decided a long time ago to be a little more like Jeff Glover.
It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. I am going to be like Jeff Glover and spend 10,000 hours to master goofing off after Jiu Jitsu. I’m probably over halfway there now!”
If a move makes me giggle when I am successful with it, it stays in the playbook. Sometimes, I feel like I am just throwing garbage and hoping something sticks. Other times I feel like a ninja.
When I am picking techniques to teach, I always show one flashy highlight real move mixed in with the practical, high percentage techniques. If I can get the right details to the right person, that globetrotter move may just make someone’s day!
- Techniques are how we express ourselves on the mat.
- Find moves you love and execute THOSE techniques.
- Jiu Jitsu is supposed to be fun
- If its ONLY work, why train?
- Consciously put yourself in bad positions in training so you are ready for anything.
- Jeff Glover is a showman and entertainer and his videos are great to show people when you want to convince them that Jiu Jitsu is FUN.