Category: Aesopian.com

Aesopian’s 2018 Round Up

It’s that time again where I to gather up all my recent work from around the web and compile it into a blog post! (The last two updates like this are here and here.)

Updates on Aesopian.com are slower than ever, but as I keep saying in these posts, I’m actually busy as ever — just on Inverted Gear’s Blog instead!

My one big original blog post on Aesopian.com for 2018 was the solemn Confronting the Problem of Sexual Harassment and Coercion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Valerie Worthington wrote a follow-up to it you can read here (also on the Inverted Gear blog): On the Problem of Sexual Harassment and Coercion in BJJ: Five Ways to Be Part of the Solution

Here is what else I’ve written since my last check-in:

Progressing Up the Belts

Concepts and Principles of BJJ

Joint Mobility

The rest of my joint mobility articles in this series are available through my Functional Range Conditioning FAQ.

How to Guides

And lastly, a piece that doesn’t fit into these categories is 6 Years at Black Belt, a personal piece about what’s new in my recent years.

Offline, I have created several booklets for my students, including one for a workshop on goal setting, gameplan building, and concept-based learning, and another with our school’s blue belt requirements and a checklist of the knowledge and techniques my beginners curriculum is built around. Those may make it online eventually, but for now you need to come train with me if you want copies!

Thanks as always for reading! Drop me a message if you’ve got any questions I can help you with!

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What Have I Been Up To? Here’s a List

Since last count, I have written over 30 more blog posts for Inverted Gear. We also passed 200 White Belt Wednesday video. Below is a list of everything I’ve written, broken down by theme.

Daniel Bertina interviewed me for a short bio you can read here: Meet the Pandas – Biomechanical Jiu-Jitsu with Nerd Power – Matt ‘Aesopian’ Kirtley. I wrote about my experiences after 5 Years at Black Belt and I’m due to write about my sixth year any time now.

FRC, Stretching, and Mobility

These are a continuation of what I started in Jiu-Jitsu Will Destroy You If You Let It: How I Finally Started Fixing My Broken Body and Functional Range Conditioning and Kinstretch from the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Perspective. In the time since I wrote the original two posts, I have obtained the Functional Range Assessment certification.

Teaching and Learning Methods

Mindset

How To Guides

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If you’ve missed me, check Panda Nation

Updates to Aesopian.com has been glacial slow in recent years, but that’s not to say I haven’t been busy. Since the beginning of 2016, I have written over 20 articles for the Inverted Gear blog, created over 65 (and counting) White Belt Wednesday videos with Hillary and Nelson, and I may or may not have been a crazed Adidas-wearing panda ninja that chased Nelson around his house with a katana. One of my blog posts even resulted in this t-shirt becoming a real thing:

T_JiuJitsu_model_Fundamentals_1024x1024

The purpose of this post is to catalog all that activity in one place.

White Belt Questions, Black Belt Answers:

Solo Drills: Horizontal Movements

My posts to the Inverted Gear Blog:

  1. You Learn Even on the Bad Days
  2. 5 Ways to Take Ownership of Your Progress Today –
  3. How to Fully Develop Your Grappling Gameplan
  4. Building Your Gameplan Around Combo Attacks
  5. The Best Way to Learn from Instructionals
  6. 5 Tips to Keep You on the Long Road to Black Belt and Beyond
  7. Surviving the First Year of BJJ: A Crash Course for White Belts
  8. Advice for Newbie White Belts and Anxious Blue Belts
  9. Getting Through the Blue and Purple Belt Growing Pains
  10. What It Means to be a Brown Belt and How to Make Progress Towards Black
  11. 10 Ways to Improve Your BJJ While Off the Mats
  12. 5 Simple Tips for Fixing Your Wrecked Body
  13. What Drives Success in BJJ
  14. Finding the Right BJJ School for You
  15. How to Teach for Maximum Knowledge Retention
  16. Adventures in Reaping Land: A Review of Reilly Bodycomb’s Rdojo Camp
  17. The Four Corners of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  18. Becoming a BJJ Houdini
  19. The Black Belt Secret to Jiu-Jitsu Excuses
  20. Are you playing to win or just not lose?

More content is always in the works, so follow Inverted Gear to get it while it’s hot.

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Seminar footage added to Mastering the Crucifix

mtc-bonus-seminars

Have you ever heard of a BJJ instructional suddenly gaining 2 hours of bonus content at no extra cost? Now you have.

We’ve added 2 hours of new seminar footage to Mastering the Crucifix. One seminar is gi, the other no-gi. Artechoke customers who already own MTC can access the bonus content here (you must be logged in):

Don’t own it yet? You can buy Mastering the Crucifix or save money by bundling it with Jeff Rockwell’s Sit-Up Escape System. Get 10% using coupon code RELAUNCH.

The digital nature of Artechoke’s cloud instructionals let’s us do cool things like this. I have a few more additions I plan to make to Mastering the Crucifix later this year.

Let’s take a minute to talk about how cool this is. We’re doing things with BJJ publishing that haven’t been done before.

Marshal is a writer who loves books, but he’s also forwarding-thinking and sees that the future of publishing isn’t made from dead trees. Some time I’ll make him talk about his work to implement a digital distribution model for college textbooks. He was working on ways reduce textbook prices and save college students from being ripped off like they are today.

3-D Jiu-Jitsu was Marshal’s proof of concept. He wanted to know if people would “get” what he’s trying to do. Explaining what makes this different than traditional BJJ instructionals has always been our biggest challenge. Is it a book, a DVD, a BJJ subscription site, a digital download?

The truth is that it’s almost all of those things, but no one exactly. It’s a hybrid. Each component is familiar, but one one else has done it quite like this. That sometimes makes it hard to explain. But when we put it into people’s hands and in front of their eyes, they always go “Wow, this is great! Why didn’t anyone else think of this?”

Today I went through all of Mastering the Crucifix and added up the run time for all its videos. If we released those on DVDs, it would be over 3:30 hours long. Most companies would have split that across 4-6 discs, call it “The Crucifix Trap System: The Black Belt’s Secret to Punishing Any Opponent with Crippling Submissions” and pushed for $175 pre-orders . The price needs to be that inflated so they can pay the 50% affiliate fee to guys who hype it on social media and e-mail lists.

If we published it as a paper book, it would be as big as anything Victory Belt put on book shelves, back when they were into martial arts instead of CrossFit.

If it was in the app store, we’d have to split it into six separate $30 apps to get around the file size limits, like BudoVideos does with their DVDs.

The point I’m making is the Mastering the Crucifix is a big product by any traditional standard, and we went to the trouble of combining all of them in a new way, even adding multi-angle looped demonstrations not seen anywhere else.

Now we’re almost doubling the size of an instructional at no extra cost, basically because I thought “Hey, this would be cool to share.”

I hope you think it’s cool too. Tell a friend if you do.

Remember, Artechoke members have access to the private Artechoke Open Mat group Facebook to ask questions and get answers from authors like me. Find the link in the sidebar after logging in.

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Jiu-Jitsu Will Destroy You If You Let It: How I Finally Started Fixing My Broken Body

Anatomy of a Black Belt

Everyone who does BJJ is eventually plagued with injuries. What’s the solution? While I have no magic bullet, if you do the research and put in the work, you can feel and move better. Here is the best advice I’ve found, all in one place.

This is a really long post, and more research has gone into this than anything else on my site, but here’s the 1-minute version if you’re in a hurry:

Quick Advice

  1. Find a physical therapist who understands how to work with athletes. Don’t settle for out-dated methodologies or programs meant for old folks. Go to a therapist who wants to get you back on the mats.
  2. Spend more time moving around and less time sitting. Step away from your desk as often as you can. Go for walks. Set reminders to stretch. Find ways to stand or kneel and take different poses at your desk.
  3. Follow a well-rounded strength and conditioning routine with a focus on improving your health. This could mean doing kettlebells, weightlifting, calisthenics, yoga, or whatever combination makes sense for your body and lifestyle.
  4. Whatever you do, understand how BJJ (and your everyday habits and job) will overwork certain muscles and postures and under-develop others. Be sure you’re balancing those out.
  5. Learn some mobility exercises and prehab tricks for your problem spots. You can go low tech with a $3 lacrosse ball or get mobility gadgets like Rumble Rollers and RAD Roller kits.

In my latest post to the Inverted Gear blog, I said that injuries are likely the main reason people quit BJJ. Even if that not totally accurate, pain will make any other reason to quit easier to listen to. This got people asking “So what is your advice to stay healthy and avoid injury?” That’s what you’ll read below.

This is not an ultimate guide to strength and conditioning for athletic performance in BJJ. We will be talking about many exercise routines and looking at the work of strength coaches, but the focus is restoring health to the joints using basic exercises. I can’t make big promises about resolving pain issues, because pain is a very complicated issue, as I wrote about in The Weird Science Pain and the Brain. I can say this has helped me to resolve many aches and pains and feel better able to withstand the stress of doing BJJ.

The world of strength, fitness, and human performance is vast and sprawling. An expert or guru is around every corner to sell you their secrets. Trying to find “the best” program can send you down many rabbit holes. What are you trying to accomplish? You’ve got strength and conditioning coaches like Joel Jamieson and Martin Rooney. Maybe you want to do gymnastics-based programs with handstands and muscle-ups like GMB and Gymnastic Bodies. You could explore Olympic and powerlifting through Kabuki or Juggernaut. You can get into “movement culture” through MovNat or Ido Portal, who taught us and Conor McGregor all about playing touch butt in the park and dodging pool noodles.

All of those could be good programs, but our goal here is finding the most straight-forward advice for injury rehab/prehab and staying healthy enough to enjoy doing BJJ. Let’s start with what helped me most:

Physical Therapy with a FMS Based Physical Therapist

Back when I was a purple belt, I suffered my worst injury, a lower back injury that still gives me trouble. The exact moment it happened is still clear to me. I was sparring with a bigger partner. I was mounted, but I managed to throw my foot up on the hip like you do for heelhook entries. I pushed him away and he pushed back. I felt a series of snaps in my lower back and felt a flash of white hot pain. I frantically tapped out and laid on the mats in agony for a few minutes.

Being a BJJ bum with no health insurance at the time, I didn’t see a doctor or get treatment. I treated” it with bed rest and taking it easy for a few weeks. But from then on, about every 6 months I would get another flair up and need to quit training for a few weeks.

Years later, when I had the money and health insurance to see doctors, I still had a hard time getting treatment that helped. Clinical doctors couldn’t see why I’d think my hip was causing my back pain. They’d send me to a physical therapist who treated me like a car crash victim and give me “core” exercises meant for fragile old ladies. I remember laying there doing 2 inch leg raises while thinking “You do realize I pick people up on the ends of my feet and toss them around, right?” Simple treatments like that may have their uses, but it did nothing for me.

The big change came when I had the luck of working with a younger physical therapist while my regular one was on vacation. This PT was following modern research and took the attitude of “let’s get you back to training.” She knew what BJJ was and was a competitive athlete herself, having done track and field in college and now Olympic lifting. She put me on a very proactive routine that didn’t treat me as fragile.

She also immediately saw the connection between my hip problems and my back pain. My injury gave me snapping hip syndrome, which is when a tendon catches against the head of the femur and “snaps” (sometimes audibly) during hip flexion and internal/external rotation. While this never quite hurt, it didn’t feel right, and it started the moment I had my major injury. This continued for years until my physical therapist went hands on to massage the psoas-iliacus back to where it’s supposed to be.

She got me on a more active rehab exercise routine using single leg Romanian deadlifts, banded bridges, couch stretch, and various other exercises specific to my problems. Your therapist should come up with a program custom to you.

From X-rays and MRI’s, I now know that I have femoral acetabular impingement, which is to say the head of the femur is larger than it should be, causing it to contact the hip socket too much, especially during hip flexion. This limits my internal hip rotation and causes lower back pain. It only took seeing 4 doctors before I got referred to a hip specialist who could correctly diagnosis this.

Through my PT, I got turned on to the Functional Movement Screen, and through that to Gray Cook, Brett Jones, Mark Cheng, and Tracy and Mark Reifkind, all of whom you should Google and check out. They also all lead me towards kettlebells.

Pavel’s Simple & Sinister Kettlebell Program

Early in 2015, I listened to Tim Ferriss’ interview with Pavel, the famous kettlebell guru. I’d first heard of Pavel back in the early 2000’s, but I disregarded him then because his Soviet marketing shtick didn’t appeal to me. “Comrade, I show you KGB Cold War kettlebell secret!” But Pavel came across as very intelligent and no-nonsense on Ferriss’ podcast, and a lot of what he said about training for health and fitness made sense. That got me to look into his new organization, StrongFirst, and while they still wear cargo pants and overuse “Comrade!”, their branding is less cheesy and they put out a very good information on strength training.

Pavel offers a kettlebell program called Simple & Sinister that basically consists of these five exercises:

  1. Goblet squats
  2. Halos
  3. Knee-squeeze bridges
  4. Kettlebell swings
  5. Turkish get-ups

This is the workout I’ve followed for most of the past year and I have enjoyed good results from it. It is a minimalist workout that doesn’t require any equipment beyond one or two kettlebells and doesn’t take more than 30 minute. It isn’t optimized for any one person or sport, but it’s not trying to be (and you can easily add to it).

Learning to do everything from an e-book wasn’t easy. The two DVDs that have helped me the most were”Kettlebells from the Ground Up” and “Kettlebells from the Center Dynami,” both by Grey Cook and Brett Jones.

Dan John’s Basic Human Movements

Through StrongFirst, FMS, and William Wayland (more on him below), I kept running across strength coach Dan John. He has since become one of my favorite guys in the strength and conditioning world for his friendly, no-nonsense approach. He gets credited with popularizing the goblet squat.

Dan writes and speaks about the five basic human movements. He gives them as:

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Hinge
  4. Squat
  5. Loaded carry

Per a recent lecture Dan gave, that list may have expanded to include static holds and presses. Other coaches add movements like rotation, counter-rotation, lunges, brachiation (swinging arm to arm like a monkey), etc. to that that list too. Whatever list you go by, it gives you a good measure to judge your programming by. Are you doing all of these basic things? If not, you can make a big improvement by simply adding whichever one you’re missing.

The loaded carries in particular have been a great addition. They require zero technical proficiency beyond “pick up something heavy and walk around with it.” Try ending your BJJ training sessions with these if you’re not into doing a full workout.

Dan has many good articles between his website DanJohn.net, as well as T-Nation, and the StrongFirst blog. You should sign up for his weekly newsletter too.

Kelly Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard and Mobility WOD

By now I expect most grapplers to know about CrossFit coach Kelly Starrett, either through his book Becoming a Supple Leopard or his popular Mobility WOD YouTube channel. Odds are good that if you look up a treatment for a sports injury on YouTube, you’ll find Kelly showing how to stretch or smash or roll it out.

One of the worst flair ups of my back pain happened a week before I was scheduled to teach a seminar. While practicing a simple move, my back suddenly went into excruciating spasms that made it hard to even breath. This went on for a few days, and nothing I tried helped. I could hardly even stand up or walk.

While laying in bed feeling sad for myself, I remembered months earlier seeing a friend grinding around on a lacrosse ball. He’s a CrossFit coach and he had mentioned he did that because of Supple Leopard. I went out and picked up a lacrosse ball from Sports Authority. It turned out to be was the best $3 I ever spent. Rolling it against my back did nothing, but I felt immediate relief from rolling the front of my hip joint. The change was dramatic, and I’ve never felt faster relief to a more painful back problem before or since.

Other coaches will argue over certain rules Kelly gives for body alignment (like foot placement in the squat), and he may have accidentally got guys spending too much time foam rolling instead of really working out, but if you need a way to “mobilize” or work on a grissley joint, he has enough mobility exercises to fill Mary Poppin’s bottomless handbag.

To learn more, you can find literally hundreds of videos of Kelly teaching mobility with a Google search. He also has two newer books, Deskbound and Ready to Run, that give health and mobility advice to office workers and runners, respectively.

For more mobility and prehab routines designed specifically for BJJ, check out Order & Progress and download their free e-book. Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11 mobility routine is worth trying out too.

Dr. Stuart McGill’s Core Exercises

“The core” is the most over-used term in fitness and physical therapy. Most people I’ve talked to assume a “strong core” means having six-pack abs. That’s not it. A more complete and accurate definition includes every muscle that helps stabilize your spine, from your neck down to your butt, front and back, left and right, and internally. How to train and strengthen the core is also a something most people are doing wrong. This is where I turn to Dr. Stuart McGill.

McGill literally wrote the textbook on spinal rehab and has worked with top athletes in the Olympics, powerlifting, BJJ and MMA. Most of the other experts listed here refer to McGill’s research when talking about the spine.

If you have a low back problem, McGill’s book Back Mechanic is the best purchase you can make. Having read his two two other big books — Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation and Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance — I can say they are extremely comprehensive, but very dry and dense. Only pick those up if you’re a medical professional or a serious sports trainer.

Per McGill’s research, I now do these four exercises everyday:

  1. Curl up
  2. Side plank
  3. Bird dog
  4. Stir the pot

All of those are shown in the video above, and you can find many more explanations of each on YouTube. The first three are what McGill calls “the non-negotiables” because everyone should do them.

This YouTube playlist has more valuable advice and talks from McGill. You should also read this two part interview on T-Nation (his opinions on CrossFit are entertaining too). You can also listen to him speak on many podcasts.

William Wayland’s Advice for Grapplers

William Wayland introduced me to these two important terms: 1) upper and lower crossed syndromes (explained here), and 2) fuckaboutitis (explained here).

upper-and-lower-crossed-syndrome1

William has written many great posts for the Scramblog, all of which I wish I had followed the advice of sooner:

Steve Maxwell’s Mobility and Corrective Exercises

Steve Maxwell has been a major figure in both the BJJ and fitness worlds for decades. He was Royce’s fitness coach for the first UFC’s, and he was arguably the first guy doing kettlebells in the US. Even Pavel credits Steve with bringing the Turkish get-up and halo to kettlebell culture. These days Steve is probably known best for his mobility workshops, but he’s done every strength and conditioning method under the sun. I got to experience this firsthand when I attended one of his joint mobility seminars, where we spent 4 hours running through a variety of mobility and strength training methodologies. I even got to hold his original hand-welded stainless steel kettlebells, courtesy of their custodian, Jason C. Brown.

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In a blog post about the history of kettlebells, Steve points out that pure kettlebell programs lack two key movements: vertical pulling and horizontal pushing. He also gives very easy fixes for this: pull ups, push ups, and dips.

Steve has many fitness products including DVDs and digital downloads. His older World Martial Arts DVD set Encyclopedia of Joint Mobility is extremely comprehensive, but at 3 hours long, it will be information overload for most. I’d stick with his more recent downloadable videos through his website. I enjoyed Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime: The Corrective & Balancing Workouts and still use much of it. At his seminar, Steve recommended Universal Mobility, which is cheap at only $15.

Perhaps the best advice I’ve got from Steve was that BJJ on its own is going to be so taxing on your mind and body that any strength and conditioning training you do needs to be simple and focus on basics.

Jason C. Brown’s Kettlebell Workouts for BJJ

While venturing into the world of kettlebells, I often turn to Jason C. Brown, a long-time advocate for kettlebells for BJJ. He’s who I’m holding Steve’s kettlebells with in the photo above.

If you want to steal one thing from Jason, my vote is for the half kneeling clean to twisting press from the video above. Then swipe his 1.5 stance for swings and cleans. Your hips will thank you. Go check out his Bamboo Blog too.

Dr. Andreo Spina’s FRC

Most recently, I’ve been getting into the work of Dr. Andreo Spina, the man behind Functional Anatomy Seminars. Spina loves his acronyms and registered trademarks, and his system is build around a host of them: FR, FRC, FAP, TTT, CAR, PAIL, RAIL, IsoMP… Once you wrap your head around the jargon, the joint mobility system he lays out is very comprehensive and effective.

In particular, check out controlled articular rotations (CARs), a method keeping joints healthy and moving well. The best guides to those (that I can find without digging through hundreds of 15 second Instagram clips or going to a $1000 seminar) are Philly BJJ black belt Josh Vogel’s “Mobility in an alley” video paired with these two articles:

You can learn a lot digging through Spina’s YouTube and Instagram too. Try Googling whatever terms he uses to find people who have written reviews of his seminars with more explanations.


There you have it. That’s my list of the people and practices that have helped me the most. To put it all together, here’s what my routine looks like now:

  • Starting every day with light movement, usually Dr. Spina’s CAR’s routine and Steve Maxwell exercises.
  • Performing McGill’s “Big 3 non-negotiable” core exercises everyday (bird dog, side plank and curl up). I now start my BJJ classes with those too.
  • Doing Pavel’s Simple & Sinister kettlebell program, with push-ups and pull-ups added thanks to Steve Maxwell’s advice.
  • My phone is set to remind me to get up and move every hour so I don’t fall into a trance at my computer. I do exercises like squats, push ups, rubber band pull-aparts, or more CAR’s.
  • Spending as much time barefoot as possible, including when I walk my dog, even if that makes me look like the neighborhood weirdo. (Don’t worry, I wash my feet before BJJ.)
  • Rolling around on lacrosse balls and other mobility gizmos to hit my problem spots.

The biggest challenge is just picking a starting point and sticking to it. Start doing something simple and add to it as you go. Anyone I wrote about above will get you going in the right direction.

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Are you making excuses or making progress?

Two new posts written by yours truly are up on the Inverted Gear blog. I’m proud of both and you should check them out:

I’ll be at Reilly Bodycomb’s 3-day Rdojo sambo camp in NJ this weekend along with Nelson and Hillary from Inverted Gear, so you can expect a write-up on that experience in the near future!

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The Weird Science of Pain and the Brain

Over a year ago, I set out to review Kelly Starrett‘s book Becoming a Supple Leopard and its claims to “improve your athletic performance, extend your athletic career, treat stiffness and achy joints, and prevent and rehabilitate injuries.”

This is not that review. (Sorry to disappoint.)

Starrett came to my attention as the CrossFit coach on Youtube with good videos about stretching against resistance bands, smashing your butt with lacrosse balls, and the importance of deep squatting like you’re pooping in the woods. Supple Leopard is Starrett’s attempt to collect up all these tips and tricks into a systematic framework. My opinion on how well he did that will come at a later date.

What has delayed my review so long is the twisting rabbit hole I fell down once I began researching the science (and pseudoscience) of sports performance, physical therapy and especially pain neurology. Every time I think I finally had a handle on the topic, I find another study, another expert, another methodology that makes sense but contradicts the others.

The purpose of this post is not to try to sort out what is right or wrong (as if I could) but to share the most interesting talks and articles on pain science I’ve run across. These will be referenced when the real review comes out, but I’d like to get this out first.

Studying the material below, you’ll learn how our understanding of pain is very different than how it was traditionally taught, especially the neurological aspects of chronic or persistent pain. These forms the basis for the main criticisms I’ve seen of Starrett’s methods, or more accurately, all physical therapy that focuses solely on the body’s mechanical and tissue problems without addressing the neurological, psychological, and even social/cultural aspects of pain.

If you find some of the pain science hard to swallow–like how bad MRI’s are at predicting if a patient reports pain, the effectiveness of “fake” knee surgery, and how the biggest predictor of a back injury causing chronic pain is not severity of tissue damage–I don’t blame you. It is weird. Any time I learn more about the brain–and the brain is the key to understanding pain–the weirder it seems to get.

For a good explanation of how the understanding of pain and its treatment have evolved–and how much of what we were taught as “common knowledge” is wrong–I highly recommend Pain Education by BBoyScience.com.

Here are many of the videos, articles and podcasts about the neurology and psychology of pain that I found most educational:

Body in mind – the role of the brain in chronic pain

The mystery of chronic pain

Pain, Is it all in your mind?

Lorimer Moseley on ABC Classic FM

The Science of Pain podcast by Scientific American

  1. How sports psychology can be used to treat sports injuries
  2. Biopsychosocial Pain : Pain and brain – the biopsychosocial method of chronic injury rehabilitation

Pain really is in the mind, but not in the way you think

A Revolution in the Understanding of Pain and Treatment of Chronic Pain

What should fitness professionals understand about pain and injury?

Overcome Pain

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3

The Science of Pain

Focused symposium: Pain Management

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First Complete Review of Mastering the Crucifix

Mastering the Crucifix launched on Monday, and the first full review has since been posted. It’s by a Sherdog poster you may know as GambleDub. He creates megathreads with dozens of GIFS and videos for specific positions like the Williams Guard. He backed the Indiegogo campaign and helped me with testing the product right before launch. Here is his review:

Where Is It?

First off if you want to purchase the Mastering the Crucifix instructional you can get it here, if you weren’t part of the Indiegogo fundraiser. You can also read the Introductions and browse the chapter and section list if you wish to find out what the Instructional covers.

http://artechokemedia.com/mastering-the-crucifix/

You can also view one of the chapters for free here…

http://artechokemedia.com/mastering-the-crucifix/crucifix-fundamentals/

What Is It?

For those who don’t know Artechoke Media (http://artechokemedia.com/) is a company ran by Author and BJJ purple belt Marshal Carper and BJJ black belt Matt “Aesopian” Kirtley. (http://www.aesopian.com/)

What Artechoke Media have done is put together a highly innovative new method of delivering and presenting grappling instructionals, combining text, animated GIF’s and video as a way to teach and demonstrate techniques. Marshal also released his own project through Artechoke before Mastering the Crucifix which was called 3D Jiu Jitsu, it is available free at http://artechokemedia.com/3dbjj/ and again is a great way to observe the unique format that Artechoke uses.

Who Am I?

While I was aware of what the crucifix was before this instructional, and that it was a position that interested me. I had never really experimented with it, or gone for it at the gym. To me the crucifix was like another language (let’s say French) while I could identify it if I saw it (or heard it) and I knew of a few techniques (or words) there is no way I would consider trying it live in rolling (or conversation) because I knew my technique (or pronunciation) would be sloppy as hell.

If the crucifix was like French then for me the reverse omoplata was like Klingon, I was aware somewhere out there people were doing it but I had no idea what it actually was. In other words while the crucifix was on my BJJ bucket list, outside of watching some competitions and Marcelo instructionals I would consider myself less than a novice, even more so when discussing the reverse omoplata.

Full disclosure I also did some media testing for Artechoke on this instructional. While I am not part of the company, nor was I paid (early access was enough incentive for me!) I feel like I should mention it. Also I’m currently nursing an injury and haven’t been training, so I have yet to try and implement any of the material in this instructional so far. It is also worth mentioning that at the time I was on holiday and Aesopian’s crucifix seminar was released as part of the perk I got when I initially purchased the instructional as part of the Indiegogo fundraiser, so I watched through this twice before starting on the Mastering the Crucifix instructional.

Production Quality

It is quite difficult to offer a comparison between other instructionals on the market because, at least to my knowledge, nothing else like this exists. The text, GIF’s and videos complement each other well. The text is easy to read and conveys all the important information clearly. The language is good enough that non-native English speakers shouldn’t have too much problem understanding it, but no so basic that the ideas of the technique get lost. It’s hard to explain but I think it works well at explaining the broader picture behind the technique and how it works alongside the other techniques. I like the anecdotes and inflections about the techniques that have been added in the text too.

The GIF’s are brilliant, I like how multiple angles are shown, and how Matt and Marshal also show troubleshooting (failing) aspects as well. This makes it a really handy feature as a skim through to show you how to do the technique, while reinforcing the critical aspects of the technique. I could see it being really handy in situations at the gym if I had it on my phone for quickly getting the important points ingrained before drilling/rolling etc. I also like how GIF’s focusing on different positions such as in the side ride section; the last frame has been extended to clearly show the emphasis on the final position.

The videos serve as the in depth how to of the instructional. The camera angles switch well between being zoomed in for explanations and detailed demonstrations, and zoom out nicely to see the overall technique. Matt sounds clear and I didn’t have any problems hearing or understanding what he was saying. The instruction is really good, Matt speaks well and doesn’t end up sounding monotonous causing me to zone out, even on techniques I had already known (I even learned some good tips!) plus the occasional mention of ninja skills with Bruce Lee sounds, traumatic wrestling experiences & nipple tweaking also does well to avoid the instruction fatigue I get with some instructors. What I found really good was how he would explain the purpose behind all of the movements and show what happens if you don’t do them, I think many instructors lack this. I think that will benefit beginners such as myself especially well. Matt’s videos and YouTube channel are also well worth a look at to further examine his teaching style. (https://www.youtube.com/user/Aesopian/videos)

Navigation throughout the instructional is great, I like how in the introduction of the chapters specific subsections have been linked to as they are discussed and the chapters along the side allow for quick and easy referral to specific techniques. Also there is a comment section at the bottom where according to Matt he will answer questions and film new material if neccesary.

In particular the GIF’s were a huge selling point to me. If you have seen some of my posts I often post GIF’s when discussing techniques. And I have seen the value of GIF’s for a long time, many people enjoy mind maps I have always preferred to GIF up the instructional videos I have and organise them into folders instead, so I can put them on my phone and take them to the gym to work on.

The format Matt and Marshal have gone for, has worked far better than I expected. You have the instructional videos, but chaptered like a book so there is no guessing times on DVD players or VLC etc. However unlike a book there are GIF’s and videos rather than comic book strips of techniques which are difficult to extract timing and subtle movements from. I really hope Artechoke have set a trend for the future of BJJ instructionals. I really believe they have set a new benchmark! Add that to the fact its online and I can access it anywhere from my phone, this is next level stuff!

Overall the production quality is top notch, from the camera zoom, to the angles of demonstration, audio quality, frame rate and size of the GIF’s and how they have been paused at the end to emphasize position when applicable.

Content

The initial welcome page gives some background to what Artechoke is about and Shouts out to the sponsors of the project.

The introduction details Matt’s story of how he came to train Jiu Jitsu.

The first chapter, chapter one relates to setting up the crucifix. Either from stand up off single leg attacks, or from turtle positions such as side ride and sprawl positions. The spin behind off the different guard passes was a particular highlight for me. I generally have a Darce heavy game when attacking the turtle, and I managed to pick up a bunch of really great tips from the side ride chapter. “Catching the crucifix in transition” is the last section and threads together many of the techniques previously demonstrated, showing how they can be chained together, I thought this was a nice way to demonstrate how the various techniques from the first chapter can relate to one another.

Chapter two (which you can read for free) involves crucifix fundamentals. Namely rolling from the kneeling crucifix to the traditional crucifix, positional control and maintenance, recountering escapes and submissions from both crucifix positions. Overall this was my favorite chapter. The techniques flow nicely together and you begin to see how the different techniques flow and complement each other, rather than just saying “hey look at this cool move you can do, ok here’s another cool move” Aesopian’s take on the crucifix comes across as a system rather than a couple of nice tricks you could add to your game. There is really no wasted add on techniques that I wouldn’t choose to do, every technique has its place and reason, Matt and Marshal have done a great job conveying this.

Chapter three, is the chapter focusing on the reverse omoplata. To be completely honest I was looking the least forward to this section, I didn’t really see the reverse omoplata as something I would do. However I have to say this instructional has sold me! I can understand how the reverse omoplata functions well as a new attack series that complements the crucifix perfectly, especially when the opponent hugs your leg with their trapped arm pointed towards their knees, or off the straight armbar. I don’t know whether or not, not knowing about the reverse omoplata made me pay more attention in regards to attempting to understand it. But I feel like up to this point in the instructional this is one of the positions I walked away with retaining the most info, and having that a-ha moment of it clicking together, again Matt & Marshal have done a great job of conveying why you should learn the reverse omoplata and how it is an integral part of Aesopian’s crucifix system. With that being said as the reverse omoplata has a reputation of being dangerous, I still walked away feeling uneasy about the safety aspect. In one of the sections Matt discusses it and how you can be controlled. But I’m not sure I would feel confident in applying the rolling variations without significant drilling with feedback. However there is a comment section which Matt will answer so I’m sure he would be happy to answer any questions regarding using the reverse omoplata safely

Chapter four details advanced crucifix set ups. Set ups from passing the guard, from bottom guard and an advanced turtle set ups are covered. This was the section I was really looking forward to, I expected some serious technique porn and it definitely delivered! I have to say though, to make an analogy of it I expected “supermodel” techniques, that is stuff that looks really good but would never work for me. But something strange happened, a couple of sections into this chapter. I began to see how the crucifix would be possible, as I began to spot the concepts and principles that make the crucifix possible to work even before Aesopian had really explained the technique in depth. His explanations had slowly ninja’d their way into my brain, and I think my mind set – especially when attacking the turtle is going to change significantly because of it. The techniques shown from the top of the guard reinforced how much I had slept on and underestimated the reverse omoplata. The crucifix from the sitting guard was my particular favorite from this section I can’t wait to try this one! The stuff from bottom guard was also really eye opening, and I would have never imagined being able to get crucifix’s from these positions.

Overall

As I said earlier I am a complete novice in regards to the crucifix and the reverse omoplata. The only other dedicated crucifix instructional I have seen was the section on Marcelo’s last dvd release, and while this may be blasphemy to the BJJ gods, I liked this one better! For the $35 I spent on the initial Indiegogo fundraiser I am more than happy, I would have paid more for the crucifix and reverse omoplata alone, there is a ton of information with no filler. Coupled with the seminar and the ebook version, I feel this was great value. As I said before the production values are very good, the unique format and the technical instruction all come together very well, also knowing Aesopian and Marshal both post on Sherdog and the instructional has a comment section, being able to ask questions is great. The chapters I enjoyed the most were 2-2 and 2-5 (I am a stickler for anything to do with positional control) I expect they will soon become burned into memory after the amount of times I refer back to them. With that being said I think the best part is that I don’t feel it’s a specific technique or section that really shines, it’s the overall product and how it flows together and each chapter compliments the other that provides a deeper conceptual understanding of the positions.

I feel like I have finished this instructional with a much deeper understanding of both the reverse omoplata and the crucifix. I really can’t wait to go and start drilling these techniques and try them during sparring. I know for sure I will be on the lookout from future releases from Artechoke. If you have any doubts check the free chapter (it has my personal favorite sections in it) and see for yourself! I can’t wait to drill, spar and add this to my game, I will keep you updated as to how it’s working out for me, hopefully I’m crucifying people like the Romans sometime in the not too distant future!

Buy Mastering the Crucifix now.

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