two weeks ago i started some jiu jitsu classes. this area isn't much for combat sports. there are a few MMA-type gyms here and there, but the culture and population is such that these places are small and unstable. the owner of the only BJJ gym in the area recently died of an aneurysm (i'm told his facebook profile was full of such touching eulogies as "he sure was an asshole, but his heart was in the right place"), and so a local traditional martial arts master (a fifth degree black belt in an obscure branch of kuk sool won) is attempting to use this unfortunate death to his strategic monetary advantage.

the instructor is a white belt in brazillian jiu jitsu, and he seems to be carrying over some of his instruction techniques from the TMA classes, such as requiring students to respond to his directives and statements with "sir!" it's a bit awkward for me, but part of my inspiration for joining the BJJ "program" (it's more like a club, right now) was to challenge myself physically and mentally; to see how my behavior, mind, and body, how i, can change by putting myself into uncomfortable situations.

there may be 6-8 people attending any given class. typically there are 1-2 women over the age of 50, 1 girl around the age of 16, 1 guy around the age of 45, maybe a couple of teenage boys, and me, 33 (34 at the end of this month). the class demographics aren't ideal for my own advancement. occasionally (maybe 1-2 times per week) a purple belt shows up with his college-aged son, but he sits quietly through drills and doesn't offer much input, while the instructor loudly and constantly proclaims his deference to the purple belt in all expressions of technique. it does not instill confidence in the learning process.

some cursory research showed me that basic jiu jitsu tuition runs around $80-$90/m for unlimited access to what is typically an MMA/BJJ-focused gym, which often includes lockers, showers, and 6 days of classes and "open mats" (where members of the gym can come in to spar freely with one another), so i was very surprised when the lady who manages this school, a TMA-focused school without even a water fountain, informed me that tuition would be $95/m for myself, plus $25/m for my son. a couple days later i informed her that my son would continue to attend, but that the class in its current state isn't worth $95, because the instructor is a white belt, there aren't comparable services to other schools, etc.

she countered with "yeah, but in this area?", which, rather than inspiring me to see it her way, instead showed me that the school was really trying to gouge me for as much as possible. i responded that i have other options, without elaborating on what those options are. there is a school less than an hour's drive away, and i have access to things like gracie academy (a web service that provides videos, discussion, etc. for learning BJJ), which, combined with a sparring/drilling partner, can be an effective approach to learning BJJ.

the next day she offered $95 for both my son and me, which i accepted. that's essentially $50 apiece, which seems like a fair price for what i consider to be an opportunity to spar with people of different body types and to be put into uncomfortable social situations.

it's important, when dealing with martial arts schools (when dealing with anybody, really), to maintain awareness and skepticism. the guys who run these schools are often hucksters, and sometimes even complete frauds. this particular guy is knowledgeable and capable with the TMA he has mastered, but, as with many people who have mastered something (high-skilled quake players come to mind), he seems to believe that his mastery translates into other martial arts. certainly his awareness will be more refined than most lay people, and he will have learned many lessons that a BJJ student will learn as he masters his particular art, but he does not have the requisite experience to demand the respect due to a seasoned instructor, and definitely does not deserve a tuition that exceeds many facilities lead by veterans of decades of BJJ work.

so in terms of my BJJ journey, that's where i am with attending a facility. there aren't any convenient alternatives, but i've managed to get an adequate deal for price. the instructor has an egotistical chip on his shoulder due to being a master in one art, but will hopefully settle down as he sees that, even as a knowledgeable white belt, he is lacking years of experience and practice to justify arrogance.

i've also got access to the gracie combatives video series, which so far seems like a great resource for learning techniques and how to drill them. my strategy right now is to watch the gracie combatives videos, drill them with my oldest son (he's still a lot smaller than me, so it's not ideal, but it's better than nothing), and then take what i've drilled to class and practice on other bodies there.

the class instruction feels much too varied and disparate. each day, 4 days per week, we are working on different techniques, but with no review the next day. i guess this may be some confirmation of my belief that the instructor isn't quite experienced enough for jiu jitsu instruction, because his hectic pace through the techniques displays his insensitivity to his students' progression. many of the people attending the classes struggle to keep up with the most basic movements, and still we plow through them, night after night. my guess is that most of the people attending will quit before 6 months (maybe even 3) due to the high demand required to keep up with others.

by working the gracie combatives fundamentals, i'm attempting to render myself capable at defensive positioning and escapes, rather than learning submissions, etc. one year i was in the blessed position to be able to quit my job and have no financial hardship whatsoever, but without my job i didn't have much direction or responsibility, and so i chose to dedicate myself to improving at quake live as much as possible. i was a 1400 elo dueler when i started, and ended my 2-3 month stint at somewhere between 1800-1900 elo. there are many reasons for this improvement, a big one being spending 1-4 hours per day practicing (often against many nightmare bots at high timescales in order to improve my timing, aim, reactions, angles, etc.), and another being my semi-structured focus on development. when i started this effort, my focus against higher elo players was simple:

stay alive

as i became better and better at staying alive, i began to focus on timing discipline, showing up for items, and the restraint necessary to refrain from grabbing an item just because i was there and it was time to do so. once my timing improved (though it was in no way adequate, and nowhere near good) i let myself open up a bit with spam. i became more familiar with the maps i was playing due to the amount of time i was spending in them, and i became more comfortable with the rhythm of duel and the quake live netcode, so that spamming grenades and rail became a habit that often resulted in a lot of free damage that was very frustrating for my opponents.

i believe this same path of development can be applied to jiu jitsu. i've read that the tendencies for white belts is to be spastic, and i can see how that's true. viewed from the perspective of people new to quake, it can be imagined as the new guy who doesn't know how to strafe jump just bouncing around without gaining speed, or maybe the guy who learned how to strafe jump but rushes mindlessly, without concern for items or keeping his visibility low to prevent giving away free damage.

by drilling the fundamentals offered by gracie combatives and then trying to work them in to sparring sessions with people close to my size i can learn to relax and focus on the task of staying alive in BJJ. against the other white belts it's pretty simple to stay alive, since they're mostly kids and older women, but against the purple belt, the instructor, and the purple belt's son, it's a lot more work, and i've found myself giving up too much ground through sloppiness and inattentiveness.

i'll see how it goes in class tonight.

one other thing i'll mention is that BJJ is a really great workout, especially for the "core" muscles and hips. some of the warm-ups we do really kicked my ass for the first couple of days, especially considering i have a pretty sedentary office job. i do a little bit of lifting and jogging, and i'm a very healthy weight for my height, but i didn't realize just how weak my hips were before BJJ sparring. it's also great cardio to be constantly fighting against somebody who is trying to control your movements.

so far i see that BJJ is a decent analog for quake. the "metagame" is constantly evolving, as the old becomes new, the new becomes old, and so on in perpetuity. i'm not concerned with what the BJJ guys call the "chess" aspect of it, though. my main concern right now is to work the fundamentals in order to build a habit of staying alive, so that, in the future, i can work myself into positions from where i can begin to exercise effective offense.

i highly recommend looking into BJJ for anybody who is interested in physical fitness and quake. there's a lot of similarity to love, and the same concept of mastery to become enamored with.