Everyday, Inexpensive Habits That Can Kick Your Health Into High Gear

Sometimes, staying healthy can feel like the toughest fight of your life. However, improving your health shouldn’t have come with high stakes or high costs. You don’t need drastic and costly measures to make the most of your health, fitness, and wellness goals. In fact, all you really need are some simple, budget-friendly lifestyle changes, such as the ones discussed below, that can help you achieve those goals and maintain your health and happiness long-term.


Get More Active Without Spending an Arm and a Leg


One of the most important daily steps you can take for your physical and mental health is to maintain a physical fitness routine. You can stick to your exercise goals without paying for a gym membership by creating your own custom workout area at home. Look for space you’re not using, and then shop for fitness equipment and gadgets at stores like Best Buy. Before you hit the store or website, be sure to search for a Best Buy promo code that will help you stay even further under your projected home gym budget.


What are some of the best items to add to your home fitness space? Look for helpful gear, such as smart scales, health and fitness trackers, and any exercise equipment that will motivate you to stay in shape. To make the most of your budget and your exercise habits, you should also pick up a few pieces of basic fitness gear to round out your new home gym. Throw down an exercise mat for stretching and yoga, pick up a jump rope for an intense cardio workout, and break out a foam roller to ease tight muscles post-workout.


Put Your Gym Savings Towards a Stress Relieving Jiu-Jitsu Class   


Building a stronger body will enhance your physical health, but workouts alone are not enough to manage your well-being. You also need to find inexpensive ways to reduce chronic stress in your life in order to avoid negative consequences to your brain and body. Some of the ways that negative stress impacts your health include cognitive impairments, digestive upset, and disturbances in sleep. Being physically active will help curb these effects but you can also try finding hobbies that relieve emotional and physical tension, such as jiu-jitsu. This highly active form of martial arts will not only tone your body and give you essential self-defense skills: it can also help improve your mental health by relieving stress and boosting self-confidence.


To get those benefits locally and change your health and life for the better, consider enrolling in one of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes at Lake Effect Martial Arts. We offer training for all age groups and physical abilities at prices your budget will love.


Build Healthy Eating Habits That Focus on Whole Body Wellness


Another habit you need to clean up for major health benefits is your diet. Instead of approaching your diet with weight loss as a top priority, however, try to think in terms of improving strength and health. This will encourage you to make much better choices when changing your daily diet, such as swapping processed carbs for whole grains, rather than cutting out carbs completely. By following this wellness approach, you will also learn some helpful hacks for sticking to your clean diet, such as prepping healthy meals ahead of time. Meal prep is a favorite diet tool for health and fitness experts and can help cut down on excess grocery costs too. To get the best results for your health, use meal prep for the majority of your snacks and meals, but also allow yourself a cheat meal here and there. As long as you avoid binge eating or cheating on your diet too often, allowing yourself to indulge in these cheat meals can actually improve weight loss efforts and help healthy eating habits stick for the long term.


Taking health improvements one day at a time is the best method to turn those changes into lifelong habits. Plus, by taking your health and fitness goals slowly, you will have more time to research and plan to boost your savings while you boost your health.

Stay the Course

People get involved in BJJ for a number of different reasons. Some want self defense, some MMA, some love the sport and some just want to be a little more badass. A common goal most of these jiujiteiro will share is the much revered black belt. Arguably the most prestigious black belt of all martial arts, a BJJ black belt is certainly not a guarantee for any student. The average black belt in BJJ has put in at least something like ten years of consistent training, although for many it takes even longer than that. In fact, each and every rank might signify two years of training or more for an individual. When these milestones are so far apart, a lot of practitioners find it difficult to stay motivated to reach that goal. A lot of people in BJJ joke that as soon as someone gets a blue belt, they will quit, and unfortunately it is often the case. So how can keep ourselves motivated and excited all the way through our careers?

It’s About the Journey


Although black belt should ultimately be a goal for everyone, too much focus on outcomes is going to end up being discouraging. If your mind is on that black belt, your progress will feel insignificant and slower than you can imagine. Know that your rank is symbolic of the journey that you’ve been on and focus instead on the journey itself. Set daily, weekly, or monthly goals, rather than always thinking about the roughly bi-annual belt promotion. Think about a sweep that you want to try to incorporate into every day of rolling, or improving the amount of time it takes for that big upper belt to pass your spider guard. It can help to have little bite sized accomplishments that are within your reach. Not every class will go your way, not every week or month either, but know that having a rough class doesn’t mean you got worse, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t growing as a martial artist. Removing yourself from outcomes will all-in-all make the journey a more smooth one for you.


Breaks are OK


I personally have taken significant time off. I lose full weeks here and there, and that doesn’t set me back. Most significantly, I went off to college not long after getting my blue belt. I had no job and no way to pay for my training in my new city. I took a year off of Jiu-Jitsu because of this. I did however put a lot of time into strength training. When I made it back to the mats I was much bigger, much stronger, and extremely rusty and fell back into some of my spazzy white belt habits. I won’t pretend like it wasn’t a setback in some regards. Not unrelated, I watched some guys who started around the same time as me or even a little after me pass me in rank. That was hard for me, but I was the only one responsible for my own progress. I had to learn that and internalize it. I recognized some of the differences between our games and learned what I could from them. I broke out of the slump I felt from my time off and learned how to apply my newfound strength to push my BJJ well past any point it had previously been. I got myself right back on track and built a stronger love of the art in the process, and here I sit, a month away from my very own black belt test. A little time away from BJJ might help mentally reset you and bring your motivation back up. Don’t take a lack of motivation as a death-sentence to your BJJ or even your MMA career.


Avoid Comparisons to Others


Competition and comparison can help push us along but there are reasonable limits for these things. In organized competition BJJ is broken up by age, weight, sex and rank. An adult only IBJJF tournament could have 600+ different divisions when you do the math. There are 9 weight classes, 7 age divisions and 5 belt ranks. There are only a narrow range of people who might be appropriate to gauge yourself against in the first place, but fact of the matter is that really isn’t a perfectly level playing field to make these comparisons on in any case. Understand that everyone’s journey is their own, and everyone’s motivations are a little different. Maybe you’re the worst practitioner in your school, maybe that means your have the toughest school in town, maybe someone newer will sign up next week. These things ultimately have no bearing on your ability to improve, however. You are in charge of that, and your coaches and teammates will be more than happy to help you if you have a real desire to improve.


The road is long, there’s no two ways about it. It will not be all sunshine and rainbows. You are more than likely to invest real blood, sweat, and tears into a black belt if you stay the course. If you didn’t would it wouldn’t hold the meaning that it does. Every day on the mats will push you toward it even if by just some minute fraction of a percent. But that’s ok.  Even if you stop, even if you have to take the occasional step backward, even if the guy next to you goes twice as fast, you will get there if you keep moving forward and you stay the course.



Everyone at some point is a “competitive” person. Who (in sports, in life) thoroughly enjoys not connecting successes and highlighting repeated failures?
The stages of grief (and loss) are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. What in the world does that have to do with Jiu-Jitsu?!
The stages of loss are applied often in difficult sports.  Oddly enough, you see practitioners from beginners all the way through to experienced, upper belt competitors cycle through the stages throughout their martial arts journey. The stages of loss surface and become quite hard to hide. So what can we do?


It’s always interesting to see how coaching plays into the Jiu-Jitsu artist’s psyche. Some coaches will just butter the artist up, time and time again. Some practitioners feel the need to be buttered up, and will gravitate immensely towards positive words not entirely aware of what stage of loss they are stuck in, or not entirely aware that constant praise is harmful and builds complacency. Other coaches can creatively have the student work towards targeted praise that is more coded and nuanced. Nowadays lots of practitioners whether they want to accept it or not, cycle through a variety of coaches and often end up landing in a phase of a “most opportunistic fit” as opposed to practicality and longevity. The less your coach knows truly about you, the less they’ll be able to help you. Often, the more focused the coach is on themselves, the less they’ll be able to help you. Usually speaking, the more a coach is focused on themselves, the more you’ll focus in on their style and well, styles are nice and all but we need to factor in ability, age, and body type while factoring in the practicality of said style. This is why the whole “the best competitors don’t always make good teachers” motto actually has some merit. A great way of identifying a good fit for you is identifying your goals and seeing if they align with your coach’s daily practices…For example: your goal may be to become more disciplined. Is your coach a BJJ robot with little discipline anywhere else in the world?  Another example: your goal may be to be a well-rounded purple belt one day…… Is your coach well rounded? Can they only do stand up? Can they only pull guard? Are their credentials diverse? Coaches have an obligation to provide a diverse resume of the art, not just hone in on what they like or feel is the coolest trick of the year.

One of my goals during the earlier part of my Jiu-jitsu journey was to control my anger. I knew quickly that a hot-headed coach was a terrible fit for me, and although I didn’t have the chance to know the coach on a deeply personal level, their internet presence gave me more than enough information that I needed to know on why that goal and that person couldn’t work together. (Food for thought….Have I accomplished this goal or is it still a work in progress?)


Your job as a student is to be a trial and error warrior. To show little emotion and control pride as often as possible when facing adversity (when winning, obviously, but, when losing, to be specific). To act as if you have a perfect handle on your psychology is even more prideful than to act as if you are unaffected by winning and losing, so it’s perfectly alright to lose sight every now and again. At the top of the list of martial arts principles is self-improvement. (New students- If you prioritize self-improvement you can surpass many practitioners who don’t). If you aren’t improving yourself you could be focused too heavily on the abstract. Jiu Jitsu should be more than “something to do”. It could be more than something you currently enjoy. It should definitely give you the confidence to not have to fight if a situation arises and there is a choice in the matter. It could help you transcend your younger, immature self.  A lot of this ability on transcending your younger self will be based on who you associate with. Group dynamics are one of the most influential pieces of the puzzle. You can learn a lot by where you’re going by who you’re surrounded by. Are they normalizing unacceptable behavior? Are you beginning to normalize unacceptable behaviors? Are you becoming you? Are you becoming them? Where do you want to go, and what do you want to do with this journey when all is said and done? Has the thought crossed your mind before? Are you rushing this decision? Is this decision yours and yours alone? Are you just, “waiting your turn”? Be aware that even people you usually disagree with can somehow influence you if you are watching them ever closely (social media).

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but plenty of higher belts in Jiu-jitsu have not appropriately addressed the “self” component well enough to have them be appropriate role models, especially for anything outside of “the mats”.

For coaches and students…..Handle adversity. Don’t shy away from a good challenge. If you’ve played sports you’ve learned: Don’t diminish the ability of others. Your weaknesses are always ever present. It’s your job to conquer them, not the team’s job to rise to your ever-changing expectations.

Diving Deeper on the Martial Artist vs Fighter Philosophy

“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”

-Miyamoto Musashi

I felt this quote by legendary samurai and martial artist Musashi fit perfectly at the center of the topic I am going to write about. It is a topic that can lead to a lot of branching paths and may not have a very simple answer. The topic is the difference between a martial artist and a fighter. Is there even one? A recent conversation lead me to thinking on this and trying to examine my own thoughts around the subject.

I believe there is a difference between the two, however there is some mutuality. Not every fighter is a martial artist, but I think every martial artist has some degree of “fighter” in them. There are admirable qualities in both, and many martial artists have found a healthy relationship with fighting, being a “fighter” and the things that can surround that.

Let me tell you a short story about a situation I have encountered more than a handful of times as a martial arts instructor. A student and/or their parent would come to me after class and they would want to know how to handle being bullied in school. The standard protocol would be said with all the enthusiasm of a store clerk, often received very lukewarm because the kid and parents have gone through that checklist. Tell the teachers; tell the principal; tell the bus driver; tell the parents of the offending children.

And this is where the irony comes forward, the contradiction. I must confess I am no great sensei. I am not a Funkoshi, Ueshiba, Kano. My fighting skills are mediocre at best. What I DO feel I have is some very real experience dealing with an opponent most neglect to address: reality. I relay to the student and parent that as unfortunate as it is, and I don’t say that lightly, but sometimes we have to fight. Never look for it. Run from it in fact. Exhaust every single option before you do it. But sometimes it may be the best answer, sadly.

Which brings to light another quote from Musashi:

Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things. “

We must ask ourselves often what the consequences are of both action AND inaction. My real world experience lacked this when I was younger. I saw only the pacifism and it lead me to take many awful beatings and humiliating situations over the course of my developmental years. I still have the physical and mental scars from this. I worked through that checklist I go through first and what happened was exactly what happens to a lot of these kids still: the abuse continued and often escalated.

What I also found was that a very well timed and placed punch stopped instantly what teachers, administrators and police could not stop in 5 years. This is my experience, and it is an experience that I am sad to say I have seen too often repeated around me.

As a martial arts instructor it is extremely hard to look in the eyes of youth, or even adults and tell them honestly that “if you fight, you lose.” and then turn around and say that there may come a situation where you have no other way forward but to fight.

So how does this factor in to the original question? Maybe that the martial artist should do every single thing to avoid conflict. They should hone their skills and hopefully grow to feel empowered but also understand the responsibility that comes with their power. They perhaps should grow toward working to keep their own ego in check, and mitigate their own toxic behaviors. When we accept that the only opponent we really need to fight is ourselves, it becomes less and less appealing to prove to others around you.

Martial artists will know how to fight when they need to, and things like competition may be very valuable in honing their skills of both physical and mental variety. Competition, tournaments and the like can teach us some very humbling lessons that we may not learn otherwise. They should strive for and hopefully find glory in the failures even more so than the successes. Yes, winning gold medals and being dominant in something can feel extremely good and provide a person with confidence. However, that type of glory can be as seductive as narcotics and lead people to “chase the dragon.”

We as humans are limited at the very least by time. We may be the best fighter, best boxer, best jiu-jitsu competitor, now but there is somebody coming up who will be greater than we are. Maybe their skill is better, their will harder, or maybe they are just younger and have that slightly quicker step than our aging selves. Does this imply we should not do anything competitive in nature the older we get, or just because we are guaranteed to eventually get beat? Hardly. There are still good reasons to engage in these exercises WITH A HEALTHY MENTALITY AROUND THEM.

In jiu-jitsu (and every martial art) we can find metaphors for life, and rarely if ever will I be able to use this pun again: the guard changes. Watch a few BJJ matches or training sessions and you will see how often that is proven on the microcosmic level between two people.

The person addicted to the glory of winning, the big stage that may come with winning, they will often have a difficult time as their twilight begins to remove them from their glory days. They often go on to damage themselves and sometimes others. Their talent will be unmistakable, and surely what they did to achieve such levels commands respect, but have they asked themselves what the cost is? What they have sacrificed, or are willing to sacrifice for it?

Maybe the old virtues of the Bushido should be given some merit, and rather than be a fighter become a martial artist that accepts the change of the guard and understand it is not a threat to them. Maybe they should seek to aid the next wave of students to be stronger, better, and more capable.

A gold medal or trophy will collect dust on a wall or mantle, but when a student you gave something powerful to comes back years later, and they tell you how it permanently altered their life for the better, the meaning of Musashi’s words become more clear.

Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”

It is hard to conceive a greater way of thinking deeply of the world than by helping to lead it to somewhere with a little less darkness, and a few more beams of light.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - Karate - Marital Arts

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Martial Arts

Written by Lake Effect Martial Arts student and lifelong Martial Artist Don LeBlanc

Interview with Brown Belt Dr. Gregory ” Wild-man” Wilding

We are fortunate to have a very eclectic student body at Lake Effect Martial Arts. I (Professor Michael) have had the privilege of knowing Dr. Greg since he began BJJ and feel his story is one that needs to be shared. While we get tied up in the mat hiearchy that often clouds our focus and understanding of others, what makes Dr. Greg remarkable in my book is how he has black belts in many other areas of life: fatherhood, academics, career and jokes for starters.


How Long have you been training BJJ? (when did you start)

I’ve been training for about 7 and a half years.


What is your favorite thing about Jiu Jitsu?

There are a couple things. First, the technical aspects of the art. With proper jiu jitsu technique one can control and submit an opponent who is much faster and stronger.  Second, jiu jitsu brings people from all walks of life together to focus on a common goal. At jiu jitsu I get to meet and hang out with people I don’t normally get to meet during other aspects of my life.


What is your least favorite thing about Jiu Jitsu?

Injury but as I have become more experienced I get hurt a lot less.  When I first started jiu jitsu I would always exert force against force when rolling which increases your chances of injury.  By flowing more and using technique, not only do I avoid injury but I’m also much more successful during sparring.


You have quite a lot of outside education. Tell us about your degrees. Were they local?

I have a Masters and PhD in Statistics from the University of Rochester. I came to Buffalo to take a job at the University at Buffalo after I finished my doctoral studies.


Ellaborate a bit more on the benefits of discipline in your life. How has it made your life better? (Think about the talk you gave me before)

Jiu jitsu brings order from chaos.  Not only do you learn to manage the aggression of your opponent, but you also learn to manage your own emotions. This in turn makes managing other aspects of your life easier. Because of jiu jitsu, I am a better dad, husband, son, brother, and a better person overall.

Top three favorite bands? 

I’m old school grunge so Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. I know I’m old now as I no longer listen to new music on the radio.


You once were in a band…Tell us a little more about that. Do you have a picture?

Here’s a pic.


It was mostly during my time in graduate school that I was in the band.  We were based in Rochester although we played in Buffalo a few times. The Rochester music scene was largely dominated by cover bands but we didn’t want to sell out (which is how we saw it at the time) so we wrote and performed all original music. We used to play in front of pretty big crowds (300+) but we also had gigs where the audience consisted of our girlfriends and we were paid with free beer. Writing music was something I really enjoyed and it also provided me with a way of switching up my thinking when my PhD thesis work was not going well. Being in a band served a similar role as jiu jitsu serves for me now in that it is a creative outlet outside of my academic life at the university.



How many children do you have? Whats the most tiring moment you can recall since becoming a father.

I have two kids aged 8 and 12.  Most tiring moment? Cleaning up vomit when they had stomach bugs at 2AM ranks up there.


Whats your favorite part about training at Lake Effect Martial Arts?

At LEMA the facilities are excellent. I feel I am learning from top notch instructors and as a result my jiu jitsu game has greatly improved. Also at LEMA I have excellent, very supportive training partners.


The laundry bag that you use for your gis while coming in and out of class….Is that something you thought of or did your wife make you do it?

It is an idea I borrowed from a guy at my old gym, Matt Bordonaro. He was extra gross and sweaty like I am after training. Rather than putting my sweaty gi in a gym bag, I rather just put it in a laundry bag and when I get home everything can go in the washer.  A few years from now everyone will be doing this and I’ll be seen as ahead of my time.


Might you be the only person in LEMA history to never accidentally leave something behind at the academy?

I left my mouth guard behind last month. When I came in the next time I found it but wasn’t 100% sure it was mine from looking at it. I had to take a chance and see if it fit.  Luckily it did.

Any last words?

Thanks to everyone at LEMA for their support

Positionals with Purpose

Positionals with Purpose

One major reason I am drawn to BJJ over a multitude of other martial arts is realism. I
am able to train on a regular basis with just about 100% intensity. I get real responses and real
feedback to my inputs. It teaches us what works, what needs refinement, and what is downright
not worth doing. Training live is a big piece of what makes BJJ the powerhouse that it is. I have
seen techniques from other styles that you just can’t train with, because they would cause too
much damage applied full force. If I can’t train the technique fully and with realistic resistance, I
can’t count on it for a real situation. Rolling is crucial to developing your game. I think many tend
to lose focus in their rolls and miss out on some of the technical development they could be
gaining. Even worse, many let positional sparring lose focus and become just a roll that starts
from a certain position.

An idea popularized by Malcolm Gladwell is that 10,000 hours of practice are required
for mastery. It’s often missed that the rule is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. It’s not just
enough to be there, doing a task, you need to be there, doing a task in a way that is structured
and focused on improvement. That’s the beauty of positionals, more parameters make for a
more focused approach. Rolling and positionals should be done in a manner that raises
questions and seeks answers. “Why did I get swept from half? How do I avoid this armlock? Oh!
If I grip lower on the pants he can’t lift his leg so well.” Granted, some questions and answers
we won’t completely build out verbally. We will simply ask and answer through grooving patterns
and responses subconsciously. Both the conscious and subconscious formation of problems
and solutions are what push our game forward. Letting our positionals be a battle and letting
what happens happen ignores all the conscious learning we could be doing. We lose at least
half of the progress we could be making. Next time you train positionals think about what exactly
you are doing, try to create more structure.

Slow your positionals down, and lighten up. Chances are your partner is going to meet
you where you’re at intensity wise. This means strength and speed might become more heavily
emphasized. It’s easy to fall into this habit. Try instead to focus on technique, fluidity and timing.
If a technique falls short due to less muscle being applied, it probably isn’t the best technique for
that particular situation. Your partner’s positions and actions are the locks and your techniques
are the keys. A technique may fit in a few situations, but we should not try to force it in any
situation. It just won’t work. When it fails, we don’t push harder, we need to move on to trying
the next technique before our partner presents a new situation. Cycle through your
encyclopedia of techniques until you hit the one that fits, build that association between the
situation presented and your answer to it. If you’re developing those cause and effect
relationships, you’re doing positionals right.

You might get a lot out of positionals, even without winning. Don’t make winning a huge
priority. I’m guessing you’ve heard that line before. Learning that something is a mistake is still
learning. Pay attention to your mistakes, so that you don’t have to repeat them. Not to mention
we are in a room full of teammates. They need to learn just as much as you do. It’s a give and
take. We need to feel successes and failures. Discussing the outcomes of a round of
positionals, what went well, what didn’t, and why can help us to a higher level of understanding
the position.

Article written by Gray Hendershot


Techniques, Improvement, Jiu Jitsu

Train to retain!


Even by the time you’re a blue belt in BJJ, you’ve likely trained for 1-2 years, and you’ve likely attend a couple hundred classes. So, do you remember all the techniques you’ve been shown? Do you remember half of them? In my first several years of training, I’d have to answer both questions with a big fat NO. Fact of the matter is you are going to be shown a massive volume of different techniques, and the techniques can be very specific and very situational. Let’s learn them, and let’s learn them for good. Our short term memories are unfortunately not the best record keepers. I don’t want to spend all this time on the mats or spend $100 and a Saturday on a seminar, only to lose a large percentage of the techniques I’ve been shown, so let’s explore a few strategies we can use on and off the mats to hugely improve the retention of the techniques shown in class. If we work with the same technique consistently enough for a little while, we can tuck it away in within our very stable long-term memory.  Know that every individual has different blends of different learning styles and what works for one person, may not work for the next.



Don’t expect to see a technique demonstrated three times, practice five reps and walk away with the technique thoroughly internalized and ready to use. You will need to spend time and energy on the movements and concepts to gain mastery over them. Some coaches will build review into their lesson plan over the span of a few classes, and some will not. We can’t count on others to orchestrate the review. It is critical to take accountability of our own learning in BJJ.

Review can be done in a few ways. Repetition on the mat is of course going to be the strongest means to the mastery of a technique, and it is absolutely essential to do with those moves from last week that are teetering on the edge of getting flushed out with the short-term memory and immortalized in long-term retention. Take 10 minutes before or after class and get some additional reps with a partner. During open mat or rolling time, take the time to review a technique and give it a shot at becoming one of your go-to moves.


I already forgot!


If you’re anything like me, you may find that even 24 hours after being shown a new technique it is already fading fast. I’ve got a lot going on between work, school, family and training, and relying on my short term memory is just not going to work. So I write anything and everything down that I hope to remember for more than 15 minutes. Appointments, groceries, tasks at work, and everything in between. Writing is critical to my very survival on this planet. I have dedicated notebooks for just about every aspect of my life, and BJJ is no exception. You won’t typically see me writing notes matside, but the first thing I do after class is type up an outline of the day’s class. I work from general to specific and spend about 10-15 minutes summarizing the class and its components, assuming that it was new material and not something I’ve written extensively on before. I have a word document on my computer for my daily training log and it makes a massive impact on my training. So my secret is not giving myself an excuse to forget techniques. The combination of seeing the move, hearing an explanation and then going over it in my head in as much detail as possible is a huge help in retention for me, not to mention, it leaves me with directions for how to go back and review the technique.

Many practitioners prefer to film the instruction on their phone right then and there. This is of course a great method (with the instructor’s permission), but skips some of the mental reps you could get in writing your own summary. Videos give you the technique right from the horse’s mouth and give you the least chance of missing details or steps, but videos are not going to do you any good if you never watch them again. Make sure to spend some time watching the tapes! Even if you pull up the footage right there on the mats when you’re ready to drill, you’re reaping the benefits of having a little foresight during class.

However you choose to do it, have some record of the techniques you see. If you want to retain these techniques you need to drill them into your long-term memory. Reps on the mat are the most critical piece, and these reps likely will need to be performed over the course of several days or even weeks. We can continue to refine techniques once we’ve committed them to memory, but we can be certain that won’t happen when the technique slips our mind before our next chance to train. Record keeping in written, typed, or video form is the key to bridging that gap. Looking over you notes, outlines and videos for even just a couple minutes daily will help keep the concepts fresh in your head.



Written by: Gray Hendershot, Jiu Jitsu Brown Belt, Biology student and all around bad-a**

Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Fitness Routine

Exercise damages your body – but don’t worry, this is a good thing! The physical benefits of exercise exist because the body over-repairs this damage, preparing you for bigger challenges in the future. However, in some people, the damage accumulates more quickly than the body can deal with, which is often due to overtraining or poor habits outside of the gym. Here are five ways you can make sure you’re getting the most out of your fitness routine.

Create a Balanced Routine


Too often, fitness enthusiasts stick to the same workouts every week. If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll probably be running on most training days, but for general health, you need more variety. You need five main types of exercise in your routine:


  1. Aerobic exercise: anything that gets you breathing heavily counts as aerobic exercise. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

  2. Strength training: weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, or resistance band exercises. Do this twice a week, ideally working different muscle groups each time.

  3. Flexibility exercises: regular stretching 2-3 times a week can help prevent muscle and joint problems in later years.

  4. Balance exercises: these can be done every day and will reduce your risk of injuries due to falls.

  5. Relaxation exercises: don’t forget to take some downtime!

It can also be good to switch up where you work out in order to make sure you’re including some variety in your regimen. Even if you’re a member of a fitness club, set up a small space to work out at home, such as in a garage, extra bedroom, or the basement. You don’t need to fill it with expensive equipment, either. One idea is to put a few dumbbells and resistance tools in your home gym, and make it your go-to spot for your strength-training days. If working out at home isn’t your thing, take your cardio session outdoors a couple of times a week by walking or jogging around your neighborhood or at the park. As a bonus, the fresh air and sunshine will give your mental health a boost.


Use Active Recovery


Don’t train so hard that you have to peel yourself off the floor after every session. Some of your weekly routine should consist of low-intensity exercises that are designed to get the blood flowing and the joints moving, but that won’t overwork your body. This is known as active recovery. Light swimming, yoga, and tai chi are great options, but you can also perform your usual routine, just at a lower intensity. Beyond exercise, you can also get a massage or use self-massage tools, like massage balls or foam rollers. This can help ease the tension in muscles that have gotten a little sore and tight after exercise.


Sleep Tight


Generally speaking, exercise will improve your sleep quality. However, the opposite is also true. Quality sleep improves exercise recovery, so you need to improve your sleep habits too. Start with your bed, and get good quality pillows and a decent mattress. The right mattress will have your preferred firmness and keep your spine aligned, which allows your body to relax and keeps you from waking up with aches and pains. Then, look at your room. Use white noise if you live in a noisy area, keep the room cool, and use blackout curtains to remove all light. If you can’t block out the light completely, an eye mask is the next best thing. After that, improve your habits. Avoid caffeine after 2:00 p.m., avoid vigorous exercise before bed, and try winding down around one hour before bedtime – no TV, work, or playing on your smartphone during that time.


Eat Well


It’s common knowledge that fueling your body with the right foods is important to your overall health. A balanced diet of protein, fruits, and vegetables can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid long-term health issues like diabetes and heart disease. What many people don’t know is that what — and how much — you eat can impact the effectiveness of your workouts. Mistakes like overeating and under-hydrating can prevent you from achieving your fitness goals.


The right supplements are also part of a good nutrition plan. While you shouldn’t rely on them to meet your basic nutritional needs, supplements like probiotics can improve your physical and mental health by keeping your gut health in check. The key is to get most of what you need from whole foods, and supplement where it will make the biggest impact.


In an effort to curb their hunger, some people may take appetite suppressants. While these can help you lose weight, you’ll want to thoroughly research your options because some ingredients in suppressants may not mix well with your current diet or medications you’re taking.


Do Relaxation Exercises


As well as poor sleep, another culprit that can impair your workout quality is stress. Getting regular exercise and improving your sleep habits will reduce your stress greatly, but you should also follow a regular relaxation routine to help keep your mind calm. Group classes like yoga and tai chi are great, but you can also practice meditation at home. Mindfulness meditation is a simple technique to learn, albeit difficult to master. All you need is a chair or a comfortable cushion to sit on. It’s a good idea to set aside a calming space in your home that you can use for meditation – using the same place helps establish the habit and helps get your mind in the right gear.




There’s a lot to do here, but you you can save time by using activities that cover multiple bases. For example, jiu jitsu classes cover aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance training all in one session. Yoga covers flexibility, balance, and relaxation, and is a great active recovery method. Meditation is a great relaxation exercise, and if done before bed, can improve your sleep. Overall, don’t think of these four pursuits separately. They build on each other and all lead toward the same goal of improved health and well-being, so start working on your program today!

Thanks to Guest Blogger Shelia Olson for writing this article check her out at

Becoming a champion of your own

There are many different directions one may choose in their martial arts journey towards being a champion.

Some may prefer the course of self-realization while others may be driven by the desire of a title, accolade or accumulation of medals. There are many avenues along the journey that one may choose and the beautiful part about it is that each journey is going to be different. The challenging part about it is ensuring that throughout the way, someone truly benefits from the arts.

Maybe that journey is short for some: a new student who sets the goal of simply obtaining their blue belt so that if ever the case, they feel confident enough to defend themselves. Perhaps your journey is to transcend the younger version of you.  Maybe your journey is incredibly unique: you want to one day open up your own academy, support those who have throughout numerous years supported you and you hold yourself, and only yourself, to an extremely rigorous set of standards (that at times you can get rather bogged down with).  The variables are endless but again, this is what makes each individual journey special.

Something that can deter personal progression or affect a team oriented feel is the order of martial arts meaning the organizational structure and even further along that, the hierarchy. Hierarchy in martial arts, in society, is the elephant in the room. It bothers people tremendously and understandably so. One persons struggles (upward) is another persons cross to bear. Why is that?

Perhaps its that most people throughout their lives have experienced a misuse of power. Its entirely normal to be precautious of power and concerned with fairness. What becomes abnormal is excessive concern about fairness.

Now, when I look down at my waist as a black belt I don’t think, ” Oh yes, I’ve done it!  I now can have people eating out of the palm of my hand!” as this never really crosses my mind.  I think of how communal the belt is yet how the journey was challenging. Wearing this belt is humbling and at times, uncomfortable. It makes me sometimes want to wear some no gi attire so I blend in a little better. I consider the obligation I have to grow the art each time I tie the belt around my waist. I also consider my role as the teacher and standards I may set for each individual student’s journey in hopes that I understand them well enough to optimize their growth.

The question I ask myself daily is whether this journey is making me a better person or is it making me worse? Along the way, most of all, I want truth and a strengthening of character.

I’m trying to comfortably say that at this point martial arts has made me better. It has strengthened my relationships with those who matter most. It gave me courage to do things I never could have imagined as a child. It taught me most importantly that when things get tough, not to walk away. It allows me patience to see things through (to quote the ever philosophical Diaz bros, theres different types of black belts). My hope is to become a black belt at life, but I think that quest is truly unobtainable without some serious sacrifices.

Courage is a funny thing. Some people measure courage with specific examples of someone elses life: He fought that guy behind the school, stood his ground, and was a lion. She heard that cage door slam, and at that point she knew she was no longer a wimp.  He spent 17 hours in a tattoo parlor getting two birds and scroll on his lower back.  As you mature, you hopefully learn that courage is most evident in those who have nothing to do with the youthful quests (rites of passage) we all at some point wanted to pursue.  It is often (along with wisdom) most present in the elderly who have accepted, after years of work, the things they can’t change, which in itself is a form of courage. Courage when we’re young is standing strong against adversity. Courage when we’re older is much deeper. Courage is doing what’s hard. Courage is listening to your conscience and doing what you don’t want to do, but you do it anyway. Courage can even be understanding where other people are coming from and supporting them despite it not serving your best interests. Courage is a daily struggle for us all.

If you’re a Buffalonian, I’m sure you have seen the quote, “The greatest things in life are on the other side of fear.” That is not an easy mantra to embrace. (I have to fight many times daily to win this internal struggle.)

The fight is within you; not directly at others. Surprisingly when you truly take on this fight, openly and honestly, you’d be pleasantly surprised to see how supportive others may be. You’ll be rewarded too in some bizarre, cosmic sense.  I hope you all get to experience that feeling often.  (*By no means am I saying I have mastered this daily challenge to apply courage all the time throughout every aspect of life.) Everyone expresses courage differently but everyone has it and is entirely capable than a heck of a lot more than they think.


“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ”- CS Lewis

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The next time you tie your (and its not really just yours remember. Cue Rocky 4 where Rocky wins when he fights for the people and Drago loses when he fights for himself) belt around your waist, with meaning, ask yourself what you hoped to get out of this practice, this journey. Ask yourself if its helping you and if not, see what you can do in adjusting how it can again. Arrive early, take a breath and allow yourself to let your thoughts wander. Do not lose sight of the aim, which ultimately isn’t a photo, material possession or fleeting place in the hierarchy. Embrace the guardrails that are set up in your martial arts journey, or in your career or in your life, but do not lose sight of your destinations.

-Michael Katilus

PS this is a great quote and can work its way into the theme of the article

“‘Happiness’ is a pointless goal. Don’t compare yourself with other people, compare yourself with who you were yesterday. No one gets away with anything, ever, so take responsibility for your own life. You conjure your own world, not only metaphorically but also literally and neurologically. These lessons are what the great stories and myths have been telling us since civilization began.”- Jordan B. Peterson



For more check out Ephesians 6:12 for more on who we fight



Smiling faces of kids and coaches standing in a circle

A beginner sees a “roll” differently

“Good Things Take Time; What Comes Easy Goes Away Easily”


So you stopped in to see a class and saw a bunch of people “rolling”. What is a roll? What exactly did you see?

The langugage of Jiu Jitsu takes passion and practice.


Its certainly easy to fall out of love with Jiu Jitsu for a variety of reasons: the schedule never perfectly fits your busy schedule, the bumps, bruises and injuries along the way lead you and others to think you’re crazy, its not entirely cheap and well, to see noteworthy progress is difficult at times.

Two veteran practitioners of the art in a “roll” exchange moves, positions and essentially, a language, removing the verbal component most often associated with the word language, and replacing it through a defensive art form that resembles a sophsiticated body language.


A good roll is a cathartic experience, producing a series of receptors in the brain that can become rather addictive in its sensation. Roll well and it feels as if all the major neurotransmitters in the brain related to movement are thanking you, and providing clarity of the moment that a fast life often struggles to identify. The Wolf in Pulp Fiction once famously said ” I think fast, I talk fast, and I need you two guys to act fast if you want to get out of this”.  Coincidentally this famous quote is sampled at the beginning of a well known Jiu Jitsu podcast. So if you’re a beginner, this is what you may be seeing (fast exchanges), (not fully understanding its intricacies), and it may seem weird, or too intense, at times.

Talking to veterans of the art…This degree of intensity (within rolling) varies greatly. The ridiculous notion of “if you go hard” you belong and if you don’t, you don’t, is cultish. It has no place in the art and its incredibly wide array of offerings. Consider each person’s purpose for starting the art and how many have changed that purpose along the way. Each one of us without seeing it clearly loves the autonomy our different individual journeys provide.


The varying degrees of rolling and its importance is better measured by this very simple exercise…..The next time you line up in class….Instead of peaking at everyone elses belt, rank and striping…..Only focus on yours. Each belt, each student, is on a different journey. Your journey is scripted by you and your Professor (all varying degrees). Worrying about someone elses rank is a waste of energy. What does rolling intensely teach us? When NOT to waste energy is a start.

In martial arts, whenever you can, practice humility. For when you look at the world you see way less of it then you imagine you see. Curiosity can always help you fall back in love with something you may be beginning to feel out of place with. Curiosity within jiu jitsu can be positional studies, re-building an area you’ve developed a deficency in, strengthening an area you want to master (studying) or examining a fellow training partners strength. All of these informational choices are also alternatives to rolling. Treating Jiu Jitsu as if its the killing fields is a fleeting approach that will blow up in your face when your body no longer can handle the vigorousness of your efforts.

What makes Jiu Jitsu so unique is the physical chess parallel. We can always improve. Theres no one specific way of going about it.

Image result for jiu jitsu chess