3 Exercises for Hip Mobility and Health

Training in BJJ week in, week out can take a toll on the body in general, but the hips often get the worst of it since they’re at the center of almost every technique we practice. There’s a good reason for that, but we still need to take extra steps to make sure they stay mobile and healthy:

Keep Rollin’… 

Primarily your hip flexibility is determined by how lose a group of muscles known as the IT Band are. The IT Band is notoriously tight, and that can make your hip movements restricted. After each work out or training session, you can use a foam roller (fairly cheap on sites such as amazon) to stretch out and loosen the IT Band. Simply lie on the foam roller, and move down the roller on the outer side of your leg from knee to hip. You should feel the strain and to begin with the first few rolling sessions will be painful. After time the rolling will get easier, and your hips will begin to loosen and you’ll start to feel and notice the benefits.

Just Keep Swinging

Leg swings are also a great way to promote hip flexibility as well as improving control, accuracy and range of your kicking. The exercise is also just as simple and easy to perform as it sounds. Simply swing your legs. Swing to begin with but as you start to feel comfortable instead of swinging, begin to lift, to gain more control over the movement. Swings can be made both to the front and the side. It’s the movement towards the sides that really makes the difference in your hip flexors, so concentrate on this for optimum results.

The Amazing Spiderman

Lastly we’ve got spider-mans. No not that kind of spider-man. This exercise not only helps mobility in the hips, but also works the abs, so is a welcome addition to the normal strength and conditioning circuit. To do the spider-man, take a press up position. From here move your knee to your elbow, mimicking the movement of spider-man climbing a wall. You should move the knee wide of the elbow to make the most out of this exercise. When you feel more confident, try moving your knee to the opposite elbow to work in a twist to the movement. This will work the inside of the hip muscle group as well as the lower two abs, making it a truly awesome conditioning move. Not only will your hip flexibility be improved, but you’ll have a head start if you’re ever bitten by a radioactive spider.

Conditioning of the hips should be done on a regular basis, if you don’t stretch regularly or get slack on the circuits; you’ll find that the hip seizes up incredibly quickly. Work this exercises twice a week and you’ll find you all round game improves dramatically.

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Pain or Numbness in the Shoulders and Arms? You Should Read This…

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – What It Is, and What to Do about It

Prof. Tyson LaRone, BJJ Black Belt and Registered Massage Therapist

For most of you, this will be the first you’ve heard of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. However, if you’re an athlete then there is a very good chance that this happy little guy has either affected you or one of your training partners at some point. When I was working full time as an RMT, so many of my clients presented symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome that testing for it became part of my standard new-client assessment, especially with athletes and anybody with a desk job.
What is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Basically it refers to anything that causes pain, numbness and immobility in the chest, shoulders, back and arms by putting pressure on the brachial plexus – a cluster of nerves between the clavicle and first rib. In most cases it’s caused by a muscular imbalance. When the shoulders are constantly rolled forward, the upper back and rear delts can become stretched out and weak while the pecs and front delts become tight and swollen. Poor posture and unbalanced exercise routines are the two most common culprits.

If you experience pain or numbness in your chest, shoulders or arms – especially if the pain seems to start up close to the neck and refer down the arm, you are likely suffering from some form of TOS. The good news is that in the majority of cases, TOS is pretty simple to treat. Not necessarily easy, but simple. The main priority is to deal with the muscular imbalance.

What Do I Do?

If time and money allow, regular trips to some form of manual therapist will be your first and best move. A good RMT or ART will be able to palpate and identify which muscles are presenting the worst of the symptoms, then address them directly. Find one you trust, book 4-6 appointments and make them a priority. Get in the habit of staying properly hydrated, especially on days when you’re going to have treatments as this will have a significant effect on the inflammation and the effectiveness of the work.

When it comes to exercises, there’re plenty that could be helpful but the undisputed heavyweight champion of rear delt and upper back prehab/rehab is the band pull-apart. I would go so far as to say that no matter who you are, what kind of training you do or what kind of life you lead in general, it would be better if you did band pull-aparts regularly. You don’t need a very strong band, and bands can be bought cheaply just about anywhere. Here’s how you do them:


1. Hold a band in front of you with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
2. Keeping your forearms parallel with one another, move your elbows apart to stretch the band.
3. Pause when the band touches your chest, and then bring your hands back out in front until your elbows are just barely not locked out.

That’s about it. This isn’t something you’re going to do with heavy resistance. It works best when you choose a band tension that you can handle for 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions. If you look up this exercise on the internet, you’ll find many examples of people continuing to stretch the band until their arms are straight out to the sides. This involves the triceps more than I would prefer, at least for our purposes but either one will do the job. Seriously though, do them. Even if you’re perfectly balanced and healthy they make a great addition to any routine.

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History of BJJ – The Helio Lineage – Part 3

We continue with the 3rd part of the history of BJJ, the Helio lineage and how they incorporated Brazilian Jiu-jitsu into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events.

Relson-Gracie-Fuji-Gi-frontRelson Gracie

Relson is the second oldest son of Helio Gracie and a retired professional Brazilian Jiu-jitsu fighter. He along with his father and uncle, Carlos Gracie are known to be the ones who evolved the Kodokan Judo into what we today call Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, sometimes also known as ‘Gracie’ Jiu-jitsu.

He was only two years old when he started training and was competing by the time he turned ten. Relson was 18 when he earned his black belt and was the undefeated champion of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu National Championship for the next 22 years.

He is known to emphasize on techniques that are effective for street fights as he realized that people need to know how to defend themselves in situations outside of the dojo. As there are no rules when fighting on the streets, Relson evolved BJJ in his own way to teach survival when faced with unfavorable odds. Knowing how to defend in such situations is one of the essentials of Relson’s BJJ training.

When the Ultimate Fighting Championship organized its first ever event, Relson was the one who helped train Royce Gracie for the fights. The UFC rules at that time allowed Relson to train his younger brother in a way that would give him the advantage in such type of fighting. Royce was able to win three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championships. With the new Unified Rules of MMA however, Relson’s techniques were no longer effective as the focus was changed towards grappling.

Relson has been awarded the rank of Grandmaster (Red Belt), the highest possible belt awarded to any BJJ practitioner. He has also trained the members of the local law enforcement agencies across North America.

ufc 1The Gracies, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and the UFC

The Gracie family had earned much fame due to the famous Open Challenge matches that pinned their BJJ art against other martial artists. This encouraged them to showcase their talents and their family’s art on a larger stage, the world.

It was in 1993 when the world first got to witness the Gracie family art in the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship. It was a way for them to portray the effectiveness of their family’s art. This is why they chose the gentle submissive looking Royce Gracie to be the first BJJ fighter to represent the family on world stage of the UFC. Even though Royce’s opponent outweighed him by a massive 80 pounds, he was able to defeat him, winning the first ever UFC.

This marked the success of BJJ and got many martial artists around the world to learn its ways. The techniques of how a smaller and weaker person can defeat a larger stronger opponent is something desired by many. Even though the BJJ fighter lost their edge in the Mixed Martial Arts world due to fighters incorporating other martial arts, coming up with hybrid styles to fight in the UFC.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu remains, and will continue to do so, a key component for any fighter who wants to excel at mixed martial arts. In fact, most of the ground submissions and positions MMA fighters learn originated from BJJ.

From the great Helio Gracie to his sons and BJJ practitioners worldwide, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu remains one of the best ways for people to learn self-defense. It does not matter whether you are a man or a woman, old or weak, the Gracie family, through their hard work and practice, has showed the way how every single person can learn to defend themselves and find physical and spiritual peace in the ways of this great martial art. Visit us at Arashi Do Martial Arts in Edmonton and learn the ways of Helio Gracie’s amazing martial art, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

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Grip Strength and BJJ

LegalGrip2BJJ begins with a grapple, with aim of sweeping the opponent to the floor, pinning and making them submit. There a many aspects of a grapple that can make or break it, you have to move your opponent, disrupt the balance, manipulate their upper body. You can’t do any of these without a solid grip. 


Grip training seems to get overlooked, not getting the training time it deserves. If you’ve got a weak grip, you’re going to struggle to be effective when it comes to your rolls. They are the first point of contact with your opponent, and you’re going to need to make a good impressions. You’ll be surprised at the win percentage the person with the better grips has over the average joe. In this article we’ll have a look at different types of grips and grip training exercises that will leave you effortlessly crushing soda cans with one hand. 


So we have four main grips to tackle. First up is the pistol grip, not to be confused with a pistol whip. Here, you grip the fabric of the sleeve in the same way you’d grab your bike handle bars on the outside of their sleeve. Second come the lapel and sleeve grip, which is fairly self explanatory, with one hand grabbing the sleeve while the other grips the lapel. Next is the two-on-one which is a cuff grip using the excess material agh the elbow on your training buddy’s arm. Finally, there is the hook grip where you grip the cuff of your partners sleeve from the outside by grabbing the excess material and ticking into their cuff using four fingers. Now each person has their own favourite grip, experiment with all variations and go with the one that feels the most comfortable but also gives you the greatest leverage on your opponent. 


Now we have the grips, how do you train grip strength? Well to be painfully obvious, you gotta grip stuff. No I dont mean just going around and holding on to stuff, I mean really grip it, use strength and weight and practice holding your body weight in your hands, don’t just hold your coffee extra tight. 


There are a number of strength and conditioning exercises you can incorporate your grip strength to. First of all, it’s time to do some pull ups. Either grasp the bar in a fashion similar to the pistol grip, and pull your chin up to the bar, or hook your fingers over the top of the bar for an extra challenge. If you can’t pull up yet don’t worry, just hang there and grip like you’re hanging over a chasm, see if you can spend a minute suspended in the air, rinse then repeat. If you can pull up, don’t max out with reps, remember you are training your grip strength not your biceps. 


Climbing is also a phenomenally good way of rapidly improving grip strength, but get ready for blisters. You have two options here, rock climbing for the outdoorsy type, or rope climbing. Personally, I’d go for the rope climbing as due to the rough material and size, it’s more like grabbing the opponents gi than smooth rock. 


Finally, you’ve got holding weight. For this, you’ll need a couple of dumbbells and a stopwatch. Lift the dumbbells and hold them static at your sides, until you simply cant hold them anymore. This will train your grip strength as well as your shoulders which will greatly improve you standing BJJ work. 


With a weak grip, you’ll be a weak fighter. Give the grip training the chance it deserves and watch yourself reap the rewards. 


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A Brief History of MMA – From Judo to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Gracie Kimura Poster jpegStarting in the early twentieth century, mixed martial arts events were held in Brazil, referred to as vale tudo competitions. These events permitted all standing and ground techniques just like the ancient pancratium did. This competitive environment attracted the attention of some Brazilian Judo schools, which began to adapt Judo to this kind of “anything goes” event. Judo began in Japan in the late nineteenth century as a form of full-contact grappling wearing garments that represent street wear, called judogis, in order to replicate real-world fighting conditions, which typically involved clothed individuals.


Judo combined the fighting specialties of several very old fighting traditions into one all-inclusive grappling sport. Much like other forms of wrestling, and for the same combative reasons, judo aims to throw to the back, pin, or submit an opponent. The separate origins of the two major parts of Judo are still visible today, as throwing and ground grappling are normally practiced distinctly from one another and are kept as two exclusive forms of sparring, known as standing randori and newaza randori, or more commonly simply as randori and newaza, respectively. In addition, the weapon self-defense and striking techniques are kept quite apart from these two major parts.

The Brazilian stylists began to develop a fighting doctrine based on the vale tudo rules, where knocking the opponent out or making the opponent submit in a one-on-one fight is paramount. Thus, the throws and pins, which are dominant but not final actions in and of themselves in a full-out fight, were reduced in value from match-enders to point-scorers. The real challenge became achieving the submission, while winning on points from the throws and pins was a secondary objective.

The rules of Judo were also altered to promote a strategy centered on gaining the submission by progressing through several positions toward maximum control of the opponent. Thus, the ideal progression is to take down the adversary with a throw; pass the guard; establish a side control such as a side mount, scarf hold, or knee on belly pin; and from there achieve full mount. From this pin the opponent can be punched at will, mercilessly, with both hands and submitted with a vast array of locks and chokes. If the adversary turns over to his belly to escape the blows and submission attempts, one is then able to take his back by wrapping the heels tightly into the inner thigh area by the groin and snaking the arms around the neck for a choke hold. Taking the back in this way became a point-scoring move in these new rules. It is then possible to stretch the opponent’s body out by pressing in with the hips and pulling back with the arms and legs, making the opponent totally helpless to strangulation.

This Brazilian form of Judo has become known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and is a unique example of a grappling art whose rules were designed expressly for the mixed martial arts arena. There are two subdivisions of the sport, one that continues to use the judogi, also called a kimono, as an approximation of street clothing better adapted for self-defense training purposes, and another more specific to mixed martial arts that is done without the judogi, often called submission grappling, no gi grappling, or just grappling. Since the gi has been proven a liability rather than a help in MMA combat, training without it more directly prepares one for the kind of grappling situation to be expected in the mixed martial arts ring.

Judo as a sporting form of self-defense training has evolved somewhat in the opposite direction in favor of dominating in the clinch position through throws. For MMA, judo throws are adapted to no gi wrestling grips. Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling have always been seen as the no gi counterparts to Judo, so the creation of a specifically no gi variant of judo was not necessary.

While it is an oversimplification, it can be helpful when thinking of mixed martial arts to think of its techniques as encompassing all those found in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, and grappling. By no means are these the only sources for MMA competitors developing skills and tactics for the arena, but these are the most time-tested full-contact combat sports, including of course their many modern derivatives as legitimate subdivisions. Combining all these seemingly distinct sets of skills into one art is what makes mixed martial arts such a challenging field of endeavor, but also so interesting.


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About BJJ aka Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

BJJ Edmonton Header

Although Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is like Judo and other traditional systems of Japanese martial arts, it differs in a number of basic ways from all other known systems. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has pursued an unusual course in previous years. It can be divided into three wide categories; self-defense, free fighting competition, and sport grappling. The set of laws of sport grappling matches have been designed to establish the appropriate strategy to be applied in the street. In a sport BJJ match, points are granted on the base of achieving superior positions. Such positions provide better chances to apply grappling techniques, strikes and defend them. learner naturally acquire the positions that will earn them the most points, in so doing continually reinforcing the most efficient approach for actual life conflicts. When using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques, leverage is most important. its the secret to the strength and the best use of might. 


Basics of Jiu Jitsu Techniques

Techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu mainly focus on grappling and ground fighting. Jiu Jitsu will provide you a perceptive of how to manage and manipulate a physically powerful and hostile opponent. The art of Jiu Jitsu basics is extremely helpful in to make a rival quit without much toil and turmoil. For instance, in the Guard technique, a Jiu Jitsu learner will begin learning numerous types of guards. Regardless of what kind of guard you are playing, its main focus is to how efficiently you are learning your moves. The earliest guard everybody be trained is the Closed guard. It’s to wrap the legs around the waist of the challenger with the locked feet. Other techniques may include Half Guard, The Hook guard, Passing Guard, The Mount position, Back Control, Escapes, Submissions etc.


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & the Belt System

The Belt System of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is much stricter as compared to other martial arts. For some people, it may take a decade to attain the black belt. Since there are only a few belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, one will have pay out a long time on each stripe. You will have to squander on highland before being rewarded with the next stripe or belt. Only those people who have the firm determination can manage to keep going. Enjoy the process instead of rushing towards getting the next belt or winning contests.

The Belt Colors include White Belt (a sign of beginners), Blue Belt (a sign of experienced BJJ student), Purple Belt (a sign of experienced BJJ student with intermediate understanding), Brown Belt (a sign of elite rank with mastery of all basic fundamental techniques), and Black Belt (master of all fundamental techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). A black belt holder is authorized to promote anyone from brown belt to black belt.  And in order to grant a junior black belt a stripe (a sign of next degree and skill), one must be at least a third degree black belt. For an average learner, normally it takes up to ten years of span to achieve Black Belt.

Come down to Arashi Do Edmonton North and try out one of our great Brazilian programs like Fundamental BJJ, Women’s Only BJJ or Children’s BJJ for ages 4-7 and 8-14.  All those and you get a 30 DAY FREE TRIAL!  What are you waiting for?  Call or text us at 780-220-5425 or email us at myackulic@ArashiDo.com