The Only Thing Worse Than Tapping.

When I was growing up, I remember my grandfather telling me, “I’d rather you make a mistake and get submitted, than roll so hard that you can’t continue.”

What I took from this was that I was to never defeat myself. No matter how badly I want to submit someone, sometimes I must slow down because if I continue at the pace I am at, I run the greatest risk of all: complete exhaustion.

The reason complete exhaustion is worse than being submitted is because submission is generally due to a simple technical error. However, when you reach complete exhaustion, it is a psychological/mindset error.

We should never reach the level of vulnerability that exists when you are so tired that you are begging your training partner to get off you, unable to continue rolling, or the worst, when you can’t stand up because you’re so exhausted.

It’s okay to train hard, but be very careful not to defeat yourself. The desire to avoid inferior positions and the desire to submit your training partner may lead you to defeat. Learn how to pace yourself because the ability to outlast your opponent is a great technique in itself. If you ever had the chance to  ask Helio Gracie how he defeated all those giants, he would have said, “I never defeated my opponents, they defeated themselves.”

Win the race

Pace yourself.


Keep It Playful

Ryron Gracie

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Where The Renergy Came From

The ability to tap your training partner at will is something every one of us can appreciate. My brothers were always my main training partners at home on the living room carpet and at the academy on the mat, and I can no longer tap them at will. Let me tell you why…

When I was 18, I would tap the 16-year-old Rener every chance I got, this meant I was submitting him at least 6-10 times per day.

One year later that number dropped 2-4 submissions per day, and another year after that, he turned 18.

Imagine being caught in the same 6 submissions thousands of times. Although that would make the average person feel like jiu-jitsu is not for them, that’s not what happened with Rener. Every time I caught a submission, he would take that experience, digest it, and recycle the information into the next day of training. Most of the time he did not take enough from the experience to defend against the same submission the next day. Mainly because  I had strength, speed and age over him. Fortunately for Rener, he continued to add to his understanding of the submissions and he trusted that in time he would have the experience, timing and knowledge to stop whatever submission I delivered.

If you’re going to catch your little brother, or less knowledgable training partner, in 2,000 submissions, the question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want to spread those 2,000 submissions over 10 years or over 2 years?

I’m sure it would be nice to tap your training partner out over the next 10 years.

On the flip side, we also need to consider the idea that the sooner your training partner can stop your attacks the sooner they will start to attacking you. The more people you have that can survive your offense and threaten you, the better. Although I miss the days when I could catch Rener at will, the threat he imposes each time we roll is unlike anyone else in the world and that is priceless.

My advice would be that you tap your less knowledgable training partners 2 to 3 times per day at most, let them tap you also. This way you are not demoralizing them too much and you are not giving away too much of your game. At the same time you are showing them what to watch out for, and before you know it, you’ll have your very own Rener there to threaten your life and sharpen your defensive sword every chance he gets plus forcing you to perfect more attacks!

You’re  welcome Rener :)


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What is this KeepItPlayful Movement all about ?


Explaining the KeepItPlayful Movement at the Bushin Martial Arts Academy in Williamsburg VA

When I say “keepitplayful” it is often misunderstood. Here is some insight into the movement… 

When it comes time to spar, I believe that we naturally fight for the dominate position and the submission. And at all costs avoiding inferior positions where we are on the defensive and more uncomfortable.

If you watch me roll I do what I call “keepitplayful.” I might work for the dominant position but as soon or before it is established I allow myself to get into an inferior position. I also allow my training partner to go for a submission and depending on how I feel I either attempt to defend the submission early, at the half way point or late. I risk being stuck in an inferior position or getting tapped out.  I’m okay with this because the information that I collect from experiencing jiu-jitsu this way is different. Due to the KeepItPlayful approach I am less concerned with “winning” and instead looking to create / allow movement while observing my partners jiu-jitsu and therefore creating a greater understanding. If you allow yourself to spend time in all positions you build comfort in all positions, and if you do this, you win.

So, I guess I am very concerned with “winning” it’s just that my definition of winning is being comfortable in every position. 

I #KeepItPlayful 80% of my sparring #KeepItReal 20% 


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Watch and Learn

A while back I was sparring with Rener and I remember being in danger of a choke. His attack was relentless. I tried every technique that I knew, but the choke kept getting deeper and deeper.  Seeing no other option, I abandoned the idea of pure technique and used everything I had to twist free from the choke. Let me be clear… I was more than close to losing the battle. What kept me from tapping or sleeping was not technique, but a strategic explosion.

Observe or Explode

Watching and Learning

When you find yourself in a bad place or in danger of being submitted, try to find a technical solution to the problem. If the technique is not enough, it’s OK to use extra energy and explosiveness in a last ditch effort to survive. But, there’s a better way – simply observe the jiu-jitsu that is happening to you, allow yourself to fail, and accept the “defeat.”

The way I exploded out of danger with Rener is a very common behavior on the mat when technique fails – it’s neither wrong nor right.  You basically have two options: 1)  go crazy, twist, move and jump in whatever direction you think is best or 2) accept that you either lacked technique and/or timing therefore you are defeated.

The value in the second approach is becoming more and more clear to me. When we explode out of danger we lose awareness. Maybe when we are in the most danger we are the most aware. When we accept defeat our awareness increases and with greater awareness we are able to pick up information that we would not have otherwise noticed.

Accepting and observing your defeat serves as a strategic way to gain intel on a situation such as your opponent’s steps, timing, and weight distribution. Doing this often enough will enable you to use this new intel to adjust your technique and/or timing.  This new information will make you more comfortable, moving you one step closer to being a more efficient fighter. When I exploded out of Rener’s choke I won that small battle, but I lost an opportunity to study his technique and lost a few steps in the pursuit of bettering mine.

Q: Is it better to be technical and lose or explosive and survive?

A: Its more efficient and a better investment of your time to be technical and lose. There is value in exploding out of bad situation to safety, it helps you understand what you are physically capable of.  Be aware of the risk of injury , worsening the position and most of all running away from learning the intricacies of jiu-jitsu.  -Ryron

KeepItPlayful Coin

KeepItPlayful Coin

The KeepItPlayful Movement – Ryron Gracie

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It’s all about the journey


The Keepitplayful Movement is here to help you through the journey!

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“Watch yourself lose” Training tip

A few weeks ago while traveling I was able to catch a purple belt in the same armlock 7 times in 10 minutes of sparring. I believe that my experience is the reason why I was able to do that. What I am most impressed by is the lack of observation on the purple belts part. After all the sparring was over I asked him, “Did you see how I was setting up that armlock?” He replied, “No,” this guy is on a mission to win and not on a mission to learn.  The fastest way to win is to make learning synonymous with stepping on the mat. This is one way I suggest you start learning.

When training this week, lets do something that will give us even more insight on the submissions our training partners are perfecting.

As you spar with people who are around your level, see if you can allow yourself to be defeated a few times every match. I am very aware that you normally do not lose every match but this week you will. If you are training with someone who might normally submit you once or twice try to keep it at that number, three at most. All you have to do is lose, at least once.

It is very important that you observe the way you lose and that your training partners do not know that you are on a mission to lose. What you are doing is allowing your training partners to show you their favorite submissions and how they go about executing them. This is valuable information that anyone serious about growing in jiu-jitsu would want to know. Make sure you tap fast so you can do this through the week.

The following week, look to roll with as many as the same people and notice how you are more aware of what each person is trying. Notice that your overall awareness to submissions has increased.  The jiu-jitsu game, although very complex, is actually very simple when you take the back seat and start watching. There are only a few submissions and if you keep your awareness you will soon be a master at stopping them. 

This is how I KeepItPlayful


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Does it matter?

“Those who spar like it matters are actually behaving like it does not matter.”
You can fight hard to prevent all kinds of submissions positions and movement, but then you do not explore all scenarios, therefore not building comfort and understanding in all positions. This is not what I suggest.

“Those who spar like it does not matter are actually behaving like it really matters.”
You can move like you are not attached to positions and submissions. This will lead to you experiencing more and therefore learning more. This is how you KeepItPlayful


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