Stay On The Mat

Treat each sparring session as an opportunity to practice techniques that will one day prove to be useful. 

The most important battle of your life is the battle with yourself to stay on the mat forever. 

Adopt a training philosophy that will allow you to enjoy the jiu-jitsu lifestyle forever. 

The KeepItPlayful Movement 


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It’s so real it requires play.

Before I started saying
“Keepitplayful” I would
always say “KeepItReal.”
It was something I heard
on the radio and liked.
Before long I was saying
it on the mat and I noticed
that students interpreted
that as “go for real” or ”
go hard.” When you tell
someone to go for real
in most cases they will
apply themselves at
100% to avoid having
their guard passed. I agree
that you should have the
confidence that you can
keep someone in your
guard but I also believe
that keeping someone
in your guard for over 30
seconds robs you of the
side mount survival practice.
Because I know it is so
unnatural to only control
and attack guard for 30
seconds and then allow
space for your opponent
to pass I came up with
the phrase “KeepItPlayful.”
Only someone with a playful
mindset can create the
experiences that are necessary
for comfort in all positions.

– Ryron Gracie

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Roll With Me , Not Against Me

I am very thankful for my family and friends. Something I have been extremely grateful for over the past year is great training partners.  Most of us have training partners that we gravitate towards because of how enjoyable the roll is with them compared to others. Thanks to the KeepItPlayful Movement I have been fortunate enough to have so many training partners that, like me, are dedicated to creating movement and opportunities which make for a more enjoyable and safer experience.  The partners who will make me work and then leave me an opportunity to move.  Thank you to everyone who flows with me instead of trying to take my arm off, which people try to do often. Especially as a black belt, I appreciate anyone who flows for the greater good… because I’m in this for life.

I’m not here to roll against you, I’m here to roll with you.

Happy Thanksgiving!


What about your training partners are you grateful for ?



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Why You Will Quit Jiu-Jitsu

If I ask 100 students, “How long would you like to train jiu-jitsu?”
The majority will answer, “Forever.”
If we ask 100 black belts, “What percentage of white and blue belt students on any given mat, will be training jiu-jitsu in 10 years?”
They usually answer 2-5%.

My experience tells me 10 % of people quit because of the following reasons:
1. Distance – Life moves people around and sometimes away from the mat.
2. Money – Nothing in this world is free so when money is tight, jiu-jitsu classes sometimes take a hit.
3. Family – Family deserves more of your free time than anything else in the world.
4. Work – Sometimes work may get hectic which interferes with your training schedule.
5. Injury – All physical activities run the risk of injury and jiu-jitsu is no exception.

I have found that 10% of jiu-jitsu student quit for the above reasons. However, 90-100% use them as excuses.

I believe that the number one reason students quit is expectations.

Your instructor, training partner, fellow teammates, and you yourself, have expectations.

For instance, you may be a blue belt sparring with a white belt and find yourself in the middle of passing your partner’s guard. Within this scenario, not only is your coach watching you spar, but all of the students at your academy are watching you as well. Your instructor may coach you through the guard pass technique, but all the while, your partner has swept you. Often times, jiu-jitsu students feel so emotionally attached to their belt rank, that having a practitioner with a lower rank  sweep them in front of everyone at their academy, can be a demoralizing experience. You may feel as though you let your coach down by not meeting their expectations of you and you may feel as though the students who were watching you spar, now think less of your jiu-jitsu technique. However, the feeling of demoralization one may feel from a scenario such as this one, is completely subjective and only experienced as a result of someone feeling as though they have not met the expectations of others.

In addition to having a white belt sweep you, your coach may tell your training partner, “nice sweep.” A person’s emotional attachment to perceived expectations (whether real or not), may cause them to overlook the bigger picture. In this instance, passing the guard is a very challenging task. Even if you get swept within your attempt to pass the guard, your attempt at passing the guard should still be counted as a step of progress in your jiu-jitsu journey. Unfortunately, this accomplishment is often overshadowed by a person feeling as though they have not met expectations of others, in this case, overlooking your own progress because your coach complimented your training partner.

Now, imagine having experiences like these for a year. It’s completely understandable that when you hurt your finger or are given more hours at work that would use these as excuses to say, “I have to stop training for a while.” Many students would feel embarrassed to tell their instructor that they wanted to quit training because they felt as though they weren’t doing well. However, if students were actually honest with their instructor and told them that they felt frustrated with their training, then they’d be surprised to learn of how accepting of a response they may receive. If you were to share how you were feeling with your instructor, then they would probably respond, “I remember feeling the same frustrations and you are not letting me down; jiu-jitsu works for us and against us.” And if you mentioned how uncomfortable you feel knowing that the other students on the mat feel that you are not deserving of your belt and how you yourself are starting to feel as if you are not deserving they may respond, “ When on the jiu-jitsu journey, it is important that you compare yourself to nobody but yourself. There will always be someone younger, stronger, and faster than you. Although these characteristics are not prerequisites to learning jiu-jitsu, we cannot deny that being younger, stronger, and faster comes into play when technique is close to equal. ”

Next time you are swept, stuck in a position, or even submitted, remember why you stepped on the mat in the first place. You were looking for something fun and challenging, a place to escape everyday noise while learning techniques and principles that you can apply in a street fight or any life situation. We get all of these benefits and more when train jiu-jitsu. So don’t tap to the expectations of others or your own, but instead, set a new expectation for yourself: Train jiu-jitsu for life.

Don’t let the things that matter least, stand in the way of those which matter most.

Expect Less, Get More.

Check out this video for more insight on how to play jiu-jitsu for the rest of your life.


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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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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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