Product Review: Scramble “Bushido Athletics” Shorts

The guys at BJJHQ were nice enough to send me some Scramble ‘Bushido Athletics’ Shorts in purple and yellow.

From Scramble’s Website:  “Scramble is here to rescue you from flying skulls, winged skulls, flying winged skulls with top hats on, minotaurs, bulging muscle man, dragons with flying skulls and top hats on them, flying minotaurs with winged skulls and flames, and all the other crap that infests the visual side of the MMA world.”1

They are light, first of all. That was really the first thing that struck me. I could not believe how light they were. The Sprawl shorts I bought while in college feel three or four times heavier than these, literally. To explain what it’s like switching between the shorts, and to use an obscure reference, I feel like The Hobbits must have felt after receiving those cloaks from Galadriel and the elves of Lothlorien.2 These shorts feel like elven magic.

More seriously, lighter in better. Being in the throes of another Austin summer, I am definitely not complaining. In fact, I decided to wear the shorts on a 4.2 mile run around Lady Bird Lake, and I have no complaints to voice.

Okay, okay, but what about for grappling? After a week of straight training, both gi and no-gi, I am happy to report no problems, major or minor, to be found. I am more flexible than your average bear, and have not noticed any restriction in the range of motion for either my hips or my legs. Anybody who has had the displeasure of grappling in bad shorts knows the situation too well. “I’d really like to armbar this guy who’s stacking me in my guard, but that’d tear my shorts down the middle.” Yes, so no problems with range of motion.

My two main concerns were the weight/material of the shorts, and whether or not they would restrict range of motion for me (because I’m flexible). Aside from that, I don’t have much else to say. The shorts came with some bells and whistles, including an inner-drawstring, a sewn-in pocket to hold a mouthpiece (presumably); they strap closed with velcro, and have an elastic waistband for a secure fit. While I do not grapple with a mouthpiece, I was definitely able to fully secure the shorts to my body whether I was running or grappling.

Is there anything I did not like? Despite what you may have heard, purple is not exactly my favorite color. But I’m a ‘function first, aesthetics second’ kind of fellow, so it does not really bother me. Getting too caught up in the color is to miss the forest for one particular tree, anyway.

Overall, I highly recommend the shorts to anyone with a little cash to spend. 4.5 stars out of 5. And to close, I’d like to share with you the quote printed behind the label of these shorts:

“The weakest of all weak things is a virtue that has not been tested by fire.” – Mark Twain.

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1. After reading that, I immediately (a) wanted to work for the company and (b) rued the fact that I had not written that clever paragraph myself.

2. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s okay. The scene didn’t make the theatrical cut, and had just the briefest of mentions in the director’s edition.

Put ‘Em Up (At Whataburger)

I just want all my readers to know that this incident at Whataburger derailed this really nice entry I was writing about telomeres and Randy Couture. What are telomeres, you ask? Well, now you may never find out. Onward though we must trek!

Firstly, this is the infamous video:

So we got a fat guy, named Josh as it turns out. He asked for, and did not receive (presumably), a cheeseburger. We, the audience, may assume that he is unaware of how condemning his ‘yelling for a cheeseburger’ behavior is on so rotund and flamboyantly-dressed a fellow. We may also assume, given how loud he is yelling and the sort of threats he is gratuitously passing out, that this man named Josh knows how to fight. “I will beat you all over those french fries.”

Our second main character, the protagonist, is relatively thin, bearded, and very aware of the rampant situational humor.  At the very least, Joe handily gives off that impression in his official response video.1 And following the Prime Directive of any Austinite worth their salt, he decided to sardonically outwit this Raging Bull. “I already have my cheeseburger, and it’s delicious.”

However every man has his breaking point. As the late Paul Gleason once said, “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.” With those noble words in Josh’s breast, he began his approach to smite the mighty cheeseburger-having Joe for his gratuitous use of wit. And what came of their mighty struggle?

“But Mousie, thou are no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vaine:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley

An lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!”2

Not much, as it turns out. A sloppy double leg turned into a kind of pull-his-pants-down-ankle-pick which left Josh on his back. Joe pins him using a scarf hold, indicating he is either (a) pretty inexperienced or (b) a judo guy. Josh, as it inevitably happens with the scarf hold, escapes to the back. But being obliteratedly drunk affects one’s ability to make decisions (or so I read). So when TapouT Josh takes Joe’s back, he falls forward off his opponent’s turtle position.

Joe takes top position again, this time wisely avoiding the scarf hold. And actually he jumps right into the end game by sinking in a submission. The Americana does not quite look right though, does it? Observe the lock from about 2:29 to 2:33. It looks almost as though Joe has a grip not on Josh’s wrist, but is instead clasping hands with him. I don’t know. The quality of the video is a little too low to definitively say one way or the other.

Being the nice guy that Joe is (presumably), he chooses to not break Josh’s elbow/shoulder (or whatever weakest link finally yields to the submission)3.  After feeling the release of side mount, Josh decides to continue fighting by throwing punches at his opponent’s hand – the one he had extended in friendship. Some people never learn. Throughout the final skirmish, Josh’s hands are, time and again, in the worst possible positions. Our final shots of the video are of Joe moving like he was about to take Knee-on-Belly.

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What to say and where to start??? Firstly, I count this as a success for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There are several points at which Joe could have significantly injured his struggling and shit-talking opponent, yet chose not to do so. One is inclined to suspect it was out of the kindness of his own heart; because I assure you, my audience, not everyone would have been so forgiving of so foolish an actor.

Laid out as simply as possible, there are only so many ways two people find themselves arranged while struggling against one another. These positions are arranged on a hierarchy – some are better than others. Understanding this, even on an admittedly cursory level, gave Joe the edge he needed to control the Whataburger Incident. This fact speaks directly to the efficacy of our Art. Not even Josh’s closet full of flamboyantly-colored, $23.95 TapouT shirts could save him.

And as for people who watched the video and came to the conclusion that BJJ Sucks For Self-Defense, I have a few questions. What was Joe supposed to do? He dealt with the situation in the most humane way possible, or very nearly so. Furthermore, through a fair portion of the struggle he had the option to pull the trigger on the submission and immediately end the fight. Am I the only one having trouble conceiving of a metric in which Joe did not come out ahead? Alleging that Joe ‘painted himself into a corner’ is disingenuous, a complete mischaracterization of both the facts at hand and results of the incident.

Alright, I had more written but I don’t think it’s too important to continue beating that long-dead horse.5  Thanks for reading. And for anyone who read the previous paragraph and thinks I completely missed the point, I invite you to comment. Your input would be welcome.

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1. He really does give off that sardonic, I’msignificantlymorecleverthanyou vibe on his Official Response Video.

2. “But little Mouse, you are not alone, in proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!” – Robert Burns, “To A Mouse,” 1785

3. Though the Americana is a shoulder submission, there are a few too many variables to know definitively what will or will not break. As a white belt for example, I decided not to tap to an Americana. The submission tore some ligaments in my forearm, and left me unable to extend my arm or move my fingers for about a month. It sounds worse than it really was.

4. A casual perusal of the website seems to suggest that the answer proffered by the author of the article is “Wing-Chun him.” I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

5. Dead since the first UFCs.

Some Ado About Nothing

A few nights ago, three friends and I were sitting at a Whataburger, when some dude and two of his friends walked in. It was past midnight, around one maybe. I am sure, my audience, that you can imagine the loud and drunken state of these three. “I waaant a Whataburger with cheese,” said the tall, especially-dumb-looking one.

The four of us, lightly chatting and having a conversation about The Rubik’s Cube, change our mind and decide to eat the food here at the restaurant, instead of taking it to go. “Yo, lend me the keys to the car. I want to get my juice,” says the friend sitting immediately beside me. Keys in hand now, he walks to the car and passes the three people who are still busy pottering away, loudly, in their own imbecilities.

And again he passed them on his way back to sit down with us, this time with a gallon of juice in his hand. Not two seconds had passed since we were again all seated when I saw an especially-dumb-looking hand pointing at us, and heard, in an especially-dumb-sounding chirp, “Hey, he’s bringing outside food!” Then he started yelling it. “He has outside food!” And again he chirped. And again, in quickfire succession.

My face was flushed red with embarrassment and Imonlyhuman anger and, more than that, incredulity – what the hell is going on and is this really happening? Is this guy trying to drop the dime on us and get us kicked out of the restaurant over juice? The manager took the time to inform the talking bobblehead that it was okay, that we were neither breaking the rules, or disturbing anybody (very much unlike The Complainer himself). Yet still, he drilled the point a few more times before finally letting it go.

Visions, glorious visions swam before me: a somersault, six feet of air, landing on top of him, Kimura already locked into place. But cooler heads prevailed. Beating someone up in your imagination does not actually count. I probably would not have done it anyway. No, I’m probably not a fighter. I’m probably a lover(ish).

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Anyway, the incident sparked a light conversation at the table about that fight at Whataburger which went viral. A few days later, I found myself doing a little research about this incident and decided, since then, that it’ll be the subject of my next blog entry. In particular, I think what happened speaks directly to the efficacy of jiu-jitsu in self-defense situations.

Disassembling The Scissor Sweep

A Technique from The Open Seminar held by Gracie Legacy

Surprise, surprise. And by surprise, I mean ‘surprise change of topic for blog entry.’ As it happens, I managed to get permission to cover a part or two of the seminar in some detail. It’s an opportunity not many bloggers find themselves presented with, and one a little too good to pass up. So, my audience, I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me for neglecting the meaning of “Jiu-Jitsu is not for winning, but not-losing.” Undoubtedly, I will have an opportunity to return to it, if you find yourselves dying to consider the idea more fully.

One of the first techniques covered by Donald Park, a Royler Gracie and David Adiv black belt, was the scissor sweep. ‘A little generic,’ one might be inclined to think. Or, ‘I already know how to do that.’ Well please, my fellow practitioners, suspend judgment for the moment and listen.

But before anything was taught about the scissor sweep, he asked people from the audience to perform the technique on himself. Two brown belts, a blue belt, and a white belt all got their chance to demonstrate how they learned and/or perform the scissor sweep. And, lest you think he reenacted a scene from Napoleon Dynamite, I should inform you that he played the role of the good training partner; he let them sweep him. Then, without being critical of anyone’s particular method, he thanked the volunteers and launched into his explanation.

Explaining BJJ moves on paper is more difficult than you might imagine, so please do bear with me. And please keep in mind that a mistake or two is inherent in the system. Think of this review as a kind of ‘gisting’ process, of getting the general sense or idea of the move itself, and not as a replacement for attending the seminar itself.

Caveats now aside, let’s get into the details. Imagine a person in your closed guard, with your left hand in the collar, and your right hand both behind and high on their right elbow.1

The person inside your guard posts on their right leg to begin working a pass. As this person posts, you escape your hips to your left in such a way as to satisfy the following conditions:

  1. The instep of your left foot rests on the right side of their hip, on the pocket which was created by your opponent’s posting of his/her right leg.
  2. Your shin is both across and against their body.
  3. The crook of your right knee is against their left knee.

In this context, the ideal hip escape makes an appreciable distance between you and your opponent – farther than, in my own experience at least, I have ever seen taught – and leaves you about 15 degrees off-angle from your opponent’s center. It takes some practice to do this right.

After finishing the hip movement, you should apply some tension with both your legs and your arms to your opponent. This is the most difficult part of the move to explain. Because of the tension you place on them, your opponent should not be able to put his right knee back on the ground for base. Whether or not your opponent can put the knee of his posted leg back on the ground for base is the key determining factor as to whether or not the move is being executed correctly. I repeat, for clarity’s sake, he/she should not be able to regain their balance, leaving all avenues for potential responses unavailable to him. Like a properly executed armbar, after a certain point, there is no longer an appropriate way to defend the move.  It almost goes without saying but, after the sweep, look to mount.

The scissor sweep was also demonstrated to have self-defense applications. Though I must absolutely defer to persons wiser than me with specific details, I will venture a broad-brush explanation. Creating a lot of distance between you and your opponent, being off-angle from their center, actively controlling their balance, and keeping your hands in the appropriate defensive positions all work toward minimizing the effectiveness of striking for the person on top. Here we are reaching the limits of my understanding of self-defense. But I think any fair-minded person can recognize the way in which one would apply a scissor sweep to a self-defense situation.

Anyway. Thanks for tuning in. And I hope the photos helped. Many thanks to Roy for, uhm, ‘modeling’ for me. More updates coming this week.

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1.  You actually place your grip above a bony protrusion, known as the Medial Epicondyle, on the lower part of their humerus. The protrusion forms a natural grip for the hand.

Brief Thoughts On Open Seminar

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize to my readership for the tardiness of this post. For my few loyal readers – you know who you are – I’m sorry. I find myself strangely busy sometimes, though I am still unemployed (and have been for the past four months). Where does the time in the day go? And what are my days going to be like when I can’t just, on a whim, decide to watch every single movie with Bill Murray in it?1 What are my days going to be like when I can’t just get on YouTube to nerdout in the extreme?2 Anyway, let me not needlessly burden this entry with digressions and the ramblings of the unemployed…

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity attend a seminar. It was the first in a series of free seminars open to all the students of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Austin, and the surrounding areas. Of all the things worth mentioning, I am happiest to report the sense of honest camaraderie we all had while joining together to study, and further (in our own small way) our Gentle Art. With multiple schools and different banners training for a few hours under one roof, I guess I had sort of presumed that there would be at least one incident or tense moment. Can’t we all think of at least one occasion where the tinder for a potential incident was available at a seminar full of students from the same academy? I know I can.3 But there was not a single incident.

I would also like to say that it strikes me as ‘probably distasteful’ to divulge what exactly we learned, at the very least without permission. But there were a few lofty, Philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu ideas brought up and discussed at some length during the seminar which I would like to address in my next entry.  Coming in a few days (no later), I will more deeply consider, ponder, and ‘unpack’ what it means when an instructor says “Jiu-Jitsu is not for winning, but for not-losing.”  Until then, thanks for reading.

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1.     I’ve actually done it. Quiz me, I dare you.

2.   Physical Cosmology:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32wIKaLkvc4

The Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior professor’s digressions on bats have given me such a keen appreciation for the animals that live (and shit) under Congress Bridge:

http://academicearth.org/courses/evolution-ecology-and-behavior

3.  Though, now that I consider it more carefully, the two separate incidents both had to do with the same student.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action

And The Dunning-Kruger Effect.

I spent a few hours today cleaning house. While alphabetically arranging the “Non-BJJ” DVD category, I started listening to and sorta watching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action videos from 1988. Rorion’s Brazilian accent and the dull thud of Royce’s punches raining down on a triangled-and-mounted Jason DeLucia filled the living room. It occurred to me then, for the first time, that the man being punched in the face was guilty of cognitive bias – one I frequently encounter while furthering some of my other interests.

Research done at Cornell University suggests that people are not the best judge of what they might otherwise purport to know, or what they might purport to be able to do.1 That sounds counter-intuitive though, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Just ask Billy Madison.2 “Except that the puppy was a dog. But the industry my friends, that was a revolution.” – BM

More seriously, illusory superiority can, and does, thwart our very real and well-intentioned efforts to objectively appraise our own ability. I mean, wouldn’t you agree that everyone who fought against The Gracies thought that they knew how to fight? One of these fighters even claimed to have developed a ‘street lethal’ style, if you remember. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. To start us off, and to avoid a potential (and obvious) hypocrisy, I submit the following quotation:

“…[T]he Dunning-Kruger Effect, named for the psychologist who first formally documented it…refers to the tendency for relatively inexperienced people to overestimate their proficiency in a given topic, usually to their detriment: A young driver overestimates their ability to navigate in traffic; a new pilot takes inappropriate risks in landing because they can’t accurately assess their capabilities; and a freshman college students often believes they have mastery in a field based on a single class. As experience progresses through mistake and correction, additional education, the initiate begins to understand the limits of their knowledge or experience. They become more cautious, more conservative, and more willing to adjust to new information. Part of education is to teach us how much more we have to learn.”3 – C0nc0rdance, YouTube user and scientist.

It is a demonstrable fact, in scientific literature, that people consistently fail at honest self-evaluation. But what about outside the so-called Ivory Tower of Science?4 “I know what I am and am not capable of,” a person might scoff – as undoubtedly at least one reader of this article did. More often than not, the holder of that opinion is simply wrong. In fact, everyone can, on some level, vouch to the truth of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Hasn’t everyone had a conversation with some grand old idiot, some Endless Opiner, some person ignorant of both the subject matter at hand and just how deep their ignorance actually runs? Hasn’t everyone said, at one point in their life, to someone else: “You don’t even know what you’re talking about,” or “You don’t even know what you don’t know.” And on another level, I think everyone can further vouch to having been on the other side of this coin.5

I have no doubt that all these people who accepted The Gracie Challenge legitimately thought they knew how to fight. And they were mistaken, objectively so. These days we know that being a complete fighter necessarily entails an understanding of grappling.6

So if you take away anything from this entry, let it be that we have a tendency to view ourselves through rose-tinted glasses. If you are to take a second thing, let it be that “Knibb High football rules!”

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2.  The scenario in the movie may or may not be different, but the point still stands.

4.  Heavy air-quotes.

5.  If I wrote down all the times I spoke when I should have just been listening, the list would be longer than the exhaustive list of Chuck Norris jokes found on the Internet. But I’d like to imagine that the times are decreasing in frequency as I increase in age. I’d like to imagine, anyway.

6.  Amusingly enough, people of the bottom and second quartile can still be found on the Internet (surprise surprise). Peruse some of the comment battles on YouTube videos for The Gracie in Action videos to see for yourself.