It’s Better To Be Early For Dinner

It’s Better To Be Early For Dinner Than Late For Lunch.

I got to roll with our gazillion-striped black belt yesterday, for the first time. Holy Cannoli, my audience. Holy…Cannoli.1 Mr. Paulo Brandão might be the most technically gifted person with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of grappling. It was ridiculous.

I remember trying to pull him into full guard, but being unable to get my legs through his combat base. The big issue with combat base is that the person on top (the person using so-called combat base) is in control of their balance and ready to pass at a moment’s notice, once the opening becomes available. As the person on the bottom, I need to stay active or he’s going to get too far ahead of me and will pass. I can’t just continue to try playing a closed guard, or I’m going to lose the guard entirely.

Then he took a grip on my pant leg, put his other hand on my farside hip, and nearly instantly passed. What the hell, man? This Mr. Brandão was just a million miles ahead of every guard recovery, of every mount escape, of every back escape. I could literally do nothing to save myself. I’m not even sure how many times he tapped me in our six minute match, but – ballpark – the number is around thirty-eight-thousand times.

Let me just say, it feels weird being beaten by the same tools that you use to beat other people.2 I try my hardest to not get too focused on any particular skirmish when rolling. This was a lesson Donald had to teach me a dozen different times, each time with a different example, and worded differently. If you’re going to lose a particular submission, a particular pass, a particular grip, then – after you’re sure it’s lost – it’s better to just accept that you’ve lost it AND continue on to the next move in the series. The skirmish for the next move may not have yet started. You could get the drop on them. Instead of continuing to invest your energy, focus (insert all the things a person invests during their jiu-jitsu matches) on a losing battle, move on and win the next battle.

In other words, my jiu-jitsu friends, “It is better to be early for dinner, than late for lunch.” If you’re concerned with eating, then it’s better to be early for dinner as opposed to late for lunch.

My first roll with Mr. Brandão reminded me of this most important lesson.  And it reminded me what it feels like to be a goddamn white belts on the mats.  Son of a…

Thanks for reading.  Have a nice Wednesday.


1. I type that to abstain from using some of the more colorful language I know…:

2. Not that the disparity between my skill level and my typical opponents is tantamount to the disparity between Paulo and me. Mr. Brandão is obscenely good. In fact, if the skill level difference between me and a typical opponent is best measured in inches, then the skill level difference between Mr. Brandão and I is probably best measured in miles. That’s not an exaggeration.


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