Top Ten Grapplearts Articles of All Time!

I’ve been building up content on my main site,, for quite some time now.

Nevertheless I was recently surprised to see that there are now more than 500 articles, tips and blog posts on my site. Not all of them are by me – some are articles by guest authors – but that’s still a heck of a lot of content!

So I thought it would be interesting to point you to some of the top articles from the archives…

Here’s my criterion for what constitutes a top article:  the amount of positive feedback I’ve received about it and how many people it has helped.

Now you might already  have come across some of these articles by surfing, via google, reading about it in one of my free newsletters, or  following a link on a friend’s Facebook or Twitter feed.  (Thank your friend for me if that’s the case!)

But as I share the top articles there might still be a few surprises in store for you…

OK, enough preamble, let’s get to the articles!!

Number 1: Grappling with Claustrophobia

The article that I get the most feedback about and has probably helped the biggest number of people: Grappling with Claustrophobia in BJJ.

I don’t suffer from claustrophobia myself, but I’ve heard from tons and tons of grapplers who’ve had to deal with it to varying degrees.  Including a few successful MMA fighters who, for obvious reasons, wish to remain nameless.

The bottom line is that claustrophobia CAN be beaten, or at least, mostly controlled. For some tips and inspiring stories on how to beat claustrophobia in a grappling context please visit the following article.  Or send it to a friend!

Here’s the full url:

Number 2: A Weird Dilemma

This is another article that I’ve received a LOT of feedback on. Back in 2004 I was asked a very interesting question about grappling endurance by someone I’ll call ‘Fred.’

Here was the problem in a nutshell…

Fred could roll for a very long time when he was sparring people more experienced than himself.  But against newbies – who are supposedly much easier to deal with – he would quickly gas out and end up completely exhausted.

Can you guess what the underlying problem was?

We ended up working together and pretty much solved the problem.  A short while later he even won his division in NAGA!

Click here to read the whole story, including the surprisingly simple solution!

P.S.  For some strange reason most of the comments on my entire blog recently disappeared (and I don’t think they’re coming back anytime soon).  So you’ll just have to take my word for it that people have found this post useful!

But hopefully Facebook is done messing around with my blog comments, so feel free to leave comments and feedback at the bottom of the article!

Number 3: When You Can’t Train…

To get really good at grappling – black belt level, say – takes something like 10 years of concerted training.

That’s a long time!

And the fact that it takes this long is both a good thing and a bad thing…

It’s good because you probably won’t get bored of the the art.  Grappling skills are deep, rich and complex.  If you finally master one thing you’ll soon discover that there’s yet another area for you to work on.

You can pretty much continue to learn forever!

But the fact that you’ll be training for years also means that it’s inevitable that your training will get interrupted at some point…

Maybe you’ll get injured, maybe your job will occasionally get in the way of your training, or maybe family issues will require your undivided attention for a while.

Your training will have its peaks and valleys.  Sometimes you’ll train more and sometimes less.  And sometimes you won’t be able to train at all, which can be maddening for a hard-core grappler!

But there ARE things you can do to keep your head in the game – and even improve – during the times when you can’t physically get on the mat.

To help you out when this happens, here are some concrete tips, tricks and advice to survive a training layoff

Or if you would prefer a direct link, here you go!

Take heart!

Number 4: Don’t Make This Classic Mistake!

About 10 years ago I was talking to a pioneer of early MMA.  This fighter trained all the time, even between fights.

But whenever he had a fight coming up he’d go absolutely mental and grind himself down into an exhausted mess.

For example, he’d start training 3 or 4 times a day, which is already pretty hardcore.

But then he’d start doing even more.  Like adding a long-distance run from his home to the training facility.  And then training.  And then adding a second run AFTER training back to his home.  These runs added at least an extra hour and a half of exercise to his already excessive regime.

Not surprisingly he was continually injured.  And continually sick. And sometimes he’d lose fights to guys he could’ve easily murdered in the gym!

This was all because of something called ‘overtraining.’

Overtraining is basically breaking your body down faster than it can recover.

Because of these conversations I ended up doing a lot of research about overtraining.  I’m not sure that that any of this research ever helped changed this guy’s mind – as far as I could tell he continued with the status quo – but I certainly learned a lot for myself.

So I summed up my newfound knowledge in a couple of slightly egg-heady articles that I then published in ‘Ultimate Athlete’ magazine.  Unfortunately this magazine is now defunct, and I don’t think you can get back issues.  But you can still read both articles on my website…

Here’s how to figure out whether you’re overtraining or not, and how to organize your training so you don’t overtrain:

Part 1) Overtraining and its prevention in MMA Preparation

Part 2) Peaking and Tapering for MMA and Grappling Competition

Like the old saying goes: “take my advice, I’m not using it!”

Number 5: The Cheapest Grappling Mats

Here’s a fun little blog post that I first let my newsletter subscribers know about months ago, complete with pictures, showing you exactly how to make an very affordable and ultra portable grappling mat.

Number 6: No Cauliflower for You!

Some grapplers think that cauliflower ears are a status symbol…

Others think that it’s gross.

Some people can train for 20 years and still have perfectly shaped ears…

Others need to wear headgear all the time or their ears start getting lumpier and lumpier.

But regardless of which camp you fall into, you need to know what cauliflower ears are, how to recognize it and what to do about it if you think they may be starting.

The most important thing is to be on the lookout for that special feeling of soreness in your ears after training.

Once you feel this – beware!   Even if your ears aren’t actually swollen, that soreness means you’ve got to take it easy and wear protection for a little while or you probably WILL get a full blown
case of ear mangling.

There’s a ton more info about prevention and treatment of cauliflower ear in this article here.

Pass this article on for me, OK?  Everyone admires Randy Couture’s work ethic and warrior spirit, but not everyone wants his ears!!!

Number 7: One Of My Favorites

Knowing what your roots are may not translate to kicking butt more effectively on the mats right away, but it’s still important!

Submission grappling is basically a fusion of wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu…

And Brazilian Jiu-jitsu came from Judo…

And Judo came from classical Japanese Ju-jutsu…

Researching these historical connections led me and a friend to write one of my favorite articles. It was published in Black Belt Magazine and everything!

In ‘Submission Grappling vs Classical Ju-Jutsu’ Alex Kask and I break down the similarities and differences in strategies, techniques, and training methods.

Number 8: Life’s Not Fair (But These Tips Will Work for Just About Anybody)

Life just isn’t fair!!

BJJ is the art of leverage, but there are techniques in the grappling repertoire that require you to be at least as strong as your opponent.

If you’re a smaller, lighter grappler then you may not want to concentrate on these ‘big guy’ moves.

In order to survive on the mats, smaller grapplers need to have techniques and strategies that’ll work against bigger people.

They have to develop their own game by adding little tweaks to compensate for being lighter… Techniques where size isn’t as important…  Submissions that work regardless of strength…

In fact, advanced smaller grapplers often become ultra-technical.

And that, in turn, often makes them awesome teachers!

Here’s the ironic part.  Smaller people shouldn’t try fighting like bigger people.  But the reverse isn’t necessarily true…

A bigger person with some ‘small man jiu-jitsu’ tricks, techniques and strategies in his game can be a VERY formidable opponent.

So here’s Krista Dixon-Smith sharing some Small Girl Jiu-jitsu’ Tips.

Obviously it’s required reading for women in the sport.

But if you’re large, male and smart, then you’ll want to read it asap because there’s a ton of great advice here.  And most of it is applicable to all grapplers large and small.

P.S.  If you want more along these lines then check out the links at the bottom of the article – lots of good stuff there!

Number 9: A Gaggle of Guards

There’s lots of different grappling styles, but one of the main things that sets BJJ apart is its elaborate and sophisticated guardwork.

In fact, the guard is the signature position of BJJ.

But there is SO much variation in this area that keeping track of ‘who’s who in the guard position zoo’ can get pretty complicated…

That’s why the ninth inclusion in the list of top Grapplearts articles is “A Glossary of Guards” that I co-wrote with my friend Elliott Bayev.

These three articles break down the most common (and most powerful) variations of the closed, open and half guard.

Plus these articles also point you to LOTS of additional tips, articles, and other resources. So go and make sure that you know each of these positions by name, right now!

Part 1: A Glossary of Closed Guard Positions
Part 2: A Glossary of Open Guard Positions
Part 3: A Glossary of Half Guard Positions

P.S.  If you’d prefer to download all three articles as a single PDF, then go to the link below, sign up for my free newsletter (from which you can unsubscribe easily with a single click, anytime), and then download the free ebook “A Glossary of the Guard”

Number 10: Why We Train…

We sweat, strain, get injured and spend money in order to roll around on the ground with men wearing pajamas.

(Or worse: men wearing spandex…)

So why do we do it?  What’s behind this bizarre fascination with grappling?

In ‘Blood, Sweat and… Sparta!‘ I take a stab at answering these questions.

And then, in a sister piece that doesn’t have much to do with grappling, I go off on a wild tangent (‘Bears, Belugas and an Offshore Tide on Hudson Bay‘.

These are the last two entries in the Top Ten Grapplearts Articles List that I’ve been sharing with you over the last little while. And even though I cheated by linking to two articles in one blog post, I still suggest that you check them out at the links below:

ARTICLE 1: Blood, Sweat and… Sparta!

ARTICLE 2: Bears, Belugas and an Offshore Tide on Hudson Bay

P.S.  The original blog comments for these articles were lost after a Facebook update.  But it’s fixed now, so please add your voice your opinion to the conversation in the Comment With Facebook’ section at the bottom of each post.

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