JJ Pugsley | Head Instructor @ Ronin Training Institute

Founder, President, and Head Instructor of the Ronin Training Institute.

Tips For Beginning Mma Training

Tips for Beginning MMA Training

While many people are interested in mixed martial arts, not all of them know how to channel that interest. MMA is thrilling also quite intimidating for newcomers. The sport is also among the fastest-growing, meaning it can be challenging discerning which gyms are best for training and which are only in it for money. Presented below are several tips for potential MMA students.

Do the Research.

MMA hopefuls should look around their area to investigate the local gyms. After finding a few viable candidates, the person should visit whichever ones seem the most promising, often the ones that offer a free or discounted trial run. After trying out each of the viable gyms, the person should choose whichever gym best resonates with his personality.

Be Ready to Work.

While beginners do not need to be in fighting shape, MMA gyms need their participants to be at least moderately fit. Because warm-up routines can be more challenging than most non-martial art workout routines, a basic level of strength and physical conditioning will do a world of good.

Remember Pacing.

While it is understandable for beginners to want to push beyond the basics, mastery involves a considerable investment of time and effort that only takes longer if the student frequently overexerts himself and winds up sick or injured while training.

Beginners should start with a once- or twice-weekly routine, complemented by cross-training exercises on the other days and one day dedicated to rest. Routines should intensify as the student becomes noticeably more acclimated to training.

Spar When You Can.

While it does a student no good to immediately jump from training to full-contact sparring matches, holding off on sparring can be just as bad. Sparring allows students to put their techniques into practice and is fundamental with advancing within MMA. Rather than going full force, students should start off by sparring with grapples and technical work. There is nothing wrong with consulting a coach for advice.

Never Give Up.

While everyone has days where even the warmups cause people to consider tapping out, students should bear in mind that everyone has those days. It can also be quite daunting to put the formula of different styles’ maneuvers into practice effectively. Remember, that losses teach far more than wins do. Anyone coping with frustration should remember that they are always improving.

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How Martial Arts Improves Your Brain Function

Martial arts is a very intricate sport that requires, not only quick hands and feet but a sharp mind. This sport has been proven to increase brain function in its athletes, no matter what age they are, but how? The study of martial arts is more than just fighting, but strategy and exercises that workout the brain in very distinct ways.

When taking on martial arts, you are exposed to new techniques that will eventually become part of your everyday routine. With so many methods being introduced to you, your brain will begin to work in double time, freshening up your memory. This is known as cumulative learning, which is the layering of information. When you engage in this type of knowledge, studies have shown that it will sharpen your memory, language, and ordering.

Problem-solving is another huge way to improve your brain function, and a sport like martial arts is built on solving problems in short periods of time. Whether it is finding out techniques to work on during training, or tactics to use against an opponent, your mind is always trying to solve the next occurrence before it arrives. When your problem explains, our brains use plasticity, which is the formation of new connections that occur when taking in further information. This keeps your mind in the habit of thinking analytically at all times, whether you’re training or doing everyday life activities.

Lastly, the longer you practice martial arts, the better you become at creating strategies. You become more aware of not only strategies to implement for yourself, but the strategy of other people competing against you. By learning to strategize you not only improve the logical thinking section of your brain, but you also can stimulate the verbal left and right visual parts also.

The more you challenge yourself, the more you challenge your brain. Picking up a sport like martial arts allows for improvement in not only your physical and mental health, but it gives your mind something new to learn. Keeping it fresh, and active.

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Difference Between Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo

When classifying certain martial arts, they usually fall into two very distinctive categories: grappling and striking. Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fall into the grappling side of martial arts, and they share a lot of similarities. Even though they are under the same category they are different in a few ways as well. Each sport and the way you are awarded wins defines the differences mainly in the rules of each.


Judo came first in the history of the two and was founded in Japan in the 1800s. It is also officially an Olympic sport, which started in 1964. Competitively there are a few ways to win a match within the rules. The main way to win is to throw your opponent with enough force on his back to gain something called an “Ippon”. An Ippon is a match-winning point that is only awarded when the former move is completed. You may earn other points that don’t result in an instant win, which is when you throw your opponent but he doesn’t land on his back or with enough force. There is also winning by submission from pinning. Patience is key in judo, waiting for your opponent to make a move for you to capitalize on. Judo uses the patience to find leverage on your opponent and uses throws from the standing position.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was formed later in 1909, just like the name implies, in Brazil. BJJ is mainly fought while on the ground. There are strikes and grapples involved but most of the fighting is while you are on your back. There are different ways to win but mainly by scoring points that are awarded by completing different moves on your opponent. You can also win by submission from pins or holds as well. While it is not an Olympic sport, there are plenty of tournaments to take part in across the world.

So in parting, you can see there are a few differences between the two. While BJJ comes from Judo, the key differences come from the style or positions. Judo brings the standing aspect of martial arts while BJJ has the ground portion. This is where the confusion comes from, where the similarities match between them. With the beginning of each match starting from standing positions, but the way the match progresses and win conditions are set to stand different from each other.

A Short History Of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

A Short History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a hybrid fighting art that combines traditional systems of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo; however, although it stems and shares many similarities with these other types of fighting techniques, it also bears many essential differences.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has emerged from a synthesis of many traditions with its own unique rules and forms. It is both a collective art form and one that was highly developed by Helio Gracie, the youngest brother of the Gracie family.

Around 1914, Japanese Jiu Jitsu was introduced in Brazil by Esai Maeda (also referred to commonly as Conde Koma). He was a Jiu-jitsu champion, and came to Brazil and met the Gracie family.

Maeda and Gastae Gracie quickly formed a mutually beneficial relationship. Gracie was a businessman who helped Maeda establish himself, and in return, Maeda taught Gastao’s Oldest Son, Carlos, the art of traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. Carlos learned and practiced this for years, and then went on to teach his brothers.

The youngest brother in the family was named Helio. According to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, he “was always a very physically frail child. He would run up a flight of stairs and have fainting spells, and no one could figure out why.”(http://www.gracieacademy.com/history.asp) This made him struggle to successfully and effectively execute traditional techniques, as he was not as strong as his brothers. Helio realized, after time watching his brothers train and knowing the methods, that he could modify the moves to make them focus on timing and leverage, opposed to strength and speed.

This new, modified Jiu-Jitsu quickly built a reputation. Helio challenged every reputable martial artist in Brazil and competed in a total of 18 fights. Helio successfully overtook many world-ranked competitors and qualified to fight the world champion, Masahiko Kimura. Although Helio did not win, he fought an impressive match and greatly impressed Kimura. Because of this encounter, Kimura invited Helio to teach his techniques in Japan.

This invitation was ultimately a showing of recognition of Helio’s commitment, dedication, and refinement to the art of Jiu-jitsu. It essentially solidified Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a valid and respectable form, and simultaneously encouraged it to continue to spread and develop by having Helio teach his techniques in Japan. Thus, this solidified Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a valid and established strain of Jiu-Jitsu, one that would be continued to be taught developed throughout the world.

Tips For Teaching Martial Arts To A Mixed Skill Level Class

Tips for Teaching Martial Arts to a Mixed-Skill Level Class

Teaching mixed martial arts is difficult in itself. However, learning classes that are inclusive to a variety of skill levels will incite additional challenges. It is necessary, in these cases, to cater your teaching style to make sure that all students of varying skill levels are getting the most out of your class. Here are some tips to help you teach a mixed-skill class in martial arts as effectively as possible:

Be in tune with the varying needs and wants of the group. What the older, and more experienced, athletes are seeking in your class will be drastically different than what the beginner or more intermediate athletes are finding. It is essential to stay in tune to that so you can make sure that each skill level accomplishes their goals and feels as though they got something out of the class, and thus are likely to return to another.

Stay flexible and ready to change your teaching strategy on a whim. This point goes hand in hand with the previous tip. If something does not seem like it is working well or benefitting the class to the extent you imagined, do not be afraid to adjust your strategy on a whim. On this note, don’t be nervous to try new things that you think may work–if anything your students will tremendously appreciate your willingness and ability to change and personalize strategy in response to them.

Do your research. Find options for exercises and moves that have a sliding scale of modification options that people can independently decide to add or detract when they want to. This way, you don’t have to spend time explaining five different moves, just one with tier-based variations based on skill levels. There are also a good variety of moves that are beneficial for beginnings and intermediates, or intermediates and advanced martial artists alike. It also never hurts to go back to refresh or perfect technique that was learned previously.

Get to know your students. Getting to know your students, especially those who are regulars in your classes, will help you be able to maintain a connection with them, especially while teaching at a higher level. It will also help you stay personal and establish a unique teacher-student connection with each student, while simultaneously maintaining a relationship with the larger class as a whole.

Teaching Tips: Ways to Improve Your BJJ Instructing Tactics


We’ve all been there. Sitting in that course in college or in that huddle on a sports team. The the teacher, coach or instructor has no idea how to efficiently lead a group of people. Being the most knowledgeable person in the world about a particular subject  only gets you so far. Not having the ability to effectively put in place your knowledge won’t get you anywhere in the teaching realm. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, instructors hold the key to an up and coming practitioner’s success.  Students could have all the natural abilities in the world. If they aren’t taught how to properly channel such skills, their likelihood of success will be rare.


We often find students struggling with their comprehension of a sport. This can be due to the fact that learning abilities across a team can be widespread. As an instructor, it is up to you to create techniques and tactics that are inclusive to all learning styles and capabilities. Sometimes, it can be best to follow the “lowest common denominator” aesthetic. This doesn’t mean that the whole class needs to stay on the same skill until they all achieve it. It more means that that each course you teach should continue to review the most basic moves as a refresher for all. Paying that little bit of extra attention to the lowest level student ensures that they are receiving a quality education.


Communication is an extremely crucial aspect of being an instructor. Adaptation of communication methods goes right along side in importance. If you are unable to teach in a way that most, if not all, of your students can comprehend, they re-evaluating your technique should be a high priority. In BJJ there are many moves that require extreme persistence and practice. Being able to descriptively enlighten your students on safety measures must be done in the clearest way possible. For me it’s always important to make sure I cover, and my students clearly understand, the What, How, Why. This is What we are going to do, this is How we are going to do it and this is Why we are doing it.


One of the final ways that you can be sure your teaching methods are up to high standards is by reflecting on each class that you lead. Ask yourself questions such as; Did everyone seem to see the main takeaways from the course? Were there any students who seemed to not comprehend certain moves or drills? Though you should not get too caught up in any negative aspects of a class, assessing yourself and your style only leaves room for improvement. In any teaching scenario, having the ability to critique yourself and make strategic changes, is what will ultimately get your students further.


Keeping Athletes Calm Under Pressure


As humans, we naturally feel various emotions during intense situations. From fear to excitement, our feelings run wild in those final seconds of a tied game or the last round of a fight. It falls on the shoulders of coaches to teach tactics that support students during high-pressure situations. These lessons should be implemented during practices and training and can help days of competition go smoothly.


Acknowledging the Pressure Point


One of the first steps to helping your student overcome their anxious tendencies is by properly identify their pressure point. For some athletes, it could be the beginning of a competition or game, while others it boils down to those final seconds. In the role of a coach, find methods or remedies that can alleviate any of the tension during these anxious times. Often if a coach is aware of what sets their player off, they can get to them prior to the situation and calm them down. Additionally, taking that pressure off of them, is a tactic that many successful coaches have used in the past. Using phrases such as “let’s keep having fun and doing what we do best”, rather than “push yourselves and work harder” could be the motivation that your team needs.


Communication Methods


When a student is under pressure, they often find it difficult to zero in on your instructions. Especially in team settings, your communication skills come in handy in a major way. With various learning styles, being a coach can stretch you thin when it comes to giving direction. When a team or individual are under pressure, the way you choose to deliver your instructions or advice can set the tone for their performance. All communications should be made in a calm manner, as often as possible. Show your athletes how you want them to behave through your actions and words.


Let Them Shine


Changing the aspect or vibe of the competition can often throw off many athletes. Letting them do what they know best often warrants some great results. Sometimes it’s best to just reassure them that they know what they are doing rather than giving harsh instructions. Individual sports often follow this protocol more than team ones. It is easier to point a finger in team settings but being solo also means knowing exactly who and how to improve.


Benefits of BJJ For Autistic Children


If you’ve kept up with my blogs, you already know the incredible benefits that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu provides for children. As they progress through their training they are acquiring life skills and feelings of accomplishment. There are so many children that thrive in the sport of BJJ but some of the most impacted are those with Autism.


Autism, by definition, is a developmental disorder that impacts one’s communication and social skills. For children diagnosed, they often find themselves challenged in group settings. Team sports are often something that autistic children struggle to partake in. Fortunately, Jiu Jitsu provides a team atmosphere but at somewhat of an individual level. Depending on the severity of Autism in the child, BJJ is a great way to integrate them into more social environments. The team can help support and celebrate their victories but do not need to rely on them for communication as you would in other team sports.


For anyone learning self-defense one of the greatest aspects the art provides is confidence. Most people that I’ve come across in BJJ have expressed their appreciation for how much better they feel about themselves due to their training. Confidence, for Autistic children, is hard to come by. They are often very aware of the fact that they are different from other children and it can hinder the way that they feel about themselves. Through BJJ training, they can gain back a great deal of confidence that they may lose in a classroom or other team sports setting.


Jiu Jitsu is one of the few martial arts that allows for and encourages individuality. Due to the informal and casual environment, children with autism are not as limited to their communication mechanisms as those who practice other forms of MMA. While the disciplinary aspect of other mixed martial arts is beneficial to children, it can pose a challenge for those with autism.


All forms of martial arts can assist special needs kids in their development. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does a particularly good job at helping autistic students get into social settings and build confidence. It is important that instructors are aware of the impact that they could be making on the life of a student. When people describe those whom the train with, the word family often comes into play. This being said, everyone is accepted with open arms and can expect life lessons to come from the experience.


How To Know When Your Student is Ready to Compete

Competitions are one of the most thrilling aspects of being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Though some people learn the art for self defense purposes, competing can help to take your skills to a whole new level. As an instructor, it is crucial to set standards for yourself and students before allowing them to compete in a tournament.


It may come as a surprise, but emotions play a huge role on determining a student’s readiness. Having control over your emotions during a competition is something that many athletes, especially young ones, struggle to maintain. When a student is able focus solely on the sport and the sportsmanship that goes along with it, they are then well on their way to being considered for competition.


Protection is the most important standard that I set for my students. If I, as the instructor, feel they are unable to protect themselves against other students with similar experience, they are not only risking their safety but the safety of their opponent. If you are teaching a class of the same belts, it is important to compare the students to one another. Although everyone learns differently and at various paces, making sure that the individuals are able to compete reasonably with their classmates is important. When it comes to comparing students, it comes down to safety. The student must be capable and comparable to other belts in the class only in terms of their safety and the safety of their partners. If they are incapable of protecting themselves, or their emotions, than I do not recommend they compete.


The true determinant in deciding, is not the ability the student possess but the level of dedication. BJJ is something that is not perfected overnight. While many beginners come in with natural talent and abilities, it is their passion and commitment to the sport that proves their readiness to me. If a student shows up consistently, attends competition classes and works hard, that means more to me about the preparedness. For someone with natural talent who only shows up once every few weeks and doesn’t train hard, I would feel as though they are less than ready to compete.


Commitment and passion are two of the traits every BJJ fighter should possess. For students of any level, criteria should be set before heading into competition. As an instructor, knowing your student’s abilities and dedication helps to decide whether they are ready or not for competition.


5 Things Anyone Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Should Know

As you’ve probably discovered through previous blogs on my site, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not just a sport. The Martial Art is much more than training a few times a week. When you join a gym and begin training it changes your perspective on life. Having been a part of the BJJ family since the age of 16, I have learned a great deal about not only myself but the entire BJJ community. Anyone who has spent time training in Jiu-Jitsu can tell you that there are a certain set of ethics and unspoken rules. For those interested in taking on BJJ or if you are just starting your training, make sure you have a conversation with an expert. Anyone who has begun training with me has learned my 5 keys to a successful BJJ career.


  1. Leave your ego at the door. Everyone who submits you has been submitted hundreds, maybe thousands of times before. It’s how we learn and get better and is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re a white belt you are going to tap out….a lot.


  1. Repetition, repetition, repetition. As you advance in the sport you will find yourself practicing the same sequences over and over again. The only way you are going to get better is to have a firm grasp on the basics.


  1. Feel free to ask questions about the technique. The more you ask and understand, the better. But be mindful of the fact that you won’t learn it all in one day and a good instructor will have a curriculum or class plan that he or she wants to cover. Keeping the class on topic and on task is part of his or her job.


  1. Fundamentals are key to learning everything in the future of your Jiu-Jitsu journey. Don’t worry about learning the coolest flying triangle set up. Stick to the basics. Everything stems from a good understanding of them.


  1. Position before submission. Learn to control and be competent with the positions and a solid base (Jiu-Jitsu term for balance and stability) before you worry about submitting your opponent. When you are new survival is the goal and owning the fundamentals of position can help you immensely and lead to more technical attacks when you are ready.


When you begin a new journey in life, you need to be open to the fact that you don’t know everything and likely won’t for some time. Being a humble and patient student is key, especially when it comes to mastering the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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