Need help creating space on the bottom to set up escapes? Try these 3 exercises to help…

One of the most important factors in creating space on bottom is how well you can use your hips. Sure, you need to have good frames and basic position but when it comes time to move and make the space you need to escape then the hips are where it’s at.

Of course, I’m sure you’ve heard all of this before. It doesn’t take long training BJJ before you start to hear “use your hips” and “create space” nearly every class.

However, a lot of people starting BJJ don’t know how to use the hips properly when drilling and rolling. This results in a lot of bad Bridging and Shrimping as people use their lower backs too much and don’t use their glutes enough.

The glutes, a.k.a. your butt muscles, are some of the strongest muscles in your body and, when combined with the hamstrings to extend the hips, contribute to the strongest movement your body can make. When you learn how to use your glutes properly when Bridging and Shrimping it is a lot easier to create the space you need to get out of a bad position on the bottom.

The truth is that as good as rolling and drilling is for your BJJ game, it can be tough to re-train the glutes to help drive your Bridging and Shrimping on the mats. This makes it important for anyone serious about their ability to create space on the bottom to use specific exercises to help re-train and strengthen this movement.

And while there are a lot of great exercises to work the hips (like the deadlift and swing) 3 of the best BJJ specific exercises are simple Bridging exercises. These 3 exercises will give you the chance to build the specific mind-muscle connection needed to use your hips in a more BJJ specific way.

In this video, I go over the Bridge, the Marching Bridge and the Single Leg Bridge, giving you some tips on how to do them more effectively for our purposes on the mats. Just like when you drill, mindless reps get you nowhere so knowing what to focus on while doing an exercise can make all the difference in the world.

I also wanted to share this video I shot of me practicing my Side Control Escapes. You can see how I need a strong Bridge to create space so I can finish with a good Shrimping motion to start recovering.

By using these exercises and the focal points I go over in the video you’ll find that you will be able to more easily create space and escape from the bottom. While the best defense is always to not get there in the first place, being able to effectively deal with getting smashed is an important part of building your game.

While nothing can replace good technique and time on the mats, using the right exercises with the right focus can speed up your development on the mats. Hopefully you’ll find these 3 exercises as helpful as I have, be sure to let me know if you have any questions on this or other topics you’d like to see me cover.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems


Be More Like a Spartan and Don’t Make These Bodyweight Training Mistakes

One of my favorite images from history is when the Persian king Xerxes faces off with the famous 300 Spartans at Thermopylae…but it isn’t any of the battles or famous one liners that I think of.

No, my favorite image is from before the fighting started, when the Persians had made their intentions known that they were going to cross this piece of land even if it meant killing everyone in their way. As history shows, they were serious about their threats and eventually that is what happened.

The Spartans knew this too. They held out no illusions about what would happen to them – the Persian empire was well established in its brutal methods of dealing with dissidents and they all knew they would be “coming home on their shield” (which is how they carried those killed in battle back home).

But despite the overwhelming odds and stark reality of they were facing history tells us that when the Persian king looked out on the battlefield the morning before his troops would attempt to get rid of the Spartan roadblock he didn’t see a bunch of nervous, anxious soldiers.

Instead, we’re told they were combing their hair and doing bodyweight exercises to prepare for battle.

I just love this image…a group of 300 Spartan warriors up at the crack of dawn and on the battlefield doing squats, push ups and other bodyweight training drills while calmly combing their hair and pulling it back to get ready for the ass kicking that was about to commence.

Seeing this had to be unnerving to the other side for several reasons but I always imagined that the Spartans, who made bodyweight training a part of their overall warrior lifestyle, were probably good at it. I’d imagine they were pretty high level movers and could do some impressive things with ease.

And, watching this from the other side as a mostly non-professional fighting force, it had to be dismaying to think that you were about to go up against that. They could probably tell from their calm demeanor and ease with which they moved that these were not ordinary men.

As we know the Spartans turned out to be exactly that and held the Persian forces off , inflicting great losses for several days. They eventually fell when a traitor told the Persians about a secret path around the narrow pass the Spartans were defending and they got surrounded, fighting until the last man was using his bare hands since their weapons had all been broken.

Of course, there was a lot that went into what it took to be a Spartan and some of it wasn’t very nice – they relied heavily on slaves and would kill children that weren’t deemed strong enough – but overall they had a lot to teach us about what it took to build a society of “heroes”, or people who could assist their neighbors when called upon.

Spartan training grounds were very minimalist

Part of this was their use of bodyweight training to help build strong, able bodies. In fact, bodyweight training is something that has been used since the dawn of time to improve the strength and movement capabilities of gladiators, warriors and wrestlers in every society around the world.

Bodyweight training was so popular among ancient people because it was easily accessible and could be done anywhere. It also helped improve body awareness and control, which is important for learning specific things like fighting, wrestling or other martial skills.

And while bodyweight training is still used by millions of people around the world, in my experience I’ve seen a lot of people make some big mistakes when trying to use this ultra-effective training method.

Here are the Top 3 Bodyweight Training Mistakes and how you can avoid them:

1 – Not including bodyweight training in the first place.

Some people think that they can get away with just lifting weights. They think that if they are strong enough to move some heavy weights around then moving their own body won’t be a problem.

They quickly find out, though, that when asked to do some basic bodyweight exercises they really struggle. The problem is that the body sees bodyweight training and weight lifting as two very different things.

Like I outlined in this article, the ability to manipulate your own bodyweight is different than your ability to manipulate an external load. This means that you must train both of these skills or else you will have a gap in your real-world fitness, often showing up as a lack of balance and body control when learning new sports specific skills.

2 – Only using bodyweight training for high reps and endurance training.

Even those that use bodyweight training rarely tap into its true potential and instead rely on some high rep push ups, squats and chin ups to round out the bodyweight portion of their programs. They think that bodyweight training is good for building endurance and warm up drills but lifting weights is what you use to get stronger.

Like the ancient warriors and wrestlers found out, though, bodyweight training can be used very effectively to build strength. The reason is that strength is the ability to generate and control tension in a muscle – the more tension you can generate the “stronger” you are.

And while lifting a heavy weight is the easiest way to force a muscle to generate more tension, you can use leverage and advanced bodyweight exercises to generate the same tension levels in the body. These high-tension techniques build the same type of raw strength you would usually associate with lifting heavy weights but without the same stress and wear and tear on the joints.

To show you what I mean check out this push up variation I call the Solsky Push Ups. When done right you generate a lot of tension in the upper body and it is very tough to do more than 5-10 reps, with most people struggling to get 2 or 3 reps.

Using bodyweight training to build strength also helps with improving your stability in your sport. The types of core tension you have to generate translate over very nicely to the ability to “ground” yourself when needed to improve your balance and stability.

3 – Not working on Support and Suspension Exercises.

One of the cool things about bodyweight training is how you can use supports and suspensions to train some unique elements. In fact, most people have never heard of these training elements so I should quickly explain them.

A Support Exercise is where you support yourself in a position with your arms. Holding a plank is a support, but so is holding a headstand or the top position of a dip.

A Suspension Exercise is where you suspend yourself from something with your arms. Hanging at the bottom position of a pull up or an inverted row are examples of suspensions.

You can train a lot of different angles and arm positions using these static holds and, once again, your body views the ability to hold a position differently than your ability to move a lot between two positions.

For example, being able to do 10 pull ups is great but can you hang from a bar for 30 seconds or more? And if you can, how long can you hold the top position of a chin up?

Support and Suspension Exercises add a very important real-world skill element into your training. Your ability to create strength and power is dictated by the stability you can create and these training often overlooked elements hold the key to improving that stability.

Here is an exercise I learned recently from Amir Solsky that I call the Solsky Pike Rock that shows an interesting way to train Upper Body Support Strength.

As you can see, bodyweight training not only deserves a place in your program but it also deserves some thought when using it as well. Mindlessly adding some push ups and bodyweight squats into your program isn’t going to get you the results you can achieve with bodyweight training.

Look at bodyweight training as a skill you need to master and embrace the journey. Hopefully you’ll never have to put your movements skills to the test against an enemy army but at least you’ll know you share something with those that have.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems


Steel Mace and Bodyweight Training in Long Beach – A recap of the Rik Brown and Amir Solsky seminar

As I drove across the dark desert staring at the small patch of ground lit up by my headlights I started to get excited. Sure, I still had 9 hours of driving ahead of me but at the other end of the drive was a chance to learn some more about my two favorite training tools – the steel mace and bodyweight training.

Now, I’ll admit that I won’t just drive 12 hours from Colorado to California for just any seminar. But this one was a unique chance to learn from two of the best at what they do.

Rik Brown, a.k.a. Mr. Maceman, has been training with the steel mace for over a decade and has more experience with it than anyone else I’ve come across. He emphasizes the “traditional” steel mace exercises like the 10-2 and 360’s and I was looking forward to seeing his approach to them as well as steel mace training in general.

Amir Solsky is a bodyweight training savant and has created a whole training system around using your own bodyweight to help you achieve your goals. While he was going to present specifically on building upper body strength with supports and suspensions, he has a wealth of bodyweight training knowledge and I was very interested in seeing what he had to teach.

Plus, it was also a good excuse to meet some new people who are interested in steel mace training and spend some time talking with and learning from them. All in all, it was going to be a fun weekend despite the 12 hour drive on each end of it.

After several coffees and getting lucky with the notoriously bad SoCal traffic I made it to my hotel, where I checked in and then did a few Mace 360’s to loosen up my upper back. I added in an Uppercut to add in some t-spine rotation and after a few minutes of these I was feeling surprisingly good after sitting for so long.

A video posted by James Wilson (@bikejames) on

After dinner and some television, I went to sleep and woke up feeling great, which was good because although I didn’t know it yet there was a lot of mace and bodyweight work in my future.15000655_10153935371716720_6454206325393211521_o

I showed up to the Long Beach Kettlebell Club (thanks Eric for hosting the event) and met Rik, Amir and the rest of the crew. There were a lot of really smart people in the room and the energy level was great – everyone was there to learn and we were anxiously waiting for Rik to kick things off.

Rik got up and started with a brief history of the mace and how he got into it. He explained the difference between a Steel Mace and a traditional Gada as well as why he feels the addition of a small ball on the end of the handle helps increase safety. His point was that the tools he prefers to use may not be “traditional” but there are valid reasons for using them.

I tend to agree – I like my steel mace and the longer handled maces he had with the little ball on the end of the handle to keep your hands from slipping off was a nice touch.

He also touched on how the steel mace isn’t a complete training system and that it is primarily an upper body/ core training tool. You are not going to build max strength in your legs using just the steel mace but you can use it to build upper body and grip strength like no other tool can. Using the steel mace for what it is best for and using other tools as needed for other goals is the best way to go.

I have to applaud Rik on this one because it is all too easy for “gurus” to try and sell you the ultimate solution instead of being honest and telling you that not every tool is best for every goal.

After this short intro Rik led us through some basic warm up drills for the shoulders, elbows and wrists. For most people these areas don’t have enough mobility to allow the mace to swing freely through the backside of the 360’s and 10-2’s so focusing on these areas before training helps increase performance and decrease risk of injury.

We then learned the Giant Punch and the Gravediggers. These are really fun and effective exercises that work on rotational hip power, core strength and upper body stability. We played with some ways to string the two together and here is a video of what we came up with.

A video posted by James Wilson (@bikejames) on

He then took us through his progressions for learning the 10-2, which is the more traditional mace exercise. In this on you don’t bring the steel mace all the way around but instead stop with the handle in your pocket and the mace tilted across the body with the mace head either at the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock position. It takes some timing and practice but once you get the feel for it it is a lot of fun.

A video posted by James Wilson (@bikejames) on

Rik helping us with out 10-2’s and 360’s

We started our 10-2 work with the Pendulum, where you get comfortable with letting the mace pass behind you while keeping the hands low and the arms mostly relaxed. The trick is to let the mace bounce into and out of the bottom position and not to try and muscle it through. It takes some practice but once you get the feel for it you can use the momentum to pull the mace all the way around, using the elbow the lead the head of the mace back around in front of you to the front position.

After that we worked on standing, kneeling and even seated 10-2’s, which was a new challenge for me. Sitting down really forced good posture and awareness as well as worked on my hip mobility.

After getting our 10-2’s dialed in we went to work on the 360, which is where the mace just keeps going around the same direction. After working so much on the 10-2’s the 360’s were feeling pretty strong and I picked them up quickly. It also didn’t hurt that I have been doing a lot of 360’s to prepare the seminar.

For me, I like to use the 360’s as more of a mobility move because I feel it does a better job of opening up the upper back. I like the 10-2’s for more strength and endurance building because they require more tension to control the mace and redirect it when it is in front of you. This just means I use them both, it just depends on what my goal is.

After Rik finished with us we had a short lunch break and then Amir took over.

Amir showing us some different support positions

He started out by explaining his thought process behind what he was going to show us today, which was building upper body strength at different angles of the arm with the body from both a support and suspension perspective.

To show us what he meant he had us do a ring dip and then hold the top position for as long as we could. This holding of the top position was us supporting ourselves with our arms next to our body.

He then had us flip upside down and hold ourselves with the arms extended next to our sides. This is us holding our bodies in suspension with the arms in the same position.

He explained that this static strength in the support and suspension positions is very important for being strong in those positions and that they were often neglected elements in a training program. He showed us the different angles he liked to train and then we went into more ways to do that.

One of the lessons that really stuck with me was how he did his push ups. They broke some common rules that I have preached for years but his logic made a lot of sense. In his mind, he uses push ups as a movement practice for his higher level moves and so wants to practice the same upper back position and elbow movement he uses for them.

I shot a video on what I’m now calling Solsky Push Ups that you can watch below where I show and explain how this works.

A common theme from that point on was maintaining that upper back and elbow position we learned from the push ups. Through all the different supports and suspension positions he showed us he kept going back to those two things, reinforcing how important the right position is for maximum stability and strength.

While we learned a lot of great movements one of my favorites was what I’m calling the Solsky Pike Rocks, which you can check out below:

A video posted by James Wilson (@bikejames) on

At the end of the day I was tired but feeling pretty amped up from all the new stuff I had learned. I was already putting together different ways of using it in my workout programs and I had a lot of work to do with my own steel mace and bodyweight training.

Thanks guys, can’t wait to do it again!

After saying bye to Rik, Amir and the rest of the group I headed back to my hotel to decompress my brain for a bit. I sat down to write out everything that was swimming around my head, drank a beer and then I was ready for some dinner. Luckily a few guys from the seminar were in town and I met up with them for some more discussions about training and life in general.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t as excited to point my car back to Colorado and face the 12 hour drive home, although I was certainly looking forward to seeing my family and the drive home always seems to take longer. I’m really glad I got the chance to make the trip, though, and I know that what I learned will help me improve my coaching and programming skills.

If you get the chance to learn from either Rik Brown or Amir Solsky I highly recommend it, you can find them on Facebook and connect with them to keep up on their next seminar or workshop. And thanks again to Eric Doyle and the Long Beach Kettlebell Club, definitely the place to train if you are in the Long Beach area.

And thanks to all of the other attendees, you guys were a great group and I learned a lot from hanging out with you guys as well. Can’t wait to do it again!

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson


Steel Mace Training for BJJ: Using Hindu Warrior Training for the Mats

A few months ago I ordered a steel mace. Now, if you have never seen a steel mace it is exactly what it sounds like – a long steel handle with a ball on the end of it. In fact, it wouldn’t look out of place on a medieval battlefield.

But I didn’t get it to use as a weapon, although you certainly could in a pinch like the zombie apocalypse.

No, this was actually a new workout toy for me to try.

Steel Maces

And in the last few months this new toy has quickly become my favorite workout tool. In fact, I’m pretty amazed that we haven’t heard more about it before.

While it looks like something you could use to brain zombies with, the mace is actually based on the Gada (basically a stick with a rock on the end). It has been used by Hindu warriors and Indian Kushti Wrestlers for over 2000 years to build upper body and grip strength.

The mace definitely represents something of a lost art in the world of strength and fitness. I first came across the mace through the company ONNIT. They make a version of the mace that I had seen for a while but kind of wrote off as a silly gimmick. I mean, how hard could a 10 pound stick really be to handle?

But then I had a few things happen that piqued my interest.

First, I had a wakeup call from my neck. Or, more specifically, a pinched nerve in my neck. Despite doing a lot of the “right stuff” it seemed that I still had a gap in my upper back strength and mobility and needed something that really targeted these postural muscles.

The second thing was when I read a book called Natural Born Heroes. In it they quote Steve Maxwell and he mentioned how the ancients used tools like the mace and Indian Clubs to train the upper body’s natural elasticity and “spring”.

Since posture is a big part of this “spring” it stood to reason that these exercises also worked on the posture and upper back mobility I needed. I figured that when I could easily handle a mace my upper back had to be stronger and more mobile.

I knew that there was something to all of this and so I ordered a 10 pound and 20 pound mace. I figured that I would let my wife and little girl use the 10 pounder and I would use the 20 pound one.

After they showed up I realized I quickly realized that 1) holding a mace felt pretty bad ass and 2) I severely misjudged how heavy these things would feel. The 10 pound mace felt was tough to pick up and handle and the 20 pound mace was almost impossible to do anything with.

So after fashioning one for my little girl out of some PVC pipe and a stick and starting with the 10 pound mace myself I started to play around with it to see how it felt and what it could do.

Shilo with Mace

Initially I started out with the basics…

The Spear Stab (much harder than it looks)

The Grave Digger (amazing core rotation work)

The Barbarian Squat (great at opening up the chest and working on squat form)

The 360 (upper body strength, stamina and mobility training at its finest)

I’d do a simple routine like this a couple times a week:

1: Spear Stabs – 2 X 5 with 3-5 seconds hold

2: Grave Diggers – 2 X 10 each side

3: Mace Breathing Squats – 2 X 10 switching top hand for the second set

4: 360s – 2 X 10 each direction and each hand on top (40 total each set)

The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that the mace rewards balance and positional alignment more than it does raw strength. When I had good posture, position and balance the mace felt much lighter but as soon as I lost one of those things it got much heavier. While I could try to muscle my way through it I quickly learned that it was easier to focus on keeping things balanced and lined up.

I also learned that the mace requires a lot of upper back strength. Creating the leverage you needed to handle the offset weight required a lot of upper back strength than any other training tool I’ve ever used.

And finally, I learned that the mace requires a lot of upper back mobility since the Mace Breathing Squats and 360 had you bringing the mace behind your head. You had no choice but to open up the chest and keep from hunching over or else the mace would smash into something. Not enough to hurt but enough to incentivize you to not do it again!

Another great thing about the mace is how versatile it is. You can change your grip to make exercises harder or easier, allowing you to get a lot of use out of a single piece of equipment. There are also a lot of other exercises you can do with the mace than just the 4 that I mentioned here. Add in some bodyweight exercises or a single kettlebell and you start to open up a whole world of workout possibilities without needing to invest in much equipment at all.

If I’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about mace training then here are a couple of resources for you. The first is the ONNIT website where you can buy a mace and/ or learn some more exercises and routines using it.

You can also check out this guy’s website where he goes over the 360, which is the hardest exercise to learn but one of the most beneficial for you to do. He also shows you how to make a mace out of a clay pot and bamboo stick in case you prefer to build your own.

You can also check out this infographic, which outlines some of the other basic mace training exercises.

Mace Infographic

And just in case buying a mace or building one isn’t something you are willing to do then check to see if you have a 10 pound sledge hammer…or at least check one out next time you are at the store. Look for one with a round, straight handle but at the end of the day a sledge hammer is just a modern day mace made for pounding rocks instead of heads.

Training for a sport like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires a dynamic blend of upper body strength and mobility and I haven’t found a tool that targets this better than the mace. After using it for a few months I can feel the difference in my posture and my neck hasn’t felt this good in a while. I’m feeling and performing better and I feel a lot of it is the result of adding in some mace training to my routine.

So I hope you’ll take me up on the challenge and get yourself mace and try these exercises out for yourself. While it may take a little practice and your neighbors may look at you like you’re nuts (mine are used to crazy stuff like this by now) I think that you’ll find the mace to be a valuable addition to your toolbox.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems


Closed Guard Attack Flow Drill with Tom McMahon

It didn’t take me long to realize that having a strong Closed Guard is one of the first things you want to develop in BJJ. Like one of my BJJ mentors told me “if you have your legs around them they can’t pass your guard”.

For a guy who didn’t have any wrestling experience coming into it, Closed Guard become the great equalizer for me. If I could get my legs around you I could at least slow things down enough to think.

Eventually my Closed Guard game started to move from a purely defensive position to a place I could start to set up attacks and sweeps. And while I was doing good with the basic stuff like Triangles and the Flower Sweep I also found that I needed a few more tricks in my bag to deal with the better guys who knew how to deal with those basic attacks.

Yesterday my buddy Lance Trippet at posted a new video he shot with Tom McMahon from showing a drill to help you expand your Closed Guard attacks. Tom is a BJJ World Champion and agreed to share his favorite drill for attacking from Closed Guard with Lance and all of us.

tom mcM

Click here to see Tom and Lance demonstrate this Closed Guard Attack Flow Drill

As you’ll see, it is a pretty slick set up that gets you into a very strong position for the finish. Be sure to check it out and drill it next time you are working on your Closed Guard attacks. Like Lance says, drilling is the key to so just do it!

I hope you enjoy this video and get a chance to use it on the mats this week. I’ll be in touch with more BJJ drills and exercises to help you roll with more power, endurance and confidence.

Until then…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems

p.s. Do you have a question or topic about improving your BJJ specific movement and fitness that you’d like to see me address? If so I’d love to hear from you. Knowing what guys want to hear about will help me create the best content for so let me know what I can do to help.


An easy way to add crawling into your BJJ program.

Being able to move well on the ground is the hallmark of a great BJJ player. You know it when you see it – the fluid transitions from one position to the next and the ability to stay balanced no matter what happens.

However, as most of us quickly find out, being able to move like that doesn’t come naturally or easily for a lot of us. And while time on the mats certainly helps, a lot of people still struggle with some of the basic movement and positions for years into their BJJ careers.

This is where adding some crawling into your BJJ program can help a lot.

Crawling is also some of the best core training you can do and works your body in ways that nothing else can. In fact, I’d say that if you aren’t doing some sort of crawling then you have a huge hole in your program that is costing you when you wrestle.

Luckily, it is easy to do since it doesn’t require any equipment or much space. In fact, you don’t really need any space at all.

In these two videos I show you how to do a Marching Bear Crawl and Marching Crab Walk. Both are really challenging and work on your core strength and balance. Continue reading An easy way to add crawling into your BJJ program.


What Goldilocks can teach us about applying pressure in BJJ.

Now that I have a few years of training under my belt I find myself in the position of answering a lot of questions from new white belts. What’s funny is that a lot of the questions I hear are the same ones I had when I started, including how tight you want to be for different techniques.

The problem is that we all know that there is a sweet spot. You don’t want to be a limp pressure 2noodle but you also don’t want to be as tight as a vice grip all the time either.

Usually it takes a lot of time and practice to get a real feel for it but to help explain this concept to people I came up with something I call Goldilocks Pressure.

Now, you remember Goldilocks, right? She went on a rampage through some poor bears’ house and ended up causing a mess for them.

But in the process she had to find what was just right for her.

Some stuff was too much, some stuff wasn’t enough and some stuff was just right.

And the same thing applies to the pressure you use on the mats. Continue reading What Goldilocks can teach us about applying pressure in BJJ.


Inside the Steel Mace Certification at the ONNIT Academy

A few months ago I started training with the Steel Mace, a tool that has a long history and has a lot to offer the modern grappler.

And while I felt that I had been able to pick up some useful stuff from videos I found online and my own experiments, I knew that there was still a lot to learn about this unique training tool.IMG_20160306_175212097_HDR

Always being open to learn new stuff, I decided to sign up for the Steel Mace Specialist Course developed by the ONNIT Academy. I also wanted to check out their facility in Austin and meet the people behind ONNIT and the Steel Mace, so I was really looking forward to this trip.IMG_20160306_085216876

After catching a flight to Austin and a cab ride to my hotel I took a short walk to the ONNIT Academy to attend a BJJ class. They recently put in a 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu studio and I wanted to burn off some energy and see what I could learn from their No Gi specific style.

It was a great class, everyone was friendly and I certainly picked up some good details about the swimming armbar from the back and the Spider Web position from the instructor Curtis. I also picked up a good armbar break and a nasty triangle option as well…but that’s getting off subject.

After rolling a few rounds and telling everyone goodnight I got some dinner and prepared for my first day of Steel Mace Training.

On Saturday morning I came into their exercise room with about 10 other people there for the course. It was a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels but everyone was there for one reason – to learn more about how to use the Steel Mace to help them get better results for themselves and their clients.IMG_20160305_090706117

We started out by learning the basic hand position and bar positions. They stressed that these are the “landmarks” that you need to have dialed into be able to flow through the more complicated stuff we would be doing later.

I really appreciated this approach to drilling the basics into our heads. Just like learning a skill on the bike or on the mat in BJJ, hitting your positions is important and that starts with knowing your positions.

After learning the hand position we started to work on the basic switches. Switches are how your flow the mace from one hand position to another and again serve as the foundational basics for the fancies stuff we would be learning.

From there we started to dive into the actual movements, starting with the basic human movements of Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge and Lunge. This was also were we started to learn more about how the unique properties of the Steel Mace allowed us to create some really interesting forces on the body.

First, just holding the Steel Mace creates Anti-Rotation in the body. Since the mace is offset, keeping you hands even with the body creates these forces without you doing anything.

Next is Counter Rotation. By creating rotation with the mace around a stable body you have to counter that rotation to maintain a stable body.

And finally is Purposeful Rotation. With this you create rotation through the body, being sure to focus on creating that rotation from the right areas.

We spent the rest of the day going through different ways to apply this progression scheme to different exercises and movements. From rows to lunges, I learned a whole new universe of ways to challenge the body through this new way of looking at training.

By the end of the first day I my head was swimming and I was ready for dinner and a beer. After spending way too much money at the only restaurant in walking distance I crashed out, wondering what the next day would bring.

The next day started cold…and just because the air was a bit nippy on the walk. I had signed up to do 2 cryo-therapy sessions while I was there and the day before the machine got set on the cleaning cycle or something, meaning that if I wanted my 2 sessions I’d have to them both on Sunday.IMG_20160306_081756080

Showing up and hour early to get the first one in I was pretty nervous and didn’t know what to expect. The basic idea is to pump nitrogen gas into a small tank you are standing in and drop the temperature to -160 degrees.

This extreme cold freaks your body out and it sends all of the blood rushing from the limbs to the core to protect the vital organs. After 1.5-3 minutes you get out and the body relaxes, letting all the blood rush back. This is supposed to be very theraputic and help with muscle soreness and recovery…or at least that’s what I heard on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

Not being a huge fan of the cold I was afraid I’d wuss out in front of everyone but luckily I was able to tough it out for the 3 minutes. My finger tips were pretty pissed off at me for a few minutes after that but I certainly felt invigorated. I did my second session at the end of the day and it wasn’t as bad since I was already warmed up and has the blood flowing.

That day we started to work on some of the more complicated exercises like the Lateral Lunge and the Mace Swing/ 360. I was able to pick up some really good coaching cues and drills for helping people to learn the Mace Swing/ 360, which I know will help a lot as I move forward with teaching this exercise to clients.

The last part of the day was spent working on Mace Flows, which are where things really get fun and interesting. The design of the mace allows for some really effective switches and flows betweenIMG_20160306_160044961en exercises that let you work on the “long strength” that we need on the mats. Plus, they challenge your mind since you can’t lose focus with a 15 pound Steel Mace moving around your body.

We ended the day with a Graduation Workout, which was an advanced flow we learned. The challenge was that we were going to do it for 20 minutes straight and try not to put the mace down if you could help it.

And while it was challenging, I was able to make it the whole 20 minutes without putting the mace down once. Unlike some graduation workouts where you fee like you might blow something out trying to survive it, though, this one was more “sane”. I think that since we had spent so much time getting the basics dialed in and the fact that the mace rewards you with moments of balance and rest if you hold it right made it possible.

At the end of the day we had a group of happy graduates, all of us tired but ready to unleash our new knowledge on the unsuspecting world. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – the Steel Mace is the new Kettlebell and in 5 years we’ll be seeing them everywhere.IMG_20160306_171136529_HDR

I’m glad I was able to get in on the ground floor of the Steel Mace training revolution and that I can bring it to you. And thanks to everyone at ONNIT, especially Esik, Shane and Christian for their help during the course. I really like what they are doing with their certifications, equipment and supplements and it lines right up with what I’m trying to do with BJJ Strength Training Systems.

I’ll be signing up to take their Durability Certification in a couple months so I’ll have a write up of that one as well. In the meantime keep an eye out for more Steel Mace training articles, videos and programs. And be sure to post your videos and tag #bjjstrengthtraining and #revelinrotation when you do, I’d love to see you guys in action.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

BJJ Strength Training Systems


Improve your bridging and shrimping with the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing

Last week I posted a video going over a combo drill called the Butt Blaster 4000. After you get past the funny name you find a deceivingly tough workout that really targets the specific types of cardio you need on the mat.

One of the exercises in the routine is called the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing and yes, it is another Dan John special. He loves funny names for things he comes up with and I’m not going to argue with him about it.

After learning the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing it instantly became one of my favorite lower body exercises. It is perhaps the best way I have found to teach someone how to keep a strong core and really drive with their hips when doing a Hip Hinge movement pattern.

This is important because the Hip Hinge is the movement pattern behind things like bridging on the mat and doing deadlifts and kettlebell swings in the gym. Most people I have worked with had some serious issues with their hip hinge which put a lot of stress on the lower back and made it hard to do some moves on the mat.

In this video I show go into the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing and show you how to use it to help improve your hip hinge, which will pay off big time in a lot of other areas.

If you know that you need help with your hip hinge then I suggest replacing all swings and deadlifts with them for a few weeks. Doing 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps each time you train will really get your hip hinge nice and grooved.

If you have a good hip hinge (or at least think you do) then try doing 1-2 sets of 10 reps as part of your warm up to get the hips hinging properly before attacking your deadlifts and/ swings. I’ve found that this has helped a lot with my workouts and my first reps feel much more “connected” after doing some Bulgarian Goat Bag Swings.

And like anything else, your focus and attention to detail are what will ultimately determine your results. You wouldn’t bang out sloppy, unfocused reps when drilling on the mat so you can’t do that in the gym either.

Until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson


Improve your BJJ cardio with the Butt Blaster 4000

Cardio training for BJJ is a bit tricky for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to overdo it and end up overtraining or burning yourself out. In fact, I wrote an article looking at the real role of cardio training for BJJ that you can check out by clicking here.

The second thing that makes it tricky is that the type of cardio you need for BJJ and grappling is different than what you need for running or biking. You body is under much more tension when you are grappling and your cardio system has to work harder to overcome that tension, making it necessary to use methods that also have you under tension.

This is why exercises like the Kettlebell Swing or training methods like Combo Drills are so effective for BJJ – they have you working hard under tension, which is much more specific to the real cardio demands of BJJ.

The Butt Blaster 4000 is another combo drill that I recently learned about at a Dan John seminar that I attended. Dan likes to give things funny names and usually the funnier the name the more effective that thing is.

So with a ridiculous name like the Butt Blaster 4000 you know it that this has to be one mean combo drill. And trust me, it doesn’t disappoint.

Combining the Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing (another Dan John exercise) with the Goblet Squat it promises to test your ability to stay focused and move efficiently under tension and fatigue…something that is essential to improving your cardio on the mats.

Check out this video to see me demonstrate the Butt Blaster 4000 and explain more about how it will help you BJJ specific cardio.

Give the Butt Blaster 4000 a shot at the end of your next workout as a good finisher or you can even use it as a quick workout on its own if you are pressed for time. Either way you use it I’m sure you’ll know right away that it is going to help you roll with more strength and endurance on the mats.

That’s it for now, until next time…

Roll Strong,

James Wilson