Copa Jiu-Jitsu provides a one-of-a-kind blend of physical conditioning and practical self-defense in a supportive and fun environment. One student chose to document his experience with our methodology over 60 days to see how quickly our system produces results. These are his unedited journal entries.
At the beginning of the New Year, I was approached by Copa BJJ coaches Jim Neitzel and Mark “Mack the Knife” Daley to consider a proposition: commit to training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at least 3 times per week while maintaining a healthy diet for a total of 60 days. The purpose of this experiment was to gauge how effective Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is in helping individuals lose unwanted weight (gimmick free: just a healthy diet and hard training).
My guess is that I was selected for a couple of reasons—first, I had been out of the gym for a couple of months due to a family tragedy and the constraints of my job. Second, as a result of being away from the gym, I had put on several extra pounds that I was not at all happy about. Mack and Jim asked me how much I weighed, and more importantly, how much I wanted to weigh. I told them I was walking around at between 250-260 lbs, but as I am only 5’ 11”, I would like to get down to 200lbs at some point. Jim told me about a company that shares space in the gym our jiu-jitsu school operates out of (Quads Gym) called “DexaFit”. As Jim explained it, DexaFit uses state of the art imaging technology to provide a comprehensive breakdown of one’s body composition. This imaging technology has been used by professional athletes and weekend warriors alike to educate them on how muscle mass is distributed through their bodies, what percentage of their mass is stored as fat, and even measures bone density levels. Jim stated that Copa BJJ wanted to partner with DexaFit to do a “Before and After” experiment, where I got to be the guinea pig. As someone who wanted nothing more than the right motivation to shed pounds, I jumped at the opportunity.
I met Adam Kadela from DexaFit on Saturday, January 5th to do my first diagnostic (or “Before”) screening. He briefly explained the technology involved. The DexaFit imaging system uses low-level X-Rays to image the entirety of the body to determine the breakdown of fat, muscle, and bone matter in the body. Adam explained that the level of radiation involved in the procedure (which lasted only 5-8 minutes) was comparable to walking through an airport metal detector, or watching 3 hours of television. This was a comfort as the DexaFit machine whirred and clicked above my head. I just had time to get comfortable and think about snoozing when Adam informed me that the scanning was done. He handed me a printout of the scans. It was unnerving to see myself laid out in such a way: The largely featureless image was in gray-scale, and I was able to see where my body fat was stored (largely in the android/abdominal region). A startling revelation I had was that my lungs (which I could clearly see from the scan) looked abnormally small, but then realized that my outer frame had become so large that my proportions were out of wack. Talk about motivation… Adam then told me how the scan/report was broken down, including determining with pinpoint accuracy (which regular calipers and most body-mass measuring instruments cannot attain) the percentage of body fat I carried, how much lean/muscle-mass I carried, and how it broke down throughout the regions of my body. I learned that professional-caliber athletes use this to determine how effective their workout regimens are, where gains/losses are made, and how to tailor their workouts to have the most beneficial results. For the purposes of this experiment, however, we were focusing on decreasing the percentage of body fat, increasing lean mass, and decreasing overall body mass.
At our follow-up appointment on Wednesday, Mack and Jim joined Adam and I to go over the results. I couldn’t help but to begin to worry about what I had gotten myself into when Mack browsed the results of the screening. When Adam stated that he hoped I would reduce my body fat mass 5% in 60 days, Mack responded matter-of-factly that “I was thinking more like 10%, 15% to be conservative. At 254 lbs, Mack is shooting for me to drop 25 lbs of fat. When I pointed this out to him, he smiled mischievously and said “Oh, we’ll get you there. Don’t worry about that. You just show up.”
My training started in earnest that same day. Wednesday at Copa is “competition training” night, where after a brisk warmup, we pair up and go for full 5-minute rounds for at least 14 rounds. After my long absence, I gassed quick. At the end of the evening, I had sparred only 7 rounds. Mack stated that “10 rounds is respectable. We’ll work on that”. Jim has taken to calling me “The Project”.
I worked out again Thursday and Friday. I particularly like Friday evening classes, because we drill fundamentals. For me, drilling movements until they become second nature are key. I also benefitted from Mack refusing to let me sit out between rounds during sparring that evening.
My first week ended on Saturday, which is notorious for being the most challenging class (not to mention the longest, routinely clocking in at over 3 hours). The conditioning/warmup on Saturdays are brutal: Jumping pushups, jumping lunges, hindu squats, wind sprints, live position drilling, judo/standup drilling, etc. All the while, Mack works his way around the mat, urging his team to go harder, faster, more aggressive: “What do you think your opponents are doing right now, on Saturday afternoon? Do you think they’re training like this? They’re probably eating pancakes and watching cartoons! You’re going to run through them in competition!” After the warmup comes technique (during the week, we had worked on De la Riva guard. Today, we worked on submissions/defense from Kesagatame). The class ended, as usual, with several rounds of sparring.
As the first week ended, I am beginning to see what will be required of me. I will need to train hard, but also train smart: my forearms feel as though someone has beaten them with a thick stick, and my cardio is nowhere near where it needs to be. However, the first week is behind me, and I know that I’ve started something that I have to see through.
Next week, I’ll talk a little bit about my diet, as well as how my training is progressing.