“The Spider-Ninja” on Experimentation and Innovation in your Jiu-Jitsu

“I really believe that good BJJ is ultimately about maximizing your personal attributes.”

Mike “the Spider-Ninja” Bidwell is a BJJ blackbelt who teaches out of Tai-Kai Martial Arts / Team Balance.

Mike is perhaps best known for his innovative and creative techniques, which he films and shares through his BJJafter40.com

Jiu-jitsu Times: Let’s talk about being creative with your training, innovating techniques, and experimenting. Why is it important for jiu-jitsu students to experiment and be creative in their own jiu-jitsu game?

Mike “the Spider-Ninja” Bidwell : I really believe that good BJJ is ultimately about maximizing your personal attributes.

For example I am a 6’1”, 155 pound man and I am all arms and legs. If you were to physically describe me, you would say I’m tall and thin. So those are my physical attributes.

In terms of physical skill sets, due to a lifetime of martial arts, I have developed very good flexibility and a good sense of timing and movement.

I would consider myself “athletic” too. In other words I have played other sports throughout my life with a pretty good degree of success. I wouldn’t say I’m a superstar at other sports, but I can adapt well to other sports or activities.

In terms of personality I am very outgoing and I move through life at an “excited pace”. You might describe me as “high energy”.

I also like to tinker with things and pick them apart and re-create them in my own version. I would consider myself a creative spirit who is very resourceful and likes to improvise and create “on the fly”.

So, these are a handful of the ingredients that make up the grappler called Mike Bidwell. As you can see, that creates a very unique set of circumstances. Almost as unique as you are to me and I am to you.

Yes, we all have two arms, two legs and a neck, but how we choose to use them is unique to each of us when we train.

So, stylistically we are all going to create our own bag of tricks that work uniquely to each one of us. So, experimentation and innovation are going to help you figure out which moves work efficiently and successfully for your specific vehicle.

The fun part about jiu-jitsu is that you don’t have to adapt to jiu-jitsu; it will adapt to you.

For example if you are short-legged and triangles just aren’t happening for you, then you don’t have to put them in your bag of tricks. You can understand the principles so that you can defend them, but you don’t have to drill triangles every day.

You can put your focus on the techniques that work for you!

Jiu-jitsu Times: Do you have practical advice for BJJ students who want to add a new position or submission to their game?

Mike “the Spider-Ninja” Bidwell: Great question!

So, I’m Johnny grappler and I go on the internet and I see this dope crazy move on Youtube called the cryangle choke. I’m like that’s so cool but how am I ever going to get this move on somebody?

So I want to get the cryangle choke (see video below) but I don’t know where to start?

There are three areas you have to develop around a new move or position: mental reps, physical reps, and live rolling.

Lets start with mental reps.

As a martial arts teacher, I have asked myself one question for a very long time: Why do some students learn a move and just own it and others just never even get it?

I really believe that it starts with the mental and emotional experience you have around the move when you apply it.

For me, cryangle chokes are really fun. They make me feel powerful and technical at the same time. I love the feeling of using my legs as a weapon. It speaks to my creative side.

Do you see hear those words: powerful, technical, fun, creative?

In life, we all operate from an emotional guidance system. We are either trying to avoid pain or seek pleasure. As humans it is our nature to move away from things we don’t like and move towards the things we do like.

It’s no different on the mats.

This starts by creating a positive emotional framework around a new move or position. I like to meditate on a new move that I want to add to my bag of tricks. I will close my eyes and picture myself applying the move on another person.

I will watch it in slow motion,full speed, forward, and reverse, from various angles, top, bottom, sides, from a first person and third person perspective, etc.

As I apply the move I will create a powerful emotional feeling around the move. For example: this feels good, powerful, technical, blissful, etc. when I apply this technique.

These seeds that I am planting are going to help me build a powerful mental framework around this move.

If my mind takes me into a negative vibration, then I immediately and lovingly put that weed out of my garden.

The goal isn’t to doubt, question, and criticize. The goal is to create a positive framework that will translate in live practice.

When you live drill the move on another person, it will be helpful to add various “roadblocks” and challenges. For example: practice the move with no resistance, with light resistance, with eyes closed, forward and in reverse. This will help you build confidence, timing, and a sense of flow around the move.

The final stage for me is to practice a move in live rolling. Now, remember, live rolling IS practice. So, if you mess up the move, don’t panic; it’s all part of really understanding a move.

You need to know all the bad shit that can happen before you can understand how it feels to do it right. Let it serve as the contrast it is.

It will be helpful to try your new move on somebody a little less skilled than you. This will give you more opportunity to control the setup and outcome.

Once you developed a degree of success on lower belts, you can move onto students at your own level.

MikeBidwell2Jiu-jitsu Times: Describe your process when you have an idea for a new position or variation. Does it happen spontaneously during rolling?

Mike “the Spider-Ninja” Bidwell : It happens in a few different ways.

One way is during live rolling. I see something or feel something different that catches my attention. Sometimes it’s something I’m doing, sometimes it’s my partner, and sometimes a combination of both. If it’s something that I really like, I will video it with my phone right away.

To me, this is often my “rough sketch”…my starting place. I like what Picasso says, “I start with an idea and it becomes something else.”

Sometimes a new move or concept will come to me when I’m meditating, soaking in a hot bath, drawing, falling asleep, sometimes it’s a conversation with my wife who trains or my own children who also train, etc.

The important thing is to create an environment and mindset around creation. Ask yourself where are you ‘creating from’ in the first place? Am I creating out of fear? Is it that I keep getting mounted so I need a new mount escape?

Is it from a place of fun and creation? Or is it to cut down and destroy your partners? Because ultimately the creator cannot be separate from his creation. Creation is a very powerful tool, so the mindset around it is very important.

When you are fully living the jiu-jitsu lifestyle you can generate an environment that is conducive to creation, which for me is eating healthy; training healthy; feeding my mind a healthy diet; having a healthy, loving relationship with my wife and children are all things that put me in the creation mindset.

Meditation is also an important tool for me. That important time alone with my breathe allows me to tap more deeply into my creative spirit.

Once I have a concept or idea I like to play with it, deconstruct it, do it forwards, backwards and upside-down, rearrange the angles and have fun with it with no focus on a specific outcome. I try to let things happen organically.

Once I have the idea narrowed down, then I will play with it when I am rolling and see what is working and what is not. This process also creates other opportunities etc. that I may have never seen in the first place.

One of the reasons I put videos of moves out in the first place is to give a “ball of clay” to someone else to create from. In other words, they can take an idea from me, twist and turn it, and make it into their own unique creation.

So from creation we get innovation…

Video: THE VERY EVIL “CRY-ANGLE” CHOKE (Arm / Leg-in Triangle Choke)


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