Training Advice with a BJJ Black Belt: Burak Deger Biçer Part 2

“I regularly see people trying too hard on the wrong goal, trying to impress the instructors and trying to be dominant during training.”
– Burak Deger Biçer

Read Part 1 :

Jiu-jitsu Times: As jiu-jitsu grows all over the world, more women are becoming involved in a sport that has been mostly made up of men. Can you talk about your efforts in helping grow women’s BJJ? What advice do you have for an academy that wants to grow their women’s jiu-jitsu program?

Burak Deger Biçer: While I was in Brazil at a training camp, I was told that if I wanted to understand where a team is technically, I should roll with one of their female practitioners. Women almost always use pure technique.

While at the camp I met with Jacare Calvacanti’s first female black belt, Michelle Matta. She killed me while smiling.

After our first training session ended, my respect to Michelle and to BJJ was at another level. Michelle was a great instructor and fighter. I learned a lot from her.

Since that day, one of my dreams was to be able to create such a powerful female team. Yesterday I awarded our first female brown belt to Moya Brand sponsored athlete, Asena Melike Agansoy. She is now the first Turkish female brown belt.

We also have in our team Ankara’s first female purple belt, Gizem Bekaroglu, a super technical light featherweight fighter. We’ve been pioneering female BJJ in Turkey for years now with many other talented female practitioners in Corvos.

I don’t make any differentiation between male and female students as far as teaching goes. However, I differentiate between beginners and advanced, and fit and not-so athletic. Between those four criteria I would recommend anyone to protect their beginners if they are not athletic until they become more efficient technically so they can protect themselves against much bigger and heavier training partners.

Never forget technique is the foundation. You do not teach someone how to swim by throwing them into the pool. If you fail to ease the strong into training and make the not-so athletic adapt, they might be worn out psychically and feeling hopeless mentally.

If female practitioners are not choosing to train with you, you must have a problem with your jiu-jitsu or the environment you are teaching in.

Jiu-jitsu Times: What advice do you give to your students who are starting to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Can you share a principle, training practice, training advice, or philosophy, tips on nutrition, attitude, etc., that worked for you in your training?

Burak Deger Biçer: The more you train, the more you realise that even though jiu-jitsu is in the roots of fighting, to me it has nothing to do with fighting.

Who trains two hours every day just to be able to defend themselves one day? The chances are you will hardly ever get into a combat situation in your life unless you are a professional.

Is it worth spending your valuable time on the mat every day because one day you may get into a situation?

When beginners start training, they see just that. A fight. A fight for an amateur is full of feelings. Feelings will make you very slow or faster than you should be. They will blind you and break your rhythm.

You shouldn’t feel emotions when you are rolling or fighting. I see lower belts being swept in mid-air starting to judge themselves, making faces or smiling to the sweeper acknowledging the sweep, but this is the moment to react and get ready to feel with your body, not your mind.

For the true flow of the body you need the flow of the mind. The Mushin* is the key to a good fighter. A good fighter never fights. At first it will be a small duration but work on it like you work on your muscles and someday when your sparring ends, you will need to look around briefly to see which part of the mat you ended up.

In my opinion this kind of state of mind can only be achieved going backwards. Before you can learn to win you need to learn to lose.

I regularly see people trying too hard on the wrong goal, trying to impress the instructors and trying to be dominant during training. The game is not about beating everyone but rather how you do it.

When you start BJJ, your goal is to learn. You should be taking small steps like focusing on a few simple details of a move and try to execute it while training.

When a white belt begins jiu-jitsu, they try to finish a position before they can even start properly. You can be “successful” by just “squeezing” a white belt’s neck sometimes.

But are we here to be able to submit people with lousy, inefficient movement and technique? Are we here to be able to submit white belts someday? Or is your mat time now preparing you for training or fighting with black belts more efficiently in next 8-15 years?

In that sense, a student who fails regularly trying the right detail is giving me more, impressing me more, and he is learning to be submitted while he is brushing his details, which will be essential at higher levels.

When a white belt comes to train for the first time, their goal is to play at the level of blue belts. I tell them they are here to play at the level of black belts. For that, they need to relax and lose while trying the right technique now so that when more is expected they will be ready.

You need to feel and analyse and slice the cake as thin as possible before you get into some serious game.

I like to build a good technical foundation so that strength and competitive mindset are just options. For that the student needs to give in.

When you train jiu-jitsu, you will enjoy it most when your free mind frees your body.

Then you will be addicted.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you talk about your philosophy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, martial arts, training, and life? How do the lessons in the gym carry over into the rest of your life off of the mat?

Burak Deger Biçer: Years ago during an interview, Renzo Gracie answered a question with these words: “Everything in life is a fight, getting out of your bed in the morning is a fight”. His words are stuck in my head.

I know now after years of practice, I realised that fighting is just a state of mind. I apply this to all aspects of my life. Just like everyone else, I was brought up with limitations, believing there were things you can and can’t do.

Jiu-jitsu taught me that limits don’t exist. Just to give you an example, while being tested for my blue belt, I snapped my ACL and was told by my doctor that I would not be able to train anymore.

Right at the beginning of my journey, there was this huge road block in front of me, but I loved jiu-jitsu, so I didn’t even think STOP.

Just one year after my knee surgery I won my first medals in Brazil, submitting all my opponents in the absolute division and placing second in my division as a blue belt.

It wasn’t such an important tournament, but for me it was one of the most important achievements of my life. I earned Turkeys first medals in that tournament. My student also earned double gold that day as a white belt.

That day, jiu-jitsu showed me that passion is stronger than any limitation life can throw at you, no matter what people tell you. Mats belong to those who stay on them.

I was not there to compete. I just wanted to feel and to challenge myself, to experiment before I could teach my future students. Yet that day gave me a lesson I will use all my life.

It feels great to win, but competition is just a small part of what we do and who we are as BJJ practitioners worldwide. We hold something deeper than pieces of metal and titles.

Jiu-jitsu connects us in an interesting way that is capable of breaking boundaries and limits, and it showed me that time spent right will pay you back greatly. It showed to me not to underestimate anyone and that looks can be deceiving. JJ taught me to be patient.

I use leverage and timing in everything I do now in my life. Jiu-jitsu is just like a small version of life; it’s pretty simple, it just takes a long time to understand that. It makes you face your fears and it taught me that I was only afraid of things I didn’t know and because ofj jiu-jitsu I stopped lying to myself. It helped me evolve as a human being, as a man, and as an instructor.

I see jiu-jitsu as a science. It is the collective intelligence of all the past practitioners, and like the ones before me I am trying to pass it on by acknowledging the responsibility that comes with it.

We all know that it’s not just about teaching a few good martial arts moves. That’s why our motto is “Head-Hand-Heart.”

Jiu-jitsu Times: Are there any exciting projects that you are currently working on – e.g., competitions or events that you are preparing for, or programs in your gym?

Burak Deger Biçer: With my new investing partners we have just become a corporate company, and recently updated our logo and title. We are expanding and venturing into new and exciting projects for both MMA and BJJ in Turkey.

I can’t really get into detail so much yet, but you will be hearing about Corvos Combat’s new projects in the near future, for sure.

Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most Jiu-jitsu Times readers would not know?

Burak Deger Biçer: This is like asking a cat what he does all day. I eat, I sleep, I train.
If you are reading this and already a jiujiterio, I am just like you.

If you are a beginner and wondering why so many people are going crazy about jiu-jitsu, START NOW. Now is always the best time to start jiu-jitsu.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my mind with you readers.
Hope to see you all in Istanbul someday.
Good Luck.

*Mushin ( Japanese mushin; English translation “no mind”) is a mental state into which very highly trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. They also practice this mental state during everyday activities.

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