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How To Mentally Prepare For The ‘Hard Class’

How To Mentally Prepare For The ‘Hard Class’

Every serious martial arts gym has at least one ‘hard class’. That night of the week where your coach decides conditioning for competition (or conflict) is in order.

Its reputation precedes itself. It is talked about in hushed tones and whispered about in the locker room after class. Some are curious, most fearful.

You probably have heard the horror stories. Participants vomiting with exertion, 100’s of push ups and endless rounds of hard sparing. It seems like hell.

So you rationalise to yourself that you are not ready, that you are not fit enough or skilled enough. You come up with whatever excuse in the book as to why you should avoid it and that is exactly what you are doing.

These feelings are normal. It is understandable that there is some fear or apprehension around the unknown. Nobody wants to be hurt or feel embarrassed, particularly in front of their friends. This class presents a real risk that you may fail, and that is scary.

However, if you do turn up and attempt the class, you are victorious. Regardless of your performance on the night, you can claim a victory over your fear. You have attempted something that most people won’t and you survived. You are stronger for it.

In these classes, you will be pushed harder then you have ever been before. You will feel like breaking down and giving up. But if you trust your coach, and they are competent, they will push you beyond your own limits and take you to the edge of your ability.

In battling your body, you are also taming your mind. It will be screaming to stop, pleading with you to tap out and quit. But these classes will teach you something vital. That that voice is a liar. You can and have gone beyond your perceived limits. You have continued despite your inner protests. You will learn that you are stronger then you think you are.

This level of pressure is exactly what you need if you are ever planning on competing. You will find that the ‘hard class’ is actually harder than the competition. Your sparring sessions in the gym are more challenging and forceful than they are on the competition floor. You will realise that becoming acclimated to stress and pressure has tremendous benefits to your performance.

Finally, if you are training your martial art for self-defence, this class is a must. A violent altercation is one of the most confronting, stress inducing and emotionally confusing events that most people will ever face. Compared to a real fight, the ‘hard class’ is just child’s play. You would be doing yourself a disservice to believe that you are emotionally ready to defend yourself on the street, if you are not emotionally ready to participate in the ‘hard class’.

Zac Phillips

The evolution of BJJ over time

The Evolution of BJJ Over Time.

I was in class recently. As an aside our coach casually mentioned some specific details about the technique that we were learning. Impressed, my training partner remarked to me ‘that’s black belt knowledge right there’. I initially agreed with him, but then upon reflection, responded with ‘I guess it’s blue belt knowledge now hey?’

His statement got me thinking. The tips, techniques and concepts that took the black belts of previous generations years to learn will be naturally handed down to their students. Thus, the abilities of a current blue belt will be far superior to a blue belt of previous generations, as, through their instructor, they have had an accelerated learning experience.

They have learnt from their instructor’s previous experiences, mistakes and countless taps. Things that would have taken years to discover and implement are now freely given to students. I am not saying that current lower ranks will perform it as well as their instructors, or even understand it as well as they do.

What I am saying is that current BJJ student’s potential knowledge pool is significantly deeper. In addition, the staples of BJJ, that is what is vitally important, is constantly getting discovered and refined. Any half decent instructor will strive to ensure their students understand these points and never lose sight of a strng foundation from which to grow and develop.

Take a couple of basic principles: when mounted, keep your arms close (t-rex arms) and maintain a low, balanced base when in someone’s guard. These concepts had to be discovered through countless hours of trial and error. Thousands of failures, taps and successes cumulating in what is now taught to kids on their first day of training.

The apex of knowledge of previous masters is now taught as beginner syllabus. Following this trend forward, BJJ will continue to evolve and change. I predict that it will continue to improve in leaps and bounds. With the ability level required to reach each belt level rising over time. With each new discovery proliferating through the community, the quality and ability of all practitioners must improve to keep up with them.

The same is true of MMA – just take a look at the best fighters from the early UFC days. Whilst amazing for their time, they would most likely struggle against the rookie undercards of today’s events. Fighting ability has and will continue to improve.

I wonder what exotic technique, or revolutionary line of thought of today will become the core concept of tomorrow. I guess I will have to wait and see!

Zac Phillips

Training Consistently


Whether you are a weekend hobbyist or a seasoned competitor the most important element of any exercise schedule is consistency of training. Even if you are time poor and can only squeeze in 45 minutes of activity a day, you can still achieve the results you desire provided you are training regularly.

Consistency is not merely how often you are training but also how you apply yourself when you are training. If you are training 5 days a week but really only breaking a good sweat one of those days then you can’t really be expected to hit those goals you have set for yourself. A well-designed training plan followed consistently will maximize results. A well-designed plan has the proper mix of stress and recovery and ensures the right type of training occurs at the right time.

Regardless if you are training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), Boxing, Muay Tha(Kickboxing) or personal training, your coach will help you make the most efficient use of your training time. Each workout has a purpose, consistently moving you forward. Even a four-week plan for example is more likely to be adhered to and achieve better results than one that is thrown together randomly. Train hard, train smart and train consistently.

Consistency of Training can be broken down into 3 key areas:


A good dose of cardio is a fantastic way to kick-start your metabolism. Relying solely on dieting to get into shape may allow you to drop some fat but you will also drop some muscle and strength as well.


Resistance training comes any many shapes and forms so don’t make the mistake of assuming that resistance is referring strictly to weight lifting. The best results in any training but particularly in resistance training are working in pairs. Having a training partner or Personal Trainer will keep you motivated and make you accountable.


A healthy diet is not a part-time deal. I’m not saying that you can’t treat yourself every now and then but there is no point eating well all week only to spend your hard earned cash on alcohol and junk food on the weekend. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul! The most commonly asked question I get as a trainer is “what sort of things should I eat?” The simplest way to answer this is if it wasn’t food 100 years ago, it isn’t food today! When you are at the Supermarket, avoid walking the aisles and stick to outsides like the Fruit and Vegetable and fresh produce sections. Another simple rule of thumb is that if you can pronounce the ingredient then don’t buy it!

For more information or for some general advise come and speak with any of your coaches when you are next in the gym. Happy training!

Glenn McLachlan

General Manager and Personal Trainer.

3 Keys to dealing with strong closed guard

The three keys to dealing with closed guard

We have all faced that opponent in a tournament who is up on points and just wants to hold down guard. They latch on a squeeze for dear life and watch the clock run down.


Then there is the pro-guard player will work incessantly to break your posture down, keep you there and then begin to attack. From a broken down position, they throw endless combinations of sweeps and submission attempts until one finally lands.

Weather your opponent is stalling for a victory or working for a sub, you need to be able to position yourself in the most advantageous position possible before you have any hope of breaking it open and working a pass.

Free your head

Often you will find your self-broken down in an opponent’s guard and feel stuck. Their legs are high on your back and they are controlling your head.

First you need to ensure that your base is stable so that you won’t get swept, and from there you can work on removing their hands from your head. Two hands beat one so focus on removing one hand first, then whilst controlling that hand move, to free your neck from the other. Once free, you will need to fight for a stronger posture.

Maintain a strong posture

Specific positions will vary depending on your body type, your opponents as well the particulars of your game. However, maintaining a strong posture will make breaking you down a lot harder.

While in guard sit upright with a straight back, ensuring not to round your spine (this can be used later to ‘pop’ open the ankles during a banana split or other openings).

Have your knees in and slightly underneath them. This will restrict the mobility of their hips, which will force them to open their guard if they want to attack or sweep.

Use dominate grips

Use one hand to hold both lapels in their centre line around the sternum level, this grip will help to hold the person down flat on their back. With the other take holds of the belt or pant material near the upper thigh and apply some pressure on their knee with your elbow.

Ensure that both elbows are in. This will help to maintain posture mitigate risk of submission attempts.

A general rule is that you want to have the ‘top’ grip. For example, if you are in guard and you grab their lapel with your right hand you want to keep it on top. If they reach over your right arm with their left, to grab your lapel, they are now on top and your grip is now significantly less effective.

You should work to replace your right grip on their lapel, over their arm and work to pin it in between your arm and their body.

If you find your self-trapped in guard remember: free your head, establish then maintain good posture and fight for dominate grips.

From there you can work your guard openings with increased probability of success.

See you on the mats,

Zachary Phillips

Training With Gene LeBell

Training With Gene LeBell

It’s hard to describe what training with The Godfather of grappling is like to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. As they say feeling is believing and nothing says that more than when Uncle Gene grabs hold of you with those big thick hands of his and gets the precise angle for a submission and the pain is immediate.

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Jake Shields No Gi Seminar

No Gi Seminar

Jake Shields will host his No Gi Seminar at the John Donehue Gym on September 15, 2019. You can order your limited spot now.

See Jake Shields Stats on Sherdog


A rare interview with Coach John Donehue


If you ask Coach John Donehue how he ended up teaching, training, and coaching, some of the most distinguished martial artists of this era, he will put it down to being in the right place at the right time. If you ask anyone who knows John personally, you will hear a vastly different tale.Read More

Staying on the Jiu Jitsu train

Staying on the Jiu Jitsu Train

With Jiu Jitsu, it is hard to objectively measure your progress, because everyone is progressing alongside you.

The same people that I struggled with when I first started at John Donehue Jiu Jitsu and MMA are the same people that I struggle with now. I still can’t pass Patty’s guard, Nikki still runs rings around me, and Ash still catches me with sneaky submissions from nowhere.Read More

Member of the month: Yohan D’lima



I have been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for just over a year, I started in 2017.


The positive and encouraging vibe from the coaches and my training partners make classes very enjoyable. Read More