Panda Jiu-jitsu

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Grapplers!

Here's some holiday cheer from our friends at BJJ Training Journal. What BJJ or any martial arts related gifts did you get this year? Whatever they are, feel blessed that you get to spend this day with family and friends.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pena - The weight-watching journey

It's been 5 months since I began training with my new team - Cascao Jiu-jitsu and I'm finally seeing the results of it on my body. During my 9 month break from jiu-jitsu, I've managed to balloon to 190 pounds. That's crazy considering I used to compete at Pluma (Light Featherweight). For those new to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, see below for the IBJJF weight divisions.

IBJJF Weight Divisions

My competition goals for 2014 aren't far-fetched - I want to compete (and win of course) at Pena (Featherweight). I've plateaued at 170 lbs. (that's 12.14 stone for all you blokes) these last couple of months. It's taxing to control one's appetite especially during the holiday season.

Wise men have told me "Do not cut. Lose weight slowly and naturally". I had a fear of getting smashed by bigger, stronger opponents. That fear ultimately led me to cutting 15 lbs. in a month in preparation for the the 2012 IBJJF Las Vegas Summer Open. I dieted (more like starved) like crazy. I started my days with fat burners and CLA's. During competition week, my meals consisted of hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, protein shakes, broccoli and coconut water. Healthy? Hardly. I was focused on shedding weight instead of competition training. On a side note: weight shouldn't even be a factor. If an opponent knows how to correctly base and distribute his weight, you will be pinned.

Tournament day comes - my breakfast was a banana and a cup of yogurt. I was semi-parched throughout the day for fear of gaining water weight. Stepping on a scale at the bull pen, I actually weighed in at 140 lbs. with my gi on. That's a pound below the limit. So in my head I was thinking "Yeah, I got this!" But then expectations don't always coincide with reality. I started my match spazzing and midway through I had my adrenaline dump.

Weighing scal panda
"Shouldn't have eaten the last slice of that oreo cheesecake."

So here goes, lessons I took from that day:

  1. I should have focused on technique instead of consistently monitoring the weighing scale - I'm not a Victoria's Secret model.
  2. I shouldn't fear bigger, stronger opponents - that contradicts the entire existence of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

I am approaching the 2014 competition season not only smarter but also with utmost diligence. The plan is eating clean plus drilling and rolling more. I've been doing somewhat of a good job. However the real challenge is to NOT deviate from the plan. Let's see how this goes.

See you all at the tournaments!

Friday, November 15, 2013

A grappler's crusade: Relief for Typhoon Haiyan victims

Braver & Stronger tee benefiting the victims of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

During this past week the world witnessed how the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines endured Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Meteorologists coined the super typhoon as the biggest storm ever recorded in history. All over media outlets we see the aftermath of Haiyan: displaced, hungry, weeping residents unknowing when their next meal or even their next drink of water will be.

Aid has poured in from the international community. Stories of generosity fill my social media timelines giving me hope that humanity has not forgotten to be humane

Every ounce of help goes a long way. Skip the empty calories from that soy latte tomorrow morning, eat in for Friday date night, or watch movies at home instead of the cinemas. These very, very minute tweaks to your routine can free up some of your resources. Resources that can potentially feed a family.

Collecting whatever resources and people I can gather to this cause, I am doing what I can from miles away to help my brothers and sisters in need. Two months ago while on a trip to the Philippines, I had the pleasure of visiting Isabel, Leyte. During my brief stay, I experienced paradise. It was real island living. As a coastal village, the sea breeze greeted me every morning as I wake up. Although an outsider, I was immediately treated like family by my hosts. The feeling of belonging filled my heart. I was taken around town experiencing the lifestyle of the Isabelanon.

View from the balcony, Isabel, Leyte

The people of Leyte, Samar, Bantayan Island and Northern Cebu deserve much better and it's up to us to make a difference. There's nothing I wouldn't do to help this town and the entire region, rise up from this tragedy. Many groups have started campaigns to collect funds. Sending material objects such as food, medicine, clothing is a noble act in itself however delivery may take time due to logistic-constraints and time is of the essence. Cash donations are a more flexible way of sending help. Teams on the ground can use your money to purchase needed supplies from neighboring islands. You can send donations via the Philippine Red Cross website or your preferred charitable organizations.

Within the jiu-jitsu community - a collaborative effort was started by Gawakoto with the help of Scramble and Meerkatsu to help the victims of super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. The result is "Braver & Stronger": a fundraising t-shirt with 100% of the proceeds going to the UK Charity collective Disasters Emergency Committee. Bong from Gawakoto is Filipino born and raised so this tragedy strikes too close to home. Whether or not you make a purchase or donation, spreading the word about this project is good enough effort. We all have unique ways of helping out, don't let your finances dictate what type of help you are capable of providing. Every little bit helps. Survivors out there have much bigger problems.

Let's all band together as grapplers, as human beings and help rehabilitate the Philippines.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sharing the gift of Jiu-jitsu

My Jiu-jitsu journey began on October 18. Merely two years after, my brother now begins his.

Having him train with me comes an immensely warm feeling. It almost surpasses the amount of joy I felt upon receiving my blue belt. To be able to share not only blood, but also the mats with him was an honor.

His first and only roll of that night was with me. The class was divided into two teams with matches assigned. We went last and had the longest roll.

I didn't want to overwhelm him so I pulled guard. Just like any spazzed out white belt he stood up to try and shake me off. He accidentally tripped and in the process slammed me. My head felt whizzed but we continued without pause.

I managed to get full mount on him. I attempted an armbar and had it really tight. He's flexible like me and would not tap easily to it. I finally submitted him with a gogoplata. After tapping out I gave him the biggest hug I remember that I've ever given him. I've never felt as close to him as a brother previously other than that night. He deserves a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate.

He wishes to continue training, although he can't maintain a consistent schedule due to work. Less training is better than no training right?

I hope he fully embraces the jiu-jitsu lifestyle one day. I hope we never stop training.

Listening to some takedown advice

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Green Gi Custom Hemp Belt

Photo credit: The Green Gi

Ever since seeing Meerkatu blog about his custom BJJ belt some years ago I've always wanted to make one myself. I was planning on getting it once I reached purple belt status as a gift to myself for all the hard work. But after coming back from my really long training hiatus I felt like getting this belt now gave it a whole new meaning. Melodramatics aside, wearing it would remind me of my renewed commitment to jiu-jitsu - never taking any time off.

So now on to how I got this bad boy made.

I was initially thinking of Kataaro make it for me. Then I figured why settle for the norm, I want to be different. It just hit me without much thought: I wanted a hemp belt. Why hemp? Other than it's stronger and more durable than cotton, it's an eco-friendly material. Other than that it has anti-microbial properties. Not that I'm suggesting you don't wash your gi occasionally. Now who makes awesome hemp belts? The Green Gi. I admit, I found them last year only because they were giving away free patches. Free stuff yes! I just could not resist. Another thing I found admirable about the company is that their products are 100% made in the USA.We all know most of the gis in the market today are either outsourced from factories in Pakistan or China. It's refreshing to know a homegrown company is making all this possible.

Available belt colors from The Green Gi
Photo credit: The Green Gi

It started out with an e-mail.

I posted a question on one of Addie's Instagram photos. We then began exchanging e-mails to discuss designs and production. If you haven't noticed, my belt is patterned after Meerkatsu's belt. It's a straightforward design layout. Jiu-jitsu kanji with my logo below and the website URL at the bottom.

You have to give it to Addie and The Green Gi team for responding in a very timely manner. A majority of my correspondence with her was while I was on a 2-week holiday. I wasn't on Wi-Fi the whole time but whenever I was, an update from TGG team alerted me to my inbox. I swear I felt like a kid again on Christmas Eve waiting to open my presents.

I sent my first e-mail to Addie on July 30th. My belt was waiting for me in the mail on September 9th. Now that's a really quick turnaround. I got back from holiday in the wee hours of September 10th and the first thing I did was rip open the envelope containing my belt.

I wear an A1 gi but I like how an A3 belt (118 in.) hangs up to a couple inches above my knees. It's roughly 1.5 inches in width which I too also find perfect. Now as the proud owner of the first custom belt prototype, there will be some unforeseen production flaws. It's not to the level of an unbearable eyesore but a few improvements are in order.

Front and back of embroidery


Notice how my website's URL isn't too clear. Addie had suggested that on future custom work they would be recommending an all caps lettering to make text more vivid. The photo on the right shows you the underside of the embroidery. Although I have not seen this side of Meerkatsu's belt, this area might need some covering up. Addie had an idea of a custom TGG labeling to cover up the back side of the embroidery. I think that it would serve a double-purpose for protecting the embroidery. One noticeable difference between a cotton and a hemp belt for me is how tight I need to tie it around my waist. I've used a Ground Control and a Flow Kimonos hemp belt in the past and I have always had to tie them tighter. I don't know how other hemp belt users think of the grip of hemp belts but having gone through 3 brands, I've come up with the same conclusion. Or it could be I have been tying my belt the wrong way all these years. Once you've tied the belt securely though, it stays there. Sometimes I tie it too tight that it takes me a while to remove it.


I've previously had gis made for my previous academy so I know a bit about digitizing. Embroidery places need to convert the image files I had into a file compatible with the embroidery machine. That's what digitizing is in a nutshell. The digitizing fee plus the embroidery work cost me $80. Now tack on the cost of the belt at $35 and that brings us to a total of $115. Now since this was a special request and the guys at TGG had to go out of their way to help me out with this, I added a little bit extra and ended up paying $135. The $20 processing fee seemed reasonable when you think about they spent on it and how quick they had it in my mailbox. At that price, it is a really good especially for customized product of this quality.


I've only had around 15 hours of solid training with this belt on. So far the embroidery has help up and the belt itself does not show signs of fraying. Although I am certain this belt will last me for years I'll be posting updates as I add more hours of rolling into this belt. It's definitely worth getting. Not that you'd expect the average BJJ practitioner to go through more than one belt at any given rank. It just adds a bit of flair. As for me, I know it would take me a few more years at blue belt before getting promoted. Having this belt on me adds its own symbolism.

If you need a custom hemp belt made with your design be sure to hit up and tell them Pandinho sent you. I don't get any commission from referrals but it's good to know I'm helping out a grassroots brand like TGG.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gawakoto Kimo-Noh - Adding art in Martial Arts

Photo credit: Gawakoto

I love comic books.

Who doesn't?

Our love of art has different levels. My introduction to "real" comic book art was by way of the uncanny X-Men. I admit, I fail as a comic book geek in comparison to my buddy Bong from Gawakoto. Bazooka gum comic strips don't fall under the same category by the way.

I always borrowed from friends, never bought any myself. As a kid, they were too pricey for me. Marvel comics were a scarcity where I grew up, but it didn't bother me that I couldn't follow an arc or storyline.

Discovering the Gawakoto brand was a happy accident. I was looking for BJJ brands that offered Filipino-inspired designs. I found one of Bong's first projects - a Kali Eskrima rashguard with Lapu-lapu (which coincidentally is the hero of my hometown Cebu) as the centerpiece. I've become an avid fan of the brand ever since. I often convince friends and training partners to at least check the website out.

Gawakoto has recently designed a Kabuki-inspired gi, with approval from David Mack - the Kimo-Noh. The Kabuki comic book series is Mack's brainchild and is credited as one of his best work to date. Pre-order for this limited edition release has already started on Monday in the UK. The first 50 orders come with exclusive Kabuki artwork from David Mack.

I've been holding off on grabbing one since I was informed a US release is due in the future. Shipping cost from England is too high, buying locally would save me money. The plight of the working student.

I have to stop buying white gis, I just have too many to date. Hint hint Bong, please make a royal blue or navy gi soon!

Whoever is getting the Kimo-Noh before I do, please share your thoughts about the quality of the weave and the embroidered artwork. I would love to oggle at this gi even more.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Panda History

I have been toying with the idea of creating a blog for a better part of this year. As a blue belt who works during the day, and trains and struggles to finish university at night - I think I'm a part of a big portion of BJJ practitioners out there who don't train full time. I'm just like YOU buddy: whoever's reading this.

Blogging was an idea created when I wasn't actually training. I took a 9 month hiatus due to a bunch of reasons. I was a newly-minted blue belt when I decided to take a break. I honestly grew unhappy of training. That story I'll have to write about later.

Right before I started typing up this post, there were doubts, questions I asked myself:

"Am I in authority to talk about Jiu-jitsu?"

"Am I a good example of an ideal Jiu-Jitsu practitioner?"

"How many grammar-nazis will be biting at my heels?"

Then I remembered the whole reason why I wanted to blog. I'm doing this for me as a renewed commitment to this sport, to this lifestyle. It's also a way of tracking my progress as a martial artist as I go though this journey.

Now you might be wondering: "Why a panda?" 

I've always had this affinity for pandas. They're gentle, slow creatures. My jiu-jitsu game is similar: slow to start with aggressiveness coming a bit late. Some people think that a slow game is bad, yes it is. But I've grown to adapt to this style through the years of training. I however admit that my aggressiveness when needed, should come out as easy as flicking a switch. I am still working on that.

I'll try to post stuff weekly. My schedule's all filled up with work and school. I'm also currently looking for a new job. Where I currently work it doesn't really help pay the bills, especially the monthly BJJ training costs.

With this introduction of sorts, I welcome you to my blog.