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Iron Legion

By Paul Winter


“Jiu Jitsu is all about smaller, weaker people triumphing over bigger stronger people through technique.”

If you’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for a while, you’ve probably heard something like this before.

If you’ve been training somewhere that has big, strong people, you may have also found out that this statement is not exactly correct.

Can a smaller, weaker person beat someone larger and stronger than themselves? Absolutely, otherwise the martial art would really have no benefit at all- how many times are we likely to find ourselves perfectly evenly matched in a real-world scenario?



This statement is also made more often than not by individuals clinging to the idea that they don’t need strength training to inform their Jiu Jitsu…which is incorrect.

In very simple terms, when two individuals of roughly equal size and technique are pitted against each other, who do you think will win the engagement?

If you said the one who is stronger, congratulations. You win a gold sticker.

No matter how good your technique is, or how far you progress in Jiu Jitsu, you are going to have moments where you come up against someone who is strong as hell, and is able to use that to shut down your movement, your attacks, and ultimately, you, as they force you into a key-lock or kimura through sheer force of muscle.

In order to avoid these sorts of situations, it is crucial that we dedicate time each week to bringing up our physical strength as well as our technical grappling.

Because here’s a secret they don’t tell you at the McDojo:

Strength is a skill, too.

We always hear it in an either/or dichotomy, like “Strength versus Skill,” but that’s a false way to look at it.

Skill is defined in the dictionary as:

1a : the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance. b : dexterity or coordination especially in the execution of learned physical tasks. 2 : a learned power of doing something competently : a developed aptitude or ability

We could say that weightlifting and strength training are essentially the execution of learned physical tasks that lead to an increase in muscularity and power.

Performing a clean split jerk or snatch is certainly as technical a skill as learning an armbar- maybe more so.

So instead of thinking in terms of “strength vs. skill,” we can think “technical skill informed by physical skill” or, in other words, clean technique applied with strength is better than the clean technique alone.

This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your mat time in order to “get swole.”

On the contrary- too much time in the rack can actually have a negative effect on our grappling…just try a heavy squat session where you empty the tank a few hours before working standing guard passes.

Trust me.

Instead, putting together a sensible 2 or 3 time a week strength routine that focuses on the compound lifts done at a reasonable training max will take you a long way.

I am a firm believer in the gospel according to Jim Wendler, and his 2/3x a week programs already utilize a built in “training max” system that will have you working at a capacity that allows for other endeavors.

If you are new to lifting, it can be a good idea to pay for personal training to be coached on correct form for these lifts, rather than just flinging yourself into it with reckless abandon- you probably have a grappling coach, so the same for strength training makes sense too.

If you’re still not sure, go have a look at just about every high level competitor out there, even the ones who aren’t on a special blend of tren and acai:

Even the Mikey Musumeci’s and Ruotolo brothers of the world are in the gym adding strength-skill to their Jiu Jitsu arsenal.

To be great, do what the greats do.

Get to it- see you in the squat rack!

By Isabelle Ramirez


We’ve all been this woman. This mother. This person. We’ve all taken some time off for many different reasons. So let’s chat a little bit about why breaks in fitness can happen and how to move past them and move forward.

But first, do any of these experiences resonate with you?

You have been feeling bad, and didn’t know why. It turns out you’re pregnant. You’re scared, happy and clueless. You want to continue your workout routine but don’t know how it will affect your pregnancy and you don’t know what to do so you just don’t go into the gym for a while.

You just had your baby. You feel extra bad now. Recovering, taking care of a newborn and hardly sleeping. Self-care and exercise are the last things on your mind, yet you dream of your pre-baby fitness lifestyle. You want to get back to the gym, the classes and your friends but don’t know where to begin or if you’re cleared to exercise. Bonus points if someone tells you not to lift anything over 20 pounds.

Your kids are on Winter Break and it’s a wild two weeks trying to manage them and keep them fed, all while attempting to work during the bermuda triangle of productivity that is Mid-December to the New Year. You’re not worried about working out, you’re too busy and will get to the gym once the kids get back to school. You may feel guilty and may dread going back and trying to get back on track. It may not be Winter Break, though that is the most recent schedule change I’ve noticed, but you could insert illness, surgery, vacation, busy times at work, or anything that may pull your attention away from YOU.

These scenarios may look slightly different for everyone. They may be more complicated or maybe there are more moving parts. I’ve been through every one of those stages and it took a lot of effort and patience to get moving again. Below are some tips to get you back where you’re feeling good again.

  1. Rediscover your why.
    1. Why do you want to get into the gym, get back to fitness and get back to health? We all know the immense health benefits of regular exercise and good nutrition, but dig a little deeper and figure out why you want this for yourself. It may have changed. You may have a new human to care for and you may be a new version of yourself. Life changes give you an opportunity to change perspective. My why will be different than yours and your why will be different from your other friend. What’s important about having an honest conversation with yourself about your why, is being authentic and true to your motivations. Don’t kid yourself – It’s unsustainable. Your true why will keep you going when things get challenging.
  1. Don’t beat yourself up.
    1. Shit happens. Stuff comes up. Sometimes it’s out of our control and sometimes it’s from shifting priorities. It’s ok. Everyone gets it. Give yourself some grace and get back on track. Whatever your track may be. It truly is a journey and you can honor yours by striving to be the best version of yourself. Having a break in your fitness doesn’t make you a bad person, so there’s no need for punishment, rather, the reward is the opportunity to become better than before.
  1. Create a plan.
    1. The more moving pieces you have in your life, the harder it may seem to find time for yourself. Babies, work, partners and friends may make you feel like you need to place your health and fitness on the back burner indefinitely, it’s actually the opposite. Taking care of your basic needs makes you a better mother, partner, employee and friend. As humans we need to move and we need to sweat. Training to be stronger, better and faster teaches us skills that transfer beautifully, yet sometimes undetected to our day to day lives. This can be challenging though, trying to manage it all. This is why support from your community is paramount for success. Tell your family about the changes that you’d like to make and make sure they’re on board. You will need their support when it gets hard or schedules are crazy. They can help you reach success. Start small with your plan. Plan out one week, and when that goes well, plan for the next one. Breaking up big goals will make easing into a routine more manageable for everyone.

Lifelong fitness doesn’t mean redlining everyday for years and years. I truly believe that the ebbs and flows of life allow us to stay in fitness and continue our ‘sport’ of choice for life. But what needs to stay constant is the commitment to ourselves and our bodies.

This is possible, it may be scary and daunting, but you can do it.

Isabelle Ramirez is a woman, mother and coach. She is a BIRTHFIT Leader and Coach, CF-L1, and USAW-1. Her passion is empowering women through fitness and community.