Friday, April 07, 2056

Seminar note links

Image by Bluefluke

John Will

11 Nov 2017 - Pirate Grip, Russian Tie
15 Oct 2017 - Half Guard, the Seed
5 Mar 2017 - Ashi Garami 2.0, Honey Hole and Heel Hook
9 Oct 2016 - Ashi Garami, straight footlock
John Will Seminar 16 April 2016- Legbars
21 Feb 2016 - collar grip guard, single leg X guard
30 Aug 2015 - post clinch takedown strategy, Z guard, kneeride
22 Feb 2015 - Snatch Single, Vale Tudo Guard, Darce/Anaconda
24 August 2014 - a Spider Guard Plan
23 Feb 2014 - Advanced Spider Guard
29th September 2013 - Crucifix Control
24 March 2013 - X Guard
21 Oct 2012 - ankle picks, Z guard
21 April 2012 - Z guard
25 Mar 2012 - Guard Passing
2 Oct 2011 - takedown strategy, 2 on 1
20 Aug 2011 - D'arce choke, Deep Half Guard
3 July 2011 Side control escapes and counters
John Will Seminar 16 Apr 2011 - attacking from the turtle
20 Mar 2011 - Hooks and hooking sweeps
24 Oct 2010 - Anaconda, D'arce, Peruvian Necktie, Shackle
15 Aug 2010 - Back Control
14 Mar 2010 - Kata Gatame
18 Oct 2009 - Getting the back, back attacks
1 August 2009 breaking out of the clinch, roundhouse kicks and takedowns
4th April 2009 - hooking sweeps, S Mount armbar
1 Nov 2008 - open guard, side control escapes
5 April 2008 - Shell, Omoplata
20 Oct 2007 - X guard
Jul 28, 2007 - MMA defence from bottom, darce
31 MAR 2007 Shell in depth and takedowns
29 October 2006 - Triangles,knees in guard. passing half guard, visor
29 July 2006 - handstand sweep, side back escapes
8 Apr 2006 - turtle escapes, pillow escape
9 Jul 2005 - half guard bottom
9 Apr 2005 - better choke and armbar from mount
23 Oct 2004 - hooks-in and side back techs
10 Jul 2004 armdrag from guard, crossface
6 Mar 2004 - sweeps, legbar against open guard, passing
18 Oct 2003 - basic takedowns, legbars

Interested in going to a seminar with John Will? Check his seminar schedule and sign up.

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for a Lifetime Seminar 4 Feb 2017
Steve Maxwell's Integrated Breathing Seminar 11th February 2017
Steve Maxwell - Gracie Jiu Jitsu Core Concepts - 11 Feb 2017
Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for a lifetime /Mobility Conditioning for Jiu Jitsu and MMA seminar 6th February 2016
Steve Maxwell's Jiu Jitsu for Life seminar - 14 March 2015

Carlos Machado

Carlos Machado Seminar - 7th May 2015
Carlos Machado seminar - 8th May 2014
Carlos Machado seminar 16 May 2013
Carlos Machado seminar 10 May 2012

Rigan Machado

The Gathering 2017
Rigan Machado 17 Sep 2016
Rigan Machado Seminar 15 Sep 2007
Rigan Machado Seminar 21 Aug 2004

Jean Jacques Machado

Jean Jacques Machado seminar 28 July 2012

Richard Norton

Richard Norton seminar 21 November 2015

Gui Mendes

"Secret Session" at Langes MMA with Gui Mendes

Dave Camarillo

Dave Camarillo 16 Sep 2017 - offside grip, King's chair, SAP
Dave Camarillo seminar 3 Sep 2016 - Kimura grip, armbar

Pedro Sauer

Pedro Sauer 24 Oct 2016

Stanley Tam

Stanley Tam Qigong Seminar 25 Feb 2017

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Jordan Peterson and the Self Authoring Program

Dr Jordan B. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Canada, and a practicing clinical psychologist.

I first came across him on a Joe Rogan podcast. He is embroiled in a number of academic and political controversies in Canada, mainly to do with his strong opposition to a proposed Canadian law requiring everyone to address people by the gender pronoun of their choice, and other problems he sees with modern university education.

They start talking about politics, but hang in, they dive deep about halfway through

His arguments in that debate are well articulated and thought out, but are incidental to the cause of my interest in his work. A look at JP's Wikipedia page can give you some insight into those activities, should that interest you.

He is claimed by the alt-right, Christians, MRA's, and a bunch of others with political agendas, but he is none of those things, and in my opinion transcends all attempts to categorize him.

What interests, indeed captivates me, about JP's work is his multiple video series, many of which are university lectures and public talks, on his Youtube channel. There's several hundred hours of videos there which have been viewed by millions. I found his talks on "Maps of Meaning", "The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories", and "Personality and Its Transformations" to be absolutely enthralling, and they resonate deeply within me, on multiple levels. Hero myths from Sumer and Egypt, Cain and Abel, The Flood, Jungian archetypes, lobsters, wolves, and chimpanzees, Pinocchio, and the Lion King. Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn. Viktor Frankl. 

Order and Chaos, Horus and Osiris, Tradition and Nature. And lots more. 

The Eye of Horus. PAY ATTENTION

The guy has read EVERYTHING and analyzed it deeply.

I've been loosely following psychology, self-help and spiritual subjects for decades, and this is some of the most profoundly interesting and helpful material I have come across in all that time. 

I'm coming hard up against my limitations as a writer here and risk slipping over the edge into fanboyism, if it isn't already too late. So I'll drill down to a single specific subject.

Jordan Peterson and colleagues have developed a couple of useful tools to help you, as he puts it, "sort yourself out."

Quote from 'Flow' by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Self Authoring Program is a series of writing exercises to help you understand yourself better and work towards your ideal future.

Understand Myself is a program which provides you with a personality profile based on a personality scale known as the Big Five Aspects scale.

Neither is expensive to purchase, and if you listen to a variety of podcasts that feature Dr Peterson, you may be able to obtain a discount code to make them even cheaper.

I found the Self Authoring Program to be both useful and powerful. It helps you analyze and process your past, present and future by providing a set of written exercises.

Present Authoring helps you analyze your present virtues and faults, makes you think about specific situations where the virtue or fault impacted your life. You are invited to consider the impact and its effect on you, and how you could have addressed the situation better, in the case of faults, or even better, in the case of virtues. For you faults, you are invited to consider how you might deal with the fault in a more general fashion, rather in the particular situation first mentioned.

Past Authoring takes you back. All the way back. You divide your life to date into multiple epochs and revisit and analyse the pivotal events therein, especially those that cause an emotional reaction within when you consider them. Writing about traumatic events has been shown to help people process, integrate, and eventually move past them. Just about everyone has them. I did.

Future Authoring allows you to imagine your life as you would like it to be, maybe five years down the track. Things you could do better, things you want to learn, habits, social and family life, career, an ideal future incorporating all these aspects.

Unusually for such goal-setting methodologies, it also invites you to consider a future to avoid. The place where you might end up if you allowed your faults to run undisciplined, full throttle, and out of control. Having something to run away from, as well as something to run towards, can help focus your thoughts, clarify your objectives and supercharge your motivation.

You are then invited to set yourself a list of goals that will move you towards that ideal future and away from that self-defined Hell. You set strategies and tactics in place to move in the direction of those goals, ways to monitor your progress in that regard, what impacts your work toward those goals might have on self and others, and how best to manage those potential impacts.

Jordan Peterson claims experimental justification in asserting that university students who complete this program have significantly lower dropout rates and improved results compared to those who do not.

There is no philosophical or political agenda here. The program does not suggest specific goals or ways you should act. The ideal future you design for yourself is totally up to you.

For myself, having completed the program, I think I have a better idea of what I want to achieve, and what I need to resist, in the future. I think my attitude to chores and tedious but important tasks has improved. I am more committed to learning, multiple subjects and my attitude to my Jiu Jitsu training and teaching has changed, I think for the better. 

I don't think I ever had a drinking problem, but I was uncomfortable with my relationship to alcohol before this. I've greatly decreased my alcohol consumption as a direct result of completing this program.

Time will tell; focus and the use of momentum are things I am working to handle better.

Dr Peterson has a new book coming out in early 2018.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Transformation; a Personal Odyssey

Metamorphosis, M.C. Escher

Many people say how martial arts has changed their lives.

I've heard people say the same about attending a Barbara Streisand concert. I didn't go, they may be right.

I do feel that my martial arts training was a driving force behind, not just a series of mental transformations and attitude adjustments, but an actual physical transformation and real physical healing. A transformation that would not have happened otherwise.

I am by nature a reserved and introverted person. Jordan Peterson's "Understand Myself" Big Five Personality Test has me very high in Agreeableness, and very low in Extraversion (that's how he spells it) and Assertiveness. If I'm not paying attention, I'll let people walk all over me and think it's my fault.

My wife may take exception with the Agreeableness part.

I have, by necessity, developed strategies to work around these traits, to make my way in the world after a fashion.

I had moved to Canberra in 1977 to take up my first real job. I was grappling with the issues of early adulthood, heavy Impostor Syndrome, my first time living in a different city alone, dealing with the cold, and the soul-crushing loneliness of Canberra. I took that job because that seemed to be all that there was to do.

I was adrift in the ocean of life, buffeted around, I had no sense of there being waves to catch, waves you could ride.

An affable workmate organised for another guy who worked in the same building, and was a kung fu instructor, to run some informal introductory training sessions in the park across the road from work. This was David Crook. He was a wonderful teacher, a fabulous technician, and managed it all as a regular working stiff and family man. No guru here.

He would occasionally give us a moderately painful punch to the solar plexus, or dig his fingers unerringly into painful pressure points, while demonstrating a technique. "A good boxer is stung frequently and hurt occasionally" was one of his mottoes. More than one student suggested he enjoyed inflicting pain and could not be truly happy otherwise. Perhaps, but I suffered no injuries at his hand.

I found I could take the knocks. With some surprise, I found I was not a total wimp after all. I began to see warriorhood as a possibility.

I saw great potential here. A path with heart. A means to self-transform.

I also ran up against my limitations PDQ.

I had suffered a back injury, resulting from a fall from a wharf at a school swimming carnival, onto hard sand. I had a lumbar spondyliolisthesis with L5 slipped anteriorly on S1. My L5 vertebra is misshapen.

My sole treatment at the time had been six weeks enforced abstinence from physical activity, as ordered by my GP. Nothing else. These days, your GP will happily send you to an orthopaedic surgeon and for a course of physiotherapy for just about any injury. At the time of my injury, sports medicine was in its early stages, and only in the communist bloc.

I found my hip mobility and flexibility, especially abduction (the side split), was terrible as a result. I developed a pretty good front kick, but had godawful trouble with round and side kicks.

This was incredibly frustrating. And, it seemed, unfixable, at the time.

Despite this limitation, I persevered, and progressed. David waived the one dollar per session he was charging me, once he saw I was sincerely keen on following his path. He wasn't teaching a class while I was there, only a couple of private students, who I got to meet and train with. I was taught privately for eighteen months at little or no charge. I was incredibly fortunate, and David incredibly generous.

I did my best to stretch and develop more flexibility working toward the side split. I had a huge amount of involuntary tension in the muscles around my lower back and hip. It would take me twenty minutes of stretches to be able to function well enough to train.

A holiday at Christmas on the South Coast, with some old and new friends, motivated me to wind up my affairs in Canberra and move back to Sydney. My only regret was the losing the benefits of David's top notch instruction. He very kindly stepped up the training, and made sure I learned all his forms up to instructor level before I left.

There weren't many good training options back home. There was no internet, you had to rely on word of mouth, and MMA wasn't around to provide that certain level of quality control.

I met a guy who had been training with David a couple of years longer than me, and trained with him, but we were both looking for a decent club.  His brother in law lived a a squat in the back of Darlinghurst where one of the guys had taken up with an older Wing Chun student of William Cheung, under whom both David Crook and Rick Spain had trained. This guy's flexibility was even worse than mine.

Training in the squat was too weird. It was impossible to tell who lived there, who was an invited guest, and who was a stranger who had just walked in off the street. There was a heavy bag hanging in the front room, and one night a guy on ice or PCP burst through the front door and, screaming, started wailing on the bag, trying to destroy it. Somehow the collective managed to navigate him out the door, headed back toward whatever savage fate destiny had in store. People of both sexes were coming in to bathe naked under the tap in the backyard while we were training.  I'm pretty broadminded, but ... talk about distracting. I saw a cute young blonde go walking down the street with a couple of guys, and a little while later they all come staggering back, eyes rolling, drooling like the smackheads they were.

My training bud and I concluded quickly that this was way too ghetto for us.

Chan Cheuk Fai had and has some excellent fighters, but the Jin Wu Koon Double Dragon style looked too different to what I was used to. My training bud suggested that David would have been disappointed, had we taken up so hard a style. Laughable when considering the technical chasm between kung fu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which I enthusiastically navigated later, and Rick Spain's own pursuit of Kyokushin and BJJ black belts in more recent times.

I took up Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji with a then prominent instructor, who no longer teaches. There's quite a story there, but I'll just say I found David Crook and Rick Spain to be more suitable instructors. But the guy was also a chiropractor and acupuncturist.

I sought chiropractic treatment for my hip and back issues from several sources, including my new instructor. I tried acupuncture, but mine was a structural problem for which needles and moxa were not the solution.

Over a long time I made small, incremental improvements. But I still had flexibility problems, and my kicks did not improve. Treating the symptoms, but not the disease. Small criticisms, and occasional vague encouragement here and there about my kicks, but nothing that motivated me enough. I was as self critical as they came, and frustrated, but not to the point of formulating a solution.

That academy ceased to serve my purpose - after about five years (!) - and the accumulated negatives of that experience had me take a break. I went surfing and applied myself to my IT work, which started to click, and pay dividends across multiple facets of life. I had already met my future wife at the office.

A dream made me realize that martial arts remained an irritation that would not be salved.

Rick Spain had started up a club in Sydney. At the time he was William Cheung's most senior and accomplished student. I thought Wing Chun would suit my limited flexibility, as it was meant to employ only low level kicks.

Of course, once I started, I saw Rick Spain dropping into the full side split and throwing fluid multiple side, round and hook kicks up in the stratosphere. Something he strongly encouraged his students to also work towards. The easy way out I was hoping for? Not around here.

Rick/Sifu did demonstrate an exercise in class that would allow me to work my way out to maximum flexibility and relax the muscles around my back and hips without unnecessary pain, or taking undue time.

A  year or two after I started there, we had a grading. "Your kicks let you down," was my instructor's blunt assessment. Damn straight. I had one option.

I reread all the material I had on sidekicks. I was an avid reader, and book and article collector, so there was a lot. Video was still in the far future. I spent about an hour a day, over a fortnight or so,  holding on to the kitchen bench top experimenting with lifting my kicking knee, pivoting on the supporting leg and extending out fully so my whole body was in a straight line.

I started to get an inkling. Next time in the academy I was kicking a partner-held focus bag with my new side kick. Sifu said, "Yeah, now you're getting some power." My partner concurred.

I was sparring a while later, throwing in a few round kicks. Rick advised me to stick to front kicks and side kicks. It was pretty easy to connect the dots. *Your round kicks suck, man.*

I had a mortgaged house and backyard with a gum tree, a small heavy bag, and a rope, by this time. I returned to the reading material. I began weekend sessions experimenting with the kitchen benchtop again, but spending more time out in the backyard throwing endless round kick attempts into that bag. My left leg was much better than my right, so I did rounds of a hundred, forty five with the left leg, fifty five with the right. I couldn't do too much, or my back would give me hell for days, but I did do a lot.

I started to loosen up more with continued chiropractic treatment and stretching. I could kick now, but in small doses. Much of the tension had gone, but now something was weak, or too loose. If I pushed it too hard, I'd have pain for days. Sometimes to the point where I needed a walking stick. The chiropractors gave me only temporary symptomatic relief. One of them mumbled something about my spinal alignment being OK now, but that I needed some stabilization exercises. But he didn't prescribe any exercises, and because of the offhand delivery, I discounted it.

For a long time I had to give myself a mini chiropractic adjustment to get everything working properly for training. Otherwise I'd have a restriction in my hip to train under. My personal adjustments didn't always work, either. Always, a veneer of frustration.

A while later, I'm kicking the focus bag again. This time Sifu says, "Ah, Mr Nerlich is showing us a roundhouse kick!"

I felt that I had exhausted what chiropractic had to offer. I had invested much time and cash. No doubt beneficial, but it wasn't going to get me all the way.

I changed tack and went to a physiotherapy clinic in North Sydney. A guy called Kingsley assessed me, and diagnosed significant muscular weaknesses and imbalance around my hips. I was shredded with a six pack, did tons of ab training, but somehow still had weak abdominal muscles in critical ranges of motion. Kingsley prescribed a series of exercises which required close attention to proper form, but were not unduly onerous or taxing.

Maybe ten visits over three months, and my back pain was pretty much gone forever. I might get a twinge every six months or so. The stabilization exercises my chiropractor had mentioned, in passing, were my keys to the highway. I could stretch and kick as much as any student could wish. I was fixed. And stoked.

After a while, my body turned the corner. My frustrating rigmarole of self adjustments became unnecessary. I couldn't do side splits, or kick high without a warmup, but I felt that my body was no longer an obstacle.

A while later in sparring I saw a gap and popped my sparmate with a fast but controlled round kick to the head. A couple of sessions later I popped another guy in the ear with a low/high round kick combo. Another time I faked a round kick, and when the guy reacted, I drove a side kick with the same leg into his solar plexus.

Rick gave a little speech about perseverance and overcoming obstacles during one class. He used my own development as a kicker as the example. As an agreeable introvert, I did not react much. But, I had arrived. I was exemplary. Validation rocks.

I had completed a transformation. It took many years. It was a task in personal alchemy that I would not have begun, except for my strong interest in martial arts, and the attention of my instructors.

My aptitude at the start was probably average, and I had challenges. I am in no way special or unique. Some have dealt with much more adversity than I have.

At nearly sixty-three years old, I have achieved many things I had once thought impossible. Through determination, but also through lots of help.

Perhaps this is what "internal kung fu" is about. Invisible but significant change within. Just because most people can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't real, or isn't profound.

Without fail, my teachers were kind and tried to encourage me in the right direction without driving me too hard. In a class full of students, it's very hard to give the exactly right individual attention at the perfect time.  The windows of opportunity appear and disappear about as fast as those on a car going the opposite way to yours on a motorway.

I needed to be pushed. What ultimately helped me transcend the problems, attitudinal, mental, emotional, and physical, was a realization that someone saw the leap I needed to make, thought I could make that leap, and told me I needed to do it. And once I realized that I could do it, I worked on a plan to do it, executed that plan, and did it.

If one of my teachers had come up and, instead of being so nice, had screamed in my face like a drill sergeant, "Your kicks suck! They are what's holding you back! You have to fix them! Now! Or forget it!" I might have concentrated harder on that weakness, got past it quicker, progressed faster, and been happier.

The Tree of Life from the Kabbalah. Pillar of Mercy on the right, Pillar of Severity on the left 

Sometimes as a teacher, you DO have to be cruel to be kind. The Pillar of Mercy and the Pillar of Severity are managed by the Pillar of Balance, in the Kabbalah. But, Severity seems to be at least a third of it.

The pillars of Severity and Mercy (Bohas and Jakim) also appear in the Tarot

Sometimes you need to back yourself into that corner of the Mirror Maze, where there is only one way out, and all you can see are unflattering reflections of yourself. Sometimes you need someone to force you there, because you can't see what you need on your own.

Seeing yourself objectively, without veils of self deception, is so difficult, but so necessary.

I wish you well in your own journey of self discovery, healing, and transformation. If this article helps or inspires you in some way, all the better.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Living the Dream

Freshwater Beach, November 2017

Wednesdays and Fridays I take a lunchtime Jiu Jitsu class at Lange's MMA, at North Manly. Wednesday is no gi, Friday gi.

Jiu Jitsu always resets my mood. If it's a warm day, or sometimes even when it isn't, the beach is a short drive away, and that makes the day even better.

Most times I go to North Curl Curl or Freshwater, and most often with Luca Altea. Other occasions Sean Quilter, Big Stu "Gut Rupture"Morton, or Sonny Brown have joined us. If I'm on my own, I might go to North Curl Curl and do some sandhill sprints before I swim.

That's what I'm talking about

Sonny, Luca and I swam at North Curl Curl on the 2017 winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Probably not the coldest. Definitely not the warmest.

Winter Solstice, 21 June 2017, after lunchtime no gi class and a swim at North Curl Curl. L to R: Myself, Luca Altea, Sonny Brown

Entering the water is an electrifying but pleasant assault on the senses. Bright sunshine, waves crashing on the shore, the shock of the cool water in your skin, the salt spray in the air, and on your tongue and in your nostrils.

A natural ice bath, aiding recovery, washing away the sweat, maybe a few bodysurfing waves too.

Out of the ocean, now a cold shower with fresh water - usually colder than the ocean.

Fresh, we dry off, change, and chat for a while.

Luca says to me one day, "When we do this, Jiu Jitsu and a swim, I feel like I'm living the dream!"

It's true. For those few hours I'm doing exactly what I want to do, nothing more, but nothing less.

I realize I am even more fortunate to be more or less financially independent with a comfortable home and a wonderful wife. Even if we're getting older day by day. Life rocks.

Those countless Facebook ads trying to sell you the lifestyle with oodles of first class travel, huge boats, Lamborghinis, non-stop parties on tropical island beaches, and the rest, set the bar too high.

Pleasant days or even minutes doing exactly what you want are the fulfillment of dreams. Aim high, but don't discount the temporary paradise that appears right before you, however fleetingly.

North Curl Curl, Winter 2016

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Creativity and Martial Arts Training IV

Tribuna of the Uffizi, Johann Zoffany (1772-78), showing many famous works of European art

This is part IV, the last of a four part article.

Part I Part II Part III

Limitations and Constraints

Unlimited freedom paralyses creativity. You need somewhere to go. You need a problem to solve.

I was rebuked as a black belt by a highly ranked instructor for not being able to immediately think of a problem I was having with my game when he asked me. He was right - my game has no shortage of holes, same as just about everyone.

Freedom of Choice - not always a good thing

Ricardo de la Riva developed his famous and eponymous guard being one of the smaller guys on the Carlson Gracie Team, in a gym full of tough competitors on whom he could not impose a top game, and who were some of the best guard passers in the world. He developed his outside hook guard as a way to keep his opponents off balance; his training partners called it the "guarda pudim", Pudding Guard (a nice metaphor), because of the way it made their base unstable and "wobbly". Accounts vary, but he fought Royler Gracie, then undefeated as a black belt, around 1986, and depending on the account, beat him, or lost a tied match due to a referee's decision.

Half guard was seen as the last line of defense before your guard was passed, prior to Gordo Correa being forced to work from it pretty much exclusively due to a knee injury, which limited the positions form which he could roll. He pretty much turned it form the last line of defense into a position from which many attacks can now be launched, and in which many competitors now specialize.

Many people have seen their guard game improve dramatically after a hand or arm injury which forced them to train one handed. They were forced to make greater use of their legs, and use them in ways that they may not have learned to unless forced to by the injury. I believe Dave Meyer was some such person.

You do not need to wait for injury to strike to take such steps. Put yourself in the positions you hate, deliberately, so you are forced to problem solve. Try wrestling with one or both arms tucked in your belt, or without using one or both legs. Ban yourself from your favorite passes or passing on your favorite side. Ban yourself from certain guards or positions. Come up with your own limitations and see what new pathways emerge.

Positional rolling is a form of limitation which can deliver good outcomes.

In the video below, Jack White of the White Stripes discusses the benefits of limitations and time limits on his own considerable creative output.

Jack White on limitations as seeds for creativity. From the documentary "It Might Get Loud"

I like Seven Nation Army, but I like this even better

Away from the Gym and off the Mat

We've all seen the videos of guys training the berimbolo with chairs and wheelbarrows. If your time in the gym is limited, find other ways to train.

This guy trains Jiu Jitsu in water.

Personally, I came up with quite a few ways to drill techniques with a small heavy bag. What you can do from top positions is pretty obvious, but with a little imagination I worked out how to drill the Hip Bump Sweep, Wing Sweep / Reverse Basic Sweep, Catapult Sweep, and Shaolin Sweep, among others, along with some takedowns. 

I found a foam roller makes a pretty good prop for drilling the lockdown and some butterfly and X guard transitions. I've heard of guys using pieces of wood to drill Ezekiel chokes and become very effective with them in the gym as a result - you can use the foam roller for that too. 

I made a grappling dummy from a coathanger wire skeleton, and a hoodie inside an old full length wetsuit stuffed with rags, and a head made from about a thousand plastic bags. It could benefit from a neck made from pool noodles, as it has an annoying habit of headbutting me if I try to work triangles. It's not great for guardwork but is pretty good for drilling top techniques and leglock transitions.

My silent (training) partner

Nothing beats a partner to drill with, but the right inanimate objects can be useful, because they never get sore throats from getting choked too much, or sore knees, elbows or wrists. Plus they never get tired or make other arrangements when you want to train.

The best training tool ... IMAGINATION.

The Creative Environment

"Environment triumphs will" - Chris Haueter

To really be an innovator and creator in martial arts, your environment need to support you. You need:
  • Time to experiment and think
  • Support from your training partners
  • The ability to take risks and maybe fail without getting injured
  • Freedom to come up with weird and nonsensical ideas without judgement
  • Dynamism and energy
  • Humor and a sense of play to keep things light and interesting
  • Challenge, resistance and debate, but at a level that extends and doesn't crush the participants. argument, not conflict
  • Trust in your training buds
  • Openness to ideas, whatever the source
Do your best to work in and develop such environments, especially when you are the teacher. 

"If you want to improve incrementally, compete, if you want to improve exponentially, co-operate!" - Phil Grapsas

Go for it!

There's a new sweep out there, just waiting for you to create it. Name it after yourself and become a Jiu Jitsu immortal! Develop the Covfefe choke! Get crazy, get creative! Do it now!

Part I of this article
Part II of this article
Part III of this article

Happy trails, Universal Traveler