Yael’s Variety Hour: Food, Jits, Journalism, MMA & Random Food For Thought

Each Wednesday, I round up my favorite posts for the week–the humorous, thought-provoking, disturbing and enlightening. Here’s what we’ve got:

Random Food For Thought

  • When Reinforcement Fails. Because we are secretly in love with big fans of Jonah Lehrer. But seriously, this piece has interesting implications on the way “professional athletes over-generalize from their most recent actions and outcomes.” Read on: “They modify their behavior based on the result of a single shot, even though the success of the shot was shaped by unpredictable forces (a butterfly flapping its wings in Tokyo, etc.) and depended on situational details that are unlikely to be repeated. (Perhaps the defender was momentarily distracted, or failed to run around the screen.) As the scientists note, ‘The behavior of basketball players shows the limitations of learning from reinforcement, especially in a complex environment such as a basketball game’… “Sometimes, the best thing we can do is NOT learn from what just happened.”


  • We Are Journalists. Short manifestos, of sort, from real journalists with good things to say. Like this; “We would like to produce quality work without ‘obamasux99’ posting some non-sequitur rant at the end of it. We complain because we want things to be better. We are journalists.” Sing it!


Jiu  Jitsu


Yael’s Variety Hour: Poignant! Funny! Surprising! Inspiring! & Some WTF Moments.



Requisite MMA post


  • My Gay Lifestyle “I live the gay lifestyle, the gay lifestyle that is often mentioned by some Republican candidates for president. For those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle, this is a typical day.


Movings and Shakings


Biz Newz

  • Beware of fancy formulas and slick shortcuts. Pam Slim strikes again.  And she knows us so well. Proof in this quote: “Instead of just writing your ebook, you get worried about the three tiers of affiliates you want to cultivate for it. Instead of getting your sales page ready for your January class, you spend 47 hours reading everything Sonia Simone has ever written about sales letters on Copyblogger. Instead of pitching a talk at your local Rotary Club to promote your personal training business, you attend a high-priced seminar on branding so you can choose the perfect tagline and color for your website. Instead of trying to secure a local sponsor for your first live event, you wonder how to get Richard Branson to Skype in from Necker Island.” This post is a good antidote.

Friday Musings: Random Solutions, Being Sick & Priorities

One of my favorite MMA sites is MiddleEasy, because Zeus and the other writers do such a great job of proving rambling rants on random topics. It is really quite entertaining.

Anyway, I’m not sure these week’s musings would quite stack up, but it’s good to have goals. Here’s what’s been on my mind.

  • I am so sick of being sick. The evil cold/flu-type plague descended on Monday evening and has totally overstayed its welcome, especially since I’ve missed 3 days of BJJ already (and will probably miss at least 2 more). This sucks. I keep trying to think of positives (more time to organize my new pad, etc.), and at least the chills and body aches are gone, but it’d be nice if the sniffles and sneezes and exhaustion and headache would go away, too. C’mon, dude! You’ve been here almost four days already! Anyway, being sick made me start thinking of Mr. Yuk, because that’s how I feel. And then I started wondering, why isn’t there a Mrs. Yuk or Miss Yuk? A friend of mine joked that it’s because we live in a patriarchy. Anyway, all they would have to do is make her pink instead of neon green.
  • We’ve lived here for almost two weeks now and I just got around to dragging my clothes in from my car a couple days ago. I guess that shows you where my priorities are! (And don’t even ask me about my comb.)
  • It is really nice to go to a gym where you can work out to heavy metal, surrounded by grunting powerlifters who leave you alone because they’re busy lifting. And also surrounded by every piece of equipment you can imagine. I will write an official review at some point!
  • I wrote a list of out-of-context solutions to all of my friends’ problems on FaceBook, and it was a surprise hit. Two people even reposted them! Who knew my friends and their friends could be so similar? Anyway, here’s the list…but if you need more fluff and less tough love, feel free to ignore it!

1. Get a new job
2. Don’t date dumb, shallow girls who care which promotion you fight for.
3. Switch gyms or shut up.
4. Dump the MF already (sort of like 2, only different).
5. Either do something to change it or stop whining.
6. If you don’t want to be treated differently, don’t act differently.
7. Work harder.
8. Speak up.
9. Then stop sending him mixed signals already.
10. Quit worrying so much. The world does not revolve around you and probably nobody even noticed, so you are likely fabricating problems in your head.

  • And since I keep talking about fights… I’m really rooting for Mayhem on Saturday, but have a feeling Bisping will win. My boyfriend, on the other hand, who is almost never wrong, is vehemently convinced that Mayhem has the edge–so much so that he even mentioned putting money on it. I hope he is right. Who you got?

Yael’s Variety Hour: A Little Bit of Everything


  • The December issue of the The Performance Menu: Journal of Health & Athletic Excellence is out! My piece is about picking yourself up after a loss; I spoke with sports psychologists Brady Greco and Dr. Kate Hays for their knowledge and expertise. The issue is packed with goodness. Greg Everett discusses 18-week programs and fixing the clean, Matt Foreman talks about missed attempts in training, Ryan Kyle describes emerging superstars in world weightlifting, Ryan Atkins explains the play day as a programming tool to maximize results and Sean Greeley gives biz strategies on getting more money flowing in your gym. Plus recipes by Scotty Hagnas. I made the pumpkin kale stew last night, and it was good.
  • PatchFitness is a pretty cool site Ryan Atkins turned me on to. I wish there was one in Minneapolis!




  • Check out this video for some slick grappling by Red Schafer and Chris Senner at King Grappler (and not for the soundtrack). Great submissions and nice transitions.





Monday Musings: Drinking (or not), Snow, Giving Thanks

You may have noticed that this blog’s been down for a few days. I had a Wednesday Variety Hour all ready to go when my internet service provider blocked my IP address from my own site. Add moving and holiday festivities–and starting at a new gym–to the mix and you’ve got a very neglected blog! But I’m right back to it this week–which, incidentally, is the last week to turn in your reader survey to help guide my content for the months and year to come.

Anyway! Here’s my random disjointed thoughts from the past week.

  • Despite functioning alcoholics trying their darnedest to convince me that because they are getting trashed, I should be too (an argument, incidentally, which I thought died in high school)…I kind of like the not hungover feeling. This is not to say that I will never have a bit too much to drink again…but it will be on my terms, not anyone else’s.
  • I moved on the Friday before last, in the middle of a snowstorm. We joked that moving in the snow builds character. We must have a lot of character. In fact, all of our worldly belongings were recently coated with a thin layer of character.
  • Thanksgiving is always a good time to step back and think about what one is thankful for…family, friends, work, clients, gyms, living in a city… I’m also thankful for people telling me which cafes to check out, mp3s for Yonder Mountain String Band’s shows, tickets to Sunday’s wrestling meet and Saturday’s local MMA fights, people who tell me which cafes to check out and $1 sale racks at Target. What are you thankful for?

And, since my weekly musings mostly were in my head as I battled technology and busy-ness, I’m adding two quotes from friends.

  • “People are hungry for honesty and straight talk. No one’s starving for more bullshit.” -Fabeku Fatunmise, sonic alchemist
  • “I may disagree with your reasons for leaving Ashton Kutcher, but I will die defending your right to break up with him in a press release.” -Barth Anderson

BJJ Gym Roundup: Twin Cities Edition

I think I’ve visited a million gyms in the past couple of months while trying to find a new home for after I move to the Twin Cities (this weekend). Although my grappling has suffered in the process (there’s nothing like finding one place and going there regularly), I did learn a lot about myself and what my own preferences were and what type of gym I was looking for. I think I inadvertently ticked a lot of people off by being completely oblivious to their brand of gym culture and accidentally breaking all sorts of etiquette of which I was unaware, but I think we’re all cool now.

Anyway, I had a ton of fun seeing what was around and getting to work with and learn from a ton of cool people. It dawned on me that many people haven’t had that experience, and for every person who’s asked me what each gym was like I think there’s probably more who are curious… so I thought I’d write some short blurbs on places I’ve visited and what my initial thoughts were.

Disclaimers: Although I did visit gyms all over the Twin Cities and beyond, I didn’t visit all of them. Please don’t read into ones I haven’t spent as much time at–it’s really not a reflection on them. I made my decisions about places to visit based on a variety of factors, including location (as in, proximity to where I’d be living as well as how much I felt like driving to visit), number of classes per week (I like gyms with both day and night classes because my schedule changes randomly), number of small guys and women training at the gyms, cost, types of contracts, whether or not there was a competition team, etc. all of which may not apply to you at all. Also, I’m far from an expert in BJJ. I’m just a white belt. Choking Minnesota does some gym reviews, too (and he’s a shiny purple belt) so check those out, too. But really, this is only my bird’s eye view, often from just two or three classes or even just observation. This is certainly not the be-all and end-all. Your mileage may vary. Also, I listed gyms alphabetically so don’t read into the order.

I’ll be doing a miscellaneous edition of gyms in other places since I still get questions about gyms in Tucson (and also visited some places in Wisconsin) so I’d like to have one place to direct people.

Without further ado, here’s my list!

  • The Academy (formerly Minnesota Martial Arts Academy)

I actually didn’t get to attend any classes at the Academy, but have heard really good things. No-gi classes are coached by MMA fighters such as Nik Lentz and Jacob Volkmann, and gi jiu jitsu is taught by Ishmael Bently and Greg Nelson, both black belts under Pedro Sauer. The focus (again, from what I’ve heard) is on takedowns, throws, submissions, lots of drilling and a strong wrestling/catch wrestling base. I believe the contract is two years, so this is good for someone who wants to be ultra-committed, though there are 6-month classes as well depending on how often you wish to train. Academy also has an extensive Muay Thai program and lots of MMA fighters train there, which is an added bonus for those looking to compete in MMA. The Academy is located in Brooklyn Center, MN.

I can’t say enough good things about Alliance MN. First of all, there’s the affiliation. Anyone who follows BJJ knows that Alliance builds champions. They teach a competition-based style of grappling, which is constantly evolving to stay ahead of the game. This year, Alliance was the first team ever to win Pan Ams, Worlds, Brazilian Nationals and the European Pan Ams, which are the 4 biggest tournaments in the world. Alliance MN is run by Damian Hirtz, who received his black belt under David Camarillo and is now teaching under the guidance of Fabio Gurgel (who actually came out and taught a seminar–and it was killer). They also have a dedicated women’s program run by brown belt Gina Franssen (who is awesome). The gym shares a building with Crossfit MN, so there’s a definite strength and conditioning element, but the instruction is extremely technical. In the evenings, there is a  6-week fundamentals class which follows Alliance curriculum. It is followed by advanced classes, which are followed by an open mat. In the mornings, there are classes for those of all experience levels. Alliance MN also has women’s classes, conditioning/drills classes, one no-gi class a week and an open mat on Fridays and Saturdays… so there’s definitely a ton of training available. The vibe is friendly but also very focused and disciplined–tons of drilling the whole entire round and people working hard to help others. The warm-ups are challenging and even the fundamental classes have a bit of complexity, so it may be a bit of a culture shock to those used to very laid back classes where people talk more than drilling… but I’m sure the results will be well worth it. This gym is located in Edina, MN.

This gym is pretty awesome. The head instructor is Rodrigo Sul, who is both friendly and knowledgeable. He started his jiu jitsu journey in Rio de Janeiro when he was just 14 years old, training under Carlos Gracie, Jr. himself. Gracie Barra follows a 16-week fundamentals class curriculum, which is actually followed by all Gracie Barra gyms worldwide. It’d be a great gym if you travel a lot but want to get some training in, in other cities, all without skipping a beat. Advanced classes allow for more flexibility. The best thing about this gym is that there is a TON of time for rolling. There are no-gi classes two days a week and multiple gi classes each day, all in a positive environment. This is a really nice gym. It is located in St. Louis Park, MN.

MCFM was the gym I called home for 9 months (well, 7 months if you don’t count months out with an injury). It is primarily an aikido school and is owned by Mike Ellefson, a black belt under Rigan Machado. But it is purple belt Tim Mahedy who taught most of the classes I attended (and is closer to my size), and he is probably the best coach I’ve ever had… with a great eye for detail and a very technical game. He also teaches striking classes several days a week, which are a combination of classic Muay Thai and JKD. Brazilian jiu-jitus Classes are held on Tuesdays (no-gi), Thursdays and Fridays and there is sometimes a very informal Saturday morning class of sorts. Every once in a while, there’ll be mid-day classes for a limited time…like this great Marcelo Garcia-influenced Wednesday afternoon class I got to attend for a few months, which was taught by Jay, a very technical purple belt. MCFM is a very casual environment, and the price is very low (ranging from $63 to $75 a month, depending on your contract). The gym is located in Hudson. Although there’s not rolling in every class, one cool thing about MCFM is that you get to attend competition team trainings, which are sort of like in-house tournaments, at various affiliates around town. MCFM is located in Hudson, WI.

I have only been to in-house tournaments at Minnesota Top Team, but I have met Ryan Iverson, the head instructor. He’s a BJJ purple belt and a black belt in Judo and if his classes are anywhere near as great as he is, I’m sure they’d be well worth attending. The gym also has classes in hockey/lacrosse, kickboxing, boxing and circuit training. It is located in Eagan, MN.

I’ve only been to one class at the Minnesota Kali Group’s jiu jitsu class, which is a Jean-Jacque Machado affiliate run by purple belt Fabio Morescalchi (who is great). Very nice vibe and detailed instruction, which covers basic techniques and also some fun, creative stuff. The gym’s actually got a full-fledged Crossfit program and some Filipino martial arts (hence the name) under the legendary Rick Faye, which brought back some memories of my stick-fighting days. Classes seem small, which is great for individualized instruction, and there’s some great players at the gym–not least of which is Topher Braddock, who is the smallest guy in the room and will choke your ass out. MN Kali Group is located in Minneapolis, MN.

I’ve never actually been to a class at McCune’s gyms, but I wanted to include him because I have attended his seminars, gone to seminars at his gym and even had a private session with the guy. McCune’s Martial Arts is actually a Kung Fu San Soo school primarily, but they do have some great high level grapplers (like Roland Larson, Derek Getzel, Nick Robinson and Jon Grilz and more I’m sure I’m forgetting). McCune has a great balance between joking around and keeping things lighthearted and also knowing when to get to business and get work done. The gym is located in Brooklyn Park, MN.

Next Level is a 10th Planet (Eddie Bravo) affiliate run by Nate Kleinfeld and Tim Gillette, purple belts under Eddie Bravo. They have a TON of students, a testament to their friendly environment and solid instruction. This is probably the cleanest gym I’ve ever visited, which is a big bonus, and they also sell 10-passes, making it easy to drop in even if you train somewhere else. Gillette has an amazing eye for detail and explains techniques very clearly, taking his time to walk around the room and help fine-tune details–even picking up on variations students may have if they’ve primarily only trained in the gi. The warm-up isn’t easy and all of it is applicable to grappling. Next Level has boxing and Muay Thai classes in addition to grappling, and even though 10th Planet is primarily no-gi, they do have some informal rolling sessions in the gi. They also have wrestling twice a week, which is adapted for BJJ and an area a huge amount of grapplers are weak in. This is a nice gym with a great vibe, and there’s also small guys there which is always a bonus if you’re little like me. It is located in Woodbury, MN.

Spartan Martial Arts is run by Tom Schmitz, a black belt under Pedro Sauer. Schmitz has competed at a very high level for a very long time and is about as skilled as they come.His is some of the best grappling in the state, and he is a really great innovator with a lot of creativity in his drills and techniques he focuses on. The warm-ups are intense. A lot of MMA fighters go to this gym for both gi and no-gi grappling as well as kickboxing, so who you’re going to train with is often a bit unpredictable. (This is Sparta, after all.) There are a lot of high level players and a lot of all-out brawlers training alongside absolute beginners. The gym is located in Oakdale, MN.

I only observed one class at this gym, but definitely wanted to include it. Ultimate Martial Arts and Fitness is actually a karate school, but Klint Klaas (a black belt under David Camarillo) teaches jiu jitsu Monday through Thursday nights and Saturdays at noon. The class I sat in on was small, tight-knit and fast-paced and students were incredibly focused. The gym is located in Woodbury, MN.

I attended a couple of classes here under the watchful eye of the multi-talented Ben Neumann (a local fighter who can break bones AND bake). The head instructor is Dave Arnbeck, a black belt under Rickson Gracie. What stood out to me at Cove was how organized and regimented everything was…from the attendance in the locker room to the curriculum covered to Cove’s own belt system, different from the one used in traditional BJJ. Ground techniques and stand-up techniques are taught on odd-numbered and even-numbered days (though I forget which is which) and live rolls are reserved for students who have worked their way up to a gold belt in the Cove system. The instruction focuses on repetition and muscle memory, and though there was an emphasis on fundamentals in the classes I attended, there was also a great deal of detail. Although the amount of rules and policies may be a bit much for the more anarchistic/libertarian among us, I would point out that this gym is an extremely safe and controlled environment. Warrior’s Cove has locations in St. Louis Park, Burnsville and Little Canada, MN.

Did I miss any gyms you’ve been to? Please leave them in the comments! (Gym bashing, however, will not be tolerated, so let’s not go there.)

Yael’s Variety Hour: Resources for Bloggers, Strength and Conditoning, Penn State Commentary, & Some Humor

Posts abound in this week’s variety hour. I think this may be the biggest one yet. I actually had to separate MMA, BJJ and boxing, for instance… and there are numerous other categories. Hopefully you’ll be able to find something (or more than one thing) you’re interested in!

First things first!

Shameless Self-Promotion

For bloggers

Food For Thought

Humor (you’ll need it)

More Penn State commentary (in case you haven’t gotten your fill)

And Some Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors (Or Those Who Wish to Help)

  • Generative Somatics – Staci Haines. This is a great and positive resource for survivors of sexual assault. Haines’ website  has free articles, and links to trainings for therapists, psychologists, social leaders, community organizers, and coaches. Plus there’s links to her book and DVD.

Strength and Conditioning

  • Male Pattern Fitness. I’m totally addicted to this guy blog. But who doesn’t want to read about meat and muscle? Plus, all my guy friends are addicted to Stumptuous.com, so I’d say we’re even.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu



Yael’s Variety Hour: Geekiness, Food For Thought and the Usual (Paleo, Combat Sports, Writing)

Whoa, Nelly. My browser’s been busy this week, so brace yourself for a bazillion links on a variety of topics. Here goes.

Geeks, Unite!

  • Art of Learning Project. If you haven’t read chess guru Josh Waitzkin’s book, the Art of Learning, get thee to the library! (He writes a lot about tai chi in the book as well, using the two as models to explain how learning works). This is a project stemming from his research on the subject, and has some awesome resources for teachers. Check it out.
  • Why Do Some People Learn Faster? “Do we ignore mistakes, brushing them aside for the sake of our self-confidence? Or do we investigate the errors, seeking to learn from the snafus? The latter approach, suggests a series of studies, could make you learn faster.” From Wired.

Paleo Propaganda

For Freelancers

  • It’s not enough to be good – you have to show up. “You could have clips from the highest circulation women’s magazines or the most prestigious newspapers in the country, you could have written bestselling books, you could be making $100,000 a year. None of it matters if you don’t bring your A game to the assignment you’re working on today,” Michelle Rafter explains.

Requisite Combat Sports Section (Like the requisite BJJ section, only different.)

Good Food For Thought

  • Nightclubs Are Hell. What’s Cool Or Fun About a Thumping, Sweaty Dungeon Full of Posing Idiots? This piece cracked me up. Here’s a choice quote: “Even if you somehow avoid reproducing, isn’t it a lot of hard work for very little reward? Seven hours hopping about in a hellish, reverberating bunker in exchange for sharing 64 febrile, panting pelvic thrusts with someone who’ll snore and dribble into your pillow till 11 o’clock in the morning, before waking up beside you with their hair in a mess, blinking like a dizzy cat and smelling vaguely like a ham baguette? Really, why bother? Why not just stay at home punching yourself in the face?”





Shameless Self-Promotion

  • You probably heard about the guys who thwarted an attempted robbery at an L.A. hotel right before no-gi Worlds, but have you seen the video of one of the two superheroes fighting MMA? I managed to dig up his 9th fight here.
  • I write a weekly women’s MMA column for Fightergirls, and this week’s Women’s Weekly MMA Wrap-Up also has some results from female fighters who competed at no-gi Worlds, among other things.
  • Last but not least, I was pleased to be featured in this month’s spotlight of Networking News, the Twin Cities Professional Editor’s Network newsletter. If you’re a PEN member, make sure to check it out!
As always, feel free to post any comments or your favorite links from the week.

Friday Musings: Insanity, Slideshows, Misrepresentation & My Distaste for Anna Kendrick

I feel like every week is a whirlwind these days, and that I can barely keep up, let alone stop to take a breath! Maybe it is the change in seasons making me feel tired and sluggish at all times, even when I add caffeine.

This week was especially challenging, as I tried to learn how to use Moveable Type, FourSquare and various image resizing software. Meanwhile, I’m working through an Artist’s Way at Work group and a really awesome food writing course–all of which I plan on writing more about when they are over. They are fun but again, overwhelming, and I’ve been struggling to keep up with everything. Add apartment-hunting to the mix, and things are quite insane around here!

I’ve been nursing a soft tissue injury, and playing with Rock Tape (a type of kinesio tape) to take some pressure off–mostly so I can attend this awesome Fabio Gurgel seminar (another thing to write about).

I had a new consulting client this week–AND SHE IS AWESOME! I also started blogging for the Hot Dish section of City Pages, which made me happy. I will be posting links next week. And I started working on my Halloween costume, which involved a hair re-dye and Fusio Dose. Which is definitely worth the money.

This week’s musings…

  • Anna Kendrick bothers me. Aside from the movie 50/50 making it look like it was cool to break professional codes of conduct…there’s something about this actress that rubs me the wrong way. Am I the only one?
  • I really like this quote I saw recently: “If you’re absent during my struggles, don’t expect to be present during my success.”
  • I am in search of a fun WordPress slideshow plug-in, or something that will be less cumbersome than the interface. I would like to do a “this week in photos” type of slideshow thing. Any suggestions?
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about how people misrepresent themselves… For example, when gym instructors post medals on their websites making it look like they won matches, and they simply placed just for showing up and losing. (I have plenty of these medals–but I don’t post them, and if I did, I’d include the explanation.) I respect people with less qualifications and a lot of integrity than those who would try to hide behind the false perception of accolades. I feel a long rant coming on!
  • Speaking of martial arts and integrity… I have a friend who is the *best brown belt ever* and is looking for a coaching job. BJJ, MMA, gi, no gi…he does it all. And he is awesome. I’ll be writing a whole post about him sometime next week, so keep your eyes open.

As always, feel free to share your weekly musings–or thoughts about mine–in the comments!

Yael’s Variety Hour: Battling Scope Creep, Avoiding Content Mills and Motivation vs. Inspiration

Welcome to possibly the shortest variety hour ever. What can I say? Been busy. Here’s two pieces that apply mostly to freelancers, and one for everybody.

  • The Difference Between Motivation and Inspiration. “We seem to need motivation to get stuff done,” says Danielle LaPorte. “Typically there’s a lot of ‘measuring’ that happens in the realm of motivation. Check lists and goal posts and markers and such. There is often a fear of loss involved. We are on duty. All perfectly natural. But beyond finish lines and well done, is a different call. Inspiration. It is magnetic and progressive. It’s reasoning can not always be reasoned — I just gotta do it. It busts you outta shouldsville into the unfenced field of freedom and possibility. Inspiration is a completely different force of creativity….Follow the pull. It’s the first step toward flying.”

Shameless Self-Promotion

  • I’ll have some goodies–one in the November issue of Experience Life (squeee!) and one in the Performance Menu. I’ll write about these within the next two weeks… and there’s a few other things in the works… you will be the first to know!
  • For fight fans, I’ve got weekly recaps of The Ultimate Fighter over at MMA HQ. (Here’s the latest one, from last week.) I’ve also got a couple profiles which will be posted within the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

See you next week!