Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Training | BJJ, Martial Arts, Kickboxing, Self-Defense, Apex, NC

Open Guard Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Welcome to Open Guard BJJ, the premier Martial Arts training center in Apex, NC.

If you ever wanted to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or kickboxing, you've come to the right place. Whether your interest in martial arts is to start a new hobby, improve physical fitness, compete in tournaments, to learn skills for mixed martial arts, or simply to learn one of the most efficient and practical self-defense systems, our world-class team of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing instructors have a martial arts skill, experience, and curriculum that will challenge your mind, body and soul.

With 4 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts on staff, and our mentor and 5th degree bjj black belt Roberto Maia providing seminars throughout the year, we offer a wealth of experience and knowledge for beginners to advanced BJJ practitioners.

The Open Guard BJJ family is committed to providing a friendly, safe, and fun training atmosphere that will test your abilities and help you overcome barriers to create a path to success.

What are you waiting for?

Complete the "Free Assessment! Free Trail! Free Private Lesson!" form on this page to get a coupon good for a free introductory lesson and start your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey today.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Training Photos Apex, NC

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BJJ Belt Ranking Discussion

A Few Words About Rank

Every so often we're faced with the question of what the belts mean. And while most of us aren't terribly concerned with belt ranking it is useful to the overall group to have an idea where each of us is recognized in the overall scheme of things. Plus, no matter how jaded you are to the idea of this qualification system it is always nice to have someone recognize your efforts. In Brazilian Jiu-jitsu it takes years to achieve a definition between blue and purple and further years of working hard on your material to progress further. In recent years, probably the last 15 or so, a striping system as begun to take hold – providing more opportunity for individual recognition. My black belt is the first belt I ever got stripes on, my instructor wasn't given stripes and we didn't get them either. I know he does it now, because it's good business sense and the fashion has caught on, plus it's a cheap way to remind us how long folks have been at their ranks, which, sorry to say, can vary significantly.


How to measure your time in BJJ

Honestly measuring your actual mat time is not easy, we have a tendency to overestimate our own work-ethics. This is why like so many skill based endeavors we need to apprentice under the guidance of recognized skillful folks. So how do we measure BJJ time? Never mind talking about years. Years are not useful measures. I tend to break things down like this: How many classes are you attending each week? And how many hours a week are you actively on the mat working your skills? If you make a couple of classes a week and perhaps one rolling session a week, there's a good chance you can be getting a couple of hours of solid work a week in both training your moves and in free practice when you're trying to make those moves work on others who are not just being compliant (and you're not just sitting against the wall socializing! Which reminds me, in the very first martial arts I took back in the 70s-early 80s the Kenpo black belts would never let us lean against the wall – if we were caught there we had to do push-ups!)

When you've reached about 150-200 hours of work you're approaching your first rank change. This is of course an average. But in general over the years I've been active at this martial art it basically holds up. Many folks can't do 150 hours in a year or even two, it sometimes takes longer others knock this out in less than a year (five classes a week or more!). There is argument to attest to the fact that the folks who take longer are actually better at the material. Those who struggle to learn the moves actually master them more deeply. Which leads me to this: What's the rush anyway? Being on the mat at any rank means you have access to all the material and all the practice, it doesn't matter what your rank is.


Blue Belt Critical Skills

It's mostly about you doing the right things in bad situations. If I see you benching from a defense position when you should be moving your hips, or I see you exhausting yourself to accomplish a finish the opportunity for has long passed, I think more time is required. A blue belt does not kick everyone's butt, the blue belt simply knows the moves that should be applied. Also, a blue belt is someone gaining maturity in handling disadvantageous positions. Accidents happen all the time in sparring, but if you regularly smack people or kick them, it is usually a sign of immature technical proficiency. White belts are always the most dangerous people on the mat for this reason, they frequently panic and move spasmodically. They also wear themselves out with inefficiency. This simply means more time is required practicing the moves, drilling the basics.


What Qualities Does a Purple Belt Have?

A purple belt is someone who has a very mature guard game (defense). They use their "hooks" with maddening proficiency, and make passing them a nightmare. Typically speaking a blue belt will need some 400+ hours of mat time both drilling and free sparring to achieve this most prestigious rank. And most of that time will have been spent on their backs. A purple belt, it is said, knows what a black belt knows, they simply haven't had the massive number of hours honing the material.


What Should You Be Drilling?

You should firstly be concentrating on the material being offered in class. When you've been in class for a while the novelty of new techniques will fade, and by the time you've been around the material three or four times, you should be looking for ways to improve these moves that you've been introduced to. Many newer students only like the novelty, and instead of building their skills with depth in the basics rush out and watch a lot of internet "university" and try to bring those moves to bear in their free sparring. This typically has mixed results. People without a good foundation in jiu-jitsu can learn a bunch of finishing techniques with ease. Finishes are the simplest of moves to memorize because they require the least context. When you are learning a finish it is presumed you have a dominant moment, and this of course is the most difficult aspect of jiu-jitsu. Memorizing a pile of new armlocks will prove largely useless unless you're hoping to write a book about the variety of them. 

The most important position to work is your guard, your defense. With excellent defense your confidence will grow. You will be much less afraid to try for finishes when you are not terribly concerned about escaping.

Lastly . . .

I am watching you. I'm not watching you to catalog your video collections. Nor am I terribly interested in the articles you've read about jiu-jitsu. Nor do I care if you can drop a lot of BJJ star names (I frankly don't know most of the modern heroes. I'm still in the 90s with my Mundial stars! Roleta!). I am watching you to see your proficiency and dedication to the effort of mastering the material. If I were teaching you to play guitar and you kept showing up to explain to me how good you're getting at juggling, I assume you're not interested in the guitar. I can't force you to pay attention to what we're doing all I can do is explain what you need to be doing to get better at Jiu-jitsu. Remember, it's not just a matter of spending the time, it's a matter of spending it wisely.


So get on the mat and ready yourself for practice. Be a good partner for your training partner and try hard to build your BJJ toolkit. It'll pay you back, I promise. 


Professor Geoff Balme is a second degree black belt and the lead instructor at Open Guard BJJ, Kickboxing, and Self Defense Classes in Apex, NC.

Make Your BJJ Training Effortless

You've been practicing the sweeps all evening and finally it's time to roll. You've been looking forward to the action. You tag hands and your partner manages to get around your legs and you make a run for it, tuck, twist, and dive, when you pop your head up your partner has lost his balance somehow and you're now on top-yeehaw! You glance around the room as you do your best to ram your chest down and engage your friend in a hand fight to find an armbar. You're already plenty gassed when you fitfully manage to get him to tap. You press yourself off and lean against the wall gulping for air like a landed bass. Two minutes have gone by. And you're not sure how you ended up on top because you didn't use a technique there, you did what old school wrestler's call a scramble. Which is about the equivalent of a foot race through a field of bear-traps wearing a blind-fold. The instructor, when you catch his eye, doesn't look to pleased with you, but you're feeling pretty good because you managed to make a blue belt tap and you're only a two-stripe white belt.

Here's the problem: Vigor does not equal skill. Vigor + technical ability = skill. What we are training for in jiu-jitsu is not just happenstance. We are training science. We are training repeatability not flukes or outliers. You want to know how you won your match, you don't want to be stuck just attributing it to Mars.

When you watch a master of any skill set, be it sport or musicianship, what you should be impressed with first and foremost is the fact that they make what they do look easy. Facility with the technical aspects of a given art are what you are training for and absolutely every part of your time on the mat should be spent with that goal in mind. If you think your goal is to beat one of your buddies on the mat, you've made a typical, but no less debilitating error. It's the same error newbie college students make when they think it's their goal to get good grades.
In the beginning we have nothing but vigor. Our technical ability set is too small to use confidently and it's much too easy to get into the bad habit of relying entirely on brute force, speed, or some combination of the two to accomplish your training (and it's the reason we call it training and NOT fighting!). Whatever you train in class should be what you are attempting to apply when you are rolling. Is it going to fail? Very likely! Especially if you can only remember the material you just drilled (rather than last week's lesson!).

I don't discourage people from improving their vigor. We should be stretching and doing some weight training (free or body-weight) and we should always be doing some cardio (much of this can be accomplished just doing jiu-jitsu properly). However, just one attribute by itself does not make an impressive jiu-jitsu practitioner. It might make a good Olympic jumper, runner, or lifter – but those are pure attribute sports (almost just measures) and while there is a modicum of science in their perfect performance they are not knowledge in the sense of using those attributes in a concerted manner to accomplish a complex project, something like passing a tricky guard, or avoiding a slick guillotine attack.

Is it possible to win some fights on vigor alone? Of course. But just imagine that kind of vigor coupled with the technical abilities that result in a well performed skill set and that is the recipe for success.

What does the coach tell the student huffing against the wall wondering why no one is complimenting him on his prowess? The coach says: not bad for a start, now get back in there—while you are tired—and do it again, but this time let's make that guard a little more demanding, and let's use our techniques to recover when passed, and let's never not know what's going on.   

Because in jiu-jitsu just as in college the goal is knowledge not scores.  

Professor Geoff Balme is a second degree black belt and the lead instructor at Open Guard BJJ, Kickboxing, and Self Defense Classes in Apex, NC.

Are there Differences in "Brazilian" Jiu-jitsu and "Gracie" Jiu-jitsu?

I've noticed a few messages floating around the interwebs promoting this idea that "Brazilian" Jiu-jitsu and "Gracie" Jiu-jitsu are distinct martial arts that are somehow different in amount of attention paid to tournament vs self defense aspects. Not only are these claims misleading they are silly. The arts don't differ, all that differs is marketing. My teacher Roberto Maia grew up training at the Gracie Barra academy in Rio. His teacher was Carlos Gracie Jr. he trained in that gym with fellow student Renzo Gracie and myriad other Brazilian Jiu-jitsu nobility. My teacher calls his school Boston Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Maybe someone should ask the Machado brothers if they are paying enough attention to self-defense? Let's get to the bottom of this eagerly accepted and argued about nonsense. Not only is Brazilian/Gracie/Machado Jiu-jitsu not different intrinsically they are not different extrinsically from various forms of catch-wrestling, Sambo, and even—especially—Judo. These are enormous arts that include a preponderance of shared material. Whether you end up with a great deal of expertly trained groundwork or a whole lot of throwing skill depends entirely on your teacher and what kind of events you want to participate in.

Old School
Fig 1. Old School. The images (videotape screen grabs) read top down are a pair of techniques from my old Ki do Ryu "American" Jiu-jitsu black belt test around 1990. the first pair is a sukuinage pick up and sidewalk drop. The second pair is a figure four lock off a club swing.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a brutally honest statement. Stand-up self-defense is extremely ineffective. I spent my first decade and a half in martial arts that were a blend of Kempo Karate and "American" Jiu-jitsu (this was the stuff that the GIs brought back from Japan after WWII) the techniques were very similar to most of the material most self-defense schools cover (it's important to remember that in the second half of the last century schools specialized much more than they originally did, it used to be everyone did everything! Karate teachers grappled!). We never fought on the ground. We practiced hard and fast strikes. We defended against all manner of chokes and arm grabs. We were obsessive with knife defenses. We caught punches and kicks out of the air. Most of the material, like so much of the stand-up self defense material, requires you be a master or a monster to pull off (at six foot four and 250lbs I was both). If you end up in a struggle with a strong opponent over an wrist turning throw (kote gaeshi), or an elbow lock – guess where it's going? You're going to be struggling on the ground. So the fact is you're going to need the "sporty" ground-fighting anyway!

This is why people like me and Wayne ditched our Karate backgrounds in favor of the ground-fighting expertise to begin with. Do not be sucked into a market ploy of going back to "grab–my–wrist" martial arts classes, there is no controlling an avidly aggressive opponent without using the ground. Zero.

The bottom line here is that the ground fighting isn't just a sport it is necessary for self-defense.

If you are listening to someone talk about martial arts who does not have gray hair, change your channel.

Geoff Balme Martial Arts Certificates

Fig 2. Certificates of rank from Kidoryu, Algoryu, and Judo.

Professor Geoff Balme is a second degree black belt and the lead instructor at Open Guard BJJ, Kickboxing, and Self Defense Classes in Apex, NC.