Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu | BJJ, Kickboxing, Self-Defense, Martial Arts, 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 6 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  and Kickboxing journey today.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Training Photos Apex, NC

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BJJ Hygiene

If you never grappled before and BJJ is new to you, you need to understand that hygiene is really important to training.  Due to the constant skin-to-skin contact when training, skin infections are common in BJJ. Typically the issue starts with poor hygiene of a person or poor hygiene education at your school.  Now listen, if you are germ phobic don’t panic!  The truth is that most types of skin infections in BJJ are minor and only become a health issue if they are not treated immediately.

The most common types of skin infections in BJJ include: Ring worm, Herpes Simplex, Impetigo, and Staph/MRSA. This blog will give you some general knowledge on these infections, and help you understand and identify their signs and symptoms.

Ringworm - Ringworm is a type of fungal infection that can be contracted almost anywhere on the body. Ringworm appears on the skin as a raised circle or ring. It is typically red or brown around the edges with scaly, peeling skin throughout.

Herpes Simplex - Herpes simplex is not the sexually transmitted disease Herpes, so relax.  It’s a type 1 viral infection that is in the same category as cold sores and fever blisters. Although there are several types of herpes that can be contracted in BJJ, Herpes gladiatorum is the most common, earning the name “Mat Herpes” or “Wrestler’s Herpes.” A herpes rash begins with small clusters of red bumps and irritated skin. Fluid filled blisters are characteristic of the herpes virus, and after a few days these blisters typically flatten out and become yellowish-brown scabs.

Impetigo - Impetigo is a bacterial infection that can be found nearly anywhere on the body, and is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph). Impetigo is usually caused by one of these types of bacteria entering the body through a cut or insect bite. Impetigo typically begins as small clusters of red bumps that break open into a yellowish scab. Impetigo is highly contagious and if left untreated, could cause other very serious health problems.

Staph/MRSA - Staph (Staphylococcus aureus) is no joke and is the most serious BJJ related infection in my opinion. Staph is a group of bacteria that can cause several other infections. Staph usually enters the body through open wounds and hair follicles, but can sometimes cause infection without a break in the skin. In severe cases, the infection may find its way into the bloodstream causing serious health complications.  Staph can show up in several different forms, but mainly starts as a small sore or boil. Tenderness, swelling, and redness around the infected area are common symptoms. It can often spread quickly, and with this comes flu-like symptoms such as fever, sweats, and chills. If left untreated, staph may cause pneumonia, and blood or bone infections.

Antibiotics are used to treat a staph infection. Depending on how early it is caught and how severe the case is, the type and strength of the drug(s) may vary. Staph can be deadly!  A few years back a friend of mine contracted Staph and almost died from it.  He was rolling on Monday and Tuesday night was in a hospital fighting for his life.   This is because the overuse of some types of antibiotics has caused mutated forms of the staph bacteria known as MRSA (Methicillian-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus); this type of infection is resistant to some forms of antibiotics.

MRSA is more difficult to treat than a typical staph infection, because there are fewer effective forms of antibiotics.

Just so you know, my friend went back to the gym shortly after being released from the hospital and has been rolling ever since.  However, his illness caused a shockwave through the gym and everyone became very serious about their hygiene.  

The key to stopping skin disease is prevention.  These days most people training in BJJ are told about skin diseases inherent in BJJ when they start training (or they should be). If you haven’t been told, listen up.  Preventing skin diseases is much easier than treating it. Therefore you must be diligent to prevent it.  Here is a guide to help you protect yourself from infections.

  1. Shower Immediately - The longer you wait to shower after practices, the more time harmful germs are allowed to stay and grow on your skin. When showering, always use antibacterial soap, Head and Shoulders or Selsun Blue is good too.
  2. Know Your Body - Check your body for anything out of the norm; if it looks like it shouldn’t be there, well … it probably shouldn’t be there.
  3. Cut Your Nails - Certain types of bacteria and fungi may live underneath the fingernails, and can easily be transmitted to another person’s skin.
  4. Clean the Facilities Daily - In addition to the BJJ mat, also clean locker rooms, showers, etc. with bleach. BJJ mats should be especially taken care of, as they are one of the most common places where germs can live and grow. If your gym doesn’t do it regularly COMPLAIN!
  5. Wear a Clean Gi Daily - It is mandatory to have a clean Gi for every class! This also includes rash guards, shorts, and all equipment that you wear. You absolutely cannot wear the same gi for more than one practice.  Not only is it disgusting but it is the easiest way to transmit infections to your training partners.
  6. Cover All Wounds - During training it is important to cover any open wounds or cuts to prevent infection. Full-length rash guards limit skin to skin contact and can help to prevent skin diseases.
  7. Don’t Use a Gym Bag for your Gi - One of the biggest mistakes you can make is placing dirty gear into a gym bag. This is a perfect place for bacteria and fungi to grow and multiply. Use a disposable plastic bag or washable mesh bag that hangs on the outside of your gym bag.
  8. Wash your Gi Immediately - as soon as you get home place your Gi, gym clothes and equipment directly in the washing machine. Don’t let it fester and build up bacteria in the hamper.
  9. Have Lamisil at home – If you see any rash or red spot on your body start to develop treat it with Lamisil antifungal cream. Or any antifungal cream you may have.  When you get to the gym, don’t be shy, show it to your instructor and ask if it is ring worm or something else.    Anyone that has been around BJJ for a while has seen most skin problems and can identify it for you. 

Please don’t hide any skin problem, let someone look at it and assess what it may be.  Skin diseases are an unfortunate but common part of being a grappler and practicing BJJ. However, if you use these tips and incorporate them into your daily routine you should have no worries. You and your training partners will be happier and healthier doing what is necessary to protect yourself and your gym.

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.

BJJ Passivity vs. Activity - The Culture of Watching

My friends, challenging yourself is living. Bring on Jiu-jitsu. Yes you could sit and watch other people do it. You could dial in the fights, and you could grow fat and lazy while selecting your favorite active people to be fans of (and you can injure your back on a trip to the fridge for more beer).

But why would you? What possible rationale is there for healthy people to be settling for witnessing rather than participating? OK I get it, you could be recouping an injury, or getting over a particularly bad cold. Possibly you're killing time at work by watching Paris Grand Slam, or Abu Dhabi highlights. The point is in a world of excessive amounts of vicarious living the chance for you to be a super hero yourself still exists, and it exists on our mat every day. You can, instead of watching someone else do arm bars or survive under a much stronger opponent, be that person yourself. You can work your own muscles, produce your own sweat, and even accomplish technical feats of martial mastery that we offer you. You will have actual experiences that you yourself can be proud of and perhaps pass on stories about to your friends and loved ones. You can build an actual skill set that you can not only enjoy practicing for your own edification but even pass on to others. Hell you might even gain some health from the activity!

I worry about the vicarious life so many have fallen into. I worry about a national obesity problem. I'm not surprised by it – eating is fun (and requires no help), and being passively entertained a kind of addiction that we are culturally immersed in like a frog in slowly boiling water. What is the answer for breaking out? Ending the pattern of passivity? It is a simple answer and the answer is by doing. Get up, and go do. We are waiting for you to start living your life! Let's have some real fun!    

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.

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.