SW Portland Martial Arts Blog

Themes of the Month

February 23rd, 2024

For our BJJ program, we have started doing monthlong blocks. What does this mean? Well, February has been (and continues to be, for another six days) half guard month. Why? It helps students and teachers alike get a little deeper into the meat of the art and I think, more importantly, it helps us all connect the dots a little more efficiently.

One of the tricky parts of BJJ (and indeed, any martial art) is the vast depth of techniques, positions, and strategies. This difficulty transfers to the communication of the art. How do you teach/learn such a deep thing? Do you focus on the basics? Do you expose students to a wide variety? Do you construct small games that center around core concepts? If the goal is to develop functional understanding, the answer to the dilemma must be: teach what helps people get better faster.

The themes seem to be helping people get better faster. Does this mean we have found the silver bullet? Heck no, because there is no silver bullet. We have found something that happens to work at this moment, for our gym. Undoubtedly, things will change. If they didn’t, I’d be worried.

For now though, I’m enjoying the half guard deep dive and hope everyone else is too. They at least say they’re enjoying it.

2024 Winter Tournament

January 10th, 2024

Why do we do kid’s tournaments? So many reasons.

For one, they’re super fun. Almost all the kids walk away smiling (there is some disappointment, of course – not everyone gets a medal, but even many who don’t get a physical prize come away energized from the experience) and talking about what a great time they had.

Second, it’s a huge help for us coaches. We get to see if the training we are providing students functions under duress. Do the techniques, combos, and strategies work when another student is actively working against them? Can they speak and move with confidence when everyone is watching? We watch, take note, and adjust our coaching accordingly. Tournaments are an amazing feedback tool.

Third, it brings all the parents in to see what their kids have been doing. Undoubtedly the kids talk about their training at home and the parents have some idea of what is going on but this is a huge opportunity for the parents to see things in action. What is their child actually learning in martial arts class? What does this stuff look like?

Finally, it’s a great way to bring the whole community together. The adults in the martial arts program get to help out, kids of all ages get to see one another compete, and we even get students from our sister gym (North Portland Martial Arts) to come in and join in on the fun.

Want more info? Sign up on our kids camp and events page and join the fun.

How Come the Teenagers Get Their Own Class?

January 8th, 2024


It’s not easy punching, kicking, and wrestling people. Stack on top of that the self-consciousness of a teenager and you often (but not always) have potential students who are completely against the idea of training with the “little kids” (everyone under 13) or with the “old people” (everyone 20 and up.) So what do you do?

You put some teens classes on the schedule. This doesn’t mean that students who are 13-19 have to train only in the teens classes. Anyone 13 and up is welcome to go to the adult classes. Those same teens are also welcome to train in the kids class. Whatever gets students on the training floor, so long as it is safe for everyone involved, is what we’re into.

What are the teen classes? Right now we’ve got 3 of them: Teen MMA Wednesdays @ 6pm, Teen MMA Saturday @ 11am, and Teen BJJ Sundays @ Noon.

Technique from all Angles

January 1st, 2024

In Sunday’s class, we were reflecting on how there is a tendency in the BJJ community to teach guard and moves from the guard with attention to technical details. It’s awesome. As a result, the community, as a whole, are solid guard players.

That same tendency seems to paint everything else in BJJ with a much broader brush. Perhaps this is because, anytime you look across the mats in a grappling class, you’re bound to see about 50% of the matches engaged in guard or some related position. Guard is super important. It’s a real strength of the BJJ community generally and BJJ players specifically.

But, we wondered, why not treat all positions with the same lavish attention to detail? Mount position only gets better if you know and pay attention to details. Takedowns only improve with technique. So on Sunday we spent our final class of “rear mount December” discussing the small details of the armbar from the back. We figured it would be a fantastic transition to “Armbar January.”

What Do Our Kids Camps Look Like?

December 26th, 2023
SWPMA Movement Arts Camps

We like to provide students with variety. In our martial arts classes, we teach grappling, throwing, and striking. So it is with our camps.

At their heart, the camps are martial arts camps. Full day students will receive at least 2 hours of martial arts instruction every day (and more if they opt for extra training.) We also make sure to provide a guest movement teacher every day. Our past guest teachers have included: fencing, gymnastics, break dancing, Capoeira, ballet, and many more.

Besides all the structured movement, students get at least an hour of free time to play outside. As the week goes on, we usually opt for a second recess outside because some of the best play happens when adults just get out of the way.

All that movement is usually only 3-4 hours of the day, so we fill the rest of the time with arts, crafts, and storytelling. Students are encouraged (just as they are with the movement arts) to try out a variety of crafts and if they aren’t interested, there are always tons of books to read or board games to play.

Hopefully that helps to paint a picture of what happens at our camps. If you’ve got questions, for sure send us an email: