Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Brotherhood


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

BJ Penn Hilo Hip Check Pass

People who talk about BJ Penn talk about his flexibility. People who watch BJ Penn study his guard passing and top game.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mat Metrics: Me and the New Thing

First Year of New Job

Dec (8) Jan (16) Feb (9) Mar (15) Apr (12) May (9) Jun (10) Jul (13)
= 92

Aug (12) Sep (5) Oct (6) Nov (9)
= 32

Total: 124

Second Year of New Job

Dec (6) Jan (9) Feb (6) Mar (13) Apr (10) May (9) Jun (9) Jul (10)
= 72

With four months to go, I'm  twenty training sessions behind pace.

I've thought for awhile that I've been having a hard time balancing training and my new job. The statistics suggest I'm not getting any better at it.

The good news is that in order to match the previous pace, I'll have to train 52 times over the next four months. That's a very doable (or, at least, historically doable) 13 sessions a month.

I'm going to be traveling a lot in late September through mid-October. So running up the score in August and November may have to become part of the plan.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

When The Man Comes Around

With apologies to Mr. Cash ...


To say that this is a great opportunity for grapplers here in the northwest is an understatement. That is especially so for those competitors who are looking to climb up the IBJJF ranks, particularly black belts looking for qualifying events ahead of the World Championships.

It is even a greater testament to the growth of jiu-jitsu and grappling in the area. Opportunities to compete were few and far between when I started training almost ten years ago. And if weren't for the explosive growth of jiu-jitsu and grappling, these big name tournaments like the IBJJF and Grapplers Quest wouldn't be putting Seattle in their rotation.

All that said, when it comes to grappling competition in the northwest, the Revolution is still my Alpha and Omega. The biggest, the best-run, the best competitors - including black belts - compete on the mats run by Jeff Bourgeois and the Revolution Team three times a year.  100% local and regular as rain since 2006.

So while the autumn competition schedule just got a little more crowded, remember that there's still nothing like rolling with your own.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dope Mount from Side Control


This is one of the best demonstrations of this "legendary" attack popularized by B.J. Penn that I've come across.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Professor Rodrigo Lopes in Action


It is hard to describe how inspiring it is to see my professor since 2005 back on the competitive tatame again.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joe Rogan Interviews Rickson Gracie


Some great insights into jiu-jitsu past, present, and future from one of the art's greatest ever. Also featuring Eddie Bravo. Especially love Rickson's separating MMA from vale tudo, and his comparison of no time limit vale tudo fights and five-hour long professional tennis matches.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Omoplata from Spider Guard


Love the omoplata, but lacking a high percentage set-up? You're in luck!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Training By the Numbers

Even if I trained every day for the rest of the month, it still looks like the 2014 training year* will be my weakest since I began keeping track back in the late summer of 2008 (beginning of the 2009 training year). I could probably do the leg work all the way back to August 2005. But I think this gives me a good sample of my training since getting a few stripes on my blue belt.

2014: 98 - 108
2013: 162
2012:  161
2011: 135
2010: 162
2009: 139

Another reminder of how brutal this training year has been in terms of mat time.


That said, what I like is that even though 2014 is shaping up to be a pretty lousy year in terms of training frequency, I still managed to make my 2x/week minimum. I also have to take a step back and pat myself on the back for what is a pretty impressive history going into 2014. 

It goes without saying that I want the 2015 training year that begins in August to be one of the best years ever. My dream is to make personal records for every month of the year or, failing that, to top 196 training sessions in a year, which would represent essentially the same thing. The travel in my new job makes this kind of goal-reaching more than a challenge. But what I wouldn't give to hang a "200" on the board before I'm through ...

*Since I began training jiu-jitsu in August 2005, my training year begins in August and ends in July.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Matter over Mind

I've never been impressed by exhortations to "will." One of my favorite poems, "Ruby Bates," makes the point this way:

"The Reds are virgins. They wear business suits
And talk a shrapnel-proof logic. They will all die
Of biology ..."

It makes us feel good to tell others that "it's all in your head" or to suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that wishing can make things so. As a materialist, I can't help but feel that this is yet another way that we are dishonest with ourselves and each other, inevitably keeping us from truly becoming what we can be by focusing on that over which we have far less control of than we think.


All that said to say that I think this article sums up the point very well, and does so in a martial arts context that I think most of us can appreciate. The intro alone is worth your time.

Resolutions based on “Will Power” FAIL 80% of the time; Resolutions based on changing the Systems you work in SUCCEED 80% of the time. 
Remember, it’s well-intentioned SYSTEMS that make us fat and lazy. You never walk anywhere because it’s too easy to drive your car. Your car, and all the roads you drive on, are a system.
 STOP saying to yourself “I’m going to try harder” and instead, this weekend just spend one solid hour seeing the systems that reinforce your bad behaviors. And then change them. ”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Jiu-Jitsu for Chael

What a Q2! With any luck, things will pick up now that the summer has begun in earnest.

I'll admit that there are times when the life of a middle-aged black belt who doesn't run his own school or compete actively has its discontents. The balance of 2014 will involve me trying to figure out what exactly to do with myself when even the white belts are starting to look dangerous.

In the meantime, have some Chael Sonnen, courtesy of Gracie Barra Portland, Gracie Barra Seattle, and Metamoris 4.

"Nothing beats wrestling. Except jiu-jitsu." Mark Schultz, wrestling coach for Chael Sonnen


Friday, June 27, 2014

52 Magic Minutes

My first week of sparring-focused training got me 52 minutes worth of Live Training.

And while I'm ecstatic that I was able to get close to an hour in Week 1, I'm a little bummed that I won't be able to train on Saturday to make the official mark.

All the same, a great start to the new project, and a nice bar to set.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Long Do You Live Train Weekly?

I've started tracking my sparring time.

My immediate goal is to make sure that I'm getting at least 30 minutes of sparring a week. After that, an hour a week is probably the next big goal, hopefully by the end of summer.

They say that one way to really understand something is to measure it, and in the same way that keeping a four-week moving average of training days has helped me understand how my training is progressing over the most relevant timeframes (from month-to-month to year-to-year comparisons), I'm thinking that keeping track of exactly how much time I spend practicing what I both learn and preach will be a similar boon for my development.

I've noticed that a lot of newer guys still shy away from Live Training. It was actually a joke among a few white belts today that Professor Carlos included a Live Training component within the Fundamentals class to "make sure" that guys got at least some Live Training in.

Hopefully my own focus on dramatically increasing the amount of time I spent doing Live Training (while simultaneously being relatively class-agnostic) will also give me an opportunity to coax some of these guys off the sidelines. Ideally, I'd love to train for about 30 minutes three times a week. Assuming I'm not training with one person for the whole half hour, some of these guys would be perfect second and/or third round training partners for me. My hope is that the combination of a flow-oriented roll and the chance to train with a black belt will be temptation enough for some of these newer folks to stick around. Live Training is such a key differentiator for jiu-jitsu that it pains me to see so many people missing out.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Half-Guard Reverse: Carreillo Sweep / London Sweep

The next time I'm in London (February 2015), I'm going to see if I can steal away and spend some time training with these guys!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bottom-to-Finish, Bottom-to-Top, Top-to-Finish Jiu-Jitsu

I'm having a great time teaching old school jiu-jitsu every other Friday morning at Gracie Barra Seattle.

If you want to learn how to control without holding, how to wear down your opponent by making him or her bear your weight, how to convince your opponent to submit rather than endure your gravity any longer, you could do much worse than to have been training at GB Seattle over the past few Fridays.



No "Twister Jiu-Jitsu". And no "Hokey-Pokey Jiu-Jitsu", either. Just that good old bottom-to-finish, bottom-to-top, top-to-finish jiu-jitsu the way the Gracies invented it.

Join me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Jiu-Jitsu: Innovation v.s. Evolution

There's an idea in jiu-jitsu that every innovation is a good innovation. Once upon a time it was half-guard that was a betrayal of jiu-jitsu. Spider guard was an abomination to some. More recently techniques ranging from the 50/50 guard to the berimbolo back-take transition suite (and accompanying double guard play) to the so-called "Worm Guard" have become the definition of what is new and novel in jiu-jitsu.

In my jiu-jitsu lifetime, there was a brief furor over the 50/50 guard. But while the appearance of the guard still draws a few mumbles from time to time, the 50/50 proponents have essentially won. "If you don't like it," taunted no less than multi-World Champion Rafa Mendes years ago, "learn how to stop it."

Take that. Never mind that at the end of the day the inability to "stop" a technique does not in and of itself validate that technique. At this point, the 50/50 is no longer even that controversial. We stare at the slow-motion, rocking horse, leg wrestling, waiting for one or the other competitor to "come up to the top", meaning take two points that are all but 100% conceded by the opponent, and then talk about the "chess match" we've witnessed.

And people want to take this to an Olympics that threatened to throw wrestling overboard?

I remember hanging out after a seminar from a visiting black belt had concluded. (By the way, here's a tip for those of you new to training: when you see large congregations of black belts hanging out after a class or seminar, stick around. Free money is about to rain from the skies.) The visiting black belt showed an incredible choke, something no one had seen before and couldn't figure out how to stop. The set-up wasn't the easiest - in large part because it involved a grip that leveraged the grey area of IBJJF rules. But once in place, it was a choke that came on like thunder. He showed only the standing version. It was crazy.

But it involved a major exploitation of the gi (hence the rule grey area). In fact, it was impossible without the eccentricities of the gi. And I remember wondering, after a certain point, what are we doing exactly.

I say this as someone whose open guard borrows heavily from Otavio Sousa's excellent sitting guard grip work. I say this as someone whose half guard game as often as not results in a Rodolfo Viera-like lapel wrap around the trapped leg.

There is no argument: the more the gi becomes an integral part of what we are doing when we do jiu-jitsu, then the less I feel we are doing what jiu-jitsu truly wants us to do. It is an evasion, a decadence, an exploitation of some otherwise irrelevant detail into the foundation of what is ultimately an edifice only a very few will ultimately feel safe within.

I'd argue that right now, jiu-jitsu suffers from too much innovation and not enough evolution. That's somewhat nonsensical insofar as the concepts don't typically share timescales. But it does get at what is most annoying about what is "novel" in jiu-jitsu right now. To steal a line from Revolution tournament founder and jiu-jitsu black belt Jeff Bourgeois, just what is it that is truly "sharpening" the iron we think we are wielding?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Return of the Son of #EndPointJiuJitsuNow*

*at least for black belts

Eddie Bravo, a believer: (6:00 minutes in)
When it comes to entertainment value, hands down, submission only is the way to go. ... Who cares if there's a winner? Is that all you care about? The only thing people should care about is if it is entertaining ... If somebody wins a world championship by one advantage, I don't care. I'm not going to watch that again.
Again, I think points are fine for brown belts. Good for purple belts. Great for blue belts. Essential for white belts. But once you get to black belt, I think jiu-jitsu has an opportunity to set a sporting standard that few others can match. In the same way jiu-jitsu teaches us to be indomitable, why not shape our sport to match what is most essential about our art?


Ralph Gracie, arguably more king than philosopher, famously told one of his students who was defeated by points in a local tournament that as long as the student didn't get submitted, who cared how many "points" they "gave" the guy. That's another attitude from the old school that's probably worth reconsidering, if not recovering.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Near Side Underhook Pass

Courtesy of Shawn Williams. One of the best lessons I learned from Marcelo Garcia was the idea of breaking the guard pass into two parts: defeating the full guard first, then defeating the half guard. It made the campaign to pass so much easier to deal with, and gave me the kind of short-term goal (get to half -guard) that helped keep my confidence up.

So, once you get there, here's something to do.

Submission Hero of the Week: Bryan Caraway

There are a couple of reasons why I'm glad to be giving the Submission Hero of the Week award to Bryan Caraway.

Like Ronda Rousey, currently the patron saint for "jujitsu" in mixed martial arts, Caraway makes no pretense toward doing anything other than what he is best at as a submission artist. I understand why so few grappling-oriented mixed martial artists abandon a submission-first approach to greatness; the rules of the sport do not incentivize it. But I will never lack of appreciation of those who, correctly in my view, agree with Rickson Gracie that there is more than enough in jiu-jitsu to succeed in mixed martial arts contests. And Bryan Caraway's finish by choke at UFC Fight Night last week is as good an example of this attitude as we've seen in awhile.

And, yes, as someone who considers the thought experiment of being referred to as "Mr.Tate" far less humiliating than the epithet intended, I'll confess to being more than a little extra happy for the Y chromosome-packing half of MMA's best combat couple.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gratitude

One of the great joys of jiu-jitsu after almost nine years of training is rolling with white and blue belts. Many times, white belts and blue belts are the only ones I feel like training with.

There is something incredible at the nexus of knowing no jiu-jitsu (beyond a basic introduction) and knowing a little jiu-jitsu. If you teach, nothing is a better guide to future lessons than to spend as much time in this universe as possible.

I wrote awhile back that the key to being a happy black belt was keeping your "blue belt self" in mind at all times. This is a version of that.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Fear of a Bad Rep

When working with students, we often exhort them to drill or train faster. "Go, go, go!" we shout. "Faster! Faster!"

"As fast as you can!"

I fear we too commonly put more emphasis on the "fast" than the "can."


Thursday, May 29, 2014

What is Innovation in Jiu-Jitsu?


I'll have much more to say about this in the days to come. And while I think this is ultimately an irrelevant issue for jiu-jitsu (which will be what it will be), I do think it is interesting to ask: (1) what drives creative variation in jiu-jitsu, (2) when do these variations become true innovations, and (3) when, if ever, do these innovations actually start to represent an evolution in the art of jiu-jitsu that must be recognized by all who practice it.

My short answers are (1) everything from boredom to physical limitation to competitive experience, (2) when the techniques prove able to deliver consistent success under testing - ideally by more than one competitor , and (3) when the techniques survive from one generation to another. But more later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rei Roger: The King is Back

BJJ Eastern Europe has been referred to as the TMZ of Jiu-Jitsu news. That said, this is as exciting a potential development in jiu-jitsu as we've seen in awhile.


What I love the most is train and compete with the gi and I am going back to doing that. I almost entered the 2014 Worlds. I’m not done quite yet!
Read the rest of the report here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Submission Hero of the Week: Mitch Clarke

The fact that every week does not feature a submission hero of the week is the fault not of the stars, but of ourselves, who are often not paying close enough attention to the jiu-jitsu-in-mixed-martial-arts-magnificence that is all around us.

So congratulations to Mitch "Danger Zone" Clark for a great Jeff Glover-esque darce choke finish in the UFC Saturday night!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rodrigo Lopes v. Tom Tegner at Five Grappling Tournament

My professor since 2005 back in competition!


And if that armbar looks familiar, this may be why ...

"Better Fewer, But Better"

After not posting training diaries for a little over a month, I think they are gone for good.

At the end of the day, the posts were never especially popular. And you have to write one for every training session or the point is lost. And since I'm not training with competitive intensity - see the Monkey Bar Gym folks for that - I just don't see a reason to maintain intimate logs of day-in, day-out training.

Instead, I'll post a weekly digest of what was most meaningful out of a week's training, some theme or concept that seemed to best characterize what jiu-jitsu is all about. I'll also have a post talking about whatever it is I'm teaching and why.

So fewer lists of techniques in odd shorthand. But I'll try and keep the cool pictures and drawings of ancient grappling combatants going all the same.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vai #$@#$ Cavalo

And to Speake of the Volume of Bullshite that was Spoken Against Fabricio Werdum in the Days before his Dominating Victory over Travis Browne ... and After ...


Monday, April 14, 2014

End Point Jiu-Jitsu Now*

* at least for black belts.

If there's one thing that's become clear to me after watching an epic contest between Royler Gracie and Eddie Bravo at Metamoris 3, it is this: competitors who think their matches could in draws are more likely to fight for the finish.

There are a lot of ideas about what is wrong with sport jiu-jitsu right now. Rafael Lovato Jr. has become one of the faces of the contemporary "Save Our Jiu-Jitsu" movement, such as it is. And while I commend his focus on changing the mindset of the average jiu-jitsu artist, I think the surest way to change the way the game is played is by rearranging the incentives.

The problem with sport jiu-jitsu is not just that there is a tremendous incentive not to lose. That's pretty common in every sport. The problem with sport jiu-jitsu is that there is also a tremendous ability to avoid losing.

After all, jiu-jitsu is not a toughman contest. It's arguably the most sophisticated self-defense martial art every devised. So should it really be a surprise to see the kind of matches we too often see? Two BJJ artists attempting to simultaneously play guard until they are able to transition to taking the back, moving from the sin qua non of defensive martial arts (the guard) to what is quantitatively the most dominant position in grappling (rear mount).

Not only might this "bug" have been a feature, we probably should have seen it coming all along.

That's why you've got to change the rules, to make some of the natural tendencies of superior, self-defense oriented martial artistry more appealing from a sportive point of view. At the same time, it's not going to work exposing the "inferior" self-defense of everybody on the losing end of a BJJ contest. That's the recipe for the conservative, advantage-based, sports jiu-jitsu we have right now.

I think there's a place for this kind of jiu-jitsu: in the belt ranks from white to brown. But once we enter the black belt realm, let's start looking at competition differently. Watching Gracie v. Bravo, I ask myself, what's a sweep or two between black belts? In a world in which we are expected to regularly sacrifice Pan and World titles on the altar of collegiality, why not spare black belt competitors the ignominy of one-advantage losses and insist on a submit or draw standard?

At the end of the day, I just want to see great jiu-jitsu. And more often than not I see great jiu-jitsu when I see competitors who desire winning more than they fear losing. I see a lot of that in the lower belts. I spent a fantastic afternoon at the greatest jiu-jitsu tournament in the northwest watching mats full of kids, women, white belts, blue belts, purple belts, and brown belts going for it without a single stalling call that I remember seeing. The Revolution event is very IBJJF-oriented, with advantages and everything. But these competitors didn't need any incentive to get after it.

The same is true for the sole black belt match, my professor and a talented, local new black belt I've trained with once or twice - with whom my professor actually shared his winning technique shortly after the match. That's the kind of class we roll with here in the PNW.

But elsewhere incentives are different, where the stakes are higher and rank and reputation become a part of the mix. So why not change the nature of the game, at least at the highest level, as well?