Thursday, October 23, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Welcome to a Working Week

Out of nowhere, a four-day training week. 

I'm trying to remember the last time I managed to get to the Academy so often (quick check of the training calendar says the last week of August: 25, 27. 29. and 30). My four-week training average had plunged below 1.0, courtesy of a pair coast-to-coast business trips that kept me off the mat for much of the second half of September and early October.

This four-day week has me back above 1.0 fortunately, though not by much. And while a few technical breakthroughs are keeping me from feeling totally inept on the mat, there is very little that is sharp about my game, right now.

One of the things I'm (re)thinking is my focus on submissions. I've been trying to focus on chokes, thinking for a variety of reasons that this would be the best way for me to pursue finishing contests. I've switched up to focusing on the Rickson Finish, giving myself a chance at moving from my position-dominant jiu-jitsu toward a pressure-submission top game. But trying to make sure I train this approach consistently is a struggle.

That said, I'm managing to keep me weight under control, finishing the week under 162 in the gi. That's mostly coffee and calorie restriction, which is fine with me. As I bring the conditioning online, I'm hoping to drop that gi number to 158, halfway between the lightweight no-gi limit and the featherweight gi limit, and then down to 154.5 (featherweight gi limit).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Back on the Mat

Double Leg takedowns / Double Leg to Back / Double Leg to Back to Straight Choke to Osoto Gari
Beach Boys Closed Guard Break to Split Pass with Backstep
3 five-minute rounds Live Training
162.4 lbs post-train

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Homework: Bottom to Top

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Top Game

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"You've Got Persuasion, I ..."

Can't Help Myself ..."



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Murilo Santana: Who is This Man

And how is he helping turn me into the most confident guard passer I've ever been?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Black Belt Adult Women's Feather Final at Dallas Open

Mackenzie Dern v. Karen Souza

Formula for Great Training

After being off the mat for over a week, it was more than fantastic to finally get back to where I once belonged.

A couple of things contributed to today's great session, all of which are worth keeping in mind:

1. Hunger
The combination of being off the mat for a week and watching Jacare win his rematch against Gegard Mousasi provided tremendous fuel for training today. It's a reminder also that Saturdays and evenings have something that lunchtime training never has, and that I need to adjust my training schedule accordingly.

It also begs the question of training frequency, something I haven't entirely figured out. Now that I'll be joining the Tuesday/Thursday morning crew at GBS, I'm optimistic that I'll be able to come up with something that works consistently without "overexposing" my body to too much abuse at this point in the timeline (time torus?).

2. Pena
One of the biggest reasons for my energy today was weight. Tipping the scales at 161.4 in the gi means that even when I'm in the gi,  I'm below the no-gi limit of 162. That has been a benchline goal for some time, and finding myself hit that mark after a week of little activity is a testament to the relatively minor diet changes I've made in the past few days.

The goal is to get down to 150 no gi, which works out to about 155 or so in the gi. So I've got some more to go. But this is a great place to be.

3. The Plan
I finally got a chance to work on the guard passing strategy I've wanted to implement for weeks if not months. Today, I got to train against easily one of the toughest training partners in the school (if not in the state, certainly when Masters are considered). And while I never actually "got" the pass, I was able to apply major pressure consistently, remain a persistent threat, avoid the submission, and always know exactly what the mission was, strategically and tactically. I cannot describe what it is like to try and pass a high-level guard with this reality on your side compared to when everything is a fog of half-measures and hope.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ronaldo Souza: MMA Submission Hero of the Week

If you learned to love jiu-jitsu because you saw what this art could do in true physical confrontations - be they in the earliest years of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or in the "Gracie in Action" challenge matches - then there is no more vital jiu-jitsu competitor in mixed martial arts than Ronaldo Souza.

The fighter also known as Jacare was brilliant in his rematch against the talented Gegard Mousasi. Truth told, this second fight was in some essential ways like the first: Jacare was able to takedown Mousasi virtually at will and impose ground control against which Mousasi was very challenged to escape.

This reality was reflected in the wagering line, which had Jacare as a sizable favorite. To be sure, Mousasi was able to catch Jacare with an upkick in the first match, earning a knockout victory. But the "Black Swan" nature of that victory was made pretty clear tonight in the rematch, as Jacare again took Mousasi down at will and secured dominant positions consistently.

Like most, I was rooting for the kimura finish. But like any old jiu-jitsu folk, I'll take what I can get. The point of the matter about this fight for me, though, is this: Rickson Was Right.

I don't know why so many people resist this idea. Sure, mixed martial arts is biased in favor of striking (i.e., padded gloves). But Jacare's performance is a reminder that a strategy of closing the distance, insisting on the takedown, and executing sound guard passing and high probability submissions is just as valid an approach to winning a mixed martial arts contest as "Punch-Punch-Kick."

Yes, you're going to need to have some cardio to fight like this. Mixed martial arts is a professional sport for professional athletes, after all. But if you are a jiu-jitsu fighter in MMA, the only thing better than a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for five minutes is a striking-based opponent who has to grapple for ten minutes. Or fifteen.

Or twenty-five.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


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?