Saturday, December 31, 2005

Jiu Jitsu Goals for 2006

My number one goal is simple: to vastly improve my guard game.

Eddie Bravo made a nice point in an interview with the folks over at Asked what beginners in jiu jitsu ought to focus on in the beginning, Bravo was certainly talking his book. But you can't deny the point:
TH: What is the most important position to master in Jiu-Jitsu in your opinion? Guard, mount , pass guard or side mount?

EB: All are important but mastering the guard first is most important to me. When you have a good guard you don’t mind being on your back and then your whole game flourishes. A lot of people won't bother mounting from side control because they are afraid of getting rolled. It is very easy to get rolled from the mount in the beginning when your mount isn’t good. A lot of people just stay in and work from side control. Its not as powerful as the mount but it seems like it because you have less risk of being rolled than from the mount. So once you get your guard together you’ll be able to improve your mount because if you get bucked off from the mount like you do when starting JJ, you’ll end up in your guard and will feel comfortable in that position.

I still don't like the idea of getting reversed. After all, a reversal costs points in a tournament setting. But I do think that mastering the guard would help a guy like me who still has a strong wrestling bias to begin to think of himself as a jiu jitsu fighter instead. Patience, defense, and using the opponent against himself are the hallmarks of jiu jitsu as far as I'm concerned. And all of those traits are further developed by focusing on the guard game.

A large part of this is being willing to take more risks in sparring. That's another thing Rodrigo has been exhorting us to do. "Better try it here than in a tournament." He couldn't be more right about that. Too many times when I've got someone in my guard, I just freeze up and try to maintain the closed guard uber alles, without aggressively trying a sweep or even a submission. That has got to stop.

I should pick a few closed guard sweeps--the scissors sweep that Joe (the White) uses so well will probably be one of them--and just keep working them the same way I've been working guard passes. My guard pass game isn't first-rate. But it is a lot better since I started focusing on getting tightly into the guard, securing good hand position, and standing up to pass (or, using the Saulo Ribeiro ground pass). So let's pick two more sweeps and start working them in 2006!

I like the "omoplata sweep" that I hit a little while ago when rolling with Arnell. Certainly if the guy stands up in my guard and doesn't move quickly to pass then I can catch guys with that sweep. I've got a "feel" for it, I think. So I don't want to include it in the "three sweeps for 2006" that I'm thinking about.

That's the main goal: improve my guard game. Work both closed and open guards. Work the spider guard. Work the butterfly and X-guards when things get dicey. But keep moving. There are at least four different guards--I need to make sure to spend at least a little time in each one every single night that I'm on the mat.

Friday, December 30, 2005

North South to Armbar

Another observation from 101 Submissions: Chapter Two was the armbar attack from north-south.

I want to study this attack because I'm looking for transitions out of side control. Knee on belly is one, but moving to north-south is another. And if I can get into north-south, then there should be a number of attacks I can launch from this position, and the armbar seems like a good one.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More on the Triangle Defense

Begged off class tonight due to a persistant and ahem inconsistently productive cough. I'm doing "tape work" instead, watching 101 Submissions: Chapter 2 and being blown away by what you can learn about defending against even the world's greatest triangle chokes.

Not a single one of the fighters who tapped out to triangle chokes on the DVD used the counter that Rodrigo showed us. Not only did they not attempt the counter, but also they all made the same mistake.

The mistake? Bringing up the opposite (i.e., non-trapped side) leg in an attempt to lessen the choke.

Kneeing up on the opposite side actually makes the choke worse. All you are doing is driving your body deeper into your arm. By kneeing up on the trapped side instead, you begin to wedge your body between your head and your arm. Kneeing up on the trapped side is not enough. The triangle is an excellent choking attack. But kneeing up on the trapped side is fundamental. And the tape proved it.

What is nice about this counter--which I've called the peppermill--is that there is usually plenty of time to stop, focus on the trapped side and make a determination to take the fight into the trap instead of away from it. That is what all stacking is about.

I should add that grabbing the pants with the free hand is very important to keep the guy from turning with you as you move, knee first, toward the trapped side. You are working as if to pass his guard, stacking on the other knee and grinding with the advance knee, staying very tight.

Deep thoughts ...

If he is controlling your body, free your body
Attack what is nearer to your body than his

Use your legs to fight his body, not your arms
If he attacks your legs, defend with your hips

If he is choking your neck, attack his arms
If he shortens his arms, pin them against his body

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back from Tucson

Back from Tucson yesterday. An excellent visit with the in-laws, but unfortunately both Rebecca and I were whacked by the local epidemic. I kid you not. Emergency rooms were filled and they were telling people not to come in with the sort of mysterious cold symptoms me, Rebecca, Rebecca's sister Wendy and brother Clay and apparently half the population of the Old Pueblo was displaying.

Feeling much better now. I put in three miles on the treadmill to break myself in before tomorrow night's class. I'll do another two tomorrow morning.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Sweeps and Leg Position

This is specifically for the scissors sweep. But it is a good reminder of how a little technical feature can actually be key to an effective technique.

When doing the scissors sweep, lay your down leg on its side, not straight up and down. This way, when you bring your up leg across the guy's chest, underhooking him with your foot and taking him toward the down leg (whilst gripping cuff 'n' collar, of course), you can make a stronger sweeping motion with the down leg.

It is a lot easier to slide your leg in the sweep with your hips open (i.e., leg on the side) than with your hips closed (i.e., straight up and down).

Friday, December 23, 2005

Armbar Defense

From inside the guard.

The trapped arm: Never cross over the mid-way of the guy's chest. Instead, grab the collar on the same side.

The free arm: Use this arm to block the leg that is trying to trap your head. That leg might come up quickly, so be ready to block the leg as soon as you feel the guy's weight shifting.

The block: Your hand blocks the guy's leg in a way similar to the hand position behind the head in the rear naked choke. You are blocking the second leg, the one that will go across your neck. Your hand should be between your face and his calf.

The legs: One knee up and one knee down.

The knee up should be on the same side as the trapped arm. This is also good as a general rule any time an arm is trapped. Move to crowd the guy on the same side that he is trapping, jamming him.

Bring the up knee around and down into his belly as you stack him on his neck and begin to work your arm free.

The knee down should be perpendicular to the "knee up" leg and tight on the guy's butt--under it is even better.

The stack: Drive the knee up into the abdomen as you rotate around his butt toward the side of the trapped arm.

Stay Tight! The more you extend you body, the more the guy can extend his legs and execute the armbar.

Drive the knee down under his hips as if to prop him up or support his hips. This will help stack him without the need to stand up.

From the full stack: You can either stack and pull your arm out, continuing to work around to the side until you have passed his guard.


You can bring the down knee around to the side and move the knee up (the one that was grinding into the abdomen) over the guy's head. Here, you want to straighten that leg out and swing it over the guy's head so that you are essentially sitting on the guy's head.

The armbar threat will be eliminated and his guard will be passed. You will either wind up in north-south or side control.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Thoughts on the Guard

What is the point of the guard?

The idea of the guard is to control your opponent’s body. Generally, you establish this control with your legs. In a closed guard, your legs are around your opponent’s body, controlling him by the hips. In an open guard, you are controlling other key parts of his body. For example, in the spider guard you are controlling both arms by gripping the cuffs and putting your feet in his biceps. This controls the opponent by controlling his upper body. In the modified spider guard, you are also controlling both arms by gripping the cuffs. But instead of putting your feet on his biceps, you bring him closer and press your knees against his biceps.

The butterfly guard is another guard worth mentioning—though it mostly appears to be a transition guard. Here both your feet between the opponent’s legs, right under his groin. At the same time, you pull his body close to yours. This guard is the epitome of keeping your legs between you and your opponent—because with this guard, that’s all you’ve got! That said, having your legs in this position does give you a lot of leverage to take the opponents over your back or over to one side.

The X guard is an exotic guard that Marcelo Garcia has used to great effect. In this guard you control the lower body by controlling the thighs and legs. Both feet are used as hooks on the same leg. Here is the description from with my notes in italics.

His foot is up on my right shoulder, not in the crook of my arm.

My right leg inserts through his legs and my right instep is nestled in the crease of his hip. My right knee is behind the plane of his body underneath the thigh of the opposite leg.

My left leg is positioned so that my instep hooks behind his right knee, pushing it away from me.

My right hand cups his leg, typically controlling it at the kneecap.

They add about the X guard that it is an effective move from the butterfly guard, as often the opponent will try and stand out of the butterfly guard, opening himself up to the X guard trap.

The idea of sweeping from the guard is two-fold: control the cuffs or the collar, and try and get the opponent’s weight on your hips where it will be easier to control him. There are three main options: taking the guy over your back, taking him to your right, and taking him to your left. All non-attacking moves from the guard should be geared toward one of these three objectives.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Stray Thoughts from Thursday

A couple of things I picked up from talking with Rodrigo after class on Thursday.

(1) It's all about movement of the body. The reason my arms and shoulders are so sore is because my upper body is doing all the work.

(2) Change the angles. If the guy in your guard is working you hard to your left, then you might be able to sweep him in that direction. Jiu jitsu is just judo on the ground.

(3) From Cindy: When under sidemount or half-guard, never waste your time or energy by hugging the guy on top of you. Always work to get your arms/hands between your body and his.

Also, "ass out" or hip escape when trying to fight off a sidemount or half guard pass. Joachim Hansen has that great reversal move where he hip escapes, then throws a leg over the back of the top guy. In one variation, you throw the leg up toward the head and use that momentum to drive you over. In the other variation, you throw the leg up toward the upper chest and use that momentum to drive you over into rear mount.

Cesar Gracie's tips on hand control are working wonderfully. Not only does closing the collar make it easier to control the guy's body when you are in his guard. But it also helps keep your elbow in. I've got more work to do, but I feel more confident about being in the guard because I'm finally getting what Cesar meant.

Also starting to do a lot better at automatically standing up to pass the guard. I want to be almost known for that. I'll still keep trying to work Saulo Ribeiro's on-the-ground pass for variation. But I'm fighting for upright position every time now.

(3) When in the "passing the knee" stage of passing the guard, underhook the body on the side opposite the one you are trying to pass. Keep your hips low and try to bring the opposite knee/hip over first, if you can. Also, try and overhook and pin the arm on the side you are passing to. It will help keep the guy from blocking your knee with his hand.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Spider Guard

Three techniques tonight, all working from the spider guard. The first was simply a drill rotating the feet, outside to in, to hook the arm by the bicep. We worked that both sides.

The second involves hooking the bicep, but then letting the top fighter into an opened guard. The end result was a sort of bicep cutter with figure-foured legs and reaching under to grab the foot-hooked arm. I can't remember the steps.

The third technique was a reversal into side control. You let the guard down as you did in the second technique. But then grab the pants of the far leg at the knee (or underhook that leg) and after scooting in close to his body, rolling him over your far shoulder.

As you roll, you want your knee to be right at his armpit, which will help pin him down after the roll. This is why you want to scoot in close before rolling over. That will keep you from getting too far away.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fighting the Triangle

Here are the keys to fighting off the triangle choke.

Posture up.

Go to knee up on the side of the trapped arm. Bring the other leg up tight under the guy's butt.

Grab the opposite collar as deeply as possible with the hand of the trapped arm and bring forearm across throat. In sparring, it can probably be across the upper chest.

Bring the up knee down around the leg and into the abdomen or lower chest.

Grab the pants by the butt with the hand of the free arm. That will help you turn in the direction of the trapped arm and the grinding knee.

Stack and grind from here, working around toward the trapped arm side and stacking--without standing. It's more of a low stack and grind. I'm going to call it the peppermill triangle defense!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Definition of Back Control

I introduce to you, Marcelo Garcia v. Renzo Gracie.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tournament Recap

BJJ Tournament Record: 1-2
Next tournament: Copa 7 Northwest March 2006

Copa 6 Northwest: December 2005
Won 2-0 (takedown)
Lost in second minute by triangle choke

Copa 5 Northwest: September 2005
Lost in second minute by armbar


Felt very nice to fight at the 155.8 I weighed in at. Under 160 is definitely my weight, and I'm super glad I got down there. I still give up height at this weight, but I tend to have the strength advantage. If I can get the rest of my game up to speed, then 149-158 might work just fine going forward.

The week leading up to the tournament wasn't a walk in the park. But the diet cutting and sauna suit treadmill work weren't too strenuous. I went from 167 on my scale on Monday morning to 155.8 on their scale on Saturday morning. In the future, I'd rather do that over two weeks, maybe going from 165 to 160 in one week, then from 160 to 155 in the next week.

Great scene at the tournament. A lot of Southside Mamazinho guys were there--including some of the capoeira folks. Eliot, Arnell and Mario were there to watch and provide support. Tom, Jesse the White Belt and Jesse the Blue Belt, and Big Griff competed from the southside, as did Big Mike. Add me and you had six southside regulars competing.

I won my first match and lost my second to fall out of medal contention. The first guy was very aggressive, grapping my sleeves and jerking me back and forth. I was desperate to win a fight with Rebecca there watching, and couldn't figure out if there was a method to this guy's madness or not. I decided to just hang on and keep my balance, essentially waiting him out.

At some point in the stand-up we got body-to-body and I managed to take him down near the edge of the mat. It was a high hip throw of some sort. The guy landed hard and the throw drew a lot of gasps from people watching. I landed on top and managed to turn him into a sort of "scarf hold" by the edge of the mat.

One mistake I made was that I expected the referee to stop us because he was almost half off the mat. The guy I was fighting kept going, and I risked getting reversed. The ref dragged us back to the center, and we re-started.

Eventually the guy was able to get me back into his full guard. But time was running out. Thanks especially to the review I did the night before about maintaining good posture and using the collar to post and control the guy's upper body. Cindy was yelling for me to keep my posture, which echoed what Cesar Gracie had been saying in the previous night's homework. So I rode that one out to a win: 2-0.

My second fight was a little disappointing, in some ways a lot like my fight in Copa 5 Northwest. We circled a lot--too much. I was cautious--and more than a little arm sore. Also this guy was the complete opposite of the first guy I fought. He wasn't especially aggressive and tried to move toward his left (my right).

Eventually we clenched up and I tried a similar throw. This time we were too far off the edge of the mat and I didn't get credit for the takedown. Again we were restarted in the middle and the guy got me into his closed guard. I started out fine enough, but eventually got sloppy and got caught in a triangle.

It wasn't the tightest triangle in the world, to be honest. And it drove me crazy that I couldn't remember the counter to the triangle that Rodrigo had shown us just two days ago! I did remember enough not to stand. But I got confused trying to remember which knee to bring up (reminder: same side as the trapped arm), and what to do with the hands (reminder: one across the throat/upper chest and the other grabbing the pants). I also forgot the direction of the counter: grinding the up knee down into the abdomen and stacking the guy tightly upside down.

But I was tired and thinking too much about how exhausted I would be in the fight after this one if I won. In other words, I wasn't thinking straight about the fight. After a few minutes, I tapped out and lost the match.

I'd love a rematch with both guys in March. In both fights I got in that scarf hold position and didn't have a follow-up move. The obvious follow-up is side control. But I should consider going to north-south first--which should probably be easier from the scarf hold--then slip into side control.

I think there is am armbar from the scarf hold position, and a choke. I should look those up. The choke I think I can figure out. But I'm going to have to look in Rigan Machado's Encyclopedia to find that armbar ...

I figure that my next win has to be by submission and that in the second round the worst I can do is lose by points. That's my benchmark, at least, for steady progress.

All in all a great experience. Rebecca had a blast also, which was great. I can't say enough how wonderful it was to win my first fight in front of the minx.

I'm taking a week off from my cardio routine, though I'll go to class Tuesday and Thursday. Then I'll have a week and two days back on the routine before heading out to Tucson. I'll be back on Tuesday the 27th--I'm not sure if I'll go in to class or not. I took the 28th off for a little post-vacation holiday of my own. At the time, I thought it might be a badly needed preparation day for our move to Southern California. Now it will just be a day for further R&R chez moi.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fighting the Guard

Last class before the tournament. We worked takedowns for a second night in a row (i.e., Tuesday's class). Then passing the guard and escape from the guard. It was a nice tightly focused class. The new blue belt, Jes, ran a perfect warm-up, by the way.

The most important thing in the class, however, were the counters to the triangle and the armbar that Rodrigo showed us. The other new blue belt, who also is called Jes, I think, caught me in triangle after triangle during our guard work. I know that my guard is pathetic and needs a lot of work. But I should be better at passing the guard, and knowing how to deal with triangles and armbars is a big part of that.

The main idea is that if you can fight off the attack, fine. But if you get caught DON'T STAND UP!

Standing up allows the guy to extend his legs in an armbar, and to get better leverage in the triangle choke. Like the counter to the kimura from the half-guard that Rodrigo showed a few of us after class, if you get caught then instead of creating space, you want to close the space, getting as close to the guy's body as possible--and hopefully making him uncomfortable by pinning his legs over his body so that his guard can be passed.

Fighting off the Triangle
This was the big one tonight, and I'm trying to remember how it goes. Basically, you want to do two things. First, maintain an upright posture. You do this by going to one knee, the "up" knee being on the same side as the arm that is trapped in the triangle.

Here's a fuzzy part. I think you want to reach other with the non-trapped arm and grab the hand of the trapped arm to lock arms around the guy's leg. You then lean in, pressing his legs back against his body, cheating slightly toward the "up knee" side.

Even if he is flexible enough to take the discomfort of having his legs pushed back, he will lose the strength to maintain the triangle attack. And as you loses the leverage, you gain leverage as you move toward passing his guard and moving into side control.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

All Omoplata All The Time

For some reason, I've been obsessed with omoplatas. I tapped Big Griff the other night using a crucifix, which is sort of a "double chickenwing" hold that is usually right there if the omoplata doesn't work.

Omoplatas are especially good against larger opponents. But there's something about that technique that I think I "get" in terms of the leverage and the physics involved. Especially considering that I'm still a big-time novice as far as working from the guard is concerned.

The omoplata also sets up opportunities for the kimura, which is slowly becoming one of my favorite arm attacks. Increasingly I want to use the keylock to set up armbars--as in: keylock attempt from modified knee on belly to armbar using the far leg ...

But the omoplata ... it is a reminder that legs are arms. And that the closed guard is just a form of double underhook. The guard game in Brazilian jiu jitsu is a lot like the pummelling game of Greco-Roman wrestling. I need to use my closed guard to get the guy off balance the same way I might try and pummell a guy off balance with double underhooks.

The omoplata seems like the most basic extrapolation from all of this. Here are some links to video and instructionals on how it is done.

Omoplata from mount

The "Umaplata" from Jacare

My favorite explanation of the omoplata.

There was a recent discussion about omoplatas in Grappling magazine with Renato Magno (November 2005). Here were some of his thoughts on the technique:
The omoplata is a shoulder lock that is used in Brazilian jiu jitsu, submission fighting and mixed martial arts. It is not a sophisticated technique, but it is very effective. Not only can you finish an opponent with an omoplata, but you can branch off or transition into a triangle, sweep, footlock or armbar. You can use it offensively or defensively, and you can use it in gi or noo-gi situations.

To make the omoplata effective, use your legs to break his posture. This way the opponent won't be able to stack you (when he folds you on the ground and puts his weight on you). Remember, it's important to always be on his side so you can go to his back or legs. This gives you much more options.

Once you are prepared to do the omoplata, you are atttacking at 90 degrees. Your hips have to move 90 degrees to do the omoplata. You also have to be real mobile on your back. You don't want to be flat. You have to be able to raise your hips from the floor because you have to get the legs up there. Hip mobility is very important.

"Passing the Knees"

Passing the guard involves creating space, opening the guard and then "passing the knees" before moving into, hopefully, side control.

"Passing the knees" means two things: holding one knee down on the mat and simultaneously avoiding the defense of the other knee/shin as the opponent rolls to his side.

This clip from Abhaya highlights a strategy for "passing the knees."

It was picture day at Gracie Barra Mamazinho. I was surprised how many of the guys from the South Seattle academy weren't there. Big Griff and Tom were the only guys I've seen at South Seattle a lot who were there.

Ivan Salavery was there, with a small black bulldog or something. Very cool.

I still prefer the South Seattle location. I don't know what commercial real estate in Ballard is like. But it would be nice to see them get some more space somewhere in the area.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Me and My Half-Guard Passes

Here are the three.

The first is the armlock attack from Jean Jacques Machado. Underhook the arm on the same side as my trapped leg. Then post up with the free leg and work around the guy's head in the free direction.

The second is the Marcelo Garcia pass from the previous post.

The third is this one from Saulo Ribeiro. Actually, Saulo is showing a way to sweep this half-guard pass. But the half-guard pass the guy attempts is interesting and different from other passes that attack the upper body more or less head on. It involves switching the hips and scooping into a reverse that attacks the hips.

Essentially in this pass, if you get your trapped leg free, then you end up in side control. Position-wise, you want to keep your weight on the guy when you reverse your hips. By "reversing your hips" in this example I mean sending your outside hip into his ribcage and pulling the hip of the trapped leg out. Basically, you are putting your body between his body and his legs.

This last half-guard pass is a nice compliment to the Machado, trapped side underhook, armlock attack. If the guy is really fighting off the underhook (as that purple belt, Rafael, did), then it would be nice to have something that attacks from an almost completely opposite direction. The scoop pass might do that.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Half-guard Pass from Marcelo Garcia

Check out the half-guard pass at the end of this short video sample from Marcelo Garcia. The full piece is a spider guard pass, which is certainly worthwhile. But because I'm working against a lot of half-guards in class, I'm especially interested in half-guard passes.

Here are the relevant steps:

Underhook with the same side as the trapped leg.
Overhook the other arm and bring it to the side.
--This will keep him from blocking your pass.
Keep your hip as low as possible.
--This will bring his knee down.
Put your free foot on his knee.
--His knee should be on the ground.
Push your foot against his knee as you pull your other leg free.
Slide the trapped leg under your body.
Switch your hips from down to up.
Sit up into a scarf hold.
--You will have the overhooked arm trapped.

By the way, best of luck to Gracie Barra brown belt Cindy Hales, who is competing at Grapplers Quest this weekend in Las Vegas. She's part of an eight-woman lightweight tournament and is scheduled to face off against Jean Jacques Machado fighter, Jeanette Portocarrero.

According to this preview from On the Mat Portocarrero is also a "relative newcomer" to Grapplers Quest. Jeanette competed as a purple belt in 2004.

Anyway, may any of the numerous submissions Cindy has inflicted upon her sparring partners at Gracie Barra Seattle (my elbow and ankle included) find the limbs and necks of her opponents this weekend in Sin City!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Gameness Style

Tonight for Thursday's class I pull out the Gameness gi. It's cut very similar to my Grapple Gear gi, which is nice.

I'll use this as an opportunity to prop SSF Gear, the folks I bought the gi from. I don't think I've ever received an order so fast. If you need a gi, rashguard or like combat gear, I can't recommend them highly enough.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Joys of Drills

Tuesday's class was huge! There must have been twenty or thirty people training! It was a good mix of Ballard people, South Seattle people and some folks I hadn't seen in quite awhile.

Space was tight. The warm-up was pretty short: mat laps mostly, and some shoulder work. Elbow escapes.

Technique work including the dueling clinch drill. I worked with Arnell tonight, who is a pretty good guy to work with. We also worked guard passes, which really killed the tops of my feet as I tried to hold the closed guard against the pass.

Gracie Barra really believes in standing out of the guard. Cesar Gracie mentions it and every pass that Rodrigo teaches involves standing out of the guard. Saulo Ribeiro--the Jedi Master--is also a big fan of standing out of the guard (or at least posting out with a leg).

The first half of the guard pass is opening the guard. We did this by jumping up to our feet from inside the guy's closed guard. Place the knee of one leg right under the butt by the
. Then slowly and under control lower yourself to sit on your other heel. The pressure of your knee against the butt is what will open the guard.

The other technique we worked involves actually passing the guard once it has been opened. In both cases, you pushed one knee to the mat. But from there things got a little tricky.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Thoughts on Side Control

Thinking over offense from side control ...

I like the idea of attacking the far arm. If his hand/arm is on my headside, then my main arm attack needs to be a keylock. If his hand/arm is on his legside, then my main arm attack needs to be an armbar.

With the keylock, I want to use my headside hand to grab his wrist, with my elbow in his neck or shoulder. That keeps him from bringing his hand behind his head--which is a very effective defense against the keylock.

The headside hand is the post. That is how I keep both the L-shaped bent arm and the space between his wrist and shoulder.

I also want to simultaneously use my legside hand to pin his elbow against his body. I can just squeeze his arm against his body or grab the sleeve. But I want to trap this elbow against his body to further isolate the wrist I am attacking.

From there, force the arm down with the headside hand, and slide the legside hand along his arm until I can slip it under his arm at the elbow, clamp my wrist and lock in the keylock.

I might have to wedge my arm a bit to get it under the elbow, and to get the elbow increasingly flared out. But if I just take my time, I'll either get that or the choke.

Maintain a neutral side control and crank the lock. Be wary of being pulled over to the lock side in a sweep. Depending on how he reacts, you might even be able to jump to mount and finish off the key lock from the mount.

Always be ready to give up a mediocre keylock attempt for a shot at an excellent choke opportunity. If he's fully committed to defending against the keylock, then he might be unbelievably susceptible to a choke. I'd bring the headside, wrist-grabbing hand back to grip the near collar (pulling across his body toward you) while using the legside hand underneath to grab the opposite collar (pulled away from you).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Guard Passes

I think that as far as standing guard passes are concerned, lunges are a better resistance exercise than squats. I'm not stepping deep enough into the stack. I wind up with both feet side by side which makes me vulnerable to a sweep. Lunge deep. Turn to the side. Palm the knee and hip out.

Like this.

Here's a nice example of passing the guard with double underhooks.

The key is something I'm figure out bit by bit--keep as little distance between you and the other guy as possible. Space is a tool of defense.

I did a pretty good job of defending triangles and armbars by keeping tight and not extending myself. I want to be the center of gravity around which he revolves, like light around a black hole. Sooner or later he falls into the submission--or at least the inferior position.

That's what I love about my avatar at the forum. The scene from the movie Alien. The ultimate submission.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What I Need

A couple of good half-guard passes.

A way to escape rear mount.

I feel especially good about the latter. Saulo Ribeiro's technique for resisting the common collar choke is brilliant. Even grabbing your own collar with the opposite hand has a tremendous deterrent effect. Tonight, both Tom and a brown belt had my back and were working for the choke. The brown belt eventually got it--but mostly because he incidentally rubbed hard against the sore on my left side and I decided to give up.

The pain wasn't horrible. But it was the first time I felt any pain there all night, so I overreacted.

I did like the way I kept either on my side or on my back when both Tom and the brown belt took my back. No figure fours--for which I am now ready to defend and attack. I even shot the leg out as Ribeiro offers by way of escape from rear mount.

I also wouldn't mind knowing the mechanics of the backdoor escape from the rear mount. I thought I had an opportunity use a backdoor escape against the brown belt. But I couldn't figure out the physics in real-time.

A great first night back after missing three classes in a row. The missus was right about all that walking up and down hills in San Francisco. The miles I put on the treadmill before and after the vacation probably didn't hurt, either.

If I can get my conditioning routine down (resistance tomorrow morning, tough guy ... and five miles after work!), then I suspect I will be very grateful over the next several months.

The Class:

We started off with a warm-up that was mostly mat laps with push-up intervals. I was gassing, but it really wasn't too rough of a warm-up. Some shoulder work and some mat sprints. But not too terrible.

We then did that grappling, dueling underhooks routine I've seen fighters do on The Ultimate Fighter. Nice to know, and a good drill. I worked with Arnell, who was very good to work with--in the Joe/Mario/Elliott category of good guys to work with.

We worked on a pass from the front, sort of a pass against the butterfly guard. It's basically a headstand pass where you hump in deep against the knees in the butterfly guard. Then plant your hand to one side, plant your head to that side and go vertical into a headstand. Then you switch your hips with the leg-side leg coming down first to block the hip. You wind up in side control.

Tbere was another pass we did. I'd call it an open guard pass to knee on belly. It's a classic drill in the sense that it isn't just a technique, but it also emphasizes a basic tenet in guard passing.

The opponent is in the knee-up/knee-down basic position. You put one hand on each knee to keep them separated. The pass comes by stepping with your inside leg between your arms. You want to plant your shin against his chest to push him back. As always keep as low as possible--at one point the pass might even look like a lunge. Move to knee on belly.

We did the escape-from-wrist-grab as a finishing drill. That one I've done before.

That was the class. I've already talked about the sparring. I rolled with Joe, Tom, Robert and the brown belt. I really emphasized standing out of Joe's guard, but he was very good about re-establishing his guard each time I got to half-guard or so.

I've already talked a bit about rolling with Tom. He took my back a couple of times but couldn't get the choke he was working for. He didn't really try the armbar transition from the rear mount--or at least I don't think so. I just forgot the basics of escaping the rear mount--even though I knew enough to stay on my back or on my side. I also spent a lot of time in his half-guard again. I really need to learn some half-guard passes.

Rolling with Robert this time was a lot like last time. Like with Joe, I wound up back in Robert's guard a lot. But I had him in side control for much of the five minutes. I had a hard time improving my position, but he had a hard time dislodging me.

The brown belt rolled steady-like. I spent a lot of time in his guard, too. But I think I did an excellent job of keeping my arms short, and only once felt vulnerable to an armbar.

Basically, I'm learning to keep my elbows in and not "abadoning" an arm. If an arm gets extended, then I'm learning to bring my head and shoulders into play. I want to bring my arm and body closer one way of the other, and if I can move my arm then I'll move my body.

Note that I use my head to make way for my shoulders and upper body. If I don't keep that "closer" pressure on, then I can get triangled. That's where keeping the elbows in is key. Never let your elbows get higher than his abs nor wider than his body. That prevents the triangle. Bring your body to your arm. That prevents the armlock.

Did I say that Ribeiro's choke defense method is unbelievable?

A good, good night back on the mat.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Pro Wrestling Holds

A great resource I stumbled upon while trying to find a defense against the figure four, body triangle.

Professional Wrestling Holds

Ivan Salaverry has brought a lot of pro wrestling holds over into mma--especially that body triangle to back crank that he beat Tony Frylund with. Some of them might be more practical than others, but it might be worth browsing from time to time to see what I might pick up.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Back and Out

Back from San Francisco, but not at jiu jitsu tonight due to an abrasion gone bad on my left side. It started as a pimple just when I got sick over the October 22-23 weekend. But it burst and became a pretty painful little sore for awhile. Cotton and hydrogen peroxide seem to be doing a better job of late than band-aids alone. I should be back on Thursday.

Did some work on the treadmill--though I'm glad we did so much walking during our time in San Francisco. Down and back to the Ferry building, up and down those hilly streets ... I don't think I've ever gotten as much incidental exercise during a vacation.

My right shoulder is also a little tweaked. Rolling with George after class on Thursday the 20th was a mixed blessing. It just doesn't pay to roll when you're tired, and it wasn't long before I was really just going through the motions. George is difficult enough to deal with when I'm ready to go. Rolling with him after class and after three or four sessions on the mat means I'm going to have to be a lot more careful and defensive.

Before I forget, the treadmill workout was 3.01/12l, 330/103, 49:01. The middle mile had one lap at incline 3 and one lap at incline 5 separated by regular laps. It might be a little long for the morning at first, but it is otherwise a good routine for Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Maybe I'll shave off the incline laps--which aren't so great for my ankles--and cut the Tuesday/Thursday morning routine to 2.5 miles ...

Monday and Friday mornings are resistance mornings, and I'm hoping to put the 5 mile treadmill routine on those afternoons. It's about 80-odd minutes worth of treadmill. We'll have to see about that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More from the Mount

Rodrigo pretty much repeated the technique he showed us last Thursday, which was great because for the life of me I couldn't remember it!

It's an attack from the mount with three variations. The first attack is a collar choke. The second attack is an arm lock. The third attack is both a set-up and an attack. It leads to taking the back and attacking with a collar choke.

To make sure I've got it down, I'm going to just talk about attacking the guy's right side from the mount.

Grab the cuff and the collar (same side with the cuff, crossbody with the collar). Ideally, you want to get a good grip lower on the elbow. It will make it easier to lift him over to his side.

Step up with the side opposite the cuff and collar as you pull him in the direction of the step up. Here, that would be the right leg stepping up, cuff and collar on the left side, and lifting his opposite side up.

As you do this slide your left knee under his head. It's that same move the Saulo Ribeiro does from the mount. Rodrigo calls it "the pillow".

His collar should be in your right hand. Reach under his chin with your left hand and with your right hand pass the collar to your left hand to lock in a collar choke. Pull your left arm back, elbow tight against your side for the choke. With your right hand reach back behind his head like a RNC and press his head slowly forward.

That's the first variation. The second variation assumes that the guy has countered the choke in the classic way by pulling the "behind the head" hand off. From here, you trap the arm by reaching around and grabbing your gi. Then reach out and scoop up his other arm near the bicep (he should be more or less on his side, and that arm shouldn't be very helpful for him anyway). Step around the head with the left leg. YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS TOP SPEED. I kicked a guy (Big Griff) in the eye tonight trying to do the damn armbar too fast from the mount. The trick is to move efficiently, without haste, but not necessarily FAST ... You've got more time than you think.

The third variation assumes that the choke attempt and the armbar are defended. Now you will take his back for points and the possibility of a choke attack. Take your left arm and reach OVER his bicep. It is important to reach over his bicep because that will keep that arm from blocking your attempt to sink in your left hook when you roll him. With your right arm you've still got the collar.

Shoot your left leg (the "pillow" leg) out--almost as if shooting out of the top of his head. Rock him back into you, dragging your right leg across his body to sink in the right hook and bring your left leg around to sink in the left hook. Again their is a collar pass. As you roll, pass the collar from your right hand to your left--the hand that was holding his bicep with the over grip.

If you had an under grip on the bicep, not only would it have been easier for the guy to fight off your grip, but also it would have made it easier to defend the "pass the collar" set-up for the collar choke. With your arm over his, their is nothing to block the handoff. Pull the collar toward you from the left.

Alright, it's getting late. I'll add the sparring notes tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Arm Lock Breakthrough

Finally, after repeated watchings of Cesar Gracie's beginner jiu jitsu instructional DVD and one sparring session with Tom, an advanced white belt at the academy--I have finally figured out how I'm getting caught so often by that little "pocket armbar."

Basically it happens when I try a scoop leg guard pass. I have one grip on the lapel, and with the other hand go for the scoop leg. The problem is that there are two moves I need to do in order to make the scoop leg pass effective. In some ways, there are just one coordinated move, one re-alignment that--in typical jiu jitsu style--both gets me out of danger and puts the opponent off-balance.

As I'm scooping the leg, I need to make sure that my other arm is out of the way, preferably with my elbow cocked in to my side. At the same time I want to throw my weight behind the scooping arm and shoot that scoop-side leg back in a sprawl as I drive him over toward his opposite side with my shoulder. My head should pass from inside to outside his leg as I do the shoulder shove and sprawl. And most importantly, get your other arm out of there!

I've been leaving it in--in addition to not really torquing the pass with the shoulder shove and sprawl move. I have a terrible habit of not passing the guard aggressively. Instead, I tend to let guys get settled and then launch their attack. I notice that I rarely get a moment to get my closed guard in place before I'm under attack. I need to return the favor, so to speak, by passing the guard as soon as I get in it.

As it stands, I've got three guard passes that I like: the Saulo Ribeiro plant and hip out. The basic Gracie Barra standing pass that Cesar Gracie and Rodrigo have taught. The scoop leg pass that I mention above. The first two are more ways of getting out of the closed guard--you might still get caught in the open guard. The last one is a complete pass, from closed guard to taking side control. So I can use either of the first two techniques with the third for a complete guard pass attack.

Class was relatively light tonight with fewer students. We worked two different self-defense techniques: defending a wrist grab and defending a choke from behind. Both are in my Royler/Renzo bjj book, but were pretty easy to remember in any event.

The guy I worked with, Tom, is good for sparring, but not so good with the drills. It was a lot like drilling with Robert: there's an obvious indifference after a few tries. This time it was sort of embarassing insofar as Tom had apparently decided that he'd done enough drills, and we're just standing there while everybody else "finishes."

Like I said, definitely a good guy to roll with. He's been away for a little while (or so I overheard), so his cardio is no better than the rest of us recent white belts. But he's got good reversal and sweep skills until the gas runs out. He got me in that pocket armbar right off the bat, but that was the only submission he got. I like rolling with the bigger guys where I don't have any strength or weight advantage because it forces me to do proper technique to make up the difference.

But the drills, eh, not so much. Joe on Tuesday was and is much better, as is Elliott--who I haven't seen for a couple of weeks now ... Mario is also great to drill with.

It's probably worth my while to start scouting out better drill partners so as to not waste my time. I'm having a hard time remember what the drill was--and I think a part of it was the indifference of my training partner while I was doing them.

Sparring was good. I had three matches. Tom was first. Caught me in that pocket armbar right off the bat, but things were more even later. I need to get a few passes of the half guard together; he tied me up in his half-guard for awhile and I didn't really have a counter. Also, although I don't remember him gaining a great advantage, he did "pass" my open guard fairly easily. I need to think about an open guard game, as well.

Next up was the new Asian guy "Ar-No" I think. He and Joe looked really evenly matched when I saw them on Tuesday. He had just rolled with Tom, and I've probably got about 15 pounds on him, so it wasn't surprising that he didn't have a whole lot for me that night. I tapped him out with chokes from the mount three times.

Last was Clint. Although I didn't honestly think of it much at the time, it was nice to take a little revenge from the last time we sparred. I was worn out and he was relatively fresh and no-gi. I didn't have anything for him. This time--with both of us in the gi--I took him down at will, choked him out twice and armlocked him once. He'll be another good guy to roll with as he gets more and more knowledge.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

BJJ Building Blocks

One of the writers at talked about putting together a basic jiu jitsu game by knowing at least three different attacks and three different escapes from the following positions.

Rear Mount
Side Mount
Head Lock
Closed Guard
Open Guard
Turtle Position
Knee Mount

I've actually got moves from more of these positions than I might think. Part of the reason for this blog is to help keep me aware of what I've learned.

But one thing I like about this list is that it categorizes the nine different positions you'll find yourself in during jiu jitsu. Everything you do should be transitioning into one of these nine positions. Why? They are the known knowns. You've got attacks from those positions. So get there. And launch an attack.

I'm watching UFC Unleashed on Spike TV right now. It is amazing how much the commentators emphasize the possibility of a knockout as opposed to a submission victory. You never hear that kind of thing with Pride Fighting Championships. Ultimate Fighter light heavyweight finalist Forrest Griffin even approvingly referenced the fact that Andrei Arlovski, then heavyweight contender, decided against a submission "because he just wanted to knock the guy out instead." Ironically, Arlovski went on to win the heavyweight championship with a leg lock on Tim Sylvia.

I can't help but remember that great line by Eddie Bravo: "MMA without jiu jitsu is just bad kickboxing."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Saulo Ribeiro is the Jedi Master

I was watching some sample videos from Saulo Ribeiro's Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructional DVD, Jiu Jitsu Revolution. Take a look, and you'll see why I call him the Jedi Master

What Ribeiro does better than anyone I've ever heard or read about when it comes to Brazilian jiu jitsu is to emphasize not wasting energy. "Don't push the guy," he says when describing a move in a guard pass--having warned us that "Brazilian jiu jitsu is not about pain" moments ago when talking about some of the more common ways of opening the guard and passing.

Sure, there's pain involved in submissions. But Ribeiro is talking about the way you deal in training more than anything else. Still, I take away from that some of what he's said elsewhere about not wasting energy, either by "pushing the guy" or by bearing his weight.

A simple example is if the guy takes your back. Never go to all fours. In that position, you are supporting his weight. Even worse, your arms and legs are busy supporting both of you instead of helping you escape.

What Saulo said also validated one general thing I've been figuring out: almost all escapes involve turning to your side rather than flat on your back as an initial fundamental move. Second, almost always you are turning into the guy to escape, not turning away--which is the "natural" tendency.

Everybody in BJJ talks about momentum and leverage, but with Saulo Ribeiro for some reason you never forget it. More than anyone else, Ribeiro reminds me that BJJ is like judo on the ground: position, leverage, momentum lead to the movement that will get you where you want to be.

Having been on the sidelines all week with the sore left side (oblique? ribs?), it's been interesting to watch the practices. Hopefully this little experience of writing notes will make it easier for me to remember to all of the steps involved in the different moves.

It has been especially interesting to watch other white belts spar. So much energy to little purpose! The purple and brown belts never spar the way the white belts do--white belts that go at each other like two rams in an insurance commercial. The purple and brown belts know to conserve their energy, to let "the guy" go in the direction he wants to--only farther, faster and more awkwardly than he intended.

It is when he is in the awkward position that you can improve your position. Or make an attack.

If he wants to be on top, let him go. If he is too high, throw him over your shoulder. If he is cheating to a side, toss him over there. If he is too low, attack with chokes and armlocks.

Ribeiro emphasizes using your body and your hips because they are very hard for the other guy to control and very easy for you to control. The energy the guy has to use to force your whole body or your hips in one direction is a lot. By comparison, it takes relatively little energy to turn on your side, or to twist at the hips. You can also move very fast in those two motions. Those partsw of your body are almost unstoppable, even against a bigger opponent.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

From the Guard: Sweep and Triangle

Sat out my second practice in a row in order to let my left rib/oblique heal some more. Much smaller class tonight compared to the jumbo class on Tuesday.

Warm-up was 5 mat laps followed by 8 sets of 100 crunches (there were eight students). Then circle kicks, a sort of alternating knee rotation from the back for a 50 count. A rocking lower back stretch for a 50 count. A legs overhead lower back stretch for a 20 count. Then the hip switch exercise that has you started in the half hurdler's stretch and then switching over from left side forward to right side forward by rocking back and swinging your under leg in a wide circle overhead. 50 count for the hip switch.

After a quick break, takedown drills were next. I really need to get the judo names for these throws. There was the head takedown, the belt/small-of-the-back throw and the leg whip. Anyway, all that was done Thursday night was the approach for the head takedown: one hand over and behind the head, one hand over and grip the tricep. Step in deep and get tight.

There were two moves from the guard tonight. The first was a sweep and the second was a triangle choke.

From the guard ... guy tries to step out of the guard to pass.

Grip cuff and collar ... Same side cuff, crossbody collar.

You are going to twist away from the "step" side and toward the kneeling side. The go is that he is trying to pass to one side and you are going to "help him" by pivoting to the other side.

Open your guard. Keep your leg outside his kneeling leg on the one side. On the "step" side, you lift your leg so as to bring your shin and knee into his body, with yor foot hooked around his ribs, under his armpit.

This sets the guy up to be swept away from the "step" side. Pull his collar and cuff and lift with the leg that his hooking the other side of his body. Your other leg should trap him in. Roll over and work for the mount position.

This one still confuses me. I've got Rigan Machado doing a similar move in his Encyclopedia. But I still get twisted up.

From the guard ... grip collar and cuff ... plant foot on the same side as C&C. If he is trying to pass, you go after the kneeling side with the C&C and plant ...

Push off with foot. Arch hips and bring other leg (the "step" side if he is passing) up and over the guy's shoulder. Wrap your leg around his head as you pull him toward you by the cuff.

Take the plant leg and apply the hinge for the triangle choke.

Remember to twist the body at a 45 degree angle as you are attacking with your legs. Don't remain in a straight line. You are moving toward the "step" side--this is different from the sweep above, where you are twisting away from the "step" side.

You can also reach under the "step" leg, grab the knee with the collar grip hand and pull yourself more to that side and to help you get your leg up and over.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Means "little octopus" in Portuguese. Everybody who is anybody in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a nickname. I might not ever get good enough to be one of those folks, so I'm giving myself one. "Little octopus". Polvozinho. PVZ (pronounced "peh-veh-zeh) for short.

My left side is still aching from training last Thursday. I don' t know if it was the cartwheels and round-offs, or the back crank that Sean caught me in (twice). At least I'm not getting armbarred to death any more.

Hopefully I'll be fine by tomorrow. I'll take some Ibuprofen this afternoon and do some movement tonight and see how I feel.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Welcome to Side Control

Side Control is the name of my Brazilian jiu jitsu journal. The blog format makes it easy to keep track of my entries, as I track what I learn in classes, from the Machado and Gracie books, the 101 Submissions dvd series, or even just figure out on my own (like the counter to the stacking guard pass!). Hopefully, six months to a year from now I'll be in monthly tournament mode and talking more about what I experience preparing and training for competition.

To start things off, I've been training since August 2005. I've got a 1st degree black belt in chidokwan tae kwon do and wrestled my senior year in high school. 5' 6", 163 at my last tournament weigh-in in September. In that tournament, I lost my one and only match by armbar about a minute and a half in. See the archives for a breakdown on that fight.

We'll see what happens. But I think this will be a good move. I'll start loading the old entries from the non-online version over the balance of the weekend.

A few things. First, the URL to my academy. I study under Rodrigo Lopes, who is the first to receive a black belt under Marcio "Mamazinho" Laudier Vilamor, a 3rd degree jiu-jitsu black belt. "Mamazinho" is the highest ranked student of Ralph Gracie. Ralph was a student of Carlos Gracie, Jr. (a seventh degree black belt). This puts us on the Carlos Gracie Sr. side of the Gracie jiu jitsu, as opposed to the Helio Gracie side. Our highest ranked black belts include Rigan Machado (7th degree) and Jean-Jacques Machado (6th degree). Renzo Gracie is a 5th degree black belt under the Carlos Gracie Sr. lineage.

By comparison, the Helio side includes a lot of famous Gracies such as Rorion (9th degree), Relson (8th degree), Rickson (7th degree), Royler (6th degree), and Royce (5th degree). Plenty of great jiu jitsu guys to go around!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Stray Thoughts on Passing the Guard

A couple of stray thoughts on passing the guard.

There are three ways of attacking the legs from within the guard. All require staying tight and having upright posture. These are passes against guys who want to aggressively fight from the guard (like the guy I fought from Marcelo Alonso at Copa NW 5!) Guys who like to pull guard fall into this category, also.

Here are the three ways:
(1) Scoop leg. Grab the underside of the opposite thigh. Work to pass on the side of the grabbed leg.
(2) Stack leg. Reach across the thigh to grab the sleeve of the opposite arm. Reach across with the other arm and grab the opposite sleeve or lapel. Stack and pass on either side.
(3) Split leg. With your opposite hand hold down the bicep or, if the guy is too long, grip the sleeve. Drive your arm between your body and his tightly. Get your sholder deep under his thight. That is your pass side. Use your pass side hand to reach across his body and grab his lapel. Pull yourself around as you pass.

All three of these also work if the guy tries to control you by gripping your sleeves (see my Copa NW 6 match!) These are effective passes in any event, but especially helpful against attacks on your arm.

Other pass techniques include the Saulo Ribeiro, Rodrigo's standing pass, and the elbow-inside-knee break (which isn't a pass in and of itself, just a way of opening the guard) ...

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I lost my first tournament match: submission by armbar.

There were only two of us in the 159-171 division. I weighted in at 163 and the guy from Marcelo Alonso weighed in at 163.4. He had a few inches on me, as I suspect most of the 159-171ers will.

Ultimately, I know I'll be at 155 or 150. In fact, that's a minimum goal for me before the November Copa.

In the meanwhile, I need to get in better shape (stronger and more cardio) in order to do as much sparring as I can in class. I can't increase the number of days a week, so I've got maximize my time while I'm there.

In a perfect world, I'd spend one five-minute round fighting from the guard, one five-minute round trying to pass the guard, and one five-minute round fighting to escape side mount/side control every class.

A recap of the fight: We square off. I don't really have an offensive move for him and he doesn't really have one for me. My base is solid, so he decides to pull guard rather than try for some takedown that might result in a scramble.

He pulls guard and gets a good grip on my left sleeve. I'm paralyzed: his gi is wide open, so the most recent pass Rodrigo taught us won't work. He transitions to a thrusting choke that I negate pretty well just by tucking my chin. The problem is that I'm 100% defensive and giving him nothing to react to.

He transitions to a triangle which--as usual--becomes an armbar. I try and yank my arm out. But he is rolling it over almost immediately. I'm done. Just as we are falling out of bounds, I slap the mat.

A review. At this point, a scramble is probably to my benefit. So I should force the engagement in the standup. I'll look around and see if I can find a takedown or two to focus on. One assumption is that I need to be either too far away or too close, preferably the latter, to negate the length advantage in my opponents.

If somebody pulls guard and grabs a sleeve, try and jerk your arm free--maybe while reaching over with the opposite arm and grabbing the sleeve of his grip arm. Also use the arm he's trying to grab to grab the underside of the opposite pant leg and try and work that pass away from his grip. That's also probably the side he wants to attack, so passing in that direction can be especially worthwhile.

It might be possible just to tug the arm back, keeping your elbow in tight, and taking your hand under that near leg. That way, you lose one arm, but he loses the arm and the leg.

The biggest takeaway is that Marc Laimon is right: you've got to get out of the guard. Don't fight in the guard. Pass the guard.

A note on the tournament experience: a lot of fun! My match was over pretty quickly and it wasn't fun watching Joe lose at about the same clip. But watching all that fighting was both fun and a great learning experience.

My right arm is still pretty sore from that armbar, and my right shoulder is a little tweaked also. But that tournament really fired me up to intensify my training--both at Tully's and at home with cardio in the mornings (MTRF).

I also want to work that 100+ pushup routine into my morning cardio--probably before I jump on the treadmill. I ought to make a 100+ crunch routine and a 100+ squat routine along the same parameters.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Day Before Copa Northwest 5

I'm fighting tomorrow morning in the Copa Northwest 5 Tournament. The location is our gym in the Tully's building, so that familiarity will help a lot.

I'm a little over 160 now. I don't know if the scale will have me in the 146-158 division or the 159-171 division. Myguess is that it will be the later. Going forward, I don't see myself at 159-171, at all. I think 155-150 is my ideal "muscular" range. But I'm not going to get worked up over it. It's my first tournament. It will be interesting to see how I match up. I don't see myself getting into really good cardio shape and being over 160, though. I could lose ten pounds from my mid-section, be at 150 and loving it.

The Fight

I'm not going to worry about takedowns. If the guy is bigger and slower, then I'll shoot. Otherwise, I'll try to either trip/sweep or hip throw.

A couple of things:

Passing the guard: The "sharp elbow behind the knee" move is popular to open the guard. I like the Saulo Ribeiro technique with the leg split and hipping out with the hand on the belt for leverage best. If I try the standing pass that Rodrigo taught us Thursday, I need to remember:
1. Grab the lapel and fist into solar plexis.
2. Grip the sleeve tightly.
3. Step with the sleeve leg and rise keeping the grip arm taut and the ELBOW INSIDE THE THIGH.
4. Palm the opposite knee (lapel grip side) and hip out quickly.

Joe managed to sweep me repeatedly during sparring when I tried this pass. I'm searching the Net for a counter, or to see what I'm doing that makes me so vulnerable to this sweep. I know one mistake is not keeping my posture as upright as possible.

The other pass I like is the one where you grab the opposite pant leg underneath and, with that leg trapped, step in the direction of the leg you've grabbed and work for side mount. You might have to do that flying pivot to the other side if he counteres by pushing up on your hips.

The Renzo/Royler book talks about shooting your arm between your body and the guard. Then hook your shoulder deep under his thight and do a sort of circular stack to that side. Sprawl to keep your legs away from his hands and work for side control.

Those are my passes: Saulo Ribeiro, standing, under leg pants grip, inside arm shoot and scoop.

Keep your back and posture straight while in the guard. You get nothing by getting low (head to chest) in the guard. PASS. PASS. PASS.

The only attack from inside the guard is the thrusting choke (amassa pao). If the collar is too loose, this will be a difficult attack. It is good for opening the guard, though, because his hands will be occupied trying to fight the choke.

Basically, the amassa pao has you pull down on one side of the collar while you pull over and across the throat with the other. Same-side grips.

Side mount attacks
The best attack from side mount is to get full mount as far as I'm concerned. If I get side control, then I need to move as soon as possible to full mount. I think there is a let down when a guy gets side mounted, just a second when he goes, "aw shit, he passed my guard." In that moment, I need to move to mount. I like the knee grab that Rodrigo taught us best for moving from side to mount.

North-south isn't bad. If he reaches back in "stick-up" fashion, then he'll be vulnerable to a key lock. Grab the wrist with the same-side hand. The opposite side arm is the reach-under arm. Otherwise, I like north-south as a way to get to side mount.

Rodrigo taught us a move where you use the head-side arm to trap his opposite arm, then reach over and get a kimura lock with your other hand. Reverse and open your hips to the head side and crank the lock. The coup de grace is stepping over the head.

There is an armbar variation from this position also if he extends the arm.

From mount, my game is pretty straightforward: go for the amassa pao thrusting choke and be ready to hit the armbar if he overcommits to defending the choke. I can also use key lock attempts to set up the armbar.

Attacks from the guard
This is definitely my weakest area. I'll even consider standing out of the guard, Marc Laimon style, if necessary to avoid being passed. If I do this, though, I need to go aggressively for a takedown because standing out of the guard (instead of attacking from the guard) is a little controversial it seems.

My triangle choke should be vicious, given my leg strength. But I just don't trust it. I need to review the attacks from the guard Rodrigo taught us, as well as the ones in my Machado Encyclopedia.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Attacks from the Guard

I left my gi top at class. I called Rodrigo's cell and left a message. Best case scenario? I pick it up in Ballard around 11:30 a.m. tomorrow. Worst case scenario? It's left there until I come in on Thursday. I'm more annoyed than I should be ...

If I don't hear from Rodrigo by tomorrow noon, I'm going to Seattle Martial Arts Supplies on 658 South King Street in the ID and pick up a gi top if possible, or a back-up full gi if necessary. There's nothing wrong with having two; most regular jiu-jitsu guys have at least as many.

Will be at the tournament this Saturday. Rodrigo gave me the option to fight in the white belt bracket, and I'll probably take him up on it. I got my first submission in sparring tonight--an armbar after working for a gi choke from the mount. It was against a heavier (though not much taller) white belt who'd been around roughly the same amount of time as me. Pretty exhilerating. It was a lot more fun that just punching and kicking somebody in the head.

Notes on the armbar. Squeeze your knees together. Don't flex your thigh muscles or you'll cramp (as I almost did). Feet to the mat, extend the captured arm with the thumb up, and slowly raise your hips. TAP.

The techniques for tonight were attacks from the guard. One variation set up a triangle, another set up the armbar, the third set up the omoplata. I'm going to look around in my Machado encyclopedia volume #1 (which is 150+ attacks from the guard), and see if I can spot them. There is always a hip swivel that seems counter-intuitive in many of these moves. Once you do it, you see why it makes sense. But as you're trying to remember it, it is easy to get confused.

Got it! The first move we did was Machado #7: The triangle choke.
Got it ! The third move we did was Machado #10: The omoplata.

Okay, I'll look for the second move later. There were a number of armbars in Machado that looked close. So I'm sure I'll find it.

Tore some skin under my left little toe. Nothing serious. I need to stop mutilatintg my fingers. It's making them unnecessarily sensitive at the tips.

got thoroughly worked by a purple belt during sparring. I've sparred with him before and he's got good variations. I didn't really have anything for him but some halfway decent moves to take side control. But there aren't any points in that. I tried to work his arm for a kimura or key lock. But I was so obvious about it that he easily defended.

I didn't do a halfway bad job of passing his gaurd. but he'd get me right back in his guard usually (except for a moment or two of side control, as above). The grabbing the opposite pant leg technique is a nice part of the guard passing arsenal, though.

I tried to work that one pass with the opposite collar grab and forearm to the throat, but nobody was buying it. Maybe I ned to combine it with the pass-side pant leg grab from underneath to give me room to shoot a pass-side knee ...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

All About the Side Control

Here's a catch-up from recent sessions. My last class, on September 1, was my sixth.

We've been working from side control in the past few days. Remember with side control to keep the head-side leg back and straight to help prevent the guy from rolling you over. STAY CHEST TO CHEST. Have your leg-side knee snug against his hip with most of your weight on his chest. Hook you head-side arm under his neck and hook your leg-side arm under his legs--preferably gripping the underside of the far leg.

Note: another way of maintaining side control is to put your leg-side arm over his legs and wedge your elbow into the far hip. That way, you are trapping both hips: one with your knee, one with your elbow. Reach over his neck with your head-side arm and hook back to trap the head/upper chest down

This is a basic move. From side control reach up and grab the far knee with the leg-side hand. As you tug the far knee toward you--forcing both knees down and toward you in the process--step up and over with your leg-side knee and secure the mount position.

From the mount position reach across his body to force the opposite wrist and forearm back above the head. Lodge the elbow of the arm into his neck to stabilize. Reach under his arm with the lock-side arm and grab your wrist. Work his wrist/forearm lower until it is equal to his shoulder. Then slowly crank the keylock, keeping the right angle in the elbow.

Note: there is a helpful suggestion on how to force down the arm of a stronger guy over at the Canadian jiu jitsu website, Abhiya (or something like that). Includes a video. Link to come.

From the mount position, first wait for him to try and push your chest away with both hands. This could happen as he is defending against a choke or keylock attempt. Reach one hand over and one hand under his outstretched arms and press against his chest, trapping the arm.

The hand that is over comes from the same side you will fall back into the arm lock.

Step up with the opposite foot (away from lock side) , planting it with your toes facing away from him. As you rise up, lean hard away from the lock. This will help you get in the proper position (parallel or closer to his head) and will help trap his arm under yours.

Then step up and over his head with the other foot, keeping as close to his body as possible. With both feet planted on the non-lock side, grip the lock-side wrist tightly and fall back into the arm lock. Try and keep your feet on the ground and squeeze your knees together to keep the pressure on.

We also learned another move from side control. This one is especially effective if the guy tries to push you off by putting his hand on your leg-side shoulder instead of your head-side shoulder.

Once he puts his hand on your leg-side shoulder, reach over his head with your head-side arm and trap his bicep against his body. Your hips, in side control, should be neutral.

From neutral shift your hips to open to the leg-side. Do this by swiveling your hips and dragging your head-side thigh under to the leg-side. This movement will help give you the leverage to break his hold on your leg-side shoulder, to force that hand down to the mat, and to lean over and into him to secure the kimura grip.

Get the grip by reaching down along his body with your head-side hand, which should grip your wrist to secure the kimura. From here, swivel your hips the other way to open up to the head-side, and begin walking your way toward his head. In order to get the lock set, step over his head with your lead, or head-side, leg.

Rolling notes: If you get the guy's back and are working the hooks, don't cross your feet at the ankle. Work the hooks separately from the inside and the outside. That will force him to either pull off the hooks or protect his collar from the choke.

I need to start thinking in sequences. Get dominant position. Get finishing position. I like the side control - mount - choke or keylock/armlock sequence especially.

Must improve skills: sweeping from the guard, passing the guard (especially the open guard that a lot of the blue and purple belts are using!)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Picture Day

Surprise, surprise! I stop by the Ballard club for the club photo and end up in a training session with Mamazinho and one of his black belts and the Ballard class. Off the top, I prefer the South Seattle location. Smaller, darker. And Rodrigo does a better job of setting up new techniques with drills to make them easier to remember and practice outside the gym.

It was kind of a whirlwind session. We sorta worked takedowns, judo throws mostly. The technique of the day was a sweep from the guard. It involved using one leg on the hip and hooking the opposite leg with your leg. Then you pulled on the sleeve with one hand (with elbow cocked deep) and hooked the ankle on the same side as the extended leg-in-the-hip. Then you pushed with the extended leg and pulled with the opposite grip, sending him in the direction of the hooked leg and the pull. Roll over with him, keeping the grip tight, and cross your trailing knee over his leg as you get in the full mount position.

I'm going to have to run through this one some more. I didn't especially care for the guy I was working with this time. I'm reeally going to have to rely on myself to break these techniques down as we're learning them, maybe into 1-2-3 step manuevers, to keep them memorable.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

First Day of BJJ

First day of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Was supposed to just be a look-see, but Rodrigo handed me a pair of his fight shorts and my first BJJ class had begun.

It was great. No giggling girls (except for the Brazilian drummer dancers while we were warming up). No kids (except the kids of the Brazilian drummer dancers and, later, the capoeira folks).

MAKE SURE YOU STRETCH!! I did a pretty good job of stretching out--considering I hadn't planned on doing anything but watching! But I need to make EXTRA EXTRA sure that I stretch my calves, hips and hamstrings. Sure, this needs to be a part of a real routine twice a day, anyway. But I can't emphasize it enough.

More later. It's 11:30 p.m. and time for bed.


The technique we learned was a variation on an escape from rear north-south body hold.
1. Shoot one leg to the side you plan to escape.
2. Grab the escape-side leg of the opponent with your opposite hand.
3. Using the leg grip and the shot leg for leverage, quickly shoot your opposite leg underneath to the escape side while simultaneously hooking your escape side elbow sharply into the opponent's body.
4. As you escape, swing your escape leg up and over behind your opponent. Once behind him, put your hands on his knees to keep him in place (otherwise he can do the wrestling drill to escape out of it).

5. Shoot your escape side arm over his shoulder while at the same time shooting your other arm underneath his arm. You should have an escape side over-under grip on his upper body.
6. Jump over and plant your escape side knee at the base of his knee. Using the escape side over-under grip for leverage, roll him toward the escape side (the side of the "over" part of the grip).
7. As you roll, hook your escape side foot in-to-out of his near leg. Hook his other leg out-to-in.
8. If he resists the hooks, you'll get a chance to change the in-to-out hook to a better out-to-in. Keep the over-under grip tight!
9. From here you can attempt chokes and armlocks.

It works because the initial goal of the escape is to get to the back, which is more defensible if the escape is not completely successful. It does require a real shift of momentum to swing your body back over and behind the opponent. There should probably be a drill where you go from the post-shoot to the step over and behind. It's like a crazy lunge in bodybuilding.

Never attempt a keylock or kimura from inside the guard. Half-guard maybe. But never from inside the guard. It is too easy to get rolled because all of your weight is on the side of the attempted armlock.

If in an armbar, try to roll in the direction of the opponent. Rolling away only exposes your arm to greater hyperextension.