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 BJJ.org 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!