Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bocek and the Bayev Bite

Still no power, but I'm thinking kindly enough about humanity to at least not want to forget this nifty little move called the Bayev Bite. It seems like something that might go well with my ever-present Americana attack ...

The move comes from Elliott Bayev, who trains under Canadian phenom, Mark Bocek.

What's nice is that the "bite" is a submission in and of itself (a bicep crank), as well as being a set-up for the armdrag (if the guy tries to twist his arm out), as well as a set-up for a basic, hook 'n' lift butterfly guard sweep.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tapped Out

The power in my neighborhood in West Seattle has been out since Thursday and is still out. I've got plenty of thoughts about that situation, Seattle City Light and a host of related topics. But this is neither the time nor the place.

With any luck, we'll have power on Wednesday. If that's the case, then I'll have a post following Wednesday night's training and everything else I've been stewing and ruminating about for the past week.

Yours in chilly darkness,


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Hook Sweep

I found myself with a few guys standing up in my guard last night during sparring sessions. There are a couple of sweeps that I’ve tried from this position—namely, the omoplata sweep and Mamazinho’s push sweep. And I need to incorporate Mamazinho’s pull sweep more to account for those instances in which the guy on top is leaning far forward—which has often been the case. With this pull sweep, I need to remember to control the elbows before lifting the guy up with my feet on his hips

Another variation off of Mamazinho’s push sweep is the hook sweep. I was watching a Google Video of Rener and Ryron Gracie showing how this sweep is done. The key detail is, first, you want the guy’s weight to be back—not leaning too far over you. What you do is put a foot in the hip and the other foot hooking behind the knee on the other side. Once you are in that position, reach down on the same side as the foot-in-hip and grab the guy’s ankle on that side.

Push against the hip. Pull on the ankle. Pull with the hook.

Note: Rener and Ryron also make an interesting point about side control. They say that you don’t want to be on your knees, which I suspect is responsible for both getting your hips too high in the air AND for not putting the full weight on the guy. Since I spend a lot of time in side control when on top, that’s something worth remembering the next time I’m trying to keep a guy down.

Big Time Butterfly Guard

Watching Jeff Joslin work the butterfly guard against former all-American wrestler Josh Koscheck last night on Ultimate Fight Night was pretty impressive. Even though Koscheck came away with the decision win, Joslin’s jiu jitsu was fun to watch. And his work in keeping Koscheck off balance with textbook butterfly guard play was a big part of that entertainment.

So I peeked at the Abhaya videos on Google Video to get some tips and details about the butterfly guard from Abhaya purple belt Rowan Cunningham. He does a really good job of breaking moves down into basic steps—and having him on video doesn’t exactly hurt, either.

First, you only need your feet hooked under the guy’s thighs to start. In fact, you don’t want to be any deeper than that. Cindy pointed out one time a few weeks back when we were working together that you want your hook to be as close to the knee as possible to get the best leverage when you lift and roll.

Second, keep your hips back. A lot of guys make the mistake of getting their hips too close to the other guy. That makes it easy for the other guy to push them down on their backs. From there, the butterfly guard is much easier to pass and sweeps from the bottom are that much harder to pull off.

One tip is that your head should be over your knees or slightly behind them. If your head is closer to the guy than your knees are—when you start—then you are probably too close.

Third is hand position. You want to get a nice deep underhook with one arm. With the other arm—and this is a nice detail I don’t recall too many people highlighting—you want to stuff it in between you. It is sort of like the arm stuff move with the arm stuff triangle. So grab the wrist or the sleeve by the cuff and stuff that arm!

You’ll want to go into the sweep almost immediately afterwards. Don’t expect the guy’s arm to “stay stuffed”. He’ll try to bring it back out and, when he realizes that you are trying to roll to that side, use that arm to post or defend. So “stuff ‘n’ go” is probably the way to think of it. You can stop and jockey for position with the underhook. But the stuff, sweep and hook have to be pretty 1-2-3.

So, fourth, you want to roll over onto the “stuff-side” shoulder. Stephen Kesting at GrappleArts.com makes a good point that you can go to your side or over your shoulder to do this sweep—just don’t go straight back.

Fifth, you want to lift up with the hook on the opposite side of the sweep. Remember Cindy’s point: your hook should be as close to the knee as possible.

Sixth and last, roll the guy over and move into side control.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Live at the Improv

Another small class ... things seem to be tapering off going into the winter holidays. I got there a little late. But there were six of us once the warmups were done. Big Mike (now Mike the blue), Jim, Mike Two Stripe, Casey and a new white belt I think I've seen once or twice before. Because of the small size of the class (and, I suspect, the UFC's Ultimate Fight Night on Spike at 8 p.m.) we went straight into specific training and then sparring.

Mount. Back control. Side control. Half-guard. Closed guard ...

I definitely felt the difference between my aerobic and anaerobic conditioning tonight. My aerobics are fine: I've got a nice low pulse, recover quickly ... the problem is that my anaerobic conditioning is not up to speed. Among other things, that means more DB complex type training and less LSD (long slow distance) training.

I think I got five rolls in: Casey twice, Mike Two Stripe, the new white belt, and Jim. I liked how I used the running man escape, and managed to turn into the turtle, if not to the knees, a few times. I still feel lost in the closed guard, especially when it comes to breaking posture.

One way of attacking posture that I haven't tried is to combine pull/push attacks, like an arm drag or collar tie followed by a crossover sweep or butterfly tackle. I'm still interested in the BJ guard, but I'm realizing that I'll need to increase my hamstring flexibility in order to make that work for me.

My attacks feel very limited. I've got the keylock. But my chokes are consistently ineffectual from most positions. And I can't remember the last time I really went after an armbar ...

Another issue that came up tonight, though only for awhile, was my guard passing. I'm slipping on that and need to get my discipline back on track. My half-guard was better in part tonight, mostly because I got a good feel for the lockdown. But there are two main flaws with my Bravo-styled half-guard game. One, I'm coming up on the inside elbow for tackle sweeps, but I'm not coming up on that inside knee. Mike Two Stripe did a very good job of pulling my inside arm out from under me when we were rolling, demolishing my base.

The other problem is with the twists. I'm not positioning my inside leg properly, hooking the guy's outside knee. I need to study that a lot, because I think there are twist sweep opportunities from the half-guard that I am completely missing.

I want to work on these spots because, for better or worse, I think my game from the bottom is going to be based on Bravo's half-guard. We'll see what happens. But I don't have a ton of confidence operating out of the traditional closed guard. Come the January tournament, if I'm on the bottom then I want to have a "go-to" position. And increasingly it looks like the half-guard is it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Block that Kimura!

It's been a while since I've gotten caught by a kimura while in somebody's closed guard. So let's consider this post a little preventive medicine for the next, inevitable time it happens.

I asked the Wise Masses at the jiujitsugear forum what they thought about defending the kimura attack from inside the closed guard. There were, typically, a number of good responses. The best, maybe, came from the "Vanilla Gorilla", Rick MacCauley, an Abu Dhabi Combat Club veteran:
If he had a kimura on my right arm I would stand with my right leg and grab the inside of my thigh with the arm getting kimura'd.

While doing this, I would be controlling his hip with my left hand by holding his belt and pushing down. If it was no gi, (I would control his hip by) just pushing down like I was posturing.

Key #1 to this escape is keeping your elbow into your side while grabbing the inside of your thigh.

Key #2 is that your hand not getting kimura'd has to keep his hip controlled, flattened and square to your body if possible so he can't generate power with his hips. This also prevents him from swiveling for other submissions (i.e., hopping a triangle or going for a "belly-down" armbar).
Like I said, it's been a while since I've really had to fight off a kimura. Even then, most of the kimuras I've been attacked with have come from guys who've gotten dominant position on me (i.e., side control or north/south).

Still I want to start thinking of escapes insofar as being able to know your basic escapes is a big part of being a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu as far as I'm concerned. Additionally, I'd like to start working the kimura into my set of attacks from closed guard (especially the "Werdum Series", that includes the judo armlock, crossover sweep, pendulum sweep and the kimura).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Straight Jacket

Another website that will definitely be listed here at side control, is Aesopian's website, Aesopian.com.

Aesopian does a lot of good things with his website: his photographs of techniques are impeccable, as is the fact that he understands the great questions of our Time (i.e., breaking down Marcelo Garcia's back control game). It's worth it checking in every few days just to see what he's up to.

One thing in particular caught my eye the other day. It was a simple description of hand position as taught by a grappling school here in the Pacific northwest (Oregon, I think), Straight Blast Gym.
To clarify, “straight jacket” refers to a posture SBG teaches for being under side control. Your arm nearest to them is laid across your chest with your hand resting on your opposite shoulder. Your other arm lays across your stomach with your hand on your hip. Like a straight jacket. This prevents them from making chest on chest contact or getting a underhook on the far arm, which makes getting the underhook on them easier while escaping.
It sounds like something I might want to practice when doing elbow escapes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I'm starting to give up on defeating the triangles. Admittedly, I've been caught by guys like Clint and Tommy who've got good triangle choke attacks, fast and accurate. But I'm starting to lose the will to fight them properly. So a post on the subject is in order.

I wrote about Mamazinho's triangle escape. There's a nice escape that I'd started to use, the one from Gracie Barra San Diego. But it really wasn't working for me. Tommy, for one, quickly figured out that if you do the escape incorrectly (or incompletely, as was probably my case), you can get your back taken. That escape also keeps me in the self-imposed trap of wanting to pass the guard on the ground, which is something else I really need to get over.

So Mamazinho's escape is nice additionally because it is a standing escape. And it may be an eternal irony that though jiu jitsu is "ground" fighting, a lot of what is holding me back is a stubborn refusal to stand up.

There are some key details in Mamazinho's triangle escape: forcing the hip down with the free hand, and throwing the "cross" with the collar on the side you pass toward with the goal of smashing your way out ... But one of the things I think is haunting me is the spectre of getting armlocked as the bottom guy transitions out of the triangle.

The armbar comes from the leg on the side you are passing/smashing. The guy on the bottom is going to try and put that leg on the other side of your head with the choking leg.

So if I'm paranoid about that armlock transition, that's the most likely direction. Forewarned is forearmed. Besides, the counter to the armbar is stacking, so as long as I am smashing as I pass and not remaining high, I'll be in the best position to defend the armbar if the bottom guy does manage to attack with it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday Mamazinho: S-mount

Monday night's lesson was focused around the S-mount. I've seen it before in Saulo's DVD instructionals. So it was great to get to have Mamazinho show us in person just what the key details were.

We worked the armbar from S-mount, then a winding choke from S-mount, then practiced switching from an armbar attack on one side to an armbar attack on the other.

One thing I like about Mamazinho's teaching method that I'm just starting to appreciate is how he works three different moves from a basic position. A lot of times, it is one attack from on top and one escape, or two sweeps and a counter to the sweeps. But it is a nice "packet of knowledge" that you can remember (or you can remember ... some days I'm remembering better than others ...). For instance, I've taken to thinking of Mamazinho's knee on belly attacks (the armbar, the choke and the baseball north/south choke) as the "Three from the Knee" ...

One detail I want to note was that when you pushed the arm across the body before scooting around toward the head, you wanted to use your body to help keep that arm out of the way. Otherwise, when you go to post your outside arm to help the scoot, there won't be anything to keep the guy turned over on his side--that same arm was busy trying to poosh the guy's arm, instead of letting your body do the work.

I've also got to avoid rushing. Drilling the techniques Monday night I jammed my big toe harder than I would have liked to. I actually think the tape had slipped, which might have accounted for everything uncomfortable. But it had me hobbling a little bit. It was the switching armbar, going from Bravo's spider web on one side to another web on the other, that seemed to be the only move that was affected, which makes me believe that the problem is going too fast.

I ballooned up to 165 over the weekend which made a typical Monday practice a little poorer than usual on my part. There was blessedly minimal running in the warm up. And I managed to get a couple of rolls in with good guys like Tommy, Jeff, Clint and Chris (now the Brown), as well as some good specific stuff ...

I've been thinking about some different ways to be more aggressive from the Marcelo guard, especially when dealing with guys whose posture I have to work extra hard to break. Right now my goal is to tighten up the half-guard and start to have a more coherent guard attack (submissions and sweeps) game between now and the next tournament: my first as a blue belt.

Scissors Sweep from Abhaya

Google is genius in many things. But You Tube has definitely got them beat when it comes to posting video clips to your blog.

Scissors Sweep from Abhaya

There are two details here that I've been missing when I've tried scissors sweeps. The first is to give yourself room on the hip/elbow escape. The Abhaya guy calls it the "snake move" or something like that. The point is that you don't want to be so close that you can't pull the guy toward you as part of the sweep.

The other detail is to sit up on the outside elbow before you scissor the sweep. I hadn't heard that before, so I wonder if it is an optional aspect of the sweep. One interesting thing is that if you don't give yourself enough room on the escape, you'll never be able to sit up on that outside elbow.

Notes: Look for the S-mount armbar/choke combo immediately after a successful scissors sweep. Remember also that the scissors sweep is part of my armbar/cross choke/scissor sweep series that I've included in the gameplan.


"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun."

Pink Floyd, "Time," from Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

Asked why Rickson Gracie was such a great jiu jitero, someone—maybe patriarch Helio—replied, "his timing is impeccable."

When I first heard that, I thought surely there must be more to it than that. Some supernatural sense of balance, some encyclopedic knowledge of leverage and the physics of the body … that was the stuff of greatness. But “timing”? Just “timing”?

The more I train, the more I see how key timing is. Too often in jiu jitus I feel as if I need to do a certain move with great speed, or with a burst of explosiveness. While I don’t want to say that speed and explosiveness can’t be virtues on the mat, the more a person learns about jiu jitsu, the less important these qualities become in and of themselves. Instead, they are replaced by an awareness that all one needs to do is be “one step ahead.” And if you are on the right path—performing techniques with the proper form and balance—then that “one step ahead” is more than enough to control and submit your opponent.

Timing is one of the the things that hampered my performance on the mat last night. Sure, there were technical mistakes (some of which were noted in the “Erratta 2.0” post from yesterday), and I will continue to make those. But one thing that I’m very bad at is waiting too long, and letting the moment for an escape or a submission attempt or to improve position pass. As I think of it, I feel like letting myself off the “laziness” hook, a little bit. It is still an issue, but often I’m just caught waiting, thinking (probably too much, as Tommy reminds me) about what I want to do and then, unfortunately, freezing up when the moment to move arrives.

Two or three times last night I got mounted because I was on the bottom in side control and was trying to bait the mount move so that I could trap the trailing leg and slip into half guard. I didn’t get it once. Again, there was a technical issue involved—I forgot that you’ve got to turn into the trailing leg, to attack it in a sense, rather than waiting for the leg to just fall into your lap. But also my timing was off. By the time the guy on top had moved, I was too late.

For me, I suspect that my problem with timing is also a problem with doubt. A part of me still doesn’t really believe that I can pull off certain moves—even basic ones. Add even a little temporary fatigue to that situation and you’ve got a recipe for underperformance. In life, he who hesitates is lost. In jiu jitsu, he who hesitates gets submitted (or, at least, mounted, as was the case with me last night).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Head and Shoulders: Perspective from Side Control

Sometime between Cramer's Mad Money and Deutsch's vastly inferior but recently much improved, The Big Idea, it occurred to me that when you are applying pressure to the face with the shoulder from the mount, you want to post on the same side that the guy is looking toward.

In other words, if you are using your left shoulder to push the guy's face to your right, then that's the side you want to be wary of him taking you by way of escape. He could turn into you. But if you've got good shoulder pressure, then that's not going to be something you're going to have to worry about not being able to defend.

Errata 2.0

Rolling with Clint tonight, I got caught in a triangle choke. It certainly wasn't the first time--not by a long shot. But I forgot a key element (or two) when I was trying to escape.

I went for Mamazinho's standing escape. My big mistake was in grabbing the wrong collar. I grabbed the far collar and then tried to somehow pull it back towards me across Clint's neck. What I want to do instead is to grab the near collar, the collar closest to the side I'm trying to "pass" or escape on and thrust it across the throat. I think I described it as throwing a left or right cross over the chin.

Another mistake--of somewhat lesser importance, but ...--was in not controlling the hips. What I should have done with my free hand (in tonight's case, my left hand) was to pull down on the pants and try to push his hips back to the mat. If I'm doing everything else correctly, then that move will only make things easier.

Also rolled with Tommy. He's still getting his wind back from his time away, but rolling with him is still like climbing into an industrial strength washing machine. He was working some upside down guard tonight and I wanted to try that move BJ Penn does where you stack the guy and take his back. But I couldn't figure out the angle.

Anyway, Tommy caught me some hundred times in about seven or eight minutes. But one key mistake I made that he pointed out had to do with taking the back of a guy in the turtle. I had been doing the reach under to try and control the wrist. But I got sloppy when I couldn't control it. Leaving my hand and arm floating around under there left me open to one of Tommy's wristlocks, which he slapped on me with typical speed. What he pointed out to me afterward is that I should grab the jacket lapel on the far side if I can't get the wrist and pull it in tight. If your hand is against his body, he said, then there isn't the same amount of space that will leave you vulnerable to a wrist lock or other attack.

I'm not doing so well with my half-guard game. It is sort of stalling out. I'm doing a better job of getting small, but I need to get out of there: either with a sweep or a take-the-back. There are a couple of things that are holding me back: a laziness factor, a muscle fatigue factor and a doubt factor ... all of which I need to work on or I'm going to miss opportunities to improve my game at the pace I'd like.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Roger Gracie's MMA Debut

The opponent: Mixed martial arts heavyweight veteran, Ron Waterman.

Gracie Barra Seattle: Belt Promotions

Griff a.k.a. "Towtruck" tells the tale of December 2, 2006.

Gracie Barra Seattle: Belt Promotions

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


"Let's tighten up now. Do the tighten up.
Everybody can do it now. So let's do it.
We're gonna tighten up. Let's do the tighten up.
You can do it now. So baby get to it.

Let's do your left now. Let's do your right.
You can do it. But don'tcha just do it light.
Come on and tighten up. Tighten it up now."

With much respect to Archie Bell and the Drells ...

That's what I've got to do. It is ridiculous that I can review almost every roll of the night in my head on the drive home, seeing exactly what I did wrong and where. Maybe it's the sugar (or lack thereof) ... but so often by the time we start sparring the pathways between my brain and my body just break down. Things that will be obvious in about half an hour become completely opaque. I've got a guy in my guard and don't even think to try the Werdum series (judo armlock/pendulum sweep/kimura/crossover sweep). I'm still moving in half-steps from the guard: the arm-wrap but no committed choke attack, hips still virtually nailed to the mat. It's no wonder I've never caught anybody (not submitted, but caught) with an armbar from the guard.

But that's why I've been pulling guard as often as possible lately in sparring. It's not as if my top game is all that great. But I think I've at least got my top game coded. I'm learning some nice details, like underhooking the arms when on top in north/south rather than overhooking them. But I know what I'm trying to do on top--even if I don't do it or do it well.

The clock choke that Mamazinho showed us again tonight is a good example. I think I know what I'm supposed to do fairly well. I threw one at a new guy, a strong white belt, tonight during sparring. I didn't get it, but I was able to at least do the attack.

But from the bottom is another story entirely. The half-guard game is just coming along. I've only been trying to emphasize the Bravo half-guard stuff for the past few weeks, so I want to be patient with that. But I want to bring up the full guard (including Tommy's Spider Guard Triangle and Omoplata, which I've completely abandoned ...) at the same time. I've got the Werdum series. I'm still working the Marcelinho/butterfly guard (which guys are still doing a pretty good job of passing ...)

Six months from now, I want to be submitting people more frequently from the top, and to have my bottom game (half-guard and closed guard) where my top game is now (i.e., competent as an attack, but not consistently effective as a finish). That would be a nice little birthday present to myself.

That is also what gameplans are for. I should work up a Jan-Feb-Mar (Q1) 2007 gameplan and start incorporating it into my training for the last few weeks of 2006. All of this stuff that's been rattling around in my still-reptilian jiu jitsu brain should be plotted out, focused on, worked on consistently every night on the mat.

One thing I will give myself a little credit for is the running escape. I think I got out of three knee on belly attacks just by going for a run. Of course, in typical half-measure fashion, I didn't complete the roll to put myself in guard but instead stayed at knees (which isn't a crime). But given the fact that I found myself in knee on belly (a no-no in and of itself), I'm glad that I was able to incorporate Saulo's running escape so swiftly into my training. We'll see if I can (a) take it into a roll and (b) avoid knee on belly bottom situations in the first place, going forward.

In other news, not as many opportunities to pass guard tonight due to the forementioned guard-pulling, but I didn't do too much impressive on that front when the opportunities were there. Not a single PTMU and the guard pass I think I'll start calling "Big Boy" (since Cesar Gracie explains it as a way to pass the guard from the standing position against a heavy opponent who can't easily be PTMUd) didn't come into play there, either.

Trained with Stephan and Jesse a few times tonight. Always crazy to roll with guys with that kind of ability. I appreciate how they are able to modulate their game--rather than just smashing me for six or seven minutes. It's a certain motivation to try and avoid boring guys like that do death when you're rolling. But if that's one place I can get my de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace, then I'll take it.

The Running Escape from Knee on Belly

I think I’m right to say that my best defense against the knee on belly position is to fight harder and more effectively when I’m in side control so that I don’t end up in knee on belly in the first place. Unfortunately, I’ve done an especially poor job of escaping side control lately, both regular side control and scarf hold. In fact, I’ve done so poorly that I want to post a few reminders before getting into the running escape from knee on belly.

Side control: The most important thing is the swim with the south-most arm. The whole sequence of THROAT-SWIM-WALK-FLAT-PULL-BOOM remains valid. But the key is the swim. When you underhook the guy’s arm that is grabbing your leg, you get the leverage to turn into him with an elbow escape OR to do the WALK part of the six-step sequence above. So don’t just sit there. Underhook/SWIM and escape your hips away from the guy.

Scarf hold: Remember the new detail: get your hips close to his hips and THEN bump or upa. You don’t want to try and pull the guy all the way over you. By bumping, you can get your hips under his (or close to it), before pulling the guy over with the body lock. So, to escape, bump, turning into the guy somewhat, then reverse and bodylock the guy over the other way.

Okay, now about that knee on belly escape …

Saulo calls it the running escape because it looks like you are running away from the guy when you do it. It is a key technique for dealing with the knee on belly when the guy has your collar and your leg. You can’t turn into him because of the leg grip mostly—though the collar grip also makes turning into the guy tough.

So you go the only direction you can go: away from the guy.

What you do is bump/upa up, and then take your inside leg (the one he’s got a grip on) and swing it over to the other side, to the outside. As you do this, you also turn with your shoulder away from the guy, bringing your elbow in tight and keeping your head low. Keeping your head low to the mat is important because it will (a) help protect you against chokes and (b) make it easier to complete the escape.

Once you do this move, you should be in the running position: on your side, elbows in tight, and your formerly-inside leg thrown over the other leg. Again, you look like you are running. In order to complete the escape, you are going to keep moving in that direction and do a roll, bringing your formerly-inside shoulder over. Really, all you are doing is going from the running position to an all-fours position (leading with the lead “running” leg) and then from an all-fours position either (a) taking the guy over and moving into top side control position or (b) pulling the guy into your guard.

Monday, November 27, 2006

About That Guard Pass

Okay, I'm happy enough with myself for the PTMU effort of late. But I'm not so overjoyed that I didn't find it worthwhile to watch Cesar Gracie's explanation of the he's-too-heavy version of the standing guard pass (which, in my case, is also known as the still-too-lazy-to-PTMU-half-the-time standing guard pass) tonight after class ...

Hand position, right side forward.
Posture. Don't look down.
Hips forward. High up on knees.
Step forward with the right foot.
Step up with the left.
Grab pants by the thigh on left side.
Dig left elbow into the crook of knee.
Step back with the left leg.
Wedge the elbow through and down.

Maintain grip on pants leg as you take the leg to the mat.

That opens the guard.

Meet Mr. Drawing Board

Well, what can you do? In some ways, tonight's training was a lot like the old days. Poor hip movement from the guard, entirely too difficult time breaking posture, a fairly half-assed half-guard ...

But in some ways maybe I'm learning how to make the best of a so-so session. PTMU wasn't too bad--even though I was paired a few times with heavier guys that I really didn't want to lift. Even when I didn't PTMU, I stood to deal with the guard, using a sort of thrusting choke to keep the bottom guy's shoulders pinned to the mat. I think Clint managed to sweep me down once from that position, but we came up neutral: no pass for me, no sweep points for him.

Speaking of Clint, he caught me in two armbars, one pretty conventional, the other pretty "where-the-hell-did-that-come-from?" I've been caught by his triangles, but not too many of his armbars. Good for him.

Near the end of the work day, I kept reminding myself to go over the blog and review some of the things I've been working (and meaning to work) on. Even though I only missed one day of practice last week (and no gi practice, at that), a part of me felt a little like it had been a month since I last trained. Jiu jitsu is definitely a "contact" sport--and part of that "contact" is regular training. As I've argued here and elsewhere, there is a multiplier effect the more often you train. I'm willing to bet that a person gets more out of training four days in a row than they do with four sessions scattered over two weeks.

I should probably make this an errata item. But I'm having a hard time breaking the posture of these big guys. I've been practicing pulling guard, or even half guard during sparring out of the so-called Marcelinho guard, mostly as a way to get the game started quickly and spend less time pushing back and forth from the knees. Fine enough. But I'm not doing the things I need to do to break the posture of bigger guys like Mike, Jeff and James.

There are some tips in The Essential Guard I'll look over tomorrow. There are also some guard replacement ideas for dealing with knee on belly, which is still a weak spot. A part of my problem with knee on belly, truth told, is in not fighting the side control from whence the monster known as knee on belly comes.

I have a bad tendency to wait and react, rather than push an agenda on the mat. That's one thing I love about that Werdum v. Lindland match I've been so obsessed with. Werdum just goes after Lindland. Judo armlock. Pendulum sweep. Kimura. Crossover sweep. Judo armlock. Kimura. Crossover sweep. I don't think I'll ever be a real guard player, but I can appreciate that there is something really magical about watching an aggressive guard player attack.

We actually worked on the pendulum sweep tonight. I'm going to stop calling it Rodrigo's cradle since I know better. I threw one at Clint during sparring that didn't go too far, but I'm glad I at least did it. Mamazinho was on the side, exhorting us to experiment, to try the "move of the day" and save the defensive stuff for the tournament. He couldn't be more right about that. And I'm finally starting to feel like the rest of me is ready to belive him.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Butterfly Guard Sweeps: Rickson and BJ

Here are two different sweeps from the butterfly guard. Both involve having one hook in place and deal sweeping the other leg outside-to-inside. The difference is whether or not you overhook the guy's other leg, or simply use that scissoring motion to switch your hips and roll the guy over.

The Rickson sweep has you lift the guy with the one hook, then extend your other leg and scissor it back against the guy's "free" leg from the outside-to-inside. It's basically a butterfly scissors sweep.

You can see the fight this clip came from here at about 40 seconds in.

The BJ butterfly sweep involves almost the exact same motion. The difference is that instead of using that outside-to-inside scissoring motion to attack the free leg and turn the guy over on his base, the BJ version has you switch your hips and, in the process, turn the guy over.

I broke it down into two different clips so that it might be a little easier to see. Again, the motion of your free leg is more or less the same: outside-to-inside.

The second clip comes from a B.J. Penn sparring session you can see here, with the sweep coming at about 20 seconds in.

I love the idea of having a solid butterfly guard because it can be used in both no gi and gi with little adjustment. It's also a nice, open or dynamic guard to use against "good posture" guys I can't break down from my closed guard. Adding these sweeps to the mix should be a priority when working the butterfly guard over the next few weeks.

Notes on the North-South Armbar

Check out the finish in this ADCC contest between Jacare and Matt Lindland. Jacare works from north-south as much as any other top competitor. One of his preferred techniques from that position is the kimura. But the armbar is a nice option also.

It's worth remembering that, at one step in the process, the armbar attack from side control--both north and south side versions--have you going through the north-south armbar. I've had a big problem hitting all the pieces of the armbar attack from side control. I might have better luck if I break it down into (1) the transition from side control through scarf hold into north-south and (2) the armbar attack from north-south.

One key detail is that when in north-south, you want to underhook--rather than overhook--the arms. You could probably reach under and grab the gi under the arms and that way be ready to transition from north-south to taking-the-back. In any event, underhooking the arms from north-south will set you up perfectly for the armbar attack. If you are going to attack on your right side (right side underhook, the guy's left arm), then come up from the knee on the opposite site and then straighten that same leg out as you drop it across the guy's face. As you swing into the armbar on the other side, wedge your leg under the armpit of the arm you are attacking. That will probably be enough without having to put that leg across the chest, especially if the armlock is tight.

Armbar from Scarf Hold

I've found myself in this position more than a few times when working from the top. Brandon the judo guy (who I have seen in months) caught me with this armbar a while ago and I'd been meaning to figure out how he did it.

Once again, from the kind folks at Abhaya ...

Modified Scarf Hold Armbar

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Passing the Open Guard: The Spin

I've been thinking about this a bit lately (most recently here). I did some specific with Chris after class last night, with me trying to pass his open guard.

One thing he kept catching me with was an extended hook. He'd hook my left leg with his right, full extended. Then, if I remember right, he'd reach down with his right hand and catch my pant leg by the ankle. After that, he'd pretty much reel me in.

I think I remember Mamazinho showing us an open guard pass technique that might help counter this hook and sweep. Ironically, in jiu jitsu's often bewildering simplicity, what I want to do is reach down and grab the ankle of the hooking leg with my hand from the opposite side (my right hand per the above example). With my same-side hand, I want to grab the sleeve on that side. If he's really going for the hook and sweep, then his sleeve might be easier to catch that I'd think.

You don't want to fight through the hook. So what you do is backstep with the unhooked leg. While you're doing this you want to pull on the sleeve toward you and pull the hooking leg out away from you. It's a lot like the spin pass from the butterfly guard post.

Give 'em a good, lawnmower yank on both ends, and then drop into knee-on-belly with the knee closest to the legs.

Passing the Butterfly Guard

Kind of a sloppy practice for me last night. More mentally sloppy than physically sloppy, I suppose. I rolled with very different people during free sparring: Angela, Clint, Chris the Purple, the Mario who is a very new white belt ... a number of very different approaches for me.

I worked some Bravo half guard, the pendulum/Rodrigo's cradle sweep and tbe PTMU count was okay (I think I did it twice). Afterwards I did some specific work with Chris trying to pass his open guard. I forgot to work Saulo's open guard pass, but did get to work on controling the knees and trying to lower the shoulder.

Rodrigo taught Wednesday night's class. Jesse led the warm-up (which was refreshingly devoid of running) and Rodrigo had us doing some takedown pivots with partners that was a pretty nice variation on Mamazinho's throws drill.

Rodrigo had us working on butterfly guard passes. From Mike, it seemed like they'd worked on this Tuesday night, also, because he was able to point out some things I was doing wrong fairly quickly. I started out working with Stephan, which is a lot like getting a mini-private in the middle of a regular class. The first pass was effective for when the guy sits up and manages to get the double underhook.

What you are going to do is reach over his shoulder as deep as you can and grab the middle back. You probably won't be able to reach the belt, but you definitely don't want to just reach your hand behind the guy's head because that will leave you vulnerable to a quick armbar. At the same time, you want to reach under his ankles with the other hand and grab the opposite pants by the ankle. So one hand/arm over and one hand/arm under.

The next step is the spin. This was a point that Stephan emphasized when I was drilling with him. What you want to do is pull with both arms, pulling his back toward you and his foot out to the side. As you do this, you want to backstep toward the side where you've got the over-the-shoulder grab. As you do the backstep, you want to make sure that you lower your shoulder into the guy to keep the pressure on him.

That one I did relatively well. The next one was much trickier for me. It was really a variation on the first one. If I'm remembering right, then what you do is instead of grabbing the opposite pant leg at the ankle, you post out with that same hand/arm. Then you spin on your over-the-shoulder grab side knee as you backstep over the hook on the other side. I was doing this one with Mike and having a hard time with his length. Rodrigo said that you can raise the knee to push into the guy's knee or keep it flat, depending on how long the guy's legs are. It seems to me that whatever you can do to clear the leg with that knee is what you should do. If you can just block it without raising your knee off the mat when you backstep around, great. But if you are smaller, then it seems like you'll almost have to lift the knee up. We'll see.

The other move was easier. It was a slow, methodical, step-by-step pass. You want to flatten the bottom guy out, so that he can't sit up in the butterfly guard as he should. Get tight against him so that his hooks are pressed against his butt. This is the worst position for a guy in the butterfly guard to be in. Lie down against his torso with your elbows in tight.

What you want to do is wait for him to move. Rodrigo says that you can sit there for four minutes if you have to--don't worry about being called for stalling because if you do it right, then you'll get the pass, the points and the dominant position. Once you get some movement from him, you want to kick back one leg and replace it so that you are trapping one hook (one knee, in effect). Again, keep those hooks pinned.

From here, lift your outside leg up and over the one hook/knee. This puts you into half guard. From there, work your half guard pass.

Rodrigo considered these two as pair passes. Try the the second pass, the slow one. If the guy anticipates your move and is able to keep the hook by extending his leg, then switch to the first pass by backstepping with your other leg. You might even be able to reach under and catch the pants by the ankle since his leg is extended. You can do it with or without the spin.

We drilled this in specific. One mistake I was making from the guard position is in getting my hips too close to the guy. In a sense, I was crowding my own legs, making it harder for me to the leverage to move the guy effectively. It's also easier to get your head under his head if your hips are back.

Also, one thing that Chris did well against me was pushing my head to one side to block my pass. It's a good way to fight off the pass if you get your back pushed to the mat. I'd imagine one problem about getting flattened comes from having your hips too close.

I also think puting a foot on the hip to push the guy back in order to reset your hips further back is a reasonable move. Ideally, I like the "B.J. Penn guard" where you've got feet on both hips. I think that's a matter of very good hamstring flexibility, but it would make it so easy to transition to butterfly, closed and half-guard that I ought to make hamstring flexibility a priority. I've got a nice little hamstring stretch series, and hamstrings are always one of the easier leg stretches since you can do them standing.

While I'm on the subject of flexibility, though it's not necessary to do a good pendulum sweep, I wouldn't mind having better hip adductor (groin) flexibility, either.

In terms of passing the guard, I didn't do too badly, even if there was more "hopping" than "stepping" much of the time. I'm clearly more comfortable with the slow pass than the backstep pass. The spin version of the latter is working better for me than the one that relies on the knee pivot.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More Miscellany

Scarf hold escape. I’ve got the right idea about getting my hips under the other guy’s hips. But I’ve not executed that step as well lately as I was months ago. The Abhaya instructor (Rowan?) points out that one way to accomplish this is to bridge into the top guy somewhat. This will not only get his hips off the mat, but also it will encourage him to put his weight against you to resist the bridge. As soon as you feel his pressure, you want to transfer your weight to your other shoulder and do the roll. I’ve been trying to “slide” my hips underneath and it just doesn’t work very well. So I’ll be focusing on the bridge aspect of the escape/reversal from here on out.

Underhook = taking the back. Pretty much anytime you’ve got an underhook from the bottom in half guard, you’ve got a good shot at taking the back. I’m starting to develop a bad habit of relying on the lockdown from half guard. The lockdown is just a stop-gap to help set up the next move—it is a “part” of the deal, not the whole of it.

Pendulum sweep/Rodrigo’s cradle. I was working on this as a “kata” last night at home. Mostly, I wanted to practice escaping the hips out to the side, stretching out the mat leg and then scissors-ing it back and swinging the upper leg over. Even without resistance, I could feel myself rolling in good form. I need to incorporate this into my warmup—just to get the motion right. The sweep is all about hip and leg movement (like most everything in jiu jitsu, I suppose …). If you move your legs right, then you almost can’t help but land in the right position.

Don’t be a lazy ass. Monday night I was in that bulldog position (probably not the right name for it, but that’s what I’ll call it for now) where I’m turtled (more or less) and the other guy is in front of me grabbing around my chest with his head on my back. ESCAPING THIS POSITION WAS ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I EVER DID IN JIU JITSU. So don’t be a lazy ass. Use the wrestler’s escape to sit out with the leg opposite the escape side. Remember to throw the escape side elbow back, and then spin into the guy as you move to take the back.

Improve your position. This one kind of belongs with the “Don’t be a lazy ass” admonition above. I’m spending more time in side control on the bottom than I want to. I know what I need to do to improve the position, whether it is the roll, transition to half-guard or whatever. But don’t just lie there thinking, “well, I’m not in any trouble.” I read an interesting thing over at the jiu jitsu gear forum about Mario Sperry. Apparently, Sperry’s attitude in competition was to rack up points early with position dominance. I think his idea was that once you get ahead of a guy (in points or in psychology) he is more likely to make a mistake that will leave him vulnerable for a submission.

PTMU. ‘Nuff said. Not bad last Monday. But faded a little toward the end of training as fatigued started to set in (and the weight of my sparring partner increased). Tough. PTMU anyway. You’ll be glad you did.

Inside knee down. Outside leg up. One thing I noticed in the ADCC fights a while ago that I stopped focusing on in recent months was the best stance for dealing with the open guard. I noticed this also in some of the Mundial competition footage I was watching last night. It is sort of the opposite of the combat base (it needs a nickname). You want to put the inside knee on the ground and your outside leg stretched out to the side. The straighter that outside leg can be the better. If it is bent at a right angle, then it will be easier to hook and attack. Maybe I’ll call it the “lunge base” or something, because it looks a little like an exaggerated lunge …

Remember the Sit-in! If the sit-out has you going from “face-down” to “face-up”, then the sit-in—or the bridgeback2belly”—has you going from “face-up” to “face-down”. This is the step that is crucial in some of Bravo’s half guard work, as well as in Marcelinho’s side control escape. Basically, as a drill, you want to lie flat on your back, then move your hips as if going into an elbow escape only you take the inside leg (not the one you push off with) and bring it all the way under you so that you can go flat or come up on your knees. Alternatively, you can go to your stomach (“bridgeback2belly”). This, too, should be part of my warm-up (see “New BJJ Complex” below).

Open that Guard. This is especially important when guys stand up in my guard (usually the bigger guys). I need to stop sitting there with my legs wrapped around the guy’s waist and go for something. I should always try the double ankle underhook push sweep, but also be ready to open up and try some of the Marcelinho guard moves that Mamazinho was showing us a while back where you lead the sleeve through the legs, pull on the collar and drag the guy down face first …

New BJJ complex. So I was working on still yet another BJJ complex. I’ll try this out a few times over the Thanksgiving holiday and if it seems to work, I’ll make it part of the regular routine. One set as a warmup. Three sets as a routine in and of itself.

Crunches / Elbow escapes / Marcelinhos /
Bicycles / Sit-outs / Hip switches /
Leg lifts / Bridge back2 bellies / Pushups

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More Thoughts on the Marcelinho Guard

Here’s how the Marcelinho guard works:

I work it with the left side open, more often than not. That means my right knee is up and my left knee is down and to the side. My left arm is posted back behind me and my right arm is forward. I’m tilted a bit so that my right side is a bit closer to the other guy than my left side is to facilitate the “punch” for the cross collar.

How does the Marcelinho guard work? In this guard, you’ve closed off the ability of the guy to take your back with the cross collar grip, which acts as both a post to keep the guy at bay as well as a “catch” to keep the guy from moving behind you without, in effect, turning you around to face him because of the grip on the collar.

This means he can only come around to the side you’ve deliberately left open. And there are a variety of attacks and sweeps that you can use once he enters the open space. A number of them were moves that Mamazinho showed us last night: the inside stiff arm and roll sweep, the loop choke, and one I forgot to mention that has you pull on the outside sleeve and while controlling that sleeve at the cuff, putting your outside leg in the hip. The other leg goes to the bicep.

I think Mamazinho will be showing people what goes next in tonight’s class. Unfortunately, I won’t be back until Wednesday night. Hopefully, I can get somebody to show me what I missed …

The arm drags that Rodrigo showed us the other day also work well with the Marcelinho guard—as does a move to take the back. I suspect the Shaka sweep will also work from the Marcelinho guard, kicking out the knee with your rear leg and “steering” the guy around with the sleeve grip and cross collar grip …

I’m big on the Marcelinho guard for starting out a sparring session. I’ve now got a whole set of moves out of that position that I need to incorporate as deeply into my practice sessions as possible. Like I said before, I’m starting to feel as if I know how to make myself better, as if I’ve finally started to “get it” with regard to working a “practice gameplan” as the Lloyd Irvin types call it. That might be still yet another thing that separates white belts from blue belts, that sense of beginning to create a game, a set of favorite moves and positions that are compatible with a given jiu jitero’s body type, psychology and skill preferences (i.e., bottom or top fighter).

On the way back to the office from lunch I was toying with the idea of report cards that I would note each training session and evaluate over the weekend. How was the half-guard? Am I getting the lockdown? Am I getting the underhooks? If not, am I making use of an overhook instead? Guard-passing: How many PTMUs? How is my full guard game? Am I transitioning to an open guard—or just holding on for dear life with my ankles locked around the guy’s waist? How many subs or sweeps from the bottom am I trying? Am I being aggressive from the bottom or would Big John McCarthy stand us back up?

An actual report card is probably unnecessarily anal-retentive. But I do want to keep a close watch training session to training session to make sure that I’m really building a jiu jitsu game instead of just rolling around out there trying a little of this and a little of that (as was the case for most of my first year in the art). Like I said before, learning how to learn jiu jitsu is a key early step.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mamazinho from "Marcelinho Guard"

Mamazinho had us working from spider guard. First he showed us a way of dealing with the legs. He had us grab the legs just under the knee and, stepping back like a snap down, bring both feet to the ground.

The pass has you drop down and put your shoulder into the guy's face, while maintaining pressure on the legs. You'll be somewhat more "pushing out" rather than "pushing down", but by that time it shouldn't matter a lot. Control of the legs in general is what you want as you are lowering the shoulder.

From here, move into side control. Get control of the head and the inside leg under the thigh. Mamazinho pointed out that I need to make sure I follow through and get the control to get into the good habit of following through. It's the same point that Tommy used to make about drilling armbars from the mount: you'll do in competition only what you do in practice.

After that, Mamazinho was all about the bottom guy. He showed us a sweep and a choke from this position. I didn't exactly realize it, but this bottom position--the same, Marcelinho-esque, one that Rodrigo had us working no gi on last Thursday with the arm drag--is a big one for me if I'm going to start out from that Marcelinho position.

The sweep. If the top guy tries the "lower the shoulder" pass of your guard, then you want to reach down with your INSIDE hand (the hand between you and him) and control the wrist that is pinning your leg. With the outside hand you want to reach over and grab the belt (preferably) or the pants.

Here is a tricky part. Mamazinho made a big point about how you want to walk your body around to get leverage for the sweep. If I'm remembering it correctly, then you want to walk "backwards"--the same way you would if you were in south-facing side control and looking to make a big step to take mount--and then roll "backwards" over your mat shoulder and into side control.

The choke. One key is that you want to go cross collar to your open side. In other words, if you are left knee down (open to the left side), then you want to grab the opposite collar with your right hand. This is a good rule of thumb for me when starting out free sparring, when I adopt the "Marcelinho guard" (I'd say cross collar and sleeve with the Shaka sweep being one of the first attacks).

The choke works if the guy ducks his head and uses his head to push you back in his guard pass rather than his shoulder. It looks a lot like the loop choke in my Jean Jacques Machado book. What you want to do is push the guy's head down with your outside hand into a guillotine-style choke, then use that same hand to snake under the near arm and back behind the head.

Use the same sort of backward roll on the mat shoulder to get top position and tighten the choke as you turn.

One tip is that the grip on the collar doesn't have to be especially tight. In fact, a looser, "lower down the collar" grip will actually make it easier for your wrist to turn as you go into the roll.

I wouldn't mind doing this a time or two on Wednesday to make sure I've got the steps down. It makes sense, motion-wise, in terms of not blocking your own body. But I few more "throws" wouldn't hurt, at all.

Monday Night Potpourri

Last week's, post-tournament practices were really good. Tonight, hopefully, will be an example of the new "okay, but not so hot" practice going forward.

I felt a little fatigued. Nothing big, but I really didn't have the hustle I like to have during free sparring. That said, I accomplished a few things, and learned some new things I have to try against folks who've figured out some of what I like to do.

Accomplishments? PTMU. I got six PTMUs tonight, a few of which actually led to guard passes. Late in the session, I didn't feel like I had the juice so I floundered around in the closed guard with my posture shot to hell during my last roll. But a little PTMU is better than no PTMU. And tonight was more than a little.

Clint did a really good job of pummeling for the underhook when he was on top in my half-guard. I'm getting better at realizing when to hit the lockdown and when to abandon it for better position or attack. But it is still a bit of a crutch. I've got to realize that the overhook on the lockdown side is just as legit as the underhook, especially if the sweep I want to use is a twist rather than a tackle. I've got to start working the inside leg position better. If the guy avoids that south hook on the ankle by bending his leg, then he should be vulnerable for a sweep. Open up the lockdown and twist.

Speaking of twists and tackles, I did an okay job of rolling out of bottom positions, particularly side control and scarf hold. I baited the keylock for a reversal once or twice, which felt good. But one problem about the rolls that didn't work is that I end up blocking my body with my mat/down leg when I turn over to the side to, basically, do a shoulder throw on the ground.

I think the trick is to switch my base, switch my legs so that the mat/down leg is back and the up leg is forward. It should be a precursor to coming to the knee, in the same way that Marcelo does in that side control escape clip a few posts back. It's the same move in the half guard tackle sweeps from Eddie Bravo that I've not been missing.

One thing that Saulo says a lot that I like to remember is the idea of not blocking your body. It's a simple thing, like all of jiu jitsu--or maybe, a fundamental thing is a better way of putting it. By switching your legs and bringing the underneath mat leg back behind you, you make it FAR easier to move your body, at least in part, in the space formerly occupied by that very same mat leg.

I'm going to try and listen to Mike Fowler's interview over at Fightworks a little later. He talks about what it took for him to become a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. But one thing that definitely seems to be important at some early point in the process is to figure out how to learn jiu jitsu, how to do what you see--even if ineptly for a while. I'm hoping that between last weekend and the next tournament, I'll be able to say that I've finally started to learn how to learn.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another Ryan Hall clip

Here's another clip of Lloyd Irvin purple belt, Ryan Hall. It's a no-gi match this time.

I'm not a big fan of the "ultimate stacking" approach that Ryan does sometimes. I saw Jeff Glover end a decision at the Professional Submission League event the other night with the same technique. For me, jiu jitsu is about dominant position and submission, and the "ultimate stack" with the legs thrown completely overhead just doesn't seem like a position that works outside of the most limited aspects of sports jiu jitsu and submisson grappling.

Besides, I couldn't do it if I wanted to do.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Saulo Suggested, Stephan Approved

Rolled a little bit with Stephan the Brown tonight. He endorsed Saulo's no gi pass, which I've pretty much abandoned because that tends to be what I've done.

Given that I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do when I'm in the guard during no gi, that was nice to hear.

You know what's next. I've got to try this pass every time I roll no gi. No excuses. I'm still proud of the fact that I PTMUd a few times on Wednesday ...

Feels Like the First Time

Tonight, for the first time ever, I try a windmill sweep during regular sparring. Not a particularly good windmill sweep in set-up or execution, mind you. But a windmill sweep is where I was headed.

And for the second time ever, a crossover sweep. Better done than the windmill sweep, but it was a second time ...

There were a few other gems from tonight's training, but the gestalt of the deal is that I've had two really good practices Wednesday and Thursday. I've done a better job of trying to use the techniques I learned that night. And I've tried to do more things when rolling: different escapes, sweeps, even submissions. That's what I've set out to do after the Copa and, like a dieter two days into a New Year's resolution, I'm pretty happy that, so far, no chocolate cake.

Well, not a lot of cake. I'm getting good enough with the lockdown from half-guard that I've already started to lean on it too hard, clamping down like a monster grapevine instead of letting the lockdown give me a base from which to attack with a sweep. And I kept Jeff the White far too long in my closed guard--open up the guard and roll!--when I should have switched into something more interesting like butterfly guard that would have opened things up (or even the half-guard ... a transition I did a bit of Wednesday night).

So, not perfect ... but I like the petrol that has obviously fueled me since the tournament. I won't pretend that my own performance (or, rather, the reward of my performance ... I was no Leo Viera out there ...) wasn't great. But it was such a fun day seeing so many of us compete--to say nothing of Jason's armbars, Chris's overtime sweep, Griff's keylock and triangle escape ... Even the losses were exciting matches (though, truth told, many of those losses had Gracie Barra Seattle up on points until the very last minute).

I do believe that the first three or four weeks after a tournament are the most important weeks if you're competing regularly. That's the time to build the foundation for what you are going to really work on in that last three or four weeks before the next competition. Building good habits, you could say.

For some reason, that Werdum v. Lindland ADCC match is really sticking with me. I almost feel as if I've got it memorized. I hadn't seen Werdum fight before, and Lindland is Lindland (he's probably a much better grappler now). But tonight I tried to do some of the specific things Werdum did--except for the "judo armbar". The windmill sweep, the kimura/crossover sweep ... It wasn't much ... but it was nice.

Even as a little guy, I've got a big guy's jiu jitsu game. That's the age and the relative stiffness--I rarely feel overpowered by anybody my size (George the Blue is one exception) and though my hip movement is still a weak spot, I'm not getting out-quicked by other 155-pound white belts.

So maybe that's why guys like Saulo Ribeiro, Roger Gracie, Nog and, now, Fabricio Werdum appeal to me so much. There's a little smash in my game, but not really as much as I thought. It's really just a slow methodical position-uber-alles jiu jitsu, whether I want it or not.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Side Control Escape to Rear Mount

Mamazinho showed us a nifty little move tonight. It started out as all white belts, including some fairly new guys. Then Casey and a small, blond brown belt I remember seeing months ago, showed up. The brown belt rolled with Rodrigo. Casey joined us.

I led my first warm-up , by the way. 3 laps running, 1 lap high knees, 1 lap running, 1 lap high heels, 1 lap running, 1 side striding outside, 1 side striding inside, 1 lap 2 in/2 out, 2 sets of slow elbow escapes, 2 sets of front/back rolls. Mamazinho had us doing jumping jacks, squats, pushups, and cruches. The basic set of throws we always do ...

But there was the nifty move. You are in side control. You want to grab the guy's northside leg--the closer to the knee the better. I got a lot of back-of-thigh during drills. Basically, where ever you can find the material.

The move is in case the guy tries to move to mount. He'll signal this by switching to south-facing side control (Twister side control). What you want to do is, as he moves his legs over to take mount, you want to turn into him and trap his trailing leg with your inside leg.

The turn-in is crucial. The first leg in taking the mount is often high. But the trailing leg is always low. You don't want to have to pick it up, per se. You just turn on your side, almost as if you were going to give your back instead of being mounted. And trap that trailing leg with your inside leg, guiding it through with the grip on the pants leg (your outside hand).

From here, you want to switch from your outside hip to your inside hip, turning back into the guy and moving to take his back. There's no reason to rush it. If the guy was really moving to take mount, then the last thing he is thinking about is getting his back taken after a quick trip through a sort of reverse half-guard.

If there's a moment to be quick, then it's probably when you go to that "reverse half-guard" and trap the trailing leg. Even then, timing is more important than speed.

More from Saulo Ribeiro: X Pass

Saulo Ribeiro, one of my favorite jiu jitsu guys of all time, has a new DVD instructional out.

Saulo Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu Revolution 2

I’ll be taking more notes about the sample clips over the next few days. But I want to point to one thing in particular that I saw that might be helpful immediately. It is Saulo’s X Pass and “combat base” for open guard.

The most important takeaway for now is the standing “combat base.” I had started to pick up the idea of a combat base before the July tournament, when I was trying to uncover ways to pass the guard in no gi competition. By the way, here’s a digression about my no gi guard passing that I’ve been screwing up. When you put pressure on the biceps and stand up in the standard no gi guard pass, you don’t want to try and continue to hold down the guy’s biceps as you sit down into the combat base. There’s no way your arms will be long enough. Whenever I’ve tried to pass the guard this way, I’ve always gotten stuck with my knee somewhere buried in the guy’s back, near the base of his spine if I’m lucky, but nowhere near where it needs to be in order to drop into the combat base. This has been because I was trying to keep the arms pinned at the biceps the WHOLE DAMN TIME. Wrong.

You just need to pin the arms at the biceps for as long as it takes for you to get to standing and to get your knee in place. Once you’re in position, bring your arms back to the guy’s mid-torso and work to control from there. Sure, you won’t have the same level of control, but by that time you’ll also be very close to getting into your combat base. Once you are there—or even close—there won’t be much his arms alone will be able to do to disrupt you. He’ll have to start moving his legs and body—which is precisely what will give you the opportunity to pass.

Anyway, that’s just something I figured out over the weekend.

Back to the Saulo X Pass. What I wanted to note more than anything was the positioning that Saulo used to deal with the open guard. It is fairly clear in the picture I posted from the sample clip. But let’s break it down.

First, you want to have a grip on the collar on one side and the knee on that same side pressing under the guy’s leg, pushing it back towards him somewhat. You don’t want to stand face up, perpendicular to the guy. Let the collar and forward knee side be a bit forward, with your other leg a bit back.

What’s doing with that other leg? The likelihood is that the guy will have his foot in your hip on the other side. That’s okay because that leg is farther back, meaning that he will have to extend to reach your hip, minimizing the power of his foot-in-hip leg (at best, it is a post, now, rather than a piston because it is almost completely extended). What you want to do is to grab the outside of the pants on that extended leg. Grab it at about mid-calf or maybe slightly higher.

To do the actual guard pass, you want to push down with the collar-side knee to create a reaction. As the guy pushes back with his leg, you want to swing your leg straight back out of the way. Then push the foot-in-hip leg over to the inside and swing your leg back so that his legs are both on the outside of your inside leg. As you swing that leg back forward, drop your knee just above his hips to trap the leg. You don’t want the knee to go across his body—more like alongside his body (reminiscent of the “knee pass” that Rodrigo used to drill us on). Remember to keep your grips all the way through—the one grip on the collar, the other grip on the foot-in-hip pants leg between the knee and ankle.

If you do it properly, you should have your arms crossed in an X. You are then ready to drop into side control, or even take it all the way around into an armbar on the far side (something I need to work on religiously between now and then next tournament).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On Being Blue

I think there are two different ways to get a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

The first is by being too badass to remain a white belt. Tommy is a good example of that for me; somebody whose skills as a white belt simply became blue belt level and almost forced the promotion. In that case, the promotion was in recognition of something that had already happened. As the kids say, "congrats, long overdue."

But the other way of getting a blue belt, it seems to me is the opposite. In the second case, the skills aren't there in some key way, mostly a lack of consistency, but there is enough of a lack of consistency to make instructors and higher belts wonder from time to time if so-and-so really knows what he or she is doing, after all. At the same time, the white belt has learned a great deal of jiu jitsu, enough to frustrate or even overwhelm other white belts of similar or less experience. Every now and then this white belt might catch a higher belt with a submission or sweep--but it usually the white belt's "best" move every time it happens.

Awarding a blue belt to this kind of white belt seems to serve a different purpose. Here, it is almost as if the blue belt is a sort of challenge, a shove off-balance, a new standard to rise to, a set of expectations wrapped around your waist.

In reality, both are probably at work to some degree. And invariably the majority of people who get their blue belts think that they got it too soon. But my suspicion is that not too many of the latter category--the "social promotion" blue belts--end up making it to purple belt. In that sense, blue belt serves as a sort of refining process, where those of the first type finish developing a basic jiu jitsu "game", while those of the second type find one--or stay blue.

Jiu Jitsu Blogs

Just a heads up for two jiu jitsu/submission grappling websites/blogs that are worth pointing out. The first is Cindy "Sleeper" Hales, website at CindyHales.com. Cindy, for those who don't know, is a world class jiu jitsu/submission grappler and one of the top women grapplers in the world. If you go to her website, you can see her fight against Felicia Oh (the 2007 North American Abu Dhabi trials winner), among many others. Traveling the country to train with as many different people as possible, Val ("Valhalla") Worthington began her write-up of her experience rolling with Cindy with three words: Oh My God.

The other website I want to point to is, "It's Not Ballet" a new jiu jitsu blog from Andreh Anderson, a brown belt under Rey Diogo, and a contributor to Grappling magazine. I'll post a link to it in the Link Roster if the blog stays around. It's already off to a nice, easy start.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Windmill/Pendulum/Cradle Sweep

Here's a nice A-B-C on the sweep that I used to call Rodrigo's Cradle. It goes by windmill and pendulum sweep, and is one of the sweeps that Werdum attacks Lindland with in the forementioned video clip.

It's from the good folks at Abhaya Martial Arts in Canada.

The key step in the sweep, the part the Abaya purple belt points out as typically problematic is escaping the hips to the outside. The point that Rodrigo used to emphasize was the scissoring of the legs--bringing the underneath leg back to undercut the far side of the guy's base, and bringing the upper leg over with the same sort of "chuck" that you would use to set up an armbar.

You can see how similar the motion is to the armbar. The armbar-from-the-guard drill we do is also a good warmup for the cradle/pendulum/windmill sweep.

Think of it this way: after you escape your hips, you want to kick your outside leg/foot out, way out, almost behind you. Your upper leg will drive through the guy's armpit as if you were going to reach over with that leg and touch the foot of the upper leg with the foot of the outstretched underneath leg. But, as the Abhaya guy says, you don't want to put the guy on top of your underneath leg. So you scissor it back toward you. The momentum of that "scissoring back" helps drive the upper leg further over, landing you in the mount position.

It's really worth practicing. It is an especially nice sweep for guys who stay low in your guard, or who lean too far forward. That makes it a great compliment to sweeps against "high base" guys like the crossover/kimura combo that Werdum works so well on Lindland.

One thing I remember from when Rodrigo taught us this move is that if you do it right, you will not only end up in mount, but you'll feel like you are almost about to fall on your face. The momentum should be that powerful ...

Rear Mount Transition to Armbar

Fighting from rear mount is definitely one of the things I want to try and add to my game between now and the spring, when the next tournament is likely to be. Sure, I'll still be spending plenty of remedial time with Guard Passing 101, and continuing to work on my attack from side control and transitioning to knee on belly are all important. But rear mount is a very dominant position in jiu jitsu, and as a smaller fighter, it would be worth my while to become proficient at it.

But when you've got to bail out of rear mount, you've got to bail. I've done an okay job of bailing into mount. Like the kids say, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye. But being able to "bail" into a submission would be that much better ...

The above picture shows Fabricio Werdum, a world class jiu jitero and top 10 mixed martial arts heavyweight, transitioning from rear mount to armbar against Matt Lindland, Olympic silver medalist in Greco Roman wrestling and arguably the number one mixed martial arts middleweight in the world. I'm paying especially close attention to the hand game. The standard rear undergrip is there, and Werdum reaches over with his other hand and get more control over the wrist.

Rock back, throw the outside leg up and over, in front of the face, and pull back on the arm at the wrist.

By the way, click here for the clip of the whole fight. Werdum transitions nicely from armbar attack to windmill sweep to crossover sweep. All very basic stuff, working at a world class level ...

2-0 = 6-4

Here's what my jiu jitsu competition career looks like:

Copa Northwest 5*
September 2005
0-1, DNP

Copa Northwest 6
December 2005
1-1, DNP

Pac NW Championships 1
April 2006
2-0, 1st place

Copa Northwest 7
July 2006
1-1, DNP

Pac NW Championships 2
September 2006
0-1, DNP

Copa Northwest 8
November 2006
2-0, 1st place

* competed at 163

It's been an all or nothing affair for me in local competitions. Six tournaments: four DNPs ("did not place") and two 1st places. A part of me will always believe that the DNP at Copa Northwest 7 could have easily been at least a second place. But 6-4 is a respectable record after my first six events as a white belt.

Much more to say in later posts. The whole team did very, very well. Tommy was unable to compete due to a medical (which explained his absence all week). But among the white belts, Griff won three exciting matches, Lindsey and Jeff also both took home medals. Mike, in his first tournament, almost caught his guy with an armbar from the guard. He's going to be just fine. Jason, the white belt one division under me who performed so well at the Pac NW Championships 2 lost his first match to the guy who I think ended up winning the division.

Casey and Clint lost their first matches and didn't advance, as did Angela. So it wasn't a great day for our blue belts. But the purple belts, Jason and Chris both had very fun matches, with Jason putting on a submission and guard passing clinic and Chris beating a 240 lb. purple belt with a sweep from the closed guard in overtime.

No gi was entertaining as well. Dave fought and lost a tough match. Mestre Curiso went one and one, as did George, who lost his second match to a really tough opponent from a mixed martial arts school in Yakima.

All in all a fantastic day. I've got to believe that our school took home the team prize, there were just too many of us winning too many divisions. I'll debrief my fights later--including a controversial (!) call in my first match. I'll also review preparation for this tournament; a lot of things went very well and I want to repeat them at the next tournament. There are also a few things I want to do differently (like come into the 30 day's out period at my goal weight), that I'll note also.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rear Naked Choke 101

Funny. I was just thinking about offense from rear mount (“Bad from the Back”) and today I surf over to the Jiu Jitsu Gear Forum and find an excellent tutorial/primer on the rear naked choke by Stephan Kesting of Grapple Arts.

Kesting's RNC Tutorial

In fact, it is so good that I might actually embed it.

A couple of highlights before typing in some specific directions: for one, Kesting makes it clear that you can be effective from the back even if you don’t have both hooks (or even any hooks in). Insofar as maintaining hooks has been very hard for me, that was good to hear. Eddie Bravo has emphasized that the most important aspect of back control isn’t the hooks, it’s the over/under grip. Kesting seems to support that take.

Kesting doesn’t mention it. But it is clear from the video that another key is that the over arm, the choking arm, should be as close to the neck as possible. You want to minimize the space—both in terms of getting into the choke position quickly as well as making the choke as efficient as possible.

Grips. Kesting gives two options. The first is to grab the wrist of the overhook/choke arm with the underhook/lock arm. By doing this, you make it harder for the guy to control your choking arm by grabbing your wrist—because you’re already grabbing it. The second option is to a Gable grip (palm to palm) with the overhook/choke arm on top. Both of these options are effective because you don’t have to turn the wrist on the choking arm to tighten the choke. You are already in good position.

Tiger Claw. Kesting calls this move the tiger claw, it’s a detail for bringing the choke arm across the neck. What you want to do is reach around the neck and behind the guy’s shoulder to grab that small ridge of bone “by the scapula.” You don’t want to rely on bicep strength. So reach for the ridge and hang on.

Clamp. Once you’ve reached the ridge, you want to reclamp your grip. You’re going back to the palm-to-palm Gable grip here, with the choking arm palm facing out and the lock arm palm facing in. Doing this will give you incredible leverage in terms of tightening the choke, by using the lock arm as a sort of crank to help walk the choking arm tighter and tighter in. You drop the elbow of the locking arm down against his spine, making it hard for the guy to pull your choking arm away from his neck.

Other details: The Side Punch is one good way to fight off an attempt to control your choking arm. Essentially, the side punch just means to swing the shoulder of your choking arm into his neck, re-centering your elbow in front of his face. The Creep is another technique whereby you use the cranking effect of your locking arm to “walk” the choke tighter by a few inches.

One series that Kesting says he always has to do is the: Tiger Claw, Palm Strike, Clamp series. This is another way to fight off an attack on your choking arm. You reach for the ridge again. Then palm strike his hands off of your choking arm (often he’ll be trying to defend with both hands). Then re-establish the Clamp. You might have to do this a few times before you’ve got the choke in deep enough to submit the guy.

Finishing it: Kesting warns against shooting your locking arm forward in front of the guy and then waving it around before reaching back behind the head. As he puts it: you can get armbarred that way and even if it isn’t easy, it’s a pretty embarrassing way to lose a fight. What you want to do instead is what he calls “spearhand” where you just flip your wrist over from the Clamp and reach behind the top part of the neck or the lower part of the head. You don’t want to reach too high up on the head because that makes it too easy for the guy to reach up and pull your hand off. So keep it low.

Another instance where you might make the mistake of extending the arm is when you are doing the Tiger Claw/Palm Strike/Clamp series and leave your arm hanging out there during the Palm Strike.

The choke: Once you’ve got the Clamp in place: squeeze down, in, and up.

There are a few other excellent tidbits. One really nice one is head positioning. Since a popular way to escape the RNC is to put your head on the mat, then your shoulders and then elbow escape out, one way you can block this escape is to put your head between his head and the mat.

Also, you want to drive the guy toward the side of your overhook/choking arm. You want your bicep to be like a pillow (as you put him to sleep!)

Good stuff. Like I said, the choke from rear mount is as much a staple of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as the guard—arguably more so. It’s been the absolute weakest part of my game (along with the guard), so anything I can do to improve my technique is definitely something to review and practice.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Last Gi Night Before Saturday

Last night was the last gi training I'll get before the Copa Northwest 8 this Saturday. Nothing special ... Jesse the Purple (whom I haven't seen in many weeks) led a high-speed, non-stop warm-up that was typically good ... Mamazinho had about six white belts who apparently weren't planning to compete this weekend work on some stuff on their own, while the rest of us did specific training and then some general sparring.

I was matched up with Angela the Blue for the specifics and for the first 10-minute sparring session (Mamazinho had us do three ten-minute rounds last night). She's gotten even better since the last time I rolled with her: still almost impossible (for me) to choke, and she does a good job of keeping her arms out of harm's way. I did well position-wise, but never came close to having her in danger of getting submitted. She said something about "trying to break her leg" when she was on top during half-guard and I was tightening the lockdown that I've been working on for the past few days. I'll admit that I was a little put out by that; no one has complained yet that there is anything untoward about my lockdown. But mileage varies, as they say, and one person's tight lock is another person's Mir-on-Sylvia bone breaking moment.

So I'll keep an eye on it. I know part of what I was trying to do was keep her smash game at bay, which is something I don't remember her using as effectively in the past as she was last night. Not a lot of people play the smash game either consistently or efficiently, forgetting that driving the shoulder into the face is a great way to control the guy on the bottom. I picked up on it because it is definitely one of the things I like to do from the top. So I tried to stretch her out with the lockdown to take some of that pressure off of my face. I'd probably do better to get small and work a sweep ...

What's funny is that when I was on top trying to pass her guard, I spent more than a few minutes trapped in her vise-like half-guard, worried that if I tried to pull my leg out any harder I might break my foot.

The biggest criticism of my half-guard game is still what I wrote a little while back: not coming up on the inside elbow and leg. I'll probably get a chance to work on that a little tonight with no gi. That, and escapes from side control. I had a hard time hitting the "bridge" that Marcelo talked about in the previous post. I'm not sure if it is a matter of leg strength or back flexibility. But I'll keep working on it.

Unfortunately, passing the guard with the gi remains a weak spot that likely won't be worked on until after the tournament. I picked up Mike the White last night during one of the ten-minute sparring sessions. It didn't lead to a pass, but at least I did it. I like how I'm fighting for hand position, and paying more attention to being in the guard in the position and posture that I want (right side cheated forward, legs sidesaddled knees left). But I've got to follow-through with the rest of the move.

I can't emphasize enough how crucial this is. PTMU: Pick The Motherfucker Up. I swear: if I lose Saturday because of lousy guard passing I'm headed for the nearest bridge.

That's it for now. I managed to work in a few keylocks from the bottom--it was good to see them continuing to work. I rolled with Rodrigo for about ten minutes and did about as well as you would expect. He caught me with a few armbars and triangles. I think I did a pretty decent job of avoiding a few attacks by getting back to a solid in-the-guard base, as well as putting a knee between his legs as Tommy showed me last Thursday (i.e., the combat base position). One thing I didn't do that I need to do when guys go to their side, with both knees up (and usually on the same side), is to stand up and go for a toreano pass. I did that once with someone else I sparred with last night and it let directly to a successful pass and side control.

Even though I couldn't really apply them, it was nice to try and position myself for a few different things with Rodrigo, like practicing the hand positioning for the brabo choke and working the clock choke. Of course, Rodrigo was never in trouble with any of those attacks (though I think the clock choke attack might have at least looked good). Mostly I'm glad that I kept thinking and moving (for the most part), trying to use as many of the different techniques I've learned.

Weight cutting is going slowly, probably because I'm pretty close to my base weight of 150-155 already. I weighed 169 with the gi on last night before training, which freaked me out a little bit. This morning I weighed 163 dressed no shoes. Today is completely carb free: salad and protein drink for breakfast, pork and bean cassolet for lunch ... not sure what I'll eat at 3 p.m. And I start cutting back on the water today also. I'd really love to drop down to about 150 after the tournament and then try to keep my weight below 155 so I don't have to worry about diet so much. At the last tournament I weighed in at 157, which was about 1.9 pounds under the limit. For a certain perspective, that's perfect. I'm always amazed at how these UFC fighters, for example, can weigh in at 170 or 185 right on the dot. But that's what you want to do if you can do it. That said, I'd like to feel as if I've got more "wiggle room" in case a scale goes the wrong way.

That's the update for now. It was fun to go right into specifics and sparring last night. I wouldn't mind doing that more often.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

More Notes from Marcelinho: Escaping Side Control

I had pretty decent success working on escapes from side control Monday night. When it was working, I was getting guys to overcommit their weight and then was able to roll them, sometimes in slow-motion, so that I wound up in side control.

But some guys I tried this with, bigger guys and those with more experience were either too heavy to roll or too skilled at keeping their balance. This means that I’ve got to work escapes that, as with half of my half-guard passes, are “tackles” rather than “twists.”

Marcelo Garcia showed a couple of details on one of his escapes from side control in one of his instructional DVDs …

http://www.groundfighter.com/uploads/videos/Marcelo Garcia 3 vol-6.WMV

The first idea is to create a frame with your arms. This will enable you to create enough space so that you can do a reverse sit-out and get out from under.

The first part of the frame is the arm that is being underhooked (your far arm). That arm is brought up and against the neck, sort of like a forearm choke. You take the near arm, the arm that is between you and the opponent, and snake it under the arm that is around your neck. Thread it by his armpit, where the space is the greatest. Go all the way through until you can clasp your hands together at about his near shoulder.

That is your frame. As you extend your arms you create space because the guy is avoiding the choking pressure of your far arm’s forearm.

Now you want to move from the frame to the underhook. Marcelo warns to be careful not to lead with your elbow, because an alert opponent will pin your arm. Instead, he does that Taco Bell “good to go” hand gesture, rotating the wrist of the far arm (the choking arm) in and down under the guy’s armpit. As you swim your hand, then arm, into underhook position, be sure to reach as far across the guy’s back as possible.

The next step is the bridge. Marcelo points out that to get a really good high bridge, you need to bring your heels in as tight against your butt as possible. With your underhook, bridge up nice and high and drive the underhook into the guy. You want to push him not so much forward and not to the side, but more to the corner, off your inside shoulder.

At the same time, you want to take your inside leg and do the reverse sit-out. Bend that leg and bring it back under you as you turn INTO the guy with the rest of your body. The move is VERY similar to what Bravo has us doing with half-guard tackle sweeps in terms of coming up to the elbow.

The goal of this part of the move is to get to your knees. Once there, you want to attack the near leg, then move up to a body lock as you move to take the back or attack with a clock choke, for example.