Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Schedule

Schedule changes at Gracie Barra Seattle began Monday.

6-6:30 Fundamentals of BJJ Level One
6:30-8 BJJ class

6-6:30 Fundamentals of BJJ Level One
6:30-7 Takedowns

6-6:30 Drills
6:30-8 BJJ Class

6-6:30 Self-defense
6:30-7 Conditioning

10-11 Competition Training

I think that's it. I need to make sure I've got the 6-6:30 Wednesday slot down right. But I think that's what we've got going forward.

"Level One" refers to the 15 basic jiu jitsu techniques that Rodrigo wants all of us to know--and to be able to teach to someone else. Monday (Jan 30) we did three techniques: elbow escape, keylock from mount, and upa/bridge. I'll have some notes on each of these later.

Very good class. We're finally slowing down the sparring (another point that Rodrigo has been trying to emphasize for weeks). 100% technique and maybe 75% exertion. He had us to about eight or nine rounds of two minutes each, fashioned in such a way so that everybody got to spar with everybody. That and the duration mandated pacing yourself, and I think everybody appreciated this approach. I know I sure did. It makes you much more willing to try new techniques when you don't feel as if every move is a life or death move.

That said, I managed to land a nice kimura from the bottom (sort of half-guard), an omoplata sweep and an armbar. I still need to work on my escape from side control--but I don't know of a white belt that doesn't need to work on that.

My training schedule will be a four-week rotation starting this week:


So out of a possible eight Level One classes in four weeks, I'll take five. Not great, and I could always forgo the Thursday class for now and make the fourth week Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday. Maybe I'll ask Rodrigo what he thinks next time I see him. He may think that, for now, the Tuesday class might be more helpful than the Saturday one.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rickson and the Budo Challenge

Interesting interview of Rickson Gracie by Gracie Barra black belt Maurcio Feitosa from the Gracie Barra website.

Rickson's Way
Jiu-Jitsu icon accepts to be interviewed by three-time world champion, replies to Wanderlei Silva, clears his criticism on the level of MMA fighters and bets on his new tournament, which creates a worldwide BJJ ranking and promises to valorize the sport-–and the athletes-–in an unheard-of way.
I wanted in the first place to create a competition where all sorts of grapplers could face one another; gather, in one event, Jiu-Jitsu, sambo, wrestling… Budo Challenge is a new sport! I think in the future there will great technical exchange going on among those athletes, because they will have to study a bit of everything in order to perfect themselves and become Budo champions. And that will be good for the gi-sports. The creation of the rules was a lot easier than I had imagined. I took away all that stalls the fights, like advantages or too many points for attaining a certain position. Submission attempts are worth a lot more than achieving positions. Submissions are considered not only at the time of the fight, but also in the overall calculation, which generates the yearly ranking. In my opinion, the beauty of the gi-sport is in the submission, in the vast variety of technical possibilities. With the gi on you have a lot more possibilities of submitting, sweeping, taking down, controlling your foe… Because you have a lot more grip options. Thus I reached my goal: fights had much moving going on and technique came out – you only have to see that the percentage of submissions was very high. Most fights ended in that fashion. This technical advantage gi has over no-gi was something that made me choose a gi-on competition right away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Top Game

After getting my first "katagatame" last night in sparring, I think I've got some conception of my game from the mount.

Basically, it is to alternate between choke options and armbar options. Both the katagatame and the gi/collar choke are nice compliments to the armbar. Last night I was very focused on doing the katagatame correctly, but I'm sure that while I was working to get the arm over and across his face and neck, I could have far more easily just stepped over his head and applied the armbar.

The next trick, of course, is to develop a side control game and a guard game. I'll worry about half guard and rear mount/back control after that. But I do think I've got a set of techniques that I can use to effectively fight from the top.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Standing Guard Passes

Tonight a pretty healthy sized class. We worked on standing guard passes, two techniques really, for passing the knees.

Standing in front of the guy, you grab the pants by the knees. You will hold this grip throughout the move. Step up with your outside leg to place your foot at the level of his hip, using your shin to keep that leg from moving outward.

From here, take a backstep that send your other leg back behind and to the side. It's easier to do that to describe. Basically, your legs will be somewhat crossed and your shoulders will run parallel to his body.

The last part of this move has you slide the leg-trapping leg down toward his feet as you lower your upperbody on top of his into what I'll call "south-facing side control." From there, you can switch to regular side control.

The second technique shows what to do if the guy rolls into you as you try to pass. You begin with the above technique. But when he rolls over into your leg, instead of trying to drop into "south-facing side control" you step over his legs with your "backstep" leg (remember to keep the grip on the pant legs by the knee and to use that grip for balance) and then backstep with the other leg and lower yourself into "south-facing side control" from the other side.

Apparently a lot of guys were having trouble with this technique. At least it sounded that way when Rodrigo stopped us a few times to show us the move again. I think I got it pretty well, though. I was working with Mario and, as I told him, sometimes it pays to be low to the ground in the first place!

Sparring was okay. I was a little disappointed with my performance at first. But the more I thought about it, the better I felt. I rolled with Tommy and got man-handled (I think I tapped three times in five minutes), then rolled with this new guy Scott who was a little smaller than me. After struggling from within his guard for awhile, I managed to pass using the Saulo Ribeiro ground pass and eventually work from side control to mount. From there I (eventually) managed to secure Saulo Ribeiro's "katagatame." It felt like the first time I'd gotten a submission in months!

After that I rolled with Joe, who was pretty gassed from doing three sessions in a row. I had top position for most of the time, but Joe does a really good job of replacing the guard--something that will be a goal of mine, especially when rolling with guys like Tommy and ...

Jesse the Blue, who I finished the night with. Not too much to say about that: Jesse is bigger, stronger, and much, much better technically. He caught me in a couple of armbars and a choke.

Five months in, I'm starting to figure out what I want to do in training. I think I've got a top game worked out, I just need to figure out some plays from the bottom. When rolling with guys like Tommy and both Jesses, my goal has to be survival--preferably by gettting them in my guard and (often) replacing the guard when they look like they are about to pass.

Kid Peligro makes a good point in his book, The Essential Guard that if you develop good skills at replacing the guard, then you can be more aggressive in your attack because you know that if you make a mistake, you can retreat to your guard game, reset, and go back on the offensive. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Butterflies on Saturday

Only five of us: Griff, Mauricio, Jesse Black (who showed up gi-less), Arnell (who was a little late) and myself.

We worked arm bars from the mount as a drill to warm-up. Then moved on to butterfly guard. Rodrigo was mostly getting us accustomed to the position--using it and trying to pass it.

Sparred with everyone. Griff got me in an RNC and an armbar. Sure, he's got me by more than fifty pounds, but I can tell he's getting better. Jesse the Black got me in a triangle. His triangles are especially tough, which means I'm doing something very wrong that I need to figure out. I think it's posture, which Rodrigo was yelling to me when I was rolling with Mauricio and stuck in his guard.

Got mount with Arnell, but really couldn't do anything with it. I need to review Ribeiro's katagatame video ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

After Hours: Clock Position Drill

Some of the best stuff in studying bjj comes after the class ends. Last night, I got Cindy to show me that "clock" position drill again. If it's true--as I shouted endlessly at the last Copa Northwest--that position comes first, then this drill will really help me move better from the top position.

I more or less had the drill down after she taught it awhile back. But it was good to see it again. Here are the "stations":

Side control
(underhook head, underhook far thigh, knee in hip)
Open hips south ("south" means "toward hips/legs/feet")
Step over legs into mount
(Remember Cindy's hint about walking toward the legs to get space to step into mount)

(knees toward chest, weight back)
Kickstand or "back step" to side with far leg
(stay heavy with the upperbody)
Drop into side control

Side control
Open hips north
Step over head into north-south control

North-south control
Kickstand or "back step" to side with far leg
(put pass-side elbow across body to opposite of pass side)
Drop into scarf hold position
(hips open to north
Switch hips to south and into side control.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Live from Side Control

Not a bad class, tonight. We worked out of side control after a warm-up by Cindy. The techniques were familiar: trapping the arm with your own gi and moving your head back and forth to keep the arm from reaching over your shoulder or under your head. When the arm comes back down, you grip it for the kimura (reverse hips to northside and step over the head as you crank back the kimura) or the straight arm lock. I worked with Mario, who is always good to train with.

I didn't do so well in the live drill. I always have a focus problem when we move from the technique drill to the live drill--and that was in evidence tonight. I worked with Jesse the White (now sporting one of those black gis), and really didn't feel as if I did very well. Training with bigger guys like Jesse--and the white belt in the blue gi I sparred with afterward--really exposes my lack of technique at this point.

I did somewhat better during sparring (I asked the guy if he would might starting in my guard, which was no problem), it terms of using my legs more and not just clinging in closed guard (which I still did too much of). The guy was very good at standing up in the guard, even though I was able to get the omoplata sweep on him twice (though not to a complete sweep unfortunately).

Classes are looking to move from Tuesday and Thursday to Monday and Wednesday in February. I kind of like the current schedule, but having Thursday and Friday off will be a nice way to finish off the work week. I'll still try and train every other Saturday morning.

I've done a pretty crummy job of my morning cardio this year. The flu didn't help. But I'm finding it hard to get back to the discipline I had late last year when I was doing four mornings a week on the treadmill.

A few aches and pains. My left shoulder is still pretty sore--though it doesn't seem to get in the way of my jiu jitsu training. And I've got a bad ring finger on my right hand--probably just a jam or mild sprain. It doesn't get in the way of training much, either.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Essential Guard

I broke down over the weekend and picked up a copy of this at the local Borders.

I've been skipping around, but so far I'm very, very impressed with this book.

My tendency is to wrestle when I do bjj. As such, my guard is really weak technically. My best move is the omoplata sweep, but that requires the guy to stand up--in addition to me being able to control the sleeve on the same side as the leg I attack.

The Essential Guard does what none of my other books on Brazilian jiu jitsu do not do: it explains not only the physics and the context for a given technique, but the theory behind it. I'm a hopeless intellectual, and understanding the idea behind a certain technique or set of techniques, helps me learn a lot faster than when I'm confronted with a bunch of separate parts.

Give me a list, a "Ten Commandments of ...", a set of basic rules to follow, and I'm set. The Essential Guard is one of the best organized jiu jitsu books I've come across, which I suspect has to do with the fact that it is Kid Peligro's book (as opposed to a book that Peligro is co-authoring with one of the jiu jitsu superstars like his good books with Jean Jacques Machado and Renzo and Royler Gracie.

Anyway, combined with the stuff that Rodrigo has been showing us with the spider guard and some of the macro stuff from Peligro's book, I'm very anxious to spend some mat time working from the back. Come tourney time in March, I'll be glad to go back to my top game. But the next month has to be a single-minded focus on fighting from the back.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

OntheMat Interview: Marcio Feitosa

Here's a link to an interview with the lead instructor at Gracie Barra, Lake Forest in California, Marcio Feitosa.
My goal is to build a jiu-jitsu community just as Carlos Gracie Jr. has in Brazil. I would love to earn the respect and admiration that Carlos has. I wish to see jiu-jitsu as popular and widespread in the US as in Brazil.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Spider Guard City

Tonight we could only work on half the mat because of the leak in the warehouse roof. There were about ten or twelve of us. So instead of the usual warm-up, we started off with some stretching, then went straight into some technique work.

I really enjoyed tonight's class. We worked almost exclusively from the spider guard. Rodrigo showed us five different techniques: a transition from closed guard to spider guard, spider guard with the out-to-in leg hook on the arm, spider guard with the bicep stretcher, spider guard with the bicep stretcher to foot-on-knee sweep, and a spider guard sweep/counter to one-knee pass attempt.

I wrote in my notes "recall that Rodrigo showed us some passes from the spider guard, including one that begins with the spider guard out-to-in leg hook. You let the guy creep into the open space near your chest (your other leg is down), then you reach under the near leg at the knee and roll over your far shoulder, executing the sweep.

I'm not sure what to do with the inside leg. Do I use it to trap the guy's leg (the one that is on the same side as the hooked arm? If you let the guy creep into your "half spider guard" then where is your inside leg?

By the way, here is a link to some earlier thoughts on the spider guard.

A couple of highlights on the techniques:

Closed guard transition to spider guard: here you want to open your guard and place one foot on the mat. With your hands on the guy's shoulders, elbow escape out, hipping out on the same side as the foot on the mat. Now take the leg with the foot on the mat and bring the knee up as tight to your body as possible before opening your hip out to slap on one half of the spider guard. The other knee should have an easier trip.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Armbars and Guard Passes

Tuesday night was a pretty standard class. Warm-up laps with intervals of leg raises and bicycle kicks. Takedown drills using both the leg-through flip and the "grab and single leg". On that last takedown, the "grab and single leg," it is important to remember to grab the collar that is on the same side. Do not reach across his body.

If I've got this right, then that means that sometimes you are grabbing on the side he has forward, other times you are grabbing on the side he has back. Either way, when you pull/jerk him toward you, he will almost certainly take a step forward to maintain his balance. The leg that steps forward is the one you grab for the single leg takedown, while pushing forward and straightening the arm of the hand that has the collar.

We drilled three techniques. The armbar from the mount. The armbar from the guard. A standing guard pass.

Some notes on the last technique. The basics of the pass are: grab the sleeve and stand. Keep your elbow in tight against your hip. With your other hand, push down on his knee while stepping back with the leg on the same side.

When the guard opens up, take the hand that has been grabbing the sleeve and underhook the leg on that side. Lower your body to go chest to chest and, while doing this, put your outside knee across the guy's leg that is on the ground.

With your other leg you want to do a kickstand, opening your hips to the south, over the down leg. You want to be as close to perpendicular to his body as possible, maintaining your balance and keeping your chest on his. From here, you want to cross over the down leg and switch your hips back to neutral and go into side control.

I want to double check on the actual pass, after you've underhooked the leg. But I think this is how the pass works.

We did a different type of sparring drill. One guy is mounted and needs to submit the guy on top or reverse him. The guy on top needs to submit the mounted guy, basically. I did okay in this drill, not great, not especially good. I got caught in a bicep armlock by Big Mike and it took me an uncomfortably long time to get out of it (I was pretty close to tapping out). I need to remember Saulo Ribeiro's advice for being on top in the mount: weight back and over his hips, knees forward. You don't want to put all your weight on the guy because that gives him more control when he goes to bump. Put your weight on your knees and ride out any attempts to dislodge you.

Also consider switching from mount to S-mount and working the choke/armbar combo attack ...

Tonight's sparring was with Jesse the Blue, Robert, Joe and Tommy. Four rounds without a break. Pretty exhausting, but I think I managed okay. I did spend entirely too much time in Robert's guard without trying more vigorously to pass. I had a nice sweep on Joe from the closed guard--a sweep that was sort of based on the mount-escape-to-half guard that Rodrigo taught us last week and a bit like the first sweep that Rey Diogo shows in his article in the September 2005 issue of Grappling.

The key to the sweep is in grabbing the cuff on one side and grabbing the pants by the knee on the other. You want to step on the hip along with grabbing the cuff (same side). On the pants-grab side, you want to bring your leg up and under his armpit--essentially underhooking his arm. As your leg is getting into position under the armpit, lift up at the knee and turn toward the cuff-grip. He should roll right over almost effortlessly.

After class, Rodrigo was talking about trying to get us to open our guard more, especially in stepping on the hip as a way of getting greater control over the guy in your guard. He also showed us a half-guard sweep. The basic idea behind these sweeps is to free your hips. Rodrigo adds an X-guard like move where you put a hook high around the thigh of the guy on top.

Another note that bears repeating: always turn into the submission attempt when defending!

I figure I was about on par tonight. I'm still not active enough around the guard--either in always standing out of the guard if I'm not doing the Saulo Ribeiro ground pass, or in not going more effectively for the sweep. The sweeps I really want to work on. Right now I've got the scissors sweep and what I'll call the Diogo sweep. I've also got the omoplata sweep in the event that the guy stands, but I wouldn't mind coming up with one or two more.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Escaping Rear Mount: Duck, Shuck and Swing

Writing about the Ribeiro escape from the rear mount a few days ago, I left out a key part of the escape.

In addition to blocking the choke, the other main ingredient of this escape is the "duck." This is when you scoot down into the rear mount so that your shoulders are below his shoulders. I did mention this (i.e., "get small"), but rewatching Saulo's video snippet made me want to reinforce the point.

You don't want to put your weight on him. That gives him control of your body, because your balance is dependent on what he does.

The other typical escape involves turning to your side and trying to unhook with your hands. Never try and unhook with your hands. Hand or hand/arm don't beat leg. Hip/body beats leg, though. So ...

You want your weight to be largely on the mat. If he keeps his hooks in, then he is blocked by your body from being able to do anything.

From there, shuck a leg and swing around the other leg (basically, swing around the hook that is still in). Whatever I do, I DO NOT want to try and swing around the leg I just shucked. This is classic jiu jitsu; using what was formerly your opponent's advantage into your advantage. So shuck and swing the other way. Worst case scenario is ending up in the guy's half guard. And we know what to do from there ...

Here's the escape. Choke defend with the thumb in. Then three moves to escape: duck, shuck and swing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mount Escape to Half Guard

Saturday's class was a solid one, with the main event being a new technique for escaping from mount to getting the mount guy in your half guard.

The move is not an escape or a reversal, which I have to remind myself. It is simple a way to get out from under the full mount--preferably before the referee has awarded the guy four points for achieving the mount position.

Here's the basic move as I remember it, though I'd like to see it at least one more time. You have been mounted. You've got to get out of this position quickly--essentially in three seconds--before the ref awards him the points.

I'll talk about the position from one side, though obviously you want to be ready to work it from whichever side is most advantageous.

Again, you've been mounted and you've got three seconds to get out of it into something better. That "better" is half-guard. How do we get there?

1. Grab the pants by the calf on one side. With the other hand, dive it between your body and his thigh and underhook the other leg/thigh.

2. Draw your feet up under your butt and upa ("bump") with a bias in the direction of the pants-grab. If you can bump him good straight up, that will probably be enough. But directional bumping is a good habit to get into, I think.

3. As you are getting near maximum altitude on the bump, you are going to put the pants-grabbed leg between your two legs--essentially slipping him into your half-guard. As you do this, use the underhook on the opposite side to tilt him further in the direction of the pants-grabbed (i.e., "trapped") leg that you are grapevining.

4. His body should be directed over the shoulder that is on the trapped side. Rodrigo pointed out that you want your head to be close to the knee of the underhooked leg. I think this is because it will (a) keep him from falling on your head when he comes down from the bump (this kept happening to Arnell when we worked this technique together on Saturday), and (b) help keep your hips from being under the guy as you work for a sweep from the half-guard.

Like I said, I want to see this one more time to make sure I'm right about the head near the knee part. I specifically remember him mentioning that was where your head was supposed to be. But I'd like to see it just one more time to make sure I've got the body motion down accurately.


When doing the crossbody half-guard pass that Rodrigo showed us months ago, I need to be very, very careful to keep my upper body on the guy's chest. I've got a tendency to throw myself over--which is fine--but I need to make sure that I keep my weight on the guy. Otherwise, it is very easy for him to roll me over. I want to kick my leg back, almost like doing a front split, and pull my trapped leg out as far as possible. But my upper body needs to stay chest-to-chest as much as possible.

When defending the rear mount, remember the three steps: first, block the choke. Do this using Saulo Ribeiro's technique of grabbing your own collar, thumb-first. Second, dump a hook. I think the easiest way to do this is to kick out your leg straight. The thing is that if you don't make a move after you do this, the guy will just put the hook back in--and this time he'll be more ready for the kick out. So, what you want to do is kick out with the leg that is on the same side the choke is coming from. If he is choking you with his right arm (i.e., right arm across your neck from behind), then you want to block the choke with your right hand and kick out with your right leg.

As you kick out, you want to get as small as possible inside his body. Technically, you can get small after you kick out, but it has to be almost immediate. As you get small--and assuming you've effectively shaken off the hook on your right side--you want to spin into him, turning to your left (again, assuming a choke from the right). The spin should be tight, and you should be lower than his shoulders so that you are essentially turning in his chest, not against his shoulders where he was more leverage to keep you from turning.

Check Saulo Ribeiro's video excerpt at GroundFighter.com for a primer on escaping rear mount.

Sparring in today's class was fine enough. We started standing and I rolled with Arnell, Jesse the Blue and Tommy. I wasn't too impressed with my takedown game, at all. But it's been a little while since we've worked takedowns, so I'll forgive myself for being a little rusty--especially against Jesse the Blue.

Rodrigo (and Arnell) did point out another standing guard pass that I need to try. You stand up in good posture (emphasis on good posture), grab the sleeve with one hand and step back with the leg on the other side while pushing the guard-leg on that side down at the knee. As Saulo points out, the stepping back of the leg is what provides the leverage, and the hand on the knee should be a little more than a compliment.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Xande Ribeiro: Jiu Jitsu Fighter of the Year

On the Mat has awarded Xande Ribeiro, Jiu-Jitsu Fighter of the Year.

Xande Ribeiro is the younger brother of one of my favorite jiu jitsu fighters, Saulo Ribeiro--who has allegedly just retired from active competition. If so, then Xande couldn't have picked a better time to shine. Parabens a voce, Xande!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

More Attacks from the Guard

Great, great night in jiu jitsu.

No warm-up, just straight into drills--which was a nice change of pace. We worked armbars from the mount, one step instead of three. Then three different techniques from the guard: an armbar attack, a scissors sweep, and then a transition to armbar attack after a failed scissor sweep attempt.

I was surprised at how well I did with the armbar attack from the guard. As I've said time and time again, I'm not too impressed with my guard game, so tonight's effort was nice to see.

All of the attacks from the guard are prompted by the guy in your guard taking a step up. In the armbar attack, you body pivot toward the up leg and underhook that leg at the knee. You want to swing the leg that is on that side up high under the guy's armpit, and then swing your other leg up and bring it down over the neck--axe like.

Also important is the hand position. We worked the drill holding the cuff and collar and having the guy step up with the leg on the opposite side. In a real sparring situation, the guy could stand up with either leg--regardless of whether or not you've got cuff and collar on the opposite side. One work around I've been thinking about is to focus on cuff control or tricep control on both arms. As long as you've got a hold of the right arm when you go into the body pivot, you should be in good shape with the armbar attack.

The scissors sweep was standard-issue. As far as pointers go, you want to make sure you get your knee up and in front of the guy's chest, with your shin crossing his chest. That's how you get your hip leverage in place. The other important thing is the hip escape hard to create the necessary space before you begin the technique. Get your butt out of there!

The scissors sweep transition to armbar was a little tricky. But, again, it was a matter of the body pivot. The same leg that is bringing the knee/shin across the chest in the scissors sweep will also be the leg that axe chops the neck.

I sparred back-to-back four times, which is probably a record for me. I rolled with Robert the Blue, Arnell, Kevin and Tom. Robert caught me in a choke in the last few seconds of our round, but overall I was pretty impressed with how I did. I did a much better job of standing out of the guard--though still not up to where I want to be. I also pressed the Saulo Ribeiro ground guard pass better than I've worked it in the past.

I didn't do as much work from the guard as I would have liked. That is still a focus for the next several sparring sessions. I was able to do some nice transition to north/south from side control against Arnell, and some nice transition from side control to mount on both Kevin and Tom. I'd like to finish off these nice positions moves with submissions. But "position first". The submissions will come.

After class, Tom showed me a pair of escapes from the turtle when someone is holding you in that front bodylock position. The first has you overhooking the guy at the elbow and sitting out by bringing the leg on that side up and through. That one sometimes requires a bit of strength. The second one has you post your leg and forward roll. I need to try that one a few more times--I can't remember if you post the leg on the same side that you trap the elbow or the other side. But it uses leverage more than strength. All in all, a pair of nice moves to remember.

Another note. I got my guard passed a few times. One thing I need to do when the guy is coming over to my side is to grab the cuff or sleeve of the near arm (i.e., if he is passing my left, then his left side is the near arm). From here, I want to roll back and flip my legs up, over and in between myself and the guy. At the same time, I want to pull that arm toward me as I roll. I should be able to armbar the guy if I can get my outside leg (i.e., my right leg in the example above) over in front of his face and across his neck. I half-remember Kevin catching me in an inverted armbar like that a few sessions back.

One other thing: I need to protect my neck. Guys have been zeroing in on gi chokes with me, probably because I'm doing a better job of defending armbars and triangle chokes. Still, let's stop this choke fest stuff before it gets out of hand. If the guy is trying to choke you while you are still in his guard, then you need to explode in your guard pass and make him pay for preoccupying his hands/arms in a choke.

Saturday classes have started in 2006. We'll see about the "special guest judo/jiu jitsu guy". It should be a blast--and I'm looking forward to seeing what the extra day will do to my improvement. Rodrigo announced that "belts and stripes" are going to be awarded at a session in Ballard on February 11th. I'm not expecting anything--though I wouldn't be surprised if I got a stripe. As I tell myself, if I am better in January than I was in December, and better in February than I was in January, then everything will take care of itself.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Roger Gracie: Submission Fighter of the Year

On the Mat has named Roger Gracie "Submission Fighter of 2005."

Read all about it. And to Roger from one Gracie Barra guy to another, parabens a voce!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Position Drills and Half-guard Sweeps/Escapes

Rodrigo's neck is still tweaked. So Cindy taught tonight's class.

We started off with Cindy's warm-up routine: heavy on the tumbling and ab work (which is probably a good hint of what I should be working more on).

The techniques started off with a position drill where you go from side control to mount to side control to north/south to side control. An excellent, excellent drill as far as I'm concerned. I have a bad habit of remaining in one position when I get top position, and this drill helps remind me to keep it moving until I find the right position for an attack.

The trick is that there is a position--I call it the modified scarf hold position--before going into north/south that is a little tricky. Thursday if she's there I might ask her after class to show me the "stations" again. I'll make written notes in my bjj journal to help me remember the different positions. Again, a very, very good drill for me.

The other techniques involved half guard sweeps. The first had us getting an overhook and then using the "triangle push up" to create space and get an underhook. From here, scoot out that side by grabbing his wrist (the one that is around your head) and doing what Cindy called the "dog leg hump" which should allow you to shake the guy off of you somewhat.

The move from here reminds me a little of the Hansen half-guard sweep in the "extras" on my ADCC DVD. You swing yourself out and around and take the back.

The variation Cindy showed us had you going for an armbar--in case you were blocked from getting that far hook in while trying to take the back. With the armbar variation, you reach back over the head (on the side that you were shrimping from) and grab the wrist. Then you turn your body away from the guy while bringing your outside leg up. Eventually, you want to put your shin on the back of his neck while you pull the guy's arm out into an armlock. You are sort of upside down while doing it. You'll know you're in the right position if you are looking at his feet as your rotate your body.

If you can't get the arm out, then one variation is to grab his foot and roll him over so that you are on your back. From here, you can do a more traditional armbar attack.

Notes on sparring:

Tonight I rolled with Mario, then Jesse the White and then Bruce. Mario and Jesse were back to back, and I didn't have nearly as much energy for Jesse as I would have liked or needed.

What I liked about my sparring tonight was my switching from mount to left and right S-mount with Mario. I've always been afraid to change top position for fear of getting reversed. This, of course, is where Cindy's drill will come in handy as soon as I can get it down. I need to remember to grab the near collar when in S-mount, so that I'm in the "Saulo Ribeiro" position to apply the choke or the armlock.

What didn't I like about my sparring tonight? For some reason, I just didn't work hard enough to get out of the guard. This was a big problem when I was rolling with Jesse. I don't know what I was thinking--maybe I was gassed. But I didn't try a single standing pass--and I know better. I tried the Saulo Ribeiro ground pass and did manage to almost pass Jesse's guard. But I got stuck in the scarf hold position and he caught up with me and put me back in his guard. I need to remember to go from scarf hold to north-south--or even a real side control with my knee in the hip. Again, the drill that Cindy showed us tonight will be one worth working on.

Notes for Thursday: More standing guard passes. If I'm having a hard time sweeping a guy because his posture is good, then I need to break his balance. One way I want to try is to go to the butterfly guard. Hooks inside, bear hug and rock him back toward me. If he goes very easily, then I might just be able to take him vertical and then over to one side. If he doesn't, then at least I've broken his balance, and might be able to more effectively sweep him with a scissors sweep or something.

I also want to work on escaping from back control. I need to go to my side--the side away from the choke attempt. Another way of looking at it is that I want the guy's elbow to be pointing straight up. Grab the wrist to relieve the pressure with one hand and work to unhook the hook that is between me and the mat with the other hand.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to the Mat

Looking forward to my first day back training in what feels like a month. I've only missed three classes--though at this point in my development, each one of those classes probably counts for close to three classes in one.

I'm still glad for the tape work. There's so much to learn. But most important is learning how to learn. I still feel like a wrestler, a submission wrestler at best, but still a wrestler at root. I'm sure it's just a semantic difference for many if not most. But for me, jiu jitsu is about taking what the opponent gives you--instead of attempting to dictate what move is next in a given attack. The latter just feels like what wrestlers do. And it is something I am trying to force myself away from.

I can hear in the occassional remarks from Rodrigo, or what Paul (the Brown) had to say about George (the Blue), the difference. Rodrigo has been exhorting us to move our bodies more, to rely less and less on upper body strength and to keep working for better and better position. He's right, of course, but I can't help but think it is a realization that just has to hit you while you are on the mat sometime. Intellectually, I can know what I'm supposed to do. But getting my body to do it is more than half the trick.

I was watching Eddie Bravo against Leo Veira the other night. (As much as I love Sherdog, I'm going to be spending more and more "message board time" over at the boards at jiujitsugear.com.) Although Veira was completely dominant and Bravo was derided for being a "buttscooter" with no top game, it was worth watching. If anything, I have precious little "bottom game" and watching Bravo try and ward off Veira was instructive--even in Bravo's failure.

Here's a link to the video from that fight.

Leo Veira v. Eddie Bravo

In other news, it looks like abhaya.ca is no longer providing those great clips of different training techniques. If I'd have been thinking about it, then I would have downloaded all those bad boys. But you tend to think that good things like that will always be around. Makes me feel like a schmuck for not PayPal-ing them a few rubles when it might have mattered. I'll have to remember that next time.