Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sweeps, Butterfly Locks and Taking the Back

Rodrigo seemed a bit testy tonight. We were having a tricky time following along with some of the techniques he showed us, and he seemed to take exception to the fact that the multi-technique moves were coming slower than he thought they should. Each to each, but it isn't so surprising to me that a class that's 80% white belts might have a hard time following a multi-step jiu jitsu sweep to reversal to armbar. Who knows? We all have better and worse days ...

Jesse Singh asked about an arm triangle type of move that Rodrigo started showing us before class. That turned into the drill for the first half-hour, Wednesday drill session. It was hard to follow for me. I'm pretty familiar with the basic arm triangle, the katagatame that Saulo Ribeiro shows in his video. But Rodrigo's move was atypically hard to copy.

In the "Mixed BJJ" class proper, Rodrigo had us work on two main techniques. The first was a sweep from the closed guard.
  • From the closed guard, reach across and grab the back of his right elbow with your right hand and hold his right wrist/cuff with your left hand.
  • Pull the arm so that the elbow is just to the other side of the middle of your chest. This part is similar to the way you set up the "quick" armbar attack, by the way.
  • Switch the elbow grip so that you are gripping the inside of the elbow. At the same time, reach around his back with your left arm and pull him close to you, trapping the arm further.
  • Bring your legs up as if to close the guard.
  • With your left arm wrapped around his back, and your legs and body trapping his right arm, reach under his left thigh with your right hand and hook it.
  • Now you are going to do the sweep. Rock back to bring his weight on top of you. The sweep is a "scissors" type sweep. To do this (I think), you first kick your left leg back toward your head. As you bring your left leg back down, swing your right leg over toward where your left leg was.
  • The momentum of the switching of legs should propel you relatively effortlessly over into the reversal.

    In order to go into the armbar, make sure that when you roll over, your right leg is knee up. That way, all you have to do is grab the trapped arm (or both arms) and pass the left leg. Fall back with the trapped arm (or both arms) into the armbar.

    I keep feeling as if there is a technique that he showed us before that one. But I can't for the life of me remember it, if so.

    Anyway, the last technique he showed us also had combinations involved. It was basically how to lock up a guy in a butterfly guard when he's trying to underhook your legs and pass your guard (say, after opening a closed guard or even after getting in close on an open guard).

  • Start in with feet on hips and grips on both sleeves under your legs (remember, the scenario is that the guy is trying to underhook both legs and toss them over to pass into side control.
  • Push on the hips and pull on the cuffs to get space and stretch the guy out a bit. Then shoot forward and, while sliding your hooks in, reach under his arms and grab (a) your own shins, (b) under his armpits, (c) under his arms. I like (b).
  • Pull him tight against your body with your head to the side (by his shoulder) and your hips back.
  • This should immobilize him relatively well. He shouldn't be able to stack or pass without being reversed because of the double underhooks and double hooks under his thighs.

    Now to turn this into a reversal move ...

  • Reach under and grab both cuffs. Step back on the hips to create space and stretch the guy out.
  • Take your right foot and slide it to hook under his right thigh (your left side).
  • Butt-hop over your left hand (which is gripping the right cuff) so that your arm is actually twisted behind you somewhat. That will bring the right side of his body lower.
  • Without releasing the left hand grip or removing the right foot hook, bring yourself around to his back. Don't release the left hand grip until you are almost in rear mount. Keep the right foot hook in place--it will make it easier to get the left foot hook on the other side.

    I need to review all of these on Saturday morning first thing. I might even take a notepad to make sure the "sticking" points are covered specifically.

    Sparring was fine. I rolled with Arnell and Bruce, as well as Robert the fall blue belt and Alex the new purple belt. Arnell is getting better and better fast; I need to step it up insofar as we both got two stripes at the same time. He trains a lot, I think, and is pretty dedicated. Bruce has missed some time, but his long legs make his guard very hard to deal with. I couldn't really pass it until time more or less ran out. I'm also trying not to use a whole lot of strength with Arnell and Bruce and to instead focus on technique.

    Looks like Monday, Wednesday and Saturday are my training days. No more "every other Saturday." I like it--with some time off between training--though a part of me wishes there was an open mat type thing I could do for just half an hour or 45 minutes where I could practice what I learned. Maybe I'll be able to get some of that in on Saturday before class actually starts.
  • Monday, February 20, 2006

    Rickson's Warm-up from "Choke"

    Watched Choke again the other night. Actually, I only made it as far as the first fight. It is interesting how the side characters in the movie: Todd Hayes, the Texas kickboxer who fights in order to make money to buy a bobsled to compete in the Winter Olympics; the Japanese fighter, Kimura; and the diminuitive Nakkai, who faces off against the champion Rickson Gracie in the finale--are almost as interesting in their smaller stories as Rickson is in his larger story. As with The Smashing Machine, the documentary truly trascends the sport. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that the sport--and its athletes--transcend the stereotypes and myths that surround it to show what a truly amazing sport it is.

    Anyway, I noted the warm-up/calisthenics that Rickson Gracie did on the beach in one scene in Choke. Since I'm forever creating workout routines, I thought this might be a nice one to add to the canon.

    Rickson's Pre Jiu jitsu Warm-up
  • Toe touch to Reach-for-the-Sky
  • Side bends
  • High knees
  • Shoulder shakes (slow)
  • Forward shoulder rolls
  • "Coming up to your knee" This drill is on pages 36-37 of Jean Jacques Machado's book.
  • Backward shoulder rolls
  • Low walking lunge (I could substitute with Cindy's single leg takedown drill.)
  • Shoulder shakes (fast)
  • "Coming up from side position" This drill is on pages 40-41 of Jean Jacques Machado's book.
  • Side rolls
  • Knees up bicycle ab switches (Substitution: leg lifts or Cindy's oblique switches)
  • Wrestler's drill (Substitution: Kid Peligro's square drill)
  • Crunches with legs spread
  • "Knockers"
  • "Hamstring Series"
  • "Breaststroke"

    Along with some stretches, I'm going to try and work this in as my pre-class warmup.
  • Saturday, February 18, 2006

    Saturday's Alright For Fightin'

    Small Saturday class: Arnell, Jesse Singh, Mario, Jeff the tall white belt from Ballard, Maggie (Megan?) a blue belt from Ballard, and Stephan the brown belt. Rodrigo was there but sick. So Stephan led us through some open guard drills and showed us a sweep combo from the open guard also. Then we did some sparring. I rolled with Mario, Arnell, Jesse, and Maggie.

    I want to write up the sweep combo before I forget it. Stephan showed it to me before class which was very cool of him. I'm always impressed at how willing the higher belts are to show us pointers--I think it really reflects well on jiu jitsu and Gracie Barra.

    Anyway, from open guard. You've got both sleeves and feet in the hips.
  • Reach over and switch grips so you've got his right cuff in your right hand.
  • Reach outside the ankle of his right leg and grip.
  • Hook your right foot under his left foot. Actually, it is more of a scissors sweep type motion. But getting the hook in place is a good idea.
  • Pull on the sleeve. Push his hip with your left foot. Pull his ankle with your left hand. Kick outward with your right foot.
  • As he falls back, be sure to keep the grip on the cuff. That will help pull you over on top or into side control.

    Here's the variation, or the second half of the combo. Say the guy steps back to avoid your grabbing his ankle. In the previous situation, you were leaning on your left hip.
  • Switch over to your right hip. Keep your foot in the hip, BUT ROTATE YOUR FOOT SO THAT THE TOES ARE POINTED IN NOT OUT.
  • Switch grips so that your left hand has his right cuff.
  • I'm not sure about this step. I think you hook the left ankle with your right hand.
  • If I'm right about that last move, then the sweep is to push with the left foot in the hip, and pull with the left hand on the cuff and the right hand on the ankle.

    The first sweep is a 3 to 1 sweep. You are pulling from three points and pushing to one to create the imbalance. The second sweep is a 2 to 1.

    Stephan said that sometimes you'll have to go back and forth before you catch the guy in one of the sweeps. Rotating back and forth between the two is a very good open guard drill.
  • Monday, February 13, 2006

    Some Days My Belt is Whiter Than Others

    And today was one of those days ...

    First day of a new morning workout: I get through the core and abs parts by 6:30 p.m. which means I've got to skip the legs and "push" trisets in order to get in at least a mile and half of cardio. Given the amount of time that I've got in the mornings, I think that core and abs and maybe the legs triset is probably going to be the best I can do if I want to do cardio every day.

    I won't get into the ever-frustrating world of options trading. That was how the bulk of my day might best be characterized ...

    Jiu Jitsu training. In the Level One part of the class we did two techniques: triangle from open guard and armbar from the guard. Both of these are part of The Fifteen, level one techniques.

    Triangle from open guard:
  • Start with a closed guard. Grab both sleeves and pull them to your chest.
  • Plant your left foot on the mat. Elbow escape hips back to the left.
  • Bring your left knee up so that the middle of your shin is across the inside of the elbow of his right arm.
  • Kick out with your left leg, attacking his neck with the crook of your leg.
  • At the same time, release your left hand grip and pull him toward you with your right hand grip.
  • With your left leg wrapped around the back of his neck, bring your right leg up to cinch the trap and complete the triangle.
  • Make sure the arm is pulled through. Pull down on the back of the head to tighten.

    Armbar from the guard:
    There are two variations, a three-step and a two-step

  • Grab left-side cuff and right-side collar
  • Step on the hip with your left foot.
  • Swing your right leg up and pummel him under his left armpit.
  • Bring your left leg up and over the head. Hook the leg down, wrapping it over his neck.
  • Pull the left-side cuff toward you and raise your hips to sink in the armlock.

  • Grab same-side wrist and reach across and pull in the elbow of that arm.
  • Quickly swing your right leg up and pummel him under his left armpit.
  • As your bring your left leg up and over the head, reach out with your left hand and keep his head back.
  • Bring the left leg down, hooking the leg over the neck.
  • Pull the arm through and raise your hips to sink in the armlock.

    In the drills part of the class we worked on a sweep to be used when somebody is trying the basic standing guard pass. The sweep actually looks a lot like Carlson Jr.s "jello guard."

    First the steps of the standing guard pass which, by the way, is also part of The Fifteen, Level One:
  • Inside the guard. Back straight. Hips forward. Eyes up.
  • Grab the cuff on one side. Step up with the leg on that side, keeping your elbows in.
  • Step up with the other leg. Stand with good posture, with one hand on the sleeve and the other hand on the knee on the opposite side.
  • Push down with the hand on the knee while simultaneously stepping back with your leg on the opposite side (the same side where you have the cuff).

    That's the basic standing guard pass. Now here is the sweep:
  • Reverse the grip on your trapped cuff by circling your wrist out and around. Take control of the grip on that side.
  • Hook the near leg out to in and grab the heel of the foot on that side.
  • Plant the foot on your other leg right above the knee.
  • Pull with the grip while pushing with the foot on the knee. You want to stretch him out, pulling him toward you slightly.
  • Lift up with the hook foot and the hand on heel and turn him toward the "grip" side.
  • Take him all the way over until the hook foot is flat on the floor. Maintain the grip all the way through the sweep.

    This is already a long post. So I won't spend too much time on the sparring. Class kind of disintegrated after Rodrigo had us two 2-minute back to back sessions. I started with Joe, then Jesse Singh, then Tommy, then Big Mike, then Griff, then Spencer the brown belt and last the purple belt who looks like Chris Leben.

    I wasn't especially impressed with anything I did. I couldn't stay out of Joe's guard for long, though I did spend some time in half-guard. Singh and Tommy were typical: Singh going for broke and Tommy just too much technically. I do like the fact that Tommy always fights from the guard first. Only the higher belts realize that it makes a lot more sense to fight lower belts from the guard as much as possible and Tommy is showing that he gets it. Rodrigo once told us that larger guys should work from the bottom when sparring. But nobody follows that.

    That means a lot of fights like my fights with Griff and Big Mike. I did manage to take Big Mike's back after he'd tapped me with an arm triangle. Griff passed my guard eventually, then passed my half-guard and got to side control. Eventually I gassed and he got mount. He tried a smother thing toward the end of our time, but I just decided I was tired of rolling with all these bigger guys and was going to refuse to tap. It was only two minutes, but I was saved by the bell.

    Spencer pointed out that I need to only to the double underhook guard pass when I've got the legs over my shoulders. If I just wrap my arms around bent legs, then he can just straighten them out and it's triangle time.

    The Chris Leben guy is a nice matchup size-wise. He helped me out during that sweep of the guard pass. I wouldn't mind if he kept coming to the Southside; I overheard him telling Singh that he prefered training with Rodrigo over training with Micah. So maybe we'll see more of him. He caught me in a couple of inverted armbars, two identical armbars back to back (reminded me of when Alex did that). It only underscores the point:

    You've GOT to PASS THE GUARD

    Otherwise you're just a sitting duck, and the better the guy the more likely he is to just fire submission attempt after sweep after submission attempt ... until you make a mistake. Getting caught in triangles they way I do is almost definitely because I'm not working aggressively enough to pass the guard.

    Felt really kind of shitty after training, but I'm feeling better blogging it out a bit. Jesus, my first day after getting two stripes and I stink up the joint! Not really. But let's hope Wednesday has me feeling better about how I did.

    By the way, wore the new platinum weave Gameness to class for the first time. I could feel the difference between it and the Gamness single. The platinum weave id definitely heavier and doesn't breathe, as well. But otherwise it felt just fine--especially the pants, which were easy to put on for a change. The jacket was a little roomy, but I don't mind.
  • Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Two Stripe White

    I got two stripes today, a little under six months after training.

    It was a nice event. Alex, the Asian blue belt from Ballard, got a deserved purple belt. Abel got two stripes added to his purple. Tom got his blue belt, as I thought he would.

    Griff and Arnell also got two stripes added to their white belts. Jesse got three added to his. I suspect Jesse will be the next blue belt from the Southside if he continues his current training pace. The guy from Lake Stevens that he beat to win first place in the last tournament was there with his new blue belt.

    And Joe got a blue belt. That has got to be huge for him. I don't think he's training with anywhere near the frequency he'd prefer (but who is?), but this is a nice milestone after a lot of work.

    I'd been against stripes. But it's kind of nice to look over and see that belt with the black patch with two white stripes hanging from the weight bench. I'm using it as a motivational tool.

    I suspect that some of the guys who weren't there, like Mike, Mario, maybe Brian would have gotten stripes. Maybe they'll get them the next time they show up in class.

    I'm spending a little Saturday early evening time with Cesar Gracie's Instructional. Volume 2 is all about attacking from the guard, and insofar as that's my weakest area, I thought I'd see what Cesar had to say.

    The biggest thing I've picked up is about the step on hip issue--which has been plaguing me for weeks. What I'm finally starting to realize is that in large part, the stepping on the hip is part of a multi-part plan to do at least two things:

    --contribute to the trap of the arm on that side, specifically to prevent him from pulling his arm back once it's been trapped.

    --provide leverage in a pivot: hips toward the step side, upper body toward the other side. Most of the time, you'll also be bringing up the opposite leg to pummel the underside of the arm, forcing his body over toward the step side.

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    Notes on the Mount and the Guard

    Mount Game

    From mount, I feel like I’ve got a complete suite of options. Jesse the Blue showed me his kimura from mount, which I can use if the guy has his arm down by his side—for example, if he is blocking me from bringing my knees up deep under his arms. Jesse pointed out how even if you get bumped, if you’ve got the kimura locked in you’ll still be in good shape. Ideally, if he’s still on his back when you’re sinking in the kimura, then you’ll want to step over his head (stepping over to the kimura side) and slowly crank the kimura back.

    My other options are the arm triangle, keylock/Americana, cross choke and armbar suite. The arm triangle is ideal if he keeps his arms up high to defend against the kimura or the choke. The choke is, of course, a good way to bring his arms into play for an armbar or even a straight keylock. The armbar is a good variation if he is fighting off the arm triangle and his arm is just waving out there.

    I need to remember that mount can be tricky to maintain. Be ready to switch into the "technical mount" or S-mount and work the armbar/choke combination from there.

    Guard Game

    This is by far my weakest area. I’m having a hard time moving in the guard, and still don’t really "get" the concept of stepping on the hip. Actually, I think I’m starting to get it conceptually. But I haven’t been able to actually apply any of it in a real sparring situation.

    From the guard, you must break your opponent’s posture.

    Given the way that most guys are fighting me—with incredibly solid posture and taking few risks to pass my guard—this is vitally important. The most effective way to break the posture is—as Saulo Ribeiro says—to change the angle. Stepping on the hip is all about changing the angle of your body and the angle of your attack.

    If I step on the hip with my left foot and pivot my body to my right, then I might be able:

    --to trap his arm on my right side, hook my right leg under his armpit and apply an omoplata.

    --to armbar the arm on my left side, by pulling that arm toward me as I pivot, underhooking him with my right leg, and swinging my left leg over his head

    --to get better leverage to cross choke by grabbing the opposite collar with my right hand and the opposite shoulder with my left, turning my palms up as much as possible, and curling my wrists and bringing them toward my chest

    --to trap his arm on my right side, reach over with my left arm and apply a kimura.

    Stepping on the hip also creates distance, perhaps to stand up, or to switch to an open guard like the butterfly or spider guard. Right now, those two guards are more "sweeping" guards than attack guards. But being able to switch from closed to open guards is a skill worth developing.

    Watching some top fighters in the guard, it also seems important to be able to launch guard attacks from both sides—-i.e., stepping on both hips and attacking both arms/shoulders. Again, you want to break the posture, to get him to commit to one side or the other. You can’t do that if you only attack one side.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Passing the Knees

    We've been working some moves to pass the knees in the last few classes. This is something for after a takedown, or maybe even after breaking open a closed guard. We worked a pass where you gripped the pants inside the knees, then stepped with your left leg so as to block his right leg with your shin. At the same time, you went into a backstep with your right leg, then switched to side control.

    We also worked moving to the other side in case the guy rolls into your legs when you try to block with the shin. In this case, you step over with your right leg and do a backstep with your left leg. Slide into south-facing side control, locking the hips.

    Last class (Wednesday, February 1st) we worked a pair of knee passes. One was very basic and just involved pushing the knee down and stepping through with your inside leg. Rodrigo highlighted the idea of twisting your hips as you planted the step-through foot, sort of opening your hips up to the north, to make it easier to then slip into side control.

    The other technique we learned is something that really might come in handy. It's a way of passing the knees on the ground. From between the knees, you want to swim in: head into his hip, your left arm over and between his knee and his body to grab the pant cuff, your right hand under the other leg to grab the belt. Lock in this position. Then tripod up, working your left leg as close to his near leg as possible. Then backstep with your right leg--keeping your weight on his hips and your grips tight--and slide into side control.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Carlson Gracie: 1938-2006

    One of the greatest teachers and champions of Brazilian jiu jitsu and no-holds-barred fighting has died. Carlson Gracie was 72.

    The list of fighters Carlson Gracie trained his staggering: Rey Diogo, Marcelo Alonso, Mario Sperry ... Stephan Bonnar, a popular fighter from the Spike TV reality show, The Ultimate Fighter is a Carlson Gracie purple belt. Bonnar spoke about the death of his teacher in an audio interview with MMA Weekly.

    My wife had just bought me Carlson Gracie's book, For Experts Only for Christmas. It is filled with a number of excellent techniques and tips, many with Carlson himself demonstrating them. He is truly one of the art's greatest practitioners.

    Here's a tribute from friends and family of Carlson Gracie from Gracie Mag.