Monday, July 31, 2006

N/S Guillotine ... The Monson Choke

I've heard it called the "vice choke", a mere "neck crank", a reverse guillotine, a north/south guillotine ... But most MMA fans think of it as the Monson Choke, the choke that Jeff Monson, ADCC veteran and UFC heavyweight contender, used to put Brandon Lee Hinckle to sleep.

The Monson Choke

Here's a breakdown of that choke, including set-up, from Donald Park aka "RGDA Ohio" at my favorite jiu jitsu message board at Jiu Jitsu Gear
This choke has nothing to do with strength.

Much like a proper RNC, it's not about squeezing the bicep. Squeezing / flexing you bicep to "crank" the choke turns this into a crank, which is much easier to resist / withstand.

I show this move a lot in my no-gi classes, though it works equally well with or without the gi(as most moves do).

(1) From passing the guard or from holding cross side, reach around the back his neck with your arm and cup your hand underneath his chin. either pass to cross side, or if he is in cross side already, remain there.

(2) Put your other, non cupping hand next to his hip so he cannot recover guard and drive your weight into his hip with your shoulder (I usually put the leg that's near his head up on the foot to drive). This will lift your opponent's head off the ground.

(3) When your opponent's head lifts off the ground, wrap deep around his neck with your cupping arm and (while keeping your other hand next to his hip on the ground to prevent guard recovery) walk to north south.

(4) Grab your hands together as if you're going for a guillotine (I call this choke the N-S guillotine, btw) and put your head either on his chest, or on the near side of it.

(5) Here are the keys to finishing: (A) you must be very flat to the ground (B)you must place your hip right next to his head. (C) it doesn't really matter if his near arm is inside your guillotine or not. In fact, I have more success finishing when his arm is inside my guillotine. The only thing you can't allow re: his arm is for his hand / elbow to be blocking your non choking foream. (i.e., if your non choking arm doesn't wrap around his armpit, but instead wraps over his forearm, then he can resist and the choke won't work. . . but the armbar is right there in that scenario).

To finish, simply SLIDE your body down and away from his head, keeping your hips flat. Continually adjust your hips such that you push his head (with your hip) away from you, constantly keeping him in a straight line. RELAX!!!!! and do not squeeze too hard, simply keep a tight lock and let your body movement lower your bicep on to his neck. This becomes a VERY tight choke and is very effective.

You'll notice that Monson did his choke with the arm outside of his guillotine grip. You'll also notice that Monson continually slid down and adjusted his hip towards Hinkle's head to keep Hinkle straight (keeps your opponent on his back and also tightens the choke).

That's our choke from north-south. I've now got choke attacks for every position from the top--including the Kron Gracie Lynch choke from half guard. Now let's see about putting this stuff into practice over the next few weeks.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Infamous Clock Choke

... courtesy of Abhaya

Clock Choke

And how it got that way ... courtesy of Wallid Ishmael

Royce Gracie v.s. Wallid Ishmael

Arm Bar from Side Control

Here's another way of doing an armbar attack from side control. The typical spinning method has you using the north side arm as a post to help swing your around. It is sort of like the Saulo Ribeiro S-mount move.

This one has you trap the arm with your north side arm, then crawl around to north-south before moving into the armbar position.

Alternative Arm Bar from Side

Elbow Escape from Mount

I'm okay at escaping the mount using the Gracie Brothers, upa-and-roll "pole vault" method. But I'm lousy at using a simple elbow escape. Here's a primer.

Mount Escape to Guard

Baseball Choke

One worth adding to the arsenal ...

Baseball choke

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Love Song of J. Alfred Guard-Passer

... courtesy of Sly and the Family Stone

In the end you'll still be you
One that's done all the things you set out to do
There's a cross for you to bear
Things to go through if you're going anywhere
For the things you know are right
It s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight
All the things you want are real
You have you to complete and there is no deal
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
You've been sitting much too long
There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong
There's a midget standing tall
And the giant beside him about to fall
Stand. stand, stand
Stand. stand, stand
They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you're saying makes sense and all
Don't you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be

Stand, stand, stand

One And One Makes Four and Three

0-1, 1-1, 2-0, 1-1 = 4-3 or .571

Copa Northwest 7 ... I win my first match on points. Lose my second match by armbar with (allegedly) twenty seconds left. They tell me I was ahead 2-0 before getting submitted.

Insert "Dean Scream" here.

The guy who runs the Machado Spokane (Bartinho) school talks beaucoup merde while I'm rolling. He pretty much calls me out for stalling, insisting to his guys that I'm just "riding out the clock." Hardly. The problem is more like shock: I just get mentally lost. You could freeze the action and have Alex Tribeck step into the frame and quiz me on exactly what I should be doing at any given moment in the fight and I'd get 9 out of 10 right. But en media res? I'm hopeless.

"What is 'Standing Guard Pass'?"

Thinking back on what I wrote in "Unhooking," I don't even think that it is laziness so much as a lack of confidence. Interestingly, Tommy (who did a great job of coaching me from the sidelines, especially in my first match) made the point that I need to just go ahead and do the "basic" standing guard pass and not worry so much about getting swept. His point was that in training we're moving slower and it's probably easier to catch a guy with a sweep who isn't going 100% to pass your guard.

Anyway, my loss can be attributed almost exclusively to my sad performance in the guard. Like I joked to somebody afterward, I'd almost rather be in mount or side control. Mamazinho seemed none too pleased that I'd lost the fight with only a few seconds to go and I can't blame him. It kills me that I actually got free from the armbar that caught me--only to get re-caught. I suppose I should feel glad that I'm not being outclassed on the mat by other white belts. But given the fact that I know EXACTLY what I'm SUPPOSED to do in order to pass the guard, yet still can't get myself to do it, is pretty sobering, or depressing, or just fucked up.

I also need to be more active from the top. Mamazinho was reffing my first match and called out for more "movement" more than once. And I already mentioned Bartinho's comments. Bartinho, I should mention, did shake my hand after the fight--which I appreciated. And I suppose his comments stung because they felt true. I still do jiu jitsu like a wrestler, which is annoying because I was never that much of a wrestler. So what's my excuse?

I'll do some more postgame in a later post. It really was a great day of jiu jitsu. Four of us white belts from Gracie Barra Seattle competed: Lindsey went 1-1, with a great triangle choke win in his first fight. Joe the wrestler won his first match. And Dave lost a tough fight. Our blue belts did really well: Clint won first place in the 147-158 blue belt, and Casey shared first place in the 159-171 division with Shawn Wilson who was back from Texas, I think. Shawn also was in an awesome, heavyweight no-gi match with A.J. from Demon Jiu Jitsu that he lost by a takedown. The other Sean, the tall blue belt, got second--losing to A.J. also. Like I said, a great day of fights--even if there was a little disappointment on my end.

Oh, and I almost forgot about Maggie, who had to fight with the fellas because there weren't any blue belt women. She lost her match, but really looked pretty good. I swear there were sweep opportunities, especially scissor sweep opportunities, that I think she could have gotten that would have given her the win. But that's easy for me to say.

I really have only a few goals for the next tournament in the fall. The first, surprise surprise, is to make the basic Gracie Barra standing guard pass like my religion. I need to hit that pass EVERY SINGLE TIME I'M IN THE GUARD FOR THE NEXT SIX WEEKS. Maybe I'll make myself do 100 pushups or something if I don't. But it is so obvious that at this level, passing the guard successfully is as close to a key to victory as anything I could imagine. To tell the truth, that's probably true at all levels--making it all the more reason for me to drill that guard pass as if my (jiu jitsu) life depended on it.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I'm about as bad at passing the guard as I am escaping from rear mount. By "bad" I mean mostly that I'm not consistent and don't have a plan. I know a bunch of techniques, but I don't really have a plan for when I actually find myself in that situation.

With regard to passing the guard, the issue is a certain laziness. There's a certain amount of effort I need to make to make the guard passes I know work. But I always stop short of fully committing to the move. It reminds me--uncomfortably--of those guys like Roscoe back in my TKD/PKA days. Roscoe was a brown belt, an older guy, but with pretty good jabs and kicks. But he did not like getting hit. And it didn't take much to get him throwing those very same pretty good jabs and kicks from his heels if you caught him a time or two in the chops.

I won't come to the jiu-jitsu equivalent of that. But I do have to realize that there is a certain amount of risk that reward requires.

With regard to escaping rear mount, on the other hand, the issue is more technique. So here's a thought or two getting rid of the hook.

I think the drive to the shoulder of the side where the hook to be removed is--say, rolling to your right to remove the right hook--is to create a lever of the hooking leg, making the lower leg easier to bend at the knee.

If you're on your back and you try to remove a hook, it's just your arm strength against his leg strength. That's a battle you don't want to even bother fighting, let alone losing.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Demolition Man

"I'm a walking nightmare, an arsenal of doom
I kill conversation as I walk into the room
I'm a three line whip, I'm the sort of thing they ban
I'm a walking disaster, I'm a demolition man ..."


A little under a year of training and I finally end up putting somebody out of commission.

We were doing takedown-only line sparring. I’d been through a few times. My takedowns aren’t great, but they are better than average and I’m not an easy guy to take down either. I’ve got a pretty low center of gravity, good strength and balance.

Anyway, I had just managed to throw Brandon the judo guy. He says he was exhausted—and I believe him. But it was still nice to get a throw—not a single-leg, not a double-leg, but an actual throw—on him. So I stayed and he went back into the line.

Next up was this new white belt, probably a weight class below mine. He looked a little nervous and tentative, as most new white belts do. I didn’t think it would be hard to take him down at all and, since I’d just thrown a judo guy, I thought he would probably be pretty susceptible to the same thing.

Well, yes and no. I managed to get grip on his sleeve and my other arm free. I stepped through and reverse pivoted, swinging my free arm under his “trapped” arm. I didn’t catch him at first, so I “seionaged it” by dropping to the mat to roll him. Trouble was, he didn’t roll and instead just sort of collapsed under me to avoid going over my shoulder.

I fell on him. When I heard him cry out, I looked down and thought it was his ankle that he’d hurt. But as it turned out, it was his knee. Rodrigo and Mamazinho checked him out, then Maggie the Blue (who has some sort of medical experience or something) followed up. He was done for the evening. They iced it, and later I helped him out of the academy into the SUV of another new white belt who was giving him a ride home.

The guy had a pretty good spirit about it, saying “it’s part of the game.” I felt really shitty and uninspired afterwards. I rolled with Clint and Robert (both blue belts) while the injured guy was on the sidelines waiting for the class to end, but it was pretty uninspired rolling on my part. I managed to fight off a Clint triangle. Robert caught me with a cross choke toward the end of our five minutes. I don’t think the sparring would have gone any differently. But I just didn’t feel any fire.

These things happen in this sport. A part of me is glad that at least the guy wasn’t preparing for the tournament next week. But another part of me is worried that since the guy just started, getting what is probably a significant ACL or MCL injury might keep him from coming back. I know that new students are a crapshoot in terms of sticking with it. But I hate to feel as if I’ll play a negative role as he ponders his return.

Very much appreciated Maggie telling me not to be too upset about what happened. I remember when Mario got his knee fucked up that Saturday months ago. The guy he was rolling with definitely felt bad about it and I don’t think I’ve seen him since (he wasn’t a regular, anyway, though).

I suspect we’ll be warned to be careful the next time we do takedown sparring. I know that Mamazinho is just trying to get us ready for the tournament. I want to keep working throws because I think my balance is superior to most of the guys I’m likely to fight. But I’m guessing Mamazinho will be emphasizing the single and double-leg takedowns from now until next Saturday.

In other news, I finally nailed that reversal from the scarf hold while doing side control drills with Brandon who, as a judo guy, seems more comfortable with the scarf hold than the traditional jiu jitsu side control. On the negative side, I don’t do well escaping from mount. I can do the Gracie Brothers upa move pretty well. But elbow escaping out of the mount—as a lot of guys are able to do with me—is something I’m still terrible at. I need to work on that, if only to set up the Gracie Brothers upa escape.

Back to the mat Tuesday night. The capoeira folks will be there with their drums and spinning limbs. Might be just the tonic I need to get my mind back on track.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rant with Jiu Jitsu Notes

I’m in a massively unenthusiastic mood at present. The market is tanking, and taking my options positions with it. I’m being turned into a hack writer at the office (though there’s some daylight in the form of some ghost writing work I might be able to snag). I live in a country run by the most corrupt, cynical, self-serving son of a bitches imaginable. As the saying goes, I could go on …

A brief aside. I am amazed at people’s tendency to self-promote. I tend to be pretty modest about my accomplishments—such as they are—when talking with other people. You’ll never see me stroll up to somebody and just start talking to him or her about some wonderful thing going on in my life. Why presume that the other person gives a fuck? Why run around looking for people to pat you on the head and tell you how great you are? But that’s how people are, I suppose—and why I can’t stand them.

Fortunately, I’ve got jiu jitsu. Among the myriad graces that jiu jitsu gives us is its thoroughness. When you’re hyperextending somebody’s arm, or choking them to the edge of consciousness, nobody needs to tell you how good you are. It’s obvious. No bullshit. And if there is bullshit, you break their arm or put them to sleep. Talk about your doctrine of infallibility!

Anyway, I want to recap some of the techniques that Mamazinho has been showing us. He does an excellent job of starting with a basic position—side control, the guard—and then showing variations on escapes, sweeps and submissions that can all be applied from that basic position. I take nothing away from Rodrigo—who did much the same thing when he was doing most of the teaching. But insofar as I really didn’t know very much about Mamazinho and his teaching style until only that past few months, I have to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

This week, Mamazinho has been showing us ways to counter when a guy stands up in your guard. The first technique was a sweep. The guy stands up in your guard looking to pass. You open your guard a bit and bring your knees in together. At the same time, you grab behind both of his ankles. Pull on his ankles as you push out with your hips. This should sweep the guy directly backwards.

Now, you need to get superior position. The guy will always try and come back to the top, usually by planting a hand behind him and pushing himself up. What you want to do is to plant your hand behind you—same side that he is planting—and reach over and across to grab the wrist of his “planting hand”. Use his weight to pull you to the top, while also making it hard for him because you’ve grabbed his “planting hand.”

Here’s a variation. Sometimes, in the heat of a fight, they guy will make the mistake of trying to push you back in the chest with his other hand. This leaves him vulnerable to an armbar. I’ll use “left/right” language to make sure the variation is clear.

You get the sweep. He reached to post with his left hand (your right side) and tries to push your chest back with his right hand as you are coming up. Grab his wrist with your left hand and swing your left leg over. You want to put his left arm between your legs, and hook the top of your foot on his neck. It is basically an inverted armbar. You don’t need much torque to get the submission from here. Pull up gradually on the wrist to apply the lock.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Notes from Promotion Day

I was watching Jesse the Purple during the King of the Guard drills on Saturday. I was sort of surprised to watch him do the basic, Gracie Barra standing guard pass. It's just another reminder that the basics are called "the basics" for a reason: they work.

I need to simplify my game over the next three weeks going into the tournament at the end of the month. One main guard pass. One main finish from on top. One main escape from side control. One main attack/sweep series from the guard. One main takedown. One main finish from the back. One main escape from the back.

The best way to get good quickly is to become master of a few techniques, as I've said before. That will allow you to compete against guys who are much better than you overall, and allow you to improve on other parts of your game at the same time. In other words, because opponents will have to "double team" your best techniques, your other lesser techniques will more open.

So, those six things: guard pass/guard attack-sweep series, finish from top/escape from side control, escape from rear mount/finish from back ... Pick just one technique to respond to each situation, and practice, practice, practice ...

Here's the current Cliff Notes version of the Q3 06 gameplan:

Guard Pass: Cuff, collar, stand on cuff side first, turn sideways and press knee on cuff side as you step back

Guard Attack/Sweep Series: Crossover sweep/omoplata OR spider guard triangle/omoplata/sweep

Escape from Side Control: THROAT, SWIM, WALK, FLAT, PULL, BOOM!

Finish from Top: Side control to mount or S-mount with collar choke/armbar finish OR keylock/armbar finish

Escape from Back: Protect the Neck, then DUCK, SHUCK, SPIN IN

Finish from the Back: Winding choke with collar and half nelson

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Four Stripe White

We had a belts and stripes promotion this morning. I thought there was a decent chance I'd get another stripe, and a fair chance that I wouldn't. On the one hand, I won first place at the Pacific Northwest Jiu Jitsu championship. On the other hand, I've been out with injuries for half of the time since, and haven't exactly looked like a wonder on the mat ...

So what do I get? Two stripes. I'm now a four stripe white belt.

The significance of that, of course, is that the next promotion for me is to blue belt.

I was stunned when Rodrigo and Mamazinho called me up. They had the class do the "king of the guard" drill for quite a while, then the promotions, then the picture. It really makes me all the more motivated to have a good month and perform well at the Copa at the end of the month. I don't want to put a lot of pressure on myself. But I know that I've got the positioning skills to win. Now I need to add finishing skills in order to take things to the next level.

And we now know that the next level is blue.

Lindsey also got four stripes--he's only started a few months ago, but he's progressed really quickly. Jeff (Helicopter Jeff) got his blue belt, which I think was a surprise to him. Jesse the Blue is now Jesse the Purple, which is also very cool. Angela got her blue belt today also. Very good for her.

Oh, and Eric Dahlberg from Demon Jiu Jitsu got his black belt. I know it had been a point of some contention because Dahlberg has spent a LOT of time away from the gi training MMA fighters (including Ivan Salaverry, I suspect, who was there taking pictures and running around with his very pregnant wife ...) But Mamazinho decided that the time had come. It isn't as if Dahlberg doesn't have the skills--nobody doubts that. The issue has been his commitment to the gi and to Gracie Barra Seattle. I guess Mamazinho and Rodrigo were satisfied. Good for him.

I did "The Widow" cardio workout this morning before heading over ...

2.28 miles / 9.1 laps
36:21 minutes
349 cal / 109 fat cal
1 lap silent 3.5 at 3.5 incline
4 laps 3.8 at 3.5 incline
3.5 laps 3.8 at 8 incline
0.5 laps 4.0 flat

Pretty nice grind. It felt like broken field running after about the third or fourth lap. I've gone back and forth about whether or not I should do cardio in the mornings, and I still haven't decided which.

But the four stripe white thing has me more than a little motivated to consider putting an AM Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday routine together of alternating "The Widow" and DB complex workouts. We'll see what I come up with. The tournament is three weeks from today.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Free Your Ass ...

and your mind will follow?

If Rickson Gracie made famous his inversion of the saying, "go with the flow" by saying that jiu jitsu at its highest and purest is, instead, the ability to "flow with the go," then why can't I invert the classic line from George Clinton of the 1970s funk band, Funkadelic to suggest that sometimes in jiu jitsu the battle is won or lost by virtue of your ability to "free your ass"?

I'm doing a little homework, and noticing that so much of jiu jitus involves putting your hips in the right place to secure superior leverage versus your opponent. Consider the escape from the scarf hold. You want to get your hips under his hips in order to "twist back" the guy the other way.

I'm trying to train myself to escape side control with the mantra: THROAT, SWIM, WALK, FLAT, PULL, BOOM! All of those steps are important. But one key is the WALK step where, after getting the underhook, you "walk" your legs away from the side control pin in order to get your hips out from under his pressure.

Your hips aren't pinned in side control, but your upper body is. And that limits your ability to move your hips. So you've got to "walk" away in order to FREE YOUR ASS ...

Even the guard replacement drill that Mamazinho showed us involves the FREE YOUR ASS principle. When the guy is passing your guard, you want to get your ass out of there by elbow escaping in the opposite direction.

Anyway, that's my breakthrough discovery. Next up, the DON'T BLOCK THE BODY theorem ...

Day Three of the Q3 Gameplan, OR

Why I Suck at Jiu Jitsu ...

Truly, it is easier to write that having won first place at the Pacific Northwest Jiu Jitsu Championships in April. But three days into the new practice gameplan, I'm still feeling as if the time between those tournament wins and the present is a chasm of lost skill and forgotten technique.

Intellectually, I know that's not necessarily the case. I did miss a total of four weeks between now and the end of April due to a pair of injuries that did limit my mobility and ability to use my legs. Arguably what I'm suffering from is a combination of old bad habits I wasn't likely to break anytime soon, with the added handicap of a strained/torn hip adductor muscle (read: groin).

But enough of this. On to the reasons I suck at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!

1. Cannot break posture of opponent in guard.
2. Cannot pass the guard.
3. Cannot reverse from side control without using strength when on bottom.
4. Cannot submit from side control when on top.
5. Cannot prevent guard from being passed once opened.

There's more to be sure, more specific problems. But these are the big five.

Fortunately, I've got solutions to these problems. The trick for the next few weeks before the next tournament on July 29th is to fanatically dedicate myself to applying those solutions to these problems. I could argue that if I can get past these five problems, then the path to blue belt will be a lot smoother. But that's getting ahead of myself. Right now, I want to fix these problems in order to do better against the blue belts that have been a steady diet ever since I came back from the hip adductor injury.


1. Cannot break posture of opponent in guard.
If all else fails, CROSS-OVER SWEEP

2. Cannot pass the guard.

3. Cannot reverse from side control without using strength when on bottom.

4. Cannot submit from side control when on top.

5. Cannot prevent guard from being passed once opened.
USE THE GUARD REPLACEMENT DRILL: If the guy is coming to your right side, escape your hips to the left and then swing that same "plant" leg up over his head and across his body to rest on the opposite shoulder. Hook the body, butterfly style, with the other leg/foot.

Easy as all that ... See you on the mat.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Day Two of the Q3 Gameplan

Not a bad class tonight. In sparring, I managed an escape to half-guard from side control just as Peligro showed it. I also managed to hit that guard replacement move that Mamazinho showed us (another one that is in The Essential Guard) when sparring Robert, the tall blue belt.

I want to focus on that in particular. I didn't have guys take my side much tonight compared with the past few weeks. If I can get that guard replacement switch down, that might keep them at bay.

I did too much lay and pray against Jeff. He finally reversed the pin, but I had top control on him for much too long without making an effective attack. I kept going for the choke, but he was wrapped up tight. I even had mount for a period of time and couldn't get anything done. There was a brief flash where I could have grabbed an arm and armbarred him again. But I watched that flash rather than become it.

Reminds me of that point Rickson makes about "great fights" being those fights in which one fighter spots a weakness in his opponent, exploits it immediately and wins the fight decisively. A moment happens. And greatness is the ability to seize that moment. Guys who train with Rickson often say the same thing: they roll around for awhile, many times long enough for the guy to probably start feeling pretty good about himself. Then Rickson "starts submitting" him. Over and over and over as if he'd figured out "the trick" to defeating the guy and the guy doesn't even realize it. He just knows that he's being killed on the mat.

What's so cool about Rickson's approach is that it puts a premium on technical knowledge. And that knowledge is the exploitation of leverage. If ever something were to be called "the force" for real ...

At any rate, for all the moments I spend on top, I still need to work on my guard. That part of the gameplan is really lagging. I've still not yet tried a full-hearted crossover sweep ...

Remember. From the guard, cuff out collar down to set up the omoplata. Alternate with cuff in collar down to set up arm-stuff triangle or even scissors sweep toward the stuffed side. If you can't break the posture, then tug hard on the collar as a posture-breaking feint, then drive him backward with the crossover sweep.

Two Escapes from Scarf Hold

I've got two escapes from scarf hold. Monday night, Brandon the judo guy put me in scarf hold (or kesa gatame as the judokas call it) and then caught me with an armbar when I extended my trapped arm and he was able to pin it between his legs.

Mamazinho showed me a solid counter to the scarf hold pin--one that is also published in my judo book on pages 110-111. The escape is exactly the same. Here's how "Judo" Gene LeBell describes it:
If your opponent has you in Kesa Gatame ... and you have your arms around his waist, grab his belt. Push his belt away from your body to your upper right. Lift him at the waist. When his hips are off the ground, shove your right knee under his body ... Pull your opponent close to your body at the belt while shifting him from your right to left side by a strong pull downward and to the left with your left hand and push off strongly with your right foot ... Keep on pulling until you are on your stomach and your opponent is on his back ... From this position, you may go into a hold down of your own.

The other escape is one that Angela showed me--though I've seen it at If the Mamazinho/LeBell version is good for when the guy on top keeps his posture low, then Angela's version is good for when the guy on top keeps his posture high.

Mamazinho and LeBell have you get your hips close to the guy on top. Angela's version has you get some distance by walking your hips away from the pin (away from the top guy's legs). Then turn your hips into him, throwing your far leg over his head--almost as if you were setting up a googoplata. As you straighten your body and extend your leg, you will create space--and probably break his hold insofar as your leg is across his neck (or least his chin) and creating a lot of pressure.

In order to get the guy's head into range for the "leg-over", use your forearm on your far arm to push his head back. If you can grab the far shoulder and bring your forearm across the neck/face, so much the better. Try to turn his head away from you, which will make it easier to you to surprise him with the leg-over.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Monday's class was a relatively light class. Throws for warm-up. Then a guard replacement drill that I had a hard time catching. Fortunately, it is one of the guard replacement drills in Peligro's The Essential Guard on page 48-49.

You are defending an attempt to stack you. You've got one leg up and over the shoulder, and the other leg butterflied out (knee out) with the hook on that foot on the other side of the body. Both of your feet are on the same side.

Release the hook and kick that leg out to the side. You will elbow escape to that side.

At the same time, bring your up leg down, sliding the hook on that leg on the other side of his torso just above the waist. You're basically sliding it down his face, down his chest to his belly.

After you escape your hips to the side (the butterflied side), swing that leg up and over the other side of the guy's head.

Back and forth you go.

The important thing is the first step, which is to release the body hook and plant that leg out to the side in preparation for a deep elbow escape in that direction. Slide the upper leg down and hook it into place. Then swing the other leg up and over, crossing his face.

I had a tricky time with this one, so I didn't get to practice the next step that Mamazinho was showing the blue belts. I was probably going too fast with Jeff. I'll have to make sure I slow it down next time.

On a similar note, Rodrigo mentioned me working with some of the beginning white belts from time to time. I don't know if it is because I've been struggling in sparring or because of my injuries or what. I want to be prepared for the tournament on the 29th, but I may take him up on his offer.

My biggest "problem" in sparring is letting guys get to my side in the beginning. Basically, I'm lousy at pulling guard. I think I need to be closer when I drop down so that the guy doesn't have as much room to maneuver and set up a pass. Brandon the judo guy caught me in an armbar from scarf hold and then had a kimura on me from the guard that had me feeling like Royler against Sakuraba. I managed to get top position a few times. But couldn't finish him.

I rolled with Mario's friend, Jeff. A strong guy, at least two weight divisions higher than me. Very hard to control from the top. I managed to catch him with a choke and an armbar that I applied too quickly. But it was a real struggle all the way.

I rolled with Casey, and did better this time around--mostly in terms of overall aggression. His advice this time was to "defend everything" ... He went for a few collar chokes that I didn't defend well, which I've got a tendency to do since there is so much "grey area" in most of the chokes I get caught in.

Last I had a short roll with Cindy, who's working her way back from neck surgery. She was no-gi and not being able to use head control against her didn't give me a tremendous amount of options--not that it would have mattered. She caught me in a couple of things: a choke, an armbar, an omoplata and a wristlock. But I think I made it at least worth her while.

As far as Day One of the gameplan was, I'd give it a gentleman's C. I tried one omoplata against Brandon, and it was pretty much more of a sweep. I did get a scissors sweep on him. I wasted too much time on top with Jeff instead of going for the submission early.

The fact of the matter is that my most effective submission has been the armbar from the mount. I don't do it anywhere near perfectly, but if I'm in the mount and your arms go vertical, I'm going to slap an armbar down rapidinho.

That's how something becomes part of a competition gameplan. As much as I wanted to make chokes and shoulder locks the staple of my game, that armbar from the mount is my best submission. I need to work on the far-side armbar (the one with the wrap) and the Cindy (the keylock transition to armbar) and include them as my main finishing moves. Because I seem to be able to work those better than anything else.

So I'll make a post about escapes from side control (Peligro's hook method) and escapes from scarf hold (Mamzinho's Twist Back-style reversal and Angela's Leg Over). But I need to work on not getting caught in side control in the first place.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Brabo Choke

Marcio Feitosa of Gracie Barra shows the brabo choke. There is a gi version, but his explanation of that is still too confusing. The no-gi version is much more straightforward to me.

The brabo is a nice finishing move after you've rolled using the counter to the bear hug guard pass. As soon as you roll over into the side position, push down on the head and reach under with the inside arm to start the brabo.

The coup de gras is to pull upward with the inside shoulder, using your outside shoulder and arm to keep you in place.

The Game Plan Q3 2006

The Game Plan Q2 2006 was mostly an exercise in creating a gameplan. That, plus injuries (groin, lower lat) made it pretty much academic: worthwhile, but ultimately impractical.

The Q3 (July, August, September) version will be shorter and more concise. I'll have one major attack from the bottom (the omoplata) with everything else being either a sweep or a set-up for the omoplata (or both).

From the top, to quote Saulo Ribeiro, "I always go for the choke." Collar chokes, winding chokes from the back, brabo chokes from the side ... My signature choke will be the Mamazinho north-south forearm choke.

By "major attack" and "signature choke", I am saying that in EVERY SINGLE SPARRING SESSION these are the ways I will try to get the submission. For example, if I were on bottom for five minutes, then I should try for at least ten full-fledged omoplata attempts. I should be going for that submission every chance I get.

One thing that I've noticed is that the best jiu jitsu fighters (or any fighter for that matter) has a few techniques that nobody does better. Marcelo's arm drag to RNC ... Jacare's takedown and far side kimura ... Viera's arm/shoulder choke ...

I think this is how Lloyd Irvin's top students (i.e., guys like Mike Fowler and Ryan Hall) have become so good so quickly. Mastering a certain technique allows you to dominate at your level, while always being at least competitive with those who are above your level. It's a great situation to be in because you can always roll with those who are better. That will enable you to both constantly refine and improve your signature attacks, while at the same time improving other areas of your game that your superior opponent is less worried about.

In other words, if you are a blue belt with a reputation for a killer omoplata, it will be either to catch those purple and brown belts with your (still improving) crossover sweep.

It also makes it easier to improve faster because you can focus on a single technique. There is a ridiculous amount to learn when studying jiu jitsu. I was at Barnes and Noble this afternoon and stumbled across a copy of of "Judo" Gene LeBell's Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds. Sure, some of those holds aren't competition legal (many are "catch wrestling" moves from the 19th century). But the book is still 576 pages long. Now imagine if that book included all the sweeps, guardwork, takedowns, escapes, that are a part of jiu jitsu and judo.

So overload is often what happens when you're starting out (i.e., white belt) in jiu jitsu. A lot of times, I feel as if I'm starting all over again when I'm training. Finding a specific technique, honing it until you know it inside and out--until you become the academy expert and others are asking you how they can improve their version of the same technique is a better way to go.

This doesn't mean forsaking the basics or learning other techniques. Instead it is a realization of one's limitations to learn so much at a time. Drill and practice as many things as you want. But when you get the chance to spar--especially in the four weeks leading up to a tournament--you should relentlessly hone your best stuff until it is gold.