Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tips on Escaping from Rear Mount

Monday I spent a terrible time rear mounted by Joe, the white belt wrestler. A part of what made it terrible was the fact that he was cranking my jaw instead of working for the RNC. Mamazinho kept yelling at me to do this or that, but I was afraid that if I moved my one hand, Joe was going to dislocate my jaw.

Of course, I could have just tapped and been done with it …

But the real trick is to get the hell out of there. So tonight, my goal is to let every white belt I spar with take my back, and then force myself to escape, reverse to the top and submit with one of my top games. I’m not going to play this with any of the higher belts I roll with. But there aren’t too many white belts that’ve been around longer than me, so I figure I should be able to escape their rear mounts—or tap trying, right?

I re-watched the Saulo clip to pick up some key details of the duck/shuck/swing escape. Here are some key things that I have been forgetting/leaving out.

Protect your neck. Tuck your elbows tight against your sides. Tuck one hand in your collar to defend the one side, and use the other hand to fend off any attempts to reach around.

DUCK! You need to get your ass on the mat. Duck down as deep as you can get so that your weight is not on him where the guy can control your body more easily.

SHUCK! Here’s one thing I’ve been doing wrong about the shuck. Saulo says NEVER use your hands to try and remove a hook. A lot of popular rear mount escapes have you do that. But Saulo’s point makes sense. Not only does it expose your body when you reach for the hook, but also it’s a mismatch: your arm against his leg. Maybe you win, but you don’t win easy. So instead you just kick out the leg. Now, in order for this to work there are two things you’ve GOT to do. First, you must have ducked deep. Second, you must have your elbows in tight. Three, as you kick the leg to remove the hook, you want to push off with the elbow on the same side. By kicking your leg you straighten both your leg and his leg that was bent over yours. By pushing with the elbow, you move that straighten leg off to the side.

SWING! It helps to figure out which direction you’re going to swing before you begin the escape—though I imagine that when you get good, you can figure that out from whichever leg you manage to unhook. Generally speaking, if he’s got grips around your head or neck, then you want to swing in the direction of the fingers. If he doesn’t have that grip, then it doesn’t matter so much. The key detail here is to drop the elbow to the mat on the same side that you are swinging toward. It is basically—surprise, surprise—an elbow escape to knees. Attack the leg that is between yours by either moving into the guy’s half guard or by pinning and passing.

That’s really all there is to it. I need to remember that, occasional lapses of cardio notwithstanding, the solution to my problems is always a technical solution. It is never a matter of being too small or too slow or too weak. It is because I’m not doing the right technical thing. Go to a safe position, regain your focus, and then go for the escape.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Worst of Times ...

It's funny when you're rolling and a guy has you in rear mount and the professor is trying to coach you out of the position, and then when you don't take the advice for one reason or another, switches to coaching the guy to finish you.

Aside from my regular tap-by-triangle with Clint, I was bugged by my performance with Joe the white belt wrestler. Especially given the fact that it was gi, I should have done much more to exploit my greater familiarity with it, by using the spider guard more. He was not at all sure what to do with my "Marcelinho" guard approach for awhile. He eventually got to my side, I reversed him eventually, then he managed to reverse me shortly afterward. He was in the dominant position for the rest of the time, including a ridiculous amount of time when I had him in half guard and just couldn't mentally process either of the moves I'd just learned. That's the most annoying set of minutes in jiu jitsu.

Rear mount was worse, I'd gotten slow and had been face-cranked a few times while on the bottom holding him in half-guard. Jesse the Purple calls "head squeezing" and I don't blame him for not being thrilled rolling with guys who use a lot of cranks. When he had me in rear mount, I never felt much danger from a choke, but I was pretty concerned that I might get my jaw knocked out of place (or, to a lesser extent, poked in the eye when he'd cross-face me in an attempt to get better grip across my head.)

If a guy is cranking you like that, you've got to attack that cranking arm at the wrist and elbow and do Saulo's duck, shuck and spin to reverse the hell out of there. Follow the fingers and plan which leg should shuck and which way you'll spin. It only takes a second or two (it takes three plus hooks in order to get four points ...), but I bet that's all it take to make that reversal work.

Cranks may not submit, but they aren't fun and can lead to some real unpleasantness. So I want to make sure I don't fool around with guys who have games based on cranks. Use that strength-overcommitment against them, as in the reversal roll against the keylock from mount.

I felt a little fatigued, but I did manage 5 sessions of sparring (6 minutes the last one) which is a lot for me. My 3 p.m. meal was subpar, as was breakfast. Hopefully I can work on that and be better Wednesday and Thursday.

Best of Times ...

Okay, it was neither, really. But on the one hand I got more submissions tonight in specific and general sparring than I think I've gotten all year.

On the other hand I had an impossible time with the white belt wrestler Joe and his cranks and rear mount.

Mamazinho showed us a couple of moves from half-guard. Good, solid basic stuff. The kind of thing I've really got to put in the Book. The first was a half-guard reversal to the back, and the second was a half guard, full guard replacement. Very simple. Very straightforward. Very effective.

But I've got to make sure I practice them. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of times you can be in half-guard, even against guys that are much better. If you have a solid threat to take the back from that position, or to get back to full guard, that's an advantage worth having.

The take-the-back move is similar to the "duck under" that I've been reading in the Martell Greco-Roman Wrestling book. Here, you want to take advantage of when the top guy moves to south-facing side control with the elbow on the far side of the bottom guy's head. You'd never do such a move from a dominant position if you were standing in Greco. You'd be giving the guy the duck under to take your back. And that's as good a position in Greco as it is in Brazilian jiu jitsu (or should be in my case.)

The move is basically the same as the going to knees from elbow escape. But you do it with the outer leg trapping the top guy's leg and a deep underhook on that side. You could probably come up to your elbow on the other side in a worst case scenario, and then work to either take the back or pummel him over. The main idea is to free your ass, and not remained pinned beneath his center of gravity.

The full guard replacement has you pin the guy's leg with your inside leg and use your outside leg to hook under that same leg higher up. You need to elbow escape out a bit to the outside (I should think of elbow escape and side control together) to get the room, depending on your flexibility. But even I was able to get my outside leg hooked fairly high up. With an underhook on the escape side, grab the pants near the knee on the other side.

Lift up, and simultaneously slide your inside leg to the outside and then up to regain full guard.

Some good stuff tonight in sparring like I said. It's been months since I got a single "top" submission like a kimura or a keylock, and I managed to get two or three tonight in five separate sparring sessions (a long Monday night!). The then-and-now, I think, was just relentlessness. If you've got a good position, then you've got to throw submissions (or new positions) at the guy constantly. Not sloppily and not "fakes"--real submission attacks.

As long as you've got the position, you've got the option to throw effective submission attacks and/or move to other more-or-less equal positions. At the same time, you don't want to be so focused on submission attacks that you forget gauging whether you are still in the optimal position. And, especially in my case, you don't want to be so focused on maintaining position--especially a single position--that you never make the guy worry about getting submitted (the BJJ equivalent of a cardinal sin).

So good for me on that score. I'd like to put the armlock by way of Bravo's Spider Web to use, the north hook crawl and south hook step armlocks ... There were a couple of times when I started after the south hook step, but I got confused and scared at making the move over the head to the other side of the guy (again, not wanting to lose the position from the side). I'm blown away at how many opportunities you have to make that attack, especially if the guy is busy fending off kimuras and keylocks (and chokes when you include the gi). I've got to work on that. I was watching Marcelinho finish Chris Brennan in the first round of the 2005 ADCC competition the other night. He uses the south hook step, and no gi at that. Good stuff.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The 3 o'clock Meal Ticket

Great class on Thursday—and I think I owe it all to a bowl of Mongolian Beef and fried rice.

For a variety of reasons, I’d been training jiu jitsu on an empty stomach. I’d get my last meal at 12 noon, and then eat nothing or next to nothing until it was time to go train at 6 p.m. I’d do okay, after a year of training I’m in pretty good grappling shape. But over the past few months I’ve been feeling really wrecked at the end of class. I’d still put in the mat time, but when I was done I was DONE.

I know that a part of this had to do with trying to keep my weight under 160—or even under 155 for a little while. And the easiest way to do that was calorie restriction. But it seemed like those missing calories were increasingly starting to catch up with me. For example, during Wednesday night’s class I only rolled twice. My second session with the tall Asian white belt was terrible. I was in his guard and couldn’t get out. Actually, I did manage to open his guard a few times, but I could get past his legs and spent a lot of time in “half side control”. What really sucked was that we were literally rolling at Mamazinho’s feet and the thought of him looking down on me haplessly trying (and not trying) to pass this guy’s guard almost made me want to throw up. I didn’t think I could look any more pathetic.

After last night, I’m really starting to wonder if I haven’t just been training with too little fuel. I felt like I had energy to burn and was able to move a lot more than I could the night before. True, the two weeks before this I only trained twice and that maybe took the edge off of my stamina. But the difference between how I felt at the end of Wednesday’s practice and the end of Thursday’s practice was dramatic.

I’m going to do some more research on pre-workout meals. I still don’t want a lot of stuff in my stomach when I’m rolling, so there are some other options I want to look into. But it will be interesting to see how things go next week (the last week of the “Three Before 30”).

More to add later about some training stuff. Picked up a few interesting things from Tommy and Cindy. Unfortunately, being without a computer means that I’ll have to wait until Monday to get those notes down.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Make Me Feel Good

Damn Jiu Jitsu Gear! I ordered a pair of HCK shorts from them so that I’d have something more appropriate to wear on no-gi Tuesdays and Thursdays. I waited six days before posting a “What’s up?” message to the message board. Props to Sam for getting back to me in a timely fashion. He says there was some screw up at HCK’s warehouse on the west coast and that they are “re-sending it.”

I should have asked how they were shipping it because it makes no sense for me to have to wait another three to five days to get my gear. Quite frankly, they should have overnighted it. Maybe they will, and Sam just didn’t mention it. Or maybe they’ll throw in a t-shirt or some other tchotsky. But Sam telling me “this isn’t typical” is irrelevant. Of course it isn’t typical! Otherwise nobody would shop there ever! As the lady said, “make me feel good.” Throw in a little something. I remember when I ordered that white Ouano gi from ssfgear. They didn’t have it in stock, so Ron sent me a platinum weave white Gameness gi. I’d have preferred a regular weave, but the platinum weave is a tougher, more expensive gi and it showed his appreciation for my business and regret at not being able to get me what I ordered. That, as far as I’m concerned, is how it’s done.

I still love the forum at jiu jitsu gear. But if those shorts don’t show up by Friday, then that will be the last time I order products from them. You’ve got to show your customers a little appreciation when things go wrong, that they don’t have to just eat your mistakes. We’ll see what happens.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Butterfly Guard Passes

Here’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with my training.

Monday night. We’re working on a pair of butterfly guard passes. In both, the key is to underhook the far side arm (the non-pass side) and to “tripod-up” with your head and both feet as the support points (actually I think it is more the shoulder of the underhooking arm and both feet, at least in the first pass).

Anyway, in the first version, you want to switch your base as if opening up your hips to the south or turning AWAY from the guy on the ground. As you do this, you want to slide your inside knee under the near leg. As you move back across, you pin the other leg to the ground with your inside knee and walk your other leg up so that you are stepping up near his shoulder.

Grab the arm on that far side and pull it up and toward you. Then plant the far knee on the mat. From here, all you need to do is flip your inside leg around and gain the mount position.

The second variation is in case the guy tries to block you from dropping that walk around leg. In this case, lean farther over in your tripod so that your head is on the mat (on the far side). You then lift up into a headstand, and twist your body in midair so that you land on the other side (the underhook side). Make sure you bring your knee in tight against his hips so that the guy’s movement is limited.

So those were the main moves from Monday. We do 10 minutes of guard/pass guard specific sparring. I work with that same new guy that Rebecca met, the guy whose name I can’t ever remember. I got a number of good sweeps, mostly the ankle underhook sweep when he stood to try and open my guard. I spent more time than I would have liked with my closed guard locked around his waist. I need to remember to open it up and try for one of the open guard sweeps that Rodrigo showed us awhile back. Or even a quick move to X-guard and then to the back—a move I’ve been desperate to work on.

From the top I did a pretty good job of passing his guard on the ground. I need to remember that when the guy opens up his guard to put a foot in the hip or on the mat, that I should immediately go after the pass. I should look at it as if he’s already done the “hard part” for me by opening his guard, and move as quickly and as automatically as possible into a pass.

After that we did another ten minutes of guard/pass guard. This time I was working with Clint the blue belt. Much different world here, though he didn’t have an especially easy time passing my guard. I think I even got a sweep once. Again, I spent too much time in the closed guard, instead of opening it up and trying a few different things (like the Shaka sweep). From the top, Clint caught me in a triangle and in an arm triangle that was tight but I didn’t tap because it wasn’t really there. I think the problem was that he was squeezing hard, but didn’t have any leverage because it was straight on.

Saulo makes this point in one of his instructionals when talking about the no-gi katagatame from the mount. Rather than stay in the mount, Saulo moves to a “knee-on-chest” position that allows him to just use the weight of his body to apply the necessary pressure. Clint tried pushing on BOTH hips with his feet, but I think if he had just pushed against ONE hip and tried to get an angle instead, he might have gotten the submission.

That was the class. Although tempted to watch Rodrigo and Mamazinho spar (!!!), I decided to roll with Tommy for awhile instead. And here’s the mistake I mentioned.

What techniques did we practice today? Butterfly guard passes. Who uses the butterfly guard more than ANYONE at Gracie Barra Seattle? Why, Tommy, of course. How many times did I try the butterfly guard passes we’d just learned when rolling with Tommy? Hello? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

It took me 24 hours to realize what I had (not) done. It’s no crisis, but it’s the habit in my game that I hate the most. It’s like there’s some post-learning, cooling off period in which I’m not supposed to try the techniques I JUST SPENT AN HOUR LEARNING!!! It’s not like I won’t get another chance to try these passes against the guy who’s got the best butterfly guard at the academy. But it annoys me that I don’t realize these opportunities when they present themselves. The same thing happens in tournaments, and keeps me from performing much better than I have.

Anyway, that’s that. Back at class tonight and Thursday now that my Eastlake errands are done for now. The diet is working nicely; I’m staying under 160 without too much trouble. Hopefully I can have some good training tonight and tomorrow, and then another good three sessions next week before getting going with the “30 days” part of the pre-tournament program …

Quick note: I was talking with Tommy about the triangle. I’m impressed that I’ve been throwing triangles at guys every chance I get—even if I haven’t tapped anybody with one in months. I’m having a hard time breaking the posture, and Tommy recommended focusing on pulling down on the head earlier in the attack as opposed to later. He pointed out that grabbing the leg and trying to break the posture that way can be difficult. When you think about it, if you can get a good grip on the head, then you’ve got more leverage to break his posture than if you’ve got a leg across his back or the back of his shoulders.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Watching Monday

I'm looking forward to next week. I fell off the wagon as last week ended--no class Thursday night and no resistance work Friday morning--which makes for a C+ training week, at best. I like the idea of having another two weeks to work on a bunch of things before trying to hone in on what I want to do on September 30th. The trick is to take advantage of this time.

I feel like I'm taking baby steps, slowly gaining the confidence to move consistently toward north-south out of side control, for example, as a fundamental position-to-control move as opposed to just "wrestling around" and finding myself in some relatively more advantageous position than the one before. I've put together a little warm-up/drill that I want to get accustomed to, a sort of 180 degree version of the 360 drill. I'm hoping that will help me move better from the top--and open up submission opportunities like the north and south cross body armlocks, the "Jacare" (north-south kimura to armlock) and the "Cindy" (mount keylock/Americana to armlock).

This is the time to lose the conservatism. You never know who you'll end up matched against in class. So you've got to be ready to work on whatever part of your game that you're given an opportunity to work on. It's tricky since I've never been on my back in a single fight out of seven in the past year. So, do I continue to work on my back game in order to do better against the guys I train with? Or do I work on the top game at every chance in order to do better against the competition at the local tournaments?

So I've just got to be able to do whatever the situation calls for. I've been so impressed by the notion of gameplanning that I've been discounting the Ricksonesque "flow with the go" Jedi Knight Tao Warrior caca that happens to be where we'd all like to end up. I remember reading Ken Shamrock's semi-autobiography, and his critical reference to Brazilian jiu jitsu as a martial art that built on "waiting for mistakes". Shamrock's point of view misses the point that there are a hundred litle mistakes, any one of which can be leveraged into something otherwise unexpected. I guess you could play a jiu jitsu fighter like Shamrock played Royce in Gracie v. Shamrock II, but that would be more making the point than contradicting it.

Ultimate (?!) Grappling Magazine

Picked up a nice copy of (Ultimate) Grappling magazine this afternoon. I'm trying to get the 7-11 across from the office to pick up the magazine (they had stocked it once before) and I'd subscribe if it weren't for their notoriously sub-par subscription service. But the absence of both makes for a nice excuse to roll down to the Border at SouthCenter on a nice summer day like today ...

A LOT of mixed martial arts coverage, which I suspect pays the bills. Most worthwhile in this issue were the escapes from Marcelo Pereira and the "common mistakes" article by Stephen Kesting and Eric Paulson. Camarillo's piece on osoto gari and his idea of "impact control" probably rounds out the top three. I'd argue that if you get three articles in a magazine that you will read more than a few times, then you've got your hands on a pretty decent edition. Props to (Ultimate) Grappling for producing solid Brazilian jiu jitsu articles even as their mixed martial arts coverage expands.

Friday, August 18, 2006

One Week into Three Weeks

Not a bad week of training, not a great week of training.

Mornings have been good. The 2-day split resistance work is fitting in nicely if I'm up by 6 am. I've just been doing crunches to warm up. I'll probably add some more ab work next week, maybe some of the things Michelle had us do in Wednesday night's class. More about them later.

Missing training on Thursday. That and not lifting this morning (chest/2xback) are my chief demerits. I don't plan on missing any more scheduled classes (3xMWR through August 31, then 4xMTWR through September 28) between now and the tournament on September 30.

Wednesday night Mamazinho had us doing some different things. He had us working on basic side control escapes, emphasixing the hand positioning in particular: one hand to block the hip against a move to north/south, one hand between your body and his that is working to swim under the far arm.

Another key detail is that in order to turn to your knees, you will have to walk your body toward north/south in the OTHER direction. This is to give your swim arm room AND to give your body the space in order to get to your knees.

You want to get your head tight against his body and come up with the knee on that same side to drive him over.

It is basically the same elements in the sequence that I'd been shown by that one (Filipino?) brown belt with the serious ink: THROAT, SWIM, WALK, FLAT, PULL, BOOM. I'd more than half-forgotten that when we were actually doing the drill ...

We also did an interesting drill where we tucked our hands in our belts and the top guy tried to stay on top while the bottom guy tried to work his escape. The emphasis here was to move your body and to get in the right body position for the escape (or the control, if you're on top.) Good stuff.

I was able to use the upa pretty effectively in my drill to dislodge the guy I was working with (a white belt with a few months of training at most, more or less my size). I'm much better at using the upa than I am at moves involving twisting my body when I'm on the bottom. During this "Three Weeks" period, I really need to work on non-upa escapes.

We learned some other things also. There was a series Mamazinho showed us for dealing with a guy once he does make it to all fours. It involves reaching under and grabbing his far arm with both hands, and then pulling his arms toward you as you bump his body over and away from you.

You want to wind up in the scarf hold, kesagatame position. If the guy tries to prevent being rolled by posting a leg out, then you want to attack higher up his body closer to his head. I had a harder time getting this one correct, so I might want to ask Mamazinho on Monday to show me that detail again.

I've been working a lot on my triangle choke in sparring when I get a chance. This is a perfect time to work on it--even though I haven't once been on my back in any of the four tournaments. I've been trying the spider version Tommy showed me, as well as the stuff I'm picking up with the triangle from following Ryan Hall. Hall does a great job of commentating on some of his matches, and I already think I've picked up a few basics that will help me attack with a choke I'd pretty much given up on.

I'd love to model my submission game around chokes. I think I remember reading somewhere that Rickson got a majority of his submission victories by choke, and I definitely remember Rodrigo pointing out that the choke is the most efficient submission. Adrenaline might help a guy fight off a joint hyperextension in a heated moment during a competition. But when it comes to a choke, blood is either flowing to the brain or it's not.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Last night we worked on some knee-on-belly moves. Apparently, this was some work that Mamazinho did with the afternoon class, as well.

First he had us work on hopping from side control to knee-on-belly. A couple of points about side control. You want to control the head and control the hips. I notice that he grabs the far pants leg underneath like a lot of the higher belts do. That does a great job of controling the elbow escape. Mamazinho made the point also that if you don't have control over the hips with an arm, then you need to move your knee up higher to block the hip.

For the side control to knee-on-belly transition, you want your north hand to grab the collar behind the neck (first half of the baseball choke, by the way), and your south hand to grab the far pants leg underneath. Move your south hand to grab the belt and slide your south knee against the near hip. In one move, hop up to put your south knee on the guy's belly right where your south hand was. At the same time, slide your north leg 45 degree out for stability and base. Your north leg should be around the same level as the guy's head or shoulder.

Mamazinho showed us a simple armlock from the knee-on-belly. Basically, it is an attack you can use if the guy makes a mistake and tries to push you away, extending his arm and pushing against your chest. If the guy does this, grab his arm near the wrist or forearm and swing your north leg down and over his face. Tuck your south leg under his armpit and squeeze your knees together. He's now in "The Web". Drop back carefully to complete the armlock.

He also showed us a better way of escaping knee-on-belly than trying to push against the guy's chest and inviting an armlock. It is better to take your outside hand and push against his belt or midsection. This will extend the leg that is dropping the knee and make it more vulnerable to attack (just like an extended arm is easier to attack than one that is tightly bent). At the same time, grab the foot with the inside hand and continue straightening out the leg somewhat. Elbow escape your hips away from the top man, but as you do this come up on your inside knee. It sounds more complicated than it is. Essentially you want to end up with your inside knee on the ground and your outside leg posted out--as if you were doing knee-on-belly with the mat. Use this leverage to push the guy back, using his leg as a rudder to drive him over.

Lastly, Mamazinho had us work on hopping from one side to the other with alternating knee-on-belly positions. This is what gave the afternoon guys a hard time and those of us in the evening were little different. I worked with Andy from New York (who got his blue belt last night just before heading back to the east coast) for most of the drills, but eventually switched over to Bruce (the barkeep). He'd been in the afternoon session the other day and helped me figure out some details about how to make the switch work.

Basically, as the guy turns into you to elbow escape or go to knees, you want to replace the knee on the belly with the knee of the leg that is posting. It should be as much a simultaneous process as possible. You then sink the armlock from (almost) behind the guy as he is turned away.

I think this is one of those moves that is very simple, but looks very impressive when pulled off. In most instances you won't have to switch back and forth 50 million times. One switch, maybe two and either you've got the armlock attack or you don't.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Three Weeks to Thirty Days

This is my latest tournament pre-program. I'm even starting early enough to have a pre-prep period ("three weeks") before the real, pre-tournament training gets going ("thirty days"). I'm taking the "thirty days out" line from Lloyd Irvin's training strategy, which has his folks buckling down hard for the last thirty days going into a tournament. I'm spotting up the 2nd Annual Pacific Northwest Jiu Jitsu tournament sponsored by BJJ Spokane as my next event. It's September 30th, so my time window is nicely sized.

Here's the dealio for the Three Weeks: BJJ training Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. That gets me three weeks of two gi/one no gi a week. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings I'll be doing a basic resistance program, ostensibly to get my body "toughed up" for the Thirty Days part of the program.

The resistance program is a 2-day split. Monday and Thursday I'll do legs and shoulders. Tuesday and Friday I'll do chest and back. No specific arm work; I'll get enough of that from the basic core workout I'm following.

Monday will be heavy legs (meaning two work sets instead of one). Tuesday will be heavy chest. Thursday will be heavy shoulders. Friday will be heavy back.

Legs: squats, Romanian deadlift, good mornings
Shoulders: Arnolds, uprights, Cubans
Chest: incline, flat and decline benches
Back: one-armed DB rows, pullovers, BUDRs

That's for the Three Weeks. On Saturdays, I'll do "The Widow" cardio routine. This is definitely a core, power-oriented resistance program, which is what I want before shutting down the weight room for the month leading into the tourny.

As for the Thirty Days, I'll switch to four nights a week bjj training (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), and four mornings a week cardio. The cardio program will probably be the short one, "Beaster" with the emphasis on the inclines for the hot mile.

I've set myself on programs before, with mixed success. This one I like because it is focused and doesn't ask too much of myself in the am. I'll report on Friday evening how my discipline is going.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Life as a Bug

Well, last Thursday I took some sort of shot to the eye while rolling with Angela the Blue. The end result was a scratched cornea, which was the diagnosis provided by GroupHealth physician's assistant, Dr. Goldworm Friday morning. I spent the rest of the day--and the rest of the weekend--nursing my very sore eyeball. I ducked out of class on Monday to give myself another day to recover and was back in class for no gi Tuesday.

Rodrigo lit us up with a warm-up of laps, sprints, pushups, squats, leg scissors, the whole thing. I tell you, it's a lot different doing that stuff in a rash guard as opposed to a gi jacket. We went over some of the same things we learned last time we were doing no gi: counter to the escape from side control that gets you to the guy's back, Rodrigo's Cradle Sweep, and a arm-drag like stand-up technique when you are down and the guy is standing above you trying to pass. We prepared for sparring with some "King of the Guard" work--in which I oddly was paired with blue belt Casey three different times and then hit the mats for some "randori" as the judo folks say. I rolled with Tommy, who tapped me about four or five times in the first three minutes, then with that one new guy that Rebecca met at the Yesler tournament (Pacific NW JJ Championships, by another name), and finished up with a short session with Clint the Blue.

Observations? No gi jiu jitsu for me still doesn't feel like jiu jitsu. I am the poster boy for Eddie Bravo's complaint that gi guys are lost without their handles when the gi comes off. On the "good" side, I slipped out of more armbars last night than I ever would have if we'd been wearing gi jackets. But on the "bad" side, I had a hard time getting going in the sparring--to say nothing of attacking from the guard.

I rolled with the new guy who pretty much overpowered me and put me on the defensive for most of the session. He was pretty determined to catch me in a keylock, so it was a pretty good time to practice escaping from the attack by rolling in the direction of the shoulder under attack. I think that keylock from the side, half-guard or mount must be THE signature move of most white belts when they are on top--especially if they are rolling with someone smaller/weaker than they are. I haven't submitted anybody with that keylock in months--though I'm fond of the keylock-to-armbar variation that I've called "The Cindy."

I'll still try and work for side control when doing no gi. But I need to force myself to take the back. That new guy gave me his back two or three times and I just didn't feel confident enough to jump on, sink in the hooks and go for the finish. I'm always reticent about taking the back of guys larger than me because I feel like I can never get the hooks in well. That said, it certainly isn't going to get any better if I keep avoiding the position ...

Tonight is back to the gi. I'll try to get some extra sparring in during the open mat session if I can to make up for the fact that my Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday schedule means that I'm doing no gi twice a week and gi once. That's the opposite of what I'd rather be doing, but the only other options are to go Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and then have four days in a row off (not good), or to break it up and go Monday-Wednesday-Thursday, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

I'm still not sure about three days a week versus four. I'm feeling a little desperate to improve--which is probably a common anxiety when you are (a) tracking your improvement or lack thereof every day and (b) rolling consistently with better guys. And I know the temptation to train four days a week is wrapped up in that desperation. I'm not doing anything particularly well right now, and it feels as if adding the no gi to the mix, in a way, has made things a little more difficult--at least in the short-term which with I am preoccupied ...

One thing I am trying work on as a "staple" submission is the far side armbar from side control or knee-on-belly. There is the southside version, the one Marcelo Garcia subbed Chris Brennan with in the first round of ADCC 2005. And there is a northside version, the Abhaya one that has you crawl into north-south after you've trapped the arm and then move into the armbar position--a position Bravo calls "the spider web."

That reminds me of a last point. I want to work more at getting into the "web" position, not necessarily all the way through to the completed armbar. I think there are times when I avoid going for that far side armbar because I think I have to do the move in one fell swoop. That is definitely not the case. I've seen plenty of more experienced belts stop when they get to "the web", readjust their position and THEN methodically work for the sub.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Weekly Update

Skipped class on Monday for a post-tournament holiday. It look like we’re going to be doing no-gi on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a while. I wonder if the popularity of the no-gi absolute (or semi-absolute, there was a “heavyweight division” and a “lightweight division”) had something to do with it.

I liked that format a lot. Rather than have 50 million no-gi categories and skill levels, let’s save the nuance for the gi competition and just throw all those no-gi guys on the mat together. Two divisions should be plenty.

I like what I’ve been doing so far this week. Definitely a renewed motivation after my disappointing 1-1 last Saturday at Copa 7. Tuesday I rolled about four times no gi and tried to focus on standing against the guard, which I finally was able to get myself to do consistently. I think I might have even passed Shaka’s guard once during a drill. Came close to passing Tommy’s but no dice. Still, I felt good, didn’t feel “lost” … It’s so much easier when you’ve got a plan …

By the way, Rodrigo taught the no gi class. He had us work the dueling underhook drill, then showed us a way to grapple for the underhook when the guy has got both underhooks on you. You step back and pivot, forcing your shoulder into the guy’s head and turning your torso almost perpendicular to his body. From there you should have enough space to swim your arm under and get the underhook on the one side.

He also showed us an ankle pick from that same position. When you pivot and twist, drop to the inside knee and grab the guy’s forward ankle. I’m not sure if it is two moves or one. I found it easier to do the pivot and drop at pretty much the same time.

Last he showed us a sweep from the closed guard. It is one that he’s showed us before. It’s a version of Rodrigo’s cradle where you overhook and wrap one arm, then pivot your hips in that direction to underhook the leg on the other side. Rodrigo pointed out that you almost want to put your head on the knee of the leg you are underhooking. You then rock back to get his weight on you and, scissoring your legs, roll him over. You should wind up in mount position at the end. Make sure you keep that arm wrapped all the way through the sweep so that he doesn’t base out at the last minute.

One basic mechanical point about scissoring your legs: all you really need to do is to kick your bottom leg out and then bring it back as you start to roll. Like so much jiu jitsu, what seems almost like magic can really be broken down into basic parts. Let it look like magic to the rest of the world. To the wizard it’s just more work.

Last night, Wednesday, was back to the gi. Mamazinho showed us some sweeps for when the guy stands in your guard. They involve grabbing a sleeve and then underhooking the leg on that same side at the ankle. You then twist your body so that your butt is on the inside of his knee. Pull up on the hook, pull on the sleeve and push into him with your hip.

Trying this technique with Tommy, it seems that if you don’t get the leg to turn, you’ve got a sort of kneebar setup or something. I think the trick is to put the pressure on the inside of the knee so you end up turning the leg out, almost sideways. That makes the leg easier to bend and the guy easier to sweep. Mamazinho showed us a variation for when you can’t get the sleeve. Instead, reach behind your head with that hand and push against the mat as if you were bridging up. Pull with the hook on the ankle and you should get the same sweep.

Did some guard/guard pass work with Jeff the White. I was a little underwhelmed with my performance. I think Jeff passed my guard three times and I passed his once. A strong guy, I’ll tell you that. I tried some of the other sweeps Mamazinho showed us for when a guy stands in your guard, but Jeff sprawled out and kept his weight on me. My big mistake was not going aggressively to spider guard. I’d get my knees up, but then not make the next key move to put a foot in the bicep. I can’t really control him with just my knees; I need to get that foot in the bicep.

Rolled many, many times last night: Andy from the East Coast, Jeff the White, Angela, Stefan, Jeff from Demon and Rodrigo. Not bad in general, good standing attacks on the guard so I’m happy with that. I played too much of the smash game with Jeff from Demon, and I don’t like that. I’ve got to remember to play more from the bottom with smaller guys—even if they are just one division smaller. Funny that I remember Jeff from Demon being harder to handle back in March, when Arnell was around. Don’t tell me that I’ve gotten THAT much better since …

Rodrigo caught me in what seemed to be an intricate gi choke. I felt wrapped up like the mummy before he got the tap. I did an okay job of moving my body to take the pressure off, but he stepped over my head to get more leverage and that pretty much did it. He also caught me in the fastest keylock known to man. I joked afterward that it wasn’t so much a keylock. In fact, it didn’t feel like he needed a key or a lock. He just pushed the door open.

Good stuff. Looking forward to tonight’s training. I want to work on more standing to attack the guard, and to try and integrate the sweeps we’ve been learning. Also, try and play more from the bottom, especially against smaller guys (Bruce, Jeff from Demon, etc.) I still haven’t put my top game together. What I need to do is try it once with everybody—especially the Jacare (north/south kimura with armbar option), which I’d like to make my signature arm/shoulder attack because it works well with and without the gi. But since we’re about six weeks away from the next tournament, I should spend this early time working on my bottom game and my standing attack/pass of the guard.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

RNC Variation

Here's a variation on the RNC that works with the gi.

Jacare Choke

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Text Map for the Top

Okay, back to the repair job. To fix my top problem, I’ve mapped out all of my basic top positions, the main choke attack from that position, the main arm/shoulder attacks from that position, and the transition out of that position into another top position.

It looks a lot prettier on paper. But here is the “text map” from the top:

Cross collar choke
Keylock with armbar option
Transition to side control
Transition to S-mount

Baseball choke
Far side kimura
Far side armbar 1 & 2
Transition to mount
Transition to north-south

North/south guillotine
Kimura with armbar option
Transition to rear mount
Transition to side control
Transition to S-mount

Rear naked choke
Winding choke
Conversion armbar
Transition to mount

Kron choke
Pass to side control

Ruminations, Odds & Ends

I should be doing some other writing that doesn’t have anything to do with jiu jitsu. Hell, my puts on Starbucks are actually making some nice money and my calls on Comcast haven’t collapsed!

But my mind is all about the jiu jitsu right now. I’m eager to get back on the mat and show (who? Myself?) that there’s more to me than what I showed last Saturday at Copa 7 NW.

A basic breakdown of what ails me is pretty easy to do. On top, I’m too immobile, too unwilling to risk control or position for a submission. Consequently, I pin guys (“smash” them, to be charitable), but don’t finish them.

On bottom, I don’t commit to passing the guard. I wrestle around a little, and half-assedly try a ground pass. But I rarely stand up and, if I do and it doesn’t work, I usually won’t try to stand and pass for the duration of that match.

If I can fix these two things, then I’ll be pretty much at the top of where I need to be after one year of training. The good news is that both of these problems are fixable. I know exactly what I need to do. The question is whether or not I will implement the fixes, and work them until they are second nature in advance of the September tournament—which should be huge.

It looks like the next tournament is September 30, 2006. The second Pacific Northwest Jiu Jitsu Championships sponsored by Machado Spokane—Bartinho’s guys. It will be at Yesler Community College again. Two of my three losses have come to Bartinho’s guys—including my loss last week. This tournament is also the one where I got my first place back in April.

I’m guessing that the next Copa will be in December, since this tournament is so late in September. Maybe Marcelo Alonso or somebody will try to slip in a late October tournament or something. But right now I’m betting on late September and early December for the next two events. I need to go out and win first place in my division in both of them.